Brandon took these photos last year of a baby mockingbird on it's first day out of the nest. This year we've noticed an adult bird (we like to think it could be the same baby now grown up) who figured out how many goodies were in my wire compost bin when I sifted through all of it. Last week we watched him/her approach closer than any bird ever has and grab a worm from a bucket just a foot away from me. Several times we've witnessed the bird clinging to the side of the bin yanking something out. We'll hopefully get a picture of it soon.
Walking to and from the subway, I pass this ugly White Castle "restaurant" daily. Regardless that the results are often marred by a vehicle in a matter of weeks, each summer they put forth a pitiful, yet sort of touching gardening effort to have a little color out front.
First I noticed they were trying one of those pre-seeded garden mat things, but when that failed to produce in a timely fashion they popped in their choice of standard annuals. I'm sure this is a big draw for their clientele.
Check out this cool Gray Hairstreak (Strymon sp.) feeding on our salvia! [Photo credit: Brandon]
They are quite tiny - maybe only 1 inch (2.5 cm) across with their wings spread. Usually I see them closed like this and/or rubbing their wings together in an eerie way.
I'm delighted that it's butterfly season! Even before the Buddleia blooms, we've been seeing a few in the garden. Also spotted, but unfortunately not photographed: Tiger Swallowtail and Red Admiral.
Not forgetting about my succulents! Today I mixed them up a nice batch of compost tea with a touch of fish emulsion fertilizer and gave them all a fortifying drink. In the warm months when the windows are always open, I water them by placing them on the outer sill so the water can run out.
Not that you care, but to make the tea I put a big blob of compost in this disgusting jug and let it steep for 24 hrs. Then I strain the contents into a watering can and dilute it by at least half.
Started a big compost project – dumping out the contents of one of the wire bins, sifting and spreading finished product and looking for worms. At least 30 worms (!!!) were unearthed and relocated to the tumbling bin. Notice I said started. Still need to return the remaining contents to the bin which should now have a lot more room for more garden debris.
I was getting frustrated with the progress of this Canary bird vine until I noticed that it had decided to go over to the neighbor's side of the fence where I couldn't really see its new growth. I'm hoping that it will smother our ugly old tree stump. (I also realized the stump could have holes bored to become a bee post!)
In another area, I have inadvertently arranged a dueling vine scenario. I planted one called Love in a Puff! (Cardiospermum sp.) only to find that the Cypress vine (Ipomea quamoclit) I had last year had sown itself just behind it. So far I haven't had the heart, but I will likely pull out the Ipomea since I have it in another spot uncontested.
I've got to show you my silly pink rosebush as it's the brightest spot in my garden at the moment.
Another of my inherited plants, perhaps you've seen it in my pix from last year's garden. I'm not much of a rose gal, but I do tend to swoon over them while they're blooming. This one is less than seductive, but it's very reliable and healthy so I've allowed it to stay.
Walking towards my workplace, I spotted this beautiful butterfly called the Question Mark – (Polygonia interrogationis). It is named for a tiny silvery marking on its mottled ventral hind wing (not visible in these photos) that looks like a question mark. A 'cousin' is called the Comma for a similar marking.
Brandon and I spotted a little white butterfly the other night – on the subway. It was flying around the train-car and landed on some man's shirt. It took him a while to notice, but then he just brushed it away. It flew over near us and as we prepared to exit, I asked Brandon to catch it.
He grabbed and held it in his hand until we reached our stop. Then we tried releasing it once we were outside, but it's antennae was damaged and it wouldn't fly away when we tried to lure it onto a tree leaf. It seemed bewildered – possibly because it was nighttime, possibly because it had just arrived in Brooklyn by a means it couldn't possibly understand.
Finally had a chance to research the solitary bees in my garden. They are Wool Carder bees (Anthidium manicatum) named after the female's habit of scraping the hairs off fuzzy plants, rather like carding wool.
The site I found didn't mention their machine-like way of hovering which I find remarkable, but did say that they're prevalent in gardens and that smaller-flowering Digitalis (I have D. lamarckii) are one of their favorite plants. Also that they will aggressively defend a small group of flowers which we have most certainly observed.
In fact, I hesitate to mention this... Brandon decided to capture one of the bees as we watched one of them terrorizing the others. He had done this many times as a boy, but I was unclear on the process when he brought out – of all things – a honey jar, quoting Bart Simpson: "the ironing is delicious."
He effortlessly closed the bee in the jar while it fed on our salvia. In no time, inexplicably to me, it was looking near dead. He had to explain to me that a cotton ball soaked in alcohol (which I hadn't noticed in the jar) will kill an insect – somewhat humanely. I didn't much like this and saw little point in capturing when you can photograph.
But as it turned out, seeing the actual bee up close made identification much easier. They are much fuzzier than they appeared while hovering around and there are 3 tiny spikes on their behind which one could only photograph for ID purposes with great difficulty. So, information gained, but a little life lost. I did spy on a couple of them performing 'the act' so hopefully we haven't altered the balance of nature too much. Perhaps we could make a bee post to encourage more.
Remember my beautiful calceolaria pocketbook plants which brightened my dismal early April landscape? I yanked them out of the ground when they started looking ratty and other things were finally going, but couldn't bring myself to toss them in the compost bin so instead they sat here in the shade next to it where I've continued to water them now and then.
Now they are forming seeds so maybe I can grow them myself next year!
No matter how much time or money I put into my garden, no matter how many plants I take home from work, I'm still envious of nice specimens in my neighbors gardens. Both of my next-door-neighbors have lots of good plantings and since all of our yards are quite small, the effect of the total combined efforts is greater than the parts.
But look: even at this early stage, it's obvious that my neighbor's hydrangea (left) is better than mine.
One of the first things I planted in this garden, I found my hydrangea on sale at a nearby bodega – a mother's day reject. Hers is obviously a nice cultivar which blooms a lovely pale blue while mine is a mottled mauve-purplish pink-blue. At least a branch or two of hers pokes through the chain-link fence so I can share it.
Then there is my unnamed salvia, (left) already growing in my garden when I arrived. It blooms year after year with no encouragement and yet when I see the gorgeous deep hued variety in my neighbor's garden I feel, simultaneously, loyalty to my plant and the urge to replace it.
With the long-awaited arrival of baby tomato plants, I spent some time over the weekend focusing on the vegetable side of my garden which always seems to play second fiddle to my flowers.
Due to a bit of hesitance to use my compost or to pay for some other amendment, I must admit that I haven't really added much to the soil this year and all the plants look hungry. I went ahead and sifted a big batch of my most finished compost, which is still not completely broken down, and took a chance using it as a top dressing for the whole vegetable bed. Though sifting removes the largest particles, I'm a little concerned that the leaf matter in particular will tie up nitrogen while it continues to decompose. However, there is lots of good humus in there and I think it's worth the risk rather than leaving everything starving for nutrients.
It appears I still have just the six worms I found and added to the tumbling compost bin. I was hoping that by now they would have, well, gotten to know each other and started a big family. They just need some time, I suppose.
What else is going on? Collard greens are coming up just fine and the thyme I was wondering about seems to be ok too. Cilantro looks more or less happy, but needs thinning. Yummy greens – especially the arugula have been providing us with wonderful salads.
Oregano is always too monsterous while rosemary and dill along with a self-sown marigold are progressing rather slowly. We finally had a good rain just after I spread the compost so hopefully we'll see some results.
Will I ever have my mini-heads?!
They look pitiful. It was my fault I planted them late. They germinated, but right away something chomped them – slugs? I don't know. Now it's getting hot and until I weeded on Sunday they had lots of competition.