"Impressive" bird!

The window over the driveway gets hit by birds at least once every year. Sometimes these are fatal crashes (as I posted about earlier this year), but usually the birds are unharmed and fly away. These crash survivors are almost always mourning doves.

They always leave such amazing impressions on the window!


Bamboo removal, part 2

The big bamboo removal project I started the other day continues. All that's left to do is remove some remaining rhizomes and dig out the hardware cloth that lined the bottom of this planting box.

That's a list with just two items, but it's not going to be easy. In fact, I'm going to tackle it over two evenings. This should be fun.


A quick look around

I spent another hour digging up rhizomes on my bamboo removal project today, but I didn't finish so I'm not ready to post about it. Since it took a lot out of me, I'll just post some quick photos of my yard that I've taken recently.

I love the garden at this time of year, mainly because of the ornamental grasses. In front is the annual/wildflower bed that I recently redid, and I think it's looking pretty good!


Bamboo removal, part 1

This is one of the first bamboos I planted, in the spring of 2007. It's "Yellow Groove" bamboo (Phyllostachys aureosulcata) and is doing quite well. It's sizing up nicely, and I expected it to put up 18'-20' tall culms next spring. This weekend I removed it and dismantled the planter box.

I debated doing this for most of the summer, but finally decided that if I didn't do it now, it would just be a bigger project next year or whenever I finally removed it.


A few things

I've just spent the day in the garden working on step one of a bamboo project that will take another day at least, and I'm pretty much exhausted. I'll post about that project tomorrow, but today is a day to catch up with a few interesting things I've seen recently.

Insects, flowers, and an arachnid probably named Eric. Let's take a look.



One of my favorite garden-related things to do is pick out new rocks. Plant-shopping is fun, but rock shopping is just as enjoyable, if not more so. I love rocks! Flagstones, field stones, boulders -- I'm a big fan of them all. (Gravel I'm not such a fan of, but it has its purposes.) Although I'd love to be bringing home some huge, eye-catching boulders to add to the garden, today I'm picking up something on a smaller scale.

I've picked up two kinds of stones: some weathered field stones which I'll talk about another day, and some flagstone "steppers" of the same material as my patio. I'll be using those today to enhance a small walkway.


Leaf capsule mystery

Yesterday when I was putting together my "camera on a pole" setup, I grabbed a length of electrical conduit that had been sitting on the driveway for a few weeks. I noticed that there were a lot of small leaves stuck in one of the ends of the tube.

When I removed the leaves, this is what I found.


A different perspective

I've had this idea for a while that I want a photographic "map" of my yard. Something like you can get with Google Earth or other satellite map websites, but with more detail. Zoomed way in on my yard. This is obviously something that I need to do myself somehow. Since renting a helicopter is too expensive, hot air balloons are too unpredictable, the high-resolution spy satellites are too classified, and a big bunch of helium party balloons is too risky (for my camera), I decided to try mounting my camera on a long pole.

Here are the results of my first attempts at this "camera on a pole".


The new bamboo

As I mentioned yesterday, one of the reasons that I visited Needmore Bamboo in Indiana was to purchase a large potted bamboo that Brad was holding for me. The great thing about large bamboos in pots is that they provide immediate impact -- there's no waiting for a few years.

Although this one isn't gigantic, it's pretty large. There's an important thing to remember when you're using two people to load up one of these large plants...


A visit to Needmore Bamboo

This past weekend I took a trip to Needmore Indiana (near Bloomington) to visit Needmore Bamboo Company. I've visited this nursery at least once a summer for the previous three years, but this visit would be a little different as Brad had arranged a "Bamboo Celebration Day", and there would be several other bamboo lovers attending.

It would be a great chance to talk to some other gardeners about their bamboo plantings, tour Brad's groves, and meet some new people who loved bamboo, so I knew I couldn't miss it! Plus there was one more species of bamboo that I really wanted to get and plant this fall, so the timing was perfect.


Veggie garden update

The veggie garden is just about done for the year, and it looks a lot different than it did a couple of months ago. Overall I'd have to say that my harvest was a disappointment: too few tomatoes, cantaloupe that weren't as flavorful as I had hoped, beets that didn't do well.

The beans are still producing since I planted them quite late, but I haven't been harvesting as often as I should, so they end up being too old and tough. Right now this bed is mainly a cypress vine bed, so let's take a look.


A little more fungus

A day or so after it rains, this orange rubbery fungus emerges from a log back in my woodpile. It's happened every time it's rained this summer.

It's interesting to me because it keeps appearing over and over. I think I remember seeing this last year too, but I can't be certain. How long can a fungus like this stay alive in a log? Years?


Feeling a little sluggish this morning

I was taking early morning photos of mushrooms the other day with my little camera. Its tiny size makes it perfect for mushroom photos, because I like to set it to macro mode then get the camera as low as possible to see the mushrooms from underneath. Makes it look like I'm one of the small critters that normally sees mushrooms as the towering "trees" of the jungle that is the lawn.

I actually snapped two of those "underneath" photos before I even realized that there actually was one of the small critters here already, hiding in the "bowl" of the mushroom. Many types of mushrooms start out rounded, then they flatten out, and finally curl upward, forming a bowl of sorts. I never really knew why, but now I do: to hold slugs!


Salvia explosion

One of the first flowering plants that I put into my garden, probably around 2002, was Salvia coccinea or "Scarlet Sage". I'm not sure what attracted me to it, but it was probably the brilliant red flowers.

It certainly wasn't the fragrant foliage, because it's pretty unpleasant when crushed or brushed against. The flowers though... wow!


Look -- a Bee!

One of the best things about my garden this year is the hyacinth bean vines. I've only been growing these for a couple of years -- I think last summer was the first time I planted them -- but they've become my favorite flowering vine. I am especially pleased with the one that I planted along one of my deck supports. After a slow start and a few nibbles by deer, it's really going strong and is covering the deck railing.

The dozens of flower spikes attract bees, butterflies, and moths all day long, so I can step out onto the deck and observe their activities whenever I want. Today I caught a couple of larger bees during their rest period, so I was able to take several photos. I wish I could have caught them from a few more angles, but when I move the camera around them too much they start "waking up" and fly off. So I tried to be as non-disruptive as possible.


Sweet Autumn Clematis

It's that time of year when that unassuming green vine that's been growing over your shrubs, mailbox, or trellis really puts on a show and explodes with small white flowers.

Although considered to be invasive in some areas of the country, Sweet Autumn Clematis, (Clematis terniflora) is a fast-growing perennial vine that makes a beautiful addition to the Fall garden.


A fungus fungus?

When I was a child I watched every low-budget sci-fi movie that was broadcast. I seem to remember Saturday afternoons being the regular timeslot for these movies, but I could be wrong about that. Rockets, invading alien creatures, strange discoveries in the sea or some deep cave, giant monsters attacking Tokyo and each other -- I loved them all. I'm sure I've forgotten dozens of horrible plots, but there are a few that have stuck with me. One in particular comes back to me every so often while working in the garden. It involved something about a shipwreck, an island full of giant mushroom people, and how eating the only source of food on the island -- mushrooms -- would turn you into one of these mushroom zombies.

I think that movie may have affected me more than I know, and may explain part of my fascination with mushrooms and other fungus. I sure love taking photos of mushrooms, and the days after a good soaking rain are the best times to find new ones. Yesterday morning I found something a little more surprising: what appears to be a fungus growing on some old mushrooms.


A few small projects

Yesterday I did a little project in the garden. It wasn't particularly fun, and would have been quite boring, so I didn't document the entire project. I would like to show you the results though. I'd also like to show a couple of other little projects from the last few months that I never got around to posting about.

The recent project is cleaning up the driveway. It really has two parts: part one is moving all of the "stuff" that's been accumulating there, and part two is cleaning up the bamboo hedge. Above is the "after" photo.



The last two nights we've had some good, hard rains in St. Louis. By my measurements it's been about 2 1/2 inches total, which is a very nice soaking for two days. The nice thing about storms that pass through in the night is that the garden gets watered, but the day can still be nice and sunny and dry.

Well, the morning is pretty wet. Ok, very wet. Totally soaking, dripping, sopping wet. That's good news for me though, because a wet garden lit by the early morning sun is a great time to take photos. I took a bunch this morning, and here they are.


A little more Lepidoptera

Lepidoptera is the order of insects including moths and butterflies. Today I have a few more specimens to show you. First up is this insect that really looks like a beetle of some sort, with its long tubular body.

It's got some really interesting markings, doesn't it? This is not a beetle -- it's actually a moth! I usually think of moths as plain brown or gray, but in looking through one of my reference books (Butterflies and Moths of Missouri), there are some really unique moths around! Some are really beautiful, like this species.


I'm tired of this planting bed

This is my wildflower and annuals bed. Although it was fresh and beautiful earlier this year and should still be looking pretty good now, the heatwave we had in the middle of the summer really took a lot out of it. This is how it should look in a month, not right now.

There are also a lot of weeds in here (mainly crabgrass and violets), and I'm just tired of looking at this ugly mess. Luckily I have a lot of plants in pots still, so I can give this bed a makeover without too much effort.


Large bamboo division

Yesterday I posted about taking several small divisions of bamboo and potting them up. Today it's one division of bamboo only, but it's a large one. It's about the biggest that I can handle myself, and it came from my friend Michael's garden.

He's decided to reduce the number of bamboo species he has, giving more space to those that are doing the best and are most rewarding for him. That means more free plants for me, in exchange for helping him do a bunch of tough digging.


Digging small bamboo divisions

The first of my projects this past weekend was to dig some small divisions from one of my in-ground bamboos: Phyllostachys glauca 'Yunzhu'. I've written about large bamboo divisions I've dug before, mainly from my friend Michael's garden, but today will be a little different. Instead of taking huge chunks of a mature bamboo, I'll be taking pretty small culms but trying to get as long a rhizome with them as possible.

There's the plant. It's getting to be quite attractive, and I think next year it will really start taking off. You'll notice that I let the sun shine directly into the lens, which resulted in some pretty lens flares. I normally wouldn't do this, but it seemed to work on this shot. (I've been watching the latest Star Trek movie lately and I think that J.J. Abrams has been wearing off on me.)



One of the best late-season bloomers in my garden has always been Caryopteris, or "Blue Mist Spirea". I planted it five or six years ago, probably as an impulse buy during a trip to the nursery around this time of year.

What I didn't realize at the time is that flowering shrubs will often produce seed, resulting in even more plants over time.


More butterflies

I've been keeping an eye on the butterflies moving through the yard, in the hopes of seeing something unique, or not as common. I'm grateful for every butterfly that appears, but there are some that are more exciting than others. Not that anything in my yard is very rare, but if it's not something I regularly see (or some species I haven't been seeing for weeks already), I grab the camera!

Then it's usually a lot of snapping and deleting of photos, since butterflies don't typically like to sit still -- some species seem to, but most pretty much just want to dart around. That is unless you catch them early enough in the day that they're still getting warmed by the sun, so they're more sluggish and will sit still a little bit longer. Plus they will open their wings more to provide more surface area for the sunlight to heat.


Morning blooms

As I promised, to help balance out all of the "creepy" posts about insects and spiders I've been doing lately, here's a look at some of the late summer flowers that are in bloom in my garden. It's really important to make sure you have plants that make the end of summer and start of autumn interesting. Although it's great having flowers all over the place in May and June, it's also pretty easy as most plants seem to want to bloom then. It's a little trickier to ensure you're looking at blooms now (in early September), but it's really worth the effort.

It really just comes down to having some plants around that flower late. In the spring when you're shopping for plants (most people get the majority of their plants in the spring -- only those really addicted to gardening will visit the nurseries all season long, right?) these late bloomers are the really boring ones, as they don't have any blooms or even buds to entice you to buy. They're all foliage and promises.


Yeah, that's creepy.

I haven't been out in the yard taking photos the last few days, and I'm not sure of the reason. Yes, it's been cloudy and wet recently, but today it was clear, cool, and beautiful -- so weather isn't the excuse. I guess I just wasn't in the mood. Unfortunately that leaves me with nothing to talk about in this post... or so I thought. As I went outside to mow the lawn this evening, I noticed this "bug" was still in the same spot that I had seen it earlier in the day, and yesterday too if I remember right.

Since it's right at the edge of the door frame, it's hard to miss, but I didn't really scrutinize it before. Because of the way it was sitting and the way its legs were positioned I thought it might be another assassin bug of some sort, but this evening I took a closer look for the first time. It's not an insect -- it's a spider.


Finally, some cool clouds again!

Summers in St. Louis usually bring a dozen good, strong thunderstorms or more. Strong winds, thunder, lots of lightning, and dramatic, cool clouds. This summer has been really quiet. There was that one big storm a while back, but that's about it. I was actually thinking about using some photos from last summer's storms in a post, but then things changed.

This evening a line of storms moved in, bringing cooler air, lightning, and some great clouds. Unfortunately I was out and only had my phone camera, but I think the photos turned out ok.


A new flower and an old foe

I've made a couple of interesting discoveries lately. One is a nice one, and the other is not so nice. I'll start with the nice one: my black stem taro (Elephant Ears) is flowering! I didn't even know they produced flowers, but there it is.

It's quite a large bloom. I can't say that it's the most impressive flower I've ever seen, but it was totally unexpected and therefore exciting. Maybe it's only exciting to a gardener.

Maybe it's only exciting to me.


Planter box build: day 2

Yesterday I wrote about the planter box I helped a friend build for his bamboo. We didn't quite finish, so today we'll finish the box and plant the bamboo.

We started the day with a trip to the community compost pile, where we loaded up the truck with free compost. I wish the park where this compost pile is located was closer to my house, but it's too long of a drive to make it practical for me. Maybe that's a good thing, otherwise I'd be picking up compost every weekend.


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