Saturday, September 24, 2016

Success! After two years without hatching any monarch caterpillars in our garden, we finally had a good crop. I noticed our perennial swamp !milkweed was defoliated and I hoped it was because caterpillars were eating it. And sure enough, I saw half a dozen in one section of our pollinator garden.

I didn't check all the wild milkweed we have growing in the back corner of the yard. Hopefully,there are some more on that. I know our customers are very concerned about the fate of the monarchs and butterflies in general. For  two years, we have sold every monarch host plant we grew. People are definitely trying to make a difference, an I'm optimistic it will help.

Now that the season is coming to a close, our annual hyacinth bean vine is finally starting to look good. It just sat through much of the summer's heat and dryness. Now that it's cooling down and we got some rain, it has perked up. For awhile, I didn't think it would get any beans.  I can tell it's very late, since it has both flowers and beans at the same time. Like other beans, let the pods dry on the plant, before you harvest them for seeds for next year.

I'm wrapping up my harvesting and cleaning up the gardens. One task is to cut off the spent blossoms of garlic chives before they go to seed.

The summer blooming white flowers are very popular with pollinators and are edible. The seed heads start green, like the photo, and the seeds ripen to black. If not removed before they ripen, they will seed everywhere! It reminds me of people's complaints about lemon balm. Although a vigorous plant, lemon balm's tendency to spread is caused by the large amount of seeds it produces and broadcasts. Garlic chives is just as bad. So off with their heads!

Overall, I can't complain about the harvest this year. Some things were very productive, others not. John commented on how nice the snapdragons look as they start to rebloom. But the little gem marigolds, which usually look so nice in the fall, never took off this year. I cut back calendula, in hopes that it will bloom some more. It was not as productive as it generally is.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

I had a good crop of swallowtail butterfly caterpillars on our remaining potted parsley plants. I watched as they munched their way through the foliage, and when it was all gone, I put the rue plants on the same flat and the caterpillars moved over and resumed feeding. Other plants in the same family, like fennel and dill are also host for swallowtail caterpillars. They will become yellow and black tiger or black swallowtail butterflies. Most caterpillars leave the host plant to form their chrysalis, often attaching to a branch or wooden form of some kind.

I was talking to a friend the other day and she said their sweet autumn clematis was in bud. Ours is in full bloom on the ends of the pergola. It always reminds !e of a fragrant white cloud when it blooms. Being native, it is exceedingly hardy. Although the flowers are smaller than many clematis varieties, it blooms in such profusion, as to produce a stunning show.  And the aroma is divine!

As I go through the gardens cutting back and cleaning up, I'm beginning to remove some annuals that have suffered with our hot, dry summer. It's early for me to do this, but things that looking poorly will not recover at this point. Some things are just plain late this season. Several customers talked to me about their hyacinth bean vines doing poorly. Mine has really just started to grow well in the last few weeks. It's flowering now, so if any beans develop, it will be a small number.

More plants I like:

Attar of rose geranium - My favorite rose geranium for scent. It's a lovely floral fragrance produced by its oil which is used in perfumery. Like other rose geraniums, it has clusters of small, pink flowers. It is wider than tall, and really behaves like a ground cover on the garden, although the plant is not winter hardy.