The Roller Coaster

Bloody Mary with a lovage straw. This huge tropical-looking herb grows well in wet soil north of the pond, and its aromatic stalks are hollow, the perfect garnish.

Bloody Mary with a lovage straw. This huge tropical-looking herb grows well in wet soil north of the pond, and its aromatic stalks are hollow, the perfect garnish.

This Memorial Day Sunday, a week early if you ask me, has truly signaled the beginning of the roller coaster that is the summer season. Despite last night’s fresh snow on the mountains. We got half an inch of rain! It was great to wake up and not have to water anything; I had a pie to bake. After a kickoff brunch with Bloody Marys, arugula-ricotta-wild mushroom tart, veggie and homegrown-beef kebabs and venison ribs, fresh-picked wild asparagus, garden salad, and a homegrown-rhubarb pie with whipped cream, I returned home to my desk, and looked out the window to see a Bullock’s Oriole peering in at me. They winter in Central America and summer here; ergo, it must be summer! It’s a rare sighting, I’m lucky if I see one in a year. I hope he’ll stay around. I’ll buy an orange tomorrow, as incentive.

I’ve spent the past two weeks managing out-of-control weeds. Mustards, cheatgrass, and Poa bulbosa, my new nemesis, and many more, are rampaging through the yard sucking spring moisture from the ground, growing as fast as I can get them cut. But they tend to stay gone when they’re pulled by hand. Some zones in the garden get this special attention, while the farther edges of the yard get weed-whacked by Chris now and then. I have surrendered to the Bad Grass. All of it. I will never win. The bumper crop of Bulbosa this year finally made me throw in the towel. The best I can hope for, I’ve concluded, is to carve my paths through the bad grasses. Maybe a good approach to life in general. Live and learn. Never let someone else spread grass seed in your yard. Also, be careful of planting a perennial that someone tells you “can spread.”

“They love to look like each other,” said Katrina yesterday morning as she was pulling dwarf goldenrod shoots from among the Penstemon strictus shoots. I’m sure these two plants resemble each other even when they’re not mingled in the same bed, but the ones you want to get rid of seem to be able to look more like the ones you want to keep the more you try to get rid of them. Bindweed, for example. And these intransigent goldenrods: At the time I planted a one-gallon pot of this ornamental goldenrod I didn’t really understand the concept of “can spread.” Like many ornamentals they are just an attractive exotic invasive. I bought a grass the other day in a small pot, thinking it was a bunch grass. When I looked it up, sweet vernal grass, it turns out to be a problem weed in some parts of the country; it “can spread.” So that one will go in a pot for the summer and probably die next winter.

The past two weeks, days have either been cold and grey or been crazy with bees.

Nepeta everywhere is covered with bees of all kinds.

Nepeta everywhere is covered with bees of all kinds.

At least five kinds of bumblebees are feeding in the garden. When I get time, when the roller coaster slows a bit, I'll turn to the Bumblebee Guide and find all their names.

At least five kinds of bumblebees are feeding in the garden. When I get time, when the roller coaster slows a bit, I’ll sit down with my bumblebee images and the Western Bumblebee Guide and find all their names.

The sphinx moth is also attracted to Nepeta, and sometimes out in the morning.

The sphinx moth is also attracted to Nepeta, and sometimes out in the morning.

The Little Red Bumblebee, I call it...

The Little Red Bumblebee, I call it…

 

May 9, the bee tree was briefly the crabapple down by the pond.

May 9, the bee tree was briefly the crabapple down by the pond.

Honeybee on Fuji.

Honeybee on Fuji.

May 17, these caterpillars are crawling the walls all over Crawford. Covering the walkways, on every living thing, looking for a place to pupate. We hope they are innocuous salt-marsh caterpillars and will turn into benign white moths. We'll know more later!

May 17, these caterpillars are crawling the walls all over Crawford. Covering the walkways, on every living thing, looking for a place to pupate. We hope they are innocuous salt-marsh caterpillars and will turn into benign white moths. We’ll know more later!

Even Marrubium, the silver-leaf horehound, is covered with tiny flowers and intermittent bees.

Even Marrubium, the silver-leaf horehound, is covered with tiny flowers and intermittent bees.

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I let the dandelions grow on the fringes of the garden beds, on the edges of paths. They're an important early source for all the species of bees.

I let the dandelions grow on the fringes of the garden beds, on the edges of paths. They’re an important early source for all the species of bees.

I've only seen a hummingbird once at this scarlet gilia that sprang up in the spring border. I sometimes sit nearby and wait with the camera. One of these days...

I’ve only seen a hummingbird once at this scarlet gilia that sprang up in the spring border. I sometimes sit nearby and wait with the camera. One of these days…

Little mat daisies spread readily, beautiful and benign. I don't mind.

Little mat daisies spread readily, beautiful and benign. I don’t mind.

Their little white petals have pink candy-stripes on their undersides, making little red buds.

Their little white petals have pink candy-stripes on their undersides, making little red buds.

This little red fly also enjoys the mat daisies.

This little red fly also enjoys the mat daisies.

The first big iris opened a week ago. Two days ago this one popped and the little red bumblebees love it.

The first big iris opened a week ago. Two days ago this one popped and the little red bumblebees love it.

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Friday night's rain.

Friday night’s rain.

The bee tree yesterday was the Amur maple.

The bee tree yesterday was the Amur maple, which came as a surprise…

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I expected it would be the lilac, but it took me three days to get three good shots of a bee on the lilacs, and three minutes to get three good shots of bees on the maple.

I expected it would be the lilac, but it took me three days to get three good shots of bees on the lilacs, and three minutes to get three good shots of bees on the maple.

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The first blue flax opened just a week ago, and now waves of this delicate flower flow through the garden feeding bees big and small.

The first blue flax opened just a week ago, and now waves of this delicate flower flow through the garden feeding bees big and small.

Mixed in with the flax and also in waves here and there through the garden, I let the native plains mustard grow where it will.

Mixed in with the flax and also in waves here and there through the garden, I let the native plains mustard grow where it will.

Pink chintz creeping thyme flowers between flagstones.

Pink chintz creeping thyme flowers between flagstones.

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All the bumblebees are all over the Ajuga blooms.

All the bumblebees are all over the Ajuga blooms.

This giant yellow bumblebee is twice the size of the little red one. Probably Bombus nevadensis, or morrisoni, but I'll have to study on that, compare things like tongue length and facial structure, count colored bands, all with the guide and images before me.

This giant yellow bumblebee is twice the size of the little red one. Probably Bombus nevadensis, or morrisoni, but I’ll have to study on that, compare things like tongue length and facial structure, count colored bands, all with the guide and images before me. Maybe I’ll print it and take it outside with the Papilio binoculars.

Unsettled weather. The days are a riot of ups and downs. Five days in a row of clouds and rain, then eighty degrees and shining sun for a week bake the ground. Carrots and beets emerged two days ago, and transplanted tomatoes and peppers hang on despite cold nights, while melons, zucchini, and more peppers and tomatoes in pots continue to come in at night. Arugula, parsley, lettuce and kale are popping up, and peas are two inches tall. I cling to the illusion of control in the wild ride of the summer garden. Soon the weeds will be tamed for the season, and before you know it harvest madness will be upon us. Let the party begin!

 

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