Tangled Branches: Cultivated
happenings in and around my zone 6b gardens in northern Virginia and in central Virginia
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
Did you know there are species of Euonymus that grow up to be big trees? I didn't.
I'm kinda sorta on vacation and while visiting the campus of the University of Chicago on Sunday, a Winterberry tree was pointed out to me and it was this great huge Euonymus. Excuse the crummy cell phone photos, but at least you can tell it's a tree.
It's Euonymus bungeana, native to northern China and named for Alexander Georg von Bunge. Most of the online references I found claimed that Euonymus bungeana is a shrub or small tree. Well, I suppose that's true of all large trees at some point in their lives. They just didn't give this one enough time before they wrote the reference books. If you want to go see it in person, here's where it lives.
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Wednesday, July 23, 2008
The Wild Mimulus
As I was headed back to the house from the vegetable garden last Sunday, a flower stopped me in my tracks. Not because it's immensely showy, but because I hadn't seen it before.
Just beginning to bloom is Mimulus ringens or Allegheny Monkey Flower. How many monkeys have you seen in the Alleghenies? Furthermore, it appears to be distributed across most of the US. I think I'll stick to the Latin name for this one. In the last few years, I've grown some of the tropical Mimulus hybrids from seed, but neglected to start any this year. And now I find this wild cousin blooming. A mystic sign or a coincidence?
It's quite a bit taller and rangier than its cultivated cousins. Last year it was probably weed-whacked by the spouse and that's why I didn't see it. This year he's not been so diligent and it's been a good thing.
Monday, July 21, 2008
Metallic Beetles - NOT Japanese!
I was wearily flicking Japanese Beetles into a jar of soapy water this weekend. They're thick on everything now, including basil! I don't remember having this much trouble with them on basil. Other favorites this year are the Cupheas and 'Red Shield' Hibiscus, which was just starting to look good. Drat. To me, the beauty of the Japanese beetles is what's disturbing. I brush them into a jug of soapy water, where they suffocate, but even in death their carapaces are exquisitely rainbow-colored. To be so beautiful and deadly, to be so beautiful and leave beauty slaughtered in your wake...
This beetle might be mistaken for one of the dreaded JBs if you're not paying close attention. It's about the same size, but with a slightly more elongated shape and waaaaay shinier and prettier.
And it only eats Dogbane, hence its name - the Dogbane Beetle (Chrysochus auratus). Sources differ on whether it eats Milkweed as well, but I found it on Dogbane and it wasn't eating anything.
Another metallic beetle that's been hanging around is the Green June Beetle. I don't like this one as much. For one thing, it's huge - about an inch long and almost as broad. For another, it buzzes around me while I'm working in the garden. And for another, the larvae are said to be destructive root feeders (like the JB grubs). Grudgingly, I find its dull metallic sheen somewhat attractive.
But I refuse to say anything nice about Japanese Beetles. I'll let Diane Ackerman say it instead.
To me, the beauty of the Japanese beetles is what's disturbing. I brush them into a jug of soapy water, where they suffocate, but even in death their carapaces are exquisitely rainbow-colored. To be so beautiful and deadly, to be so beautiful and leave beauty slaughtered in your wake...
Diane Ackerman, Cultivating Delight
Saturday, July 19, 2008
A Crittery Day
I was tempted to title this post All Creatures Great and Small, but resisted.
There seemed to be an unusual amount of wildlife activity yesterday. Early in the morning I walked up to the vegetable garden to find that something had tasted my first semi-ripe tomato. Time to get out the plastic netting, darn it. And Japanese Beetles were everywhere, including on the basil. While I was in the garden, the Pileated Woodpeckers were making a fuss in the woods - calling and drumming and chasing each other.
I came back to the house for a second cup of tea, and found a young buck deer wandering through the woods in back - munching as he went. This was the best picture I got.
I count 3 points on each antler, so that makes him a 6-point buck? I obviously don't know enough about deer and need to do some opposition research. For instance, territoriality - does seeing one buck of that size mean there aren't any others nearby? Does he have a lady friend? Relatives? Does anybody know of a good resource for learning about deer?
The birds were very active yesterday and not just the woodpeckers. While I had the camera out I noticed a small grayish bird foraging, warbler-like, in the trees. It turned out to be a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher.
Later in the afternoon I gave a recently-planted Viburnum a deep soaking with the hose. While I was moving the hose around, some tiny critter jumped out of the way. I first thought it was an insect, but looking closer I found the tiniest frog I've ever seen.
I left a bit of a plant label in the photo when I cropped it, so you can get an idea of just how small it is. My best guess is either a Leopard Frog or a Pickerel Frog. Any frog experts out there reading this?
We ended the day sitting on the front porch listening to the late summer sounds. The Cicadas have been singing for a couple weeks, but last night the Katydids joined the chorus. The fireflies provided the light show.
Thursday, July 17, 2008
The Persimmon and The Poison Ivy
Normally I'm opposed to anything ending in "-icide". But I believe herbicide is the only practical way to deal with the huge amount of poison ivy at the woods' edge at Tangled Branches South. Most of the property is mercifully free of the stuff, but there's one section where it's practically the only thing growing.
I bought glyphosphate last spring, but couldn't make myself use it until early this summer and, well, poison ivy management is going to be a multi-year project. I've gone through a gallon and a half and only now am getting close enough to the trees to see what they are. But what marvelous trees! I knew of one sycamore tree among the maples and sweet gums, and I found a shrub I think is a deciduous holly (requires closer examination once I can get closer). One small tree stood out from the rest. The long drooping leaves made me think persimmon, even though I don't remember ever seeing a persimmon tree in person before.
Notice the dead vegetation in front and the poison ivy next to and behind the tree. This isn't the thickest patch of poison ivy either. But looking a little closer we find ... persimmons!
I want these persimmons. I really hope that spraying the herbicide so close to the tree doesn't damage it. It looks OK so far (fingers crossed).
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day
This Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day, I have a nice long list. Ahhhhhh.....summer.
Tangled Branches South:
Petunias 'Dolce Flambe' and 'Balcony'
Salvia splendens 'Sizzler Lilac Bicolor'
Canary Climber (Tropaeolum peregrinum)
Mexican Mint Marigold (Tagetes lucida)
Cuphea ignea 'Coan Mix'
Lantana 'Dallas Red'
Cuphea llavea 'Tiny Mice'
Cuphea x 'Totally Tempted'
Various violas and pansies, including 'Historic Florist Mix' and 'Bowles Black'
Thai Red Roselle (Hibiscus sabdariffa)
Dianthus 'Rainbow Loveliness'
Nepeta transcaucasica 'Blue Infinity'
Verbena hastata 'Pink Spires'
Agastache foeniculum, both 'Golden Jubilee' and the plain species
Clary Sage (Salvia sclarea)
Salvia farinacea 'Evolution'
Achillea 'Summer Berries'
Ismelia carinata (aka Chrysanthemum carinatum)
Cuphea miniata 'Summer Medley' (1, 2)
Lemon Bergamot (Monarda citriodora)
Tangled Branches North:
Various Daylilies, including 'Squash Tempura' and 'Apricot Petticoats'
Oriental Lily 'Muscadet'
Various Buddleias, including 'Potter's Purple' and 'Lochinch'
Cuphea miniata 'Summer Medley'
Liatris sp., white
Cosmos bipinnatus (self-sown)
Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata)
Hosta 'Golden Tiara'
Hosta with purple-blue flowers (an oldie, don't know the name)
Rose-of-Sharon 'Blue Satin' (Hibiscus syriacus)
Galium 'Victor Jones'
Lamium 'Purple Dragon' (rebloom)
Salvia 'Coral Nymph'
Coreopsis verticillata 'Moonbeam'
Achillea 'Summer Berries'
Asclepias tuberosa (rebloom)
Clematis, mystery purple and integrifolia hybrid
Echinacea, purple and 'White Swan'
If you made it this far, and you haven't been there already, go check out some of the other blooms from the long list of participants at May Dreams Gardens. And thank Carol for creating this global event!
Labels: in bloom
Saturday, July 12, 2008
Are you bored with the wildflowers yet? I'm not, so here's a sample from the meadow and woodland edge at Tangled Branches South.
First up, we have the lovely Maryland Meadow Beauty, or Rhexia mariana. The Virginia Meadow Beauty is not yet blooming here. When it does, I'll point out the differences between the two, but for now let's just admire. I got a little carried away with the photos after seeing Ki's Virginia Meadow Beauty.
The state flower of Maryland - the Black-eyed Susan - appears with the Maryland Meadow Beauty in that last photo.
How can there be goldenrod blooming already? That's my end-of-summer indicator. I believe this may be Early Goldenrod (Solidago juncea). I sure hope so anyway.
This next one is called Seedbox (Ludwigia alternifolia). Supposedly the seed capsule is a perfect square box. I'll have to check on that later on. The flowers are a bit sparse on a rangy plant, but pretty up close.
Narrowleaf Mountain Mint (Pycnanthemum tenuifolium) had me baffled for a long time. A casual observance of the plant doesn't suggest to me at all that it could be a member of the Mint family. I kept trying to make it into some kind of Aster family member until I looked more closely at the flowers. Even then it doesn't look much like a mint, but at least it got me out of the Aster section of the field guide.
Wild Potato Vine (Ipomoea pandurata) is said to have a large edible tuberous root, but I'm not about to dig it up. For one thing, it's in the midst of a huge patch of Poison Ivy. I think the large flowers are as nice as any cultivated morning glory.
Lastly, we have Common St. Johnswort (Hypericum perforatum). Not a native, but I still like it.
Stay tuned for the story of the persimmon and the poison ivy. Don't worry, it's a short story, but I'm out of time for posting today. Got to go deal with the 3 or 4 dozen garlic bulbs I dug up yesterday.
Friday, July 11, 2008
Tomatoes and Fish
A little bigger than a marble, but it's still a tomato. The variety is 'Matt's Wild Cherry'. I cut it down the middle and shared it with the spouse, and we both agreed that it was a bit tart. It will be a while until we have enough tomatoes for fresh salsa, but until then we'll eat the peppers. This one would be quite good for salsa, I think. It's hot enough that you know you're eating a hot pepper, but not overwhelming. A bonus here is that the plants are very decorative.
The leaves are variegated and the variegation extends into the fruit. Notice the light-colored stripe on the pepper above (kind of looks like a reflection, but isn't). It's called 'Fish' Pepper and is supposedly a Mid-Atlantic heirloom, popular in Philadelphia and Baltimore and used to season...(guess what?)...fish. So, I used it to spice up some restaurant leftovers - Goan Shrimp Curry. The verdict? It tastes great with seafood.
Sunday, July 06, 2008
The Butterfly Airport
Have you heard of the Fourth of July butterfly counts? I have my own undisciplined, unscientific version which consists of hanging around the Butterfly Airport (Verbena bonariensis) and watching.
OK that first picture was a moth, not a butterfly, but looks to me just like a plane taking off. I haven't been able to get a good photo of the larger scene with all the butterflies fluttering around the flowers - this is the best one.
In just a few minutes, I counted six species (maybe more; all those indistinguishable brown skippers!) - Black Swallowtail, Clouded Sulphur, Eastern Tailed Blue, Gray Hairstreak, Sachem?, and Cabbage White.
The flower in the middle picture above is Verbena hastata 'Pink Spires'. It's sort of a secondary airport for smaller butterflies.
Other butterflies seen over the weekend, but not on Verbena and not photographed, were Regal Fritillary, Common Buckeye, and some type of Crescent.
Friday, July 04, 2008
Flowers That Look Like Fireworks
...bombs bursting in air...
I've heard this called "firecracker plant"
Looks incendiary to me
I started to write a post about the vegetable garden, but it got too long. Particularly for a holiday. Happy 4th of July to all those celebrating today!