Big Bend, Wisconsin
Narrative of our garden
17 March 1999 - Today is the first day of the year (in Big Bend) that the amount of daylight exceeds the amount of darkness. 12 hours and 1 minute between sunrise and sunset.

As it just so happens, it is also the warmest day of the year - in the 60s. The thermometer in the sun reads in the 80s - perhaps it also has spring fever. There is a one foot patch of yellow crocus in full bloom in our front yard. A few feet away, is a patch of melting snow. I suspect by tomorrow all the snow will have melted. All sorts of other bulbs are begining to pop their heads out of the ground. Nothing else flowering, maybe in a few days.

19 March 1999 - Today we found a one foot patch of purple crocus, white crocus, and a two foot patch of snowdrops blooming. We are slowly disassembling the felled silver maple in our front yard - it really looks different with that tree gone. The tree took on damage last summer, and rather than wait for it to die - we decided to cut it. All we had was a 15 foot pole tree saw. We needed to drop it within a 10 foot section between two valuable trees. Whoosh - the 40 foot tree laid down right on the mark. No damage to either tree. Paul Bunyan watch out.

Some of you like working in our garden, so we have organized two dates: Sunday, April 11, and Sunday, April 18. We'll be working in the garden until dark or cold - whichever comes first. We need help with skilled chainsaw (we have chainsaw - looking for skill), trimming trees, feeding chipper / shreader machine, hauling mulch, weeding, and supervising - er, no, that's what Tom does. Also need help with drinking beer, eating brats, looking at the garden, and dancing naked in the moonlight (only kidding - we seldom wait for moonlight).

29 March 1999 - Today there are patches five different dwarf iris growing. Most have purple flowers with whitish or yellowish throats. But one dwarf iris patch is entirely yellow. Giant flowering onion stalks are starting to emerge.

A friend stopped over with a chainsaw and six trees were converted into nicely stacked rows of fire wood. More low branches were trimmed off a variety of trees giving us more head room to walk about the yard. A large branch cut from a sugar maple sprayed a flow of sap that drained down the tree. The local garden center has received our order for a truck load of pine mulch. Soon the last untouched section of our yard will become a garden. Our indoor sunroom has some 500 seedlings started. Butterfly weed, sweet pea, monarda, bells of ireland, salvia, dahlia, some mystery seeds from south mexico, and much more.

13 April 1999 - Today there are early tulips in bloom. Hundreds of yellow and white daffodils are still flowering - the first one opened 10 days ago. Also in bloom is an 8 foot patch of blue siberian squill, danty white flowered bloodroot, both red and purple pasqueflower, and both star and tulip magnolia trees.

The dwarf iris and crocus have vanished, just a memory until next year. We did get lots of photos before they faded. All the dead growth from the perennials have been removed. Today is nice and sunny, high temperature in the 60s. But the forecast is for colder weather, frosty night and perhaps snow. Our indoor sunroom has some 600 seedlings in various stages of growth. Some just germinated, others are 8 inches tall with dozens of leaves. We have successfully grown, divided, and bloomed, our first outdoor orchid - Bletilla striata. We have successfully bloomed our second outdoor orchid - Cypripedium henryi. In addition, we have expanded our stand of trilliums, bloodroot, and spring beauty.

17 April 1999 - Last evening, near dusk, a Great Horned Owl sat atop our large black walnut tree. You could see the tufted ears move, and the head rotated from side to side. The owl searched our neighborhood for a tasty snack. After a few minutes, it dove off the branch, outstretched its near 5 foot wingspan and silently glided over our heads.

Today there are more early orange tulips in bloom, red bleeding hearts, white lungwort, purple and gold fritilaria, and blue virginia bluebells. The lilacs, viburnum, and spirea bushes are sprouting new leaves. The scotch and austrian pines crackle and pop in the sun as the branch tips just begin to candle.

30 April 1999 - We received some additions to our garden from a horticultural importer located in North Carolina. We planted a Japanese Cobra Lily and Italian Arum, both resemble our native Jack-In-The-Pulpit. And then planted Trillium underwoodii - from eastern US. Only time will tell if these plants can tolerate Wisconsin winters. Amelanchier (serviceberry) tree and early Bridal Wreath bush (Spirea) are in white flower bloom. Orange flowering Imperial Fritillaria is in "fragrant" bloom (it has the fragrance of rotten meat - best not to place too near to the house). Purple Grape Hyacinth and checkerboard colored Fritillaria meleagris are also in bloom.

Today we were visited by White Crowned Sparrows. They appear like English Sparrows, but with three bold white racing stripes on their head. They scratch the ground and peck like little chickens. The warm weather brought by the White Crowned Sparrows seems to have driven the Juncos out of our yard to destinations in Upper Michigan or Canada we suspect. Days are in the 70s, evenings still in the 40s. Spring has solidly arrived.

10 May 1999 - Today we saw our first Hummingbird of the year. The Ruby Throated Hummingbird is the only species of hummingbird that visits Wisconsin. We attract them with sugar water (1 part sugar to 4 parts water) in a red container (no need to color the water). Hummingbirds visit anything red and will stay in our yard until September or October. We were also visited by a Rose Breasted Grosbeck.

Four varieties of flowering crabs are in bloom. Two are white and two are pink. Redbuds and lilacs are also blooming. The Red Oak and Pin Oak are finially producing leaves. New perennials in bloom include White Anemone, Pink Spiderwort, White and Prairie Trillium. May 10th is an important gardening date, a few years back we received over 10 inches of snow on this day. Today, fortunately, it will be in the 70s.

3 June 1999 - Our garden has begun to erupt in flower. We likely have 50 or more varieties flowering in our yard today. Some of the plants are Siberian Iris (dark purple Ceasars Brother and red-violet Eric The Red), purple Bellflower, red-violet Red Cloud Spiderwort, sky blue Flax, multicolor Lupine, red Coral Bells, red Jupiters Beard, and several varieties of Pinks.

Bird life is abundant. Three nesing pairs of Wrens, frequent visits from Hummingbirds, Cardinals, Doves, and American Goldfinch. And the singing toads have taken over the goldfish pond. They're having a little pool party. And yes, these are toads - not frogs.

29 June 1999 - It's mesquito season. Hard to see what is blooming in the garden when you're getting bitten by a swarm of mesquitoes. A few days ago blooms appeared on the Moonbean Coreopsis (bright lemon yellow), Yucca (3 foot tall white spikes), Saint John's Wort (24 inch tall woody shrub, filled with yellow flowers), and Blue Butterfly Delphiliums (one of the few true blues in the garden).

There are several "good" experimental results in the garden this year. Nikki Red Nicotiana, flowering tobacco, is to die for. It's an annual, but may be a self seeding annual. Doesn't matter, we will grow it next year anyways. We planted Nikki Red by our front steps, it has exploded into a 3 foot by 3 foot mass of neat looking red tubular flowers. Great plant. Another great plant is Coral Nymph Salvia, also an annual. 20 inch plant with very cool coral (not pink, coral) and white colored flowers. Two favorites from last year are Lady In Red Salvia (bright red color, attracts hummingbirds) and Unwin Dahlia (multicolor flowers from seed, not a bulb). Both are annuals, and are very hard to grow. Seed germination is okay, but many die as you try to harden them off. The singing toad orgy of early June has produced a zillion tadpoles in our pond. The goldfish do not appear to eat many of them. The bullfrog tadpoles (that we stocked) have produces little frogs that sit on the leaves of the waterlilies - very cute.

15 August 1999 - Over the past three weeks, the yard has been filled with butterflies. The Monarch butterfly is one of the most interesting. Monarchs arrives in our yard in early May and depart about the end of September (a five month period). Most gardeners are aware that the Monarch that arrives in May, is not the same one that departs in September. The arriving butterfly, feeds on nectar, lays eggs, and dies. The eggs turn into caterpillars, which feed on leaves (for about 2 weeks), forms a chrysalis (for about 5 days), and emerge as a butterfly. However, that first generation born in Wisconsin also lays eggs in our yard and dies. As does the second generation. As does the third generation. It is the fourth generation, which emerges in September, that will make a 1,500 mile flight from Wisconsin to the mountains of Mexico (near Mexico City). They over winter in Mexico, then fly north to about Texas in March, lay eggs and die. The fifth generation, born in Texas, flies to Wisconsin in May. And the cycle continues.

Most garden books present a long list of plants which are suppose to attract Monarch butterflies. Through field observations in our yard, we have found that most of the plants presented on the list are never frequented by Monarch butterflies (or for that matter, any other kind of butterfly). In July and August, Monarchs have a clear preference for three plants (almost exclusively). These three plants are butterfly magnets: 1. "Prairie Blazing Star", Liatris species (not Liatris spicata) 2. "Purple Coneflower", Echinacea purpurea 3. "Butterfly Bush", Buddleja davidii

Monarchs lay eggs on milkweed and the caterpillars feed on milkweed. Milkweed covers a great number of species in the Asclepias genus. And we have found Monarch caterpillars on all of them. But here are some of our favorites: 1. Asclepias curassavica, grow as annual in Wisconsin - very cool orange and red flowers, tropical 2. Asclepias incarnata, "Swamp Milkweed" - dark pink flowers, native 3. Asclepias tuberosa, "Butterly Weed" - short, orangeish-yellow flowers, hard to grow, native 4. Asclepias syiaca, "Common Milkweed" - yes, I know it is a pest, but tolerate a small patch of it in your garden (off in the wild area). If you want butterflies in your garden, put in a couple of these recommended plants. And remember: If you plant it - they will come!

28 September 1999 - Touches of fall have arrived in Big Bend. It started a week ago when the leaves of our ash trees turned purple. That was quickly followed by the leaves of the various viburnum bushes turning burnt red, last years' needles on the scotch and austrian pines have yellowed and begun to fall, and the river and white birch leaves have also begun yellowing. Big green round fruits from our black walnut trees litter the ground. Our dogs are distressed when we toss the fruits over the fence, the green round shape of the fruits look like tennis balls that are just perfect to play fetch with. The black walnuts are our dog's favorite trees.

But not all of our trees and shrubs are so quick to abandon summer. Many maple, sycamore, hawthorn, redbud, oak, tamarac, lilac, dogwood, ninebark, and spirea are still nicely green. Most perennials still have green leaves, and still flowering are the purple New England asters, yellow goldenrods, pink chrysanthemums, yellow brown-eyed susans, and purple Butterly Bush. Most striking are the flowering annuals and exotics. Brightly flowering annuals include Nicki Red Nicotiana, white Lumina (Nicotiana alata), multicolored Unwin Dahlia, Lady In Red (Salvia coccinea), and pink Coral Nymph (Salvia coccinea). Flowering exotics include Red Butterfly (Asclepias curassavica), Silky Gold Butterfly (Asclepias curassavica), and pink Mandevilla vine.

Monarch butterflies and even Monarch caterpillars still occupy the yard. Late blooming Butterfly Bush and Red Butterfly plants keep the insects interested. The Ruby Throated Hummingbird still visit the Lady In Red and Coral Nymph salvias, Nicki Red, and the Mandevilla vine. Annuals and exotics have their place in the perennial garden, the butterflies and hummingbirds appreciate the late season treat. Seed heads of Purple Coneflower, purple and white Hyssop, and mid summer blooming Rudbeckias are now consumed by masses of American Goldfinches and Black Capped Chickadees. Robins and Catbirds invade the Viburnum and Dogwood bushes, and the dwarf crabapple trees, to gorge on the ripe berries. Chubby waddling birds are everywhere in our yard. The UPS truck has pulled into our driveway to deliver another package of bulbs to be planted. Time to get busy.

11 December 1999 - Our weather has been exceptionally warm. The high temperature yesterday was 54F (12C) and the overnight low was 20F (-7C). No snowfall yet this season and none in the immediate forecast. Thus far, this has been our second year without a winter, and we like it this way! Gardening is confined mostly to bulb forcing. We have only two or three house plants, but nearly 50 pots of bulbs in our basement. Everyweek we routinely move a couple pots upstairs into the light and give them a drink of water.

During the growing season, we had planted 15 potted Amaryllis bulbs in our garden. In early October we lifted the pots and inspected the plants. All were in great shape. We then cut off the leaves, re-potted the bulbs in new soil, added some general purpose bulb food, and stored the pots in our cool dark basement. Amaryllis need 40 days of dark and dry conditions to induce flowering. We moved our first bulb upstairs on 12 November, and it produced a flowering stalk about 30 days later. We are still another week away from the flower opening. Another favorite bulb is Paper White Narcissus. This year, also in October, we potted up four dozen of the "Bethlehem" variety. Placed these in the basement until 17 November, and then gave them light and water. They are now nice 6 inch tall leafy green plants, but no flower stalks yet. If we timed this all perfectly, everything will be in bloom at Christmas.

26 February 2000 - The temperature today was 61 degrees, all the snow has melted from our yard. The four goldfish are swimming around their outside pond. A bullfrog was sitting in the sun on a near by rock. And two yellow crocus were blooming in the front yard. A typical spring day in Big Bend, Wisconsin (well, at least lately).

This is now the third year in a row where we had something in bloom during "winter". Our coldest temperature on our high/low thermometer this winter was only -5 Fahrenheit. That is a typical winter low for USDA Zone 7 (officially we are suppose to be two zones colder, that is -25F).

21 March 2000 - Today we planted another woodland plant, our second delivery from the plant nursery. We are way ahead of last spring, and last spring was recorded as a near record warm period. We figure about two weeks ahead of last year.

Our crocus are totally past bloom. The dwarf iris have now bloomed for weeks and are well past their peak. Giant flowering onion and Fritillaria stalks are starting to emerge. Many trees and bushes are budding. Hundreds of yellow and white daffodils will flower within weeks, as will large patches of blue siberian squill. We'll keep you posted.

1 May 2000 - The Japanese Cobra Lily and Italian Arum, that we planted last year, have survive the very mild winter - the Cobra is flowering. Both resemble our native Jack-In-The-Pulpit. Amelanchier (serviceberry) tree and early Bridal Wreath bush (Spirea) have been in white flower bloom for several days already. The Redbud tree have just started to show their pink flowers.

Today we were visited by White Crowned Sparrows. They appear like English Sparrows, but with three bold white racing stripes on their head. They scratch the ground and peck like little chickens. The warm weather brought by the White Crowned Sparrows seems to have driven the Juncos out of our yard to destinations in Upper Michigan or Canada we suspect. Days are in the 70s, evenings still in the 40s. Spring has solidly arrived.

9 May 2000 - Today we saw our first Hummingbird of the year, one day earlier than last year. The Ruby Throated Hummingbird is the only species of hummingbird that visits Wisconsin. We attract them with sugar water (1 part sugar to 4 parts water) in a red container (no need to color the water). Hummingbirds visit anything red and will stay in our yard until September or October. Be on the lookout for Rose Breasted Grosbecks, Black Throated Blue Warblers, Black Burian Warblers, Eastern Oriles, Cedar Waxwings, and Eastern Bluebirds.

American toads have taken over both our 55 gallon and 100 gallon ponds. Every warm night, one starts singing out a mating call, and by midnight - the pool is loaded with toads. Recently, a pair of Bullfrogs have joined in the pool party. The ponds are also occupied by one Koi and several Comet Goldfish. The Koi and goldfish just started feeding on May 1st. It is important that the water temperature reaches 55 degrees. Otherwise bacteria (from slowed digestion) can infect the fish. Four varieties of flowering crabs are just past their peak bloom (also a few days ahead of last year). Two are white and two are pink. Redbuds, Mountain Ash, Bridal Wreath (Spirea), High Bush Cranberry (Viburnum), and Lilacs are also blooming. The Red Oak and Pin Oak are finially producing leaves. New perennials in bloom include White Anemone, Pink Spiderwort, White and Prairie Trilliums. Tomorrow, May 10th, is an important gardening date, a few years back we received over 10 inches of snow on this day. Fortunately this year it should be in the 70s. And our first garden sale is this Friday evening and Saturday morning. Spring is in full glory now.

3 October 2000 - Touches of fall have arrived in Big Bend. It started a week ago when the leaves of our ash trees turned purple. That was quickly followed by the leaves of the various viburnum bushes turning burnt red, last years' needles on the scotch and austrian pines have yellowed and begun to fall, and the river and white birch leaves have also begun yellowing. Big green round fruits from our black walnut trees litter the ground. Our dogs are distressed when we toss the fruits over the fence, the green round shape of the fruits look like tennis balls that are just perfect to play fetch with. The black walnuts are our dog's favorite trees.

But not all plants are in decline. In fact, the white flowering Nicotiana (Nicotiana alata 'Lumina') is still blooming strong. Nicotiana is a night blooming plant. This year, we moved a patch to outside our front door so we could catch the sweet smelling flower in bloom. To our surprize we caught something else, a Sphinx Moth. Nicotiana is very tall, about 5 feet, and is set with hundreds of long tubular white flowers. Feeding among the flowers was the Sphinx Moth. These insects are huge, about the size of a Hummingbird. It likewise hovers near the flower and extracts nectar with a long proboscis. The moth was not disturbed by our presents or our porch lights. We viewed it for about five minutes before it had finished feeding and flew off. Gardens can be interesting places, even at night.

8 October 2000 - The last two evenings have been exceptionally cold. We recorded an overnight low of 29 degrees. Most of the flowers have been killed off by these two hard frosts. Luckily, two days ago we began to winterize our yard. Exterior water was turned off, Hummingbird feeders were removed and emptied, and tender bulbs were taken in. Tender bulbs include Amaryllis, Pineapple Plant, and Caladiums. We let Dahlias and Cannas get knocked down from the freeze before we dig them out.

We now have several dozen Amaryllis bulbs, and the collection grows bigger every year. The Amaryllis were planted in our garden (in their pots) last May. Two days ago, we lifted the pots and inspected the plants. All were in great shape. We then cut off the leaves, re-potted the bulbs in new soil, added some general purpose bulb food, and stored the pots in our cool dark basement. Amaryllis need about 40 days of dark dry conditions to induce flowering. In mid-November we'll start moving the pots upstairs. The bulbs will produce a flower stalk about 30 days later. Then another two to four weeks before the flowers open. So, expect the first flowers about mid-January. Amaryllis flowers last about 20 days, and then often produce a second flower stalk. Expect the last bloom of the final Amaryllis to end about the mid-April. Many people think of Amaryllis as a Christmas plant. It's not - it's a late winter bloomer! The Christmas bloomers are specially grown in greenhouses, it's not their nature to typically bloom that early.

30 October 2000 - The peak color of autumn has come and gone. And the garden is littered with all types of leaves. Still, some leaves persist to stay on their branches. Some even remain nicely green. The last leaf holders in our yard are Sycamore, Magnolia, and Tamarack trees.

Indoors, we have seen our first forced bulb bloom. Exactly five weeks ago, we planted a pot of "Ziva" Paper White Narcissus. We also potted up a different batch of these bulbs ever week for five weeks. This should produce a series of new bloomers well into December. Last year we had a Paper White Narcissus disaster. We had potted up over four dozen bulbs, but not one would bloom. Paper White Narcissus are susceptible to cold and we had stored them in our 48 degree basement for several weeks. This cold treatment severely damaged the bulbs. This year we stored the Paper White Narcissus bulbs upstairs - in the warm house. And we were rewarded with a white fragrant bloom. Some garden lessons are more costly than others.

30 October 2000 - Hello, Back in July (which is apparently then end of the Perennial season) we just bought our first house. In the 29 years of my life, I have never needed to know anything about flowers besides the come in the spring and look pretty. :) Since buying the house, I have developed this urge to have pretty flowers in the spring. From everything I've read, now is the time for planting. I have been searching the net for a complete perennial chart. I suppose I've found that it all depends allot on climate. I am in Erie, PA about a mile from Lake Erie. I suppose we would have similar weather as Winconsin. Your schedule of blooming does tell me aproximately when the flowers will bloom. Do you by any chance know when they die off too? I've found one other chart that tells the life expectancy of a variety of flowers, shrubs, and trees and found that it would be nice to have the full life information on allot more flowers. I think I could plan for a better garden if I knew when to expect them to leave also. Your blooming schedule covers ALLOT more flowers than the other one I found, but really be nice if I knew when the bloom season of each particular flower was over. Any additional info you may be able to give me would be GREATLY appreciated.

In Zone 6, your low winter temperature should not usually exceed -10 degrees. That means that you can certainly grow anything you see on our webpage. And we grow over 300 varieties. Most spring perennials only bloom for 7 to 10 days. Best to plant these in "clumps" so you have a solid splash of color for that week or so. Then, the next week, something else will be in bloom. Many of these spring plants are also true "ephemerals". That is, shortly after they flower, the entire plant appears to die back and vanish. You're left with a mostly bare spot of ground. The plant didn't die, that's just how some species grow. In summer, the perennials bloom for much longer periods. Some are outstanding, like Purple Coneflower, "Moonbeam" Coreopsis, Catnip, and Geranium bloom for over 10 weeks (some bloom until the frost kills off the flowers). We'll keep improving the website and add more data as we collect it. Thanks again for your email. And write again if you have more questions.

17 November 2000 - Last night we received a light dusting of snow. Time to begin stringing Christmas lights in our trees and bushes, and finishing the yard work.

We drained one 110 gallon goldfish pond and covered it with plastic. The aquatic plants got moved to our cool basement and we'll water them once a month. The goldfish and frogs got crowded with the other inhabitants in our smaller 55 gallon goldfish pond. We heat the pond with a bird bath heater. The 90 watt heater keeps a small area of the surface open while the rest is allowed to occassionally freeze. Open water is important in a live pond so that the toxic gases can escape. The bottom of the pond stays between 33 to 39 degrees all winter. The goldfish stop eating and just slowly swim about the pond, ever waiting for spring. The frogs burrow in the muck at the bottom of the pond and appear to hibernate. The Amaryllis bulbs which were placed in our basement on October 6th, were now brought upstairs and given their first drink of water, and sunlight, in over 40 days. This dark, cool, and dry treatment should induce the plants to produce flowers in about 2 or 3 months. More Paper White Narcissus open each week. We learned from our disaster of last year to keep these bulbs at room temperature. Dozens of fragrant little white blooms are our rewards for learning from our mistakes.

2 February 2001 - It's official - 6 more weeks of winter! Today at the Zoo, skilled zoologists dragged the sleepy rodent out of it's den. A snarling, clawing, and frigtened groundhog was hoisted high into the air for the view of the cheering crowd - where it saw it's shadow. Seers regard this omen as a prediction of six more weeks of winter. Six more weeks would amount to March 16th, remarkably close to March 21st - the Spring Equinox. The Spring Equinox is the astronomical event that designates the first day of spring.

For the gardener, this also means that daylight is increasing and your plants are paying attention. The shortest amount of daylight was December 22nd, just 8 hours and 57 minutes. Six weeks later, on Groundhog Day, the daylight increased to 9 hours and 57 minutes. You've gained an entire hour of daylight. On March 21st, daylight will increase to 12 hours and 12 minutes. You'll gain another 2-1/4 hours of daylight. Twelve hours of daylight is a special trigger for most plants. Their metabolisms start kicking into gear and the growth process begins. So when you gardeners go outside today and you see your shadow - it should frighten you too. Get that seed order in. Spring is just six weeks away!

9 March 2001 - Five weeks ago, the Groundhog saw it's shadow and predicted that winter would end exactly one week from today - seems that the chubby rodent got it right! Today is nice and sunny, mid day temperatue about 40, but absolutely nothing in bloom.

Over the next two weeks, we'll likely see blooms from yellow crocus, purple dwarf irises, and white snowdrops. Spring really is just around the corner. Also count on one more big snowfall, but it'll melt - adding moisture for more flowers. It's official, you are now allowed to catch "spring fever".

23 April 2001 - Hundreds of yellow and white daffodils are in flower, along with large patches of blue siberian squill. The tulips we planted last fall are producing bright circles of pink, yellow, and red. Giant flowering onion and Fritillaria stalks are starting to emerge. Magnolias are starting, and many other trees and bushes are budding. Upcoming events: Mid-May is our annual plant sale.
5 May 2001 - Today we were visited by our first Baltimore Oriole and our first Ruby Throated Hummingbird. We attract Baltimore Orioles with a ripe orange sliced into halves. Wedge the orange slices into a wire cage, and hang it in front of a viewing window. Ruby Throated Hummingbirds are attracked to sugar water placed in a red plastic feeder. We mix 1 part sugar to 4 parts of water. The trick is placing it in a red container. We started putting out the oranges and sugar water on May 1st, but there were no takers until today. We have tracked the bird arrivals for the past five years, and each year the birds show up earlier than the last year. I suspect that the trend means we're just getting better at putting the food out. But perhaps the birds are getting anxious to see us too.

White Crowned Sparrows have been here for three weeks. They appear like English Sparrows, but with three bold white racing stripes on their heads. They scratch the ground and peck like little chickens. Juncos are still in the yard, but the next warm snap will likely encourage them to migrate further north. We'll see them again in October. Jack-In-The-Pulpit and Japanese Cobra Lily are in bloom. And we presently have 7 species of Trillium all displaying their red, white, or yellow flowers - it's a pretty awesome sight! The Redbud trees are showing off their pink flowers. The Crab Apple trees and Lilac bushes are just about to start. Everywhere the yard is in bloom. And at night, we are serenaded by American toads that have taken over both our 55 gallon and 100 gallon ponds. Spring has solidly arrived.

4 July 2001 - The first two weeks of summer have produced a great garden show. Summer started off with blooms from blue Butterfly Delphilium, Gold Plate Yarrow, Swamp Milkweed (pink flower), and white, red, and pink Astilbes. The second week produced blooms from Purple Coneflower, Yellow Coneflower, Indian Summer (variety of black eyed susan), pink Monarda, red Pincushion, blue Spiderwort, and Lavendar. Just now, we are beginning to see the blooms from white Gooseneck Loosestrife (awesome new plant), lemon yellow Moonbeam Coreopsis, Yucca (3 foot tall white spikes), and Saint John's Wort (24 inch tall woody shrub, filled with yellow flowers).

We've grown two spectacular grasses: Karl Foerster and Overdam. Both are clumping, upright, forms of grass that produce flower heads (seed heads) at about 36 inches in height (both are varieties of Calamagrostis x acutiflora, commonly called Feather Reed Grass). Overdam leaves are edged in white, and Karl Foerster is all green. As you might note, for us to say something nice about a grass is truly remarkable (we've spent the last six years killing off most of our lawn on our 1.2 acre lot). But these grasses very unique and produce a strong display.

We have a nesting pair of Cardinals, and several nesting pairs of Garden Wrens. The ponds are stocked with pudgy goldfish and a zillion baby American Toad tadpoles. We have a bumper crop of Chipmunks, and our first Grass Snake. Annuals are a sad story this year. We failed to produce viable plantings (at least, in a sufficient number). Our favorite annuals are Nikki Red Nicotiana (flowering tobacco - is to die for), Coral Nymph Salvia (very cool coral color, not pink - coral!), and Lady In Red Salvia (bright red color, attracts hummingbirds). We'll be certain to get a successful crop of these annuals next year. Exotics started off nicely with us planting Bromeliads, tropical ferns, and a tropical orchid along the shady path in our pine forest. We suffered a major setback, when Zedd (our Vizsla puppy) brought us the orchid ... in three different pieces. The next week, Zedd successfully killed a 100 foot garden hose that we had just brought home from the garden center (chewed it in half). Zedd is a great help in the garden.

8 July 2001 - I'm not much of a bird expert, but I'll tell you what I can. Baltimore Oriles visit southeastern Wisconsin from about May through August. Then they winter in Mexico and on the US coastline of the Gulf of Mexico (Florida - Texas). We attract them to our bird feeder with orange halves, but I'm told that grape jelly and sugar water will also work (sounds pretty sticky, however). We see them several times in May, less often in June, and then they seem to vanish for us. Other people see them, so they are still about in Wisconsin. But they avoid our bird feeder in July and August.

Reply: We have used sugar water for several year for the oriles since we got them to come up to the house to feed. This year we heard that they liked grape jelly and one day my husband got in the cupboard while I was away and got out something from the canned goods. When I got home he told me what he had done and when I looked at what he had used, He had got out blueberry piefilling that I had canned for myself. The birds loved it and then we put out some peach jam that we also had made and they really loved that too. WE see them from May 1st through most of July and they are so interesting to watch. We really enjoy them in evening and morning while we are sitting in our livingroom drinking our coffee. They have such a beautiful call that them make back and forth to each other whle they are in the high trees arouond the yard, too.

2 September 2001 - Monarch butterflies float around our yard at this time of year. Dozens of butterflies hover about the purple and pink Butterfly Bush. But upon further inspection, one of those familar orange butterflies turned out to be something very different - a Viceroy butterfly! Viceroy butterflies are distinguished from Monarchs by a single black vein that disects the bottom portion of the rear wing. Also, Viceroys are slightly smaller. Attached are three images: A Viceroy Butterfly, A Viceroy rear wing, and A Monarch rear wing. Go check out your orange butterflies. Maybe they are not all Monarchs.
25 November 2001 - Our indoor garden adventure continues with orchids. We have successfully kept our orchid collection alive for three entire months. So we now have decided to share our "expert" knowledge with others. The original goal was to keep the orchids alive just long enough for Donna to photograph team in our studio. Funny thing happened - the orchids didn't die :-) It seems that orchids are not as impossible to grow as we once thought. The trick is a balance of air circulation, watering, feeding, sufficient light, and getting into a plant care routine. We posted the details on our webpage. Maybe you can grow orchids too.
22 December 2001 - During the holiday season not everyone has the ability to take time off from work. Donna is in her peak photographic period with slide submissions, writing stories, and photographing plants. We have attached some images of Donna at work. Toiling away the season in her studio. It's a dirty job, but someone has to do it :-)
13 April 2002 - Daffodils and European Pasque Flowers are just in bloom. Tulips and Bloodroot will take their turn next week. Spring is here! Five Bullfrogs and a dozen Goldfish survived the winter in our 55 gallon pond. We have managed to keep open water in the pond during the last three winters with the help of a 100 watt bird bath heater. One enormous frog has lived happily in the pond for four years. We have filled and placed water plants into our second pond, a 110 gallons. This pond gets drained in the fall.

The birdfeeders are packed with seed and today we placed out our Hummingbird feeder. Perhaps it's a little early to attract Hummingbirds, but the yard is filled with Cardinals, Puple Finches, American Gold Finches, Nuthatches, WoodPeckers, and Black Capped Chickadees. And even BlueJays when we put out some peanuts in the shell - they love peanuts! Slave labor gardeners wanted - for those of you wishing to get your hands dirty. We'll need help potting up plants, cleaning out dead stalks, chain sawing dead trees, mulching, and burning. Donna is in the garden now almost every day. Tour the Krischan Gardens - peak blooms are during June and July, but there is always someting to see. Give Donna a call. We'll have a warm pot of coffee brewing - drink at your own risk :-)


Garden Narratives.

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