September 01, 2014

Garden Lessons Learned: Summer 2014

zinnia

As one season transitions to another, it's time to share "lessons learned" during the past season with gardeners around the world. There's something encouraging in knowing that, as those of us in the Northern Hemisphere head toward the colder months, those in the Southern Hemisphere face the renewal of spring and summer.

No matter where you garden, I hope this past season was good for you! Please join in the "Lessons Learned" meme, if you're so inclined, by writing a post or sharing a previously written post about things you've learned during the past three months.

hyacinthbean2

As always, I learned many things this summer in my USDA zone 5 garden in Southern Wisconsin. Some are facts that were totally new to me. Others were things I'd heard about but never experienced firsthand. Here are a few of my lessons:

Didn't know:

oriole feeder

Oriole feeders aren't just for orioles. They also attract finches, woodpeckers, hummingbirds, and butterflies. I saw all of them at the oranges this summer. I didn't capture photos of every one, but that gives me another goal for the months ahead. I never expected that diversity of life at a simple, but beautiful, wooden feeder with oranges!

giant

Giant Swallowtail butterflies are attracted to Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata). I saw my first Giant Swallowtail, ever, this summer. At least I don't recall ever seeing one before. They're huge--with a wingspan of five to seven inches! We had Giant Swallowtail visitors several times this summer. And when the Swamp Milkweed was in bloom, they went directly to it, spending several minutes nectaring on its flowers. (By the way, hummingbirds, bees, moths--and of course Monarch butterflies, for which it's a larval host--among other pollinators, also love this plant.)

aster

Some Asters grow well in dappled shade. I planted 'Vibrant Dome' Asters in my garden last fall in two spots--both of which are quite shady. The Asters performed well this summer and are about to bloom. That part of the garden must receive just enough sun to keep them healthy and coax a few blooms.

Wasn't sure:

hyacinthbean

If rabbits chew off your Hyacinth Bean vine at the base, quickly stick the hanging stem back in the soil and water it liberally. Add some hot pepper flakes and rattling toys around the base (or whatever rabbit-deterrent works for you). If you're lucky, the vine will regrow roots and live to thrive for the rest of the season. (Of course, you can avoid all of this by only planting Hyacinth Bean in a protected area with plenty of chicken wire fencing. I temporarily forgot about my rabbit problem. Duh. Oh well ... it worked out OK.)

hostabumble

Our Hostas that usually bloom near the equinox are blooming earlier this year. In my post about them three years ago, they were blooming in late September. This year, they started blooming in late August. I tried to identify them in that previous post, but I'm not sure I have the species (H. aequinoctiiantha?) correct. In any case, the bumbles love them no matter when they bloom.

Heard about, but hadn't experienced firsthand until this summer:

lemon

Pollinators of all types do a much better job of pollinating a Meyer Lemon than I'll ever do with a tiny brush or a cotton swab. They crawl in and out and all around the blooms. Because of their excellent work, it looks promising that we'll have Lemons into the winter months.

monarch cat

Fifth instar Monarch caterpillars eat loads of Milkweed! I'd heard it said that feeding them live plants at this stage is like feeding a cow to a pond of piranhas! While that might be a slight exaggeration, they really do chow down fast on the last few days before they crawl off to form a chrysalis. I hadn't actively fed a caterpillar since I was a kid, but this year one found a home in a safe spot near the house. Long story, which I hope to share in a later post.

Those are just a few of the things I learned this season. How about you?

Feel free to add a link to your blog 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. Happy autumn (or spring to those in the Southern Hemisphere)!

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Also, for the first time, I'm linking in with Cathy's fabulous "In a Vase on Monday" meme, over at Rambling in the Garden. I've been meaning to join in for some time now, but the past several weeks have been hectic. It's a wonderful meme, and I hope to post more arrangements in the weeks ahead. For my first entry, in the spirit of the American Labor Day holiday, I selected two types of flowers that require very little labor. All you have to do is plop them in a vase:

cosmos
Cosmos (C. bipinnatus 'Versailles Mix')

snapdragons
Snapdragons (Antirrhinum majus 'Rocket Mix')

53 comments:

  1. I learned to stop using concrete stepping stones because they leach enough lime into the soil to change the pH and turn my plants yellow. Flagstones work much better. Hooray for lemons on your tree! Gotta love those little pollinators. :o)

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    1. Interesting ... thanks for letting me know! I wouldn't have known that. Yes, the Lemon is going through some interesting stages ... I think I need to treat it for scale again. It almost seems like it was healthier when it was inside, which is the opposite of what other people have said ... hmmm.

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  2. http://elephantseyegarden.blogspot.com/2014/08/a-swartland-garden-in-august.html
    (so the link is where you need it)

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    1. Thanks, again, Diana! Great post, as always! ;-)

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  3. I love all your experiences Beth! Learning about new insects are what attracts them speaks to my heart. I love when they find a home in the garden. The giant swallowtails are so impressive and a rare sighting (for me anyway). I love your hosta blooms. I watch a few hummingbirds at mine this summer...makes sense since they are tubular but I never thought of them for hummers.

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    1. I find it fascinating to see how you can have dozens of plants in your garden that they supposedly like, and then so many of them glom onto one plant. When the Swamp Milkweed blooms, every creature seems to go for it! It literally seems like a magnet. Love it! Actually, the hummingbirds occasionally go for the Hostas, but they prefer the Fuchsias, the Swamp Milkweed, and the Hyacinth Bean vine. I noticed last year, though, that the White-Lined Sphynx Moths go for the Hosta flowers. I haven't seen them much this year, yet.

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  4. I just had a Giant Swallowtail too...how exciting...I need a host plant now. I love your lessons Beth and I never knew about hosta flowers...mine flower at different times and the hummers are also enjoying mine too right now. And yippeee you are joining in Cathy's meme. Can't wait to see more of your vases.

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    1. The Giant Swallowtails seem to be more common in the north this year. I wonder why? I'd say global warming, but we had such a brutal winter. Oh well, what a joy for all of us! The hummers occasionally go for the Hosta flowers, but the bumbles are crazy about them! Plenty of pollen and nectar sources around here for everyone, though. I wish the hummers wouldn't fight so much, but I know that's part of the drill for them. :(

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    2. Here's my entry for Garden Lessons Learned Beth..thanks for hosting!! I love how this meme causes me to stop and reflect each season!

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  5. Thanks for the info, Beth.

    I'm hoping to add some Swamp Milkweed to my garden this autumn and your post gives me added incentive to do so!

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    1. You bet, Aaron. In my experience, at least in the spot where I have it planted, Swamp Milkweed is a butterfly, hummingbird, bee, and other pollinator magnet. It's amazing to watch all the creatures flock to it when the sun hits it in the afternoon. To think, I didn't have anything planted in that spot before--it was just waiting for that plant!

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  6. Hi Beth, I love your Oriole bird feeder! I had no clue either that hummingbirds, finches and butterflies go feast on the oranges either!
    A little vase of flowers can go a long way, can't it? Both your cosmos and snapdragons are so beautiful. I didn't cut too many flowers for indoors lately, but it is so worth it. You may just have inspired me to go out with the secateurs tomorrow and see what I can find... Wishing you nice rest of the week!
    Christina

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    1. Hi Christina: I usually have vases here and there, in the house and on the porch, throughout the growing season. They're usually very simple arrangements. :) I've been meaning to join in the "In a Vase" meme for a while--it's a great one! My dad made the Oriole feeder, and for several years it kind of just sat there. This year, I kept it stocked throughout late spring, and then again from mid-summer on. I was so surprised to see the hummers, finches, and butterflies enjoying it, too! I haven't seen Orioles there since May, but I'm glad the other creatures like it!

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  7. Your posts about lessons learned are to reflect about how seasons run. I love the wooden feeders with orange! And also the images with floral arrangements I couldn't work on mine this summer.

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    1. Hi Lula: Yes, the idea is to share garden or plant lessons you've learned during the past season. I hope you'll join in. It's fun to see what creatures show up at the feeders--including the Oriole feeder. The "In a Vase" meme is fun to follow!

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  8. I learn a lot from this post. Thanks for sharing. Last month I've learned that tomato can grow well from cutting. I found my little tomato plant have broken caused the water sprayed too strong. Than I put the cutting on the media, a week later it have rooted and now it's showing me a bountiful green fruits.

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    1. Ah, good to know! If that happens to me, I'll try it, too. It works for some plants and not others. It worked for the Hyacinth Bean vine for me, and the Tomato for you! Good news! And you have new Tomatoes. That is very good news, indeed!

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  9. Hi Beth - thanks for showing us your vases. I dithered about including foliage with my cosmos but your vase shows how it really sets off the flowers, doesn't it? And I almost like antirrhinums more in the bud stage than when fully open - very pretty!

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    1. Thank you for hosting! Yes, in the past I wasn't sure about the Cosmos foliage either, but then one year I tried it and it looked nice. And I know with some foliage if you don't clip it it gets mucky and moldy in the vase. With the Cosmos foliage, you can even include some in the water--which gives the vase a nice look, too. And, yes, I agree about the partially opened Snapdragons--they're so pretty when they still have some buds on them. :)

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  10. Great lessons, gardening is always full of surprises isn't it?

    Jen

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    1. Thanks, Jen! Yes! The more I learn about plants and gardening, the more I realize I have yet to learn. It's fabulous!

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  11. Thanks for sharing your experience with putting oranges out for the orioles. I put some slices in a raised dish but it appears they were ignored - perhaps a more visible feeder like the one you used would have made a difference. Next time.

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    1. I've tried bananas in dishes before, too, with no success. Although, I didn't really stick with it long-term. It seemed the flies and gnats were more attracted to the bananas than anyone else. The oranges attract some flies, but not as many and they don't rot quite as fast as the oranges. Plus, the desirable pollinators and birds showed up pretty fast. Good luck!

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  12. A great post Beth. How wonderful to have Golden Orieles and Giant Swallowtail butterflies in your garden.
    I loved your pretty arrangements.

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    1. Thanks, Chloris. It has been a joyful season in the garden. It almost makes up for the horrible winter we had ... almost. Happy autumn!

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  13. Glad your hyacinth bean vine survived the rabbit onslaught. I never got around to planting any this year, and then one day I discovered it growing up the trellis. I learned that hyacinth bean vine can re-seed! There is always something new to learn in the garden; I'll join in with a post later.

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    1. Yes, that was a relief! What was I thinking?! I need chicken wire around anything that rabbits like to eat--including all legumes. I'm glad you had some surprise vines, Rose! Yes, there's always something new to learn!

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  14. Living here on Lake Michigan just north of you - I can say "dido" to your lessons learned. I am going to reflect on lessons learned - interesting idea for a blog posting. Thanks for the posting. Jack

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    1. Is the weather turning colder for you, Jack? We will be hot on Thursday, and then a big cool-off into the low 70s for a few days. That sounds pleasant, although I don't look forward to the really cold stuff. ;-)

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  15. Haven't tried oranges, I just stick with jelly. I think I'll give oranges a try next year, though. There are a number of asters that do well in shade - Short's Aster, Crooked Stem Aster, and Big Leaf Aster among them.

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    1. I've heard about jelly, but never tried it. Maybe I'll experiment with your method. ;-) Good to know about the Asters! I didn't know (or wasn't sure) until I tried it.

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  16. I planted a little milkweed, tuberosa, last year, and it took a really long time to come up this year, then a rabbit got through the fence and ate it down to the ground. But it is trying to regrow, I hope it can get big enough to make it through the winter. I would love to have some monarch butterfly cats, though with such a small plant maybe they wouldn't leave much either. Yours looks wonderful.

    The orange feeder looks cool, do the birds manage to eat most of it or do you end up throwing a lot away?

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    1. Hi Hannah: My A. tuberosa is taking a long time to establish, too. The A. incarnata is much larger--from one small plant it expanded into a branching, shrub-like grouping of several plants. It also seems to attract the butterflies more. And it grew large the first year. But I do like the look of the Butterfly Weed, too. Many people have told me it takes a while to establish because of its deep taproot. Regarding the oranges, the Orioles, when they show up, eat most of the fruit. Otherwise, it merely attracts the finches, woodpeckers, and hummingbirds to peck at the juice and the small bugs that collect on the fruit. I change out the fruit every few days and add it to the compost bin.

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  17. A beautiful post, Beth and a great idea. I could fill a book with what I've learned through the many, many mistakes I've made! Lovely photos, as well.

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    1. Thank you! I agree--over the years, the lessons really add up ... and I learn something new about plants and gardening every season. Actually, more like every week! -)

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  18. A lovely post Beth. I guess this year I've learnt that it's okay to take your whole garden to pieces and put it back the way you want it ;-) . I love the Cosmos in your vase, it's such a pretty flower.

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    1. Thanks, Paula. You are brave! There are definitely sections of my garden that I should take apart and rebuild--I think I should learn a few lessons from you! :)

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  19. Lots of things I did not know either! Just planted swamp milkweed last year, so I am looking forward to many visitors.

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    1. I think you'll be pleased with it over time. The first year, I had a few monarch visitors (plus hummingbirds and bees), and then this year it was swarming with pollinators at the peak of its bloom! At one point, as I was filming a monarch there, a hummingbird came close, and several bees were in on the act at the same time. And then a few days later, the Giant Swallowtails started showing up. It's the strongest pollinator magnet plant in my garden. I've heard Buddleia is the same way, and I've noticed how they love it at Olbrich.

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  20. I need to remember that everything in this garden grows taller than advertised. This includes Jerusalem Artichokes, which have swamped the veg bed and flopped all over the clothes line. Never again! Your giant butterflies and caterpillars are amazing. I've seen far more butterflies in my garden this year, so adding in lots of perennials is doing what I had hoped. That orange feeder is amazing!

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    1. Lucky you! Sometimes that happens for me, too. And sometimes the plants end up shorter than expected. The biggest problem is when those two "issues" happen in the same grouping--which happened to me this year. Hopefully, they'll even out next summer. ;^)

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  21. Here's a post about a couple of lessons learned this summer.
    http://gardeninacity.wordpress.com/2014/9/11/a-couple-of-lessons-that-took-a-long-time-to-learn-but-now-seem-kind-of-obvious/

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    1. Thanks for joining in, Jason! I enjoyed your honesty and humor, as always. :) Great post!

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  22. I wish I'd seen this post sooner. I have a morning glory vine the rabbits chewed off & I would have tried saving it with your method. I was just sick when I saw the vine dying on the tuteur. That was actually the second one they'd chewed, the first was my moonflower. Gardening with wildlife sure is challenging! Looks like you had another positive year of learning. I feed my orioles grape jelly. I find the other birds like it just like everyone likes your oranges.

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    1. Many people have mentioned that they use grape jelly. I'll have to try that one of these days. Darn rabbits! I don't even think they're cute anymore because they eat my plants down to the ground. Argh. I was lucky I caught the damage soon after it happened ... and lucky that my experiment worked!

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  23. I am joining this party for the first time. I'm not sure I've ever seen a Giant Swallowtail, but I did finish raising a Black Swallowtail caterpillar earlier this summer, after finding it on a fennel plant I bought at the farmers' market.

    My lesson is about using the technology so easily at hand these days: http://cosmosandcleome.wordpress.com/2014/09/13/lesson-learned-summer-2014/ ---Kimberley

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    1. Hi Kimberley: Thanks so much for joining in! Swallowtails of all sorts are such graceful butterflies. Congratulations on your success with raising the caterpillar!

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  24. Thanks for all the lessons Beth, there is always something new to learn in the garden. This summer has been the perfect summer in my garden, very nice weather late spring and early summer, cool August without the burning hot, dry weather we usually have, the result is that my garden is a green oasis with taller plants than ever. Some are very tall! My main lessons have been about growing tomatoes and chillies for the first time, in containers. I learned that even if the seedlings turned up first week of July and looked tiny and miserable, I still got red tomatoes in September – although I cut off probably more than 300 tomato flowers to be sure to get a harvest. Not sure if it was necessary but who could have foreseen the amazing weather we have had in September! I will grow container tomatoes next year too, I am hooked!

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    1. Yes, yes, yes. I'm glad you've had great luck with tomatoes and chilis. They are so tasty, aren't they?! We had fabulous weather this summer, too. Soon (October), I'll have to pick the remaining tomatoes and let them ripen inside. Until then, we're enjoying fresh bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwiches!

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  25. My lessons learned are mostly about plants that have succeeded on my sloping ramp, and also some cool season vegetables I am trying this year.
    http://weedingonthewildside.blogspot.com/2014/09/lessons-learned-ramping-it-up-slope.html

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    1. Great lessons, Hannah! I so enjoyed learning about the xeric plants you placed on your slope by the ramp. It looks great--with the added benefit that they don't require much pampering from you. Thanks for joining in!

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  26. My post will be up tomorrow evening (the 21st) at http://www.prairierosesgarden.blogspot.com. Thanks for hosting this, Beth; it's one of my favorite memes. I'm always surprised when I reflect on the past season how many different lessons I have learned--I had to save a couple for next time!

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    1. I'll look forward to reading your post, Rose! It's always a joy, and I always learn so much from you. Thanks for joining in!

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