Monthly Archives: June 2012

Hummingbird Fledglings!

By | Birds | One Comment

Ha! I have confirmation at last–Single Female Hummingbird has raised a pair of babies in the yard.

I had a suspicion when two hummingbirds showed up out of nowhere, and Single Female Hummingbird didn’t chase them away immediately. She is merciless to intruders into HER yard. These two she tolerates to be on the other side of the bee balm, although if one makes for a flower that she’s working on, she gets pretty annoyed.

But it was only a suspicion, because a young adult hummingbird looks exactly like an adult female hummingbird*, so for all I knew, I was just hosting some peculiar avian sorority. But today I actually got a close look at one of the newcomers, and he had fluff. The last bits of baby down were still clinging to his little feet, and particularly ridiculously, to the top of his head.

So Single Female Hummingbird successfully raised a pair of babies! (Male hummingbirds are deadbeat dads.)

I am terribly gratified. This goes along with the single pipevine swallowtail caterpillar on the hairy Dutchman’s pipe as Awesome Stuff In The Garden This Summer. And now I can add ruby-throated hummingbirds to the list of birds that have raised babies in the yard, which includes blue-gray gnatcatchers, white-breasted nuthatches, Carolina chickadees, tufted titmice, red-bellied woodpeckers, and possibly most gratifying, the pileated woodpecker. (Only one baby there, but it was a BIG baby.)


*The ruby gorget that marks males doesn’t show up until next year.


By | My Garden, plants | 2 Comments

The hapless young gardener is often warned against excessively fertilizing nasturtiums, because (so the books say) the plant will engage in excessive leaf production, at the expense of flowers. Nasturtiums, they say, want a poor, somewhat dry soil, in order to achieve maximum flower production.

But words like “overly rich soil” can mean all sorts of things. What counts as overly? They did very well last year in the vegetable garden, so this year I put on an inch of mushroom compost and planted nasturtiums again.



Ah. Yes. Hmm. Apparently an inch of mushroom compost is the bit that turns “rich” into “overly rich.” This is the nasturtiums, AFTER I cut them back (they were vining wildly across the pathway) where they have entirely eaten my herb-mound. They are knee-high everywhere and nearly thigh-high in places. There are bits of basil sticking up through the carnage, but I had to plant another row of basil (after taking out the spent peas) and if Kevin ever needs any fresh sage, I’m going to have to go in with a machete. It forced the also-highly-crazed cilantro back against the deck railing, requiring me to do a rescue-and-extraction operation on the lemon verbena.

I grow nasturtiums for no reason except that they say “garden” to me—the flowers are edible but we hardly ever use them, certainly not in the quantities they are produced. I love them simply because they are one of the quintessential garden plants and they grow extremely easily from seed (which for ME is very important. I’m not good at it.)

I have no idea how I am supposed to edge my vegetable garden with these in the future, if they’re going to do this in my improved garden soil…

Like Rugs, They Lie

By | plants | 4 Comments

So last year, I planted a cultivar of Agastache foeniculum, called “Snow Spike.” It has white flowers. Pollinators like it. (A. foeniculum, for the record, is our native giant blue hyssop, growing up to five feet tall.)

I have looked through various grower information, and it’s either 18″, 24″, 36″ or 40″ tall, depending on who you ask, lauded for its extremely good behavior, compact form, and general elegance by gardening sites the web over.

I would like to register the following objection.

At the time of this writing, “Snow Spike” is eight feet tall. I had to lash its somewhat smaller brother (a mere five and a half feet!) to a trellis, since it was leaning into the walkway, but the eight-footer is as upright and sturdy as a sequoia. There is no legginess, no phototropic lean towards the sun. It is the tallest thing in the back garden. The crabapple I planted last fall doesn’t even compete. The ginormous tomatoes top out at six feet. You have to get out of the flowerbeds and into the treeline before you find taller members of the plant kingdom, and when you do, it’s an oak tree.

Now, my original plant did not actually survive the winter, but it reseeded with the enthusiasm of an Old Testament patriarch and I have been yanking babies out of my vegetable bed and cracks in the walkway for weeks. (None of them actually landed in the flowerbed where they would be welcome, naturally.) This is one of those babies. I left several in the tiny little corner bed between the house and the sidewalk, where it receives brutal sun and not that much rain. It presumably goes without saying that I cannot be arsed to water it. It is just coming in to flower now. I fear it.

The other various Agastaches in the front yard, meanwhile, are all being well-behaved normal plants five feet tall and bringing in lots of bees and generally acting like the plant labels said they would. Apparently “Snow Spike” did not get the memo about it’s compactness.. I like a monstrous structural perennial as much as the next person, but I like to be warned in advance, so I can plant them in a space more than a foot wide where they will not systematical devour my nasturtiums.  (Is it possible that I have, through some peculiar hazard of genes, acquired an enormous mutant? Hmm. Maybe I should save those seeds. If it bred true, I would name it “Yeti.”)

So. Quite a plant. Little frightening. Plant with caution.