Saturday, October 23, 2010

Becoming friends with Elvis

On Tuesday I drove to Kansas and sat on a log bench and waited. How long would it take for a dog to show up?

Just two sips of coffee.

Because here comes Aussie!

But wait...

Anyone else?

And here comes...


Elvis never says no to a head scratch...or a belly rub...or just a reach down touch to see if he's still there. Once Elvis got his chin scratched enough, he rolled onto his back...

closed his eyes...

opened them just a little...

put the ears down...

...and then he was out.

A couple weeks ago I found a patch of bamboo and decided that I need to start clearing out some weeds. That bamboo (Pleioblastus pygmaeus) was the only growing plant I recognized (other than the daylilies) in one of the garden beds. A twenty year old patch of bamboo that covered just a couple square feet of earth? That does not bode well for future gardening in this area. That bamboo should have covered Kansas by now.

It's very boring stuff, clearing weeds...

...and my two helpers soon got too bored to help.

Bella eventually showed up but I don't think she ever made it out of the weedpatch so I'm not going to consider her as a third helper. Besides, she' know, Bella.

While I kept pulling up trumpet creeper and who knows what else, Aussie and Elvis moved up the hill with me and supervised from the daylily patch.

Which was too much work for them again. Those two certainly remind me of two "gardening" turtles I live with....if there's a nice cushiony plant out there, plop yourself on it and get comfortable.

It's taken many months and I'm still surprised at the change, but Elvis and I are now friends. For a better part of a year, whenever he saw me, he would run over and bark and growl. I felt the same about him. We did not like each other.

But slowly we got used to each other and learned to trust each other. I was out there one day with just Bella and Elvis and while I was sitting on a rock in the creek reading a book, I put an arm out and Bella slid in under it but unexpectedly, Elvis got in there too. So there we sat, me with my book, one arm wrapped around two dogs, and a big smile on my face. That was a very big day for Elvis and me.

We are now very good friends, that cross-eyed country dog and I. Sometimes he'll even escort me part of the way in the direction leading to home.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Crazy autumn color

After I visited the Discovery Center last Sunday, I drove to the other side of the park and revisited the Kaufmann Garden. I never knew those two were almost next door to each other! It kind of explains why the Kaufmann garden didn't focus more on native plants, the reason I was not so crazy about it when I first visited the garden last year. The focus seemed to be more on color but at this time of year, I rather enjoy that because the color in that garden was crazy and electric!

I've grown Jewels-of Opar (Talinum) before but always with other plants in a container. Now that I've seen the drama this plant makes for itself at this time of year, I'm growing a lot more and I don't think I'll mix it up with anything. I'm not sure if the plants self seed or if somehow they just sneak indoors and overwinter in the company of formerly outdoors houseplants, but I always seem to find one or two turning up in a pot the following spring. Plants that ask for nothing when it comes to their survival? You cannot say no to that.

Gomphrena is a wonderful annual too. Its wiry stems hold up crazy magenta accents in a mixed flower bed. But here, just the gomphrena against the soft greys of the artemisia...very, very pretty.

Three giant pink dahlias were set against some big red barberry bushes in the background.

Below them was a groundcover of clematis seedheads.

Like something Dr. Seuss would create, don't you think?

The Japanese anemones were still going strong in this one area of the garden.

In other areas, they were tired and sprawling, breathless even.

Big areas of purple asters were covered with yellow bees...

...and skipper butterflies.

Last year I remember seeing one little tropical milkweed plant. This year? It was scattered just about everywhere. The colors could not be prettier on such a nice fall day.

I found a Big Milkweed Bug giving me a staredown.

But when he saw my camera poking at him, he turned away...

...and started to "walk the plank," what every bug does when they see me following them with my camera.

But if they don't try to escape, they still turn their hind ends toward me and so once again, I get another bug butt shot (but isn't that milkweed gorgeous?).

I almost always (it was "always" before this Sunday) despise wax begonias. But their crazy pink color against the soft gray leaves of the lamb's ears? Really pretty.

I like how the wax begonias wrap around the half moon shapes of the lamb's ears. I've always done close up gardening. I've never had big areas of vanishing points, etc. to landscape before so I have a new appreciation for plants designed to do something in a large space.

But my favorite plant on this pretty fall day with all the crazy colors? One that had turned brown.

I just love those seedheads.

I couldn't find the identification tag but my spidey sense told me it was burnet. It just had to be burnet and when I returned on Tuesday to see if there was a plant tag hidden somewhere I had not looked (I had to know what that plant was!), its name turned out to be Sanguisorba tenuifolia "Purpurea." Its pronounceable name? Bronze-leaved burnet. :-)

Funny, the one plant that got my attention was the one brown plant among the colorful ones. And at that other garden, among all those brown and fading plants? The one plant that was still in full color. Not sure what to make of that but both of those plants were something special and I think they would stand out even if they traded places in the two gardens I saw that day.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Just a couple minutes away from where I live... the Anita B. Gorman Urban Conservation Campus, a ten acre park full of native flowers and grasses and trees and a Discovery Center for urban kids to learn about nature. I had never heard of it...and it's been there for nine years!

So on Sunday I decided to go find it. And there it was, tucked behind some apartment buildings and a KFC, completely hidden from the street.

I instantly liked this place. The parking lot was full of asters, sumacs, goldenrod, grasses...

...and my favorite of the lot and in the lot(!), Helianthus salicifolius, the willow-leaved sunflower.

Not many of the flowers were still in bloom but even if there weren't any, I still liked those six foot tall willowy stems.

I even liked the seedheads.

Behind some brown leafed trees, I found one small sassafras tree.

I was lucky to find this one small Partridge Pea (Chamaecrista fasciculata), but then, it was hard to miss it growing in front of all those purple asters.

Bittersweet always stands out, it can't help itself.

This little 12 inch deep (or less) pond was intriguing to me. Something about that still water, the gently swaying giant cattails and the leaping, meeping frogs. It must have been a lot prettier before things started turning brown.

There was an elevated walkway beside the shallow ponds. This willow was telling me it wanted to move to Kansas. I told it where my car was parked. It was just the prettiest feathery thing. Loved it.

In a drier area, there were some milkweed pods (Asclepius syriaca).

Big Bluestem (Andropogon gerardi) bordered a nearby path.

I was getting drawn into all the different browns around me. I thought autumn color was just starting but apparently, I must have just missed it after seeing what was around me in this garden.

Still, even the dried up leaves and spent flowers were full of beautiful colors in the landscape (and the bees and skipper butterflies sure didn't know any better).

One of the larger ponds was lined with pickerel weed (Pontederia cordata)...

...which was on its way to becoming brown too.

But one thing wasn't. It was positively vibrant with life (and color!). I had never seen this plant before and it had me stumped for a long time until I finally identified it. Closed gentian (rhymes with "tension" so you don't embarrass yourself if you say it out loud). Isn't it the oddest but prettiest thing? The flowers never really open. They can only get pollinated by big hardy bees that work hard to force those closed flowers open.

My car is going to be busy next spring when I finally get started on my new gardens. This closed gentian is such a fascinating plant to me, I'm going to have to let it sit in the front seat when it gets driven to its new home. I just love looking at its colorful oddness. Love it. Love it. Love it. It's hard to imagine that one day soon, it will probably be turning shades of brown too.