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Dallying In The Dirt, Issue #275 - The beauty of fall tree Peonies is their coloured foliage.
October 17, 2016

A second season of delight is a real treat supplied by some of the garden’s treasures. This brilliant array of bright purple leaves is lighting up the garden this week as the second display from a large Tree Peony. It’s huge purple flowers in early summer are quite impressive but this mass of coloured foliage is also making a dramatic statement this week. Just as its flowers in June will look wonderful for a while and then fade to nothing in a day or so, I will wander in the garden one morning soon to find all of these leaves on the ground. They all seem to let go and fall on the same day. Our job is to get out there and enjoy them every day until that happens. I don’t know the variety name for this tree Peony but its beauty at this time of year reminds me of its arrival in the garden. It has probably been growing in that spot for at least 10 years but I remember planting it. It was about this time of year and I was wandering through the remainders in a big box store’s garden section and there were a few packages of Tree Peonies in a bin for about $5.00. I knew that I could pay up to $70 for a fresh plant of a named variety so I decided to gamble the $5. It survived and has grown into this large star attraction in the front garden. It’s probably time to go scrounging through the sell off bins in those stores again.

Now here’s a chore I have been avoiding all summer. Boston Ivy is almost an invasive species and I suspect that it actually is in some locations. It looks great growing on my cottage style house but it is rampant and needs to be heavily pruned each year, at least once. I usually prune it when it starts to cross the windows or the side door. A true indicator of just how hot and dry this summer was, is how slowly the ivy grew. It never did reach the side door or really start to cover the windows. All of the smaller leaves that you can see here, that are up and over the gutters, are this year’s growth and 95% of that must be removed. If I leave it and let it start next year’s growth from that point, I won’t be able to find the house by the middle of next summer. Pruning is relatively easy and would be even easier if I didn’t have to keep moving the ladder every few minutes. I just find where the new growth starts and cut through the vine at that point and pull. Usually the entire length of new growth will pull right off. Boston Ivy climbs by means of little suction cups that attach to the walls and they do leave a small footprint when the vine is pulled off. They have been doing that for so many years that it just looks like some interesting pattern on the aluminum soffit and it simply disappears in the crevices of the stucco. Not a problem that keeps me awake at night. Any day now this vine will turn some wonderful colours that give it a whole second season of delight.

If you have been reading “Dallying” faithfully all summer you will have been following the month’s long renovation of a small piece of turf grass that we have in the back yard. Look at that picture. It’s green again. Thousands of little grass plants have sprung to life from the seed that was sown a couple of weeks ago. I have been keeping it moist with regular, often daily, waterings so that the seeds would have optimum conditions for germination. It, now, just needs to get big and thick enough to withstand the winter. Keeping it open all summer and letting whatever weed seeds, that might be there, have a chance to germinate seems to have been very successful. Despite the regular moisture and reasonable temperatures there are very few weeds appearing among the tiny blades of grass. The squirrels, however, think all of that soft, moist earth is the perfect spot to bury the abundant Walnuts. The ones they forget about will probably emerge as little trees next spring and I will be out there heaving them out and cursing those bushy tailed tree rats once again. They have followed the rules and dug up very few of the Crocus thomasinianus that I planted before I spread the grass seed. Lot’s of surprises to look forward to next spring and I’ll have to sharpen the lawn mower blade. It was barely used this year.

Now it’s time to answer a few of my reader’s questions. Don’t forget to check the front page of the Website for frequent short ideas for current gardening activities.

Shirley Asks? Each year about this time, the south and west sides of my Angel Stone home have bugs gathered on the walls. This year, they are more numerous than ever before. I can't walk by without having to brush them off me. They are 1/2" – 3/4" long, a brown/gray with a sharp red 'V' on their backs when the wings are at rest. When the wings are spread, their backs are reddish. I checked into Elder Borers, as I have several purple Elderberry bushes, but couldn't find any that resembled these. Apparently, they must be living in some of the bushes on the property, but which ones and what kind of bug are they?

Ken Answers! A little slow responding, still busy in the garden with no frost as yet. They might be box elder bugs, check this site. Most of us know box elder as Manitoba Maple, strange common names.
Shirley checked the site and confirmed that she had box elder bugs and was searching her neighbourhood for Acer negundo

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