It’s so wet that….

….. new zinnias sprouted on top of the spent bloom in a friend’s garden! The tiny new plants can be seen in the center of the photo on the brown flower bloom. We’ve experienced an extremely wet fall. Mushrooms, mold, algae are sprouting everywhere but this is the first time I’ve seen zinnia seeds sprouting before dropping from the bloom. Mother Nature doesn’t plan for it to happen that way.

Ann Hohenberger, The Garden Club of Gloucester

Singing in the rain…

Lured by insects flying around the light outside my office at night, my once evening-only visitor now lives on the window 24 hours a day. It’s been a wet fall and this bright green amphibian, the American Green Tree Frog (Hyla cinerea), need not seek moist crevices during the drying sunlight because we’ve not seen the sun of late. Monsoon-like rains, local flooding, and storms seem to be the daily forecast for us in Tidewater.

Click for closeup of the American Green Tree Frog

It’s been a banner year for these frogs in the garden as well.  Green tree frogs of all sizes rest contentedly during the day on dew laden leaves and vegetation while I carefully work around them. These frogs are one of the most common amphibians of the southeast and most of us are familiar with them, if not visually, we surely know them by their nightly calls during mating season. For such a tiny fellow, 1.25 to 2.25 inches, their loud ‘queenk or quonk’ can feel deafening on a humid Tidewater evening. Their diet consists of insects… crickets, flies, worms, beetles, mosquitoes, and those fat juicy moths that flutter around the outdoor lamp at night.

I have enjoyed the antics of the visitor to my office window. He’s quite accustomed to my presence.  And while slowly climbing toward hapless moths around the evening light, he is tolerant of me following inches behind with a rather large camera.

Ann Hohenberger, The Garden Club of Gloucester

Goodbye Summer, Hello Fall

I’m always amazed at how quickly the days seem to grow shorter at this time of year. We have been losing daylight each day since June and now up to about three minutes a day. Can’t help but notice it’s really dark when we awake and dusk comes noticeably earlier.  Fall seems to have arrived at our neck of the woods. Color is beginning to appear in leaves, stalks of corn stand brown and dry in the fields, pots of mums adorn doorsteps, morning dew lies heavy on the grass and all but six female hummingbirds have begun their southward migration.  From this day forth until the Winter Solstice in December, days grow shorter and temperatures begin to drop.

Tomorrow, Sept. 23, marks the traditional first day of fall with the arrival of the Autumn Equinox in our northern hemisphere. This is the day when the sun crosses the equator southward and the length of daylight and night are fairly close to being equal.  At the North Pole, this marks the arrival of six month of darkness and at the South Pole, the sun will reappear after six month of darkness.

The sun will rise over the horizon at different times for different observers depending on location but I’m walking to the end of the pier around 5:00 a.m. EDT to catch the sun’s first rays at 5:05 a.m. as they bend over the horizon. I will reflect on the end of a growing season and give silent thanks for success in all the garden, both edible and ornamental.  Of course, thoughts must turn toward those trees on clearance at the nursery and the purchase of some glorious daffodil bulbs I’ve admired at Brent and Becky’s Bulbs.

The equinox is also the day for a little fun. Because of equal gravitational force, it’s thought one can be successful at balancing an egg on end. You can certainly try, however, scientists say that gravity is not noticeably affected by the equinox. Therefore balancing an egg in the morning will be just as tedious as any other day of the year. Rats!  I’ve participated in this tradition since I was age 10, so I’ll certainly have my eggs lined up tomorrow.

Ann Hohenberger, The Garden Club of Gloucester

Nightmare On My Street

At first they looked insignificant and harmless but these plants were really the devil in disguise. Like those really bad reptilian creatures with sharp teeth and claws who rampaged a town in the 1984 horror movie, Gremlins, I am currently under attack by a weed…. a devil weed, a dangerous villain, a Gremlin. It’s Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata), a biennial plant in the Mustard family. Native to Europe, it is thought to have been brought to America in the 1860s as a culinary herb and indeed, it is edible.


The small rosettes of leaves appeared among my roses and lavender several years ago. I pulled up tons without recognizing the weed until successive years when the plant had matured into tall shoots, competing with the lavender, then moving on to other borders . Each year, I weed and weed and I think I’ve gotten it under control but when I turn my back, it multiplies as fast as those little Gremlins that terrorized an entire community.

It is a destructive invasive plant that is controlled best by hand-pulling before the plant goes to seed. Each mature plant can produce over a thousand seeds and once it produces seeds, it can become so prolific that it is difficult to eradicate. When it’s introduced into a new environment, it can aggressively spread into woodlands where it out-competes native plants and flowers that insects depend upon for life. The West Virginia White Butterfly (Pieris virginiensis) and the Mustard White Butterfly (Pieris oleracea) that lay eggs on Toothwort plants are choosing to lay eggs on Garlic Mustard which has proved toxic to both the eggs and larvae. The plant also produces toxins that suppress the mycorrhizal fungi that plants require for growth.

The plant has no natural enemies. For very heavy infestations where risks to desirable plants is at a minimum, applications of systemic herbicide glyphosate can be effective.  Since the seeds remain viable for five years in the soil, diligent monitoring is important. After weeding, do not compost this weed as the plant can germinate in the compost bed.

Wish me luck.

PS: I uploaded the wrong photo. I moved and now I live in New Hampshire. Wikipedia supplied the photo of Garlic Mustard for this post.

Ann Hohenberger, The Garden Club of Gloucester

A Rose is a Rose is a Rose is a Rose…

On October 5 and 6, rosarians from all corners of the state bearing the best of blooms from their gardens will flock to the Garden Club of Virginia’s 73rd Annual Rose Show. The judged competition, sponsored by Norfolk’s Harborfront Garden Club, will take place at the Norfolk Botanical Gardens in the Rose Garden Hall.

Not only is it the goal of the Garden Club of Virginia to provide educational information about growing roses and showing roses, they will have on display interpretative flower arrangements from a competition between Garden Club of Virginia’s forty-seven member clubs.

Inter-Club Artistic

All are invited to the 73rd Annual Rose Show. For the admission price to the Botanical Garden, ticket holders will be able to visit the show and the vast gardens where approximately 3000 plants in the genus Rosa in different 380 species and cultivars grow.  Tickets can be purchased at the entrance to Norfolk Botanical Garden. $1.00 off coupon is available at the Norfolk Botanical Garden website.

Bicentennial Rose Garden

Co-Chairs of the 2011 Rose Show are Casey Rise and Lee Snyder.

Ann Hohenberger, The Garden Club of Gloucester

When is a bumblebee not a bumblebee?

Bumblebee on Bluebeard shrub

The answer: When it is a moth.

True bumblebees are all over my bluebeard shrub (Caryopteris ‘Blue Mist’) and all over any late blooming flower in the garden, honeysuckle, lantana, butterfly bush, wild ginger, asters, etc. If you’re weeding nearby or just admiring the insects, you might spot one ‘bee’ that is not like the others. The black and yellow colors seem right but this odd bumblebee will hover over the flower while it feeds unlike the other bumblebees that bump and collide and crawl over blooms to feed.

This odd-looking bee is not a bee at all. It’s a Bumblebee Moth, a Snowberry Clearwing Moth, Hemaris diffinis, and it is a pretty darn good bumblebee mimic. You’ll see it flitting around the garden feeding during the day just like the bees. Any predators should recognize the familiar yellow and black warning pattern and steer clear of the potential sting.  Except this little yellow and black moth is completely harmless. It’s simply a moth.

Snowberry clearwing bumblebee moth

The caterpillar of the moth is pale green on the back with darker green along the sides. There are numerous flecks on the body and a horn of bright yellow at the base with a black tip on the top. Although related to the tobacco hornworm, this bumblebee moth caterpillar will eat the snowberry,  honeysuckle,  and cranberry viburnum…. NOT your tomato plants! Be kind to these caterpillars.

Snowberry clearwing moth caterpillar

Interestingly, the snowberry plant, Symphoricarpus albus, that gave the insect its name is a hardy deciduous plant in the honeysuckle family that was brought back to the east with the Lewis & Clark expedition. When it reached Thomas Jefferson, he was enthusiastic about the plant with the lovely pink blooms followed by large pure white fruit, and penned “some of the most beautiful berries I have ever seen.” It’s deer resistant, great for cut flowers, likes shade and these little bumblebee moths like it. That’s all the persuasion I need. I think I must have a few snowberry plants in this garden next spring…. perhaps in the shade of the new secret garden!

Ann Hohenberger, the Garden Club of Gloucester

Mosquitoes Suck!

After our recent soaking by Irene and Lee, mosquitoes have had a resurgence in Tidewater. The dogs are suffering, the cats find hiding places, the birds must be driven mad. I’ve seen a blood-fat mosquito on a frog and many mosquitoes swarming a passing box turtle. (I prayed he soon shut his ‘box’ against them.)

Male mosquitoes really do some good things in the garden. Scientists say they consume the sticky aphid residue on our plants and they do their fair share of pollinating while consuming nectar from flowers. And they DON’T bite us. The females are the problem.  Females consume blood for protein in order to reproduce but there are one or two female species of the 2,700 worldwide species that don’t consume our blood. One feeds on nectar and another eats other mosquitoes. I’d like to import those to America. In Tidewater, we have 35 different mosquitoes species but the most prolific is the Asian tiger mosquitoes that dine only during daylight hours. Near our salt marshes we have two species that can bite during the daytime. A particularly aggressive daytime or nighttime mosquito in our area is the dark rice field mosquito.

According to Larry Weber, a Minnesota Science teacher at The Marshall School in Duluth,  “A single meal can nourish 100 eggs or more. During a typical adult lifetime of two weeks to one month (adults of some species live six months or more), a mosquito bites one to three times.” Did he say the same mosquito could bite me three times? These bloodthirsty insects make me worry about West Nile, encephalitis and even malaria has been reported in Virginia.

For the most part I simply stay inside when mosquitoes swarm but I must fill bird feeders, weed a bit, mow, cut flowers, visit a neighbor, or walk the dogs. When I must venture out, the scene is reminiscent of The Birds. I open the front door and observe numerous mosquitoes waiting on the glass storm door biding their time like the bizarre seagulls on the telephone wires in the movie. Like Tippi Hendron, I cower. I know I’ll be ravaged by these mosquitoes no matter what I do.  I hate to lather myself with sticky, smelly repellents, homemade or bought, so I plan my strategy.  I have everything in hand for the job… bucket, clippers, leash, bird food, etc. I exit the house at a fast pace and get the job done in 20 minute spurts or less.

Keeps BUZZING Bugs away

But the very best solution I have is to invest in BUZZ OFF insect repellent apparel… shirt, bandana, pants, socks, hat. Mosquitoes will not bite through it. I look like I’m ready for the savanna but it really works! They buzz but they don’t bite. I don’t fog our area because of good insects and a multitude of birds, like my nesting hummingbirds. What works for you?

Ann Hohenberger, The Garden Club of Gloucester

End Of Summer Party

I love our neighborhood. On a peninsula of land surrounded by 3 different named bodies of water, our neck of land is tied closely together by space restrictions. We have one road in and out, one county store and post office where we meet and catch up on each other’s lives, good news, bad news, buy our groceries and get our mail. There isn’t much that happens that we don’t know about and get involved in.  And when it comes time to celebrate, we do that together, too. Today we will gather to celebrate the unofficial End Of Summer and send her off in grand style.

Our contribution to the edibles will feature what we can salvage from mister gardener’s vegetable patch.  Tomatoes, onions, jalapeno peppers, green-yellow and red peppers gave us some basic ingredients for Black Eyed Pea Salsa that screams, “I’m from the South, y’all…”


4 c. black-eyed peas, cooked and drained
5 T. chopped jalapeno peppers (to taste)
1 onion, chopped
2 tomatoes, skinned, chopped and drained
3 small green peppers, chopped (yellow, red, green)
1 15-oz. can of corn
salt, pepper
Cool peas and mix ingredients. Pour the dressing over, mix, chill and serve with garlic and butter pita chips. Salsa is best made one day ahead.
1/2 cup red wine vinegar (to taste)
1 T. balsamic vinegar
1 T. Dijon mustard
1/4 c. sugar
1/2 c. olive oil
1/2 c. vegetable oil
salt and pepper to taste
Happy Labor Day!
Ann Hohenberger, The Garden Club of Gloucester