Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Foxglove, milkweed, a mystery bulb and a rusty typewriter

Older chives and young lilies before bloom
I have just been taking pictures in the front garden.  The sun doesn't shine there directly until about 11:00, so the morning is the best time for photos.  Probably because we had such a mild winter, this year's garden holds some surprises.  For one thing, a snapdragon overwintered, which is unheard of here.  That's more of a Zone 7 thing, and we're in Zone 5b or 6a, depending on who you ask.  Apparently no one told this snapdragon.  I've surrounded him with snaps I've grown from seed, and they look outrageously puny by comparison, because they are now putting out roots before doing their jazz hands thing.  

I started over 140 seedlings under lights this year.  I used to do it all the time, but when we moved here and had some money I got lazy and started buying annuals from the garden center.  This year for the first time (because I'm slow) I realized how doused in all kinds of chemicals plants at the garden center are.  They are treated with a concoction to make them bloom fast, and another elixir to make their foliage grow slowly, and they are pesticided and fertilized beyond belief.  (How they still arrive with slugs in them is a mystery.)  Also, many of them are genetically modified, a practice which does no one but the growers any good at all.  They certainly don't contribute to our organic lifestyle.

So this year I ordered seeds from Seed Savers Exchange, which claims to sell only heirloom varieties, untreated with anything.  The marigolds I ordered are supposed to be extremely fragrant, "the way you remember them from childhood."  Well, nothing is the way I remember it because it never was that way to begin with, but I live in hope.  Right now the little things are still quite spiky and puny.  

Ferny fennel
We've had a lot of fennels spring up, seemingly from nowhere.  Two years ago we planted a fennel from the garden center.  It never did very well and kind of withered away (perhaps due to the chemicals it came with) but apparently it managed to seed the surrounding area before it gave up the ghost.  This year we have about five strong, strapping gorgeous fennel plants.  They are the host plant for a whole lot of nice butterflies, so hopefully they will be found and used well.  

Hello, butterflies!
We are likewise inundated with milkweeds.  We have several native milkweed volunteers in our wildflower bed to the north, but last year or the year before I ordered one from Companion Plants in Athens, Ohio, which is a magnificent source for artisan-grown plants.  That one plant, like the aforementioned fennel, did all right the first year and then kind of petered out, but it obviously also seeded before dying.  This year we have four milkweed plants in that general area.  They are also vital to the lifecycle of various butterflies, and are very welcome.

digitalis very purpurea
The foxgloves have taken off, too.  Last year I collected and scattered the seeds from the foxgloves, and a few of them have sprouted.  These plants don't know they are bienniel, and they come up in pretty much the same place every year.  Originally I bought them in all kinds of hybridized shades, but as they reappear year after year they have lost their phony whites and yellows and are now back to the luscious pinky purple they should be.  These foxgloves are thugs, and most of the plants are over five feet tall already.  Once they start going to seed I'll slip some knee-high stockings over their seed heads and tie them down tight, and wait for seed harvest.  It's an interesting look for them.  

Probably garlic
We have a six-foot-tall garlic-type plant, which we believe to be garlic.  We're not going to dig it up to find out.  We almost remember planting it, and if we did it was an impulse purchase in the checkout line at the local garden center.  Right now it has this large flower bulb on the top, which bends this way and that depending on mood and whether Mercury is in retrograde.  The other day it was bent at 90 degrees, pointing south.  After a good rain it pointed west.  Several smaller flower bulbs adorn the plant lower down.  If we did have it last year - and again, we can't remember because we forget things - it was nowhere near this large.  If it is garlic, its underground bulb is the size of a dinner plate.

Finally, the old typewriter I put out on a stump earlier this year is rusting nicely.  It was light years beyond use or repair.  Fortunately, it is decorative.  For some reason I was surprised to find it is attractive to birds looking for a place to rest, as evidenced by a few whitish deposits.  Maybe we'll have a nice rain soon to restore it to its former pristine shabbiness.

Overlooking the pond