The Watering Can - 6/12/2023

The rain has dried up a bit, and the dance of keeping many different species happy gets tricky

After beginning June with a wonderful week of rain, things have gotten hot and dry fast. Unfortunately, for now there doesn't seem to be much end in sight, with heat indexes forecast well over 100 for the next week. So I'll have my watering cut out for me once again — but at least this time around I'll have a better idea of what to look for.

Generally, the plants haven't changed much this week. I'm not sure how much of that is due to the lack of rain and how much of it is due to a later update last week, but that's where we are.

My biggest project right now is figuring out where to get some more of these wonderful plants from Janine Kharey into the ground; it's a bit hot for it but I get the feeling these natives would actually like it better in the ground than in their little pots right now. I'm having quite a time keeping some of the potted plants happy in this heat! I did finally get some water trays this week to let some plants soak and "water themselves", and that is working out a lot better for a few species so far.

It'll probably be a shorter update this week, but there are a few things I wanted to check in on, starting with the latest additions.

Swamp Sunflowers (Helianthus angustifolius)

One of the favorite native sunflowers of South Louisiana gardeners and naturalists, these tall sunflowers should fill in nicely around the pond. I've placed the two gifted to me on either side of Titi 2, and if all goes well should start filling in those gaps with 4-5 foot tall bunches of sunflowers throughout the late Summer and Fall.

I've only found one Sunflower volunteer on the property prior to this, and right after I found it last year, something (probably deer) apparently ate it down to the ground! So I'll have to try to keep these two protected as well as I can. So far they really seem to like their new home.

A small flowerless sunflower plant with a watering can resting next to it Swamp Sunflower 1 is the smaller of the two new additions, but it's no slouch, and has perked up significantly since planting
A small flowerless sunflower plant with a watering can resting next to it Swamp Sunflower 2 is a bit taller and further along, and is already regrowing some leaves toward the bottom where others had died prior to planting

Black Elderberries (Sambucus canadensis)

These two continue to leaf out more and more, and have definitely shown the most overall growth in the weeks since I've started the Watering Can. The Ranch variety has fluffed out significantly, with it being almost completely bare when planted, compared to a pretty healthy batch of new growth everywhere now.

The Oklahoma John elderberry is also coming along strong, with some really nice new branches starting to get bigger and fill out its thin and tall profile.

A nearly bare elderberry with a watering can resting next to it The Ranch elderberry soon after planting, with very little green on it — and most of the green that was there had been nibbled on.
A small elderberry showing a lot of bushy new green growth at its base The Ranch elderberry this week, showing so much new green everywhere (though it's really hard to capture this guy with the camera)
A closeup of a new green branch with leaves on an elderberry One of the larger, happy new branches emerging on the Oklahoma John

Red Maples (Acer rubrum)

While the majority of the Red Maple seedlings that were planted in May are now dead, there are some new signs of life to be excited about.

I did a bark scrape test on Pond Maple 1 since parts of it were looking pretty fried, and ended up cutting off its (former) leader as a result because was completely dead. Since then it's put out no less than six tiny new branches with their little starter pairs of leaves! So it's either really getting settled and finally growing new roots, or cutting off the leader for good gave it the signal it need to launch some new growth, but either way I'm thrilled. It's the tallest of the Maples so far and I'm glad it's managing to hang on.

The one Trail Maple that has had some success, Trail Maple 2, continues to surprise. It's now got quite a nice little cluster of leaves growing on it, and seems to be getting some good midday sun right now, which should continue for at least the next month or so as we move through Solstice season.

I scrape tested the other two Trail Maples and they didn't seem completely dead, surprisingly, but it's not looking great. Especially considering this lack of rain. But I'll try to keep them watered for at least another couple of weeks, because I still can hardly believe how well TM2 is doing now, and maybe these others will surprise me.

South Maple 2 is still hanging in there. It's not showing much growth but the leaves are still nice and green and it's hopefully got some more going on underground. South Maple 1 also passed the scrape test for now, but 3 and 4 are goners.

Small branches of new growth on a Red Maple sapling Several new leaves and tiny branches of new growth on Pond Maple 1. Coincidence or not, these all popped out right after the removal of its dead leader.
Small green leaves on a small Red Maple seedling Trail Maple 2 putting out so many little green leaves. This was such a lovely surprise after it looked dead for weeks!

Eastern Redbud (Cercis canadensis)

Boy oh boy. The lone leaf remaining is now brown, and I just don't have much hope for this little one. I might try tenting it on the West side to see if that will help keep it alive long enough to move it later in the year, but I just don't know. The damage may already be too severe.

Pawpaws (Asimina triloba)

The Pawpaws are still doing good, though not much change. The biggest thing for them is me deciding to un-stake them now, like I did with the Mulberries, to let them grow up and get stronger this summer ahead of storm season. They were taped too tightly to their cane supports anyway, and it was probably a good time to go ahead and undo that. I wonder if the trees you get from the nursery with the stake are generally ready to be un-staked once they're planted?

Other than these major updates, there's not much to report. The South Prairie plants from Beaver's Abundance are still doing great so far, even with all the heat, which really makes me appreciate these natives. The Monday waterings really do just feel like a nice reward for them otherwise toughing out the heat without complaints.

All of the plants with wet feet around the pond and in the Old Pond area are doing great. The Titi continue to put out more blooms, the Buttonbushes have so many healthy green leaves, and the Black Willows continue to bring joy every time I check on them — I was reminded this week of Salix nigra's keystone species status and it just makes me so happy.

The goal for this next week is mainly just to keep everything alive, hope for rain, and if I can find a space for the Frogfruit and Spiderwort that Janine gifted me I'll try to get those in the ground.