Saturday, April 30, 2011

'Aaron' is a handsome dude

I just l-o-v-e 'Aaron' caladium. Isn't he lovely? Would you feel welcome walking up to my front door?

Here's some other pretties just for good measure.

Such ruffles!

Maybe this is a moth. He has red and blue markings and is very tiny. He was flitting all over the stamens of this flower.

Such a lovely blue. I saw today what makes this salvia (farinacea aka 'Mealy Cup Sage') so glisten-y. There is a darker color in the flowers that's basically purple and a lighter one that is medium blue. The combination just dazzles me in the sun. Like sparkling sapphires in the garden.

An anonymous donation

As I was leaving for work this morning, I noticed something odd in one of my front beds near the curb. I put the car in park to check it out. They were planter stands all in a tangle, no longer needed, apparently, by someone who thought I could make use of them.
I was very touched, sure that the generous person was intent on finding a good home where these worn items could be useful again, and they will be. (Maybe he or she even noticed that I am about out of ground and in need of other options.) Some wire-brushing and Rustoleum paint will fix them up fine, I think, unless they're vinyl coated. Hope not. I probably won't repaint them white. I tend to like red or maybe green. Perhaps some petunias or lantana, but I'll entertain anyone's suggestions. I think some pretty ceramic pots would be lovely if I can find them on sale. And definitely, I'll place the matching ones in the front garden to show my appreciation.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Bloomin' things

'Henryi' clematis
'Key to My Heart' daylily
This tiny rose is a Miniature Climber, 'Pink Above All', growing and blooming in full shade! I was astonished today when I saw it. I moved it last fall from a full sun spot where it had been languishing for over a year, and not having the heart to toss it, I plopped it in a scratched out hole in some bare ground, hardly covering its roots. It got some nice composted manure this spring, and it's starting to grow a new cane and two tiny flowers. Did you know that Miniature Roses are classified that way not because of the small plant size but because of the small flower size?
'Sherry Lane Carr' daylily getting ready to blast off!
Coreopsis 'Early Sunrise'
Hollyhock 'Summer Carnival'
Clematis viticella 'Princess Diana'. I think the flowers are getting a tad bigger.
Corn Poppy (Papaver rhoeas)
Viola Hybrida 'Rose Shades' (I think)
'Softee' - a big cluster that I didn't have the heart to remove on Saturday. I don't see any thrips damage on these.
'Royal Heiress' daylily - I'm pretty sure.
'Bermuda's Anna Olivier' - I guess I missed a few buds down low.
Not sure what this one is. I thought it was going to be red/yellow but it doesn't look that way.
Salvia farinacea, Gaura (in front) coming back from last year and dianthus
The label said Purple Iris. Some think it may be walking iris, Giant Apostle.
NOID (no I.D.) - bought in bulk at Sam's before I knew what I was doing. :))

'La Sylphide' - Tea Rose, 1842, Boyau
'Souv de la Malmaison, Climbing - Is she starting a second flush? That would be cool since she's not supposed to be a great rebloomer.
I forget the name. Somebody tell me. The leaves have a strong spicy scent.
Clematis viticella 'Venosa Violacea'
Viola 'Cottage Mix' - Paler than the seed package photo.
Pansy 'True Blue'
Balloon Flower - came back in two pots after not doing well last year from 4" pots. I was going to replant the pots this spring and found these big sprouting root balls. I thought they were going to be mini-petunias. Instead these came up - big, healthy & beautiful.
'Lillian Austin' - Shrub Rose, 1973, David Austin
Here's a shot of my roseless rose garden after Saturday's dis-budding party - not! Just trying to thwart the thrips.

Sunday, April 24, 2011


It's been a while since the roses were fed. I think around the middle of February was their last meal. A few are looking a little spent after their heavy blooming. The other day my friend was going to the feed store on her lunch hour, so I asked her to pick up 50 pounds of alfalfa pellets for me. The bag cost $11.10. The fellows at the feed store made a comment about the alfalfa, and she said, "Oh, no, it's not for my horses. My friend feeds it to her roses!" They couldn't believe it and then had a big laugh about it. Imagine giving perfectly good horse feed to roses!! offers this about alfalfa meal.
Alfalfa meal: Derived from alfalfa plants and pressed into a pellet form, alfalfa meal is beneficial for adding nitrogen and potassium (about 2 percent each), as well as trace minerals and growth stimulants. Roses, in particular, seem to like this fertilizer and benefit from up to 5 cups of alfalfa meal per plant every ten weeks, worked into the soil. Add it to your compost pile to speed up the process.

Wikipedia says:

Triacontanol is a growth stimulant for many plants, most notably roses, in which it rapidly increases the number of basal breaks. says:
Alfalfa provides many nutritional benefits not only for plant use, but for soil organisms as well. One very important ingredient is triacontanol, a powerful plant growth regulator. Orchid and rose growers make an alfalfa tea and spray it directly on as a foliar fertilizer. Alfalfa is very high in vitamins, plus N-P-K-Ca, Mg, and other valuable minerals. It also includes sugars, starches, proteins, fiber and 16 amino acids. Approximate analysis is 3-1-2. Alfalfa helps plants create larger flowers and increases the tolerance to cold. Make alfalfa tea by soaking 1 cup of alfalfa meal per 5 gallon of water.
Dry alfalfa is a good slow-release source of nitrogen, but since you will be "digesting" it by letting it ferment in water, the resulting tea is a soluable, fast-acting nitrogen source. Also, by making alfalfa (or manure) tea, you don't have to worry about weed seeds sprouting from the fertilizer. Orchid and rose growers use alfalfa tea as a foliar spray. If you grow delphiniums and irises, they also love alfalfa tea. Some iris growers mulch their beds with alfalfa meal. And an additional benefit for delphiniums is that the Epsom salts in the tea help to ward off slugs and snails. In addition to nitrogen, alfalfa supplies enzymes and trace elements that are not present in chemical nitrogen fertilizers.
I am applying alfalfa pellets to my garden beds this weekend. In the past I have applied it in the form of alfalfa tea (soil drench) at the rate of one gallon per bush. I mix it in a 32-gallon trash can with about 16 cups of alfalfa pellets. (Recipes vary.) The pellets provide nutrients to the plants over a two to four month period while the tea is an immediate source of nutrients because of the fermentation process used in making the tea. I have never used it as a foliar spray, but I should give it a try one day.

A study on the International Society of Horticultural Science website reports that application of alfalfa pellets seems to be a tool for control of root-knot nematodes.

When I first saw the list of minerals, enzymes, vitamins and amino acids contained in alfalfa, I was amazed. Why does alfalfa contain all the beneficial things listed below? Because of its root system which can grow deeper than 15 feet and is able to fix nitrogen in its root even in poor soil. Here's a fact sheet to check out.

Here is Mr. Inkpen's list of Alfalfa ingredients:
Triacontanol (growth stimulant)
Vitamin A (high concentration)
Pantothenic Acid
Folic Acid
Crude proteins (16 - 25% in dry alfalfa)

Amino acids (% in alfalfa meal).
Tryptophan, 0.3 %
Aspartic Acid, 2.3%
Threonine, 1.0 %
Serine, 1.0%
Glutamic Acid, 2.7%
Proline, 1.2%
Glycine, 1.1%
Alanine, 1.1%
Cystine, 0.2%
Valine, 1.0%
Methionine, 0.3%
Isoleucine, 0.8%
Leucine, 1.6%
Tyrosine, 0.5%
Phenylalanine, 1.0%
Histidine, 0.4%
Lysine, Total, 1.1%
Arginine, 1.1%

Minerals (contained in dry alfalfa)
Nitrogen 3.75-5.5 %
Potassium .75 - 3.5 %
Phosphorus .3 - .7%
Calcium 1 - 2 %
Magnesium .30 - 1 %
Sulphur .2 - .5 %
Manganese 30-200 ppm
Iron 20-250 ppm
Boron 20-80 ppm
Copper 5-20 ppm
Zinc 20-70 ppm
And here's his recipe for Alfalfa Tea:
The Mix:
Choose a garbage bin or barrel with no leaks and a tight fitting lid. Position it in an out of the way place - you don't want to have to move it once it's full. For a full size garbage bin (20 gallons) add 16 cups of alfalfa pellets or alfalfa meal (4 cups to every 5 gallons or 22 litres of water)

Add 1 - 2 cups of Epsom salts (magnesium sulphate crystals) (or one quarter to half a cup to 5 gallons) Optionally, add two tablespoons of Iron Chelate
Fill with water, put on a tight lid to prevent mosquitos from breeding in your "swamp"
Let stand for one week until it bubbles with fermentation. Your nose will tell you that it's ready.

Some garden friends I know use alfalfa meal/pellets as their only fertilizer. It is certainly an economical one.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Buggies, stinkie buggies

Leaf footed bugs (Leptoglossus species), aka stink bugs, really do stink when disturbed or squished. I make it a practice not to touch bugs with my bare skin since I get the willies real easy, and these are a definite do-not-touch bug because the foul smell does not go away quickly. My first acquaintance with them was a couple of years ago. First I saw rows of tiny golden balls on the backs of rose leaves. (I took photos, but I can't find them now.) I googled for them and came up empty. Later all the new growth and tiny flower buds on my roses looked like someone had taken a match to them, singed black and crispy. I was beside myself. Later still I started seeing tiny orange bugs with thread-thin black legs on the new growth. Back then I was trying to learn about the good bugs and the bad bugs, but I could never remember which was which. Since these orange bugs were sitting on singed rose parts, there wasn't much question which these were. They were bad, and then they were dead, squished between my gloved fingers. More time passed and I saw big brown bugs and matched them to photos on the internet - leaf footed bugs. It wasn't until last year that I knew their alias, stink bugs. Last year was my first year growing hollyhocks. Imagine my shock and disgust the first time I saw a stalk of flower buds covered with these miniature monsters. After my initial panicked scurrying for something to kill them with, I thought perhaps I should let them stay on the hollyhock, the theory being that they'll stay away from the roses. Wrong! Apparently, they're finicky and tire easily of one type of food, moving on to another. I've read that they really love tomatoes and beans and fruit. I don't grow any of those, but they also have a taste for roses. It's hard to spot the bugs on the bush, but their damage stands out like a sore thumb, deformed and singed new growth. When I see it, I start looking for the evil bug. Another problem with leaving them be is that they are prodigious egg-layers.

According to what I've read, permethrins work (the stuff that's in flea & tick killer), but I don't use pesticides in the garden, and there aren't any predators due to their defense mechanism, the stench. I just smush them, or I cut them in half with my pruners. Since they're 3/4 of an inch long, they make easy targets. If I'm not wearing gloves, I find two good-sized leaves and squish the bugs between the leaves. Sometimes I miss though. I really need to have gloves with me at all times now that the stink bugs are back. Tonight I read that the most effective way to eliminate them is to put on gloves and hand pick them off of the plants and place them in a soap and water solution (one tablespoon of dish soap to one gallon of water). This will kill the adults and young in a few seconds. They're pretty slow moving so they're not too hard to catch, but they have a tendency to sidle around to the other side of the stem. Since the beneficial Assassin Bug and the young leaf footed bug look so similar, remember that the leaf footed bug likes to hang out with lots of his buddies whereas the Assassin Bug is a loner.
I found this cool graphic on the internet. Unfortunately there was no attribution - only an error message.

So be on the look-out. They're out there, and they're ugly... and stinky.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Photos, as promised

The view from the patio. The climber going up the tree behind the big pot is Fortuneana.
Gaura is in the big pot alongside 'Aladdin Yellow' petunias (from seeds) and Sweet Basil.I just sprinkled Carnation seeds in the reddish pot. If I get the birdbath, it will go to the left of the pots over near the spot the chair is in.

By way of full disclosure the "stuff" is still there behind the fence which is not leaning, just the effect of the wide angle lens. Only the tree is leaning. The other fence panel we put up is behind the 'alfalfa tea' cans is new.

The squirrels thought I had set out the grand buffet for them. Stupid useless animals!

Here's the other view. The roses I have in the bulging bed are 'General Gallieni', 'Mme Joseph Bonnaire' , 'Alexander Hill Gray', 'Aloha', 'Blush Noisette', 'Comtesse du Cayla' and 'Duchesse du Brabant'. None are blooming now. Maybe you figured that out by yourselves.
That's the new fuschia tucked under 'Reve d'Or'.
I'm pretty sure this is thrips damage on 'Clotilde Soupert'. They've been munching away in there. She's has 3 or 4 new canes topped with candelabras of buds which I am afraid will need to be cut off. The buds not the canes.
Now on to today's flower show.
'White Maman Cochet'.

'Red Cascade'
Daylily 'Sherry Lane Carr'

'Rocket' larkspur - One plant grown from seed. It flopped over and all the side shoots went vertical and bloomed.

Last year's 'Summer Carnival' hollyhock. I believe the color is called rose, but it's quite red.

'Early Sunrise' coreopsis, divided off last year's plant grown from seed.
This time with dianthus in the background.

Antirrhinum major (Snapdragon) bought from Lowe's and my favorite caladium, 'Aaron'.
Another division of the original coreopsis. It's out on the curb next to the mailbox. That's 'Red Cascade' and daylily, 'Kent's Favorite' about to bloom. It's red with a yellow throat. Isn't luck grand?
This is 'Hermosa', a small flower but petal-packed.
Worth a close-up, don't ya think?
Don't remember this caladium's name, but I like it.
Daylily 'Key to My Heart' - It blooms early and reblooms.

My favorite salvia, Salvia farinacea also called Mealy Blue Sage - the only one I grow. It's soft, doesn't act like a bully, and the blooms are a blue/purple that has a silvery glow.
The border along my front sidewalk. The caladiums came up nicely around the snapdragons. Eventually they'll be so tall you won't know the snapdragons are there - unless they really do get 3' tall like the tag said.
I leave you with clematis viticella 'Venosa Violacea'. It's right outside DH's den window and in the waning light we could only see the white, making the flowers look like stars. Very lovely.