The wrong bug

Probably about ten years ago I was raking leaves on an unseasonably warm day in late October, and saw something unusual in my leaf pile. It was a praying mantis, the first I had ever seen in my yard, and it was exciting! This was before I had much of a garden, so I wasn't thinking about the beneficial aspects of having this critter around -- I was just excited about such a cool and "unusual" insect. I put that mantis in a jar, and fed it crickets almost daily for the next few weeks. When the freezing temps put an end to the native cricket supply I bought crickets from the pet store. The well-fed mantis repaid me by laying one egg case after another -- I got at least half a dozen cases before the mantis died.

Each year since then I've kept a careful watch for mantises at this time of year, hoping to catch and repeat my previous egg-laying experience. I succeed every other year or so, but I think it mainly comes down to luck. I've been hunting furiously this year, but have had no luck yet. I am seeing other interesting bugs though.


Bee hugs, textures, and education

The mornings are chilly here now, with temperatures usually between 35 and 40ºF (2-4ºC) when I wake up. This means that the garden residents that rely on the warmth of the sun take a little while to get moving.

This bee spent the night on his favorite flower. At least it seems like his favorite by the way he's hugging it so tightly.


By request: an update on a planting bed

I received a surprise the other day: a request from a reader and fellow gardener to show what this planting bed that I reworked back in June looks like now. If you're not going to click that link to see what that earlier post was about, let me summarize by saying it was once a lovely bed of thyme (in theory), turned into a weedy mess, and I then turned it into this:

So you want an update, to see what this bed has matured into over the summer? Hmmm. Not only is this a great idea, but it saves me from having to think of a topic for today's post. Excellent!


Would you like a purple, bee?

I mentioned a few weeks back that the Salvia leucantha plants in my yard seemed to be blooming later than normal. I wasn't sure at the time, but now I am -- they're definitely late this year. I think I got them into the ground later than I should have, or maybe our heatwave/drought this summer set them back a few weeks.

For whatever reason, this lateness means that the hummingbirds didn't get a chance to sample neither their purpleness nor their fuzz, but at least somebody is having a good time with the four plants I have in my garden this year: the bees.


Stairs: better when usable

There are three stairways down to my patio: two from the driveway, and one from pretty much the bottom of the deck stairs. That last one is the main staircase, but it's not been getting much use lately.

The problem is that it's been blocked by Caryopteris shrubs. I planted these several years ago, but further back from the stairs. What I didn't know is that those shrubs reseed (a little -- nothing troublesome) and produce more plants. Cool, right? Except the new plants were closer to the stairs. Too close.


One-word Wednesday: Katydid


Still rocking

Having recently passed my 600th post, that title could refer to INWIG itself, but it doesn't. I'm still excited about my chimney repair project that is going on right now... it has produced a large amount of stone for my garden!


Some random fall beauty

I was in the yard yesterday looking for small projects (in between larger projects inside the house) and realized that it's been a while since I just walked around observing and taking photos.

So that's what I did. The weather was beautiful -- around 75ºF (24ºC) -- and there was still plenty to enjoy during these last few days before the colder weather moved in.


What's in the box?

I love receiving mystery boxes that I know contain something for the garden. I'm not talking about catalog merchandise, where you pretty much know exactly what you'll be getting. I'm talking about boxes that although you may have some idea of what they contain, you don't know exactly what it will be.

For instance, plant purchases. You may know what you ordered, but you don't know the exact size of the plant, how bushy it will be, what fragrance will escape when the box is opened. Same thing (to an even greater extent) with trade plants -- you don't really know what lives inside those cardboard walls until you release it. It's a mystery, and that makes it more exciting!


Time to split

Split a bamboo that is, or to use the more-accepted terminology, "divide" the bamboo. You do this when a plant is too big (like many perennials) or when you want more plants. I've been debating whether or not I should divide this clumping bamboo (Fargesia dracocephala 'Rufa' or often just Fargesia 'Rufa') for over a year now:

Since it only spreads a few inches a year it's not really out of control, but it is getting in the way a bit and I want more plants, so I finally decided to stop thinking and start gardening, and just do it.


This rocks!

In my ideal garden there are five main components: plants, paths (open space), water, structures, and rocks. I've always wanted to add large rocks to some of my beds, but have had to settle for those that I could lift and move myself -- something around 12-18" in "diameter". Bigger than that and they're just too heavy.

Still, I'm pretty pleased with what rocks of even this size can do to a bed, so I've got a lot of them. I'm always on the lookout for more though, and I've just gotten a new supply of them!


Planter box extreme makeover

I've been planting a lot of my potted bamboos in the ground lately, some of them after two or three years in a pot. Most of them are smaller bamboos that will remain groundcovers in my climate, but some are larger. I've gotten advice from Brad at Needmore bamboo (my main source for new plants) that most of the groundcover bamboos (in the Sasa and Pleioblastus genuses for example) aren't contained by buried rhizome barriers like larger species are (like Phyllostachys) because their rhizomes will deflect and go as deep as needed to escape. So rhizome pruning (or growing in an enclosed container) is the only way to keep these from spreading where you don't want them.

I've been eyeing this raised planting bed for a while now, thinking it would be a good spot for some bamboo, but have been worried about whatever I planted here eventually escaping and creating a mess for me. So recently I converted this box into a bamboo box. Read on to see what I had to do.


A taste of autumn

It seems to happen every year. We have a warm, dry September and early October, and it seems like colder weather will never arrive. Then the leaves start turning, the temperature drops severely, we get several days of rain, and the next thing you know the trees are bare and winter is here.

This year I actually looked around a bit before this happened, and captured a taste of autumn.


What is this?

This is going to be one of the shortest posts I've done in quite a while, but those MOBOT posts were long ones and they took a lot out of me. So I just have one question today:

What exactly is this spider eating?


Missouri Botanical Garden, part 5

We've finally made it to the last post about my visit last week to Missouri Botanical Garden. I knew I took a lot of photos and saw so much cool stuff, but never thought that a 3-hour visit would result in five posts about it! If you missed the earlier parts, they're here: part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4.

After leaving the Kemper Center for Home Gardening I made my way to the Chinese garden. This is a rather small garden, especially when compared to the gigantic Japanese garden. It contains a high density of cool plants though.


Missouri Botanical Garden, part 4

Today I continue with my trip to Missouri Botanical Garden. I didn't expect it would take four days of posts to show the 3 hour visit, but it did. Well, five actually. There's one more post after today, so if you're tired of seeing the magic of MOBOT and want to see more posts about bamboo and raccoon damage in my yard, your wait is almost over.

Yesterday I ended mentioning the "Kemper Center for Home Gardening". This is a relatively new addition to the Garden, and on my last few visits here I always passed this by, thinking I didn't really have a need to see displays of vegetable beds or foundation plantings. Today I decided to take a look for the first time, and I'm so glad I did!


Missouri Botanical Garden, part 3

Today I continue my recent visit to the Missouri Botanical Garden. Part 1 is here and part 2 is here in case you missed them.

Today's post is all about the Japanese garden, one of the jewels of the park for sure. Let's jump right in.


Missouri Botanical Garden, part 2

Yesterday I posted part 1 of my visit to the Missouri Botanical Garden. Today I continue on where I left off. I'm nearing the southeast corner of The Garden now, where there are more houses (that were once private residences and now serve various purposes), and some formal gardens.

This one is half-empty in preparation for the winter, but it's drawing me in anyway. I'm not a big fan of formal gardens like this, but if I'm not mistaken that is a "sea" of sedum burning my retinas with its yellowness, and I love sedum so just have to take a closer look.


Missouri Botanical Garden, part 1

Monday was a holiday: Columbus Day, and I looked forward to getting more projects done around the house and garden. My wife wanted me to "do something fun" instead, but I enjoy these projects. When I broke a drill bit I took it as a sign, and decided to head out to Missouri Botanical Garden. It's been over a year since I was last there I think, and the weather was warm, sunny, and breezy, so I grabbed the camera and headed out.

I've never been to The Garden by myself before, so I was able to wander freely and spend large amounts of time looking at things that normal visitors don't particularly care about (it's a bench -- can we look at some plants now?) and I took lots of photos. So many in fact, that this visit will probably be broken up into three parts.


Another lovely vine

The other day I talked about the hyacinth bean vine, and how it is the star of my garden right now. Well, there's another vine that is a close second, and that's what I want to show you today.

It's Vigna caracalla or "snail vine" (sometimes called "corkscrew vine"). Its weird and wonderful flowers are a delight right now in my garden.


More big spiders

As I've recently said, fall is big spider time in the garden, and there are two that I've been watching and photographing.

If you're not a spider person, you may not want to continue reading -- but I encourage you to give it a try to see some of these fascinating yet creepy creatures.


Hyacinth bean: queen of my autumn garden

The stars of my late-summer through freeze garden are always the hyacinth bean vines. I started growing these beautiful annuals a few years ago, and now make sure I have enough growing so I can see it from anywhere in the yard.

Its flowers aren't quite as fluorescent or neon as they appear to be in these photos, but they're beautiful and there are so many of them!


More new plants? Yes!

Yesterday I talked about new plants that I brought home in my truck after a long drive. Today I'll talk about more plants that made a long trip too, but they arrived in a box.

Technically they probably arrived in a truck too, but I choose to ignore the middleman and talk about just the part I see: the box. This was another plant trade, and I think this is probably the heaviest plant box I've ever received. Thank you USPS for flat-rate boxes with no weight limits!


The new bamboos

Last weekend I bought some new plants from Needmore Bamboo, which was the point of the whole trip. Today I'll take a brief look at those bamboos.

Usually when I post about these bamboo excursions I post all of the details: the plants in the truck, the unwrapping and unloading, photos of the plants on the driveway, etc. I'm not going to do that this time, because I've done it several times already. So today it's just the plants.


Time for some delicious fruit! ... oh.

Some days I have posts all planned out, like when I'm going to build something or put something into the ground. Some days though posts just happen. Those are usually pretty fun and exciting. Note that I said usually.

Because sometimes it's not that much fun. This was the case the other morning when I went outside to find that the raccoons had not only sampled some of the delicious (or so I've heard) passion fruit that's been ripening on my vines, but they pulled the whole trellis down.


Annual visit to Needmore Bamboo

Since 2008 when I discovered that bamboo was the plant I was really interested in, I've been making at least one trip to Needmore Bamboo each year. I thought this would be the first year that I didn't get out there, as I already have plenty of bamboo varieties and am running out of room. But an innocent comment from Brad at Needmore ("Do you have Propinqua 'Beijing' yet? I think that would do really well in one of your planters") got me thinking, and less than a week later I was on the road.

On my first trip out there I picked up just a single plant, but every trip after that has been more productive, or "efficient" you may say. Since it's a 4.5 hour drive from St. Louis to Needmore, Indiana with no stops, it's not like I can go out there every weekend. So I got together my list of the plants I wanted, and came back with six bamboos and one water plant I rescued from the compost pile. This post is not about the plants I got though.


One-word Wednesday: Scale


Hey, some clouds!

If you check my posts from the last two summers you'll see that I like to post cloud photos, especially of sunsets, sunrises, and storms. I feel like I haven't done one of these posts in such a long time though, partly because I don't see the sunrises until the winter, I can only see what effect the sunset has on the clouds above and to the east, and we haven't had any storms this summer.

That's right, not one storm that produced any visually worthwhile cloud formations! We had a very dry summer, and the storms that did come through either happened at night, or missed my general area.


The annual removal of a beauty, too soon

I grow many different types of ornamental grasses, even if you don't count the bamboo (which is in the grass family). I look forward to seeing their inflorescences each year, as they're so beautiful, often fuzzy, and add so much texture and motion to the garden. Some of the grasses "flower" early in the summer, but most hold off until mid-summer or early fall.

One grass I really watch out for is the 'Moudry' fountain grass. It produces some of the nicest dark "plumes" that are definitely worth seeing, but I keep watch for another reason.



It's that time of year when the Salvia leucantha starts blooming. I thought it was a bit late this year, but I checked my post from last year and this is the right time for it.

They're just getting going, so only a few photos today.



Last weekend I tackled another of my bamboo-related jobs, something that I've been debating and thinking about for a while. I finally stopped thinking and started gardening! So what was the job? Along my driveway I have six different bamboo species, most of them quite different visually from each other.

Except for these two. Sasa tsuboiana (on left) and Sasaella bitchuensis. Can you tell that this is not only two different species, but that they're from different genuses? I can't. It's possible that a mistake was made when I planted them, or that the Sasa tsuboiana was mislabeled, or that these two species just look so much alike. In any case, I've decided to remove one of them: the tsuboiana.


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