Notes on life offline

Some new neighbors have moved in the next street over.


Most of the plants I started this year are perennials which will take a year or two to reach blooming size. However, a number have flowered already. Currently, Helianthus mollis, the “ashy sunflower,” is putting on a good show. The plant has a more refined appearance than most sunflowers. According to what I’ve read it’s inclined to be rambunctious, so I’ve got it in the dry far corner of the yard where its aggressiveness will be a virtue.

The flowers of Rudbeckia subtomentosa are smaller than most of the commonly-planted black-eyed susans, but the plants are supposed to be reliably perennial, unlike most other native rudbeckias. It should continue blooming until frost — assuming it doesn’t get eaten. The silvery checkerspot butterfly is particularly fond of rudbeckias, and I need to check frequently for swarms of little black caterpillars. If I don’t catch them in time, this is the result:

They also like sunflowers, I’ve discovered, but black-eyed susans are their first choice.

Oenothera rhombipetala, the “sand evening primrose,” is a biennial that puts on a spectacular show in its second year. Two of them are blooming right now in their first year, to my surprise. The flowers are smaller than I expected, less than half the size of the ones I saw in a Wichita park a few years ago. Whether it’s because the are flowering prematurely or because I have a small-flowered strain, I don’t know.

One of the Dalea purpurea offered a preview of what to expect next year.

The above plants were started from seed from Prairie Moon Nursery. Most of the prairie plant seeds require cold stratification — exposure to cold, damp conditions for a few weeks or months — before they germinate, but that is easily managed with a refrigerator.

I started some seeds from other sources as, such as the Salvia transsylvanica above. I wish I had a better picture, but we currently have a plague of grasshoppers. The hopping horrors aren’t supposed to like salvia, but apparently they find the flowers tasty.

Morning glories did poorly for me last year, so I’m trying Thunbergia alata to cover an ugly stump. It’s doing well — almost too well. It is threatening to take over the area, and I’ve already had to trim it back a bit.

I wonder how many of the various delospermas survive the winter.

The lilies have been doing well despite the heat. There is one more to go, which should start blooming this week.


I’ve discovered that it’s easy to make it rain if you get around by bicycle. Make an appointment to renew your driver’s license at the DMV. The day before the appointment, give your garden a thorough watering. The minute you leave for the DMV, it will start to rain. Unfortunately, this only works once every four years.