Tag Archive | flowers

Winding Down

Although there are still one or two patches of color in our garden, things are gradually winding down now. For me, this is the busiest time of year, clearing away the dead growth, collecting seeds for use next year, moving plants and discarding others.

The pink and orange cosmos, both grown from seed, did very well this year, even towering over my husband, who is 6ft 3ins tall.

The blue Brazilian sage is still going strong although the hummingbirds have moved on to warmer climes now. We had at least one pair, that I know of, that stayed the entire summer. I know they are a pair because I caught them canoodling on one of the cables that runs to the roof of our house. It was quite a high-wire act with the male hovering up and down in front of the female until she adroitly flipped upside-down and he made his move.

Butterflies have been few and far between in the garden this year and it wasn’t until recently that I discovered one lonely swallowtail caterpillar on a sprig of dill. Since the last two batches that we hatched turned out to have been infested with parasitic wasps, I left this one to its own devices.

Another garden guest that was with us all summer was the praying mantis. Although we would occasionally lose track of her, she would invariably pop up again. I don’t know what she was living on but it certainly wasn’t butterflies. Slim pickings!

Apparently she wasn’t the only mantis on the block. These two gave me quite the look when I caught them in flagrante delicto amongst the Joe-Pye-Weed. Not surprisingly, I found two egg cases which I have brought inside for the winter. I thought my 3-year-old granddaughter might be interested to see them hatch out as they have been studying bugs at school.

Colors of Summer

It has been rather stormy here over the past week or more so I haven’t spent as much time outdoors as I would like, but in between the showers I’ve been able to enjoy the colors of summer in our garden.

Sage Advice

Earlier this year, I made a daring decision to go online and order some plants for the garden. I recalled that I’d had some success in attracting hummingbirds on a previous occasion with Blue Brazilian Sage so I purchased 4 plants and anxiously awaited their arrival.

Because they were rather expensive, when you factored in the cost of shipping and handling, I was quite nervous about them being tossed about in the mail, but when they eventually turned up on the doorstep, I was pleasantly surprised. Each plant was carefully wrapped to protect against buffeting and all four were in excellent shape.

I’d picked out a spot in the garden but despite my eagerness to get them into the ground and growing, I assiduously followed the directions on the accompanying leaflet, allowing them to acclimatize to our uncertain Chicago climate by having them stand for a few hours each day, out on the patio. Meanwhile I supplemented the ground with fresh topsoil and compost, turning it over and working it into our rather heavy clay soil.

When I figured the time was right, I planted them with all the care and concern that a mother lavishes on a newborn babe.  I watered them generously while allowing only a very gentle stream to trickle from the hosepipe so as not to swamp them, and having made sure that everything was just right, I wished them goodnight.

The following morning, I went out to see how they were doing and ……… horror!  A picture of devastation met my eyes. Something had eaten them practically down to the nubs. I consider myself too much of a lady (ha-ha!) to repeat the words that past my lips at that dreadful moment but suffice it to say the air was bluer than the flowers on a Brazilian Blue Sage.

But despite this setback I was not deterred. In the words of the late Sir Winston Churchill, “Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never—in nothing, great or small, large or petty—never give in, except to convictions of honor and good sense. Never yield to force. Never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.…..”  Well, you get the picture.

I wasn’t sure if they had succumbed to the attentions of a gang of marauding rabbits, I wouldn’t put it past them, or if some ravenous bug had decided to tuck in. There probably wasn’t much I could do about it, either way, so I decided to take a wait-and-see approach.

Goodness knows what the neighbors thought as I knelt beside those plants every day, whispering words of encouragement to their few pathetic stalks. They probably figured I’d joined some obscure religious sect. No matter. Encouragement was all I had to offer. That and a liberal dose of Miracle Gro. It would take a miracle, I thought sardonically, to produce anything remotely resembling the plant on the literature provided.

But eventually, little microscopic leaves began to appear, urged on, no doubt, by my exhortations, until it looked as if there might indeed be cause to celebrate. I waited on tenterhooks. Would the rabbits come back? Could I keep the bugs at bay long enough to see actual flowers developing?

It was at about this time that I visited the Chicago Botanic Garden to see how similar plants were faring. Their salvias, I noticed with envy, were much more advanced, larger and with flowers. Of course, they’d probably kept theirs in the greenhouse with all the advantages that a top-class garden had to offer.

Still, where there’s life there’s hope. My plants were growing stronger by the day and with continued blandishments such as, “You can do it!” and “Nice work!” they finally flowered.

But where were the hummingbirds?  For a couple of weeks, nothing larger than a bee approached the blue blossoms. I was somewhat consoled by the fact that they didn’t seem any more interested in the flowers at the Botanic Garden, so I waited. And then, a few days ago, the first of the hummingbirds showed up.  Persistence paid off!  Thanks for the sage advice, Winnie!

A Hot Day In A Cool Garden

Tuesday probably wasn’t the most comfortable day to be walking around outside, temperatures were in the high 80’s and humidity way up there, but the rain had finally cleared out and I wanted to see the Butterfly Exhibit at the Chicago Botanic Garden.

While I was waiting for the exhibit to open, I wandered over to a part of the garden that I have never visited before. This area is primarily for kids. They have a learning center there and a play area. The Cove is a platform by the lake where they can study life along the water’s edge and a group from summer camp were looking for frogs.

Back to the butterflies. Butterflies and Blooms is a really cool opportunity for people to see rather more exotic butterflies than the ones we usually get in our own gardens. There are also some beautiful flowers to enjoy.

After more than an hour of walking round and round the butterfly enclosure, I decided to head over to the English Walled Garden for a little shade and a drink of water.

By this time I had used up just about all of my energy and decided to make one more stop, at the Circle Garden before heading for the exit.

I think this little bird had the right idea. He, at least, was keeping cool on this very hot day.

Dazzling Daylilies

It would be difficult to imagine how our garden could have looked any more colorful once the irises and poppies were done for the year, but we were pleasantly surprised when the daylilies passed all expectations.

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge – It’s A Wonderful World.

This week, Amy is thinking about the song “What A Wonderful World” and has carried it through as the theme for the Lens-Artists Photo Challenge. I agree! It is a wonderful world and nowhere do I feel that more than when I’m outside among the flowers and wildlife in the garden. Everything has been blooming beautifully so far this year and it certainly is gratifying to see some positive results after all the hard work. The peonies have come and gone but they were spectacular while they lasted.

Also gone, for now, are the irises. They really put on a splendid show this year. So many different colors, it was hard to choose a favorite. It looks like I’ll be able to put quite a few out for anyone to help themselves, when I divide them later this year, as I do with the daylilies and other perennials. What I don’t appreciate is people coming into my garden uninvited and pulling up armfuls of plants as I saw one woman doing while I was walking home one day with my youngest granddaughter asleep in her stroller. I was too far away to remonstrate otherwise I would have given this audacious plant pincher an earful. Of all the nerve!!

Caught in the act! A baby bunny eating the nigella plants. No worries! There’s plenty to go around. Nigella reseeds (isn’t nature wonderful?) and comes up again without any help from me, although I do collect some of the seeds to scatter in other parts of the garden. It’s a pretty little flower and even the seed pods are quite decorative.

The possum re-appeared, and a tree in a neighbor’s backyard across the street disappeared. We have lost so many of the large trees in our area over the past several years due to diseases of one kind or another. The Village has replaced many of them on the parkway but it will be a while before they are large enough to provide much shade or attract any of the larger birds like the hawk or the flicker. It’s wonderful how they seem to return to the same places to nest and raise their young and I’m sure there will be a few of our feathered friends that will miss this one-time home.

Poppies added a blaze of color to the garden and the white ones brightened up any shady areas. This is probably when the garden is at its most colorful, with poppies, irises and peonies all blooming at the same time, and we very often see people stopping by to take pictures which is fine by me. I’m out there with the camera myself most days.

The birds have been busy in the garden too. the goldfinches making good use of some nesting material provided while a hawk stops by in search of a quick snack.

After some much-needed rain last night, the garden is refreshed and ready to produce the next lot of blooms which will include daylilies, oriental lilies, coneflowers and phlox among others. We live on a corner lot so every part of the garden is visible from the sidewalk and it’s nice to take a break once in a while and chat to passing pedestrians. I also love it when the little group from the local daycare walk by and wave, with the occasional tiny voice piping up “Hello!” as they go past. They are our future and I hope they will grow up to appreciate nature and perhaps share the interest in gardening that I have enjoyed for so many years. It truly is a Wonderful World.

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge – Blue & Green

This week, Tina is thinking of cool colors like blue and green for the Lens-Artists Photo Challenge. The majority of birds that visit our garden are sparrows so, when this little guy showed up the other day, it was quite an event. What was even more surprising was the fact that he stuck around long enough for me to run and get the camera. I’m no expert so I had to resort to my Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Birds. The closest I could come to it was an indigo bunting but, if anyone knows differently, I’ll be happy to hear from you. This is the first time in 30 years that we’ve seen one of these in the garden so I’m guessing he was blown rather off course.

I’ve been working hard in the garden for the past few weeks, restoring the area that was damaged when a main sewer line had to be replaced at the end of last year. It’s going to take a while for everything to grow and fill out, but in the meantime I was happy to see that the irises are looking absolutely fantastic. These are just the ones that appear in different shades of blue.

The false indigo is just starting to bloom too and will hopefully attract the bees. I’ve also taken delivery of some Blue Brazilian Sage plants that, when the blue flowers eventually emerge, should prove to be absolute hummingbird magnets. We’ll see!

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge – The Letter S

This week, Patti has suggested that any subject starting with the letter S will serve splendidly for the Lens-Artists Photo Challenge. While strolling around our garden, we see all sorts of subjects starting with S including snapdragons, sedum, sunflowers, scabiosa, snowdrops and squill.

We have also spotted several species of birds, the most common of which is the sparrow, but the sora was a total surprise as it had evidently strayed well off-course.

In summer we see skippers and swallowtails sunning themselves.

And in the fall we may occasionally spot a squirrel snacking on some squash.

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge – You Pick It

This week, Tina says, “You Pick It” for the Lens-Artists Photo Challenge and my reply would be, “I pick flowers,” but only figuratively speaking. I rarely pick flowers to put in a vase. I’d much rather see them growing in the garden. So, that being the case, here is a bouquet of some of my favorite flower shots taken from way back in the photo archives.