They're gone

Monday, October 27, 2008

Forgive the lack of photo on this post, but there's a good reason. Remember those io moth caterpillars that I said were disappearing?. Indeed, they're gone (hence the lack of photo). They didn't seem large enough to be ready to pupate, but who knows. Or maybe one of those huge crows that haunts our office gobbled them up. Who knows. I guess that's the way nature works.

A few (more) of my favorite things, Part III

Friday, October 24, 2008

Phormium is big in Portland, as I mentioned in the last Portland post. In fact, we saw it at both of the private gardens we toured in Northeast Portland. We were supposed to be able to see six urban gardens, but there were major problems with scheduling and the buses -- don't get me started.

Our first stop was at Darcy's Bloomtown garden. Like many Portland gardeners, Darcy had removed her front lawn in favor of more plants. Amen, sister!

Curbside bed as seen from front garden
Look at how many plants she packed into a narrow, four-foot wide space!

Street-area bed as seen from front garden

Love that color!

Phormium in front garden at Bloomtown garden in Portland

Colorful combo

Colorful combination in Bloomtown garden

Clever garden gate

Unique recycled garden gate

Now on to Nancyland! Nancy also removed her front lawn in favor of plants, but not before adding this humorous homage that made me believe that Nancy was my kind of gardener:

Humorous take on the front lawn

Nancy also included a recycled window as a garden gate. Note the nice detail of the marbles along the top edge.

Recycled window garden gate

Indeed, Nancy's garden spoke to me in so many ways. It was chock full of interesting art and recycled materials.

Impromptu sculpture

Garden vignette

Recycled glass garden sculpture

Garden vignette with recycled art

Bold color

Bonfire begonia and coleus

Colorful garden vignette

Funky art glass garden sculpture

Clever planters

Recycled high heels as garden planters

Kids' dumptruck as succulent planter

Barbie dream car as succulent planter

And last but not least, humor
This says, "My garden kicks ass" in Latin. I couldn't have said it better myself!

"My garden kicks ass"

To see all of the photos that I took at Nancyland, click here.

Update: As requested, here's the dinosaur I spotted in the garden but didn't originally post. He's kind of small, but still quite fierce.

Every nook and cranny holds a surprise

Safe garden voyeurism

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Gardeners like to enjoy their own gardens, but they also love a chance to peek at what their neighbors are doing. Occasionally, this lands a gardener in a sticky situation. At the recent Garden Writers Association conference, I learned of a safe way to get glimpse what's blooming in other garden bloggers' yards through Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day (thanks, Dee).

Initiated by May Dreams Gardens, countless bloggers now participate in Garden Bloggers Bloom Day. They simply create a post on their blog to showcase what's blooming in their gardens and then post in the comment box of the GBBD post at May Dreams Gardens. No rules. No requirements. Just good garden fun.

So here's my first go, albeit a day late.

I'm happy to announce that the crinum in the backyard is blooming. You may remember that this is the one that was affected by spider mites. You can still see a bit of the damaged foliage in the picture. The mites have reappeared, but I treated promptly so all seems fine.

Crinum procerum var. splendens 'Queen Emma'

Crinum in bloom

The Camellia sasanqua by my carport also popped open its first two blooms of the season. It always surprises me. Most of the year it's a stately evergreen shrub and them boom! Once fall arrives it's covered in pink blossoms.

Camellia sasanqua (unknown variety)

Camellia sasanqua

The Phillippine violet is also in bloom. This one was given to me by Dr. Bob, one of the other Master Gardeners who trained with me last fall. Thanks, Bob! It really is a great plant.

Phillipine violet (Barleria cristata)

The clerodendrum at the front of the carport has been blooming all summer and continues to do so. Here's an interesting point about this plant. I had heard that it could be overly aggressive, though I'd never had any problems with it. No problems, that is, until I dug around in that bed to remove the invasive sword fern that was growing there and to add a few crinum bulbs I bought at Home Depot. Now the clerodendrum is putting up shoots as if its life depended on it!

Clerodendrum thomsoniae

Glory bower (Clerodendrum thomsoniae)

And finally, the pinecone ginger flower stalks have turned a fabulous red. I cut a few of them so that I could enjoy them in the house.

Pinecone ginger (Zingiber zerumbet)

"So they all rolled over and one fell out"

Do you remember that nursery rhyme that used to go like this?

There were ten in the bed and the little one said
Roll over!
Roll over!
So they all rolled over and one fell out.

I was thinking of this yesterday when I left the office and then again when I came in this morning. Why? Because those cute little io moth caterpillars are already dwindling in number. When I left last night there were only six.

Six little io moth caterpillars

This morning there was only one.

Did they get tired of being snuggled up against their brothers and sisters? Did the little one ask them to all roll over? Or did some bird come and whisk a few of them away for a snack? Who knows. I keep hoping they're hiding under a leaf and I just didn't see them, but I doubt it.

On an interesting note, the redbud tree they were on is already showing flower buds. Seems a bit early since it's now October and these trees normally flower in the spring. Wonder what's going on there.

Redbud buds

They're baaaack!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Io moth caterpillars on redbud tree

It looks like we've got a fresh crop of io moth caterpillars on one of the redbud trees outside the office. Jen noticed them last night as she was leaving work. This time they're on the opposite tree from the last group of io caterpillars that were here in August.

I watched them for a little bit this morning. There are nine of them this time, and they're all clumped on a single branch. Funny. I wonder if they like to be around their brothers and sisters. I think they'll have to pick a new branch soon -- the one they're on is darn near defoliated.

Io moth caterpillars on redbud tree

It will be interesting to see how long this batch stays before they disappear. The last batch was around for maybe two weeks before they all vanished. I assume they pupated, but I never did see any coccoons, apparently because they leave the host plant in order to pupate.

A few of my favorite things, Part II

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

It's no wonder that Kniphofia is commonly called red hot poker. It is definitely a hot plant! I included a shot of one variety in my last post, and this post will have even more.

We saw several varieties of Kniphofia--as well as oodles of other great plants--at Joy Creek Nursery while in Portland for the Garden Writers Association conference.

Kniphofia, variety #1

Kniphofia at Joy Creek Nursery

Kniphofia, variety #2

Kniphofia at Joy Creek Nursery

I don't claim to know what varieties these are, but you can check the Joy Creek Nursery online catalog for all of the varieties they offer for sale.

They also had a great selection of ornamental grasses.

Japanese Blood Grass (I think)
If this is what I think it is, it's supposed to grow in Zones 5-9. I don't know about its heat zone tolerance.

Ornamental grass at Joy Creek Nursery

Miscanthus sinensis 'Gold Bar'
This plant was amazing and I am definitely making room for it in my garden. It should grow fine here in North Central Florida, from what I've heard.

Miscanthus sinensis 'Gold Bar' at Joy Creek Nursery

Variegated Yucca
This looks a bit like an ornamental grass, but it's actually a yucca. I liked it so much that I might have to find a spot for it in my garden. I think it would look nice next to one of my 'Queen Emma' crinums.

Variegated yucca at Joy Creek Nursery

Trachelospermum asiaticum'Ogon Nishiki'
And speaking of variegation, this variegated Asiatic jasmine was unlike any I've seen. I wonder if it would do well here in Florida?

Asiatic jasmine at Joy Creek Nursery

Apple tree

Apple tree at Joy Creek Nursery

I couldn't resist taking a shot of this beautiful apple tree that was spilling its bounty onto the ground. It made me nostalgic for the apples that Jenny and I would buy at the farmers' market in Northampton when we were in college. Sure, we have apples at the supermarkets here in Florida, but we just don't get the diversity that I used to see at the farmers' market there. The only northern apples we ever see here at the markets are 'Rome' and 'McIntosh'. Oh well. I guess it's the trade-off I pay for living in an otherwise blissful place where I don't have to shovel snow.

A few of my favorite things, Part I

Friday, October 17, 2008

Dahlias? Done that. What else did I see in Portland that was worth blogging about? Here's the first of several posts with the best things I saw in Portland.

Hands down, Cistus Nursery on Sauvie Island has to be the most fantastical nursery that I've ever seen. If you're ever in the Portland area and have a taste for exotic or unusual plants, you simply must stop in for a visit. How you squeeze all of the plants you crave into your luggage is something that I will leave up to you.

Sign behind service counter

Succulents and sign at Cistus Nursery

Pindo palm
Click the photo to read the funny story behind where this palm came from.

Closeup of pindo palm at Cistus Nursery outside Portland

Phormium and ferns
Phormium plants are striking and appeared in almost every garden we visited in the Portland area. Apparently they like the dry summers and moist, mild winters. I've heard they would melt in hot, wet summers in Florida, but I haven't tried growing them myself.

Bold foliage at Cistus Nursery outside Portland

Yucca and agave

Garden scene at Cistus Nursery outside Portland


Kniphofia at Cistus Nursery outside Portland

This brugmansia appeared with many other tender plants in the Cistus Nursery "Zonal Denial" room.

Brugmansia at Cistus Nursery outside Portland

How could I resist?

Kim and the incredibly tall cannas at Cistus Nursery outside Portland

Did I mention how tall these cannas were? Given, I'm only 5'2" so I'm not the best scale, but these must have been 12 or 15 feet tall. I believe that the tallest ones with the small orange flowers were 'Omega', but I'm not certain.

To see all photos I took at Cistus Nursery, click here.

Nature's gems

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Spiderwebs in the grass at Mehrhof Hall

While walking from my car to my office this morning I was greeted by dozens of little jewels glistening in the grass. They were itty bitty spiderwebs. I'm guessing that they're always there, and that I only noticed them today because we had a particularly foggy morning. It's amazing the little surprises that nature can hold. What amazing things have you seen recently in your garden?

P.S. And yes, I promise to add more photos of garden goodness from my trip to Portland! I've just been busy with other work-related projects.

Dahlias for the South

Friday, October 10, 2008

Dahlias at Bates Garden

So do you have dahlia lust after seeing all those photos from my trip? I sure do. Now I just have to figure out how to grow them.

I went online to see what I could find about growing dahlias in the South. Apparently there isn't a Florida dahlia society, but I did find the Web site for the Georgia Dahlia Society. It included some great information about dahlias that grow well in the South

I'm going to join the Georgia Dahlia Society. It's only $27 and you get the newsletter, mentoring from an advanced dahlia grower, $10 in dahlia bucks that you can use at their tuber sales, and much more. What a deal!

Dahlia jackpot

Thursday, October 2, 2008

After the Garden Writers Association conference, I stayed a few extra days in Oregon visiting with my friend Jenny. We walked to the grocery store one night and discovered the mother lode of dahlias, right there in her suburban neighborhood. Needless to say I was intrigued. I even tweeted about it on Twitter.

Emily, Tom and Erin all know how smitten I am with dahlias. I mean, how can you not love flowers that are so richly colored and so beautifully formed? They also feature prominently in the bold gardens of Christoper Lloyd, Sarah Raven and others--the gardens I'd love to emulate.

I admired the yard each time Jenny and I walked to the store, but it wasn't until my last day in Corvallis that I stopped by with my camera. Lo and behold, the gardener himself was out in the yard.

I found out that his name is Art Redfern and that he has been growing dahlias for more than 20 years. He got started with dahlias because his wife's father had grown them. Art now grows more than 250 different dahlia varieties. Wow.

I had a feeling he was growing lots of different types since they're all arranged in gridded beds with plant ID tags.

The East Bed

Glorious dahlias in Corvallis -- the East Bed

The West Bed

Glorious dahlias in Corvallis -- the West Bed

ID Tag

Serious dahlia organization

It was quite an impressive operation for someone who does this as a hobby. And of course, the dahlias themselves were equally impressive.

After I'd chatted with Art for awhile and said that I really ought to be getting back, he asked if I'd like a bouquet to take with me. Well yeah... of course! Like I'm going to turn that offer down!

Jenny came around the corner at this time, no doubt wondering where I had disappeared to. By the time Art was done cutting, Jenny and I both had our arms full of dahlias. You can see all of the ones he gave us in this photo. And yes, they really are that big.

Kim, with the bountiful dahlias

In fact, the large pink one in the center was bigger than my head! Art told us that it's called 'Elsie Huston' and that it's a repeat prize winner at dahlia shows. No surprise there.

It would be a lot of work, but I just might have to see if I could grow some dahlias at home. I know they need a good, rich soil and lots of moisture. Our native soil wouldn't work, but maybe I could amend the soil with bags of composted cow manure or try growing the dahlias in containers. Who knows--maybe I could become the dahlia queen of Florida!

If you're interested in learning more about dahlias, Art recommends the Colorado Dahlia Society.

Red dahlia in Corvallis