I am writing this on July 23rd and I have noticed that I have many more birds in the yard than usual. The answer is water. I have four bird baths and I try to keep them filled.  I have seen as many as 3 birds in the same bird bath flipping the water all over. Also there are two Water Lily Ponds where the birds can sit on the edge and drink. Just this evening one bird was brave enough to land on a large lily leaf to bathe. In addition, I have four small Water Lily Ponds with one lily in each. Again they can sit on the edge and drink.  I am afraid they might fall in if the water line is down so I check a couple times a day for fullness.

          I have been collecting seeds much earlier this year.  Many things bloomed well ahead and the heat has speeded up maturity. So I take a pair of scissors and a large container to cut the seed pods into.  Larkspur have long ago turned brown but not before making many seeds.  After I separate them, I leave them in an open container to complete drying to prevent a mold from developing. Larkspur likes to come up the fall before it blooms so in September I will rake its new bed, put the seeds on top, and then walk on them. They like light to germinate but also need good contact with the soil.

          Virginia Blue Bells go dormant almost immediately after blooming.  A plant that does well even in deep shade, I have never seen a seed pod, but they spread rather rapidly from roots. With the heat we have been having, Poppies were the first to turn brown.  The books say a Poppy pod contains 30,000 seeds so one doesn’t sneeze around a group of seeds. Heat is also affecting Hosta, even with plenty of water.  Leaves are turning brown from the edges in and curling under. One nice thing about the heat and dryness is that I have seen very few slugs.

          Maximillian Sunflowers love this weather! They are now over 8 feet tall and 3 feet wide.  However, no sign of those bright yellow blooms.  Columbines do not like hot and dry weather and go to seed early. I cut the seeds and stems off the top of the Columbines and threw them into a shady area. There are tiny plants up all over the space so I will need to watch my watering for a few weeks as they like damp soil.  Sweet Rocket or Dames’ Rocket (Hesperis matronalis) is a biennial, so they will need to come up this summer in order to bloom next spring. Therefore, I cut them off and shook the plants before putting in the compost pile.  There are purple, lavender, and white ones, usually about 3 feet tall, and do well in sun or shade.

          Cleomes are an annual that has not noticed the heat, gets between four and six feet tall, has been blooming for weeks now, and produces seeds by the handfuls. I now have two large patches of Cleome with bright orange old fashioned Tiger Lilies among them. The Tiger Lilies are almost as tall and also have not noticed the heat. Our grandmothers carried the Tiger Lily seeds in their pockets in the covered wagons on the way west. Many fell out so we have this plant all across the plains. Mine were given to me over 40 years ago by a 70 year old grandmother.  They now have little black beads in the angle where the leaf comes out. Each of these beads will turn into a seed that will make a new plant. 

          The Autumn Clematis (Clematis tirnifolia) is trying to bloom now instead of September. Each plant completely covers 6 feet wide of chain link fence, smells wonderful, and is solid white with blooms. Can you guess how many new plants I must kill each spring?

          For shade, a short plant that will spread fairly fast is the European Ginger (Asarum European) this summer. They have tiny brown blooms along the ground, under two to three inch dark green leaves. Their seeds have a tiny drop of “sugar” on the end. Ants pick up the seeds and carry them off, later eat the sugar and leave the seed. As a result I have Ginger all over, but it does make a beautiful ground cover.

          Sedum Autumn Joy was moved this spring but hasn’t been bothered by the heat and is now setting on big eight inch maroon seed heads that Monarch Butterflies like to spend the night on during their journey back to Mexico. There are about 400 Sedum species from all over. Sometimes called “stonecrops”, they have fleshy thick stems and leaves. Autumn Joy is winter hardy in zones 3-10 with full sun. (I have several in high shade however.) The clumps spread slowly to up to two feet wide and high and are easy to divide in spring.  Contact with the sap causes irritation in some people or an upset stomach if eaten.

Copyright 2012