August 25, 2009


My boss had a hitchhiker on his back when he returned to the office from lunch yesterday. I decided to bring the little guy home and release him in my garden (the mantis, not my boss).
He sat right on top of my passenger seat all the way home, tilting his head and looking around, cleaning his antennae. When we arrived home I scooped him into my hand and let him go in my flowers. He posed for several pics before he flew off somewhere to the other side of the yard.

He may not stick around in our yard, but at least he's in a much more rural area than where I work. Plus, I'm sure there are more pesky bugs here to eat. I mean, I sure as heck wouldn't mind living in my garden if I were a bug!

August 24, 2009

An Updated View of My Garden

The mornings have been cold lately, and one can feel fall just around the corner. It's been a busy summer and I haven't had as much time in the garden as I'd planned, but it has certainly been a season of learning! I love watching the changes in the garden as the season progresses.

I have encountered minor problems here and there that have each been opportunities to do some research and experiment with trial and error. Here is what is nearly the final result of my summer, though one of the greatest lessons I've learned is that a garden is never complete. :)I think the beautiful birdbath I got for my birthday is a perfect finishing touch. I look forward to seeing all the changes between this year and next!

August 10, 2009

Volunteer Days - Invasive Shrubs

I spent some time Saturday and Sunday doing more volunteer time with the DNR. ON Saturday we gathered burn piles of invasive shrubs that had already been cut by the DNR. They do this to maintain the prairie and the native plant life in that environment. It poured on us the whole time, but we kept at it for a couple of hours until the lightning began to strike. There were about 30 volunteers and we accomplished quite a bit in a short time, despite the weather.

On Sunday the rain was gone - just 90 degree weather, sunny skies, and heavy steamy air. We hiked through the woods cutting down invasive Common Buckthorn, Glossy Buckthorn, and Autumn Olive. Each shrub we could find was cut and herbacide was applied to the stump to prevent it from growing again. We also found and removed a few small patches of an invasive species of Parsley.

(Photo by Bill Brandon)

The day was also a great opportunity to learn MANY of the native plants!

Maindenhair Fern
(Adiantum pedatum)
I think this is
(Bidens coronatus),
but it is possibly
Western Sunflower
(Helianthus occidentalis)

White Baneberry
(Actaea pachypoda),
also called Doll's Eyes

Red Baneberry
(Actaea rubra)

I'm going to be tagging along on some individual projects for the DNR as well. I'm going to be learning Photo Monitoring, Insect Monitoring, and hopefully Seed Collecting. I get together with one of the current Photo Monitoring volunteers at the end of the month to see how it's done. I'm very much looking forward to it!

August 07, 2009

"Picture This" Photo Contest: Down on Your Knees

The subject for this month's Picture This Photo Contest at Gardening Gone Wild is "Down on Your Knees". The purpose is to encourage everyone to view the world from a new vantage point. Get down on your knees, or even your belly, and see the world from a whole new angle!!

Here's my submission:

Best of luck to everyone participating!

August 06, 2009

A Special Treat: Hummingbird Moths

It was such a delight last night to see a special visitor hovering around the Butterfly Bush. I have only ever seen one before, years ago, and had been amazed by this fascinating creature. On your first encounter it can be a bit confusing! Many people have the same response I had: Is that a hummingbird? But it has antennae! Is it a bug!? What IS that thing!?

Hummingbird Moths are actually a type of Sphinx Moth of the genus Hemaris. The one pictured here in my garden is a Hummingbird Clearwing Moth (Hemaris thysbe). They have a wingspan of roughly 1.5 to 4 inches and display the rapid wingbeats of a hummingbird as they zip to and fro, usually in the evening, sipping nectar from the flowers. I do hope you have an opportunity to encounter one of these enchanting creatures!

July 16, 2009

"One-of-Each-itis" - That's it!

I have identified my affliction: "One-of-Each-itis".
(as defined by Billy Goodnick here)

The purpose of me creating a garden, even though we are only temporarily renting our home and money is not exactly pouring from our pockets right now, is to gain first-hand experience and "personal history" in the gardening world. I am a student in a field that I have no experience in thus far and am trying to gain said experience.

In this new venture I am becoming increasingly aware that my new garden - filled with lovely plants of many colors and shapes - doesn't have any order to it. I went into the project knowing in my head the general direction in which I wanted to go, but had no plan of execution. This is mainly because it's had to be a work in progress that began as "I'll just put a few plants in so I can at least have a garden", but developed into "I'll just add one of these - last plant! Except for this one.. and this one too." Now I have this odd conglomeration that just doesn't make much sense.

I'm not entirely disappointed though. The purpose of this project was to learn, and that is being accomplished. A lot of these plants are still small and I think will have more effect next year when they actually begin the season in the garden and will fill out the space more. However, I think I would still like to attempt some rearranging this year to create a bit more flow to the area. I really liked the article by Billy Goodnick referenced above, and will look to it for inspiration. I want to balance my "collector" tendencies with some "arranger" tendencies!

July 15, 2009

Volunteer Day - Mustard Pull

The volunteer day I participated in with the DNR at the end of June went great! We pulled seven garbage bags worth of invasive garlic mustard. I hadn't known what garlic mustard was before the volunteer day. Now that I am able to identify it, I see it ALL OVER!

Here's a video on garlic mustard from the Stewardship Network:

July 06, 2009

A Weekend of Woods and Wildflowers

I went for a hike this weekend at a nearby state park.
So many flowers in bloom!
I haven't identified these two yet:
I have found one of my new favorite wildflowers!
It's a Deptford Pink (Dianthus armeria). It's not native, but is naturalized. So delicate and vibrant! (See below)Mother nature is the best gardener! :)

July 01, 2009

Somebunny Has Been Eating My Garden

I was furious last evening when I stepped out to take a look at my garden and found that the bunnies, which I love to see hopping along in the yard, have eaten nearly ALL of my beautiful Asters that were doing so well. They have also eaten my Liriope that were finally starting to take off. Grrr!

I have heard that Marigolds repel rabbits. I don't know if this works, but it was late and I was desparate to protect what little was left so I ran up to the garden center and grabbed some Marigolds to plant along that section of bed.

I have also heard of using pepper spray, which I found at the garden center for nearly $20 a bottle. I found a recipe for homemade pepper spray that I may try:

Pepper Spray
(Found at The Natural Gardener)

1 Tbs Tabasco or habaƱero juice
1 Garlic bulb
2 Tsp Dishsoap
1 Gallon water
Optional: 1 Tbs cayenne pepper

I'll see if the Marigolds work first and go from there. One night down and no additional damage. I hope it doesn't come down to trapping and relocating these little guys, because I really do enjoy seeing them in the yard!

**UPDATE** 7/31/09
I would like to report that no further damage has occured to my Liriope or Asters. I know there are conflicting opinions as to weather or not Marigolds actually keep rabbits away, but so far it seems to be working in my garden!

Now to go after the little guy making lunch of my hostas!

June 23, 2009

Hosta-munching Slugs

I am beginning to notice the signs of slimy invaders munching around my garden at night. I've looked up some organic methods of slug control to try. The most common method seems to be to bury a jar or bottle with about an inch of beer in the bottom. The slugs are attracted to the fermenting beer and climb in for a taste, drowning in the brew.

While this must be at least somewhat effective due to the number of sources that recommend it, I found another method that is a little more appealing to me than removing jars of slimy drowned slugs - that is, if it works. Supposedly, caffeinated coffee grounds applied to the earth surrounding the plant will also kill the slugs. A caffeine spray may work as well. I'll give the ol' coffee method a go, and if need be I'll try the beer method.

Click here for more organic methods to control slugs.

Have any ideas of your own to add?

June 21, 2009

A Pretty Pest In The Garden

Over the weekend I found a couple pretty green and black bugs on my Fall Chrysanthemum. There were black spots covering the leaves on which they stood. I took a picture to use for identification and came across an article on them from the Michigan State University IPM News page.

Apparently these little buggers can be quite a nuisance. They use their piercing mouthparts to suck juices out of the plant, causing damage to the leaves and essentially killing the plant.

Some mothods of control are manual removal, and controlling weedy hosts. Applications of pesticides can also be used. Here are some that may be used:

Pesticides: Acephate, Pyrethroids, Chlorpyrifos, Cyfluthrin, Fluvalinate, Malathion
Organic pesticides: Horticultural Oil, Insecticidal Soap, Pyrethrum
Biocontrols (microscopic): Beauveria
Timing: Apply sprays in late spring or early summer, monitor in mid to late spring.

June 09, 2009

Volunteer Opportunities!

I have recently come across a volunteer opportunity that I am really excited to take part in. The local Michigan State Parks are, with the help of volunteers, removing invasive species and replenishiing native species. For more information on volunteer workdays in Michigan, check out the volunteer schedule on the DNR website.

My first volunteer day is going to be June 27th, as I help remove invasive garlic mustard from a nearby State Park. I'll be sure to report back on how it goes and what else I learn about the volunteer program!

For those with busy schedules, such as myself, there is training available to help people set up individual volunteer projects that can be done on your own, such as native seed collecting, monitoring bug population numbers, invasive plant mapping, or setting up and promoting volunteer workdays. To learn more, check out the Core Volunteer Steward Program.

To find volunteer opportunities in another state, try checking the volunteer page on The Nature Conservancy's website.

This is a great way to help preserve and protect the natural areas that I hope you are all getting a chance to get to out and enjoy!

Blooms, blooms, blooms!

Well, with two catalog orders now in the ground, and one additional purchase from a local plant seller, the garden is really starting to kick things off with some beautiful flowers! There is still a lot of filling out for my little plants to do, but all in good time. I am so pleased with the plants I have acquired!

The Allium show has just about come to an end. The final blooms are just begininng to wane. Now that the garden area around them has more plant life, I plan on relocating these so they are no longer lining the fence. It just looks wierd with the more relaxed layout of the rest of the bed.
The flower bed now contains Purple Coneflower, Painted Daisies, Shasta Daisies, some beautiful and dainty Arctic Fire Dianthus that I absolutely LOVE (left), Russian Sage, Red Creeping Sedum, Japanese Blood Grass, two colors of Coreopsis - one red one yellow (yellow pictured below).... I found a couple of plants that I hadn't heard of that I have completely fallen in love with. One of these is Gaura, (Gaura lindheimeri). The variegated leaves are beautiful on its irregular upright shape, and each stalk is topped with the most elegant flowers in shades of pink and white. It is now one of my favorites!

The Orchid Frost Lamium is beginning to take off around the pond. I love the foam green leaves and pretty pink flowers. I've also added Korean Feather Reed Grass, Bleeding Hearts, Ajuga, and Liriope to help fill in around the pond. I think I may also transplant some Vinca from other parts of the yard to help fill it in. It is just so shady and weedy back there, but I don't dare pull all the weeds yet or it will really look bare!
As well as new additions, I have also done some rearranging around the pond. My Caladium seemed to be getting scorched, so I moved it back and put the little autumn-toned Geranium in its place. Both seem to be happy so far in their new locations.
I had ordered a beautiful Monet Coralbell that I put back there, but it completely withered. I'm wondering if it was due to lack of sun, so I have moved it forward to an area where another coral bell of mine is thriving. I hope it comes back! It was one of the plants I was most looking forward to!

May 12, 2009


Slowly but surely, more and more plants are being acquired. I still have my second order yet to come. It looks so bare. At the farmer's market over the weekend I found a nice Coral Bell Dolce Mocha Mint that works nicely in front of the pond. While at English Gardens I picked up a wonderful little Geranium with beautiful fall-colored hues (pictured above). I love it.

The Alliums are just about to burst open with their beautiful purple puffs. I always love seeing the giant pom-poms float over the garden.
The Lamium are also in bloom, adding tiny pink accents upon the foam green foliage along the back edge of the pond.
I was also excited to find the Sorbet Orange Duet Violas I wanted to be sure to add. The combination of colors is beautiful to me on the happy little flower faces.

I have just a bit more filling in to do around the pond, but I have added a lot of ground cover plants, so hopefully they will do their thing and create a lush covering over the ground.

I added a white Caladium as an accent at the pond, which contrasted nicely with some Blue Salvia. Now I'm just anxious to get my next order so I can fill in the bare sunny section to the right of the pond. Hurry up Mr. Postman!

May 05, 2009

Finally Getting My Hands Dirty!

I've been clearing, raking, and tilling! Today I picked up my fertilizer, sulphur, and potash to incorporate into the soil. I need to get busy because my first plant order has come today from Bluestone Perennials!

I've applied the potash and sulfur over the area, and begun applying the water soluble fertilizer. The slope on the area around the pond is causing the water to run off into the pond, so I'm trying to water in intervals, allowing it to soak in each time. Luckily, our fish aren't out there yet. Our project this weekend will be to drain the cement pond and clean it out so we can get the fish out in the next week or two.

I've gotten the plants from my Bluestone order into the ground. It seemed like so much on the order slip, but now that I've gotten it all out there I've decided I need more plants!! :)

I have an order coming next week from Michigan Bulb Co. that is larger than this order. Hopefully that will help fill things in. I also have all my seedlings to get out there still, and some Marigold seeds to start outdoors(I found seeds for some beautiful Snowball Marigolds that I am very excited about. I'm also hoping to pick up some Purple Coneflower this weekend at the Detroit Farmers Market. That will be the backdrop along the fence, along with Russian Sage, Shasta Daisy, and Painted Daisy.

April 27, 2009

Soil Test

In order to properly prepare my planting area for my upcoming garden, I have sent in a soil sample to the MSU extension office to find out exactly what I need to do for the soil.

I sampled the area I'm going to be planting by using a plastic spade, taking about 8 to 10 samples from various spots within that area and mixing them in a plastic bowl. I sent off the sample to be tested for the standard criteria: all macro nutrients, pH, and CEC. After the expected three weeks, I was emailed my results.

The results show that I need to increase my Phosphorus and Potassium levels. I'm going to be adding 4 lbs of Potash over my 600 square foot garden area (a rate of 6 lbs / 1000 sq. ft.) to increase the Potassium levels. I'm also going to apply 6 lbs. of a water soluble 20-20-20 fertilizer over the area (a rate of 10 lbs / 1000 sq. ft.), to increase Nitrogen and Phosphorus levels.

To lower the pH (ideally around 6 or 6.5) I am going to be adding 9 lbs of Sulfur over the 600 square feet (a rate of 15 lbs / 1000 sq. ft.) I'm not going to be adding any organic matter to the soil, so as not to interfere with the reduction of the pH levels.

March 23, 2009

Getting things started!

I finally got some seedlings started for the season. I am going to be doing a garden around our pond area, and am incredibly excited to get started. I planted the following seeds:

- Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa)
- Love-in-the-Mist (Nigella damascena)
- Johnny Jump-ups (Viola tricolor)
- Snapdragons (Anntirhinum majus)
- Lobelia (Lobelia erinus)
- Mint
- Painted Daisies (Pyrethrum)
- Bachelor Buttons (Centaurea cyanus)

The painted daisies were the first to emerge just several days after planting, followed closely by the snapdragons and lobelia. The butterfly weed and Nigella have just begun to pop up.

Each protruding seedling raises my anticipation for moving everything outdoors just that much more.
I also have seeds for Marigolds, Snowball Marigolds, and Nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus), which I will sow outdoors once the weather is consistently warm enough, as well as some plant orders from a couple of catalogs.

February 16, 2009

Willow and Rose

My sweety got me something I love for Valentine's Day this year - PLANTS!

I received an adorable miniature rose plant, and a whimsical Weeping Pussy Willow (Salix caprea 'Kilmarnock'). I am going to keep the willow as an outdoor bonsai. I simply love them both!

The weeping pussy willow is actually just one of a list of trees I would like to acquire to bonsai. I also plan on getting a Bristlecone Pine, a Catalpa, and maybe a Sweeetgum.