|Garden at Suncrest, Lapeer Mi.|
We finally got some well needed rain and my plants are very happy after their shower, clean and no longer thirsty. It’s nice to spend a day or two without watering. On Sunday and Monday, we had very hot and humid weather, miserable weather for June. Today the temperature isn’t bad although it’s still a bit muggy.
Just a couple hundred miles north of us the rain was so hard and so much that it washed out roads and flooded everything. Across the country we are seeing floods in some areas, drought in others. Some places are sweltering in unusual heat, others are still chilly. There are tornadoes in places they don’t often have them and fewer tornadoes in places where they usually have lots. The weather is a mess. Climate change?
The poor plants are a bit confused. First, we have August, then June, then August, then June and so on. Strawberries are ripening but many people are talking about how small the berries are this year in Michigan. It’s a combination of a hard winter, early heat and the dry spell.
I have potatoes in bloom, we are getting a few of the early girl tomatoes and I have some peppers that are getting big. The corn has been growing slowly, maybe the rain will give it a bump.
My seed grown campanulas are blooming nicely now, there’s several colors. I was gifted a lovely campanula last night, Campanula glomerata ‘Superba’, (clustered bellflower), which has stiff stems with clusters of lovely purple flowers. I hope it establishes well here.
Clematis are blooming, for some reason the bleeding hearts have put out a few new flowers, daylilies are beginning to bloom, coneflowers are starting bloom. The double Asiatic lily ‘Apricot Fudge’ is now blooming. Columbine and goats beard are blooming. The annuals are really beginning to put on a show.
The baby barn swallows in my barn are just about ready to fly. The parents dive bomb me every time I enter that part of the barn. I guess that’s better than what I saw on the news last night, where a hawk built a nest in a residential neighborhood that was attacking dog walkers and mailmen, leaving them with bloody wounds.
It’s hard to think about but June is almost over.
Thursday, the 21st is summer solstice. It’s the official start to summer. I don’t like what it symbolizes, the days will now get shorter. Go outside and look up at midday. That’s the farthest north the sun will get in your area. It will now begin to swing back toward the south. As summer progresses where you have shade and sun in the garden may change as the sun declines in it’s orbit.
The day of summer solstice has been noted and celebrated since the earliest communities of man. In the more northern countries the celebrations are more marked, probably because the sun is so welcome and vital in these climates and because at summer solstice in the far north the sun never seems to set. Celebrations often include bonfires and making wreaths of flowers to hang on one’s door. If you wash your face with the dew collected overnight on the wreath you are supposed to get beauty and a long life.
The Romans dedicated the month that the summer solstice occurs in (the month we call June) to honoring the goddess Juno, patroness of marriage and fertility in women. Even today June is the month most favored for marriage. Interestingly a woman’s fertility is also highest at this time. Conception in June results in a baby born in March or early April, which in earlier times was a good time to give birth. Food supplies would be more plentiful as the baby began to require more milk, the weather more moderate, and the wife would be recovered enough to help with spring planting.
Midsummer’s eve is often confused with the summer solstice but is not the same. It generally occurs a few days later than the solstice, on June 23 or 24. It is supposed to mark the birth of John the Baptist, who is supposed to have been born six months before Jesus and is a product of Christianity adopting and adapting pagan celebrations. But there is a great mixture of fairy visits and other magic associated with Midsummers eve in folklore also.
Color and the garden
Color is an important part of any garden, whether it’s from flowers or just foliage. You may have a good idea of what colors you like, or you may feel like you need help in choosing and executing a color scheme. While some people do have an almost instinctive sense for color and design others seem to struggle to come up with a pleasing color and design scheme for the garden. Remember though, if it’s your garden, it should be something you like, not something others tell you is right.
You may want the same basic color palette each year or you may like to change things up. Perennial plants, whether they are in the garden for foliage or flowers, will maintain the same basic color scheme year after year. Perennials usually have a set bloom period, most bloom for only a few weeks. If you want continuous color in the garden you’ll need to choose a variety of perennial plants that bloom at various times of the year or perennial plants like hosta, whose foliage provides your color. (A few perennials, like some roses, do have a long period of bloom.) Even foliage plants may provide color only in certain seasons.
If you like to experiment and change things every year or you want continuous color, annual plants can be the workhorses in your garden. Most annuals bloom for a long period of time. Many gardeners use perennials, woody plants and annual plants combined to provide pleasing, continuous color in the garden. Perennials and woody plants provide the “bones” and annual plants provide the pop and sizzle. This allows you some flexibility from year to year in what colors are showcased in the garden.
In my garden I have a lot of color that is provided by perennial foliage, many colors of hosta and heuchera, Japanese forest grass, variegated Jacobs ladder, various colored evergreens, and ferns. There are perennial flowering plants like daylilies and iris, phlox, clematis, sedums, coneflowers and other things. But every year I enjoy choosing a color scheme with annuals to fill in around the perennials and for porch and accent pots.
My color scheme is usually chosen when I walk into the greenhouses in the early spring and find some annual plant, like a petunia or salvia, that I just love the color of and must have. I then choose other things to complement it. This year it was a salvia, ‘Wendy’s Wish’, which is a mixture of pink and purple and a sort of magenta. And that’s my color scheme for most of my beds this year. Where I have flowering perennials that would clash horribly with those colors I have used a few other colors.
If you have ever tried to pick a color to paint a room from a selection of paint chips on cards you know there can be hundreds of variations of a color. Hues are considered pure colors, they are the primary colors on the color wheel, red, blue, and yellow. When you combine two of these colors equally you get the secondary colors of orange, purple or violet, and green. When you combine a secondary and primary color equally you get what is called a tertiary color like red-orange, or magenta (purple and red) and so on.
From hues we go to tints, which are paler versions of any of the hues, and shades, which are darker versions. Why do you need to know this? Because it can help you pick colors that go well together. In general, a hue and its tints and shades will go well together. This is called a monochromatic color scheme. Some gardens are built around a single color such as white or blue.
From there you need to look at a color wheel. Colors opposite each other on the color wheel generally go well together. This is called a complementary color scheme. An analogous color scheme is made using hues and their tints and shades that are adjacent to each other on the color wheel.
Some people like a mixture of all colors in a garden. This is called polychromatic. It’s usually an informal, cottage style look. This kind of garden sometimes takes a little bit of removal or transplanting or addition of transition colors to improve a glaring color clash, but then some people will be happy with any combination.
While it might not work on your walls all colors go well with green in the garden. White and silver or gray also seem to go well with all colors and they can be used between colors that may not look well together. Black seems like it would go with any color but in flowers black is usually not really black but deep red or purple.
Of course, if you can just hold up blooming plants close to each other, as when choosing annuals, you’ll probably be able to choose colors that go well together. If you are color blind you may want to ask a friend for help. It’s your garden though, so choose what you like.
Other things to consider about color
Warm colors like red, orange and yellow jump out at you from the landscape and are good for gardens that are viewed from a distance. They make the garden seem closer. It takes less of these colors to make a statement. Cool colors like blue, green, and purple are less obvious from a distance. Gardens with a lot of these colors seem to recede. It takes more of a mass of these colors to make an impression.
Very dark colors often disappear when viewed from a distance, appearing like a hole in the landscape. These very dark colored plants look best when they are an accent color in a lighter pastel or white color scheme or when they are against a light wall or fence.
An accent plant of a contrasting color does bring interest to the garden but too many accent plants causes that “pop” to disappear. A chartreuse or yellow foliaged shrub here and there among darker shrubbery or a purple one among lighter greens is interesting but too many yellow or purple foliaged plants together are not as appealing. Many gardeners associate yellow foliage with unhealthy plants, and this feeling increases when there is a lot of it in the landscape.
Consider the colors of buildings, fences, and other hardscape that may be near when choosing colors for the garden. I have found that that orangish clay brick walls are hard to work with. Many colors seem to clash with them. Try white, pastel yellows and some shades of peach. White, green and gray walls can go with just about any colors. Blue walls look good with pastel colors of just about any hue, unless they are a very pale tint, when deeper color would be better.
To keep some color in the garden all season you should work to incorporate different foliage colors and choose perennials that bloom at different times of the year. If you don’t use annuals there will probably be some weeks with little, if any, color. Also bloom times of perennials can be affected by weather and they may bloom earlier or later than expected some years.
Don’t choose your perennial flower color scheme by holding up blooming plants in the nursery. Often these plants are not blooming at their natural time. What looks beautiful together now may never bloom again at the same time in your garden.
Be wary of color descriptions, and especially photos, in catalogs and on line. The color most often altered is blue, with what looks blue in the photo being actually lavender or some shade of purple. Chocolate and “black” colored flowers are often not the same in the garden as in a photo.
You can vary your color scheme by season too, by choosing plants that bloom at various times and plants whose foliage may change in fall to provide color. For example, you could use bright pastel colors in spring flowering bulbs followed by blooming plants with primarily white flowers until fall when brightly colored mums and woody plants with “warm” fall color foliage will carry the garden into winter with a blaze of color.
White and pastel flowers are good for gardens that get used a lot in the evening as the colors stand out in dim light. They also attract night flying moths which can be interesting to watch. But all white gardens can look washed out in the sunlight. Add a few deep accent colors here and there to make the garden more appealing. White flowers planted in dusty areas, such as near dirt roads, tend to look grimy and unattractive.
A monochromatic garden, all blue, all pink or whatever, always looks more interesting when a few splashes of contrasting color are added. These can be flowers, like a red poppy in a sea of white flowers, or a piece of garden art or hardscape such as a deep purple chair among your all shades of pink garden.
If you are planning your garden for pollinators bees prefer yellow, white, orange and shades of purple and blue. They can’t see red. Butterflies like most flower colors but are not very attracted to blue. Hummingbirds like red flowers best but many colors are visited, tubular flowers are favorites.
Remember you don’t have to have flowers to have color. Foliage color is especially nice in shady areas. There are many types of plants with interesting foliage color, both for shade and sun. (Foliage color may change through the seasons and weather can also alter foliage color.) Garden art, containers, furniture and other hardscaping can also provide some of your color.
For the new gardener taking a good look at public gardens, the gardens of friends and photos in magazines and books will help you decide what colors you like in the garden and what plants can provide those colors. If you don’t get it quite right, you can usually do some tinkering the following year to get closer to your goal. Don’t be afraid to experiment and if you love it, that’s what counts.
Ostrich fern- Matteuccia struthiopteris
The ostrich fern is a fern most gardeners should be able to grow. It’s hardy from zone 3-7, it doesn’t do well in the deep south. Tall and beautiful, it’s also an aggressive spreader so whether you should grow it is something you’ll need to debate with yourself.
The ostrich fern is native to North America, Europe and Asia. It’s an old soul that has survived though the millenniums. It’s a deciduous fern, losing its graceful fronds in winter. It’s a bit slow to begin growth in the spring, but when it does it grows rapidly, becoming a huge plant in just a few weeks.
The Ostrich fern has a mostly upright, vase shaped form. The fronds (leaves) are medium green. In wet, mild summers I have had these ferns easily reach 5 feet in height in my garden, although they average about 3 feet high. The plants have a bulb like condensed crown that the fronds are produced from. Mature plants can spread to about 3 feet in width. The plant spreads by root stolens to make huge colonies if not controlled.
Down at the base of the plant the sexual fronds, the fronds that produce spores for sexual reproduction, will form in late summer. These are short, thick and dark brown. These fronds persist over winter. The plant can spread by spores, which are released in early spring, but the usual method of spreading is through the root system.
Ostrich ferns will grow in full sun if kept constantly moist, and in partial or even full shade. In full shade they are smaller. They prefer rich, organic soil and plenty of moisture. They will do fine in clay soil and wet areas and are a good plant for rain gardens. However, if summer gets hot and dry and they can’t be watered the fronds will dry up and disappear. Windy areas can tatter and flatten the plants also.
Ostrich ferns do not need fertilization. They have no known pests and deer and rabbits usually don’t eat them. I know of no disease problems. Ostrich ferns look good in masses and can make a good tall groundcover in shadier areas. Ostrich ferns combine well with larger hosta, astilbe, toad lilies and heuchera if you are careful to keep the ferns from over powering the other plants. You can remove fronds without a problem if they are hiding other plants.
A good use for ostrich fern is to plant it with woodland ephemerals, wildflowers or bulbs that bloom early in spring and then disappear, like trilliums, bloodroot, crocus, grape hyacinth, winter aconite and similar plants. These bloom before the fronds begin growing and then the emerging fronds cover their dying foliage. In sunnier areas tall lilies like the orientals and vines like clematis are good companions.
Gardeners may have a hard time finding plants to buy. They are sometimes sold as dormant roots, other times a potted plant is sold. If getting a start from a friend try to get it in early spring, before the green fronds emerge. Look for the brown spore fronds and dig up the bulb like root structure. Ostrich fern doesn’t seem to transplant well when the fronds are large.
In my garden I am constantly fighting with ostrich ferns so that other plants can be seen and so that they don’t clog every bit of available soil. But I still find the plants beautiful with a soothing woodland feel. Just be aware they can soon become dominant in the landscape.
In some areas the early curled fronds of ostrich fern, called fiddleheads, are gathered and cooked. Don’t eat them raw, as it can make you very sick.
Help-my squash blooms but won’t set fruit
One of the common problems of new vegetable gardeners is when things like cucumbers, squash, melons and pumpkins seem to be blooming very well but the gardener isn’t seeing any fruits. If this happens to you don’t panic.
Most of the vining crops, melons, cukes, squash, and pumpkins have separate male and female flowers on each plant. The female flowers have a tiny melon, squash, pumpkin or cuke attached to the back of the bloom. The male flowers look similar, but they don’t have the tiny fruit. Only the female flowers can turn into fruits, but you do need both sexes.
Almost always male flowers are the first to open. Why this happens we don’t know. It may be that the plant doesn’t have enough resources yet to support fruit. But soon the plant will produce female flowers and if they get pollinated you’ll start seeing those tiny fruits enlarge. There are some varieties of plants that have been selected to produce only female flowers. These are called gynoecious. These produce more fruit. But there still must be some plants with male flowers somewhere nearby to pollinate them.
Sometimes weather and lack of pollinators can cause poor/no pollination. Cucumbers, melons, squash and pumpkins need insect pollinators. High temperatures, especially at night and plants under stress will result in more male flowers. But if the plants keep blooming, you are good, you’ll eventually get fruits.
This is a meal not a salad in my mind. It’s healthy and tasty at the same time and great for summer meals. It’s better not to use canned salmon in this recipe. Cook some fresh or thawed frozen salmon for this salad. You can grill it or bake it. Remove any skin.
Orzo is a pasta that looks like grains of rice. It cooks quickly. You could substitute other pasta but use something small.
1 pound of cooked salmon, skin removed, broken into small pieces
1 pound of orzo, cooked and drained
1 red and 1 green bell pepper, washed, cleaned and diced finely
½ cup chopped green onion
1 cup creamy Italian salad dressing
1/3 cup sour cream
¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
Place the salmon, orzo, peppers and onion in a large bowl.
In a smaller bowl mix together, salad dressing, sour cream and cheese. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Pour the dressing mix over the salmon mixture and toss lightly until mixed.
Chill at least one hour before serving.
Have fun in the summer sun, but remember June is the most fertile month.
And So On….
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