Thursday, September 7, 2017

I came across a well travelled praying mantis. He started out on the long outside wall of the greenhouse.


Several days later, he had made it into one of the meandering gardens behind the greenhouse. That's a long trip on those short legs!


Now that we're into September, I'm looking at changes in the garden. The pineapple sage is big and budded up, but no red flowers yet. Calendula and gem marigolds are going strong. Profusion zinnias are still blooming up a storm, and will continue until frost. Flowering on the hyacinth bean vines outside the shop was delayed by the high temperatures in July, but the shiny, purple beans are starting to appear.

Garlic chives are in full bloom. The blossoms can be broken up into individual florets and sprinkled on salad or in soup. Or just leave them for the pollinators. They attract lots of insects.  But be sure to remove the flower stalks as they turn into seed heads. Garlic chives are a rampant reseeder.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

I am very excited about our crop of monarch butterfly caterpillars this year. It's definitely an improvement over the past few years. Today I saw more caterpillars on the swamp milkweed in the pollinator garden. We have a stand of common milkweed that planted itself in the stones behind the second greenhouse. I was never sure why John let it grow there, but it's paid off. More caterpillars on that. Maybe we're finally turning the corner when it comes to replenishing the monarch population.



I tend to judge the passage of time by what's going on in the garden. Spring is the reemergence of perennials and planting annuals. Summer is maintenance and harvesting. As the summer winds down, I see two signs of fall approaching. One is lovely pink anemones blooming. They are a beautiful part shade plant that bloom at the end of the season, rather than in spring, as most part shade flowers do.


The other is the daily gathering of goldfinches on the echinacea outside the greenhouse. They're feasting on the seeds and this year, there are several pairs that visit regularly.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

I know many people poo-poo butterfly bushes as a plant for pollinators. It's not native, some people say it's invasive, although I've never seen that in any of my garden settings, and it's not a host plant. But as a nectar source for a wide variety of butterflies, it's hard to beat. When I took these photos, in addition to the swallowtails and monarch, there were skippers, sulfers, a buckeye, and some small frittilaries feeding.



Although milkweeds serve as both a host plant and a nectar source, that's fairly uncommon. Many plants are either a source of nectar for adult butterflies or a host plant for the caterpillars. Plants like parsley, dill, fennel and rue are host plants for swallowtail butterfly caterpillars, but don't produce much nectar in their flowers. That's why having a wide variety of plants in your garden is so important.

Here is a native plant, Joe Pye weed, providing a meal for a bumblebee.


With the regular rainfall, there's lots to harvest from the garden. Mints, basils, chamomile, savory, lemon balm and verbena, oregano, calendula and more are all drying on my racks. Take advantage of the good weather and harvest now so you can enjoy the garden's bounty after the growing season ends.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

The pollinator situation has improved this summer. We saw quite a few honeybees, more than in the last few years combined. They were all over the thyme walk when it bloomed and now the clover in the yard is keeping them occupied.

We've had a number of monarch butterfly sightings. There are at least a pair, because we've seen two at once. And happily, I found a caterpillar on the swamp milkweed recently. I hope there are more and we have a good crop this year.


There are a lot of swallowtail butterflies around - both the tiger and the black. Caterpillars on the dill and parsley and according to my book, this is a swallowtail chrysalis. The two points on the top seem to be the identifying characteristic. It's on the inside front wall of the greenhouse, which is a protected spot.


Our plant sale continues. We still have a number of nice perennials available and a new crop of basil and dill.

I'm thankful for the break from the very humid weather. Much easier to work outside!

Thursday, July 13, 2017

The heat makes it a bit more difficult, but our garden work continues. I'm harvesting perennial herbs for drying and beginning to harvest annuals as they size up. I've cut back all the lavenders, except the later blooming varieties, which still have lots of bee activity.

And I was very happy to see dozens of honeybees on the flowers in the thyme walk. I hope this means things are improving for the bees.

Our plant sale continues. We have lots of nice perennials and a few annuals left. Plus, you get a free basil with your purchase!

Notes on some great garden plants:

Verbena is an easy and very pretty plant to grow. Although not winter hardy, it has reseeded every year, even after a severe winter. The bright purple blooms are on tall, wiry stems. It's a see-through plant - even planted in the front of a bed, it doesn't block the view of plants behind it. Attractive to both bees and butterflies.



Ammi is a new addition this year. Delicate Queen Anne's lace like flowers come in white, but also pink and purple. Looks good in the garden and also works as a filler with fresh cut flowers.


Thursday, June 29, 2017

It's funny how, once a topic crops up, it often reoccurs. My most recent example was in discussing tags with customers. My advice is, "Don't believe everything you read on a tag." Overall, they can be helpful, but they are written in general terms. It may say perennial, but when you read closely, it's only perennial to zone 7 ( we're zone 6.) Some perennial tags say "blooms all summer." Perennials have a season of bloom and a month is a long bloom time for perennials. It's actually annuals that boom all summer, in many cases.

A customer complimented us on the hydrangeas blooming in front of our house. She asked what I did to produce such a result. I replied, "Absolutely nothing!" A combination of the mild winter and wet spring produced a floriferous display.


Now that we're into summer, I'm harvesting regularly from the gardens. It's still mostly perennial culinary herbs like mints, tarragon, savory, sage, oregano, etc. at this point. I'm also picking flowers to dry as they bloom. Beautiful yellow yarrow is very productive and dries well.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Before these recent hot temperatures, I really enjoyed the week of pleasant spring weather. Luckily, it coincided with the first lavender harvest. I harvest and dry for bunching and make woven lavender hearts and wands, all of which we sell in the shop.

Lavender flowers should be harvested in bud, before the small, individual florets open. Many florets will drop, if cut when they're open, resulting in the loss of a lot of fragrance. The dark purple variety is Hidcote and is at its prime for harvesting.


The lavender variety is Munstead. Many of its florets have opened, so it is past its prime. However, this is the stage when the bees are anxious to work it. I let it go as long as the bees are interested, and cut off the spent flower stems when they are done with the flowers


After flowering is also the time to shape your plants. As long as there is new foliage at the base, I'll cut it back hard and remove the lanky or spindly stems.