October 31, 2016

Plant of the Month: Virginia Waterleaf

Hydrophyllum virginianum in springtime

I noticed a few patches of Virginia Waterleaf (Hydrophyllum virginianum) in our woodland the other day--not the spring flowers, but the foliage.

autumn wet  year
Hydrophyllum virginianum this fall

Normally they'd be dormant by now in my climate--either dried by parched late-summer days or liquefied by autumn frost. Neither has happened here ... yet.

It's been unseasonably warm and rainy through September and October. We still haven't had a frost (although some areas nearby have had a very light one). In any case, the Virginia Waterleaf is still green.

flowers and foliage

In the spring and summer, it's a hearty and hardy woodland garden plant. Some consider it a little "weedy," but our woodland is a bit wild. We tend to take a "hands-off" approach in this part of the property--removing only non-native invasive plants.

Virginia Waterleaf has a welcome home in the woodland and the woodland edge. It's a good placeholder to compete with Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata), which is a non-native invasive that would take over the woods if not removed.

wildflower patch

Virginia Waterleaf is a natural, pleasant companion to Trilliums, ferns, and other woodland plants. It's a fascinating little plant, really.





From emergence to bud, to bloom to seed, and beyond.

foliage and bud

The name comes from the water-drop-like marks on the foliage.

Its native distribution extends through eastern North America--from Quebec to Manitoba, south through the Carolinas and west to Kansas, according to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. Growing conditions include:

  • Prefers part shade or shade;
  • Thrives in rich, mesic soils;
  • Spreads via rhizomes and seeds; and
  • Is hardy in USDA zones 4-9.

tight buds

I find the tight buds particularly enchanting.

hairy flowers

The five-petal flowers with hairy stamens and sepals are quite whimsical, and they welcome pollinators during their brief bloom time. The color ranges from white to a light lavender hue.


Over the years, my appreciation has grown for this fluffy native plant with "water-stained" foliage.

(Linking to Gail's Wildflower Wednesday, a few days late.)

October 25, 2016

A Sunday Drive to the Apple Orchards

skihi view

We drove to the Baraboo Hills and the Driftless Region on Sunday, thinking the fall color would be brilliant. It wasn't--it was "past peak"--but it was still an incredibly beautiful day, with partly cloudy skies, light winds, and temperatures in the high 60sF/20C.

skihi trail

While many of the leaves had fallen, the sunlight hitting the foliage and the bare branches was pleasant.

skihi people

And the day was bright.

Actually, our quest extended beyond fall color. We were heading for some apple orchards--to stock up for pies, crisps, and snacking. Our first stop was one of our family's favorite destinations--Ski Hi Fruit Farm, just south of Baraboo. The weather was great for a picnic before apple shopping.

skihi picnic

Fortunately, we'd packed a lunch, so the fishman and I plopped down on a picnic-table-for-two amid the fruit trees, overlooking the valley.

skihi history

After buying some apples and other goodies, we explored the property and read about the homestead's history. Ski-Hi, owned by the Bassett family has been in continuous production for more than 100 years. The family grows about 25 varieties of apples on 50 acres.

skihi homestead

skihi view 2

It's a beautiful property with great views, in addition to the apples as the main attraction.

oakwood tractor

Our next stop was Oakwood Fruit Farm, near Richland Center. This was our first visit to this orchard, also a pleasant experience. Oakwood has an attractive display area and family-friendly farm props and activities.

oakwood view

It also has great views of the surrounding hills and valleys.

oakwood orchard

oakwood trees

oakwood produce

oakwood pumpkins

The pumpkins and other produce were tempting, but we already had some at home.

oakwood trees 2

Oakwood, run by the Louis family, started production in the early 1900s. The orchard includes more than 20 cultivars, grown on about 200 acres.


By the end of the day, we'd purchased 15 pounds of apples (Cortlands, Spartans, and Royal Galas), a jar of Bucky Badger horseradish, and six apple cider donuts (notice two are missing?). After snapping this haphazard photo, I'd planned to re-do it, but by then there were only two donuts left. Have you ever tasted apple cider donuts?!

October 15, 2016

Warm Days After Flirting With Frost

autumn pot

We’ve escaped the icy grips of Father Frost in our garden, which means an extended season of flowers. Yippee. In the countryside and along the roadways, few nectar sources remain except Asters, White Snakeroots, a few Goldenrods, and the occasional reblooming wildflowers--confused, perhaps, that a restart of warmth means it could be spring.

Of course, we know better.

So the autumn march begins ... stuffing front porch pots with hardy kales and cabbages, decorating the house for Halloween and Thanksgiving, planning for upcoming family gatherings, and preparing our psyches for that season of white and gray and brown.

But not quite yet ...

cut flowers

Since we had a threat of frost recently, I clipped the brightest Zinnias and some Coleus foliage for a floral arrangement.


But after two nights in the mid-30s F (~2C), followed by a warm-up, the Zinnias (Z. elegans) are popping into bloom again.


Of course, Sedum 'Autumn Joy' is in its element.


The Lantanas (L. camara) are budding and blooming as if it's May.


Same with the Pentas (P. lanceolata 'Graffit Violet').


I didn't clip the remaining 'Sensation Mix' Cosmos (C. bipinnatus), thinking they could take a light frost. Turns out, they didn't need to fight for life anyway. I'll have a few more for cuttings next week.


'Cathedral Sky Blue' Salvia (S. farinacea) looks straggly. I could trim it to encourage more blooms, but that would be silly since it's living on borrowed time. Might as well let it bloom for the straggler pollinators.


The Lamiums' (L. maculatum) little hoods also welcome any pollinators still hanging on to the last warm days of the growing season.


'Marinka' Fuchsias in hanging baskets are like ever-bearing shrubs. I overwintered them last year in the sunroom, and I'll do the same this year. Why not save a few bucks? The hummingbirds do seem to enjoy them so!


Blue Mistflower (Conoclinium coelestinum) has been blooming since August, adding clouds of soft blue to the garden.

mistflower critters

I haven't seen as many bees on the Mistflower lately (unlike earlier in the season when they were busy buzzing around it), but I did notice a stink bug and a lady beetle, among other insects.

asters and mistflower

My vision for this part of the garden is starting to take shape: Mistflower makes a pretty backdrop for the 'Vibrant Dome' Asters (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae).

The days are shorter and the light is lower in the sky. Autumn is with us, but it's a mild one this year.

How about you? What's blooming and brightening your garden this October?

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day
Foliage Follow-Up

October 06, 2016

The Zoro Garden in San Diego's Balboa Park

monarch lantana 1

Butterfly season is winding down here in the north.

This sad fact had me thinking about my first butterfly encounters of the year. They happened during our March trip to San Diego for a family event. On one of the days, I had a couple of hours to explore Balboa Park--obviously, not nearly enough time--but I tried to make the most of it. (My first post about Balboa Park highlighted the Inez Grant Parker Memorial Rose Garden.)

I knew next to nothing about Balboa Park before arriving. So, I basically started walking around--briefly glancing at the map to figure out the general direction and highlights I wanted to see.

Remember, I had recently landed in San Diego from the Midwest, where winter was just breaking its icy grip. Those of you who live in colder climates know the feeling--it's like coming back to life again after sleeping for several months.

african daisy

Anyway, suddenly the world was full of color. Every blooming plant seemed like a gift, including these African Daisies (Osteospermum spp.).

pride of madeira

And these Pride of Madeira (Echium candicans) blooms, covered in bees.

As I meandered my way along the paths, suddenly I noticed butterflies everywhere--Western Tiger Swallowtails, Painted Ladies, Monarchs, and others. Following the butterflies, I descended a stairway into an area surrounded by rock walls, Ficus and Palm trees, and winding, circular paths.


I didn't realize it at the time, but I had entered the Zoro Garden. I wish I'd taken more photos, but it was under reconstruction while I was there. The above public domain photo provides a glimpse of a small portion of the six-acre sunken grotto garden before the reconstruction.

Even during my visit, with construction, butterflies were everywhere.

tropical milkweed

And then I noticed this.

stripped milkweed

And this (see the caterpillar?).

Those familiar with this plant know it's ravaged Tropical Milkweed (Asclepias curassavica). And when it's "ravaged," that's a good thing. It means Monarch caterpillars have had a feast and are nearby. And if you're lucky, you'll also see Monarch adult butterflies.

monarch on fern

I was lucky that day. There were many Monarch butterflies in the Zoro Garden.

monarch lantana 3

monarch lantana 2

I was so pleased to see them sunning on the ferns and nectaring on the blooms--mostly on Lantanas (L. camara), which confirmed my plan to include more Lantanas (annuals north of zone 7) in my own garden.

passion flower

I also noticed some incredible Passion Flower vines and blooms (a host plant for Fritillary caterpillars/butterflies). I believe this is Crimson Passion Flower (Passiflora vitifolia).

lizard rocks

This cute lizard was sunning on the rocks.


I'm thinking it was a Western Fence Lizard?

I lingered in the area taking in the butterflies and the sun and the blooms. I really had no idea about the significance of this garden until later, when I did some research.

Let's just say it has an interesting past. In an effort to keep this blog rated "G" (or at least "PG") I send you to a link about the Zoro Garden's history.

A friend with connections to Balboa Park's gardens says Zoro Garden has a promising future, as well--building on its recent past serving as a butterfly garden with host and nectar plants for the various stages of butterfly life cycles. Here's a brochure about the species you might find in the garden.

To get a sense of the Zoro Garden--where to find it (it's tricky) and what it's like to walk into it--here's a video someone posted to YouTube:

On my way back to the San Diego Zoo to meet family members, I noticed more Tropical Milkweed, more butterflies, and more caterpillars.

cat on milkweed

monarch cat 1

monarch cat 2


It was a good day.