Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Oak Blooms

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The first picture is of a pecan starting to leaf out. Folk wisdom (and also my grandmother Hubert) says that it is safe to plant your garden when the pecan leaves are as big as a squirrel's ear. I think these would qualify. Except. Of the 4 pecan trees I examined, two were leafing out and two were not. You have to wait anyway. The second picture is oak blooms. The ground is too wet to work.
Several people I know are allergic to oak blooms and the spring bloom gives them fits. I thought this was a beauty, but I guess it depends on whether you are allergic to it or not. I think the recent rains brought down a lot of the pollen in the trees around my house, so I can sweep the porch any time now. No use doing it before the pollen fall finishes.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Wanton Wisteria

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If you have not seen this sight, make your way to where Waverly Parkway ends at US 280. There is space to pull off the road as you go over the bridge. You have to get out of the car and stumble over a few vines to see this, but it is worth the effort. The perfume of this mass of blooms is enough to make a person swoon.
I really enjoy seeing (and smelling) Wisteria this time of year, and am always amazed at how much of it there is blooming around the Auburn/Opelika area. The rest of the year I despise the stuff. It runs rampant over trees, shrubs, houses, everything in it's path. And it is strong. It can literally pull down trees and houses. Don't try to grow it on any trellis except an iron one. Better advice yet: don't grow it at all. And if it is growing on your property, don't stop till you cut the vines off and paint the stumps with herbicide.
There is a native wisteria, Wisteria frutescens, which is much more restrained in its growth than what we typically see. Chinese Wisteria, Wisteria sinensis, is the VERY invasive plant we see wrapping things up. Additionally there is a Japanese wisteria. Genetic studies show that these three have hybridized in the wild to produce a plant that cannot be stopped without extra diligence over a period of years. Abstract of one paper can be seen here.
Wisteria is far worse than kudzu. Instead of wrapping trees up and perhaps shading them out,it actually squeezes them to death. The growth of the wisteria wrapped around the tree combined with the growth of the tree will eventually kill the tree. When it dies and drops to the ground, wisteria simply runs along the ground till it finds another vertical to climb.
When I got home after my wisteria walk, I smelled the familiar fragrance in my own yard, and Yup, it was back. Time to get the pruners and pesticide!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Eclectic Gardening

I was unaware of any of this when I started my new avenue of gardening . Although some who know me would say it is not new, just a bit more open than in the past, starting with pot lady. Read on to find out that you, too, can break into the wide world of Gardening Art and ease.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Spring Blooming Trees From Seed


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The first photo is regular ol' peach, grown from a pit. Peach trees are worth growing merely for the blooms, and anyone can have one cheaply and quickly by planting a pit. It is not worth it to me to buy a tree and nurse it along to provide deer and worm food. I don't care to spray and nurse fruit trees along just to be disappointed by a small amount of wormy hard knots. But the blooms! So easy and beautiful! If a deer wipes mine out by wiping his antlers on the bark, no worry. Just plant a few more pits. Mine are the old timey white fruited variety, and they often produce a few small fruits worth nibbling under the tree, if I can get there before the deer. These are clear seeded and Mother used to break them open and dry them in the hot Alabama sun. This is a good use of those old abandoned cars you see in people's yards. It gets as hot in there as in my attic, and is easier to access. They will make wonderful dried fruit pies in the winter.
The second picture is of a slow plum and I also grew it from seed collected in the wild. The fruit which comes in the fall (slow plum) is beautiful on the tree, ripening in a succession of yellow, orange, and red. It is not suitable to eat, at least to me, due to it's smallness, large seed, and sour taste. (It might make good jelly.) The flowers are the reason I grow this small tree. The picture shows the reason I leave my Christmas balls on it the year round. (Well, one of the reasons-the tree has thorns and can poke your eye out if you are not careful). It looks like snow to me, something we don't see that much of in east central Alabama.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Nun Orchid


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Phaius tankervilliae, commonly known as nun's orchid, came to this country in the 18th century, and is named for the shape of the flowers, which from a certain angle resemble a nun's head covering. It can grow in the ground in places where the temperature does not go below 36 degrees. Translated this means the Gulf Coast and Florida. It may flower in response to reduced daylight in the winter. These are my plants and they are blooming now. I got one off ebay from someone on the Mississippi coast who apparently dug it from their yard. Another plant was purchased from Southern Homes in Wetumka, but both plants have grown and flowered well for me. Unlike most orchids, these are terrestrial, and are grown in loose potting media instead of a bark media.Not only are the flowers beautiful, the leaves are also pretty, unlike cattelya orchids.

Monday, March 23, 2009

How can I keep From Singing?

Sunday at church the handbells gave a wonderful rendition of Robert Lowry's "How Can I Keep From Singing?" It was moving music. I was not familiar with it, but I looked up some info on the song. The lyrics follow here:

How Can I Keep From Singing?

My life flows on in endless song;
Above earth’s lamentation
I hear the sweet though far off hymn
That hails a new creation:
Through all the tumult and the strife
I hear the music ringing;
It finds an echo in my soul—
How can I keep from singing?

What though my joys and comforts die?
The Lord my Savior liveth;
What though the darkness gather round!
Songs in the night He giveth:
No storm can shake my inmost calm
While to that refuge clinging;
Since Christ is Lord of heaven and earth,
How can I keep from singing?

I lift mine eyes; the cloud grows thin;
I see the blue above it;
And day by day this pathway smoothes
Since first I learned to love it:
The peace of Christ makes fresh my heart,
A fountain ever springing:
All things are mine since I am His—
How can I keep from singing?

Robert Wadsworth Lowry

Watch more Shepherd Moons videos on AOL Video

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Water Features at The Garden Show



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There were several great water features at the Spring Garden Show. Some had fountains but it was too hard not to like the ones best that imitated a natural brook and associated vegetation.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Orchids Galore




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There were oodles of beautiful orchids for sale at the Southern Home and Garden Show in Charlotte. They were very beautiful, but a bit pricey. But still, a nice dessert for the eyes (and heart).

Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Scrap Exchange




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The Scrap Exchange in Durham, NC is one of my favorite places to visit.There is no telling what you may see there. It is a place to make art of of an assortment of stuff that varies from visit to visit. There are barrels of things to choose from as well as bolts and pieces of cloth, some magazines and books, and whatever. This visit some of the items in the barrels were keyboard keys, pieces of picture frames (that had been left after framing) computer parts, CD cases,sticky back scraps of plastic,assorted small plastic bottles and tubes, and assorted things that I had no idea what they were for or from. Many of the items appear to be leftovers from manufacturing , or throw away parts such as weird packing materials, etc. At any rate it was great fun to rummage through and think about what these things could be used for. Two room are for themed displays and the pictures above are from what I called the desert landscape room. Zoom in on the different pictures and you will see that the main component is paper.The stems or trunks of the largest trees or cacti are made from brown cardboard, with the leaves made of paper and a few other materials. Toothpicks make the spines.
You can purchase the items and carry away for a nominal cost to make your treasures at home or you can make them at the facility. At the time I was there a group of school children could be heard in the classroom having a great time constructing who knows what.
The mobile made from old CD's was also interesting to me. I think one of these made bigger would make a great room divider for a college space. The CD's are decoupaged with an assortment of interesting pictures and words. I have an oodle of these CD's from AOL and other worthless stuff saved in the attic for just such a project. ... Or maybe I should make a CD Tree for the yard????

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Witch-Hazel On the Duke University Campus

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I saw this witchhazel growing in the yard of Documentary Studies at Duke University. Clicking on the picture should get you a closer look. It was growing beside the walk way and I was very pleased to make it's acquaintance, as I seldom get to see one in bloom. I expect flowers of the ones in the woods here are already passed. They bloom in east central Alabama in January and February. I suspect this may be a cultivar instead of a wild specimen, but you get the idea from the photo. Fruit, flowers and next years buds all appear on the same branch simultaneously. The fruit takes about 8 months to mature. In the fall it bursts open explosively sending seeds flying to as far away as 35 feet. An extract of the leaves and bark is a sometimes ingredient in after shave and hemorrhoid preparations. It is also used to treat bruises and insect bites.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Trout Lilies at Duke Garden

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Last week I made a trip to North Carolina and plan to regale you with photos of that trip over the next few days. This picture is of Erythronium americana, trout lily, that was growing in the Duke Gardens native area, also known as the Bloomquist Garden. Trout lilies, also known as dogtooth violets (no relation to violets),are among the earliest wildflowers to bloom. Mine are up, but if I was going to get any blooms, they would already have bloomed.I rarely get more than one or two flowers when they do bloom, certainly not a big bouquet like this one. Unfortunately, this is the typical case for me, so I decided to check up on how to grow them. The information I found may explain why I get so few flowers from them.
Trout lilies do not bloom until they produce two leaves, which can take several years. The key to my non-success may lie in the fact that these lilies do not bloom til they reach a depth in the ground of 10 to 20 cm or 4 to 8 inches. The trout lilies I have came to me as hitchhikers in some soil on plants that were moved from a friend's woodland garden. I saw there were some tiny bulbs in the soil, so rather than plant them, I simply dumped the soil on the surface. All these years later, they are still trying to pull themselves lower in the earth.
A few of the growing conditions I did have right- shady area under deciduous trees in moist(?) woodland soil.The plants need sun in the early spring when the leaves are photosynthesizing, but the leaves die back and retreat to the cool earth near the time when the trees leaf out. If they are fertilized at all, compost should be used.
This is a small plant, not more than 3 or 4 inches tall at max. If you click on the image you should get enough enlargement to take a better look.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Migration of Monarch Butterflies

Here is another wonder of nature. I knew about Monarch migration, but did not know that it can take up to 5 generations for the butterflies to reach Mexico from the US and Canada. Now that is the ultimate in programming!
There are two videos on this link, but they are not clear. Here is a NY Times article that does some good explanation. When you get to the you tuvbe site, you can look at butterfly videos to your heart's content.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Dendrobium Orchid

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I have grown this Dendrobium for more than 30 years and in all that time I have NEVER repotted it. I suppose the thought to be gained from this tale is that it does best with no potting media. It is clearly a mass of hanging roots. When I water I just turn the hose on it. However when it is blooming I try not to get water on the blooms because cold water can cause spotting on orchid blooms. I water it every time I water in the greenhouse except during the winter. I do not water from about October till I see the buds forming about late January. This does seem a bit cruel, but it appears to trigger bloom. When I take pity on it and water, I get few or no flowers.

Ain't we glad to see Daylight Saving Time????

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Paphiopedilum, Slipper Orchid

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This Paphiopedilum , one of the numerous slipper orchids,is Rosy Dawn. It grows prolifically for me, always flowering in the winter. The blooms last a Looong time. It is an Asian cross, as most of the non-terrestrial slipper orchids are. We do have some native terrestrial slipper orchids, but they are very difficult to grow in a garden. I advise against either purchasing or digging them in the wild. Most likely you will just wind up killing them, and they are too beautiful to risk that.

Friday, March 6, 2009

My First blooming Wildflower

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This is the first flower that blooms in my wildflower area. It is Hepatica. This is not a good picture as the flowers are so white they are washed out. But they are very white and bright against the fallen leaves. I took this picture about a week ago and it had been in bloom several days before I saw it, as evidenced by the fullness of it's bloom. These prefer shade and moist organic soil, and this one has been happy ever since it has lived in Gold Hill.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Jewel Box Orchid


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I have been growing this Jewel Box Orchid for close to 30 years. I am not saying I am an expect, but rather this orchid is very tolerant of benign neglect.This plant has bloomed in February for nearly every one of those 30 years. It has multiple blooms per bloom sheath and multiple bloom sheaths. It is a delightful small orchid flower and puts on its red show around Valentine's Day. Who could resist the sentiments in a small really red orchid?

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

No, I am not kidding

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This sign is nailed to a electric pole on US 431 South heading into Five Points, Alabama. I'm not sure I want any.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Bletilla striata, Chinese Ground orchid



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I have grown Betilla stricta for many years in the greenhouse. When I first got the pseudobulbs of this orchid, they were quite cheap, and although the price has risen over the last 30 years, they are still cheap. I have tried them in the ground a couple of times, but without much luck. One they returned for a couple years, but never bloomed; the frost always nipped them back. I have seen them growing at the old Village Arbors in Auburn, Alabama, so I know they should be able to make it outdoors here. The recommendation is to cover them deeply with mulch and not remove it till all danger of frost is past. Also the corms should be planted near the surface of the ground and receive adequate moisture in the growing season and be kept relatively dry while they are dormant. For me this just works out better to keep them in pots in the greenhouse over winter. After the foliage starts to die down in the fall, I turn the pots on their sides and do not water again till the growth has started in the spring.
I think these are beautiful little charmers, looking pretty much like their giant cousins , the catteyla. They are very easy to grow in a pot and will reward you in January and February with a burst of flowers when you need them most. They are terrestrial orchids and can be grown in any well drained commercial media, no need for orchid potting media.
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