Garden log, 12.19.14

A bit of garden clean-up today gave me a soul-nourishing break from holiday hubbub. Did some raking (oh, endless leaves); planted Cyclamen rohlfsianum (4 seedlings) at the base of an oak tree just above the rain garden. I sowed these seeds last year and set them outside to suffer winter. Just as I was about to throw the pot out, leaves emerged.

The Cyclamen Society says that C. rohlfsianum must be kept frost-free, but life prevented me from getting the pot indoors this fall, and these seedlings have endured a few frosts. I intend to press my luck a little bit. I shall put at least one seedling in a pot in my cold frame, but the others are under a blanket of gravel and dried shredded leaves. Wish me luck.

Raked out the rain garden and dug and divided some Pulmonaria ‘Trevi Fountain,’ making one plant into about a dozen and setting them near the yew, the dwarf Alberta spruce, and a couple under the gardenia hedge. Cut back all the tattered and slug-munched foliage. New leaves are already emerging.

Pulmonaria 'Trevi Fountain'

Pulmonaria ‘Trevi Fountain’

Potted up an acanthus and planted out two leatherleaf viburnums, Viburnum rhytidophyllum. That’s in addition to the nine I planted a few weeks ago (I acquired a pile of seedlings from a neighbor’s woods). I’m working on an evergreen screen until I can get enough pennies saved to install a nice, high, deer-proof fence. The English ivy is out of control in the back garden, near the gardenia hedge, but that’s a project for another day.

Did myself a favor and decided not to grow bulb onions from seed this year. They take more work than I have time, and since we go through about 3 pounds of onions a week, I couldn’t hope to save myself a trip to the grocery out of my effort. More room for cut-and-come-again greens instead.

The weather should be perfectly foul tomorrow, high 30s (~3C) and rain. Fine weather to curl up with the deliciously fat catalogue from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds and figure out what to plant in place of those onions.

Garden log, 12.15.14

A quick reminder to myself that I sowed in-situ seeds of Nemophila discoidalis ‘Penny Black,’ Verbena bonariensis, Anagallis monellii, and Primula veris. I’ll try some in flats in my cold frame as well, later in the winter, but when it comes to seeds I find that plants do better with less intervention from me. We’ll see whether these follow the trend.

Work on shredding leaves continues. I hope to have a healthy pile of leaf mold come spring.

 

Trash into treasure: Decorating with weeds

Holiday decorations from the garden delight me in ways other ornaments can’t. I’d rather have pots of forced bulbs, a Christmas cactus, or fresh garlands of mixed greenery than anything else. Well, except for a tree.

It is not in my nature to decline a free giveaway, so when the gentlemen at the tree lot offered scrap trimmings (all I could cart away!), and my spouse was preoccupied with tying the tree to the car’s roof, I grabbed an armload. I kept them in a bucket of water on the deck until I discerned a future for them.

Yesterday, armed with a paddle of florist’s wire and a pair of hand pruners, I crafted a garland for our mailbox.

mailbox left profile full view

It began as an 8-foot-long rope of Fraser fir (Abies fraseri), wired together from cuttings 18 inches long or so, and annotated with silver wired ribbon. But it suffered acute dullness.

Pondering what might give it some verve, I remembered the cardinal rule to add texture. And what luck; I have never, in the ten years I’ve lived here, conquered the English ivy (Hedera helix) that I inherited on closing day. So I yanked up a few yards’ worth and tucked them in amidst the fir. In the winter, the marbling of the leaves seems more pronounced.

A march around the garden yielded leaves of Magnolia grandiflora, seedlings of privet (Ligustrum) and loblolly pine (Pinus taeda), and clippings of Nandina domestica‘s leaves and berries.

mailbox right profile detail

I uprooted an entire plant of Artemisia ‘Powis Castle’ that has never done well. Off with its evergreen heads, and into the mix they went. They drooped quickly, but no one driving by will notice.

mailbox left profile detail

Not bad for compost-in-waiting, I think.

(Lady) Beetlemania

We’re heading into winter—some of us in the US more than others–which means that you may soon find Asian lady beetles (commonly known as lady bugs) on your windows and in your light fixtures. Although they can be a nuisance, and can stink and stain surfaces if they’re crushed, they don’t do any harm. They’re just looking for a slightly protected space to hibernate.

Asian lady beetles. Photo courtesy of University of Minnesota Extension, http://www.extension.umn.edu/garden/insects/find/multicolored-asian-lady-beetles/

The Asian lady beetles are roughly a quarter-inch long, but their appearance varies. Their forewings may be yellow, orange, beige, or bright red. Ten black spots typically decorate each forewing, but it’s not uncommon for the beetles to have fewer spots, faded spots, or no spots at all. In the spring and summer, these lady beetles prey on aphids and scale insects, benefitting home horticultural and commercial agricultural crops alike. Cooling temperatures signal to adult lady beetles that it’s time to find a protected site where they can spend the winter.

There’s A Place

The lady beetles favor warm and sunny sides of buildings, as well as exposed, light-colored buildings, but any protected location offers some appeal. They may move indoors through cracks in weather stripping, or small gaps around window and door casings or through attic and soffit vents.

I’ll Be Back

You may have noticed that beetles frequently pick the same sites to overwinter. Research suggests that the beetles use chemical cues, possibly from beetle feces or attractant pheromones, to locate the particular crevice they want to inhabit, whether that’s in a tree or in your siding. Although they may seem to permanently inhabit, say, your overhead kitchen light fixture, they actually can’t survive for long periods within the centrally-heated rooms of your house. They prefer to shelter in wall voids or semi-insulated spaces. But they become more active on warm days and move towards bright surfaces, like light-colored walls or ceilings, or lighting fixtures or windowsills. That’s when you notice them.

It’s possible that large numbers of beetles may cause air quality problems indoors that could trigger allergies and/or asthmatic reactions. But fortunately for allergy sufferers, this lady beetle does not reproduce indoors. When the warmer temperatures of spring come around, they’ll move outside in search of food. And they don’t eat wood, so they won’t cause structural damage to your house or to your furniture.

Lady beetles clustered in doorframe. Photo courtesy of Iowa State University IPM. http://www.ipm.iastate.edu/ipm/icm/2007/3-26/asianladybeetle.html

If You’ve Got Trouble Here, There, and Everywhere, and Think It’s All Too Much, Remember All Things Must Pass. And I’m Here to Help.

What can you do to control the invasion?

You Can’t Do That

Don’t reach for the pesticides. You’ll waste your money. Pesticides are not very effective at halting beetle invasions. Spraying and fogging can be hazardous to your and your pets’ health, and excessive use may present fire hazards. Biological controls, like tachnid flies, offer limited effectiveness.

Blacklight traps can catch beetles well in some situations. USDA scientists in Georgia developed a trap that uses no insecticide and it catches the beetles alive for future release or disposal. The trap is about 12″ x 24″ and reportedly can be easily assembled or disassembled. Learn how you can build your own blacklight trap following the USDA’s instructions.

She Came In Through the Bathroom Window

The best approach is to exclude the beetles. Seal around windows, doors, siding, and fascia boards with caulk, weather stripping, or foam sealers. Snugly-fitting sweeps or thresholds on exterior doors can prevent beetles from crawling through those gaps. Keep your window screens in good condition and consider adding insect screens to attic and soffit vents. And as a bonus, doing those things will prevent cold air leaking into your house, saving you money on your heating bills and conserving energy.

Some people vacuum up the beetles. If you like this idea, try a tactic recommended by Dr. Susan Jones of The Ohio State University: Insert a knee-high nylon stocking into the vacuum’s extension hose and secure it with a rubber band. Then reattach the hose and vacuum up the insects. The beetles will be trapped inside the stocking. Remove the rubber band and secure it around the open end of the stocking, or simply tie a knot in the end. Take them outdoors to a protected space under a porch, deck, or shed, and let them hibernate there. In the spring, release them into your garden near aphid-infested plants. If the stocking approach is too much trouble, just use your regular vacuum bag, but be sure to remove it promptly and dispose of it outdoors.

 

For more information:

Snowdrop walk

On Saturday, Montrose hosted a short tour to see the snowdrops at their best. At least, it’s their best between now and, say, Christmas. I expect to see them blooming in the woods throughout the winter and into the spring.

Snowdrops (Galanthus sp.) beneath a fallen trunk of Maclura pomifera, commonly known as osage orange.

Snowdrops (Galanthus sp.) beneath a fallen trunk of Maclura pomifera, commonly known as osage orange.

Nancy started with a packet of snowdrop bulbs purchased at the local feed store. She tended them, divided them, shared them, transplanted them. At some point, the casual interest metamorphosed into a passion.

In late November, the snowdrop ridge turns from a hill of fallen leaves into a rippling white ribbon.

In late November, the snowdrop ridge turns from a hill of fallen leaves into a rippling white ribbon.

On my second or third day at work, I helped to weed the ridge pictured here. Microstegium grew in billowy clumps, camouflaging English ivy and the foliage of various species of cyclamen. Out came the Microstegium, just before it set seed, as well as the ivy. The fallen leaves remain to decompose on their own schedule.

At the time, I found no evidence of snowdrops anywhere. My colleagues promised it would be lovely in time. (And it will look even more heavenly when the Podocarpus [left-hand side] fill in behind them.)

snowdrop ribbon

I know of four Galanthus species in the garden (G. elwesii, G. nivalis, G. reginae-olgae, and G. woronowii) but I am sure there are more. Then, there are named varieties and the charming mutts begotten of self-hybridizing.

clump of snowdrops

I particularly like them grouped amongst Pulmonaria.

Snowdrops growing amidst Pulmonaria sp.

Snowdrops growing amidst Pulmonaria sp.

I’m sorry if you had to miss it (Susie and Erica…). Hope you can come next time.