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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The tomatoes are starting to ripen! Oh, it's just a few here and there, and they are the smaller first fruits produced by the plants, but it's still exciting.
Especially since I have a few new varieties this year in my small veggie garden.
I've been spending a lot of time focusing on the pond lately: looking for the fish, watching the toads (there are already tiny tadpoles swimming around), removing string algae, monitoring the progress of the plants around the perimeter. The plants that are in pots in the water though, I haven't been paying enough attention to them.
I had a feeling they needed to be repotted, as they went into relatively small pots this spring. So when I pulled two of them out of the water last weekend not only did I see that it was indeed time for more space, but I also got a surprise.
Cleome or "Spider flower" is one annual that once you have you have forever, at least in my experience. I planted just a couple of these when I first started gardening, and I had volunteers for several years before they finally gave out.
In the last couple of years I've decided that I missed these wonderful, ever-blooming bee magnets and planted a lot of them. Since I'm not the best at thinning seedlings, I ended up with a pretty decent (and overcrowded by some standards) planting this year. No effort, big results -- just how I like it.
The other day and night we finally got a decent, soaking rain here. Things had been getting pretty dry and tired, but the much-needed rain really helped wake things up. Especially the toads, who I haven't heard for quite a while but started calling that evening and continued the next morning.
What I found was one land-lubber toad, sitting and watching the pond. He was out here pretty much all day. What was he doing? Waiting, as far as I can tell.
When I was a child, long, long before I was ever interested in plants I remember seeing a plant catalog that my parents received. It probably came in the Sunday paper and was mixed in with the comics and other color-printed flyers -- I can't think of any other reason that I would have seen it. It was one of those lower-quality printings, with over-saturated photographs and illustrations of many of the plants. The only plant I remember seeing from this catalog was a "butterfly bush". I can't be certain of the exact wording, but it said something like "produces big, fragrant blooms all summer long, attracting butterflies from all over the neighborhood". It sounded too good to be true to me, and why didn't they have a photograph of this amazing plant?
Decades passed and one of the first plants I ever bought for my garden was a "butterfly bush", or Buddleia davidii. I have to say, that ad from long ago was right!
June is usually such a nice month in the garden in St. Louis. Sunny, warm but not too hot, low humidity, breezy. (Except this year, when we're getting midsummer-like days mixed in.) All of the plants are really hitting their strides at this time too.
Unfortunately June also sees the return of a big pest: the Japanese beetles.
I recently had a few hours to spend in Washington DC, and although I did breeze through a few museums (Native American, Air and Space, Art) on that hot and humid rainy day, I made sure to make it to the National Botanic Garden.
I've got lots of things I want to get done in the garden this morning before the temperature hits 95F, so I thought I'd just post a few of the "survey" photos I take once in a while.
I use these to track the progress of my plants over the year, as well as comparing past years.
The Rose of Sharon (as my mother always called it when I was growing up, years and years before I started growing my own) is blooming.
There's something missing from this photo though... something just doesn't look right.
One thing that makes gardening exciting for me is trying new plants every year. This goes for ornamentals in addition to edibles.
I'm not just talking about different tomato varieties either -- I do that too -- but trying completely new types of plants. Last year it was Malabar spinach (beautiful but nothing I'd eat unless I had no choice). This year it's garlic, rat-tail radish, and today's subject: Mexican sour gherkins, also known as "mouse melons".
What's the best thing that a plant lover can see when looking out of a hotel window in a big city?
Greenery! At least it is for me. I recently saw two examples of this.
Yesterday I talked about all of the hornwort that is growing in my pond, and how I used rocks to sink these oxygenators deep into the water. There's a reason that was important:
The pond got its new inhabitants: goldfish!
I think it's time for a pond update, don't you? There are a few tadpoles lingering, but most of them have become tiny toads, so the pond focus right now is plants.
I've been doing planting around the perimeter, and the aquatic plants are really starting to take off, so I'm no longer hesitant to show you how it all looks.
Travel for work has been really reducing the time I can spend in the garden recently, which means the time I have in the garden is spent working for the most part -- I've been spending a lot less time just observing.
I've still managed to keep my eyes open and find a few interesting things almost every time I go out there though, which is gratifying because that's the kind of garden I've been striving to create over the years.
Last weekend we went to the Missouri Botanical Garden -- that's where I took the photos from the daylilies post.
This is just a little wrap-up of some interesting things I saw on this visit.
Sorry for the late post today, but it's been a long week. I noticed this flower the other day before it was fully opened, and it looks even more interesting today:
A crazy new coneflower cultivar, ready to take the gardening world by storm, right?
The first Saturday of every month Jack and Nolan -- the gardeners at the Schlafly Gardenworks -- hold an informal gathering in the garden. It's a time to meet with other plant lovers and talk about what's working, show how they're doing things in this urban garden, pick up some tips, and share some experiences.
It was a small group this month, but everybody was eager to learn and see some impressive plantings. It's really a great way to get excited about gardening and growing your own food.
My wife and I went to the Missouri Botanical Garden this weekend, as the weather has been so beautiful.
We just walked around and enjoyed the day, and although I didn't completely document my trip as I did last fall, I did take a few photos. Want to see some daylilies?
It's been a while since I talked about my lavender plants, and this is a good year for lavender in my garden!
Probably because of the mild winter, each of my seven lavenders are looking really good. Some of these make it through any winter because of the drainage they have, while others in different spots suffer some damage -- not this year though.
The house finch nest which has been a regular feature on my front porch for the last three years (or is it four?) has been productive this year again, with the second of the two broods almost ready to fledge.
These photos are from a week ago though when the chicks were much younger looking, because I already did a "we're about to fledge" post with the first brood.
I was excited about my blueberry crop this year. Although the plants are still in smallish containers, this was their second year for me so should have produced quite a few berries.
You'll notice that I said "should have". Let me amend that statement: they did produce a decent amount of berries. The humans who live here didn't get to eat any though. Not one.
Another first in the garden for me:
A water lily bloom! The pond continues to delight, with something new almost every day.
The other day I noticed a couple of dragonflies buzzing around the pond, so I went back inside to grab the camera. The first one finally landed on a nearby shrub, so I snapped a quick photo:
The other one was not behaving, zipping around, not staying still for more than a second or so. Why so agitated?