Tuesday, June 16, 2009

What you wish for

Since we moved back East, we have been complaining to each other that the summer storms here are weak and disappointing compared to those of Kansas. They're also less likely to remove our roof, but that's besides the point.

Yesterday as I was driving home... after a weekend of hard work on gardening projects (more details to follow when I can post photos), the wind kicked up, a torrential downpour became more of a horizontal-pour, the lightning stabbed down, and it HAILED. Pea-sized up to nickel-sized balls of ice. Now that's what I call a storm!

There's a price for such entertainment, though. My Cherokee Purple tomato plant fell over, and although the stem appears to be intact, I'm not yet certain whether it will survive. Same with the cute little Patio Tomato, a bushy thing designed to be grown in a container. The basil plants had some stems broken off, but nothing they can't grow back - and the "harvest" made a tasty addition to the stir fry we had for dinner. The new shrubs I planted had some of their leaves chewed up by the hail, but no major damage as far as I can tell. My poor hostas, though... the ones not protected by trees overhead really took a beating.

Annika thought the hailstones were interesting, but at this age she doesn't understand where they came from, or even that it's odd to have little balls of ice on the ground in June. What she really enjoyed was splashing in a puddle left on our driveway after the storm.

Thursday, June 11, 2009


I ran across a piece in the NYTimes about iPhone applications that are geared towards kids of various ages, for purposes of education or entertainment. The first line line of the article posed the question "Say you were faced with a 3-year-old child on the verge of full meltdown — which iPhone apps would distract and delight him enough to avoid mayhem?"

Predictably, when I skimmed the comments to see what apps people had found besides the ones mentioned in the article, I found the following comment:

Pathetic. Parents are so helpless in how to handle their kids that they have to resort to this?
Somehow we’ve managed to raise kids for thousands of years without iPhone applications. Sometimes we’ve even done the strange thing called “interacting” with them.Oh, and occasionally saying “no” to tantrum throwing 3 year olds and leaving whatever place they’re throwing the tantrum in!— Library Lady

I wonder, has Library Lady ever been on a long plane flight with a toddler? This sounds to me like exactly the kind of comment made by people who don't have kids of their own, but are nonetheless experts on parenting. Or conversely, someone who raised their own kids long ago... long enough to forget their own troubles and shortcomings, and bemoan those of the newer generation of parents. Someone who, when faced with their own tantrum-throwing 3 year old all those years ago, would probably have killed for a device that could magically bring peace and quiet.

Personally, I plan to use my iPhone with Annika - to entertain, amuse, soothe, stimulate, teach, and whatever else I find it can do. I'm not the least bit worried that if I do so, I'll be depriving her of human interaction or somehow severing her from the "real world." The more puzzling question for me, is at what point it might be reasonable to get a kid their own iPhone. Not anytime soon, certainly. She'll have her own camera long before she has her own phone!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Botany help

I know I've seen this plant before, and I can't recall its name. Here's a link to some photos on Flickr that someone took of the same thing.


I saw it at a rest stop, tried to remember if it's native or not, decided that either way it's kind of interesting, and put the seedhead-puff in my purse.

Because doesn't everyone want something in their garden that looks like a giant dandelion?

Tuesday, June 2, 2009


Earlier this spring, I noticed some kind of alien (small, green, and of mysterious origin) putting up shoots in my rhododendron bed. I am not known for optimism, and my first assumption was that this was something invasive and nasty. I started pulling it out, and certainly it smelled nasty - imagine a combination of icky fish-smell, and harsh citrus cleaning solution. If you're trying to eat lunch while you read this, my apologies.

I didn't think I had seen the last of it. These shoots were scattered across an area about 3 feet in diameter, and if I made the assumption that it had come in - with one of the things I planted several weeks before that? With the mulch? Anyway, assuming it had arrived as a small piece of root/rhizome, it had already somehow spread underground before bothering to show itself.

At first I was afraid that it was the dreaded Japanese Knotweed - but then I saw something like it in UPenn's Kaskey Park, and plucked a piece to confirm, by the nose-wrinkling scent, that it was the same thing I had in my yard. The ones at Penn were bigger, and already blooming; the flowers were nothing like the photos I had seen of Japanese Knotweed. So I had ruled out one possibility, but wasn't much closer to finding out what it was. Knowing that it had white flowers and a weird smell was not a big help.

Finally I did a search for "groundcover shade" and, after reading through several articles, I stumbled across one that sung the praises of Chameleon Plant, and had a picture. This was the variegated cultivar, but I recognized the suspect immediately.

And I soon learned that I had jumped to exactly the right conclusion. Gardeners across the web have spoken thusly: "I made the biggest mistake of my gardening life when I introduced this into my garden"..."I will continue to dig and hold my nose (I think it smells horrindous) for maybe the rest of my life"..."This is the first plant that I have ever detested"..."I started trying to dig up all the roots three years ago, and it is STILL coming back! I even resorted to spraying it with brush killer which only succeeded in wilting it a bit before it came back more vigorously than ever. Trust me, this plant is TOUGH!"...."I finally gave in and bought Round-Up on the advice of our local nursery. I felt really bad, I never use stuff like this and I felt like such a plant murderer! Well, it's now fall and I have sprayed these plants many times over the season, and while the total number of plants has lessened, there's still more growing every time I look."

And my favorite comment of all: "good friends give you good plants; this is a plant to give to your enemies."

Here's a site with lots of photos. The one in my rhododendron bed has more ordinary-looking green leaves with a subtle red edging, but it's definitely the same species. Houttuynia cordata. http://www.srgc.org.uk/pport/Houttuynia/Houttuyinia.html

I expect to be fighting this one for a while. How annoying that something invasive and stinky either a) hitched a ride on one of the native plants I bought, or b) was hiding in the mulch that I put in that bed to prevent weeds from growing there!