Friday, August 30, 2013

Butterfly Pea

I see this lavender flowered pea blooming along roadsides everywhere these days. It  winds among the weeds and grasses blooming in happy abandon these waning days of summer. This year the flowers seem larger than usual, maybe our abundant rainfall? It is a perennial wildflower of the legume family and produces seed in small pods that often cling and move to new places in that manner. They are lovely  on the roadside, but I hope you never get them in your flower beds!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

White Ginger Lily

Beginning in August every year, my white ginger lilies ( Hedychim coronarium) start a season of beauty and fragrance. I have them planted under the eave drip and near the outdoor faucet so they get a tremendous amount of water. They are water hogs and to grow their best and bloom their longest, they need a steady supply of water. I like to cut several and put them in a large vase for the house. I try to make them tidy in the vase by keeping the spent flowers picked off the cone-like inflorescence. They last several days and continue to perfume.
 The easiest method of propagation is to divide the rhizomes. Cut the rhizomes with a shovel or sharp knife at the obvious joints. Roots grow from the sides of the rhizomes, so try not to loose any more of the roots than necessary. Loosen the soil where you intend to plant, and only partially bury the rhizome in the soil. Just stabilize the rhizome in an upright position til it is established. If there is green growth when you plant it, you will need to cut this back to a few inches so it will be manageable. It will put out new growth soon.
 My plants typically get to be about 5/6 feet tall. I seldom to never fertilize them and they largely take care of themselves, except in dry spells when they need extra water.
They are endemic to  the Himalayas (Nepal and India) but have become troublesomely invasive in some places, notably Hawaii.  I don't believe that is a problem in my zone as they die back in the winter. However the size of the clump does increase, and I divide some off almost every year.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Night Blooming Cereus Cactus

I have several large Night Blooming Cereus cactus which I keep in the greenhouse through the winter. In the summer I set them outside in partial shade. They typically bloom 3 or 4 times each summer and it's not unusual for one to throw a bloom in the fall after I have taken them into the greenhouse. Even though I keep them near the back door where I can easily step out and see them, I often forget to look and next morning all that remains  of their stunning beauty and fragrance is mush. When bloom time is getting close the flowers which grow straight develop a crook so that the open bloom points to the side or up instead of down. This characteristic not only alerts me to the coming flower but also may the source of one of it's common names, Dutchman's Pipe Cactus. The scientific name is Epiphyllum oxypetalum. Another common name is Queen of the Night, which it certainly is.
 Away from it's home range in Mexico,and Latin and South America it never sets seed and altho I have read that it is sterile, I suspect that the right moth or other pollinator is not on hand to do the job. It can be readily propagated from a leaf or stem cutting. Put the cutting in a soilless light  mixture, and water frequently til rooted. This plant  is called a cactus and care should be taken not to overwater. Give bright light, but not full sun. The Plant should be grown in a pot that appears too small, in other words, under pot.  My plants which are perhaps 6 feet tall have to be propped or tied up to remain upright. These plants grow naturally in the bits of organic matter caught in the crotches of trees and branches, so they do not need a lot of soil. If yours is not blooming, too much root room may be the culprit.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Limenitis arthemis or Red Spotted Purple Butterfly

I have seen a lot of these red spotted purple butterflies around in the last week or so. This one I found dead on the road as I was going walking. It did allow me to get a good look at it and admire the wings close up. The top picture is the inside of the wings and the more decorative side with the orange dots is the underside of the wings. Riding on a dirt road, they seemed to be everywhere, flying across the road and sitting on the soil. I have often seen butterflies puddling (drinking from a wet place) but these were just lighting singly on the dry dirt. There must have been something in the soil they wanted because there were dozens after it. This butterfly is a mimic for the pipevine swallowtail, which is poisonous (to birds)

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Inula helenium (elecampane)

I don't know what I was expecting 3 summers ago when I planted the seed of Inula helenium, but it sure was not this. It's quite a disappointment, especially for the long wait for flowers. It has big leaves that stay close to the ground till the bloom stalk starts to form. The leaves are light green, in spite of ample fertilizer and because they are long lasting and close to the ground, they get a tattered look that is not very appealing. The flowers themselves are nice enough individually, but not long lasting and the stalk winds up looking disheveled because of the spent flowers. I didn't try cutting the whole stalk (perhaps I should have), but the individual flowers are too short for cutting.
I wondered why it finally chose to bloom this year and thought it might be because of the ample rain, but a look at it's distribution shows that it appears in much drier places than the southeast. It originally hails from Europe and has been used as a healing herb as an expectorate and for water retention. Recent research indicates an extract of Inula can kill many bacteria, including the one responsible for MRSA. Maybe it has other worthwhile attributes that can substitute for beauty.
Horse-heal is a common name for it and it is usual use to day is in veterinary medicine.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Summer Hyacinth

My Galtonia candicans (Summer Hyacinth) has just about finished blooming, but was in bloom for  a long time. in the heat and high humidity of summer. I've had this bulb for several years and it blooms every year reliably. This year it was taller than usual (about 3 feet), probably  because of all the rain. I no longer remember where or when I got it, but I only had one when I planted it. Now it has made an offset which also bloomed this year, plus 2 flower stalks from the original bulb.. The flowers are white with some green markings. They are claimed to be fragrant, but frankly, I can detect no fragrance at all.
It needs full sun (at least 6 hrs/day) and otherwise ordinary soil conditions (fertile soil, well drained).
It is also known by the names Hyacinthus candicans and  spire lily.
 If you can get one of these by hook or crook, I highly recommend it for it's sturdy beauty and undemanding care.
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