August 31, 2013

Garden lessons learned: summer 2013

swampmilkweed
Swamp Milkweed buds

It's time for the quarterly "Lessons Learned" meme and, frankly, I'm in denial. I don't want summer to end. As usual, I feel a little blue as the season winds down. Our summers here in the north are so pleasant, and they don't last long enough.

Summer hasn't technically ended yet, and I'm planning to make the most of the perfect weather in the weeks ahead. In the meantime, here are a few lessons I've learned this growing season:

squirrel
A regular guest

1. A lot more goes on in my garden during the day than I realized. This is the first summer I've worked full-time from my home office, which gave me a near-constant view of the backyard. I always knew diverse wildlife visited here, but I didn't realize it was such a major stopover. The regulars are too numerous to list here, but two new ones I hadn't seen in my backyard before are cooper's hawks and wild turkeys. I haven't captured a decent photo of a hawk yet, but after several attempts, I had a bit of success with the turkeys.

turkeys
Turkeys running away from me into the neighbors' yard

2. Wild turkeys eat, among other things, wood ticks and acorns. No wonder they like my backyard. It's an Oak opening leading to a forest, so it's full of ticks and acorns! I guess I'm glad the turkeys like to visit here--they haven't damaged the garden much, and they eat ticks!

swampmilkweed2
Who knew Swamp Milkweed would thrive in this spot?

3. Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) likes my garden! Butterfly Weed (A. tuberosa)--not so much. I guess that makes sense because bright sun (which Butterfly Weed prefers) is hard to come by (and perhaps not adequately drained in the spot I picked) in this garden. But I found the perfect spot for A. incarnata. It's a spot where several other plants sadly expired in the past. Dappled shade/sun; moist, deep top soil; bordered by Ferns and surrounded by ground cover plants. I'm so pleased it's happy here.

monarch
Screen capture from a video that I hope to upload later

4. Monarch butterflies like Swamp Milkweed! Several sources and people have told me it's one of their favorite Milkweed species. I didn't see many monarchs in my garden, but one in particular spent a good hour nectaring on the Swamp Milkweed.

zinnia
Why didn't I plant Zinnias this year?

5. I miss Zinnias. No, I really miss Zinnias! This is the first year in more than a decade that I haven't planted them. I was trying to practice crop rotation. And because I have very limited space for sun-loving plants, I ditched the Zinnias this year for more Cosmos. It's great having more Cosmos, but Zinnias will be back in my garden next summer.

bumble
Not a rusty patched bumble bee, but a sweet guest pollinator, nonetheless

6. The rusty patched bumble bee is threatened. In January, the Xerces Society filed a petition with the U.S. Fish and Wildllife Service to list it as endangered. I also learned that, fortunately, the rusty patched bumble bee is still quite common at UW-Madison's Arboretum--particularly in the native plant garden. I've been volunteering there this summer (I'll include more details about that experience later). Even during my limited time at the native plant garden, the rusty patched bumble bees were plentiful. They do, indeed, seem to like our native plants!

What gardening and nature lessons have you learned and relearned this season? If you live in the Southern Hemisphere, please share your winter musings.

To join in the Lessons Learned meme, share a new or a previous post you've written regarding things you've learned. No Linkys necessary: Simply share your link in your comment on this post.

Please also join Donna at Gardens Eye View for the Seasonal Celebrations meme. Posts that cover both memes offer a chance to reflect on the past season and look ahead to the next at the same time. Both memes will be active until the equinox, when we'll post the wrap-ups. Cheers!

52 comments:

  1. The one monarch that visited my garden also was all over the swamp milkweed. And in years past I have found the caterpillars on Butterfly weed. No caterpillars that I noticed this year. :(

    I'll be joining in around the 16th if not sooner. September looks to be as insanely busy as August has been.

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    1. Życzę jeszcze tego lata pięknych dalej kwiatów oraz motyli. Niech Cię odwiedzają dalej indyki, bo są pożyteczne i wiewiórki, bo są zabawne. Pozdrawiam.
      I wish this summer on the beautiful flowers and butterflies. May you continue to visit turkey, because they are useful and squirrels, because they are funny. Yours.

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    2. Donna: I've had several monarchs flitter through the yard, but only one (that I noticed) spent any amount of time nectaring. I think in my case, though, it's partly because of the lack of sunshine. The tiger swallowtails have been plentiful.

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    3. Giga: Thanks for your kind wishes. Yes, the squirrels are definitely fun to watch. They entertain me and the cats all day long. The turkeys are fascinating, too, and they don't seem destructive. Blessings to you in Poland.

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    4. Here's my link Beth:

      http://gardenseyeview.com/2013/09/16/garden-lessons-on-a-bloom-day/

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  2. You have learned, and taught us some amazing lessons...I'm with you on the Zinnias. Just wished I had planted masses of them. Next summer, more, more, more.

    Jen

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    1. The 'State Fair Mix' Zinnias are my favorites. Large, colorful, strong beauties that are great cut flowers, attract pollinators all summer and into fall, and are drought tolerant. And they're so colorful and sturdy!

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  3. I think nature is the one to teach the lessons learned this year. Our summer comes to a dry end again this year, with the loss of 6 more 100 year-old Norway Maples on our street. This adds to the dozen lost in the last two years. With all the insects and birds threatened, it may be just too late for the lessons to be learned. I have never been so worried for what lies ahead...

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    1. I've been feeling a little down about the drought and ecological issues, too, Donna. The loss of pollinators is a big issue--bigger than most of us realize. I'm so sorry about the Maple trees--that is very sad. We are back into a drought in the Madison area, too, although Milwaukee (only about 90 miles away) just got a good soaking. Strange.

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  4. How lovely to be able to work at home and see all the wildlife visiting your garden! That swamp milkweed is lovely - attractive to pollinators and humans too. I'm hoping to add a post to this meme in a week or so, if I have time. I'll leave the link later if I do.

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    1. Yes, having a view of the garden while working has been a treat. It's a little distracting, but I can work around that. ;-) If I'd known the Swamp Milkweed would work so well, I would have planted it long ago. I'm glad to hear you're planning to join in, Lyn. I so enjoy comparing lessons with gardeners in the southern hemisphere!

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  5. I learned to water less, let nature care . . . and my flowers flourished in new ways because of it.

    Plus we changed our bird feeding from keeping the feeders full to having only hummingbird feeders. I was worried that I wouldn't have my usual birds visiting but I think we had them more. Fortunately we have a wooded back where the birds flit about and get some of natures dinner choices for lunch.

    We have had more Hummers than ever, bees and butterflies too!

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    1. I might follow your advice about the bird feeders. We seem to have more birds at the feeders in spring, fall, and winter, and not as many during summer because they find other sources. It is fun to watch them just outside the window, though. :)

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  6. How fun to have those wild turkeys in your yard. They look like a kooky bunch. And tick-eaters to boot! Please tell them to come to my yard. I too work from home, and my lesson learned is, it's much more entertaining when your office has a window to the yard. I moved my office to the landing area and now I see nothing while I work. It's no fun at all.

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    1. Hi Sarah: OK, I will send the turkeys to your yard. I need to get more work done, so I should probably follow your example!

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  7. To add to the annoyance of continually having swamp milkweed expire a year or less after planting, now one plant is volunteering, growing where it was never planted, in the middle of a mulched path!

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    1. Of course! That seems to be the way things work in the garden. It will be interesting to see if the Milkweed survives the winter and returns (in the same spot).

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  8. I can share some photos of my powdery-mildew blasted and drought-stricken zinnias. That should clear up your zinnia nostalgia pretty darn quick! ;-)

    Just kidding. You may not have the same problems that I have down here in Middle TN.

    I love zinnias - especially because the butterflies enjoy them - and since they reliably volunteer in my garden, I don't even to buy them or sow them.

    But that said, I'm going to intentionally weed out any volunteers next year so that I can start over with some zinnias that are supposed to be more mildew-resistant, namely Benary's Giant Mix (Z. elegans)and the Pinwheel Mix (Z. marylandica).

    That is The Plan! Thanks for sharing your lessons :)

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    1. Ha! Thanks, Aaron. That did help a bit! But, yes, in the summer we have the same powdery mildew/drought issues. I think we have similar summer weather--we just have colder autumns, winters, and springs. :( I've enjoyed State Fair Mix Zinnias--they grow very large and tall, and make great cut flowers!

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  9. Beautiful images, I like that swamp milkweed it is a pretty plant. I am hoping to share some more stuff of my garden on my new blog, and maybe in the near future join in lessons learned, thanks for visiting my first post.

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    1. Thanks, Karen! Please do join in when you can. Welcome to the garden blogosphere. I'll look forward to your future posts!

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  10. omgosh we saw a turky once..hope no one scares them away..thanksgivings coming up haha

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    1. I know, I keep thinking of Thanksgiving whenever I see them. But they're in big flocks with little babies, so that would be sad. :( And possibly illegal in town.

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  11. Cute visitors! There were some wild turkeys roaming the neighborhood in the nearby town a year or two ago; I'm not sure that they bothered anyone, but "turkey sightings" were on the news for a week:)

    I have some swamp milkweed seeds that I received too late this year to plant; I hope I can find a spot they like as well as yours. Your Monarch is the perfect advertisement for why we should plant these.

    I've been keeping track of all the lessons I learned as the summer has gone on--looking forward to joining in!

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    1. I'll look forward to your post, Rose. You always share great lessons! I wonder if you could try planting some of the Milkweed seeds in fall--just like they would self-seed? I'm hoping mine will re-emerge next year.

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  12. Super cool to have all those turkeys visiting your garden! I didn't know they ate ticks...I must figure out a way to get them to come to our garden. I always plant zinnias in the kitchen garden. The pollinators love them and they always make me happy. I have swamp milkweed but I think it is in too shady a spot because it doesn't bloom much. I'm not ready for summer to be over yet either!

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    1. Yeah, isn't that great? Good to know some animals in the food chain can keep ticks under control. I thought my Milkweed was in too shady of a spot, too, but it captures flickering, dappled sunlight throughout the day. I really wasn't sure it would work--although I guess making it through the winter is the next test.

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  13. Awesome photos! Love your garden visitors! ♥

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    1. Thanks, Rebecca. They've been keeping me entertained this summer. Lots of hummingbirds today, but I wasn't fast enough with the camera.

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  14. How wonderful to have found the perfect plants for your particular spot. And that swamp milkweed is just gorgeous! What a beautiful color. Much too pretty of a bloom for its name! I'm looking forward to summer's end. I imagine our autumn temperatures are closer to your summer temperatures. It's just way too hot here right now!


    I'm joining in the meme. Here's my post:
    http://dreamingofroses.blogspot.com/2013/09/a-recurring-dream-seasonal-celebration.html

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    1. Thanks for joining in, Holley! I enjoyed your "dream" and your lesson--you are very wise! I suppose you're right: Our summers here are pretty close to ideal (in my book, anyway). Early autumn and late spring are nice, too, but the months in between are too cold and long for my liking. So, I always want the summer to linger a little longer. Enjoy your perfect "work" weather now, and happy autumn!

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  15. I made it! Here's my post.
    http://theamateurweeder.blogspot.com.au/2013/09/still-learning.html

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  16. I love lessons learned. My problem is I often have to have the lesson repeated two or three times.

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    1. Me, too. ;-) Often, it's because I forget things over the lonnnngggg winter.

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  17. hi Beth, how wonderful working from home, and being able to see the garden all day. Hopefully you can plant some native plants to attract that endangered bumble bee into your garden. Wonderful and varied visitors. Enjoy the summery weather while it lasts. I keep intending to join in this meme too,.. I should be able to manage a quarterly post!

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    1. Hi Sue: Thanks, it is beautiful here lately, although we really need rain now. The most recent precipitation split around us--so, while Milwaukee got a good soaking we had nothing. I have about a 60/40 split between native and non-native plants, although I am trying to increase the ratio to more like 80/20--excluding the grass. I do hope you'll join in the meme. I always enjoy your posts!

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  18. Hi Beth, thanks for sharing your lessons learned with us again, being a gardener is sure a constant learning curve! What have I learned this summer? Where do I begin! It has been a most unusual summer, the best in decades, for humans, bees, butterflies… and spider mites. But my post doesn’t have one word about spider mites, promise, I am finished with that topic, completely finished with it, they have all gone even though the damage is still all around me in the garden. My lesson learned is about sunflowers :-) Here it is:
    http://graphicality-uk.blogspot.co.uk/2013/09/let-sunshine-in.html

    Hope your summer last for many more weeks!

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    1. I so enjoyed your post, Helene. It's impossible to be anything but happy when looking at Sunflowers, and you have a healthy patch of them in your garden. Don't worry about overdoing it with the spider mites--I've had to deal with them quite a lot, too. Especially when we have a dry spell without rain, which is happening now. Thanks for joining in the meme!

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  19. for my southern hemisphere garden, the winter lesson learned is rain gardening. A concept and a label that I learned from American garden bloggers. Remember Janey who has gone quiet on us, but still comes to read my blog sometimes.
    http://elephantseyegarden.blogspot.com/2013/09/of-snow-and-rain-gardening.html

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    1. Rain gardening--that is a good lesson learned. Lately, it seems like we go for weeks without rain, and then a major deluge hits. I do need to create a rain garden for runoff in my garden. To be continued. And thanks so much for joining in the meme!

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  20. I enjoyed your post. Those wild turkeys sound like they'd be fun to watch. I love your photo of them. I'm glad you found a good spot for the Swamp milkweed. I have to water mine. I have problems growing cosmos. Either they don't bloom until almost time to freeze, or else they flop all over the place, and twist themselves around. I got my zinnia seeds planted late, but they are blooming now. I found some heirloom seeds for larger blooming ones, but should wait until next spring at this point.

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    1. Thanks, Sue. The turkeys certainly are entertaining! So many of them appear at once, in large flocks! I've watered the Swamp Milkweed a little bit, but I'm guessing during a "normal" season (and once it's fully established), it might not need much water. The Cosmos seem like no fail plants for me. The Zinnias usually are, too, but they looked a little punky last year--so maybe giving the spot a rest from Zinnias will help.

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  21. I'm going to add a post to your meme! It should be up in a few days. :o) I've learned so much this year but one big lesson has really stood out: I need to learn to listen to my garden. Despite the fact that my swamp milkweed has been begging for more moisture, I keep putting it in spots that aren't moist enough and some of it may have died. It's like a bad Verizon commercial with my garden screaming 'Can you hear me now?"

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    1. Yay! I "hear" you on that one. ;-) My garden screams at me a lot, too. There were so many other lessons that I didn't include here because I could have written a book. Oh well, there's always next year to make more mistakes and apply the lessons learned this year!

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  22. I just finished my post on lessons from this summer--I wanted to write it up before I forgot what I learned:)

    http://www.prairierosesgarden.blogspot.com

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    1. I so enjoyed your post, Rose! Your veggie garden looks so impressive--I really enjoy small potager gardens. It seems like every family should have one!

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  23. Greetings and happy Indian Summer moving into fall!
    I am joining in with your meme and very pleased to be a part of it.

    The post can be found at: http://www.life-change-compost.com/childless-by-choice-a-letter-to-the-daughter-i-never-had/

    It's a different take on lessons learned from gardening and more lessons learned from the garden itself.

    Susan Troccolo

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  24. My post is up. It's probably written a a bit differently that you would expect but I think you'll like it. :o)

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    1. Love it! I was chuckling out loud. Thanks for joining in--it will be fun to think of a way to describe your post in the wrap-up. :D

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  25. Lovely wildlife visitors Beth - I spend the day at home (work nights) and love watching the visitors.
    I've managed to join in Lessons Learned this time round!

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    1. Thank you. It's definitely entertaining to watch the critters, isn't it? Great post, Angie. I'm inspired to give seed gathering a little more effort! Thanks for joining in the meme.

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