Tangled Branches: Cultivated
happenings in and around my zone 6b gardens in northern Virginia and in central Virginia
Thursday, June 29, 2006
We've had sun yesterday and today, with a thundershower in between. The lawn is still squishy. I need to get out and redistribute some of the wood chip mulch that washed into the lawn, but I think I'll give it a few more days to dry out. The grass there doesn't have long to live anyway, because we are verrrry close to getting a deck built over it.
Speaking of mulch, one of the casualties of the recent storms was a 100 year old elm tree on the White House grounds. You may have seen this elm tree even if you've never been to Washington. It, or one very like it, appears on the US $20 bill. Its remains will be returned to the soil from whence it came. Or less poetically, they're going to grind it up for mulch.
Looks like we're going to get another thunderstorm this afternoon or evening, but I sure hope it holds off until we have some windows back in place. Right now the old family room windows are gone and the new ones are still in the garage in shrinkwrap.
Tuesday, June 27, 2006
Special be-careful-what-you-wish-for edition
It doesn't seem at all long ago that I was whining and complaining about how dry the weather has been. Why last week, I even downloaded Let It Rain by Eric Clapton, thinking maybe I could influence the weather. You don't suppose....? Well no, of course not. But in the last few days we've made up our YTD precipitation deficit and then some. The Capital Weather blog has done a great job of summarizing and collecting links, so I don't need to.
We had a particularly heavy downpour yesterday afternoon, and while out driving this morning, I noticed some debris on the bridge on Lees Corner Road near the elementary school. A couple of branches of that same stream are not far from our house, so I took advantage of a break in the rain this afternoon to walk down and see how high the water had gotten. Boy, was I surprised. There are 3 footbridges over the stream. The first one I came to, I found a layer of asphalt where it didn't belong. The second one I came to was washed downstream several feet from the path to which it connects (or make that connected). The third was in good shape, except for the twigs sticking out of it. We've had so many big storms here in the last few years, but this is the worst as far as flooding.
Here at home, the plants are still happily soaking it all in. We had our own small stream in the backyard yesterday but, the only casualty so far has been a broken lily stem (just as it was coming into bloom, darn it). Usually I curse the topography of our property (at the top of a hill), but today I'm grateful.
Thursday, June 22, 2006
Petunias? Fragrant? I was sitting in the backyard in late afternoon/early evening a few days ago, and kept catching whiffs of a lovely flower fragrance. I was hoping it was the night-scented stocks (Matthiola bicornis AKA longipetala), but they weren't yet open. This was a sweet, spicy scent. I kept sensing there was vanilla in there somewhere. Delicious. And I didn't know where it was coming from. So I started sniffing all the flowers in bloom (not many at that time) and finally landed on a glowing purple petunia.
I bought some petunia seed this spring from Select Seeds. They were supposed to be 'Giants of California', which I had grown before from seed from Burpee's and loved for its huge, veined flowers. But the first flowers to bloom this year were on the small side, with no veining to speak of. So far only one of the current crop has looked anything like the 'Giants of California' I grew before. I was disappointed, but, well, that's how it goes sometimes in gardening. I didn't have any particular role for 'Giants of California'. No part to play in a color scheme or top billing in a container planting or anything like that, so I let these smaller-flowered imposters grow on. And then this totally unexpected and gorgeous fragrance wafts in.
Since that time, a white-flowered petunia has begun to bloom, and it too has the same wonderful scent. But in the same container with the purple one, is a pale pink one with very little scent. I see that Select Seeds offers a variety they call 'Old Fashioned Climbing' whose flowers look quite like the purple and white ones I've discovered to be fragrant. So I'm guessing that Select Seeds (or their supplier) has some quality control issues, but if they didn't I never would have discovered fragrant petunias. Has anybody ever tried to propagate petunias from cuttings? I'd really like to keep the purple one going (forever).
BTW, if you're scientifically minded, it seems that the protein responsible for petunia fragrance has been isolated.
Update, 5 PM:
Wouldn't you know it, I just happend to go to Merrifield Garden Center this afternoon, and there amongst all the nice fresh-looking annuals was an entire bench of 'Peg's Heirloom Petunias' (or something like that). They were purple and white, thickly planted in nursery containers. I didn't happen to look at the price, but the sign claims they are fragrant.
Wednesday, June 21, 2006
First day of summer and first Japanese Beetle. Surely it's too early for Japanese Beetles? Last year I noticed the first one on June 26.
The summer solstice was this morning at 8:26. The longest day of the year - I've been waiting for it for six months. Our earliest sunrise was about a week ago, and our latest sunset won't happen for another week or so. Today, I noticed that it's quite light outside by 5 AM, but according to the US Naval Observatory, astronomical twilight began at 3:45 AM. And in more northern latitudes (in England, for example), today there was no beginning of twilight because there was no ending of twilight - the sun was never more than 18 degrees below the horizon.
Monday, June 19, 2006
I'm a Canna? I don't even like Cannas all that much. Hmmmmm, I'll have to think about this. D'ya think the quiz could be wrong?
Friday, June 16, 2006
You don't very often see butterfly stories in the newspaper. Last Tuesday, the Washington Post Metro section had a story about Maryland's State Insect - the Baltimore Checkerspot.
......Gosh, does Virginia even have a state insect? Why, yes it does......
Anyway, it seems the Baltimore Checkerspot is declining in number in Maryland, and butterfly enthusiasts are searching out those that remain. They believe they've located a previously unknown colony in Montgomery County. And this wasn't part of the newspaper story, but an effort is being made to establish the Baltimore Checkerspot at Meadowlark Botanical Gardens, here in northern Virginia. While I've seen Silvery Checkerspots in the garden at home, the only place I've seen a Baltimore Checkerspot is in a field guide. I need to re-up my membership at Meadowlark and get out looking.
All the big charismatic flowers of spring are long gone, and the big charismatic flowers of summer are just buds. (Why are my daylilies so slow this year?) So what's in bloom now? Tiny flowers. Now, I actually like tiny flowers quite a lot, but it's hard to make much of a display out of them. Closeup pictures help. I've added some more pictures of the Cuphea collection.
Oh, I do have some clematis blooming, but I never really liked the color and I'm thinking of getting rid of them anyway. Check that - I'm thinking of getting rid of the light-purple-mauve ones. The dark blue Clematis integrifolia stays, but I missed photographing the main flush of flowers this year. Well, it looks much the same as it did last year.
Friday, June 09, 2006
Passiflora = Rampant Weed
I was so excited last year when the passionflower (Passiflora incarnata) started to bloom. How cool! How tropical-looking!
Later in the fall, I noticed a few shoots coming up in the lawn nearby. Uh oh. Well, I thought, maybe it isn't really hardy here - I've never seen it growing anywhere near here.
This spring I didn't see any signs of it for a long time. Good. Problem solved.
Not exactly. It's just late to sprout, apparently. It's now coming up in the midst of some Siberian irises, and in the neighbor's lawn, and in my lawn. And worst of all, I dug up a new bed nearby, and it's sprouting from every microscopic bit of root I unknowingly cut and spread around. I kept thinking of the Sorcerer's Apprentice while digging it out.
Now I have a dilemma. I really like the stems and flowers and really hate the roots. I know if I let it go, I'm going to have a bigger problem next year. And if I dig it up and throw it away, then no more passionflowers. <sigh> .....I wonder if I can buy a tropical species (i.e. not hardy here) cheaply enough that I could use it as an annual.....
One thing I don't understand - since this is a native plant, why hasn't it spread to cover the entire continent by now?
By the way, this is the thesaurus entry for rampant. All of the following seem to apply.
Main Entry: rampant
Part of Speech: adjective
Synonyms: aggressive, blustering, boisterous, clamorous, dominant, epidemic, exceeding bounds, excessive, extravagant, exuberant, fanatical, flagrant, furious, growing, impetuous, impulsive, luxuriant, outrageous, pandemic, predominant, prevalent, profuse, raging, rampaging, rank, rife, riotous, spreading, tumultuous, turbulent, unbridled, unchecked, uncontrollable, ungovernable, unrestrained, unruly, vehement, violent, wanton, widespread, wild
Source: Roget's New Millennium™ Thesaurus, First Edition (v 1.2.1)
Thursday, June 08, 2006
I saw my first Zebra Swallowtail of the year yesterday. This is the first time I've been able to get a photo of one.
A new butterfly for the yard list showed up on the back steps this morning - a Hackberry Emperor. Maybe it was attracted to the moisture from last night's (scanty) rain? Sooooo, what's a hackberry? I had to look this one up. But maybe our little patch of woods contains a hackberry. There's a small tree on the edge of the woods that I haven't been able to identify, although I assumed it was a hornbeam. Have to take a better look at it, maybe with a key in hand. The butterfly guides say the Hackberry Emperor doesn't stray far from Hackberries.
I went out to water the Kaffir Lime tree a couple of evenings ago, and was surprised to find a rather large moth on the side of the pot. When I posted the picture, I didn't have a clue what it was, but after spending some time at bugguide.net I think it must be a species in the genus Catocala. Had I known that's what it was at the time, I would have nudged it to see if it would flash me with its underwings ;-)
And lastly, here is another unidentified bug. Strange, but cool.
PS. I back-dated this post. Blogger was having trouble again and I couldn't get in to post it when I wrote it.
Update: June 10, 2006
I submitted the moth photo to bugguide.net. Within a short time, a kind and knowledgeable contributor identified it as a Waved Sphinx Moth. Too bad it wasn't a Catocala - now I want to see one.