Category Archives: General

Mile-a-minute vine

Study up … this is serious.  Mile-a-minute vine – acronym MAM – is no joking matter.  Mile-a-minute vine (Persicaria perfoliata) came by its common name quite naturally – it can grow 6 inches a day.  This highly invasive vine, aka mile-a-minute weed or Devil’s tearthumb –has thumb-tearing barbs along its stem; it is a devil of a job to clear it away from any plant to which it has taken hold.

I’ve seen it and removed it from gardens I care for, but until now I was not aware of requests to report all possible sightings.  Mile-a-minute vine has been officially identified in 15 CT towns.  Horticulturists see it as a serious enough threat to devote a website to the identification, reporting, and eradication of mile-a-minute vine.

I’ve mentioned some of Connecticut’s invasive plants in previous posts.  Eradication of these non-native threats requires time and commitment – as does anything worth doing.  But first you need to know what is invasive and how best to remove and destroy each plant that threatens to overtake our native species.  I cannot urge this strongly enough.

I’m devoting part of this rainy, foggy day to throw on a raincoat, waterproof shoes, and a pair of sturdy gloves so I can scout for, remove, and report any  mile-a-minute  vines I find. But I’ll also be clearing bittersweet vines, Japanese barberry and multiflora rose.  I would like to think that my soon-to-be-born granddaughter will be able to enjoy the bloom of our native mountain laurels (Kalmia latifolia) when she is grown, just as we enjoy them now.  When you think of future generations, it tends to give you some incentive to protect the things we have.

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Garden touring

touring joene's garden

touring joene's garden

There are a couple of interesting sounding garden tours this weekend for those who are more caught up with their gardening tasks than I … and I suspect there are many of you out there.  Normally I would jump at the chance to visit other gardeners’ gardens, but this year mine beckon too forcefully to give up a weekend day.  So while I tour my own gardens, others will be touring these.

June 13 – 10 to 3 – rain or shine.  Northeast Organic Farming of Connecticut, fondly called CT NOFA is sponsoring an Organic Garden Tour.  Call 203-888-5146 to register to visit private gardens in Shelton, Westport, Wallingford, South Glastonbury, Hamden, Southington, Lebanon, Manchester, West Hartford, Windsor, Coventry, Tolland, and Sterling.  The tour will also feature Hatchery Brook Community Gardens in Berlin, School Courtyard Gardens at Barnard Magnet School in New Haven, a community garden and trail at Flanders Nature Center in Woodbury, a community garden at Unitarian Universalist Society in New Haven, and the Master Gardener/Foodshare Garden at the Auer Farm in Bloomfield … you choose which and how many gardens you want to visit.  Sounds like a great deal for $20, and one of the most intriguing parts of this tour – boy I wish I could go – is that all the featured gardens are not completed to perfection so visitors can observe gardens in progress.  Fantastic!

June 14 – 10 to 4.  Country Places Garden Tour opens up private gardens in East Haddam to visitors.  Meet at the Old Town Hall (488 Town Street), pay the $20 registration, and head off to be wowed.

bearded-iris

bearded-iris

If you visit, think of me while wandering, and do share your experiences.  I’ll be busy weeding, planting, mulching, and smelling the flowers here … rain or shine.

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Tulip tree blooms for Project Budburst

tulip-tree in early May 2009

tulip-tree in early May 2009

I completed my Project Budburst observations for 2009 when my tulip tree (Liriodendron tulipifera) bloomed in my wooded piece of Connecticut.  This, along with my other observations – first bloom of the common dandelion (mid-April), as well as Eastern Red Columbine and Jack-in-the-pulpit (early May) – are now listed with thousands of others at the Project Budburst website.  Phenologists use these data to build nationwide information about plant habits and climate change.
Tulip-tree-in-bloom

Tulip-tree-in-bloom

I have one, treasured tulip tree in the woods behind my house that first bloomed about May 31.  Unless you have a tulip tree in a prominent area or frequently walk under one in the woods, you may not see their waxy, tropical-looking blossoms until they drop from the tips of the often 60 feet high branches.  This year other commitments kept me so busy that I nearly missed catching the yellow-orange hand-sized blossoms swaying in the treetop.  If you look closely in the photo above, you can pick out the orange at the base, yellow at the rim, cupped flowers facing upward as if waiting for dew to collect in their base.  It’s not easy to capture these flowers on film – as my amateur photo shows – but one watchful photographer luckily caught a perfect tulip tree bloom after it fell to the ground.

But back to Project Budburst, which is a great project for getting kids and budding gardeners involved in nature watching.  The website provides printable Identification Guides of native shrubs, trees, wildflowers, herbs, and grasses – with photos – making identification easy for everyone, no matter their age.

My participation renewed my interest in watching for native vegetation … what have your Project Budburst observations taught you?

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Suds for slugs

Slug-damage

Slug-damage

Slugs – slimy blobs of goo that feast on hosta, lettuce, and other leafy vegetation such as the horseradish leaf pictured here – are perennial problems for many gardeners.  The moist spring weather we’ve had in Connecticut has been a boon for the local slug population, but for an effective, low-cost method to reduce slug counts, think beer.

Slugs love beer.  Sink a saucer, adjacent to slugs favored plants, so the saucer rim is level with the surrounding ground, then fill the saucer with beer to “invite” slugs away from plants.  Fill the slug pools in the evening and awaken the next morning to – ewww – a dearly-departed saucy soup.

Another sure fire slug-depleting method is to sprinkle them with common table salt.  In reality, it’s not quite as touchy-feely as depicted in the following never-made-it cartoon, but it is effective.

I have to be pushed to use the salt-eradication method, but  I will happily reach for the salt shaker when I consistently find patios and decks slimed with slug trails or when slugs manage to position themselves exactly where my bare foot just landed – double ewww!

Still, I prefer the thought of them enjoying their last hop-enhanced moments, naively floating in a Bud- or Duff-filled basin, maybe singing along with Homer …

Oh yeah, use cheap suds for slugs … like Homer they don’t seem to have a discerning palette … save the good stuff for human’s with more discriminating taste.

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Quick notes … cold, birds, expo, swap

cold-protection-for-plants

cold-protection-for-plants

Connecticut gardeners still need to be aware of night temperatures.  Tender annuals, such as impatiens, coleus, and morning glories, and tender vegetables, like the eggplant shown here, do not like temperatures in the low 40’s.  It was 38 degrees to my south-central gardens the morning of June 1. 

This is an unusually chilly spring and it’s best to not become complacent – overnight cover with an overturned basket or an old sheet may be all that’s needed to protect tender plants.

baby-robins

baby-robins

Our baby robins are getting closer to flying off on their own.  I don’t see how they can get much bigger and still fit in their nest.  These, nested in a rhododendron, should be fledged by the time the blooms have passed and need deadheading.  Spring blooming shrubs are best pruned immediately after they flower, so now’s the time to deadhead and prune lilacs that are finished with thier annual show.

Siberian iris-geranium sanguineum-cranesbill

Siberian iris-geranium sanguineum-cranesbill

Stamford, Connecticut recently held a Sustainability Expo.  Read Debbie’s current and future posts on what she learned and had re-confirmed there.  Also check out the info on the plant swap planned for June 6 in New Canaan, Connecticut.  You may find perennials that become anchors in your garden.  Over the years, I’ve managed to fill my gardens with finds from similar local events.  The cranesbill and iris pictured above were two of my most prolific finds … I started with one small clump of each, but over the years have divided both plants to the point that they offer spectacular shows in the early spring.

Have you stretched your gardening dollars with plants from local sales and swaps?  Do tell!

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GOOPs Day – part deux

Every gardener has blunders.  Come on, admit it, you must have committed a gardening faux pas.  After three-plus decades of gardening I have (maybe one or two?) gardening oops – GOOPs for short.

Today, June 1, is the second GOOPs – Damn-I-wish-I-hadn’t-done-that – Day.  On the first of the month, I share one of my GOOPs, and give you the chance to share one of your own.  The seed idea for GOOPs Day came from Carol at May Dreams Gardens.  The first GOOPs day harvested

But I suspect more dirty little GOOPs are out there.  Here’s another of mine.

Perennial-sweet-peas

Perennial-sweet-peas

Perennial sweet peas – lathyrus latifolius – are great climbers.  Shortly after we moved into our home, I planted them to mask a vent pipe and a downspout.  This worked well for years – we really enjoyed watching hummingbirds gather nectar from the pale to dark pink flowers.  But with time, the vines became more and more unruly and I constantly had to keep their tendrils from attaching to the nearby window screens.  So when we revamped that area of the yard, I decided to try moving these vines to a newly created slope that screamed for an easy-care, attractive, flowering cover.  The key words here are try moving.

06-2005 sweet pea-lathyrus latifolius

Sweet Pea - lathyrus latifolius - vines

Established perennial sweet peas have thick roots that seem to reach to the core of the earth.  The fact that they were growing along the foundation of the house in spots surrounded by bluestone walkways did not make the chore easier.  I’m truly surprised that I was able to uproot any of the plants intact enough for them to survive, but after two seasons the transplanted sweet peas have claimed an ever-expanding section of their new embankment home. The moral of this GOOPs?  Do your homework.  When planting near a structure, plan as much as possible for the plants impact in the short-term and ten or more years out.  In my landscape, sweet pea vines work much better in their current locale where their rampant growth and flowering helps cover an unsightly slope, and the hummingbirds can feed on their nectar with less human intrusion.

Now it’s your turn.  Add your GOOPs in a comment or write a teaser GOOPs that links back to your GOOPs tale on your own blog.  Since we learn best from our mistakes, let’s share our mistakes and learn from each other.

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Corking-up containers

wine cork collection

wine cork collection

During a social occasion a few years back, my husband and I noticed a wine cork wreath hanging on a friend’s wall, made completely of corks saved from bottles our hosts had enjoyed.  Clever … and since I can be handy with a glue gun, we started saving our wine corks thinking I might eventually create our own wreath of wine memories.

As time progressed we stacked up a pretty sizeable collection.  But, as the saying goes, hell is paved with good intentions.  In other words, being handy with a glue gun does not mean I take time to actually use the glue gun.  So how does this relate to gardening?  Well, my plant junkie brain came up with a solution to reuse our ever-increasing wine cork collection – no glue gun involved.

You know those really large outdoor planters … the ones that will throw your back out if you try to lift them without the assistance of a fork lift?  A good way to minimize the heft of these containers – and save some bucks on potting mix – is to fill the lower third with a light-weight non-soil material.  Many gardeners use Styrofoam – in solid chunk or packing peanut form – but clean-up at the end of the outdoor planting season is a pain if you intend to separate the non-compostable Styrofoam from the compostable soil and plant material.  Either tiny pieces of broken Styrofoam mixes with the soil or you have to deal with tons of soggy, dirty peanuts.  Even plastic-bagged packing peanuts make for a messy clean up.

Instead, I turned to our wine cork collection.  Cork is light weight, does not absorb too much water, and does not spoil the soil.  Twelve-inch pots only need one layer of corks, while larger pots can handle a layer up to about a third of their depth.  At the end of the outdoor growing season I dump my planter contents – corks and all – into the compost pile.  In the spring and summer, when I screen my compost for various uses, it’s easy to pick out the corks – they do not compost down in one season – and reserve them for reuse.

Cork is a natural material of limited supply, so reusing or recycling cork makes good environmental sense. If my cork reusing method is too daunting a process, then consider recycling your wine corks – West Coast readers might find ReCork America a useful resource.  More craft oriented?  See 5 more ways to reuse wine corks or for crafty moms, Crafty Reuse: Ten Projects for Old Wine Corks.  Alternately, chopped up wine corks – not their plastic cousins – can be composted, but in my case this chore would likely end up in my “good intentions” pile.

 If none of these ideas float your boat, check out the cork-creativity of someone with access to lots of wine corks.

Or, let me know if you’re any good at using a glue gun … I still have a decent supply of saved corks waiting for a chance at wreathdom.  Any other ideas?

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