Tag Archives: Peony

Friday Floral Feature: The Week the Tick Magnet Appeared


possum

An awesome opossum visits the yard.

Not the chick magnet—the tick magnet. I was eating a late breakfast in the sunroom that overlooked our back yard, when I noted a freaky, scary looking creature casually ambling across the yard.

Behold the opossum. North America’s only marsupial, and about as ugly a critter as you would ever hope to see.

I went and got my 4-year-old granddaughter, who was staying with us for the day, and we watched the possum. It noticed the attention and darted off. Although they look fierce, most sources say the nocturnal opossum is generally shy and tries to avoid people. This one was certainly true to form.

And of all the native mammals to spot in my yard, honestly the freaky looking possum probably is about the least problematic. Squirrels dig up blubs and sometimes even bite holes in your eaves to set up house in your attic. Woodchucks chew woody plants. And rabbits—don’t get me started. As I’ve written on this blog before, if God were a gardener in the Midwest and Eden was in Iowa rather than Iraq, it wouldn’t be the serpent who messed up paradise. To an Iowa gardener, our native snakes are benign, helpful presences. No—in the Iowa Eden, the Devil is personified by that destructive critter second only to Bambi in its capacity to wreck havoc in the garden—the bunny.

That rascally rabbit.

Anyway, so what we saw was a possum. And, if it were a rabbit, I would immediately go outside and sprinkle around that kind of animal repellent that seems more like a prayer ritual than anything that has an actual impact on the universe, but we do what we can. For a possum? Meh.

It’s a tick magnet. Possums don’t pose any threat to plants, but are insect eaters, and, according to Iowa lore, their favorite snack is the tick. So you’re welcome to hang around my yard as much as you want Mr. (or Ms.) Possum. Ticks carry disease, and Possums eat ticks. The enemy of my enemy is my friend.

Anyway, in other garden news this week: Snow! Not winter snow, summer snow. Early each summer, the cottonwood trees release their seeds, and we have the faux snowfall that heralds warmer weather. Tuffs of fluff are in the air.

cottonwood

Cottonwood seeds on front porch rocking chair.

Also, most peonies are still in the bud stage, but a clump in front picked this week to bloom. I know some gardeners don’t like peonies because they are associated with ants, but ants are everywhere and I don’t quite get that attitude. I don’t do anything to prevent ants on my peonies—they in fact are eating nectar the plant is producing with the intention of attracting ants, so I let nature be. The theory on the Iowa Extension site I consulted is that ants helps prevent pests. They are not required for peonies to bloom, but helpfully remove the waxy nectar film, and thus promote blooming—mostly, they are a neutral presence the plant may have evolved to attract just because other bugs don’t appreciate crowds of ants.

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And Irises are in bloom. Both Peonies and Irises appeared around town a couple of weeks ago, but my gardens are in a strange time zone where everything seems to bloom a little later. That’s OK with me, as long as the plants boom!

I’ve also been impressed with the bloom time of a Clematis in front that produces giant blue flowers. They flowers are in no hurry to fade, and there are many more buds. The Clematis season should go on for a while, since some plants in back are just starting to bud.

Anyway, it’s another rainy day today. I hope you enjoy some of the flower images from sunnier days this week.

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Friday Floral Feature: Dandelions Rule


dandelion

Phases of dandelion in my back yard–and yes, there is lots of creeping charlie, too.

I surrender. Dandelions were deliberately brought to the Americas by Europeans, so why fight any more?

Pretty yellow flowers of spring, summer and fall—I may spray now and then to knock you back, but that’s more for show or to get along with the neighbors. I can’t get rid of you, so I may as well learn to like you.

The gardens seem more summer like, these days. Early peonies have bloomed and quickly faded; the later smaller varieties of pink lilacs are getting ready to bloom. I’ve had one clematis plant spring forth in flower, and another that should break into flower soon.

And dandelions, which seem to be everywhere, offering their tempting pom poms to grandchildren who can’t resist the temptation to puff the fluff. Even the yellow flowers can turn chin or nose a fetching vermilion.

You win, dandelions.

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Spring Garden Dreams


seeds

Milkweed seeds I harvested at my daughter’s house. They were outside, so I hope they might germinate.

This morning, rain threatened, but it was supposed to be sparse. So I took a few minutes before getting on my bicycle for the morning commute to sew a few seeds. They are Milkweed.

I’m happy to read that scientists say the Monarch Butterfly is rebounding, but no reason to stop support through flower planting now. In fact, I hope to add some plants that pollinators like to my gardens this spring—maybe some Joe Pye Weed (true, it is the name that attracts me) and some Bee Balm.

Anyway, Milkweed requires some “wintering” before it can germinate—packets of the seeds come with instructions on how to store them for some weeks in your Frigidaire before planting. Me, I am hoping nature took care of that detail—the seeds I sowed I gathered recently, they were wintered by spending the winter outdoors.

So, Milkweed represents the first planting of spring 2016. We’ll see if anything comes up.

In the meantime, the rain caught me this morning, but while I was getting soaked on the way to work, I at least could think the moisture might be doing my Milkweed seeds some good. And I’ve ordered, from Breckswholesale.com, some plants for spring planting:

They are Toad Lilies, Coneflowers in various colors, Phlox and Peonies. Images are all from Breck’s catalog.

My daughter who lives in a town a bit north of here already has crocus in bloom. I do not know why her crocus always beat mine every spring, but I guess it’s not a race.

I’m waiting to see how many of the bulbs I buried in the fall become spring flowers this year. I’ll try to clean the gardens off a bit this weekend, as spring seems to be arriving early in Iowa, and maybe will see some more coming up.

The web site I ordered from said my spring plants will ship in early April. It’s amazing I ordered so many sunny plants, but Peonies and Phlox are among my favorites anyway. Toad Lilies? They should do well in my shady gardens, I hope.

Spring! OK, I won’t even mind a bit of morning rain. March showers bring April flowers, or so I hope.

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In The In-Between Springtime


Ants busy on a peony bud. My garden, May 21.

Ants busy on a peony bud. My garden, May 21.

The jury is still out on the sweetgum tree. For some reason, that’s the one tree that didn’t come back yet this spring, and as May enters its third week, the death watch is well underway.

It might still come back. There was an 8-foot tall hibiscus bush in back with three branches—one leafed out already, and the other two had not. I thought of trimming it before I mowed Friday—but then, surprise, surprise, I noted the swelling green of baby leaves on the two “dead” branches.

They weren’t dead at all, they just were in a deeper winter slumber than the rest of the bush.

So maybe May is a bit too early to call things. The early riot of color of spring is over, as all but the last few daffodils have faded, and tulips and crocus are long gone. Lilacs and early peonies have come and gone, while the smaller pink dwarf lilacs are blooming and the “regular” peonies are on the way.

Columbine is in bloom now, too. Photo from May 21.

Columbine is in bloom now, too. Photo from May 21.

I’m not fond of ants in the house, but unlike some people, I don’t eliminate peonies to keeps ants out of my yard. I would consider a campaign against outdoor ants to be pointless and probably dangerous to me—when they come in, I kill them with blunt force and poisons, when they’re outdoors, they’re part of nature’s order and I leave them unmolested.

Which, of course, has to do with peonies. Certain ants love the waxy coating of the buds, and they are having a feast during this in-between time before the many flowers of summer appear and the early flowers of spring have faded.

More ants on buds.

More ants on buds.

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Not that nothing is in bloom. There are three pink lilacs perfuming the yard right now. Several other bushes are in bloom, although I don’t recall their names—a pretty red one in a shady corner of the back yard, a variegated one in front that is obviously planted for its leaves—the flowers are not very showy. Lily of the Valley are in full swing.

But the peonies and the iris are still just budding. One iris in back is in bloom. I’m not particularly good with iris—I’ve planted hundreds and have just a handful of plants to show for my efforts—but I do have some that are ready to roll.

Iris getting ready to bloom.

Iris getting ready to bloom.

As usual, my garden is behind the times. I’ve noticed a cascade of irises in town, and even some of the traditional peonies are starting. That’s all foreshadowing for my gardens. A few more of my May 21 photos.

So this Memorial Day weekend, get out and enjoy the world. As we recall those who have gone before, it seems appropriate that our day for memorials falls right as the gardens are on the brink of riotous life.

And maybe there’s still hope for the gumball tree. We’ll see.

Just before I mowed May 22, I see this--one iris in the garden at the bottom of the rock well is in bloom. I also noted a profuse stand of poison ivy, which I pulled (wearing gloves, although luckily I don't seem particularly sensitive to poison ivy).

Just before I mowed May 22, I see this–one iris in the garden at the bottom of the rock well is in bloom. I also noted a profuse stand of poison ivy, which I pulled (wearing gloves, although luckily I don’t seem particularly sensitive to poison ivy).

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What I Did This Weekend


Ant on a poeny

Ant on a just-blooming peony. These are the frilly, early ones, the "regular" peonies are still weeks away. It does feel odd to have peonies before May, though.

I mowed and put in new solar lights on Saturday. Plus, I planted some grass seed.

That doesn’t sound like much, but Saturday was mostly gone by the time I was done—barely time to quickly snap some flower photos before the day was spent. But, I had to snap those photos, because, ta-da! Peony day—the early peonies are opening.

Saturday night was church with grandkids and then track breakfast at MMU and then a nap to recover from the grandkids—then a bike ride which I shouldn’t have taken. I texted my sisters to ask if she wanted to come along an she said “can’t, buried in grading.”

Sister, I know the feeling.

So then, after a two-hour bike ride, I graded. And how I’m posting flower photos. Tomorrow looks like another long, dreary, grading Monday.

Oh well, at least the peonies are starting to bloom!  Early tulips and daffodils are finishing, but I have such a variety that they are still going strong.  And the new lights are so strong they actually stayed lit all night, which is a bit bizarre for solar lights.  Photo gallery of what I saw Saturday after I was done with my day of gardening.

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There’s a Fungus Among Us, And Catalpa Kaput!


Tulip Tree leaf

Deformed Tulip Tree Leaf--fungus?

Our wet warm weather is taking a bit of a toll.

The larger of the two Catalpa’s is giving up the ghost. I’ll give it a little time—after all, if I decide to remove and replant, it will be next spring before I can hope to sprout a Catalpa again, anyway. Its sister tree in the nearby garden is sick, but not dead yet—so there’s a hope I can merely transplant and not go back to square one.

Meanwhile, stalking the garden stalks—fungus!

The pink Crabapple trees, which are the ones most vulnerable to leaf fungus, are showing signs of suffering. It will make the trees less attractive for a time, but these trees have been around for several years and have been attacked before—they can take some punishment from this problem but still be OK.

The Tulip Tree, however, worries me. I’m not 100 percent sure what’s wrong with it—many of its leaves appear to have a warty like texture. Clearly, the tree is under attack from something, but I don’t know if it’s a soil fungus or a leaf fungus, or a fungus at all, but I suspect there’s a fungus among us.

It’s a fairly young tree, but also fairly large, so I hope it will snap out of it when drier weather sets in.

We’ll see!

Seems to be a poor year for peonies in my yard. A large white bush, the “father” peony because it was the one that we here when we moved in, didn’t come back this spring. Only two of the “traditional” peonies, both pink, will bloom. One is just now budding, the other, as you can see, is already flowering.

Well, an off year is OK, but I need to find some white peonies.

And let me know if you know what’s going on with my poor Tulip Tree!

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Some Pretty MMU Flowers


Iris

Pretty Iris in MMU grotto, view 1.

I have only a few Irises in bloom, so I have some Iris envy these days when I’m on campus at MMU. Lots of pretty ones in the Grotto, as you can see.

And, apparently, the peonies are trying to make a break for it through the construction fence!

Too bad we don’t have more summer courses and students on campus. They miss our nice summer flowers.

Rain on Iris

Took photos late afternoon June 2, 2011--a rainy day. Drops in Irises.

Pink Peony

Pretty pink Peony at MMU--I have a darker pink one at home that bloomed the next day.

Peony escape?

Peony attempts to squeeze through MMU construction fencing.

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