Saturday, July 31, 2010

Baby Goats in July

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You know I like 'em. They are too cute! Thee twins chose an odd place to sleep:between the pipes of the gate. I guess it was a tidy place. These two have not been hand reared and are impossible to catch without some running and some quick movement, which I am not inclined to,when the weather is this hot. These babies know you should take a nap in the hat of the day.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Wild Petunia

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Hairy wild petunia (also called fringeleaf wild petunia) is a native beauty that is under appreciated and should be actively grown instead of relegated to spots outside the flower beds. But it can make it just fine on it's own , thank you. Ruellia humilis is a native perennial petunia. It flowers in the dry and heat of summer, and right now there are purple flowers an inch or so in diameter peeking up all over my back yard. The reason they are so short is I have mowed them over, but they just keep blooming.This afternoon the black swallowtails were having a feast on their nectar. Normally Plants in my yard do not get more than a foot tall and they thrive in sun and shade. Elsewhere (besides my yard), it can be found in open areas and dry upland wooded areas. It spreads by the dispersal of large seed, and consequently may form small colonies around the mother plant. They flower for about 2 months in the hottest part of the year. they are not troubled by disease or insects. why don't I grow more beautiful EASY things???

Monday, July 26, 2010

Competing With Wildlife for Blueberries and Figs

The birds are eating my blueberries and figs. I always have a lot of trouble with birds in the fig bush. I tried to scare them away by cutting s piece of hose and laying it in the bush so that it looked (hopefully) like a snake. It did not work (predictability). After all, birds spend their very lives being on the lookout for snakes and other predators, so they should know what a snake looks like.
I looked at Lowe's and Home depot before making my way to WalMart searching for a snake. I did find one there, but I think it is about as good as that hose. The hose was bright yellow. This snake is neon green with a bright red tongue.I put it up in the tree anyway. Maybe it it mildews a bit it will look more snake-like. You just can't buy a good plastic snake these days!
I have about quit picking blueberries because of the heat. Maybe it is only fair to leave some for the birds and squirrels. But who am I kidding. I would get every lasting one if it were not for the heat. The bushes are shaded in the late afternoon, but usually by that time I have already been as hot as I want to be for one day, and just do not go outside again.
Someone recommended that I cover the ground under the bush with a sheet and shake the blueberries off, collecting them in the sheet. Sounds like a good idea, but the execution of the idea is more difficult. Firstly, my bush is more of a copse than a single bush. Sprouts surround the central stem so it is tricky to get the whole thing surrounded with a sheet. I did try it once earlier, but when I shook the bush, almost none fell off. At that point I had been picking regularly. I assume they need to be dead ripe for this technique to work. So... maybe if I try again now, it would work better.
Somehow I don't mind the birds as bad as I do the squirrels, even though there are more of them and probably do more consuming. Those squirrels are just downright greedy. They snatch whole handfuls and pack them in their mouths and run off. I know if they hide them somewhere they just rot, so no good is coming of their theft. Besides, all their jumping around in the bush shakes a lot of berries off on the ground. (Maybe I should enlist the squirrels to shake my bushes.)
I wonder if I am any different from the squirrels as the bucket of figs I already picked still sit in the refrigerator.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Swimming Pool Bug

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This is probably the most colorful bug I ever saw, but I have no clue what it might be. Unfortunately it drowned because of a sojourn in the Guffey's pool. Or maybe fortunately. For all I know this bug may be the Mother of Millions that will consume all agricultural crops and give epizootie to all people causing mass extinctions. But I rather doubt it. If you have any idea what this is, please let me know.

This is probably a tiger beetle. They run fast and may bite if you try to capture them. I guess we were just lucky on that count that this one was half drowned when we found it. It was probably speeding along and overshot into the pool.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Gloriosa Lily

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A number of years ago on a trip to South Alabama (LA, or Lower, Alabama  to those in the know), I detoured by a house that had a day lilies for sale sign in the yard. LA appears to be the home of day lilies with a good number of homes offering them for sale. but on this occasion I was looking for something I had read about in one of my horticulture journals. Gloriosa Lily seemed a contradiction in terms. How could you have a climbing lily? But the pictures I had seen were unique and colorful, so in typical fashion-I don't grow it-I want it I started trying to chase this plant down. When I asked about it, the lady got a distant look in her eyes and said she might have one if she could find the bulbs.After several false starts digging in the sandy soil, she came up with a couple of flat things that I would have hesitated to call a bulb. they bloomed the next year and every year since. No telling what they would have done in the intervening years if I had planted it in a good spot. I planted it with an eye to what it could climb on, not the soil. It has done well in spite of me.
After the stem gets about 4 or 5 leaves it begins to lean and "search" for support. At the end of each leaf a tendril forms that will grab anything handy, another plant, shrub, fence, etc that will support it. My taller ones reach 6 feet. They last a long time on the plant and are purported to last even longer in a vase, but I cannot bear to cut them.The bulbs are two pronged and  thus double in number each year. I have been thinking of digging some of mine up and putting them in a better spot. But then I have been thinking of that for years. Maybe this fall..... 

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Baby Fence Lizards

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About a month ago I dug up these reptile eggs while digging in my flower bed. I wondered what they were and decided to put them in a jar to see what would hatch. I put the eggs and some soil and mulch in a gallon jug with a screen over the top to coral whatever hatched. I left the jug on the porch where it could get some sun everyday. The screening cut back on the sun to some degree, but mostly it was pretty hot in that jug I guess. When moisture would stop collecting on the inside of the jar, I sprayed a little water inside the jug or dropped a few drops of water in. I added water about 3 times over the month of incubation.
Today I noticed that the dog seemed very interested in the jug and went to check. I was overjoyed to see 4 little fence lizards racing about in the jug and occasionally jumping up onto the sides. I was a little disappointed as I had hoped the eggs would be anole eggs, but what I got is what I got. I was incredulous that they had actually hatched. They were so active and I thought they must be hungry so I was anxious to release them. I turned the jug on its side and one came out immediately. I put my finger near it and it climbed on. It was so light I could not even feel its weight. It sat there for a while and then raced up my arm and onto my back. I released the other babies in a flower bed and wished them luck. When I got back inside I checked in the mirror and my little hitch hiker was still on my shirt collar in the back. I took it outside and let it go.
This was a very joyous event for me. I felt like I had discovered a miracle in progress, 4 two inch long scaly grey lizardsbeginning life in a jar, just for me to watch.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

July's Lilies


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These two lilies are always pretty during July. The orange one is the old standard Tiger Lily at old homesites around the south. They propagate by making bulb offsets and also by forming little black bulblets in the axils of the leaves. When these bulblets are mature they release from the mother plant and roll to the ground where they take root, and in 2 to 3 years they will be blooming size.
The other lily is one called Star Gazer and it has a wonderful fragrance. I have it growing right by the steps so I can smell it as I pass up and down.
I always remove the pollen sacks of lilies if I plan to use them for cut flowers. The pollen can make a very bad stain on clothes or table linens. I sometimes remove them from the flowers I leave in the yard because I do not want them to put energy into seed making. I had rather they spend that energy in increasing the size of the bulb. The pollen sacks should be removed as soon as the flowers open and before the pollen is rerleased. If pollen has already started to release, use care that you do not touch the pollen to the stigma or you will polleninate the flower yourself!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Strange Bugs



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I have encounter some unusual bugs in the last few days. The rhinoceros beetle was given to me by a friend, who knows I like these sorts of things. I think it is beautiful. Rhinoceros beetles are not as common now as 50 years ago. My grandmother, who loved flowers as much as I do, would collect them when she found them and spray paint them vivid colors, stick them on a wire and use them to decorate her potted plants. They are so beautiful though, I don't think they need spray paint. Well, maybe some clear would help preserve it. Someone asked me what they were for, and I said I guess to learn about or to help us appreciate God's creatures.
Rhinocerus beetles use their horns for digging and for fighting other males in the mating game. recent research shows that they can move something more than a thousand times their own weight. How do they figure this? Apparently it was measured when two males were fighting, but then I guess their adrenalin was up. A mature beetle only lives a year or two. The larvae live underground (grubs) and feed on decaying roots (not live ones) of trees. They may take 6/7 years to reach maturity, so most of their lives are spent underground. Rhinocerus beetles are scarab beetles or dung beetles which lay their eggs in dung. Now was that more than you wanted to know?
The other thing in the jar is... I do not know what. Dora found it caught in a spider web outside. It was flapping around and making a lot of noise, and she seemed scared of it. (I can see why.) In the several days I kept it in the jar it apparently laid eggs and that is what the little tomato seed looking things are.I believe whatever it is, something was wrong with it as this color on a bug is unusual to say the least. could it be a cicada? They are doing a lot of singing around here lately.

Friday, July 9, 2010


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Yarrow is a great plant to add to flower arrangements, to dry for arrangements, and also as a filler for flower beds to form a foil for other blooms. It's ferny foliage is nice alone, but the flowers are a value added. In some places (the Smokies) I have seen it growing beside the road as a wildflower.In North Carolina where I used to go to the Farmer's market, the daughter of one of the cut flower sellers grew, dyed, and sold the yellow variety to a floral supply company. They sent a transfer truck to her farm to get the plants.
My favorite is the rose/pink variety. It reminds me of red spirea, which I also like. The picture shows how it fills in around these daises. Yarrow is easily propagated, by seed or dividing clumps. They are extremely tolerant of all kinds of soils and water situations. Of course they do best in good soil with water during dry periods.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Why I Love Gardening (and Poetry)

I snagged this from the Writer' Almanac. It is a great of scientific poetrfrom David Williams.
Click here

Monday, July 5, 2010

Althea, The Rose of Sharon

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This is the common Althea, the one sometimes called Rose of Sharon, and is a plant that can take care of itself. This single lavender with a red eye is commonly found at old home sites. In fact, that is where I got mine-it was here when we decided to build in this location, which was an old home site. The proper name of Althea is Hybiscus syriacus and it is a member of the cotton family as you can tell by a glance at the flower. Some posts on the internet indicate that it is an invasive weed for them, but I have never known this to be a problem wherever I have lived in the southeast. An occasional seedling may appear, but I am talking about one in 25 years. That is not what I call invasive. This plant typically starts blooming about high summer and continues through August. It does require some pruning to keep it in a manageable size, or not if you want the world's biggest bush.I have never tried to make a tree out of it and have never seen a tree Althea, but it might be possible to develop one with diligent pruning.
Right now the one I have has become so large that it is shading my Ramona clematis to the point where it has greatly reduced blooming. I am going to whack-a-roo soon. But I have no fear for the life of the Althea. It will spring back.
There are numbers of different colors and forms. I have a double light pink that I rooted from my mother's bush, and to me it looks like a paper carnation. There are doubles, singles,semi doubles, lavenders, pinks, purples,whites and all kinds. It is hard to beat for a carefree summer blooming shrub.
Oh yes. Cardinals like to make nests in them. Look for a nest about 3 feet off the ground.the closeness of the branches make an ideal platform for a nest. Unfortunately for redbirds, their nesting sites invite cat attacks.
Althea blooms at Hugo's birthday in early August. The first cake I ever made for him I decorated with these flowers, and I suppose necessity, the Mother of Invention made a special place for this shrub in my heart.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Sandpaper Plant

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Boehmeria is a member of the nettle family but it does not have stinging hairs. It does have beautiful leaves, making it a striking accent plant. It can be grown in pots and urns for a unforgettable effect alone or with other plants. It is a perennial at least through zone 8, coming back from the root. The flowers are white/cream tassels, but the leaves provide the real show. This plant is a rarity.
It may serve as a food plant for some butterfly larvae but mine have never been bothered.
Last winter was a hard one that several of my plants did not survive. Sandpaper plant came through with flying colors and in about 3 feet tall now. A spot could probably be found where it would show off to better advantage. Right now it is stuck in the middle of my main flower bed.
But I am not likely to move it soon. My real interest lilies in growing and in testing hardiness, not in beautiful landscaping.I am likely to use whatever space I have available for whatever plant I need to plant. Consequently, I get quite a jumbled to my flower beds. Right now the roses have disappeared under an overgrowth of coneflowers and lilies.If they survive long enough, I will liberate them from the overgrowth, but meanwhile, onward and upward.
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