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Fall Dandelion – Leontodon autumnalis

Fall Dandelion

The fall dandelion is making a great show this year, especially at the edges of the lawn where it meets the gravelly driveway. I don’t ever remember quite so many in bloom.

The fall dandelion is not really a dandelion at all, although the strong similarity explains the name. The fall dandelion is properly known as Leontodon autumnalis, while the common dandelion is Taraxacum officinale. The difference is that the fall dandelion has more narrowly cut leaves with lobes that can point forward or backward. The stem is wiry and does not have the milky juice. Neither of  these is native to North America.

Fall dandelion closeup

Fall or spring, these flowers have a connection to the king of beasts. There is the spring dandeLION and the fall LEOntodon.  In both cases the reference is to those nasty teeth of the lion.


Charles Dudley Warner on Purslane


Purslane July 19, 2013

Purslane is a common weed, which some find edible, and some find despicable. Charles Dudley Warner in his delightful book My Summer in a Garden has a few choice words to say about ‘pusley.’ Charles Dudley Warner (1829-1900) spent part of his childhood in Charlemont, just down  the hill from Heath. For many years he was a writer and editor with the Hartford Courant. In 1870 he published My Summer in a Garden about his travails in the garden. His neighbor was Mark Twain, and together they shared a sense of humor, and collaborated on the book The Gilded Age.

Purslane is a weed I have often had in my garden. I do not eat it, although I could. If I wanted to. I took advantage of an isolated purslane plant to photograph it , and to share Charles Dudley Warner’s thoughts on ‘pusley.’

Purslane July 24, 2013

“The sort of weed which I most hate (if I can be said to hate any thing in my own garden) is the ‘pusley’ a fat, ground-clinging, spreading, greasy thing, and the most propagatious (it is not my fault if that word is not in  the dictionary) plant I know.”

“I am have determined to petition the Ecumenical Council to issue a bull of excommunication against ‘pusley.’ Of all the forms which ‘error’ has taken in this  world, I think that is about the worst. . . . In 1120 a bishop of Laon excommunicated the caterpillars in his diocese; and the following year St. Bernard excommunicated the flies in the Monastery of Foigny; and in 1510 the ecclesiastical court pronounced the dread sentence against the rats of Autun, Macon and Lyon. These examples are sufficient precidents.”

“I am satisfied that it is useless to try to cultivate ‘pusley.’ I set a little of it to one side, and gave it s ome extra care. It did not thrive as well as that which I was fighting. The fact is, there is a spirit of moral perversity in the plant, which makes it grow the more, the more it is interfered with.”

Purslane around the shallots and into the lawn

This morning (7-26)  I took a final photo and have documented the growth of purslane over the course of a week. Now I have to go out and weed. This is not the only place it grows.

Surprising Blossoms

Our first dandelions

There are surprising blossoms in the garden right now. Yesterday I found my first dandelions growing against the house foundation. None in the lawn but it won’t be long.

Orchid Cactus blossom

I never know when the neglected orchid cactus in the guest room will bloom. Surprise!

Orchid cactus buds

The orchid cactus is loaded with buds waiting to come into bloom.  More surprises to  come

September Gold


September gold fills my garden at this time of the year. I have whole fields of goldenrod. It’s a good thing that goldenrod is not responsible for allergies. “One of the most colorful plants we see blooming in roadside ditches and gardens in late summer is goldenrod (Solidago sp.). Hay fever symptoms seem to be worse when it is in bloom so it often accused of causing hay fever. One look at goldenrod and a little logical thinking clearly eliminates it as a suspect. The many, small, bright yellow flowers on long cluster on the top of the plants are often covered with butterflies and bees taking advantage of the abundance of nectar. The brightly colored flowers are important to attract color-sensitive insects required for pollination. Fact #3: Goldenrod is insect-pollinated. The pollen grains are relatively large, heavier than air and intended to be carried off by bees, butterflies and other pollinators.” For more about goldenrod and allergies  click here and give thanks to the University of Iowa Extension.


My field is also full of tansy. Very pretty. Nice in bouquets. NEVER PLANT IT! It propogates by strong runners AND by seed. You will never get rid of it.

Happy Returns daylily

I thought the daylilies were done but this beauty has made a return. Happy for me.

Gaillardia 'Arizona Sun'

I have been admiring bright gaillardias for years and now I finally have  some. They haven’t minded the drought very much.

Gaillardia 'Oranges and Lemons'

‘Oranges and Lemons’ bloomed slightly earlier and less robustly than ‘Arizona Sun.”  I like the gentler shades as well as the vibrant shades of gold.

Does your garden have any gold at this time of the year?


Planting the Wild Garden by Kathryn Galbraith

Planting the Wild Garden by Kathryn O. Galbraith

My friend Kathryn O. Galbraith was recently presented with a Growing Good Kids 2012 award from the American Horticultural Society for Excellence in Children’s Literature. This book, beautifully illustrated by Wendy Anderson Halperin depicts the myriad of ways that we all, people, birds, and animals as well as the wind and the rain plant the beautiful and fruitful gardens that grow along the roadsides, riversides and meadows. I wrote about Kathryn and her book when it first came out here.

White aster in our field

I am surrounded by wild gardens, in my fields and alongside my country roads. Kathryn lives in a much more populated area in Washington Sate, but you don’t need to live in a rural area to appreciate wild gardens.

When I asked her where this lovely idea came from she said, “I remember exactly where the seeds of this story began. I was at a writing workshop in one of our state parks.  Every morning and evening I’d take a walk along its many paths.  There I saw rabbits nibbling on grasses and goldfinches feeding on huge purple thistles.  And woe be to you if you stepped off the path – there prickly, sticky weeds were just waiting to catch on your jeans and socks.

I wrote those images down in my notebook, but only several years later, when I went back to my notebook, looking for gold, did I see how all those images could be connected.”

Goldenrod in our field

We have acres of goldenrod in our field,

Autumn dandelion, black eyed susan and oxeye daisy

and even at this season of the year our ‘lawn’ is a  flowery mead with ox eye daisies, black eyed susans and autumn dandelions. Christina Rosetti asked “Who has seen the wind? Neither you nor I:. . . ” but here, just outside my door is evidence of all the beautiful places our Heath breezes have visited.

And inside the pages of Planting the Wild Garden you can join Kathryn, and Wendy, in a garden that we never planted, but that surrounds us where ever we go. We just have to keep our eyes open.

Galinsoga parviflora – Weed of the Day

Galinsoga parviflora

Galinsoga  parviflora is a major player in my garden this year. If only it were desirable, and not a weed.  Like all the other vigorous weeds shown here in my garden this year it seems to love the drought.

Galinsoga parviflora

I tried to get a clearer photo of my Weed of the Day, but you can get many images by clicking here. The flowers are very tiny with a golden center and five tiny white ray petal surrounding it.

This is a summer annual, but it comes back in my garden every year, and according to my bible, Weeds of the Northeast by Uva, Neal and DiTomas0, “it is one of the most difficult to control weeds of the vegetable garden.”  Do you think I should be pleased that “it is usually found on fertile soils?”

Hairy galinsoga looks very similar except that it is – hairy – on its stems and leaves.  It is also called common quickweed or shaggy soldier. It likes ornamental plantings as well. I can attest to that. Do you have galinsoga in your garden?

Weeds or Wildflowers?

Daisies, buttercups, hawkweed, lady's bedstraw

Weeds or wildflowers? What do you think?

For more wordlessness this Wednesday click here.

Fall Chores Begin

While in town yesterday I met a friend who said he was busy cutting back the peonies and generally trying to close up the garden because he is leaving for Paris in a week or so. Until the end of October. Poor baby.

So I came home and looked at my peonies, which will need a lot of weeding as well as cutting back.

Guan Yin Mian tree peony

Of course, the tree peonies which produce large blossoms like Guan Yin Mian on shrubby stems, that do not die down to the ground, and that bloom earlier in the spring than the herbaceous peonies, do not need cutting back but they will need some weeding.

Hydrangea 'Pinky Winky'

My year old ‘Pinky Winky’ hydrangea will need some snipping around its base, too. Fall chores must begin. But not today. It’s raining.

Monday Record 5-23

Earth Oven at Katywil

There isn’t much to report about progress in the garden. This report is full of  rain, showers, downpour, drizzle, rain, spitz and fog.   Fortunately a showery day did not deter the Yestermorrow crew who came to Katywil to hold an Earth Oven Building workshop.  The stone foundation had been completed two weeks ago and Saturday was going to see building of a wood fired oven. The workshop participants had to get deep into the mud (earth) and muddy straw so a little water from the heavens was not a problem. I will have more about this project soon.

Pollen cloud

While I was watching the oven construction a great cry went out. “Look!”  And then we were all looking down and across the hills a a great wind blew up and sent clouds of green pollen across the valley. None of us had seen anything like it.  No wonder allergy sufferers are having such a bad year.

Yesterday was the first day in two weeks that we could do anything substantial out in the garden. The grass was still damp, but Henry mowed. Now I have to rake.  I will not put these clippings in the compost, because my pile never gets hot enough to kill all the dandelion seeds. So I guess this chore isn’t quite done.

My to-do list included pruning the roses and weeding along the Shed Bed, Rose Walk and the Rose Bank.  I collected two wheelbarrows full of prunings and weedings, but I think there is more to do. I don’t like to rush into pruning winterkill, in case a branch is just a lazy leaf and still alive. I can’t cross this off my list yet either.

However, before the bugs drove me inside to get busy roasting a chicken, and getting some blueberry muffins into the over,  I did do a bit of weeding in the front garden, and put in a second planting of spinach and Tango lettuce.  It is not often I get such a good photo of a completed job.  Actually, its not often I actually complete a job to photo-worthiness.

My Logo

Commonweeder logo

When I began my blog, slightly more than three years ago, I had just finished reading The Uncommon Reader, a delightful short comic novel by Alan Bennett.  I am a reader and understood the reference to Virginia Woolf’s Common Reader essays so the phrase ‘common reader’ was whirling around in my brain  when I thought of that most common of weeds – the dandelion.  I thought the dandelion was a perfect flower to refer to me; I am a Leo and those distinctive leaves are the dent de lion, the teeth of the lion, and I am a cheerful person, and though no one has ever used the term sunny to describe me, I love the sunny shaggy dandelion flowers.  What else could I name my blog but The Commonweeder.

Yesterday I spent an hour with my friend Cara Hochhalter, and she helped me make a block print of a dandelion that I will use as a logo.  I am not an artist, but I am very happy with the way this turned out, needing only a bit more tweaking of the block, and figuring out how to make the blossom a tiny bit bolder.  What do you think?

I used a Safety-Kut soft printing block from Daniel Smith which made the task much easier and faster.