Veronica's Garden

I originally started this blog to promote my novel, Post Rock Limestone Caryatids. Now I write essays and poetry about everything, including the Flint Hills, healing, parenting, etc. WARNING: emotional content, sometimes intense. Read at own risk of feeling.

Tag: daisy fleabane

Gardening, Rachel-style

I usually give all the gardening and nature posts to Veronica, but this one isn’t worthy of her master gardening skills. It’s very much a Rachel kind of project, starting with, not surprisingly, a prominent bed where nothing could grow.

When we came here nine years ago, it was full of irises and day lilies. Very nice flowers, but they were over crowded, not having been tended for who knew how many years, and they only flower for a short time in spring. I wanted to stretch the bloom time through the summer. Right away I took out the bulbs, leaving only a few that were hard to get out. I had a vision of native prairie wildflowers and grasses, approximating a little patch of prairie on the lawn in front of our motel, highlighting the sign which rises up out of the bed. But the first year I just put in inexpensive annuals, because I didn’t have time just yet to manifest the whole vision.

Everything died. Plant food did nothing. A soil test showed normal acidity. Over the years I did everything short of taking out all the soil (which I have concluded was actually construction dirt) and replacing it. I was thrilled to start composting, but failed to maintain proper balance and after a couple years I was adding more bugs to the dirt than nutrients. I know people say that roly polies cannot eat live plants, but I guarantee you it is not true. When we die and leave our bodies, we will be one with everything and have access to all knowledge. Then we will know without doubt two things: where all those socks went, and that roly polies eat flowers.

My friend John Queen invited us to take some perennials from his garden, and for a few years we had a very nice echinacea. The butterflies loved it. I tried transplanting weeds from the cracks in the parking lot to join it. Surely if they could grow in gravel, they could grow in this stuff; but they didn’t. Eventually the echinacea died too.

I gave up on native plants and put in anything I could think of. Ice plant shriveled. Ornamental grasses were seeded but never appeared. Year after year, all that grew there was buffalo grass, bindweed, and the few scattered irises I’d never managed to remove. Last year we got in some queen anne’s lace, which was kind of pretty for a short time and looked like the untended weed it was for most of the summer.

Spring rolls back around, though, every year. Most years I get that itch to give it one more try. Rodeo was coming, the one weekend every year when we know we can rent every room suitable to rent, and turn some people down. It had been a couple years since I’d added the pest-infused compost, so maybe they had gone somewhere else. I decided to put in an assortment of cheap annuals and throw down some mulch, in the spaghetti method (throw it at the wall and see what sticks). If it all dies in 2 weeks, I won’t have invested much.

Of course I couldn’t resist adding a few weeds from the parking lot. So far the daisy fleabane is doing much better than last time. This year was the first time I’d seen salsify here, and it doesn’t transplant well generally, but hasn’t died yet, so I’m considering that a success. In fact, rodeo is over, everyone has checked out, and every plant I put in is still alive, so my first goal has been reached. I have pictures to prove it.

Spotted in the Flint Hills in the Last Week

This year for the fourth time I spent mid-May commuting to White Memorial Camp, north of Council Grove. It’s a bit of a drive, but mostly on National Scenic Byway, KS 177. The remainder is gravel, through pastures to the end of a little peninsula surrounded by Council Grove lake. I go there for a job, which is to massage the attendees of Kelley Hunt and Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg’s wonderful Brave Voice songwriting workshop and retreat. It’s a beautiful group whom I love to work with. The bonus is that this remote drive has incredible diversity of wildlife, particularly birds. So every year I am equally excited to do this job as to get there and back. Here’s a list of the many species I saw, most without even getting out of the car.

Butterfly milkweed, not yet blooming.
Wild blue indigo, in luscious bloom.
Cobaea beardtongue, plentiful this year.
Daisy fleabane, blooming rather early, I believe.
Lots of Arkansas rose.

several scissor-tailed flycatchers
one turkey
dozens of turkey vultures
one nighthawk
lots of killdeer
brown-headed cowbirds
Franklins gulls
barn swallows
one indigo bunting, which thoughtfully landed in a tree in easy view. I actually stopped the car for this one.
redwing blackbirds
upland sandpipers

rat snake
yellow-bellied racer
five-lined skink
The last two reptiles were here at the motel, but I love them so much I didn’t want to leave them off the list.

Since I was a child I’ve wanted to see a zebra swallowtail butterfly, but never did, until this week.

And mustn’t forget — this one doesn’t belong on my list because I didn’t personally see it, but several of the musicians saw a mountain lion, and got pictures. Don’t tell Fish and Wildlife, they still don’t want to admit that mountain lions are in Kansas.

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