Tag Archives: Cone flower

Signs That Man Has Been in the Woods


Coneflower about to bloom–not unusual in Iowa, but this one is in the woods behind my house, the first I’ve ever seen there.

Remember that scene in “Bambi” when the father deer warns his son, “man is in the woods?” You could play the Darth Vader theme under those words.

Well, this man was in the woods briefly today, and they don’t seem to have suffered much from my presence.

I was doing some minor yard work—I installed a new swing set not long ago, and today put some paving blocks under the legs to keep them from digging into the soil. I spread some wood chips, too, and put some new sand in the sandbox.

I also weeded, a bit, which for a forgetful gardener like me can be a bit too exciting. “Is this supposed to be growing here? Did I plant it?”

Anyway, I noted a young oak tree in my back yard, and rather than just leave it and mow it off, I decided to move it to what I call the “deer salad bar,” aka, the woods behind my fence.


Oak tree in the yard.


The same oak tree, now in the woods, ready to be eaten by Bambi.

Man is in the woods. Planting tasty trees that Bambi and his deer tribe will shortly take advantage of. I’ve planted hundreds of volunteer oaks in the woods—doomed ashes largely comprise those woods—and deer have feasted on them.

And I just walked about the woods a bit, and was a bit taken aback.

I’ve lived in this house for 15 years, and in that time I’ve wasted countless wildflower seeds and young oak trees in these woods. Whatever I plant seems to not germinate, get chocked out by the competition, or is eaten by Bambi and friends.

What took me aback was evidence that I had been here before—in the form of three plants that would not be in these woods without me.

A coneflower is getting ready to bloom. I’ve never seen coneflowers growing in these woods before, but I’ve planted many a seed—one must have finally sprouted.

A Catalpa tree has reached a height of 5 feet. Again, there were no Catalpa back here before, but maybe they don’t taste as good to Bambi as Oaks do. I’ve collected some Catalpa seeds from a neighborhood tree, and put them back here among the many other seeds I’ve planted.


Catalpa in the woods.

Finally, and most exciting, at the edge of the woods in the sunshine and tall grass, a Milkweed is growing. Well, cool. I’ve been scattering Milkweed seeds at the sunny edge of the woods for years, and this is the first plant I’ve seen.

May it spread by seed and roots.



Finally, after planting my Oak and photographing my woodsy baby plants, I made a few photographs in the yard of flowers and insects, just because I can it and was that kind of day.

Man has been in the woods, and the gardens. And I hope that both are better for it.

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Getting Ready For Winter on Day of First Snow

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I can’t say that I’m ready for snow to fall today, but clearly the weather isn’t going to wait for me. Among other things, neither of my “winter bikes,” the two mountain bikes that I’ve been left with by a son and son-in-law—are rideable right now. One has a broken spoke, and the other has a back wheel that acts like it has a broken spoke—it’s too wobbly—although I have not found said spoke.

I should get them fixed. I’m delaying taking them to my bike shop only because I didn’t buy the bikes there and I’ve seen them react to alien bikes before—but I still need the bikes fixed.

It’s also true that I have not made any serious attempt to have my slow blowers fixed, and that would be a handy device to have.

Still, today was a day partly devoted to yard and garden winter preparations. The way they weekend started, I was worried that my wife might be pregnant, but then I recalled our ages and decided her instinct to clean out the refrigerator and pantry weren’t “nesting” for a new baby, but merely some cleanup before many of the old babies return for holidays—retroactive nesting, as it were.

Among other weekend plans, the boss wanted to get the lawn furniture put away today, and I must concede it’s probably a good thing to do before the ground is covered in snow. So my Saturday morning began with sleeping until near 9, which had the sad result that I missed “Law and Order” at the gym this morning, but after exercise and breakfast, by late morning I found myself searching for Chinese plastic objects in American sand. I was picking up toys—I think there were about 10,000—before raking the leaves out of the sandbox and dumping them (leaves, not toys) behind the fence.

I took apart the hammock and carried it to the garage. Both my wife and I carted lawn chairs, ride-on toys, a big bag of balls and the pieces of a playhouse into an increasingly huge pile that fills the garage. My wife suggest me might rent a garage to put all of our garage stuff in so we can actually park a car in our garage, which would probably be a good thing.

Besides picking up all the toys, I did some minor garden winter prep. I trimmed back a volunteer bush that is getting out of hand, and scattered some seeds—milkweed seeds I had gathered from my daughter’s house, and coneflower seeds from my garden. In both cases, I put some seeds in gardens and some in the woods behind the fence.

I don’t know if there is a lot of hope for these seeds. I’m not sure all of the milkweed seeds were “ripe,” and I’ve never tried to plant this particular plant before. Sources on the internet explained how to start milkweed indoors, but it requires special handling of the seeds and refrigerating them for a certain length of time on a damp towel—this native flower needs a winter season in order to germinate. I figured the winter outside is easier and free, and I also have a poor track record with starting plants inside anyway, so I opted for more casual “planting,” in that I scattered the seeds and covered them a bit.

I’ve collected and planted my coneflower seeds for several years with no noticeable impact, so I suppose the milkweed isn’t a good life insurance candidate. But we’ll see. Maybe I’ll get lucky.

After scattering the doomed seeds, I put some plastic tubes on young trees in an attempt to foil hungry bunnies this winter, and put wire plant frames on rose bushes and a butterfly bush, and covered them in leaves.

I hope the snow cover from our expected storm this afternoon doesn’t persist too long—I do have more winter yard and garden prep to do, such as some tree trimming, but mostly a final leaf raking. However, it does feel like the yard and gardens have their winter faces on. Now comes the long wait to see if bulbs become flowers (here I have a decent track record) and seeds sprout for plants that will support young monarch butterflies (don’t hold your breath).

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In Praise of Lily Season

One of the new Asian lilies in bloom.

One of the new Asian lilies in bloom.

Lilies are coming on strong. For several weeks, the yellow stella de oro lilies have been in bloom, and may be past bloom in many plantings.

In my gardens, Iowa tiger lilies are just popping out everywhere. Most day lilies are still to bloom, but my shady garden tends to run a bit behind others. I like day lilies a lot–even though each flower lasts only a day, the plant puts out so many blooms that the day lily season seems like one of the longer flower seasons in my gardens.

Tall and pretty, native Iowa lily.

Tall and pretty, native Iowa lily.

Asian lilies, most of them planted by me and my two 3-year-old grandchildren assistants, are starting to put on a nice show.

I’ve noticed on my bike rides recently that many people have hollyhocks in bloom. I planted a few this year, and one of those plants is budding—I look forward to the return of this plant, absent since a bad bunny year several years ago, and its pretty flowers.

But for now, mid summer—time for cone flowers, hosta and, most of all, the glorious lily. More photos.

Cone flower. These are just starting.

Cone flower. These are just starting.

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Now We No Longer Have to be Dreaming

Cone flower seed head in snow.

Cone flower seed head in snow.

Our White Christmas in most of Iowa is assured. Last night and today, we were smacked by an old fashioned Midwest blizzard. More photos of the result from a Facebook gallery.

My daughter lives in England, where, apparently, the word “blizzard” merely means a storm in which snow accumulates. Here in the midst of the giant flat plain of North America, where the little ripples in the land don’t pose much of a barrier to an Alberta clipper as it sweeps 1,000 miles across a basically flat surface, a blizzard is something else, something powerful and primeval.

Rose leaves in snow in my back garden.

Rose leaves in snow in my back garden.

It’s been months since the last snowstorm of the last winter. We had a hot, dry summer followed by a warm, dry fall. So we can’t complain too much about inches of heavy, wet snow, for any H2O from the sky in any form is a blessing.

But, what a way to introduce the winter of 2013! Sustained winds of 35 mph with gusts over 50 mph. Sticky, wet, heavy snow, plenty of it—and if it didn’t quite add up to a foot in Cedar Rapids, it was plenty heavy enough in the shoveling, let me tell you. We even had thunder booming as the snow fell Wednesday night, although I wasn’t up late enough to hear it. (My son was, and I saw numerous reports of it on Facebook).

Well. Mount Mercy’s campus was closed today, as travel in Iowa was too hazardous. That’s OK, I have a mountain to grade and brought most if it with me. I’m done with two classes, two more to go. I’ll finish tomorrow, and maybe be lucky enough to enjoy some of the cold winter sunshine when I’m done.

The first snow was pretty, but also pretty impressive. I don’t want too many more blizzards, although I won’t mind if the snowpack proves persistent and grows in depth.

Any H2O that falls from the sky in this drought-ravaged land it a blessing. Merry Christmas.

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Beauty of the Winter Garden

Cone flower.

Cone flower seeds in side garden.

It’s about 4 on one of the shortest days of the year, getting dusky outside although there is a pretty pink sunshine in the trees.

From here on out, the amount of daylight will slowly rise, and even though the coldest part of deep winter is ahead, that promises a future spring.

Yet, even as the gardens are asleep, I like the quiet beauty of the ghosts of last year’s plant.

Here are a few winter garden images from today, Dec. 23, 2011.


Hydrangia bush--the kind Mary hides herself in during "It's a Wonderful LIfe," but not in Iowa in December ...


Even with all the pretty organe fading away, the lantern on a lantern plant looks intersting.

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Flowers of Summer


Petunia in planter

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We (mostly Audrey) refinished the deck over the Fourth of July weekend.

Then we (all me, this time) installed some railing planters that Audrey’s sister Paula removed from the porch of their new house in Omaha. We (all Audrey, this time) planted petunias from HyVee Drug store in them, and the refinished deck indeed looks festive.

Day Lily

Love this peach colored day lily that started blooming today

So, some petunia images and what is blooming in the garden right now.

Yellow Asian Lily

Yellow Asian Lily


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June Is Busting Out

Cone flower

First cluster of cone flowers I've seen in bloom this year--seen while biking on Cedar Valley Nature Trail.

Cone flower

Second view of first cone flower.

Saw it today, the official symbol of summer in Iowa, a sign that spring is but a memory and Japanese beetles will soon be devouring our rose bushes and Linden trees.

A cluster of cone flowers were in bloom about 3 miles north of Hiawatha along the Cedar Valley Nature Trail. More about the ride on my bike blog.

I am not sure why I like cone flowers so much. They look a little like deformed daisies with inadequate pedals and grossly overgrown middle part of the flower, but they are tall, sturdy, and Iowan, too. A nice harbinger of the middle-summer cone flower and day lily season, about to begin.

The pretty white flowers in the grass were more numerous than the cone flowers. Don’t know what they are.

Finally, a tree photo—again from the bike ride, but nearer the Cedar River in downtown Cedar Rapids. Blog fans, what is this tree which is fairly common and in bloom right now?

White flower

A lot more of this white flower was in bloom on the hillside where I saw the cone flower.

Mystery tree

OK, blog fans, the mystery tree. What is is? Common, medium sized tree with sweet smelling blossoms, in bloom now, A row is beside a downtown parking lot next to the Cedar River trail, but I see many of these trees all around CR. Please comment and let me know what three these flowers are from..


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