Six on Saturday – Whispering grass … and a challenge

26/06/2021

The summer solstice passed with temperatures lower than the winter solstice in some places round here. We had a heavy dew on our lawn, which looked like frost. It felt cold. We measured 5 deg C in the open greenhouse. Brrrr! Not BBQ weather at all.

Otherwise, things are much more normal this week, hurray, except that I am driving a courtesy car (Corsa) around. It has tinted back windows and so I find myself peering at the rear-view mirror all the time, wondering why it is so dark.

However, now it’s time to join Jonathon and cohorts for Six on Saturday  … and since I have a challenge/question for you, I thought I would start there.

1 What on earth is this plant ???

sosunk3

It’s got a very square stem, so it’s probably Lamiaceae. It is growing super tall, already over a metre, and climbing. It has small red flowers at each of the opposite leaf axils.

Any ideas, please?

I am thinking of tearing it out as it is a nuisance being so tall behind the water feature. It has already eclipsed the lion king irises and a few other appropriately-sized, front-of-border plants! I am fairly certain that I didn’t plant it, but where did it come from … and what if it is something rare and exotic and I am lucky to have it????

sosunk1

Let me know if you have the answer, thanks.

2 Glorious Golden Oats

Stipa gigantea or Golden Oats is a good whispering grass. It’s seed heads whisper as they dance in the breeze, but right now it is in flower, with golden stamen, loaded with pollen, swaying in the breeze. It’s definitely worth a close look to check out the feathery stigma too.

sosstipa

3 Poppies and Bees

Yes, poppies for second week running, I know, but these are a different kind and are so pretty. Watching the bees enjoy them is addictive too. How many bees can one poppy hold? Four is probably my maximum.

sospop1

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4 Viper’s bugloss

The farmer who plants the field behind our house seems to have sown a strip of wild flowers around its edge. The standout plant currently is Viper’s bugloss or echium vulgare. Their spikes were busy with bees, as you’d expect, but I don’t seem to have managed to catch any in this photo. I’m glad the farmer made the effort though, as it is both beautiful and thrumming with life.

sosechium1

5 Allium christophii

Allium christophii is the allium that looks like it has been cast in metal, steel or titanium. The flower heads make dramatic large spheres of exploding stars. You can see why this flower is the model for garden ornaments. As a bonus, the seed heads are easy to dry and can be saved  to decorate the house.

sosallium

6 Ant nests in the grass and some solutions

My husband is keen on his lawn and this year he has been getting frustrated by the ant hills that seem to be multiplying across its expanse during the dry weather. I’d just rake the mounds before mowing, but he is determined to eliminate the nests all together. So far this has been achieved by digging them out and reseeding the patches. The result is that half the time the lawn looks as though it’s been planted with land mines that have been going off randomly and, once the seed has germinated (more cossetted than any of my flowers to be sure), it looks like the dog has been visiting the area! Here’s an example:

sos lawnRecently, we’ve been lucky enough to have had a biological control applied to the ants. Our lawn has become the favourite restaurant for this green woodpecker (admittedly eating the ants from the path in this instance). I hope he comes to dinner often, so that all the digging/reseeding can stop.

soswood

BTW if anyone has alternative (non-poisonous) approaches to this ant problem, I’d be glad to know.

😉

Have a good weekend!

About Frogend_dweller

Living in the damp middle of nowhere
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28 Responses to Six on Saturday – Whispering grass … and a challenge

  1. shoreacres says:

    You might compare your mystery plant to California figwort (Scrophularia californica). Odd, I know — but if that isn’t it exactly, it might be the right genus. Both the leaves and flowers look right for the figwort. I found this, which mentions that square stem:

    “Scrophularia californica is a flowering plant in the figwort family which is known by the common names California figwort and California bee plant. This perennial herb is native to the western United States and British Columbia. This is an unassuming plant with triangular, toothed, blue-green leaves in pairs opposite each other on a spindly, squared stem. The brownish-magenta flowers are rounded, hollow buds about a centimeter long with two long upper lobes. This species is a strong bee attractant.”

  2. Jim Stephens says:

    Scrophularia nodosa is the UK version, common figwort. Weed or wildflower, according to taste.

  3. I have had to pull out a couple of mystery plants (in the nick of time) before they can reseed! I like to leave things to see what they are. I have a similiarly tall mysterry plant in the garden now…You might try running a sod roller over the ant hills in the lawn. I found that worked with chipmunk tunnels. Love the poppies!

    • lol, ants seem so minor compared to chipmunk tunnels!! Shame that mystery plants are usually bad news. I enjoyed watching my figwort grow though. I think the top soil we used last autumn on the lawn (of course), which I nicked to use in the borders, was loaded with weed seed.

  4. fredgardener says:

    Love the Christophii with poppies in front . 😍

  5. Ants a problem? Try one of these. 🙂

    Viper’s Bugloss is found here in a few locations although not near me.

  6. Eliza Waters says:

    Ants aerate the soil, so air and water can get below ground rather than running off, so why are they unwanted? Are they the biting kind? Borax mixed with sugar will work, sprinkled in/near their entrances. Not sure if you have corn grits in UK, but the ants eat these and then moisture expands the grit, kind of a nasty way to go, however. Good luck!

  7. Chloris says:

    Figwort makes such an impressive plant it is a pity that the flowers are underwhelming and a bit smelly. What an enlightened farmer growing wild flowers. And what a treat having a green woodpecker. It’s funny how worrying about the lawn is a man thing. Mind you, my man doesn’t seem afflicted with the perfect lawn syndrome. On the contrary.

    • I am amazed at how many people have recognised figwort! I must go around with my eyes closed half the time. Thumbs up for the farmer, because it is a first for him to establish a buffer edge to the field. It makes such a difference. The less said about the man/lawn thing the better. I’ve been reading out replies, but he has his fingers in his ears!!!

  8. Gorgeous poppies. They also look wonderful in the photos with the alliums.

  9. Cathy says:

    Thatis a lovely photo of the Stipa. I have one single flower on my new plant and it is the first for me altogether, so I must go and take a closer look at it! With ants, I have heard that changing their environment deters them. So you could try watering the anthill profusely, which is what I always do. They might settle in another part of the lawn though, so in the end maybe no better….

    • Oh do check your stipa. You’ll see how gorgeous it is. Re ants, hopefully he’ll get bored digging holes. I think all the sandy lawn dressing stuff that gets used every autumn creates ideal ant conditions. It’s a choice between ants or moss! 😉

  10. I’ve just been reading Dave Goulson’s chapter on ants in the Garden Jungle. He doesn’t advise how to get rid of them, quite the contrary: “You will always have them and it is pointless, and frankly, dumb to try to get rid of them”…he says, adding that they are tough and adaptable, and soon after removing them, every suitable site is likely to be reoccupied. Perhaps the best option is to get your OH to read Dave Goulson’s book? 😉 It’s actually fascinating what ants get up to underground, like bees they have a complex society and are great team players, and they also help to keep the soil healthy. Love your photo of poppy and bees, and the Alliums are huge, I always use them for Christmas decorations.

    • I must read The Jungle Garden. Thanks for the heads up. I’ll leave it lying around then …
      I always mean to use the allium heads as decorations, but I’ve yet to deliver! 🙂 You get points for carry through.

      • Haha…TBH the reason I carry through is they annoy me when they flop over, so I cut them back. I’ve got some currently hanging upside down to dry in my kitchen for exactly that reason! I’m sure you’ll enjoy the Garden Jungle, it was recommended to me by Gill at Off the Edge Gardening, fascinating what insects get up to really.

  11. Pádraig says:

    I came across that same Allium in the local park this week. Your description is accurate. When I looked at the one in the park, I was reminded of Knex, an old children’s ‘ construction toy.

  12. Cathy says:

    Aren’t fellow bloggers great for identifying plants? Rarely do they fail. And lots of suggestions about the ants, although I do like the anteater idea best 😁 I brought Allium cristophii in for decoration last autumn and threw them away a week or two ago from where they had been gathering dust ever since!! I didn’t know green woodpeckers had a red head but there again I tend to see only glimpses of them as they flash out and back under cover, and am just focussing on the green

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