Wednesday, July 15, 2009

July: Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day

Every day is Bloom Day these days at the McGarden. The Stellas are already finished (gee, that didn't last long!), the coneflowers are ramping up, and the prairie garden is teetering on the brink of floral explosion. Oh how hard it is to go to work in the morning when I could be spending my days gazing at these beauties instead...

Thanks as always to Carol @May Dreams Gardens for hosting GBBD!

Friday, July 10, 2009

July: Milkweed

I've spent the last two days sitting at my computer at home, making numbers do my bidding. I even did some trigonometry! What a strange job I have. I went to the garden after dinner tonight hoping for some magic. The theme of the hour turned out to be milkweed...

IMG_3279 IMG_3291
Red milkweed beetle; close-up of common milkweed, Asclepias syriaca

I am VERY excited to have my first monarch caterpillar! I've had milkweed naturalized in my garden for many years and the monarchs are rampant, but this is the first caterpillar I've seen. He's so tiny! I named him Scooter and will be looking for him every day. Yes I know I could put him in a protected spot and feed him but I want to see him grow up on his own. Scooter is the reason I planted so many natives in my yard.

Those nasty earwigs had better leave my Scooter alone! I had to pull four of them out of that inflorescence with tweezers just to take the picture. *shudder*

Hey, Foley, move your big head! You're blocking the butterfly weed!

Thursday, July 09, 2009

July: Procrastination begins at home

Working at home is difficult. The garden, TV, and fridge beckon. I obey 2 of the 3 siren songs and wander outside with a cup of tea to find:

My first-ever balloon flower! Platycodon grandiflorus 'Sentimental Blue', planted last fall. SO cute!

My hibiscus thankfully turned out not to have ugly peach flowers. Instead it has foofy double flowers. I will learn to like it. It definitely makes a dramatic statement!

Okay, bintie, get back to work!!

July: GGW's July Photo Contest

This month's Gardening Gone Wild photo contest is all about flowering trees. I have dug through my archive of American basswood photos and it is official: I have ZERO good pictures of a basswood in flower. How embarrassing! It's not entirely my fault; basswood flowers are kind of sloppy and mushy looking, and since they hang below the branches the photos must be taken pointed up, which gives no perspective on the rest of the tree. Plus, in all honesty, I prefer the trees for their foliage (and of course for their genetic and biogeographic mysteries, soon to be clarified by the Future Dr. Bintie!) and their nifty leafy bracts.

For example, here's a Carolina basswood in southeastern Alabama:
The flowers are just opening, already mobbed with bees. They look like they've been stepped on. (But aren't the leaves gorgeous?)

However, that is not my entry for the contest! Instead I will go conventional and show a magnolia on the campus of the University of Illinois at Chicago. UIC is an architecturally unfriendly place that only recently was partially deconstructed and made more lush and green, and I applaud the efforts to transform the campus into a more traditional American park-like setting. This particular tree is planted in the UIC Memorial Grove, an odd open space at the corner of campus that was designed by Walter Netsch, the campus architect, in the 1960s. It makes for a pleasant getaway when the lab and office feel too constraining, and the magnolias for their brief moment in a Chicago April are mesmerizing...


Sunday, July 05, 2009

July: Recycling in the garden

I finally planted my plants from the Native Seed Gardeners project. I put the Baptisia leucantha in the ground before I left on my field trip, but I didn't have time to plant the shade plants (Polygala senega and Oxalis violacea) until today. The difficulty was finding a way to mark plants that have already died back for the season or are very teensy. My haphazard gardening methods don't lend themselves to keeping track of four tiny, important plants! and plant markers are imprecise.

Here's my solution: rings made from margarine tubs. If something grows inside the ring, it's probably the important plant.
IMG_3266 IMG_3267


Now I just have to keep them alive until they produce seeds! Wish me luck!

Saturday, July 04, 2009

July: Happy 4th!

Hubby and I rebuilt the fence between yard and alley this weekend. It looks fabulous and solid and we are so proud of ourselves!

Just a handful of photos of what's in the garden right now. It really popped while I was on my trip and it's so much fun to explore!
IMG_3240 IMG_3219
An adorable green bee with yellow pollen leggings; red lilies

IMG_3218 IMG_3217
Lilies and butterfly weed; when did I plant an orange coneflower?! (ETA: Last August, apparently! It's an Echinacea 'Sunset'. Yay for blogs as searchable records!)

Foley felt left out during fence construction.

July: Field work

I spent a week doing field collecting for my dissertation. If you haven't already heard a zillion times, I study American basswood, and I received some research funding to visit the herbarium at the University of North Carolina to ponder their extensive basswood collections. I also had plans to visit several natural populations and collect samples, but this is a typically hit-or-miss activity and I didn't have much success finding trees.

The short version:
Day 1: On the road; an ironic visit to the Creation Museum in Kentucky where I had a surprisingly nice time walking their gardens, which are free. Somehow I managed to escape the place with my rational mind intact. Phew!
A purple loosestrife cultivar. I hope they know what they're doing!

Day 2: Torrential downpour and hotel with damp carpet. Left my pillow at the hotel... grrr. Fruitless visit to a nature preserve on Pine Mountain with badly marked trails. Found one tree roadside. Very irritated. Got poison ivy. Gorgeous drive east from KY through VA, TN, and NC to the Blue Ridge Parkway, where I collected 7 or 8 trees. One of the prettiest places I've ever been; too late in the day for good photos, unfortunately.

Day 3: South Carolina, wandered Sumter National Forest, finding just about nothing. Grouchy. Visited Columbia, did not find trees an acquaintance swore would be there, but did like the city very much. 101 degrees. Got more poison ivy.
Detail from the beautiful and moving African American History Monument outside the State House, Columbia, SC; more here.

Day 4: Southern North Carolina Piedmont. Pretty. No basswoods. Attracted some concern from a pair of women in their Sunday best who were driving home from the Baptist church down the road.

Days 5 and 6: UNC campus in Chapel Hill. Many hours in the herbarium photographing hundreds of samples. Also collected in the Coker Arboretum and wandered campus a bit. Very nice place but I had a tendency to get lost. Hills and ravines don't lend themselves to a street grid.
IMG_3193 IMG_2463
Cool variegated redbud at the Arboretum; my herbarium workspace. Other NC pics here.

Day 7: West Virginia, Kanawah State Forest south of Charleston. Hey, actual trees! Woo! Then treated myself to lunch at Taco Bell (YUM), and headed home, getting back around 9. So good to be back with hubby, dog, house, garden, and bed! I miss my pillow though.