Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Early Fall?

Daylily "Bryan Paul"
What's blooming in your neck of the woods?  Is it the Midwest or is everyone experiencing what looks like the beginning of fall?

Most of my hosta have bloomed, daylilies are winding down, and the foliage of some perennials are turning brown.

We've had unusually cool weather and it may have fooled Mother Nature.  It may keep the electric bill lower because we haven't needed air conditioning but I'm not really into 55 degree nights in July.  It just seems wrong.

What can a gardener plant to make sure there are blooms into late fall you ask.  Or maybe you didn't ask but I'm about to tell you.

Phlox is a dependable fall bit of color - easy and self seeds.  Fall asters is another beautiful perennial with the same qualities.

Daylily "Chicago Apache"
There are many daylilies categorized as late season bloomers.  They patiently wait until most other lilies are finished and they put on a grand show.  I've pictured a few of mine.

Smoke bush isn't a late season bloomer but it does put on a show with the tiny stems from the flowers in the dark burgundy shade that resembles "smoke" - go figure.

Purple Beauty Berry Bush puts on a stunning show with the bright lilac berries in the fall.

No garden is complete without a Burning Bush (some areas of the west prohibit) for the beautiful leaves of red and maroon.

Daylily "Lifting Belle"
Butterfly bushes often wait until August before putting on their flowers.  It's perfect timing to substitute for the summer flowers loved by insects.

Hibiscus are about ready to put on buds and do so in colors from white, red, pinks and sometimes a blue.  Hibiscus, Rose of Sharon, is another easy to care for bush and will start blooming middle August.

Many Hydrangeas start blooming late in the season.  My Hydrangea "Limelight" has just started to bloom, "Hydrangea "Endless Summer" is putting on blooms, and Hydrangea "Annabelle" will continue to put on a show until cold weather.

Another option is bright gold and lime green evergreens.  I have a Privet "Gold", Spirea "Goldmound" (not an evergreen) and Juniper "Old Gold".  The large white pines are putting on pine cones.
Daylily "Star Struck"

If you can find them, it's the perfect time to plant annual bedding plants.  They adapt well to the weather, tend to put on a huge burst of blooming and will last until frost.  Try not to pinch them back too much (maybe one-third of the plant if you must) because it won't have enough time to put on enough growth to flower.

In a month, we'll be talking about the leaves turning beautiful colors and forget that the flowers have finished.  Until then, enjoy these late bloomers and enjoy the days prior to winter.  It will come.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

A Balm For All

Have you noticed the smoky pink/lavender flowers along roadsides?  It’s wild Bee Balm known as Monarda or bergamont.  Other names are horsemint and Oswego tea.    The plants are native to North America. 

Bee Balm was named for Spanish botanist and physician, Nicolas Bautista Monardes (1493-1588), who researched plants received through Spain’s shipping from the New World.

This plant has long been a favorite of folks wanting native wildflowers and the cottage garden look.  It has so much more to offer and I have two big patches.

First, it needs to be planted in mass because insects and birds notice the plant when there’s a large area of them.  It’s easy to have a mass because they self-seed.  There are annual and perennial varieties. 

The flowers are actually many little flowers and in each is the nectar of the gods for insects and birds who love to lap this sweet liquid.  Although most varieties look similar, some new hybrids form flowers on top of other flowers.  In addition to the musky-pink/lavender flowers there are over 50 varieties in shades of bright pink, pure white, purple/blue and red.

It’s the oil in the leaves that contain the strong fragrance.  Native Oswego American Indians have long used the oil for medicinal purposes.  It’s also used as a flavoring and tastes like a mixture of spearmint, peppermint and oregano.  Use the leaves in place of mint or dried to use as tea.  Earl Gray tea often has this oil added for additional flavor.

The plant enjoys full sun and moist well-drained soil.  If the leaves begin to droop, it needs watering.  This past spring was a perfect one for Monarda.  They DO grow in most any condition although not as well or have as many flowers.  In some areas they are considered invasive.  I’ve found the additional plants are easily pulled when they’ve wandered too far or share them with a friend. 

And now for the really good news:  Not only do they attract bees of every kind, which is good news for these pollinators, they are a special favorite for butterflies and hummingbirds.  Other pollinating insects and predatory/parasitic insects that hunt garden pests are also attracted to this plant. 

The oil in the roots is helpful to discourage underground pests.  It is said they enhance the flavor of tomatoes when planted as a companion.

Bee Balm may develop mildew on the leaves but it seldom kills them.   Avoid watering the leaves, plant in full sun, mulch and have good air circulation around them.  I’ve been told mixing equal parts milk and water and spraying on mildew will help reduce.  Some varieties are more resistant.

Picking the flowers encourages a new set of blooms.  Cut back to about 6 inches in the fall.  Destroy all plant debris to keep mildew fungus from overwintering.  Pinch new growth in the spring when it reaches about 8 inches to promote a more bushy plant. 

They can be picked for the vase, dried or use the flowers for in salads, cakes or preserves.  They are a boost of color for the July-August garden.            

Bee Balm grows from 2 – 4 foot tall with a few shorter dwarf varieties.  If you notice the center of the plant dying out, dig up and divide, throwing away the dead middle portion.  Typically, they do not thrive if fertilized. and then click on Illinois (or whatever state you want) and it will list the native plants.  You can then drill down further for more information.  A great source if you want native plants that will thrive in your area. 

In the last week, I’ve had hummingbirds, Eastern Black Swallowtail butterflies, a Giant Swallowtail butterfly, Tiger Swallowtail butterfly, a Black Tiger Swallowtail butterfly and several Cabbage White butterflies supping on this plant.  Oh Halleluiah and Hurrah for Bee Balm!


Thursday, July 25, 2013

Family Daylilies

"Lunar Max" for grandson, Max.
Very substantial and long bloom time.
"Bryan Paul" covers two relatives:  
My husband's grandfather, 
Papa Bryan, and son-in-law, Paul.
The Bible has so many references to gardening and plants I'm never at a loss for scripture that includes something relevant going on in my yard and life.  

"Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; but I tell you, not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass in the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, how much more will He clothe you?"
Luke 12:27-28 NASB

"Dublin Elaine" a double for 
granddaughter, Kaydence Elaina"
This one is dainty and sweet.

Here are a few of my favorite lilies representing family in the "family plot.  Certainly they are clothed in the most beautiful way and every day when I remove the spent blooms and admire their perfection, my thoughts linger on their namesakes.

"Bradley Hardy" for our grandson Bradley.
 This deep true gold is really hardy as is our grandson.
"Carmine Monarch" is for daughter, Carmin.  You will begin
 to notice I use poetic license when matching names with family.

"Donnie Delight" for grandson, Don.
"Dad's Best White" for my dad, Ward.  This does two things:
 shows off the bright colors of other daylilies
and always makes a beautiful picture.
If this wasn't named after my
two daughter-in-laws, I would still love it.
"Jean Swan" for  Marla
and Julie (both middle names are Jean.)

"Jerome" is for my husband.  It's one
of those golds touched with orange.
A re curved "Katisue", my first family
daylily for granddaughter, Katie Sue.

More tomorrow!

Monday, July 22, 2013

Opposites Attract

Pink Cleome with daylilies of many colors
Orange Vols with hosta flowers
We hear "Opposites attract" when talking about married couples.  It, also, applies to daylilies.

I have Orange Vols daylily close to a patch of purple blooming hosta.   Orange Vols is a bright neon orange; one of those you see from across the yard.

I would seldom recommend combining purple and orange.  It kinda screams CLASH!  When I planted them, the hosta wasn't blooming as early as it has the past few years.  Now they have blooms on at the same time.

AND I love the contrast.  Don't be afraid to experiment with colors the experts warn against.  Using only a strict interpretation of the color wheel eliminates happy mistakes.   These are some of mine.
Purple de Oro with False Sunflower

Orange Little Judy with red Carmine Monarch

Golden Bradley Hardy and lavender Hey Mr. Blue

Saturday, July 13, 2013

We Don't Need No Ed U K shun

Hemerocallis "Orange Tawny" aka Ditch Lily
Even though I was a young adult during the 60's and 70's, I never quite got the point of Pink Floyd's "The Wall" lyrics.  Unless it was tongue in cheek, education whether in school or in life can make things easier down the road.  

As gardeners, we seek more knowledge because it enhances our understanding of the garden world we love.  Not just the practical side of "how to", but, the understanding of how things work, why and the history.

As a daylily crazed gardener, I enjoy the fine points of daylily everything.  Yes, pretty much everything.  The following is from the American Hemerocallis Association.  This little bit of information refers to Color Range.

Hemerocallis "Lemon Lily"

Modern hybrid daylilies have a remarkably diverse color range, especially considering that the wild types from which they have been bred were only in shades of yellow, orange, fulvous (i.e., dull reddish yellow), and rosy-fulvous. Today, the only colors notably lacking are pure white and pure blue. Needless to say, hybridizers are avidly pursuing these two colors.

Basic Flower Color

The outer portion of the daylily flower is considered to be the basic color of the flower. The present daylily color range includes:

·      Yellow:  All shades from the palest lemon, through bright yellow and gold, to orange.

·      Red:  Diverse shades of scarlet, carmine, tomato-red, maroon, wine-reds, and blackish-reds.

·      Pink:  From pale pink through rose-pink to rose-red.

·      Purple:  From pale lavender and lilac to deep grape or violet.

·      Melon or Cream-Pink:  From palest cream shades to deep cantaloupe shades.

Notes: Buff, Brown, Apricot, and Peach are thought to be variations of pink plus yellow. Near-whites are found among the palest tints of yellow, pink, lavender, or melon.

Throat Color
The center area of the daylily flower is called the throat. In most daylilies, the throat color differs from the rest of the flower. Usually it is a shade of green, yellow, gold, orange, apricot, or melon.

Stamen Color
Like the throat, the stamens may be a different color from the basic flower color and the throat color. Or, the stamens may be of matching color. Usually they are light yellow to greenish. The anthers at the tips of the stamens are often darker in colorsometimes black. 

The two pictured daylilies are the old "wild types" and are still available today.   

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Oh Dear - Deer Fly

This really rain soaked spring and summer have made us terribly aware of mosquitoes.  Ticks are rampant and the diseases these two bring can be devastating to health.  Gnats are swarming like low clouds and even though they aren’t a huge biting machine, they're certainly pesky.  And that brings me to Horse and Deer Flies.

Anyone who has large animals knows these biting insects.  And now it seems my yard has become new “fresh meat” for these stout, broad-headed and brightly eyed flies.

Deer Flies (Chrysops) live in deciduous and mixed forests, meadows, roadsides and suburbs near water in all of North America.  Yep, that would be all of us in the Galva News reading area.

The male drinks plant juices and is a pollinator.   The larva feeds on small aquatic insects.  Seems good on both counts.  And then there’s the lady of the house.  Her only meal of choice is the blood from mammals.  Yes, she’s a bloodsucker.  In June/July she feasts upon the unsuspecting. 

Great Golden Digger Wasp 
(good insect)
Whereas we usually hear mosquitoes, the flight of the deer fly is mostly silent.  They land stealthily on exposed skin and deliver a painful bite.  Their favored place to bite humans is the neck and face but will bite any exposed skin.  Its mode of attack is to silently circle over it’s intended victim before settling and it immediately bites.  They can bite repeatedly.   

The Horse Fly is a related beast, larger and likes the blood of large mammals.  The wound inflicted often continues to bleed for several minutes because both of these fly’s saliva contains an anticoagulant that prevents clotting.

The female doesn’t sting, her bite makes a cross-like incision and she laps up the resulting blood.  Along with the bite being very painful, some people have an allergic reaction to the fly’s saliva.  People who are allergic often have increased reactions with each new bite. They may also carry tularemia, anthrax, loa loa filariasis, several kinds of animal infections and are suspected carriers of Lyme disease.

In the large mammal industry, their bites are considered to cause millions in lost revenue, especially in dairy cattle whose milk production is diminished and weight loss in beef cattle.  20-30 flies feeding six hours on an animal can take 100 cc of blood. There are specific repellents for specific animals.  Up-to-date advice from your veterinary is available.  

Demoiselle Calopteryx virgo 
damselfly (good insect)
Encourage nest-building wasps, hornets, dragonflies and killdeer birds because they feast on the flies.

The flies use sight to find prey and may also be attracted CO or certain odors.  Moving objects, especially dark colored objects are most prone to attack.  The first peak biting time is sunrise for about three hours.  The second peak time is the two hours before sunset.  They are out the least on overcast, windy and cool days.  Heavy shade protection for animals will help.

Since it’s impossible to eliminate their breeding grounds, especially in this wet weather, protection from bites is the best effort.

Traps are somewhat useful in small-managed areas.  Covering yourself with light colored clothing is suggested.  The old fashioned sticky fly strips hanging from branches or your hat may work but remember they are VERY sticky to humans also.

Then the one that seems to work if you’re not concerned about looking like the crazy person next door:  Covering a blue plastic cup or inverted blue plastic mixing bowl in a liberal coating of petroleum jelly and attaching this contraption to top of your head.  These can also be tied to a string and hang from tree limbs or to your mower.  The swaying in the breeze seems to attract them and then they stick.  They are super attracted to swimming pools areas.

Blue Dasher Dragonfly 
(good insect)
Some sources suggest using an insecticide with DEET while others say it only attracts.  For me, insect spray doesn’t deter the pesky critters.  Covering seems to be my best bet. Netting over your hat and head works for flies and mosquitos.  I recommend the Bishop Hill pilgrim’s cotton bonnet in a light color.  (Several of the B.H. stores carry them.)  Mine extends over the back of my neck. Yes, I seriously look like granny from the Beverly Hillbillies and I’m OK with that if it means I won’t be bit.

I’m using liberal amounts of pure colorless vanilla.  I may smell like a cake but I’m one of those people who has an allergic reaction and it’s not pretty.   Others recommend the oils of garlic, lavender, peppermint and Eucalyptus.  Dab it on a bandana and tie around your neck, on your hat, or clothing.  Some of these may stain clothing or irritate skin.

With all these recommendations, I expect to see you gardening in white clothes, a netted hat with a blue SOLO cup died to the top of it, smelling like a herb oil factory while several fly strips cling to various parts of your body.  Dang I love gardening for its humor if for nothing else.