Wild lupine

Including native plants in our garden that appeal to butterflies, bugs, and birds is important to me and to my husband. Sterile suburban yards, with neatly trimmed grass and maybe a bed or two of petunias are such missed opportunities, both to provide habitat for a host of creatures and to enjoy lovely floral displays!

One native we’ve had luck growing? Lupinus perennis, also known as wild lupine, native lupine, perennial lupine, or sundial lupine. This beauty attracts a variety of bees and butterflies. It is also the ONLY host plant for the endangered Karner Blue butterfly caterpillars. Read more about the Karner Blue butterfly here: https://www.fws.gov/midwest/endangered/insects/kbb/kbb_fact.html.


Aren’t they striking?!? They like kind of rough conditions: dry, slightly sandy, and very sunny spots are preferred. We started with a tiny seedling we picked up at the OSU Chadwick Arboretum plant sale years ago, from a booth run by the plant pathology grad students. Its seeds have spread a bit, which we love. Volunteer wild lupine plants? Yes, please!

If you’re in the right zone to grow them, I highly recommend walking on the wild side and making some room for wild lupine in your garden. Not only are they gorgeous, but they’ll help you attract beneficial bugs to your garden -and potentially provide crucial habitat to an endangered species of butterfly. Win win win.



Weeds are Where It’s At


Echinacea, sunflowers, and Joe-Pye weed blooming in our garden one misty morning in 2010.

My high school field biology teacher always used to say “Weeds are where it’s at!” with great enthusiasm as we keyed out various specimens. And he was so right! But I like to do a bit of re-branding when I refer to the weeds that I like most: those would be wildflowers. So my updated version would be “Wildflowers are where it’s at”.

We have quite a few native perennial wildflowers in our garden. Because we collect rare, often non-native trees, I think it’s especially important for us to balance that out by filling in with a lot of native flora. That way, we’re still providing habitat and food for all sorts of bugs, butterflies, and birds in our yard.

I’m sure our neighbors think our version of a cottage garden is a bit overblown and bizarre. They probably think we should weed more when they see our tall clouds of Joe-Pye Weed blooming. (Imagine how they’d feel if they knew I planted the goldenrod on purpose, too!)  And to be fair, the Joe-Pye is a bit unwieldy. I will grant that. But when I see 30 goldfinches (!!!) sitting on the spent blooms together like I did yesterday, picking out seeds to eat, I can’t help but wish more people would investigate gardening with wildflowers.  And in addition to all of the finches, I’m always seeing hordes of bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds zipping around the garden, visiting our wildflowers.


Tall ironweed

Anyhow, I am overjoyed that an ironweed plant (so named because their stems are very hard and sturdy) decided to shoot up and join the native wildflower party in one of our front beds. I LOVE ironweed. Usually spotted in meadows during late summer, the sight of their gorgeous deep purple blooms has always been a welcome harbinger of autumn to me.

050I wish my photos came closer to capturing just how vivid that purple is. In person it is so deep and vibrant, much less washed-out looking than I was able to capture. There is just no mistaking that purple. There are several varieties of ironweed. Given that our volunteer is about 7-8 feet tall, I’m guessing the variety must be Vernonia gigantea (tall ironweed) but I could be wrong. (I should probably really honor that field bio teacher and key it out, but not today.)


Growing Our Garden, or It’s time for Plant Sales and Auctions!

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Some of the perennials for sale at the Chadwick Arboretum Plant Sale & Auction.

It’s been an exciting couple of days for my husband and I, garden-wise. Earlier in the week, we got to enjoy the distinct pleasure that is our town’s Garden Club Plant Auction. Held in the rec. room of a church, it is an annual event we’ve come to really love over the past 7 years. (Here’s a post about it from last year: https://withthemoonontheirwings.wordpress.com/2012/05/06/the-annual-garden-club-plant-auction/) We didn’t go totally insane this time, but we picked up a few exciting new daylily varieties:

  • Bold Tiger
  • Siloam Double Classic
  • Double Minded
  • Indy Rhapsody
  • Jan Zoo

If they’re half as pretty as a fast google image search leads me to believe, we scooped up some gems!

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Scoping out the heirloom tomato options…we always try to get there during the first hour that the sale is open (early!) to get the best selection.

Yesterday we attended the plant sale and auction benefitting the Chadwick Arboretum at OSU. This is another annual tradition. Every year, we get all of our vegetables from tables sponsored by the ag. students and the Master Gardeners. This year we also picked up:

  • Royal Catchfly & Blazing Star plants from the plant pathology students (both are native varieties that attract butterflies and hummingbirds, we have some in the garden already that we picked up a few years ago. They’re so loved by our aerial garden visitors that we had to add more)
  • Several kinds of basil, 2 curry plants (super odorific without being in bloom or needing to crush any leaves, just intoxicating!), and even a Hemingway mojito mint plant from another group (I know, I know, MINT! I’ll have to pot it for sure, but I couldn’t resist the story: apparently, an enterprising gardener with a light-fingered streak pinched some springs off plants at Hemingway’s home in the Keys and was able to root it. Yep, the mint I now have is descended from the mint Papa Hemingway once made his mojitos with…or at least, so the story goes! Come on, that’s kind of awesome.)
  • a native Cardinal Flower plant. Like the catchfly and the blazing star, we had to add more because the bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds love it so much.
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NPR’s Ann Fisher with guest Debra Knapke broadcasting “All Sides” from the plant sale and not missing a beat while I gawked and waved at them.

This event just grows and grows a little more every year, it seems. In addition to all of the lovely plants, there were craft booths and a rummage area. I got a nifty plant stand from the rummage sale that I’ll share later. New this year? Ann Fisher, a local NPR personality, was broadcasting live from the sale. We wandered by the broadcast table and I waved like the spastic nerd that I am. Nope. Not even a little cool.

Also? There was this:

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My husband and the walking lilac flowerpot.

I’m still not actually entirely clear why this lovely lady was strolling around in the center of a giant flowerpot full of lilac stems, but really, does there need to be a why??? Somehow it was to support the Arboretum, but I just thought she looked great. She very graciously posed for a pic when we giddily asked her to.

Then it was time for the auction! We’ve picked up some unusual specimens (like our Little Woody Redbud tree) and we’ve also picked up some very cheap ones (large Prairie Fire Crabapple tree for $15, I’m looking at you!) from the Chadwick auction over the years. Sometimes we’ve even been able to get cheap unusual specimens, which is definitely the sweet spot. Our yard has little room for larger scale items at this point, so we promised ourselves to be very focused and targeted in our approach. And we actually managed it!

Looking over the plant list ahead of time, there were 2 items that really stood out to me. And those ended up being the 2 items we purchased. Sure, we bid on other stuff, but once the prices went beyond a certain point, we just shrugged at each other and let them go. Not these 2 items, though. We were determined. In the end, it was a bit of a nail-biter. You see, the auction will carry on through rain, but must stop at the first crack of thunder or flash of lightning. Both items were near the end of the 100 specimen auction, and we were racing a storm to get to them. Just one item after we won the second of the two items we really wanted, Boom! The auction was ended early because of the storm. Whew! We were lucky!

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Early portion of the auction, before the storm clouds rolled in and the sky went dark.

So what were the 2 specimens we won?

  1. a Sunrise horse chestnut tree (Aesculus x neglecta ‘Erythroblastos’). This variety of horse chestnut is apparently notable for the fact that when the leaves emerge in spring, they are a bright salmon pink. They stay a striking pink for a few weeks before turning orange and yellow and then green. How cool does that sound?!?! It’s already green, so I’ll have to wait until next year for the show. Trying to figure out where to put it, exactly…although they can get tallish, I’ve also read they can be grown as an understory tree, which, if true, opens up more options in our yard…
  2. a compact, columnar variety of Chinese Fringetree called ‘Tokyo Tower’ (Chionanthus retusus ‘Tokyo Tower’). I love fringetrees! Both the Chinese and the native varieties are quite striking when in bloom. We added a (tiny) native fringetree to our garden last year. Even though it is small and slow-growing, it’s starting to bloom now and it’s beautiful. When I saw this variety on the plant list, I was thrilled. I love columnar forms, and this one has an especially small footprint.  Supposedly it’ll get to a height of about 12-15 feet while only having a 3-5 foot diameter. Perfect for our space.
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Enjoying a spin through Chadwick Arboretum after shopping the plant sale. Pics from that to come soon, it was gorgeous. The Buckeyes were all blooming and that is a beautiful sight.


My husband came home from work yesterday looking positively giddy.  On his drive home he’d seen a vixen and her kits romping in a nearby field!  We hurriedly bundled straight into his truck and drove back out to where he’d seen them.  They were still there!

foxy 002foxy 004Much too close to the road, the kits were pouncing and chasing each other.  The vixen was watching them and the road warily.  I hope she moves them to somewhere a little safer soon.  Between the traffic of the road and people who might wish to do more than take pictures, this spot seems like a bad idea.  But what a delight to see them!

Winter Birds

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I noticed some little birds hopping around on the ground the other day, quite ignoring the hanging suet feeder in our yard.  So I spread some seeds out for them and presto!  lots of little birds — juncos, sparrows, chickadees, cardinals.  Also, randomly, a crow.  Tried to get some pics, tricky because the birds are so shy.   My husband took these.

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Sad News

I was contacted a few days ago by the wild animal rescue group I had taken Freddie, the fledgling female red tail hawk we found in our backyard, to back in July.  Unfortunately, she died 3 days after I dropped her off.

The drought and the West Nile Virus have been taking a toll on area wildlife and they’d been busier than usual this summer.  They had been nearly overwhelmed by the number of animals brought in and only just got around to calling me to let me know about her fate.  Given that Freddie was at about 1/3 of her expected body weight when I found her, it’s not surprising that she was too far gone to be rescued and rehabilitated.  But I had really been hoping, given that I hadn’t heard anything for so long, that “no news was good news”.   What will be will be and all, but I’m still sad.  Hard way to go.

Hawk Update

So to recap:  this lovely hawk showed up in our backyard a few days ago.  Clearly, something was wrong because the hawk was standing on the ground and neither flew away nor attacked when my curious pugs were barking at it.  Not knowing what to do, I brought all of the pets indoors and kept an eye on the hawk.  I also took to Facebook and through the wonders of social networking got advice from a bona fide licensed wildlife rescuer about how to proceed.

My husband and I were thinking that if the hawk was still hanging out under the Harry Lauder’s Walking Stick shrub in our backyard in the morning, we’d see about somehow getting it to a nearby wildlife rescue center.  The center was closed for the day and didn’t open until the next morning.  But the wildlife rescuer we got in touch with via Facebook said that it was imperative for us to get the hawk into some sort of box or crate, that the hawk was too vulnerable to predators and that it wasn’t safe to leave it out all night.

A).  We received this advice at midnight.

B).  Uh, how do you safely capture a hawk, exactly????

Luckily my husband is a patient man and was game to attempt a midnight hawk capture by flashlight.  Worried about the hawk’s impressive talons and surely sharp beak, we hastily geared up in the closest we could come up with to “safety suits”.  There were hats, winter coats, and multiple gloves involved in this.  We surely looked ridiculous and it’s probably best that our efforts happened under the cover of night!

We had read online and then been assured by our expert that throwing a quilt or towel over an ill or injured hawk would lead to said hawk flopping over onto its back and presenting its talons as a last ditch attempt to protect itself.  Then you’d just have sort of pick up the quilt/hawk bundle and put it in a box or whatnot.  We got out one of our dog crates, an old quilt, and a long pole.  We used the pole to shepherd the hawk out from under the shrub where it had taken refuge.  Once it was more out in the open we draped the quilt over it.  And wouldn’t you know, it actually worked!  The hawk flopped right onto its back and we were easily able to pick it up and put it into the crate.  We then covered the crate with the quilt and put it in our barn so the hawk would have some peace and quiet.

During the whole watching/capturing process, we took to referring to the hawk as “Freddie” since that could be short for either Fredrik or Fredrika.We put some water in the crate with the hawk.  I wanted to include some kind of food too, but worries of accidentally poisoning it through ignorant good intentions made me stop with just the water.  In the morning, I loaded Freddie into my car and off we went to the Ohio Wildlife Center.

A non-profit group that rehabilitates injured wildlife and does a lot of educational outreach, the folks at the Ohio Wildlife Center were great.  They confirmed that Freddie was a juvenile Red-tailed Hawk and added that she was a female.  After examining her, they shared that she didn’t have anything broken.  She was, however, severely malnourished and underweight.  They couldn’t say if something happened to her parent, or if the drought was making prey more scarce, or what exactly had led to her being so underweight.  Another particularly nasty culprit could be the West Nile virus.  (That would be bad, West Nile has decimated local avian populations in the past few years.) First they have to see if she survives long enough to put on some much-needed weight, then they’ll do some tests and go from there.

Hopefully the specialists at the Ohio Wildlife Center will be able to rehabilitate Freddie and she will make it.  I hope she’ll get better and will be able to be released back into the wild once more.  Although this has been a fascinating experience, I really much prefer to see hawks circling overhead, not sitting sick in a crate in my barn. The center will update us on the hawk’s status, although it may be months before we hear something about Freddie’s fate.

I don’t mean to seem to sound like some kind of wacko do-gooder with all of this.  I realize that nature is often harsh and unforgiving, and that death is part of life.  I am aware that even though we were calling the hawk “Freddie”, she is a wild animal and not a pet.  And I know some people might believe that maybe we should have left the hawk to her fate and let nature run its course.  Which I do understand, and that  is an issue I weighed and thought about before taking any action.  Ultimately, I felt that wildlife has to try and survive under intrusive, bizarre, man-made conditions and has to try to cope with man-made problems, and that I was okay with trying to do a little something to help balance things out a bit.

As I mentioned earlier, the Ohio Wildlife Center is a non-profit group that operates strictly on donations.  It costs about $500 to rehabilitate a sick or injured hawk or owl so that they can be returned to the wild.  If you’re interested in learning more about the Ohio Wildlife Center or in maybe making a donation to them, here is a link to their webpage:  http://www.ohiowildlifecenter.org/index.cfm.