encounters: with weevils, woodchucks and more

We finally got some rain this week. The pit pat of rain on our metal roof makes me very happy–my garden soil was bone dry. It’s a gentle, patient rain that can really soak in. We went to a rehearsal yesterday for the Northern Lights Orchestra we’re both in, and when we got back a young woodchuck greeted us near the steps to our front porch like he or she owned the place and what were we doing there? Very cute, with soft, pretty brown fur. But I didn’t get a picture. There’s another, older and more wary one living out near the haymow that scoots hole-ward every time I go to get hay for the horses.As long as they stay away from the vegetable garden we live and let live.

In other news, here are some newly blooming iris:

very tall, sophisticated iris

This is one of my favorites. It’s very tall but doesn’t tend to fall over. It has a smaller bloom than most other of the “heavy” bloomed iris I have. For example, this is a hefty variety:

medium blue iris

I made the acquaintance of the iris weevil this week. Here is what it does to the iris:

damage to iris bloom from iris weevil

So I used my new camera to get a close up. The weevils play dead and roll over when you first shake them out of the flower, then pretty soon they flip over and walk around. They have long noses, and are very cute little things.

two weevils in my hand

Here is a close up. and one more–I just love their long noses!

iris weevils–Mononychus vulpeculus

I have several kinds of iris in the garden: five or so kinds of tall bearded iris that were here when I arrived; a small light yellow variety I brought over from the front yard of the falling down house across the street; similarly small ones I brought from the yard of my parents’ house where I grew up; very tall large-flowering bearded iris I ordered from Schreiner’s Iris Garden; intermediate iris, also from Schreiner’s, that I ordered when I got sick of the bigger ones flopping over all the time.

burnished tall iris

Iris and I have a troubled relationship–I don’t like to have to stake them, and I don’t think they like my acidic soil, but I’m not willing to bother amending the soil for them. I love their blooms and buds and fragrance, but I don’t like having to worry about their tubers getting buried under mulch, which I use a lot of. So I have thinned out my iris by quite a bit, and I only order intermediate varieties, which don’t ever flop. I like Schreiner’s Gardens a lot.

big blue iris close up

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My sister recommended a book published in 1010 by the garden writer Sydney Eddison, entitled Gardening for a Lifetime: How to Garden Wiser as you Grow Older. I recommend it, too. I’m going to comment about it on the four or five garden blogs I follow, to get the word out to as many people as possible.

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Heliopsis helianthoides Aster family (Asteraceae) false sunflower, trimmed

So, about flopping plants and staking, I have staked all my peonies, but I refuse to stake iris–I just have too many of them. And I would rather not stake the false sunflowers, but they do fall over, so I’ve done it –or tried to–for years. These plants are worth a lot to me since they bloom prolifically for a long time in late summer through  early fall, and have an extremely long vase life. Their blooms are cheerful, and go with everything.

false sunflower portrait — from grownative.org

They are pest-free and self-seed like mad. I use them a lot in big and small bouquets that I supply to the wonderful restaurant in town called the Blackbird Cafe. But even when I stake them, they fall over, because they are so tall. So I am trying this method–now, when they are just starting to form buds, I cut this patch in the photo above back by 50%. I want to see how it responds to that. If this does not work, I guess I’ll need to think about using taller, stouter posts.

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My sister and my niece were here for the weekend–both love to be in the woods and take walks. We headed over to Downerville woods on Sunday morning, for a walk along the river with their dog, Star.

Jeanne and Star
Rachel, me, Jeanne and Star

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