another plant trade!

Long-time readers will see the image of the cardboard box and know what's coming next: new plants from another plant trade! Three or four weeks ago I sent Loree at danger garden a box containing a few different bamboos. (Loree once said she really didn't like variegated bamboo, and I had to show her what she was missing.) Since our climates are quite different, Loree took her time in choosing some plants that should work in my garden.

She didn't tell me what plants she was sending, so I'm eager to rip into this. Ready to open the box and take a look?



I went outside with camera in hand yesterday morning, intending to take photos of the bees on the sunflowers. With multiple blooms on each plant, it was time for those bee close-ups I was so excited about the other day.

Unfortunately, I didn't find bees. I didn't find happy sunflower blooms either. Instead I found tatters.


Datura inoxia

Remember last year when I had the huge Datura inoxia growing in a crack in my driveway? I said that I wasn't going to let one of these grow here again next year, or at least I thought it if I didn't actually record it here in the blog. I loved the plant, and loved that the bees loved it too, and it was certainly big enough to make me happy (I like big plants), but the location just wasn't the best.

I'm happy to report that I stuck to my plan and didn't let one of these grow in my driveway.

Well, sort of.



Although the pond is not looking its best right now -- I'm still fighting the algae -- I spent a few minutes just sitting and watching it yesterday. There were several damselflies around, chasing each other, landing. Then I noticed this:

A newly emerged adult!


Front garden project, phase 1

I've given myself one fairly substantial project to get done outside before the summer is over, and I made a start on it this weekend. It involves the continuation of my efforts to "garden up" my front yard, which I started last year by creating a few new beds along the driveway and walkway. This project will be tackled in three phases I think, but should be completed sometime in the next few weeks.

As you can see, there's nothing too exciting happening in a large part of the front yard. Focus on the strip of lawn in the foreground of this photo -- the area between the sidewalk and the street. Nothing but 40-year-old lawn here, but that's soon to change.


Cardoon seeds, surprises

I've been growing cardoon for several years now with varying degrees of success. The first year I grew a single plant and it was big and beautiful and I fell in love with it, but it didn't survive the winter. The next year I planted two and although they weren't quite as impressive as that first plant, these both overwintered and the following year I got the treat of their large, thistle-like blooms -- cardoon doesn't bloom the first year.

That was a few years ago, and I haven't seen those blooms since -- until this year. The flowers have now faded and the flower stalk -- the main part of the plant right now -- has withered. The whole thing is quite ugly, so I thought I'd take one last look before I cleaned it up.


Moth, unique view

When I was in the sixth grade, I went to summer camp for a week with my class -- it was the highlight of the school year for us. Being with my classmates around the clock for a few days gave me a chance to know many of them better, like it or not. One of the memories that has stuck with me happened one night in the cabin, when Patrick -- a big, loud, tough kid who could sometimes be a bully -- started yelling and jumping around. He was on one of the top bunks (of course) and was standing up, arms thrashing, completely freaking out, oblivious to the ceiling inches above his head and the edge of the bed which promised a late-night trip to some country hospital at best. I seem to remember him yelling "get it off, GET IT OFF!", but that could just be time aging the story for me.

After a few frantic seconds, the episode was over, and Patrick -- in a weak moment -- admitted to us all that he was terrified of moths. You should have thought of that before choosing the top bunk right next to the bare lightbulb tough guy. Patrick, I hope you've overcome this fear, or that you're not reading today.


Lightweight concrete turf

After seeing the title of this post you're either thinking: "what the heck?" or "Oh good, finally!". If you thought the latter, then you've been reading my blog for a while and know that it's time for another search terms post! Google searches bring people to my site much more than any other traffic source, and Blogger tells me what search terms are guiding people here.

As you'll soon see, people find INWIG in lots of strange ways -- and my posts are probably not too helpful for them in many cases. Are you ready?


Educate me

I was handed this object yesterday and asked "what is it?" After all, I am the plant expert of the house. Unfortunately, all I could say was "some type of nut".

Google has failed me so far, and I'm not prepared to break it open yet to see if that helps me identify it, so I'm wondering: "what is it?"


Canna something, you beauty

A couple of weeks ago I picked up a few filler plants for my driveway border, and while at the garden center took a look around for any bargain plants. There are usually great deals to be found during the "bad" parts of summer, and I was hoping to find a few sun-loving perennials for a project I'm going to be starting soon.

The only worthwhile cheap plant I found though was this Canna which was helpfully labeled "Canna x generalis", which means it's a hybrid but not named (or they're not telling what the name is). No problem, I thought, I can find the variety later using the power of the Internet.



I'm glad I decided to give sunflowers another try this year. Several years ago when I was first getting into gardening, I bought half a dozen different varieties of sunflower seeds one spring: red ones, frilly ones, white ones, brown ones -- I went a little overboard. That's the same year I learned that something (rabbits? deer? woodchucks?) likes to eat sunflowers when they're just starting to take off -- small enough to be tender, but large enough to make a decent meal. At least that's how I remember it.

I  know the sunflowers were a disappointment that year. So I gave up on them, thinking it wasn't worth the effort. This year though, I tried again, using a different strategy.


castor bean: can't stop!

Do you like my posts about garden projects better, or the photo-focused ones? If you said "projects", well, you're out of luck today -- I've got more castor bean photos for you.

I know I've recently done not just one, but two photographic "studies" of castor beans, but I just can't help myself -- they're so darn photogenic and interesting!


Spring chores finished?

Like all gardeners, every spring I have a long list of things to do: clean up, cultivate, weed, plant -- you know the list. It's not surprising to me that some of those tasks get delayed, and I don't get to them as soon as I'd like to. Starting seed? Sometimes a bit late. Getting veggie seedlings into the ground? Same there -- sometimes later than I'd like. This year though, I think I set a record.

See this pot of heat-ravaged sedum? Last year this contained Colocasia, and it was going to this year again too. I put the sedum there last fall as a place they could overwinter. They did beautifully too -- until June came around with its record heat and fried many of them. So today at long last I move them.


An update on the border

A month ago I put a row of potentially larger-sized plants along the back of my annual border that runs along the driveway. A few Colocasia, a castor bean, a Senna -- I wanted to create a wall of foliage here.

Although the "hedge" isn't filling out as well as I had hoped, the plants are doing quite well, and are already 4-6' (1.2-1.8m) tall. Time for a look!


Quick Thoughts

Just got back from a few days of travel, so I haven't spent any time in the garden for almost a week. Which means I've run out of garden-related topics for today's post. It also means I'm very tired.

Both factors means today is another "catch up" day -- a collection of photos that never made it into other posts. Little writing for me, less reading for you.


Can't bear it any longer

Today I tell you about a mistake. Not a big mistake maybe, but I hate being wrong about plants. Last summer I redid this raised planter box, making it into a bamboo planter, putting a tired-looking arrow bamboo (Pseudosasa japonica) there.

Well, almost a year later, the plant still looks tired. It's so ugly, I won't have it in my garden any longer!


More morning magic

The other morning when I was trying to get nice, interesting shots of the castor bean leaves and flowers, I accidentally got artsy.

Well, not so accidentally, because I took lots of these photos. I just love letting the colors and shapes come through without all of those distracting, in-focus details.


Growing up, moving out

If you've been reading my blog for a while, you'll know that I've grown cactus from seeds before. Twice. (If you haven't done this, give it a try, as those little prickly plants are adorable!) I had to give the first batch of cactus away as they weren't cold-hardy species.

The second batch was cold-hardy though, and I finally decided to repot them. Not that most of them really needed it.


seeds for fall planting

This is a post about realizations. Well, one realization really: that I often do things in the garden the hard way. For instance, starting seeds.

Luckily I'm sometimes able to correct my bad habits, and the result is a better experience, with more free time. I hope.


Some castor bean love!

Castor bean (Riccinus communis) is one of my favorite plants in the garden. Its big, dark leaves really complement the fine texture of all of the bamboos, and they become a focal point wherever they appear -- and they appear in many places in my yard!

These are grown as annuals here, and by the end of the season they've usually reached 8-10' (2.4-3m) tall. Very impressive and imposing! I grow the purple-leaved varieties, 'Carmencita' and one simple labeled as "Deep Purple" by my seed source. Beautiful from across the yard, but wonderful up close too.


Time to chop!

It's been a rough summer for the plants in my garden. Trees, shrubs, perennials, annuals -- they've all had to handle the heat and much less water than normal. Some of them fared pretty well, like the cleome:

I really should have thinned this patch out more, as it was really overcrowded, resulting in many small plants packed together. With cleome that's not always a bad thing though, as these plants get big! Since the flower stalks keep elongating all season long -- this plant never stops blooming -- those arching stems can get out of control. Today I've decided to take some action!


This is why it's boring

You know that narrow strip of ground between the sidewalk and the street? It's often called a "parkway", or in gardening circles, a "hell strip" (or "hellstrip") because of its tough growing conditions. Heat from the street, pollution, road salt in winter, foot traffic, and possibly blazing sunlight can make it a challenging site for plants. Around 99% of the hellstrips in this area contain just scraggly lawn and trees. I've been thinking about planting something more interesting in my "hellstrip" for a couple of years now, but every once in a while I'm reminded why this might not be a good idea.

You see, this ground is owned by the city, and is the right-of-way for many of the utility companies. They can dig here whenever they need to.


Rat's tail radish

I love trying new plants each year -- especially in the veggie garden -- and this year one of the new ones is "Rat's Tail" radish. This edible podded radish doesn't produce much of a tuber, but its pods pack the same spicy punch as the traditional rooting radishes.

The main difference: whereas root radishes turn woody and terrible once they flower, this is one radish that you want to bolt and start producing seed pods!


Restoring order, a bit

This is the time of year when my garden reminds me exactly where I had certain flowering vines planted last year, as the seedlings all wake up and almost overnight have smothered plants that don't appreciate the climbers.

Cypress vine in particular, as it seems I've been pulling these things out for a few days now, and there's always more. Not sure why they're so late this year (are they late?) but it's probably to do with the lack of rain, but they're going strong now. Especially here next to my little triangle box, which already has a different climbing vine planted at each corner and doesn't need a dozen more cypress vines added to what soon will be a vertical jungle. I love the feathery foliage, but cypress vines have to go.


Finally finishing: trellis!

Three weeks or so ago I started a project that I've finally finished! Did you see the post where I dismantled the old box spring because I liked the look of the steel framework inside it? At the end of that day I had two bare metal frames to use in creating a trellis of some kind. I first had to decide whether to leave them bare so they'd rust in the garden, or paint them to offer some protection.

I decided to paint them, as I thought they'd make more of an impression that way. I had taken several photos of the painting process: first washing the frame to remove any oily residue, then priming, and finally painting them white so they'd stand out in the garden -- but I somehow deleted all of those shots. So the above "artsy" view is all you get of that time-consuming procedure.


Helping me stay busy

As summer marches on and my wishlist of projects grows -- with items being added more quickly than I can take them off -- the last thing I need is something else to do. This is when I really appreciate the parts of the garden that don't need much attention to stay looking good, like this trio of potted sempervivum...

What's that you say? You only see two pots, not three? Yeah, it seems that my idea of "not needing much attention"...



Another day with some random garden observations, thoughts, and photos. I haven't done this for a while, but it's time. Starting with a little harvest of Maypop and Mexican sour gherkins:

Harvests have been minimal in the garden the last month, so I'm eager to show even a small bowl of fruits. It's been a discouraging and tiring summer, but we had an amazing occurrence yesterday: it rained twice! Heavy storms in the morning, then heavy storms in the evening. It's amazing how some rain will not only perk up all of the plants, but the gardener who tends them too.


Fear the mitey

I grow several different types of elephant ears, Colocasia mainly. Some of them have a little problem with spider mites, and some don't. Our summer has been so dry for the most part, the mites have had it easy this year (they like low humidity, which is why they thrive indoors in winter in cold climates). This one variety of 'Pink China' Colocasia is especially bad:

That's not some fantastic new variegation on the leaves, it's damage from those little pests! The leaves should be solid green. Yikes.


Two webs

After yesterday's extremely long and photo-filled post looking at pollinators, I decided to make today a short one.

Two interesting and very different webs caught my eye in the sunlight yesterday morning.


dogs away, pollinators enjoy!

There's a large "weed" growing in my garden, and I couldn't be happier about it. When the plant first popped up a couple of years ago, I didn't know exactly what it was, but its thick rubbery stems looked like a type of milkweed, so I left it to see what happened.

What happened was it turned into a 6' (1.8m) tall and wide mass of tiny white flowers that blooms pretty much all summer long!


Moving mountains

Okay, the title is a bit of an exaggeration, but I've finally found a use for some of my soil mounds -- the ones that were created when various planting beds were dug. Remember that my soil is heavy clay, and when I start a new bed or create a planting hole I will add lots of compost and possible some bagged topsoil, so the removed soil goes in a pile to "age".

Because my yard is entirely on a slope I could easily find places to dump and spread the soil and it would essentially disappear. I'd rather put it to use though, and I finally have a good place for it: this bamboo planting.


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