Category Archives: Flowers

Fall Seed Gathering Means Beautiful Summer Zinnias

 

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Zinnias are a great splash of color in the dog days of summer.

My friend Susan has a fabulous hedgerows of zinnias and she shared her secret as to how it looks great year after year.

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Every fall she gathers the dead seed heads, dries them and stores them in a bag over the winter in a cool, dry location. I kept mine on my unheated porch.

When the temperature is warm enough in the spring, generally not for a couple weeks after the last frost date, she coarsely separates the seeds from the rest of the dead flower heads.   Then in a shallow trench, she thickly spreads the coarse seed mixture, covers lightly with dirt and once the seedlings begin to come up, does not thin them.  Zinnias thrive best in full sun and are quite drought resistant.

zinnia seeds

I had to try it!  We collected seeds last fall from our gardens, and anywhere we could find lovely zinnia beds in need of dead-heading, including from the golf course we play at.  This spring, when the soil temperature was warm enough (usually not until after Mother’s Day here at my zone 5 home) we planted our overwintered seeds by spreading the coarse seed mixture into shallow rows.

Zinnias everywhere!  I need to find more places to plant them to enjoy all the color, but it worked.  Not as nicely as Susan’s, but I’ll get there.

Susan was kind enough to send me some more photos of her yard.  Enjoy!

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I’m not the only loving the colors!

zinnia and monarch

zinnia and monarch

Soon she’ll be harvesting next year’s seed head before the first frost sets in.

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zinnias

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All ready for another year of gorgeous color!

Many thanks to Susan for sharing her photos with me. And for enticing me to make my zinnia garden even bigger next year. 

Hummingbird Nectar

Perky Pet hummingbird feeder

 

Once you’ve filled your yard with pollinator friendly plants and a hummingbird feeder, you need to make some nectar to put in the feeder.  It couldn’t be easier!

 

 

 

 

Recipe:
hummingbird nectar
1 part granulated sugar
4 parts water

Bring to a boil and boil for 2 min (longer can make it too concentrated).
Cool before filling feeder.

 

I've had this spoon forever, seems appropriate when making hummingbird nectar :)

I’ve had this spoon forever, seems appropriate when making hummingbird nectar 🙂

So for example, you want to make just enough to fill the feeder, use 1/4 cup sugar and 1 cup water.

To make enough to store for a week or so, use 1 cup sugar and 4 cups of water. Store leftover in the refrigerator.

 

 

 

Things to remember:

Change the food every 2-3 days, sooner if it appears cloudy.

Boiled and cooled nectar can be stored 1-2 weeks in the refrigerator.  If it begins to appear cloudy, or develops brown spots on the container, toss it.  It’s either fermenting or growing mold and will be harmful to the hummingbirds.

No need to add red dye.  Red on the feeder is enough to attract them and the dye may be harmful.

Never use honey, brown sugar or artificial sweeteners. Honey and brown sugar are not able to be digested properly and honey can be toxic. Hummingbirds are never on a diet, so they need the energy provided by real sugar.

Keep the feeder clean. Buy a bottle bush and scrub it out each time you refill the feeder.

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It may take a little while for these fun little friends to find your feeder, but when they do, they will be back as long as you provide them fresh food.  Seeing that they feed every 10-15 minutes to keep up with their calorie needs, they’ll be back a lot!

Hummingbirds and Monarchs

While I’ve planted a lot of flowers and plants that attract pollinators like hummingbirds and butterflies at home, my WI garden is much more natural, but equally full of attractive plants.

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This wild columbine at the woods’ edge is a natural attractant, while other native and cultivated flowering plants can be found in the garden.

Ruby-throated hummingbird

Continue reading

Welcoming Pollinators to the Garden

Every year I wonder if any pollinator friends will visit my gardens.  I usually can count on the bees arriving early, but how about butterflies, hummingbirds and hummingbird moths?

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Hummingbird Clearwing Moth (Hemaris thysbe)

I’ve tried to plant mostly pollinator friendly flowers and over the years I’ve seen a steady improvement in the number of pollinators in my yard.  Bee Balm, Phlox, Petunias, Snapdragons, Hosta among others.

Bee Balm Continue reading

What’s In My Door County Garden?

As a gardener, one of the fun things about our new cabin in Door County WI is seeing what is going to come up in the gardens this spring and summer.  I love taking a walk around the property to see what’s changed since the last time we were there.  I know the previous owner took pride in her gardens, but since we bought the place in the fall much was already passed its prime.  So this spring has been a wonderful surprise to me!

peony

Much to my delight, there are so many interesting and colorful plants all around the house.  Some in gardens, some hiding the rural necessities and some enhancing the “yard”.

Up front, we’re welcomed by a beautiful display of peonies, irises and ferns.

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Iris reticulata “Springtime”

And all around the front step are these gorgeous, unusually colored columbine.  A favorite of the hummingbirds and bees.

Purple Columbine

There’s hostas nearby as well, but the deer are finding them to be pretty tasty.

deer damage to hostas

Luckily they don’t seem to like the Dragon’s Blood Stonecrop (Spurium Dragon’s Blood) or rug junipers.  These are great ground covers and seem to be flourishing with minimal care.

Dragon's Blood Stonecrop

In a bit of a low area, there’s a rock garden that provides a brilliant splash of purple and green.

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It’s a relatively natural property, so I’m taking delight in the daisies in the grass.  Since the grass is rather sparse, I glad something pretty is in its place.

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It’s going to be a little tough to mow around, but we’ll figure something out.

Based on the plant records she left me, I know there’s going to be lots more in bloom next time we’re there!

This Year’s Garden Planters

Each year I head to the local garden store to pick out flowers for the planters.  The results are rarely the same from year to year since I just pick what I like at that moment.  Sometimes I might like yellows, other times maybe purples, sometimes more upright, others lots of vines.  This year for the front stoop I was in apparently in a pink/purple mood.

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In the backyard, I am a creature of habit.  In two shady planters near the grill, I always put in coleus.  My local garden shop carries a great selection of coleus so every year I can mix and match.

The one lesson I learned through the years is check the height of the plants.  They can range from a few inches to a couple of feet, so match accordingly.  Otherwise that favorite may be completely dwarfed by its neighbor.

coleus planter

coleus planter

Then there’s two long planters in the backyard that always have geraniums and something low.  Usually it’s petunias, but this year I switched it up and used an annual lobelia.  I did notice in the first few hot days that they need a lot more water than the petunias.  Need to stay on top of that!  But they do look stunning next to the hot pink geraniums.

geranium and lobelia planter

The last two planters have had a variety of things going on.  I haven’t really decided what I like in them.  As it came time to plant them this year, I realized I was missing marigolds in the garden. They’ve been a mainstay in my garden ever since my first garden in NJ.  I miss how well they grew there, but as one of my favorites, I keep them somewhere in my yard.  It’s definitely one of those love/hate plants for gardeners.  This year they went in the planters with some snapdragons.  The snapdragons aren’t blooming yet, but soon will be attracting the butterflies and hummingbirds.

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These are all recently planted, so I’m hoping they’d ill in nicely through the summer.  With enough water and some periodic fertilizer they should look great.

As comparison, here’s some what these planters looked like last year…

 

Mother’s Day Flowers (A Little Late)

Hope everyone had a wonderful Mother’s Day last weekend!  I meant to get this post out earlier, but my week got interrupted picking up one of my boys from college. A trip that included a flat tire and some nasty storms.  But I have my boys home from school so all is good!

I spent last weekend in Door County, WI enjoying the great weather by taking a wonderful spring hike at the Ridges Sanctuary and bike riding on the Sunset Trail in Peninsula State Park.  As if Mother Nature knew it was Mother’s Day weekend, the spring flowers were all abloom.  It’s been years since I’ve been out in the woods in the spring and after this spring, I don’t think I’ll miss another.

The two places we visited were only a few miles apart, but they are quite unique habitats.  The Ridges is a unique boreal forest, more like a Canadian forest, and made up of ridges and swales created by the rising and receding Lake Michigan shoreline. Peninsula Sate Park is a combination of second growth hardwoods, mostly maple and beech, and northern white cedar along the bluffs.  These two areas lend themselves to quite different types of flowers.

At The Ridges, because of the cold Lake Michigan breezes, things are a little slower in blooming.  But the early bloomers were out like the Trailing Arbutus (Epigaea repens) in pink and white.

Trailing Arbutus (Epigaea repens)

Trailing Arbutus (Epigaea repens)

I was so surprised to see a Pitcher Plant (Sarracenia purpurea). Even without the blooms, this carnivorous plant is easy to identify.

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This tiny iris, Dwarf Lake Iris (Iris lacustris), is unique in that it is only found in the Great Lake Region, and almost only in Michigan except for a few colonies elsewhere including the Door Peninsula.  It’s preferred habitat is sand or thin soil over limestone rich gravel or bedrock and, as in the case here at The Ridges, commonly found on old beach ridges of former shoreline of the Great Lakes.  The Dwarf Lake Iris is listed as a threatened species by the federal government and the state of Wisconsin.

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Some of my favorite plants are club-mosses, and plenty could be seen now that the snow and ice was gone.

Spinulum annotinum (Stiff Club-moss)

Spinulum annotinum (Stiff Club-moss)

Dendrolycopodium obscurum (Tree Club-Moss)

Dendrolycopodium obscurum (Tree Club-Moss)

Lycopodium clavatum (Running Ground Pine)

Lycopodium clavatum (Running Ground Pine)

After exploring The Ridges, we took a bike ride on the Sunset Trail in Peninsula State Park.  A very different kind of forest and so the flowers were also different.  The Large-flowered Trillium (Trillium grandiflorum) was out in full glorious bloom!

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The Large-flower Bellwort (Uvularia grandiflora) always look like they are droopy and in need of some water.

Large-flower Bellwort (Uvularia grandiflora)

Even though the Forget-Me-Not (Myosotis sylvatica) is a non-native species, but one that is almost universally enjoyed.  Such a pretty spray of blue covering the woodland floor in the spring.

Forget-Me-Not (Myosotis sylvatica)

Lastly, the Wood Anemone (Anemone quinquefolia), part of the Buttercup family, could be seen in some of the more open spaces of the forest.

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Have you been out enjoying the spring flowers?

On a personal note, sometimes life throws you curve balls and a very dear friend of mine has been thrown the worst kind.  She has been one of my blog’s biggest supporters, and I so appreciate her encouragement and support, and her friendship all these years.  I just wanted to say thank you, and tell how much she’s loved by all her family and friends.

 

Anticipation (and a Stray Migrating Dragonfly)

Spring is such an interesting time of year in the garden.  What survived the winter?  When will the spring blooms begin?  It seems every year is different in how and when the growing season unfolds.  I thought it was going to be an early spring, and then we had quite a cold snap and slowed everything down.  Or maybe just made it more normal, but its hard to know what normal is anymore.  In any case, as I was walking the yard I was noticing how pretty and interesting the shrub flower buds were.  I was so focused on waiting for the blooms, I hadn’t been noticing the beauty in the buds getting ready to explode in color.

Star Magnolia

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Redbud

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Sargent Crab

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Jane Magnolia

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Dwarf Korean Lilac

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While we were out looking closely at the shrubs, we had quite a surprise when we saw this guy hanging out on the Star Magnolia.

Green Darner

After consulting with my mom Peggy, who is my dragonfly expert, she identified it as a Green Darner.  It’s a fairly common, very large dragonfly and can be identified most easily by the very distinct “bull’s eye” on its forehead.

Green Darner

But why is this guy in my yard and not near any water?  Green Darners are one of the few migratory dragonflies.  There are two separate populations, one resident and one migratory, and to see an adult this early in the spring suggests that it may be part of the migratory group and he stopped off for a rest.  What a treat!

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Want to read more?

Biokids: Anux junius

Wildscreen Arkive: Green Darner

Migratory Dragonfly Partnership

 

Enjoying a Glorious Spring Weekend

We have had a crazy spring to say the least!  Temperatures all over the place, snow, rain, sleet, you name it we’ve had it.  But this weekend was truly a glorious one and made us forget all the bad stuff Mother Nature has thrown at us the last few weeks (or maybe months).  In between catching up with the yard work, Steve and I got out to enjoy the spring that has finally arrived.

We started off with a hike off the beaten trail at the Morton Arboretum.  The spring bulbs were in full color.

Morton Arboretum

But what really caught my eye were the spring wildflowers we found.  Some of these I haven’t seen in years, so it was fun to keep our heads down and see what early spring wildflowers we could find.

Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis)–The sun was shining on this patch so the flowers were wide open.  They’ll close up at night and last only a couple of days.

Morton Arboretum

Marsh Marigold (Caltha palustris)–This area is usually flooded, but not much rain this week so a nice big patch of Marsh Marigold glowed in the distance.

Spring Beauty (Claytonia virginica)–This flower that just screams spring covered a woody hillside making it look almost cloud white.  Stunning!

Morton Arboretum

White Trout Lily (Erythronium albidum)–There were trout lily leaves everywhere, but it wasn’t until almost at the end of the walk we finally saw a few flowers.  Trout Lilies, or Adders-tongues as I used to know them by, take years to finally mature and bloom, and then it’s only for a few days.

Morton Arboretum

Dutchman’s Breeches (Dicentra cucullaria) -This has to be my favorite of the day!  The flowers truly look like pantaloons with the ankles upward hanging from a clothesline.

Morton Arboretum

May-apple (Podophyllum peltatum)--Not quite blooming yet, but soon.

Morton Arboretum

Besides the flowers that were enjoying the spring warmth, so were the turtles.  In this pond, every log had multiple turtles sunning themselves.

Morton Arboretum

We finished the day by exploring the 2016 special exhibit “Ribbit! The Exhibit“.  There are 23 larger-than-life copper frogs taking part in a variety of activities, all centered around the visitors center.  J.A. Cobb, a North Carolina-based sculptor, fashioned these fun sculptures from sheets of copper around steel armatures.  Here’s my favorite–

Morton Arboretum

And in keeping with this frog’s theme, I did see and hear many birds on our walk, including a pair of Wood Ducks and a Pileated Woodpecker.

What’s your favorite spring flower?

 

Finally Fixing the Rabbit Fence

There are so many garden pests, but rabbits have to be right up there at the top of many gardener’s list (unless you have deer, then that’s a whole different issue).  Last summer I posted in “Oh Those Pesky Rabbits” about the issues I was having with rabbits eating many of my tender young vegetables.

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For many years I hadn’t had issues with rabbits.  I had installed chicken wire fencing a few years back to block rabbits from getting through the cedar fence.  But as the years went by, both the cedar and chicken wire fences has become damaged, removed, soil levels changed and generally the whole anti-rabbit fence system became ineffective.

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Last year, I found these cute babies in the yard, just waiting to attack my gardens.

rabbit nest

By the time I realized I had such a big problem, the cedar fence was almost impossible to get to because of summer foliage.  So I was going to have to wait until spring  to fix it.

Last week, Daisy and I scared a huge rabbit out from under the shed who fled across the yard, escaping through this giant hole in the fence.  It was time to get this problem solved!

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Off to Home Depot I went to get some chicken wire, wire cutters and a staple gun.

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After trying out a few staple guns, I ended up getting a light duty Stanley TR45.  I hope that it’s strong enough, but I had trouble squeezing anything more powerful and I didn’t want to invest a ton of money.

Success!

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The staple gun worked just fine for this job.

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I think this will keep out the rabbits!

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I finished off the rest of the yard in an afternoon, and now will enjoy a nice glass of wine celebrating a job well done.

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While I raise a glass to the rabbits, my next puzzle to solve is keeping Daisy out of the peppers.  Check out “Little White Pepper Thief” to see what that problem is.

westie