Trouble in Paradise

It was a wet summer in New Hampshire. We’ve had torrential downpours, flooding, high humidity, and a good stretch of sweltering 90°+ weather.  For a while there in July, life was made miserable by weather conditions.

I can’t help but think the summer weather conditions took a toll on flora, too. Several plants around this yard are showing signs of fungus and predation from pests. Most are easy to identify but I was stumped by two conditions. From an online search I identified the first pest, the Pine Bark Adelgid (Pineus strobi), that prefers to feed on the bark of white pines (Pinus strobus). Two mature white pines in the yard look whitewashed, the white protection created by females to protect eggs. Chemical measures to protect the health of a mature tree is seldom required but the insect can be combated with dormant oil sprays, insecticidal soaps as well as insecticides. Since I rarely use insecticides to prevent harm to beneficial insects, I may treat with dormant oils or insecticidal soaps in early spring…. or I’ll just ignore it.

Pine Bark AdelgidPine Bark AdelgidPine Bark AdelgidThe second mystery pest required contacting Eric Day, an entomologist with Virginia Tech who taught my Virginia master gardener classes. I knew it was a scale of some sort on the lilac which one? Eric narrowed it down. He ID-ed it as White Peach Scale (Pseudaulacaspis pentagona), a more serious infestation as it removes the sap from the host plant. Eric suggested I contact local extension experts to see how to handle this pest in New Hampshire. Treatment may be different in the south.

White Peach ScaleWhite Peach ScaleAfter zooming in on a photo of these tiny grains of white, there in the midst of the pests is another pest. A small purple scale eater, too tiny to be noticed with the naked eye, was moving about dining on scale creatures. It was obviously the larva stage of another insect.

White Peach ScaleClick to enlarge photos.

Late Summer Temptations…

Today, under cloudless blue skies, temperatures in the mid-70’s, we mingled with the crowds at our Exeter’s Farmers’ Market. All mister gardener needed were cucumbers for tonight’s Greek Salad and I was in the market for eggplant after seeing Diary of a Tomato’s Roasted Ratatouille, but it didn’t end there. Late season fruits and vegetables in a rainbow of colors were plentiful and tempting. We tried to meander and simply ‘oooo and ahhhh’ but it was the samples that won us over. After tasting a tidbit here and there, the temptation was too much. We came home with three bags full.

Here are some of the temptations that we could not resist today.

Festivals and Fairs, oh my!

Today we decided to head toward the coast to hit a couple of fall family events. Our first stop was the 5th Annual Hampton Falls Craft Festival just a hop-skip down the road from Exeter.  Fall was in the air as booth after booth featured Halloween or pumpkin themed crafts in addition to a variety of other artistry such as hand blown glass, original watercolors, photography, soaps, basketry, and, mmmmm… fudge!

We had a fun time enjoying the food, the music, the incredible art but I was most excited to have my first ever taste of a popular Italian desert…. a cannoli. “The Original Canoli Girl From The North End” of Boston began making cannolis with her Nonni when she was 6 years old. She surprised her grandmother with a homemade sign for her business…with  cannoli spelled wrong. She said her Nonni loved it and the spelling stuck.

"Canoli Girl"Very well-known, she has taken up where her grandmother left off and takes her business on the road selling these popular sweets. I give my original and authentic cannoli an A+. Want a bite?

IMG_6301 IMG_6303On our way back to Exeter, we stopped at our second festival at Applecrest Farm Orchards where folks were there for apples, pumpkins and atmosphere. U-Pick or buy apples by the bushel, pick out a pumpkin in the fields or already lined up, plain or painted. There was also food on the grill, fresh ice cream, mums of all colors and, of course, lots of vegetables inside. We walked away with tomatoes and a smile.

………………………………….Click on any photo to enlarge 

The World of Sulphur Butterflies

One of the most widespread and abundant butterflies in North America is the pretty little sulphur,  We are all familiar with these yellow butterflies of the Pieridae family fluttering low over fields and open areas.The name ‘butterfly‘ is thought to have originated from a member of this family.

They are fast moving insects and I find them frustrating to photograph. The one I finally caught with my camera after many blurry attempts may be the Clouded Sulphur (Colias philodice) or it could be the Orange Sulphur (Colias eurytheme). They can be very tricky to tell apart… especially because hybrids between the two can occur. sulphur.butterflyThey perch with wings closed so it is difficult to photograph the upper side, which should have an orange flush if it is an Orange Sulphur. Sometimes black edging can be seen through the upheld wings and can help identify whether male or female.

They seem to be everywhere at this time of year and are one of the last butterflies flying in late autumn. They breed from spring through the fall. On average, they live  for less than a week, however as the cold season approaches, the caterpillars overwinter in either the third or fourth stage or as a chrysalis. We will look forward to seeing them again in the spring as small pats of butter dancing over fields.

Lavender Blue

In the spring, one of the first plants I searched for in local nurseries was Liriope muscari,  a common perennial border plant in Virginia. I was happy to read that with a little care, it can be hardy in our zone 5. So I was surprised that it was not readily available locally and I saw puzzled looks on faces when I asked for it. The word liriope easily rolls off a southerner’s tongue as it is found practically in every garden… usually as a wonderful pass-along plant.

I was absolutely thrilled to finally find some at Rolling Green Nursery. A enlightened worker marched me right to their one flat in a far corner of the property. I bought it all. I knew how easily it divided. Each pot became two. But I wanted more and vocalized my disappointment to my brother and his wife. Imagine my surprise when a heavy box arrived soon after. I was delighted to find carefully packed pass-along Liriope muscari from their garden. The best part of this story is that the plants were passed along to them from a beloved aunt’s garden in Jacksonville FL. Better yet, she obtained her plants from my dear grandparents’ gardens in Richmond VA many years before. So I am the 4th person to benefit from these special pass-along plants! As soon as they are more established, my daughter in Portsmouth will be the 5th recipient.


There are two species of of the plant and I’ve cultivated both in the past: Liriope muscari, a plant that behaves as a mound of grass-like foliage and Liriope spicata, a variety that spreads as a wonderful groundcover.

When so many garden flowers are beginning to fade in July and August, Liriope is just beginning its show. The flowers are tiny however they are numerous along a spike. The hum of bees working the blooms is music to my ears.

It’s a terrific plant, tolerant of summer heat and lack of water. There are many species and cultivars with variegated leaves of green and white or yellow and white or pink blooms,and different sizes, however the solid green leaves feel cool and inviting to me.

This week, the mower with our landscaping service stopped his tractor and asked, ‘Can you tell me what those plants are that are blooming along your border?’ Of course I could… and if he plays his cards right he may be another pass-along donee.

Aging Well in the Garden

In my garden, hydrangea blooms that were bright blue and pink during the summer months are fading and turning papery. Blooms have taken on an aged, antiqued look in shades of burgundy, pink, green and blue. Today was the day I cut the best candidates, those that were the perfect blush, more mature and paper-like, for drying.

hydrangeaMany people put their hydrangea stems in water and allow the water to evaporate as the flowers dry, however, I remove the leaves, then allow the blooms air dry naturally just as my mother always did. I have dried the blooms both ways and for me, there is no difference in the color, however the air dried blooms seem a bit more fragile.

hydrangeaMy hydrangeas will be soon be arranged in a container, no water, and the colorful blooms will become a centerpiece on our dining room table for the winter months. When spring arrives, the bouquet will be ready for the compost pile.

Trains, Planes and Automobiles… lots of Automobiles!

The Red, White, and BlueThe weekend began on a perfect note. Sunshine, warm temperatures, great for a cookout or a day at the beach. There was a little sprinkle here or there on Sunday, but today, Labor Day, it rained. Heavy rain, light rain, gushers, pools and puddles all day long. I rolled up the hoses, put them away, and we decided to take a little road trip into Maine.

The nation’s last big travel holiday of the summer was coming to a close but what do vacationers do on their last morning when it pours? They cut vacations short and head for home. All of them, I think, were on the road. Cars with bikes, cars pulling trailers, cars toting canoes and kayaks on top, campers, and trucks were all heading south. For once in my life we were going the right way on Labor Day.

The northbound side of I-95 was practically empty. Not so for those poor folks heading south. As far as the eye could see for many miles, it was stop and go traffic.

trafficTravel in New England was expected to top the national average, the heaviest traffic in the last 5 years. A scary prediction from the U.S. Travel Association forecasts Labor Day-like traffic will become commonplace on highways in the United States, adversely affecting the economy and our way of life. Sixteen key interstate corridors across the U.S. were studied and from the information I gathered, the area closest to us (Hartford to Boston I-84) will not suffer daily bumper to bumper traffic until 2041. Whew! Let’s hope we use the time to find solutions.