Sunday, August 21, 2011

Rosa 'The Garland'

This rose dates to the first half of the nineteenth century; it has had a small but loyal following ever since. But those flowers: at first glance they look like a slightly doubled Rosa multiflora. If your rose sensibilities are shaped by exposure only to modern roses, you might wonder why someone would grow such a rose. One has to catch it at just the right moment to understand why it has been cherished for so long. That moment comes when the flowers, flowers in their thousands, just begin to open. For a few hours those flowers seem to glow: the otherwise cold white is suffused with the faintest flush of warm color. Is that color pink or chamois or something else? I don't know; it is fleeting, but as long as it is there these flowers have a warm, soft, lambent quality which is distinctly and very agreeably feminine. And as the color casts its spell one is enveloped in the sweet musky fragrance.

Ordinarily I try to keep the postings to this blog timely; this one is nearly three months late. But when I saw the picture earlier today while reviewing old files, I was so strongly reminded of the day I stood before this plant and surrendered myself to its charms that I wanted to share that moment.

Corydalus cornutus

As a youngster I read extensively in natural history, and as a result I know about many life forms I've never actually seen. Three months ago this one stumbled into my life. This is a female Corydalus cornutus, the Dobson fly. The lights in the dining room had drawn it in on a mild May evening when the doors were kept open. This one became trapped inside the glass shade of a lamp - I was lucky to see it before it got fried.. This female was impressive enough; the males have long pincers which make them look fearsome (they are harmless, although the females can give a good pinch).

After catching it, I put it into the refrigerator; the next day, as I released it outside, it was briefly numb enough for me to get a few pictures before it flew away.

Only today I was talking to my neighbor Bill who grew up in rural Pennsylvania. I had mentioned hellbenders; that led to water dogs eventually, but in the meantime we passed hellgrammites. He remembers hellgrammites (the larvae of the dobson fly)  from his boyhood fishing days.

Gardeners take note: don't confuse Corydalus with Corydalis.

Hesperaloë parviflora

This is Hesperaloë parviflora, the so-called red yucca. It's blooming here this year for the first time. It began to bloom back in June, and it's still producing flowers. The individual flowers are about the size and color of those of Fritillaria recurva, but otherwise it looks like nothing else in the garden. The flowers look as if they had been carved from coral itself or some coral colored mineral of the cryptocrystalline quartz group. And the inflorescence is tall: it got to be over six feet high.


Hemerocallis citrina

The plant shown above was purchased as Hemerocallis citrina, and it might very well be that species. Yet in some respects it differs from plants grown under that name in the past. This most recent acquisition has a very short flower life: the flowers open at dusk and are already closing at the first hint of light in the morning. It's pleasantly fragrant.

I've seen this one referred to as as "commuter's daylily" because it opens at about the time many people get home from work. If you arrive home a bit late, you'll have to get a flashlight to see the blooms.

baby ring neck snake season again

Wayne called me the week before last to tell me that he was finding baby ring neck snakes in his ground level condo again; this time the count (over several days)  got up to six. Was it the same snake coming back in each time it was put out into the garden? Or were the snakes hatching somewhere in his unit?  
I searched the basement here at home but so far have not found any baby snakes.

See this older entry:

Friday, August 19, 2011

Sinningia tubiflora

This is Sinningia tubiflora, a plant long known and grown as Achimenes tubiflora . I learned its name as Achimines tubiflora, and since I don't travel in gesneriad circles I was not aware of the name change until very recently. But I never forgot the plant because the descriptions I read contained the magic word "fragrance".

Fragrance is not the only temptation it offers; it's apparently almost hardy. I wintered the plant above in a cold frame, and that's where it will spend the upcoming winter.

Small crop seedlings for fall and winter harvest

This image shows short rows of crops and flowers planted for fall/winter harvest. Most were sown in late July and are very slowly putting on size. Forty different items were planted in this bed: bok choi in several varieties, mizuna, mustard greens, kohl rabi, chives, white multiplier onions, beets, Swiss chard, parsley, coriander, dill, chervil, fennel, carrots, corn salad, zinnias, cosmos, mignonette, sunflowers, marigolds and other odds and ends - there are also bought plants of cabbage, Brussels sprouts and sprouting broccoli, and a plot neighbor gave me some seedling celery.

The short rows make sense because we only need a few of each item. As the plants are thinned I can improvise various mesclun mixes (that's right up there with shrimp scampi as a tautology, isn't it?).

I have not let my hopes run away with me: the site is crawling with fecund hungry bugs.

The view from the vine house

This is the view from the vine house. It's especially beautiful in the morning and evening. There is not a house in view. It won't be long now before I take a meal up to be consumed in the vine house on a cool evening. It should be especially nice once the moon flowers start to bloom.

The vine house

This is my vine house, the centerpiece of one of my veggie plots. Even now in late August it's still a bit ragged looking because I was late in putting up the wire supports for the vines. Most of what you see here is the growth of morning glories and moon flowers. On the back side of the vine house are pole beans. On one side there was a lush growth of the so-called Armenian cucumber: most of those suddenly wilted earlier this week. Next year I'll probably plant only morning glories and moon flowers - nothing seems to bother them.

The plastic "roof" has since been removed.

The morning glories have flower buds and should be blooming soon. There is no sign yet of buds on the moon flowers. 

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Lycoris longituba

The other day a friend emailed me to ask about a white-flowered Lycoris × squamigera. I wrote back to tell him I had never heard of such a thing and offered this plant as a likely source of the rumor. It's a handsome plant with a light pleasing fragrance. It's also a good garden plant here and seems to be reliable about blooming (it's been here only four years). These plants are so conspicuous when in bloom that it's tempting to fill the garden with them; but remember, their floral presence, however arresting,  is fleeting.  

Lilium formosanum

Modern hybrid garden lilies can be spectacular, sometimes overwhelmingly so. Wild lilies on the other hand are more apt to appeal for their grace and elegance. The plant shown above is Lilium formosanum, a native of Taiwan (or as it was often called in the past, Formosa). This lily has naturalized in southern Africa and in Australia, and self-sown seedlings sometimes appear in our gardens, too. It will bloom within a year from seed, and varies in height from 18 inches or so up to over six feet.

In contrast to garden lilies, wild lilies are often characterized by an extreme economy of substance: the leaves and stems are, as it were, no bigger or thicker than they absolutely have to be.  Lilium formosanum is a good example of this: compare its slender, lithe growth  to the comparatively stout form of the cultivated forms of the similar Lilium longiflorum.

Farmer Jim

If you've been wondering where in the world has Jim been for the last two months, the picture above gives the answer -  at least if you realize what you are looking at.

Back in May I got wind of something exciting: the local parks department had established community gardens nearby as part of the Montgomery County Parks Community Gardens program. You can learn more about this here:

 The home garden has been full for years; and the home lot has never really been good for a proper vegetable garden. So I jumped at the opportunity to have a site out in a sunny field. It gets better: the overall site is surrounded by a deer fence, there is water at the site and there are periodic deliveries of wood chip mulch.They've done a good job with this. Here's the cistern:

For the last two months my mind has been spinning over the possibilities presented by my new community garden plots (yes, plots). Plot acquisition took place back in May, but the May-June period was extremely busy for me, and it took me a while to get started with the vegetable garden. The first things to go in were tomatoes, peppers, tomatillos and eggplants. Here's an early harvest:

I think we have eaten more bacon, tomato and lettuce sandwiches during the last two weeks than we have eaten in the last two years. I've  refused to buy those $3 per pound grocery store tomatoes for years.

Back in mid-July I began to plant seeds for fall and winter harvests: these are coming along nicely and should provide lots of herbs, root crops and greens during September and October. There is also late-planted corn, the variety Mirai. This is a 75 day corn, and it should be ready in late September. But I've since learned that insect pests are a huge problem with late planted corn. And this year, in addition to the usual corn pests, we have a new one: the garden site is swarming with brown marmorated stink bugs. They seem to be sampling everything.

I've got plenty of squash coming along, and these guys are certainly appreciating my efforts:

The photos above show the eggs and nymphs of the squash bug.

Here's something which has so far escaped the bugs: this is the so-called Armenian cucumber. It's actually a melon, not a cucumber. But it's not sweet, and it does look like a cucumber.

We've been eating a lot of vegetables lately - and so have the bugs!