About Me

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I'm a woman entering "the third chapter" and fascinated by the journey.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

A sad update

My most-read post  to date has been this one, detailing the sighting of an unusually-marked skunk in our back yard. I must now report that last night, this creature,

who had lived here for at least four years, was killed by our neighbor's golden retriever, responsible for the death of a chipmunk earlier in the summer. Evidently, this dog, good-natured with humans, is a monster with other species.  
I now live in fear for Stumpy the squirrel. In my  opinion, domestic animals, like badly-behaved children, should not be left outdoors unsupervised.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Reasons to love grass

Note that I said grass, not lawns; I LOATHE lawns, except in small patches, to emphasize more interesting things. But grasses are a whole 'nother thing. Grasses are the basis of grasslands, one of our planet's delightful ecosystem types. Grasslands dominate in places too dry for forest but too wet for desert, and they show up everywhere else except Antarctica. They provide food and cover for birds, insects, and small mammals, and may have provided a home for early homo sapiens. And grasses, while not generally as drop-dead gorgeous as some flowers or as impressive as hundred-foot trees, can be pretty impressive in their own right. These big bluestem plants, for instance, are more than six feet high. 

And they bloom! Here's one from another patch that had caught the morning's mist--and provided a hunting ground for a spider of some kind, along with seed for small songbirds.

Good grasses play well with others, like those in this mixed meadow catching the morning light

or this grass garden in Toledo,

but keep their individuality, like this patch of (I think) pennisetum.
And some of them are just gorgeous.
I think we need to plant some purpletop.

Friday, August 23, 2013

"Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness"

Okay, so August isn't technically autumn yet (though as far as I'm concerned, once the school year starts, summer is OVER), but Wildwood Metropark is showing definite signs of the season. First was a glorious morning mist,
which, coupled with a distinct coolness in the air, made me think of fall.
The shrub dogwoods along the trails were fruiting (And am I the only person who finds white fruit unnerving? It makes me think of baneberry, a lovely Halloweenish name for a plant.), as were the plums, viburnums, and elderberries.

Ironweed and anemone, generally signs of fall, were in full bloom.
(Obviously, these pictures were taken in very different areas of Wildwood.)

Grasses and other plants were busily going to seed, and while I am never fast enough to get bird pictures with my camera, the little seed-eaters were everywhere. Some trees are even starting to turn, like this redbud and what I think was a dogwood at the other end of a meadow.

 Of course, autumn isn't quite here yet. This far north, some of the thistles are only now beginning to bloom,

which makes me wonder if some of the goldfinches flitting through the fields today might only now be preparing to raise the next generation. Autumn is cause for celebration, but so is the hanging-on of summer.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Raindrops keep fallin'

The working title for today's entry was "Yet another reason to love grass," but I couldn't restrict myself to writing about grasses, since what got me excited was the aftermath of yesterday's rain. We had had off-and-on drizzle for several hours, and even with no rain falling, the air was so damp that raindrops were staying right where they landed, reminding me of a friend's description of her home in North Florida: "The air's so thick you can breathe through gills here."  But despite my general dislike of humidity, of which we have had more than enough this summer, rain on the grasses had me as happy as sunshine on my shoulders. (Note to universe: not on a daily basis, and not all year round.) Instead of having to drag hoses from the rain barrels and wonder if I should go in for sunscreen--but I won't be out that long--I was captivated by raindrops taking their own sweet time going wherever it is that raindrops go when they finally drop off of the things on which they've fallen.
The purple lovegrass had become an ankle-high purple mist,
totally different from the switchgrass growing behind it, tall plants on which the droplets seemed to dance, even with no breeze.

My beloved muhly grass has been rather a dud this year,only now forming the bunches that are its characteristic form, but with raindrops hanging along every stem, I forgave it this year's lack of growth.
It wasn't only grasses providing temporary homes for tiny capsules of H2O. Jewelweed lived up to its name with fat, shimmering dots of water decorating every leaf.
And of course, physocarpus looks good wet or dry.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Update on the garden formerly known as hedge

We are now exactly two years post-yew hedge, the demise of which was documented in an earlier post. This week last year, I wrote of what had happened in the first post-hedge year. I am pleased to report that the hedge is now barely a memory and that the new plants have filled in--too much, necessitating thinning of several of the more enthusiastic members of this plant community. (I am not good at waiting for gardens to mature and invariably plant too many things too close together.)
 Despite the enthusiasm of the volunteer rudbeckia, we still have a hole in front of the physocarpus in which nothing has yet succeeded (thanks in large part to the neighborhood deer, who seem to find it their favorite snacking spot),

 though I suspect that this clump of (not-very) obedient plant will expand to fill the void
if the echinacea and wild ageratum don't get there first. (My money is on the physostegia, which seems to be colonizing all available driveway-bed space and is providing color for the new savannah garden, having been thinned from the backyard meadow bed to start with.)

 The bed on the side of the driveway adjoining the neighbor's yard has proven exceedingly coreopsis-friendly, this "Red Shift" currently overrunning the orange thyme and lavender planted next to the street. One of these two very happy clumps is going to find a new home in the savannah garden, where it will have lots of room to spread and intermingle with little bluestem, a favorite grass. Halving the amount of yellow daisy in this space will allow the dwarf aster and caryopteris (both about to bloom) to be more visible, and the yellow-purple-blue combination is a highlight of late summer.
Facing the street, we see the plants hidden by the coreopsis. While my original plan for this part of the bed called for native plants only, the Shasta daisies donated by an acquaintance leaving the area have proven a butterfly-friendly addition, as is the buddleia that volunteered and is now a place-holder in a semi-shady area while we wait for the spicebush and ferns we planted to fill in. I hope I have the discipline to take it out when the time comes as it has attracted swallowtails and fritillaries in droves this year.

The real delight of this driveway garden, though, is watching the goldfinches picking seeds off the echinacea. While the fast food of the sunflower seed feeder is just the other side of the rhododendron, there are always finches who prefer their seed in its natural state. 

Maybe someday I'll get a picture catching one of them in the act.