Sunday, June 24, 2012

A Walk Thru the Land

The native plants are starting to blossom!  I was very excited to see that my rattlesnake master is doing so well, especially since we can't seem to get it to stay alive in the native gardens at work.  Rattlesnake master is a great native alternative to yucca, which isn't native to Michigan (and grows all over, and right now is in prolific bloom, no doubt enjoying the drought).  The spiky leaves help keep the deer (and rabbits) from eating this native plant.

I can't wait to see the flowers open!

Watched the spicebush swallowtail caterpillar cruise along the spicebush branch last night.  So, I thought I'd let you see the difference between the native spicebush...

and the Korean:

Do you see the difference?  The native is all chewed up, while the Korean is blemish-free.  In other words, the Korean has no (zero, zip, nada) wildlife value - no insects eat it, so it likewise doesn't feed any birds.  I should rip it out and plant more native spicebush!

The St. John's wort has come into bloom in the last week or so...right on time for the summer solstice.

The invasive thistles have been going strong all month, too.  I've finally started eliminating them (Round Up) in the yard...nasty, prickly things.  Good riddance, although the flowers are rather nice-looking and the bees do seem to enjoy it.

The little bit of rain we did manage to get sent this mullein shooting upwards.  It was about 10" tall before the rain, and the day after it was pushing three feet!

Although the last couple of days have turned quite hot, the humidity has been down, and the nights have been gloriously sleepable!

I decided to take our evening stroll thru the field - I've been avoiding it because of the ticks, but it just called to me this evening, so off we went.

There are several areas where the ground is bare.   My first thought was "deer lays," but it seems pretty exposed for a deer to be snoozing here.

A pile of rabbit droppings is a clue.  We have LOTS of rabbits.  Cottontails, all.  I do miss snowshoe hares - a "rabbit" of decent size.  Cottontails seem so runty by comparison.

Now, this is suspicious:  an open bluebird box.  How in the world did it get open, for it's held shut with a screw?!?!

Yep, it was pulled open alright.  Must've been a raccoon - the screw was barely in.

Down on the ground was the torn-apart remains of the nest.  House great loss.

But the other box, that one had bluebirds in it earlier this spring.  I found the nestlings dead, with the parents still "taking care of" them.  I emptied the box and put in a man-made nest of grass to encourage the bluebirds to try again.  Did they?

The feathery nest suggests that someone made use of it, but not a bluebird.

There were two nestlings inside.  Species?  House sparrow.  By rights, I should've "dispatched" them - nasty invasive species.  But I'm too gentle-spirited to do that.  It's one thing to keep ripping out starling nests and to chuck starling eggs out into the field, but to actually suffocate or drown a bird...well...I don't think I can do it.

Here is the entire patch of native milkweed on my property.  Three whole plants.

And the flowers were covered with Japanese beetles.  Argh!

More bare spots.  These are just too big to be rabbits, right?  The squishiness of the ground suggested to me that this is mole damage.  Just like in my native plant bed, the subterranean mole tunnels must've kills the plants, drying them out from below.

This hummock is the only bit of "elevation" on my property (not counting the roadside ditch).  A tree root had been toppled over here years ago.  What's growing here now?

Plenty of pokeweed!

And this brings us to the abrupt edge between my land and the field next door.

This year he is growing hay.  It was harvested earlier this month, and this pile remains.  Several of the fields have lone piles of unrolled hay.  Is it the leftover cleanings of the equipment?  I'm sorely tempted to sneak a few loads of it over to my gardens for mulch!!!

Along the edge day lilies thrive.

I know they are rather invasive, but they are a cheery spot of color on the otherwise rather dull brown and green landscape.


Soon the raspberries will be ripe.  Pity I don't like them - there's a few good batches of jam here.  The birds will get to enjoy them, though.

This year I finally got a shot of the everlasting sweet peas.  They are a stunning splash of pink in the tangle along the edge of the property.  Native?  No, but there's only a handful, so I leave them.  If they start to take over, well, then I'll reconsider.

The native plant border I planted around the veg garden is starting to bloom - it's very exciting.  I didn't have blossoms last year - it was only planted in August.  First to blossom is the hoary vervain.  This is a terrific pollinator plant, and I have three!

And right next to it is thimbleweed.  A member of the buttercup family, I learned about this lovely plant about four years ago while botanizing along the Hudson (at the Ice Meadows) with my friend Jackie.  It always makes me think of her.

 The trees are still going strong.  Lost some of the white pines, but that was expected...they were looking poorly when I got them.  The dogwoods were a bust.  I kept hoping, since the folks from the conservation district insisted there were enough roots to take, but I had my doubts and it looks like I was right. But the oaks and ninebark are looking great.  I'll give 'em time to get a good root system going, and then I'll go and plant them.  Maybe this fall.

The native bed by the house is starting to recover.  As long as I keep on top of the mole activity (literally), it looks like some of the plants may recover.  Others are a lost cause.  I think I should've chosen all "full sun" plants - the partial sun/shade plants are not doing well at all (like the green dragon).  Maybe I should transplant them to a shadier spot.

Next year perhaps the natives will take off here like they did around the veg - and I'll have lots of glorious flowers to share.  And maybe by then I'll be able to tackle turning that field into a native plant haven...starting with fire.


  1. Enjoyed the tour of your garden ... including the ascent of "Mt. Pokeweed" - !
    We went to the Ice Meadows last week, and were thinking of you, too.
    Stay cool
    Sue P

  2. Looks like you have a fine piece of land to create native meadow and thicket. Have you tried those whirligigs that stick into the ground to dissuade the moles with vibrations? I don't know if they work or not, but maybe they're worth a try.

    1. My dad suggested just such a device. I have to see if I can create one, although there is some evidence that spraying castor oil in the area may also work (making mole food unpalatable).