month 3: the chaotic ‘whoosh’ of may-into-june

DO YOU REMEMBER that TV ad for the medical alert device: “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up”? To me that’s how peak spring is–mid-May into early June–when I can’t keep up with the to-do list, or sit still long enough to savor any of it.

Or to publish my weekly reports (remember those?). Hence this catch-up covering Month 3 of the 2018 season.

big-leaved perennials, and a threat of hail

When we left off in mid-May, things were starting to warm, and accelerate. My beloved big-leaved perennials, from hostas like ‘Sagae,’ below (also called Hosta fluctuans ‘Variegated’), to Astilboides tabularis, above, and its cousin Rodgersia podophylla, and even the mass of plain old rhubarb I grow for its showiness on the edge of the vegetable garden.

Of course the weather seems always to want to wreck things–or at least scare the hell out of you. Fortunately my giant, freshly unfurled leaves and I got by with just a few minutes of mothball-sized hail last month (not like what happened a few years back, when all was lost). This year’s looked and sounded bad (below), but the garden was mostly spared, with just a few chewed-up leaves here and there.

the frog from hell

If not hail, then I thought nature’s dirtiest trick on me this year was going to be the Size-XXXL female bullfrog (Rana catesbiana) who spent the early spring here devouring any unsuspecting green frogs (Rana clamitans) who happened to dare try to share the little pool with her. As if to tell me who was boss, she ate two adult green frogs right in front of me (at separate meals, not consecutive courses).

I saw no wood frogs this year (perhaps she ate them, too?) and who knows if any of the spotted salamander egg masses deposited in the pool survived, either. This was one big mama. And then she just disappeared on an overnight rain last week–presumably for bigger waters where she might also find a male to fertilize her eggs. (One clutch can contain 20,000 eggs, apparently, and make up one-fourth of the female bullfrog’s body mass.)

Before she left, she posed for a closeup, above, and another one and another one (top of page), and actually was the tamest bullfrog I have ever met in my decades as a frog whisperer. Usually they are skittish, but not this one.

With her departure, all order is gradually being restored, apparently. Various green frogs (a smaller but related species) are taking ownership of the pool and nearby patches of lawn, below.

ferns and roses and more

Since late May I have been enjoying other foliage displays, like the ostrich ferns (Matteuccia struthiopteris) that push up and through a dwarf white pine (Pinus strobus ‘Nana’) out back, below, in front of a big old rhododendron I inherited with the place decades ago.

There are some flowers here and there, too, of course–the most reliable of all climbing roses, ‘William Baffin’ from the extra-hardy Canadian Explorer series, intertwining with a Tiger Eyes cutleaf golden sumac near a little garden shed, gaudy but also delightful, below, and some peonies planted for cutting, and more.

animal planet?

I’ve been having a disagreement with a number of local chipmunks who think that hunting for and excavating every squash seed I deposit in the soil is good fun, and with a series of determined woodchucks who targeted the peas and salad greens. The latter have been excommunicated by the local licensed trapper; the former will hopefully be outsmarted by the squash seedlings I have since started indoors and will transplants out this week. Take that, rodents!

Just in case another woodchuck arrives without my seeing him, I’ve also “caged” some of their other favorite edibles, like the raised bed of kale, above, at least as a little extra layer of deterrent. In this case I simply used wire hoops to support plastic woven shade cloth, which I pinned down at the edges with earth staples.

‘i’ll be right there!’

I’m dancing as fast as I can, but everywhere there seem to be voices screaming: “Me, me next! The weeds are encroaching on my space.” Or, “I need you now–water me!” Even a recent shipment of Aroid goodness from Plant Delights Nursery, below, arrived with a message of urgency stamped on the outside of the carton.

“O.K., O.K., everyone,” I want to reassure them, and all the rest of my botanical charges. “I’ll be right there.”

  • Miss previous installments of “this week in the garden” posts? They’re all rounded up at this link.
  1. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    I am glad that your bullfrog went away. I hope she didn’t leave 10,000 or so eggs behind. If she did you need to develop a taste for frog legs. We had a ground hog pass through here one day. I am so glad it went on it’s way. It must not have found the buffet to it’s liking. It is exciting to get those packages that scream for help.

  2. Ms. Tweetley says:

    Where did you purchase the wire hoops? I love the square design rather than the half-circle most come in.

  3. Carolyn Roof says:

    Mid-June and it is already July here. Can’t keep plants watered enough, so moving from full sun to morning only. About to give up on container plants. Finding someone to water, or putting water bottles in them doesn’t help and of course, the county fair flower show is in two weeks. So much for entries.

    1. Carolyn, I recently discovered the joy of professionally installed drip irrigation. I had it installed the first week of April when most of my plants here in southern NH had barely broken through the soil surface. So, setup was quick and the beefy installers imposed minimal damage to the beds. My perennial beds are so full that it only took about 3 weeks for the tubing to disappear among the foliage. In one of my beds, I topped it with a light layer of composted mulch. If you budget permits, I highly recommend this approach. Ultimately I expect my $2k investment to be returned in lowered water bills, healthier plants, less stress on me, and fewer “plant sitter” bills when we are away on vacation!

  4. Ann Lamb says:

    I get that Ju…ly comment! On a different topic, I will be in Philadelphia for a conference 4th weekend this month and wonder which garden I should for sure visit in the maybe 4 hours I can find. I’ve been to Longwood, but I think Chanticleer and more are reachable? Suggestions?

  5. How did it get to be June, already? Every perennial bed has been attended to – except one – I can’t seem to get this project over the goal line. Self-imposed deadline is EOD today!

    No frogs here, but chippys, squirrels and 3 sibling bunnies who race after each other and play “peek a boo” around the trees. I think they have been taking “fun” lessons from the crazy squirrels. So far, they have only destroyed one aster.

    My gardening chores have been lightened immensely with the installation of professional Hunter drip irrigation throughout. I ripped out my own DIY soaker hoses that only worked “part time” in favor of drip tubing that is about the same diameter, but more durable and
    more controlled. The geniuses who installed it connected it to my lawn irrigation system, but using lower pressure tubes. Three new zones that can be controlled independently of the lawn irrigation. Pricey to install (about $2k), but well worth it and should save on my water bill. One downside is that plants are SO happy, that they are outgrowing the carefully selected space I chose for them and need more “editing” than usual. As I continue to enlarge my beds, my husband and I can easily link new tubing to the existing tubes to cover the new plants. My only question is “Why didn’t I do this ten years ago????”

  6. Tibs says:

    Chippies and bunnies this year nibbling on things because the ancient female cat disappeared and the other indoor/outdoor cat is not a mighty hunter.
    We had hail and most of the hostas look like Swiss cheese. (The smart phone is not a gardener. Keeps wanting to change the word Hosta to a variety of other words)

  7. Jean C says:

    The only thing that kept me on schedule this spring season was the impending Private Garden Tour that I participated in this past Sunday. Now that it’s over, I might be suffering from garden fatigue. For the last two days, I’ve laid in a hammock and slept. I’ll get back to the chores soon, though. Perhaps next year, spring gardening will be much less frantic!

    1. margaret says:

      Same here, Jean — the tour prep (especially since it was winter until almost May) was very hectic, and I needed a few days without to-dos!

  8. Nancy Marie Allen says:

    May into June – the time between spring bulbs and summer perennials. As the early bulb foliage dies back in my Eastern Massachusetts garden, other plants take over to steal the show. Big purple Allium, tall white Ornithogalum and soft yellow Lady’s Mantle look stunning with pink Peonies underplanted with Geranium sanguineum album. The humble herb garden is also alive with blooming purple Chives, Thyme, yellow Lemon Lily, white Peonies and blue Nepeta. I’ve learned this spring that Nepeta “Walker’s Low” is a hummingbird magnet!

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