Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Stock Tanks, Flora, Fauna, and Chimps!

It's been a busy couple of weeks and I miss my opportunities to visit other blogs. I'm still working on this concept of working full time. Have to figure out how to fit it into the rest of my life and I'm wondering how I ever did it before? :-)

I thought I'd show a mish-mash of a couple of things happening here. Above is photo of a stock tank that I planted for a garden coach client of mine outside her art studio. I planted two of them (second one is below) in a concrete parking area (of sorts). This area is all concrete and rather sloping. It's surrounded by concrete walls on three sides and therefore, gets very hot. The tanks were planted a month ago and are now doing very well. They have an assortment of perennials and annuals, including some herbs (although some of the annuals are overrunning those a bit). If you click on the photo, you should be able to see a little more detail of what plants are in it. If you want more details about them, just leave me a comment and I'll let you know and/or update this post.

This stock tank is against a larger wall and gets blasted by the western sun. But so far, it's doing quite alright.

Rudbeckia maxima

One of the plants I put in the tanks was Rudbeckia maxima, the giant or great coneflower. I've seen this plant growing in both the wild and in a garden setting and it's so cool. I've seen it 6 feet tall but I wouldn't doubt if it gets even taller than that!

'Nanho Purple' Butterfly Bush (and bumblebee)

Meanwhile, in my own garden, my butterfly bush has started blooming like crazy. So far, the butterflies seem more attracted to my Verbena bonariensis but I don't have that many butterflies yet. This bush was trained into a standard form but I'm constantly cutting off suckers at the base. Regardless, I'm liking the shape and how large it's gotten.


Back for an encore performance is Nicotiana. This is growing in the gravel path from last year's plants which seeded out. I hadn't planned to grow this this year but it seems to want to hang out here anyway.

'Caro Rich' Tomatoes

Tomatoes are starting to fatten up. I think I'll be picking my first tomato tomorrow - a Sungold cherry. Yum!

Wren building nest

The fauna of the area have been busy. A month or so ago some chickadees fledged from this birdhouse and now some wrens are interested in the same abode. But this weekend we did some grilling and I'm afraid we may have scared them off. Makes me feel bad.

Chimp Haven residents at "termite" mound

And now for something completely different! I volunteer out a Chimp Haven, a retirement community for chimps that have served us well in medical research. It's an absolutely wonderful place, with dedicated staff caring for those animals who have given so much for our health (they also have one chimp, Henry, who was rescued from a bad situation at a person's home). Once a month for several months out of the year, Chimp Haven is open to the public. There are several social groups that have access to a number of acres of wilderness. There's a moat that separates the visitors from the chimps, and they bait the area near the moat with favorite foods so we'll all be sure to see them.

They also have pretend "termite" mounds, which are baited with favorite foods that will adhere to the sticks - foods such as applesauce, sugar-free jellies, etc. The chimps have learned from each other how to fish for the treats in the mound. They use bamboo sticks as well as other sticks they find. This fishing behavior is a learned one (not instinctual), and was taught by some of the elders who were actually born in Africa. There's one chimp who's not so elderly, Tracy, seen hanging off the top of the mound. She was an "accident", born three years ago to Teresa, who I believe is the one on the left looking at the camera (btw, Teresa is in her late 40's and was born in Africa). Chimp Haven is located outside Shreveport, Louisiana, so if you're ever in the area, be sure to find out if they'll be open. It's well worth it. You'll learn a lot and if you leave a little donation while you're there, you and the chimps will be glad you did.

This post was written by Jean McWeeney for my blog Dig, Grow, Compost, Blog. Copyright 2009. Please contact me for permission to copy, reproduce, scrape, etc.


  1. Hi Jean,
    What a fascinating post!
    I love the stock tank and the clever use of varying heights and texture in the planting.
    The chimp place, well what can I say. Wonderful, as is the work that you do there.

  2. Those chimps are amazing and I am so happy that they are being cared for now.

    Curious to read more about your garden coach work too. I've never heard of this type of work until recently. Your client must really love the job you did too!

  3. Nice plantings in the stocktanks.I have seen the giant coneflower at the wildflower center but never in someones garden. It makes a large mound of interesting leaves. I should put out some nicotiana seeds next year as I love that plant. Very fragrant. As tot he chimps- so glad they have a nice retirement home and that someone cares for them. I have seen film on the tv of them using reeds to poke in the termite hole. Interesting.

  4. The chimp haven is so neat! How wonderful that these animals have such a great place to live and play and are being well-cared for after all that they have done. Thank you for sharing this with us, Jean.

    It's hard to believe you are harvesting tomatoes already--I just planted mine two days ago:) Your planters look lovely; I'll look for that rudbeckia--what a stunner!

    Glad to hear work is going well for you; I know it will take some time to adjust to time demands, but I know you can do it.

  5. Hi Jean,
    Thanks for sharing the pictures, and I do have a question. What is the green wide-leafed plant on the left in the first picture?

  6. IS: the wide-leafed plant on the left is sweet potato vine, Ipomea batatas 'Marguerite'. It should be trailing down the stock tank pretty soon.

  7. Jean, Are you garden coaching full time? That's exciting! Love the stock tanks~the plantings look great. I had originally gotten one to make a water garden, but will probably plant it out. Right now it's storing rain water from the 18 inches of rain we got in 24 hours and I am watering the containers...Very handy! gail

  8. I've got to plant some of that Rudbeckia! Thanks for reminding me.

    I'd love to visit the Chimp Refuge if I ever make it to Shreveport.

  9. Those stock tanks look great, and I love that you captured the bird building its nest.

    Too cool about the chimp retirement village!!

  10. Gail - no, not garden coaching full time (although I was very busy with that this spring). I'm working as a copy editor at a company that publishes garden magazines.

    Cindy - if you ever come to Shreveport, please let me know. We're just down the road (an hour away).

  11. Jean, I love the stock tank plantings. So fitting for an artist's studio. How many yards of soil did they hold?

  12. Layanee - I'm not exactly sure how much soil they held but it was a lot. One pickup truck full filled about one and one half tanks. The tanks are almost 6 feet long and 3 feet high. I wanted to put packing pellets in the bottom so that the owner wouldn't have to purchase that much soil, but she never got around to getting them. Next year we'll change it up and maybe put a tree or two in them as well.

  13. I LOVE your stock tanks, Jean, especially the second one with the feathergrass, orange and yellow flowers, and the 'Black Heart' sweet potato vine. It also benefits from being against a solid-color wall. They're both very nice.


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