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September 2007

August 2007

Milkweed tussock moth and mega dragonflies!

High 80 F
Low 62.8F

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This mornings' walk around the garden revealed this unusual and interesting creature.  I was on the lookout for monarchs and their chrysalis although it is a bit late for that  as I see the butterflies around.  I have yet to see the caterpillar.  I did spy this hairy little creature! Or, should I say, this neighborhood of creatures! There were many on the plant this morning but when I downloaded the picture it wasn't up to snuff so I went back out this afternoon and they had disappeared but for this one. Dsc_0009_2    It looks like a false eyelash gone bad doesn't it?  The milkweed which I left in the garden because it is food for the monarchs and the fragrance is so very sweet now looks like this.  Dsc_0008 Sticks!  This little caterpillar is having a great time foraging.  I hope they don't resort to the ornamentals when they are through dining on this plant.  In trying to identify it I found this website which has a visual key for identifying caterpillars.  You can access it here.   It is disappointing that the moth stage of this little creature is so drab but given this outrageous outfit, I guess it is to be expected.  I have big things planned for my next life!

As I mentioned, I went back out to the garden to take a few more shots of this caterpillar.  As I walked by the fish pond, I stopped to check out what was going on there.  It's always something and today was no different...or, perhaps it was.  I heard the sound of rustling paper and then the sound of beating wings.  A swarm of  dragonflies took flight from the iris leaves on the edge of the pond.  They were huge dragonflies. Dsc_0021 Click on picture to enlarge

They were at least four inches long and quite curious.  They would hover within a foot or two of me and look me right in the eye as if looking at an alien creature.  We both were.  I wondered what the dragonfly could see with those immense eyes.  What does the world look like from a dragonflies perspective?  I don't know if they were laying eggs or what, but they were busy and, did I say BIG! Dsc_0032 I like the fact that they are wearing fashion colors.  Turquoise is the new black and looks good on everyone!  Does anyone know what kind these are?  Dsc_0032_5  


Birdhouse potential!

High 84 F
Low 53.3 F

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Horse manure composting!
The mornings have been comfortably cool the past few days.  A reminder that we are on the down side of summer.  The afternoons can be quite warm, Dsc_0009
Tucker in repose
with high humidity.  'Dog days' so to speak.  Last week I posted about my Mom's garden and one of the pictures was this one of a birdhouse gourd. Dsc_0020 I have grown these off and on for a few years and planted them both in her garden and mine.  They are interesting, functional and have beautiful flowers and vines.  These gourds are hard skinned belonging to the Lagenaria group of gourds.  The flowers are white, ruffled, and lovely. They bloom at nightDsc_0002 closing up in the middle hours of the morning.Dsc_0001   The vines tumble and climb creating their own sculpture in the garden. Dsc_0016

I grow them without any special treatment.  I do add fertilizer when I plant them and perhaps if I side dressed them during the growing season there would be more gourds but they are really just for fun.  When the stem dries, the gourd can be harvested and dried in a well ventilated area.  It will take about six months for the insides to dry and shaking the gourd will result in a 'rattle' effect' when the drying is complete.  I have made some feeders out of them and maybe this crop will result in a few wren houses.  Have any of you grown this gourd?  It sure likes the hot weather and would be an ideal plant for all you Austin gardeners!   


Bloom Day-August '07!

High 81 F
Low  52.7 F

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Long border with Tucker's approval! 7:15 A.M.

Is it really Bloom Day again!  I think it is making the summer go by faster, if possible.  Not as much blooming now but the annuals are doing their job and I have been eating lots of 'Bodacious' sweet corn so who really cares!  Here are some photos of the garden on the day before bloom day which still counts doesn't it?  I have to leave for work by 6:30 A.M. so it will have to do!  Thanks for visiting and please leave a comment. They are very gratifying!
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Clematis 'Blue Bird' re-blooming!

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Veronicastrum virginicum,  Culver's Root

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The 'left handed mitten' garden

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Clematis ' Julia Correvan'  still blooming!

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Salvia patens

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Scarlet runner bean

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Helenium autumnale

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Astilbe taquetii

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Sunflower

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Hydrangea paniculata

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The left handed mitten from above...plan view!

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The island bed to the right of the left handed mitten garden

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Hibiscus

Tucker and I appreciate your taking the time to visit the garden! 

  


August in the neighbor's garden.

High 84 F
Low 61.9 F

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The view from Brenda's chair
I visited the neighbor's garden again today.  I last posted about their extraordinary garden on June 28th. While some gardens suffer in the August heat and the gardener tires of the maintenance jobs which never end, this garden still looks fresh and inviting.  A haven and a sanctuary and it is right across the street!   The annual plantings have filled out as have the perennials and there is an abundance of color everywhere with no weeds in sight.  I am going to have to weed a bit more often as my standards seem to have slipped! Here is a picture of the tool shed
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and the well head. Dsc_0038 These stand as  sentinels welcoming all to the garden.  This walkway Dsc_0039  heads down the hill for this view of the slope garden. Dsc_0045
I honestly did not see one weed!  They have a grounds crew of two. Here is a view looking the other direction at the bottom of the hill.Dsc_0044
There are many birdhouses throughout the garden which have been crafted by Brenda's Dad.  All are unique.  One is a replica of the house and another is a copy of a covered bridge in town. They add to the charm and personalization of the garden.  This is one of my favorite gardens of this year. Dsc_0048 It is the heart garden in almost full glory!  The morning glory in the center is not yet blooming but when it does, it will be spectacular!  Tucked around the back of the main garden is the white garden and while I did take a picture of it in June, the last time I failed to see the 'Old Man' looking right at me.  Dsc_0052 Can you see him?    I did check the previous post and he was there all along!  There are many other pictures to post but I think I will save a few views of this garden for a future post.  Too much eye candy is hazardous to one's health! 

   

Re-visiting Mom's garden!

High 84 F
Low 62 F

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Click to enlarge
This little guy decided to give me the eye!  He seemed unconcerned with my presence and even posed.  Maybe dragonflies slow down on occasion because I have tried many a time to take their picture without success.  This one, a pin up kind of fly!!
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Here is a current picture of Mom's garden.  She has so much in bloom at the moment that I felt I should share it with you all. At this end section there are gourds and sunflowers planted.
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Here you can see the black eyed susans and some ageratum with bee balm and delphinium peeking up from the back of the picture.
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This section of the garden is blooming with cosmos, coreopsis and phlox.
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The stair section has cosmos and coneflower.  My sister and I also planted vegetables in the back garden in a section which was difficult to mow.  I need to get a picture of that garden but this birdhouse gourd is growing there. Dsc_0020 Have any of you grown any of the interestingly shaped gourds?  They are vigorous vines with  great flowers and the gourds are unique don't you think?
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Annual delights!

High 83.2 F
Low  60.3 F

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Cosmos with a twist!

Plant collectors and addicts love the unusual.  The sight of an Amorphophallus elicits exclamations of delight!  The newest cultivars of Echinacea have been much discussed in the blogosphere.  The basic pink and white coneflower cultivars have given way to orange and yellow.  If only there were a blue!  It is no different with annuals.  The commonplace such as the ubiquitous plantings of red salvia and yellow marigolds leave me cold.  The daring and the unusual demand further examination. Take for instance Dsc_0293
Zinnia elegans ' Cactus Red'
this zinnia observed at Tower Hill Botanical Garden.  It is about four feet tall, orange, and makes quite a statement in this vegetable garden.  As I mentioned, I am not a lover of marigolds bedded out but I do like this smaller flowered marigold which makes a lovely border plant.  I believe it is Tagetes tenuifolia.  Here it is bordering Mom's walkway. Dsc_0031 It has the pungent smell of a marigold with a much finer outline and texture.
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Red Leaf Castor Bean, Ricinus communis
Then there are the mighty annuals, one of which is the castor bean plant.  I know, it does belong in the 'Deadly Garden' as Heather from Heather's Garden named the future plot, but if you have no children to worry about it is quite an ornamental plant.  The Castor bean plant, Ricinus communis, is native to East Africa and is a member of the Euphorbiaceae family.  Castor oil, one of the many treats of childhood, is formulated from this plant and seeds of the castor bean  were found in Egyptian tombs dating from 4000 B.C.  How can it all be bad?  The plant produces a fine oil which was used for those oil lamps in days of yore.  The beans do contain ricin which is very toxic.   I guess the Egyptians knew not to eat the beans or to only serve them to their enemies.  The beans each have a unique mottled pattern on them with no two alike.  They are about the size of a pinto bean.  There are both male and female flowers on one plant.  The female flowers are quite pretty, as seen here.  The male flowers are seen below the female flowers and are smooth. Dsc_0011

While this plant is not native to the U. S. it has become naturalized in many southern areas.  Many cultures depended on this plant for the oil which provided both medicine and light. Here, it is a plant which is feared by many, grown by some of us for its' ornamental value but often reviled in the press.  What are your thoughts on growing this annual?   


Bottlebrush!

High 89 F
Low 70.2 F

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Aesculus parviflora, Bottlebrush Buckeye

I really don't like the word 'Buckeye'.  I don't know why it just seems to stick on the tongue!  I do, however, love the Bottlebrush Buckeye or Aesculus parviflora.  Are any of you growing this shrub?  It is hardy from zone 5 through 8, at least, with some sources listing it from zones 4-9.  That is a pretty wide range.   I have had this plant in the garden for fifteen years or so.  It is a very forgiving shrub tolerant of average garden soil and it has few pest problems although something did chew a bit on these leaves.  It prefers partial shade to shade and is native to the Southeastern United States!  I guess that makes it a native plant although if it's not growing within a hundred mile radius of my yard I have trouble feeling that it is a legitimate 'native' plant, to me, anyway.  There goes a big debate on native!  This is a shrub which takes a bit of time to develop its' truly unique spreading habit.  Mine is planted under an oak tree, which is definitely native, and it gets quite a bit of shade in this location. Michael Dirr , in his book the Manuel of Woody Landscape Plants, says, "This is an excellent plant for massing, clumping or placing in shrub borders".  His book is my bible and his word rarely fails or disappoints. The shrub languished without moving much in the first five or six years of its' life.  I then decided that I needed to prune it a bit to force it to spread.  The year after pruning, it sent out suckers which emerged a couple of feet from the main stem so I continued this practice of pruning it just a bit in the spring and it continues to reach out a bit further each year.  It has a rather coarse winter texture but that is a plus!  The snow catches on the stems and it is so much more interesting to see the stiff branches coated with snow than just the trunk of an oak tree.  Winter needs its' own special little tricks to create interest in the garden. Bottlebruch_buckeye_2 I know that mine could have a few more flowers (note to self...add some organic fertilizer and a layer of compost next spring) but, I am happy that it is flowering and it is in a fair amount of shade.  A bit more sun might also help to promote more flowers. What is more elegant that white flowers?Bottlebrush_buckeye   I love the spread and breadth of this plant.  It is about eight feet tall and fifteen feet wide which is what is listed as its' optimum height.  The palmate leaves are an attractive dark green.  Most visitors to the garden do comment on this shrub even when it is not in bloom so there is an unusual appearance to its' form and foliage.  It doesn't scream 'Look at Me' but subtly sits there with a bit of quiet majesty.  I hope some of you are growing it and can share your observations!  Shrubbbbeye    


Dragonflies,the tree frog and a fungus!

High 89 F
Low 71 F

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I have been trying all summer to capture the image of a dragonfly.  They fly really fast!  I read that they can fly 38 mph and, at that speed, it is no wonder that I haven't been able to  get a shot.  I've also tried sneaking up on them but then they have those huge compound eyes which is having eyes in the back of your head.  Sandy over at Gardenpath often has the most beautiful images of dragonflies. See her June 26th post.  She seems to know where they will be and just what it takes to get their picture.  I think I have finally gotten a couple of worthy shots for this post.  I really know nothing about dragonflies.  When I was a child someone told me that they could sew my mouth shut.  That is not a method I would use to encourage cooperation with nature.  I guess I was a chatterbox but that didn't really shut me up!  It made me run fast but I never achieved 38 mph!Dragonfly_striped   Perhaps someone can enlighten me as to the actual names of these dragonflies. They are quite beautiful aren't they.  They look delicate but at the same time sturdy.  The framework of their wings is natural perfection.  I am going to keep working at it and get some more shots of different dragonflies.  It will be a project!

The tree frog continues to cling to his home.Dsc_0049   Usually he is seen sitting in the doorway but I guess he needed a change of scenery on this particular day. Dsc_0099

One last note concerning fungus. Dsc_0051 I recently saw this unusual fungus  growing on a stump which held a sprinkler head.  I have been unable to find any pictures on the web that look like this one which I have named 'The brain'.Dsc_0048   Has anyone else seen one like this?


 

Back from vacation!

High 76 F
Low 59.9F

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Back from the beaches of Cape Cod! It was a perfect week for beach reading. The first daughter supplied Harry Potter.  Always entertaining!  It was sunny, warm, and windy!   I have been fortunate to  experience  many different beaches but those of Truro on the upper Cape are, to me, the most beautiful.   Please don't tell anyone as the traffic to and from the Cape is already truly disturbing!    The water is pretty cold but, welcome when the temperatures are in the 90's.

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It is amazing how the garden changes in one week.  Under daily inspection the plants and flowers seem to change slowly but a week away is like a time lapse photo.  The sunflowers are now ten feet tall with only one in bloom.  The pumpkins are beginning to take over the garden and, I confess, I ate sweet corn for lunch!   One of the perennials currently blooming in the garden is Monkshood, Aconitum x bicolor in this case!Dsc_0032 It is also called Wolfsbane as the roots were used as poison bait for wolves.  It is not particularly well grown in my garden I must confess!  I need to  move it to a sunnier location.  It needs a bit more sun but since they originate in the cooler mountain meadow areas they do not do well if the evening temperatures are often above 70 degrees.    There are many Aconitum species and this particular hybrid is thought to be a cross between A. variegatum and A. napellus.  All parts of the plant are poisonous with the roots being most toxic.  They contain the drug aconite which affects the heart. I am not prone to tasting plants and it is tucked in the border where it provides a curious and colorful spot in the garden. Dsc_0030 As you can see from the flowers, they do bear resemblance to a Monk's hood albeit a colorful one!  I think it is worth mentioning given its' interesting shape and the folklore attached. Many of the Aconitum species range in color from purple to blue but there is one that is ivory in color.  I think I will plant it next to a few Digitalis and some Euphorbias.  It will be a garden of strictly visual delight!


Water gardens and water garden plants!

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Monet's Bridge
Last week in my travels I stopped at this water garden center.  Paradise Water Gardens is a large supplier of all things water garden related.  They have a very large mail order catalog and  they do have display gardens.  I think most of their business must be through mail order and web site as the display gardens, while extensive, have  a  utilitarian appearance.

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Red lacquer bridge

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Display pond with koi

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The beauty of the lotus leaf!

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Lotus Flower

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Lotus pod

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Pink Waterlily

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Water hyacinth!

I never realized how orchid like the flowers of the water hyacinth appear with that delicate veining and splotch of yellow!  How many of you have water gardens?