Late Summer Musings

This is the view of my back yard in northern Marquette County, Wisconsin. Our property is 50 acres, and was last farmed in 1979, and has been allowed to go fallow. We have many great native plants that have returned to this old field, and last week the field erupted in blooms of Flowering Spurge-Euphorbia corollata. We look forward to this annual explosion of bloom, and it is not to be missed! The blooms came a few weeks ahead of schedule, due to our early spring. Flowering Spurge grows on our dry sandy soils in great clouds of lacy white flowers, covering miles upon miles of roadsides and open land.

Sarie’s field of Flowering spurge-Euphorbia corollata

To the east, across the farm truck path is a field of Canada Goldenrod-Solidago canadensis is starting to bloom…like the spurge, at least several weeks ahead of schedule. On the east side of the field the soil quality is better-if sand can be better-organically speaking-and the soil moisture is better, so the Canada Goldenrod has found its place. We have resolved to leave this typically not welcome-native plant to its spreading ways, as this area of our farm is close to 20 acres, and it is not in the budget to convert to prairie. Someday we will tackle this area, hopefully! Usually the Flowering Spurge blooms in mid to late July and Canada Goldenrod blooms in mid to late August. I felt I should take a photo of this unusual occurrence of Flowering Spurge and Canada Goldenrod blooming simultaneously. (We do not offer seed/plants of Flowering Spurge at this time, sorry!)

Flowering Spurge and Canada Goldenrod

Other Blooming Highlights for the summer of 2012:

Brown Eyed Susan-Rudbeckia triloba is blooming-at least three weeks ahead of schedule. The foliage is about 8-12 inches shorter this year due to the drought.

Big Bluestem-Andropogon gerardii and Switchgrass-Panicum virgatum is flowering now…crazy early, about a month earlier than usual. The birds are already testing the Switchgrass to see if the seed is ready to eat.

Wild Petunia-Ruellia humilis has been presenting its beautiful little blooms all summer long. Hummingbirds love it, and I LOVE this little plant, its amazing taproot makes it impervious to drought! I am planting more Petunia seedlings that have migrated into the lawn nearby into my gardens.

Wild Petunia-Ruellia humilis

Little Bluestem-Schizachyrium scoparium has decided to go dormant in one of my gardens…a south facing hillside. This site is so hot and just too dry, so it turned its brilliant late summer/fall color of greenish grey with red tinges. After the first hard freeze it will turn a crimson red!

Lanceleaf Coreopsis-Coreopsis lanceolata has been blooming all summer long. I nip off the spent blooms (leaving some flowers to go to seed-Finches love it), and it re-blooms nicely.

Today my Dense Blazingstars-Liatris spicata began to bloom; hopefully their blooms will attract a Monarch or two. We have observed very few butterflies in our area this summer. No doubt due to the drought. I have not seen a single Monarch caterpillar in my gardens…last year I counted dozens on just one Red Milkweed-Asclepias incarnata plant.  Let’s hope next summer we’ll be back to “normal” and the Butterflies return in larger numbers.

Monarch Butterfly visiting Butterflyweed-Asclepias tuberosa

The Black Walnut trees in our yard are turning their fall yellow color. Due to the drought, we have been watering many of our trees this summer, but I believe the Black Walnuts and many other trees that have been stressed through lack of rainfall, and fall colors will be arriving early this year. The trees have produced just a few walnuts for the grey and red squirrels in our backyard.

We received almost an inch of rain last Saturday! Wow, it was an all morning into afternoon light drizzle/rain with a crack or two of thunder and lightning!  My Smooth Aster-Aster laevis and Sky Blue Aster-Aster azureus grew an inch or so in one day…very cool! I suppose now the asters will be blooming next week…The plants seemed to collectively sigh as if saying, ahh, that’s better, thanks so very much for the rain!

I’ll end with a sight not often seen, my Butterflyweed-Asclepias tuberosa re-blooming in August! Butterflyweed, thanks to its deep taproot is completely and utterly drought tolerant and happily about its business, and I saw a Monarch on the blooms yesterday, nice!

Butterflyweed-Asclepias tuberosa

Enjoy your time in the garden and the late summer blooms. Soon enough we’ll be raking fall leaves and shoveling snow, and after this hot summer, I think for our plants and for many of us, the arrival of rain, snow and cold might be welcome for a change!