Friday, June 29, 2007

Some Canal Wildflowers

Tall Meadow Rue -- One of the many native species that thrives in sunny, wet areas, of which there are few in Princeton.

Swamp Rose--This is the native rose, found growing on the banks of Lake Carnegie and the canal.

Crown Vetch--This is an invasive exotic groundcover. It used to be planted along highways, before its invasiveness was recognized. It's common along highway 76 in Pennsylvania, and also pops up in Princeton here and there.

St. JohnsWort

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Late June Wildflowers Along the Towpath

(You can type any of these names into an internet search engine to find info)

Tall Meadow Rue
St. John's Wort
Silky Dogwood (fading)
Elderberry (shrub; berries good for making jelly, if the birds don't get them first)
Daisy Fleabane (very common)
Purple-Headed Sneezeweed (just opening)
Purple Loosestrife (invasive exotic--fortunately not too many thus far)
Swamp Rose (the native rose, with a pink flower, as opposed to the exotic multflora rose)
Lizard's Tail (grows at edge of Carnegie Lake)

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Wetland Garden Plants Get Upscale Digs

300 native wetland wildflowers and sedges were relieved of oppressive crowding this past Sunday by Native Plant Workshop volunteers. Each of the plants--rose mallow, swamp milkweed, cutleaf coneflower, woolgrass and the infamously named Purple Headed Sneezeweed (it has yellow flowers and doesn't make you sneeze)--now has its own root space to grow through the summer. They'll be camping out in these containers, protected from squirrels by hardware cloth, until they can fill vacancies this fall in local wetlands and floodplains such as at Mountain Lakes Preserve. The plants were grown from locally collected seed, as a way of preserving whatever might be special about the local genotypes. Thanks to Valerie and Lynne for their help.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Deciding What To Pull

It's June, and all the cool season weeds have grown up to obscure what you were really hoping to grow. Knowing what to pull requires knowing what the undesired plants look like in all stages of development, and often without flowers to go by. Here's an example: What to pull in the picture to the left? Nightshade (poisonous), which will have a purple flower later on, is at the top. Those small groupings of three leaflets are wood sorrel, whose leaf has a nice acidic taste. You'll probably want to pull or mulch all of those, leaving the deeply lobed plant at the bottom of the photo. That's mayapple.

The second photo is mayapple without any weeds around. If you don't mind a woodsy appearance, you can just leave the leaves on the ground and let the mayapple push up through them. Weed seeds won't be able to sprout through a thick enough layer of leaves.

Here's another mini-riot of weeds obscuring one native wildflower. Wood sorrel, which produces a small yellow flower that turns into erect seed capsules, is mixed this time with Japanese Stiltgrass (an annual grass that can survive mowing or grow 2-5 feet tall in flowerbeds; the leaf is reminiscent of bamboo). In the upper middle of the photo is one native monkeyflower, which sprouted from a parent plant nearby and will have tubular blue flowers later on. That's the keeper, though the hundreds I've seen sprout in the garden suggest that in another year or two, the native and ornamental monkeyflower may prove to be too much of a good thing.

Most people know white clover--a worldwide weed. It fixes nitrogen from the air, and provides nectar for honeybees, but it can spread into flowerbeds and clutter them up. Its leaf looks alot like wood sorrel, but is a bluer green.

Workshop On Weeds

Our June Native Plant Workshop (actually Sunday, July 1, 2pm, meeting at Whole Earth Center on Nassau Street) is devoted to figuring out what to pull out of the less than perfectly ordered garden most of us are faced with this time of year. The usual definition of a weed is a plant out of place. For the purposes of the workshop, I'm defining a weed as "any plant you get tired of seeing pop up everywhere."

This can, and often does, include plants you liked when you first noticed them.

Take for instance this delicious looking strawberry (1st photo), which turns out to be neither delicious nor a strawberry. It's Indian Mock-Strawberry, originally from India, which either spreads into your lawn from the flowerbed or vice versa.

In this second photo, which includes small leaves of wood sorrel and common plantain in the background, is another plant you may like at first but quickly get tired of. Most people know it by the flowering stalk it forms in its second year--white flowers in April that form seeds before the plant turns into a less than pretty brown skeleton in June. That's when most people decide it needs to come out, but by then it's already spreading thousands of seeds to insure its continued presence in your garden.

A few years' worth of wisdom may lead you to pull it out or mulch it over in its first year of growth, when it forms a low rosette of large, yellowish-green heart-shaped leaves, like the one in the photo.

One of the many benefits of gardening is that it trains your eye to make distinctions where others just see masses of green.

With some experience, you'll be able to distinguish garlic mustard from violet (photo)--glossier and less ragged

and Siberian Bugloss, which has blue flowers reminiscent of Forget Me Nots in the spring. None of these, by the way, with the possible exception of the violet, are native.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Homemade Deer Repellent

A participant in our Native Plant Workshops offered this recipe for protecting plants from deer:

1 quart water
1 egg white (powder is fine)
2 tsp of very hot pepper (cayenne, hungarian)
1 tsp of cinnamon

Shake well and spray. Try it and let us know how it works.