Prospect Gardens Summer Time

Prospect Gardens Summer Time
Summer Scene

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Grasses and Intrepid Volunteers

 July is slipping away. Here we are in the middle of summer enjoying a breezy sunny day with more rain in the forecast. Rain has been our constant summer companion. More rain will certainly support the growth of weeds at the Prospect Gardens. The upside is that to the non-discerning eye, the weeds add a green lushness to portions of the Gardens. This is the first year in our eight year history that I feel somewhat overwhelmed with the challenge of keeping the weeds at bay. Intrepid volunteers help me reduce the sinking feeling while reducing the army of weeds.

A less challenging and more enjoyable task this month was planting grasses donated by Nate, a Regent neighbor. Nate's an avid prairie gardener and a teacher responsible for a school prairie. The grasses were surplus from this year's plantings.  Thanks Nate.

Junegrass is the type in the first picture. I like the shadow in the picture; almost provides a 3D look.  Junegrass is found on range-lands, plains and open forests throughout the continental United States. These plugs will grow from 6 inches to a foot and are the first grasses to green-up in spring.

Little Bluestem, in the next picture, grows from two to three feet.  The blue-, green- and purple-colored foliage is pleasant to the eye during spring and summer, and fall brings reds, coppers, and orange hues. It provides food and shelter to wildlife and attracts birds and pollinators.

Little Bluestem’s root system is deep and fibrous, growing at least 5 feet, with some roots developing horizontally.Quick growth on disturbed soils makes Little Bluestem perfect for banks and slopes. Almost the entire tray of the donated Little Bluestem was planted on the banks and slopes of the Gardens bordering the Regent side. Indeed, they are quick growing.

This picture was taken just over a week ago and these plants have grown several inches.  The bank is already more stable than before planting.  Bluestem will continue contributing to erosion prevention as it grows into maturity. 


Here's last Saturday's weeding detail, minus Ann, who took the picture.  Starting from the top left are Laura, me (Jake), Joyce, Bob and Hanns. Hanns joined us for the first time. We warmly welcomed this Regent neighbor. Thank you, Hanns for joining this intrepid group of volunteers. He like, Laura, Joyce, Bob, and Ann were fearless weeders and gardeners.    
Here's the fearless Laura cutting back the Daisies before facing off with the tenacious Bishop's Weed. I love Daisies and the blanket of white they provide during early spring. Yet, if they are  allowed full rein to spread, these beauties will take over. Some gardeners will avoid having these Daisies because of their aggressiveness. Last season, this area had no Daisies.

Bob cheerfully waves while offering me a bouquet of weeds. Blog readers will know that Bob loves mulching and has the title of "Mulch King." Unfortunately, this year we did not mulch and  we are noticing the  difference. The King will need to wait until next season to practice his specialty. 
Now here's a perfect poster picture of a dedicated volunteer, Joyce.  She was seeking out Creeping Bell Flowers. Bell Flowers are quite pretty when in bloom because of their delicate purple bell shaped flowers. However, they are very aggressive; speeding rapidly to the determinant of other plants. Their aggressiveness almost qualifies the Bell Flower as an invasive.   
Here's Hanns, also in search of Bell Flowers. They had spread throughout the Garden, lovely to look at and yet a nuisance. One of our morning goals was their removal before the flowers turned into seeds. We met our goal and as this picture shows, Hanns did his part. The occupant of the colorful house, the chatty Wren, didn't even object to Hanns' presence.

As usual, the intrepid crew enjoyed each others company and Ann's treats during break time. This time she made brownies, following her aunt's recipe.

August is just around the corner, with another anticipate work session.  Most likely, it will be August 26th(not the 15th), and this time from 1 to 4 p.m. Watch for further announcements. Come join us, if you are in the Madison area. You too can be part of this intrepid group. No gardening experience needed.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Replanting and "Letting Go"

Last Friday, June 23rd, I finally paid attention to an area of the Prospect Gardens affects by our mild winter. The lack of a lasting snow cover and freezing and thawing took a toll. Even the life cycles of some of the hardy grasses ended.

I pleasurably traveled to The Flower Factory, near Oregon, on this sunny summer day with blue skies and gentle breezes. A perfect day for gardening and for just being alive. I always enjoy visiting The Flower Factory, which I consider to be the mecca of greenhouses.  I was anticipating buying Poppy Mallow, pictured to the right.  It's a great ground cover with striking purple flowers and spreads rapidly. Perfect.

After arriving at The Flower Factory and locating the Poppy Mallow, my hopes were dashed as I examined the remaining half dozen plants. The specimens were scrawny and with many leaves missing. The plants were the last ones and no more would be ordered, according to the salesperson.

The salesperson pointed out an alternative. Letting go of my desire for Poppy Mallows, I followed her suggestion and selected another ground cover, Blue Bells (Campanula rotundifoila - wild type). One is in the center of the picture to the left, surrounded by grasses. I purchased several grasses and transplanted a few from other sections of the Gardens.  

Here's a picture of another Blue Bells, nestled between rocks. With some luck and care, the Blue Bells should grow to 8 inches and bloom until September.  I like the delicate blue color. Now I will wait patiently to see if they will spread like the prolific Poppy Mallow. I envision a gentle blue wave spreading across the involved area.

This Ivory sedge caught my attention. I couldn't resist the deep green and fuzzy appearance. In short, the plant spoke to me, saying "take me with you."

Replanting reminds me of the unpredictability of gardening  accompanied by the joy of selecting replacements.  Replanting also is a lesson of "letting go". There is no guarantee that the replacements will survive. One must let go of any expected outcome.

Likewise, letting go is an important life skill. The following  e. e. cummings' poem expresses a benefit of "letting go."  

let it go - the
smashed word broken
open vow or
the oath cracked length
wise - let it go it
was sworn to

let them go - the
truthful liars and
the false fair friends
and the boths and
neithers - you must let them go they
were born
to go

let all go - the
big small middling
tall bigger really
the biggest and all
things - let all go

so comes love

~ e. e. cummings ~

(Complete Poems 1904-1962


Wrens and Fruit

Look carefully at the right side of the roof on this charming birdhouse and you will see the occupant, a wren. The little chatter box continued to sing as I got close enough to take the picture.  Here's one of Emily Dickerson's poems that suggests the joy expressed by this plain and yet charming bird.

For every Bird a Nest—
Wherefore in timid quest
Some little Wren goes seeking round—

Wherefore when boughs are free—
Households in every tree—
Pilgrim be found?

Perhaps a home too high—
Ah Aristocracy!
The little Wren desires—

Perhaps of twig so fine—
Of twine e’en superfine,
Her pride aspires—

The Lark is not ashamed
To build upon the ground
Her modest house—

Yet who of all the throng
Dancing around the sun
Does so rejoice?

 My joy from picking and eating two fruits matches the wren's rejoicing. Here are black currents from two bushes. The fruit are abundant and waiting to be picked. I like the tartness of black currents and especially with oatmeal. They add a special zesty taste to the oatmeal that lingers on the tongue while eating.
I discovered that black currents and cherries from the Garden's two trees are a delicious combination. I picked nearly a Rubbermaid full of cherries, shown in the next picture.

The cherries are only on the lower branches of the two trees. The upper portions have no cherries. I speculate that frost may have been a factor explaining this unusual distribution.
The black currents are underneath the cherries. As I carried the combination home, I envisioned making scones and adding bits of chocolate. Colectivo, a very popular coffeehouse, just a half block from our apartment, offers cherry chocolate scones. They are to die for (oh, not really that good!).

After considering the work involved in making scones and recognizing the ease of getting Colectivo's scones, I consulted Google for a sauce recipe. Within seconds, I found a simple six minute recipe that yielded about a  cup of sauce. I scooped the warm sauce on vanilla Greek yogurt. A very tasty and low calorie dessert.

The next morning I enjoyed the sauce with my oatmeal, which I often have for breakfast. Oatmeal is a lifelong favorite, including oatmeal raisin cookies. I fondly recall the large black cast iron pot full of oatmeal on the wood cast iron stove my mother cooked on before the gas range arrived. Her oatmeal was the old fashioned kind that required more cook time than my two minute zap of a single serving in the microwave. Large pots of oatmeal were needed to feed our large family. My family had nine boys and five girls.  During my late childhood and teen years, besides me, eight others were at home. What a crew. Enough for a softball team.

I have pleasant memories mixed with awe for my Mother's fortitude and skills needed to raise such a large family. She would have approved and liked my special cherries and black current sauce.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Repairs, Weeding and UW Arboreteum

This morning a new Herman Miller Aeron desk chair arrived. I now enjoy the luxury of sitting in a chair designed based on advanced ergonomic principles. Ann, my wife, remarked that I may never get out of this chair because sitting feels so good.

Last Saturday, June 17th, six neighbors joined Ann and I to care for the Prospect Gardens.  I worked on preparing the section of a garden, pictured to the right, for repairs. Early Tuesday morning a fast moving storm dumped several inches of rain. So much rain fell in a short time period, drenching the Gardens and causing erosion. The rushing water moved the good size rocks down the steep slope while flattening the flowering plants. I dug up the plants, with their exposed roots, and moved them to other sections of the gardens. They will survive this trauma.

Dan and Carissa, from the city engineering department, met with me on Friday. The city will replace the rocks and clean out a nearby storm sewer.  We all realized this is a band-aide solution.  The more complicated challenge involves how water flows down North Prospect Street leading to the Gardens. Most likely a new storm sewer is required.

Pictured here, along with me, are the intrepid and dedicated volunteers. Starting from the top left and moving to the right are Laura, Loren, Ken, Joyce, me, Bob and Ann N. My wife Ann took the picture. Beside weeding, she made and provided the scrumptious Pecan Tassies, which were so enjoyed during the break. Bob likes to joke that Ann's treats are the primary reason he volunteers.

A special thank you to all and an extra thank you goes to Bob.  Bob, better known as "mulch king", broke five ribs in a bike accident early this Spring. We welcomed him back while being concerned that he might be overdoing it. He assured us that was not the case.

Here's Joyce and Laura pulling weeds from the rocky slope of a section of the Gardens (on the Dudgeon Monroe side). The weeds are plentiful with their roots under the rocks. To the extend possible, the roots are dug out after lifting up the rocks.  I often refer to caring for the Prospect Gardens as "extreme gardening", meaning that because of the underlying rocks, extra effort is involved.

Here's Loren pulling weeds along the ditch line. Loren also volunteers at the Olbrich Botanical Gardens in Madison. I feel grateful that he does both. Visiting Olbrich, at least once, is always on my summer "must do" list.

The UW Arboretum is another favorite, which I visited Sunday morning. I walked the 50 acre Greene Prairie, located south of the Beltline. Starting in 1933 and for the next approximately 15 years, Henry Greene and a few of his friends planted more than 12,000 seedlings and plants, and an unknown number of seeds, representing at least 133 species of plants including white ladyslipper, downy phlox, creamy wild indigo, rattlesnake master, showy blazingstar, compass plant, prairie dock and bottle gentian. His efforts remind me that Prospect Gardens is part of a larger Wisconsin tradition of reclaiming land affected by development. 

Here's the indestructible Bob.  Perhaps he's pondering the impact of his work given the quantity of weeds in the gardens and all the recent rain. He didn't ponder for long; returning back to the task at hand, shortly after I snapped the picture.
Pictured here are the results of our collective efforts; another large pile of of plant material.  I walked through the Gardens this morning, noticing that the city crew had already picked up the  pile. Thank you, Dan, for arranging the pickup and thank you to the crew who followed through.

Ann and I will be visiting friends in Minneapolis during the next several days. We indeed do other things and have a life besides gardening. However, I do joke that perhaps Ann and  I should build one of those charming tiny houses, so popular today. One would fit on the city property next to the Gardens. This could be our summer home. This fantasy will never see reality. 

Friday, June 9, 2017

Past Remnants

Nearly two seasons ago we cleared a new area west of the then borders of the Prospect Gardens. We expanded the Gardens while uncovering remnants from the past. Here's four plants now in bloom. I suspect that three (two types of peonies and roses) witnessed trains that rumbled through our neighborhood following what is now the commuter path. If I recall correctly, the path was opened in 2000.  The irises, the fourth pictured flower, were transplanted from a neighbor's yard.

I love peonies.  Today on my way to a meditation retreat on the UW Oshkosh campus, I will stop at the peony garden in Rosendale.

Most Wisconsin citizens know and associate Rosendale, with the vigilant police officer who diligently enforces the 30 miles on hour speed limit. Several years ago I was a receiver of that vigilance.

The peony gardens are on the left as you are going east on Highway 26 and after the traffic light. I share this Mary Oliver poem about the lovely peony.

This morning the green fists of the peonies are getting ready
to break my heart
as the sun rises,
     as the sun strokes them with his old, buttery fingers
and they open-----
pools of lace,
white and pink----
     and all the day the black ants climb over them,
boring their deep and mysterious holes
into their curls,
    craving the sweet sap,
        taking it away
to their dark, underground cities-----
and all day
    under the shifty wind,
      as in a dance to the great wedding,
the flowers bend their bright bodies,
and tip their fragrance to the air,
    and rise,
         their red stems holding
all that dampness and recklessness
gladly and lightly,
     and there it is again-----
        beauty the brave, the exemplary,
blazing open
do you love this world?
      Do you cherish your humble and silky life?
         Do you adore the green grass, with its terror beneath?
Do you also hurry, half-dressed and barefoot into the garden,
And softly,
   And exclaiming of their dearness,
         Fill your arms with the white and pink flowers,
With their honeyed heaviness, their lush trembling,
their eagerness
    to be wild and perfect for a moment, before they are
      nothing, forever?
 Another one of my favorites is the old fashioned climbing rose. Like the peony, these too are "wild and perfect for a moment". We witness precious moments of beauty before the delicate blooms fade away for another season. 
The Japanese Iris are from the backyard of Nick's house that borders the Prospect Gardens. A few years ago, Nick's backyard gardens were professionally redesigned and he offered the Irises. I usually have problems saying "no thank you", when neighbors offer plants. I am getting better at saying "no" when I need to, and especially now that the Gardens have matured. 
 These four beauties remind me of the generosity of current neighbors and that others worked in areas that are now incorporated in the Gardens.  They also remind me of the beauty of Springtime while pointing out the impermanence of beauty and life itself. 

Planting, Weeding and Rain

 Another week of tending the Prospect Gardens is slipping by. As I write this (June 8th), I am hoping for more rain. Earlier in the evening, we received a brief refreshing shower. The skies are overcast and it's anybody's guess if more badly needed rain will nourish the Prospect Gardens. The soil is dry. Today, I continued watering the grasses and flowers I received from Nate, a nearby neighbor.

Last Monday from another neighbor, Susan, I picked up purple cone flowers, pictured to the right. Susan is also a member of First Unitarian Society and offered the plants before last Sunday's service. Our Senior Minister Michael, gave a very interesting sermon about Henry David Thoreau. I didn't know his father made pencils. I was introduced to Thoreau in an American Literature class as a sophomore, attending the then two year UW Green Bay Center. We were studying the transcendentalists. I am considering reading "Walden" once again. 

The center eventually became the four year University of Wisconsin Green Bay.  Oh wow, the years have slipped by.

Susan also provided several other plants, including the one in the next picture. I can't recall its name.

 This last week also included more weeding and removing aggressive plants, and Ann, my wife, helped also.  For example, the Saw Tooth daisy. It's a lovely plant that blooms late in summer. However, the Saw Tooth spreads through seeds and rhizomes, providing an evolutionary advantage compared to other prairie plants.  Lesson here is this species needs a large prairie.  

The next two pictures show the "before" and "after" of my three hours of labor. Blue skies, mild temperatures and a light breeze meant perfect conditions for gardening. You can see the blue sky in the two pictures.
I was hoping to uncover many of the original plants we installed a few years ago. My expectations, as this picture indicates, were just that. Now the barren areas present opportunities for beginning again. I am considering planting more grasses with few prairie plants.  Grasses will help prevent erosion.  Maybe the sturdy sedge? Something to think about over the weekend.

Meanwhile, I will be hoping for more rain. I just looked out my window. A nearly a full bright moon hangs in the clear sky. Beauty and serenity abound while signaling less opportunities for rain.  

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

What's Blooming

The skies outside my window are overcast and the deck of our balcony is damp from the misty light rain. Another day similar to those we enjoyed during the winters of Oregon. Yesterday, Ann and I returned to Home Depot and came home with another Martha Washington geranium and a pot of marigolds.  My Mother, Anna, and my Mother-in-Law, Ethel, always had marigolds in their gardens. The marigolds' yellow and orange blooms are a reminder of their vibrant lives.
Here are eight pictures of flowers that are blooming in the Prospect Gardens. The white delicate blossoms are some Sweet Woodruff that were planted several years ago. Ajuga are the  three small purple blooms. The cluster of leaves roughly in the middle of  the picture are weeds waiting to be removed.  This rainy Spring has meant plenty of weeds.
Here's the Golden Alexanders. It's their second year in the Gardens and transplanted from gardens on the near east side of Madison. 
Of course these are the lovely and delicate Columbine. This one is the progeny of seeds planted eight years ago when we began the Gardens. Others have spread throughout the Gardens. Wow, hard to believe it's been eight years.
I have no idea what species this is with its delicate light blue blooms on one stem. The plant is about a foot tall.  I do not recall planting this lovely addition to the Gardens. May it continue to thrive and spread.

These are the flowers of one of two Pagoda Dogwoods that I planted nearly five years ago. This is the first year they have blossomed. I have been waiting patiently for the arrival of these delicate blooms and now celebrate this developmental stage. They were about two feet tall when first planted and were on sale. Great investment. In the next few years, they will grow in height.
Pictured to the left is Solomon's seal.  These came from a friend's garden.  I so enjoy the delicate bell-like flowers. This plant loves the deep shade and nicely compliments hostas.

Spring would not be Spring without the Jack-in-the Pulpits. This one graces the hosta garden and is rather tall.

Prairie Smoke, an early bloomer, produces these beautiful pink star-like blooms.  This one in on the Dudgeon Monroe side of the Garden and another one resides in the Regent side of the Gardens. Last year I had about a half dozen, and two survived. Not a good survival rate, I would say.

The Gardens, like life itself, does constantly change as the seasons pass. Each plant has its life cycle. Some are with us for a long time while others just for a brief span; adding their beauty and then disappearing forever.