Saturday, September 29, 2012

Keep Your Eyes Peeled in the Garden

This has been a busy week, sorry for no tree post.  One of the trees I had photos of turned out to be another tree....another one I wasn't sure of which tree it might be.

I have been planting a lot of new plants in the garden.  One of the wholesale nurseries in our area had their yearly end of season sale...

As you can see, I had a couple wagon loads of new goodies to plant.  Some azaleas, heucheras, coneflowers, penstemons, and a Rodgersia- a new plant to me.  The azaleas were planted in spots where I had hydrangeas.  These poor struggling shrubs needed to be moved to get more light.

This is more of a post about CREATURES IN THE GARDEN....
because I was digging and exploring in the garden, I found many little creatures.  Some of these photos were posted on Facebook, but I know many of you are not on FB, so for those who have seen two of these pictures, I am sorry for the repeat.

Digging a hole for the hydrangea's new spot, along the side of the house, where there is a lot of activity....I found this little cutie--

I was worried the shovel might have injured him or another, so gently digging around I found his brothers...

Best guess from online info these are Eastern Box Turtles

After a quick photo-shoot they were returned to the spot in the garden where I found them.  I checked a couple times to see if they were still there or moving about.  After a few hours they were no where to be found, they blended into the garden quite well.  While looking for them there was a lot of leaf-rustling in that area....this is who I found.   A little Fence Lizard, he was probably about two inches from nose to tail.

Planting new plants, one needs water.  After one is done with the water, the hose needs to be put away.....carefully.

According to FB friend Christopher, this snake is all kinked because it is getting ready to shed its skin.  Believe it to be a Black Rat Snake.

Black Racers are fast movers, this one wasn't moving quickly, so my guess is Black Rat Snake.

But wait, there's more.  This is a Virgin Tiger Moth.  Very interesting markings.

A posting on the wildlife in my garden isn't complete without an Egret on the dock photo.  These birds migrate in the late fall and return to the lake in the spring. Our dock is a good fishing spot...for the birds, not so much for us.

We have all sorts of frogs and toads in our area, some are so small.   This little guy waited for a few pictures to be taken before he hopped into the garden.

Here is a close up of this nubby toad.

And finally, one of the reasons some of my plants have been eaten.  We have grasshoppers and this cleverly disguised muncher, a Katydid.

What creatures are in your garden??

©Copyright 2012 Janet. All rights reserved. Content created by Janet for The Queen of Seaford. words and photos by Janet,The Queen of Seaford.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Tuesday's Trees- Chinese Chestnut

This past spring there were some trees that had a long white flower on it.  From a distance, driving 55 mph, it could have been mistaken for a Sourwood except I knew that Sourwood did not grow this large and full crowned.  But what was it?  These trees were sighted along the highway in someone's yard, not really the place where you can stop and look closely.  
Well, as I headed to my friend's house for art class, I saw one close to my friend's house.  Since my friend is a tree person too I asked her if she knew what it was.  We hopped in the car, drove up there, looked at the tree, gathered a small branch and research began.   

See the flowers?  These long panicles of small flowers look similar in form to Sourwood FROM A DISTANCE!! up close, not similar at all.   After a great deal of looking, we decided it was a Chinese Chestnut, Castanea mollissima.  Chestnut was in my mind once I saw the beginnings of the nut.  The long white flowers are the male flowers and the little sputnik looking one is the female.  The Chestnut is monoecious.   The flowers appear late spring/ early summer.  Apparently the male flowers are quite fragrant, though I didn't notice it.  Another website says the flowers are foul smelling....glad I didn't get any scent from them.
The leaves are alternately arranged, large simple, pinnately veined, toothed margins.  The leaves can help identify Chinese or American Chestnuts.  The American is more  deeply serrated and slender.  This website has a good side by side comparison, from VA Tech.

These are the immature seeds, maturing late fall.  The stems on a Chinese Chestnut are grey in color.  (another difference between the American and Chinese)

The size of the seed pods are another major difference, the Chinese Chestnuts are larger.   How did I get a picture of the pod?  Well, the first fall I lived here I went up to Asheville with another Master Gardener and we went to the Bountiful City Project, an Edible Forest Ecosystem.    The fruit is edible and also eaten by squirrels, deer, and other mammals.

The Chinese Chestnut is smaller than the American, reaching a mature height of 40- 60 feet.  It is tolerant of many soil conditions except wetlands.   According to one of my sources, landscapers use this tree as a nice landscape tree where the dropping fruit pods will not bother people or pets walking near/under the tree.

You can see the fall colors starting to show, its fall color is yellow to copper.  It is a great shade tree and has few pests.  It is not native (Chinese) and was a good substitute for the American Chestnut that was hit by the chestnut blight.  

The bark is gray/brown to brown.  It has ridges in the bark with no clear pattern.   A mature tree has a rounded crown, forming a lovely tree.   It does not transplant well, it has a coarse root system.

One more look at the size of the leaves...they are quite large.   My sources online are VA Tech, Ohio Public Library, and University of Florida

©Copyright 2012 Janet. All rights reserved. Content created by Janet for The Queen of Seaford. words and photos by Janet,The Queen of Seaford.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

It Is Garden Blogger's Bloom Day

It is always nice to walk around the yard and document what is blooming each month.  Some of the flowers are waning just a bit, but there is still a lot of color.  Walk with me as we see what's blooming.  At the top of the pathway in the backyard are three Russian Sage, Perovskia atriplicifolia.  All summer the bees have enjoyed this great purple bloom.

Sages on the right, and recently planted on the left, Caryopteris x clandonensis 'Longwood Blue'.   The stamen look like long eyelashes.  I have wanted a Caryopteris for a while and lucked into a few at the end of season sale at Park Seed.   Mine are now blooming and  I am really glad to have some more purple/blue in the garden.

At the bottom of the pathway are a couple more new plants.  These are recent purchases.  They are taking the place of a couple Helenium 'Mardi Gras' that had to be removed because of aster yellows.  After a repeat planting of another batch of Helenium earlier in the season, I decided to change the type of plants.  Don't you just love the color of this one?  Agastache 'Heatwave'.   The hummingbirds have been checking this one out.  Hope it comes back well next year!

 Another replacement for the Helenium is a Black and Blue Salvia, Salvia guaranitica.  Have/had a small one that came with me from Virginia.  I finally conceded it wasn't in a good spot, moved it, and now it has disappeared.  Glad I bought a new one! You can see my 'helpers' in the background.  They wanted to be in each photo or on top of whatever bloom I was taking photographing.  Some got stepped on...a lot.   Rotten dogs.

 Continuing to the bank along the water, I have two Abelia x grandiflora 'Kalidescope' flanking the steps.  They are both in full bloom and doing well.  Love these red stems.

 Remember I mentioned that  I bought a few Caryopteris?  Well, on the bank there are three Caryopteris x clandonensis 'Sterling Silver'.  Love silvery foliage against the yellow of my Chamaecyparis pisifera 'Gold Threads'.

Here is another shot of the silvery foliage.  

Also on the bank is a nice stand of Catmint, again with the silvery foliage and blue/purple blooms.  There was too much activity with a certain dog and a blue ball, so we left the area before a good picture was taken.  Just above the Catmint are three rosemary bushes, in bloom.  Going with the blue blooms again...just love it!

In the woodland area my Cyclamen hederifolium are blooming. Such sweet little blooms.  I bought five corms and last year only three showed up.  So far this year only two have blooms.  The clumps are getting larger which is nice, just wish the others would show up.

In the family garden Clematis 'Prince Charles' is continuing to bloom.  This one has bloomed on and off all summer long.  Right now it is entwined in the gardenia bushes.  

My Pluchea camphorata is still blooming.  This dusty rose color is really nice against the woods.  When it goes to seed I will be gathering some of the seeds to scatter elsewhere.

And finally, please indulge me another photo of the toadlily, Tricyrtis formosana 'Gilt Edge'.  This is such a cool looking bloom, the desire is to get "THE" picture of it.  

This brings our stroll to a close, thanks for joining me.  Please go over and visit Carol at May Dreams Gardens for this month's Bloom Day.

©Copyright 2012 Janet. All rights reserved. Content created by Janet for The Queen of Seaford. words and photos by Janet,The Queen of Seaford.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Tuesday's Tree- Hackberry and Sugarberry

These are two different trees.  Both are part of the Celtis genus.  Similar trees in many ways.  This is a tale of two trees. 

A couple years ago I went on a Master Gardener study trip with my Virginia MG group.  I am still using photos and information learned from that trip.  Many trees were identified and photographed.  Hackberry, Celtis occidentalis, another native tree, new to me at the time.  
The hackberry's bark is ridged with corky spurs or warts, especially on more mature trees.   A mature tree will reach heights from 60 to 130 feet.  Interestingly it has a growth spurt between 20 to 40 years, living on average 150- 200 years.  
The native range of this tree is the eastern United States, south into the mountains of North Carolina with some reported spots in Alabama and Mississippi, west to the Dakotas, Nebraska, Colorado, and some parts of northern Texas.

 The alternate leaves on the Hackberry are ovate with serrated margins.  They are glossy green and roughly textured.

Interesting, this tree is polygamo-monoecious.  What is that???  All types of flowers are on this tree, male flowers, female flowers, and perfect flowers (containing both male and female parts).  An insignificant bloom occurs in the spring and berries form.  This berry is a food source for many birds and small mammals.  It is both a nectar and larval host plant for a number of butterflies, Mourning Cloak, Wild Cherry Sphinx, and Question Mark, to name a few. The fruit ripens to a dark reddish purple.   It is edible and sweet, but apparently the seed inside is really hard and can break your tooth should you bite into the fruit.  

The fall color is a muddy yellow.   The stems have a characteristic zig-zag growth pattern.   The stems have prominent lenticels (pores on the stems where gases are exchanged).  These trees are tolerant to various growing conditions, but prefer evenly moist soils.   It is listed as a good urban tree.  
The wood is used for furniture and mill work.  Poorer quality wood is used for crates. 
I used my usual references for this tree, Silvics Manual, VA Tech,  and UCONN
Fast forward to my woods out front.  New location, lots to explore as many of you readers know.  I come across a small, somewhat hidden tree.  Smooth bark, kind of a zig-zag growth pattern.   

What piqued my interest in this seemingly uninteresting little tree?  These small usual and quite distinctive blooms.   Quite small, two petal, fuzzy white blooms.  The leaves are ovate to heart shaped, smooth margins.

 I kept coming back to this tree, trying to figure out what it was.  

None of my books had pictures of this bloom.  It is so unique.  Surely there was an answer.  I finally asked someone and their answer was 'Hackberry'.  Wait a minute, I have other photos of Hackberry, the leaves are so different.  
The blooms on the Hackberry are also small, like this.  VERY much like this.  But the leaf margins were so different.
I continued to look.  Celtis laevigata, Sugarberry.  I believe I found my answer. 

Native range of C. laevigata is southern Viriginia to Kentucky to North Carolina to Florida, west to Oklahoma and Texas.  This must be it!!  Another common name is Southern Hackberry.  Well, there you are.   The bark is not necessarily warty like the Hackberry, smoother bark.  Yes, mine is very young and is not a good example of what a mature bark would look like.
 Moderate to fast growth in the clay soils, found along the flood plains.  Short lived, 100 years.    Reports say the fruit stays on the tree until mid-winter....mine have disappeared.  The wildlife in my area hasn't read the book.

This is a medium sized tree, growing to a maximum size of 80 feet.  Both Celtis are deciduous, yellow fall foliage.  Sugarberry also have the lenticels and zig-zag twigs.  

Small mammals and birds eat the fruit.  The Hackberry Emporer butterfly benefits from this tree.
The wood is used as veneer woods as it is a light wood that can take light to medium dark stains quite well.   Both trees are prone to nipple gall and mistletoe is a commonly seen parasite in their branches.
My references are Virginia Tech, Silvics Manual,  and Wildflower Center.

There is still a chance I am wrong about this mystery tree in my woods.  Right now it is a stangle of honeysuckle vines, will keep my eyes peeled next spring for more interesting flowers.  Next year I think I will tie a ribbon on one of the branches to make sure I am looking at the right stem later in the season.    If YOU know what this is (different from my guess) please let me know.  Life is a study of the nature around you.

©Copyright 2012 Janet. All rights reserved. Content created by Janet for The Queen of Seaford. words and photos by Janet,The Queen of Seaford.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Growin' Some Mushrooms

Our Master Gardener group has speakers come to share programs with the community.  The latest speaker was Tradd Cotter, from Mushroom Mountain.  It was a fascinating program about the mushrooms that we find in the wild and their many benefits.   He shared how to take spore prints (the spores released on a clean sheet of paper) and using mushroom guides to see if you have the mushroom you think you do, based on the color of the spore.  One of the Master Gardeners brought in a small white mushroom and asked if it were edible.  He said the spores from this mushroom, which are green, tell us that one is poisonous.  I learned enough to know that there are ways to identify wild mushrooms, and that I don't have that knowledge ..yet.

The evening of the program was one of those stormy wild nights with lots of lightening.  Unfortunately his Power Point program got zapped.  He was prepared, though needed to go to the car to get other materials, to go on with a slide show.  It ended up being a longer than usual program but we were all riveted.   There is cutting edge research in the benefits of mushrooms in health, in environment, in food sources and soil health.  The  volume of information was a lot to take in.  I would love to visit his farm in Liberty, SC to learn a more.
Lucky for us, he brought some spore plugs for us to buy.  My friend Ann and I bought different kinds of mushroom plugs and then split the bags so we both went home with two kinds of mushrooms to grow.  We have Shiitake wide range and Oyster mushroom spawn to grow.

Baskets of mushroom plugs
Once home, it was time to acquire some logs to inoculate with our plugs that are sitting in the refrigerator, waiting to go forth and grow.  Ann is friends with a man who has a tree cutting business. He was going to be cutting some hardwoods and we were welcome to come and get the pieces of tree!  He was kind enough to find the 6-8 inch diameter logs, cut them to length and had them ready to load into our truck.  How fortuitous.   There were enough logs for five of us to have enough hardwood for our mushroom farms. 
See the split in the tree? 

He offered us both oak and sweet gum....the bark made it easy enough to tell which was which.  I was surprised how heavy the load of wood was in the back of our truck.

On Tradd's website there is a video showing how to plug the logs.  Time to gather materials, I needed some logs (check), plugs inoculated with spores (check), paraffin (check), mineral oil to thin the wax (check), drill with 5/16" bit (check)...ready to go.

Remember to melt your wax in a double boiler -- I used an old peanut can and one of my enamel pans filled with water.  

Add a couple spoonfuls of mineral oil to prevent the wax from cracking later.  

Time to get the logs and bring them around to the shade of the patio.  I used my wagon and off I went to the backyard.

Apparently this was of interest to one of the dogs.

Skyler checking out the logs. 

  Charging the drill, at one time we had two battery packs, but one no longer held a charge.  Found an old watercolor brush to paint the wax on the plugs after they are placed in the logs.

The plugs are wooden dowels that are spiral cut and the spores are embedded in the cut grooves.  Make sure to mark the drill bit for the correct depth.  

Time to begin.......

Drill the logs

Hammer the plug into the hole

Paint the wax over the top of the plug

Measure the distance (about 4-6 inches) apart, spacing the plugs along the log and around the log

Two done, see all the wax plugs....this took longer than I thought it would.

But wait.................I have the Shiitake still to do.  The drill died.  We recharged it, it still didn't work. 

Leaving the mess and the no longer working drill, we went off to the hardware store. 

We bought a new CORDED drill.  Now I needed to find the extension cord and get back to work.

You know, it is amazing how quickly a proper working drill does the job.  The last log was done in a snap!  I reloaded the logs and headed into the lower part of the yard for the logs to be in the shade.  The fruit of the mushrooms will take about 6 or more months to be ready to harvest.   I leaned them against a tree at the edge of the area where many of my ferns are growing.  

I will watch them and keep you updated with any changes and new growth.  This is a new endeavor for us....looking forward to eating my first homegrown mushroom!

©Copyright 2012 Janet. All rights reserved. Content created by Janet for The Queen of Seaford. words and photos by Janet,The Queen of Seaford.