LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — Red Oak House Garden Notes No. 41 — Cutworms Get Broccoli, Grill Goes On Fritz

Every gardener experiences successes and failures and must learn to go with the flow.

The first of the Zinnias I planted in April in the basement.
The first of the Zinnias I planted in April in the basement.

Here at Red Oak House, the cutworms killed the heretofore vigorous broccoli. Mr. Green Jeans has replanted broccoli and protected the plants this time with milk cartons. On the bright side, the tomatoes look terrific, as does the rest of the vegetable garden. And for now, the beds are mostly weed free. The walleye are still biting, and, to our delight, we received over an inch of rain in the first two days of the week.

The tall bearded irises are vexing this year. I have only myself to blame as I had forgotten to order special fertilizer in a timely fashion and applied it late. I’m not certain this is the complete explanation, but I know it is a critical piece. I’m also struggling with increasing shade on the beds, a good problem to have I suppose. I’m going to have to decide whether to move all of the sun-loving plants into the two beds that receive (mostly) full sun, and I regret that I won’t be able to scatter these about all of the beds. Probably I’ll give it one more year to see if timing the fertilizer correctly is the trick. That said, I do have lots of irises I need to divide come August.

One large and healthy looking iris (right) sent up many new flower stalks, but they shriveled up without opening. Shade? Too much heat? I just don’t know. Everything around it seems to have had adequate moisture. A bitter pill to swallow.

We ate the first fresh radishes Wednesday and the house wrens seem to be raising a brood in their home on our back patio. Sometimes when I get too close, one of the adult wrens comes exploding out of the house right into my face. Gets me nearly every time. Look closely below and you will see one of the adults peering at me through the top opening of the house.

Today, I turned to the page in my book “Words for Birds” and learned:

“House Wren Troglodytes aedon. Wren is the modern form of Middle English wrenne and Old English wraenna and wraene, which were used not only for the bird but also to mean ‘lascivious.’ Why the Angles and Saxons thoughts this bird to be any more lascivious than others is not all clear. Troglodytidae is formed from the Greek troglodytes, meaning ‘cave dweller,’ and coined from trogle, ‘hole’ or ‘cave’ (literally, one made by gnawing), and dytes, ‘inhabitant.’ The word is thought to suggest the wrens’ constant seeking for cover. The Troglodytes of mythical fame were a cave-dwelling people of Ethiopia. For the house wren (Troglodytes aedon), adeon is Greek for ‘songstress,’ especially a nightingale. In the myth, Aedon, a queen of Thebes, was jealous of her sister-in-law who had many children. She plotted to kill her eldest nephew but by mistake slew her own son. Zeus relieved her grief by turning her into a nightingale. Some may think the call of the house wren is comparable to that of the nightingale. House alludes either to the care with which the wren builds its nest or the ease with which the wren can be attracted to a nest-box.” (pgs. 200-201)

My peonies are also something of a disappointment this year. I wait all year long, each year, hoping it will be better than the last, thus my occasional gardener’s blues. I moved many of the peonies just a few years back and they are taking longer to get established than I would like. I’m trying to be patient, but these take up a huge amount of space in the perennial beds and they’d better carry their weight soon or else. Some large plants have just a few blossoms at most, and a few have none. I’ve read the advice of North Dakota gardening expert, Don Kinzler, and know that at least one of my plants needs to be divided.

That said, peonies are bright color in the time when I await the daylily blossom — and have such heavenly fragrance.

The ninebark and viburnum are also blooming now, as is the large patch of Wood’s rose, although I’ve noticed that the Wood’s rose has far fewer blossoms than previous years. Again, the drought is the likely explanation.

My front yard hosta garden looks splendid this year. The message is that shade gardens, while subdued, are very pleasing. When I planned the hosta garden, I was looking for a Zen-like woodland vibe and I achieved that. Last week, I purchased more Praying Hands hosta and changed out the dirt in that area completely when I added the new seedlings to the existing plant. A previous owner must have had gravel on much of the front yard. Later, a thin layer of dirt was added and grass planted, so I’ve had to fight the gravel and poor soil, a battle I finally seem to be winning.

On other fronts, I’m very nervous that the city is going to make good on its threats and put a sidewalk across the front of our property. All shown in the photo below will be lost, including the first thing I planted when we moved in, a robust Taunton spreading yew. I sure hope not!

The grill is on the fritz, but Jim is working on it and had a backup in the storage area so all was not lost when it was time to make kabobs.

Oh, and those gazillion elm seeds I complained about. They are sprouting. More weeding, less blogging, I guess. And a stack of good books for summer reading!

Finally, the showstopper right now in the garden is the gorgeous tree peony that burst into bloom today. A Bartzella tree peony, it has become one of my favorite plants, both because of its yellow glory and because it was an exceptionally thoughtful gift from my friend, Bob. He must have known how I love the color yellow.

Now, we will end our week with some great Dakota live music, ala Chuck Suchy, at the Co-op and the Cross Ranch Bluegrass Festival. The good life.

LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — Red Oak House Garden Notes No. 40 — It Rains!

The days continue to grow longer here in the northern latitudes as the calendar progresses toward the summer solstice, and our garden is proof of that inescapable rhythm.

It finally has rained, although not much. Yet, we are extremely grateful for the precipitation, in spite of the fact that some of it fell as we were conducting our book sale.

I have no doubt that much of the death of perennials and shrubs I’ve observed this year is due to the constant need to irrigate with city water. Treated water is not nearly as beneficial as rain. On the bright side, a few plants I’d given up as dead are starting to show some life and as North Dakota gardening expert Don Kinzler said, one must have patience in a year like this. Sadly, my shrub rose is dead as a doornail.

I’ve resisted the urge to transplant two shrubs I have plans to relocate, given that this is the year our house is on the garden tour. Tweaking and moving is a constant way of life for the gardener. I keep a notebook throughout the year with my tasks for the garden.

Jim proclaims that the vegetable garden looks as good as it ever has and last Thursday we ate the first fresh lettuce. Jim also pointed out to me that the first blossoms are on the Bloody Butcher tomatoes, plants he sprouted from seed he had saved from last year’s crop. Meanwhile, the weeds are thriving in every location and keep us on our knees in removal mode.

Last week, a hellacious wind howled through in the night and blew about a billion elm seeds from the neighbor’s tree two houses over into drifts on our patio (below). Armed with a broom and dustpan, I scooped these up, knowing that next year I’ll be pulling the sprouts from the perennial beds by the thousands.

We’ve also grown very weary of all of the pine pollen in the air, which drifts in through our open windows and coats every flat service in the house (above). Hopefully, the rain of the past few days will take care of that problem.

The dwarf iris blooms have subsided and the remainder of bearded irises show hints of blooms to come. Lilac time has come and gone, except for the Korean lilac we have in (mostly) shade that blooms late and does not bloom profusely. I put it there because I had the idea that the aroma would float into our bedroom and bring us pleasant dreams. And so it does.

In their place are the blooms of the anemone, bleeding heart and violets. In one bed that has increasing shade as our trees grow taller, I’ve allowed the columbine to spread and am slowly moving the daylilies to sunnier locations. Yes, I know that columbine can be invasive; after the blooms are spent, I’ll take some action.

I hit up a neighborhood plant sale this past weekend and added two new daylilies and three new hostas to my collection. When I was weeding Tuesday, I watched a sleek, chocolate-colored vole scamper through the flower bed.

To replace the two vines that died or were killed by rabbits, I’ve planted a Trumpet vine and replaced the Autumn Revolution bittersweet. Shortly after this purchase, I discovered that the bittersweet vine that had been severed by the rabbits is sprouting from the root. It will take about five years for the bittersweet to grow to the size it had been. I’m going to carefully protect these with wire next fall.

Memorial Day has come and gone. We attended this year’s program at the nearby North Dakota Veterans Cemetery, where all of the speakers praised the rain that was dampening attendees. Our priest, Monsignor Chad Gion (left, with Jim, a U.S. Navy veteran) gave a marvelous closing prayer, encouraging us to “lead heroic lives.”

These days, when we sit down for a spell on the patio, the goldfinches on the sock thistle feeder entertain us. Around the back of the house, I heard a robin pitching quite a fit, which tells me that one of its hatchlings must be on the ground. Our resident house wren pair cheers us each day.

And another three-tenths of an inch of rain Tuesday night is so very welcome. The front yard hosta garden under the Red Oak tree looks marvelous this year. Jim is off to fish almost every day. June just may be the best month.

“If the light is in your heart, you will find your way home.” — Rumi

LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — Walk On The Wild Side — In The Bad Lands

While life at Red Oak House here on Missouri River is filled with many blessings and much happiness, as frequently as possible we refresh our spirits with visits to the Bad Lands of North Dakota, which we did early this week, joined by our daughter, Chelsea, and Paul and Joe, our friends from Arizona.

We met on the veranda of the Rough Riders Hotel to make a plan. After a quick lunch, determining that Paul had not been to the Chateau de Mores since his southwest N.D. childhood days, we went there to tour. Joe had never been. Thus it was a good way to reflect upon the founding of the town of Medora and the colorful characters who lived there in the 1880s. When Chelsea was in college, she worked at the Chateau for the summer, as part of the interpretative staff, in period costume. I’m pleased at how much she remembers.

It was a perfect late May day and the Bad Lands are very green right now. There is an array of wildflowers in bloom, including Prairie Ragwort and, my favorite, Prairie Smoke.

We spent the remainder of their two-day visit hiking Theodore Roosevelt National Park trails and driving the loop road. It was very interesting to observe the effects of the recent controlled burn, which although it might seem extreme due to the fire’s proximity to the road, close observation revealed a mosaic pattern that mimics the natural prairie fire process, effecting a relatively small percentage of the Park’s total acreage.

We observed many grazers taking advantage of the fresh green native grasses that had quickly sprouted in the wake of the fire, including a fine bull elk.

Day 2 found us taking a four-mile hike to the Petrified Forest on the park’s west side, a place neither Joe nor Paul had seen, and it was another pleasant day with temperatures in the high 70s. I pointed out to my companions that we were in the officially designated wilderness within the park. A couple of bison bulls were spotted and we gave them a sufficiently wide berth.

Although I’m fairly knowledgeable regarding prairie wildflowers, this one (right) had me stumped (although I thought it was likely a vetch). In all of the miles we hiked, I saw only this one large clump of this specimen. Later, I checked with friends, crowd-sourcing this on social media. One of my friends identified it as a Narrow-leaved Milkvetch (Astragalus pectinatus).

The dominant birds of the day were Lazuli buntings, bobolinks, meadowlarks and yellow-breasted chats. While we hiked, I taught the others some about the birds and plants and confessed to being rather a dunce when it comes to rocks.

While we hiked and chatted, we learned that our friends had never been to the Elkhorn Ranch. By Godfrey, this must be solved, we said, and off we went. The ticks were thick there and a very fine specimen of a bull snake slithered across the trail. We were pleasantly surprised to find a few other visitors who’d made the trek.

Then, it was time to return to Medora, for pizza, followed by a farewell to our good friends and trail companions, until their next visit to North Dakota.

“My home ranch-house stands on the river brink. From the low, long veranda, shaded by leafy cotton-woods, one looks across sand bars and shallows to a strip of meadowland, behind which rises a line of sheer cliffs and grassy plateaus. This veranda is a pleasant place in the summer evenings when a cool breeze stirs along the river and blows in the faces of the tired men, who loll back in their rocking-chairs (what true American does not enjoy a rocking-chair?), book in hand–though they do not often read the books, but rock gently to and fro, gazing sleepily out at the weird-looking buttes opposite, until their sharp outlines grow indistinct and purple in the after-glow of the sunset.” — Theodore Roosevelt

LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — Red Oak House Garden Notes No. 39

The air is fragrant here at Red Oak House because all of the crab apple trees and lilacs are blooming. Thus, it is exceptionally pleasant to work at our gardening chores. The juneberry bush is loaded with blossoms, and our resident house wrens have returned. Their cheerful call makes our back patio an even more pleasant haven.

Jim has finished planting the vegetable garden, and it appears that this year’s asparagus crop is done. All vegetables have sprouted and there is a promise of fresh lettuce and spinach soon to come.

I’ve been busy planting annuals: 133 zinnias I sprouted in the basement earlier this spring and over a 100 impatiens. I’ve also completed the work I’ve been doing revamping a pathway around the side of the house from the gate to the patio — hard work. While I work, I listen to the brown thrasher, warbling vireo and Swainson’s thrush songs.

First, I dug in the stones, laying each on a bed of sand. Then, I planted 32 creeping thyme all around the stones. I crossed my fingers that these thrive and fill in the open space. My hope is that the dog drags into the house just a little less mud in the long run. I get mighty weary of mopping floors and have so many other things I’d rather do with my life.

While I worked in the flower beds, I found so much winter kill I just wanted to sit and have a cry about it, but Jim reminds me how much is still alive and growing.

The tulip strategy I used last fall, planting a row within the vegetable garden fence in order to foil the rabbits, worked perfectly, a cheerful row of bright colors.

Last spring, I transplanted from the Bad Lands Prairie Smoke (below), my favorite prairie wildflower, and it is blooming nicely so there is a success story.

The iris blooms are waiting in the wings. Any day now.

“The day you think you know, your death has happened — because now there will be no wonder and no joy and no surprise. Now you will live a dead life.” — Osho

DAVE VORLAND: It Occurs To Me — A Proustian Moment

Here’s another photo from my visit Tuesday to the University of Minnesota Landscape Arboretum not far from our place in Bloomington, Minn.

These are hawthorn blossoms, French writer Marcel Proust’s favorite flower.

When I got home, I looked up what he had to say about them. Those who haven’t read Proust will notice he used long sentences.

“I found the whole path throbbing with the fragrance of hawthorn-blossom. The hedge resembled a series of chapels, whose walls were no longer visible under the mountains of flowers that were heaped upon their altars; while underneath, the sun cast a square of light upon the ground, as though it had shone in upon them through a window; the scent that swept out over me from them was as rich, and as circumscribed in its range, as though I had been standing before the Lady-altar, and the flowers, themselves adorned also, held out each its little bunch of glittering stamens with an air of inattention, fine, radiating ‘nerves’ in the flamboyant style of architecture, like those which, in church, framed the stair to the rood-loft or closed the perpendicular tracery of the windows, but here spread out into pools of fleshy white, like strawberry-beds in spring.

“How simple and rustic, in comparison with these, would seem the dog-roses which, in a few weeks’ time, would be climbing the same hillside path in the heat of the sun, dressed in the smooth silk of their blushing pink bodices, which would be undone and scattered by the first breath of wind.

“But it was in vain that I lingered before the hawthorns, to breathe in, to marshal before my mind (which knew not what to make of it), to lose in order to rediscover their invisible and unchanging odor, to absorb myself in the rhythm which disposed their flowers here and there with the light-heartedness of youth, and at intervals as unexpected as certain intervals of music; they offered me an indefinite continuation of the same charm, in an inexhaustible profusion, but without letting me delve into it any more deeply, like those melodies which one can play over a hundred times in succession without coming any nearer to their secret.”

Yup, that’s exactly what it was like Tuesday.

LA VALLEUR COMMUNICATES: Musings by Barbara La Valleur — Spring Is In The Air

Longing for spring — REALLY? Nothing brightens up your day quite like a trip to Bachman’s Spring is in The Air flower show at the Galleria.

The Galleria welcomed tens of thousands of visitors since the beginning of Galleria Spring is in the Air — Bachman’s Flower Show (formerly at the downtown Minneapolis Macy’s) late last month.

According to Wendy Eisenberg, Galleria general manager, there are 2,500 parking places at the upscale Edina, Minn., shopping location. I drove around three times (surface and underground areas) for 20 minutes today without finding a spot. And I have a handicapped parking allowance! Valet parking is highly recommended!

I had to emember to … look up, look down, and all around … birdhouses (?), bikes (2) and butterflies (8) … were “hidden throughout the floral experience.” A brochure helped locate them.

There were 2,400 bulbs that were coaxed into early blooming by the experts at Bachman’s for the event according to their brochure. Over 100 different types of flowers, trees and plants are displayed in 25 different areas throughout the Galleria on both levels.

Bachman’s also has a shop in the former Chico’s if you want to take a bit of spring back home.

 

LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — The Rhythms Of Life: Family And Garden

“… all that we behold
Is full of blessings”
—  William Wordsworth

I spent some of the morning with my nonagenarian father, who teaches me each day about dignity and stoicism. When out in public, he almost always wears a hat, and these hats tell about his life.

Garland Crook.
Garland Crook.

I think the fact that he was in the U.S. Army Security Agency reveals much about him and his sense of duty. I remember as a girl when he would often be looking for clues of poachers or other such miscreants who might be in the neighborhood. This made it challenging as a teenager, since in the long run, one couldn’t get away with much. (On one memorable occasion, when I had missed curfew, my parents made me clean out the chicken coop — what a miserable day!) Oh, and the fact that he had a CB radio meant we teenagers were also somewhat monitored.

Each day, my father looks more and more like his mother, Lena Bell, aka Mama Crook, with that square and clenched Ellis jaw. I have that jaw and that way of setting my jaw when I’m having to dig deep for determination. So does my Aunt Fran, one of his sisters.

He has always been a wonderful storyteller and appreciates a good joke. Whenever he sees my husband, he asks about the fishing. His brother tried to convince him once that he’d be a good tournament fisher, and though it wasn’t the path he took in life, I’m sure my uncle was right.

You can read more about my Daddy and his service in the U.S. Army here.

In my garden, the daylilies are waning.

Jim canned the first jars of tomato juice and made more pickles.

I cooked the promised tomatoes stuffed with black rice risotto, along with a slab of baked salmon, taking advantage of the cool weather in which to bake. We ate it on the patio, savoring the last few moments here on the northern Plains to eat outside.

ERIC BERGESON: Photo Gallery — Bergeson Gardens

Bergeson Gardens, located southeast of Fertile, Minn., at Bergeson Nursery, is in full bloom and will be through early September. There will be an open house at the nursery Saturday, which will feature free coffee and donuts, food and ice cream for sale, music (11 a.m. and 3 p.m.) and garden tours (10 a.m. and 2 p.m.). All plants will be 20 percent off Saturday and Sunday only.

LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — Red Oak House Garden Notes No. 24

Three-quarter of an inch of rain in a wondrous thunderstorm this morning (Wednesday) started the day off right here at Red Oak House. For the second day in a row, it will be cool enough for us to leave the windows open all day.

Vegetable harvest has begun in earnest and Jim has frozen many bags already.

Last night, we had what we call “nothing from the store supper.” The first new potatoes, beans, broccoli and walleye. Who needs a restaurant?

As you can see from the plate above, we’ve begun to eat our heirloom tomatoes. These are bloody butchers. The jungle promises much more tomato bliss to come.

Other blooming plants make our garden a real oasis of tranquility in the midst of a bustling city.

On a different note, this song I’ve been listening to on Jackson Browne Solo Acoustic is running through my head:

“Everyman”:

Everybody I talk to is ready to leave

With the light of the morning

They’ve seen the end coming down

Long enough to believe

That they’ve heard their last warning

Standing alone

Each has his own ticket in his hand

And as the evening descends

I sit thinking ’bout Everyman

Seems like I’ve always been

Looking for some other place

To get it together

Where with a few of my friends

I could give up the race

And maybe find something better

But all my fine dreams

Well thought out schemes

To gain the motherland

Have all eventually come down

To waiting for Everyman

Waiting here for Everyman

Make it on your own if you think you can

If you see somewhere to go I understand

Waiting here for Everyman

Don’t ask me if he’ll show, baby I don’t know

In different lighting, Wide Wide World daylily, shows off different hues so why not one more photo? It’s my blog after all.

Time for Manhattans in the shade of the front patio.  Cheers!

LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — Red Oak Garden Notes No. 21 — Daylily Time Has Come

Gentle reader, I’ve been writing about the past, but today, it is time to return to my garden notes as the daylilies are exploding in all their glory.  Between my sister and I, we have 219 varieties of daylily. They are fairly easy to grow and hardy in our northern climate.

Little Audrey Daylily.
Little Audrey Daylily.

I was first exposed to daylilies by my friend and mentor, Bernnett Reinke, who was a very enthusiastic collector. Every three years or so, in order for these to thrive, the plant should be divided. Thus, it was that Bern gave me my first daylilies.

When we bought Red Oak House, I joined the Central Dakota Daylily Society and attended my first member auction in the basement of the Bismarck Public Library. At the auction, the bounty of the club’s divisions are sold. Pictures of the cultivars are shown on the screen as well as the particulars like color, height, time of bloom and so on. The club chooses the daylilies carefully for our growing zone and also selects for beauty. Since, then, it has become an annual event for my sister and I, and we come armed with our Excel list of varieties we already own and our newsletter list marked up as our wish list.

In addition to my database, I have markers for all of my perennials. My sister does a better job than I, as she also has a map of her flower beds.

In the fall, she and I are going to have a plant sale. It will be lots of work, but our plants have grown to the point that we can do this with those we both have, and we can build a slush fund for purchasing new varieties.

Peak bloom time has not yet arrived in my yard, but it is almost here. Meanwhile, here are more photos from today.

Listening to the radio as we drove home, we heard news that some parts of the Bad Lands received 1 inch of rain in Monday night’s storm. That is terrific news,m and I hope it is helping them in the efforts to tamp down that monster (fire).

It is good to be home. My sister has left a container full of her raspberries in our fridge. It is cool in the yard this evening — all things being relative.

I’ve got some de-heading to do.