Archive for August, 2009

Vine Blatherings

Presuming the Dutchman’s pipe remains dead, I really need to find something for the garage trellis.  (I suppose the grape woodbine could – and would – spread over the whole thing, but I’d like a little more variety.)  Unfortunately, there’s just not a huge number of native vines for semi-shade and clay in zone 5 (or that many native vines at all).  Here’s what I’m contemplating now – any other native plant geeks should feel free to pipe up in the comments with their experiences.

  • Lonicera prolifera – Yes, it’s the Morton Arboretum shrub of the month, but yellow/grape honeysuckle is really a vine.  It looks like it’s cold-hardy and at least somewhat shade tolerant.  Berries are also a plus, since I like to feed the critters.
  • Bignonia capreolataCrossvine shows up in my go-to native gardening book, but it may not be hardy this far north.  Given the past two winters, I’m not inclined towards anything that’s only marginal in zone 5.  But some big showy flowers would be nice.
  • Wisteria macrostachyaKentucky wisteria is another nice big flower, but it may not be happy in the semi-shade.  But I like any plant that gets called out for its hardiness!
  • Use what I already have – My trumpet vine (Campsis radicans) is not particularly happy in the deep shade between our garage and the next door neighbor’s garage.  It’s too big to transplant, but maybe I could root a cutting.  (Or I could get a new one – I believe the one I have planted is a cultivar, not the species.)  And then there’s the grape woodbine (Parthenocissus vitacea) which is happy everywhere in the yard, but it’s not showy except in the fall.

Do any readers have a favorite among these vines?  How about a least favorite?

Pond Evolution 2009

The pond is 4 years old this week. The photos below show how it appeared year 0 through year 4. There’s more prose about the earlier years on the 2007 and 2008 posts:

Pond - August 2005

Pond - August 2006

Pond - August 2007

year 3

pond, age 4

The Dutchman’s pipe (left two panels on the garage trellis) died this summer after looking very lush and strong in the spring.  I’m not sure whether that was due to all the rain (in heavy clay soil) or whether voles nibbled it to death.  Conversely, the Techny arborvitae behind the bench to the right of the garage is growing steadily each year.  In general, things are a bit less overgrown this year due to both cool weather and my (seemingly) constant pruning.  As for the pond itself, the raccoon pool parties apparently involve water lily and water hyacinth refreshments, so they both cover less of the surface than previous years.

Happy Mutant

Mutant orange coneflower

Rudbeckia fulgida…or is it Big Bird?

Bloom Day – August 2009

Water lilies

After a very wet and cold spring and early summer, we’ve had the driest midsummer in 75 years.  I’m having to water for the first time this year, but I snapped a few pictures before turning on the sprinkler.

The blooms this August look much like the ones last August, except that the big white hosta blooms are a few days behind schedule and the pickerel weed isn’t blooming at all after all the raccoon pool parties.   Links below go to pictures of that bloom in recent posts.

  • Water lily (above)
  • Marsh marigold (Caltha palustris)
  • Great blue lobelia by the pond

  • Great blue lobelia (Lobelia siphilitica)
  • Purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)
  • Orange coneflower (Rudbeckia fulgida)
  • Marsh phlox (Phlox glaberrima)
  • Calendula
  • Snapdragon
  • Fennel
  • Dill (Grandma Einck’s)
  • Petunia
  • Oregano
  • Basil
  • Cilantro
  • Big leaf aster & great blue lobelia

  • Big leaf aster (Aster macrophyllus) – seen here with great blue lobelia
  • White woodland aster

  • White woodland aster (Aster divaricatus)
  • Spotted Joe Pye weed – the little one (Eupatoriadelphus maculatus)
  • Sweet Joe Pye weed

  • Sweet Joe Pye weed – the big one (Eupatoriadelphus purpureus)
  • Zigzag goldenrod (Solidago flexicaulis)
  • Annabelle hydrangea - blooming in August!

  • Annabelle hydrangea (the parts I trimmed back in May are blooming now)
  • Sweet black eyed Susan

  • Sweet black eyed Susan (Rudbeckia subtomentosa)
  • Nodding onion (Allium cernuum)

What bugs like

August is the time of year where birdsong disappears and bugsong comes on strong.  In honor of this insect-filled season, here are some of the bug favorites in the garden:

Spotted Joe Pye weed?

Joe Pye weed always seems to have a lot of flying visitors when it blooms. This isn’t the big sweet Joe Pye (Eupatoriadelphus purpureus) in the side yard, though, but a brand new plant by the pond that I don’t remember ever planting. The purple stems make me think this is spotted Joe Pye (Eupatoriadelphus maculatus).

Fennel in bloom

Another plant I never planted is the 6′ tall fennel up by the house.  There’s a cloud of tiny insects around it this time of year.  I don’t blame them – I’m always snacking on the foliage, and the seeds are delicious come fall.

Purple coneflower

The purple coneflowers (Echinacea purpurea) are being visited quite a lot as well. One of the few birds making themselves known this time of year are the goldfinches, and they’re definitely keeping an eye on the progress of the seeds here.

Bittersweet conclusion

Invasive bittersweet: stem and berries

Now that the pond tour is over, I decided to finally remove the invasive Oriental bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus) that I mistakenly planted a couple of years ago.  I was planning to do it at some point, but Beth Botts’ post about invasive species recently banned in Chicago – including C. orbiculatus – got me moving.  Well, that and all the bittersweet fruits that were forming!

Before: invasive and native bittersweet

I have tried to prune the C. orbiculatus (the bushy stuff on the left half of each of the two trellis panels) back a couple of times this year, but this only seemed to provoke greater growth.  My native C. scandens (on the right half of each trellis panel) is growing really well, but is still sort of puny compared to the much older invasive.

After: invasive bittersweet is gone

A good hour of work with pruners, loppers, and a shovel (for the top foot of roots) later, it’s all gone and C. scandens has sole possession of the trellis. (Pretty impressive growth for something I planted only a year ago!) Since the old stuff is an invasive species and very woody, I skipped my lazy compost pile and put everything in a bag for municipal composting.  That should be hot enough to kill all those berries that the C. orbiculatus was growing.

Update: puny no more!