Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Nun Orchid (Phaius grandiflorius)

 I purchased this red Nun Orchid a few weeks ago, and it has endured the conditions of sitting on the porch in hot and chilly without much fussing. When the temperature dropped into the 30's I brought it into the house for the night or til it warmed a bit. I had a couple buds drop from the shorter bloom stalk, but I think that may have been in part because this plant produced 2 stalks from the same pseudobulb which may have been a bit too taxing. Before I saw this one (red) I thought Nun Orchids (Phaius grandifolius) only came in the colors shown below- brown petals with white backs and maroon throats.

I have been growing this Nun Orchid for several years and find it easy cared for and blooming without fuss every spring. It is a terrestrial orchid which means you can grow it in regular potting soil, although like most orchids it needs good drainage. This translates to good potting soil-not that cheap stuff that packs down and becomes like a rock in the pot. But I digress.
 Since it is a tall plant , bloom stalks can be three feet tall, you need about a 2 gallon pot if the plant is very big at all. Otherwise the bloom stalk will cause the pot to tip over. Someone in Auburn told me they grew this plant outside, but the range as listed online suggest Zone 9 is as cold as it can take.
This is a stately plant, reliable and easy to care for. If you think you can't grow orchids, you should give this one a try.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Kudzu Bugs (Megacopta cribraria)

I made a disturbing discovery . Those kudzu bugs that were first seen in Georgia in 2009, are now here, in my yard, in Gold Hill, Alabama. Which is not that far away from Georgia. For a week or so before I spied these clusters on my Buckeye bushes, I had seen single ones flying around and perched . I had read about these new invasives and I got a positive identification from my favorite entomologist.. It would seem that any bug that eats Kudzu would be good to have. And well it would be, if that's all it ate. Unfortunately, it also likes soybeans and other members of the legume family. In farming country this could be a disaster. The entomologist told me the bugs probably would not bother my buckeye that much, but suggested I keep an eye out if I planted any garden beans.

Sunday, April 7, 2013


Bauhinia is sometimes called orchid tree. I saw it first in early spring at Disney World, then later I saw it growing in Hawaii., where it was a much larger and more magnificent tree. I grew two plants from seed that I got from the AHS seed exchange many years ago. I keep them in pots and through the years have been forced to prune them to keep them to a size I can manage. but because of this, they are only a shadow of what they might be if they were growing in the ground.
Bahinia is a member of the Fabaceae (Bean family) and my plants usually make a  few beans every year,
which seems remarkable under the circumstances.

This is just a limb of the Bauhinia In Hawaii.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Spring Beauty

Spring Beauty (Claytonia virginica) grows in many types of habitats and is a lax or somewhat sprawling wildflower. It is sometimes called fairy spud, I suppose in reference to the corm it grows from. It is cheerfully spreading about in my wildflower garden, which makes me very happy.  The flowers are white with pink streaks. They are insect pollinated and the pink landing lines on the petals direct bumblebees to the nectar pot. They don't make good cut flowers because they wilt and die quickly when picked.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Rue Anemone

Rue anemone (Thalictrum thalictroides) has been blooming in my woodland garden for at least half the month of March, and continues to be beautiful.This wildflower grows from tuberous roots and its foliage reminds me of maidenhair fern. It's flowers appear in both singles and umbels of 3 or more.
It's name has been the brunt of much nomenclatural tinkering through the years since it was first named by Linnaeus. But you have to admit Thalictrum thalictroides is a wonderful sounding name, even if it does mean "a rue anemone that's like a rue anemone".

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Bluets and Violets

Bluets (Houstonia) growing in the cracks of bricks

White and purple violets 

I love these tiny early blooming spring wildflowers. The Houstonias are particularly appealing. When I first see them each year, I have to get down on my knees and greet them at close range. Violets are plentiful in my yard. I have heard of people preferring grass to violets in their lawn and taking after them with a vengeance, but these people are surely warped. Keep on the lookout for these beauties as you stroll about this spring.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Daffodils ,Etc for Easter

This is my Easter bouquet, all flowers cut from my yard (or greenhouse- the Amaryllis came from the greenhouse). Tallest in the back is a stem of Pearl Bush (Exochorda racemosa) , a lovely white early blooming shrub. The narcissus are easily recognized with their multiple blooms per stem and white petals with orange cup. The double daffodil is a favorite of mine, although I have forgotten its name.  It blooms for an early Easter and in years past I have heated the blooms in water to make a lovely soft yellow  dye for Easter eggs. It also smells wonderful.
 The container is a pitcher from a friend and it sets off the bouquet perfectly.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Blood Root

I took this picture of bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis) yesterday and went out this morning to see if it was still there after last night's rain. It was gone. Under the best of circumstances, the delicate flower usually does not last more than a day. It has a single leaf that is wrapped around the bud as if to protect it. The bud pushes up past the leaf and expands. It is usually one of the first wildflowers, but this year, at least in my woodland garden, it fell behind schedule and quite a few other flowers have beaten it to the draw. The flower and leaf arise from a rhizome that if bruised or broken is a bright red color. Extracts of the plant were used in face paint and other dyes by Indians, and it is said to stain anything it touches. I personally wonder how  you could get enough of these to make into a dye. They are not that common in my woods. They are said to reseed readily and in some places  grow in large colonies. I have never seen this and always welcome the sight of one or two flowers and the roundish lobed leaf. Deer may like it and that could explain why it is not common here.It grows from Canada south to Florida and all the over the eastern US. It is a member of the Poppy family.
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