Archive for August, 2008

Pond Evolution 2008

The pond is 3 years old this weekend, so it’s time to reprise last year’s pond evolution post with the addition of this year’s photo.

Pond - August 2005

Year 0 means muddy water and no plants or fish yet. But, hey, ain’t that pretty mulch?

Pond - August 2006

Year 1: Things are starting to fill in. The water lily and water lettuce have taken over the lower part of the pond. The trellis is up, but not much is growing on it.

Pond - August 2007

Year 2: The grape woodbine and Dutchman’s pipe are starting to cover the trellis. In fact, the former is covering all the ground between the trellis and the pond, climbing up the biofalls berm, and snaking underneath the bench back by the side of the garage. The lobelia patch at the lower right corner of the pond continues to grow.

year 3

Year 3: Today.  The grape woodbine has now crept around the entire patio side of the pond and is launching an attack on the lobelia.  The water lily has recovered from last year’s pruning, and the water lettuce and water hyacinth have covered the pond, even though I keep pulling out handfuls of both to toss on the compost heap.  The Dutchman’s pipe (left 2 panels of the trellis) has really grown a lot since last year.

It’s clear that the changes are slowing down – the pond and the garden have matured.  Not that it won’t be nice to see the small trees (serviceberry to the left of the trellis, arborvitae behind the bench, and Japanese maple in front of the bench) get larger, but there isn’t a lot more to fill in.  Certainly with the grape woodbine, it’s time to prune like mad!


Bloom Day – August 2008

August is such a lush month, it was impossible to keep only one type of bloom in the picture!

Now in bloom:
Orange coneflower (Rudbeckia fulgida) and fennel
Orange coneflower and fennel

Great blue lobelia (Lobelia siphilitica) and marsh phlox (Phlox glaberrima)
Great blue lobelia and marsh phlox

‘Fish’ chile pepper (check out the cool variegated leaves!)
Fish pepper blossom

Calendula and snapdragons
Calendula and snapdragons

Nodding onion (Allium cernuum) and sweet black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia subtomentosa)
Nodding onion

Water lilies & pickerel weed (Pontederia cordata)
Purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea), but not, alas, the Echinacea pallida yet
Thyme, dill, and basil
Annabelle and oakleaf hydrangea
Sweet Joe Pye weed (Eupatorium purpureum)
Big-leaf aster (Aster macrophyllus) and white woodland aster (Aster divaricatus)

And there’s fruiting, too:

Grape woodbine (Parthenocissus vitacea – a twining cousin of Virginia creeper)
Grape woodbine berries

‘Fish’ chile pepper
‘Caroline’ raspberry

Coming soon (I hope):
More hosta blooms
Water hyacinth
Zigzag goldenrod
Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’

Bittersweet vindication

I was wondering earlier this year whether I had invasive Oriental bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus) or native American bittersweet (C. scandens). I pretty much figured out that I had the former (and was cursing out Spring Hill Nursery for sending me an invasive plant under false pretenses), but now I know for sure:

American vs. Oriental bittersweet

On the left is the native Celastrus scandens I just bought from Moonshine Designs Nursery here in Illinois.  On the right is the invasive Celastrus orbiculatus I planted a couple of years ago.  The difference in the leaves is obvious: C. scandens has long pale leaves, and the invasive plant has nearly round dark leaves.  Now I just have to get the new plants established before winter, and cross my fingers that they bounce back this coming spring.

My lesson learned?  Don’t buy obscure native plants with invasive cousins from mainstream nurseries.  Go to small nurseries that know what they’re doing and actually care about this sort of thing!

Update: the new native bittersweet plants are growing up the trellis quicker than I could have imagined.

Goldfish Sunday

Goldfish (and water hyacinth) seen from underwater:

Goldfish, underwater

Exploring the lily crate

Before and After

The spouse recently dug up photos taken right before we started redoing the backyard in 2005. It’s really unfair to compare March garden pictures to August pictures, but it does give you some idea about how things can change in 3 years (and yes, there will be a pond evolution photo series later this month to show how it has changed as well).

north side of backyard - March 2005

north side of backyard - August 2008

Note that the big leaning Siberian elm next to the garage door was removed. (The garage was put in just 3 years before the “before” picture – what were they thinking?) It was sheer luck that no one knocked themselves unconscious walking out of the garage. The curved sidewalk/patio means that we can plant in the sunniest area of the backyard. A few pots also help us to catch what little sun we get.

backyard - March 2005

backyard - August 2008

The one tree I regret removing is the pie cherry tree in the center of the “before” picture, but it was smack in the middle of the yard. Adding a trellis and a serviceberry tree helps make the garage less stark. And somehow, having the pond there makes the yard look bigger and less flat.

Flowers and critters

Rain garden nodding onion

The front-yard rain garden is still pretty sparse, as one might expect for a first-year bed of perennials. However, the nodding onion (Allium cernuum) and sweet black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia subtomentosa) are putting on a small late summer show.

One of our two frogs

We have confirmed that both our tadpoles have turned into frogs, but it’s still unclear to me whether they are bullfrogs or green frogs. So far, their only observed activities are sitting on rocks and lily pads, and jumping into the pond when we get close. No croaking, bug eating, or other entertaining activities have yet been demonstrated.

Lobelia and its bee fans

The great blue lobelia is in bloom, and so the bees have been visiting us (they also seem to like the nodding onion, but not as much).  But isn’t this picture the essence of summer?