Tangled Branches: Cultivated
happenings in and around my zone 6b gardens in northern Virginia and in central Virginia
Thursday, August 23, 2007
Better Hummingbird Pictures
If you like pictures of hummingbirds, then you have come to the wrong place. I'll point you instead to Rob's album. And then read his story about the one in the house.
Once again, as I type this, there's a hummer a few feet in front of me at the coleus flowers. The camera is in the house.
Wednesday, August 22, 2007
-Bonnie Bramlett/Eric Clapton, Let It Rain.
We're catching a break from the heat and drought here, and now I don't have to fret about watering (or not watering). That frees me up to fret about tomatoes cracking and rotting instead. I just picked a small basketful, and picked out the ones that I had to use or lose. Those are cooking on the stove right now, destined for the freezer. The next ones - the ones that have some problems, but not too bad for fresh use - are going into salsa for tonight's dinner. Lunch was tomato sandwiches with fresh mozzarella and basil. Last night I didn't cook, but yesterday's lunch was chicken fajitas with, um, salsa. We like salsa.
A couple of weeks ago I started a post over on my food blog about all the ways we were using the tomatoes, but I never finished it. It was too long and I decided to break it up, but didn't get around to it. But I mentioned in a comment to Blackswamp Girl that I was going to make our favorite potato and tomato dish as soon as the weather was cool enough to turn on the oven, and last weekend I did just that. The recipe is now posted on my food blog.
What's your favorite tomato recipe? Maybe we could start a Garden Bloggers' Cookbook.
Tuesday, August 21, 2007
Bloom Day Addendum
Just a short recordkeeping type of post here. This is a list of what was blooming in the central Virginia garden and "meadow" as of August 17. Some of the photos are a couple of weeks old.
Zinnia 'Parks Pastel Blend' (they have a different definition of pastel than I do - it includes bright red)
Mimulus 'Mystic Mix' (just barely)
Lantana 'Dallas Red'
Coleus 'Giant Exhibition Mix', 'Rainbow Mix', and 'Wizard Mix' (aka the hummingbird garden)
Coreopsis verticillata 'Zagreb'
Salvia patens 'Cambridge Blue'
Salvia farinacea 'Evolution' and 'Strata'
Dianthus 'Rainbow Loveliness'
Nepeta transcaucasica 'Blue Infinity'
Verbena hastata 'Pink Spires'
Agastache foeniculum 'Golden Jubilee' and plain species
Amaranthus 'Marvel Bronze'
Achillea 'Summer Berries'
Portulaca 'Sundial Peach'
Sweet Marjoram (tiny leaves and very tiny flowers)
Basil: Thai, Lemon, Mrs. Burns Lemon, Mexican Cinnamon Spice, Sicilian di Sorrenti, Sweet Petra Dark (I couldn't give up any of these, but Sweet Petra Dark is very ornamental - very dark purple leaves with bright purple flowers)
Some of the Wildflowers:
Eupatorium coelestinum (Blue Mist Flower)
another Eupatorium with white flowers, maybe boneset?
Wild Morning Glory (pale blue)
Oenothera (don't know the species)
Labels: in bloom
Monday, August 20, 2007
Things with Wings
Want butterflies? Plant verbena!
I was just astounded at the number of nectar-sippers hovering around the Verbena bonariensis this weekend in the country. Just in casual observation, I counted at least six different species of butterflies - Tiger Swallowtail (both light and dark forms), Spicebush Swallowtail, American Lady, Zabulon Skipper, other skippers (names still elude me - sorry), and a new one for me: the Common Buckeye. If it's so common, howcome I never saw one until this weekend?
And there was a different clearwing moth there too - this time it was Hummingbird Moth, and I have an embarrassment of riches when it comes to photos. I restrained myself and only posted four of them (1,2,3,4).
And speaking of embarrassment, after Lisa wrote last week that she only gets good photos of butterflies when they're mating, I claimed never to have seen such a thing. Well, look (adults only, please). I think there will be more Snowberry Clearwing Moths.
While I was taking these photos, another absolutely huge moth landed on a tomato plant. I have only a crummy picture to prove it, but I think it was a tomato hornworm adult.
More from the crummy picture department. I tried several times to get a good picture of a hummingbird this weekend. I failed. They were almost constantly feeding on the coleus flowers in front of the house, except not when I had the camera in hand. There is a hummingbird in this picture, but I'll let you search for it yourself. I think I'll try Ki's suggestion and see if I can get some decent video instead. Check out the huge coleus plants though. The tallest ones are close to 4 feet, not counting the flowers.
Thursday, August 16, 2007
Wednesday, August 15, 2007
Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day
It's Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day and my list sounds like a broken record. (Anybody else here remember what a broken record is?) Many of the plants in bloom today have been mentioned in previous GBBDs this year. Let's start with the ones that are new this time. As before, links are to my photos.
- Gazania rigens 'Daybreak Mix'
- Salvia coccineum 'Coral Nymph'
- Agastache foeniculum
- Morning Glory 'Star of Yelta'
- Buddleia/Buddleja: 'Lochinch', 'Black Knight', 'Potter's Purple',
- Eupatorium coelestinum
- Miscanthus purpurascens
- Chyrsanthemum, salmon pink
- Coleus (Do you pinch the flowers off? I used to, but the hummingbirds like them.)
- Hosta 'Krossa Regal'
- Hydrangea paniculata grandiflora
- Coreopsis verticillata 'Moonbeam'
- Mirabilis jalapa (Four O'Clocks)
- Cosmos bipinnatus 'Picotee'
- Asclepia tuberosa
- Rudbeckia hirta 'Gloriosa Daisies'
- Rudbeckia fulgida 'Goldsturm'
- Ceratostigma plumbaginoides
- Salvia guaranitica 'Black & Blue'
- Salvia farinacea: 'Evolution', 'Strata'
- Larkspur 'Blue Cloud' (repeat bloom)
- Torenia 'Duchess Mix' (now I know why it's called Wishbone Flower)
- Assorted Cupheas
- Sedum kammschaticum
- Calamintha nepetoides
- Passiflora incarnata
- Verbena bonariensis
- Hibiscus syriacus 'Blue Satin'
- Agastache (maybe A. cana?)
The flower season is winding down here and it's just as well because the drought is really starting to take hold. We were out of town for a few days, and even though I watered as much as I could before we left, it was tough to find plants that looked happy enough to be photographed.
I don't know what's blooming in central Virginia because we haven't been there for 10 days. I'll have an update in a few days if anybody's interested.
Labels: in bloom
Tuesday, August 14, 2007
Put on your cowboy hat - we're going to herd butterflies. OK, not really, but what comes to mind when you read the title of this post?
I've been posting pictures of butterflies on Picasa for a few weeks, but haven't written anything about them here, and it's time to fix that.
We all love the big charismatic swallowtails, but it seems to me they've been scarce this year. Just now as I'm typing this, a dark tiger swallowtail flitted by, stopping only briefly at a larkspur. But not long enough for a picture. It's worn-out cousin was here last week. Even though the colors are not bright and the wings are a bit tattered, both "tails" are still present.
I think my favorite butterflies may be the Ladies and the Admiral. These three are all members of the genus Vanessa, and I haven't any trouble finding and photographing them this year. It's the pattern on the underside of the wings that I like - the colors aren't showy and with the wings folded, sometimes these butterflies can be hard to see, but the swirls and circles in blues and browns are fascinating to me. They're much more colorful with their wings open.
Most of the skippers still look alike to me, but I can now recognize two of them without poring over the field guide. The Silver-spotted Skipper was the only one I could recognize for a long time - it's larger than most other skippers and unique with its large white (silver?) spot on the underside of the wing. But now I think I can quickly identify the male Zabulon Skipper with his pretty yellow and brown wings (his female counterpart is dark brown with a few white spots).
The Question Mark is another new-to-me butterfly. There was one "puddling" on the gravel driveway a few weeks ago, but it was very skittish and hard to photograph. This is the best picture of the lot.
I'll bet if you conducted a survey, you'd find that most residents of the US would name the Monarch as their favorite butterfly. I like them too, but hardly ever see them in my northern Virginia garden. I'm hoping they're more plentiful in central Virginia, and that this is the first of many.
Tuesday, August 07, 2007
Beginning of Autumn?
Well, gosh, I was going to write a post about August being the beginning of autumn, but I decided to check my archives before doing it. Good thing, too, because I was going to write very nearly the same thing I wrote a year ago. Everything I wrote then applies equally well today, except this time I have a good picture of a clearwing moth.
In that picture, it just looks like a bug, but when you see one of these hovering in front of a flower, you could swear you're looking at a tiny hummingbird.
Also, to update last year's post just a bit, Wikipedia now has a page showing the exact time of the traditional beginning of autumn. Going over to time.gov, I see that we are already 2 hours into autumn as I write this. Then why is it so darned hot?
Sunday, August 05, 2007
Need I say more?
Wednesday, August 01, 2007
More Things to Do While the Tomatoes Ripen
They're a variety called Cranberry Red, or at least that's what they are called by Territorial Seed. There is some controversy. Oh, and I also dug up a couple of the russet ones (forgot the name), but I was more interested in the pink ones. We've been buying the pink ones or similar for several years at the Arlington Farmer's Market, and we liked them to the point of being disappointed when they weren't available. So they were one of the first things on my list when deciding what to grow in the new central Virginia vegetable garden.
I harvested just a few last weekend, and you wouldn't believe the fluorescent highlighter pink color of the skin. The picture doesn't quite capture the luminescent quality. Since these were the first ones, I cooked them very simply to see if they were any good. They were, but maybe not as good as the ones we were getting from the farmer's market. Or else I've magnified the taste of those in my memory. These seem more watery, and I wonder if it's because I grew them in straw and gave them plenty of water when it didn't rain.
But if you just can't wait to see some ripe tomatoes....come to the county fair with me.
Having been disappointed by county fairs in northern Virginia, we thought we'd see what central Virginia has to offer. Last weekend we attended the Orange County Fair. Weeeeelllll.......what to say? I sure wish I was in the Midwest at fair time. My biggest disappointment was no poultry exhibit; there was a statewide ban on poultry exhibits until July 31. We may try the Albemarle County Fair this weekend. I hope I can see chickens. Tomatoes? I should have my own by this weekend.