Wednesday, June 30, 2010

June's Glory

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June is on the downhill slide now, but it has been glorious. This is a picture of one of my flower beds a couple weeks ago. I didn't get it posted before because I was too busy sweating. The heat and humidity have not bothered these flowers much.The beautiful pink lilies behind the bird bath were bought one year at a late season sale and I planted them en mass in case they were too damaged to sprout by their sojourn in the store. I have been rewarded several times over for my rescue effort. The yellow and read zinnias can be seen sticking their heads above the crowd in the center left of the bed. This is the first time I have grown cock's comb (the red brain looking thing to the right foreground of the picture. I was expecting them to be short, but maybe I should have read the description more carefully. At any rate I am happy enough with them at this point. There is Cleome (a volunteer) and lots of coneflowers. This was the peak for this particular set of June flowers.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010


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Agapanthus, also known as Lily of the Nile, is from Africa, as you probably suspect.It is a beautiful striking plant with that most coveted of flower colors in the garden--blue or blue/violet. I grew mine for years in a pt, starting with 2 or 3 bulbs in a 20 inch pot. Over time the pot filled with offsets and the size of the flowers began to decline. I am always overcrowded in the greenhouse, and so I decided to try them outside. It is written that they bloom better in a pot where the roots are crowded, which may be true, but they bloom just fine in average garden soil, with only a minimum of care. And another coveted feature is that they get better with age. Bigger flowers, taller sturdier stalks,and continue to multiply.
The flowers are beautiful as cut flowers and last about a week. If allowed to mature in the garden, the seed (there is usually only 2 or 3 seed pods), the sputnik type flower spike dries and is a great addition to dried arrangements. Plus not everybody grows them, and they flower in zone 8 in June/july, a time when most bulbs are done and the blue adds needed coolness to the garden.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Red Plumeria

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I bought this as a cutting in a plastic bag when we were in Hawaii in December. It was not the only thing I bought in the plant line, but it was one of two plants that lived. The other is a ginger and I am not holding out a lot of hope for it because it is still a tiny thing, even after 6 months. I think it may have been too chilly in the greenhouse when I put them in soil. Maybe I should have started them in the house. But this is beautiful. I have a pink oner I grew from seed and have made lots of cuttings of, but it does not bloom well. I believe it may need more fertilizer and I am going to try to do better about giving it a high phosphorous fertilizer and see if I can get more flowers. This little one inspires me to go better.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

White Beebalm


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I do remember planting this beebalm many years ago, and it seems like I found it growing somewhere as a wildling. It could have been on the edge of the railroad track. I never did anything else to it except stick it in the ground at the base of this oak tree. That has been many years ago, but see how it has taken care of itself. i think this must be the story of beebalms-they take care of themselves and also they take all land adjoining where they are planted. Many years ago in North Carolina I planted some beautiful red beebalm. It was just gorgeous and fairly well behaved but then it started to spread. It even went out in the grass. It was in full sun and was about 2 feet tall. This white is about the same height but leans a bit toward the sun. the plant you see in the middle of the picture is a native Hydrangea that the deer have missed. Maybe the beebalm has protected it because beebalm has a musty smell. It does show up well with its white flowers in the shade.

I think I will move some of this beebalm into the inhospitable place behind my mailbox in the full sun and see if it can make a place for itself there.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Abandoned House on County Line Road


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While riding through the country I saw these two abandoned houses across the road from each other. The roof of the white house is growing moss and if it does not leak now, soon will.The vents on the dorma are rooting and unpainted. There are tell tale signs all around the house that no one lives there, even though there are curtains in the windows. A peek through a crack in the lace curtains revealed that there is still furniture in the living room. The mailbox still stands and out back under the carport awning is a chair that looks like someone just got up and left.
The other house is across the road from the front of the house. It may have been a tenant house or a store building, but its last use must have been a storage house, judging from the varied items that rest on and around the porch.
I thought of all kinds of stories that could explain the state of affairs, but none were very happy. Maybe whoever lived there died suddenly, leaving no interested heirs. Perhaps a lawsuit keeps the property in continual limbo. Perhaps the heirs are old and/or infirm and cannot afford to keep the place up. Maybe it is a sort of mausoleum for the dead owners.
I also wonder why a tenant house was built almost in the front yard of the main house. Maybe it was not a tenant house, but the house the family lived in before they built the other house and later used for storage. Maybe the house was a store and was built in that position so that the store could easily be seen by the invalid daughter whose job it was to announce loudly when a customer came up. Maybe the current owners feel that there is nothing of value about the house to be worried with. The residents may have been so saintly that nothing material they left behind could compare with the legacy of their lives.
You already know I am fascinated by old house and their stories. I wish I knew more about this one.

Friday, June 18, 2010

The Pot Lady Has a New Outfit

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The pot lady has been begging for a new outfit. She said she felt After much searching I did find a suitable outfit and she is happy with it. green is her favorite color anyway. Ya'll come by and visit ,OK?

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Something Scary This Way comes

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Wow! What made these snowy tracks in the lawn? Was it a 4 footed ice alien?

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Gardenias Galore

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I love gardenias. My favorite is the old timey one that some folks call cape jasmine. It came from southern China and Japan and has a fragrance that literally perfumes the entire yard. These past few days I have been enjoying them. I have two large Gardenia jasminoides in my yard. They are easy to root and grow quickly. Sometimes they need a little pruning to keep in shape, but they are about as carefree as a shrub can get. They get a few yellow leaves which they shed right before they put on their new growth and flowers in late spring.
I like them so much that I occasionally stop by the bush and pluck one to eat. They have a firm texture that is not unpleasant and just a faint taste like their fragrance. I wish I could get tea flavored like that. I sometimes add them to a green salad for a nice surprise.
The only drawback to Gardenias is that they generally play host to a colony of white flies. If you buy one that is white fly free, you need to wonder what they treated it with that got rid of them. Maybe you do not want it. The strange thing about those white flies is that they seem to run their course and then die off for the most part. I suppose they could spread to other plants, but mine never do, not even on adjacent shrubs. If they bother you too bad, spray the bush with some dish liquid diluted with water. The next day give the bush a good hosing off. That should get rid of the majority of the white flies. Water may make the flowers turn yellow but more will soon open. And they still smell good even if they turn yellow.
Gardenias are members of the coffee family, Rubiaceae. They have shiny deep green leaves and most are fragrant. There are 142 different gardenias.
I also have 3 ever-blooming gardenias. They have a big flush of blooms in early summer and usually have a few open the rest of the summer. Occasionally there will appear a bloom or two in winter. The flowers are smaller than G. jasminoides and the leaves are smaller also. They can grow just as big as their cousin though.. I have 3 of these in my yard, and they are my favorites. They originally came from a friend of Hugo’s in horticulture that also gave him some azaleas with purplish leaves.
The third kind of gardenia I have is called forest gardenia and it only has it’s first set of true leaves. It is a seedling from some seed I ordered from eBay. I had seen this plant last year in Hawaii and was overjoyed to find seed for it. It is my favorite Gardenia. The flower has a very long floral tube that is pollinated by hawk moths. (Hawk moth offspring is known as tomato horn worm in these parts.)
The fourth kind of gardenia I grow is my favorite. I got it years ago at a plant sale at the Birmingham Botanical Garden. It was labeled Flower of Love. I have since found out that this is another common name for gardenias in general. So I am not any wiser than I was from merely looking at that plant and saying “That looks like a Gardenia.” It is a tropical plant also and will not tolerate frost. I grow it in pots and it produces smaller white fragrant flowers. Like all the gardenias I have had experience with, it roots readily in moist soil and grows rapidly. It takes pruning with ease so when my plants go back in the greenhouse for winter, I just prune it to fit available space.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Milk and Wine Lilies


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Milk and wine lilies are the quintessential pass-a-long plants. They can be seen happily growing in all sorts of uncared for situations like old homesites and along road sides where soil has been added. my brother found a huge clump in the back pasture and brought them in asking what they were. Never fear hurting your clump by dividing it. They multiply rapidly and if you give to a friend, you multiply your joy. They are Crinium lilies and belong to the Amaryllis family.
One did die in my care once, but I think it may have been where it was planted. It was under the drip of the house where water cascades off during any rain. I think too much water going into the crown of the plant rotted it during the winter. Other than keeping water out of the crown of the bulbs, the only other suggestion is full sun. They will grow in partial shade (in fact new bulblets need this shade. They get it naturally by living in the shadow of the mature members of the clump).My reading recommended sandy soil, but I can personally attest that clay is not a problem.
Milk and wine lilies can grow as far north as zone 7, but they are old standbys in the south.
They are fragrant and make good cut flowers in deep water.
The gardener who grew the ones in these pictures deserves a gold star for this planting. The white and rose color of the lilies make a perfect foil for the red Japanese maple. I was just passing by and was so struck by the beautiful combo that I had to stop.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Qreen Anne's Lace



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Daucus carota, Queen Anne's Lace, is the ancestor of our grocery store carrots. If you taste the root, you can taste the carrot-ness of it. But the foliage is poison, or so they say. It is sometimes classified as an invasive noxious weed as it is said to overcrowd pastures. What I say to that is if the pastures were properly mowed, it would not become a problem in the first place, but I am not here to discuss pasture management.The seeds of Queen Anne's Lace have been used as a contraceptive for over 2000 years. It is a food stuff for swallowtail larvae, attracts predatory wasps, and has been shown to boost tomato production when grown near tomatoes. Likely this is a result of the association with predatory wasps. They lay their eggs on the tomato hornworms body and ultimately kill the hornworm. The eggs are those white things on tomato hornworm's body. Never kill a hornworm that has those white egg attachments.
Queen Anne's Lace was brought to this country by European settlers and has become so ubiquitous that many people think it is a native wildflower. It has also invaded Australia. I don't think of it as a weed though. I enjoy it's beauty and like to use it in floral arrangements, even thou the pollen tends to drop around it. to me this adds to the beauty, similar to a fallen petal under an arrangement.
Like a carnation , the flowers take up color added to the water it sits in. Try this with the kids. put a little food coloring into the water of a vase of Queen Anne's lace flowers and watch what happens.
The red dot that sometimes appears in the middle of the flower is a drop of queen Anne's blood when she pricked her finger making the lace. In actuality it attracts insects.
The dried umbels hold the seed. They contract, becoming concave and result in another common name for the plant: bird's nest.
A word of caution. Queen Anne's Lace is easily mistaken for Poison Hemlock. Click here to see.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Day Lilies Along The Roadsides

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Riding along the country roads in Alabama this time of year, the ditches are lined in places with the common orange day lily. I love them. They are so big and bright for wildflowers. I call them wildflowers; they might as well be. They came to this country with the first homesteaders. This flower rarely produces a seed, but spreads vegetatively from the thick roots. It is a clone and all day lily plants have the same genetic make up. They take care of themselves and hold their own against the grasses and even the herbicide the road crews put out. The herbicide knocks them back temporarily, but they spring back again. The mowers may cut off the flowers, but they will return to smile again as if nothing ever happened. All parts of the common day lily are edible: flowers, stems,leaves, and roots. I have not personally eaten them, but how bad could they be really? Some orange petals would really perk up a green salad. They can even be dried and added to winter salads for color.Wine can be made from the spent blooms, and as with almost anything, they can be fried. Fritters are made from the flowers or they can be pan seared. The leaves and roots can be eaten raw or cooked. Remember this when hard times come.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Communion Sunday

Today I went to the contemporary service at church. I am not fond of the music in the contemporary service and I suppose that is what people who go like about it. To me the music itself seems to have tunes generated by a synthesizer where the same few bars play over and over and the lyrics are just as boring. Chose a phrase and sing it over and over again. The music just can't compare with the best that hundreds of years of Christianity has generated. But today there had been a couple of fairly calm songs and the second song during communion started with such a crash that I jumped in my pew. I do wonder why that choice was made.
And... the communion wafers were rancid. This was quite startling to me,too. I got some chuckles trying to figure out what this might mean on a cosmic scale. I will just leave that to your imagination.
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