The Watering Can - 6/6/2023

Some new additions, and the early June rains are making my watering job a lot easier

The theme of this week's update is rain. Sweet, sweet rain.

The second half of May was pretty dry, which is apparently pretty typical after our rainy April, but as we approached June I was getting pretty nervous. Last year we only got about 1.5 inches of rain, which is about 5 inches lower than the monthly average, and our plants felt the drought. Muscadines didn't produce any fruit, all the Beautyberries were on the verge of wilting off their flowers, my newly-planted Mulberries lost most of their leaves, and in general it felt more like September than June.

Now we're already up over 2 inches of rain less than a week in to June 2023 and it's feeling a lot better!

Coincidentally, I was re-reading some bits of the amazing Native Gardening in the South by Bill Fontenot and his advice on watering really smacked me in the face: basically, I was doing it too much, and that's apparently fairly common for new gardeners/growers. I was worried about all these newly-planted friends in the South Prairie, especially since it had been so dry, but it turns out I was probably overdoing it.

The key that he says to look for is drooping leaves in the morning, after the plant's had the night to recover from the heat of the day and send up some water reserves from the roots. Once I keyed in on that, I realized that almost all of the new plants were doing just fine, even after "skipping" a couple of days of watering.

Now that the rains have returned I'm having to spend a lot less time hauling the watering can around on non-Mondays, and everything is really looking pretty happy — including a handful of new additions!

Well. Everything except the Redbud.

Eastern Redbud (Cercis canadensis)

This sad little guy just can't catch a break. It looks like something has been eating its leaves now? I don't really know what to do for it. It seems like trying to transplant it right now would probably shock it to death, but at this point I'm not sure if it will make it to the winter. I'll keep watering it, and maybe spray it with the Deer & Rabbit liquid fence in case that might protect it.

A watering can rests behind a scraggly little Eastern Redbud sapling with one remaining leaf A lone green leaf hangs on to the Eastern Redbud, eaten back by some unknown assailant. I'm not sure it's long for this world.

Red Mulberries (Morus rubra)

Mulberry 1 is still doing its summer thing, browning leaves but hanging in there. It may be a little too exposed in its spot in the wide open next to the pond, but I'm not sure what I can do for it now that it's pretty established. One interesting thing is that I removed its support pole that it came with from the nursery, and the base of its trunk seems to have noticeably thickened in the couple months since. It feels like that was the right move, letting it build up its own strength for a few months before potential late summer storms.

Mulberry 2 is also doing its thing, still looking great, showing some nice healthy leaves and filling out its growth a bit. It seems to really like this spot, planted over the roots of a recently removed Water Oak and near the garden.

One thing I do wonder about these two is how I'll get their crowns to fill out a little more in all directions. Right now they're both a bit "two dimensional" in their major branches — I assume a symptom of how they were grown at the nursery or stored at Clegg's.

Mulberry 3 seems to be doing a bit better since last week, and I have to assume it's from the rain. There seems to be quite a bit of new foliage and it looks just a bit more "full." Hopefully that continues! This tree has a beautiful round crown shape and I think it is going to be a really lovely specimen once it gets going.

A young mulberry tree with a watering can resting at its base. A large pond with a small wooden dock is in the background Mulberry 1 in a make-up picture from last Wednesday. I actually managed to forget to take a picture again this week!
Closeup of nice, healthy green foliage on Mulberry 2 Some nice looking leaves on Mulberry 2.
Bunches of leaves on a small Mulberry sapling Mulberry 3's leaves seem to have filled out quite a bit in just a week.
A metal watering can rests in front of a small Mulberry sapling Overall, Mulberry 3 is looking a bit better already from the recent rain. Look at that lovely spreading crown! Really looking forward to this one growing up.

Black Willows (Salix nigra)

Willow 1 and Willow 2 are loving life. Growing on the bank of the pond, they are well-watered and thriving. Willow 1 may have grown 2-3 inches in just a week. I think there's a good chance it could be as tall as me by the end of the summer. Willow 2 is growing more out than up and it looks beautiful. Both of these trees were scraggly, deer-chewed twigs in February!

Now the first of this week's new plantings — Willow 3 and Willow 4! These two volunteered near the Burn Pile, which is where 1 & 2 popped up last year. It may be obvious, but the Burn Pile is not really a safe area for young plants that I want to keep alive! So last Tuesday I transplanted these two to their new homes.

Willow 3 is now living on the bank of the pond, near the pier. I think if it takes off it will be a really nice, picturesque tree hanging there next to it. So far it's hanging in there great, and has maybe already grown a little bit since moving — always a good sign. (So far, it seems a lot easier to transplant things that like to keep their feet wet.)

Willow 4 was moved to the sunny edge of the Old Pond area, where it should still stay pretty wet and get some good sun in the middle of the day. This one might end up growing a little more slowly, since it's not in the wide open like its siblings near the pond, but that might work nicely for a smaller area in general.

A Black Willow sapling stands tall over the watering can resting next to it Willow 1 looking tall and strong. That little trunk has probably doubled or tripled in diameter since February!
A metal watering can rests in front of a small Black Willow sapling, on the banks of a pond Willow 2 has been spreading its branches out so nicely this year. Hard to believe this guy was a six-inch twig four months ago.
A Black Willow seedling next to a watering can on the banks of a pond Little Willow 3 in its new spot on the west bank of the pond near the pier.
A Black Willow sapling rests next to a watering can in some deep grass Willow 4 in the Old Pond area (to the left of the can). This area already supports so many water-lovers, the willow seemed like a great fit. Where it's planted, it should grow out over the drier part of the area and not shade out those water lovers over the years.

Pawpaws (Asimina triloba)

Both of the Pawpaws are still going strong! As I hoped, the area they're planted in holds on to the moisture from the rain really well, and their healthy, green leaves seems to confirm it. The two fruit on Pawpaw 1 are still looking good so far, at least as far as I can tell.

Two small Pawpaws growing on a branch. The pawpaws look sort of like green, chunky, fuzzy, oblong beans. The two small pawpaw fruits on Pawpaw 1. I still can't believe it!

Mayhaws (Crataegus aestivalis)

Not much to report on these two other than they both still seem really happy. I think this spot will work out nicely for them, and they'll be lovely little trees near the house that shouldn't ever threaten it, size-wise. And if we get lucky maybe in a few years we'll be eating some Mayhaw jelly!

The end of a small Mayhaw branch full of new leaves This little branch on Mayhaw 1 was completely bare a month ago and covered in aphids. The ladybugs found them a little while later, and now this branch is full of new leaves.

South Prairie - Dry Patch

These new plantings are doing well so far. These are the main ones that I might have been watering too much for a week and half or so before the rains returned. I was focused too much on how much the soil surface. seemed to have dried out, but none of them ever really looked to be drooping, especially not in the mornings.

I've noticed some new leaf growth this week, especially on the Purple Coneflower, and the three Black-eyed Susans seem to have grown up a bit as well. The Lanceleaf Coreopsis are doing well, but they are so long and gangly it's hard for me to tell how much they've changed — but looking at pictures, they've actually grown pretty significantly already! I also need to maybe trim some of the grass growing up around them.

A small Black-eyed Susan rosette growing up with the watering can looming over it This little Black-eyed Susan appears to have doubled or tripled its leaves since last week!

South Prairie - Wet Patch

This bunch is also doing well so far. The Beeblossom (Gaura lindheimeri) is standing tall and keeps putting out new flowers, which brings me a lot of joy. The Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) seems to have grown up quite a bit already, and the Stokes' Aster are definitely putting out new leaves.

I couldn't tell on the Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa) just eyeballing it in the yard, and once again I'm glad to have started this project. It has actually grown quite a bit, especially the larger of the two. Even the smaller one (which I mentioned last week and worried it was too soon for it to be in the ground) has added a few new layers of leaves and is looking a bit stronger.

A small Butterfly Weed plant next to the watering can Butterfly Weed 1 last week, after it'd been in the ground for a week, looked like it was at least pretty happy in its new home.
A small Butterfly Weed plant next to the watering can Butterfly Weed 1 this week, showing a lot more growth than I realized and looking very healthy.

Black Elderberries (Sambucus canadensis)

Between the rain and some more time to settle into their spots, both Elderberries have greened out significantly this week, especially Elderberry 1, the "Oklahoma John" cultivar. I don't know if I'll get any flowers or berries this year, unless these varieties really do come on a little later than our local ecotype, but I'm looking forward to finding out.

Healthy new growth on a Black Elderberry Healthy new growth on Elderberry 1

Aquatic Milkweed (Asclepias perennis)

These two are happy and doing their thing in their little wetland area. The most exciting thing about them this week was spotting a new insect species for the property, and the first pollinator on any of the new plants: a Delta Flower Scarab (Trigonopeltastes delta)!

A Delta Flower Scarab hangs on to the white flowers of an Aquatic Milkweed A Delta Flower Scarab hangs on to the white flowers of an Aquatic Milkweed, with it's signature "delta" triangle marking showing on its back

Pond Maples (Acer rubrum)

Pond Maples 1 and 2 are doing ok, still hanging in there and maybe even trying to grow some new leaves. I think they'll hang in there, especially if the rain keeps up.

Pond Maple 3 is very dead. I did a scrape test and it was all brown under the bark, and actually loose in the ground as well — the roots. not hanging on to the soil at all. Sorry little guy! It's hard to know how well it was doing after being transplanted, since it was dry when it was pulled and stayed dry for so long. I'll get another transplant soon, and I might move this site a bit closer to the water. The bank is a little steep here and it might just be drying out a bit too much.

A Red Maple seedling showing off its new leaves Pond Maple 2 is by far the happiest of all the Red Maple transplants I've put in so far.

South Maples & Trail Maples (Acer rubrum)

No real changes for these seven transplants — most are struggling, but two are hanging on. Trail Maple 2 has put out a couple more small leaves and I think will hang in there if I can keep the Japanese Climbing Fern off of it, and South Maple 2 is still hanging in there and looking green. Unfortunately it looks like South Maple 1 didn't make it after all. I need to scrape test the rest of the stragglers and find out for sure next week.

Buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis)

These two continue to establish themselves nicely. Buttonbush 2, in particular, has really filled out nicely after its dual shocks of freeze and sawflies. I did trim off a bit of dead growth after doing a scrape test here and there.

Some nice big new leaves on a Buttonbush Some nice, healthy new leaves on Buttonbush 2

Titi, or Swamp Cyrilla (Cyrilla racemiflora)

These two are doing great so far! Titi 1 has started putting out its racemes of flowers which makes me so happy, and Titi 2 has started putting out more after what seemed like a pause in flowering right after transplanting. Once again, I think these water-lovers handle transplanting a lot better during these hotter months if you have a nice wet spot like this.

New racemes of flowers growing out of a Swamp Titi Titi 1 putting out some of its first racemes! I'm so glad that both of them will be flowering this year. I may need to go get some more this weekend!

Blueberries (Vaccinium)

The Blueberries are all pretty much the same, except we've eaten a few more berries off of Blueberry 2!

Ripe Blueberries growing on a bush Some ripe Blueberries on Blueberry 2. We ate most of these, except the one that it looks like a bird had started working on.

And last but not least...

New Addition! Partridge Pea (Chamaecrista fasciculata)

One of several new plants from my friend and Wild Ones Greater Baton Rouge President Janine Kharey, I've added two Partridge Pea plants along the edge of the drainage ditch on the East side of the property. With a combination of being annuals and nitrogen fixers, I am hoping they love their new sunny spots and help to fill in the ditch area with some lovely yellow flowers in the summer. So far they seem to be doing really well.

Partridge Pea 1 is the smaller of the two, and nearer to the pond. It's planted in an area that already has some decent wildflowers and other natives growing along the ditch, but it would be nice to add some yellow to go with the vervain and blue mistflower nearby.

Partridge Pea 2 is quite a bit larger, and I put it further North along the ditch where there isn't much growing now. I hope it will seed well here and start filling in this spot nicely, and maybe even spread to the field next to it! I have some ideas for that field, but that might be a story for a later day....

A small Partridge Pea plant next to the watering can Partridge Pea 1 is maybe a bit over half the height of the watering can so far, but it's looked super healthy since moving in.
A partridge pea plant behind the watering can Partridge Pea 2, the red-stemmed plant slinking up from behind, is quite a bit taller than the can already. I hope it will fill in this area nicely.

Overall, I'm feeling good about how things are going. My biggest worries are actually all these potted plants I have now from my mom and Janine, and figuring out where the next ones will go and what should probably stay in a pot for now! But I've kept them alive so far, and that feels good.

I did plant one species this week that I think will be really great, site-wise, but we'll have to wait until next week for the first report on those. I also collected some plants from a ditch in our neighborhood and am excited about sharing news about those soon.

This second edition was a little tougher because I had something to compare it to, and I got rained out Monday night, but I hope to get future editions out a little closer to Monday. It's been such a helpful practice so far, and I've really been encouraged by some of the early responses, so thank all of you who've taken the time to read. You are greatly appreciated. 🙏🏻