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Archive for September, 2007

The year was 1983, the place Pt. Reyes National Seashore.    First picture taken on Mt. Vision of the tiny flowers.    Other pictures on the trail out to Chimney Rock.   The Tidy tips are the little yellow daisy like flowers with the white tips on their petals.

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Colchicums

So, Jeri and I are going floating today.   Should be perfect weather, highs in the low 80s.  It is supposed to be a little breezy, which can be a pain when in a canoe.   But a lot of time down on the river the breeze is flowing over the top of you because of the bluffs.

Just another little shot of what is going on in the garden right now.   I am entranced by the combination of the celosia and colchicums.   Had to expand this shot just a bit to get the late clematis that is also showing off right now.   

So, here we are, the three C’s:   celosia, clematis and colchicum.   Enjoy!

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We are the people our parents warned us about!”                            Jimmy Buffet

Well, it finally happened today.   I had a flashback to almost 25 years ago.  

It has been a pretty busy day at The Havens.   It dawned bright and sunny and beautiful, not too hot, occasional clouds strolling by leisurely.   None of them looked like they particularly wanted to do anything, so no rain today. 

I bounced out of bed fairly early (for me) at 7 a.m., mindful that I had promised my Dear Husband that I would bake something for breakfast if I was able to arise early enough to get it done.  D. H. doesn’t make requests that often.   This is not necessarily a good thing, and lately I have been encouraging him to take care of his needs better, to ask for things he wants.   After all, he has a right to want some stuff, even if that was not a possibility when he was a child.  So when he expressed a desire for muffins or scones for breakfast rather than our customary smoothie, I wanted to do that for him.   We had lovely oatmeal scones for breakfast.

Then I ran off to get my massage.   While I was stirring up the scones, I noticed that the bird feeders needed filling, and so I went out to do that once the scones were in the oven.   The piece-of-junk bird feeder that I had recently purchased at a local feed emporium had been pretty much destroyed by the squirrels.  They had already figured out how to wreck my repair patches, and the one I had done a couple of days ago was on the lawn.   Rather in a temper, I took the whole shebang in with me and put it in the garbage.  

So, while I was getting my massage, D.H. went off to a different purveyor of bird feeding supplies and bought a new bird feeder.   It is quite lovely, and will probably fend off the squirrels for some time.   I don’t understand why they feel they need to climb up there and get seeds from the bird feeders anyway.   I always make sure to throw plenty on the ground for them, and also put it on top of the fence for their convenience.   Greedy things.

I’m not that disposed to like them anyway, they are always digging up my crocuses for an afternoon snack and planting black walnuts in every garden bed around the house.   Not to mention how they plant oak trees in every space that doesn’t have a black walnut.  

It appears that we may be in for a inter-species race war here.   All the dear little squirrels in this yard have been grey squirrels.   This morning D. H. saw a big fat red squirrel coming onto the property from over near Al Samons Mobile Home Sales.   It should be interesting to see if he is able to establish his right to utilize this territory.

Anyway,  after I got back from my massage, I proceeded to re-address the task I began yesterday, namely getting the lovely primroses out of my front flower beds.   I had not been addressing the job long before I realized that I needed my weeding tool, the cobra head, which was out hanging on the tool rack in the vegetable garden.   So I went out there to get it.

Needless to say, the instant I walked into the vegetable garden I was distracted from my purpose.   First I had to look at the torch tithonia, which is vibrant orange against the azure sky and the purple thai basil and the green bean vines.    “Wow!   How beautiful is that!   Oh, and there are a couple of monarchs on them too, how delicious.”   The monarchs flitted over to visit the thai purple basil, which is blooming profusely right now, and so my attention wandered over there right along with them.  

My, the thai purple basil is a busy place right now.   There must be 200 honeybees collecting nectar from the flowers.   Every spike of flowers on the plant has an occupant.   Those not hosting honeybees had orchard mason bees or red wasps or tachnid wasps or a big bumble bee or some sort of skipper butterfly or a monarch.   It was totally cool!  I spent some time admiring this little ecosystem before I started back to the tool rack.

Alas, I did not make it there before I was distracted once again, this time by the bermuda grass that was trying desperately to invade the asparagus patch.   It had managed to wend its way down into the little ditch that D.H. and P. S. (Perfect Son) had left when they put the concrete block edging around the bed.  After achieving the bottom of the gap, it had wandered around down in the bottom of that gap, putting roots into whatever substrate was available to it (mostly road base which isn’t that great a place to try to live), and had started sending rhizomes under the block at the same time it branched and sent stolons over the top.   A two pronged attack!    This would not do, and so I spent half an hour working along the twenty feet of the south side of the asparagus bed, beating the bermuda grass back to the lawn paths.    I will be SO glad when we finally get the grass out of the garden.

Well, eventually, I decided that I had done enough of that, and started back towards the house, wondering why I had come out to the garden in the first place, and what time was it, did I need to get ready for my first massage appointment?   Suddenly my original purpose dawned on me, and so I went back to the tool rack and got the cobra head weeding tool, gathered up my dog from her rabbit chasing games, and headed back towards the front garden.

I had settled into the job comfortably, enjoying the sun on my back.   The autumn sun beating down on your shoulders while you work in the garden is a whole different experience than the intensity of the July sun.   It was warm enough that all the mosquitos were off in the shade by the pond.   I started pulling the primroses out, digging down to loosen the roots with the cobra head.

Every once in a while I would come across a big mass of Star of Bethlehem bulbs.   Rather insensitively, I would go through them and pull out the biggest couple of them, and throw the rest into the bucket destined for the grinder and compost pile.   I have a LOT of Star of Bethlehem, and as my friend Maggie told me when she gave me the first 15 bulbs that started the massive array I now enjoy, sometimes they get a little too happy.

It was while I was working on the primroses that I had the flashback.   I was noticing how the darn things make layers as they take over the bed.   First you have the tall branches that were small shoots last year and bloomed so beautifully and profusely this spring.   They have woody stems, and the tops are branched and loaded with many leaves.   The top-heavy structure eventually falls over to the side, usually on top of some poor unsuspecting plant that is destined to be smothered.   These are the first things I pull out, and they usually just break off at ground level, I rarely get much root with them.

Underneath them is the second layer of primrose shoots, coming up from the roots that are slowly invading the bed.   These shoots are generally 5 or 6 inches high, have a couple of branches and 5 or 6 leaves.   Under those are the next generation of shoots, only a couple of inches high.    You remove them, and there are still little shoots there, these only half an inch high, with just one leaf.   Finally you start to stir the soil with the cobra head, and grub around for the multiplicity of roots that are interwoven in the soil under this infestation of primroses.   When you look closely at the roots, you see little nodules of green along them, places where the next shoot is destined to grow and emerge through the soil surface.

An infinite regression of primrose, back to the molecular level!

Suddenly, I was back in the middle of a day in the far distant past, almost a quarter of a century ago, when my D. H. (who at that time was simply my Significant Other) and I had scored a couple of doses of magic mushrooms.   We decided that the best place to ingest these would be somewhere out in nature.    Our favorite place to go for an out of city experience those days was Point Reyes, part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.   Appropriately enough, out on Point Reyes is a peak on the coastal range called Mount Vision.    We decided that would be a good place to eat our mushrooms, and so we packed a picnic lunch and headed on out there.

We had eaten the mushrooms, and they had not made us nauseous, which was nice, since psilocybin mushrooms can sometimes be quite unpleasant that way.   Eventually, we began to feel the effects of the psychoactive ingredient, and began to wander about the top of the mountain, enjoying the view, taking in the sights, laughing quite a lot.

Eventually we sort of settled down in one rather sunny area where there was a view out to the Farallon Islands.   Of course, our attention did not stay on the Farallons long, we ended up fasinated by the rock and dirt and plants that were surrounding us.   We started looking at the dirt, and there was an amazing variety of minerals in the pebbles and sand spread out before us.   Then we noticed all these itty bitty teeny tiny plants that were coming up in the sand.   We became fascinated and awed by the fact that there were little plants that were only a quarter of an inch tall that actually had flowers  on them.    How tiny they were to be so far advanced.   We sat there in wonder, thinking about how tiny the seeds must be that produce such miniature miracles.

For some reason this made me remember the time I planted spinach in Fairbanks too late in the season.   I had had a really nice early crop, which we had enjoyed until it bolted.   So I thought I would do a second sowing.   What happened was that by the time the new seeds came up, the day length was so long the little spinach plants felt it was necessary to make seed immediately.   I had a row full of little spinach plants which had their seed leaves and ONE pair of true leaves and they were sending up tiny flower spikes from the center of those true leaves.   I could not believe how precocious they were.   I sat there on Mt. Vision and related that experience to D. H.  Of course, we found it exceedingly funny.

I have one other image from that day out at Point Reyes.  It happened after we moved our operations to the trail out to Chimney Rock.   The fields were filled with the spring flowers, especially Tidy tips.   Somewhere there is a picture D. H. took of me that day, lying in the middle of a huge patch of the tiny daisies, rolling around, laughing fit to bust.   I have no idea what was so funny, although I do remember the laughing, and the other hikers out there that day looking askance at my delirium as they walked carefully by.  

When we went back to the car and started driving back to town, I was confused by how the tidy tips and sunflowers all disappeared when we headed west towards the main road.   I couldn’t believe how fast the flowers had gone to sleep, and the sun wasn’t even quite down yet.   Then I glanced in my rear view mirror, and it was FULL of the yellow and white faces of the flowers.   Ahead of me on fields next to the road, they were invisible, because they had their backs to us as they worshipped the setting sun.  All we could see from that angle were the leaves on the backs of the blossoms.  I tried to take a picture of the effect, but my camera refused to focus on both the rear view mirror and the field out the front of the car at the same time.   It is one of my memories that are solely mental with no hard copy to back it up.

Anyway, today as I sat there looking at the primroses, in all their sizes and stages of development, I suddenly was back there on Mount Vision, with my nose a couple of inches away from the surface of the earth, looking at those microscopic plants.  

Mother told me this might happen.  

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News of the Day 28September2007

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A while ago, Carol over at May Dreams Gardens asked a question in one of her posts.  Specifically, she asked if there were other gardeners out there who had conceived of specific plant dislikes, plants they would NEVER plant in their gardens.

At that time, I responded rather decidedly that violets were something I would never plant on purpose.  In fact, I have some regrets about planting violets, as they are very invasive and when they invade an area they successfully kill most everything around them.

I have been engaged in a great eradication program the last couple of days, and it came to me as I was doing it that this is another plant that I would never plant in my garden again.  Specifically, it is the Showy Evening Primrose,  (Oenothera speciosa) , which opens any time, not just in the evening.   See the wash of pink around the irises in this bed?   Isn’t it lovely?

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This is a direct quote from the comments section of the Audubon Society “Field Guide to North American Wildflowers (eastern ed.)”:

A hardy and drought resisitant species that can form colonies of considerable size.   The flowers may be as small as 1″ wide under drought conditions.   The plant is frequently grown in gardens and escapes from cultivation.   The flowers of some members of the genus open in the evening so rapidly that the movement can almost be observed.

Read that statement.   I did, when someone gave me a start of this plant.   I focused on the part about “hardy and drought resistant”, and didn’t think about the implications of “colonies of considerable size” and “escaping from cultivation”.  

Now, think about this.   If it makes colonies of considerable size, certainly that means that it has some way of spreading successfully, right?   And if it frequently escapes from cultivation, surely that should be taken as a warning, correct?   Needless to say, a plant that is “hardy and drought tolerant” may be quite successful in a site where it has escaped from cultivation.

Boy oh howdy, is this ever true.   I have had people ask me for a start of this plant when they have seen it in full bloom in my front garden.    I look at them and tell them that if they plant it, and it is transplanted successfully, they had better REALLY want it, because once it gets started they will REALLY have it.

I would counsel any person who contemplates this absolutely gorgeous flower in a pot in any garden center to think about what it will be like when the garden bed they plant it in has nothing else in it.  Look at this picture of my front garden.   I love the way the primrose has painted a big pink swath at the foot of the redbud tree.   It is actually quite beautiful.

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There is only one problem.   When I began pulling it out today, the swath of primrose had grown to over twice the size it is in that picture.   It did this expansion in ONE season.  ONE!  It was killing the wormwood at the corner of the walk (if you can believe that!  Killing wormwood, a highly successful thug plant!), has smothered the sedum that was under there, was quietly strangling all the day lilies that are in the right side of this shot.   Back in the middle, the section of primroses there had almost completely killed my miniature rose, the lavender, was working on beginning strangulation of the peony.  

I have gotten into this eradication program just in time.

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Look into this ethereally beautiful face.  If you have a sunny bank that needs populating, somewhere where you don’t intend to put anything else, someplace that needs protection from erosion; by all means populate it with Showy evening primrose.   You will not be unhappy.   They bloom profusely in the spring, have very nice green foliage all summer, rebloom when it cools off in the fall, and the foliage is a striking scarlet when it finally gets hit by frost.

But it has serious rhizomes that creep under and through all the roots of other plants, strangling them from beneath.   The root system becomes so thick, nothing else can get any water or nutrients.   From above, the plants get tall, and covered with thick leaves.   They lean over their neighbors, and smother them from above while the insidious rhizomes strangle them from beneath.  

Would I ever plant this again?   Not in a flower bed where I wanted anything else tender and beautiful that needs nurturing to grow.   Out in the wildflower strip where the other natives have the proper defences and ammunition to fight it off?   Yes indeed.  I would put it in a prairie restoration as well, in its own native habitat.

Gardeners beware!   Be careful what you ask for, you might just get it!   Oenothera speciosa is the thug plant to beat all thug plants.  

Plant it at your own risk.

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