Thursday, June 27, 2013

It's the Rule

Independence Day aka July 4th is for most Americans a day of family, food and fireworks.  Adults and soldiers may reflect on the price of freedom while kids run crazy with sparklers, hotdogs and sunburns.Parades crawl happily by with politicians, tractors and folks dressed in red, white and blue.

I love a good parade: I get teary when local soldiers (past or present) march by with the flag, my heart beats with excitement if there’s a band playing marching songs, and I take pictures of veterans, the Bishop Hill High Society Band, and a float made from a lawn mower, a garden wagon, and kids.  I’ll sit through rain, sun and scorching temperatures with pride in all that’s been assembled to celebrate our country’s independence. 

But, does that independence really translate to the freedom to garden in your own backyard you may ask?  OK, probably no one has ever asked that but I’m going to delve into garden freedoms today.

I’ve written about laws regarding the parking strip, utility regulations and trees.  That’s been covered and now let’s dig a little deeper into your garden freedoms.

Anyone whose read my articles knows I’m on the side of less federal regulations, less local government interference in the daily lives of it’s citizens and the encouragement of personal freedom as long as it doesn’t harm others.  Sounds simple and of course in legal terms it’s never simple.  It’s because the translation of words can be vastly different between people.  My idea of what “government interference in the daily lives of its citizens” may be totally different than your version.

On the flip side, one of the benefits of our freedoms is the ability to debate these issues until someone finally calls “Uncle!”  At some point, we must agree on what or how much government control is needed to protect the citizens and their way of life while still protecting our individual freedoms.  So simple to say – so not simple to do.

We also have what is gently called “internet hysteria” regarding most anything, everything and often nothing.  This applies to laws governing gardening and on a bigger scale the production of food.  Does the Food and Drug Administration have the right to regulate what and how we grow food in our backyard gardens?  Will the farm bills eventually regulate organic gardens out of business?  Will farmers’ markets be outlawed the same as the sale of unprocessed milk?  The list from individual interest groups is endless.

Will the term “food production facility” (used in some legislation applicable to all farm, ranch, orchard, vineyard, aquaculture and confined animal feeding facilities) also include any place that grows food – even a backyard garden?

On a state or local level, there may be weed laws.  Near us, Chicago has one of the most ambiguous and highly enforced weed laws with the sole purpose of generating revenue through fines.  Most states have laws protecting native plants and wildlife.  Other towns prohibit vegetable gardens in the front yard and homeowner associations are often so restrictive a home owner gives up the freedom of individual choices on anything visible outside of the home.  (Granted it’s a choice to live under the rules when you purchase a home governed by these associations.)

Some cities and states have laws governing composting, water use (both restricting or insisting you water), fencing and hedges, height of plants, what consists of “noxious weeds”, and what pesticides and fertilizers a homeowner may apply.  Others have laws regulating the kind and number of animals you may have in your yard, beekeeping, dovecotes, height of turf and what’s considered wildflowers.

Most states prohibit killing birds and some have restrictions on how to handle an injured bird.  Laws prohibiting the use of firearms to kill raccoons, squirrels and other wild critters are in most towns.  Hint:  call your local Animal Control office.

For the sake of the more extroverted gardener, it’s typically against the law to garden in the nude within city limits.  And that piece of gardening law information is my final and most important for the average Galva News reader.

Enjoy your July 4th Independence Day celebrations and count your Blessings you live in this beautiful land of milk and honey.  May it always stand tall and proud in the way it governs and gardens.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Summer Plus One

Happy Summer Solstice 2013 or Summer plus one day because I was so busy doing non gardening things yesterday.

Had loads of fun staging the wedding reception dinner tables for a nice young couple.  So much is publicized about "bridezillas" and "mother of the bridezillas" but this family was a total pleasure.  Wishing them a lifetime of love and Blessings.

I am finishing the last of my second term as President of the Board of Directors of Freedom House, a women and children's domestic and sexual abuse shelter and services.  I will remain on the Board and have faith our new president will be a valuable asset.

Back to summer and the joy of working our way through months of warmth and beauty.  As I was visiting the new president yesterday, we walked through her beautiful yard.  I love seeing the work and imagination involved in another gardener's choices.  Like all of us, she fights garden wars (deer in her case), moves, redesigns, babies and most of all loves her gardens.  We should have had pictures of us because there were two definitely past middle age ladies with umbrellas walking around her yard in a heavy rain.  It was an opportunity and it wasn't to be missed.  For some reason a Patsy Cline song kept running through my head...

Because of the large amounts of rain this spring my yard is growing like crazy and benefiting mightily.  One honeysuckle has become infected (is that the right word?) with mildew and I've noticed some mildew beginning on the old fashioned phlox.  I've heard of the home remedy of milk diluted with water - may try.  The real way to fight mildew is to never plant anything that isn't resistant (which leaves out many older varieties) and to never crowd plants (which leaves out most of my beds.)

I am still fighting apple/rose rust and I think it's spread to other plants.  Calling in the professionals on this one.  We've taken out a large juniper near the orchard area and may need to take out another.  I will never get rid of all the junipers in the area because they seed everywhere there is undisturbed roadsides, fence rows, etc. in the country.   It's a nasty disease and I'm not willing to give up yet.

Yes, every plus of nature brings a minus.  It gives with the right and takes with the left.  It's called gardening.  It changes yearly and often monthly.  I am so glad to have all the resources of other gardeners, professionals and materials to reference.  If nothing else, we support each other by knowing we're all in this together.

What are you fighting and what are you enjoying this year?   

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Bi Bi Bi Annuals B.A.B.Y.

There are no ugly hollyhock flowers - they make me sing - they rock and they are b.e.a.u.t.i.f.u.l!!!!

The petals are so thin the sun shines through them.
Betty Davis eyes.

Lipstick Red

Texture of rice paper.

They pop up here and there.

Prom dress material

Did I mention "BEAUTIFUL"?  
Did I mention "EASY"?
Or beautiful?

No orchid can compare.
Ruffles and frills

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Walkin' N' Talkin'

I walked and talked and totally enjoyed visiting Anderson Japanese Gardens and the Klehm Arboretum & Botanic Garden in Rockford Illinois.  The conversations were garden based since the entire bus was loaded with seasoned gardeners ("seasoned" as in doing it more years than most people are alive...)

We often talked about how blessed we are to have so many beautiful garden spaces to visit close enough for day trips.  Make it two days and the possibilities are multiplied double.

This is the first time I've been to either of the Rockford gardens and it was worth the trip.  The day was sunny, moderately hot and no rain.  The Geneseo Garden Club hosted to perfection.  One member even invited us to her home to view her beautiful gardens before we left for home.

Anderson is a private estate garden open to the public.  It is maintained to perfection and tries to keep the feel of a Japanese garden while accommodating various physical limitations of their visitors.  If neat and tidy is your thing, this place is perfect.  We saw several workers with hand clippers, precisely trimming the many sculpted evergreens.

It was a massive effort to create this garden:  boulders, waterfalls, lakes, streams, tea house, and shade plants under and around the canopy of large trees.  The only negative (if it's that) is it feels a little contrived.  I suppose it must since this kind of controlled landscape is so far from our native Midwest flora.

Klehm Arboretum has the look and feel of a massive park.  The point is to walk the many large paved paths lined with trees.  These trees are established, look at home in the surroundings and are tagged.  It would be especially useful if you are looking to landscape a new space.  To gauge the mature size of a tree and how it behaves in the landscape is valuable.

The other side of the Klehm experience is it's beautiful and huge.  As was the Anderson experience, the employees are welcoming and informed.  It's quiet in spite of the many visitors allowing contemplation and photos.  Klehm's is an educational mecca for adults and children.

Both places have facilities for large groups (weddings, corporate events, and etc.), visitor centers, gift shops, rest areas and brochures.  Both have web sites, facebook & twitter pages, charge admission and have some rules.

So what did I accomplish:  a relaxed and enjoyable day with other gardeners, new garden ideas, made some new friends and experienced two of our beautiful local landscapes.  Try it this summer - it's a great day.

If you're not local to my area, google public gardens and add the area (state, county, or region) and you'll have loads of places to make your summer even more garden fun.

This is Klehm's public gathering space.  All the other photos are from Anderson.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

The "Thuganator"

Swamp Buttercup

Be careful; be very careful, when you consider planting GROUNDCOVER.  Some of my worst gardening problems have been in the form groundcovers.  Here’s the deal:

Groundcovers are touted as a cure all for choking out weeds, maintenance free, grows anywhere and enhances your perennials.

We are fortunate for ground freezing winters because they do help keep many groundcovers in check.  Some of our Midwest most beloved plants are horribly invasive in temperate climates.

All it takes is an incredibly wet spring to open the floodgates of invasion for most groundcover.  Here are some Midwest truths about groundcovers:

IF you don’t garden or care about other perennials, groundcover isn’t all that bad.  It can hold soil in areas prone to erosion.

Groundcovers almost never choke out weeds.  It means you have to hand pull weeds out of them, which can be really difficult.

To be a good groundcover, it has to overpower the weaker plants.  Groundcover isn’t discriminate.  Weaker may be your prize perennial, bush or vine.

Groundcover knows no boundaries.  Most will either spread by roots, seeds or any part touching the ground – many by more than one method.  Ladies and gentlemen, Creeping Charlie is a groundcover.  Get the picture?

While some groundcovers give a garden the finished appearance and others coordinate well with the cottage design, they simply refuse to stay where they’re planted.

I had to pull this rather lovely groundcover I acquired when someone gave me some beautiful perennials.  A little bit of root was in the root clump.  At first I loved the beautiful green leaves, tiny white spring flowers and the way it filled in around other flowers in the summer.

And then the downside:  It looks really ratty starting about July.  IF I take the time to shear it down to about 4 inches, it will come back and look good the rest of the year.  This year with the excessive rain, it is under the misunderstanding it’s my favorite flower and has decided to grow huge and thick.  Those beautiful perennial daylilies are now under the canopy of groundcover and suffering from lack of sunshine.  All of a sudden a perennial groundcover became a deadly weed:  the “Thuganator”!  It was either hand pull or watch my favorite lilies die.

Not every groundcover is invasive and impossible to kill in the Midwest, but, if you read a description (and I take this from catalogs): 
  • ·      Creates a carpet that can be mowed.
  • ·      Drought-resistant ground cover.
  • ·      Is a reliable groundcover; tolerates any condition.
  • ·      Can cascade down a wall.
  • ·      Grows even in damp shaded areas where nothing else thrives.
  • ·      Vigorous plants, superb ground cover and easy to grow.
  • ·      Over time it becomes a dense carefree ground cover that excludes weeds.
  • ·      Thorns and suckers.
  • ·      Ideal for hedging and screening.
  • ·      Spreading habit for in front of your perennial border.

Yes, not all groundcovers are invasive, but be careful VERY CAREFUL, because a “Thuganator” can be almost impossible to eliminate.  Even carefully placed weed killers may not kill the tiny seeds waiting patiently to sprout.  Even a seed inhibitor may not find every one.  And even a soil sterilizer may not kill every root hiding across the walk (plus it pretty much ruins that area for years.)  It means the rest of your life at that garden you so love will be spent pulling, digging, and removing and wondering, “What was I thinking?”

When grandma said, “A word to the wise is sufficient!” I’m just sure she was talking about the “Thuganators”.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

A Rose is a Rose

You know a rose is beautiful when you're in danger of having more photos of it than the grandchildren.    I've talked about "Alchymist" many times - still love it for beauty, fragrance and hardiness.
I don't know the name of this pretty pink.  It has a sweet fragrance
and stays beautiful for  days when picked.
"Joseph's Coat" is named for the changing colors between bud and full bloom.Not much fragrance but certainly stunning enough to warrant a place where people can see up close and beautiful.  Doesn't pick well.
We're in that brief period where spring rains are causing wonderful rose growth and blooming and before the Japanese Beetles emerge.

I had sworn off buying any more roses because of the Japanese Beetle damage out here in the country.  Surrounded by acres of soybeans, my little corner of the world doesn't stand a chance.  When all the area around us are being sprayed with insecticides, my efforts to minimize my use is rewarded with mega buckets of those ferocious eaters.

I'm celebrating the climbing roses because they are doing FAB U LOUS darling.  Here are my surviving climbers.
"New Blaze" is much improved for disease resistance.
 It still has all the qualities and beauty valued for climbing red roses. 

"New Dawn" has all the qualities and none of the negatives of the old Dawn. It's hardy, sturdy and disease resistant.
 Sweet fragrance, long vines and beautiful at any stage.

I've had other climbers and none have ever disappointed except for hardiness.  Even the old "Blaze" bushes are still coming up year-after-year as though no one has told them there's an improved Blaze in the neighborhood.  Most of these climbers are once-a-year bloomers, fragrant, disease resistant and very hardy.  All but the New Blaze blooms prior to Japanese Beetle infestation.  Or is it invasion?  Or destruction?

All these climbers like fertile soil, full sun and a rainy spring.  I've never covered them in the winter but do mulch them year round.    All of these (except the bright pink) were purchased from nurseries, either local or mail order rose speciality nurseries.  Pick up one from the bin at your local big box store and consider it an annual.  No matter what the label reads, only a fluke of nature will help it survive over our winters.  Or, be prepared to spend lots of time protecting and babying it through each season.

Gotta go - there's roses that need my attention:  taking pictures, cutting for a vase, tucking one in my hair or carrying around until it finally drops the petals because I've smelled it to death.  "Death by smelling" is that a classification?????

Friday, June 7, 2013

Terry Thomas Time

Daylily "Middendorfii"
The late Terry Thomas used to say, "Busy! Busy! Busy!"  I'm betting we're all busy.

I'm trying to stay ahead of weeds and grass in my flower beds this year.  Once it gets crazy, I tend to give up and it becomes this ratty looking mess.  My son, Ian, put down 500 bags of mulch with some  help from my grandson, Max.  I sprayed for weeds early.  And, I spent the entire day last week pulling up invasives.

I also have a new computer and some of my files didn't convert right so we're having to finagle them which takes time.  I seriously think every computer needs a "finagle" key.  I had a super duper program that had a great garden document.  It allowed information, a photo and I had one completed for most every plant.  It didn't convert because this computer doesn't recognize this program from my old computer (one of several.)

The iMac isn't designed/formatted for literary writing or for people who do a lot with photos.  I had to add other programs, send some to my husband's computer to re format and send back, and some things just take getting used to the new.  Not that I don't love all the fast new stuff, it's some of the old was necessary for what I want to do.

Daylily "Bitsey"
Whining aside, things are growing like C R A ZZZZZ Y in my yard.  Most things are enjoying the excess rain water and sending out leaves, shoots, flowers and anything a plant can send out.  I haven't had to water pots nor anything I've moved.  Pretty darn wonderful.

The iris are about over, peonies have peaked, and dame's rocket is about ready to go to seed.  I've had one daylily bloom and quit.  It's an old, undramatic, gold and always a thrill because it blooms so early.  Thrill for winter-starved lily addicts.  Another early, Bitsey, has started to bloom and will bloom most of the summer.  It's unusual because the scapes branch.

The honeysuckle is in full bloom and await hummingbirds.  Some folks have had hummingbirds for weeks.  We haven't had a one but seldom have we ever had them in the spring.  They only manage to visit us on their southern migration.

Some gardeners lost Redbud and Japanese Maples trees to last year's drought.  I watered my Japanese Maple and it survived and thrived.  I didn't loose any redbuds but the leaves are small and they didn't have the usual tree full of blooms.

Our neighboring farmer finally got the herbicide on the fields surrounding our house.  They were getting to be more green than our grass.  Going to be a late planting for the soybeans around us.

The most robust plant in my garden is definitely the hosta.  Most hosta pretty much hunkered down and looked pitiful last fall.  I'm grateful they didn't die.  They've embraced the huge rains and the plants are wide and dense.

It's the perfect spring to transplant or plant new.  If you've always wanted to start something - you may want to jump on it now.  It will much less work, less watering and a better chance of survival this early summer.

That's my "catch you up" chat.  Have a great evening - our's is pretty much perfect!     

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

The Management of Japanese Beetles Begins Soon

The Management of Japanese Beetles Begins Soon

The University of Illinois extension has an article that you might find interesting.  Click on the underlined above.