Friday, August 24, 2007

the effluvial plain

of our basement created these pretty cool patterns of silt deposits. Watching the water bubble up out of the drains was hypnotic and in between the moments of panic, kind of beautiful.

If it continued for millenia, and that really was silt, maybe we'd have a mountain rather than the stinky slick that's colonizing the basement right now.

Luckily, my husband thought of the camera and took these.

Very luckily, we had no tree damage. Yet.
The only casualty I could find was this ridiculously tall dahlia that just bloomed last week. I brought it in for some freshly-cut flower scent, (on account of the aforementioned stinky slick), and found this tiny, tastefully colored ladybug-type.

It took a while to realize there were two.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

mycelium delirium

"Mushrooms...are merely the surface features - the strange fruit - of much larger organisms known as mycelia. Their mazy tendrils creep beneath the forest floor, over rocks and roots, under bark and leaf litter, through rotting logs and decaying bones, digesting the dead and sustaining the living."


There has been rain every day, nearly all day, for the last few days. Everything is damp and fetid, and these little mushroom forests are popping up overnight.

Mushrooms can really fascinate and disgust me. This patch appeared on a very neglected square of parkway where a massive box elder grew for at least 80 years. It fell over two years ago, pretty spectacularly, and left a huge mound of mulch in the middle of which the city planted a tiny maple.

It's growing quickly, and so are the weeds and these mushrooms.

I usually try to avoid the area.

Last night I read this article about mushroom hunters in the
New Yorker with all sorts of crazy mushroom facts.
For instance:
  1. The world's largest organism is a mycelium in Oregon. It covers 2000 acres and is more than 8000 years old.
  2. Apparently, mushrooms can grow in one's body.
The world is a wondrous place, but maybe some things are better left alone. Like mushrooms.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Bloom day, the day after the day after.

Pee gee hydrangea, Hydrangea Paniculata, I think


Yeah, I'm late. I'm always a dollar short as well. I do appreciate the blooms of the late summer plants. They're always a surprise when many others begin to look tired. These hydrangea bushes bloomed in early spring, and while not having much of a scent, they are really dependable and beautiful.

I am also a fan of most sedums. I'm going to assume most of these are 'Autumn Joy' because many of the perennials that were here when we moved in were planted by the previous owner, a landscaper. In the six years we've lived here I think I've managed to identify most of them. I realized over time that most shrubs and perennials here are very popular in the Chicago area, and pretty common. It's only fairly recently that I've gained enough confidence to change the plans a bit, and every year 'the grounds' get a little more personalized.

Ok, not exactly a bloom, but this here's my first compost! Chicago has a great subsidized composter program that offers homeowners a deal on the 'Earth Machine'.
I bought one last summer and have been diligently saving compostable food scraps since. I have also been negligent toward my bin.
I don't turn very often, and I don't keep it moist regularly. I don't even know if this is really compost. But it came from the bottom and I through it in with a transplanted lady's mantle.
If it withers and dies, I'll have to rethink my scoop of 'black gold'.
I should probably attend some compost workshop.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

I've always wanted to know what it would be like in the Amazon river basin..

...and now I know. Chicago has been as humid of late, and while no howler monkeys scamper in the understory, if you close your eyes in the heavy damp of the evening the locust choir takes on a tropical tone, and one can imagine. Just like it!

On to more pressing matters...
July 15th

August 9th
This is a sea holly I have in a sunny bed. I planted it last summer ('06), when just a babe.
Earlier this year (spring '07), I tried out an Echinops ritro bulb right next to it. They look a bit similar, and I figured may the better thistle win. I do this in the spring. Toss in bulbs and walk away.
One day, I will know what I've planted.
I thought this was the Echinops. But no. It is the sea holly, an Eryngium.
I think it's Eryngium alpinum, but it could be a different cultivar. Since this is the first year it's flowered, I'm not sure if the rains we've been having have done it in or if this is its natural state of decline after blooming. Aside from the swarms (see earlier post where I called it Echinops), I've been really pleased with its appearance. Except for now.

Now this plant, Japanese anemone (Anemone hupehensis), is a pal. It is not fussy. It is hardy. It always blooms.
Its dark green foliage stays healthy and a little glossy the whole season, with or without care.
It passes the gauntlet of my neglect and still manages a slight exoticism.
The only toil it requires is some periodic containment. I can handle that.

Monday, August 6, 2007

dog days, or how to save the right front bed with my 3 point plan...

One of the main reasons for starting this blog was to have a place for all my garden notes and hopes and dreams, which seems to be a large part of gardening for me.
There is the practical need of having a site to place all the ideas for Next Year, a site that's easier to locate than the countless post-it notes I scribble on. There's also the need to have a site to place all the ideas I have about what I'm trying to accomplish; what sights, what smells, what kind of a place is my garden?

I have many ideas about this in March, and now, in full August heat, I'm trying to remember what those were. This is also the time when most plants in my beds seem a little pooped.
And so, on to Next Year.

This is a close up on one of the many patches of coneflower I plan to pull up. I've managed to pull up a few of the tattier ones, but I was struck by this one's white-green glow that doesn't really come across in this photo. I'm striving for more variety, but when I see so many pollinators hankering for some coneflower, I feel a little guilty yanking them out...

This right bed has a little lushness, but some of the phlox need to go. I also need to remember the no-grow zone in the front that's a favorite spot for many dogs. It took me a couple of years and many plants to figure that out.

There's still a little of the ho-hum to the front beds and while I know that most spectacular blooms are subject to pee, picking, or poking, I think it's time for a rotation.

Although I haven't had much luck in the past, I have lots of grand plans for growing from seed next spring. I'm also going to pick up as many end of the season sale pots I can. I would hate to have to resort to a life of crime to feed this little habit.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007


We went for a walk in the mountains and found what you'd expect: marmots, meadows, and lots and lots of lodgepole pines. But I didn't expect the wildflowers. It just seemed strange to find so many different kinds growing above the tree-line with very little water.

For instance...

This lunar pass was at 10-11,000' elevation and seems sparse without a good hard look at the ground...

These pink tufts are oval-leafed eriogonum and come in all sorts of colors in all sorts of zones.
The petals aren't petals, but sepals instead. Not sure what the exact difference is, but their tube-like quality lend them a nice sci-fi vibe, especially with the various lichens and whatnot.

In addition to the types of plants you'd expect to see in a very dry area at high elevations...

like this Anderson's thistle (which, according to the one book I have, was eaten by some Native Americans, raw or cooked)...

turning the corner, or endless switchback, could reveal a mini oasis with any spring. The yellow flowers are called seep-spring monkeyflower and the moss, well the moss was so...mossy. And if I ever move to the Pacific Northwest, a-moss gardening I will go.

This hiking trip we decided to limit our panoramic photography because it's really difficult to get a sense of the dizzying scale. The views one is privileged to experience just don't translate in a two dimensional snapshot.
So, we tried out lots of macro settings and close ups. I'm really happy with them because, oddly enough, they seem to detail the complexity of the place.

And the bugs looked cool too.

That fuzzy pea is the fruit of the large-leaf lupine, a beautiful blue delphinium-like plant. I'm not sure about either bug, but I'm telling myself the black bee is the Franklin bumblebee, a California native that's been MIA for two years.

After a few days we said goodbye to the heights and howls and headed back to the Midwest.

Returning from a trip is always a little hard, and the biodiversity of the back yard wasn't holding up too well against the mountains.

But then I saw a black swallowtail on a coneflower...