Tag Archives: swamp milkweed

Am I actually evolving?

This post was originally going to be a straight forward take on how much I love Swamp Milkweed after having planted it for the first time earlier this spring. But after locating and posting the photo below, everything changed:
Allow me to explain …   
When I started this blog just short of four years ago, I really had no plan or concept of who I was as a “gardener”. It was only at that time that I even started taking photos of my plants. I figured the blog would be a diary of sorts; a place where I could upload some pics and maybe share with my friends and family. And if I wasn’t happy with how it all looked, I could stay quiet and never promote it. 
As time passed, and I started posting on a regular basis, I began to find my voice. And it was kind of an annoying complaining voice. While it all came from an honest place, damn did I bitch and moan a lot. Too high maintenance for my liking now and obviously how the title of this blog came about. I wanted to “keep it real” and talk about the not so sexy side of gardening and plants, but this dude needed to chill out a bit.
Now, if you look back over the past year or so, you’ll see that the negatively toned posts have diminished to a large degree (although I’ll never stop mocking myself over bad planting decisions) and I seemed to have relaxed a lot more. Again, this isn’t contrived, just a true reflection of me at the time. Somewhere along the way I gained perspective and may even, dare I say, evolved. Before, I judged my gardening “talents” based on a successful bloom, now I fully enjoy the non-blooms.  
A few months back, Martha f’n Stewart made her infamous comments about bloggers not being “true experts” in their field. You can read more about it here if you are not up to speed on what she had to say. While she may have been specifically referring to lifestyle bloggers, I took her words to apply to all bloggers. Upon hearing her comments, I once again started to reflect upon the purpose/direction of this blog. That’s just how I roll.  
I know I am not close to being an expert on anything garden related. Shit, I downright suck at it at times. I’ll never dole out “advice” or take a definitive stand on garden design because I am still learning/evolving like everyone else. But I’ll be damned if I don’t have the passion and love for this gardening thing. I enjoy simply showing readers what is going on in my garden, warts and all. I also enjoy including my emotions in the mix, be it immature and whiny like in my early blog days, or more reflective and mature as I think I am doing now (even I’m smirking at that one).  And to top it all off, I do my best to incorporate how my family/real life gets in the way intersects with my gardening efforts.   
When I take all of this into account and take a high level view of ONG, I realize it is really the story of one gardener and how he has, and I apologize for the repeated use of the term but it is so accurate, evolved. And I think that “evolvement” (sp?) is something people can relate to. You aren’t coming here to better understand soil compaction or how to root prune. You’re coming here to share in the pain of deer damage or to see if it is possible to have a garden solely composed of ornamental grasses or to see if Amsonia can withstand wet feet or how my experimental pruning of a shrub played out in the long run. Did I mention some pretty sweet photos too? This is my unique voice and one that couldn’t be shared prior to the creation of the “blog”. While I reference hardcore ‘how-to” or “fact filled” websites for garden info, nothing resonates more than reading about a real person and their unique/real garden experiences.    
Which brings me back to that photo at the beginning of this post; that photo of an open seedpod of Asclepias incarnata (Swamp Milkweed). Not too long ago, I would have complained about the ugliness of that scene and how it was detracting from the beauty of my garden. But as time has elapsed over the years, I’ve come to appreciate exactly what is going on in this pic. I am proud to now fully understand the need to grow more Milkweed to aid in the production of nectar for the monarch butterfly. Actually, I am proud of the fact that I am “seeking” out information on milkweed and the monarch butterfly. Speaking of which, check out this article for a depressing take on the state of the monarch. 
And let’s extend this further. The monarch example lends itself to a discussion on the use of native plants. This was something that I glossed over years ago but now find myself consumed with. Where I fall on the debate of using exclusively native plants vs some or even none is still falling into place. But it now has an impact on my gardening practices and that is a good thing, giving the landscape even deeper meaning. Yet again, I give you a great article on this topic that you can check out here. And be sure to read the comments after the article as well. Good back and forth.
So as we move forward and I write about a particular plant, I am going to shy away from the factual stuff; you can all find that out for yourself through a simple Google search. I am going to focus even more on my personal adventures with said plant and how it has affected me, both positively and negatively.
And f you Martha.
But before I go, a photographic reminder of why you MUST grow more milkweed.

Tale of two plants – Butterfly Weed and Swamp Milkweed

I have tried countless times to keep Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa) alive in my garden and have failed each and every time … until a few weeks ago.

This spring I had purchased a few of these butterfly loving perennials and stuck them in the ground in an inconspicuous place, just to see if I could get them to grow with one last attempt. If they didn’t thrive, so be it. I finally came to grips with the fact that they prefer a dry soil and that is exactly the opposite of what I have to offer in my yard.

As expected, these plants virtually disappeared within weeks of being planted to the point that I even forgot that they even existed. But then one day, a few weeks ago, I noticed a sweet pop of orange out of the corner of my eye. I immediately ran over and when I realized that two of the Butterfly Weed plants had miraculously recovered, I fell to my knees and thanked the Lord for presenting me with such a miracle:

I didn’t even care that the orange color looked completely out of place when compared to other nearby flowers. This was one of those surprises that gardeners get all giddy over.

Because I had failed with this plant so many times in the past, I had no idea that they formed seed pods and was equally excited to discover these just the other day:

Now I am way anxious to watch these open up and disperse to their heart’s content and hopefully, I’ll find some more of these next spring. This is what keeps gardening so damn interesting for me.

On the other end of the spectrum, we have Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) which started off with a bang after planting a bunch this spring:

As anticipated, they were a magnet for all sorts of creatures. I would just stand there for minutes on end and watch the visitors stop by and hang out and drink the magical nectar.

But once the blooms dried up, things got nasty.

The aphids have absolutely taken over and dirtied up the joint.

I considered the options on how to remove them but settled on doing nothing. If that is how nature wanted it, who am I to get in the way? Plus, we are talking a complete aphid inundation so they are beyond hope. My plan now is to leave them be (luckily they are out of plain view) and see if they end up doing any permanent damage. From all accounts, they should be just fine so I am not all that worried.

Another learning experience and another reason why … gardening is so damn interesting to me.

Have a great long weekend.

Random garden musings

Some thoughts as I walked through my garden recently:
Thuja (Arborvitae) ‘Rheingold’ continues to grow on me each year. The foliage color and texture are friggin stupendous:   

Cornus (Red Twig Dogwood) ‘Arctic Fire’ may be the shrub I’m most excited about for next year. I bought the tiniest plug last year and actually forgot about it. It was lost amongst the weeds in spring but I babied it in a container and now she is ready to fly on her own. Get those twigs nice and red now, ya hear:    

Perennials I can’t grow due to poor drainage are now being kept in containers so I can move them around at will – sort of like rearranging furniture. This Sedum ‘Matrona’ is temporarily in front of Hydrangea ‘Lady in Red’ … I kind of dig it:

Berries on trees = good times:

Just thought this was kind of a cool shot – Lobelia siphilitica (Blue Cardinal Flower) through the blooms of a Panicum (Switch Grass):

This Asclepias Incarnata (Swamp Milkweed) is thriving at four feet tall:

But I liked it better when it was destroyed by the caterpillars:

I still prefer containers with only one plant in them – like this series of Cordyline. One day I’ll graduate to the big leagues and learn how to use thrillers, fillers and spillers:

Each morning I run, I look forward to seeing the blooms on Tradescantia (Spiderwort) ‘Sweet Kate’ and I’m cool with them disappearing soon after:

Have a great weekend and for all of you in the path of Hurricane Irene, stay safe. We’re already preparing here in NJ as we’re expecting 8″ to 12″ of rain.

John