Saturday, February 27, 2010

Botany for Gardeners

by Brian Capon (Revised Edition 2008)

If you are interested in the how and why of plant growth, you may be interested in this book. Questions like - how does auxin cause seedlings to turn towards the light? or how do water and nutrients get from the roots to the top of a tall tree? - are answered. It reads like the Science Channel TV show “How It’s Made”.

It is written with a sense of awe and a love of nature.

A quote from the section on growth:

- “Leaves”

“None of the wonders of our technological age can match the miraculous awakening of a tree from winter sleep, to put on its spring attire of rich, green, fresh new foliage – a spectacle of regenerative power that only nature is capable of performing.”
Illustrations are excellent and plentiful.

There’s a lot of technical information in this book - everything from abscission to zygote – but It’s a readable reference book.

I picked up much information from “Botany for Gardeners”. The leaf identification drawings were very clear. I’ve got all the names for leaf shape, leaf parts and vein patterns clear in my mind. At least until I don’t.

(Penn State Leaf Identification guide.)


US/World Population Clock
According to the International Programs Center, U.S. Census Bureau, the total population of the World, projected to 02/25/10 at 15:04 UTC (EST+5) is 6,804,963,067.

U.S. population in 2009 - 307,212,123. According to the U.S. Bureau of the Census, the resident population of the United States, projected to 02/25/10 at 15:30 UTC (EST+5) is 308,756,103. Increase of 154,398. Net gain of one person every 13 seconds.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010


I was looking at some old photos and realized that around the middle of March last year I was pulling weeds. That’s just a little over two weeks away. I know February is a short month but it seems to have whizzed away.

The crocus is still snow covered but by March 16 last year, purple crocus was in full bloom in the back garden.

By March 14, 2008, the bunnies were already chewing on the new growth of tulips.

A load of mulch arrived by the end of March that year.

I have a lot to finish before I start the wicked weed battle.

But first it has to stop snowing.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Good Bugs

(Monster-sized lady beetle models from Master Gardener display “Good Bugs/Bad Bugs” at Adventures in Agriculture at Palmer Mall, Easton, PA 2/14/10.)

If we need another reason to limit our use of insecticides, the risk of killing all the good bugs as well as the bad bugs makes a strong argument. As my grandmother used to say, “Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.”

One of my favorite references “The Organic Gardener’s Handbook of Natural Insect and Disease Control” provides a list of good bugs (as well as pests). It includes a description, locale, life cycle and how to attract. The illustrations are outstanding. I’m sorry I can’t publish the pictures. How many do you recognize by name? My total was 7.

Aphid Midge (Aphidoletes aphidimyza) – larvae feed on aphids
Assassin Bug (Family Reduviidae)– helps suppress flies and caterpillars
Bigeyed Bugs (Geocoris spp.) – valuable predators of aphids, leafhoppers, plant bugs, spider mites and small caterpillars
Braconid Wasps (Family Braconidae) – parasites of elm bark beetles, cabbage worms, hornworms, corn borers, aphids and others.
Bumblebees (Bombus spp.) - pollinators
Damsel Bugs (Family Nabidae) – predator of aphids, leafhoppers, plant bugs, thrips and small caterpillars
Ground Beetles – prey on slugs, snails, cutworms, cabbage root maggots, and other pests that have a soil-dwelling stage
Honeybees (Apis mellifera) - polinators
Hover Flies/Flower Flies (Family Syrphidae) – larvae feed on aphids
Ichneumon Wasps (Family Ichneumonidae) – larva parasites of caterpillars, sawfly, and beetle larvae, and other insects
Lacewings (Chrysoperla (= Chrysopa) spp.) – general predator
Lady Beetles (Family Coccinellidae) – feed on aphids and soft bodied pests
Mealybug Destroyer (Cryptolaemus montrouzieri) – prey on aboveground species of mealybugs
Minute Pirate Bug (Orius tristicolor) – predators of thrips, mites, small caterpillars, leafhopper nymphs, other small insects and insect eggs
Mites, Predatory (Family Phytoseiidae) – attack spider mites
Praying Mantid (Mantis religiosa) – catch and devour both pests and beneficial insects
Rove Beetles (Family Staphylinidae) – control aphids, springtails, mites, nematodes, flies, cabbage maggots
Soldier Beetles (Family Cantharidae) – larvae and adults prey on cucumber beetles, corn rootworms, aphids, grasshopper eggs, caterpillars and beetle larvae
Spined Soldier Bug (Podisus maculiventris) – attacks caterpillars and grubs, including tent caterpillars, fall armyworms, sawfly larvae and Mexican been beetle larvae
Tachinid Flies (Family Tachinidae) – predators of cutworms, armyworms. cabbage loopers, gypsy moth larvae and others
Tiger Beetles (Family Cicindelidae) – feed on a variety of insects
Yellow Jackets (Limonius spp.) – predators of flies, caterpillars and other pests. Can be a pest at picnics.

I could go on and on about this book. It’s a good reference for anyone interested in organic gardening. I think the short, illustrated section on “Insect Impostors” is worth the price since I can’t tell a soldier bug from a stink bug.

(University of Delaware Cooperative Extension publication “Beneficial Insects”.)
I had to post a picture of the Krekk Alpacas hanging out at Adventures in Agriculture. Always a big hit. .

Wednesday, February 17, 2010


January 18, 2010


January 28, 2010 (2 plus inches)

February 1, 2010 (about 11 inches)

February 7, 2010 (20 inches)

February 16, 2010 – (19 days to the jackpot at 24 inches)

(This plant missed Garden Bloggers Bloom Day but you can see other beautiful blooms (and more amaryllis) at May Dreams Gardens. Thanks to Carol for hosting this fun event on the 15th of every month.)

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Snow Day

10 AM

Two feet of snow fell on Wednesday. It came down fast.
For a day, the world was quiet – covered in downy whiteness.

2 PM

4 PM

10 AM

2 pm

4 PM

A bright Thursday dawned to nature’s whimsy. Garland on the deck rail and -

Upholstered furniture on the patio.


Wednesday, February 10, 2010


(Picture published by Northeast Cave Conservancy.)
Most of us agree that bats are not pretty. We also agree that they are extremely useful devouring mosquitoes and other pests at a rate of up to 3,000 per night. What will happen to the mosquito population without bats?

According to an article in our local newspaper (The Morning Call), White-nose Syndrome (WNS) is continuing to spread in the northeast US. It has spread “500 miles in two years with a 96 percent mortality rate.”

First spotted in 2006 near Albany New York it has spread through neighboring states and into Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Virginia. “Reported in PA Late last month, Pennsylvania Game Commission officials discovered white-nose syndrome in caves in Carbon and Monroe counties. Before that, they found it in Durham Township, in upper Bucks County, and it's likely in Schuylkill County, too.”

White-nose syndrome (WNS) is caused by fungus Geomyces destructans which grows in cold temperatures when bats immune system is thought to be lowered. For some reason, bats wake from hibernation early using energy reserves before a food source is available - literally starving to death. Researchers continue to work on a solution.

If you see bats flying in the daytime or before the middle of April, report to your State Game Commission or wildlife service. A form to report sick bats from Pennsylvania Game Commission is here.

Bats help control mosquitoes that carry West Nile Virus, Eastern Equine Encephalitis, Canine Heartworm and crop insects. I don’t find them attractive but I really don’t want to be without them.

(Another WNS post February 27, 2008.)


Saturday, February 06, 2010

Confederate Jasmine

Trachelospermum jasminoides

The Confederate Jasmine lives in a south facing window. (See November 28, 2009 post.)

There was some leaf drop after I brought it home. It seems to have recovered very well. I cut off some of the wild growth about two weeks ago.

I would have waited to prune until after flowering since the vine blooms on old wood but it sends out shoots rapidly. You can see the return of wild growth at the top of the above picture.

And now there are blooms – delicate, white and lightly fragrant.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Hellebores in February

This is what my hellebores (Helleborus orientalis) look like at the beginning of February.

I probably wouldn’t have paid any attention to them but Susan from Maryland zone 7b asked fellow members of Doug Green’s Online Gardening Club, Perennial Flower Group, to share their experiences with hellebores.

The conversation was joined by Yvonne in Illinois (zone 5), Linda in Southwest Kentucky (zone 6) and Janet. Doug Green (who is always hovering in the background to keep everyone out of trouble) posted a link to his “gardening tips for perennials”.

The gardening club is a fun way to connect with fellow gardeners. Their personal experiences add so much to my gardening practices.

Even though my hellebores have taken a beating this winter the purple buds are beginning to form. By March and into April, I will enjoy their early blooms. (See post from April 2009.)

(The groundhog has spoken – 6 more weeks of winter.)