From dedicated gardener Japa21:
For a change, this is not about my garden, yard, containers, etc. Instead this is abut my son’s. He lives in one of the nearer western suburbs of Chicago and as anyone from that area knows, homes east of the tollway don’t have, for the most part, very big yards. Yet, my son loves to garden.
Mrs. Japa and I spent a lot of time there this summer as we had to watch the two grandkids while both parents were working. Now that the kids are back in school, we get a little rest. However, while we were there I got to thinking about what people’s goals are when they set up gardens. Gardens are a lot of work and different people garden for different reasons. I decided that my son has three reasons.
Reason one is for “curb appeal”. I have not included photos of the house front for various reasons. Suffice it to say it is mainly some low bushes, ground cover, a beautiful peach tree and some hydrangeas. Very attractive when it is maintained. As I will discuss later, for various reasons, this was not a year where maintenance was a high priority.
He basically turned that back half of his yard into a meditative garden. With small lots, homes are crowded on top of each other and privacy is at a minimum. Fortunately, he has had wonderful neighbors. But the picture above is of a portion of the garden and you can see where he set up a little sitting area tucked way into the back corner. When he gets back there it is like being in a different world. He has planted a wide variety of plants so that something is always flowering, beginning with the pear and plum trees and continuing throughout the summer into the fall. Into addition to being a visual delight it is also a delight for the other senses.
He has not done a lot of maintenance this summer. I have come to realize that the pandemic has produced a major priority change for him. Yes, he still loves his garden, but he has put his major emphasis on his wife and kids. They go places a lot. Some times just day journeys, sometimes long weekends. I don’t want to give the impression he didn’t view them as a priority before. They have always been first. But there is an added emphasis this year.
But I digress.
My son is big into protecting the environment. Thus, he has set up a tiny “pollinator garden”. Basically, he started with a whiskey barrel and then also planted other items around it. It is set up, like the meditative garden, to have flowers that various pollinators find attractive throughout the year. It looks a little ragged right now but it is still doing what he created it for.
Last week we were there for a couple days and noticed activity. You could say that the creatures that arrived are as much a part of the garden as the plants themselves. Within just a couple of hours we saw the common but still beautiful monarch, the slightly less common (in our area) eastern yellow swallowtail, the gorgeous black swallowtail, some bee (or maybe wasp) and most surprisingly of all, the rarely seen hummingbird moth. In my 74 years on this earth, I have never seen one, though I have heard of them.
So, why do you garden?
What’s going on in your garden(s), this week?
The photos are lovely, and I love the idea of a “meditative garden” and “pollinator garden.” Your son sounds like a good man.
I’ve started to clear areas in flower beds to sow poppies, coreopsis, larkspur, arugula, calendulas for next spring.
When I had a garden, I was slowly converting all the lawn into such spaces. I was big on bird and butterfly, and throughout support for natural bug control.
Where I live now has a lot of those goals built-in, as not a typical suburban space. So I do a lot of native seed scattering.
With our tenants finally getting out 4 days late we are starting a major project to replace the floors and, most likely, do major structural work to the whole floor system. Since the house is next door and the boss lady uses a good a part of the property for her garden I expect major work there too.
Why do I garden?
Good question. I suppose self abuse is a part of it.
Really tho, it is the magic of watching a seed come to life and grow. I could never tire of it. Putting a garden together is like sculpture. I’m not very good at that part. I’m always hacking and yanking away the parts that don’t belong and what I replace them with quite often doesn’t seem to fit either. There are times of the year where nothing seems to belong. But every now and again…
PS: Nice pics Japa21. Thanx.
Dorothy A. Winsor
Beautiful pictures and beautiful account of your son’s gardening
My garden is currently overflowing with tomatoes. I do recommend the varieties Chef’s Black and Chef’s Orange. Black tastes lovely and bears much more heavily than Orange, but the Orange flavor is fantastic. Chef’s Pink is also a good bearer, but not as amazingly tasty as the other two. All of them have been resistant to blights and viruses, so are my current substitutes for the heritage tomatoes I can no longer seem to keep alive.
The rest of my garden is a big mess of weeds overwhelming the perennials: two years of neglect add up. I’ll be aiming to sort out at least three small beds this fall… maybe I’ll even get some bulbs planted when I do.
Good Morning, Everyone???
A few years ago the city put in a strip of native plants along a strip of road. I have been watching it gradually get taken over by thistle and other non-natives, but on the plus side it does seem to be more popular with the pollinators now. The finches are fans too.
@rikyrah: Good morning!
Thank you for the lovely pictures, and yes, the description of your son’s gardens. What a thoughtful person he sounds like.
I have never had any success in gardening, so gave up long ago. I’m grateful to all the Juicers who give me vicarious gardening enjoyment!
The hummingbird numbers are dropping as more and more head south. I’m going to miss them but my sugar budget will be happier.
Haven’t harvested a tomato from the garden in weeks. There are a number of greenies on the vine that just won’t ripen. At least the squirrels have stopped taunting me with the shredded remains of perfectly ripe brandywines on top of the gate.
I am getting plenty of Romanesco zucchinis, as usual more than we can eat. I’ve been sharing them with my son & DiL and our neighbor. Even still, I shredded a bunch (8 pts or so) and froze it for later use in baking. The Delicata squash are producing well, 4 fruit on the vine so far and plenty of September yet to go. I have nothing from the Galeux D’ Eysines so far. I knew they were a long shot.
I’ll be canning my sauerkraut today. And enjoying Lyriel’s company. She is a very happy baby.
Thanks for the nice photos japa21, and the video of the hummingbird moth in action! I’ve been missing the hummingbirds that were so prevalent at my old place, but in the last few weeks I’ve seen one swing by the hanging plants on my porch. Hooray!
@JeanneT: I love the colored tomatoes but the heritage ones have been less productive for me too, to my great disappointment. I assume it’s all the high heat and humidity nights we’ve had that kept the fruit from setting. I’ll have to try those next year.
Two days off, and probably two weeks of house and garden work to try to cram into these days. But the weather is glorious, so I should get at least a few done ?
Same boat here, though I got part of it cleared before the heatwave, only to see it completely covered with weeds again. It isn’t really two years, because I get it almost completely cleaned up after the first frost and during spring, only to see it all overwhelmed during the hottest months, when I’m also my busiest with the jobs. So depressing.
It’s a real treat to see a butterfly around here, but I do get to witness the dragonfly who is certain my silver Civic is a pool of water and keeps trying to land in it practically every day.
A relative in northern Virginia recently shared pictures of a hummingbird moth in her garden. Interesting critter. I enjoyed the story of your son’s garden.
Hummingbirds around here usually arrive for Memorial Day and leave on Labor Day.
I have tried hummingbird feeders, but I am not disciplined enough to change them out often enough, so I have given up on that and have to rely on my flowers.
Last week I was blessed with hummingbirds on my front deck, feeding on the red mandevilla and the peach tropical hibiscus. In the back, they love my mexican petunias. So that was a lovely treat.
I “garden” to annoy my neighbors Dee Dee Plorable and Neandra Tall. And, I have been successful beyond my wildest dreams.
Most recently, my devotion to dilatory gardening has been rewarded with the erection of two 8 foot tall fences on each side of West of Eden by these two devotees of ivermectin. Double D’s is made of wood and topped with 6 strands barbed wire. Neandra Tall’s is, of course, made of stone.
Thanks to information I learned at this paean to spit in small colorful inflatables, I have come up with a gift of thanks for each off these two fully jde-wormed covidiots. Tomorrow (maybe), I am planting next to each fence, approximately 15 Feet from Dee Dee’s covenstead and Neandra’s comfy cave, 2 weeping willows.
@debbie: Lovely for you, but disappointing for the dragonfly that is living in Groundhog Day!
I garden for so many reasons! To eat fresh organic vegetables and fruits, to watch butterflies and hummingbirds, because I was a farm kid and my mother had a very large vegetable garden so I grew up with some basic know-how, to minimize the amount of lawn that needs to be mowed, for beauty and fragrance and privacy, to be out of doors and not always just sitting, to get through the long dark cold winters paging through seed catalogs and dreaming….
@stinger: I single-handedly kept the economy going through the first winter of the pandemic by ordering a ridiculous amount of tomatoes, plants and flowers online.
@WaterGirl: My mother used hummingbirds feeders into her 90s, but I’ve never used them for much the same reason as you. Instead, I rely on plants specifically chosen to attract hummingbirds. And every summer one hangs on my porch, practically in my face, for a few moments buzzing loudly as if to say Thanks!
@WaterGirl: We all owe you a vote of gratitude!
Why does it not give up already!?!
That makes me feel a little better, since I think of you as a gardening authority!
I love the butterfly pictures and just had to share a poem I wrote years ago:
Butterflies Come To Lilacs
Pale yellow with jet-tipped wings,
deep orange with sable spots –
Floating on the fragrant air,
butterflies come to lilacs.
Beside the honey bees, they dine.
No thought of any world but this –
The sweet green spring of lilac time,
when everything’s provided.
Thank you for the lovely photos, @Japa21. I like the idea of a meditation corner.
The drought continues here in NE Illinois. I used to have to mow the lawn weekly well into August during the previous few summers, but this summer it’s down to every couple of weeks. I know lawns aren’t popular, but I confess I like a few stretches of flat greenery about the place. That said, I use organic feed and I don’t water, so when the grass went dormant, the creeping Charlie and clover exploded. I let the clover be–it fixes nitrogen in the soil and the bees love it. But creeping Charlie is useless–it just webs atop the soil and lets everything underneath dry out and harden.
Most all the ferns have withered in the shady sideyard. But the hydrangeas are blooming, as are a couple of late hosta. One thing I enjoy about gardening near the edge of woodland is watching the native plants creep in. Over the years, three kinds of Solomon’s seal, trout lilies, and wood anemones have taken hold in the sideyard. If I see something new pop up, I leave it alone to see what it turns into. If it’s free, pretty, not a known invasive, and wants to be here, I let it stay. That’s how I wound up with scattered Asiatic dayflowers and a really nice stand of goldenrod in the backyard.
@WaterGirl: I have decided to let the Roses of Sharon continue to thrive because the hummers sure do love them, as do the bees.
@munira: How lovely!
@stinger: Thank you
@munira: Delurking to tell you how much I enjoyed this poem.
I’ve been a gardener since I was a kid, veggies and flowers, and then I got into xeriscaping because living near Denver, there was/is a lot of realizing that living in a desert with limited water means bluegrass lawns are not sustainable nor do they feed the birds, bees, etc.
Now we live in even more of a desert in central Oregon, and this year’s drought is the second worse on record, and year 4 of less than average precipitation. In Colorado we had a small yard, drip irrigation and no grass, but it rained enough in the summer that I felt like it was OK to have plants and use some water on them. It hadn’t rained here since last spring, and we bought a house with a bigger yard with mostly ruined landscaping by the prior owner’s dementia. I’ve given away the high water use plants and have been slowly removing all the grass in the backyard, building stone walls to replace the rotting timbers supporting a tall berm, and planted native shrubs in the berm for privacy eventually. I’m going to try to stick mostly with native forbs for flowers because of the water issues here, and mourning a little bit that this means a few of my favourite plants won’t have a place here. I think I can still plant my beloved combo of West Texas grass sage (Salvia reptans), Redbirds in a Tree (another TX native wildflower) and the many great Agastaches since all are water thrifty. The Redbirds in a Tree is the best hummingbird magnet I’ve ever grown and once it starts blooming in July,, it goes on until frost. Kind of a floppy plant so you need to accept and work with its lack of formal shape, but if you want to see lots of hummingbirds, it’s so worth it!
Also, smoke is bad today, air quality at around 400 depending on which website you look at. Looks like no working in the yard or walking outside today.
@sab: I love Rose of Sharon, and all the Rose of Sharon haters on Balloon Juice… well, let’s just say pistols at dawn.
I think pistils would be more appropriate.