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Tangled Branches: Cultivated

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

Monday, June 30, 2008

Cute Flowers: One Cultivated, Two Wild

Moving along from shiny flowers, how about some cute flowers? None of these are large, but all have interesting shapes to make up for the size deficit.

This is the first time I've grown Tropaeolum peregrinum, and because it's a nasturtium relative I expected a more vigorous plant. It's really somewhat delicate-looking. I trained it on string looped over the deck railing and it's only about 4 feet tall at present. I suspect it may fizzle in the heat of the summer, but for now it's a cute plant.

The common name, Canary Climber or Canary Creeper, comes from the resemblance of the flowers to a canary. You be the judge.

Here's a wildflower that I missed seeing last year - Chimaphila maculatum, aka Spotted Wintergreen et al. I knew that it grows in the woods in Central Virginia, but didn't happen upon it last summer while it was blooming. It's more noticeable in late fall and winter with it's attractive striped evergreen leaves.

It's not easy to see the flowers close-up because they're quite low to the ground, but look at the curious arrangement of the stamens and the jug-shaped gynoecium

This one, Polygala curtissii or Curtiss' Milkwort, grows at the edge of the woods but is so small and wispy that it's easy to overlook. These are about 6 inches tall overall and the flower head is about 3/4 inch.

It's worth looking more closely - the flowers are quite pretty.

I'm planning a longer update on the vegetable garden later this week, but on Saturday I picked the first chile pepper! That fresh chile aroma was just like perfume...

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posted by Entangled at 8:38 AM
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Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Shimmery Flowers

I'm such a pushover for shimmery flowers. My oldest daylily, 'Medallion', is one that has a nice sparkle to it.

You can see the individual sparkles if you look closely. (Click through and zoom all the way in.)

But lately I've noticed a shimmer where I don't remember seeing one before - on petunias. Some of these 'Balcony' petunias have an interesting satiny sheen. I grew them from seed and planted out 20 or 30 seedlings. Not all the flowers have the shimmer - some are what I would call "ordinary" petunias and some are very velvety (like the burgundy one at the top center of the photo).

I despaired of getting a good photo of the flowers in place, so finally snipped a few stems and placed them in the sun where I could get the camera at the proper angle. A closer look at the petals here reveals a light reflection similar to the daylily, except more finely textured.

People get paid to study this stuff. I'm in the wrong career.

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posted by Entangled at 6:13 PM
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Sunday, June 22, 2008

One Mystery Solved

Do you remember my mystery seedpod from earlier this year?

Duh! It's something I planted. Oenothera missouriensis.

I always dead-headed these in the suburban garden, but just let them go in the country garden.


posted by Entangled at 10:09 AM
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Saturday, June 21, 2008

First JB of the Season

I was going to write something about the Summer Solstice (happened yesterday), but perhaps the first Japanese Beetle of the season is as good a marker for summer's midpoint as any.

The despicable creature was taunting me from the tip of a wormwood branch this morning.


posted by Entangled at 10:29 AM
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Tuesday, June 17, 2008

First Garlic Bulbs, Swiss Chard, and Green Onions

My curiosity got the better of me over the weekend, and I dug up one of the garlic plants just to see what was happening underground. A lot! This is the biggest, best garlic I've ever grown. The variety is Romanian Red - one of five varieties I planted last fall.

I used one clove of it in an Indianish dish of potato and Swiss Chard, and left the rest outside to dry on the deck. The papery skin started to turn purplish overnight, so I assume when it's really ready to harvest, the color will indeed be red (or something like it).

I've been thinning the Swiss Chard and trying to find ways to cook it that we like. So far, I've tossed it in with some frozen mixed vegetables; tossed it into a Thai pork, green bean, and basil stir-fry; and the aforementioned Indian-inspired dish.

I should have planted more onions! I keep pulling them up for green onions and I'll never find out if any of them make good bulbs. So far both the Rossa Lunga di Firenze and New York Early are both very mild in taste.

The vegetable garden is coming along nicely now, except for the Colorado Potato Beetles. I had never even seen one before this year and now they're everywhere. I'm handpicking the adults off whenever I see them, but I noticed their egg clusters on some horse nettles that are sprouting as weeds. I can keep the horse nettles out of the garden with a little effort, but I'll never get it all out of the "meadow". As my garden is about 80% tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and potatoes, and Colorado Potato Beetles will eat anything Solanaceous, this is a little bit worrying.

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posted by Entangled at 9:04 PM
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Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day, Part 2

And here is the second part of my Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day post for June. At Tangled Branches North, in no particular order, we have:

Red Daylily (nice this year! - in recent years the flowers have been ruined by thrips)

Asiatic Lily 'Grand Cru'

Clematis integrifolia
Coreopsis verticillata 'Moonbeam'
Verbena bonariensis
Asclepias tuberosa
Achillea 'Summer Berries'
Calycanthus floridus 'Athens' (just a couple of flowers left)
Petunia 'Balcony'
Larkspur (Consolida regalis) 'Blue Cloud' (past its prime)
Cosmos (self-sown)
Cleome (self-sown)
Morning Glory (self-sown)
Salvia farinacea 'Evolution'
Various sedums, including this cutie - Sedum (species sexangulare?) 'Utah' - with tiny green leaves and a froth of yellow flowers

Shasta Daisy (Leucanthemum x superbum; their yellow daylily partners have not caught up yet)

Oenothera missouriensis
Santolina virens (with pale yellow flowers)

I don't see too many changes from last June's Bloom Day, except in the annuals. I posted almost the same picture of the Grand Cru lily last year. It's a good thing I'm still working on expanding the Tangled Branches South gardens or I'd just be repeating myself year to year.

Visit May Dreams Gardens to see the ever-lengthening list of Bloom Day participants.


posted by Entangled at 7:33 PM
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Monday, June 16, 2008

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day, Part 1

Well...I started my Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day post yesterday, but ran off to play in the garden instead of finishing it. This is part 1 of 2.

At the southern outpost of Tangled Branches, I haven't planted many ornamentals yet. Most of the gardening efforts here have been directed at the vegetable garden, so I'm including wildflowers in the Bloom Day list. But, boy oh boy, what a lot of wildflowers are now blooming in the meadow and woodland edges.

Here are the most prominent ones.

Ox-eye Daisy
Deptford Pink
Black-eyed Susan
Black-eyed Susan

Various clovers
Lady's Bedstraw (Galium verum; I think - if you think different, let me know)
Galium verum?

Spotted Knapweed (I know this is a terrible weed, but the butterflies and bees think it's just fine)

Most of the cultivated flowers are annuals, herbs or vegetables. Every time I tried to get a photo of the plants in context, I found that I was instead photographing undone work - weeds, unmulched beds, incomplete paths, unmowed verges, you name it - so it's mostly flower closeups.
The least messy part of the potager

Petunia 'Dolce Flambe'
Petunia 'Balcony'
'Balcony' Petunia and Clary Sage

Salvia 'Sizzler Lilac Bicolor'
Pansy 'Historic Florist Mix'
'Historic Florist Mix' Pansy and 'Sizzler Lilac Bicolor' Salvia

Verbena bonariensis (the real draw for all those butterflies)
Achillea 'Summer Berries'
Salvia farinacea 'Evolution'
Cuphea 'Totally Tempted'
Cuphea 'Tiny Mice'
Abutilon 'Voodoo'
Lantana 'Dallas Red'
Chrysanthemum carinatum (or Ismelia carinata)
Celosia 'Sylphid'
Anise Hyssop (Agastache foeniculum; just beginning)
Agastache foeniculum 'Golden Jubilee'

Mexican Mint Marigold (Tagetes lucida)
Bronze Fennel (just beginning)
Rue (just finishing)
Clary Sage
Dianthus 'Rainbow Loveliness' (just a few flowers left)
Nepeta transcaucasica 'Blue Infinity'
'Black Hungarian' Pepper

I'll post the flowers from Tangled Branches North tomorrow, if I can find any that weren't flattened by this afternoon's thunderstorm.


posted by Entangled at 8:42 PM
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Friday, June 13, 2008

More Butterflies and a Mystery Plant

Afternoons have been too hot and sunny to work on the vegetable garden, or so I tell myself. But I'll stand in that same hot and sunny spot for quite a while photographing butterflies. Here are a few new ones since the last butterfly post.

I've been seeing occasional Eastern Tiger Swallowtails for a couple of months, but this is the first photo of the year. This one's fresh and bright and still has both tails. I think this is a female - distinguished by the amount of blue showing on the upper surface of the hind wings.

Let us not forget the skippers - the small brown butterflies that drive me mad trying to identify. At least I know they're skippers.

Ensuring a continued supply of Eastern Tailed Blues, we have:

They were flying that way.

Seeking shade in the woods after the butterfly photos, I came across this plant with distinctive foliage. Does anybody recognize this? It was a low-growing shrub.


posted by Entangled at 9:10 AM
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Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Music Meme

I'm flattered to be tagged with a music meme by Craig at Ellis Hollow. He has way cool taste in music. Where else can you hear about gypsy punk?

The meme is this:
List seven songs you are into right now. No matter what the genre, whether they have words, or even if they’re not any good, but they must be songs you’re really enjoying now, shaping your spring. Post these instructions in your blog along with your 7 songs. Then tag 7 other people to sewhat they’re listening to.

Well, actually my spring (and now summer) accompaniment has been bird songs, espcially the distinctive sounds of the Eastern Towhee, the Wood Thrush, and the Mockingbird. Honestly, I've been spending so much time outdoors that I haven't been listening to many recordings.

When I do listen to music, it's in the car, so I had to get back in the car to find out what I was listening to before I got busy outdoors. And........I decided to be honest and tell you what I've really been listening to instead of what I would like people to think I listen to. These songs are all from the last CD I burned for car trips. Reviewing this list, I think I may have been in a crabby mood when I made that CD - it had to be before the trees leafed out and the birds started singing. And now I need to burn a more summer-like CD.

Kristin Andreassen: Hello Where Are You?
I heard this a few months ago on WTJU and thought the lyrics were hilarious. I downloaded it from iTunes, but you can listen to the whole thing (or most of it anyway) at CD Baby.

Bowling for Soup: 1985
What to say about this one? 1985 is approximately the year I stopped paying attention to popular music, and this song is either pathetic or funny depending on your point of view. If you can get past the gross first part of the video, the parodies of 1980s videos are, um, inspired, especially the Robert Palmer one. (Original Robert Palmer video here.)

Van Morrison: Wild Night
Everybody knows this one right? I just like this song. Heard it on XM after not having heard it for a while and downloaded it shortly thereafter.

New Monsoon: Greenhouse
The lyrics are nonsensical, except I like the chorus. "Let's get down to the greenhouse, take me to the greenhouse...". CD Baby link.

Lynyrd Skynyrd: None of Us Are Free
I heard a live recording by Widespread Panic and wanted that one, but apparently they've never released it on a CD. The Lynyrd Skynyrd version is similar, but I also like this video by Solomon Burke.

The Lovin' Spoonful: Nashville Cats
...I heard a couple new soundin' tunes on the tubes and they blasted me sky high. And the record man said "every one is a yellow Sun record from Nashville, and up north here ain't nobody buys 'em", and I said "but I will"...

Old Blind Dogs: Bedlam Boys
Creepy lyrics, but an interesting story behind them, and a very catchy tune. It's playing over and over in my head right now; do you think I should have that looked into? I can't find a complete recording online. The record company web site has a tiny clip without any of the words - they must be afraid of scaring away customers. The Old Blind Dogs have been my favorite Scottish traditional band for some time. There are a bunch of videos on YouTube, but a couple of standouts: a great introduction to the band taped on their most recent US tour, and this performance from Gravity Lounge in Charlottesville - a show I'm sorry to have missed.

This was fun, but I'm no good at all at choosing who to tag next, so here's an open invitation. If you're reading this and want to disclose your musical tastes to the world, post something and let us know via a comment where we can find it.


posted by Entangled at 9:57 AM
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Monday, June 09, 2008

Adventurous Foodies

Last year the deer helped me out by keeping the greenbriar trimmed. This year, not so much.

Instead they've been comparing notes on the merits of the vegetable garden. The word has gotten around that garlic scapes are delicious with a bit of fennel.

We seem to have a deer population of adventurous foodies. They've sampled several of the plants intended to be deer repellents - garlic, onions, fennel, rosemary, basil, sweet marjoram. Last year we had very little trouble with them concerning the plants we wanted to eat. They nibbled on a pepper plant or two and that was it. I imagined that my idea of deterring them with strong-smelling herbs was working. This year, well, we'll see.

Meanwhile, have you ever tried Greenbriar? I understand it can be cooked like asparagus.

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posted by Entangled at 7:48 AM
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Saturday, June 07, 2008

Meadow Flowers and Butterflies

There are butterflies everywhere! It's like somebody somewhere flipped the butterfly switch to "on".

Big charismatic butterflies, like this Pipevine Spicebush Swallowtail.

Small common butterflies, like this Cabbage White. They seem especially attracted to the lavender flowers. I'm glad I'm not growing broccoli.

Fabulously patterned butterflies, like this American Lady.

Irritatingly distant butterflies, like this Great Spangled Fritillary which remained deep in the meadow.

The meadow has turned white with ox-eye daisies, yarrow and fleabane, and dozens of cabbage white butterflies fluttering along above it all. Vetch contributes a dash of blue.

I was ready to condemn all these pretty flowers as weedy non-natives to be despised, but it isn't so. The yarrow (Achillea) is probably native, according to John Eastman in The Book of Field and Roadside, although there are European imports of the same species (?, that part is not clear to me) and the natives have been mingling with the foreigners and hybridizing without the help of human plant breeders. The great American melting pot. And the fleabanes (Erigeron), "have gone to Europe, usually as garden plants, adding to the roadside weed flora there - and reminding us that alien plant traffic travels both ways".

Even though the yarrow and fleabane may be native, they fall into the category of plants that spread fast through abandoned fields and are therefore generally regarded as weeds. I still like them. But not all my meadow plants are greedy territory-grabbers. Here's one I overlooked last year, probably because it's at the edge of the woods behind some tall grass, and yes, that appears to be a yarrow stem lying crosswise through the photo. Whorled Loosestrife (Lysimachia quadrifolia), with its pretty foliage and delicate yellow flowers, looks like it would be at home in any tasteful garden.

Other winged creatures of note besides the butterflies:
A mockingbird was singing to me all morning long yesterday. Good thing he knows more than one song.

I saw a scarlet tanager in gorgeous summer plumage. The color is breathtaking. Puts cardinals to shame. I don't have a picture, but All About Birds does.

Bluebirds have been eating red blueberries. They don't look ripe to me, but I'm not a bluebird. These are wild blueberries, BTW.

I saw a stunning dragonfly with wings of shimmering gold and I didn't have the camera with me, darn it. Maybe it'll come back.

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posted by Entangled at 8:32 AM
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Tuesday, June 03, 2008

End-of-May Garden

Before we get too far into June, some photos from Tangled Branches North in last week of May.

The most difficult flower to photograph in the garden? It might be this Clematis integrifolia, which has decided it wants to live amongst the Amsonia hubrichtii where it can remain out of sight. We'll just say the location contributes to the mysterious look of the navy blue flowers.

The Oenothera missouriensis has begun to bloom. I like the way this photo shows the flowers nestled in the leaves.

The catalog called this a rosebay rhododendron, so that's what I call it too. It might not be though.

I see many Arum italicum flowers this year - more than in previous years.

I've been working like a madwoman on the Tangled Branches South vegetable garden, but I felt much calmer after planting the tomatoes on Saturday. The rest of it can now be done whenever, or not done at all. Look for a post on some of the central Virginia wildflowers and other plants later this week.

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posted by Entangled at 8:07 AM
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Iowa Tornado Video

Ever wonder what it's like to be in a tornado? Watch this amazing video from a bank security camera in Parkersburg, Iowa (sorry about the advertising you have to watch first, but the video is worth enduring the ad).

Update: An advertising-free version of the same video is on the BBC web site. Thanks, Amanda, for the link!


posted by Entangled at 7:28 AM
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