Monday, August 31, 2009

Love Thy Neighbor

Guest Post:

In early 1980, I moved into a new contemporary, California-cedar style subdivision near Marietta, Georgia. My house was situated on the corner lot at the main entrance. Boldly constructed in my front yard was a rustic sign the size of a SUV which read: HORSESHOE BEND. There were no liens or claims on my property and my attorney told me that the sign was legally mine. Not wanting to upset any of the neighbors before they got to know who was upsetting them, and being the new guy on the block, I let it stand. There would be plenty of time for creating a neighborhood ruckus later on. As it turned out, my patience was tested sooner than I'd expected. Unbeknownst to me, the mammoth sign was considered a community bulletin board. Within days, residents were posting all sorts of fliers advertising yard sales, cook-outs, lost animals, missing wives and homeowner's association meetings. All things considered, a subtle approach to the situation seemed to be the best solution.

The idea of planting a wall of Red Tip Photinias and assorted shrubbery around the front of my property, especially the HORSESHOE BEND sign, seemed like a good solution at the time. If I were polite and subtle, perhaps the residents would get the hint and the problem would vanish along with the view of the sign.

As it turned out, most of the residents were ravioli-raised refugees from New York City who had never been enlightened to the strange Southern tradition of respecting private property. Their homeowner's association had a swimming pool and tennis club that seemed to elevate their self esteem to an elitist position.

Three growing seasons passed and the removal of fliers and posters remained a daily chore. All the while, my wall of shrubbery grew quite well and became hardy because of proper trimming, watering and fertilizing. Eventually, the big HORSESHOE BEND sign became a faint image in the midst of a jungle of greenery.

One Saturday Morning, I looked out my window and was shocked to see a man with hedge trimmers and pruning shears cutting down my shrubs so that the precious sign would be visible again. Just as he was completing his destruction, I confronted him in the act red handed - or rather green handed - but the damage was already done. All of the things I ever thought about saying to a damn Yankee became bluntly audible in my front yard that morning for all the world to hear. All the while, I was fully aware that pruning shears can be a weapon and was adequately prepared to defend myself just in case. In spite of the devastation he had caused to my property, he was not the least bit apologetic. In fact, he was arrogant and defensive. His name was Gino. This magnificent example of Marsala mentality actually thought that the homeowner's association owned my property and he felt highly honored to do their dirty work.

As it turned out, there was a function and celebration at the clubhouse that evening honoring youth sports and outstanding young athletes. My across-the-street neighbor Charlie, a good ol' Southern boy who had stood on the curb that morning and observed the entire confrontation had two boys who were being recognized at the festivities. During the course of the evening, Charlie began teasing Gino about the pleasant neighborhood gathering which he had witnessed on my front lawn. Gino responded by arrogantly boasting that he was victorious in winning both the battle and the war because the homeowner's association got exactly what they wanted. Their fancy sign could now be clearly seen by everyone passing by.

The first thing Sunday morning, Charlie couldn't wait to come running over to tell me what Gino had said. Some of that leftover Vietnam frustration churned up from deep inside my gut. The next thing I knew, my freshly sharpened chain saw was transforming an expensive sign into a thousand splinters piled up on the roadside for everyone's viewing pleasure.

Thirty minutes later, a pickup truck slid into my driveway to a screeching halt. I immediately noticed a Delta Pilot's sticker on the windshield. Out stepped an angry man with bad attitude on a misguided mission. He lumbered out onto my lawn and immediately started ranting and raving...threatening me with a lawsuit.

I interrupted the man long enough to get his name. I then explained to him that I was going to swear out a warrant for Gino and have him arrested for destroying private property. I asked the man if I could give the police his name as the person responsible for posting Gino's bail bond. That question seemed to confuse him. In closing, I informed the pilot that since both my wife and I worked for Delta, we were going to report his poor eyesight and decision-making ability to Delta's personnel office. And the only other suggestion I offered this stunned pilot was this:

Funny thing. He did exactly as he was told - and quickly. I never heard from any of them again.

We had purchased a small farm in the country south of Atlanta and were on the verge of moving. We put our house up for sale and moved, leaving the pile of kindling in the front yard. The house sold quickly. Perhaps it was the colorfully lighted 24 X 24 foot game room which I'd finished in the basement hidden behind a tool-laden wall next to the garage that helped seal the deal.

It was only after the closing that we learned that the new owners were members of an Oriental motorcycle gang and they had just bought themselves a new clubhouse with a two-car garage which would later be used as a repair shop.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

A Squirrel with a Monkey Face

Sciurus niger, Eastern Fox Squirrel.

In case you missed the Dotty Pants post with his pictures, here he is in the big pecan tree, looking much like a monkey.

Saturday, August 29, 2009


Alternanthera have a rather large number of descriptive common names, including Joseph’s coat, copperleaf, calico plant, joyweed and parrot leaf, all in reference to the brightly colored leaves.

Alternanthera dentata 'Purple Knight' grows larger and stronger than A. ficoides. Given bright sun and a trellis to climb, it will grow 3 feet tall, as here. Two plants filled the end of this bed. A plant I put in shade is a pale maroon and never branched or spread.

Chartreuse alternanthera hardly grows taller than 6" and requires bright, hot sun for the best color. It does spread to the width of a large dinner plate. The red visible at right falls somewhere between the purple and the chartreuse, sometimes growing as big as a half-bushel basket in rich soil and overwhelming its chartreuse companions. It will turn red in about a month, one of the best fall color plants.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Little Red Bed

A mixed bed with porterweed, across a path from pentas, planted to attract butterflies that come across the open space next to a field road.

I'm disappointmented in the chartreuse alternanthera, which has not grown as big nor as brightly yellowish as it would be in more sun.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Pear Preserves


It has rained most of the day today, so no butterfly pictures, though I did see some butterflies when I went to the mailbox.

I'm inside, making pear preserves from a bumper crop of pears. They're not the sticky, syrupy preserves of 30 years ago made with as many cups of sugar as of fruit. These are just hard pears with a scant sprinkle of sugar and a little water to keep them from sticking to the pan until they're nearly translucent, and soft.

The pears won't be canned, just spooned into freezer containers -- did you know they make plastic freezer containers now with twist-on lids? A spoonful of fruit for DH's breakfast has replaced sweet jelly of days past.

Monarch Butterfly

Monarchs are rare visitors here, usually just passing through to a warmer or cooler climate, depending on the time of year. I was surprised to see this one Wednesday morning, cavorting on Tithonia with the Gulf Frits and Dark Swallowtails.

I always look up Monarchs to make sure my Monarch isn't a Viceroy. The double row of white spots confirmed him. Viceroys have a dark line on the hind wing to distinuish them.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

No Butterflies, No Flowers

Not all butterflies routinely nectar on flowers.
Occasionally a Red Spotted Purple shows up around my house....

September 13, 2009
The remainder of this post has been deleted. It was linked without notification and I found the link by accident.

My content is not all that valuable, but the least a person can do is let someone know he thinks it's good enough to promote, and give credit.

If you're a visitor and came here to see the butterflies, they are here:
Red Spotted Purple

Thank you for visiting; please leave a comment so I'll know where you came from. Comments up to now are from people I know.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Blooming Tuesday for Butterflies

Spicebush Swallowtail on Pentas

Clouded Sulphur on Esperanza (Tecoma stans)

Blooming Tuesday is hosted by
Ms.Green Thumbs
. Visit her to see links to other Tuesday Blooms blogs.

Swallowtails and Gulf Frits on Tithonia

Black Swallowtails on Pentas

Swallowtail on Porterweed

More Butterflies and Blossoms are on my Dotty Pants blog. It's very hard to decide which to post when butterflies are plentiful. It takes patience to get their little pictures, but it is very rewarding, the wait.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Gerbera Daisies and Persian Shield

I happened to have scissors in my pocket when I noticed these daisies had lain down in the garden. I grabbed a bit of Persian Shield as I passed it and made a little bouquet. They were kind of wilty from the heat, but hot water perked them right up.

Tigers in the Garden

Bengal Tiger Canna shows off with sunlight at an angle through the striped leaves. It takes oceans of water to grow Cannas well. Crinums, Elephant Ears, Cannas and other water hogs are lumped together here. Notice the little solar fountain is still spouting at lower edge.

Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly on Tithonia

A view from the north edge of the Upper Garden, under shade of a Live Oak. Bengal Tiger is at distant right.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Asses, Grasses and Persian Shield

How can I put such disparate subjects into one post? Cameron mentioned mixing Grasses with purple and pink in her blog post today.

It happened that I made pics earlier of my Persian Shield, which would mix well with Purple Fountain Grass and other plants that Cameron mentioned, which I will try next year.

Asses? The neighbors have Donkeys inside their fence. Our field starts beyond the trees in the background behind the Donkeys.

Local Stachytarpheta or Vervain

When I took to the fields this afternoon, I found Blue Vervain growing in part shade.

I also found New York Ironweed and Beautyberry, other native members of the family Verbenacea. NY Ironweed closely resembles Verbena bonariensis.

Stachytarpheta -- More About Porterweeds

When I posted the pic of the Red Porterweed two days ago, I didn't give the botanical name. I'll try to clarify the porterweeds and their kin.

Stachytarpheta mutabilis = Red Porterweed is a tropical plant from South America. The Red is similar in growth habit to Stachytarpheta urticifolia the Blue Porterweed that I grow.

Stachytarpheta urticifolia -- the name gives a clue that the leaves might make our skin itch. Both the red and blue Porterweeds are tropicals, not reliably hardy in my zone 8 garden. Mine came originally from a plantation butterfly garden nearby and I keep cuttings over the winter. When I took the pic of the porterweed this morning, a cool wind was blowing and the butterflies were hanging around Tithonia in sunnier parts of the garden.

Stachytarpheta jamaicensis, or Jamaica Porterweed is considered a south Florida native, but some believe it came to Florida with Bahamian settlers who brought seeds of medicianal plants with them. It is a lower, more spreading grower than the others, also with blue flowers.

Frequently seen in southern states is Blue Vervain, or Veberan hastata. This plant is sometimes called Swamp Verbena, or wild Hyssop. Butterflies flock to it in wild areas. More about Blue Vervain at Clemson Extension

Friday, August 21, 2009

When a Thug Gets Sick -- Obedient Plant

There is a patch of Obedient Plant at the end of a row of Loropetalums that have grown up like trees. Incidentally, I saw butterflies visiting loropetalum flowers today - the loropetalums put on scattered blossoms late in August sometimes.

Anyhow, back to the Obedient Plant which surrounds a small boxwood, plants in the middle are starting to wilt and die. If I pull them up, the wilty ones have a web-like white substance on the roots. the more pitiful ones have brown, dying roots. All the sick ones pull up easily. The still healthy ones will not come up easily and the one I pulled up to check, had good healthy appearing roots. I pulled up all that would easily pull and put them in the trash. They wait to bloom here until almost frost and I'm not particularly fond of them. Do you think they sensed that and decided to go on?

Red Porterweed

I've waited all summer for this Red Porterweed to bloom. It was the only red to return. No blues returned at all. All the rooted cuttings I had were blue, no red rooted. Funny, the only porterweeds I was able to grow last year from seed were red. This is the only one to survive the winter.

It started raining and I couldn't wait for the dark swallowtail I saw to return.

Blog Housekeeping

Do you regularly check your own links? Capricious in Cleveland changed her blog some months back. Because she's on my feed list, I failed to click on my own list of blogs. Turns out she was reachable if you click through the old site, but inconvenient for anybody who wanted to check out her blog from my site.

I fixed that. Capricious still posts an occasional mouthwatering recipe but her blog extends to her rooftop garden and other interests now.

I spend a lot of time on adding and deleting entries to my feeds. I'll see a blog that looks so promising; they'll stop posting. I'm trying to limit garden blogs to those who have information most pertinent to my climate. Fellow gardeners in Georgia, north Florida, Alabama and other nearby Southern States are high on my list as well as Texas Gardeners from Dallas to the Gulf Coast. If it grows in most of Texas, it will grow in my garden, except for lime-lovers like bluebonnets.

There are exceptions. Sometimes I find a blog that is just too beautiful not to visit again and again. I have little spells of interest in those blogs with all the decorating features and the ones with an eye to thrift and recyling. I confess, if the blog turns out to be long posts of pictures 'borrowed' off the net, I'm probably going to delete. It's like going to somebody's house to look at their magazines, not that I wouldn't love that, especially if they served iced tea and some treats. I'm always curious as to how they get around the copyright issue?

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Wax Begonias for Shade

Mama used to grow wax begonias in pots, as houseplants. I think they're pretty as bedding plants, blooming non-stop.

In really hot climates, impatiens faint and fall over without constant watering. Wax Begonias enjoy water, but they can skip some of those waterings without withering. Begonias cuttings root easily. The colors range from white to red. The leaves may be bright green or a pretty bronze.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Tuesday's article in The Oregonian Home and Garden site lists plants for a medicinal herb garden. Monday's article tells how to prepare an herb garden.

(Following is a partial list of their recommendations, some of which I grow.)

The following herbs do well in full sun. 1-2 feet tall:

Calendula officinalis (calendula), orange flowers

Eschscholzia californica (California poppies), orange flowers

Marrubium vulgare (horehound), hairy silver-gray foliage, white flowers

Tanacetum parthenium (feverfew), white flowers

2-4 feet tall:

Echinacea purpurea (purple coneflower), dark pink flowers

Melissa officinalis (lemon balm), pale yellow flowers

Nepeta cataria (catnip), whitish-purple flowers

4-6 feet tall:

Artemisia absinthium (wormwood), silver-gray foliage, yellow flowers

Inula helenium (elecampne), yellow flowers

Valeriana officinalis (valerian), white or pink flowers

-- HGNW staff

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Orange in the Garden: Gulf Fritillaries and Tithonia

Gulf Fritillary (Agraulis vanillae) and Mexican Sunflower (Tithonia rotunifolia)

Tithonia seeds were sprinkled in many spots around the garden. Some have made compact plants. Some grew to 6 feet tall, requiring a stake to remain upright.

Gulf Fritillaries nectar here on many other flowers, including blue porterweed, zinnias of all colors and Pride of Barbados, in the garden, but Tithonia is definitely a favorite.

The host plant for Gulf Frit caterpillars is passion vine, growing not in the garden here but nearby at woods edge, intertwined here with wild muscadine vines.

Flamboyant orange radiates warmth and energy. Terra cotta, peach or apricot are usually more acceptable in more restrained gardens than mine.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Overcast Monday

The storm, Claudette, came ashore well to the west of us and is over in south Alabama, weakening. The flood watch will go away. We still expect afternoon showers and thunderstorms through the week. This August has been so different to the past two years when we hardly got a whiff of rain and melampodium struggled to hang on. Periwinkles would actually prefer to be a little dry, but they're bravely blooming in the damp.

Daturas -- the purples are wild. A yellow that returned from last year is smaller than before, with sparse blooms. I'm of the opinion that new Datura plants from seed every year may be preferable.

There's a view of the whole bed at the bottom of the blog page.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Butterflies in Adverse Weather

Butterflies were very active in the garden this afternoon, while the winds were increasing as Tropical Storm Claudette headed for the Florida Panhandle.

As the storms approach, butterflies are threatened. Not only does rain pose a direct threat of injury or death, but the cool air associated with storms may also reduce temperatures below the thermal threshold for butterfly flight. In preparation for flight, butterflies expose their wings to direct sunlight, which rapidly warms their flight muscles.

Sometimes butterflies become dormant during periods of extreme summer heat. This is called estivation. They again seek shelter, but in cool places.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

You Should Have Been Here Tomorrow

It never fails. I made pics late last evening so I'd be ready for Bloom Day this morning. Today everything looks better, especially these.

Crinum jagus

Purple Datura

Will I ever learn?

Bloom Day, August

I think I'll just post a few tropicals, since it is August.

Pride of Barbados and Esperanza

Curcuma (Hidden Ginger)

Crinum jagus, in bud. They open at night and stay open through the next day. Vanilla fragrance!

Bloom Day is hosted here: May Gardens. Go there to visit all the August Bloom Day Gardens and add yours to the list.

Datura, backed by Melampodium


Tropicals and subtropicals in glorious bloom I didn't post: Heliconia, Porterweed, Pentas, Cannas, Caladiums, Begonias, Shrimp Plant, Bulbine, Mandevilla, Madagascar periwinkle and Lantana. After two years of drought, we've had frequent rain this year. My new camera finally arrived.

Eager to post Bloom Day, I took pics late last evening. Today everything looks even better. If you came from May Dreams, you might want to go here: You Should Have Been Here Tomorrow to see the open Crinum buds and a better view of the Daturas.

Friday, August 14, 2009

A Pair of Pears

Pineapple Pear and following, another that is either Hood or the one I forgot the name, lol.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Hydrangeas without Tears

I've progressed past On, Point, Shoot. I took off the date stamp, after I made these pics. Now I don't have to crop my photos to remove the date.

Limentis arthemis astyanax: Red Spotted Purple

Here, he's on boxwood foliage:

Here, on the gas grill:

This Painted Lady was on a rusty metal chair in the garden. I don't know if it was just a place to rest, or if the butterfly was getting iron from the rust, as they frequently light on the ground to get minerals.