Thursday, November 29, 2012

Beautiful Sight in the Eastern Sky

Last night, tonight, and probably for a few more nights, a beautiful sight is in the eastern sky. The largest planet in our solar system, Jupiter, appears quite near the moon. In fact, the moon and Jupiter are the 2 brightest objects in the sky. Not far away is the star Aldebaran. You can see some pictures here.

Friday, November 23, 2012

November Sunset

On a recent evening while driving I saw the most gorgeous sunset. I called several people to get them to see it also, but either they were not interested or did not see the same thing I did. I thought this was awe inspiring. The bottom picture shows what I saw first. It looked like a giant tornado in the clouds. The clouds even appeared swirled like the winds of a tornado. A few minutes later the smaller tornado to the left in top picture appeared. Click on the pictures to get a bigger view. The colors in the clouds were fantastic, and as an added bonus, the configuration of the clouds themselves.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012


  I took these picture in late August. These Crotalaria plants were growing by the roadside, in the ditch and on an embankment. They had spread there from adjacent recently cut pine plantings. Several years ago when the pines near my house were cut Crotalaria grew there for a couple years. Aesthetically they are pleasing at least to me. I like their bright yellow color and the seed pods really intrigue me. The seeds pods are light green with a maroon stripe down the seam and the pods are arranged in a spiral. They dry to a brownish black color. I have harvested and dried the pods to add to dried arrangements.The seed rattle in the pod after drying and its common name, rattlebox is derived from this.
  Crotalaria is an annual and flowers in response to shortening days. The seed pods are fairly large, about two inches long, but the seed contained in it are very small and kidney shaped.
  This is probably Crotalaria juncea and its country of origin is India. It is a non-wood fiber source, used in paper making. and is known by another common name sunn hemp. It is a good green manure crop as it is a legume , requiring little to no added nitrogen, but instead putting nitrogen back in the soil.It can even be grown on marginal soils. It is not susceptible to root knot nematodes, and can be planted as a crop to reduce root knot nematodes in the soil. Some species are useful as stock feed, but C. juncea is toxic to horses and pigs. In some places it is considered a noxious weed.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Clematis Bugs

In early fall, these bugs rapidly ate up my Sweet Autumn Clematis. The vine was simply filled with these creatures. I got pretty close to these beetles trying to see them well. I am so glad I did not touch them because I just found out what they are: margined black blister beetles! They are identified by bulbous heads, long legs, and narrow elongated soft bodies. They differ from  black beetles by having grey margins on their wings. I remember seeing blister beetles a long time ago, but they did not look like these. No wonder. There are 7500 different species worldwide  (Another example of God loving beetles as He made so many.) These particular ones have been known to kill cattle that ate hay they were in, even though the beetles were dead. The beetles have a substance in their blood called cantharidin which causes blistering. Imagine that on your insides and you feel a need to back away.
They can be controlled by using a gloved hand to knock them into soapy water (and carefully dispose of later) or using a pesticide. I made no attempt to kill them, so next year I may be eaten up with them in the yard.

Monday, November 12, 2012


These hardy Cyclamen (Cyclamen hederifolium) have been growing in my shady wildflower area for at least 20 years. I originally grew them from seed. Growing them from seed is not hard but does require patience. Do not cover the seed.  Germination occurs over months and for a long time after they germinate they have only one leaf which feeds the bulb. Ultimately a tiny bulb forms at the base of the one leaf and soon there after another and another leaf will grow til the seedling is large enough to transplant to a small pot to grow on to a size suitable for transplanting into the ground. I am talking about a time span of a year. During that time the container they are growing in needs to be somewhat cool, getting good light but not direct sun. I plant them in a container that had fruit from the store so that there are some drainage holes. Hopefully you will only water occasionally  so if the holes are large, you may want to put a coffee filter over the holes so that it can drain, but not dry out the potting material. Another problem can be simply keeping the germinating seed container safe from dumping and other accidents during a year.
I know that there must be short cuts for doing this commercially, but most home growers do not have access to a growth chamber to germinate a pack of seed. I am just telling you what I did.
At the time I planted these babies, I believe there were 5 of them, but now there are no more than 3. I have found them to be much hardier than I ever expected. They rest in the summer when it is too hot for their tastes. Do not become concerned about their health during this rest and water them, as the likely result is that the bulbs will rot from the moisture.Under a deciduous tree is the ideal spot for Cyclamen as they can catch the winter sun when the leaves are down and it will be nice and dry in the summer when they are resting. They send up flowers that are only a few inches tall for 2 to 3 months in the fall. The leaves follow later and are heart shaped with beautiful silver markings in a myriad of patterns. Over the 20 or so years that I have grown these plants, they seemed to have moved from where I think I put them to begin with. It is within possibility that the ones I have now reseeded and grew themselves in a different spot.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Flowering Maple (Abutilon striatum)

I got some cuttings of this lovely hibiscus last December from a relative in South Alabama. I have 2 of these plants now, each about 4 feet tall and leaves half as big as my stretched hand. The leaves look like maple leaves, hence the name flowering maple. I intend to make some cuttings and maybe have a few for sale next summer. I wish I had had the presence of mind to plant one in the ground earlier in the season, just to see if it could overwinter. I think it might be too late to try that now. It probably needs some time to get established before frost. Last year I did plant several other seed grown flowering maples in the flower bed and one of them returned this year, so it is possible.
I think this one, Abutilon striatum, is just stunning with it's dark veins in orange petals. My plant is blooming more now than it did in the summer. Don't know if it is because of the heat or some other nutritional reason.
  Update: November 11, 2012
I have 2 of these plants in pots now. Both are over 6 feet tall, not including pot. One of these is in the old cooler greenhouse and one is in a large outdoor pot. Both are still blooming profusely. When I miss a watering, they advertise that fact by turning a leaf or two yellow. These are grand and very statuesque. I think they would make a grand specimen plant in a large bed, but I also like them close enough so the beautiful veins in the flowers can be appreciated.
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