Been away for a while spending as much time possible working “The Acre”, as is my lust during the warmer 6 months of the year. Actually, I only tend to 1/3 of the property, which is a mix of native and non-native species. Except for Purple Loosestrife beheadings, Phragmites wacking and the occasional planting of a native tree or cattail, the other two-thirds is allowed to do as the elements dictate (see earlier post). So I thought it best to drop in and share a bit of what’s been going on.
Each season, I introduce more plants to the property, which is all love and part research for my educational endeavors. Emphasis is on returning native plants long missing from the landscape, particularly those that benefit wildlife. Despite the small quarters, the land offers a variety of conditions, from dry shade to sunny wet meadow, allowing for a diverse selection of species for trial. Challenges are present, as well. A yet to be identified insect has annually devoured the leaves of one variety of Marshmallow (unfortunately, I remember not which variety) despite regular spraying of insecticidal soap. This year, however, I’ve added Neem oil to the spray and the nibbling has been reduced substantially. Interestingly, the nearby Common Marshmallow (Althaea officinalis) is completely unaffected by whatever plagues its neighbor. This is where the research part comes in. I note that the Common variety, while no more than 30 feet away, is in considerably drier soil which: 1.) may make it a stronger specimen; 2.) is in a spot where the drier conditions are less hospitable for the gnawing insect; or 3.) its location among the culinary and medicinal herbs creates a deterrent. Of course, determining what is eating the other Marshmallow would help but I’ve yet to see the culprit – it must be very tiny or is preying upon the plant at night.
This year, I’ve really worked on adding species specifically intended for aiding pollinators. Milkweeds, Butterfly Weed, Turtleheads, native Roses and Lupines have been put in and all except the Lupines are doing very well. Natural precipitation has been nearly perfect so far which is sure to be helping. Also in the mix has been work on critter deterrents, particularly for White-tailed Deer who, despite having lots to eat in the wild meadow where their young regularly bed down, make regular stops at the garden beds to snack. Protecting both an established and newly added Daylily bed has taken up some time. Gold Dial Soap hanging on a string works for about one season but then has to be rotated out. Planting a border of Garlic and Onions around the new bed kept the Deer from eating the greens, but once the Daylily flower buds formed, they were quickly nibbled off. So, I expanded the bed and added Lavender and Tarragon on the outside with a complimentary planting of one Curry Plant and one Artemisia as decorative and strongly fragrant corners. A Curry Plant has worked quite well protecting a planting of Echinacea for several years, which beforehand were regularly beheaded, so hoping this one-two punch will be enough to keep the Deer at bay on the more highly favored Daylilies. Last Autumn, I planted small Boxwoods on two sides of the established Daylily bed. So far the Boxwood (which Deer completely ignore) and the Dial Soap have been doing the job.
In the shady areas, Foam Flower, Wild Ginger and Mayapple have been added to a variety of native ferns planted in previous seasons. St. John’s Wort has volunteered itself, which is a nice addition to the ever increasing medicinal herbs that are on the property, both wild and cultivated. The Yucca, which is planted in a bed along a sunny dry slope, flowered very heavily this year for the first time – wish they lasted longer. Native Prairie Blazing Star was also planted to compliment the established Yarrow, Echinacea and Coreopsis. I’ve also done some companion planting in the vegetable garden adding Borage to aid the Strawberries. The Borage flowers are a great attractant for pollinators along with being a tasty addition to salads.
Gardening is one long experiment, affected differently each year by weather, climate change and fluctuations in wildlife populations. It never gets boring. I’ve posted a few photos below (click one photo and glide through the larger image gallery) and will follow up later in the season as other plants come into their bloom time. In the meantime, be well and enjoy Nature’s wonders.