Looking for Fall Color

It was quite a storm that swept up the Atlantic coast yesterday and today. From North Carolina to Pennsylvania, the mid-Atlantic received a soaking with flooding causing evacuations. Norfolk Navel Station registered 17.44 inches of water. Sunny skies will return to the east tomorrow and the Northeast is now bracing for the heavy rains. Like us, they need a end to dry weather… just not all in one day.

I drove out of Tidewater this morning in the messy, heavy rains that did not let up until I was well into the mountains. The clouds were heavy over the peaks but they could not hide the blue ridges so familiar to Virginians.

Click to see first reds

As I traveled I searched for signs of fall color in the trees but it was too early. Maples here and there gave a hint of what was to come but the dominant color was green… and brown. It was distressing to see the number of trees that have not survived the drought of 2010. I passed mountain after mountain revealing sad faces of dead mature trees.

The brightest flame of color came up suddenly on the side of the road, a shocking scene of a car in an explosion of flames. The occupants of the car were safe and standing a great distance from the fire. I could hear the sirens of help behind me as we were waved along in a caravan of stunned drivers.

It was not the flames of fall color I was looking for but it certainly made me thankful that my journey was made in safety.

Ann Hohenberger, The Garden Club of Gloucester

The Snake is Gone… I think.

Maggie knows it's in there!

Maggie knows it’s in there!

I heard it rattling through dry leaves before I glanced over and saw the Northern Water Snake slowly disappearing into the pachysandra garden on the edge of the property. (See Where Have All My Frogs Gone?) He had been warming himself on the fieldstone path as I passed by this garden. Could he really be leaving us? It’s been two weeks now and he has not returned to our little frog pond garden.  And, magically, two new frogs have found the pond.  My fish numbers are lower but they will recover. All is well in our small aquatic paradise.

With the snake gone, I knew this was my window of opportunity. Today I waded knee-deep into the garden that borders the pond, armed with loppers and pitchfork and a stick to drive away anything scary. Chop, chop, dig, dig. I slowly cut back the cotoneaster, dug up large sections of the spreading Black-eyed Susan and all of the variegated Japanese sedges, leaving the fieldstone visible.  I left alone the poor sun starved Blue Sedge (Carex flacca) that once gracefully flopped over the rocks along the border. It will rebound.
img_2198If the snake makes it through the winter, he will probably return to the pond next summer, however the shelter he found beneath the overhanging branches and flowers is gone.  Let’s hope he keeps on truckin’.

Ann Hohenberger, The Garden Club of Gloucester

Everything’s Coming Up Roses!

The Garden Club of Virginia and the Harborfront Garden Club

cordially invite everyone to

“Gateway To The Garden”

the 72nd Annual Rose Show

Norfolk Botanical Garden

Rose Garden Hall



Wednesday, October 6, 2010

2:00 pm to 6 pm

Thursday, October 7, 2010

9 am to 1 pm

Free with admission to the garden

Sanctioned by the American Rose Society

The GCV Rose Show is presented annually in different locations around the state. This year the chosen venue is the Norfolk Botanical Gardens, an incredible 155-acre garden with more than thirty themed gardens.  With admission to the botanical garden, you will be able to visit Rose Garden Hall and the GCV Rose Show at no additional cost.

In addition, the rose garden at Norfolk Botanical Gardens has been accredited as one of 130 All-American Rose Selections Display Gardens where you can admire over 3,000 rose plants representing more than 300 varieties grown here. From mid-May through October, more than 250,000 rose blooms may be seen. This is a not-to-miss event.

For more information on the show, including schedule, registration and directions to the Norfolk Botanical Gardens, please click here.

Ann Hohenberger, The Garden Club of Gloucester

First Day of Fall Meets Harvest Moon Meets Jupiter – 2010

Harvest Moon and Jupiter

I just came inside after a moonlight walk tonight.  No flashlight needed for tonight is the first full night of the harvest moon illuminating the skies and the earth all night long.  Yesterday was the September or autumnal equinox, commonly used to mark the start of autumn. The closest full moon to the autumnal equinox is called the full harvest moon.

Moon Illusion: Harvest Moon low on the horizon seems bigger and brighter.

Typically the harvest moon appears before or after the September equinox but this year the full moon came just six hours following the equinox.  If that’s not enough, we’re having the perfect tripartite display with Jupiter blazing away to the right of the moon.  For these three events to happen in succession in just a couple of days time is rare and exciting.

The harvest moon was named such because farmers used the bright moonlight to harvest their crops. Tonight’s sky is a beautiful sight with everything bathed in the warm glow of moonbeams.  So if you can, step outside tonight, look up and see the first super harvest moon we’ve had in 20 years.  If you miss it, you can see it again in 2029.

Ann Hohenberger, The Garden Club of Gloucester

Apples: Delicious To The Core!

Despite the drought and extreme temperatures of summer, mister gardener is enjoying a bumper crop of apples. According to the Virginia Department of Agriculture, the dry weather has slowed the growth of apples but the lack of moisture has caused the sugar content to be higher. In Virginia, apples are big business, especially in the Northern Shenandoah Valley and the Southwest and Central parts of the state. Virginia is the 6th largest apple producer in the country with 150 commercial growers statewide. Two thirds of the apples are processed but there is some mighty good eating if you like to pick your own.  Check out some of the Virginia farms and orchards near your home if you’re in the mood to pick some tasty apples this fall.

Mister gardener’s small orchard of Red Delicious have ripened and been plucked from the trees numerous times. The apples have been added to recipes in the kitchen for applesauce, apples and sauerkraut, fried apples, paired with pork, as well as providing fresh snacks from the tree.

One of our favorite desserts is Nana’s Apple Crumb Pie, a hit any time of the year.

Nana’s Apple Crumb Pie

6 large apples, pared, cored and sliced. Mound apples in unbaked pie shell.

Sprinkle apples with the following sugar/cinnamon mix:  ¼ cup brown sugar,  ¼ cup white sugar, 1 tsp. cinnamon.

Mix together the following dry ingredients: ½ cup sugar,¾ cup flour.

Cut 1/2 cup butter (more or less) into sugar/flour until mixture resembles pea-sized crumbs.

Sprinkle crumble mixture over apples. Bake at 400 for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 and bake for 40 minutes or until juicy and tender.

Ann Hohenberger, The Garden Club of Gloucester

If It’s Fall, It’s the Fall Webworm

We have over a month till Halloween but we if look up into the branches of black walnut trees near me, you’d think we were decorating for Trick or Treaters. The fall webworms (Hyphantria cunea) are in the business of defoliating our walnut trees.

The caterpillar also affects pecan, American elm, hickory, fruit trees, some maples, persimmon and sweet gum in the eastern U.S. but it’s the black walnut trees in our area that are taking a beating.

As with all insects, fall webworm populations fluctuate greatly over the years. The normal population is spread out in most years and webs do not draw much attention. Occasionally, populations explode when conditions are favorable and webs become numerous. Then the webbing and defoliated trees certainly attract our attention.

Although the webbing is unsightly, it rarely is cause for alarm. Since it’s so late in the season, the trees have already stored enough energy to sustain themselves for the winter.

Caterpillars will crawl down the trunk looking for a hiding place to pupate. This homeowner has applied a sticky tape around the base of their mature walnut tree to trap the caterpillar.

As a child, I watched a neighbor take a long bamboo pole with an nail in the top, pierce the web and wrap up the entire web like cotton candy. It was then burned in a barrel, caterpillars inside. I have pruned the affected branches I could reach and disposed of the web. My mother would simply rip open the nest and watch birds have a free for all.  There are insecticides that can be sprayed into the trees to kill the caterpillars but keep in mind that the poisons kill other insects as it falls to the ground. I recommend letting the insect run its course since there is no real damage done to the trees. A preventive measure would be raking and disposing of leaves beneath the trees since a good percentage of the insects overwinter in the pupal stage in leaf litter.

Fall Webworm, Hyphantria cunea

Image by GregTheBusker via Flickr

Interesting enough, it our native fall webworm that has spread to other countries as an invasive. In China it has no natural enemies as it does in the U.S. where birds and wasps feed upon the caterpillars.  We can think of foreign insects or plants that become invasive in our own country but this native U.S. insect has a negative impact in other countries.

Ann Hohenberger, The Garden Club of Gloucester

Funky Gasteracantha cancriformis…

Flickering glints of light in the ginkgo branches caught my attention early this morning. It was a gorgeous orb web covered in droplets of morning dew that sparkled like miniature crystals in the sunlight. In the center of this large web was a funky little spider known by several names: the crab-like spiny orbweaver, smiley face spider, jewel spider, spiny-bellied orbweaver, skull spider. It is easily identified by the 6 spiny projections that protrude from the shell-like body.

Spiny orb-weaver spider (Gasteracantha cancrif...

Spiny orb-weaver spider (Gasteracantha cancriformis). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The bodies are white and the spines are black on the ones I see around Tidewater Virginia but the color of the body and spines can vary from orange or yellow to red, especially in Florida.  No one has fully determined the purpose of the spines but it is thought to serve as a defense. The Gasteracantha cancriformis is found in southern United States through South America.  Most commonly seen in the fall when reproduction takes place, the female builds a new nest nightly around shrubs and lower branches of trees, often destroyed by humans when it stretches across walkways. She faces downward in the center of the orb while she waits for her prey.

This miniature spider is not dangerous and serves as a beneficial predator in the garden. Her diet consists of mostly flying insects: moths, flies, mosquitoes, white flies, fruit flies and other small insects.  Matter of fact, these unique little spiders are appreciated in the citrus groves of Florida where they help to control the fruit fly population.

The life span of this spider is short. The male dies shortly after mating. After laying her eggs, the female soon dies. Eggs take 11 -13 days to hatch yet young will stay in their egg case for several weeks. If you’d like to see one of these funky little gals, arise early while the dew is still on the grass and the light from the morning sun illuminates the droplets. Look dead center in the web for a tiny button of a spider and marvel at her uniqueness.

Ann Hohenberger, The Garden Club of Gloucester

Happy Labor Day!

A Day of Labor in the garden...

Happy Labor Day Weekend!

A day to honor laborers may have been suggested over a hundred years ago by Peter McGuire, general secretary of the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners and co-founder of the American Federation of Labor. But according to the US Department of Labor, evidence points to Matthew Maguire, a machinist, who proposed the holiday in 1882 while serving as secretary of the Central Labor Union in New York.

On September 5,1882, union workers in New York City took day off from work and gathered in Union Square to support the new holiday. By 1885, the idea spread with labor organizations into industrial centers across the country.

Today this nationwide holiday, the first weekend in September, is not observed with mass gatherings and parades as in days of yore, but expressed more as an end of summer celebration with a day off from work for much of our nations’ workforce.

For the gardener, Labor Day weekend marks both the end of summer and the beginning of a new season. Fall is the prime time to take stock of your gardens and begin your fall cleanup and plantings.  For two days this weekend I am laboring in the garden, weeding and tidying the borders.  Monday will be spent observing the holiday with friends at a raft-up on the river. There we will watch the sun set over the water as we raise a glass to the nations’ labor force and to the end of one season and the beginning of another.

Ann Hohenberger, The Garden Club of Gloucester

Hello Earl, Goodbye Earl

In a blink, Hurricane Earl has come and gone. We spent Thursday stacking lawn chairs, raising the boat on the lift, buying batteries, new flashlights and generally doing all those things in preparation for a hurricane.  We prayed that Earl not cause damage or death but we were keeping our fingers tightly crossed for the one gift we would receive from this massive storm: rain. From what we were hearing on weather reports, we would be spared the worst of it but we were excited about the 2-4 inches of rain by we’d have by Friday morning.

Friday we awoke early and were bewildered to find lighter than expected winds, not even a whitecap on the water, gray skies and NO RAIN. A quick check on the television showed Al Roker standing on the dunes bracing against 58 mph wind gusts and steady rains at Kill Devil Hills NC while giving the country’s weather forecast. He said this was a coastal storm. Inland it was not bad. That can’t mean us.  We’re not inland. Rain will come.

Indeed, we are inland. We were disappointed not to receive the needed benefit of this passing storm. Later in the morning, a brief rain fell, a teasing drizzle, enough to wet the ground but not even fill the birdbath. The total rainfall measured a mere 1/10″.

Earl, thanks for nuttin. I’m back to watering the labor intensive way.

Ann Hohenberger, The Garden Club of Gloucester