Tag Archives: Planting

Milkweed Dreams as Fall Turns Brown


Milkweed seeds in a small metal pail. Planted these in several spots in my gardens.

Milkweed seeds in a small metal pail. Planted these in several spots in my gardens.

A few trees are clinging to their leaves—one of my maples, a small one, still has most of its dying foliage despite high winds this week, and the pear trees retain their leaves until winter. But, for the most part, we’re in the post pretty, brown part of autumn.

As I already noted, I’ve planted a number of bulbs, so I have special reasons to look forward to when the weather again turns sunny and warm in 2016.

And another thing—while out on a bike ride a couple of weeks ago, I noticed some seeds spilling out of drying pods on a milkweed plant that had poked its way through some evergreen landscaping at the edge of a parking lot I was passing by.

So I took some pods and put them in an envelope in my garage.

Last weekend, I took the pods inside and took some seeds off of the fluff. Not all of them, as you can see—I did not find an easy way to get the seeds. But I got a fair number.

The "fluff." In water so it would not blow away in my house. I also put this on the ground, but in the wild behind my fence.

The “fluff.” In water so it would not blow away in my house. I also put this on the ground, but in the wild behind my fence.

The seeds were planted in my gardens. You either have to go through a special damping—refrigeration process with milkweed seeds, or plant them in the fall. They need the winter cold to germinate in spring.

Or so the internet tells me. I can’t really say for certain, because I’ve planted milkweed in the past with no results to show.

Well I’m trying again, darn it. I put the seeds in the gardens, and then scattered the fluff (which had lots of seeds still in it) behind my back fence.

I hope some of the seeds take root. It would be nice if the spring plans include not just tulips and daffodils, but also some Monarch Butterfly chow!

I also raked. I think my yard needed it.

I also raked. I think my yard needed it.

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A Comedy Of Planting


Root

So, this came today. Jack, is that you? Jack-in-the-pulpit root, I think. It’s huge–3 inches long. How would you plant this slug?

OK, so something strange came into my life today. My wife and I had already agreed that most of the flowers that I bought this spring (not all, but most) will go under our clothesline, where we are establishing a few garden “holes” in a gravel area.

And, to cap a busy and cultural week, the first flowers arrived in today’s mail.

It was very warm—around 80—today, and I already planted some grass seed in my yard. I had also purchased, heaven knows why because past experience suggests it is a foolish gesture, a bag of “wild flower” shade garden seeds, and planted some here and there, about half in my gardens, half in the woods behind my house (trying to give garlic mustard something to compete with).

Anyway, I thought I was done gardening for the day. I like to garden, but don’t have much time for it at this time of year. For example, we’ve had a busy week, as spring often brings:

On Tuesday, my wife and I attended a speech by Cesare Frustaci. I, and the MMU handbell choir, played to open and close the program, but it was clearly all about Cesare and his compelling story.

As he noted, it’s a strange and sad thing that there are people in the world who deny the Holocaust, and his presentation about his experience in Hungary in World War II brought a packed crowd to the Chapel of Mercy.

Art wrapped in art. Sculpture tied with ribbons near Warde Hall.

Art wrapped in art. Sculpture tied with ribbons near Warde Hall.

On Friday, there was an “art invasion” of MMU, as high school art day was held. Part of the event was an outdoor installation involving lots of orange ribbon. I don’t’ know, somehow it just lightened the mood. Among other things, a giant sculpture behind Warde Hall was wrapped up, which improved its looks, I think.

More of my photos on Facebook.

Then, Saturday, we attended the excellent MMU production of “A Comedy of Errors.” I’ll never look at the sports editor of the MMU Times the same. If you read this before Sunday afternoon, there is a 2:30 matinee, and I think you would like it.

Anyway, so gardening was a bit of a quiet break from the pleasing cacophony of culture that attends being part of a university campus.

But, right before we were to go out on our date night, which included church, a restaurant meal and the play, the box arrived in the mail.

Containing a big, honking, enigmatic root seen at the top of this post.

I wasn’t even sure what it was, but because I am a little more familiar with the other plants I ordered, and because it was the one I’ve never planted before, I’m assuming this is Jack-in-the-Pulpit. Blog pals, and I right? In the right neighborhood? A small label said to plant it 6-inches deep. But it did not say which end to stick in the ground first. Which way would you say is “up?”

I spent a few fruitless minutes searching the Oralce of All Knowledge, but neither Ms. Google nor Mr. Wikipedia was all that helpful.

Oh, OK. the green probably points "up." I hope.

Oh, OK. the green probably points “up.” I hope.

Then I unpacked the other two roots. Oh. A giant green thing is emerging from one end. In my experience, that way is usually “up.”

It was 10 p.m. by then, and the radar said rain is west of us. So I decided to take flashlight in hand and plant these in a hole.

So I did. I just nestled them in among the wildflower seeds I had put in earlier—these are plants that tend to grow in shady areas anyway, so co-planting them with “shady” wildflower seeds seemed like a good move.

We’ll see. Some early flowers are in bloom already, check out these images.  And now, since our land is so dry, if only that rain would come on down …

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The Flowers That Bloom In The Spring, Tra-La!


Well, I was fighting mild grading-midwinter blues tonight with a spring flower catalog.

My wife surprised me today by green-lighting the idea of my ordering some more perennial flowers to plant this spring, as long as I kept the total under $100.

Well, for that, from the K. Van Bourgondien wholesale catalog, I ordered the following. Most are new or scarce in my gardens, and most are either partly or fully shade tolerant—an important point in my woodsy gardens.

Anyway, I ordered:

Toad Lilies. All images from http://www.kvbwholesale.com/, where I ordered them.

Toad Lilies. All images from http://www.kvbwholesale.com/, where I ordered them.

1) Toad Lillies. I planted a few last year, but didn’t see any yet. I’m not sure if the plants didn’t come up or just don’t bloom in their first year—but since I don’t have any showing yet, I figured a few more won’t hurt.

017892) Lilly of the Valley. Now, this is not only readily available locally, but also abounds in my garden already. Why did I buy any? Because I ordered pink ones. I only have white, now.

012723) Asiatic lilies. We’ve had a fair number of these in the past, and they are pretty. Sadly, they taste good to rabbits, too, so I’m replanting because they are getting scarce in my gardents.

059564) Phlox. I have just a few of these cherry, semi-sunny flowers. Since I plan to take out some old overgrown bushes, one of my gardens will be slightly lighter (as in, more filled with light) this year, so I’m going to try to phlox is up, a bit.

015505) Jack in the Pulpit. I had some other shade flower, Cimicifuga, picked out, but the wife didn’t like to the looks of it. I decided on my own to try Jack in the Pulpit—this is the priciest of the flowers I’m trying, but what the heck.

We’re enduring a very cold winter here in the upper Midwest. A blizzard is a forecast for tomorrow, and another Arctic blast for the following days.

So, I’m rebelling a little and putting myself in mind of warmer days to come.

And a cold, snowy winter like this, in my experience, doesn’t hurt the fall bulbs you planted last year—if anything, the spring bloom that results seems more robust. And I planted a lot of bulbs this fall.

Here’s hoping for some new colors in my spring gardens—and, after all, it’s only a few weeks away.

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A Quick Dig In Two Gardens Closes Fall Planting


The hosta roots, unpacked, before  planting.

The hosta roots, unpacked, before planting.

There is some fall work to do in the yards and gardens, and I’m so busy at this time of year that I have fallen behind. A few limbs on the young tulip tree are growing too directly towards the house and need some tender axe therapy, for example.

Raking has fallen by the wayside, and leaves are constantly being tracked into the house.

There are several bushes by my deck that my wife and I have agreed will be cut out before spring—but probably not before Christmas break.

Anyway, despite the late semester rush, and consequent work-filled weekends, I did finish the fall planting today. As I wrote earlier, we had ordered a lot of fall bulbs this year, and the order was split between our yard and the yards of two daughters.

One part of the bulb order, however, didn’t come until this week. We have a front garden where I cut out some overgrown evergreen bushes two years ago. The middle space of that looked sparse, and my wife and I agreed that, since the garden is on the north side of the house and shady, it would be a nice spot for some hostas.

Now, I know a lot of you out there don’t plant hostas. They are not what you could call uncommon plants. And given enough time in the wrong place, and they can be a stubborn plant that can get out of control.

A picture from http://www.kvbwholesale.com/product/Bressingham_Blue_Hosta, the site were we ordered this plant. This is what we should see in spring.

A picture from http://www.kvbwholesale.com/product/Bressingham_Blue_Hosta, the site were we ordered this plant. This is what we should see in spring.

But, I like hostas, partly because so many of my gardens are shady and not a lot of plans do well in them, but hostas do, and partly because I like both their leaves and their small white or purple flowers.

So we ordered some Bressingham Blue hostas from K.van Bourgondien, the Ohio bulb company that we got the rest of the bulbs from.

I’m not sure why the hostas arrived so long after the other bulbs, which were planted in late October. And we’ve had some very cold nights—I was a bit worried about what the ground would be like to dig in. Fortunately, it was wet and warm today, and the ground was fine to work with.

So, assisted by two grandchildren, I planted the hostas today. As planned, three went in the front garden to fill it in a bit, and three others went into the newish back garden by the chimney. There were only supposed to be five root groups, but either a piece had broken off one or a worker at the warehouse tossed in a tiny one too small to count, because we actually had six.

My wife shot this photo of a grandson and granddaughter helping me plant hostas in the back garden.

My wife shot this photo of a grandson and granddaughter helping me plant hostas in the back garden.

The hosta roots are supposed to be dormant and are to come back in spring. In the past, we’ve usually just bought hostas at local garden centers and put in plants during the growing season. That approach has worked well, and the only reason we did a fall planting this year was that we wanted this particular plant just because it looks a bit different from the green or green-and-white hostas that we have now.

There’s much gardening yet to be done, including a mountain of raking—and when I’ll get it done, I don’t know. But at least the bulbs and roots are buried, and that gives me additional incentive to look forward with anticipation to the new spring next year.

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A Warm Day For the Gardening To Begin


Crocus in front yard.

Crocus in front yard.

Crocus in back yard.

Crocus in back yard.

Crocus in back garden.

Crocus in back garden.

Not blooming yet, but soon. Back yard crocus.

Not blooming yet, but soon. Back yard crocus.

Crocus at base of tulip tree in back.

Crocus at base of tulip tree in back.

Snow drops in back garden.

Snow drops in back garden.

Snow drops.

Snow drops.

Fern in back. North side of fence still has ice.

Fern in back. North side of fence still has ice.

Ground cover, showing early flower buds.

Ground cover, showing early flower buds.

Grass is brown but moss in back  yard has turned green.

Grass is brown but moss in back yard has turned green.

Clump of daffodils knifing above the cool garden soil.

Clump of daffodils knifing above the cool garden soil.

Trumpet vine seeds before planting.

Trumpet vine seeds before planting.

Cone flower seeds.

Cone flower seeds.

Snow drop.

Snow drop.

Winter was yard on bird bath.

Winter was yard on bird bath.

I’m a bit behind—what else it new—and need to clean the leaves off of some gardens now that April is almost here. But I did get started with just a bit of planting on this fine warm Good Friday.

I had saved some seeds from a trumpet vine that is invading Katy’s yard. I planted these behind my fence. Yes, I know, this can be an aggressive kind of flower, and a bit of a pest to control—but it’s not an invasive foreign species, it’s an invasive native Iowa wildflower, so there.

Anyway, the world is safe if I have no better luck with this than all of the other wildflowers I’ve planted in the woods behind the fence.

Besides some borrowed trumpet vine seed, I also collected some coneflower seeds from my garden. Since the utility company cut out so much wood, I figure there is more light and maybe some of these will grow.

They would look prettier than the garlic mustard that dominates back there, at least.

Besides that I contented myself with shooting a few more flower pictures. Some yellow crocuses in the yard have joined the blue ones in the back garden in blooming, and many more are just starting to show and bud. The dominant color scheme in the outdoors is still brown, but if you look, you can see little splotches of color—green and some early flowers—that show that Iowa is on the verge of suddenly and spectacularly turning green.

May we get some April rain to maintain that hue.

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Time to Spruce up the World?


Spruce

An undisclosed location. Two of three spruces ended up in the woods behind the fence. This one might be somewhere else. If asked, I can honestly say it was a conspiracy that also involved Ben.

Well, there are still 10 trees lurking out there in the world, supposed to be on their way from the Arbor Day Foundation—heaven knows what I’ll do with them when I get them.

In the meantime, the real reason Audrey joined the Foundation again and got her free trees is so she could purchase 50 white spruce trees at a discount for school children in Monticello. One of her classes did an environmental service project with several grades at Sacred Heart School, and each student received a spruce tree to plant.

There were 47 students. Teachers also wanted a tree each, but apparently the Arbor Day Foundation was playing it safe, and the bundle of 50 must have had more than 50, since there were still three trees left over.

It was cool and rainy today, and may snow tonight. We are in a transition from a warm and wonderful Thanksgiving to early winter, with highs in the 30s and lows in the 20s. It might flurry tonight.

The trees are dormant, and the instructions are to plant as soon as possible, so I put the three spruce in the ground today. They are also supposed to taste good to deer, so I caged them to give them a chance.

Too much to do and school is about to start for the final end-of-semester frenzy. I have oodles to work on, so it’s a good thing this is not a busy gardening time. But, I always feel better when I’ve dropped some trees in the ground—it’s such a hopeful gesture.

Sleep little spruce, and when spring comes around, wake up and grow. I hope most of the kids in Monticello found a good spot for their spruce twigs, too.

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Seeking May Miracles, Or Just Good Luck


Gnomes guard young trees

Project Ironwood--three tiny Ironwood and 2 Crab Apple trees, none of which sprouted from the seeds I planted earlier. So it goes.

Project Ironwood update: Looks like wild success—especially since the 2 largest trees are crab apples, not Ironwood.

Well, it’s a fake. I dug up some seedlings that has sprouted in the rocks around mama Ironwood, and for good measure added some root sappers from the mulch at the base of a trio of attractive, and large, Crab Apple trees near MMU’s Warde Hall.

A member of the family had some recent bad news—she’s battling cancer and will require surgery. Not good news, although not all bad news, either, since the signs are positive—apparently so positive that no follow-up treatment should be needed after the surgery.

Still. Send healing vibes and prayers the way of Paulette, a sweet lady who deserves only the best.

When I’m down, I plant. I’m a little down today—thanks to a broken spoke and the weight of grading.

Still, I had a good grading day yesterday, and graded more papers before taking a tree-planting lunch break today. I don’t exactly need a May miracle, but some nice May luck, with multiple grandbabies awaiting birth, a dog nearing the point where she will be eased off the planet, a sister-in-law facing surgery, and a spoke (see my other blog) that broke—well, it was time to plant something.

I need a little growing. A little cheering up. A cosmic pep talk. When the next week finally fades into frenzied memory, when two babies due this month are safely keeping their moms awake at night and when medical professional have expertly and perfectly performed their craft—and after a few biking/kayaking outings with Audrey—well, I know things will be different and probably better.

Knock on wood. Which you can plant.

Hey, Paulette, if any of these trees live, I’d love to plant one or more for you in your yard. Heaven knows I’ve got no room in mine. Here’s thinking of you.

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