Thursday, July 28, 2011

Tigers and Friends Butterfly Video

Tiger Swallowtails are here. I went out to make a little video. I was out there exclaiming about the Tigers and after I had five videos on which I point out Tigers when I realized that one of my Tigers is a Giant Swallowtail.

At the end, two Tigers fly high into the sky. You may want to watch it again full screen -- use the little icon in the right hand corner opposite the play button.

A short video with the Giant Swallowtail up close. He was so tattered but he was busy on the Tithonia:

Close up of a Tiger:

I made some other videos. These are as good as they get. I'm trying to watch the camera, watch the butterflies, look for snakes, avoid the bees and fight off gnats. You should be here to see them -- the butterflies I mean. I amazed myself with the capture of the Tigers flying high into the sky.

Oh, and I saw a big Red Spotted Purple this morning. I ran for the camera. He flew away when I pointed it his way.

Secrets of a Seedscatterer July 2011.

Pears are an Underrated Fruit

Cooks in the south historically cook hard pears and make preserves, pear honey, and pear pie or some other delicious baked goods. When I was a child, we had pear trees that had tiny sweet pears that usually rotted on the tree. My MIL used to can pears but they were always grainy and kind of chewy compared to canned pears from the grocery. I wanted sweet juicy pears that you need to eat in the nude because of all that dripping juice.

Here’s what I’ve learned. Some years back we planted three pear trees. One Pineapple pear, one Hood and one that is either Keiffer or Orient or maybe it’s Keiffer and Orient and not Hood. Not to worry. I didn’t label them. I know the one in the middle is a pear that will soften and tastes wonderful peeled and eaten when picked when mature, ripened off the tree and allowed to soften. The others are ‘hard pears’ but I’m learning about softening pears. The key terms are Mature, Ripe and Soft.

In the midst of going from Mature to Ripe the pears must be picked then refrigerated, some for only a day or two, others for up to a month. The Ripe pears are brought out to soften at room temperature prior to peeling and eating or using in cooking.

Why? Because pears left to ripen on the tree on the tree develop stone cells which make the texture gritty. Then they ripen from the core outward and a ripe pear on the tree is rotten at the core. That’s why my pears were never buttery and juicy like pears from the grocery store. I was waiting for them to get ripe and soft on the tree. It isn’t going to happen.

The other thing I’ve learned is why my two hard pears alternated years having bumper crops and no pears in the off year. There are also broken limbs from the weight of all those pears. Overcropping is the term for what is happening. As difficult as it is to remove a tiny fruit, they must be thinned early and I must not wait until the limbs are hanging with big fruits. Fruit buds for the next year form soon after full bloom. Overcropping prevents fruits forming and that is why my trees alternate years.

We're eating pears: ripe, soft, juicy. I've made pear preserves.

I'm excited about sending my vegetable gardening neighbors who have shared veggies with me some ripened, soft pears for eating and some ripe hard pears for making pear tarts.

Secrets of a Seedscatterer

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Butterfly Videos and Random Comments

Hot and humid weather leads to inactivity which leads to boredom. I went out to get another butterfly video and just missed a hummingbird at the Duranta.

The contraption at lower right of the Duranta is an armadillo trap. Our new plan is to catch and release up at the hay field to root up fire ant mounds in our hay field. We noticed that they were eating fire ants in the yard. Fire ants may not be the delicacy that they perceive grubs and worms, but they seem to be effective. We need to mark them so we know whether they come back home. I read they have a 4 mile range.  One went to the hay field this morning, almost a mile from the house.

The Tiger I saw was too fast to get a decent glimpse. He must have been newly hatched.

Yesterday afternoon I saw that Curcuma is blooming. It started raining before I could get to it with a camera today as soon as I finished the Duranta vid. It is a joy to have a garden in summer. My new Porterweed plant bloomed and it is blue/purple. Still lots to look forward to even when the heat and humidity are oppressive.

Secrets of a Seedscatterer

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Cuttings, Sprouts or Seeds?

Someone asked if I planted seeds from my gardenias. I'm not sure that I've seen gardenia seeds. There isn't much at the base of dried gardenia blooms that looks like a seed. I had never considered such. My propagation book says 7 years from seed to bloom. I can't wait that long. A cutting will root in a bottle of water in a north window this summer and bloom if not the next summer, the next, if potted when roots form. A gardenia is a joy. Plentiful gardenia bushes are largesse.

From right, Vitex from a cutting, Dogwood from seed,
Seedling Camellia and gardenia from a cutting.
Crape Myrtles in the background were sprouts.

Camellia seed pod.
Inside are marble sized black seeds when ripe.

Seed to bloom takes about 4-5 years.
Cuttings are a little faster.

Seedling Camellias and  a white Crape Myrtle.

Seed pods on a white Crape myrtle look similar to bloom buds above them.
Seed pods are larger and darker. Seedlings may not look like the parent.
My white Crape sprouts came from the Colonel's Lady's garden in town.
All but 2 were white. They bloomed in a nursery bed so I could
choose before I moved them to permanent homes.

Dogwood seeds are ready to plant when they turn red.
They may be soaked, the red part rubbed off and seeds stratified.
My method is to poke them into the ground when I gather them.
It may take an extra year for sprouting, but I used not to mind.

Oakleaf hydrangea seed heads can be gathered in a paper bag and shaken to release the seeds.
A faster plant is to dig suckers from around the shrub as shown below.

Esperanza, Tecoma stans and Pride of Barbados, Caesalpinia pulcherrima are perinnials here, dying back to the ground at frost. They are easily started from seed.

Seeds of Esperanza look like green bean pods but are filled with many small seeds layered in a white tissuepaper-like substance.

Seeds of Pride of Barbados are large flat seeds in a pea-like pod. I have trouble collecting these seeds because they suddenly ripen and the pods open  and seeds fall to the ground and disappear. Picked too soon, they tend to mold in the pod.

If like me you grow for the joy of seeing plants from seed to blooom you may choose to grow from seeds, strike some cuttings and collect suckers from underneath mother plants.

If you are on a budget but propagation isn't your interest, you might start with small nursery plants, remembering to give them space.

If you want a finished look the first year more costly full-sized plants are available.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Where I Go to Get Away -- Woods and Meadows

I stopped to visit across the fence with the neighbor's donkeys.
My camera batteries died and I did not bring spares.

"What a dumb-ass," they said and ran away.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

A Last Gardenia and a Look at Upper Garden

Every gardenia blossom in late July is potentially the last. This one is the only open bloom today and pretty enough to show up from a distance.

A little flight of steps leads up between gardenia bushes to a landing and
path through the azaleas to the Upper Garden.

Lirope is starting to bloom.

I favor begonias over impatiens because
they can get by without water for a whole day
when impatiens are fainting in the heat.

Little Gem Magnolia between flushes of bloom.
Close up pics of some of the plants shown are Here
Graptopetalum and Persian Shield.
The red flowers are Pentas, Brazilian ruellia and Begonias.

New Magnolia buds are forming and there are many seed pods from
previous blooms. This pic is from last Saturday when it rained.

All the paths are grass, cool in the shade and easy to reshape when I change my mind.
I took a weedwhacker to one edge of the one on the right on Monday.

A video attempt to capture Dogface Sulphurs on Duranta.

Sulphurs fold their wings when they light so you never really see them in all their glory except when they fly. Then they dart around and hideYou have to look hard to see them on the plants.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Sticks and All and a Southern Drawl

I was just looking at a blog whether the writer was reluctant to show much of her garden, fearing that we might judge her for some imagined shabby gardenkeeping or was it that we might invade some private area? Here I was about to show you the whole front yard!

A panorama of the front lawn inside the driveway loop.
We hung a new flag yesterday on the anniversary of the Monkeyman's death.
He gave us a flagpole and flag for Christmas one year.

Near the highway along the north drive. I do not plant in the right of way. 
What used to be a ditch is now a swale. Grass is thin because of the recent drought.

 From center of the front looking northeast, same bed as above. 
The Upper Garden is behind the tree line and beyond it the fruit trees and okra patch.

Toward the southeast. Flowerbed where I make the butterfly photos is at far right behind stones.
Things are always going in and out of bloom.  The rain kicked the alternanthera into growth.
When I look at my own pics I can see where more plants are needed. I have two darker
alternanthera to go in that space in front of the light colored stone.

Here's the obligatory butterfly video made this morning before the lawn was mowed.
Tigers are back.

Here's the view coming from the house.

Sticks and all -- I didn't sweep the driveway. But you're looking at the new flag and the dogwood I grew from a seedling and the woods across the road where my FIL used to grow hogs and the crape myrtles that grew from twigs and the pattern that shadows make on the lawn.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Porterweed oh Porterweed

Somehow I let Stachytarpheta die out. I could have taken cuttings last fall and didn't. A plant or two could have returned from the roots this spring but failed. I saved no seeds. I could have made a trip to a Florida nursery. Dear Susie brought Porterweed plants to Church this morning for all the ladies who garden. Butterflies here will be delighted with the long bloom spikes once mine starts to bloom.

Bloom spike soon to have little red or blue blossoms along its length.
Color doesn't really matter, butterflies are equally attracted to both.

I am just so proud of this Porterweed plant.
This fall I will not fail to take cuttings and save seed.

In the meantime, butterflies stay busy on Tithonia,
Verbena on a stick, Lanatana, Crocosmia, Zinnias, and Duranta.
This fellow is too busy on Crocosmia to hold still.
Poor little thing had tattered wings, still flying.

Spicebush Swallowtails are showing up to join the Pipevine cousins since
Duranta commenced bloom.

Cloudy and damp all day. We've had 2.5 inches of rain total in the past four days.
Grateful for every drop.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Okra Blossoms for Bloom Day in the Rain

When I went out to make my Bloom Day pics it was starting to rain and thundering.
I hurried to get okra bloom shots combined here with a previous days' picking.

Tithonia, Tecoma stans, Pride of Barbados and yellow Zinnias

Butterflies and their favorite delights were what I had hoped to show today.
 Those above are some from drier days this week. The following link is from Sunday. 

Other butterfly favs blooming here are Pentas, Duranta, Verbena on a Stick and Lantana.

Bloom Day is hosted by Carol of May Dreams Gardens. Visit Carol to show your Bloom Day blossoms and find many other Bloom Day posts.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Duranta and other Delights of the Day

Tropical shrubs that are root-hardy in my climate are a delight from July to Frost. The dead trunks are cut to the ground and winter is a barren slate waiting for early daffodils. Spring is full of other beauties and when those are done, Summer Stars come out.

I'm so happy to have discovered Duranta. I passed up Gold Edge and regretted that. Since I found the regular Duranta erecta, I'm not sorry about Gold Edge. Texas Superstars site says it is more suited to the shade and 'is used for its foliage display, blooming is not important.' What! The blooms are the most important part -- ask butterflies -- and the golden dewdrop berries are second most.

Already 5' tall, Duranta is blooming with the Crapes.

This is the only Duranta shrub blooming so far. Four cuttings rooted last summer are in bud.
I plan to root more for a hanging basket for the winter. Duranta bloomed indoors the first year I had it.

Another purple favorite, Strobilanthes or Persian Shield,
here with lavender Pentas.

Persian Shield also dies to the ground at frost.
I have cuttings coming on to keep inside where they may
have little blue conehead blossoms in winter.

Butterflies are finding magenta Pentas.
Pentas are another plant that may return but I take cuttings
because if happy, they will bloom indoors this winter.

Hibiscus syriacus, known to us as Althea.
You may know it as Rose of Sharon.
I have just the one plant, but it comes in lovely colors and
roots easily. It would make a nice deciduous hedge.

It only takes one Reine des Violettes rose to perfume the air.
Here it is backed by pink Crape Myrtle.

Gardenias are more or less done blooming this summer.
I caught the fragrance before I saw the flower.
They've had lots of yellow leaves because of drought.

I'm always wondering what will bloom for Bloom Day, which is near.
There is always a blossom somewhere.
There are some really gaudy show-offs in the Upper Garden.