Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Big and Tall

Images are all Hollyhock flowers. All but the yellow are from seeds given to me by others and I just call them "old". The yellow is "Alcea Rugosa".

Let me start by saying, "I've never seen a hollyhock flower I didn't want to photograph." I think it all started in my childhood. The farm yard had hollyhocks growing here and there and I often picked them for various projects.

One of my favorites (hand drawn image above) was to make "Hollyhock Ladies". (1) take a hollyhock flower in full bloom, (2) turn it upside down, (3) put a toothpick into the top, (4) push a partially opened flower bud all the way down the toothpick (the petals should be on top), (5) finish by pushing another toothpick cross ways at the top of the bottom flower. Is it obvious I was a farm child prior to TV, electronics, and boredom as an excuse?

Hollyhocks comprise about 60 species of flowering plants in the genus Alcea in the mallow family. Although, in the 1800s there were over 80 named species. It is native to southwest and central Asia. From 6 - 10 foot tall with broad, rounded, palmate lobed leaves.

Hollyhocks will have numerous flowers on an erect central stem. They start blooming from the lower buds first. Blooms are in shades of very light pink to very dark burgundy and shades of peach and yellow. Varieties include singles, doubles and semi-doubles. The old ones often cross pollinate which will produce new color combinations each year. They are a favorite for bees.

Most hollyhocks are biennial - meaning the first year it forms a low leafy mat and the second year it blooms. A few are short lived perennials. They self seed easily. While individual plants may only last a handful of years, chances are good it will leave plenty of decedents. They have a very long tap root which makes transplanting difficult but not impossible if they are kept watered until established. They will grow in Zones 3 to 10. They seldom need additional watering or fertilizer.

They are the host plant of Bucculatrix quadrigemina and the Painted Lady Vanessa cardui butterfly.

They are drought resistant and do well in full sun. They may have leaf spot and hollyhock rust caused by a fungi that overwinters in the soil. In late fall, remove all seeds (either scatter over areas or store for future planting or as gifts), pull up plants and destroy. Do not compost. You can use a Bordeaux mix or sulfur-based fungicide spray in the summer to help control these problems.

Often used in the English cottage gardens, the tall hollyhocks were also a way of hiding the outhouse.

Hollyhocks are thought to have been named for their origin in the Holy Land and for their supposedly divine curative power (the English called them "hock leaf" for they were used to treat the swollen hocks (ankles) on horses.)

"The earth laughs in flowers." Ralph Waldo Emerson

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Signs of Fall

Image: Giant Swallowtail Butterfly on the very fragrant Phlox "David".

During the 2009 Spring and Summer, I was so happy to see flowers blooming early. In some cases, a month before the previous years. Always eager for their beauty, I was in the moment.

The down side: It appears Fall will be coming early this year. Some signs:
  1. Our walnut trees are the first to loose their leaves but this process started about two weeks ago.

  2. The fall blooming pink phlox started blooming a month ago. Whites and other hybrids started about two weeks ago.

  3. The Naked Lady lilies are up about two feet as I write today. They often bloom in September.

  4. I seldom have hummingbirds in my gardens except during migration in the early Spring and late Fall. I've had hummingbirds the past week.

  5. My husband is insulating and plugging air leaks around the windows in preparation of cold winds.
Unless you like typical Midwest very hot humid weather, this summer has been ideal. With all the rain, the flowers and gardens have been lush. (Weeds too but who counts those.) We've had very few severe summer storms or tornadoes. Very few fields have had hail or wind damage.

I know it's not too late for bad weather. Not too late for extremely hot and humid. In fact our corn and other vegitable crops could use some of those temperatures. But, grant me this: It's been an unusual summer and so far I'm counting it great.

Here are some old "weather indicator" sayings:

If the oaks put on acorns early, it will be a long winter.

Take the breastbone of a goose and lay it to dry. If it dries all white, it will be a mild winter. If the tips turn purple, it will be a cold spring. If most of the bone turns black, blue or purple, it will be a cold winter. The logic of this is a goose will store up extra oil/fat in preperation of a cold winter and this turns dark as the bone dries.

"Let us permit Nature to take her own way; She better understands her own affairs than we." Michel De Montaigne.

The Old Farmers' Almanac predicts averages for August will be 3 degrees below normal and a half inch over the average on rain.

The National Weather Service (NOAA) says we will be experiencing El Nino the next three months which will mean dryer and warmer over the central states. History also indicates there are fewer large severe tornado outbreaks in El Nino periods.

Local "farmer talk" is saying we will have a long and mild Fall.

As for me: I'm enjoying the beauty of the gardens and the mild weather as much as my time will allow. Last evening we had fresh sweet corn on the cob, fresh tomatoes, cucumbers and onions. Life is good.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

New Tomatoes - Yummy!

Image of ripening tomatoes on the vine.
(Picture from catalog)

Have you noticed that every summer is unusual as far as crops? Living in the Midwest involves being able to figure out what your plants need this particular year and being adaptable to change.

I'm not a commercial tomato grower nor an expert. I do have some hints that may help your tomato crop.

If you have lots of flowers but seldom get tomatoes, it is usually a sign the flowers are not being pollinated. It's unusual around here since we have so many pollinating insects.

Tomatoes crack open when they are receiving irregular watering. When the ground gets very dry between watering, and then you start back watering, the inside grows faster than the skin (which is brittle from no water). They can still be used but may rot faster.

Tomatoes that get a soft black bottom have "blossom end rot." This is often caused by irregular watering. It is thought the calcium needed by the plant, is carried by the watering. If it receives too little, the leaves will absorb all the calcium which leads the tomato to rot. Throw away all tomatoes with end rot and resume regular watering (at least an inch a week).

Green Shoulders or tomatoes that do not ripen or very slowly ripen on the top. This is usually caused by too much heat and sun directly on the tomatoes. This happens more often with heirloom tomatoes because the new varieties have been bred to eliminate this. Pick before they are totally ripe. Let them ripen out of the direct sun. You can eat these tomatoes (even if they do not ripen at the top) by cutting off the green portion.

Leaf diseases, Septoria leaf spot and early blight, are two of the most common. Dark or brown spots on the lower leaves which progress up the plant. Take off these leaves and destroy. Make sure soil is not splashed on plants by mulching and stake the plant to keep it off the soil. These problems are worse in wet weather.

Tomato horn worms will eat the foliage. Pick the worms off the plant and destroy. A quantity of worms can destroy your plant. If the worms have little white capsules, they have had wasps lay eggs on them. Let the larvae kill the worm and you will have more beneficial wasps.

Catfacing or misshapen fruit on the blossom end is usually caused by poor pollination during too cool of weather. These fruits may be eaten.

Verticullium and Fusiarum wilt are soil borne fungal diseases on the leaves. Either do not grow in the same place each year or only buy disease resistant varieties. If you can not take off the leaves that are infected, then the plant will probably have to be destroyed. Check your local stores for powders that may help.

Below are very small hints and do not include what you "should" have done only what you can now do to help your tomato crop.


(1) If it does not rain, water one inch a week.

(2) Only water in the morning and do not get the leaves wet.

(3) Mulch your plants heavily.

(4) Pick before they become totally ripe if you are not successful controlling disease and insects. Sit in a semi shaded area to ripen.

(5) Picnic bugs will enter a break in the tomato skin. If caught early, they may be washed out with running water and the invaded area removed. Use the tomato immediately.

(6) Putting a tomato in the refrigerator will stop the ripening process and inhibit taste.

Because most tomato plants were put in the ground late, we've had extremely wet weather, and the a lack of hot temperatures, tomatoes have been slow to ripen. I don't hear lots of bragging this year but if your plants are like mine, they are full of green tomatoes. I've had several ripe ones and they were as wonderful as I dreamed.

Count your Blessings that you live in an area of the world where you will have fresh tomatoes either from your garden or purchased locally. The Midwest fresh tomato is a whole other fruit from the store bought tomatoes.

Farmers' Markets and Fresh Produce Stands are in abundance right now. They provide the "best of the best" if you need something you don't grow. Most have sweet corn, onions, broccoli, brussel sprouts, beets and green beans. Some have tomatoes, collards, and other great choices.
I try to visit our local stands. Recently, I got some very good sweet corn (and other things) from Stahl's home market. Turn right (I'm directionally impaired) coming from Galva right before you get to Lafayette (at the cemetery road.) It's down a ways on the left - a white ranch. Most times they have the produce in the garage so pull up and walk in. Good folks growing good food.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Perfume of the Gods

Image: Lilium Stargazer (Oriental hybrid lily).

Hybridized by Mr. Leslie Woodriff & registered in 1978. Mr. Woodriff called it Stargazer because the blooms face the sky. This lily can be found in every catalog and box store around this area. It is generally inexpensive. It's also used in many standard florist bouquets.

(I will qualify that some really cheap bulbs may not produce as large of plants and flowers. A little fertilizer in the spring and right before blooming should help.)

This lily has 6-12 in. re curved pink/red/white flowers, freckled and with a white edge. They bloom on 3 ft. stems. It blooms July through September. Once they get on a roll, there will be 5+ flowers on each stem.

The flowers are held erect or outward facing. Although they will probably not live forever, they do multiply. I generally grab an inexpensive box/bag of bulbs each spring and am rewarded every fall by the wonder of these flowers. Because they are tall and have many blooms, either stake or plant with other sturdy perennials that will support them.

The Stargazer lilies need to be planted in full sun and in well drained fertile soil. It will live in part shade but may not bloom as much or as large.

The real benefit is the heavenly fragrance. Plant them where you can enjoy the perfume. The fragrance will be stronger in the evenings and when the humidity is heavy. One bloom in a vase will last up to a week and perfume an entire room.

I put the Stargazer Lily and Tulips with the same mindset: They can be bought cheap, they are planted at a time of the year when you aren't necessarily thinking of them, and they are always a wonderful surprise when they do bloom.

(The ASPCA says it is toxic to cats but I've never seen my cat nibble on any part of the lily (either in doors or out.)

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Too Good To Be True

This is the time of the year when Sedum is coming into it's own.

It takes so little care I sometimes forget about the beauty and benefits. They look as if they could be from the desert or other-worldly. Perhaps a few tiny prehistoric animal dolls in front would look right.

Sedum is from the Stonecrop genus of the Crassulaceae and represent about 400 species of leaf succulents. The leaves are water-storing. This helps them be drought tolerant. When used as garden plants, it's important to know if they are cold hardy, heat hardy and will thrive in your soil. All this should be listed on the tag or in the description.

The small leafed/flowered sedums are often used for pot landscaping; those little vistas with miniature furniture or fairy gardens.

Some bloom in the spring, others in the fall. Some are very low growing and dainty while others get several feet tall and some will then flop. The fall flowering sedums are one of the last of the autumn colors and should be planted where they will fill in around other annuals and perennials that have finished their show.

Each year, new varieties are introduced. My newest large leafed sedum (above) is called "Crazy Ruffles". I got this plant at Sharon Manthe's "Tippy Pines Nursery" (located out North East Street in Kewanee, past the old Illinois Power office. Sharon specializes in annuals.) Crazy Ruffles is going crazy with all this rain. A blue that is edged in pink.

Some stonecrops have been used as food for salads and herbs, others have been used for herbal medicines - which I strongly discourage as some can cause very severe reactions.

In Germany, sedum is often used to provide roof covering on green or natural roofs. When plants such as sedum are used for green roofing, it is called an "extensive roof" meaning little or no maintenance once established.

A very interesting web site has Michigan State University's Green Roof Research Project facts and pictures.

For me, I'm using my sedum as edging, pot scapes, and autumn color. Plant in the spring and walk away. Year-after-year it returns to shower my garden with it's beauty and entice bees from afar. Certain sedums are host plants for the larvae of some Lepidoptera species.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Sweets for the Sweet

Images: Monarch on a zinnia. Giant Swallowtail on phlox. Black Swallowtail on bee balm. Eight Spotted Forester Moth on a cone flower. Red Admiral on globe thistle.

All pictures of the butterflies and the moth were taken in my garden. My point being: "If you build it, they will come."

I didn't start out my gardens with the thought of making them just for butterflies. It's been a natural result of not using pesticides, using many native Illinois plants, and letting my yard be rather unkempt. My little spot in this world is not a perfect butterfly garden but I'd like to share some things that seem to be working.
  1. Nectar: I have cone flowers, bee balm, liatris, clover, butterfly bush, globe thistle, phlox and zinnia. Butterflies like many other things but are regulars on these plants. While visiting the butterfly house at the St. Louis zoo, I saw plates of very ripe fruit and juice. I'm giving it a try but think you need to make sure it stays moist and is on the south side of ripe. Bananas and citrus slices and other soft fruit such as peaches seem to work best. They can't have rind or membrane blocking their access.

  2. Water: I have bird baths and other shallow sources of water. Most days when I water my hanging baskets, I also water down some old field stones and sand that sit in the sun and hold water in the holes and dips. Butterflies need to sit in the sun to limber up their wings in the morning.
  3. Host plants: I plant some perennials and herbs with the idea that I will be sharing some of their leaves with the caterpillars. Rue, dill, hollyhocks, milkweed, and ornamental cabbage to name a few.
  4. Shade/shelter: This is where the unkempt come in handy. They have places they can roost and hide. Things like brush piles, fallen leaves, bushes and tall trees. I remember a few years ago when one complete end of a walnut tree branch was totally massed with migrating monarchs. It was an awesome sight. I felt quite blessed to have my tree chosen for that evening's resting place.
  5. As a side note: I have noticed a huge decrease in the number of monarchs this year. My reading leads me to believe it was the severe storms in their winter homes that had a impact on their survival. Perhaps they will rebound - we can only hope.
Given the right circumstances and the right personalities, butterflies will put on an aerial show and may even land on your shoulder for a little visit.

A comfortable chair or glider in the garden will provide a great place to have that morning cup of coffee, afternoon glass of iced tea, or evening glass of wine. While you are sitting contemplating the beauty of your flowers, you just might have the visit from one of our Illinois butterflies.

"In joy or in sadness, flowers are our constant friends." Kazuko Okakura

If you have a membership to "Dave's Gardens" check out the current article on "Raising Butterflies-Member Methods" by Marna Towne. It also has pictures of various caterpillars and a small list of their host plants.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Making THE Impact

Images: Hemerocallis "Lilting Belle", "Trahlyta", "Dorothy Lambert", "Wind Frills", and the yellow "Nicholas" and red "Carmine Monarch"

Every size daylily has it's place and in that place can be just right. As examples:
  • Some are meant to form a backdrop and others are meant to be the star.
  • Some are meant to be viewed close up and alone and others shine brightly across the garden.
  • Some are more outstanding when photographed while the beauty of others just can't be captured except in person.
  • Some have many flowers over a long bloom period while others have a one or two show stoppers a day.
All of these are over seven inches - some larger. Although they have different characteristics, they have one thing in common - they are stunning for the impact their size makes.
Things to consider when buying large dayliles:
  1. Do you have room to amply show off the large flower - they need space.
  2. Either in person or in print, is it known for strong scapes?
  3. The color of a plant of large flowers will be very predominate - do you like the quantity of that particular color?
  4. Some are on tall scapes, others on short. Make sure you know what you are getting so it doesn't obscure other valuable blooms.
  5. There is no subtle large daylily. If understated is your theme, you won't like the large.
  6. Large daylilies photograph well, make a great window view, look good from a distance and can be amazing up close.
  7. Many are fragrant.
  8. Some are fragile and others tough as nails. Because they are so large, the fragile ones will usually have breakage if planted too close to high traffic areas.
  9. Most large daylilies have to be deadheaded every day to look good.
  10. Some large daylilies must have a bit of help first thing in the morning: A slight twist of the tip to unstick the long petals from each other. Arranging the open flower so a stem or other flower isn't preventing it from opening all the way.
  11. The color and texture are easier to appreciate when viewed on a larger mass of petals. Pearlized, halos, throats, spiders, curls, multi colors, stars, shades, and veins all become major attractions in large scale.
  12. Technically, the A.H.S. says large is over 4.5 inches. Most of what I consider really large are over 6 inches (my own personal measuring tool.)
  13. Large does not mean it's a spider but some are classified as spiders.
  14. They provoke odd sounds from the viewer such as "ooooo" "wow!" "awwww".
As examples to some of the attributes
  1. Lilting Belle: the petals are very long and twisted giving it a rolled look. It looks very fragile but isn't. This is classed a "spider" daylily. It is under $10.
  2. Trahlyta: The lavender petals will look more like a shiny satin steel gray.
  3. Dorothy Lambert: Not only is she large, she glows a tangerine/orange/pink/yellow tropical color that never fades.
  4. Wind Frills: This one looks more impressive in person. It looks like windmills.
  5. Nicholas: This is a very very bright yellow with consistently huge substantial petals that form a triangle.
  6. Carmine Monarch: A flat red with large yellow throat. This red tends to fade a bit as the day wears on but still stays beautiful. Looks best played off other vibrant colors.
"I perhaps owe, having become a painter to flowers." Claude Monet

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Pestilence of the Moment

Images: Rugosa rose before pestilence and Rugosa with Japanese Beetles.

"Pestilence of the Moment" is how I describe having one annoying or damaging insect appear about the time another has finished its cycle of destruction.

Because I seldom use pesticides, insects must confer and have declared my yard a no-kill zone. I can visualize these little critters packing their bags and catching the first air tram to my yard.

I try not to use pesticides on plants because most kill the good insects (including frogs, toads, and some birds) with the bad. Good insects, birds and bats can perform wonders on the insect pests if you have the right match: Predator and their favorite B&B.
I have a good supply of Praying Mantis, wasps, damselflies, dragonflies, Pennsylvania Leather-wings, and others going about their business mostly unobserved.

Bats, swallows, robins, Indigo Blue Buntings, chickadees are just a few that help. The Common Crow consumes enormous amounts of grasshoppers, cutworms and other harmful insects.

Sometimes it's a tossup on the benefits. We have moles eating larva in the yard. This is especially beneficial because they eat the larva of Japanese Beetles. The downside is they make tunnels and the dogs insist on digging them up.

I've had a huge number of Japanese Beetles. They are especially fond of my Rugosa roses although they started at the top of my cherry tree.

I have found no good chemical Japanese Beetle killer that doesn't kill bees and other beneficial insects. From everything I've read, do not use the commercial traps; the smell entices more beetles to your yard.

Although I haven't used, some Master Gardeners say they've had control benefits using milky spore powder (Bacillus papillae). You may want to try nematodes or Neem oil organic insecticide.

If we go on a week's vacation, the Japanese Beetles confer. They decide my harden is on the vegan five star restaurant tour and they pack the place.

Here's my attempt for cutting down the population of Japanese Beetles:

Early morning and dusk, I take a zip lock bag to the garden. Hold it under the beetles and shake them into the bag. If done early or late, they are sluggish and don't fly away as easily. Also, if you put a couple of rose petals in the bag, they just think they are in another diner. Zip closed and tomorrow they are dead.

Japanese Beetles tart at the highest point on their food of preference.

They have over 200 plants they consider eating but seem to prefer roses.

They smell each other from miles away so the more beetles you have, the more you will attract.

Picking them off plants never totally eliminates them but they tend to be fewer in number if you do this daily and cut down on insect body odor. A plant seldom dies from Japanese Beetles but it can do a lot of damage and make it very unsightly. Plus, when they pack a flower head (as above), bees can't get to the pollen.

While my gardens have just started the Japanese Beetle invasion, on the plus side we have also just started the firefly (lightening bug) season. One recent warm evening, when there was little moonlight, the entire woods looked as if it had been draped in twinkle lights. Stunning!

As Lou Erickson said, "Gardening requires lots of water - most of it in the form of perspiration."

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Jewel Box

On a recent trip to St. Louis, we stopped at Forest Park and one attraction was "The Jewel Box", listed on the National Historic Register.

Do you ever dream of owning a 50 foot tall greenhouse, numerous reflection pools, statuary and lush landscapes? Visiting public gardens is a way to bring large ideas into the average home owner's garden and budget. Using these professionally accomplished gardens as your inspiration can make a good vacation.

The Jewel Box has recently had a $3.5 million restoration. Built in 1936 in an Art Deco style, it had fallen into disrepair and the plants/grounds were untended. Today, The Jewel Box grounds are just starting the return to it's former splendor.

It's a beautiful building and site - only to get better as the plants become more comfortable in their new beds.

The entire (1,293 acres) Forest Park is landscaped and the zoo, especially, has many enjoyable portions that have been designed to give a natural setting for the animals, butterflies, and sea inhabitants.

It appears St. Louis has embarked upon an urban renewal that includes inviting landscapes. Lush and professionally accomplished, it is obvious they spend quite a bit of money planting and tending these displays.

My mother lived some of her youth in St. Louis and we attempted to find the area. Much of those urban brick bungalows are now part of hard times and some are in gang destroyed areas. But, the areas that are only on hard times have city landscaped and planted green spots. They have rest and viewing areas for residents and guests.

Apparently, the City government has realized the beauty of flowers and landscaping can make a difference to both citizens and visitors.
If you tend to plan your vacations around the horticulture of an area, then St. Louis is a close and easy place to include. My advice is don't plan it the same day the Cards host the All Star game and President Obama throws the first pitch. In spite of the additional crowds in St. Louis for the game, families with children were out in numbers at the tourist sites. It was crowded, hot and humid, but both parents and children were happy and enjoying the great exhibits. Everyone was treating others with respect, kindness and patience.

A friendly town waiting for your arrival.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Distorted Images

Flowers and garden growth provide a great opportunity to get your "Georgia O'Keefe" going.

These images are a Julia Child yellow rose, blue Donkey's Tail Spurge, the glowing pink is a zinnia and the other two three are daylilies.

The beauty of plant anatomy is so outstanding when taken in small close-up photographs. With a zoom lens and/or a photo computer program, it's possible to create these beautiful works of art.

If the pictures are out-of-focus, it will continually get more blurry as you crop and enlarge. Some desired effects may be out-of-focus or blurred by intention.

A really in-depth program will provide the tools for pasting one image into another such as putting a human head coming out of the flower's stamen. The programs available are only limited by your interest and finances. There are artists that work exclusively with computer art.

I don't do too much of this, but there are times when a photo begs to be enhanced. To do this, I will make a copy (so as not to loose the original). I, then, play with it by cropping certain parts, changing the contrast (as with the zinnia), re-centering to change the focal point and etc. Since my program is rather basic, the above are about as enhanced as I can accomplish.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Aye Aye Admiral

Images of a Red Admiral Butterfly "Vanessa atalanta "Alderman". (Caterpiller picture from Dave's Garden)

This butterfly is very friendly and totally unafraid of humans. Known for landing on people day after day, this guy acted like he was actually posing for these pictures.

1 3/4 to 2 1/4 inches long they like Nettles especially but will also use other species of the Urticaceae as their host plant. That would include False Nettles and Hops. The adults feed mostly on flower nectar, over ripe fruit, or bird droppings.

They have two broods a year and migrate from the south each spring. Seldom do they over winter where it freezes. Like many of our neighbors, they reside in southern Texas in the winter.

Their habitat is almost anywhere in the country and where there is moisture: forest margins and glades, rivers, shorelines, barnyards, gardens, parks, roadsides, meadows, and fields. Typically, they roost for the evening in trees.

In the summer, they will chase each other or Painted Ladies just before a thunder storm or at dusk. During sunshine, they will sit quietly and drink from flowers and fruit.

They are in nearly every portion of the US and other countries. The male is territorial and chases intruding male butterflies away. He will patrol his territory about thirty times an hour. Should you find yourself in the middle of a "duel", they put on quite a show in the air. They don't attack, they out fly and out maneuver during flight. The best, fastest and fanciest pilot wins.

Birds are their common enemy.

The common name was given to them because the stripes resemble the chevrons on a Navy uniform. They are a beautiful butterfly and it sure made a rainy day turn into sunshine.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Crazy Fun

Image: Hemerocallis "Prairie Angel".

For my daughter's birthday, we had shopped the iris display at Hornbaker Gardens (Princeton). Today, they were ready to be picked up.

The daylilies were blooming - three large fields. You do know how dangerous it is for me to see three fields??? I did manage to control myself rather well (considering).

Hornbaker Gardens is entertainment. They have landscaped acres to allow customers to visualize how their plants could look in a natural setting. There are large established trees, a ravine, lakes, waterfalls, fish ponds, paths, shade, sun, and in between.

Hornbaker's specializes in hosta, iris and daylilies. They also carry a mix of other perennials, trees, bushes, pots, garden stuff, and statuary. I saw people who brought a picnic and license plates from several states. There are workers everywhere - each daylily field had at least three college age kids deadheading. They are friendly in a big business kind of way. Meaning they will help you but don't expect a long chit chat about the weather - they are busy and want to stay that way.

I did manage to buy the above daylily today. Take your GPS or map quest directions - it's out in the middle of farm country.

Another stop on the way to Princeton is Red Barn Nursery right outside Sheffield off Route 6. There is a sign showing which road to turn down. What a nice surprise the first time I stopped. They specialize in annuals although they do carry some perennials and bushes.

The staff was very helpful and friendly in a talk about gardening kind of way. Unless you call for an appointment, they are closed until next spring.

The great thing about Red Barn is their stock is very healthy and they carry things I've never seen locally. This is both flowers, vegetables and herbs.
Always nice to buy locally and these two are certainly worth our patronage.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Daylily Madness #5

Image of Hydrangea Arborescence Annabelle bush with a Hemerocallis Stella de Oro Daylily in the foreground.

After talking about $300 daylilies yesterday, I thought I'd give you the variety that has become the most used landscape daylily in the United States: The Stella de Oro.

The Stella was the first "continuous blooming" daylily. In 1975, the late Walter Jablonski (Merrillville, Indiana) registered the Stella. A popularity revolution started and today, this little yellow lily is seen in parking strips of commercial outlets, home gardens and horticulture displays. It inspired the development of other re bloomers.

Attributes of the Stella include compact mounded foliage, vigorous growth, re blooming, 3 inch blooms on 18-24 inch scapes. Very fragrant. Will do well in some shade. It won the 1985 Stout Medal - daylily's highest award. It was also chosen "Perennial of the Year" and the daylily Award of Merit.

Walter was a retired turkey farmer and named his new lily as he was taking a break from the garden sun. Picking up his favorite cookie, it occurred to him this was a perfect name because it means "Star of Gold." He had 53 named varieties in the sixteen years he actively registered his daylilies.

Where can you buy the Stella? Most every nursery carrying perennials will have this hardy plant. Once planted, it will be ready for division within two years. I have these little sun kissed plants tucked in most every bed in my yard. They all came from one plant someone gave me. Depending on the size, the average price is between $5-10. Many offer discounts for quantity purchases.

Care: The plants will bloom longer if they are deadheaded. Otherwise, they form seed heads that take the plant's energy. I do this about once a week during bloom season, pulling off spent flowers and any developing seed heads. This is also an aesthetic thing. With so many flowers, over such a long period, Stella will be messy looking if spent blooms and seed heads cling. Like most other daylilies, it does not like to sit in soggy soil-good drainage is important.

Whether a star of gold or a chocolate cookie - Count me in!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The Hotties

The red and yellow daylily image is a 2009 introduction (registered with the A.H.S.) from LePetit Jardin Nursery by Ted and Susan Petit. The name of the daylily is Ruby Pearl Sullivan.

I'll be taking this evening's article in the direction of hybridizers - not how to hybridize.

Hybridizers are in the same mind status as scientists, inventors, research fellows, and any person who simply MUST change the world. In addition to hybridizing daylilies, Ted is a professor of psychology and neuroscience. It all fits.

If you've not ventured into their world, I suggest you bring up the Petit's site

The Ruby Pearl Sullivan daylily is for sale at $300. Come on, keep breathing - you can do it - now exhale. Good - shall we continue?

With some exceptions, the new plants from hybridizers are the fruit of many years of trial and error, throwing out perhaps tens of thousands of unworthy plants a year, keeping meticulous records and using other very expensive stock. You simply have to love it with a passion.

With other exceptions, these new introductions will be used by others to cross with their stock. They will be used by others for modeling a new popular attribute. And over time, if they are loved by the public, they will make a large amount of money for the person who owns the registration.

I'm not sure if the money portion is as important as the thrill and pride of knowing you have given the world something new. The description of the red & yellow lily is:
  • 7 inch wonderfully ornate flower.
  • Very ruffled heavy gold edge (often with looping angel wings.)
  • Blooms rarely hang.
  • Color is a revolutionary new red.
  • 25-30 buds on each plant.
  • Tall very well branched scapes with 3-4 laterals plus top branching.
  • Extremely fertile.
  • Parents are Streetcar Named Desire x (Promised Day x Anita McMaster)

The Petit's talk of using this lily (because of the breakthrough size) for other reds. What they are happy about and know they are one of the first: The red color with this edge with this size that isn't a spider and it's very fertile.

I imagine some people buy the newest and most expensive plants. Personally, I get a little nervous about buying any garden perennial that puts too much pressure on me to have them survive. Some things do not live in the garden no matter what we do or how hard we try OR how much it costs. It's why I don't buy expensive poppies or iris - some always die for who knows why.

But, if this proves popular to the public, after so many years, we will gradually begin to find it at nurseries and in catalogs and the price will go down.

I'm so grateful for people who have the patience, time and interest in hybridizing plants. What a joy they bring to an average gardener like me. I don't begrudge their asking price, who am I to judge the value of something I am clueless on what went into the making.

The pink and gold lily Goddess Devine is an example of the new "hot" design - the fully double. Plus this one has many other attributes. The market (customer driven) are demanding doubles. Cost $125.

I go to these sites every once in awhile and as I enlarge the picture full screen, I catch myself doing the fireworks' oooooo and awwwww. Now that I look again at Ruby Pearl Sullivan, it does kinda look like fireworks!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Daylily Madness #4

Image: Hemerocallis "Chicago Star" Daylily

I'm featuring Chicago Star to emphasize a daylily that has everything going for it; let me count the ways:

The first known daylily was yellow and many people dismiss all yellow daylilies as common and not worthy of enhancing a flower garden. Au contraire mon ami and mon amis!

The Chicago series was hybridized by Marsh and Chicago Star was introduced/registered in 1970. It received the AHS's Honorable Mention in 1974.

I received my plant from Oakes Daylilies as a free gift (when you buy three plants they give you a another one free.) Typically, a nursery charges less than $8 for a large healthy plant (Hornbaker Gardens in Princeton carries this plant as well as Oakes Daylilies.) It is a mid season bloomer and has a long bloom season. It is a semi evergreen Tetraploid with a Diurnal bloom habit.

Now for the good things: It has flowers that are a full 8 inches and very substantial. Substantial means it is not fragile - does not fall apart in wind - holds shape from early morning until after dark - does not fade in hot sun - isn't particular about surroundings - it may be fragrant depending on conditions - spreads to form a bush appearance.

The color is a bright yellow (sometimes golden) self in single blooms. Some descriptions say it has a small green throat - mine don't. The petals occasionally twist and curl. The bud count is high (meaning there are many flowers.) The scapes are 24 inches tall.

This lily is short enough that it can be up front where it will get attention. It looks great when backed by the dark foliage of evergreens or other green leaves. It's the kind of color and size where people will have to stop and stare - definitely an attention getter.

Companion plants that blend well with Chicago Star are anything purple, magenta, or dark green. Oranges and reds seem to compete more than compliment. Soft colors are overpowered by this plant and make them pretty much invisible. Set in full sun, the flowers will actually glow.

As my favorite little Belgium detective, Hercule Poirot, points out, "One must use the little gray cells." The little gray cells tell us this plant is the perfect daylily on so many levels, n'est-ce pas?

As a side note: Hornbaker Gardens' peak daylily time starts this Monday, July 5. At a time when many seasonal nurseries are winding down, Hornbaker's daylily display gardens are just hitting their stride (usually through the end of July is peak season.) Whether to buy, use as a photo opportunity or just to have a garden tour, it worth the trip.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

An Orderly Harmonious System

A cosmos description in Webster's dictionary is "the universe regarded as an orderly, harmonious system." Drop down a couple of lines and it's "any composite plant of the genus Cosmos, of tropical America, cultivated for their showy flowers."

Both pretty much describe the herbaceous perennial grown as annual in Zone 5. It's from the Asteraceae family and includes sunflowers, daisies, marigolds and asters.

As might be expected, the name of this flower is derived from the Greek word meaning "balanced universe." The flower is very balanced in it's symmetry of form. From Mexico, it was named by Spanish priests who grew the flower in the mission gardens.

The cosmos we use in our summer gardens may be singles or doubles, dwarf or up to 6 ft. tall. Some have beautiful fern like foliage. There are several new hybrids that have unusual form and color. Colors are what I call crayon true - meaning they are seldom in subtle shades. They are extremely easy to grow and make great fillers between perennials.

They are among the easiest and quickest seeds to grow or you can buy plant sets. They often self seed if the seeds fall on bare soil.

Chocolate cosmos is fragrant. Deadhead spent flowers to prolong the blooming season. A good pair of kitchen shears make this task quick and easy. Stop deadheading before the last flowers die if you want them to self seed.

Do not over water, over fertilize or over care as this will inhibit flower production. It must be planted in the sun for best flowering results. Too much love and this plant becomes spindly and has very few blooms.

The reason I feature the Cosmos today, is to emphasize a plant that is easy to use. Not only easy, but beautiful and inexpensive. They are typically pest free. They love poor dry conditions. They make great cut flowers. They continue to bloom until frost. They attract butterflies and hummingbirds. They are suitable for drying and pressing.

This year I've planted a pretty little "Cosmic Yellow" and a traditional pink "Gloria Cosmos"; see images.

Bring harmony to the universe - plant a Cosmo!!!

Friday, July 3, 2009

Garden Photo Contests

Dutch Gardens Photo Contest Categories: Best Garden Bed, Best Flower Portrait and Best Springtime Garden.

2009 Master Gardener Photo Contest www.hhp/ Categories: Plants, Insects, and Master Gardeners at Work. Deadline: August 11, 2009.

Chicago Tribune Glorious Gardens Contest 2009 Submit between June 21 through July 26.

Oakes Daylily Photo Contest 2009 ("About us" page) Categories: Daylilies Used in the Landscape, People/Animals and Daylilies and Single Variety Pictures. The deadline to submit entries is October 1, 2009.

Quadsville Summer Photo Contest The weekly Quad City Times contest runs through Aug. 7.

Galva Arts Council: The G.A.C. has an open "Photo Contest" which always includes many garden photographs. The show will be July 4th. The G.A.C. has also sponsored digital camera classes taught by professional photographer, Roger Luft of Galva. Roger is involved in a local Camera Club. The Club meets the second Monday of ea. mo. in rm. 4-125 at Black Hawk East College. It is a join effort of the G.A.C. and the Black Hawk Arts Council and everyone is welcome.

Local Winner: Pat Griggs, who placed in the G.A.C. Photo Contest last year, had that photograph featured on the cover of a recently published book. A talent well rewarded!

Scams: Amateur photographers are targeted by scam artist who run photography contests. Don't give your photographs away for free or worse - pay for the privilege of seeing them in print. It's not that most of these sites don't use amateur photographer's photos, but, they build their profit/business on free photos and you receive no benefits. It isn't a contest (as they claim); it's a way for them to get pictures for free to use in publications (coffee table books of photographs, magazines, calendars and such.) Some are even nationally known names. Read the fine print to see if: you give up your photo copyrights forever, you are releasing them from liability of any kind and will pay all damages if they are sued regarding content, and they can use in any way they choose. There are plenty of ethical contests out there, read and study the rules first.

Reasons for taking garden pictures:

  1. Just for fun - you love to take pictures and that's all the deeper you care to delve.

  2. A means of recording the plant, condition, description and etc. each year. A journal.

  3. You enjoy photography and a garden provides many good opportunities.

  4. Contest entries. Capturing a winning photograph from the garden.

  5. It's a good background for people and pet pictures.

  6. Use on homemade cards, tags, boxes, and other craft items.

  7. You want to sell your pictures - become professional.

  8. Or to paraphrase: "Why did you take a picture in the garden? Because it was there!"

I suggest a digital camera with high resolution and zoom lens. If you are a casual photographer and like to carry it easily to other garden locations, use one of the new lightweight palm size cameras.

It's also nice to have an external drive on your computer to store photos without eating up too much of your hard drive memory. A PC program that lets you edit, name, date and store is an asset. All photographic (and accessories) equipment can be obtained fairly cheap to very expensive. Your experience and reasons should help determine what you need. Don't start with something so complicated or so bulky you never learn how to use it correctly.

Image: Even the most simple flowers can become a beautiful picture opportunity. This is the Illinois roadside wildflower you often see this time of the year - common name chicory.