The Watering Can - 6/3/2024

The warm, wet Spring has continued and the plants are loving it.

The yard is full of life. The warm, wet weather has continued, so much so that we're several inches ahead of our average rainfall so far, in contrast to last year's drought. Fingers crossed that the rains continue, and that Hurricane Season isn't too bad. We'll see.

Just about everything has thrived since the last update. The native wildflowers I planted last year are blooming, the trees that have been here a while are really feeling like trees now, and the plants that I potted and transplanted in April are doing awesome. It's been a very rewarding Spring.

In addition to the usual suspects, I also sowed a few seeds about a week ago: Halberd-leaf Rosemallow (Hibiscus), Partridge Pea, and some Zinnia. The Hibiscus and Zinnia have done well, the Hibiscus especially with almost every seed germinating successfully in less than a week.

We don't have any travel plans for the next few months so I'm excited about getting some projects done around the place, especially our little Casita Garden near our little place. I think it's going to be a lot of fun, and once again I'll keep pushing things forward and learning a lot.

Let's talk a walk, shall we?

Red Mulberries (Morus rubra)

The Mulberries are really coming into their own. Mulberry 1 and Mulberry 2 both feel like "real" trees now. They both had a great crop of berries this year, are gaining some major height (maybe pushing 12 feet?), and just feel like they are really established and strong.

Mulberry #1 is getting hit with webworm moths right now, and once again its leaves are struggling after finishing fruiting, so I may need to look into composting or a fertilizer later this year. I just don't know how many nutrients its getting out there in the clay-backfilled lawn.

The smaller, bushier Mulberry 3 is doing really well this year, and has a lot of new growth. I love its shape so much, and I think it's going to be a great tree/shrub for years to come in this spot in the circle. De's mom and I planted a bunch more stuff in the circle in April as well, so it's nice to have this guy as a foundation for this little area.

A watering can rests next to a small but tall Red Mulberry tree, growing near a large pond. The tree is probably around 12 feet tall now. The sky is a clear blue in the background. Mulberry 1 is growing tall in the yard, though its leaves aren't doing so great after fruiting. Here it also has a few webworm moths.
20240604 Img 3423 Mulberry 2 is a beautiful little tree and was recently taken off of the support that it's had for a few months. It's looking strong and healthy.
20240603 Img 3384 Little Mulberry 3 is not so little any more, with a bunch of new growth this year. I've said it a lot but I love its bushier shape.
20240603 Img 3385 Top down view of Mulberry 3's nice little crown.

Black Willows (Salix nigra)

The Black Willows by the Pond continue to be one of my biggest success stories with plants.

Willow 1 is getting huge, has a nice little clump of secondary trunks which I love for it as far as a classic Willow look. It hit some sort of critical point in the last couple of weeks, and the bark has suddenly turned a much darker gray, with pronounced lenticels especially on the lower bark. It's becoming a proper tree!

Willow 2 has been having leaf issues which I found out during the City Nature Challenge are actually from a gall mite! It has since dropped a lot of the most distressed leaves, grown some new ones, and is doing pretty well now. It's currently hosting a Limenitis that is doing well.

Willow 3 got smashed up a bit when the defunct paddle boat got moved, and then I think the weed eater right after, despite having an orange flag. It may technically be alive but I'm not sure where it's trying to grow, if it is.

Willow 4 is doing great back in the Old Pond Wetland. It's looking like a proper little sapling now and has a few healthy little branches going. It could double in size by the end of the summer if the rain keeps up.

20240603 Img 3381 Willow 1 is a proper tree now. Young, but strong and growing fast. I really love this one!
20240603 Img 3383 Willow 2 looking a little worse for wear but still going strong. I think it's a nice compliment to its taller sibling.
20240604 Img 3426 Willow 4 doing well in the Old Pond Wetland, looking like a proper sapling. If the rain holds out it could see some serious growth this year.

Common Pawpaws (Asimina triloba)

It turns out that Pawpaw 1 was indeed very dead. I went to do a scrape test and it basically just snapped off at the base.

Pawpaw 2 is still hanging in there, but it's having a rough life. The one bloom that it had fell off without progressing (no surprise there). The few small leaves it grew this year were eaten by some kind of bug, and I just don't know how it's going to do.

At this point it might be best to just move it and see if it can hang in there in a different spot — somewhere a bit shadier and wetter, with morning sun. It's not a great time of year to move it but if it's going to die anyway... I don't know.

20240603 Img 3388 The scraggly Pawpaw 2 hanging in there.
20240603 Img 3389 Pawpaw 2's chewed up leaves, what few it has. It's been a rough life this year.

Eastern Redcedar (Juniperus virginiana)

This little guy is doing well in its new home, especially after trimming off one of its larger branches that died after transplanting. I think I overwatered it at first, and it didn't like that. I really like this shape it's growing into. I love a cedar with some character.

20240603 Img 3393 The small cedar is growing into a nice shape in its new spot.

Red Maples (Acer rubrum)

Pond Maple 1 took a while to really get going, but at this point I think it might be growing about a half inch per day. It's been nice having the little flag right next to it for a comparison. I think if things go well this year it could end up five or six feet tall, which would be awesome.

Pond Maple 2 is still alive, but it's still not doing much. It's still just about the same size as it was in mid-April, though it may have a couple more leaves. Not sure how it's going to do but I'm protecting and will give it a shot to do its thing this year, at least.

My mom also offered to give me some more seedlings! I'm going to try a few more this year in different spots than I did last year. I think they might do better in the Wood Lawn area along the driveway.

20240603 Img 3398 Pond Maple 1 is quickly flying past the height of its orange flag marker.

Mayhaws (Crataegus aestivalis)

Both of the Mayhaws continue to do well, with a good bit of new growth and some nice color. Mayhaw 2's aphid problems are off and on but overall it's doing a lot better this year.

20240603 Img 3397 Mayhaw 1 is growing into a nice little fruit tree shape and is stretching out its new growth this year.
20240603 Img 3394 Mayhaw 2 is growing well into its new shape, though it probably needs to be pruned a bit this year to open it up a bit.

Aquatic Milkweed (Asclepias perennis)

Possibly the most successful of last year's plantings, the Aquatic Milkweed continues to thrive in its wet spot in the Old Pond area. Both spots held on and seem to have gotten bigger, including the one that got run over by a truck this winter, and both are starting to bud out with this year's flowers already.

This seems like an example of a perfect siting, and honestly I would love to get a couple more to plant throughout this area that stays so wet. But maybe it will be able to spread on its own this year!

20240603 Img 3409 Aquatic Milkweed 2 still has a bit of growth on it left, but the Monarch caterpillar is probably going to take care of that in short order.
20240604 Img 3425 This hungry little fellow has eaten the Aquatic Milkweed down to its stems the last week or so.

Black Elderberry (Sambucus canadensis)

The Ranch Elderberry is still alive and that's about it. It's not really growing but not really dying, either. I'm not sure if it just doesn't like this spot or if this cultivar created in a dryer climate is just not going to thrive here. If it survives through the Fall I'll try to move it to a sunnier spot and see how it does from there.

The Oklahoma John Elderberry is doing great and I believe is the largest it's ever been. The bark on the largest new branches is starting to turn brown and grow lenticels, and it'll be as tall as me soon. The jury's still out on whether or not it will bloom this year, as local ecotype specimens its size are blooming in our area, but we'll just have to see. I'm just so happy every time I walk up and it's doing so well.

20240603 Img 3412
20240603 Img 3408 The Oklahoma John growing up fast. I think it's going to do great here long term.

South Meadow

The South Meadow has had some surprises for me this year! In the last update I surmised that the Stokes' Aster, and Butterfly Weed were dead based on what I could find in the area. Well, I'm please to report I was very wrong!

All three Stokes' Asters survived and all three are going to bloom this year. One of them has been blooming for over a week straight, and it has brought a huge smile to my face every time I pass by. I've seen several native insects on them as well, which is awesome.

The larger Butterfly Weed survived as well, and is full of beautiful orange blooms right now.

The surviving Narrowleaf False Dragonhead bloomed successfully and looks like it might be sending up a couple more stalks of flowers now. Both of the Lanceleaf Coreopsis have bloomed and are working on their second round of flowers. The leaf rosettes of the two Black-eyed Susans have probably doubled in size, and one of them started to show its first buds just in the last day or two. The Purple Coneflower is hanging in there, and recently perked up and grew a couple new leaves, so maybe it's going to make a move here soon.

The larger Swamp Milkweed is doing great and should start budding any day now, but the smaller one suddenly died last week and I'm not sure why. I might try to move its root ball if they're still alive but we'll just have to see. It's not so different of an area from the one that's nearly two feet tall, so I'm not sure what could be wrong. The Beeblossom has grown up well and might be budding soon too.

This whole area has been bringing me a lot of joy every day, with new blooms appearing and disappearing and so many different plants progressing. I'm trying to keep it well-defined and clean, and spent some time weeding half of it last weekend. The rest will come soon along with some fresh mulch. I may try to move some more sedges in as "green mulch" as well, and make some patches for the Lance-leaved Water-Willow in the hopes of bringing in the rare Seminole Crescents that have been seen across town. I've found it in more and more places in the yard so I think it wants to thrive here, and trusting that instinct has served me well recently.

20240603 Img 3418 What was formerly the "Wet Patch" of the South Meadow, now full of life again and cleaned up a bit.
20240603 Img 3416 A side view of the whole South Meadow area and Meadow Log Pile.
20240603 Img 3400 The new South Meadow Triangle area, again full of life and recently cleaned up a bit.
20240603 Img 3405 The beautiful Stokes' Aster blooming. This one has been really going for it.
20240603 Img 3404 The electric orange blooms of the Butterfly Weed. It's not big, and may need to be moved to a dryer spot to really thrive.
20240603 Img 3402 The larger Black Eyed Susan has gotten REALLY big and is started to grow some buds. Very exciting!

Buttonbushes (Cephalanthus occidentalis)

The Buttonbushes continue to do great this year. I think we could put them in all around the edge of the pond and it would be amazing.

Buttonbush 1 has grown a ton and is full of little budding "buttons"! One of them has just started to open up the last day or two... it's making me so happy.

Buttonbush 2 is huge but so far has no signs of blooming this year. I'm honestly really surprised, but who knows why it might need more time. Once it does bloom, though... it's going to be amazing.

20240603 Img 3375 Buttonbush 1 full of buds and looking nice and full.
20240603 Img 3376 The first bloom that's starting to open up on Buttonbush 1.
20240603 Img 3378 Buttonbush 2 just keeps stretching taller and taller, and it looks great. Still no blooms, but I'm happy that it's healthy.

Titi (Cyrilla racemiflora)

Titi 1 is full of blooms that have started opening the last couple of days and they are just covered in pollinators. It's really beautiful to see and makes me want to plant Titi all around the edge of the pond. I think it would do great here.

20240603 Img 3372 Titi 1 next to the watering can and full of blooms. Pollinator heaven. I want to get so many more.

Swamp Sunflower (Helianthus angustifolius)

This guy keeps getting hit with the weed eater but it's hanging in there. I may cordon it off with a bit more orange ribbon and clean up the area by hand to keep it safe. This spot has gotten a little bit precarious... we'll just have to see how it goes. Happy it's still alive so far.

20240603 Img 3373 Two stalks of Swamp Sunflower stick up over the surrounding grass.

Beautyberries and Elderberries

As I mentioned at the end of the last update, I transplanted and potted several small American Beautyberries and baby Elderberries that had volunteered around the property. This has been a very successful project so far.

All of the young Elderberries have absolutely taken off with new growth, so much that I had to bump them up to bigger pots a few days ago. Their roots looked amazing! They handled the transplant super well and are already growing more and fast.

The Beautyberries are doing great as well, and some are even flowering! It brings me so much joy. I bumped up the smallest to a new pot and it was doing just as great as the Elderberries and handled the transplant like a charm.

I also planted three of the Beautyberries in the driveway Circle with some of the plants that De's mom put in, and two of them are doing great and starting to bloom. The third has died mostly back, but the main stem is still alive. I'm going to leave it for now and see if it manages a comeback.

20240604 Img 3428 Some of the potted Beautyberries and Elderberries in their new pots and thriving.


I started some seeds for the first time on May 26th and it's been really fun so far.

I planted quite a bit of Halberd-leaf Rosemallow (Hibiscus laevis) and just about all of them germinated in under a week. As of today they're starting to get their first true leaves, and I am thrilled.

I also planted quite a bit of Zinnia, and a handful of those have come up so far and are doing well. The Partridge Pea seeds I planted have not done anything, but I think the soil I'm using is a bit too wet and not sandy enough for what it wants.

I've never done this before so I'm not really sure when to bump these guys up but I've heard some things about two pairs of true leaves so that's my goal so far.

I also cleaned up a bed on the side of the Big House's garage and planted some Zinnia seeds there, so we'll see how that goes! Just trying to get more color up by the big house for De's mom to enjoy.

I don't know how these are going to fare for the year, but I just want to try growing something from seed and figured it was better than the seeds just sitting in envelopes for another season. So far, so good. I have a few more species I want to start before the solstice.

20240604 Img 3419 The full cells of Hibiscus seedlings, doing great so far. I love this so much.
20240604 Img 3420 The tiny first true leaves of the Hibiscus started to appear today.
20240604 Img 3421 The few Zinnia seedlings that started are taking off and may be ready for bumping up before I know it.

Upcoming Plans

Our main goal is to continue building out the Casita Garden and have a nice little area nearby that we can enjoy. We want to get some seating in there, and organize the potted plants a little more. I'm not sure if anything needs to go in the ground here, but we'll see.

I bought a few new plants at this past weekend's Feliciana Wildflower Festival: Purple Passionflower, Spotted Horsemint, and a little Southern Catalpa sapling. I'm really excited about all three and am working on figuring out where might be a good spot for each. I think the Passionflower will stay in the garden but right now I'm not sure for the other two.

Other than that, I think it's mostly going to be maintenance and cleaning up some non-natives here and there. We're all sort of holding our breath on how this Summer will turn out, but I'm at least feeling a little more prepared for it this year no matter what.