Saturday, September 29, 2012

Drainage Solution - a Dry Pond

The back yard of our house presents a drainage issue, as it slopes down toward our house.  We also have a thick vein of clay that surrounds the back corner of the house.  Thus when it rains, we end up with a big swampy bog right next to the corner of our house that refuses to drain for quite some time.

My kids would probably be fine with me keeping the area as a giant muddy play area, but I needed a solution that was a little more ascetically pleasing.  Last spring I mulched the area.  It looked nice, but rainstorms would push piles of mulch around the corner of the house and into my shade garden.

So I tilled/dug/pick-axed it up the best I could:

the BEFORE picture
My solution?  A little dry pond.

the AFTER picture
I dug as deeply as I could in the clay, lined it with landscaping fabric, and filled it in with rock.  Surrounding it I planted plants that can handle moist soil and will (hopefully) be okay with the morning shade/afternoon sun conditions that that corner gets.

dry pond and plants
It should probably be called the dry 'puddle' as it is so small!  The plants should fill in and soften the look of the area before too long.  I used plants from different parts of the yard that needed to be moved, as well as a couple plants I had picked up earlier in the summer:  'Kaleidoscope' Abelia, 'Little Joe' Joe Pye Weed, 'ACE Basin' Seashore Mallow, 'Cinderella' Swamp Milkweed, and Variegated Northern Sea Oats.  I added some annual violas as well to fill up the space.

Last night we had a large rainstorm, and I was delighted to see that the pond actually worked in capturing the water.  In fact it even overflowed just a little bit - I might have to make my pond a little larger so that mulch won't wash into the pond!

With all the rain, the pond overflowed a bit, washing some mulch out from the edges
But it's still prettier than the muddy swamp, as much as my kids liked it.  And all the frogs back there will probably enjoy it too, which should pacify the kids!  (In fact, the frog home building has already started...)

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Beggar Lice and Treasure Hunts

One wildflower I love seeing in my yard is Desmodium, also known as Tick Tre-foil or Beggar Lice.  Nice nicknames, huh?  

There are many different species of Desmodium.  Many people consider them to be a weed, but I rather like the airy look of the ones in my garden.

Beggar Lice are a part of the pea family, clearly evidenced by their seed pods.

The seed pods are what give Beggar Lice a bad rap - I'm sure many of you have gone for a walk in the woods and found these seedpods stuck to your clothing afterwards.  (I'm assuming this talent for 'begging' a ride is the inspiration behind that particular nickname.)  The little hooked hairs on these seeds stick impressively well to anything that brushes against them.

Beggar Lice are important to wildlife as a source of food for animals such as the White-tailed Deer and Northern Bobwhite.   They are also host plants for several types of butterflies.

Long-tailed Skipper laying eggs on Desmodium leaf
It's rather fun to hunt for caterpillars on my Beggar Lice plants.  If I see a rolled leaf or two leaves stuck together, I know something is probably inside..

It's like a little treasure hunt.

Long-tailed Skipper caterpillar
Though it seems slightly dangerous somehow, doesn't it?  Who knows what might be inside!

Anyone know what this is?
Next time I shall post about my latest project in the garden.  My computer has been rather neglected lately with the beautiful weather beckoning me into the garden.  I'm enjoying it while it lasts!   

As always, happy gardening!

linking with Wildflower Wednesday

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Book of Gardening Projects for Kids

"Think back.  Can you remember a natural, outdoor space that held some magic for you?"

Thus starts the book I recently read, instantly taking me back to that hidden, magic hollow in the forest behind our house where we played so often as kids.

The Book of Gardening Projects for Kids: 101 Ways to Get Kids Outside, Dirty, and Having Fun by Whitney Cohen and John Fisher not only takes you back to your childhood, but it is an absolute treasure trove of inspiration for things to do in the garden with your children or grandchildren.  It give a lot of recommendations for how to involve kids in gardening in ways that are both educational and just plain fun! 

Oftentimes, all kids need to have fun in the garden is a pile of dirt and some water!
The book covers everything from planning different themed gardens to interacting with animals in the garden to even cooking with one's harvest.

My kids are much more likely to eat the produce that they picked from the garden!
(Well, except for that jalapeño...)
The authors give a lot of advice about making gardens child-friendly and about how to give your child positive experiences with gardening and nature, planting seeds that may mature into a long-lasting relationship.  Peppered throughout the book are many projects for kids in the garden, some of which I can't wait to do with my kids!

my daughter's wildflower garden
The only criticism I have of the book is that it could possibly have been organized a little better - I am not a very organized thinker, so I like my books to be very organized for me :)  There are points where the insertion of projects seems to interrupt the flow of narration.  However, aside from that, I really enjoyed this book and learned a few things as well!  

releasing a Black Swallowtail after it has emerged from its chrysalis
It is important to me to plant seeds of positive experiences with nature in my kids, and this book gives so many great ways to do just that.  I think my love of the outdoors and my love of gardening stem from so many great memories I have as a kid being outside.  

Growing up in Alaska, you might think that I would remember the snow and ice the most.  On the contrary, what I remember most vividly are the buttercups, bluebells, fireweed and roses that grew wild among the forest, the irises and the profusion of wildflowers that my mother grew, the little garden that my father made me out of a old tire - 

and, of course, that magic hollow in the forest that was always adorned with reindeer moss and imagination.

Black Swallowtail on zinnia
What about you?  If you love gardening, do you think it stems from your memories of the outdoors as a kid?

For more reviews of gardening books, check out the site Roses and Other Gardening Joys.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

The Flowering of the Partridge Pea

There is an event I look forward to every year near the end of summer, and that is the flowering of the Partridge Peas.

field of partridge peas
There is a field not too far from my house that is turned into a field of yellow every year from the large amounts of these flowers.

The flowers are beautiful up close as well.

I knew them as 'Sensitive plants', which they are often called because the leaves will close when touched.  

To me, the individual plants actually look slightly gangly and weedy, 

but en masse, there is no doubt that the effect is stunning.

After the flowers, the plant produces long seed pods, which prove its membership in the pea family.

This field of Partridge Pea plants is actually for sale for development, so it is mowed every so often, cutting down the taller plants that might crowd out and shade the sun-loving Partridge Peas.

This native annual blooms from mid-summer to fall and is valuable to a number of wildlife.  The bees and butterflies love the flowers, and the seed pods are eaten by birds.  Stands of this plant are an important source of food and cover for game birds, which is most likely why it's called a Partridge Pea. It is also the host for several sulphur butterflies.  (Karin over at Southern Meadows has some great pictures of caterpillars on her Partridge Pea plant.)  

I rather hope that no one buys this field.  I drive by it almost every day, and if it was a group of buildings instead of a field of yellow, 
I would most certainly miss it.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012


Well, we managed to make it through the first week of school with very few tears shed, and none of those by the kids :) Thankfully the kids have great teachers and love going to school - in fact, I don't think my oldest would ever come home from kindergarten if given the choice!  

The weather has finally gotten cooler, and the slight nip in the morning air makes it impossible to stay inside.  I have held off planting anything all summer with the heat and the voles, but no more!  It's finally time to plant the collection of plants that has been accumulating on the patio!  

I finally planted this young 'Santana' Butterfly bush that I had started from a cutting last year.
And I just couldn't resist adding to said collection during the recent open house over at Plant Delights Nursery this past weekend...

Kosteletzkya virginica 'ACE Basin' (Sea Shore Mallow)
With the beautiful weather I have been out gardening, so of course the housework is back to being on the back burner.  I rationalize my messy house away by telling myself that I'm pretty sure when I'm on my deathbed I won't be saying that my only regret was not keeping the house more tidy. (Well, unless I am there on my deathbed due to tripping on yet another toy and injuring myself, anyway...)

A vole-proof purchase: Pycnanthemum loomisii Campbell Co. TN, otherwise known as Loomis' Mountain Mint.  This type of Mountain Mint is supposed to be better behaved than others.   
I am one of those people who walk around with their head in the clouds, so I do tend to miss things on the floor and trip and fall. A lot.  But I'm pretty sure tripping and falling won't injure much except my beauty - for believe it or not, my nose always somehow gets the brunt of things.  

My nose is not even especially large or anything, just a magnet for clumsiness.  I used to have a perfectly straight nose, once upon a time.  Not so much any more..

I fell in love with this Chasmanthium latifolium 'River Mist' (Variegated Northern Sea Oats).
The most memorable time that I hurt my nose was when I broke it a week before my wedding.  And guess how I broke it?  By jamming my thumb in a door.  Yes, people, I am probably the only person who can manage getting a broken nose from a hurt thumb.  

Another one to plant:  Spigelia marilandica, known as Indian pink or Woodland pinkroot
How it happened?  Well, I was going into the office of my apartment complex (in the days before the Red House or any house at all) to collect a package.  I jammed my thumb on the door going in, making me light-headed.  I made it a few steps into the office and then passed out, hitting my nose on a chair as I went down.  In all the photos from my bridal shower, I sported a lovely set of raccoon eyes.  

Not an exact likeness..
photo source - Wikipedia
Thankfully by my wedding day, it had healed enough to be totally hidden by makeup.  Still, my poor nose has never been the same...

Anyways, forgive my rambling mood (it's fall fever, I tell you!)  Back to gardening, I shall leave you with a little video that I took this morning that explains why some of those plants in those clearance sections look so sad and scraggly..

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Red House Garden Babies

baby Bluebird

baby Monarch

baby Red-bellied Woodpecker

baby gardens

baby Zinnia flower

baby Black Swallowtail butterflies

baby Blue Jay

These are a few of the babies I've encountered this spring and summer.  
But of course the most important babies in my life are my own.

This week my oldest daughter has started kindergarten, while my youngest went to preschool for the first time.  I can't believe they're old enough that I have to start letting them face the big world out there without me.

To me, they'll always be my babies.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Problem with Blanket Flowers

There's a problem with my Blanket Flowers
that is quite perplexing.

Blanket Flower
I started these plants from seed early this spring.  
They now live in a neglected spot by my air conditioner, 
taking all the abuse that this hot summer has been able to dish out..

..and even thriving.

What's the problem with them, you might ask?

My Blanket Flowers are quite lovely-

but they are supposed to look like this:

the packet that the seeds came in
These are supposed to be Gaillardia 'Burgundy' - completely red Blanket Flowers.  

But I can't tell them apart from the regular red and yellow Blanket flowers that are in my kids' wildflower gardens 
(and there's no way the seeds could have been mixed up).

Gaillardia bud
I don't really mind too much.  I think they're quite pretty, and the red and yellow go quite well with the other plants nearby.

But I do wonder what happened?

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...