The moonflower (Ipomoea alba) is an annual vine closely related to the morning glory. The flowers open in the late afternoon and remain until early morning, sweetening the evening air with fragrance. They are pollinated by moths, but I’ve found the blossoms covered by dozens of bees on late summer evenings, buzzing from one flower to the next. The flowers are trumpet-shaped and the leaves like hearts.

Moonflowers like full sun and rich, moist, well-drained soil. Plant them in a spot where you can observe their silvery beauty by moonlight or near a window to enjoy the scent indoors. We grow ours in pots and along the fence surrounding the pond, where the vines twine in between the pickets and the blossoms unfurl just as the sun begins its descent.

Moonflowers are easily confused with Brugmansias and Daturas. Some of the seedlings we bought this spring were mislabeled as Angel’s Trumpet’s (Brugmansia), but once these started growing, it was clear they were Moonflowers and not Angel’s Trumpets. The others haven’t begun to bloom yet, but I’m wondering if they’re not Daturas, again mislabeled. Moonflowers can be planted with other evening-blooming flowers to extend your enjoyment of the garden into the twilight hours.

Veggie garden

This looks rather promising, doesn’t it? Yes, it’s only lettuce and anybody can grow it, but still I’m encouraged! The new *fortress* my husband built around the garden seems to be working at keeping the critters out. Last night I picked some lettuce, kale, basil, parsley and salad burnet for the bunnies. We’ve also planted tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers, but they’re not worth photographing yet. Those plants just sit and look at you in NJ gardens until mid-July at the earliest. The zucchini grows at least a foot overnight it seems. The gourds are finely starting to sprout along the bottom of the trellis. The broccoli plants have tiny little broccoli thingies (florettes?) There is much weeding to be done since this photo was taken a week ago and the shed snow of locust flowers have blown away. I guess we’ll need to fertilize soon, although I think the winter’s worth of bunny poop turned into the garden should give the plants a healthy start. Free fertilizer is another *benefit* I can add to my list of reasons to keep a houseful of bunnies.

If you’d like to see a humorous account of a previous foray into veggie gardening, read Scorched earth: our first attempt at a vegetable garden. Please do wish us luck this time. We’ve learned; we’re laying off the mulch!

Mystery skipper

Aren’t all skippers a mystery? The one skipper I can easily identify is the silver-spotted. This one (anyone out there have an idea?) I found feeding the other day on the catmint (Nepeta sp.) which was something of a surprise because most often this plant is loaded with bumblebees, but no butterflies. Catmints are very easy to grow (that’s why I love them), so long as they have full sun. It can be a bit aggressive, but is easily divided and spread around the garden or among neighbors.

I don’t know that I would recommend planting it in a place that is easily accessible to dogs – as the bees it attracts drive my dog just bonkers and one day soon he’s going to get himself stung good!

*Butterflying* has become near as popular as birding during the summer months after migration has ended. There are many butterfly id books on the market, the most popular probably being the Butterflies Through Binoculars series by Jeffrey Glassberg. Great, technical book if you like that. I notice he’s recently published A Field Guide to Caterpillars which I’ll have to be on the lookout for! As a beginner to butterflies, I prefer something with big, glossy photos like the Stokes Beginner’s Guide to Butterflies – I don’t own it yet, but do have their guide to dragonflies and it is excellent.

“Just living is not enough,” said the butterfly. “One must have sunshine, freedom, and a little flower.”
– Hans Christian Andersen

Saturday night ramblings

I’m sitting outside in my screenhouse, it’s still raining a bit, music is drifting over from the Red Bank Jazz and Blues Festival – somehow this reminds me of camping. Maybe it’s the tacky lights. I love to sit out here; especially now that I have a laptop with a wireless connection. Once the weather warms, I really hate to be stuck inside. It rained all day today, so we didn’t get to pot up any of the new plants we bought – that will have to wait until tomorrow when hopefully the weather will be better.

I finished up the book I’ve been reading this week. What a disappointment that was! Stephen King was my favorite as a teenager – I first read “Pet Sematary” as a freshman in high school and was hooked! I didn’t read other horror writers, just King. Something about his sense of storytelling and character development always appealed to me. The last 10 years or so all I’ve read by him are his Dark Tower books – sad to see them be done. His other books haven’t appealed to me at all, but I bought “Cell” on a whim, to see if maybe he’d gotten back to the writer he used to be before churning out a new book every six months. The story was good enough, but the ending! I feel totally cheated – it’s as if he got tired of writing half-way through the story and just wrapped it up as best he could in a few short pages. What a waste of my time! The reviews were good, though, so maybe my criticism is unfounded.

My students this past semester had a similar reaction to the ending of “The Kite Runner” which I’ve been using the past year in the course I teach. They were annoyed that the ending leaves the reader *hanging* somewhat, and doesn’t answer all the questions a reader might have. I like that kind of ending to a book; one that lets you imagine how things may have turned out for the characters. The technique was well used in that book, not so well used in the King book. I suppose King is just setting us up for a sequel – one I will not be wasting my time with!

Bloom sequence

I took this series of pics late yesterday afternoon. This isn’t the sequence of bloom of just one peony flower, but five on the same plant, at different stages of bloom. I’d been waiting for just the right day and yesterday was it – good thing too, because last night we had thunderstorms with wind and rain that did a number on the peonies. Most of them are now just a heap of fallen petals. I’m not very fond of this color peony in the garden, but think it looks just breathtaking in these pics with the blurred green background of the foliage for contrast.

Hal Borland calls peonies, ” homely, and friendly, and generous beyond belief. Give them half a chance and they are yours for a lifetime; yours in magnificent color and abundance.” These have been blooming beside my screenhouse for at least ten years, with very little fuss on my part. I don’t cut these single varities because they won’t last in the vase, but instead enjoy them as they are. The few doubles I have I will cut and bring indoors to combine with roses in a bouquet. Somewhat of a puzzle to me is one peony that produces lush foliage every year, but no buds. I wonder if I have it planted too deeply? Does anyone know?


“June is the year at the altar, a bride with a bouquet of roses and forget-me-nots, veiled with morning mist and jeweled with dew, gowned with sunrise and romantic as a full moon. June is cornflower-blue and day-lily gold and white lace of daisies in the field. June is bridal wreath and mock orange and the scent of sweet peas on the garden fence.

June is time settling down to the business at hand, which is growth and maturity after the lush preparations when all the trees were leafing out and all the meadows were full of fine new grass and spring beauties and bluets. The rush is past. Now comes the more leisurely time, the June pause to catch up, before the drive of July urges seeding and podding and fruiting. June even has time to think about such matters, if one is not a farmer whose hay must be cut and mowed away.

June is strawberries, red and juiceful and tantalizing to man and bird. June is peas in the garden, late June, for the favored gardener. June is first lettuce and baby beets, and string beans in blossom and susceptible to both beetle and blight. June is corn, both sweet and field varities, pushing green bayonets toward the sun. June is scallions.

June is a wren outside the window, bursting with song at 5 a.m. June is the flash of an oriole’s wing, the throb of his song in mid-morning. June is a wood thrush at evening, the sweetest contralto of them all.

June is a peony and a lazy bumblebee and a thunderstorm and a small boy chasing a butterfly. June is soft laughter in the silken dusk and soft starlight over a world where life is good.” Hal Borland, Sundial of the Seasons