The phantom herbivore, new open space and other wonders

Somewhere in or near the Medicinal Herb Garden lives an herbivore whose ways are quite mysterious. It has eaten all the oats (Avena sativa) and has moved on to the spelt (Triticum spelta) and the einkorn wheat (Triticum monococcum). Last year I thought it might be birds, but now I don’t think so.

Nibbled stalks in the grain bed in section C. Who is eating the grain? Mountain beaver, rat, rabbit? I wish I knew. There's no scat or prints left behind. A recent rabbit sighting (first ever, to my knowledge) has me worried. Rabbits are not a gardener's best friend. Oh well, life in a public garden..what can you do?

Nibbled stalks in the grain bed in section C. Who is eating the grain? Mountain beaver (Aplodontia rufa), rat (Rattus sp.), rabbit (until proven otherwise, I will assume ours are the introduced eastern cottontails, (Sylvilagus floridanus)? I wish I knew. There’s no scat or prints left behind. A recent rabbit sighting (first ever in the garden, to my knowledge) has me worried. Rabbits are not a gardener’s best friend. Oh well, life in a public garden..what can you do?

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The stalks provide a nice thatch for the soil and probably help retain moisture but…small consolation for losing all the grain. And the song sparrows (Melospiza melodia) and juncos (Junco hyemalis) are eating the smaller grains. It’s always something.

Well, after much preparation, the clearing of the space for the new Life Sciences Building and Biology Greenhouse has begun. The contractors work really fast.

The former fruit forest area being cleared.

The former fruit forest area being cleared.

Don't blink. It happened quickly.

Don’t blink. It happened quickly.

The greenhouse was next.

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First the south side.

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Then the north.  The pile in the center looks a little like a piece of John Chamberlain sculpture.

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Then the Plant Lab. They should paint that demolition excavator to look like Tyrranosaurus rex.

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Now they’re sorting out recyclable metal, leveling the ground and doing what needs to be done to build a new building.

Meanwhile, back in the garden, I have a followup report from the last blog post. No, the other yi ye qiu (Flueggea suffruticosa) is not female so I need to get more plants started and yes, the Leccino olive (Olea europaea) has a few olives forming, so it must be marginally self-fertile.

Exhibit A, Leccino olives.

Exhibit A: a few Leccino olives forming.

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is a good time to visit the Medicinal Herb Garden if you want to see flowers on display, or insects sipping nectar and gathering pollen, birds and maybe rabbits eating the grains from the grain bed and even a raccoon taking a nap in a tree. Listen for the crows who see all and report on it to those who listen.

Crows alerted me but they quickly lost interest when they realized s/he was taking a nap and not out foraging for eggs.

Crows alerted me to you-know-who, but they quickly lost interest when they realized s/he was taking a nap and not out foraging for their eggs.

Tufted evening primrose (Oenothera caespitosa) in section C. Though it is a perennial, it rots in our wet winters. Next year I'll try growing it in the xeriscape bed to see if it will overwinter.

Tufted evening primrose (Oenothera caespitosa) in section C. Though it is a perennial, it rots in our wet winters. Next year I’ll try growing it in the xeriscape bed to see if it will overwinter.

Blackberry lily (Belamcanda chinensis)…is an iris…but who's counting?

Blackberry lily (Belamcanda chinensis)…is an iris…but who’s counting?

Farewell to spring (Clarkia amoena) has several varieties and subspecies, some 'showier' than others but I prefer the subtle coloration these display. They're in the border between sections A and B. The Miwok people of what is now northern California, traditionally ground the seeds for food.

Farewell to spring (Clarkia amoena) has several varieties and subspecies, some ‘showier’ than others but I prefer the subtle coloration these display. They’re in the border between sections A and B. The Miwok people of what is now northern California, traditionally ground the seeds for food.

Great golden digger wasp (Sphex ichneumoneus). They feed exclusively on flower nectar and plant sap which they're apparently finding on the goldenrod (Solidago canadensis), a plant that draws in a lot of insects. If I weren't being paid to do other things, I could stand there for hours watching the insect visitors to the goldenrod and hundreds of other plant species in the garden. What's your excuse?

Great golden digger wasp (Sphex ichneumoneus) foraging in section D. They feed exclusively on flower nectar and plant sap which they’re apparently finding on the goldenrod (Solidago canadensis), a plant that draws in a lot of insects. If I weren’t being paid to do other things, I could stand there for hours watching the insect visitors to the goldenrod and hundreds of other plant species in the garden. What’s your excuse?

By the way, great golden digger wasps are very gentle and won't sting you if you don't try to handle them. They are solitary, make their nests in the ground, catch and paralyze katydids, grasshoppers and cicadas which they fly or drag back to their nest. There they deposit one egg on each insect they collect. When the eggs hatch in a few days, the larvae begin eating the insect beneath them.

By the way, great golden digger wasps are very gentle and won’t sting you if you don’t try to handle them. They are solitary and make their nests in the ground. Their claim to fame: they catch and paralyze katydids, grasshoppers and cicadas(and who knows what else) which they fly or drag back to their nest. There they deposit one egg on each insect they collect. When the eggs hatch in a few days, the larvae begin eating the insects beneath them. Be glad you’re not a katydid.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The downy sunflower (Helianthus mollis) is an altogether joyful plant to behold. It is pretty drought tolerant and will fill in wasteland to crowd out invasive colonizers of disturbed soils. I love this plant…but something about this picture of a developing flower gives me the creeps.

The downy sunflower (Helianthus mollis) is an altogether joyful plant to behold. It is pretty drought tolerant and will fill in wasteland to crowd out invasive colonizers of disturbed soils. I love this plant…but something about this picture of a developing flower gives me the creeps. It’s in section D.

Dayflower (Commelina tuberosa) has starchy, edible roots which like to spread, so, beautiful though it is, you might want to plant it in a wild border. Wild borders are all I have in the garden. Borders, in my opinion, are a good place to let plants establish their own order

Dayflower (Commelina tuberosa) has starchy, edible roots which like to spread, so, beautiful though it is, you might want to plant it in a wild border. Wild borders are all I have in the garden. Borders, in my opinion, are a good place to let plants establish their own order.

Section B 'just-so' composition.

Section B ‘just-so’ composition.

Common mallow (Malva alcea) in section A.

Common mallow (Malva alcea) in section A.

 

 

 

 

 

 

You saw the flowers of mountain avens (Dryas octopetala) in a previous post. Their seed heads resemble those of prairie smoke (Geum triflorum) another member of the Rosaceae.

You saw the flowers of mountain avens (Dryas octopetala) in a previous post. Their seed heads, shown here, resemble those of prairie smoke (Geum triflorum), another member of the Rosaceae.

 

If you have wandered through section C and wondered what is going on with the mashua (Tropaeolum tuberosum), fear not. This has been a big year for aphids on a lot of plants, but the predators finally arrived. I smushed many aphids at first, but once the ladybugs showed up, I passed the duty to them.

Larval stage of the ladybug (Coccinella sp.) on its way to cleaning up the aphid explosion.

Larval stage of the ladybug (Coccinella sp.) on its way to cleaning up the aphid explosion.

Chinese chaste tree (Vitex negundo) branch whose flowers refused to be photographed in the light breeze. They're small enough to go unnoticed but they're worth close inspection.

Chinese chaste tree (Vitex negundo) branch whose flowers refused to be photographed in the light breeze. They’re small enough to go unnoticed but they’re worth close inspection.

The whole Chinese chaste tree in its full glory. I'm planting at least one of these in my yard as a neighbor screen.

The whole Chinese chaste tree in its full glory near the garden shed. I’m planting at least one of these in my yard as a neighbor screen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Update:  Most of the herons have flown the coop. To the best of my knowledge, all of the fledglings made it. Maybe the eagles were busy with the larger rookery in Ballard.

The flower show doesn’t last forever, so hurry if you want to see the garden at its peak. Life is short and it’s good to get outside. Really good.

 

 

 

 

glare of hot gravel

cool shade of Chinese chaste tree

a day in July

 

 

See you in the garden.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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One Response to The phantom herbivore, new open space and other wonders

  1. Susan Baker says:

    The photo of the Blackberry Lily is stunning! Thank you for an educational post!

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