Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The Smörgåsbord Approach

This is a real hodgepodge post, and because Midsommardag was just last week, it seems appropriate to call it a smörgåsbord.  Speaking of "Midsummer", here's the cake Donald made for the occasion:

Midsommar Cake

The concept of "midsummer" is not one I grew up with.  My childhood summers had other calendar landmarks, including family birthdays, VBS (Vacation Bible School), family vacations (a themepark some years, the mountains on others, maybe the occasional year when we stayed closer to home and went to the beach), and American summer holidays.

Midsommar is based on the summer solstice.  It's the longest day of the year... or rather the day on which (in the northern hemisphere) the sun spends the most time in our sky.  This concept makes a bigger impression in a country (or at a latitude) where the length of the day varies widely depending on whether it's summer or winter.  Down here, while there's certainly a noticeable difference between the longest and shortest periods of daylight in the course of a year, it's much less striking. 

Personally, I find the name "Midsummer" deceptive.  It's not really the middle of summertime weather, is it?  Maybe for some (lucky) people it is, but there's still all of July and August, not to mention that September feels pretty darn summer-like here, too-- and of course there's whatever's left of June...

Maybe it's strange to "complain" about summer in a blog that is mostly about gardening.  I can't help it; I'm already looking forward to autumn!

- - - - - - -

We've been suffering for weeks under a dome of high pressure that just wouldn't go away.  It kept temperatures high and rain chances low, which meant watering select plants just about every day-- especially potted plants, the ones that were just planted and the more delicate, thirsty ones.  The pattern seems to finally be breaking, and we got nearly an inch of rain a couple of days ago. 

This miserable weather also meant that we didn't feel like putting in many hours working outside.  Well, that mountain of gravel can wait until we're ready.

- - - - - - -

Almost overnight, a few branches on one side of the viburnum was under heavy attack from some type of web-making worms/caterpillars.  I don't know what they were-- fall webworms, maybe, though it obviously isn't quite fall, yet (don't I wish!)-- but they were undeniably disgusting.  Each whole branch was encased in a thin web, with a big ol' pile of nasty, squirming caterpillars on a single leaf (per branch).  They were working their way up each branch, and the leaves further down-- the ones they were done with-- had been munched and/or sucked dry, apparently.  What was left was shriveled and brown.

Donald cut off the affected leaves (and the webs)-- making sure to get the ones with the disgusting writhing masses-- and dropped them into a garbage bag I held.  They're in the garbage can, now.

Ugh.  I really hate "worms" (or infestations of caterpillars) in my trees and shrubs.  The only good worm is an earthworm. ;o)

- - - - - - -

Our hydrangeas not blooming, this year (except for the new one-- 'Endless Summer'-- that we bought in bloom).  A couple of them are new plants from cuttings, so I'm not terribly surprised by their lack of flower-- and the variegated hydrangea has never been consistent.  (For all I know, it could still bloom later in the year.  I'm not sure when it usually flowers.)

But the biggest hydrangea we have has been good about blooming for a number of years, now.  The flowers were maybe a little on the small side, last year, but at least they were there.  Photos from previous years suggest that that shrub has usually bloomed by now.  The only thing I can think of that I've done differently this year was that I put coffee grounds around it, from time to time over the winter.  Oh, and I fertilized once earlier this year (can't remember when, exactly).

Yes, sad but true;  I fertilize my flower garden that rarely!  I always mean to do better, but I don't want to overfertilize, either... I need to figure out a good timetable and mark it on the calendar.  (How many times do I need to say that before I actually follow through, do you think?)

Oh well.  Maybe next year will be better.  In the meantime, I'll try to remember to leave off the coffee grounds, this year.

- - - - - - -

Last week, I saw the first moonflower on one of our vines.  It had already started closing; I didn't notice it until morning.  At least one of the moonflower vines survived transplanting and rabbit attacks.  It hasn't bloomed again, but I'll keep an eye on it in hopes of more flowers.

First (Only?) Moonflower

I'm pretty sure this was the vine the flower was on.  There are a number of vines growing on that obelisk.  I think most of them are 'Grandpa Ott', but the leaves of this one look different from those heart-shaped morning glory leaves... Sharper, pointier lobes.

Moonflower Vine?

There's a cypress vine seedling trying to get started, too, I see... That has to be one of the most persistent vines.  They pop up everywhere-- and I've been trying to control it (pulling them when I find them) for at least a year or two. 

Annual Vines

Mexican purple sage.
I bought this at Plantasia this spring.  It has grown by leaps and bounds.  It's over four feet tall, now, from just a tiny thing.  Though it was marked as a perennial, what I've read online suggests it's more of a tender perennial.  I might consider trying to bring a pot of it indoors, in case the in-ground plants don't survive the winter.  It roots with exceptional ease.

The Latin name on the tag-- Salvia purpurea-- brings up a couple of different plants, in Internet searches.  One is this plant (which won't bloom until late summer).  The other is something with fuzzy leaves...  (Salvia officinalis purpurea?)

Mexican Purple Sage

'Grandpa Ott' morning glory.

'Grandpa Ott' Morning Glory

'Grandpa Ott' Morning Glory

Rose of Sharon.
Both of these are still blooming.  They stay in bloom for a nice, long time.
I think there are a few seedlings coming up in the flower beds.  (These single-petal forms are apparently known for dropping seed.)  If they survive to autumn, I might transplant them to other spots in the yard.

Rose of Sharon

Coleus, polka-dot plant, Japanese sedge.
See the tiny snail on the coleus?


One of my seed-grown echinaceas (purple coneflower) is finally blooming!  It looks kind of pathetic, but I'm thrilled to actually see a couple of flowers.  Now for those seeds to ripen and fall and make a few more plants...  Good work, bee!  (Even though you look like a carpenter bee, one of my sworn enemies...)

Purple Coneflower

The slightly fancier coneflower is also blooming. 




Yellow gladiolus.


Mina lobata (Spanish flag).
Neither of these larger vines have flowered, and I don't think they're "supposed" to, until later in the season-- but I was surprised to see one small burst of bloom from a weak little vine that simply hasn't taken off.  (Sorry, no photo of the bloom.  It wasn't much to look at, when I saw it.)

Mina Lobata

Mina Lobata

Confederate rose.
(Am I still allowed to call it that?  Please don't sic the PC-enforcers on me!)
 Ahem, as I was saying... Here's a dragonfly on the Confederate rose.

Confederate Rose

Crinum lily.
This summer has brought me a new-found appreciation for crinum lilies.  I think maybe I just never had them planted in the right place before... or didn't leave them alone long enough for them to get settled in and really do their thing... or possibly I just wasn't paying attention.  Whatever it is, I'm growing fonder of them and would love to add a dark pink/red variety to the garden, sometime.  (The white type with the red-striped petals are attractive, too, but I think I prefer the solid colors.)

Crinum Lily

Crinum Lily

Tiger lily.
They've finally decided to join the party (right on schedule, based on old photos).

Tiger Lily

Tiger Lily

Tiger Lily

They may be widespread, tough as nails, and easy to grow, but they're anything but "common"!