Blue. Really blue.

One of the new plants in my garden this year is a flowering vine called "Royal Blue Pea Vine" or "Blue Butterfly Pea Vine" or variations on those.


I have to tell you, these blooms are really blue. Very, very blue.

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There's really only one problem with this plant, and it's not even worth mentioning really...

Typically I only see a single flower open at a time. So far.


I told you, not much of a complaint, as that will resolve itself soon as vines typically grow exponentially once they reach a certain size.

Even the faded blooms are very blue, and quite attractive (if you like blue):


So more blooms are coming.

For now though I'll just have to enjoy the foliage, which is quite nice anyway:


I can't wait to see what this looks like in a month or two...

Clitoria ternatea, so far a winner in my garden!

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Twice stabbed

Of all of the different insects that I've learned about over the past few years -- mainly through my research for these blog posts -- this guy is one of my favorites.


Or maybe I should say it has one of my favorite common names: the twice-stabbed stink bug.

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Although I call many of the insects in my yard names that are intended "for mature audiences only" (like these guys), you'd never hear them as common names. The gardening and naturalist communities wouldn't stand for it, even those without sensitive ears.

So I applaud the ingenuity of whoever came up with the "twice-stabbed" moniker. It hints of the frustration, tastes of violence without offending, and is super-easy to remember.


I seem to have a lot of them in the cleomes this year:



They usually like the Agastache foeniculum, but maybe find the cleome more inviting?


Both of these plants are mixed in the same bed now, so maybe I've hit a critical mass of food hosts for these guys?

Stink bugs eat leaves and stems and fruit -- basically all parts of some plants -- but I've not noticed any damage done by this red-dotted species.

So I'm not sure why the common name holds so much negativity.


Until their feeding makes me change my mind, I'm glad to have them around. They're so photogenic!

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Big

Do you know what makes a garden so impressive and beautiful in my opinion? Yes, good, "foliage" is  a good answer -- but can you be more specific?


Big foliage! Yes, there's nothing that really stands out in a garden more than large leaves.

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They're visible from far across the yard, and break up the textural palette. They provide so much impact too!

Here's a quick look at mine.










Sorry it's thin on details, but the plants depicted are various elephant ears (Colocasia, Alocasia), castor bean, bamboo (Indocalamus tessellatus), bananas, Ensete (in banana family), Petasites japonicus, and Senna alata.

Can you figure out which is which?

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Getting arty with semps

I thought the Sempervivums were looking pretty interesting the other day.


But then when I got the photos on the computer, they looked sort of blah. So I jazzed them up a bit.

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Enjoy.









If you want to see more of my semps, click here.

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Hello tiny toads!

A couple of months ago when I saw the first batch of tadpoles in the pond, I was very excited. Then when they grew legs and started leaving the water, I became nervous.


If there are tiny toads all over the yard, aren't I going to step on them? Aren't they going to get mowed? Well, maybe.

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It's a game of numbers though: produce as many offspring as possible, and although many will be lost, some will survive.

I've been finding these little guys everywhere. The chubby one in the image above was not cooperating and kept hopping away.

As I moved around the bed I lost him, but saw this guy instead:


He also wanted to hop away, but I used my hand to direct him toward me and the camera:


And then I got him to hop onto my hand:



I see several of these toadlets everywhere, even at the front of the house -- which is miles away from the pond for these little ones.


They sure are cute!

To think that there's another brood of tadpoles in the pond right now... that's going to be a lot of toadlings hopping around!

I'm glad to have them though. Maybe I'll get patient or lucky and catch some shots of one of these little guys eating some day soon. That's the benefit of toads: they eat bugs!

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Learning about passion

A couple of years ago I got some passion flower or "Maypop" vines. The small vines spent the first year in my temporary greenhouse -- which I no longer use -- and then in large pots. I planted one of them in the ground last year in the spring, so it could climb up onto the pergola over the patio. It did really well there last year and produced lots of amazing flowers and several fruits, but this year... wow.


It's going crazy this year! I expected it, but it's still so exciting. This weekend while I was photographing some of the blooms -- which I've done every year but can't help myself -- I learned a few things about these flowers which I didn't know already.

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One thing I did already know is that bees love these flowers, but only the larger bumble and carpenter bees.


I see honeybees checking out the flowers once in a while, but they never hang around like the big bees do. I now know why, but I'll get to that in a minute.


As I was photographing a bee on this particular flower, I noticed that there was a bud nearby that was about to open. I thought I'd grab a shot of it in a minute, then also show some faded blooms and some fruits -- to show all of the different stages of the blooms.

As I concentrated on the bee, I caught a little movement out of the corner of my eye. At first I thought it was a bee checking out the not-yet-opened bud, but then I realized: the bud was opening! So I started taking photos, and watched the flower open right before my eyes! This whole process took less than 2 minutes, with most of the action happening within the first minute. Amazingly fast!


What I love most about this is how the anthers (the pads that hold the pollen) fold down then rotate into position. Incredible! Important too, as I can now explain.

So why do I only see the large bees visiting these flowers? They're built for it!


This is the first thing I learned about these flowers: where exactly the nectar was located, as they're so frilly and fancy I wasn't sure where it was. As you can see, it's right in the center, in the big "well". I wonder how much is in there, as these guys spend quite a few seconds at each bloom.

The second thing I learned is that there's a reason the anthers rotate when the bloom opens:

please click for larger version and full impact

As you can see, the bee's back is completely covered by the pollen just rubbed off from this anther. There's no way for the bee to avoid it!

Here's another shot showing the anther contact:


A smaller bee wouldn't get touched by the anthers, doing nothing for the flower. I'm guessing that only the large bees have tongues that are long enough (strong enough?) to reach the nectar. Therefore only the helpful bees -- from the flower's point of view -- are attracted.

The vine is quite a bit larger this year than it was last year:


It's covering the pergola nicely:


Will I be able to keep it from growing into the pine?


I doubt it.



I'll end this post letting the photos do the talking. Enjoy!






A bit crowded on this bloom!




Passion flower, Passiflora incarnata, "Maypop". What a great perennial vine!

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