Wednesday, January 30, 2008


Hemlock Wooly Adelgid (Adelges tsugae Annand) has become a problem in eastern Pennsylvania forests.

Penn State Department of Entomology fact sheet: "The most obvious sign of a hemlock woolly adelgid infestation is the copious masses of white filaments of wax produced by females. These "cottony" masses normally persist throughout the season and into the following year, even after the insects are dead”.

Our 35-year-old hemlocks are about 70 feet tall. (see picture below) That’s too large for me to spray with insecticidal soap. I’m keeping an eye on them. Hopefully, they will last another 35 years.

Here are a two sites that illustrate the difficulty of control.

USDA Forest Service “An Exotic Pest Threat to Eastern Hemlock: An Initiative for Management of Hemlock Woolly Adelgid”

Save Our Hemlocks Action Team

Saturday, January 26, 2008


Snow on the Hemlocks - 1/19/08

God made snowy days so gardeners could get the housework done.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008


Snack attack?

Over the weekend our neighborhood was visited by what I believe was a heron. It was strange to see a huge bird fly to the top of a neighbor’s house.

There are several ponds in the neighborhood. I guess this bird is looking for a tasty Koi.

Saturday, January 19, 2008


From April 18, 2007 post: “The Bougainvillea is blooming in my living room”

Well, it’s starting to blooming again. This plant started life in my house as a small plant in a 3" pot. I brought it home from the Philadelphia Flower Show about 8 to 10 years ago. It is now 4 to 5 feet tall in a 15" pot.

I don’t know why it keeps growing. I put it out on the deck in the summer and feed it sometimes. It’s full of thorns and grows over the sofa and into the corner hutch. Getting it outside is a mess. It lives on a wheeled wooden caddy. I try not to get falling leaves all over the house or poke my eye out when I drag it outside. Every year I say I’m not going to bring in again. Every fall I drag it back to the living room.

I grew a cutting a few years ago. One winter the cutting got stuck behind some other house plants and I forgot to water it. End of plant.

It usually doesn’t bloom in the summer. According to Plant Answers , it is a heavy feeder. Maybe I’ll feed it more this summer to see if I can get it to bloom outside. I'm sure it's pot bound but I’m not about to try to re-pot the monster. Maybe I won’t bring it in next fall.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Garden Book

The Organic Gardener’s Handbook of Natural Insect and Disease Control, edited by Barbara W. Ellis and Fern Marshall Bradley. 1996 Rodale Press, Inc.

I’m enjoying browsing through this Christmas gift. You need to be really, really interested in gardening to stay with this book. Realizing that it is a reference book, I found the identification parts of the book the most valuable. I’m not so sure about the recommended controls.

The “Problem-Solving Plant Guide” starts with a plant description. The by-plant section includes flowering plants, shrubs, vegetables and fruits. Then, a list of problems the plant may have ends with page number for control information.

The section, “Insects. Recognizing Your Friends – Eliminating Your Foes,” includes everything from aphids to yellow jackets. The illustrations are small but each insect is accompanied by 2 to 6 pictures. Each insect section includes Description, Life Cycle, Beneficial Effect or Damage Control or How to Attract. The life cycle information is important since some insects can only be controlled at a specific stage of life. It’s nice to have this information in one book.

The book continues with “Diseases and Organic Controls” again with pictures. Type of Problem, Symptoms, Plants Affected, and Prevention and Control for each disease is listed.

Most of the general advice is not something we haven’t heard before. Use disease resistant plants. Clean up plant debris. Prune to insure good air flow. Eliminate weeds. Select the right plant for the space. Use compost and mulch. – a brief synopsis of good advice.

It’s a good reference book and reads like, well, a reference book. I’ll have to force myself to read through some sections. Maybe I’ll read “Diseases. Identifying the Cause – Implementing the Cures” during the next snow storm - unless Dan Brown writes a new book.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

A Gardener’s Christmas

All I need is a few garden gifts and life is good.
Please add a comment and share the gifts you received for your garden this season.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Christmas Cactus - 2


Some of my Christmas cacti may actually be Thanksgiving cactus. The white blooming plant from December 1, 2007 post always blooms in November. I call them all Christmas cactus because I’m too lazy to make a distinction.

In early December, the red-orange flowering Christmas cactus started to bloom. The leaves are wider and thicker than my other cacti. This year it had a few large blooms.

I’ve had the traditional red Christmas cactus for many years. I received the original plant from my aunt. By cutting a length of a few leaves and rooting in potting soil, I’ve grown new plants to give away. They are very easy to propagate.

After blooming, the plants take a rest. In May, I will trim all the cacti and set them outside in a shady area. They seem to like being pot bound. I may repot and prune the roots once a decade. I fertilize about every two weeks in summer using Miracle Gro or Fish Emulsion. In late August, I bring them in and set them in a sunny window. The room is cool and gets very little artificial light. They bloom reliably each year.

For more information see Purdue Ext Christmas Cactus FAQ

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Garden 2007


The soil tests were easy to do. (see September 29, 2007 post) The results for the lilac/shade garden bed) were the most interesting. Calcium and Magnesium are way above optimum. Soil pH, Phosphate and Potash are below optimum. Recommended fertilization: “Apply 3.5 lbs. per 100 square feet of 5-10-10 and 0.5 lbs. per 100 square feet of 0-46-0.” I will continue to add compost and mulch to this bed and fertilize in spring. Hopefully, this will make a difference since this garden is starting to look a little sad. Now I know where to start.

The “Circle Garden”, put in to enhance the shape of the steps from the deck, is beginning to fill in. I like the plan this year – outside edge line Elijah blue fescue; next line grey Dusty Miller; then euonymus and an inside row of sweet alyssum. (see April 15, 2007 post). In another few years it should be perfect. Photos below compare the garden from August 2006 to July 2007. Gardening surely takes patience.

I shared some plants this year with community gardens, herb society, and with friends. It is very satisfying to find a use for surplus plants.

Old reliable winners

I have heard some gardeners say they get tired of their old plants. I will never tire of these old, reliable inhabitants in my garden.

Crocus - energizing a new season --- Azalea – riot of color

Columbine – simple and prolific --- Roses - fragrance and bloom

Coleus – a bright spot wherever they are

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

2007 Garden

As I looked through the garden photos from 2007, I found some winners and some losers and a few that were a little of both.


The pot of Double Flowering Tuberose (Polianthea tuberosa) did not bloom (again). I promised myself if there were no blooms in 2007, they would be compost. But, I've the pot away for the winter (again). (see December 29, 2006 post). We’ll see. I get plenty of green leaves and lots of new bulbs each year, but no blooms. I don't know if I'm ready to give up the challenge.

Lobelia 'Crystal Palace' started with a few pretty, bright blue flowers in a pot with zinnias. They never developed into much. I’m not sure if it was the competition from the zinnias or the shade from the zinnias or the hot, dry summer. I've tried nasturtiums and petunias in the bottom of this patio pot. Neither one worked very well. I’ll be looking for a different cascading plant this spring. I may try some of the bright sweet potato vines.

In the middle

Container Vegetables. The cucumber (Bush Champion) plants produced a normal amount of cukes before they were overcome with mildew. I may try a mildew resistant variety this year. The beans (Kentucky Wonder) were a success producing beans into fall. But, keeping the containers watered was a problem in the hot, dry summer. I will be researching watering methods and gadgets this winter.

Making aerobic compost tea was easy enough to do. (see July 7, 2007 and August 8, 2007 posts) I think I got some good results on the roses. I’m not sure how valuable it is as a soil amendment. I’ll be trying it on a portion of the lawn next spring. At the very least, I got to stretch my valuable compost a little further.

Sweet Pea (Sweet Dreams & Streamers Mix) took a long time to germinate. Half of them turned brown and withered. The other half produced a fair amount of flowers. The flowers were almost exclusively lilac colored with few exceptions. There was no noticeable fragrance.

I’ll get to the winners next time.