The Glory Has Departed


Norma Boeckler, Artist in Residence

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Saturday, May 30, 2015

Morning Rounds with Sassy - Walking and Gardening

This nation of gardeners, Creation gardeners,
led by Queen Elizabeth herself.

Sassy has made it clear that she wants to walk early in the morning, and the threat of sunny, warm days helps her cause. Today I put on my Tilley hat, shoes, and hoodie. Sassy quietly ran to the front door and out we went. I inspect other lawns and gardens to see what is happening there, and she explores the scents left by wild and domestic animals.

Mr. Gardener gets his newspaper tossed on his doorstep, where it belongs. Sassy likes the lawns on the cul-de-sac, so I look over the front yard roses and the sunny garden while she frolics. The straw bales continue to decompose; the potatoes grow and flower.

Daily walks, especially in the morning, make it clear how varied the flowering cycle is. If we build variety into the flowers, fruits, and vegetables, the pollen and and nectar dependent insects get fed generously.

Our helper advised me to prune away the seeds on top the crepe myrtle bush, and he was correct. The bush flowers on its new growth, just like roses, so pruning is essential. I pruned off all the old growth on that bush while waiting for the mail one day. Now the top is full of sprouts and the promise of flowers. The cuttings went into the mulch and disappeared.

The north side of the house is sunny and used to feed a healthy batch of plantain weeds and dandelions. We mulched it last fall and now it hosts the thornless blackberry canes. Like raspberries and roses, blackberries need a hole in the ground and mulch.

Thornless blackberries do not require
a blood sacrifice to pick them.


Backyard Fun, Also Known as Chores
Sassy usually goes inside at this point, so I work in the backyard. I look at the vines I planted and water any new plant that is lagging. The barrels are full of rainwater, so that means giving doubtful starts a gallon of nitrogen rich rain, even if it might rain later in the day. I consult two weather websites, the sky, my barometer, and my arthritis.

I am looking over roses all the time. Some have dead canes that need trimming, so I lop those off at once. That promotes new growth.

If rose buds are damaged by aphids, something I see with white roses especially, I cut them off. There is no reason to let them use up energy for bad flowers. But aphids are food for flower flies' babies, so expect to see small bee-like insects flying around poison-free roses. They will lay their eggs so the larvae hatch and feast on aphids.

Or - kill all the aphids, spiders, flower flies, and ladybugs at once with a special insecticide spray for roses. The aphids will return but the beneficials will take a long time to recover. Worse, the lack of insects will discourage the birds, which feast on the tenderloin and porterhouse of the garden - grasshoppers, rain beetles, and spiders.

Flower Flies Flourish


Flower flies (syrphids) need aphids as their Gerber's Baby Food,
so aphids attract and feed beneficial insects.

Flower flies flourish with eggs dropped in or around leaf litter, and I have lots of leaves as mulch.

Wikipedia Hover Flies or Flower Flies - Syrphids:
Hoverflies, sometimes called flower flies or syrphid flies, make up the insect family Syrphidae. As their common name suggests, they are often seen hovering or nectaring at flowers; the adults of many species feed mainly on nectarand pollen, while the larvae (maggots) eat a wide range of foods. In some species, the larvae are saprotrophs, eating decaying plant and animal matter in the soil or in ponds and streams. In other species, the larvae are insectivores and prey on aphidsthrips, and other plant-sucking insects.
Aphids alone cause tens of millions of dollars of damage to crops worldwide every year; because of this, aphidophagous hoverflies are being recognized as important natural enemies of pests, and potential agents for use in biological control. Some adult syrphid flies are important pollinators.

I find the first round of roses will have some aphids - not many - and the next round will be almost flawless.

All my vines are new, so I pay special attention to them. If you want one vine to boost your gardening self-esteem, plant honeysuckle. That vine grew fast and flowered early. Now it is climbing the dead tree, where I have gentle elastic ribbon to help support it.

Trumpet vines will climb a tree on their own, and mine have sprouted, though seemingly dry and dead upon arrival. I soaked them two hours in rainwater before planting and hovered over them in the first weeks, gentle as a nurse, a flask of rainwater in my hand.

The Passion Flower vines are still green but not growing yet. They probably need more sun and warmth.

Splendid Weeds and Cover Crops


Queen Ann's Lace is so clever that it grows
a section looking like a bug, a decoy to
attract pollinating insects.

Our helper resisted the temptation to mow down the Queen Ann's Lace. I have several growing like a boss and starting to flower. They are tall, delicate, and loved by butterflies and bees.

Red Root Pigweed is growing here and there. I use  that as mulch to provide shade and nitrogen at the same time, when I pull it or cut it down.



My best natural weed is Cow Vetch. This fragile looking climber is good for the soil and beneficial insects. Its flowers are cascading along the back fence, purple jewels. I have some in the front rose garden, so I am going to let them go to seed and scatter the results in the back. Seed production - prolific.

Buckwheat is praised as a fast-growing, good bug loving cover crop, so I sowed that in the wild area.

The dead branch, which followed me home, stretches across the grass, the last part of the natural border for the wild area. Birds will be suspicious at first, then rest on the branches. They love to have a place to perch that gives them a good view and fast access to worms and bugs. They do not want to be too close to the ground, because of predators. They can watch from a tree, but the distance to the food is much greater.

Feeding the Birds

Our platform feeder will have a baby squirrel in it at times, big squirrels swinging it,
and multiple birds waiting to have their turns.

And squirrels. Those tree rats have a bad reputation, but they take their turn with the food if there are many feeding places. I cut an orange for the birds, and the squirrels ate them instead.

I put out watermelon rind, after we enjoyed the red part. The birds pecked the rest down to the hard shell.

If there is one feeder with sunflower seeds, the squirrels will try to empty it. When there are many sources of food, birds get their chance. Some birds love finch food, which squirrels do not favor.

Suet is good year- around, if you like bug eating birds like woodpeckers, starlings, and grackles. The pileated woodpecker tend to show up where suet is available, as it did for us in Bella Vista. This rare bird is often heard but seldom seen.