The Violet Fern

A Colorful Tale of a Garden in the Making


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Calling All Buzz Enthusiasts

I enjoy a good beer like anyone else, but the kind of buzz I am inquiring about is of the bee, wasp, or hornet kind. My Dad just sent me this photo of a nest under construction in his yard. The location is Central New York zone 5. Do any of you know who and what might be constructing this beautiful sculpture-like hive? The buzzers in question are refacing a wren house (yellow), approximately 3-4 feet off the ground mounted on a log base. This is a small wooded “island” in a suburban yard. Should he be concerned? Can we all live in peace? Your expertise is needed and welcome!

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What’s Blooming: Rose Petals and Cotton Candy

Well, here we are at the height of Summer for those of us in the Northeastern United States … J-UUU-L-III! This is the month of big bangs of blooms. Picture picnics and sizzling grills (of veggies), beautiful bouquets, carnivals and cotton candy. Reality: I took photos this morning in the rain, in my squeaky, squishy flip flops. No sunny skies here today but that’s okay, I have blooms – lots of big bang blooms!

I am still far behind in my gardening chores – chores that I have listed in my head such as you really, really need to cut back the Black Lace out front. You really, really need to weed that new area by the rose trellis. You really, really need to tie up your cherry tomatoes … on and on. So, you may see a weed, or a dozen, but the blooms are what to focus upon, please.

The Potager is in the worst shape. It needs a cut back, tie up, pull up, fall plant, and a really good day – or two – of weeding. The paths are barely passable, but there are blooms (and buzzes) everywhere – Calendula, Morning Glory, Tomatillos, Purple Perilla and Cutleaf Coneflower have reseeded themselves silly. Trumpet flowers are just beginning to open. The dill and borage are growing tree size!

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Dill Tree

The Bird & Butterfly Garden is becoming choked by Joe and Susan’s love affair. There will be a messy divorce come Fall, I predict. Still, on and on there are blooms – currently, Daisies and Bee Balm – through a veil of Joe Pye just budding.

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Another large growing patch of Bee Balm in the Nice Driveway – safe from Susan. Summer Nights Heliopsis decided to move itself to the Nice Driveway, too. I have also been spreading my Cone Flowers around for fear they will be permanently choked out by Susan. I’ve replanted or deadheaded some in the Nice Driveway, some more out front by yet another patch of Bee Balm, only pink, mixed in with Verbascum which also easily reseeds.

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‘Summer Nights’

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Liatris is finally taking off in the Nice Driveway. Things either thrive or perish in the Nice Driveway. It is full sun and somewhat dry. The soil is not as rich as it is in the back gardens.

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Sea Holly has flared up out front and is normally glittering with pollinators but not today in the rain.

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I can never pick out Butterfly Weed until it’s in bloom, then bang, there it is!

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Good news! I thought my New Jersey Tea didn’t survive but then, bang, there are some small blooms!

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I had a large whiskey barrel container at the end of our driveway. I finally moved it up to the garage in the dead sea of paved driveway to break it up. It was really just a pee spot for all the passing dogs where it used to be, anyway. And when the crabapples were planted, it didn’t really fit out there anymore. It detracted from the trees. I devised a trellis with bamboo and grapevines to grow Cardinal Climber for the hummingbirds.

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I also planted Pineapple Sage and some of the seedlings I started this year into it: Castor Bean, Lime Zinnias, Lime Nicotiana, Love in a Mist, and Shrimp Plant. I love it in its new spot – birds even perch on the trellis – a Cedar Waxwing the other day! But sadly, it is full of black ants and they are eating the bases of the stems! You can see the Castor Bean is wilting. I tried chalk around the barrel, sprinkling cinnamon around the base of stems and transplanting some Calendula to deter them – they seem to be dwindling. All remedies I looked up online. (I also have an ant problem in one of my raised beds – where are the Flickers?) Next year I will be sure the ants are gone before I plant. There’s always next year says the gardener.

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Shrimp Plant blossoms

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Lime Zinnia bud

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Castor Bean flowers

I think the Woodland Edge is my favorite part of the garden. There is always something going on. It is also the most wild and difficult to maintain. My stone paths I attempted are almost completely grown over (another item to add to the list). Right now this border it is all frothy and pink.

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The beautiful cotton candy blooms of Queen of the Prairie are just beginning to froth.

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Queen of the Prairie (in pink) and Tall Meadow Rue

Persicaria Firetail just beginning to flare, will shoot off until frost.

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“The Rocket” lights up.

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The Hydrangea in the drive droops in the rain. This Hydrangea’s cuttings have taken root in new Hosta Row.

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Hydrangea from cuttings now growing in Hosta Row. Golden Shadows and Red Twig Dogwood in foreground.

A new Hydrangea ‘Quickfire’ (replaced Oakleaf which surely would not have survived last Winter here) just beginning to bubble behind Heucheras Pinot Blanco and Caramel. I love this combination.

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Well, if you’ve hung in here this long you deserve a grand finale! These photos were take a few days ago in the sun. The Prairie Rose, which unfortunately I cannot see, or smell, from our back porch as intended because we have yet to install our windows, has never been so big and full! I would say this rose definitely disguises that chainlink fence now. My neighbor can appreciate it anyway, and the bees – of whom I can hear their buzzing through the wall – and the syrphid flies and more. Rose petals flutter down from the sky throughout the garden.

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And so yet another Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day hosted by Carol at May Dreams Gardens gives proof through the night that we can have flowers nearly every month of the year.


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June Observations: Let the Good Times Roll

As a gardener, I think my most difficult lesson is just that: let it roll, and there will be good times. I never did get to “cleaning up” the Nice Driveway but, hell if I can tell. It has all grown up and is a rockin’ and rollin’ just the same. (Okay, I did cut back the clematis and retied it to the trellis but other than that, nada.) Sometimes it is better to just let things roll, oui?

Here is an area I attempted to “control” this weekend. I sweat blood and tears for close to six hours. Unburied my poor Cypress yet again, not from ice, but from dreaded Bishop’s Weed.

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Yes, I think the Cypress will appreciate air and light, and the wandering cat can no longer hide and pounce, and the edging is oh so nice, but honestly? I think it looks too “contrived” now. I am going to let this area roll for awhile to make a comeback – except for that Bishop’s Weed which I know will come back just as certain as death and taxes – THAT will be ripped from the earth, again!*@! I am reminded of an “infotoon” on Facebook, “Relax, nothing is under control.”

Now that I am gardening six days a week, I have learned a new strategy when it comes to my own garden. I make a goal – a small goal (like the area above), and I don’t deter. I put on my blinders and remind myself of today’s goal while I work away in my garden. There is so much that needs doing I find it necessary to remain focused on the task at hand. This approach is not as spiritual for me and I miss the days when I would set out into the garden and let it whisper to me what needs to be done. But now I contemplate is there really that much that needs my meddling – or can I just let the good times roll?

Hmmm, yes and no. This garden will definitely knock me around. It is so alive and amoebic, constantly shifting and engulfing, brushing my rock and roll hair. I like the Goat’s Beard. I need to release the Goat’s Beard from the bindweed (and plant that Misty Lace already)! Those violets are becoming violent!

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The Flowering Raspberry is a blob-like creature all its own. See it devouring the poor Spicebush and even steadfast Oenothera – stand back!

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Filipendula rubra, Queen of the Prairie, is overtaking the Serviceberry (a tree for god’s sake!) but I am looking forward to its cotton candy blooms. I believe last summer I was humming Oh Baby, Baby It’s a Wild World but this summer I am Letting the Good Times Roll – trading in that machete for a drum stick! I am learning to love the wild …

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Let them leave you up in the airRudbeckia laciniata, or Cutleaf Coneflower, and Cup Plant, Silphium perfoliatum.

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A somewhat recently “policed area.” Might as well put crime scene tape around that edge, eh?

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Wild and unruly Clematis Virginia already tackling its new support. And hops, hopping to the roofline. If they’ve got thunder appeal let them be on your side …

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This area is/was my next “goal.” Even a rock and roll song must undergo a little editing before its claim to fame.

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I hope you will appreciate that I can have such a neglected, seedy and weedy area in my garden and still learn to love it!

And yes, I was going to achieve that said goal above. I was going to get out in the garden on the seventh day but the River was calling and afterall, it is summer. The garden will roll and grow on. Let the good times roll!

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