Sharing Horticulture

Leftover flowers and greens from a horticulture display at our garden club gave me a lovely array of fall flora at home. I wouldn’t call it a brainstorm but an idea borrowed from my Virginia garden club prompted a suggestion to my Exeter garden club…. a sharing of horticulture from members’ gardens at meetings when our New England weather permits.

Hort Display Oct. 2019

The request for horticulture was emailed to members and my fingers were crossed that we’d have a few members who would share cuttings. That was my hope before we awoke yesterday to total darkness…. the nor’easter bomb cyclone that passed through at 3 a.m. took our power and left us groping for flashlights in morning darkness. Reaching out to our president, who was also in darkness, I found that the meeting site has a generator. The meeting was on whether we had power or not.

It was light at 8:30 am when mister gardener manually opened our heavy wood garage door allowing me to exit with my hort samples. A small table set aside for hort was already full when I arrived and we quickly replaced it with a 6′ table. The hort kept coming until the larger table overflowed with garden goodies. Anemones, chrysanthemums, Heptacodium, reblooming iris in bloom, an Oxydendrum twig, deutzia, dianthus, Montauk daisies, sedum, zinnias, Canadian ginger, and much more. Some IDs said, “What am I?” and we could answer one or two of them.

It was a good response from members and a teaching experience as well. Good to know what is still looking good in our New England gardens in October.

EAGC Oct. 2019

And as I was leaving the meeting, a text from mister gardener alerted me that our power had just been restored. Time to make a pot of coffee at noon!

Falling For Fall

The maple trees are putting on quite a show on the Seacoast of New Hampshire even though the foliage map puts us in the Moderate Range for color. I know the reds are yet to come but the yellows and apricots simply make my heart sing. The maples pictured below were photographed on a walk with mister gardener yesterday.

Fall 2019

Closer to home, there are interesting colors right around the house. The clethra or summersweet below, has fed the bees with sweet nectar for weeks. But now the blooms are gone and the leaves are fading from green to yellow with the green veining the last to turn. Eye catching!

Clethra Oct. 2019

Our doublefile viburnum leaves have turned from green to deep plum and hot red in different spots on the same plant. It is a showstopper.

 

Then there are the hydrangea.

Little Lime Hydrangea Oct. 2019

Our Little Lime limelight hydrangea are a bold mass planting in our small borders and the blooms are deepening to a rich pink. I have picked a bouquet or two for drying.

The mahonia…

Leatherleaf Mahonia Oct. 2019

… a holly-looking shrub, is healthy and sprouting buds that are supposed to mature to gorgeous early yellow blooms, feeding early arriving insects with snow still on the ground, then hang like grapes with the attractive blue seeds that birds adore. It never gets that far for our New England winters freezes the blooms before they open. That might be a good thing for the plant could be eventually labeled invasive here as the climate changes. Birds carry the seeds far and wide in warmer climes… it is a barberry cousin.

Some of our plants love the cooler weather and are at their best in the fall. Liriope blooms are maturing now and it’s where the bees are swarming from flower to flower for the best nectar. This grass-like clump of glossy green leaves run along the outer border of our front foundation. This year the plants are healthy and quite tall due to an abundance of spring rain. The flowers are dainty but the contrast of green and purple is delightful.

Liriope Oct. 2019

My personal fav of all fall color is Autumn Joy sedum, below. After the bees have finished with the newly opened blooms and moved on to other plants, the Autumn Joy matures to a rich rusty red. It’s great to see in the borders and it’s wonderful to cut and bring inside for floral displays. If you grow it, wouldn’t you agree it’s impressive?

Autumn Joy sedum Oct. 2019

Other than a bit of cleaning and weeding and dividing and transplanting in the garden this fall, it seems I’m spending more time with another small sprout…. one that demands much more care and attention and watching and feeding and entertaining…. but is proving to be much more fun!

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9th grandchild Oct. 2019

FREEZE!

We awoke to a temperature of 30° this October 5th morning. Last night I walked around the garden and said goodbye to the colorful annuals in the borders. My patch of small zinnias were lovely and full of bees yesterday. Today the blooms are gone. My cheerful impatiens gone. My favorite snapdragons? Faded but survived. Marigolds? Gone. My gorgeous purple vervain? Gone.

I covered my tomato plant last night hoping to save the plant that is chock-a-block full of green tomatoes.

Celebrity tomatoes 2019

Yesterday’s tomato plant

It was a fail. The plant is very sad looking today. There will be another freeze or frost tonight so tomatoes will be picked and used in the kitchen… fried, green tomato jam, relish, plus experimenting with new recipes like the Green Tomato Breakfast Bread I made yesterday using shredded green tomatoes.

shredded green tomatoes 2019

The recipe may seem somewhat farfetched but it passed inspection by mister gardener. The sweet breakfast bread recipe that is said to be from East Europe. I started with tomatoes, then added dried cranberries for New England, some walnuts that we both love and the result was a sweet and moist winner that we enjoyed for dinner last night and breakfast this morning.

green tomato breakfast bread 2019

PS: We couldn’t taste the tomatoes!

We draw the line at things like green tomato hotcakes or green tomato smoothies… but if there are any suggestions for using up green tomatoes, we’d like to know!

 

 

Fantail Willow Success

Last March, I bought a few dried stem of Japanese fantail willow (Salix udensis) at a local floral store to use in our garden club’s Asian floral arrangement workshop. It is a willow shrub that seems to grow normally but for some reason that is not fully understood, mutant stems begin to appear on an otherwise normal looking plant. Here and there, one or more stems begin to merge together or fasciate into flat stems that can end in unusual curls. Fasciation can occur on any plant and experts believe the effect may be caused by either hormones, genes, bacteria, fungus, virus or the environment.

 

The stems I purchased last year were used in arrangements, then put away to dry for future arrangements… that is all except one tiny twig. That one twig I placed in a glass of water and sat it in a sunny window to root.

fantail willow 3/7/2019

It did produce fine roots and in the spring, I plopped it into the garden when the soil had warmed enough to support the plant. Like all willows, it grew fast.

Fantail Willow 2019

When it was about 2 1/2-ft tall, I noticed one thick shoot on the side was beginning to widen and merge multiple small stems that soon mutated into a beautiful elongated fantail. Success! I was delighted but totally surprised because I’d read that it usually will take 3 to 4 years to develop this weird condition.

fantail willow 2019

Soon the shrub will turn a golden yellow and the leaves will drop. In late winter, it will develop a profusion of tiny puffs of pussy willow catkins. It is then that I’ll harvest the stem to incorporate into my floral decorations…… and next spring I’ll donate the shrub as a transplant to my daughter who has much more garden space than I.

Fantail Willow 2019

In her lovely landscape will be an endless supply of fantail willow for both of us!

Triplets

The signs were there. I knew I had a hornworm on one of my tomato plants.  Bare branches, nibbled tomatoes, and caterpillar frass (waste) were the giveaways. The hornworm starts at the top of the plant stripping leaves and scaring small tomatoes. It can be a dreaded pest in the vegetable garden defoliating tomato plants and other plants like potatoes and peppers.

They are fairly inactive during the daylight hours so I just followed branches until I came upon it resting in the shadows of the plant.

But oh…. I saw other movement. This tobacco hornworm has company. There are siblings. Gosh, I’ve never had triplets before.

three tobacco hornworms 2019

The tobacco hornworm (Manduca sexta) is identified by the red curved ‘horn,’ the soft red protrusion you can see at the tail end of the body. It also has 7 white stripes along the body. There’s a tomato hornworm with a dark ‘horn’ and white v-markings along the body.

tobacco hornworm 2019

So what am I going to do? Nothing. It’s fall.  I have no tomatoes turning red. This plant is my smaller one with smaller green tomatoes. I’ll do nothing to harm the caterpillars because I admire the very last stage of development.

If you have seen the magnificent adult stage of the Manduca sexta, a large moth, darting in and out of garden blooms, you can’t help but be impressed. Its wingspan is almost 5″ and it is quite agile. It hovers over flowers and can easily be mistaken for a hummingbird. I call it a hawk moth but it’s known elsewhere as a Carolina sphinx moth and other terms.

1920px-Manduca_sexta_MHNT_CUT_2010_0_104_Dos_Amates_Catemaco_VeraCruz_Mexico_female_dorsal

Yep, the tomato season is over for me so I willingly offer this one plant to the caterpillars. They can be destructive but as pollinators and a food source for other organisms, they have an ecological role in nature.

Sombrero ‘Lemon Yellow’

The Sombrero series of coneflowers come in a wide range of colors from red and pink to orange and white. I grow more than one variety but the showy ‘Lemon Yellow,’ a large flower that provides a vivid floral display in the cutting garden is a winner. Oh my, what a wonderful compact Echinacea hybrid for a compact garden like mine!

Sombrero 'Lemon Yellow'

The flowers stand about 2-feet high above sturdy stems with nice green foliage that extends to the base of the plant.  And like all coneflowers, the Sombrero series is adaptable to a wide range of garden conditions… drought, heat, humidity and poor soil.

The ‘Lemon Yellow’ is not only a showstopper in the garden, the bees, the butterflies and all our hummingbirds spend 3 months feasting on the nectar rich blooms. I deadhead some the flowers to encourage more blooms, but the dried seedheads provide food for our dwindling population of birds during the winter. I leave a good number of blooms on the plants for them.

And the best news of all…. the bunnies have not put these flowers on their dinner menu. How sweet is that??

 

BMSB is coming to a garden near you

It’s the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug and it’s been detected in my garden. And, yes, I did a little freak out when I saw it. It isn’t a very nice insect to have.

According to UNH’s Anna Wallingford, Extension State Specialist, Entomology & IPM, “BMSB is an invasive insect that was accidentally introduced to the US some time ago. It was first reported in Pennsylvania in the 90’s where it was mostly considered a nuisance pest. By the early 2000’s it was considered an agricultural pest in the mid-Atlantic states. In 2010, tree fruit and vegetable growers saw catastrophic losses due to BMSB damage.

Piercing-sucking feeding by huge numbers of stinkbug adults and nymphs leaves fruit bruised and beaten up, sometimes shriveled, definitely unmarketable. It’s really hard to distinguish BMSB feeding damage from native stink bug damage, other than the sheer scale of damage when outbreaks happen. BMSB has remained a serious pest for mid-Atlantic growers and parts south – in crops like peach, apple, sweet corn, tomato, peppers, raspberries, snap beans…holy moly, you name it and this stinkbug loves it.”

Two days ago, I was observing the hydrangea blooms for other pests that have overwhelmed our garden this September… bald faced hornets and yellow jackets that seem to be attracted only to hydrangea blooms. I’ve never seen so many. They dive deep into the flowerhead and you’d never know they are inside until they pop to the surface. Needless to say, I haven’t cut any blooms for arrangements this year.

I was photographing the pesky yellow jacket above when I noticed an unusual stink bug scurrying across the flowerhead behind this one. Whoa! Could that be a BMSB? I’d only seen pictures of the insect before this, but I knew those white sections on the antennae are the best giveaway.

It was moving fast and ducked behind flower petals within seconds. I caught a couple of unfocused photos before it disappeared and I sent them off to UNH. I heard back that, although blurry, the photos do indeed look like a BMSB.

BMSB 2019

The agent wrote, “That certainly looks like a brown marmorated stink bug, although I can’t be 100% certain due to the photo quality. It wouldn’t be surprising, given that they are known to reside in the Seacoast region. Their numbers have been fairly low this year, but they are still present.”

And he added, “At this point they may be laying eggs, so you may look for clusters of their light green, barrel-shaped eggs on the underside of leaves.”

The BMSB is categorized as a “nuisance” insect in NH, but with milder climate in the Seacoast region, experts say it’s just a matter of time before we will have larger problems especially with fruit orchards! According to reports, it’s not time to freak out yet and it’s reassuring that the good folks at UNH are keeping an eye on the problem. If a serious problem arises in New Hampshire, they will let us know. Meanwhile, I’m watching my two tomato plants a whole lot closer!

BMSB map courtesy UNH:https://extension.unh.edu/blog/over-informed-ipm-episode-016-brown-marmorated-stinkbug-bmsb-part-i-when-freak-out

 

 

A little Southern Hospitality

I needed this break. Call it a reunion or homecoming or gathering of the clan. It was time again for a sibling get-together and the most logical location these days is Richmond, Virginia where 4 of the 6 surviving sibs live. A sister drove from Wisconsin and I hopped aboard JetBlue for a nonstop to Richmond, always a full flight and normally an uneventful and pleasant flight to my home state. All began well.

JetBlue

That is until my young seatmate began to get settled… first by taking off her shoes! Sniff…sniff.  She reached up and turned on her air full blast. She was wearing a heavy sweatshirt. I wore a light tee-shirt and the air was cold. 🥶

While I was contemplating what to do or how to ask her to aim the air her way, she pulled up her hoodie to cover most of her face and was asleep. And within two minutes, she was leaning her head on my shoulder. I had forgotten to lower the arm rest between us so our seats were like a nice comfy couch. Yikes!

So what did I do? Not a thing. She slept on my shoulder until we landed and when she awoke and sat up… she said not a word.

No Shoes!

Once on the ground, things greatly improved. We usually bunk at one or more of our 3 brothers’ homes for our stay but for the first time, the 3 sisters decided to secure a small conveniently located airbnb. And what a good idea that was. No one had to feed, entertain us, wash sheets and towels, and so forth. The first night all sibs and spouses gathered at the rental and we ate pizza and burned the midnight oil catching up, retelling family stories with greater embellishments and louder laughter than the previous year.

During the day, we played musical houses from dawn to dark visiting the homes and gardens of family members. This trip differed in that we, the senior generation, were invited to homes of the younger generation for visits, a potluck cookout, and even attended a Compline, a monastic evening service lit only by candlelight with a small group of singers, a niece being a member of the a capella choir. What a wonderful dimension the younger generation added to our annual homecoming.

compline, St. Stephen's Episcopal Church, Richmond VA

All week, we ate  and laughed and ate more and laughed more. Brunch at one home, lunch at another, cocktails at a third, and restaurants, too. Southern hospitality is definitely alive and well.

Always a highlight is the garden of our most senior sib who is a wizard at architectural rendering and building. He has designed and constructed three garden buildings that are marvels. Every blogger has one or two posts that folks visit more than others. My blogs of his gardens and outbuildings are the most visited and the most copied photos of my simple blog. Yep… by far.

Garden Building

His newest garden addition is a garden structure he built to contain his whole house generator.  I was glad to finally see it in person after a year of photos.

Generator Building, Richmond Va

Back home again in New Hampshire, renewed, refreshed, and eating a lot less, I’m in the garden again.  Fall maintenance…. the dividing, deadheading, and transplanting needs to happen now. Before we know it, alas, this scene from yesterday will soon be the scene from last February.

 

 

Please, Please, don’t eat the daisies

A neighbor stopped by to look at my daisies. My daisies are pretty healthy, but her daisies, she said, were being mutilated by an insect. I asked her to email me a photo of the invader. Here’s what she sent:

 

The photos were small but I thought I knew what the insect was (‘was’ because it looks dead in the 3rd photo!).  Early the next morning, I searched for the same insect among my dew covered daisies. I saw two spider species lying in wait for an unsuspecting meal:

 

I saw tiny beetles:

Beetles on daisies 2019

A closer look:

beetle on daisy 2019

There was a whole world of small insects calling the daisies home:

Daisy insect 2019

And then I saw it… the same kind of bug that my neighbor saw and I knew these insects were NOT the ones vandalizing her daisies. These insects are True Bugs, insect predators called Jagged Ambush Bugs.

 

 

Thanks to Wikipedia Creative Commons for sharing a better photo of a jagged ambush bug than I could:

Wikipedia jagged ambush bug

The funky little insect looks like it could audition as a dragon on Game of Thrones but it really is a beneficial garden bug. It’s called an ambush bug because that’s what it does. Camouflaged well, it waits patiently, then ambushes a visiting insect up to 10 times its own size, injects poison, and make a fast meal out of it.

That’s all the news from the insect world this week. I should add that my neighbor was pleased when I shared the good news but I’m sure she is frustrated in not yet identifying the culprit that’s eating her daisies. So far, nothing new.

More thoughts on August

Summer seemed to last forever when I was a kid…barefoot and carefree. But when the sounds of cicadas filled the August skies, it was a sad signal that the start of school was around the corner. I’ve been vacillating about the month of August ever since, I guess. I know there are very good things about August though and I have to keep telling myself it’s okay. Summer’s ending, but it’s okay. Deep breath. It’s okay.

Good news about the month of August: It’s typically not as hot as July in New England. Overnight temperatures and humidity drop to comfortable levels for great sleeping. Late summer annuals are peaking. No air conditioning needed.

Bad news about August: We’ve been losing sunlight every day since the summer solstice in June but in August, it accelerates. We will lose two to three minutes of daylight each day. We will continue to lose daylight until the winter solstice in December and that can cause me a bit of the blahs. Doesn’t sunshine boost serotonin levels?

Good news about the last full month of summer: the rabbits are here to stay but we have come to an understanding. The neighbors are still having problems but they haven’t learned that a little cayenne pepper on the tips of favorite plants tend to be avoided by sharp teeth. And when they do snap off a bloom, I find they perform an overnight service. They decide what flowers are placed in the fresh flower jar each day. Today the rabbits selected a nice variety…. dill, allium, celosia and snapdragon. Not bad.

Cottontail arrangement 2019

Awkward Thing about August: Every year, each store I enter in August has displays of fall pumpkins, decor, and Halloween costumes. I’m not ready. It is disturbing to me, but it may be an age thing. One of my daughters has actually bought new Halloween costumes for the grands. Sigh…

Fall??

Best Things about August: the bounty of farm fresh corn, tomatoes, peaches. Often mister gardener will serve just a plate stacked high of sweet corn on the cob and fresh tomatoes for dinner. The season for these favorites will pass quickly and can we get enough? No.

Celebrity tomatoes 2019

Fun things about August: Late season cookouts, barbecues, and gatherings with friends and family and savoring every minute of the great outdoors. And I can be barefoot for the whole month!

Neighborhood potluck 2019

When September rolls around, I’ll be more optimistic about the glorious fall season to come and stop dwelling on the loss of summer. The kaleidoscope of fall colors, the crispness in the fall air, pumpkin patch visits with the grands, football, anticipation of Thanksgiving will spur me on.

August already….

Being outdoors can be a calming balm. It’s cathartic for me…. even with the looming disaster of climate change to which we all are a witness. And it’s a place to find a measure of solace after recent crises in El Paso and Dayton….one of which hit home as mister gardener was visiting family in Dayton on the very day.

Days of sunshine and dry weather are not a time for planting in our garden. We deadhead the daisies and clean out the yellowing leaves of daylilies and other plants. The hose comes out in early mornings to douse the plants in pots, refill the birdbaths, and perhaps refresh the tomatoes. I check everything that might flag under an afternoon sun and they get a drink. Water is VERY expensive in our town so we are prudent with it.

It’s a good thing to get lost in a garden or forest or meadow or waterway. We often drive the few miles to the beach, not to swim but watch and enjoy. And if we are lucky we might spot interesting things like this snowy owl resting atop a chimney next to the Atlantic in Rye NH.

And when we are home, here are some of the colorful blooms the insects, hummingbirds and I are currently enjoying.

Summer is slowly waning. We will continue to enjoy these colorful days in the garden, look forward to gatherings with friends and family, and try to tackle all those projects still uncompleted as the official end of summer, Labor Day, moves ever closer. Alas…

 

Mid-summer in the garden

We’ve had some terrific gardening days and some suffocating hot and humid gardening days. But I am not complaining. Things here are looking pretty good. I’m up before the sun rises above the treetops. It’s bright but oh-so-quiet out. It’s just me out there and the elderly neighbor across the street walking his 3 dogs.

exeter morning clouds 2019Early mornings are cool-ish. I take a coffee with me as I survey the areas of garden that might need a little refreshing in the heat that will surely come in a couple of hours to our small gardens. Any reachable weeds are pulled and flowers are pinched and tidied. Plants are checked for rabbit damage 😬 and those that have been nibbled are either covered or sprinkled with more stinky stuff.  Last week I opened the door to step out into the morning garden and was startled by a fox leaping straight up out of the border. I know what he was after. 🐰🐰🐰garden 2019I finally realize I’m not much of a flower gardener. The longer I garden the more I gravitate toward textures, shapes and shades of greens. Blooming woody plants are the backbone of the garden with enough flower blooms to attract pollinators.

One pollinator that I was happy to see dancing around the asclepias tuberosa was a monarch. Fingers crossed that it was a she and left eggs. Meanwhile the painted ladies have had two generations of caterpillars on the beach wormwood, an artemisia. The plant is a biennial so I stagger plantings each year just for these beauties.beach wormwood, painted lady 2019Our newest project took place in the front of the house. Figuring out a way to clean up an unsightly gravel area along the foundation that led to utilities has bothered me since I moved here. It was low and filled with moss, mold and summer mosquitoes. An eyesore to anyone who approached the front door, I thought.

This week we tackled it when some loam arrived for a neighbor… more than they needed. mister gardener brought me wheelbarrows of loam and we had access to community bricks for the taking. I built the area up over gravel with paving sand, laid the brick in a narrow basket weave pattern, brought the loam up to the edge, added a little liriope and voila! It’s been sanded in and looks good… at least we think so. It’s a tricky area where sheets of ice fall from the roof and shear shrubs in half during bitter winters. I know that liriope will take an ice lickin’ and keep on tickin’.New Brick Foundation area 2019That’s about it for July around here. Happy mid-summer to all.

 

We beat the heat with a great day trip

Can you guess where we were from the lobsters below?

LLBean 2019

Lobsters were everywhere but there were lots of whales, too.

LLBean 2019

Not every animal was man-made. We saw live fish as well.

L.L. Bean 2019

By now, you’ve probably guessed. We drove in air conditioned comfort to an air conditioned adventure destination… L.L. Bean in Freeport ME.

L.L. Bean 2019

With a heat advisory warning targeting New England this weekend, we decided the adventure of L.L. Bean would be the perfect getaway for us. It was cooler in Maine but we felt the heat from a firepit as we approached.

We were handed marshmallows on sticks to roast over firewood flames, then sandwiched the yummy gooeyness on Hershey chocolate between monogrammed grahams.  This was L.L.Bean’s big S’more out of Summer event that also took place in NYC and will pop up other places.

Our picture was taken with gigantic marshmallows and we were encouraged to add it to Instagram to win a tent, sleeping bags and more. We laughed at our pic but would NEVER add two old folks to their Instagram photos full of youngsters. Too weird.

 

It must have been a  Shop With Your Dog Day, too. They were everywhere, even in the small restaurant. Big dogs, little dogs, black and white dogs, dogs going up, dogs going down. Go Dog Go!

L.L.Bean 2019

The wing of the store that was once luggage, etc. now caters to exclusively to children. One parent seemed to be clothes and bookbag shopping and the other was engaged in interactive entertainment with children. Progress!

L.L.Bean 2019

L.L. Bean 2019

Lunch and shopping behind us, we headed for the parking lot, Ben & Jerry’s cones in hand, melting, dripping, sticky, delicious. On the way home we overwhelmed by the number of people for many, many miles on I-95 heading to Vacationland Maine… and, oh so very thankful we headed up early and beat those crowds.

I-95 North July 2019

As we drove south, we checked out folks along the way trying to keep their cool under the blazing sun. There were always lines at ice cream stores, the waterfront was full of people and boats in Wells Beach ME, and water parks were packed to the limit as you can see on the duel stairways here.

Splash Water Park 2019

But the most unusual sight we saw was on I-95 as we were going 70 MPH. Out of my passenger window a Harley whizzed past on our right and actually left us in the dust. The passenger, arms out, was obviously enjoying the high speed breeze they were creating. Yikes and more yikes!

Harley I-95 2019

Home safe and sound at days end with shadows of the setting sun hitting the house and cooling us a bit. Today we have another heat advisory warning but there are breezes and perhaps a thunder storm or two rolling in to water my gardens and cool us even more.

Man vs Beetle

On the Bug vs. People nuisance chart, things are looking pretty good here. Black flies departed on Father’s Day as usual, mosquitoes arrived shortly thereafter, and annoying mayflies followed mosquitoes.  Whew!

All those flying biting insect numbers are dwindling and being replaced by garden pests, but not many yet….except for a few of the most gargantuan slugs I’ve EVER seen! They look more like small snakes after our wet spring!

It’s the scarab beetles that I am keeping an eye on in the garden. I’ve only seen only one Japanese beetle that are emerging from the soil right about now, but I’ve seen a dozen or more of their cousins in the garden, the oriental beetles (Exomala orientalis) feeding mainly on the daisies and lady’s mantle. They are not voracious feeders but they do enough damage elsewhere.

Oriental Beetle 2019

It’s the lawn that takes a hit from these beetles. Just like the Japanese beetle, the larval stage feeds on the root zone of the turf grasses.  I’ve yet to know whether I have a real problem, but since I am committed to Integrated pest management (IPM)  instead of chemical management in combating pests, I’ve looked for alternatives that don’t affect good insects…. butterflies, bees, etc.

img_4198.jpg

Treatment is tricky because it varies depending on the species of grub. According to the Conn.gov website, bacterial spores can kill this variety of grub but our NE soil can be too cold to sustain the bacteria. Nematodes, microscopic worms that live in the soil, can infect and kill grubs but it’s tricky to keep them alive and tricky to apply the worms under the right conditions. Milky Spore targets only the Japanese beetle species of grub, according to UConn… in the state where the first siting of the beetle occurred in 1920.

The best option for treatment just may be sex pheromone traps that capture only the Oriental beetle male, unlike the Japanese beetle traps that unfortunately attract both male and female Japanese beetles. I found one lone online company selling the pheromone cards I would need…. traps sold separately.  I may not have a real problem but at least I have a place to order if it actually comes down to man vs. beetle.

Lazy Days of Summer

It’s mid-July. We are in the midst of dog days. After a wet spring, rainfall has been reduced to an occasional shower or two here and there. Days can be muggy and they can be hot. But not hot enough for A/C in New England….. yet!  Fans really do the trick. It made me smile when I opened a congratulation letter from the electric company for electricity efficiency. Yippee!

Pinks and purples and blues of spring have faded in the area set aside for cut flowers.  Now it is moving toward hotter oranges with coreopsis, asclepia, echinacea, and gaillardia. Tall ‘Hyperion’ daylilies will soon open to a lovely buttercup yellow and float over these sizzling reds and oranges.

cutting garden

We still have pinks and blues elsewhere. Our johnny-jump-ups will stay with us for the summer with a nice splash of color in the herb garden.

johnny jump-ups 2019

Flowers and shrubs take care of themselves now. There are chores among the ornamentals, maybe a few small weeds to pull daily but not enough to label as real work. Now we can sit back, relax on the deck, enjoy the garden, and watch our birds,

hummer 2019

Can you find her?

or take some New England road trips like this recent one to Vermont,

Vermont July 2019

and of course, we’re regulars at our incredible farmers’ market….

Farmers' Market 2019

… as we buy from farmers while we wait for the healthy fruit to ripen on our two tomato plants. Our Celebrity tomatoes are looking great and we can see a faint glow of pink in the right light. Wishful thinking?

tomatoes anyone 2019

Late July and early August is when the Little Lime hydrangea will burst on the scene. We have an early tease of what is to come at the tip of every branch. When in full bloom, those 5 shrubs will be the focus of our small landscape and well worth the wait.

Little Lime hydrangea 2019

We are savoring each of these Lazy Days of Summer. The season is way too short and before we know it, we’ll be looking out at the white landscape of winter. Give me hot and humid over snow and ice any day!

Happy summer to you!

Allium ‘Milleninum’

I’ve grown Allium ‘Milleninum’ for several years without any issues and have regularly sung its many praises.  It produces dozens of long-blooming rosy-purplish blooms in mid to late summer. And when it does go to seed, it does not produce unwanted seedlings as other ornamental onions do. The flowers attract more pollinators than almost anything else in the garden. It’s never been bothered by disease, is able to tolerate drought, and the aromatic foliage has been absolutely ignored by our growing population of rabbits.

It’s been a regular jewel in the crown for a garden….

Allium 'Millenium' 2018

All of those statements have been 100% true until this year. This year, there a war going on in the summer garden that has caused me to back down on one of the positives of this impressive allium.

Rabbits!

They have discovered they love the tasty onion blades of leaves surrounding the blooms. It’s been a semi-disaster for the plants. Instead of thick tuffs of  attractive greenery surrounding the forming buds, my allium plants look more like this:

 

allium 'Millenium'

I have cages of chicken wire surrounding the plants. I use sprinkles of chili powder, and both granules and squirt bottles of Liquid Fence for rabbits around all of the ornamental garden now.

I am armed with these weapons as I slip out in the early morning garden to see what damage has been done. I fear it’s a losing battle and I’m looking more and more like Bill Murray and the tenacious gopher in Caddyshack. Very frustrating for me but I’m sure I’m providing much entertainment for the neighbors!

caddyshack

One thing I have learned from the 4 or 5 rabbits I see daily, there is no plant that is absolutely off limits to rabbits. They will sample everything in the garden until they find favorites. That’s why the Allium ‘Millenium’ is always touted as rabbit resistant and never as rabbit proof.  Sigh…

Birds!

Most folks love to see a little wildlife in the garden. Some might adopt and feed a visiting squirrel, a friendly chipmunk, or smile at a fuzzy cottontail eating clover or they might design their garden mainly for butterflies and other pollinators. I wish no harm on 4-legged furry animals but do not encourage visits by squirrels, chipmunks, or rabbits. Butterflies and most insects are very welcome.

This handsome black squirrel is a regular visitor but I rather he visit someone else.

Black Squirrel 2019

Handsome black squirrel looking for bird food

I want it to go elsewhere because it interferes with my favorite garden visitors…. the birds.

I put several bird feeders out during the day and remove them at night due to visits from bears in this area. Suet, seeds, grape jelly, and nectar hang here and there during daylight hours.

Did you know that $quirrels love all of those food$? One $quirrel can knock every feeder to the ground and poli$h everything off while you are making a quick da$h to the grocery $tore. 💰

In a light rain yesterday morning I took my first cuppa joe on the deck beneath the umbrella to watch the antics of our early feathered friends.

As wet as this small hummer was, he remained on guard, throat blazing red, watching for intruders at three hummingbird feeders. We could supply a nice flock with the mega amount that we make for them but still… he wants it all for himself and some females. But the neighborhood boys have developed a system to feed.  An intruder diverts the boss’s  attention away from the feeder while another male zooms in for a quick feed. They all get a share this way but it’s exhausting to watch.

Ruby Throated Hummer 2019

Male Ruby-throated Hummingbird in the rain

I’m fighting a losing battle with Mother Nature by inviting only one species to visit but I come by birding naturally. First my mother was an avid birder and now all my sibs and their spouses are of one mind. We send photo back and forth, we announce rare or unusual bird visits to one another, we solicit ID verification, and we group marvel at bird antics. The interest in my family has trickled down to offspring, some of whom can ID better than I can. Even young grandchildren have a growing interest. Our 5-yr. old granddaughter spent the night with us recently and excitedly pointed out the different birds and action in the garden. And, of course… I encouraged her.

American goldfinch 2019

American Goldfinch

Oh, the catbirds are probably my favorite bird to watch in a yard setting. They are handsome, friendly, funny, and sing the most varied songs in the garden…. and, boy, do they love grape jelly! Even when the heavens opened and rain became heavy yesterday, the cats were still taking turns at the jelly bar.

Gray Catbird 2019

Gray Catbird and grape jelly

The jelly is watched over by different catbird families from separate territories who ordinarily quarrel among themselves, but when the jelly supply is being threatened by orioles, squirrels, chickadees, or by hungry woodpeckers (below), they band together and squawk at the intruder. It never works. Their bark is worse than their bite and everyone sips at the bar.

Three catbirds and a hairy woodpecker 2019

Three catbirds squawk at a woodpecker approaching the jelly bar

Before I escaped the rain and ran for cover indoors, the last visitor I saw at the jelly was one of the neighborhood orioles. We have two nesting pairs nearby who are regulars here. Their young must be becoming more independent by now. Fingers crossed that they bring their offspring to sample the jelly before they migrate south in the next few weeks.

Baltimore Oriole 2019

Baltimore Oriole at the jelly bar

That was just a sampling of the birds that entertained me in the rain yesterday. Once an avid birder, I still consider myself a birder although no more all-day Audubon bird counts or birding field trips these days. However, you’ll never find me far from my good birding binoculars and my well-worn Sibley Field Guide to Birds.

Mad about tomatoes

We think the amount of spring rain we’ve had in New Hampshire has helped, not hurt our tomato plants. It may be the rain but maybe something to do with the variety we chose or it may have something to do with the new location where they receive at least 6 hours of direct sun. I planted the tomatoes right in the middle of a new hot and dry rock garden and the two plants seem to be thriving.

'Celebrity' tomato plant 2019

The variety that mister gardener selected this year is the hybrid Celebrity and we are super excited about the performance so far. We have counted over 20 tomatoes on the biggest plant. Of course, the tomatoes are still green and the majority of the fruit is quite small.

tomato 2019

Celebrity is a good medium-size slicing tomato, great for salads, sandwiches, cooking, caning, or just a salsa snack. It’s categorized as a determinate tomato plant but the nursery said it can grow larger as an semi-indeterminate. We will find out in a few weeks if the advice we were given is accurate.

Celebrity Tomato 2019

Meanwhile we’re counting more tomatoes each day… a very good thing.

Nasty boxwood blight has arrived

We’ve had a wet spring and the warm temperatures and high humidity of summer have just begun. I am ever vigilant for diseases in the garden at this time of the year. One fungus that is the stuff of nightmares is Boxwood Blight, a monster of a disease that has spread to 26 states. Defoliation of boxwood can occur suddenly, with complete leaf loss in severe cases. It has already destroyed generations-old box in my home state of Virginia.

Several Buxus species can be affected but it’s the English (Buxus semp. ‘Suffruticosa’) and American or common boxwood (B. sempervirens) that are most susceptible. Virginia Tech lists my variety as a Blight-Resistant/Tolerant Cultivar, but that’s not a guarantee. Affected boxwood can be treated commercially with fungicides but there is no absolute cure for the pathogen. Europeans have been fighting the disease for over 25 years.

Signs I’m look for are blackening of the leaves, black streaks on the stems and rapid areas of defoliation. The spores are heavy and sticky and sometimes white spore masses can be visible.

Boxwood blight has been confirmed on nursery stock in New Hampshire so all NH box is at risk. Although there isn’t a cure as of today, commercial strength fungicides applied by professionals are most effective for treatment. There are limited products approved for amateur gardeners’ use. Once a month, I use a product from the Netherlands, Topbuxus, that I hope will make my box more resistant. It’s an effervescent tablet dissolved in water and sprayed on boxwood and said to “stop and prevent box blight.” It’s a super tonic for box and promotes good health but I’m unsure about its blight effectiveness. If anything, a healthy plant should resist diseases better.

Good cultural practices are still an effective prevention:

  • Inspect any newly purchased boxwood for symptoms of the disease, including leaf spots, leaf browning, black streaks on stems and leaf drop. Any boxwood that has these symptoms should be double-bagged and discarded in the landfill. Do not compost infected greenery.
  • Plant in locations with good air circulation.
  • Prune to increase air circulation.
  • Sanitize pruning equipment before going from one plant to another. Lysol disinfectant works well.
  • Water at a time of day that the plants will dry quickly.
  • Avoid overhead watering if possible.
  • If desired for a hedge or mass planting, it is best to plant loosely.

 

Summer has arrived

It’s the first day of summer, the longest day of the year, and I have weather on my mind. My heart goes out to those, including some of my offspring, in areas of the country that have been hit so hard by storms over the last few months and are about to be hit again by another deluge of rain, flooding, hail and/or tornadoes…. and high temperatures.

Lady's Mantle - June 2019

In New Hampshire, we’ve been fortunate. We’ve had plenty of rain accompanying our cool temperatures. Gardens around here can handle what nature has doled out so far.

June 2019

In fact, for ornamental gardeners it’s been amazing to have steady rainfall every couple of days this spring. My favorite garden color green dominates the landscape, from the lime green of Japanese Spikenard ‘Sun King’ and lady’s mantle to the blue green of hostas.  The lushness of the landscape has been fed by our life-giving spring rains and plants from perennials to shrubs to grasses and vines have exploded in growth.

June 2019

Temperatures in New England have been cool but I fear that as soon as the heat of summer hits us, the door will be open for an assortment of bacteria and fungi that thrive in heat and the moisture we’re having. And, for sure, there will be an increase of unwelcome insects… like slugs and worse. Already arriving this week are newly hatched LARGE mosquitoes that chase us indoors at dusk. Sigh….

Aralia 'Sun King' - June 2019

Rain is a welcome treat right now, but too much rain during the summer months can cause plenty of problems for us in the garden. We will simply enjoy it while we can.

Clan Gathering 2019

This year we didn’t go far for our annual family get together…just a few short miles over the state line to York Harbor, a coastal village above the rocky coastline of Maine. The date and general location this year was determined by a granddaughter’s graduation from Bennington College in VT that brought family north and the fact that Portsmouth NH grandchildren were still in school for the year. York Harbor was close enough for a morning commute to Portsmouth and a vacation home was ample enough to house 18 offspring and spouses.

York Harbor is a quiet historic village that bustles with summer visitors but early June is not an ideal time for a New England ocean vacation. There were an abundance of locals taking early walks on the small rocky beach with hardly a glance at the water. We had days of fog and cool weather, days of sunshine and warmth but the Atlantic? It remained dangerously COLD. But that couldn’t keep our family members from taking the short walk to the beach on a daily basis, sometimes several times. Goose bumps could hardly keep the adults off the beach and the hardy youngsters out of the water.

What else is there for a range of ages to do this time of year in coastal Maine and New Hampshire? Plenty and we (semi) locals knew where to go! Hiking always takes center stage with our family. We experienced all the York trails and some of us ventured out to hike nearby Mount Agamenthicus, just a 20 minute drive away.

Shopping was enjoyed by teens and young adults. Kittery ME outlets, Ogunquit ME, Portland ME, and Portsmouth NH were visited. Tennis was a magnet for several young men. And good dining was a magnet for all…. from a feast of lobster over a local river to home cooked meals to wood fired pizza to local bakeries to evening walks for hand dipped ice cream in the village…. and, of course, s’mores at the fire pit for all ages.

I got my garden fix by visiting Stonewall Kitchens where their garden designer keeps visitors enthralled with unusual designs and a wide array of annual and perennial borders. This year they prepared a colorful Farm to Table garden party!

The best part about the gathering of the clan? Bonding moments…

The bittersweet time?  Saying our farewells at week’s end….

Hungry, hungry caterpillar…

At our May garden club meeting, I came face to face with the tiny caterpillars I had signed up to adopt. I’ve adopted lots of caterpillars in my gardens but never had the responsibility of raising one indoors. I was a bit apprehensive…

Home with me they went. I read the directions at least once a day to make sure I was a responsible mama to these Painted Lady caterpillars (Vanessa cardui). I watched them eat, grow, and move around the tiny container. I wondered how they could breathe in their tightly sealed tomb-like capsule. I wondered exactly what that was they were eating. And why were they eating the paper at the top of the container?

Whenever they crawled on the lid, I thought, “This is it. This is it.” but no.  It took a long time before they decided to begin their life cycle and attach to the lid. They simply ate and grew….

Then finally metamorphosis began… but alas, the timing was tricky. It was the same time as a granddaughter’s graduation from  Bennington College in VT, and at the same time two young granddaughters arrived from Ohio for a visit. Then within days, we were all packed and heading to Maine to vacation with18 family members.

🐛  🐛  🐛  🐛

There was nothing else we could do but pack up our chrysalis and take them with us, risking disturbing and botching the whole transformation.While on vacation they remained immobile sitting high on a mantle out of reach of youngsters. Days went on as we swam, hiked, sat by the fire pit, played tennis, shopped, dined, etc.  Each day I checked the cocoons… and nothing. I truly thought the little guys must be dead.

🦋  🦋  🦋  🦋

But NOT… one granddaughter said quietly on the day before our departure that we had butterflies! The end of the journey and our lovely Painted Ladies seemed pleased when we released them into a lush Maine garden nearby our vacation home. I read that Painted Lady butterflies prefer to feed on purple flowers and this garden had plenty.

Mission accomplished!
Whew!

 

 

 

 

A Day of Reflection

Memorial Day is a day of remembrance of those fallen in our armed forces. Our community, like thousands of communities across America, paid tribute with a Memorial Day parade followed by a ceremony at a nearby cemetery. The parade was followed by crowds of people on foot to the final ceremony.

The crowds were thin where we were…. the pre-parade setup area. We watched as people and groups arrived to find their place in the parade lineup…. the marines, scouts, firemen, band members, the Independence Museum, DAR, the Warrior 180 Foundation, and other organizations… local and national, young and old.

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Members of the VFW were everywhere making sure each person had a flag or two to wave when the parade passed. How meaningful it was to talk with this young man of 80 who served his country for 33 years.

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This year the weather was favorable for something else we came to see… a helicopter drop of a memorial wreath over the Squamscott River in remembrance of service members lost at sea. The weather has not been favorable for this event in the few years we’ve lived here.

Memorial Day 2019

Memorial Day 2019

Three other wreaths were placed along the parade route with stops for services at two locations. It was a special day to see so many residents lining the parade route supporting veterans and honoring those who made the ultimate sacrifice.

Memorial Day 2019

Memorial Day 2019

 

 

Strange weather continues…

After a cold, wet spring, we were blessed with a gloriously perfect day last Saturday. Sunshine. Blue skies. Warmer temps. A super day for volunteers who turned out with shovels and bags of compost to plant a dozen woody shrubs in a new community ornamental garden. Red twig dogwood, hydrangea, rhododendron, viburnum and more are forming the bones of a new public native plant garden with a generous grant from the Exeter Area Garden Club.  Not just for the public’s enjoyment, our goal is to attract pollinators and wildlife to the garden.

New F. A. Garden 2019

Following that glorious solo spring day, we have been plunged back into cold, wet weather. Mother’s Day was brisk yet warm with flowers, good wishes, phone calls, and a lovely brunch.

The very next day, just yesterday, a nor’easter brought chilly rains and gusty winds and overnight temperatures in the 30’s….. and SNOW to parts of the state. All I can do is enjoy the few blooms we have in the yard and wait for warmer weather closer to the weekend.

What plants seem to be happy in this weather?
Parsley is enjoying the cold. The ferns are
twice as large as they usually are.
Hostas are reaching for
the sky!

Epimedium seems thrilled…
⬇︎

epimedium

Rhododendron is unfazed…

roseum rhododendron 2019

Pansies are in their glory….

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What seems to be struggling or slow to adapt?
The iris! They will eventually
bloom but I see signs
of fungus on
the blades.

Tulips are fine but rarely open on these cold overcast days.

tulips 2019

Azalea blossoms are uncooperative…

azalea 2019

Crabapple blooms are struggling to open…

crabapple 2019

‘Carol Mackie’ daphne should bloom in May,
but this year it will be late.

Carol Mackie Daphne 2019

What to do when the calendar
says spring but the weather
says winter?
As long as there are no s-words… snow, sleet, or slush, nothing stops the people of New England if they have a good supply of fleecewear, wool socks, muck boots, and a rain hat. Gardening in the rain is still gardening.

muck boots 2019

Spring in the North

I think gardeners in the North might appreciate the spring season more than gardeners in the South where I gardened before moving. I love the dazzling Virginia springs more but so appreciate the northern springs when they finally decide to arrive. In the South, I think I took our springs for granted because they were so early. As soon as winter ends, the landscape bursts into a frenzy of color. In the North, spring seems to take an eternity to arrive. When it finally does arrive, I’m so happy that I wallow, I bask, I take delight in every little leaf much more than I did in Virginia.

Here in New Hampshire it can be a painful, cold, sometimes snowy wait for spring. Thank goodness, at last this week we are greeted by snips of spring green. I wore a heavy fleece this chilly morning as I walked through the garden looking for some spring clues and I found enough.  The emerging leaves of my Little Lime hydrangea is solid proof.

Little Lime hydrangea 2019

Clethra is pushing out tiny leaves and hostas are breaking ground.

Clethra alnifolia 2019

hosta 2019

We see the tiny tips of Baptisia, iris, daisies, some herbs, wild ginger and Epimedium pushing through the soil. We’re thrilled to see early plants like bleeding hearts below begin to unfurl blooms….

Bleeding Hearts 2019

 

….and my favorite woody shrub in the garden, the doublefile viburnum, is well on its way to splendor as it forms rows of blooms that will open to a procession of delicate white blossoms along the stems.

Doublefile Viburnum 2019

This year, I removed the 4 Incrediball hydrangea shrubs from the foundation of the home. They take soooo long to fill out in New Hampshire and I tire of looking at ‘sticks’ at the front of the home. They will soon be relocated just down the street and will be replaced by evergreens as a foundation plant… which one not yet decided.

Incrediball hydrangea 2019

Our 2 cubic yards of Nutri-Mulch, a 50/50 organic leaf/compost mix, arrived last week and has been spread over the gardens. Whew! It’s a great time to perform the task before fully formed leaves are on plants or perennials have yet to appear above ground. Now that the heavy projects are done, we can sit back and enjoy spring and wait for our mass of tulips and daffodils to bloom. It can’t be too much longer, can it?

Nutri-Mulch 2019