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Garden Update: All Things Wild

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Flowering Wild 

Blackberry Bush

 

 

 

One of the true joys of the last couple of months has been walking our every morning onto the garden and finding out what grows there! The previous residents here left their backyard pretty much to the wild, it seems. While I stay away from most of it because of tick fear and a general overload of brambles, even the plants on the perimeter that I can walk to from the lawn holds fascination for me. As the warm weather progresses, there is a new delightful discovery I uncover and often associated with a life lesson!

For example, when we moved here, it was already well into Fall touching on Winter. So for many months, all I saw were ugly bare branches and lots of thorns. Oh! The thorns! They were everywhere. I recognize some as belonging to rose plants because I had grown up with them, but many other reddish brown stalks frustrated the hell out of me because they basically were the border and had really sharp, cutting thorns. I simply could not wait to have them gone.

Then suddenly one day in May they started sprouting and they looked suspiciously like berry plants. As it happens, they were blackberry bushes - wild, untamed.... invasive! Yes, precious as berries are, they are an invasive weed in this part of the North East. And with their spiked limbs not exactly popular when they are in a well-trafficked spot of land.

But, oh their flowers!!! They are stunning. I basically fell in love with them once they started blooming Mid-May. They make stunning additions to a wild flower bouquet, thorns not withstanding! Pretty much all edible berries have white flowers though. But the blackberry is particularly delightful to behold. The rest are not much to write about. Their delicate flowers are a beautiful and the pristine white against a lush green is arresting.

Blackberries are not the first berry to come out. That prestige belongs to strawberry but search as I might, I cannot find a wild strawberry plant. In fact, while wild strawberries do exist they are rather hard to come by. They can be actively cultivated to spread wild though (go figure!). Then come the blackberries, blueberries and raspberries... in terms of flowering. Raspberries and blueberries, especially the wild ones, ripen a lot faster than blackberries, which, can take upto two months to ripen depending on sun and water conditions

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Blackberry

Budding begins in early to mid May, two to three weeks after the last frost

Flowers begin to fully bloom all through May into the second week of June as long as the temperatures stay above 65F during the day.

Pollination therefore happens on a rolling basis, based on sun and bee activity.

In my yard, pretty much all the flowers pollinated into fruit {I am not sure if they were the self-pollinating varietal or the active bee population helped}

Once pollinated the flower petals fall off leaving the the inner stamens to grow in to the fruit. You can see the distinctive blackberry shape forming even at this stage.

It takes one to two months for the berries to form and ripen, putting the earliest harvest date to second week of July going through to early August.

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Raspberry

The other wild berry in my yard is the raspberry. They grow in clusters next to the blackberry. Because they are wild, I am not concerned but if you were cultivating them, then you would separate them to prevent diseases spreading from the more fragile raspberry to the hardier blackberry.

As to flowers, as you can see the raspberry is tiny, almost overwhelmed by its own stalk! The fruits it will produce are equally tiny. {will post fruit photos in the next post}

Raspberries start coming to life later than blackberries, blooming in early to late June and fruiting as early as July beginning going into end of the month.

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The above photo is of a butternut squash seedling. It is definitely not a wild plant but I started these not from store seeds but from an organic squash I bought and saved the seeds from. I don't know if it will fruit or not, and if it will survive the actual wild I have thriving the yard (notes below!) but it is an experiment I am excited about!

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Where the Oaks Tower....

 

and Sway!!!!


The True Wild

No, I am not exaggerating....! At the same time, I was marveling at the surprise beauty of the untamed yard, I was also sharply brought to ground one evening, when I discovered there exists flora as well as fauna in that same undisturbed hinterland. If you have seen my instagram and stories, I have mentioned the yard being on the regular feeding route of white tailed deer, orange foxes and random cats. Come Spring, the lawn burst into life with squirrels, chipmunks, carpenter bees and the like. So, when I started the garden, I was keenly aware that I would have to protect it from the ground hopping furry creatures as well the ground stomping happy munching four legged deer!

But, I was in for yet another surprise. I found there were burrowing creatures as well, and some rather big ones. One evening I was reveling in the beauty of just budding pea shoots and unbridled joy of the first harvest and the next day I was slapped with a decimated garden that had been munched clear of the lettuce, spinach, fresh zucchini saplings and all the peas!!!! I was not disheartened, I was enraged!! To make matter worse, I did not know what was causing the damage..

Was it a mole or vole? Or, really the naughty chipmunk? I scoured the internet for possible critters that could have created the damage and what if anything I could do. I even spied on the poor chipmunks that darted through the patch looking for acorns.

Eventually, we stumbled upon the culprit! A resident, fat groundhog!! That lived in the yard right by the patch because there was a pile of dead lumber there where it had conveniently burrowed. I tried the store bought sprays; they didn't work. I came back to find my second set of pea seedlings and leftover squash leaves munched away. 

A homemade spray of chili-vinegar in water worked wonder until it got washed away with rain. All creatures come out to feed after the rains, especially, prolonged ones, and the woodchucks/groundhogs are no exception. Perhaps, if you are vigilant about reapplication, this could be a solution but it was not realistic for me.

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groundhogs 

They are very intelligent, not deterred by the sprays available in store, fairly brazen, eat voraciously, very picky about the freshest produce, burrow deep, climb fences..... In short, they are an utter pain in the ass!

Groundhogs burrow up to two feet underground, build vast tunnels and create multiple exits to the surface. They are difficult and expensive (I was given a quote of $950!!) to catch!

Basically, what you can do if you don't/can't remove them -

1. Build a tall and deep fence. I will next year!

2. If you don't want to fence, then a spray of chili and vinegar mixed in water worked but needs diligent reapplication immediately after rains

3. Buy a HaveaHart trap and trap it yourself. {not my cup of tea

4. Learn to live with them or wait for a neighbor or a fox/coyote to do away with them. {this was my choice]


Flowers & Herbs

Expectedly, the greatest joy I get out of this discovery process is finding gems of flowers and herbs in the nooks of the land. I have so far found and vased several flowers from the land. I love having flowers around the house and since the ground started blooming, I have not had to buy any flowers from the shop!

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Lamb's Ear, Lemon Balm Patch

These make a lovely little rock garden like patch at the front where they get full sun. Lemon balm is a fab herb in salads and tea and is a perennial that spreads happily just like mint. Lamb's ear has many antiseptic and digestive properties according to herbology but I have not tried using them for any ailment. They are however very pretty as ground cover as well as in vases (photo below)

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wild rose {Rosa multiflora}

Yet another wild and yes, invasive shrub, it also has thorny branches. Its flowers are tiny and clustered and they have a heady fragrance that makes their overwhelming nature entirely forgiveable!

They bloom for a short 2-3 weeks just as soon the weather warms up and make stunningly fragrant walk by, or when put in a vase, like below.

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Rose - Blackberry - Azalea

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Iris + Lamb's Ear

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What plant is this?

It has a heady fragrance but I don't know what it is. Would love to know if you recognize it. Please leave me a note!


WHAT CAME BEFORE - First harvest

WHAT COMES NEXT - Fruiting


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