Showing posts from July, 2010

We Feed Butterflies

Outside the kitchen window we feed butterflies and watch them.

Bruised and over ripe fruit plus Gatorade are on the menu.

A cement leaf is glued to a 4 by 4 post tall enough
to make the action visible from inside the kitchen.

The Gatorade is a healthy, hydrating, snack for the butterflies in this heat.

We tried ripe bananas but they brought too many flies.

Imidacloprid Found in Most Homeowner Insecticides Kills Good Bugs

by Dr. Vera Krischik, Department of Entomology, University of Minnesota

Native plants used in restoration for wildlife and food plants from apples to zucchini require pollinators. Bees and other beneficial insects offer valuable ecosystem services in both natural and managed agriculture ecosystems, so it is essential to protect them. Pollinators and beneficial insects are experiencing serious decline due to insecticide use, lack of nutritionally rich native plants for pollen and nectar, and lack of habitat. Continued loss of pollinators will have an impact on the natural resources and the economy. This issue has been addressed by the Xerces Society, National Research Council Report, the Congressional Research Report, testimony by the National Academy of Sciences to the US Congress, and the media in newspapers and television programs.

Cornell Univ: Admire, Condifor, Gaucho, Premier, Premise, Provado, and Marathon contain Imidacloprid.)

(Pesticide Action Network UK - Imidacloprid is manuf…

Freebie Alert - AHS Magazine is online

As a one time offer, the magazine of the American Horticultural Society is online free of charge.

Click here to see this beautiful publication, click through its pages and consider joining AHS in order to receive free admission into gardens around the country as well as The American Gardener.

A tip of the trowel to The Transatlantic Plantsman for sending out the information. Graham Rice's blog is excellent so if you can take one more email subscription, consider taking his.

Sunday Night Tidbits - Stories, Websites, etc. Plus: What's This Euphorbia?

The Texas Discovery Garden, Butterfly House and Insectarium in Dallas is dedicated to informing and educating children and adults on the natural world.
Check it out at

Have you seen the Science Tracer Bullets from the
Library of Congress Science Research Services? It's at

The American Society of Landscape Architects reports "George Hargreaves, FASLA, a leading U.S. landscape architect, is working with British landscape architecture firm LDA Design to create a $200 million, 2.5 square kilometer site for the 2012 Olympic games in London. One key goal of the project is to ensure the park will serve the community well once the games are over: Out of the 2.5 square kilometer site, one square kilometer will be transformed into permanent parkland."
Read all about it at this link.

Jim Conrad's Naturalist Newsletter from Hacienda Chichén beside the Maya ruin of Chichén Itzá in the central Yucatán…

Orange Dogs Eat Gate of Heaven

Providing plants for butterflies to raise their young is a good hobby for those of us with asthma who can't have furry pets around all the time.

The Giant Swallowtail butterfly lays one egg on any plant in the Rue family, including citrus trees and Devil's Walkingstick. Her caterpillars are considered pests in citrus groves. But here in zone 7 Oklahoma, they are welcome to eat the Rue plants we grow specifically for them.

We planted a Prickly Ash, Toothache Tree or Zanthoxylum americanum, also, but the leaves are 8 feet high and we can't see caterpillar activity up there.

Oklahoma Biosurvey provides information on everything flora and fauna in our state. Their butterfly link has selected links to larger, informative sites.

The rue plants came from a gentleman in Oklahoma City who gave me two starts that I have been babying for two years. This year they are large enough to attract a single egg and the resulting Orange Dog caterpillar in these photos.

Common Rue, Ruta graveolens…

What Time Is It? It's Four O'Clock

Annual flowers that re-seed themselves are a treat for hard working gardeners. We depend on our annuals and tender perennials such as Four O'Clocks to come up on their own.

Marigolds, zinnia, euphorbia, salvia, daisies, nicotiana or flowering tobacco and many more plants go through their annual cycle, dropping mature seeds on the ground at the end of the season. The seeds lie there, dormant, until conditions suit their nature and they sprout.

Some plants re-seed generously. Euphorbia marginata (Snow on the Mountain) and morning glory pop up all over the place while flowering tobacco tends to come up only where it was grown the year before.

The more plants you raise from seed, the more likely it is that you will recognize them the following year.

I planted larkspur seeds three years in a row before any lived long enough to bloom. Larkspur seeds are sprinkled in the garden between August and November. When they emerged the following February, I pulled them all out, mistaking them for w…

Gardening Talk - 65 Years Ago

Gardens change with the times.

Methods such as composting go in and out of style.

Plants such as coleus go out of fashion and return 30 years later.

Garden writing also changes. New books tell readers how to landscape a home and how to design a perfect flower bed. In the past, however, garden books reflected more of the author’s interests, preferences and passions.

From 1939 to the 1950s, Dorothy H. Jenkins wrote garden books and a column for the New York Times called “Around the Garden”. The topics are similar to todays, including, planting, pruning, and how to lay out a flower bed, but it is worth revisiting Jenkins’ books for the charm of her 1940’s writing style.

Excerpts from Jenkins 1945 book, "Annuals for Every Garden" -

Annual flowers vary from gaiety to sedateness, the plants from midget to climber, and may be either dependable or temperamental according to the individual.
To the photographer annuals may mean the cosmos that provided the background for a distinguished …

Gardening in 100 Degres

Both the summer and fall gardens are on my mind when I have two minutes to rub together. Renee's Scarlet Flame Zinnia is coming up. I'm starting the seeds where they receive afternoon dappled shade from the nectarine tree.

I think they are out of stock for this year but here's what tempted me to try them -

Zinnia elegans - Radiant, ruby=red blossoms of densely double flowers with tiny golden starred crowns. Vigorous plants produce abundant flowers even in tough summer conditions.

And from Sand Hill Preservation, Gill's Pippin winter squash seeds are up. Here's the scoop on them from the catalog -

Gill's Golden Pippin: 95 days. (C. pepo) A vining, golden acorn from the old Gill Bros. Seed Co. Excellent growth and productivity. Flesh is unbelievably superb for an acorn type. I typically don't like acorn squash because they are too blah. Gill's has a sweet (almost nutty) flavor that makes you go, Yum!!! It was prominently featured in Gill Bros. 1960 catalog a…

Share What You Have to Share

Most of us aren't wealthy. But we all have something we can share.

YVC, Youth Volunteer Corps of America is a national program designed to help children. The goals detailed on the website:
1. To engage young people in service projects that are challenging, rewarding and educational.
2. To serve the unmet needs of the community and its residents.
3. To promote among young people a greater understanding & appreciation for the diversity of their community.
4. To promote a lifetime ethic of service among young people.

So, we had two groups of YVC participants here - a dozen each day for two days.

What did we have to share with them? We all baked bread together.

They toured the yard - veggies, fruit, herbs, flowers, butterfly habitat. Here they are picking and eating blackberries.

When the bread was all baked they made sandwiches and had lunch.

Whatever you have going on - share it.

Butterflies and Skippers, Oh My

The lilies are showing off everything they have.
And, the butterflies like what they have.
Today I saw two more butterflies and a skipper that were new to our garden - but the camera was not at hand, unfortunately.

Inside the bush basil plant, skippers and bees are collecting nectar.

Find Some Euonymus for Your Garden

Plants that stay green throughout the winter can add a spark to a home landscape. In the case of white or gold tipped Euonymus, one could say they add a sparkle.

One of the most durable shrubs and vines, Euonymous is available in many growth forms. They tolerate part sun to part shade or full shade and have no special soil needs except good drainage. Euonymus is ignored by rabbits and deer.

Most nurseries use the name Euonymus to cover all forms. It is a good idea to become familiar with the varieties in order to select the right plant for the space and purpose you have in mind. For example, Euonymus alata Monstrosa is known as deciduous burning bush.

Euonymus japonicus (or japonica) is a tough broadleaf evergreen. Some just call it japonica, Japanese Euonymus, or spindle tree. One bush variety called Ovatus Aureus has oval leaves with yellow and white margins. Silver King is similar.

Euonymus japonicus Microphyllus has tiny leaves. Microphyllus Variegatus is a dwarf form with tiny leaves…

Blooming Today

The front driveway bed is mostly tall plants such as these daylilies and hardy phlox. Other plantings over there include Joe Pye Weed, Asters, crape myrtle, etc.

This Coreopsis Golden Dream is a new plant introduction from Blooms of Bressingham that is simply beautiful. The demure size of both the plant and the flowers make me want a dozen more to plant in a cluster.

Black Pearl ornamental pepper is one I put in last year for the first time. Everyone who walks the garden notices it. There's something about the purple-green leaves, pink buds and black peppers that combine to be sheik rather than gaudy.
I saved some seeds last fall and overwintered one plant. Some seeds that were left on the ground last winter came up in the past two weeks but those plants are only about 4-inches tall so far.

Atom Gladiolus from Old House Gardens came up for the third year in a row. What a trooper. I ordered enough more this year to have some to give away.

July's Butterflies

It is a thrill to see the results of our changed gardening practices.
Do you know what this is on the rue (Ruta graveolens)?

Proven Winners Heliotrope is one of the best butterfly
nectar plants a gardener can have. Checkerspot is my guess.

This is a 3 year old bulbing fennel plant. Everyone I tell
that we grow it for the butterfly caterpillars says, "I like
to eat it." Well, we eat plenty of it, too.

What's this one?

Want to guess what's on the Phlox?

There is a lot more about raising butterflies at
- enjoy and join in the fun.

Fabulous Fall Gardens Start in July

Ah, the lazy days of summer with a dozen distractions to keep us away from garden maintenance. On top of taking care of existing flowers, herbs and vegetables, we want to keep everything beautiful for fall.

There is nothing more depressing to a gardener than an August view of tall weeds choking the perennials and a bunch of dried out annuals. Fortunately, gardens are forgiving and there is still time to build a productive and pretty back yard scene before Labor Day.

Start with pulling the weeds, pruning the annuals and fertilizing the perennials. If recent rains passed by your place, give the beds a good soak to get them ready for this month’s activity.

Kim Walton, flower, herb and vegetable vendor at Muskogee Farmer's Market, said she is planting everything from cucumber to zinnia seeds right now. The seeds will come up in a week and produce until frost.

In contrast, herb grower Sharon Owen, owner of Moonshadow Herb Farm is harvesting not planting.

In June and July we harvest and pres…

Botanical Interests

My garden column this week is about getting the fall garden going. I contacted Michelle DePaepe at Botanical Interests and here are her wise words for your fall gardening consideration.

Most cool season veggies will do well as a fall crop. Late Summer is the best time to start crops that have a long crop time and like to mature in cooler weather like Brussels sprouts and cabbage.

Broccoli and Cauliflower make good fall crops, because their florets can get larger before bolting, and they'll have fewer pest issues at that time of year.

If you have a couple of months or so of cool weather in the fall, you could plant successive crops of lettuce and spinach.

Beets, Carrots, Peas, winter radishes like Daikon and Watermelon Mantang Hong.

Top of my list, though, would kale. It's very frost tolerant, so you may still be harvesting in November or even December in your zone. It's a nutritious must to go with all those delicious fall meals. The Italian Lacinato is expecially wonderful!

Sowing French Climbing Beans in July

To mix things up, I ordered seeds from Chiltern in the U.K. The seeds I'm soaking today to plant tonight are labeled French Bean, Climbing, Hunter.

An Internet search yielded a bean-growing page from British tv called, Love Home. There is an excellent resource of information on growing these English climbers at this link.

Some excerpts -
Originally from South America, French beans are a great choice for the kitchen garden. If you pick the pods when they're young and tender, you won't have the chore of slicing and stringing usually associated with runner beans. There are two types of French beans, dwarf varieties (the most common) and climbers. The compact bushes of dwarf varieties grow 30cm-45cm high. Climbers can reach 2m. Dwarf beans tend to crop over a relatively short period, so gardeners normally make successive sowings. Mature climbers produce pods all summer.

French beans can grow in most soils, providing they aren't too heavy or too acidic. Nevertheless, a rich s…

Rose Pink Sabatia angularis (Gentian) - also Marsh Pink and Bitterbloom

This pretty pink flower grows in a cluster to about 6 inches tall before it becomes prostrate and starts to look like it is creeping along like a phlox.
Its distribution is Wisconsin in the west to southern Ontario and New York in the east, southward to Florida and Texas according to

Rose Pink is a biennial, also known as Marsh Pink and Bitterbloom according to

Other wildflower sites I found useful when clicking around to identify Rose Pink Wildflowers

Phlox - Woodland, Annual, Perennial, Creeping, Clumping, Tall, or Short

Most Phlox are American natives so they are easy to grow in average soil. They all have a show of flowers that lasts for weeks.

Tall, perennial, garden phlox, blooms in the heat of the summer and into the fall. Creeping and native phlox bloom in the spring.

Early varieties were susceptible to powdery mildew, a fungal disease (Erysiphe cichoracearum), that turns the leaves a grey-green color, but new hybrids have eliminated that problem.

Some of the new varieties are Phlox paniculata Little Boy, Phlox paniculata Laura and Phlox paniculata Purple Flame.

Little Boy is short and has lilac blue flowers with a white center. Grows 20-inches tall and wide. Laura is lavender with a white eye in the center. Long blooming, grows 30-inches tall and two feet wide. Purple Flame is a 12-inch tall dwarf that blooms into September. Spreads to two-feet wide.

What is commonly called Thrift or Moss pink is the groundcover Phlox subulata. This variety grows in well-draining soil so it is perfect for spring …