Canna seed pods

This is the first year that I've grown cannas, having received a couple of divisions of the hybrid 'Tropicana' in a plant trade earlier this year.

Both plants are still alive and although I've been having trouble keeping them looking good during our recent heat wave and dry spell, one plant has produced seed pods -- which I wasn't expecting.


bamboo says: water!

I've noticed that recently I haven't done any posts about projects. No planting, building, even weeding. I thought about this for a moment, and realized that it's because I haven't done any of this. My gardening tasks for the past few weeks have been limited to pretty much a single activity: watering.

As with much of the country, it's been extra hot and dry in St. Louis for the past month or so. With that sort of weather, most of my potted plants need to be watered daily. The bamboo though -- which I have many pots of -- can tolerate watering every other day if needed.


Soft, curls, pain

I don't want to say too much today, but I do want to share something that I think is quite beautiful, and it only happens once a year at most -- although I haven't seen it for a couple of years.

It's the growing of new leaves on my Sago Palm (Cycas revoluta). The plant should do this every year but I guess it wasn't very happy last summer because it skipped that year. This year's emergence is so much more exciting because of that!


The habitat that is cardoon

I've got a few cardoon plants in the ground this year, but only one of them is really thriving, showing me promise of the huge silvery leaves that I fell in love with the first time I grew this plant five years ago or so. One thing I've noticed about cardoon in my yard is they attract a nice variety of insects, all of them interesting, not all of them with the best intentions.

I found at least one interesting nymph (immature bug) a while back, and I think I just figured something interesting out. (The nature of this post just changed.)


Who likes compost pile fruit scraps?

I've mentioned before that my wife brings home lots of fruit scraps from the baking company. Banana peels are the main fruit refuse, but recently peach peelings have been added to the mix.

Whenever I add somewhat edible fruit to the compost pile, I make sure I add it toward the front, and low down near the ground. Why?


Learning to see

I started out yesterday morning taking photos of my perennial Black-Eyed Susans, Rudbeckia fulgida 'Goldsturm'. They're in full bloom right now and looking great, but the heat and lack of rainfall will probably fade them pretty quickly, so I wanted to make sure I took photos.

Then something interesting happened to my eyes or my brain and I really started seeing them, for maybe the first time.


Banana leaf lovely

This is the second year I've been growing bananas, and the first year I've put one into the ground. I'm really impressed at how well the plant in the ground is doing, and I'll probably take a look at the plants as a whole in another post.

Right now though, I'm just going to enjoy the wonderful texture of the huge leaves as the early morning sunlight hits them.


Creating a copper patina fast!

In yesterday's post about the vines, I showed a photo of a copper pipe trellis I created that has what I consider to be a really attractive patina (the look the surface acquires due to exposure or time). I think most people know that copper will eventually age to a blue-green color when exposed to the weather, but that process takes time.

Most gardeners -- myself included -- don't like to wait decades for changes to happen, so today I'm going to show you how to achieve this beautiful look in just a day or two, with only a few minutes of work.


Some more vines -- the ones I want

Yesterday I took a look at some volunteer vines that are starting to take over my planting beds. Today I want to talk about a few of the vines that I purposefully planted. Annual vines start pretty slowly, then reach sort of a critical mass and really take off. These have just reached that point, so although they're not huge masses of foliage and flowers yet, they will be soon.

First up is a brand new plant for me this year, but quickly becoming one of my favorites: Malabar spinach (Basella alba).


Those pesky vines

Sure, I've said before several times that I love flowering vines. I especially like annual vines, because they let me easily change things up each year if I want to. I love the flowers, I love the foliage climbing up whatever it can find: a trellis, my pergola, the deck stairs railing -- I just love the height that they add.

I also hate vines. Really hate them. Why? They produce countless baby vines the next year. Sure that's expected to some extent, especially with flowering annuals of any kind, but the thing about vines is they get much larger than most other annuals. I really don't need a patch of two dozen vines that each will reach 15 feet tall and wide in the next few months. One or two is plenty, and I already have those.


Blue globe thistle and bees

Three or four years ago I planted a single blue globe thistle (Echinops banaticus 'Blue Glow'). It was a beautiful plant that produced several spiky blooms which the bees loved. As is my tendency, I let the plant go to seed and did not remove it in the fall -- I like to leave seed heads over the winter for the birds and to see if I can get any volunteer plants the next year.

If you're not familiar with thistles and thistle-like plants, which I wasn't, let me tell you what I learned: they easily reseed. Very easily. I'm not yet to the point of calling them a nuisance, but I've pulled many seedlings from this area over the past couple of years.


Coneflower Aster Yellows Update

Three of my coneflower plants produced flowers that were quite strange. When I posted about this earlier this year, I was informed in the comments that this was probably due to a viral-like disease called aster yellows. After researching a little bit, I sadly agreed that's what is going on with my plants.

Since I haven't been able to remove them yet -- the only solution to this condition -- I thought I'd post some photos of how they've progressed.



We gardeners share our playgrounds with lots of other critters -- that's not a surprise to any of us, is it? Some of them we consider to be pests and dread seeing in our yards (unless they're behaving themselves). Deer, rabbits, woodchucks, gophers and the like fall into this category. On the other hand there are those that we definitely love seeing in the garden: various birds, frogs, turtles, butterflies. They don't cause any damage and make the place more alive. Then there are some critters that some people love and some people do not: snakes, lizards, spiders. (I personally love all of these, and am still trying to attract snakes and lizards into my yard.) Finally there are critters that we don't really care about or even notice until they do something "noteworthy". In this last category I would put mice, voles, and shrews. These smaller animals are probably more common in your garden if you have a "wild" area nearby or within your yard, such as woods or grassy fields.

They probably live most of their lives completely unnoticed by you, or maybe you'll get a glimpse of them once in a while. Unless of course they do something you don't want them to, or go somewhere you don't want them to be. This second case is what I'm dealing with right now.


Fennel Flower Ambush!

This spring when I redid my vegetable garden and made raised beds, I knew the east edge of the garden would be a problem. That's because I have bronze fennel growing there, the only perennial inside the fenced veggie garden. It's growing in the east-most walkway which is minimal already, and I knew it would be trouble once it reached its mature size later in the year.

Well, it's later in the year now and although I should have staked up the fennel a month ago I've let it flop over a couple of the raised beds. This isn't too much of a problem right now as there's not too much growing here right now, except for a volunteer bean or two, some volunteer epazote, and zucchini squash that I never seem to have success with. Having the fennel plants leaning over has given me easier access to the flowers though, and that opens up a world of discovery, as the flowers are alive with insect activity.


Driveway crack garden

My concrete driveway is about 40 years old. Since my yard slopes down from the front to the back, the driveway does too, except for the area behind the house that is level. What happens when you put large slabs of concrete onto a hill and expect them to stay flat and in one place? Gravity laughs at you and starts moving those slabs ever so slowly. Eventually you end up with gaps between the squares -- on my driveway they are about 2 inches (5 cm) wide.

Every year these catch all sorts of seeds not only from the birdfeeders, but also from the plants in my yard in general. Every spring I start out keeping these cracks free of greenery, but by the middle of summer I've got a grid of plants that I need to deal with.


A look around: the patio area

I've already taken a look at the "big picture" in the south part of my yard so you can see how the various planting beds work together (or don't depending on your tastes) and contribute to the garden as a whole. Those beds contain a lot of elephant ears, ornamental grasses, and some flowering annuals. Today I'll move to the middle of my yard and show you the patio and surrounding beds.

If you've looked at that previous post, that part of the yard is to the right in the above photo -- you can probably use the pergola to orient yourself. I've made just a few changes in this area this year, but the main change is this year I've practiced a little more neglect. There are a lot of weeds and volunteer plants growing in this area, but I decided to photograph it as-is. I live with it like this most of the time, so that's how you'll see it. (Weeds grow faster than I can remove them sometimes. If you garden you know what I mean.)


Mango seed update 2

Did you know that I've been germinating some mango seeds? I've posted about this a couple of times before (here, and here), and it's time for another update. As a quick recap, I wrapped the giant seeds in wet paper towels, put them into ziploc bags, and placed them in a warm place: on top of my grow light fixture.

Then I pretty much forget about them for a few weeks at a time. Since it's been a few weeks since I last looked at them (with one exception), today I took a close look.


500 posts!

I just realized that today's post about the voodoo lily bulbs was my 500th according to Blogger.

That's amazing.

A big Thank You to everybody who visits regularly, and I hope I can keep coming up with interesting post topics (that is if you think my post topics are interesting).

Coincidentally, I've decided to start using Twitter for those little gardening tidbits that don't need a full post. You can see my last few tweets at the top of my blog's right column, or click that widget to see more of them. Please follow me if you're interested in that sort of thing -- all of my tweets will be related to my garden, plants, or nature I promise. ***



A little bit of voodoo

Recently I was given a handful of small voodoo lily corms. My friend Michael has voodoo lilies growing in his garden, and they apparently produce offspring quite readily. Mike didn't know what to do with the extra corms he had, and when I commented on how cool the spotted stems and leaves of the plant were, he gave me a handful of them.

He also told me to put the corms in a tray with a little bit of water in it and the corms would "wake up". At least I'm pretty sure he told me to do that -- we had been digging bamboo in the 95ºF (35ºC) heat for a few hours and I was pretty exhausted. Maybe I misunderstood his instructions, but put them in a tray of water I did, and they liked it!


House wren, wren house

Of all of the birds that frequent my garden, I think the wrens are my favorite. Besides being virtually fearless, they're one of the noisiest birds around, their loud happy song is beautiful to my ears. They're creative nesters too, building nests in the strangest of places -- I believe it's the Carolina wrens that do this mainly, but other wrens may too. What makes wrens so welcome in my garden though is they eat caterpillars -- insects provide most of their food.

I've got a couple of wren houses in my yard, and although I usually see Carolina wrens around, this year I've attracted some house wrens too. Or maybe they've replaced the Carolina wrens, as I've read that house wrens do not like to share their territories with other cavity nesting birds. I'm hoping the Carolina wrens aren't gone, but only time will tell. This post is about the house wrens though.


Bamboo chop and butterfly drop

With all of the bamboo maintenance projects I've done recently (tying up floppy bamboo, controlling escaped rhizomes) you'd think I'd be done with those for a while. Nope. There's one project left that I haven't gotten around to tackling: controlling one more escaped bamboo.

This is a really pretty shorter bamboo (Semiarundinaria okuboi) with a great tropical look. I planted it in a small raised bed "temporarily", and it has just gone through its third shooting season. It's been reported that this species has rhizomes that run deeper than normal, so is more difficult to control. I believe this now.



Some days you just need to see butterflies. This is one of those days.

So here are several photos of a male Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterfly or two. There were three swallowtail butterflies around at one point, so I'm not completely certain that all of these photos are of the same guy. I think so though (with one noted exception).


Pulling weeds, making space, moving plants

I'm getting tired of the jungle of potted plants on my driveway. Last weekend I finally got about 20 percent of them moved into better positions in the garden. Okay, maybe 25%. It's a start, and it gave me a nice fresh garden "room" to look at.

This is the area I'm talking about. Last year it was mostly large potted plants and although this looks pretty nice from this vantage point on the deck stairs, there are a lot of problems here. Easily fixed though, so let's get to work!



Remember last fall when I drove to Needmore Bamboo in Brown County Indiana for the "Bamboo Festival" that Brad hosted? I bought a bamboo while I was there and met a few other bamboo growers. Some bamboo growers are focused only on growing bamboo, but most of them are gardeners in general and grow everything -- like me. Apparently some of them end up with may more plants than they can use (also like me) and give them away, because I was given a few plants at the bamboo gathering.

One of the plants I received was a native vine: Passiflora incarnata, or "Maypop". Both of the potted specimens spent the winter in my greenhouse, and although they died to the "ground", they both came back strong. I planted one of them in the ground recently, and today I noticed that they're flowering!


Bee bee bee Agastache

One plant that I have dozens of this year -- more than I really want since many of them are still in pots, looking for a place in the ground or a new home -- is Agastache foeniculum, "Anise Hyssop" or "Blue Giant Hyssop". Spicy, minty, sweet leaves smell and taste so delicious, and it flowers forever it seems. Although not everyone agrees on how to pronounce it (I favor "Ag-a-stack-EE", so it rhymes with "bee"), I think most gardeners who grow it do agree on one thing: the pollinators love it.

These plants are bee city right now, and will be all summer long. I can stand and watch the bees for hours, so it's probably a good thing that I don't have more benches in my garden, or I'd be out here all day.


The bigger picture: reviewing new beds

I've remade three or four different planting beds this year -- let's call it three main ones with one minor renewal. Each of these beds had become weedy, unmanageable, and just plain ugly. When I worked on those projects I took plenty of photos of course, but one thing I haven't yet done is to show you the end result -- how they fit into this part of the garden as a whole.

This is important to me, as I like planting beds that are tied together in some way visually. I don't like plants to be isolated in the garden, finding them in only one place. That's why I have roses planted throughout instead of a "rose bed", why you can see ornamental grasses from wherever you're standing in my yard, and why bamboo is mixed with lots of other plants everywhere.


The replacement sticks

Last year I tried growing plumeria (Frangipani) for the first time. I started them from cuttings, which look like bare sticks, and the two that I bought both rooted, leafed out and looked great by the end of the summer. Unfortunately, they did not survive the winter in my garage -- they both rotted. So a few weeks ago I ordered some more cuttings. I chose a different company this time because they were cheaper, and I figured if I was going to lose the plants over the winter again there was no need to grow expensive cultivars.

I bought from what was apparently a small company and they were out of town for a week or two and couldn't ship immediately, so I forgot about my order. Yesterday the mailman knocked on my door (instead of just leaving the package on the porch -- thank you!) and handed me a box.


I learned a new moth

So this morning I was doing a little project in the garden, cleaning up a bed and moving some pots into it (trying to get my driveway cleared before the end of the summer). I needed to get this project done before 10 AM or so or I'd be cooked by the sun -- this bed is shaded until then.

As I was cooling off after the work was done I was standing in the shade watching the bees on the Agastache foeniculum, and noticed this moth that I didn't recognize.



I mentioned one of my unusual coneflower plants a week or two ago when I took a look at the echinacea in my garden. Since then a few more goofy examples have started blooming.

Right now I  have three separate plants that are non-typical coneflowers. I'm not sure what's going on. Is it a disease of some sort, or just a mutation?

Edit: as noted in the comments, this is evidence of "aster yellows",  a viral-like disease caused by a phytoplasma. More info here.


I couldn't grow this

We have some cut flowers in the house right now, and this lily caught my eye.

It also caught my nose -- I'm not fond of the fragrance -- but that's not what I'm going to talk about today.


I am not doing anything!

If you read my blog regularly you know that I have deer in my yard all of the time -- like many people do.

What? I'm not doing anything.

Fortunately, they're well-behaved, and never eat my plants.


How I identify bugs

I posted photos of some pretty interesting and beautiful insects yesterday, and since I had included the names of some of them I received several requests to explain how I identified them.

Today I'll explain my methods, and will try to determine what the unknown bugs from yesterday's post are. Note that I'm not an entomologist -- amateur or professional -- but I have a good eye, patience, and an Internet connection. With these tools I feel pretty confident about finding at least a general idea of what the unknown insects I find are.


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