Garden Check 6/22-23/14

Lots going on in the garden the past two days. Summer has begun and mostly cloudy (but rainless) days this week have kept the heat away. We’ll see how long that holds, especially this week as I hit the road! (More on that tomorrow.) As ever, threes some good stuff going on in the garden and some worrisome stuff. Here’s what I saw.

Mystery Weed

Mystery weed —Looks thistle-y, but yellow and red? I'll keep you posted.
Mystery weed —Looks thistle-y, but yellow and red? I’ll keep you posted.

This weed is beautiful, and I’m working on getting an ID. Some folks might’ve whacked it by now, but I’m usually pro-weed and willing to wait and see what it is and then decide if I want it. It looks like a cross between a dandelion and a thistle and so it may have a deep taproot, which is fine by me—this is in the outer orchard edge, roadside, and anything to help de-compact the soil in this former gravel driveway is appreciated.

Things That Seem Happy(er)

Blooms on our red osier dogwood (Cornus sericea)!
Blooms on our red osier dogwood (Cornus sericea)!

I got excited on Sunday when I saw flower berries forming on one of my red osier dogwoods (Cornus sericea) and then I looked at the other one and it already had full-blown flowerlets! These were looking a little pekid a month or two ago and I wasn’t sure they were going to take, but now they are back to a healthy green and, apparently, happy.

Flowering mint!
Flowering mint!

Another happy thing is the mint! I’m not sure which variety—we planted several like spearmint and peppermint—has decided to flower but one of them has and hopefully I’ll be able to tell which is which soon enough. I’ve got new mints of several varieties planted throughout the orchard, but this is mint from last year and it lives in a giant farm watering trough off our deck.

Rescue redbud (Cercis canadensis), doin' fine. Both of ours are rescues from Lowes' clearance.
Rescue redbud (Cercis canadensis), doin’ fine. Both of ours are rescues from Lowes’ clearance.

Same deal with our backyard redbud (Cercis canadensis). It’s well-past flowering time for this year, but it seemed fragile here in the back yard for a while.  There’s another one out in the front yard under the ash () and while I hope for it’s establishment, I’m not surprised that the backyard one is settling in. When we first bought our house and I had a very narrow view of “good” yards and gardens, I mercilessly cut back some wild redbuds growing under our awesome crape myrtle (?), despite my wife’s objections. Those poor bastards have continued to come back despite that butchering so I expect this one to thrive here since it will have all the advantages of a good home and thoughtful parents.

BOM-chika-bow-WOW. That's moth love, baby.
BOM-chika-bow-WOW. That’s moth love, baby.

These moths seem particularly happy. BTW, I just learned at work today that Luna moths (not these) have no mouths or stomachs, their final stage having a lifespan of just a week!

Lillies, Amaranth, and Hops!
Lillies, Amaranth, and Hops!

This whole passage makes me very happy.

We bought the Easter Lilies (Lilium longiflorum) on clearance at Lowes’ (sensing a pattern?) and were told they would never bloom again. It’s an Easter miracle! Behind them moving leftward are weeds but the taller plants are Opopeo Amaranth (Amaranthus cruentus), with supposedly brilliant purple flowers that I can’t wait to see! And in the back, trailing up the three lengths of twine are Cascade hops. The hops (Humulus lupulus ‘Cascade’) are particularly neat. We didn’t plant them to make any brews with but rather for their fragrance and to add biodiversity for the pollinators to enjoy. They seemed like a great climbing vine for this particular spot and are working out very well. I love seeing them reach out to each other to make a living net in this space!

Things That Seem Unhappy

Red hot poker (Kniphofia) feeling the heat. Or maybe a nutrient deficiency?
Red hot poker (Kniphofia) feeling the heat. Or maybe a nutrient deficiency?

When Toby Hemenway mentioned adding red hot pokers to your orchard (Kniphofia) of course I looked it up and was delighted to discover this beautiful plant. A striking perennial, I was mostly drawn to commercial hybrids I saw with mango and lime colors, but around here all I’ve been able to find so far are the standard yellow-to-red ones. So I work with what I have until I can afford to order the ones I want. [Feel free to send plant money to ben at themainstreetgardener dot com—Kniphofias are about 8 bucks.]

This one may have gotten dried out last week with all the heat and my neglect while traveling, or it could be suffering from a nutrient deficiency. It’s in the inner orchard and so on top of very compacted, very gravel-y soil (underneath the sheet mulch I put down when I started this crazy experiment). I added some Miracle-Gro Saturday and we’ll see if that helps.

Too weepy, even for a weeping cherry.
Too weepy, even for a weeping cherry.

We have a weeping cherry in the front yard, an impulse buy from Lowe’s, and I didn’t really appreciate it until this spring when it was among the first things in our yard to bloom and it was absolutely COVERED in bees for DAYS. When we found this one in need of rescue on clearance at Lowe’s, we had a spot in mind for it in the back yard and I think it’ll do well there. It’s near the black walnut tree (Juglans nigra), but outside the drip line, and even then, cherries are said to be jug lone tolerant. Right now, it seems to be just a little too weepy but I think it’s mostly a water problem which the cool weather and more attention will rectify.

Things just look…off. Less lush.
Things just look…off. Less lush.

Not too far away from the weeping cherry, things under the black walnut tree seem to be slowly wilting. In the case of the clover, maybe it’s done, but it hasn’t even flowered yet, so that would be premature. Even the weeds are wilting strangely. There’s been plenty of water here, and nothing growing here was transplanted beneath the walnut tree drip line excepting the jug lone tolerant gojis and currants, so I’m at a loss. I wonder if it’s runoff from pesticide on my neighbors’ side, maybe…?  Keeping an eye on this.


Yep, I’ve killed comfrey (Symphytum ?). This was grown from seed, too. Fortunately, I have another one nearby that seems to be doing just fine. Still, this kinda’ hurts.

Things to Watch

 I was mildly alarmed to flink a scale insect off the larger vine on my American ground nut (Apios americana). Didn’t snap a pic beforehand because I didn’t quite believe it. They better not have followed me home from work!

Punch List

Slacked over the weekend as far as outdoorsy things (day job!), but I took care of some emails:

  • hit up Baker Creek about a refund for a deceased cranberry ‘Stevens’
  • hit up Baker Creek to see if they could delay shipment of a recent order—I’ll be out of town!
  • hit up Peaceful Valley regarding that persimmon
  • put cans around squash plant bases
  • marveled at all the daikon radish


This blog is a labor of love. If you like what you find here, you might consider leaving a tip to keep the blog going or to support my biophilia. You can email (yep, email!) a buck or two using Square Cash to ben @ the main street gardener (dot) com. You can also check out things and businesses I recommend, or buy some of my Goods. Thanks!


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