Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Creepy Crawlers

Confession:  I don't really like caterpillars for their own sakes.  I try not to mind the ones that turn into "beautiful butterflies", but the creepy-crawly part of the life-cycle gives me a slight case of... well, the creeps.

I've learned to be happy whenever I find unattractive, slimy-looking earthworms in the soil.  I think most of us can agree that earthworms are not exactly "lookers", but the knowledge that they're good for the garden has helped me move past their unsightly appearance.  These days, I'll gladly scoop them up in my bare hand to move them find a safe spot in a flowerbed.

(Tangent: I just learned that earthworms aren't native to all parts of the U.S., and that they're actually considered harmful pests in some places!  Also, there are many non-native species that have been introduced from other continents, over the years.  I have no idea if "our" earthworms are native or not, but I'm pretty sure earthworms of some description do at least belong in the Deep South... Ah, whatever.  I'm going to pretend that "my" earthworms are Good Guys and continue being happy to find them!)

To get back to the topic... If I can learn to love earthworms, why am I still so resistant to caterpillars? Maybe it has something to do with the fact that they eat my plants.  I know they're just doing what they're supposed to do, but it's always a little alarming to see a lush plant defoliated over the course of a few weeks.

The Gulf fritillaries came later this year than last, but once they came, they got down to business, laying many eggs, which eventually turned into many caterpillars-- all of them with a serious case of the munchies.  

Gulf Fritillary Caterpillars

These photos are from last week.  As of this week, there's not a passion vine leaf in sight.  They even ate up the little plants I had started from cuttings.  (Not sure if they'll come back next spring, but I'll hold on to the pots, just in case!)

Gulf Fritillary Caterpillars

The remaining caterpillars that didn't get their fill before the buffet ran out will probably die, but there's nothing I can do about that.  I don't know of any other plants they can eat, around here.  Once the passion vine leaves are gone, they're gone!

Besides, there are Gulf fritillary chrysalises here and there all over the garden, so (like last year) I think we've done our part to support the local population!

In the next photo, here's one caterpillar entering the pupal stage.  It's attached itself to a clematis vine and is curled into a "J" shape.  Eventually, it will form a chrysalis and transform into a butterfly in just a couple of weeks' time.  (...It's pretty weird, when you think about it.  Amazing?  Miraculous?  Sure, but also just weird!  This stuff would be right at home in some sci-fi story about a bizarre alien species.)

Gulf Fritillary Caterpillar

I was interested to notice that there are two or three passionfruit on the vine(s) this year.  This is the first time I've seen fruit on any passion vine we've grown.  For a year or two, we grew the "wild" variety-- the "incarnata" species.  I knew that those could produce fruit, but ours didn't.  (Unfortunately, that plant died.  The flowers were larger than the red variety, but they were a pale purple and didn't stand out as much over a distance.)

From what I've read, the fruit of this 'Lady Margaret' variety may never ripen-- and if it does, it may not be tasty.  Also, the seeds may or may not be viable.  None of that really matters to me, but it's fun to see a few fruit, just for curiosity's sake.

Passionfruit on the Vine


In this area, passion vine takes a while to get going in late spring/early summer, and it can look scraggly and sad once the caterpillars finish with it-- but it's definitely an interesting plant with unusually-formed, tropical-style flowers and the occasional fruit.  It also attracts bright orange butterflies like crazy and is literally crawling with life for a good month or more (as long as the leaves hold out!).  It's well worth growing if you want a front-row seat at the yearly Gulf fritillary show.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Summer Medley

I think this will be the last of the catch-up photo posts.

Flower Garden

Lantana:

Lantana

Bog sage with Curcuma 'Scarlet Fever' in back:

Bog Sage

Bat-face cuphea:

Bat Face Cuphea

Caladium:

Caladium

The night-blooming jasmine was crazy this year.  Super strong.  For a while, I'd get a powerful whiff of it on the west-facing back porch at night.  Keep in mind that this plant is on the north side of the house, well away from the back porch.  While it's still not one of my favorite scents, it's better wafting over a distance than it is sniffed up close, in my opinion.

Night-Blooming Jasmine

The white butterfly ginger lily is a far more pleasing fragrance, though, and unlike night-blooming jasmine, it can be enjoyed during daylight hours.

Night-Blooming Jasmine and Butterfly Ginger

Pincushion ginger.
Not much for smell, but an exotic-looking plant.

Pin-Cushion Ginger Lily

Bronze fennel.
It flowered this year, so maybe I'll be able to gather seeds.

Bronze Fennel Seedhead

Forsythia sage and bog sage.

Forsythia Sage and Bog Sage

You may remember that this year the forsythia sage began blooming much earlier than it's "supposed" to, in this area.  It's been blooming ever since.  It'll be interesting to see what happens next spring/summer.  If we have another mild winter, it might do an all-summer bloom again.

Salvia madrensis

Dragonfly near Duranta 'Sapphire Showers'.

Dragonfly on Fence

Purple coneflower.
They've been "done" for a while, now.

Purple Coneflower

Canna.
I think this flower was on the 'Russian Red', which is grown more for its foliage than its flowers, which are relatively small for a canna lily.  Still, the orangey-red of the flower against that purple stem is eye-catching and tropical.

Canna Lily

Tropical milkweed seeds.
The tropical milkweed set seed.  They have such soft, fluffy, feathery seeds!  Very pretty.

After a while, the milkweed started to look "done".  I probably waited too long to address the situation-- definitely the story of my summer in the garden!  By the time I cut it back, it was looking positively dreadful, but I cut it into portions and stuck them in pots of soil, just in case.  Amazingly, many of the pieces with absolutely no leaves sprouted new growth.  I'm not sure how well they'll survive the winter after such a late start, but we'll give it a try!

Tropical Milkweed Seeds

Tuberose 'Mexican Single'.
This year, I saw my first tuberose bloom in the garden-- first 'The Pearl', then 'Mexican Single' (a.k.a. 'Single Mexican').  I gave them each a sniff or two, and I have to say... I don't see what the fuss is all about!

I was disappointed, in fact.  Maybe I just haven't smelled them under the right circumstances; many flowers smell the best/strongest under just the right atmospheric conditions, and maybe I happened not to be outside when those happened. Whatever the reason, they weren't very strong-smelling, despite their reputation.

When I did lean in to take a close whiff, I'm not sure they were worth the effort.  I'd read many people's description of the fragrance and been puzzled by some of them.  Well, I now know just what they meant when certain people described the perfume as smelling like rubber.  There's definitely a rubbery note in there-- which (unsurprisingly) is not really a selling point for me!

Now, it wasn't overtly horrible-- somewhat like a gardenia, maybe, but with a slight note of... tires or something.  Hm.  I'll be interested to see what they smell like next summer.  Maybe it's one of those fragrances that are better from a distance than up close.

Tuberose

Roses of Sharon.

Rose of Sharon

Rose of Sharon


Rose of Sharon


Rose of Sharon


We've had an early taste of fall, the past week or so.  It's been cool and dry enough to have the windows open at night and part of the day.  You may not understand how wonderful this is, but trust me-- it's of monumental importance!

I love autumn weather.  There's nothing else like it.  The challenge now will be to do some work outside instead of just sitting and enjoying.  Summer may not be completely done with us.  Warmer weather may creep back in, but this breath of fresh air has proven that summer will soon be on its way out.  I'm ready!

Rudbeckia

Rudbeckia 'Autumn Sun'.

'Autumn Sun' Rudbeckia Buds

'Autumn Sun' Rudbeckia Buds

'Autumn Sun' Rudbeckia

'Autumn Sun' Rudbeckia

'Autumn Sun' Rudbeckia

Rudbeckia 'Goldsturm'.
(This is a best guess, as the plant was a pass-along from Granny L.'s garden.)

Black-Eyed Susan

Black-Eyed Susan

Black-Eyed Susan

Black-Eyed Susan

Black-Eyed Susan

Both these sunny yellows bloom in relatively late in summer, in our garden-- welcome signals of the approach of autumn.

Clematis, Celosia, Crepe Myrtles

(Continuing with the collected photos taken over the course of the summer...)

'Fireflame' Clematis.
It's supposed to be double, but so far, ours has remained single.  The color is rich and beautiful, though, and a single form clematis is elegant in its simplicity.

Clematis 'Fireflame'

Clematis Vine

Clematis 'Fireflame'

Clematis 'Fireflame'

Clematis 'Fireflame'

Celosia.
I didn't do very well, this summer, with setting out my seedlings in a timely manner, but some of them made it-- and then there are the self-sown bonus plants.

I'm a celosia fan!  It's an easy-to-grown sun-lover that adds color and interest all summer long. All sorts of pollinators like it, too.

Celosia

Celosia

Celosia

Celosia

Celosia

Celosia

Dragonfly on Celosia

Crepe myrtles.
This volunteer crepe myrtle (which popped up near 'Victor') is probably my best bloomer, at this point.  It started blooming pretty early in the summer, I think, and it flowered off and on for months-- longer than any of the others we grow.  Impressive!

Crepe Myrtle

Crepe Myrtle

Crepe Myrtle

The Black Diamond varieties have bloomed this year, too, though I failed to get any very good photos.  'Red Hot' is a bright "red-red" (very helpful description, right?) and 'Pure White' is... pure white-- which is even more striking against those dark purple leaves.

Black Diamond Crepe Myrtle

Black Diamond Crepe Myrtle

More to come!