Monday, September 20, 2010

Going for the Gold

This Golden Celebration bloom is truly delicious.  The color, form, and fragrance of this bloom cannot be topped.  It has some equals, but no betters.  This is why I grow David Austin roses.

Here is another bloom framed inside a square of chainlink fence.  In the heat of summer, they sometimes are more open like this.  Take note of the blackspot on the leaves in the background. 

The above picture shows why I have a love/hate relationship with David Austin roses.  This scraggly bush has few leaves and looks unkempt even though I give it plenty of water and mulch through the year.  I didn't spray fungicide and it shows.  This is what the plant looks like in late summer down here. 

But how can I resist when I look back at pictures like this, taken in April when blackspot was nonexistent and blooms were profuse.  Sometimes you just have to "eat the meat and leave the bones" when it comes to roses!  Maybe next year I'll break down and spray my Austins to keep them looking better.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


One of the things that happens when you don't use pesticides and you have a yard full of trees, shrubs, and plants of all sorts is that you get plenty of "critters."  Some of these critters creep out the faint of heart, but they all have a place in the God's grand scheme of things.  Along with all the butterflies, dragonflies, birds, and bees, you get a few reptiles. 

For instance, this rat snake showed up a few weeks ago and scared my wife.  It's welcome to stay around the yard and eat all the mice it wants, as long as it stays out of the house.  It's a scary creature, but basically harmless to humans. 

These little green lizards are also common in my yard.  I love them and want to see more of them.  They feast on all the insects that are common because I don't spray insecticide.  It's quite enjoyable to sit in a chair outside and watch the lizards skitter around. 

Plenty of other critters occasionally show up.  Having our own little wildlife refuge brings great educational opportunities to our homeschooling family and makes everyday life interesting around our home.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Flirting With Fritillaries

The above are now to be found all over my passiflora vines.  I was so happy to see them finally arrive.  They are quite late this year, I don't know why.  My guess is that the really cold winter we had set them back some.  These spiny, ugly, and scary-looking caterpillars are totally harmless to people, but they "passionately" eat at maypop vines. 

It's amazing that those ugly cat's will eventually turn into the above beautiful and plentiful butterfly.  This picture is from last year.  I have yet to get a decent picture this year, though I've tried.  Tithonias ("mexican sunflowers") are among their favorite nectar sources, along with buddleias ("butterfly bush") and zinnias.  If you want plenty of these beauties, you really should have at least one passiflora vine planted somewhere in your yard to go along with nectar sources.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Wildflowers in the Yard

This unknown (to me) wildflower is growing in my back yard.  I saw them growing all year and wondered what type of bloom they would produce.  When they finally started blooming, the above is what I saw.  I don't know what they are, but would love some input from anyone who can identify it.  Interestingly enough, every time I look at this flower there are honeybees on or around it.  This is very intriguing to me since I seldom ever see honeybees anymore.  This is in spite of the fact that my yard has flowers all over.  They must travel a long way to get at this flower which must be one of their favorites.  Is it some sort of aster?

Note on 9/19/10: I've since discovered that this plant is a Cichorium intybus, better known as the common chicory.  Yes, this is the plant where you get the coffee additive found in "New Orleans" blends.  The substance added to coffee comes from the large tap root.  Seeing it as such a great honeybee attractor makes me tolerate it in places in my yard.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Turkish Delight

The cute Turk's Cap is a member of the hibiscus family.  It does equally well in full sun or part shade.  The bright red, partially open blooms resemble a turban, hence the name.  It is a favorite nectar source for hummingbirds and so should be planted in any yard that wants to attract them. 

My bush is fairly new and small.  It's planted in filtered sun and gets plenty of water, which it likes.  This is a plant that does not take drought well.  It can get to almost small tree size in tropical climates, but dies back to the ground every winter in my zone 8b area.  It's hardy through zone 8, but should be protected in colder areas where the ground freezes.  At the end of summer when many of my plants are looking ragged, this lovely shrub is thriving and looking its best.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Don't You Love Volunteers?

Back in July, I noticed this little vinca volunteer growing in a joint in my concrete.

A month later, it looked like the above picture.  It was thriving away with no care whatsoever. 

Now it looks like the above picture.  It's blooming beautifully, keeping good form, and still getting no care at all.  Vinca's are great for volunteering.  They are about the most drought resistant annual on the planet, so require no supplemental water at all.  They have a very pleasing form and bloom continually till fall.  I haven't seen any bug pests on them, but they can get fungal diseases, especially if planted too early.  The LSU AgCenter advises to plant them no earlier than May (in the Deep South) for them to thrive best.  This is perfect for those of us who have cool season annuals up till May and don't want to pull them out early. 

Here is a close-up of a bloom.  My only complaint against vincas is that they are not attractive to butterflies, bees, or hummingbirds.  Nevertheless, if you want a splash of carefree color in a place where you don't have to water, this is the plant for you.  They appreciate hot, full sun and good drainage.  This is perfect for an edge along a concrete walk or driveway. 

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Ducher Still Going Strong

Ducher is a china rose that thrives in the heat of the South.  The blooms start off this lemony-white color and then gradually turn pure white.  They also have a light citrus smell that is very pleasant.  When the weather is very hot, the blooms typically are smaller and crisp quickly in the sun.  Now that the weather is starting to get cooler, they blooms aren't crisping as badly. 

This is a picture of the bush a few weeks ago at the peak of summer.  As you can see, it's quite healthy and bushy.  There is no blackspot at all and the form is lush.  This is a plant that truly loves my Louisiana climate. I don't spray at all and it still keeps on thriving.  I think this would make a perfect landscape rose here. 

Here is a picture of the plant at its peak in the spring.  It looks similar in the Fall once the temperatures cool down.  I consider this to be a white "Knockout."  The pleasing shape and growth would make this a nice shrub even if it didn't bloom.  The fragrant, white buds are just "lagniappe."

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Getting a Little Passionate

This has been my best year yet for passiflora ("passion flower") vines.  The main reason for this is that we have yet to get Gulf Fritillary butterflies in any numbers.  Usually, they are here in abundance by this time and have laid eggs all over the passiflora vines.  The hungry caterpillars then "passionately" eat all the vines up.  The lack of caterpillars means that my passiflora vines are growing like weeds with nothing to stop them.

In the above picture you can see how abundant and lush the growth is on one of my vines.  Such a mixed blessing because the reason I planted them is to attract the Gulf Fritillaries. 

It doesn't hurt either that we've had abundant rain for the last month or so, just when the passifloras are really taking off.  Aren't the flowers striking?  They have a light, sweet fragrance too. 

This is a picture of another of my vines covering the chainlink fence in front of my house.  This plant is easy to grow nearly anywhere in the continental US, at least the native vine is.  Be careful to get one that is hardy for your area because there are several varieties of passiflora.  Some types cannot take freezes without dying.  In addition to attracting Gulf Fritillaries they also attract Zebra Longwing butterflies in areas where they are found.  Plant your vine in either full sun or partial shade.  They need adequate water, but really are carefree.  I've seen no other pests besides greedy caterpillars.