July 5, 2018

Today I went outside early in the morning while others slept.  I swept the ash from last night’s fireworks from the concrete pool deck into the garden beds.  Is fireworks ash good for the soil?  I’ll pretend it is so that I don’t have to go inside and get a dustpan.  I toss the cardboard remnants of “Fat Cat”, “World’s Tallest Fountain!”, and “Peacock Junior” into a black trash bag.  Even at 8 a.m. the air is thick and hot. As I carry the trash bag out front to the waste bin I stop in my tracks.  A platter-sized pink bloom hovers at about knee-level.  Yesterday, it had been a tight, racquetball-sized bud encased by pale green bracts, but overnight, BAM! it exploded into this ludicrously gigantic cotton-candy pink blossom.  My hardy hibiscus!  Last fall I transplanted it from a too-shady, too-remote spot to this sunnier bed and now, on July 5 2018, I am reaping my reward.  The flower is bigger than my face, bubble-gum pink, ready for a party.  The best part: at least twelve more walnut sized buds adorn the plant, ready to swell and lend cheer through the remainder of July.  Yes, July will be sweltering and oppressive, but there will be giant pink hibiscus!

It takes considerable willpower to stop myself from waking up the household to announce their arrival.

Care for a Black Walnut?

I’ve got plenty.

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And plenty still to come:

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This is a nifty nut collector made by the folks at Garden Weasel.  What a treat to discover a yard device that requires no engine and makes no noise, that is so simply designed and yet works beautifully.

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Just roll it along the ground and the nuts become trapped in the wire cage.  To release them you push a doohickey on the handle (like when you squeeze out a mop) that spreads the wires so the nuts can fall out again.  The only trouble is that there SO MANY NUTS and collectively they are very heavy.  A plastic trash can should only be filled about a quarter full; otherwise, there is risk of it busting wide open as it’s dragged (ask me how I know).

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Still, I never tire of this canopy:

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And there are some other pleasant distractions from the tyranny of the black walnut trees.  Some toad lily and sedum:DSC_2195

The Winterberry holly never disappoints:

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Bottlebrush Buckeye fruit:

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Some white wood aster:

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Zigzag goldenrod, now fading:

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This cute little bottle gentian that I nearly ripped out over the summer thinking it was a weed:

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A Japanese combo — bloodgrass and anemone:

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Blackberry lily:

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This year’s crown jewel — a Red Abissynian Banana.  I adore it so much! The leaves are insane!

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This lantana and bloodgrass was a good combo:

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This lantana was so exuberant this year that it shaded out my herbs:

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Elephant ear and celosia refusing to back down in the face of autumn:

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No Longer Winter

Is there anything more miraculous than taking a walk on a late January afternoon in zone 7a and encountering masses of flowers?  Not “winter interest”, no, but full-on, voluptuous, lipstick-colored blossoms?

img_5071This is Camellia ‘Autumn Pink Icicle’ — thriving at Green Spring Gardens — which is a hybrid of the already cold hardy ‘Pink Icicle’, an Ackerman hybrid.

Anyway, as I walked along with the sun shining overhead and these hot pink blooms reaching out to say hello, well for a minute it was no longer winter.

Winter Red, Green Panda, Blue Trout

Ilex verticillata ‘Winter Red’

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Garden Trout

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Imperata cylindrica ‘Red Baron’

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Fargesia rufa ‘Green Panda’; Aspidistra elatior ‘Alahi’; Danae racemosa

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Confused forsythia bloom

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Gah!

I’m all for celebrating insect life in the garden, except when it’s something like this:

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My son enjoys jumping past these azalea bushes in our front yard on the way to the front door.  Luckily he spotted this behemoth before he brushed past it and angered its occupants.

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Removing the hive was a scary process, but the denizens (which we surmised were Bald-faced Hornets) weren’t overly aggressive and luckily I didn’t get a single sting.

Later, my son opened it up to investigate, and we discovered the architecture of the hive: layers upon layers of thin walls protecting the eggs in the middle.  We felt a bit guilty at having laid waste to this tiny society.

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But sometimes the humans come first.

(Photos by Charlie Gray)