Finally building something: new bamboo box

I had big plans for building things in the garden this year: a shed, a new deck, rebuild the stream -- but so far I haven't done a single one. One reason is it's been so hot this year, but I think it's mainly that I haven't been motivated. This past weekend I finally got "the bug" and built a new bamboo planter box.

I've built raised beds in my garden before, but have only built a bamboo planter once before, at my friend's house. That one turned out pretty nice, but it was a little fancier than what I wanted for myself. Here's how I built it.


Caring is better!

Yesterday's post was titled "Sharing is best", and I talked about sharing my tomato plants with some tobacco hornworm caterpillars. Today it's all about the next level: caring. Last week as I was giving everything a good watering before leaving town for a few days, I noticed that the parsley that I planted specifically for attracting swallowtail butterflies was crawling with caterpillars!

This was great news, but bad timing since I was leaving for the airport very soon. The thing I've learned over the years though is if I can find the caterpillars easily, birds and raccoons can too. I had to take action.


Sharing is best

I've had a disappointing year for tomatoes so far, and I've decided that my veggie garden is too far away from the house. There are too many interesting plants that need care between here and there, so I don't make it back there enough.

I do get out there once in a while, and since the tomato plants are about the only thing still going strong back there I do look them over. The other day I got a surprise.


More Datura

I posted some shots of this Datura inoxia that is growing in a crack in my driveway before, but it's really worth another look.

It's so large now, has a wonderful form, and the blooms are so crisp and white. Just a quick look...


Yes, you should rush

One of the plants that I can't really make up my mind about is scouring rush (Equisetum hyemale). In the horsetail family, it's also called "rough horsetail". It's an aggressive spreader so I've been growing it in a pot for a few years. It's quite a nice plant with strong architectural qualities, it's quite cold-hardy, and doesn't seem to be bothered by pests although I've had trouble with rabbits eating it before.

So, why can't I make up my mind? Probably because it needs a constant supply of water and if it doesn't stay wet enough some of the stems flop over. Those stems then grow horizontally, breaking up the nice vertical look of the rest of the stems.



I've posted a little about the Malabar spinach vines earlier this summer, but the plants are doing so well and I like them so much I thought I'd dedicate a whole post to them.

Another minimally-worded post, but I think the photos will speak for themselves again.


So slow, whatever they are.

This is probably the most frustrating planting of my garden this year. Why frustrating? Well, I planted these seeds back in May -- or maybe even April. They took a while to germinate, but then grew oh so slowly.

They've only now started putting on some size, and it's been so long since I planted I don't remember exactly what they are.


One-word Wednesday: Blood



My time is very limited this week due to work, so I'm keeping things simple. Photographic. Textural. Colorful.

Today's post is a color. Guess which color it is?


More butterflies

As I've said before, I can't help myself when it comes to butterflies. I love watching them and photographing them.

Of course this means that you have to see more butterfly photos. I hope that's not a problem.



The other morning I looked out of the bedroom window to survey the driveway plants. As you may have read, it's getting quite tropical out there, and it's a nice way to start the day. I also like to check for any raccoon damage from the window first -- the up-high perspective gives me a quick overview so I know what to expect when I go out there. It's less shocking that way.

This particular morning something looked weird. Not being fully awake it took me a moment to figure out what it was: a couple of my large pots were laying on their sides!


New Plants? New Plants!

Last weekend I didn't do much in the garden, as I was focused on some projects around the house, but I did manage to hit the nearby nurseries to see what sort of late-summer bargains I could find. It was a bit early for one of the two nurseries, as they didn't have very many sales plants yet, but the other one had a bunch of red "sale" tags on all sorts of plants. Remembering that I still have a driveway full of plants, I restrained myself and only purchased a single plant.

Then I went back the next day and bought four more. "That's fine" you're probably saying, "late summer/fall is a great time for planting perennials, shrubs and trees...", but then you notice that I bought only tropical plants -- things that aren't cold-hardy and I'll need to overwinter in the garage or indoors. Yeah, I just created more work for myself.


I'm winging it today

Sometimes doing a daily blog about gardening (and the things in the garden) is a pain. I really want to be out in the garden every day for hours, documenting projects, photographing flowers and insects and bamboo, and generally just enjoying the environment I've created. Unfortunately I don't always have the time for this, or the weather isn't cooperating, or both.

This past week has been busy for me, and after a brief cool down it's hot and uncomfortable again, so I haven't been able to spend much time outside the last few days. That gets frustrating for me because I know there's stuff going on out there that I'm missing. Like butterflies. Some of them are only around for a short time each summer, and I really don't want to miss any of them!



I love dragonflies. Maybe it's the googly eyes, or the stiff horizontal wings, or the way they fly so fast, hovering erratically, changing elevation so quickly.

This one has been hanging around my stream for the last few days, so I've been out there with the camera a lot. 


It's been a while: bamboo control project #1

It's been a few months since I've had to do any digging for bamboo control, but now it's time to start. Besides some normal rhizome pruning, I've got three separate digging projects that are going to be a little more involved. This past weekend I started with the easiest one of the three.

Some rhizomes made it under the corner of the driveway and produced these nice shoots in an area I don't want them. I could have knocked the shoots down as they emerged in the spring then cut the rhizomes, but I instead decided to let the culms grow so I could dig a nice new plant later in the year. It is now later, so let's get digging.


GBBD: August 2011

Today I'm joining lots of other garden bloggers as they document what's blooming in their gardens, on Garden Blogger's Bloom Day. Carol at May Dreams Gardens urges gardeners to photograph what's blooming on the 15th of each month, and she compiles a list. I haven't participated before, mainly because I'm not organized enough and the 15th passes me by each month, but it's a great idea.

So here's what's blooming right now in my garden. I may have missed a plant or two, but I think I got most of them. This is one of my butterfly bush seedlings, smelling sweet and delicious as always.



For me one of the best things about gardening is that everything is always changing, and I'm often surprised by what goes on in front of me every day. True, not all of the surprises are good (wow, look how big and healthy that crabgrass plant is!), but there are enough good ones to keep things exciting.

Today is a great example of that, as the surprise lilies have started to bloom. I've been growing these for at least five years, so I really shouldn't be surprised by them -- but I always am.


Time to go?

There are few plants I love more than grasses. I like big ones like the large Miscanthus species, small ones like Mexican feather grass (these stay pretty small in my garden and climate), huge difficult to control ones like my running bamboos, and natives like little bluestem and prairie dropseed. I'll often let these grasses reseed, especially the natives, but sometimes you just have enough of a certain plant and new seedlings are no longer welcome.

Case in point the Chasmanthium latifolium, or "wood oats" (or whatever other name you call it). These plants have the most wonderful seed heads, but can quickly take over a planting bed, garden, or yard.


A look around: back yard from the house

I thought it's time that I took another look at the garden. Everything is doing fine, except the heat and lack of rain has made some of the plants look a bit "tired". Just not exactly fresh -- know what I mean? Overall though, I'm pretty pleased with how things look right now.

This post is an overview of the back yard, so don't expect any closeups of specific plants, because there aren't any. It's important to look at the big picture sometimes -- individual plants are cool, but it's the effect when you put them all together that is really important.



Although I'm a big fan of insects in my garden, eager to find interesting or "new" bugs whenever I can, I'm not always fond of what they can do to plants.

Even when I'm faced with the damage they can inflict, I'm still fascinated and have so many questions.


Magical, Black, Butterfly

I have a fascination with the flying nectar-drinkers in my garden. Bees, hummingbirds, butterflies, moths -- I could watch them for hours (if I had that kind of time). Even with my tight schedule I find myself watching them feeding whenever I can, and ten minutes watching the same insect do the same thing over and over again is not unusual. Nor is it ever boring for me.

Although bees and hummingbirds are plentiful in my garden right now, butterflies have a special attraction at this time of year. Maybe it's the way they float silently around the flowers, leaving but then immediately returning to noiselessly taste nectar, just inches from my eyes. They're like magic with wings.


One-word Wednesday: White


Thwarting the maple

I've been struggling with a planting bed in my front yard for a few years now. The problem is a tree: a forty-year-old Sugar Maple. Oh, there's nothing wrong with the tree itself -- I really like it and the shade it provides. Besides losing a large limb a decade ago in a storm and therefore losing its symmetry, plus a little bit of cicada damage right now, it's doing very well. The problem with it is that it drinks every drop of water and uses just about every nutrient in the soil.

The plants around it struggle just to survive, and a rare few of them are actually increasing in size. Add in a little bit of deer pruning, and you end up with what I have to admit is an unattractive and mostly-empty bed. Toward the right side of this image you can see a hosta -- half-eaten, withered brown edges -- not thriving to say the least. I planted three different large hosta varieties here three or four years ago ('Sum and Substance' and 'Big Daddy' were two of them and I can't remember the third), and each has gotten smaller each year. I dug up the tiny remnants of two of them a couple weeks ago, and now I've got what hopefully is a solution for this bed.


Big leaves, big texture

After finding the spider mite infestation on my one black-stem taro (elephant ear) the other day, I decided to take a close look at every elephant ear. I didn't find any more mites, but I did find a lot of great big-leaved texture.

Here's a look at some of what I saw.


Do elephants get ear mites?

If you have pets that have ears, then you may have become familiar with ear mites at one time or another. They're not too difficult to get rid of with some drops, and after a few days of treatment (stop squirming -- these drops will make you feel better!) your cat or dog will be back to normal, rid of the tiny pests that were causing so much itching.

The other day I noticed that the elephant ears plant on my deck -- the one I walk past several times each day but apparently don't really look at -- was infested with spider mites. These mites are a big problem on plants I'm overwintering inside, as they prefer the dry air. Strange to see such a bad case outside in our St. Louis humidity.


A true grasshopper

We're getting to a time of year that I really love in the garden: late summer. There are many things to like about the garden at this time, but what I like most is the ambiance, and that is mainly due to one garden resident: the grasshopper.

I suppose I should say grasshoppers, katydids, and possibly crickets, because they all add their calls to the layer of sound that blankets my yard at this time of year. I'll probably take a more in-depth look at grasshoppers in another post, but today I just want to show you a real grasshopper.


hummingbirds do not like to share

One of the things I love most about summer is hummingbirds. I love seeing them feeding on the flowers in my garden, love hearing them twitter overhead as I'm working out there. I love their curiosity and their fearlessness.

What I don't really like is their manners. They just don't like to share.



Have you ever collected seeds from a plant you saw somewhere else -- a friend's garden, a shopping center planting, a field? I've done this a few times, but really have had only two great successes with it. One is with the Brown-eyed Susans (Rudbeckia triloba) that I took from a wild plant I saw at the edge of woods at a park and now is everywhere in my yard.

The other is Ratibida columnifera or "Mexican hat". (I always just call it "Ratibida" because it's fun to say.) The seeds of this one I took from the garden of some friends when I was charged with watering while they were out of town a few years ago. I really liked the flowers, and the small plants looked like a good fit for my yard.


Smells like... curiosity

Yesterday I talked about the container garden I created in my front yard, using many of the "left over" plants that have been cluttering up the driveway. I actually did that project in two parts: I spent Saturday potting everything up, then Sunday morning (before it got too hot) I moved the pots into their final positions.

So the pots sat on the driveway overnight Saturday. That's important. It's also important to remember that I was working literally all day outside Saturday, so was exhausted by the time evening came around. Tired body, tired mind. Tired mind forgets important details. Raccoons do not forget so easily though.


Instant garden with pots

Saturday was a productive day for me in the garden. Instead of being 90ºF (32ºC) or higher which it has been for weeks, it only got into the low 80's and was overcast for most of the day. I took the opportunity and spent the entire day outside planting, and I've made a really good dent in the number of pots on the driveway.

One way I did this was by converting the pots on the driveway in to a garden of pots next to the driveway!


Seeing bamboo too

Last week I wrote about seeing my Black-eyed Susans in a new way, photographing them blurred. Since I was so happy with those results, I tried that technique on another plant that I love and have a lot of: bamboo.

Bamboo to me is all about texture, and form, and movement. Not too much color like the Susans had, but still a beautiful plant. I think this second part of my experiment turned out pretty well...


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