Tuesday, October 18, 2016

The Perils of Garden Snobbery

For a long time, I thought rose bushes were too common.

Everyone has rose bushes around here.

So I refrained from adding one to the garden.

My loss! I missed out on this 'Carefree Beauty' all those years...

It's been a champ throughout our hot, humid summer. It grows in full sun from morning through early afternoon and then has shade for the rest of the day.

Early on in the season, I was disappointed with the way it suffered from Japanese beetle attacks, but the beetles soon went away and the rose recovered and flourished with little help from me.

In August, I started cutting just about-to-open roses every few days and bringing them inside to adorn the kitchen or dining tables.

I'd say that Carefree Beauty has a light but delicious fragrance. I don't think I'll go bananas about sprinkling roses throughout my garden. I'm too nervous about rose rosette disease (RRD) to do that. But I do hope to add a couple more tough, vigorous and hopefully even more fragrant roses.

I've got my eye on Jacqueline du Pre. And I'm also interested in the native Carolina rose, which reportedly is resistant to RRD.


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Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Hot and Dry with a Strong Chance of Balloons

The more I grow balloon flower (Platycodon grandiflorus), the more it impresses me.

We only had two days of rain all of September.

Temperatures were way above normal. (Or perhaps this is the 'new normal'?)

So it was hot, dry, sunny and I rarely watered.

Many plants would wilt or go dormant. Some would give up the ghost. But not balloon flower - it kept sailing through, pushing out more and more cheerful, cooling blue flowers.

These flowers are not exactly pollinator magnets, but they do attract some creatures.

Can you spot the tiny pollinator here?

In my experience, balloon flower has a very long blooming season, but it tends to slow down in midsummer. If you cut (or break) the stems way back, it will soon regrow and rebloom.

Individual plants seem to be long-lived. They don't spread through rhizomes, though clumps can get bigger over time. Balloon flower does self-sow. These volunteers are amenable to transplantation and they're not hard to pull if you find yourself with too many balloons!


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Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Beautiful Berries

You can see where the American beautyberry bush (Callicarpa americana) gets its name...

Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center says that the seeds and berries of Callicarpa americana "are considered an important food source for many species of birds."


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Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Doomed Caterpillars

Caterpillar (perhaps hummingbird clearwing moth, Hemaris thysbe) with braconid wasp cocoons on Viburnum dentatum 'Chicago Lustre'

In my last post, I talked about looking for a caterpillar and finding a small tree frog on an arrowwood viburnum (Viburnum dentatum 'Chicago Lustre').

Today, on the same shrub, I found two large caterpillars that had been attacked by some sort of parasitoid wasps.

The wasps - which I believe belong to one of the 15,000-plus known species of 'braconid wasps' - lay their eggs in the caterpillars. The larvae mature inside the caterpillar, then emerge to construct cocoons on the caterpillar's back, where they can metamorphose into wasps and continue their life cycle.

Incidentally, I believe the caterpillars are the larvae of the hummingbird clearwing sphinx moth (Hemaris thysbe). The adult moth is quite beautiful.


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Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Looked for a Cat, Found a Frog

A couple of days ago, I spotted this green caterpillar nicely camouflaged as it munched away on an arrowwood (Viburnum dentatum) leaf.

Unknown caterpillar snacks on arrowwood (Viburnum dentatum 'Chicago Lustre') leaf

So this morning, I thought I would take another look at the shrub to see if I could spot the caterpillar again.

Couldn't find it, but I did discover this little fella looking quite at home on a leafy perch!

I think this might be a young eastern gray treefrog, but I'm no herpetologist!

I was so happy to see a frog in my garden for the first time ever! :)


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Friday, September 16, 2016

Too Many Cats on the Fennel?

I counted 19 caterpillars - eastern black swallowtails, I think - on the bronze fennel (Foeniculum vulgare 'Purpureum'). You can see 13 or 14 of them in the photo below if you look carefully...

Here's a close-up to make things easier...

How many caterpillars can survive on a single fennel plant? I worry about whether these cats will have enough to eat, but since I only have the one fennel plant growing in my garden (I direct sowed a packet of seeds and only one plant grew to maturity), I don't think I have any options to relocate any of the cats.

Hopefully they'll all make it to maturity and will be able to pupate successfully! So far, there's still plenty of foliage, but there are also lots of hungry caterpillars!


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Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Wild Senna and the Hidden Cat

Can you spot the caterpillar on this wild senna plant (Senna marilandica)?

How about now? :)


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Friday, September 9, 2016

Bees, Soldier Beetles, Cats and Butterflies - Oh My!

Carpenter bee on reblooming Vitex agnus-castus (chaste tree)

Can you spot the Very Fuzzy Caterpillar?

How about now? It's a milkweed tussock moth (a.k.a. milkweed tiger moth) on a swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata)

Two milkweed tussock caterpillars also seem happy to feed on a different species of milkweed - Asclepias viridis (green antelopehorn)

Soldier beetle on false sunflower (Heliopsis helianthoides)

Butterflies like to feed on false sunflower too!

They also feed on blanket flower (Gaillardia x grandiflora)


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Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Before and After - Echinacea purpurea, purple coneflower

The goldfinches were here...

Echinacea purpurea (purple coneflower) before and after goldfinches devoured the seeds

(PS - That's Aralia racemosa - American spikenard - in the artfully out-of-focus background...) :)


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Friday, September 2, 2016

Ghost of a Zebra

Tries to capture a zebra swallowtail (Protographium marcellus) nectaring on some anise hyssop (Agastache foeniculum).

Since I wasn't quite fast enough though, all I caught was this beautiful, ghostly blur.

In a way, it seemed fitting -- like I managed to get an image of the spirit of the butterfly, rather than the butterfly itself.

Zebra swallowtail butterfly in flight next to Agastache foeniculum


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