Sunday, July 29, 2007

Magnolia Sieboldii re-blooms!

After blooming prolifically in the late spring (about 27 flowers on a small 5-6 feet tree) the Magnolia Sieboldii we bought in May has formed about a dozen new buds and is re-blooming now. The perfectly formed flowers are a bit smaller but they are better because they face forward rather than down as they did in spring so you can see the dusky pink stamens and the array of beautiful, pure white petals.

The flowers don't seem to last as long as they did in spring, only a couple of days or so but the second unexpected flowering is a gift. I think the warm weather has something to do with the brevity of the bloom time. Or maybe there are lots of pollinators available so the flower is fertilized quicker. Why waste energy to support the petals when its job of attracting the pollinators is done?

This has turned out to be a wonderful tree but I hope it will produce more vegetative growth and establish itself to survive the winter. After this great show I would hate to lose it.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

The wild Geranium, Geranium carolinianum, Carolina Geranium

After I bought the Geranium pratense 'Hocus Pocus', I noticed a small volunteer Geranium leafed plant in one of our planting beds when I was weeding. I thought it might be interesting to compare a wild Geranium with a cultivated one so I left it alone. The flowers were so tiny as to be inconspicuous from standing height. It was light pink in color. Later the cranesbill remnants of the flower turned a orangeish brown with black seeds and was larger and much more striking than the actual flower.

It is definitely considered a weed and those five black seeds look certainly like they could germinate easily so I'll have to get rid of the plant soon. It was interesting to see just how how different the species can be.

I couldn't see that the seeds and sepal were very hairy with the naked eye but the macro lens revealed just how hairy they are. Apparently the single style is not single at all but 5 separate styles connected to the five black seeds.

The seeds and sepals are actually quite attractive in my mind but the gangly spreading plant is unattractive and untidy so it will have to be pulled. The long petiole is characteristic of the plant as are the very tiny flowers which I missed photographing.

In the upper left corner of the first photo you can see the green sepal and style of the flower soon after blooming, before it turns the nice brown orange color.

Here are a couple of web sites that have more information on the G. carolinianum. site.

From the site.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Cat attacks fox!

The fox from an earlier time.

I heard the gaaaak, gaaak cry of the fox again and thought it had cornered our cat Max again but when I ran downstairs to the front entry and opened the door, it was our cat who was attacking the fox! Max was in his sidewinding position, tail and back bristling and full of fury. The fox ran a short way as I opened the door with our cat in pursuit. I could see that our cat was the same size as the fox so it was an even match except this was Max's home turf. Finally it was able to run beyond our property line and the cat didn't give chase. When I got back to the entry, I saw several drops of blood but I checked Max and there were no wounds on him so I guess it was the fox that got the worst of that encounter. Never a dull moment.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

A few more Dahlias

I think Dahlias come closest to water lilies in subtle color changes within a single flower. We've had such good luck with them this year, I'll definitely look through the online catalogs to find named varieties. The only problem is finding places to plant them as they do take up a bit of space which we are quickly running out of. Here's a great site with lots of photos, that 'Peaches and Dreams' is an eyeful and more here and here but you have to search by color.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Weird looking bug with paddle like front legs and Egyptian headdress

When I was photographing some Dahlias I came across this tiny bug, about 1/4" long with green paddle front legs. I haven't a clue as to what it is. It didn't seem too perturbed by the closeness of the camera lens and moved only slightly when I got too close or moved some petals to expose it more fully.

It has an almost Egytian looking headdress and delta wings which are kinda neat but I wonder what those front legs were meant for? I don't think it is used for locomotion in water.

Update: Thanks to Annie in Austin the bug has a name - Ambush Bug, Family Phymatidae from the "What's That Bug" website. The Ambush bug is halfway down the web page.

Here's a quote from the website " The lethargic behavior you describe is the key to the hunting strategy of the Ambush Bug, Family Phymatidae. These bugs usually wait on flowers for much larger insects to arrive and then pounce with those raptorial front legs. A tiny Ambush Bug is capable of subdueing a much larger bee. Their protective coloration will camoflauge them very well on such plants as goldenrod."

Futher, " You have an Ambush Bug, Family Phymatidae. These are True Bugs and closely related to Assasin Bugs, hence the similarity in appearance. According to Borror and Delong: "The Phymatids are small stout-bodied bugs with raptorial front legs. ... Most of the Ambush Bugs are about 1/2 inch in length or less, yet they are able to capture insects as large as fair-sized bumble bees. they lie in wait for their prey on flowers, particularly goldenrod, where they are excellently concealed by their greenish yellow color. They feed principally on relatively large bees, wasps, and flies." They do have venom, hence the pain in your bite. As you know, their bite is painful, but not dangerous. I believe your species is Phymata erosa."

And here's a site that shows an amazing photo of the Ambush bug capturing a much, much larger wasp.

And another site showing it capturing and devouring a butterfly, again many times its size.

The bug seemed to be so slow moving, small and innocuous, I'm surprised at how ferocious it is! I'll have to be more careful having been stung by the yellow jacket already this summer. I don't want to experience the venomous bite of the Ambush bug too.

Here's a closer look.

I was rooked

I planted some "Love in a Mist" Nigella damascena several years ago at our old townhouse and loved the airy look of them. They readily re-seeded so they came up every year without replanting.

I was looking at some flower seeds on a Burpee rack and came upon some Nigella seeds that looked interesting. I wanted to recreate the look we had at the townhouse so I bought the seeds. I think the label said it was a "chocolate" Nigella. What came up was nothing like the pictures on the package if I remember correctly - I threw the package away. I went to the Burpee online seed catalog and I noticed they don't sell this seed anymore...I wonder why?

I think this is the herb Nigella sativa that they packaged and sold as a new variety of Nigella - see image from the site only with dark brown styles rather than green. It does have an interesting blue line circling the flower near the base of the bloom like someone had inscribed a line with a ballpoint pen but that hardly makes up for a rather lackluster flower.

Anyway it was definitely not the lovely "Love in the Mist" I had planted before and I was sorely disappointed. Cheez, I expected a little better from Burpee. I guess I can collect the seeds and see if I can use it as a herb/spice. I should use it in place of kalonji seeds and mix it in with some basmati rice to make my version of a vegetarian biryani rice.

Here's more interesting information from the Wikipedia site.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Hornet - Eastern Cicada Killer wasp, ground spider webs and yellow jacket sting

Wing study 1.

Wing study 2.

I found this hornet on the sidewalk during the morning dogwalk. Here's more information about the hornet from wikipedia: Eastern Cicada Killer wasp, Sphecius speciosus. Even though it's named a wasp, I call it a hornet because it's so large. The measurement from bottom of body to wing tip is 1 1/2". We saw a hornets' nest at a campground in Ohio once and it was impressively large as were the hornets. The stupid caretaker was trying to spray some wasp killer pesticide into the nest and the hornets were not amused. It was ridiculous trying to get rid of the hornets' nest because it was hanging from a tree far from the camping area although within the property of the campgrounds and the hornets were not bothering anyone. I guess the owners would have been liable if anyone got stung when it was brought to their attention that there was a nest on the campgrounds. Look at the size of the stinger! I sure wouldn't want to be stung by one of those. If you enlarge the first photo by clicking it you can see that the abdomen seems to be armor plated with leathery looking segments.

Writing about getting stung - I was stung by a yellow jacket earlier this week. I was cleaning the filter for the fishpond when suddenly I felt something biting my arm. As I brushed it off I saw that it was a yellow jacket wasp. The sting wasn't that painful and I thought nothing of it. The next day my arm was swollen and red where the wasp stung me and started to itch. It got progressively worse and was uncomfortable in the hot and humid weather we've been having. I was lucky I wasn't stung more times as the filter was only 2 feet from the nest a hole in the ground. We have paper wasps nests around the deck usually every year but they don't seem to be aggressive. I wonder if the ground dwelling ones are more aggressive. It could be that I stepped on the entrance hole when I approached the filter so the wasp was only protecting the hive. Well in any case, I know where they are and will try not to disturb them again.

When I looked out into the yard this foggy morning, I could see many ground spider webs made visible by the fine water droplets. I counted at least 50 webs mostly in the lawn. Funny to think there are so many spiders out there unseen.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

More daylilies

This will be a photoblog because the daylilies were planted many years ago and the names are lost in the mists of time.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day, July

I was feeling a bit under the weather so I'm late for Bloom Day.
Just a few noteworthy flowers, all with gorgeous scent and an oddity.

The "Edith Bogue" Magnolia looking like a giant gardenia continues to bloom and is at its best now.

The Singapore plumeria Frangipani has really done well this year. Usually the flowers would open sporadically but it opened all at once this year. The bumblebee decided to park itself on the blossom overnight. A nice place to be.

This is an enormous Asiatic lily with a wonderful scent. The flowers are a good 8-10" across.

And...a weird looking ox eye or green eyed Susan. My wife remarked that it looked like an alien flower. Something from another planet. So she calls it the Martian flower.

Thanks to Kim, the Black Swamp girl, the alien flower has been identified as Rudbeckia hirta Irish Eyes or Gloriosa Daisy, though I'm sure it will always remain the Martian flower in our household.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Stop! Thief!

Hey you with the gray trench coat and high and tight*, quit stealing my blueberries! They aren't even ripe. And now you've even gotten Robin into the act. Stop it before your cowbird friends see what you're doing, copycat that they are. Before long the mocker will show up for his take too. Robbers all. Arrgh!

*From Wikipedia: Types of flattops (Haircut)

The flattop haircut was most prominent in America in the late 1950s and early 1960s. In recent years, flattops have enjoyed a revival among men.

There are several varieties of flattops. One of the longest types, the "Flattop DA" (Duck's Ass) was popular in the 1950s and 1960s and featured the hair of the sides of the head being longer and combed back. A similar hairstyle is the Japanese Punch perm, which is favored by old-school members of the yakuza (Japanese mafia). At the other end of the spectrum is the horseshoe flattop, in which all of the hair on the sides and back are completely shaved to the skin (called "whitewalls"), as is the "landing strip" on the top, leaving only a U-shaped ring of hair on the top of the head. The horseshoe flattop is related to the "high and tight" (my quotation marks) and is particularly popular with United States Marines and Army Rangers.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

'Hocus Pocus' toutous talontus, vade celerita jubes*


Geranium pratense 'Hocus Pocus' Meadow Geranium, Meadow Cranesbill

I was looking through a catalog and saw some attractive perennial Geraniums, in particular the G. phaeum. Here's a photo from the BBC website. I thought to buy it but we had already ordered so many other plants I just crossed it off the list. We were at Lowes the past weekend buying a toilet flapper and just cruised through the garden center. To my delight they had some G. pratense 'Hocus Pocus' for 1/2 off so we bought a few. Not the G. phaeum I wanted but a beautiful plant in any case. I can easily see that this could be another plant collecting obsession as there appears to be over 300 species of annual and perennial Geraniums.

I came upon an interesting website showing the Geranium pratense under ultraviolet and infrared light. Some pollinating bees, flies and moths see light in the ultraviolet spectrum and the flowers that strongly absorb UV are especially attractive. Actually the whole naturfotograf site is pretty interesting and amazing. Especially the entry under Lamiaceae, Glechoma hederacea which fluoresces with an electric blue and purple with red spotting. Very cool photo!

See Phagat's website for more information on G. pratense 'Hocus Pocus'. The site has so much more information about the plant than I could possible dig up.

From Wikipedia: "Cranesbills are eaten by the larvae of some Lepidoptera species including Brown-tail and Mouse Moth."

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Two tall yellow flowers, a Rudbeckia, and a Helenium(?)

The Rudbeckia maxima, the giant coneflower is blooming now. The plant has a rosette of silver green leaves that are probably not more than a foot tall but it sends up a flower spike over 6 feet tall. Some say it can attain a height of 8 feet!. The flower itself is not very large, not any bigger than Echinacea but the Goldfinches really love the dark brown almost black seedhead. They prefer it over the Echinacea seedhead which they also eat.

I thought this was a Rudbeckia but it doesn't form a cone so it may be a Helenium instead? The leaves sure look like cone flower leaves so it may still be some kind of Rudbeckia. I don't know where this plant came from but it appears that we bought it when it may have been fairly small in the pot. I has grown to about 5 feet tall and though in full sun the stalks have fallen somewhat making it a sprawling and untidy plant. I was threatening to dig it up but decided to keep it until past bloom but the flowers are very long lived - it's been blooming for at least 3 weeks with out showing any signs of fading. The color of the flower turns from bright yellow to a yellow orange as it ages.

Thanks to Annie in Austin, the Helenium? has been identified as Heliopsis scabra 'Summer Sun'. Here's an image from the Bluestone Perennials website.
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Location: Zone 6, New Jersey, United States

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