Last week Good Morning America heralded the start of summer. Last time I checked summer began on June 21 the Equinox- so when did that change? I realize the unofficial start of summer and the date for the swimming pools to open up is Memorial Day weekend but this is one more myth that the TV teaches our students. It’s as bad as the spelling grades being affected by texting. I am concerned this next generation is learning to shortcut everything and will never appreciate what we seem to find important. Okay I digress!
As Father’s Day approaches Gregg and I are hoping to get a tree planted in his dad’s memory and as it grows it will be a testament to his life. Again thanks to all of you who generously sent cards and prayers to us the last few months. It has been a trial but both of our parents would have been disappointed if we hadn’t gotten back to work. We did it because we were “supposed to”, a lesson learned many years ago and another lesson I am afraid this next generation isn’t learning.
Mother Nature reminded us last week that even though our frost date had passed, she doesn’t have a calendar and she was in control! The Wisteria was nipped, as was our Trumpet vine, Bee balm, Lemon balm, the Butterfly bushes, even the new tender growth of a couple of the Lavenders. Things will recover quickly but remember what I said about a late frost, you never know what to expect up here, so be prepared. Friends of ours lost their grapes, no wine this year, but their apples, strawberries and blueberries are fine. Just one valley over tomatoes were blackened completely and will need to be replanted. To tell you how scattered the frost really was, over the mountain they didn’t lose a thing. Frost pockets, or low spots where the cool air settles can make a big difference and even a light covering can protect the plants-Under our shade cloth even tender perennials were fine. We were lucky.
We have several upcoming classes I want to tell you about.
Saturday June 6thA Rain Barrel class. The cost is $50.00 for a completed barrel to take home and start collecting FREE rain water. This is our third class and many of you have requested this since you couldn’t make it previously. Registration is required; you can even pay for it by clicking the box below.
If you would prefer to get a barrel ready-made we have them available at the farm for $60.00. Just pick it up and take it home, hook it up and start collecting that precious water.
Saturday afternoon-June 6th- That same day we will have a repeat of the Vermicomposting class- yes worms! These red wigglers make short order of your kitchen waste and can be kept in the house. No there is no smell and no mess, just a bin with hungry critters inside- one of the many pluses is that you can compost all year long and never go out into the weather to “feed” the compost bin. They will produce castings which are the ultimate in organic fertilizer while keeping your kitchen waste from the land fill. For $15.00 make your own bin, complete with worms, to take home and start on your way to wonderful compost for your garden. Again Pre-registration is required to make sure we have enough worms for you. Check the worm box above to register, and pay for this class.
If you take both classes that day you will get a FREE light lunch, or you may bring your own and spend the day.
Saturday June 13th we will have a class on Flying Flowers- Attracting butterflies to the garden. Learn what plants will attract butterflies and what they require and how to create a wonderful habitat in your garden. $15.00 and you will take home a host plant. Don’t know what a host plant is? Then come to class and find out! Why not bring Dad so he can enjoy something in the garden which doesn’t entail cutting grass? Click the Flying Flowers box to register and pay for this class.
We have received a lot of questions about Lavender Thyme June 27th.
For those of you who have never visited, it is our Lavender event- ALL LAVENDER ALL DAY. Bring your clippers and pick some of your own bunch, just $5.00 a bunch, nothing beats fresh Lavender to soothe the soul. Plan on coming for our Lavender garden tour, stay for a Lavender lunch in the garden, free classes on choosing, planting and growing Lavender and we will have Lavender goodies for you to taste. Yes, some varieties of Lavender are edible! Pre-registration is required for the lunch, cost is $9.50 and includes an entrée, beverage and dessert. If you would prefer bringing a picnic lunch, please feel free and spend the day in the garden. For those of you who would like to hike, the trails are easily navigable and be sure to bring your camera. Pre-registration is available here……. and let me know if you have any other questions which I didn’t address.
The row of Lavender behind the building has been replanted with True Grosso and I will hope for the best. Impress Purple and Royal Purple have done well over the winter and more of both of them will go in this summer too. Royal Velvet is getting ready to bloom outside the door of the shop- yes it is early. Even though this variety is only about 8” high at the moment, it is a heavy bloomer and has a very dark color reminiscent of royalty. Come check out the varieties of Lavender we have this year.
I have been busy propagating and it is fun to see the results. Not always successful, but well worth the try. I am trying the Heptacodium again, last year only three made it to saleable size. Heptacodium, also known as Seven Sons is a multi season interest shrub/tree which garners a lot in interest in the gardens. We will see if I have better luck, this time. Two other plants wowed visitors last summer, Betony and Wallflower and we have plenty of both at the moment. Betony is not ready to bloom yet but is a hummingbird magnet, wonderful dome of greenery with spikes which sport a bristle type shocking pink flower. Wallflower is an evergreen perennial which blooms all summer long, these purple blooms are often confused with Lavender and again a hummingbird and butterfly magnet.
Last weekend we have a visitor who commented on the rather large rabbit who was living under the Rosa Rugosa. She is welcome and has several broods a year in the gardens, they don’t eat too much but they are selective. Last summer I noticed my phlox had been nibbled on and was no longer 12” tall, but maybe about 6”. I was concerned but then realized, when they bloomed later in the summer I had no mildew problems that year and it bloomed almost a month later. By the bunny “pruning” my phlox, it actually made it a healthier plant. This year she has repeated the same pruning and I will report if things work out as well as before.
If rabbits become a pest in your yard consider using Blood Meal. By sprinkling some of this all natural product you will deter the rabbits and add an important nutrient to your garden- two for one! We sprinkle it around our asters when they first come up since the bunnies favor them until the asters are at least 12” tall, they don’t bother them later in the year, maybe the taste changes. Unless we get lots of rain the blood meal will keep them at bay for close to a month, well worth the expense.
Indigo buntings and cardinals are nesting in the shrub border( must be the rose thorns which provide protection), a wren has built another nest in the potting tool shed and I am not sure what kind of nest I have in the native honeysuckle. I like to think of these visitors as the pest patrol. Many birds eat seed but most are also insectivores- meat eaters and I want them to “Eat more bugs”. The Bluebirds have fledged their first brood and should start again soon. Phoebe has fledged her brood from the playhouse and will nest at least one more time this summer. What great relationships the garden provides! Even the Praying Mantis is welcome in spite of his diet of both Good and Bad bugs. With his appetite I will welcome him to stay. We found 6 casings in the garden when we cleaned up this spring.
In past newsletters I have talked about leaving a “weed patch” to attract beneficial insects to the garden, well there is now an official name which does sound much more appealing. It is called an Insectary. I didn’t make this up, there is a new book on the market, Good Bug Bad Bug and the premise is to plant those “attractants” which provide a habitat for the good bugs so they can become predators and take care of the bad ones. Again, you have to love how nature works!!!
I will have more on this next month along with lists of the plants which are needed. I have most of them in my “Insectary” already; you may have some of them too!
On the road down to Hemlock Cove we have been working on creating a forested wetland, on the site of a vernal pool. A vernal pool is a temporary holding pond which is a breeding place for Salamanders, Frogs, and Toads etc. It dries up in the summer when breeding season is over (isn’t it amazing how nature works?). We are experimenting to see how long the water will stay there. With all the rain the water is now over 30” deep and the area is almost 200’ long and 30’ wide; it has flooded the road at times and we are trying to see what our options are. If it holds for the summer it will provide an addition water source for the various critters which inhabit the farm with us: bear, deer, turkey, bobcat, raccoon, fox, squirrel, bunnies and countless bird species. This is one of the Beagle Ridge Master Naturalist Chapter’s projects and we have a variety of tadpoles and aquatic critters down there presently. If you come to hike we can send you down to check it out. I am so excited about this newest addition to the property; yes I am easily amused!
On a side note we had a vernal pool/ wetland ecology class at the farm on the 30th and Mike Hayslett from Sweetbriar College was the instructor! WOW is all I can say. Our Master Naturalist chapter members were treated to a full day of information, hands on training and lots of surprises including the discovery of the Jefferson Salamander in two locations at Beagle Ridge. Our vernal pools are doing their job providing a breeding site for these and other critters so their efforts have been successful. Mike was very excited about the discovery since they haven’t been documented in this county before. I say build or plant it and they will come and they have!!! I would like to thank the Beagle Ridge Chapter of the Virginia Master Naturalists for there support and their hard work to make Beagle Ridge into an Environmental Education Center which can be beneficial to students of all ages. If you are interested in joining us for subsequent trainings let me know. We are always looking for a few good naturalists ( sorry I couldn’t help the pun.)
Well, duty calls, lots to plant and I need to remember to take time to enjoy my gardens. I hope you will come join us this summer and until then enjoy your garden and the great outdoors. I hope you will learn to enjoy the wonderful world outside as much as we do. So turn off the TV, push away from the computer and get outside.