Monday, June 29, 2009

Peafowl on The Loose

Hybrid Gaillardia
This weekend, my friend Jeff came back for another quick visit...with his three adopted children and three peafowl, in a compact car! The birds were in a large dog kennel-a cock and two hens! With the car as loaded as you could be, they drove nine hours from After we got everyone settled, that means the boys were on the boat fishing, and Ebony was clinging to Dad, we had to put together the bird run. I had the frame for the structure, but needed help attaching the panels together, which took about an hour for a twenty four foot long enclosure. It was going to be dark soon, so Jeff drove the car to the back road, and we prepared to gently transfer the trio to their new home. Peafowl should be kept penned for several months to get acquainted with you and their surroundings. After a time, the male can be let out , but keep the hens in their pen for several more weeks, this keeps the males from wondering.
Sooo, the birds are a little more difficult to move than I had hoped, flapping and clawing to get away from us, we did transfer them to the roomy new diggs. I shut the door,after getting fresh water and food for them, then secured the outer panels. about an hour later, after dinner, I went to the new birds and peered Peacocks...!! "someone", that would not be me or Jeff, opened the door, and they were gone! I could not be more disapointed, but what can we do? I don't think it was intentional, but the door was wide open.... We all took a walk that night to view the fireflies in the lower meadow, a sight to behold! on our way back in the moonlight,Jeff looked up to see Flo, the pied hen, up a tree over the drive! We took the kids back home, then got a ladder to try to catch her. We kept talking to her, but when we got close, she took off, into the night. I didn't sleep very well, and got up about five thirty, to see if I could find their roost. I got the bag of Goldfish crackers,( a favorite snack) and headed out. These birds don't have any reason to food connections or sense of place, but they couldn't have gotten too far. I found feathers up the road, but there were no birds in sight. Then, I saw the beautiful male, walking down the drive ahead of me, not wanting to be caught. I didn't chase him, but let him see me. Going around the house and across the bridge, I saw Flo! I shook the crackers in the bag, but she walked quickly there a chance I'll get them back? hummm..we'll see I guess, this is not good.

I was so excited to get them, and they were so much more beautiful than I had hoped, we got them settled in, and then poof! gone. I'll try every trick in the book to lure them, but there is only a slim chance that they might stay close, and not get eaten.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Beavers and Blooms..

Thread petaled native Coneflower
Unusual light pink Asclepias,natural hybrid??
Native Cherokee Rose

Bank of Maidenhair Ferns
"Sargasso" island in a Beaver pond
Jeff,in the third level pond,deep in the woods
Close Up, Beaver Dam #3
The Long View of the Beaver dam,#1
This past week, I had the pleasure of hosting one of my favorite friends for a long weekend. Jeff and I have known each other for more years than I like to think! We have botanized all over the world together...seeing plants in their native environment can give you so much direction in the care and habits of specific plants.

The weather in the Midwest has been incredibly wet, but everything is sooo lush! I have a very special area of the farm that has the most magical ravine of Maidenhair ferns, the sight of which isn't soon forgotten. We had made plans to go to the fernery, I had warned Jeff that the Beaver dams were something else...he had no idea.

After getting to the closest canal to the area,we got out and dragged the canoe over the first dam, and made our way up through the woods. The first large colony of Maidenhairs were up at least three levels of ponds!! We think there are at least seven levels...We stopped at five! The amazing construction of these able rodents is STAGGERING...but cool at the same time. At dusk, if they see you, the Beavers send warning tail smacks you can't ignore. In case you don't know, Beaver can get large...fifty pounds or so I would think, very strong animals.

After we left the woods, we made our way back and spied some beautiful native Cherokee roses, and a special pale pink Asclepias that seems to be a natural hybrid...I'll be collecting seeds of that one! The thread petaled cone flowers are just coming in to bloom as well.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Summer Fare- The Asclepias

I love the Milkweeds. I do wish they didn't have "weed" in their common name, but that's what we have. I've thought of just calling them "floss flowers"or"butterfly flower"-but you always end up saying Milkweed to clarify that you're not referring to a butterfly bush. Few plants can boast such glowing attributes; not only are they stunning in a natural setting, they also work wonders in more orderly schemes. Most importantly,they are larval food for the imperial Monarch as well as Queen butterflies. It takes several years to get young plants established and thriving. They aren't difficult at all, they just require more time to reach their stride.

Some of these stunning plants are from the vast grasslands and savannas across the nation, others are from the lowlands and waterways, they find wonderful use in the garden and even more so in the cultivated meadow and rain garden areas. I'm enamored with the hardy perennial types, but there are several annual Asclepias that are great summer garden plants.

I have great childhood memories of the Milkweed pods,spilling forth with their silken down. What a great and beautiful way for a seed to disperse! The down was used briefly in world war two as insulating fill, I believe the latex sap has been investigated as well...I just know the value of these plants hasn't been utilized in the least. We would make small Lilliputian boats out of the pods to float down the creek, the flashing gold interior,glinting as the boats passed us by.

I love the color pallet: spilled milk white, crushed strawberry reds and minty cool greens. Did I say orange and yellow??! The foliage is bold and dramatic, and certainly enough for some hungry caterpillars to eat!

The most obvious reason to plant and promote these special plants is to attract and feed butterflies-all butterflies are drawn to these nectar rich blossoms. Some species are very fragrant, and make excellent cut flowers.

I met a bee keeper who kept a hive with a field of Asclepias syriaca, a sweetly scented species. He kept the honey collected from this hive for himself and his family; the honey had retained the special flavor and scent of the species. Varietal honey is the way to go! I'll keep writing about these great plants, more species will open as the summer progresses.