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Tangled Branches: Cultivated

happenings in and around my zone 6b gardens in northern Virginia and in central Virginia

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Butterflies 1 Beetles 3

Doesn't it look like this fritillary is getting ready to do battle? If only.

I planted a Buddleia 'Attraction' next to the deck at the country house in hopes of attracting the hummingbirds we've been seeing. My first customer was a Japanese Beetle. Then another and another and another and.... I think the final score on Saturday was Hummingbirds 0, Butterflies 2, Japanese Beetles 16.

I don't understand where the beetles are coming from. The area directly around the house was a barren construction site until late last September. Around that is woods, then a field, then the neighbors' suburban-style yard. But that yard is far away, and they're not growing much in the way of yummy Japanese Beetle treats. I always think of Japanese Beetles as a pest of new suburban lawns and gardens; I really was not expecting to see any there.

At the old northern Virginia homestead, they've been very scarce so far this year. I'm sure I'll be punished for saying this, but so far all the flowers that are usually chewed to nothing are looking whole and healthy.

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Monday, June 25, 2007

Parasitic Plants

This is cool. I had never seen this before, except in photographs, but I knew immediately what it was because it's on the cover of one of my most useful wildflower books. Indian Pipes, aka Ghost Plant, aka Monotropa uniflora is a parasitic plant, getting its living not on the roots of other plants, as was once believed, but on the mycorrhizae attached to the roots of other plants. This site does a wonderful job of explaining it all.

I found this plant while checking up on my Illicium floridanum (one of which is doing fine, BTW). It had probably been flowering for a while, because according to, the flowers open white and darken as they age.

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Thursday, June 21, 2007

Summer Solstice

The morning of the day of the summer solstice began around 5, when the early birds started to chirp. The birds, of course, have no use for silly human numbers, such as 5, attached to astronomical events. The sun rises when it rises - time to start singing - what are the numbers for? For better or worse, those of us humans who have to participate in the global economy today know what the numbers are for. That's why I got such a kick out of this story - modern-day Michigan Druids are having their solstice celebration on Saturday when they have more time. Meanwhile, back at Stonehenge, a few people showed up and had a little party. And our friends in the southern hemisphere are happily looking forward to more daylight.

Me, I'm going to check to see if the wild St. John's Wort is blooming, then contribute to the economy about half a day, and then observe the solstice from a place of quiet contemplation:

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Wednesday, June 20, 2007


In other bug news, the Little Brown Jobs of the butterfly world have arrived too.
<pout> The skippers drive me insane - I can't identify many of them, and I don't see how anybody else can either. </pout>
I remembered that I posted a query on BugGuide last year, and look!, don't you think this is the very same butterfly? Well, OK, not the same individual, but the same species? I still think it's a Crossline Skipper. Unless it's a Tawny-Edged...


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Tuesday, June 19, 2007

They're Back

First Japanese Beetle of the season this morning - in the house! I have no idea how it got there, but I had just been outside deadheading some daylilies, so maybe it rode in on me. That particular creature is now swimming in the sewer, if it's doing anything. There will be more <sigh>, but I really hope not in house.

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Friday, June 15, 2007

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day

Here we are at the halfway point of the month again, and all I can say is "thank heavens for annuals". This feels like a skimpy post for Garden Blogger's Bloom Day; the big spring flowers are finished and the big early summer flowers are just getting started. Anyhow, here's the list; links are to my photos, but some of those are from a few days ago.



and a few extras from central Virginia:

Thanks to Carol for hosting Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day.


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Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Harold Feinstein

Art comes to us in strange ways sometimes. While shopping for greeting cards yesterday, I saw several that looked a lot like the scanned flower photos sweeping the blogosphere a few weeks ago. I flipped a card over to learn more.

The photographer's name is Harold Feinstein, and although the greeting cards with black backgrounds drew me in, I really like his Skyflowers.


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Hummingbird Update

On cue, just after I posted that I'd not seen any humminbirds in northern Virginia this year, one showed up at the feeder this morning around 7:15.

Speaking of feeders, I wish I could find an attractive and functional hummingbird feeder. I've been using the Droll Yankees Little Flyer for several seasons now, and I'm generally happy with it. Except when I go into a store where they sell those beautiful blown glass feeders that would look so lovely dangling from the oak tree, catching the early morning sunlight. But I've had that kind of feeder before and the only creatures it fed were ants and bees. So I stick with the functional, but not beautiful, one.


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Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Country Weekend

Last weekend in the country was quiet and relaxed. The heavy-duty digging and the frantic planting are finished for now. Friday was the hottest day of the year so far, and it felt like it. We got a spectacular thunder and lightning storm on Friday night, and the rest of the weekend's weather was beautiful.

The infant shrubs and trees I planted early in the spring are growing and fairly happy and not yet eaten. I don't know if I've been lucky, or I made wise choices, or a little bit of both. My current favorite is Zenobia pulverulenta.

It's still very small - maybe 8-10 inches tall - but I really love the dusty blue foliage. I certainly wasn't expecting any flowers this year, so they're a bonus.

The potager still doesn't look like much, I know, I know.

But cut me some slack here. A couple of months ago this was nothing but an unmowed field. The only energy consumed in the digging of the plot was mine. I intended to keep whatever vegetation was already there mowed short for the paths, but the mowing lost all its charm on the first 90 degree day. So now we're covering over the paths with newspapers and wood chips. Only the central section of that is done so far. Those green trellis-things are tomato ladders. Maybe not the most attractive way to stake tomato plants, but I don't think it's the ugliest either. I used these last year and liked them and didn't see any reason not to use them again.

In front of the house, I made a crazy-quilt bed of Coleus and Mimulus (and some bracken I dug up from the woods). I'll post a picture of the whole thing once it fills out a bit, but I wanted to show you the Mimulus.
I'm still infatuated with these flowers, even though the ones I grew last year swooned (OK, died) in the heat of midsummer. So far, this year's crop is looking very nice. They're called 'Mystic Mix' and the flowers are brighter colors and more velvety than last year's, but without the heavy splotches I liked so much then.

Even if I didn't feel like planting any flowers, I'd still have some.

The spring woodland wildflowers may have been disappointing, but the summer field flowers are making up for it. Newly blooming this week is Scutellaria integrifolia, or Hyssop Skullcap. Black-eyed Susans were just beginning to bloom, and if my spouse didn't mow them over, I should have pictures of those next week. The suspected dyers woad is no longer blooming, or I couldn't find the plant again anyway, so that's going to have to wait until next year for a positive ID.

And lastly, the hummingbirds seem to have deserted me in northern Virginia, but in central Virginia they're practically pestilential. No, I'm kidding - I love to have them around, but they're much bolder about coming close to us than I've ever experienced. I had a red shirt on, and one buzzed me - presumably investigating the color. My spouse was sitting on the deck and one came right under the patio umbrella and hovered in front of his face. (He'd been in the sun, but I don't think he was that red.) Next weekend's project is to get some nectar plants growing so the hummers stick around.

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Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Stuck on Blue

The Brazilian Verbena (V. bonariensis) is in bloom so where are my butterflies?

Here, nowhere near the Verbena, but instead on a not-yet-blooming daylily.

The warm colors of the dayliles will be along soon, but for now I'm stuck on blue. Even the butterflies - the yellow butterflies wouldn't stay long enough for a picture.

I've been trying for a couple of days to get the camera to show you how lacy and weightless the 'Blue Cloud' Larkspur is, and I think I've got it now.

Except for the flowers, the plant is practically see-thru.

Update: Just as I hit the publish button, a little voice in my head said "You should have titled it Tangled Up in Blue". Nah, too late now.

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Friday, June 01, 2007

End-of-May Flowers

Just a few flower pictures from the last day in May in northern Virginia.

Oenothera missouriensis. A somewhat sloppy sprawling plant, but look at those flowers.

First larkspur flowers. This is the variety 'Blue Cloud', with a very airy, open habit. They self-sowed at the front edge of a flower bed and I let them stay.

Unknown Clematis. This was from a package at Costco. The packages was supposed to contain 2 varieties. If there were 2 varieties, then they look verrrrry similar to each other, and do not look like either photo on the package. I've forgotten what varieties they were supposed to be.

I planted several rosebay rhododendrons to screen the view of the neighbors' swingset. After 7 or 8 years they're starting to do their job, but now it may be getting too shady where they're planted - the blooms are a bit sparse. This may be the variety 'Roseum'.

This is a daylily from Costco. What? It doesn't look like a daylily? It's a very rare one with small blue flowers. Looks something like a Tradescantia. Beware of packaged plants from Costco.

On the other hand, I might never have had a Tradescantia if this "daylily" hadn't turned out to be one, and I never would have known about these nifty feathery stamens.

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