Peak daylily bloom here at Red Oak House has passed, and I can’t help but feel a bit wistful about this.
Dakota Sunshine daylily.
The focus of this past July has been daylilies of all kinds, and not just in my garden. Late in the month, I took in an exhibit of daylily art at Bismarck Art Gallery Associates, where it was delightful to see the creative talents of friends on display.
Later that week, the Region One Daylily Association had its annual gathering in Bismarck/Mandan, an event that the Central Dakota Daylily Association — I’m a member — has been planning for years. I was truly in the presence of some hard-core daylily enthusiasts and it was great fun. (I confess that I bought three new varieties.) I even got to meet Melanie Mason, one of the nation’s premier daylily hybridizers. I own a few of her creations.
Melanie Mason and Lillian.
Here is a wrap-up of some of my daylily photos since my last blog. Now it is time to focus on canning and freezing vegetables and preparing for autumn garden chores.
Webster’s Pink Wonder daylily.
Lemon Meringue Twist daylily.
Bama Music daylily.
Ruffled Rainbow daylily.
Gavin Petit daylily.
Chicago Scintillation daylily.
Prairie Moonlight daylily.
Little Light of Mine daylily.
Strawberry Cream Cupcake daylily.
Raspberry Griffin daylily.
ust Plum Happy daylily.
Best For Last daylily.
Huckleberry Candy daylily.
Notify Ground Crew daylily.
Prairie Home Companion daylily.
Northwind Dancer daylily with Orange Rocket barberry in background.
Later this month (Aug. 21), Red Oak House is on the Bismarck/Mandan garden tours. Sadly, these folks won’t get to see the daylilies, but there is the promise of asters and mums, and the zinnias that have survived the slug slaughter look very nice. Oh well, they can always read this blog.
Webster’s Pink Wonder daylily with my hand for reference.
Mama Robin built a nest a scant 6 feet from the front door this year. Brave girl, that one, or perhaps just trusting. The azure eggs were visible just below eye level, and India and I watched the progression from broken shells to featherless, famished babies with gaping mouths, as their gaunt, overworked mother retrieved worms and bugs from the lawn. Almost overnight it seemed, the nest grew crowded by the fully feathered fledglings.
“How are you doing?” friends have been asking lately when they see me.
“Well, she’s off to college,” I say. “I’m already walking around in my underwear, peeing with the door open and drinking from the milk carton. Hard telling what it will be like in a month.” Then come the lines I’ve repeated like a lame haiku:
It’s very quiet now …
Just Gus and Me and the Cat …
That’s the way Life goes …
For the first time in a quarter-century, I am alone. I used to be so good at it. Craved solitude. I moved from city to city, from one microphone to another, never looking back, friends and lovers lost in my wake. Then marriage, kids, light, darkness, divorce and then light again.
It’s been just India and me for a few years, now. Plus Gus the Wonder Pug and Squirrel the World’s Grumpiest Cat. They both seem morose. Perhaps I’m just anthropomorphizing. Pugs naturally look sad and that cat … his bellicosity increases with his years. Feline nature or maybe he just wants the litter box changed.
I take Gus for a ride a couple of times a week. This is what I’ve become — a pug chauffeur. I try to scratch his ears more often and tell him he’s a good boy, although he really isn’t all that good — a bit of a maniac, really, barking at everything that moves and some things that don’t.
There are people in the guesthouse, but Gus snoozed through their late arrival, so this morning, he went out to bark at their parked cars. He usually doesn’t miss a thing. He has successfully defended this household from ax murderers disguised as UPS and FedEx drivers as well as suspicious tractors and butterflies with bad intent. And the wind. You can’t trust the wind.
I took up gardening this year, possibly in a subconscious effort to keep occupied. Then again, maybe I just like flowers.
With nearly a score of containers planted, I wavered on planting anything in the window boxes on India’s old playhouse. A friend suggested I plant them for India with her choice of flowers. She chose marigolds because she doesn’t know much about flowers and it was the only thing that came to mind.
Though they started small, they are in full bloom, pungent and vibrant, bursting from the boxes. As I water them and appreciate the blooms, it dawns on me that those marigolds really might be for me. A wise friend, indeed.
We text, we talk, we laugh, we sass and pretend it doesn’t ache a little. Sadly, Gus doesn’t really get that somehow that’s “his India” on that FaceTime screen coming through that anemic speaker. But he cocks his head and tries to understand.
“Did you listen to the song?” India asked the other day. I hadn’t. India and Dylan send me music often but I don’t always listen right away. I didn’t realize this one was an original composition — “A Song For Home.” Melancholy and sweet, guitar strings ringing in the key of something, it’s wistful and hopeful, a metaphor for life’s journey.
Was I leaving for you, for the fame and fortune?
Or just to spread my roots and grow …
Can I make a promise on the fastest comet?
I’ll be home before too long …
It’s been three weeks and 1,295 miles ago. When I got home from the airport, after two hours of windshield contemplation, before I faced the echoes inside, I glanced at the robin’s nest. They’d flown.
If you’ve never been to Bergeson Nursery during the summer, it’s probably something you should add to your bucket list. Located southeast of Fertile, Minn., the gardens are always open during daylight hours in the summer. They are the most beautiful from late July through early September, and during that time, printed garden guides are available then that allow you to take a self-guided tour. The nursery will be holding its annual open house Saturday (Aug. 11). There will be guided garden tours at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., live music by the Bergeson family at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m., with free cookies, coffee and donuts. (Food and ice cream will also be for sale.) If you can’t make it, enjoy these images from photographer Eric Bergeson.
The riotous beauty of the daylilies has me feeling that I’m somewhat neglecting the glory of my hostas, so today I’m featuring the front yard.
As I’ve written in the past, I’m no fan of lawns and mowing, thus we’ve converted nearly every foot of our yard to beds, including the front yard.
The sight in the first few years was not good, but I had a vision. It started with the removal of the pitiful grass under the shade of the Red Oak Tree and the delivery of two very large rocks, one for Christmas and the other my birthday present, eight years ago. Then we started hauling in smaller prairie rocks ― lots of ’em. We used our trailer and a ramp and the wheelbarrow. We kept the neighbors amused, no doubt.
The daylilies are coming fast and furious, accompanied by a fierce outbreak of mosquitoes. I have 189 varieties of daylilies. My sister, Beckie, and I collect these and together we have 225 varieties. We also belong to the Bismarck-Mandan Daylily Club and have great fun together at the annual auction.
On Sunday, my absolute favorite of all of the 189 burst forth with its first blooms: Wide Wide World. There will be weeks of pleasure from this plant, which I strategically placed right next to my patio for maximum enjoyment.
Wide Wide World.
Yellow Titan daylily.
In the vegetable beds, Jim has so far trapped 15 voles, so he is triumphant. The magic formula turned out to be half a peanut superglued to a mousetrap, and he runs his trap line twice a day. The photos below show the initial crop of new potatoes and the damage the varmints can do if left unchecked.
He also spends a good portion of his time harvesting vegetables. The cucumbers are coming on big and pickle-making will commence any day now. His special thrill was discovering that his pepper crop is ripening early this year. Peppers are tricky to grow here in the north country and last year, he had to ripen these in brown paper bags, late in the autumn.
Below is a gallery of some of the newest daylilies to open, along with a few zinnias for good measure.
Roses in Snow daylily.
Profusion Orange zinnias that survived the slugs.
Profusion Yellow zinnias that survived the slugs.
Love in the Library daylily (naturally, one of my favorites).
Now is the time when all of our hard work in the gardens of Red Oak House pay us with the joy of abundant blossoms and fresh vegetables. We’ve eaten the first of our tomato crop ― all juicy and scrumptious, along with fresh peas and beans. Now are the days of meals we call “nothing from the store.” Meanwhile, Jim is busy trapping a vole outbreak before these ruin our potato crop.
The daylilies have entered the stage with a bang. Their abundant blooms salve my displeasure that most of the zinnias have been consumed by slugs. Here is a gallery of some of my favorites from this week.
The winner for today was Happy Returns daylily, with 42 blossoms!
Happy Returns daylily.
Happy Returns daylily.
Wednesday, I counted 31 blossoms on Itsy Bitsy Spider daylily.
Itsy Bitsy Spider daylily.
Wellspring of Wisdom daylily.
Butter Cream daylily.
Stella’s Ruffled Fingers daylily.
Happy Returns and Stella’s Ruffled Fingers daylilies.
Prairie Blue Eyes daylily.
Light Years Away daylily.
Prairie Moonlight daylily.
Carpenter Shavings daylily.
Mom’s Pink Divinity daylily.
Little Audrey daylily.
Zola’s Pink Nightgown daylily.
Although their beauty is more subtle, the hostas are blooming, too. What a great time of year it is.
“Each day you must say to yourself, Today I am going to begin.” ― Jean Pierre de Caussade
Although we had a few scorcher days in June, most days it was cool and the Red Oak House windows remained wide open. Late June also brought the blessings of rain, an inch and a quarter in the last days of this week. We can finally breathe a sigh of relief that the drought is over.
The vegetable garden looks terrific, although the rabbits got the replanted broccoli and have munched about one-third of the carrots (these in an area outside the rabbit-proof fence). Pea harvest will begin this week and the potatoes show great promise.
My meager strawberry patch, sadly in a shaded area, rewarded me to a few bursts of flavor in my mouth. We talk of converting this patch to another use, but it is difficult to decide what to grow without ample sun, this being in the vegetable garden area.
Other bacciferous plants are being attacked by the robins, especially the juneberry and viburnum bushes. We try to be gracious with the co-inhabitants of this place and let them gorge.
Between the rabbits and some insects, the 90-some zinnias I planted this spring are down to about 25. I’ve dusted them with an organic powder and sprayed with Liquid Fence to save at least a few. I really like these annuals, but doubt that I will bother with any in the future as it is not worth it when I have hundreds of perennials.
We had visitors here a couple of weeks back, family from Mississippi. It was a great pleasure to show my cousin some of the beauty of North Dakota on his first visit to the state, including Theodore Roosevelt National Park, where the post-burn wildflower bloom is abundant, and Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park.
These are the days of summer when there is a brief pause — the early season flowers have subsided and the daylilies will soon explode in color. The walleye bite on the river has slowed and all talk here is of how high the river is with the massive releases from Lake Sakakawea.
Soon each day will be filled with harvesting the vegetables. A few early season daylilies and hosta have begun to bloom, and much of our time is spent sitting on the back patio watching the never-still house wren pair busily raising their brood. I captured a short video here and if you listen closely, you will hear the little ones cheeping frantically as the adults arrive with insects.
Now for some thoroughly enjoyable Fourth of July celebrations in Bismarck-Mandan with lots of fun, family and fireworks!
P.S. About the time I was publishing this, the baby house wrens flew the nest box. Pretty quiet on our patio now.
Every gardener experiences successes and failures and must learn to go with the flow.
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.
Century Bound Iris.
War Chief Iris.
Vision in Pink Iris
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.