Sunday, June 24, 2012

Macro Monday: Designer Bugs

I went on a bug safari.  I didn't have to go far, just to my back garden where the annual black-eyed Susans (Rudbeckia fulgida) and Shasta daisies (Leucanthemum x superbum) are in full bloom.  Many of the black-eyed Susans have inchworms camped out on them chewing away at the centers of the blooms (hmm, maybe that's why the goldfinches are so interested in them already, too!)  So I searched around and found one of my favorites.  This Synchlora species (I think) caterpillar glues bits of flowers onto its back for camouflage.   The common name is Decorator Geometer.  What a cool name for a cool insect.
Inspired by the decorator, I went looking for some "color echo".  This is a concept I hear about all the time in the context of garden design, where you group plants together so that colors on the two plants echo each other.  I especially like it when the dominant color of one bloom is echoed in the color of a detail on the other, like the anthers or a colored edge to the petals.  I decided to try to get a few shots of color echo between bugs and blooms.  This hover fly (Eristalis sp., I think) was a great color echo, but not a great photograph since I didn't get much of the head and the wings are not distinct.  Unfortunately, it zipped off after the first shot and I couldn't find it again.

The spotted cucumber beetle, Diabrotica undecimpunctata, was more cooperative as it was munching on daisy pollen.  It would sometimes run off to hide under the white ray flowers (i.e. the "petals"), taking along a snack, as you can see, but it kept coming back to the disk flowers for more.

For more Macro Monday offerings, including more bugs, please visit Lisa's Chaos.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Bloom Day, Pt 3, preview of things to come

I've split up my Garden Blogger's Bloom Day post for June because there was just so much in bloom it was too many photos for one post (that and I'm actually not here -- these posts are going off on a schedule, hopefully!)
To finish up, here are a couple blooms I really did not expect to see in June.  Asters?!?!?  Only a few blooms, but I have never seen asters in June before.
And these mistflowers, Eupatorium coelestinum: I've had these for several years and they always bloom in August for me.  I know this has been an unusually warm wet year, but has anyone else had blooms in June from normally very late blooming plants like this?

Monday, June 18, 2012

Bloom Day, Pt 2, a Gloriosa June

There was so much in bloom for June Bloom Day that I left a few of photos off the main post.  In fact, what I left out was the one flower that is blooming just about everywhere in my garden, the annual Black Eyed Susan, Rudbeckia hirta.  
Here it is with Gladiolas and the last of the larkspurs.  Suddenly there are glads all over town.  These ones were "liberated" from the garden at a rental house my friend was moving away from.  We thought it would be nice if she could take some flowers with her to be sure to have some at her new house.  The rental never missed them, I'm sure (we only took a little bit).  Since I'd never had glads, I accepted some liberated gladiolas for my own garden.  I think they look pretty nice with the black-eyed susans, although it was not a combination I planned.  
Combining with the purple coneflower and the dark-leaved canna, as above, is more what I had in mind.  The white flower in the background is some kind of Erigeron (fleabane) that came up on its own.  I'll probably regret letting it stay, next year, when I'm weeding out dozens of its progeny, but I just adore little white daisies combining with everything.  Some of my favorites are chamomile in the spring and a special native aster I'm sure I'll write about in the fall.  Until this year, I didn't even know I could have tiny white daisies like this in June.
Above are the black-eyed susans with Pycnanthemum, mountain mint.  Up close, the mountain mint blooms are nothing special except to the gazillion pollinators they attract, but I really like the silvery color en masse.  This mint is very pungent, a little too strong to eat but very nice dried for tea, along with a little lemon verbena.    
One more combination.  I let the black-eyed susans come up pretty much wherever they want, as you can see.  One plant came up right in the middle of my glossy abelia.  I might have pulled this one, except I think it looks awesome with this Gloriosa lily that just started blooming in my garden.  I blogged about the Gloriosa lily last week.  In fact, this is almost the same picture that I posted before, but now a second bloom has opened and the first one is aging.  Look at that!  The aging bloom turns more red!  This is one crazy amazing flower.

Gloriosa lily, Gloriosa daisy.  Is it the combination of red and yellow that caused these to be considered glorious?  The black-eyed susan is very variable, and I frequently get versions of this pattern with the dark marroon red in the center.  These ones are called Gloriosa daisies, but it's the same species.

Friday, June 15, 2012

June Bloom Day

Doctor, Doctor, Coreopsis has set in!  When I was 7 or 8 my brother played the title character in a high school production of "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty."   I thought that was a great joke... once it was explained to me.  Even after learning that coreopsis is a flower, I thought it was something quite exotic and never saw one (or expected to) for years.  But that's only because I was raised in the city.  Coreopsis is actually a genus of native U.S. flowers and not particularly uncommon.  Along with this, which I believe is Coreopsis triloba, I also have "Zagreb" blooming, the popular named selection of threadleaf coreopsis, Coreopsis verticillata. 
More than Coreopsis, quite a lot of other blooms have set it for Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day this June.  Perhaps the most prominent blooms around here, detectable from a distance if conditions are just right, are the gardenias.  My mature shrub, planted by previous owners, is apparently not in a good spot and suffers constant yellowing of the leaves despite my attempts to please it with chelated iron.  But I love the blooms, especially their fragrance.  I have put another Gardenia in another spot hoping it will be happier in the long term.  I was pleased to see blooms on it this year, but it is too young and small to make much of an impact yet.  In the photo with the gardenia are also the blooms of the herb Marjoram.  Other herbs in bloom this June Bloom Day include oregano, just starting, and dill and chives, winding down.
Along with Gardenias are the Hydrangeas.  I have a pink mophead that I showed in May and various U.S. native hydrangeas.  My oakleaf hydrangea started blooming just after May Bloom Day but is very young and had just one bloom.  Likewise, my pink Hydrangea arborescens is also too new to have more than a single bloom.  But my Hydrangea arborescens "Annabelle" is several years old and has enormous blooms on it, like the one shown below.  Unfortunately, the bloom clusters are so large and heavy that a formidable windstorm a few weeks ago caused the shrub to more-or-less collapse.  Since that was the storm which dropped a small tornado on a different part of town, I am not complaining.  I'm sure Annabelle will be just fine.
A first for me this year is Sweet Alyssum.... please don't laugh.  I know this plant is common as dirt for some people, but I have tried sowing seeds many times without success.  This year I discovered that the best time to sow them is in fall, in my area.  Of course it was already winter by the time I found out, but it was such a mild winter I gave it a try.  I probably shouldn't even show this photo, which isn't much, except that I'm happy to have finally had a small success with it.  I'm hoping that now that there are a few plants, it will self sow.  If it does, then I don't have to figure out the best time to do it!
Another first for me this year is this St. John's Wort, 'Brigadoon'.  I've had this for a few years but this is the first time it has bloomed.  I've moved it a few times but it seems happy enough in this new spot.  I like the spot too because it's not going to clobber anything delicate nearby!
Here's another plant I had to move because it was a little too spready.  I really like the color of this yarrow "Cerise Queen" and would love to have it combining with other plants in my pseudo-cottage garden, but when I tried that, it spread maddeningly even the first year.  So now I'm trying to use its spreading tendency to my advantage in a spot around the trunk of a young tree, to make a buffer between the tree and the lawn.  I don't want grass right up to the trunk, which would risk damage to the tree from a string trimmer, but the tree is still too small to shade out the annoying bermuda grass.  But yarrow seems to be a good buffer.  It doesn't suffer much from competing with either the tree or the grass, does a reasonably good job masking the fact that I don't weed the grass out as often as I should, and can be mowed on the edges with impunity.
Another spreader that I have not kicked out of the garden yet is bee balm.  This will bulk out considerably if I let it, but doesn't have the same annoying habit of popping up at a distance from the mother plant.  This is the first bee balm bloom this year.  I think there will be a lot more soon.
Similarly, this is the first of hopefully many four o'clocks, Mirablis jalapa.  I like this multicolored variety, which has blooms of multiple solid colors as well as striped and speckled ones, all on the same plant.  I suspect I will have a lot more four o'clocks to show on July's Bloom Day.
One of my favorite plants is this Veronica or speedwell.  I don't know the cultivar.  I think it was just labeled "blue".  It combines very nicely with black-eyed susans and purple coneflowers, and seems to have a very long bloom period.  It began blooming just in time for the previous Bloom Day and I think it may continue to the next one.

Uh oh, I'm running out of time....  I mostly take my Bloom Day photos in the evening after work.  It seems like every time I get the chance to get out and take some photos it gets overcast and windy.  Overcast is pretty good for photos, but that means I need a longer time exposure and the breeze is not helping.  Oh, well, I'll just go with it.  This is a butterfly bush, showing off the silvery undersides of the leaves as the breeze starts to turn into a gust...  now I have to run!
Check out May Dreams Gardens to see what's blooming for other gardeners on this Bloom Day

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Gloriosa superba

Here's something new under the sun.  Well, not really, but definitely new for the Sprouts and Wildlings garden!  I planted this curiosity two autumns ago, but last summer it got only one bud that was quickly chewed by some kind of insect and so I didn't get to enjoy the bloom.  But my patience has been rewarded.  I'm excited by this bright, colorful, bizarre flower and its eccentric habits.  

Gloriosa superba "Rothschildiana" seems fantastic to me in every way.  These rippled red and yellow flared petals are outlandish.  It's a lily, but before now I have never seen a climbing lily (excluding in the book that tempted me to buy it, Garden Bulbs for the South by Scott Ogden).  Not only that, how it climbs seems singularly odd to me.  I know that some climbers climb by suckers or root hairs and others twist their stems around the supports.  I know that some climbers have tendrils and others just hang on by thorns (like roses).  Up to now, I thought that clematis was a little strange, the way its leaf petioles are used as tendrils.  Gloriosa lily is just a bit stranger, in my opinion.  The climbing tendrils are elongated leaf tips.  You can see it in the bottom of this photo, where the large light green lily leaf (typically shaped for a lily except for that crazy tip) has wrapped around the stem of the Abelia it's climbing through.
The Gloriosa lily may not be hardy in my garden, although it's in the warmest microclimate I have -- this past winter was probably not a real test.  I hope it lasts for years, but it may turn out to be a one-time pleasure.  Even if that's the case, I'm glad I gave it a try and got to learn about and enjoy this strange and wonderful beast in my own garden.
For other strange and wonderful beasts, check out Macro Monday on Lisa's Chaos.

Friday, June 1, 2012

First view

I found Town Mouse and Country Mouse's blog recently, and the idea to do a "first view" of the garden on the first of the month with the specific intention of doing wide angle shots.  I almost never do wide angle shots for two reasons.  First, I don't think I'm as skilled photographically with them -- the photos just don't really pop or draw me in like the ones in books and magazines.  Second, my garden isn't really up for it.  I have a lot of lovely flowers in my garden, but my garden has grown "organically" (so to speak) as a bit of a hodgepodge while I've been learning what grows here and what doesn't.  It's only recently that I've spend much time thinking about the big picture in my garden beds... and thinking about it doesn't mean I automatically have any skill.  Both of these demerits are things I'd like to improve on, so forcing myself to shoot a couple wide angle shots of the garden once in a while can only help. 
Above is the main bed in the backyard, what we have always called the butterfly garden.  This is the first bed I started and my main goal was to attract butterflies.  We do get a lot of butterflies, but this was also the only place I had to try out new plants so there was quite a random assortment.  Early this spring, I undertook a reformation of the butterfly garden, taking out some thugs that had taken over, moving some things elsewhere, and putting in some new plants.  But I don't have a great head for garden design, so my idea was to first attempt to make it look good in the summertime -- peak butterfly season-- and then when I see how that looks, work backwards into spring by adding some more plants where possible.  The bed already has some fantastic late summer and fall plants, asters and sunflowers.  It's not much right now though.  Verbena-on-a-stick attracts a lot of butterflies, but it doesn't make a garden all by itself.  The one shown below is the second pipevine swallowtail I've seen here.  The blue color on the wings made my mouth drop open.  When I figure out where I can put it, I guess I ought to plant a pipevine!

I have discovered that one great way to get a lot of color is with self-seeding annuals.  The butterfly garden is just about to explode with annual black-eyed Susans (Rudbeckia hirta), like the one in the foreground of the first shot.  The photo below is the front garden.  I hesitated for a long time before putting a garden in the front, since I didn't want my mistakes on display for all to see.  But this is where the sun is -- and the existing plantings from the previous owners were hideous -- so eventually this garden got put in.  Self sowing annuals bring a lot of color to this bed, and right now it is a riot of larkspurs.
There are some perennials here, the clematis of course on the inside of the fence providing the most intense splash of color.  In the middle of the photo is a mass of catmint.  It's not showing up that well in the photo due to my lack of wide-angle skills.  This is my least favorite lens as well.  Maybe if I get a new wide angle lens I'll be a better photographer?  Well, I can always dream.  I love the sort of cottage-garden look of the self-seeding annuals but I'm glad I came up with the idea of the half-fence to give this garden a little structure.  It encloses a patio and some small garden beds and gives structure to these beds on the outside of the fence, but there is still a wide strip of lawn in between this and the sidewalk as a nod to tradition and to avoid boxing in the whole yard and isolating it from the neighborhood.  The fence is shorter than normal as well, just enough to give a feeling of enclosure without actually blocking our view of people going by.  I think it functions a lot like a wide front porch, which we in our neighborhood are not lucky enough to enjoy.