September 17, 2019

The Late Bloomer

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Can you see it?

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How about now?

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Yes, that's right; it's a monarch caterpillar. I believe it's a fourth instar, which means it probably has about a week left as a caterpillar, and then about two weeks in its chrysalis. This would put it at about the second week of October for its flight to Mexico.

This is not unheard of here at the 43rd parallel, but this little buddy is definitely a late bloomer. Hopefully, the weather will cooperate to give it warmth and cooperative winds for a successful journey south.

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My neighbor is a teacher, and I gave her three other caterpillars for her classroom, which the students named Jeffrey, Gus, and Spike. I also handed off this little guy/gal: I wonder what they'll name it?

Stay tuned: I'll keep you posted on the progress of Jeffrey, Gus, Spike, and the late bloomer.

August 19, 2019

Garden Coping Skills

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I was feeling a little depressed about the garden recently.

It's been a wet, messy, overgrown growing season. Everything looks lush and full, but for many reasons it's not "normal" and I haven't had the time to address all my garden problem areas.

So, I decided to focus on the positive: the plants that are performing well...the happy surprises...the basic, simple discovered joys.

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Starting in dappled shade: Fuchsia 'Marinka' (first photo) has successfully overwintered for several years now. It took a while to get going this spring, but it's blooming like crazy now.

The potted plants by the pond (above) are happy, too, anchored by an AAS Winner Canna 'South Pacific Orange.' It may never bloom in the shade, which is probably a good thing because the foliage looks great with the other plants, and the flowers would clash.

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The Naked Ladies, aka Resurrection Lilies, aka Assumption Lilies (Lycoris squamigera), seem to magically catch the limited dappled sunlight in a back corner of the garden. They survived a major neighborhood digging project for upgraded cable access. That entire back area was a mess, and I've simply let the plants repopulate and find their way.

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Here's another plant that really should be in more sun, but it's stunning in dappled shade: AAS winner Begonia 'Viking XL Red on Chocolate.' I mean it's flowering even in the shade, but the foliage is incredible! The leaves are huge and waxy and they really do look chocolaty and good enough to eat (but don't!).

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The Spotted Jewelweed (Impatiens capensis) is blooming and attracting hummingbirds and other pollinators.

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In spite of its pot tumbling over several times in heavy storms (long story), this combination of Coleus 'Colorblaze Lime Time' and New Guinea Impatiens 'Sonic Light Pink' is still going strong. I love the color combination.

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I'm happy to see that the new Wild Bergamot (Monarda fistulosa) I planted a few weeks ago seems to be taking off and filling in its areas. The rabbits don't seem to be eating it, as they've done with just about every other plant I've tried in this part of the garden. It won't bloom this year, but if it survives the winter and the rabbits, maybe it will bloom next summer.

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Now to the sun: The potager garden is a sloppy mess, but it's full of butterflies, bees, and other garden friends (and adversaries).

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I could spend hours watching bumbles hugging Cosmos (C. bipinnatus). There's just so much to like about Cosmos, and they just keep on giving throughout the growing season.

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The 'May Night' Salvia (Salvia x sylvestris) is on its fourth or fifth (or more?) bloom cycle after repeated deadheading.

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The Calamint (Calamintha nepeta) is blocking the rabbits from an uncaged part of the garden. Because it's a mint rabbits tend to stay away. Plus, the pollinators love it.

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It's nice to have a late-season flush of color from the Butterflyweed (Asclepias tuberosa). I found quite a few monarch eggs and caterpillars on the buds of this plant this season. The goldenrod soldier beetle blends right in, (probably hunting for eggs...oh well).

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The Blue Vervain (Verbena hastata) has really filled in this year, and I like the way its "fingers" of seeds are reaching for the sun.

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This tiny assassin bug is waiting for a pollinator meal. Should I interfere with nature?

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'Goldfinger' Tithonia, grown from seed, took a little longer to bloom this season, but the flowers will open very soon (scratch that--they're blooming today, but I didn't have a chance to take another photo and upload it).

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'Zowie! Yellow Flame' Zinnias (also grown from seed) always brighten my day, and soon they'll have companion Blue Mistflowers (Conoclinium coelestinum) blooming by their sides.

It might be a messy, sloppy, overgrown season, but there are always garden surprises and successes to celebrate.

August 12, 2019

Imagine a Garden Framed by a Prairie

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The garden of Linda Grosz, in Middleton, Wisconsin, is truly a special place. A ring of native prairie--planted from seed 20 years ago--surrounds her 1.75-acre property, acting as a pollinator haven, a native wildflower showcase, and a "sponge" for rainwater runoff. The garden actually appears much larger, with a "borrowed view" of a golf course beyond.

The sights, sounds, and scents are truly a feast for the senses. Butterflies, bees, and other pollinators are plentiful and active. Monarda, Silphiums, Helianthus, Ratibida, Asclepias, and many other genera happily bloom side-by-side.

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Linda was kind enough to let me tour her garden twice this summer--the prairie was stunning both times, with different blooms on display. In late July, I was fortunate to see the native Turk's Cap Lilies (Lilium superbum) in full bloom.

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In addition to the ring of prairie, Linda's garden offers other magical features, including her fairy garden, full of tiny props and tiny plants.

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These miniature Hostas will always be just the right size for the fairy garden.

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At the same time, an impressive collection of larger Hostas grace other areas of her garden.

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A stream with waterfalls provides naturalistic movement.

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Linda is very creative with plantings along a rocky berm.

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And in her potted arrangements.

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Of course, any garden with a pond full of blooming Water Lilies is truly special.

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From Linda's elevated deck, you get a nice view of the full effect: large Willows and other trees, the prairie ring, stream, side gardens, pond, sitting areas, and more.

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Another viewpoint...

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And yet another.

This is a special place. Thank you, Linda, for your hospitality and for sharing your garden.

(This is one of many amazing gardens that will be included in next June's Madison-area Garden Bloggers Fling. For updates on this and other featured gardens and events, visit gardenbloggersfling.blogspot.com in the months ahead!)