Thursday, June 12, 2008

Thy Neighbor's Garden

Mornings have become so entertaining here on Not Wisteria Lane, now that the irrepressible Bosun has arrived in the neighborhood. There's always at least one sighting, when she joins her parents to walk their little girl out to the school bus.

It's the best time of day for a good solid watering (it's now officially a week since our last fall of rain) of the garden, so I get to see and participate in all the fun.

At the risk of turning this into a blog about dogs, I'll related the latest. Today, on the way back from the bus stop, there was a convergence of neighbors and Bosun decided to try engaging Sophie in some rough-housing.

Sophie is really the Grande Dame of the neighbor hood and despite her dimi nutive stature, she wasted no time in laying down the law to this younger, over-enthusiastic new generation.

We all laughed as she gave her sternest "arp arp arp" and chased Bosun right out of her yard.

Out of breath and more than a little surprised, Bo came running back out and cowered behind her parents and me in the street. It's good she's learning the pecking order in the neighborhood and certainly great fun to watch.

When the watering was all taken care of, my camera and I wandered down the street to explore some of the neighbors' gardens, particularly the one with the dark iris I spotted on Em's and my nightly walk.

These pink roses are certainly beautiful, but I was disappointed to discover they have no scent to them. Fortunately, I'd also discovered that our east and west hedges--where the weigela and spirea intermingle--are also home to some of those wild white roses, so the air was already delightfully scented. I told you they were everywhere!!

On the way to the irises, I met another of our neighbors, G. His yard was beautifully gardened by the former owner, and is in a sort of wild, overgrown state these days, but still home to a wonderful assortment of blooms. G admits to not being much of a gardener and also believes that the former owner is more than a little annoyed about what he sees as neglect.

However, the wild state of things there hasn't discouraged these big oriental poppies even a little. Over the course of the spring, I've also spotted an assortment of crocuses, irises, daffodils, hellebores and all manner of other things growing quite happily. Isn't it nice to see a well-established garden doing its own thing, too?

G told me there was, at one point, a band of wild turkeys who wandered into the neighborhood. All the neighbors were keen to keep them around, until they started marauding and attacking people...which probably explains why I haven't seen any sign of them during our brief residence here.

Check these red and yellow columbines--pretty fancy, huh? After a nice visit, it was time to mosey along and I came to that big iris, which turns out not to be purple at all, but in fact a very deep, dark red. And yes, it's true--some irises are scented. This one, to my great surprise, smells of root beer! Amazing!!

I'm not sure if these blue irises are scented or not, as they were located deep in the bed and I didn't want to trample anything. But they sure are wonderful to behold, and look how nicely they play with the royal blue columbines down in the lower right.

When I returned to the home garden, I was thrilled to discover this swallowtail butterfly looping and diving and soaring over and through the sections of the fence. It seemed as happy to see a garden where there'd been none last year. And I took this activity as a hearty endorsement of my efforts.

After fixing a second cup of coffee, I went back out to the garden to do some more weeding and reviewing, carefully pulling out the little bits of grass while trying to identify and avoid the new seedlings which are coming up all over the place.

I also got the pole beans planted at the base of the sprouted corn stalks, Step Two in the making of the Three Sisters Garden. In addition to the butterfly, I also noted a greater assortment of various pollinators visiting the garden today, as well as some of the first bees I have spotted here so far...definitely good news there.

Being the twelfth of June, today was also my half-birthday. That's not something I usually celebrate or even take note of, but as it turned out, today was a real nice day for me. I'll even go so far to say that it was a vast improvement over my actual birthday last December, when I had screwed up my back and was not only hosting Christmas parties at work, but in the process of making the move from Eastham to Harwich.

As it turned out, I had a massage scheduled for the early afternoon, a free one from my pal, British Jane, who's just getting started. It was quite delightful, not only to have a bit of a visit with her, but also to enjoy a little pampering and relaxation. I'm happy to highly recommend her services--if you live locally and need a massage, send me an email and I'll hook you up with her real name and phone number so you can make an appointment!

To carry the relaxation theme afterwards, I felt it necessary to see The Ocean today and so I drove to Nauset Beach in East Orleans. I didn't stay long, as that would've entailed me paying for parking and all that (it's June now, after all, and the government likes to regulate access to the ocean at this part of the Cape, it being the National Seashore and all...), but even just a few moments gazing out at the vastness of the Atlantic was wonderful.

Too soon I was back home and tending to some less glamorous aspects of a day off, such as laundry, dishes, cat box and some window cleaning. But as soon as I could, I made my way back out to the garden, for that fantastic late afternoon light.

I gave the garden another watering, for better picture-taking (the wet soil is darker and photographs better, plus everything glistens a little...) and promptly discovered that my batteries were almost dead, so headed back inside to charge them.

Fortunately, it only takes 15 minutes, but in that time I missed capturing quite a show, naturally. As I stood looking out the front window, I spotted a goldfinch pecking through the dirt near the tomato plant closest to the driveway. It flew over to another tomato, lighting on one of the stakes...and a second, female, goldfinch joined it. Then a third appeared, this one male, and a fourth, another female. Just then a fifth flew across the yard in an up-and-down rollercoaster sort of flight pattern...and a sixth one joined the first four in the garden.

They all took to the garden bed, pecking and rooting through the soil, plucking out little bugs and slugs and worms and seeds and whatever it is they enjoy most. Out in the "lawn", a juvenal cowbird pecked through the grass.

Such fun to see the Garden so full of life. Flowers are wonderful and all, but they are not the whole picture. This time of year, the garden is a full-on community.

Although it was frustrating to have the show end just as I finally heard the battery charger shut off, it was great to be able to enjoy it. And these catbirds showed up for a visit to the birdbath just as I returned with my camera.

I also had noticed, while I was waiting, that the carnations had begun blooming today, and the dappled sun through the trees was focussed perfectly on this first blossom.

Here's some of that wonderful purple allyssum. I've noticed this week that the allyssum plants I bought at the nursery are now beginning to fade from their first flush of blooming, just as the ones from seed are beginning to flower. What good timing.

So, part of my weeding time has also been spent pinching off the fading flowerheads of those early nursery plants, and scattering their seeds further around the beds, in hopes of creating massive drifts of tiny scented flowers by summer's end.

Another exciting discover today--several milkweed seedlings have now appeared here and there throughout the garden.

The butterflies will be even more excited than I, as milkweed is one of those plants critical in the support of the monarch lifecycle. Plus, their flowers are wicked cool and weird.

In the back ground of this pansy photo, the first sweet william flower has emerged. But the colors are only just developing, so I will save a nice close-up as something to look forward to on another day.

All in all, a most lovely unbirthday. I hope you all had nice days, too!


Butch said...

Great post! It's nice to see the Boxer learning her place in the neighborhood. The doys usually figure it all out in no time.

Does the Milkweed grow tall and bloom into a huge ball of flowers that scent the air at night with that smell of perfume? We used to have some ( if that's what it was ) in our yard when we lived in Chicago. The flower is a lighter pink in colour.

Greg said...

Hey Butch!! Doggie politics can be so entertaining, eh?

The milkweed grows exactly as you describe--nice and tall, fragrant and odd-looking, but beautiful ball-shaped flowers! I'm very pleased that some has seeded in from the old garden, since you just don't see it in most "suburban" gardens and its so important to the monarchs.

Jess said...

Happy half-birthday! And feel free to add lots of dog posts. There never can be too many for my tastes! :)

P.S.--greetings from Dublin!

Marc said...

Greg, your blog is just what I need to relax after a frustrating day. I love coming here, it's always a nice adventure in gardens. I love yellow swallowtails, hardly ever get to see them - have seen maybe three live ones in my lifetime. Keep sniffing those irises!!

Greg said...

Hey Jess, hey Marc! Glad to hear your Long Day of Travel has concluded successfully! Can't wait to see the Irish gardens you see in your travels! Have a great time!

somewhere joe said...

A very merry half-birthday, to you!

You're Bosun's BFF. She says so.

My little cousin and I used to go milkweed "fishing" at the cottage, picking their fish-like pods and gathering them in fishing creels. Then we'd open them and release their "scales" to the wind.

RainforestRobin said...

Oh my word, these photos are stunning. I loved the roses, the neighbors wild overgrown garden (something magical about that - made me want to explor and see what was in it), also the swallowtail is gorgeous. Lucky you to get that shot. I've photographed other butterflies but the swallowtail often seems more "flighty". These are such nice posts you do. Anyone who loves gardening certainly relates. My garden was in late this year but we have a longer growing season here in New Mexico so I am hoping it will all turn out okay. I planted some Tepary beans this year that a Native American friend gave us and they shot up in 2 days. Have never done them before but they seem kind of exciting in that they sprout and grow fast.

Also reading this your reminded me of me, probably of so many gardeners that wander through their gardens at dawn of dusk...and "Oh rats" when the batteries fail us!!! :) There are some GOREOUS photos here and delightful writing. Just wonderful.

If my garden does well, I'll have to post some pics and let you know.

PS ALSO, thank you for your kind and wonderful comment on my site. It meant a lot. Happy gardening!!! Robin :)

RainforestRobin said...

PS AGAIN!! I loved your photo of the Atlantic Ocean. I grew up in Maine and then later lived on the beach in Queensland, Australia. Now living in New Mexico that is one thing I miss.....seeing the ocean, especially the Atlantic. Lucky you. I love our constant sunny days here but sure miss the ocean and all the water I grew up with in Maine. Your photos are so is the down to earth writing.

kaslkaos said...

Lovely photos, this blog is such a great virtual romp. The rootbeer iris was a nice touch. The purplely ones can be interesting, some of them smell like grape.

Sh@ney said...

Gosh has it been that long since I visited....I am missing out on all these wonderful snapshots!

Gosh the photo's are magic and wow what colors...Do people walk by and just stop in awe when they see your garden? I know I would. I would probably be pinching a cutting or two when you weren't looking...LOL...Kidding!

Greg said...

A very merry unbirthday to you, too, Joe! You may be right about Bosun, we have a real special thing going on.

I'm sure those milkweeds were grateful to you and your cuz for helping them flying around. I just love standing in the autumn sunshine as they drift through the air around me. And those pods are *so* cool.

Hi Robin!! Yah, G's garden has so much in it, I will need to explore it once a week for ever to see it all. The swallowtail was a lucky capture, that's for sure--he was swirling and fluttering and looping like crazy--fast speed shot, and he actually paused for a second. Yay.

Kasl, I'm still on the hunt for one of those grapey irises!

Sh@ney, they don't stop most times, but I do see them slow down, and a few people have complimented us on how much better the place looks since we moved in, which is nice.

As for sneaking back for snips and cuttings, you want to be careful you don't get yourself caught in a bunny snare of some kind! Any good gardener would help you pot up a cutting or a seedling if you ask, tho...I definitely would.

lizh said...

Greg, first let me say your garden looks beautiful!!! Very nicely done!
Next, if I may, I have a gardening problem I thought you might be able to help with. I have a group of perennial flowers (can't remember what they are though) and, every year the leaves inevitably are covered with a 'white' fungus that I cannot beat(it covers the whole leaf). I think the problem is in the roots itself but I don't know what to do. Yes, I tried commercial sprays, etc but that really does no good. Suggestions? Any help would be appreciated!
Thanks Greg!

Greg said...

hi Liz. I've been lucky not to deal with this problem often. I know it can be a problem for some of the older strains of bee balm, and I don't believe there's too much TO be done about it. Perhaps thin them out so they get better air circulation. I do know that more recent strains of beebalm (monarda) have been bred to resist mold and fungus more readily.

Does it impact the plant's ability to produce flowers? If not, then perhaps you should give them a location where they can be enjoyed at a distance, and you can't really see the fungus.

Is it effecting other plants in the area, or just one species? If its many species, you may have a soil problem.

I really don't have any quick answers on this one...sorry for that.

Sh@ney said...

LOL...I would never pinch a plant...But if I did walk by I would drop in for some sucking up, so I could go home with a few cuttings...*giggles*