Monday, June 29, 2009

Out on the Streets: June 2009

Today (while there's still June left!) I'm participating in VP's Out in the Streets: June 2009, a project to showcase public plantings in your local area (in my case, Ann Arbor, Michigan).

The first photo shows the plants in a median on Homestead Commons Drive, a cul-de-sac (that's French for dead-end) that leads to the Mallett's Creek library branch and Homestead Commons apartments. This is a mile wst from me, and I regularly visit the library on foot, by bike, or by car. The library has a rain water garden surrounding the parking lot as well as a green roof, but this median planting is maintained by the apartment complex. Notice all the water-smart plants! The photo immediately above shows the length of the median.

My friend Peter lives a mile east down the street from me on Pittsfield Blvd., and there is a small traffic circle on that street. It is planted and maintained with all kinds of annuals and perennials by the condo association. In fact, there are lots of little flower plantings on corners and throughout the complex.

The traffic circle includes many of the usual suspects, but also yucca and helenium, two of my favorites! (It was very very bright and very, very windy when I took this photo.)

Speaking of bright and windy, this is a planting along a road at Detroit Metro Airport (in Romulus, 25 miles east of Ann Arbor). You can't stop there to take the photo and despite doing two roundtrips to reach this spot, this is the best photo I got. You'll just have to trust me when I say it looks nice in person, possibly because the rest of the airport is largely concrete and unplanted.

I'm working on other posts on a garden walk in Canton and a trip to Greenfield Village... Happy Monday!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Willy-Nilly Wednesday

Another mish-mash post!

James has been under the weather, but is getting better. I think it was something he ate. I was up every hour or so with him the other night, but he did the same for me a few years back.

In the Garden
I know I've been going on a bit about it having been a cool, cloudy spring (check out the cool mushrooms on my tree stump, for example!). But now summer is here and it's hot (high of 90) and very very humid. This makes it hard for me to work in the garden, though I have a lot of clover to pull.

I just love gaillardia and I love my camera's macro feature.

Things are looking pretty colorful here at the moment, and that's the way I like it.

The tiger lilies are just starting to bloom... is lavender...

...and creeping thyme. I'll take a wide shot once the whole carpet is in bloom.

I liked how ox-eye daisies inserted themselves in between the evening primrose.

The veggie garden is making overall slow progress, except for the zucchini which has two flowers!

I was amused to find both fuchsia and white blooms on one plant of rose campion. They must hybridize!

The sweet William catchfly (Silene armeria) are the runaway winter-sown plant winner in that they are all blooming their hearts out. I love this annual and it looks really nice near the bright yellow of my yellow chamomile (Anthemis tinctoria) (a perennial winter-sown in 2007 now really coming into its own).

I just love love-in-a-mist, both the flowers and the seed pods. Marnie asked how I plant them, and I literally just sprinkle the seeds on top of the mulch and they do the rest. This grouping sowed itself, even.

Last year I was so excited when my yucca bloomed for the first time since I planted it three (or four?) years before. I know some plants don't like being transplanted and/or take a long time to bloom for the first time. Gardeners are patient. But I assumed it would rebloom every year after that, but it turns out, no. Yucca only bloom from new rosettes every three years or so. I have two plants but they're both on the same cycle, so I won't see blooms again for a while. Bananas!

Wildlife Update
I almost cried when I saw dozens of echinacea buds all over my garden today. Seriously. Over the past two years, the groundhog ate them off so they never bloomed. This year (knock wood) I haven't seen the groundhog much, and I'm really hoping the echinacea will all bloom (knock wood). I did see a young groundhog the other day, about the size of a fox squirrel, and dagnabbit if it wasn't just so cuuuute! I know if I see a baby, an adult is nearby but I think (knock wood) they're living down the street a bit, instead of in my yard. The two-layer (wire mesh and plastic lattice) fencing my handyman put all around my deck and porches earlier this spring seems to be working (knock wood). I've never minded sharing my garden with wildlife, and in the beginning the groundhog and I had the agreement that s/he could eat a little of everything but not all of anything. And that worked fine until s/he discovered echinacea, which s/he really, really liked.

I haven't seen the turtle since my last post. I'm guessing she laid her eggs in the nature area bordering my house. However, I have seen a deer in my garden a few times since. In the middle of the day, which is odd because deer are crepuscular.

Parkathon Progress
You may recall I decided to visit all of Ann Arbor's ~160 parks this year. I'd done about 50 and then got off course. The other night I visited Lakewood Nature Area as part of a tour. It was a nice forest without the shrubby undergrowth most forests have. You can see a bunch of jewel weed (native) on the ground. These are also called touch-me-nots; not because they're poisonous, because they're not, but because their seeds explode and shoot all the heck over the place. (Which of course makes me want to touch them, but, whatever. No one ever asks me when naming things!) They bloom in orange a bit later in the season.

Unfortunately, my camera was acting up and the rest of the photos from that day look like this. I really need to buy a new camera!

I learned that the burrs of the burdock plant were the inspiration for Velcro and that swallowtail larvae eat only the leaves of prickly ash (Xanthoxylum americanum), and I heard the song of a red-eyed vireo.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Mish-Mash Monday

Today's topics include: a new wildlife visitor, visiting others' gardens, and visiting new blooms in my own garden. And... we're off!

Snappy Visitor
Imagine my surprise the other day when I saw this large (shell over a foot long) common snapping turtle (Chelydra serpentina) sunning itself in a narrow strip of sunshine in my backyard.

Now, some people freak out at garden snakes, and I don't. I think they're cute. But there's something about this turtle that freaked me out in that kind of a way. I dunno why. Maybe because it walks almost upright on much longer legs than I imagined a turtle to have--it didn't crawl (as one might guess from the photo of it lying down), it really walked on upright legs with the shell kind of swaying back and forth, and at a pretty good clip, too. (The association of slow with turtles wasn't based on this species, I can tell you!)

I like how the tail looks prehistoric and kind of Stegosaurus-like. You can tell two things from this photo: 1) My back "lawn" has a lot of clover in it, and 2) I had no idea this was a snapping turtle when I took the photos or I wouldn't have gotten this close to it!

Update, 8:54 a.m.: I found her again this morning digging in my front veggie bed--those are baby leek she's taken out (behind her) and horseradish in front of her, and a tiny tomato still standing to the left of the green stake (whew, so far). She's probably looking for a place to lay her eggs (if snapping turtles are anything like painted turtles, which I know more about), but my garden bed, especially with it being right near my driveway and not too far from the street, is not a good place. My backyard, bordered by trees and a creek, would be a way, way better location (my personal interest in tomatoes not withstanding). There's a particularly nice area near my beauty berry bush. I went out and presented this argument to her, fairly convincingly I thought, but 10 minutes later and she's still there. Update #2, 9:40 a.m.: I found out snappers lay up to 30 golf ball-sized eggs (eep! larger than I expected) and the process can take 24 hours. But, the large, loud trash truck (complete with the high-pitched beep-beep-beep backing sound as I'm on the end of a dead-end street) scared her off quickly, before she laid any eggs. It's nice to know that a middle-aged woman wearing a robe, with crazy hair and eloquent arguments, is not as scary as a trash truck! Update #3, 6/16, next morning, 7:30 a.m.: Now she's sitting underneath my car! Update #4, 7:49 a.m.: Now she's sitting on my front walkway. I confirmed shell measurement at just over 1', provided tips on suitable places in flower beds for egg laying, and repeated rant on unsuitability of veggie beds. She didn't look like she was taking any of it in, but I'm sure my neighbors think I'm nuts by now! Update #5, 8:40 a.m.: She looked like she'd settled on a space along my walkway--hooray! But minutes later I saw her heading back to my front veggie bed. Now, I'm honored she likes my garden and I think it's cool if she wants to lay her eggs here. But my tomato seedlings are my eggs, as it were, and I'm protecting them. Remember that double-wire fencing I put up last year to dissuade the groundhog (who is keeping an oddly low profile this year; perhaps he made a shared land rights deal with this turtle?)? Well, I put it back up around the front veggie bed. It was hard because the two layers were still attached and it was hard to bend it into shape, especially with a snapper sitting inches away at times... but I think it will work. She's now under a large section of Japanese anemone, and that would be an ideal nest--out of the way from predators and affording her some privacy. But what do I know? I'm only human.

Ann Arbor Garden Walk
On Saturday, Carole, Amy, and I attended the 19th annual Ann Arbor Garden Walk. Of the seven gardens on the tour, five were home gardens and two were community gardens. Most of the home gardens this year were very large and very impressive:

I love the use of the blue and white salvia near this tremendous stone, plus there's an iron bench hiding between them and the huge decorative pot in the background.

I admit I'm not automatically wild about all weeping forms of trees, but this larch did speak to me. (What it was in fact saying was "Pssst! You there! Take me home!" but I pretended not to hear this.)

I loved these stepping stones (which were sending off similar messages)...

...and this tri-color beech. Noogie!

All the photos so far were of one garden. I told you they were huge! Here now are more shots from other gardens:

One garden had this amazing small tree--maybe 6 feet tall and maybe 4 feet wide. It had pure white, drooping buds, that looked like eggs.

The flowers were pale rust/peach and also drooping...

...with a really cool pistil and stamens.

No one knew what this tree was, though some suggested magnolia. I'm not aware of a magnolia with drooping flowers, but I'm sure one of you will surely let me know if you recognize it.

Yep, those gardens sure were impressive and grand, but the chance of me ever having anything even close to that expansive in my lifetime is illustrated by the little figurine to the bottom right of this photo.

In case you couldn't see it, here it is!

My favorite garden wasn't as expansive and doesn't look as panoramic in photos. But it was a joy to be in, with colors all around and no lawn whatsoever, not in the front or back yards!


The homeowner is a painter and glass artist. You can see her work all around the garden.

The glass is used in the walls and pathway of this fairy house, and in the tiny blue Chihulyesque sculptures that pop up in the fairy garden.

My favorite glass work was this multi-colored bowl/flower that fits in so well with these gorgeous coral bells. Noogie! Noog! Noog!

The homeowner's son makes metal sculptures, both free-flowing like this cool zig-zag column...

...and this swirly whirly thingamado (and check out the mirrors that add depth on the fence! Clever!)...

...and in animal form like this cool dragonfly...

...and these neat ostriches. I love how the plants color-coordinate so well with the artwork!

I had the chance to compliment the homeowner, a gracious and vivacious lady in her 70s who clearly got great joy from her garden and her art.

The non-home gardens included the Tappan Middle School Agrarian Adventure Garden:

...and the Growing Hope Gardens:

The hoophouses at both locations were built from the proceeds of previous garden walks. Project Grow sells its produce at a farmer's market on Tuesday afternoons in the parking lot of Key Bank (SE corner of Hamilton and Michigan Ave. in downtown Ypsilanti).

More Garden Faerie Blooms
We've had quite an overcast spring, but things are growing and blooming, by and by. A few things blooming or just starting to bloom since my last post include:

Edelweiss and...


Also, I discovered the other day that Jimi likes eating my native grass, little bluestem. So that explains why it never gets as tall as I've seen it elsewhere!

Penstemon 'Husker red' (and Jupiter's beard) is fully blooming now too!

...And a fuchsia/lilac shade of perennial Centaurea has its own special visitor.