Drought, Deadly Nightshade, and a Happy Birthday
Yesterday we drove up to St. Paul, Minnesota, to celebrate my birthday with my younger son, my brother Richard, and his wife Diane.
When we get to St. Paul, we like to take a little hike at Minnehaha Park, site of the waterfalls made famous, though never actually visited, by the poet Longfellow (“By the shores of Gitche Gumee, By the shining big sea water,” etc.) This time we saw dramatic evidence of the severity of the drought that hit this part of the Midwest not just this year, but for the past several years.
Normally the falls are a roaring torrent of water. Today we saw barely a trickle, and Minnehaha Creek was essentially a string of puddles.
Even so, we had a pleasant hike.
I also got to see my brother’s garden, though at this point in October there isn’t much color. I did admire his water feature, however. The little pond has its own waterfall created by pumping water up a hole drilled through a small boulder. Shallow depressions have been cut in the boulder for the benefit of the birds.
Blurring the line between weeds and ornamentals, Richard is growing Deadly Nightshade (Atropa belladonna) up the side of his house. They do have colorful berries …
In his front yard, Richard took down a big Norway Maple (Acer platanoides) and replaced it with a Burr Oak (Quercus macrocarpa), now only about 4′ high. The rest of the front is planted in native perennials and shrubs, including Black Chokeberry (Aronia melanocarpa) and a Redbud (Cercis canadensis). Along the street he’s planted a “lawn” of Pennsylvania Sedge (Carex pennsylvanica) that is spreading very nicely. It’s remarkable that this garden has received no supplemental water (except from a water barrel), even with the drought.
After inspecting the garden, we headed to a restaurant called the Bachelor Farmer for a fine birthday meal. Tomorrow we have brunch with an old college friend, then back to Chicago.