Away for a few weeks


I will be traveling for a few weeks, on business, so don’t send wishes for an enjoyable vacation. In fact, it’s a nice break to be out of the office for a while, and I’ll be visiting many long time acquaintances who own the nurseries our company purchases plants from. I’m always enthused to see old friends, and what’s growing for next year, though after the first thousand miles on the road and few thousand acres of plants the repetition can be a bit mind numbing.

There’s a chance that I’ll miss something, or a few somethings in the garden while I’m gone. One thing or another is always just about to happen, and I travel only sporadically, so there are few times I’m not in the garden as soon as a bulb emerges in February, or a flower opens in mid July. Just before I’m leaving there’s lots of stuff that will go on in the next days and weeks, mostly good, but also a few not-so-goods.Japanese beetles on Ostrich fern

On the negative side, Japanese beetles are already working on the Ostrich ferns (above). Nothing bothers ferns, not deer or rabbits, and there are no problems with any of the other ferns in the garden. Just beetles on the Ostrich ferns, which leaves them tattered until they die down in frost. I suppose I could spray to kill the beetles, and no other insects do anything more than perch on the ferns, so there would be few unintended victims. But, I don’t spray, so I’ll live with the tattered ferns for a few months. They’re still green if you don’t pay close attention.

I made a big push to get weeds under control a week ago, but regular rain has encouraged more. I figure when I get back some will be tall enough that I’ll have to dig them with a spade. The lawn will be cut before I leave, and it’s a good thing there’s not much of it since with the rain it will be a foot tall when I return. I could pay to have someone cut it, but I don’t like to have strangers with power equipment at the loose in the garden.Spigelia

The Indian pinks (Spigelia marilandica, above) are ready to flower. They’re late. Deer nipped the tips a month ago just before I sprayed the repellent, and I’m certain this set them back. The pinks have not spread as I anticipated, though the clump has thickened up a bit this year. They don’t flower for long, and after blooming there’s not much to talk about with unremarkable green foliage, but I’m anxious for the clump to grow so there will be many more of the splendid blooms. Sparkling burgundy pineapple lily

Flower spikes on the pineapple lilies (Eucomis) are almost there, though these last for a while once they start to bloom, and I suspect they’ll be slower to flower than they appear today. I think two weeks from now might be just right. The purple leafed ‘Sparkling Burgundy’ (above) clumps are further along than the green leafed varieties (that I don’t recall the names of), though the leaves are not so purple since they’re partially shaded. I’ve split ‘Burgundy’ several times, and though pineapple lilies as a whole are not supposed to be particularly cold hardy, they have gone through the last two winters with no problems while plants that are described as much more cold hardy have failed.Hummingbird on Red Hot Poker

Pineapple lilies are always a big hit with non-gardeners who visit, and I’ll admit that I favor them also. I would plant more, but their price is a bit steep and too often they’re listed as not as cold tolerant as the ones I’ve planted. Another south African native, Red Hot Poker (Kniphofia, above) is growing its first flower spikes, though a friend has had flowers for weeks. I think these will be flowering a week after I’m back home, and I’m anxious to get around to purchasing a few more in late summer. New introductions that I’ve planted flowered from August into October, and the spiky foliage fits in just about anywhere with some sun.Mountain mint

The big clump of Mountain mint (Pycnanthemum muticum, above and below) is just starting to flower, and again it has spread, though there’s not much more space it can grow into unless it kills off a couple trees (which it won’t). Bees are already beginning to buzz about the tall mint, and once it reaches full bloom in a few weeks you don’t dare come too close. If you’re looking to take inventory of all possible bees, wasps, and  hoverflies, they’re all to be found on Mountain mint on a sunny afternoon. I’ve found that they do not appreciate being disturbed. And, there’s no worry that I’ll miss anything. The flowers persist into September.Mountain mint


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