Weekend Notes: Disappearing Berries, We’re Jammin’, and Flop Goes the Perennial
Disappearing Berries. As they are ripening very early, the birds are consuming the berries of fall and late summer much earlier than normal. The black currants continue to ripen, as they do throughout the summer. In addition, grey dogwood (Cornus racemosa) berries are eaten as soon as they turn greenish white, so you almost never see the white ripe berries. The books say that the pedicel turn bright red, but my C. rasemosas haven’t read the books, apparently. Some of the pedicels show some good color, but most are just plain green. On the plus side, some of my gray dogwoods are yielding berries this year after I had almost despaired that they would ever do so.
The black elderberries (Sambucus canadensis) are almost half gone.
The cranberrybush viburnum (Viburnum trilobum) berries are mostly gone. This is unexpected because V. trilobum are often uneaten until after the winter freeze, and many write that their berries remain untouched through the winter.
What will the birds eat when these berries are gone? There is a bumper crop of crabapples this year, they’re just turning orange now. There are also snowberries and coralberries; these will not be ripe for weeks. Still, you have to wonder if the food supply and the timing of the bird migrations may be getting out of sync. At least for now the cardinals, robins, cedar waxwings, and other fruit eaters have plenty to choose from at the Garden in a City.
We’re Jammin’. Our son Danny, his girlfriend Caitlin, and their friend Megan came over to make blackberry and peach jam with Judy. They had purchased a large supply of beautiful fruit at the Evanston Farmer’s Market, some of which ended up frozen. Making jam seems deceptively simple: you just need the fruit, sugar, and pectin. The blackberries have to be crushed, and the peaches scalded and peeled. I asked Judy if I could include the recipes on my post, and she pointed out that it was the recipe on the box of Sure-Jell pectin, which can also be found on-line.
Their efforts yielded six half-pint jars of blackberry jam and five of peach jam. Afterwards, they rewarded themselves with blackberry gin fizzes, just as our pioneer ancestors would have. I stayed out of the way, my role was limited to going out to get the bottle of gin.
Flop Goes the Perennial. Since the rains have returned, it seems that my gardening tasks these days consist almost entirely of the following: 1) keeping plants from flopping; 2) mowing the lawn; 3) keeping the grass from sneaking into the flower beds; and 4) picking tomatoes. Of these, it is the anti-flopping duty that seems to be the most time-consuming and exasperating, though I think I have made a substantial contribution to the profits of the bamboo stake industry. (Weeding has not been a big problem because at this point there’s no bare ground left.)
A partial list of my floppers includes the following: cup plant (Silphium perfoliatum); downy sunflower (Helianthus mollis); Joe Pye weed (Eupatorium purpureum and ‘Gateway’); anise hyssop (Agastache foeniculum), northern sea oats (Chasmanthium latifolium); New England aster (Aster novae-angliae); and – oh, hell, it seems like just about everything, and that’s after I’ve cut a lot of stuff back in May.
Now, you may say this is only to be expected when you grow so many plants in the 4X Big and Tall size. To this I say, dream no little dreams, and plant no little perennials.
I think part of the problem is that my soil may be too rich, causing excessive growth and floppiness. I’m going to have to swear off of compost for my perennial beds and see if that helps. In the meantime, do you know where I can find a supply of 10′ bamboo poles?