Monday, May 26, 2014

Really tiny feet

When my parents moved from their country home into a condo, the one garden plant my mom insisted on taking was her orchid. Mom is an epically avid gardener, and after 30-some years of these particular gardens, the orchids were her prize. I recall scrambling for time in the last days of moving, grabbing a shovel and a cardboard box, and digging where she said "Dig". The orchid-containing dirt clump made it to my garden where I unceremoniously shoved it into some likely ground and hoped the roots would make it.

Fast forward through a particularly harsh Wisconsin winter, I frankly forgot where I had stuffed the clump. I spotted "something I shoved in the ground" coming up, ID-ed them as the orchids, was pleased (and relieved) they survived. Now that they are in full bloom, I totally get my mom's dedication to them. I'm shocked at how much I want to just stare at these; they look too exotic to be growing in this crazy scragly wooded plot we call a garden. I wander into the backyard as often as sanely possible to just ogle them. I would be charged with harassment if they had anything to say about it. In my defense, how can you not be totally awed by this?!

Yellow Lady-Slipper Orchid (Cyprimedium parviflorum)

(Beautiful photo credit to my husband and his mighty camera - he's my macro mac-daddy)

At the right angle, it really does look like a tiny shoe. Maybe it's the size of orchid blooms that makes us think of tiny fairy-folk. On that thought, we also have orchid hats to offer. The yellow ones go nicely with the slippers, although these purpley-pink ones would work in a cheerful jelly-bean theme kind of way.

Lilac Fairy Bishop's Hat orchid (Epimedium grandiflorum 'Lilafee')

The hat size seems out of proportion to the shoes though (we could think of this for the dainty fairy with honkin' big feet - maybe she'll be a tall fairy and grow into them). Yesterday when we went to the candy store for pot goodies (we live in Wisconsin people, so think plants for the front porch containers), we found yet another orchid (I know, right?!). A Bishop's Hat in white. Three or more is a collection, so with five types in the yard, we are officially orchid collectors now. Cool.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Rose-Breasted Grosbeak

Yesterday, the SouthEast Wisconsin Master Gardeners held their annual plant sale. I did my homework ahead of time, poring over the 12 pages of plants offered. We managed to get at least one of almost everything on our short list, including another Woodland Poppy! Even the Cinnamon Flakes Birch tree that I knew I wanted but wasn't sure (i.e. had no idea) where it would go. It doesn't get very big and has really cool-looking bark, so I want it close to the house where we can see it. We're testing locations; this looks likely:

Cinnamon Flakes Birch possible backyard location 

We placed the other newbies out and about in the gardens where they will go. Noted with irritation that the deer are hungry - time to spray anti-deer stink. It/they ate most of the astilbes, chomped some hostas, Tiarella and even some Bloodroot. The bites that really chapped my arse are those on the Bishop's Hat and Lady's-Slipper orchids - WTF!! It only takes a couple bites to figure out they aren't tasty, but it only takes one or two bites to ruin the plant. I'm particularly miffed about the Lady's-Slippers; the plants came from my parents home and I'm keen for them to survive.

Anyhoo, we spotted a Rose-Breasted Grosbeak in our ravine. We saw him, had no idea what it was, and dashed into the house for binocs & a bird book. I've heard both the chirp and the song without realizing it; the song is likened to a robin with opera training, or one that's just really happy. That's what I've heard - a robin singing its heart out. I don't know how we ever missed spotting a bird as big and distinctive as this before.

Rose-Breasted Grosbeak from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Thursday, May 15, 2014

The Orchid of Perseverance

It's a good thing, I think, to be reminded where perseverance will get you. If you are a plant in my garden, it's a requirement for survival. I generally fail when it comes to planting bare-root plants that come in the mail. The people selling plants assume I know what I'm doing and mean well. I mean well when I order them. The plants sure mean well. I like to believe they want to live.

A couple Winters ago, I had some pots stored in the garage. One such frigid pot contained the scraggly bare-root of a small, fragile-looking native orchid called an Epimedium. It was in a pot with some dirt as part of the "meaning well" journey of coaxing it to sprout, the idea being then I would plant it. It did actually sprout, and I set the pot in the garden. That's my trick for figuring out where a plant wants to live, but you could also call in procrastination. I never did actually get it into the ground. I stuck the pot in the garage with the rest of them, and pretty much forgot about it.

In the Spring when I started inspecting pots to move them outdoors, something looked weedy; it had all this unkempt leggy growth from being in the dark, and I actually thought it was remnants from the previous summer. Imagine my surprise to find it was that little orchid, persistent as all hell, not only alive, but blooming in the dark of my garage. I planted it as soon as the ground was workably warm, close to the edge of the garden. The flowers are small and deserve to be seen close up. After a season of growing, and another Winter, it is blooming again. What a treat!

Epimedium rubrum

The plant is also called a Bishop's Hat Orchid because of the shape of the flower, not owing to any divine intervention in its survival success. The persistence of this little plant turned a lot of our gardening towards native woodland species. Living in zone 5, we have a fair number of options for climate. Living in solid urban deer country limits that severely. Last year they ate hostas, lupines, tulips, columbines, geraniums, and I don't remember what else. They don't generally eat woodland regulars. Epimediums are considered ground covers (less invasive and far more interesting than Lily of the Valley). I was thrilled with the idea of masses of them in the gardens.

So... we added more. About 7 more. Three different varieties total.

Here's another now blooming, yellow flowers: 

Epimedium x versicolor 'Sulphureum'
One more variety yet to bloom, a lavender-pink color bloom I think. If I find any more colors, I'm sure I can find room for them too.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

CSA Season begins soon

This will be our 8th year getting veggies from Tipi Produce - I am so excited! The peeps are excited! Even the Dog is excited (did I mention she loves veggies?!).

 The weekly veg has thoroughly changed they way we eat. I'm looking forward to the constraints of cooking by what comes in the box. Too many choices is not easier.

Our first box should look something like this: