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Tangled Branches: Cultivated

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

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Can You Guess?

Do you know what this is?
What Izzit?

Hint: this next one is the same kind of flower.
What Izzit?

I never noticed the beautiful featheriness in the center of these flowers until I took a closeup photo and looked at it on the computer screen.

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Monday, July 27, 2009

Hummingbird at Work

Hummingbird at Work

My best photo of a hummingbird. It was just a lucky shot. I was in the garden with the camera when I heard the telltale hum as it zipped past me on its way to the flowers. I thought I was too far away and that the autofocus wouldn't work and that the bird would fly away when it saw the camera and ... well sometimes you get lucky.

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Sunday, July 26, 2009

First Real Tomato of the Year



...and what became of it...


The variety was 'Bloody Butcher'(the smaller ones on the plate are 'Matt's Wild Cherry'). I should have waited a few more days - the tennis-ball-size tomato was not quite fully ripe, but it was still tasty. We were just over-eager for the first fresh salsa of the year. Lots more to come, I hope.

But while we're talking about salsa, I want to put in a good word for the 'Bulgarian Carrot' pepper. I'm growing it for the first time this year and I'm so impressed with it. The plant is loaded with peppers and they are hot. It's hard to get a good hot pepper this early, even in a normal year, and worse this year when it's been so cold. When we get some really ripe tomatoes, they'll make a great combination.

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Friday, July 24, 2009

Dead Leaf, No, Wait

I was about to brush a dead leaf away from the front doormat this morning, when I noticed that it was curiously symmetrical. Curious, that is, for a leaf. But not for a moth.

It turned out to be fairly easy to look up. I searched for orange moth on bugguide.net and it showed up on the first page of search results.

This is the Spiny Oakworm Moth aka Anisota stigma. They spend the winter underground as pupae and emerge in the summer as adult moths. The adults do not feed, according to Butterflies and Moths of North America. The caterpillars, however, are voracious consumers of oak leaves.

Fortunately we have plenty to spare.


Now I have got to go clean that doormat so it looks good the next time I find an interesting moth on it.

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posted by Entangled at 8:54 AM
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Monday, July 20, 2009

Harvest, July 19: Tomatoes! and Melrose Peppers!

We have cherry tomatoes!


Nine days later than last year, and the same variety - 'Matt's Wild Cherry'. And just like last year, the 'Fish' peppers are ready too, but I didn't pick any yesterday.


The reason I didn't pick any 'Fish' was because I've been watching 'Melrose' for a few days and yesterday decided the time was right to sample some.


I cut them up and cooked them with onions for topping for bratwurst. I know, completely the wrong way to eat them, but we had already planned to cook the bratwurst...

If you haven't heard of 'Melrose' peppers, they're one of the "Italian Frying Peppers". Throw them in a frying pan with olive oil, sauté to your liking. This particular variety is said to have originated in Melrose Park, Illinois, but prior to that did some Italian family carry the seeds over the Atlantic in their pockets? I like to think so.

Of all the 17 varieties of peppers I planted, 'Melrose' and 'Fish' are doing the best in this unusually cool and rainy summer we're having. All the plants are small and some just starting to flower. We had one and a half days of hot weather last week, and during that time the pepper plants grew about 4-6" taller. Imagine what a week of hot weather would do.

If you'd like to read more about Melrose peppers, click away:
Proud Italian Cook: Melrose Peppers
Mario Quagliata's Peppers. That one is a particularly good story, and I'd love to try growing Mario's hybrid.

The rest of my harvest list is posted at myfolia.com.

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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day

I like annuals. They make my Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day post much longer. Let's get right to it then. Photos are interspersed with the list, I tried to place the photos so the names of the plants are under them.

Angelonia
Lantana 'Lucky Red'

Bat-faced Cuphea (Cuphea llavea)
Lantana 'Dallas Red'
Cuphea x 'David Verity'
Cuphea ignea 'Matchless'
Cuphea sp.: self-sown
Cuphea miniata: self-sown

Mimulus 'Queen's Prize Mixed'
Viola 'Bowles Black'
Viola 'Historic Pansies Mix'

Calla 'Black Magic' (Zantedeschia hyb.)
Petunia 'Old-Fashioned Vining'
Petunia 'Superbissima'

Maryland Meadow Beauty (Rhexia mariana): moved from the meadow to my garden
Dianthus 'Rainbow Loveliness': from this spring's seedlings
Achillea 'Summer Berries'
Mexican Mint Marigold (Tagetes lucida): self-sown

Anise Hyssop (Agastache foeniculum)
Anise Hyssop 'Golden Jubilee' (Agastache foeniculum)
Verbena bonariensis
Coral Honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens)
Lavender 'Munstead': a few repeat blooms
Verbena hastata 'Pink Spires'
Stokesia 'Purple Parasols'
Talinium paniculatum 'Limon'

Zinnia 'Envy'

Tigridia pavonia 'Canariensis'
Orienpet Lily 'Red Dutch'
Orienpet Lily 'Red Dutch'
Salvia 'May Night'
Cosmos sulphureus 'Bright Lights'
Portulaca 'Tutti Frutti Mix'
nasturtium 'Fordhook Favorites'
Kniphofia 'Alcazar'
Rudbeckia 'Prairie Sun'
Oregano (Origanum vulgare): pink-flowered, favorite of bees and butterflies
Nepeta transcaucasica 'Blue Infinity'
Calamintha nepeta

And, the thing that's been taking up all my time, lots of veggies.

Unless I'm distracted by butterflies and wildflowers in the meadow.

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Saturday, July 11, 2009

Harvest: July 10


Left to right: Tavera filet beans, Poona Kheera cucumber, Portofino zucchini, mixed Yin-Yang and Etna beans

We're getting into the high season for vegetables, and I'm still mostly thrilled with the harvest.

I didn't show the garlic I dug up yesterday because that was a disappointment. I had more Silver Rose garlic than any other variety and it appeared to be very healthy, but when I dug it I found most of the bulbs riddled with onion maggots. Not sure what is the best course of action - whether to leave them alone to dry or try to remove the infested parts. Also dug up the French Red shallots. They mostly look OK, with a few starting to rot. More rain expected tomorrow and/or Monday...

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Friday, July 10, 2009

Petunia Observation



If you've been hanging on my every word reading this blog for a while, you may remember that I have been seeking a couple of lost petunias for several years. This year I think I found them.

The first petunia I loved and lost was Burpee's California Giants. I grew them from seed one year when Burpee was offering their own heirloom seeds (at least that's what they claimed). Huge ruffle-y flamboyant flowers on large vigorous plants. I bought the seeds again a year or two later, also from Burpee, but the flowers were not like the first. Then they disappeared from their listings.

I turned next to Select Seeds. They claimed to be selling 'Giants of California', but that also turned out to be something quite different from the catalog description. Different than what I expected, but a serendipitous discovery of the fragrance of old-fashioned petunias. I think I wrote it better then than I could now.

After that event, I scoured the seed catalogs for old-fashioned petunias hoping to recapture that lovely fragrance, while also searching for a replacement for California Giants. In 2007, I tried Chiltern's Giants of California. No luck. Last year, I tried Select Seeds Balcony Petunias, thinking those might have been the fragrant flowers in their Giants of California seed packet in 2006. Again, no. They were lovely satiny flowers, but not fragrant.

Then last year, I noticed that Thompson & Morgan were offering a Petunia called 'Superbissima'. The catalog description sounded right. "The largest Petunia flowers we have ever seen, bred on from those available over 100 years ago! Robust plants produce huge 10-15cm (4-6in) wide exotic looking frilly blooms, in an attractive mixture of pinks, reds and purples, each with rich veining and attractive dark eyes. An eye-catching addition to borders or containers." I bought the seeds last year and sowed them indoors this spring and you can see the results above. The flowers are pretty much what I remember from the old Burpee seeds although 4-6in is catalog hyperbole; they might measure that if you flatten them out first. However, the plants are short in comparison to the long-lost Burpee petunias. Well, a shorter plant is not so bad.

But how is it that these seeds just surfaced recently after being missing for several years? More internet searching. Ta da! I think I may have found the producer of these seeds - Cerný Seeds in Czechoslovakia. Their web page describing Petunia hybrida grandiflora superbissima nana sounds and looks just like what I'm growing this year. The plant is said to be a tetraploid, which would account for the huge flowers. And there are a few slightly double ones, as the catalog describes.So, happiness at last on this one.

If you can manage to take your gaze off the ruffled flowers in photo above, you'll see there's also a smaller pinkish-purple one. That one is from the Old-Fashioned Vining Petunia seed I bought this year from Seed Savers Exchange. The first flower that opened had the fragrance I've been missing. Happiness again. But not every plant has that fragrance. The flower in the picture, for example, has very little.

Which brings me to an observation. All the petunias have very little fragrance during the day. The magic happens in the early evening. But some petunias have a fragrance that is just unpleasant. After I photographed the tiny vase of flowers outdoors, I placed it indoors. And last evening, I noticed an odd smell. Coming from the vase. Those big ruffled flowers thought they were outside attracting insects instead of indoors repelling me.

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Sunday, July 05, 2009

The Tomato List

Taking advantage of this rainy Sunday morning to catch up on some recordkeeping. I began this post on May 31, so you can see that my recordkeeping is badly in need of updating. To that end, I'm trying out yet another system - myfolia.com. I'm impressed so far, but it does involve a lot of data entry. This morning, I entered all the tomatoes.

However, I had already compiled this list of tomatoes and their catalog descriptions, so I'm going to go ahead and publish this post. But I have a feeling that this may be the last blog post of its type that I ever write because Folia does a much better job at this sort of thing.

I sowed all the tomato seeds on April 4, but didn't get the plants in the ground until May 31. The weather has been OK, not great. Not much heat so far this summer. Lots of rain after planting, then a short dry spell. Last week we got about .5" of rain all at once and we're getting a good soaking rain this morning. Most of the plants have small fruit by now, but I don't see much of anything on Persimmon, Virginia Sweets, and Green Zebra. Poor Green Zebra was cut down by a cutworm 10 days after planting. I stuck the cut stem in the ground and it rooted and grew, but obviously has been set back by the experience.



The Returning Veterans. These are all plants I've grown before and liked enough to plant again. The descriptions are from various catalogs, not necessarily the source of my seeds. Photos of the green fruit were taken yesterday in my garden.

Black Prince: Deep garnet round fruits really load up on these plants that stay fairly small. Tomatoes are medium-sized and full of juice and good, rich flavor. Originally from Siberia. This variety should be a favorite in most gardens. Indeterminate. 70 days.

Kellogg's Breakfast: HEIRLOOM Indeterminate An heirloom from West Virginia preserved by Darrell Kellogg, a railroad supervisor, in Redford, MI after receiving seed from a friend. An extremely large, sunny orange beefsteak with an outstanding flavor that is just unforgettable. (79 days)
Kellogg's Breakfast produces some cat-faced tomatoes, but the taste is fabulous.


Black Russian: Cordon (Indeterminate). These medium sized black tomatoes grow on compact plants bearing plenty of dark mahogany-brown fruits, with a delicious blend of sugar and acid. Tomato Black Russian has a distinctive, complex flavour that has to be tasted to be believed.
Black Russian. I agree about the flavor of this one,
but I get very few unblemished tomatoes from it
I keep growing it because I love the flavor
of the few good tomatoes I get.


Matt's Wild Cherry: The wild tomato with luscious taste.
These small cherry tomatoes are packed with more taste than you can believe. 5/8- 3/4", deep red, round fruits have a tender, smooth texture, and loads of sweet, full flavor. High sugar content (118 Brix). Though the taste is superior, it doesn’t yield well and the fruits are soft, so grow on a trial scale at first. Teresa Arellanos de Mena, a friend of former Univ. of Maine AG faculty members Drs. Laura Merrick and Matt Liebman, brought seeds to Maine from her family’s home state of Hidalgo in Eastern Mexico. It’s the region of domestication of tomatoes, and where these grow wild. Matt gave us the seeds. Indeterminate. Days to Maturity or Bloom: 60
Matt's Wild Cherry


Striped/Speckled Roman: (81 days) Indeterminate Developed by John Swenson, this tomato is a cross between Antique Roman and Banana Legs. The fruit are quite uniform and we noticed few disease problems. The are about 3 X 5" and quite heavy. The red color is flecked with short attractive orange stripes. The dense tomatoes are great for paste or processing, but flavor is so good you'll also want to eat them fresh.

German Johnson: 76 days. (Indeterminate) [Popular heirloom tomato from Virginia and North Carolina.] This is one of the four parent lines of the 'Mortgage Lifter' tomato. It is very similar in flavor. Pink-red fruits average 3/4 to 1-1/2 lbs. with generally smooth tops. Good for slicing or canning. Fruits have few seeds. Plants are very productive and fairly resistant to disease.




Rookies. New to the garden this year. I chose them for various reasons. Recommendations from fellow gardeners always have great influence. In general, I like strongly flavored tomatoes which are not too sweet. While reading catalogs over the winter, I often found myself noting which tomatoes were said to have "great taste", "assertive flavor" and the like.

Copia: These very beautiful tomatoes are a stunning combination of fine-lined golden yellow and red stripes. While visually exciting, the real treat comes when you cut them open. Their gold flesh is streaked with red and is very juicy, flavorful, and sweet. A stabilized cross between Green Zebra and Marvel Stripe, these tomatoes weigh about one pound each, They were named in honor of Copia, the American Center for Food, Wine and the Arts, in Napa California. Indeterminate. 85 days.
Copia. It appears this one is going to be a "cracker".


Virginia Sweets: NEW FOR 2009. This heirloom variety is simply one of the best tasting, best producing gold-red bicolors we have ever grown. On top of that, the tomatoes are stunningly beautiful and enormous, weighing at least 1 pound each. Golden yellow beefsteaks are colored with red stripes that turn into a ruby blush on top of the golden fruit. Flavor is sweet and rich, and harvests are abundant. Indeterminate. 80 days.

Green Zebra: A unique and delicious salad tomato. 3 oz. green fruits ripen to amber-green with darker green stripes. The light green flesh is very flavorful, sweet yet zingy. This one is a real taste treat. Indeterminate. 75 days.

Lida Ukrainian: mid, SD, RL, prolific set of globe shaped 4 to 6 oz. fruits, very meaty, very good taste on the assertive side, meaning not mild.

Bloody Butcher: early, Ind, PL, deep red salad tomato, 1 to 3 oz. fruits, good taste, high yields. Resembles Stupice in both plant habit and fruit size, but fruits are a darker shade of red. Fruits start early and bear until frost.

Break O'Day: early, Ind to SD, RL, very good yields and excl taste, globe fruits of about 8 oz. Originally from a cross between Marglobe and Marvel in 1923 and introduced in 1931.

Noire des Cosebeuf: mid, Ind, RL, high yield of 6 to 8 oz. dark pink/purplish oblate fruits, scalloped shoulders, assertive taste.
Noire des Cosebeuf. This one will have an interesting shape, if nothing else. So far no cracking, catfacing or other uglies.


(The Other) Persimmon: 88 days. (Indeterminate) [Introduced about 1982.] Beautiful persimmon colored, rose-orange fruits range between 12 and 16 oz., though early fruits can weigh up to 2 lbs. Ripens from the blossom end to the softly dented light green shoulders, gradually acquiring a rose orange hue. Vines are vigorous, well branched and produce 1 to 2 fruits per flower cluster. 'Persimmon' is one of our personal favorites for inviting color and rewarding flavor.




Lastly, I'd like to recommend a couple of my favorite sources of information about tomatoes and other plants.

Tatiana's TomatoBase. A wiki about hundreds of heirloom tomato varieties. Also, peppers, garlic and other vegetables, but the tomatoes are the main thing.

Tomatoville. A forum for tomato growers. Some of the big name heirloom tomato growers participate.

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posted by Entangled at 11:09 AM
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Friday, July 03, 2009

Butterflies and Associates

A mostly-pictures post with all of last Friday's butterfly photos. With any luck I can repeat the exercise today. Butterflies are fluttering and dragonflies are zipping and hovering all over the garden and meadow at this time of year. I find dragonflies to be much harder to photograph than butterflies.

You've already seen the Great Spangled Fritillary, but this is a different shot.
Great Spangled Fritillary
I created a Flickr account several months ago and have been posting photos there as well as to Picasaweb. The photo above is posted at Flickr.

This American Lady butterfly was nectaring on Spotted Knapweed too, but then flew off to rest in a Juniper tree.


Two different kinds of Oregano are in bloom and both are very popular with the butterflies and bees. This is an Orange Sulphur on the purple/pink flowered Oregano. I think the botanical name is Origanum vulgare, but Oregano taxonomy is confusing at best.


Here's a Cabbage White on the same Oregano. A very common butterfly, probably the most common butterfly in my garden, but check out the bee about to come in for a landing.


On the white-flowered Oregano, I found a Gray Hairstreak...

...which seems to be the same individual I photographed earlier in the meadow. Notice the same notch out of one wing.


Now we come to the Skippers. They still drive me to despair trying to identify them. Any idea which one this is?


These two, I believe, are Least Skippers. There should be more of them around for future study.


OK, that's it for the butterflies. Now we have the associates. 2007 was the first summer I planted lots and lots of Verbena bonariensis. Suddenly, it became easy to photograph clearwing moths because they just can't get enough Verbena nectar. They're so attracted to it that they let me get very close with the camera. This is a Snowberry Clearwing Moth.


And, lastly, a new-to-me dragonfly. This - a Banded Pennant - is small compared to some of the helicopter-sized ones I haven't yet been able to photograph.
Banded Pennant

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