The Summer of Rain

I have a postage stamp flower garden out by the mailbox. (It cost more than 49 cents to put in…)

It’s filled with new perennials that decided to be first year bloomers –salvia, rudbeckia, daisies, and a bush honeysuckle. The cosmos self-seeded from last year and is blooming more profusely than ever. A caryopteris I planted last fall is just starting to get little blue fuzzy flowers; the monarda and the echinacea haven’t bloomed — they are just looking green and healthy.

Salvia with the “weeds” — backyard daisies and Queen Anne’s Lace

The daisies were just growing wild in the back yard. I transplanted them so red, yellow, pink, purple, and white flowers will bloom together in one little garden. These are the first flowers I’ve planted since we’ve been here at the cottage; the fruit trees and the berries and the grapes and the vegetables have taken precedence.

Rudbeckia Hirta or Black-eyed Susan

I take so much pleasure from this small triangle of color out my window. Only easy-grow flowers that are on the Deer Don’t Like Me list are planted there; though a rabbit chewed on the coneflower leaves last night.

Diervilla lonicera or Bush Honeysuckle

I’ve been keeping blood meal around the flowers to keep the critters out; perhaps that’s why they are so happy. Or it could be all the rain. The flowers love it; the vegetables do not. That’s why I am writing about the flowers instead of the sad unripe tomatoes; or the peppers with no blossoms and no fruit; or the squash with lots of blossoms but no fruit. Sigh.

The flowers are splendid though, and they cheer my heart when I start to whine about the vegetable garden.

And, this year we have pears! More about that in two weeks or so…

(You will note that the sky in this photo is not blue. Blue skies have been few and far between this summer.)

Just in case you would like to see my “Deer Don’t Like Me” list of deer-resistant plants, shrubs, and flowers, here is the one I’ve compiled:

the beautiful Cosmos bipinnatus…you can never grow too many.

Perennials:
Artemisia Silver Mound, Lamium, Sweet Woodruff, Rocket ligularia, Wild Ginger (Asarum canadense), Wood Fern, Oenothera, Lemon Balm, Poppies, Monarda, Peonies, Achillea, Echinacea, Hyssop (Agastache), Iris, Coreopsis, Balloon flower (Platycodon), Daffodils, Lambs Ears, Asparagus, most herbs.

Annuals:
Snapdragons, Zinnias, Cleome, Lantana, Marigolds, Globe Amaranth, Ageratum, Dusty Miller, Larkspur, Nicotiana, Annual Vinca.

 

And the cheerful volunteer daisies, genus and species unknown…

Shrubs and Small Trees:
Spirea,  Blue Mist Shrub (Caryopteris clandonensis), Potentilla, Buddleia, Inkberry, Lilac, Korean Boxwood, Northern Bayberry (Myrica Pennsylvanica),  Pieris Japonica, Mountain Pieris (Pieris Floribundas), Summersweet (Clethra Alnifolia), Leatherleaf Mahonia, Red Elderberry (Sambuca racemosa), Russian cypress, Daphne (Carol Mackie), Carolina Allspice (Calycanthus floridus), Hazelnut (Corylus Americana).

This is just my list of what I like and might thrive here in Zone 6A. You might want to check out this site for a more compete list.

But every list will add the disclaimer –Nothing is completely deer proof. Holly is on most every list of plants that deer won’t eat; yet the deer ate my two holly bushes down to almost nothing last winter — and we had a mild winter with almost no snow cover.

Gardeners around Western Pennsylvania are hoping for a sunny August…

The Accidental Orchid Reblooms

Last March I wrote about my accidental orchid, and how astonished I was that this delicate hothouse flower would bloom (seventeen blooms actually) in my humble cottage under my humble and inexperienced care.

Allow me to extol her virtues further. The last of her white flowers dropped off sometime in June. (If I had known that she would be reblooming soon, I would have kept better statistics…) That is a four month period  of spectacular white flowers on my kitchen windowsill. I let her rest for a couple of weeks, and then cut back her two flower stems.

Can you believe that within a week a third stem began to grow, and now, the first day of August, a mere forty days after her last blooms dropped off, this amazing orchid has opened again. This time she has twenty three buds on three different flower stems.

I have come to love her serene beauty so much, that I’m thinking of buying another one to keep her company. I haven’t found the exact right color yet — perhaps a pale pink beauty — a bridesmaid to the Summer Bride.

The Accidental Orchid

Last summer my son-in-law brought me out two of his house plants to tend while he went home to Spain for a month. I was glad to tend the hydrangea; it was in a big pot and it could live outside on the porch next to mine. Mine was pink; his was blue. They would look lovely together, and I’m not afraid of hydrangeas.

The other was an orchid. I shook my head at that one. “Oh, I’ll kill that one for sure,” I said. “I’m not good with any plants that are tender or need a lot of care.”

“It’s okay,” he said. “Just give it three ice cubes a week. Or 1/4 cup of water. No direct sun, and if it doesn’t work, I’m not attached to it. Don’t worry.” Even though he said all that, I still didn’t want him come back to a dead orchid.

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That was in July. It had one icy white bloom atop a long thin stem; it looked very fragile. The bloom dropped off within a couple of weeks and left the long green stem. It wasn’t very attractive, but I dutifully gave it a quarter cup of water every Sunday. I didn’t think ice cubes would be good for a tropical flower.

After he came back from Spain, he was in the process of moving and told me to just keep the plants. The orchid didn’t do much for two or three months, and I was starting to think it was silly to keep watering such an ugly plant. (There’s a lesson there in that sentence….) But it didn’t look unhealthy, so I kept watering it.

One morning I was moving all the plants and dusting the window sill when I saw odd looking growths coming from the base of the plant. They were silvery. I had no idea, but since something was happening, I did some basic research on Phalaenopsis Orchid.

fullsizeoutput_18fa These were air roots. Of course. Every plant has air roots, right?

I did more research. There are about a hundred million web sites for novice orchid growers, and they don’t all agree. But the first web site I checked suggested cutting back the old flower spike. It may send out a new shoot, or it may not. Depends if it’s happy or not…

It didn’t seem unhappy, so I cut it back by half. Within days a little sprout appeared just above where it had been cut back. And within days of that little sprout, another shoot appeared, and this time it was growing out of the dirt. Er… it isn’t really dirt. It is magic orchid-growing chunks of pixie dust ‘media’.

Excitement mounted, and I went back to researching. It turns out that the 3-ice cubes per week is a Thing. More correctly, a company — Just Add Ice Orchids. Most of the spectacular flowering orchids that the big box stores are selling right now are orchids from this company. I have always just passed them right by, because I’m not really a fan of delicate hothouse flowers. Did I say that already?
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With air roots and two flower spikes, I actually started to get excited and attached to it. I texted my son-in-law with a photo. He corrected me on its gender and called the orchid a she. Yes, it is plain from the photos, she is a lovely March bride.

img_7837I began to use the ice cube method, since it has obviously been approved — not only approved, encouraged. Her flower spikes grew tall, and soon there were little bumps all along both of the spikes. Dare I think they would be flower buds? I counted them. There were seventeen!

Before you think that I am an absolute genius with tender hothouse orchids, I have a confession.

I struggle with lack of light in the months of November through February. (Does this mean that I myself might be similar to a tender hothouse plant?) So this winter I bought four JOYOUS lightbulbs — full spectrum light that mimics natural daylight. As I was choosing where to put them, I noticed in big print on the packaging (that’s the only kind I can read these days…) that these light bulbs can also be used as grow lights. So I put one of them in the schoolhouse light over the kitchen sink, so the houseplants on the window ledge could benefit from joyful light too.
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I cannot say with full certainty this is why the orchid is so magnificent. Several of the websites I visited said that light does not affect the blooming of orchids. Can I say I don’t believe them? I must also say that this is the first year that my tender Rosemary plant still looks this healthy in early March. Usually it dies by mid-January.

I sent a text to Pedro the other day with a photo of how spectacular she is. I offered to give her back. He generously declined, saying, “She must love your window.”

And the hydrangea? The deer ate it to nubs one night last fall. I brought the container of small sticks inside and shoved it in a corner of the kitchen. Since spring is around the corner (What corner, Where?) it is starting to come back too. I’m hoping its lovely lavender bloom will take over when the last orchid blossom falls off.

So go for that spectacular orchid. If I can do it, you can too.