I recently read an article on sounds in the garden.
When I read the title, I assumed it was for water features, but no, it was just taking the time to listen. Sounds we hear in the garden included birds, frogs, insects, wind chimes, roosters, cattle, bees and hummingbirds.
Then the noises we don’t want to hear like lawn mowers, leaf blowers, weed eaters. Another option was the rodents, squirrels, mice and chipmunks. I know their sounds but I think voles and moles are silent pests.
I was looking out the window where I have a terrible infestation of varmints. I am sure that I have lured them to my garden by feeding the birds. Why should they hunt for food when I am freely suppling them with their favorite, black oil sunflower seeds?
I tried trapping: no luck. Then Danny opened the window, since he didn’t want to sit outside, and took some shots at them with his BB gun. He never even got close to the chipmunks. I think his marksmanship has decreased since basic training.
All these critters did not bother me. In fact, I thought some were cute until they started eating the roots of my plants. A Hydrangea bush would wilt; I would water only to have the bush turn brown and tip over after rodents had devoured the roots.
The internet suggested I try a high pitch sound that does not bother cats, dog or birds but only aggravates rodents. Amazon delivered and it appears to be working. This made me think of the fairy tale of The Pied Piper of Hamelin in 1284, maybe there was truth in finding a pitch that drove the rats into the sea.
So far the high pitch is working for me. If you remember the story of the Pied Piper, he not only got rid of the rats but after the town refused to pay him, he took their children away. In 1384 there was a stained glass window at St. Nicolai Church dedicated to the loss of 130 children in Hamelin. History shows some truth to this fairy tale.
One of my favorite plants this time of year is Melampodium. It is almost four feet tall and the plants are covered in beautiful yellow flowers. This neighbor from south of the border is sometimes called cushion zinnia here in America.
In Mexico this plant is a perennial, but here in Tennessee it is an annual, since the first hint of frost kills these sunny yellow daisies. Melampodium prefers full sun, warm weather and good drainage but is also tolerant of poor, dry soils. These plants have very dense foliage with a mound shape. The foliage itself is a very pretty bright green with rough hairy, pointed leaves.
The one inch, daisy-like flowers, cover the plant all summer. The yellow in the Melampodium is a clean, clear yellow with no hint of orange so that it looks great growing alongside blue flowers.
Melampodium is a cinch to grow from seed. You can sow directly in the garden after all danger of frost in the early spring, or you can start them indoors eight weeks prior to outdoor planting. This tidy little plant allows the yellow flowers to drop away quickly and cleanly as they fade, leaving behind only a calyx ring of little brown seeds.
No dead heading is necessary; they will continue to grow in an ever widening globe shape expanding up to three feet wide. They can take over smaller nearby plants. Melampodium also self-seeds but never where you want them.
I always find myself digging them up from the pathway between beds or the surrounding area. They have a long taproot but if you are diligent than can be transplanted. They also do well in containers, the larger the pot the better.
When I first started gardening I had planted Melampodium that I had bought from the local nurseries. I never had any luck in getting them to self sow. I had a friend who was enjoying great returns from her plants. In fact she treated them like a thug plant and was always pulling them up, being surprised at where the birds or wind had sown them.
I expressed an interest in having some of her cushion zinnias and she asked that I wait until fall. After the first hard frost she brought me a large trash bag filled with dead Melampodium. After seeing the quizzical look on my face she said, “Just shake them out wherever you want plants next year.”
Naturally, I let them set in the garage for another three weeks. Guilt finally caught up with me and I took the trash bag of dead plants out into the gardens. She was correct. Late the next spring I had a profusion of lime green plants pop up, I wasn’t sure at first what they were but the green was a different color from my usual assortment of weeds.
Fast forward 10 years. My friend has moved twice since then so this year I get the great privilege of returning a trash bag full of dead plants to her so that she can again enjoy this sunny yellow puff with bright green leaves.
More sounds in the garden are the shovel digging into the earth, the groans and grunts of the gardener, the clicking of the trimmers, voices floating in the air, the mockingbird following me as I work in the garden telling me to stay away from her nest.
Night time sounds include the crickets, katydids, thunder sounding in the distance. Now we have wind in trees and the rustle of leaves dropping.
A beautiful vision was given to me reading a magazine; the author said, “The closest we will ever get to see the wind, is watching it blow through a wheat field.”
Gayle Fisher is a master gardener for the state of Tennessee, as well as an accredited National Flower Show judge. A student consultant for landscape design, she has served as an officer in District IV Tennessee Federation of Garden Clubs and is a member of the American Horticultural Society. She gardens with her husband, Dan, in Niota. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org