Friday, October 6, 2017

Late-Season Flowers-- and Nate!

After that tantalizing cool spell we enjoyed in... September, I guess?... the weather has been stubbornly refusing to take the plunge into autumn temperatures.  The humidity and temperatures are easing down, but I'm impatient for Real Fall Weather.

In the meantime, a tropical storm/minor hurricane (Nate) has sneaked up on us!  October is still well within hurricane season (which begins on June 1st and continues until the end of November), but once we've made it through September unscathed, I kind of don't expect much in the way of tropical weather.  Mother Nature's putting me in my place.

Fortunately, it's not expected to strengthen very much before landfall, but it looks like it will be close enough that we should take a few precautions-- so we will.

- - - - - - -

How about some late-season flowers (and non-flowers)?

Mexican bush sage.
Fuzzy.  Purple.  Pretty.

Mexican Bush Sage

Mexican petunia.
Not-fuzzy.  Purple.  Prolific.

Mexican Petunia

Umbrella palm.
It's beginning to droop over in spots.  The elephant ears have long since begun their seasonal droop, too.  Plants have noticed the change of season, even if it still seems weak to me.

Umbrella Palm

Miscanthus 'Adagio' seedhead.
Or is it called a seedhead when it's just blooming like this?  Flowerhead? (g)

Miscanthus 'Adagio' Seedhead

Forsythia sage.
Still putting out new buds after a long summer of flowering.  If the storm doesn't topple it, I think it will keep blooming until frost bites it back.

Forsythia Sage

"Cockscomb"-style celosia.
Also known as "brain celosia"-- valid visual comparison, but creepy!
These flowers have an odd shape, but they're vivid and seem to last forever.

Celosia

Green lynx spider on celosia.

Celosia

Macro photo of celosia.

Celosia

One more of the celosia for good measure! ;o)

Celosia

Black and yellow garden spider.

Black and Yellow Garden Spider

It's spider season!  Lots of them around the yard and between the trees in certain parts of the trails.

Black and Yellow Garden Spider

Jewel spider / smiley face spider.
This one nearly had its web destroyed because I almost didn't see it in front of me.  Fortunately this spider is fairly small.  If I ever get one of those giant ones on me, I'll probably have a conniption fit that will be heard for miles around.  I know they're harmless, but the shock of it--!

Jewel Spider

Pincushion ginger bud and elephant ears.
Some of the gingers are still budding and/or blooming.

That reminds me that we recently got a new type of ginger-- pine cone ginger (Zingiber zerumbet).  I've yet to plant it, much less see it bloom.  They're interesting plants-- also known as "shampoo ginger", because the flower exudes a substance (liquid?) that can be used to wash hair.  Photos when they bloom next year, of course!

Pin Cushion Ginger Bud

Speaking of ginger blooms, here's a white butterfly ginger lily bud with flowers just emerging.  Plenty of these still blooming, this time of year.  They really are wonderful plants.  So easy to grow (in the right climate, at least), with flowers that are beautiful and fragrant.  Some might say they're too easy to grow and can wander beyond their designated spot in the garden.  Personally, my only complaint would be that they have a tendency to grow every-which-way instead of nice and straight.  They can look a little sloppy, if not downright tipsy.

Butterfly Ginger Bud

This is the first year that my 'Elizabeth' butterfly ginger really bloomed, and I think I didn't notice until the flowers were past-prime.  Still, a nice salmony-pink, if you want something different from the "common" white-flowered ones.  (The white ones have bigger blooms, though, in my limited experience-- and may smell more strongly, too.)

'Elizabeth' Butterfly Ginger Bloom

When I planted a bunch of things from Granny and Grandpa L's garden, earlier this year, there were some odd-looking tubers that I don't think I recognized at the time.  It wasn't until later that I realized they were gloriosa lily tubers, and by then I couldn't remember exactly where/how deeply I'd planted them, so I just hoped for the best and resolved to keep an eye open for any emerging new growth.  I found a promising vine, a couple months back, and today, I spotted a flower!

What an unusual and graceful form!

Gloriosa Lily

This dish of an unknown succulent is thriving on neglect.  Such of the other succulents as have survived have also done just as well without my tender ministrations as they would have if I hadn't basically forgotten about their very existence.  Actually, they may be doing better without my care.  Succulents seem to be like that.  If they're happy, they're happy to be left to their own devices.  If they're not happy, no amount of attention and effort can bring them back.  (At least that's been my experience with them!  Fickle things!)

Succulent

'White Cloud' muhly grass.
I love this plant, this year!  It was pretty last year, but it hadn't had time to get very big.  This summer, it's turned into a billowy white cloud, just as the name implies-- hovering a foot or so above the ground.  During certain times of the day, it just glows!

'White Cloud' Muhly Grass

'White Cloud' Muhly Grass

I'd still like to get some pink muhly grass.  I'm not convinced that the (other) one I have actually is pink muhly grass.  It might be a different variety or something... It's blooming, too, but is rather pathetic, by comparison.  I think it never recovered from when I cut it back (which I thought would help it!), so I'll just leave it completely alone this winter/spring and see what happens next...

'White Cloud' Muhly Grass

To close, here are a bunch of photos of the beautiful blue mistflower-- wild ageratum.  I'm not positive of the species.  I gathered seeds from a plant growing down at the pond, a couple of years back.

Blue Mistflower

It seems to be a perennial, and if it is wild ageratum, it will have a tendency to weave its way through the flowerbeds.  I may end up having to pull some of it, if it's too pushy, but I think I'll always want to keep some growing...

Blue Mistflower

I like it partly for its misty, dreamy-looking blueish-purple flowers (which are supposed to attract butterflies, as a bonus).  But I've been enjoying it, this summer, long before the late-season blooms made their appearance.

Blue Mistflower

Wondering about its mysterious attraction?

Blue Mistflower

It's fragrant!
It must be the foliage that exudes the fragrance, because I've smelled it long before the flowers came. It's somewhat elusive... I haven't tried recently, but in years past, when I tried to sniff or rub the foliage directly, I didn't notice much in particular.  However, just walking by the plant or standing near it, I'd get a strong whiff of its unusual perfume.

Blue Mistflower

Mom's noticed it a couple of times when she's been over.  She describes it as smelling like the (Appalachian) mountains.  I haven't been the mountains in several years, so I don't know that it makes me, personally, think of the mountains-- but it does have a fresh, earthy, foresty smell, and I can see why it might smell... mountainous. ;o)  It reminds me of what I think of as "sweet tobacco pipe smoke", too-- which is much nicer than it might sound.  It's hard to describe, but it's just a really nice fragrance that I wouldn't want to lose from the garden, now that I've found it!

Blue Mistflower

The funny thing is that I haven't found much online about this aspect of the plant.  Maybe some sites describe the plant as fragrant, but I haven't seen any detailed analysis/comparison of the smell, and it's mentioned almost in passing.  To me, the scent is by far the biggest reason to grow it!

Blue Mistflower

Well, that's all my photos for the moment... Here's hoping that Nate brings us nothing but a little extra rain and a blustery night!

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 to 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!