Thursday, July 2, 2015

A Garden Gamble: Calycanthus 'Venus'

I am trying one of the new hybrid calycanthus 'Venus'. Not sure it is hardy to my zone. I did not think it would flower this year, but it appears it does flower on new growth. It has four buds. It has a nice sweet fragrance.

This is my form of gambling. If it proves root hardy here and as it has proven it blooms on new growth, this sweet shrub is possibly not a gamble. Having four blooms this years is almost like a $2.00 pay out on a scratch card, right?

Monday, June 29, 2015

Barberry, Deer, Mice, Black-legged Deer Ticks, and Lyme Disease

Barberry, on the left, are a common shrub in many central WI foundation plantings.  
Under the category "It's Always Something!" add barberry as a host for mice and in turn black legged deer ticks with mice as a vector for Lyme disease.

In an area where it seems more often than not that the USDA's horticultural zone chart is a big lie, where extremes in weather are the norms not the abnormalities, and where a broad base of plants which are "tried and true" is a dream more than reality; this latest news just sucks.

Between invasives other undesirable herbaceous plants, planting could get pretty thin here. We have lost a lot of our white pines in The Drought of 2012 and The Brutal Winter of 2013. My garden is in recovery mode. Slight snow cover and a very cold drop in temperatures this past winter again tested the hardiness of many plants in my garden. My one privet  hedge is very much in recovery. I lost a Sweet Autumn clematis (who can kill an established Sweet Autumn?) Roses of all sorts beyond rugosas and the native wild rose and rosa carolina, have taken a hard hit. Arborvitae are nothing more than deer browse. Spruce and spruce tip blight are nearly synonymous here in the village.

So my sister from PA visits.  She is much more wired in to east coast research than I.  She tells me about this latest UConn study.  There are 40% more black legged deer ticks in areas of uncontrolled barberry (Japanese-- thunbergii) than in areas where there are no barberry. In areas, where the growth of barberry are controlled (foundation planting in landscaped areas). there are a quarter as many as uncontrolled, but significantly more than in areas where there are no barberry.

Now, barberry are not browsed by deer, but loved by mice who like to gnaw on them throughout the winter months. Barberry also do better with a bit more moisture. Ticks like moisture. It is easy to see where ticks, mice, barberries, deer and Lyme disease begin to all share the same habitat are are part of the same nature web.

Barberries are spread by birds making them invasive. It is easy to see where an increase in deer population and their increasing incursions into urban areas has aided Lyme disease and its spread.

Put another "tick" mark in the "bad" column for ornamental barberries.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Best Idea for a Walk Way

There was not a lot to interest me on this year's Outagamie County Master Gardeners' Garden Walk. This garden feature takes the prize, however, for creativity, originality, and repurposing. Not only was the pattern beautiful and unique, the use of the Neenah Foundry-produced iron work nearly sets itself apart as a piece of art. The Neenah Foundry may be one of the last bastions Old World craftsmanship more commonly seen in buildings built early last century.

The gardener in this garden had retired from the foundry and has a brother still working there. Neenah Foundry is known to ex-pat Wisconsinites as the sewer cover manufacturer for the world. I have had the unusual experience of being far from home and look down at my feet to find a manhole cover stamped "Neenah". I would venture to say most people have no idea what a "Neenah" is. The "Neenahs" have their own FaceBook page.

While many covers are purely utilitarian; some are highly ornamental, and chances are made at the Neenah Foundry. Along with municipal street tree tree guards, they do a job...beautifully

These inground tree guards, officially named tree grates by the foundry, in this case are three inches thick about 3' by 4' and weigh 425 pounds. Tree guards are the upright structures. Unlike cement sidewalks and stone pavers, tree guards purposed in this way are highly permeable. Meant to have consecutive ring knocked out as the street tree grows larger, many start as half or a quarter of a rectangle or square with a small curved corner.

This is such a good idea. 

The homeowner told me because they are a dark cast iron they are sort of a heat sink in the winter accelerating the snow melt. Yet, in summer, they have not been too hot for bare feet, at least so far.