Here it is the height of summer, and where are the bees and butterflies? My friend Steve reports from Minnesota that there are no bees there, either. I did see a few fireflies last night. (Do you call them lightning bugs?) and the goddess knows that if insects are going extinct why couldn't the ants invading my kitchen go first?
Let's talk mini-climates: In my medium-sized yard I've had to adjust from full shade to nearly full sun (because as you know if you've followed my rantings in this columna neighbor, no longer a friend, cut down two enormous trees that shaded my yard.) The knowledge that mature yards generally get shadier is catching up even with mebeebling about the garden I noticed that the peonies I brought from my mother's yard in Kansas didn't bloom. Neither did the German iris and the Siberian iris in my parkway. Why? Because they had become enshrouded in new shade. I had to scout my yard, find a patch with more sun and plan a plant move. It has to be soonsun plants may hang on in the shade for a while but they'll eventually succumb. Pack your bags, ladieswe're moving to new digs!
I live in one of the densest areas of Chicago but something has incidentally evolved vis-Ã -vis a view that I really like: Sitting by my pond/waterfall if I look straight down my yard, I see nothing but shades of green. I'm in the country with no trace of people or their buildings.
All this greeneryeven tweaked with white, yellow and purple foliagegets, um, a trifle monotonous. Five or six blue horses scattered about help and so do the large blue pots I've put around. When I worked at Gethsemane Gardens in Chicago I learned (Plant Pot Perfection I) from Carol Rice, who trained all the folk in her section how to wow the customers. Example: large red/purple ti plant at rear, garten-meister fuschias next (green & white with pale orange blooms), and chartreuse creeping jenny over the edge of the blue pot. Orred-leafed canna in back, two miniature yellow tropical evergreens next, three tall verbena bonariensis between them and purple and green striped zebrinas (wandering Jews) tumbling over the edge.
Here's this column's recipe which hs already been tried out on my garden club with no complaints:
"Sunomono" for manythis is a Japanese side dish but it works fine as a summer salad.
Ingredients: 6 or 7 regular sized cukes, 4 or 5 small crisp cukes, 3 or 4 green onions, bottle of flavored rice wine vinegar (approx. 12 oz.), third of a cup of soy sauce, 2 teaspoons sugar.
To do: Wash cucumbers but do NOT peel. Cut off tips and score using a fork's tines lengthwise. Slice as thin as possible in rounds. Clean, chop onions including greens. Toss cukes and onions in dressing made of vinegar (use whole bottle), soy and sugar. Adjust dressing ingredients if you like it more sour or sweet or salty. The cukes will turn limp in the center but their scalloped edges will stay crisp.
Have you taken your houseplants outside? Most, with the exception of hibiscus, should be in the shade. This is the time to re-pot them if needed. Trim them if they're too leggy and clean them up. In green-brown won't revive. To the compost heap! Fertilize these babies with a handful of dry fertilizer like Osmocote or some fish emulsion (being outside will negate the smell & keep your cat out of it).
You've got plants hanging on ropes from the deck or on shepherd crooks in the ground. How much water? At least once a week, more if it's hot and dry. Run the hose into them until water runs out the bottom, NOT merely over the sides.
Check out the green roofs and walls around the city. I don't mean those award-winning ecological and politically correct structures but the ones with plants over, under, on top of and in them.
My sister and hubby calling from Eureka Springs in the Ozarks say all the hotel balconies and bed & breakfast inns have equipped their outdoor areas with hummingbird feeders. Generally one HB family adopts a feeder exclusively. By the way the New York Times says if you have the acreage you can adopt a big hummera llama. They're charming animals who bond with their owners rather like dogs, their (aged) manure works fine in gardens, they have padded feet instead of hooves so they don't damage pastures and when they're happy they hum.
Excuse me while I untangle myself from patting myself on the backit's a little more difficult these days. I have two friends with the identical mystery plant: tall, all purple, yellow flowers, perennial, spreads. I told them I'd track it down in my plant books. (Oohh, it was awful! Drinking lemonade, petting cats, reading about plants which I just HATE to do. I shoulda got a medal!) The mysterious plant is the lysimachia ciliata purpurea. So there! Happy gardening.