The Watering Can - 7/5/2024

Summer's here and the heat has followed. So far, the rains are still around...

The end of June brought in the Solstice and the real Summer heat, and July is off to a hot start with a big storm banging around in the Gulf. So far, the rains are still coming through here, though not quite as regularly as we'd like — the heat dries out the topsoil pretty quickly in more exposed spots around the yard. Even still, so far we are still doing much better than we did last year, precipitation-wise.

The warm, fairly wet weather has been good for the plants and almost all of them are doing really well right now. The deer have browsed a little here and there, but so far it's been nothing like late summer last year, and I'm hoping diligent Liquid Fence use can continue to keep them at bay.

There was a fairly traumatic incident with my beloved Black Willow trees, which I'll describe later in detail, but thankfully it seems as though things may work out there.

It's been a fun year for experimenting and I'll probably try to pop a few more seeds in some dirt at this point and just see what happens with the growing season we've got left.

For now, let's take a look at how everybody's doing.

Red Mulberries (Morus rubra)

The Mulberries continue to do really really in their third year.

Mulberry 1 went through its webworm cycle and recovered nicely, with a nice fresh batch of green leaves on it now. The webworm caterpillars had also hit the cypress trees near the pond and are on their way out on those as well. Apparently they've been such a presence it's caused quite a panic in the surrounding area.

The handsome Mulberry 2 looks more and more like a capitol-T Tree every day. It's getting larger and stronger, and the sort of two-dimensional growth pattern of its canopy that I've mentioned in the past is started to grow out and get a bit more three-dimensional.

Mulberry 3 is continuing to do well this year in the circle, and more and more is the centerpiece of the new plantings in that area.

A small mulberry tree growing in a lawn near a large pond. The tree has fresh green leaves and a pile of pine needle mulch at its base. Mulberry 1 looking good after regrowing all of its leaves. The webworms completely stripped it over the course of two weeks and it was budding out again as soon as they were gone.
A small, bushy mulberry tree grows near large pine trees. It has many small branches full of healthy green leaves. Mulberry 3 looking quite nice in its place in the Driveway Circle.

Black Willows (Salix nigra)

My beloved Black Willows by the pond, Willow 1 and Willow 2, sadly were severely injured by a nephew with the weed eater just a few days after the last Watering Can update. Willow 1's injury was contained to one side of the trunk, but small chunks were taken out of the bark and several small new branches that I was excited about were cut off. Willow 2 got the worst of it, almost being completely girdled on its lower trunk. I was pretty devastated, and it took me the better part of a week to really want to work with plants again.

After nearly a month of hopeful monitoring, it looks like they might both hang on and survive. Neither has shown signs of decline so far, and both seem to be doing their best to try to grow over the wounds. If anything, it may have happened at the best time of year, when they are actively growing a ton and have energy to spare in healing themselves. They'll never be the same and may never thrive like they would have otherwise, but it looks like they may hang in there.

Little Willow 4 is still doing good back in the Old Pond area, though it did get browsed a bit by deer. Seeing how its cousins responded to a bit of that in its first year... I think it'll be just fine.

A young Black Willow tree growing on the banks of a large pond. The tree has a bushy top and a few sparse branches growing lower on its main trunk. Willow 1 standing tall next to the pond. I think it's going to hang in there, though it may always be weak on the pond-side of its trunk due to damage.
A small, bushy willow tree growing on the banks of a large pond. Willow 2 is hanging in there so far, and is actually gaining height steadily still. It could be six feet tall or so by the end of July.

Common Pawpaw (Asimina triloba)

Pawpaw 2 is still... alive. It only has about five sad, little leaves... but it's alive.

It may still be worth trying to move it at this point, if we get a nice cloudy/rainy day that's a little cooler. I don't know. I need to scout out a good spot for it.

Eastern Redcedar (Juniperus virginiana)

I think this little friend is doing to do just fine in its new home. I haven't really had to do anything to it since cleaning up some dead bits before the last Watering Can, and it seems content to put out a little bit of consistent new growth.

I think this will be a really cool place for a bushy little cedar tree, if that's what it ends up being.

A close view of a small red cedar sapling growing in a lawn near pine trees. It has small, needle-like leaves typical of conifers, and rough gray bark on its young stems. The young cedar has some lovely new green growth and has handled this summer very well so far. It's already doing much better than the Redbud ever did in this spot.

Red Maples (Acer rubrum)

These two have grown steadily this year, with Pond Maple 1 about twice the size of the flag next to it, and still growing strong. Pond Maple 2 should be as tall as its flag soon, and seems to be growing a bit more slowly, but it's hanging in there.

A small red maple sapling growing near a large pond. A small orange flag is planted next to it, and it is about twice the height of the flag. Pond Maple 1 steadily growing in its spot. It may never get that big in this location, but that actually might work out in the long run.

Mayhaws (Crataegus aestivalis)

The Mayhaws are still doing well. Mayhaw 2, especially, has a lot of new growth on top, reaching for the sunlight. It has had aphids come in here and there, but that doesn't seem to have stunted it much unlike last year.

Mayhaw 1 has a bit of new growth as well and has maintained its more open canopy instead of shooting straight up. I have a feeling both of these are going to have a really big year in 2025.

A small Mayhaw tree growing in a lawn. It has a long, straight trunk and open canopy. Mayhaw 1 looking as handsome as ever in the morning sunlight.
A small, bushy Mayhaw tree with several small, curved trunks growing in a lawn. It has several tall, straight stalks shooting up toward the sun. Mayhaw 2 and its new growth reaching up for the sun. I think it's going to get a lot bigger next year.

Aquatic Milkweed (Asclepias perennis)

Both Aquatic Milkweeds got completely stripped down to the stems by the Monarch caterpillar visitor that was mentioned in the last update!

As expected, they are recovering just fine and are already budding out and flowering again. Hopefully they get a chance to put out some seeds later this summer, but I’ll happily accept another Monarch if one wants to stop by.

A hand holds several leaves and a cluster of new flowers of an Aquatic Milkweed plant. The leaves are long and green, and the small white flowers have the characteristic shape of milkweeds One of the Aquatic Milkweeds with fresh leaves and flowers after being eaten down to the stems by a Monarch caterpillar.

Black Elderberry (Sambucus canadensis)

The Oklahoma John Elderberry is still doing great and is now definitely the largest it’s ever been. It got nibbled on by the deer but nothing too bad, and a fresh application of liquid fence seems to be doing the trick. Still no signs of flowering, which is a bit surprising. Ultimately this cultivar may not be right for this location, but I still have some hope. Elderberry will bloom year-round if the temperature is right, so there’s still a chance.

The Ranch Elderberry continues to struggle. It may not be getting enough sun where it is, but I’m not sure. Plenty of other things are thriving nearby. It’s still alive, but that’s about it. I don’t think it’s put out any new growth in at least a month which is really strange for elderberry this time of year.

South Meadow

The South Meadow has had a nice year so far. I’ve had the most blooms I’ve ever had, which is pretty funny comparing my measly little planting to some of my friends’ amazing gardens, but it’s been no less exciting every time a new bloom emerges.

All three Stokes' Asters bloomed, for probably close to a month total of blooms between the three of them. I absolutely adore this plant and I hope it makes a bunch of seed and spreads itself everywhere.

The Butterfly Weed had a lovely bloom of bright orange flowers for a week or two. I didn’t see many pollinator takers on it, though, and it doesn’t appear to have gone to seed at all. I’m not sure if that’s expected here, but it was a little surprising. It may be a location issue, too. I think this spot is actually a little more wet than it would prefer. That may be why it was still so small this year compared to the other second-year plants.

The Lanceleaf Coreopsis finished a second round of blooms and looks like it may be working on a third now, which I love. One of the Black-eyed Susans is absolutely full of blooms right now, which makes my heart very full. The other hasn't even tried to put out flowers, but otherwise seems to be doing ok, so I'm not sure what's up there. Theoretically they should both flower this year.

The Purple Coneflower is still hanging in there and just this week is showing some signs of increasing in size. A Sesbania volunteer popped up next to it that I need to move, because that monster will quickly crowd it out. It may be too late now for the coneflower to bloom, but I guess we'll see. It would be nice to see it at least get a nice sized rosette through the rest of the summer.

The remaining Swamp Milkweed is absolutely huge now, with a multi-stemmed growth pattern that looks like it will be absolutely full of blooms... if it ever starts blooming! It seems super happy otherwise, but just no signs of budding or anything yet. iNaturalist data suggests it tends to bloom in July and August, so here's hoping we'll see a bunch soon.

The Beeblossom (Gaura) seemed to get a little bit of an infestation with some kind of caterpillar, and stayed pretty stunted throughout June, but hung in there. This last week or so it seems to be recovering and suddenly has a 2ft high stalk on one part, so it may get a chance to bloom after all.

The Narrowleaf False Dragonhead hasn't ended up blooming any more but it did make some seed, and I mainly hope it did well enough to stick around and establish itself in this spot.

A tall Swamp Milkweed plant with several large stalks branching off of the main stem, growing in front of some logs surrounded by lush green The Swamp Milkweed growing tall and strong, but no signs of flowers just yet.
A Black-eyed Susan plant with quite a few yellow and black blooms on it, growing strong surrounded by other plants The Black-eyed Susan full of blooms. Several have been hit by some kind of gall, but that doesn't seem to bother the pollinators!

Buttonbushes (Cephalanthus occidentalis)

The Buttonbushes are not only loving life, but their many-flowered blooms are bringing more life into the yard in the form of pollinators of all kinds.

We had a female dark morph Eastern Tiger Swallowtail spend 3.5 hours on Buttonbush 1 one afternoon, and she was back again for a visit the next morning. This plant continues to put out bloom after bloom, and has a brand new central stalk that has shot up a foot and a half above the existing growth, reaching for the sun over the iris leaves next to it.

Buttonbush 2 has come through for me after all. It started making flower buds shortly after the last update, and as of this morning has its first open bloom with many more to come. It also feels like all of its new growth has really "opened up" in preparation for the blooming. I think this guy is going to be huge in a few years if it's allowed to be, which is really exciting. I've certainly seen tree-sized buttonbushes in our travels, so who knows?

A shrub with large, light green leaves and several spherical flowers growing next to a large pond. Buttonbush 1 with its tall new central stem, reaching for the sun. It still has quite a few blooms going.
A shrub with large bright green leaves and hints of some spherical flower buds showing, growing next to a large pond and two cypress trees Buttonbush 2 growing tall and really spreading itself out. I'm glad that it's going to have a chance to bloom this year after getting zapped by the late freeze in 2023.
A spherical inflorescence made up of dozens of tiny white flowers with long stamens, growing out of a shrub with large bright green leaves Buttonbush 2's first open bloom ❤️

Titi (Cyrilla racemiflora)

The Titi was also covered in pollinators for at least a month. The blooms are done for now, and it should be full of seeds this late summer and fall. Hopefully we can get some more growing -- Titi and Buttonbush all around this corner of the pond would be beautiful and help with some existing erosion issues as well.

Swamp Sunflower (Helianthus angustifolius)

These sunflowers are covered in long grass, but they are growing and growing and I think we'll get quite a few in a couple of months. I need to clean up the area a bit but they seem fairly well-protected at this point (knock on wood).

Beautyberries and Elderberries

The Beautyberries and Elderberries that I potted in April are still doing wonderfully. The potted Eldeberries have doubled or tripled in size since bumping them up about a month ago, and at this point and are probably due for another bump-up soon. Several of the Beautyberries ended up flowering and a few are even going to have a few berries this year.

The third Beautyberry planted in the Driveway Circle is still alive, but it's started new growth from the ground instead of trying to keep growing from the existing stem. Good to see! It should come up nicely next year.

Several potted plants of various sizes resting on boards set across two cinderblocks. A van and a house can be seen in the background. Elderberries, a beautyberry, and the zinnia on the edge of the Casita Garden/Carport
Several potted plants of various sizes resting on boards set across two cinderblocks. A van and a house can be seen in the background. More elderberry, beautyberry, and various other friends including the new horsemint and some of the hibiscus seedlings.


The seedlings that I planted on May 26th have done great. I bumped up the Zinnia on June 18th, and they have gotten huge since then and are due for another upgrade this weekend. This week I bumped up all the Hibiscus, which are still doing wonderfully and I think just about every seed I planted ended up growing into a little plant.

A few of the Partridge Peas ended up coming up after all, and grew so much that I bumped up the three of them this week as well. I think process, I noticed that a fourth has started coming up alongside one of the others, a nice little surprise. They've all handled the transplant well so far.

I planted a few seeds of the purple sage that my mom gifted De for her birthday, but none of those have come up so far. The sage itself is doing awesome and is regularly visited by at least one of our Ruby-throated hummingbird friends

The Zinnia I planted on the side of the Big House haven't really done anything. I think three or four came up, but vanished... and I suspect rabbits. The Taro that I split up and rearranged in that bed are doing great, though, so it still looks a bit nicer overall. This spot only gets afternoon sun and is otherwise shaded so I may need to rethink what might be good to go here.

The Purple Passionflower that I got from the wildflower festival is doing well, and this week I bumped it up and put a trellis around it for support. After just two nights it found the trellis and is well on its way to climbing, so that's exciting. Passionflower is one of my favorites and I think we've got time to get some blooms this year.

Several small pots full of seedling plants, all perky and bright green. A seed starter tray can be seen behind them on the same table The Hibiscus and Partridge Pea seedlings, happy in their bumped up homes.
A tiny partridge pea seedling emerging, with two round embryonic leaves and a tiny, compound adult leaf just starting to emerge above them. The fourth baby partridge pea seedling that I noticed only as I went to bump the others up this week.

Upcoming Plans

We're continuing to flesh out the Casita Garden, which has been helped by the fact that we are gaining so many more potted plants all the time as I bump things up and move them around. I've got some cardboard down to clear out the grass in an area around where we've got table and chairs, and we want to do the same to make a path between that area and the carport.

We organized the potted plants into a couple of "shelves" sort of lining the area, and already it feels so much nicer and vibrant in that area.

I'm also planning on hanging some of my prayer flags around the outside of the area to form a bit of an outline of the space.

Around the yard, I'm mostly focusing on keeping things alive as things get hotter, as that's all I can think about after last year. I may try to stick some more seeds in some dirt here and there just to see what might come up.

I do want to clean up some of the invasive ground cover in the South Meadow beds, like Chamberbitter. I'm hoping to move some native Buttonweed or Looseflower Water-willow that we have growing and that are already present in the beds, just a bit overwhelmed by some of the non-natives.

Here's to a happy July!

A large sunflower plant with several huge flowers growing out of multiple branching stalks. A sunflower that the birds planted from the seed in the feeders. A lovely surprise along the drainage ditch.