30 July 2010

Drawing: The mysteries of gardeners shopping

I try to avoid taking my partner when I go plant shopping. Mostly because I usually plan on piling plants in the space where he would be sitting in the car -- but also because he gets so confused as I walk past apparently lovely plants without even glancing and then go into hysterics over some strange little spiny thing.
big and small
Gardeners are very strange people.

(Also: A big thank you do Dobbies for naming Greensparrow Gardens blog of the week! I'm bursting with pride.)

28 July 2010

Wednesday links: Mostly about bugs (and other stuff)

This week, we're starting with some links about the beauties of are arthropod friends:

Pam has some lovely shots of a just emerged adult cicada. The wings are so delicate, and so beautiful.

Frances does an outstanding photo essay on the beauties of spider webs. And even one (I think) exceptionally attractive spider.

Keeping with the entomological theme, I am indebted to Allen Becker for finding out about this fascinating study. The actual study is a lot of chemistry that is way over my head, but the take home message is pretty simple: air pollution, especially ozone, can destroy the fragrance of flowers. This is sad for the gardener, but very sad for pollinators like bees who use floral scents to find their food. Yet another reason to bike to work!

Moving on to less pretty matters, there is a legal battle underway in Europe over patenting of genes in broccoli and tomato. An interesting and very complex issue. If you are really into this stuff, this is a clear (if not particularly exciting) explanation of the various forms of intellectual property protection available for plant varieties -- specifically in Europe. The US patent system is a little different -- I think. I get confused about it all, which is mostly why I'm reading and linking to these things.

27 July 2010

Wild flowers: Rudbeckia and rumex

I've talked about the wildflowers along my daily bicycle commute before. Well, right now they are putting on quite a show again. Black eyed susan (Rudbeckia fulgida I think. I'm never sure on rudbeckia species) and behind it the weed, curly dock (Rumex crispus) with a few unidentified grasses mixed in.
 I would never think of letting dock in my garden, but I have to say the brown of the dried seed heads forms an amazing back drop for the rudbeckia flowers. Once again, nature proves to have very sophisticated tastes in design.

25 July 2010

On the radio

I am on NPR's food show, The Splendid Table this week! Check out this week's episode, I'm at the very end, after the call-in section, talking about my plan to breed a tomato named after the host, Lynne Rossetto Kasper.
 Who-hoo! I feel famous.

23 July 2010

Drawing: Getting from point A to point B

I'm trying to make my drawings a regular Friday feature, so stay tuned!
This week's drawing is a little commentary on how gardeners travel. (If you are considering a summer trip with a gardener, please also see this drawing about the perils of the practice.)
a to b

21 July 2010

Wednesday Links

By way of The Scientist Gardener, the NY Times had a great article on green washing -- by individuals. We're used to hearing corporations criticized for pretending to be green, but there is a wider trend of justifying excessive, and ecologically damaging, consumption in the name of being "green."

I admit I'm drawn to the next subject partly because it is sort of giggle inducing (in a sophmoric way), but it actually is an important thing to think about. So, I bring you the Garden Professors talking about urine as a fertilizer. Jeff emphasizes nitrogen, but this article from Slate focuses recapturing the nutrients in urine from the prospective of the potential future phosphorus shortage -- including a discussion of special urine separating toilets, which solve the whole "yes, but how do you do it PRACTICALLY" side of the matter.

I saw this link on Margaret Roach's blog and was very intrigued: Right here in Michigan, researchers are having a field day to distribute Japanese beetles! Show up and get your free baggy of the little vermin! Japanese beetles, that is, infected with Ovavesicula popilliae, a pathogen which it is hoped will suppress beetle populations to low levels once established, and won't infect any other organisms. I really want to go and get some, but... it is on a Wednesday morning, an hour from where I live. Who thought of that timing? I'd have to take the day off work to go! If it was on a weekend I would absolutely be there.

Mr. Subjunctive writes about plant theft and the odd fact that many people somehow feel it is okay to pocket cuttings and even whole plants without permission. My take -- not okay.

Diana of Gardening on the Edge has a cool post about a shrew apparently infected with toxoplasma -- which is one of my favorite pathogens. It is a little organism that changes the behavior of rodents in order to get into the stomach of cats -- the only place it can reproduce.

19 July 2010

It is national campanula week!

Okay, so I made the Campanula week thing up. But I'm going to MAKE it national campanula week here on my blog with this post. If you blog, feel free to campanula things up with a post of your own.

I never used to grow campanula. I think just because they are SO many of them. Chiltern seeds, one of my favorite seed sources lists no fewer than 44 and the Arrowhead Alpines selection clocks in at 53. With that many to choose from, I never knew where to start, and just sort of flipped past those pages feeling overwhelmed.
But no more. This year I took the plunge with half a dozen, and I am rather smitten. Here are 4 of the most interesting.
Campanula carpatica
 This is one of the standard little campanulas, and I have to say, it is pretty nice. Little dense plants that cover themselves with flowers round about mid-June, then keep on reblooming the rest of the summer. Not only that, but like all the rest of the genus, these have been absolutely tough and undemanding for me - they even put up with being transplanted in the middle of a 90 degree heat wave without wilting!

Campanula cochlearifolia 'Miranda'
This is a TINY little plant -- see the penny in the picture for scale -- and utterly adorable. I always worry that these little bitty things will be wimpy, but like all the others, it is proving to be as tough as nails. It is already showing signs of being a spreader, which I'm happy about. It is too small to overwhelm other plants, and I think it will make a lovely little ground cover.

Campanula takesimana 'Beautiful Trust'

This is one very odd little plant. Strange wiffle ball-like buds that open into sprawling octopus-like white flowers. Unique, yes. Beautiful? I'm not so sure, but the collector in me is happy to have it.

Campanula punctata 'Stevie Ray'

I like this one. A lot. The flowers are huge (my hand is in the second picture to give you an idea of the size), a graceful shade of blue, and produced in abundance. I dead-headed the first crop of blooms, and now it is beginning to reward me with another flush of them. C. punctata is generally supposed to be a fairly agressive spreader, but according to arrowhead alpines, this one isn't so much. Which is good, I guess. I don't like plants that take over, but this is one I wouldn't mind having a lot of.

16 July 2010

Back by popular demand: Drawings!

Okay, not so much by popular demand, as by Carol's demand. She requested "More cartoons!" about a dozen times while we were in Buffalo, so, here you go. I'm a little out of practice, so I think you'll have to enlarge it to read it properly.

This drawing was inspired by when we were visiting the Allentown neighborhood in Buffalo, and one of the bloggers from Texas started taking pictures of what she described as, "That great, dark leaved tree!" It took me a little bit to realize what she meant was the Crimson King Norway Maples lining the street.
texas maple
That is the strange thing about visiting gardens in other climates -- I'm sure if I ever visit Texas, I'll be raving over all sorts of incredibly obnoxious weeds. It is also the great thing about seeing a plant through someone else's eyes: Despite the dense, dry shade Norway maples produce, that dark purple leaf color IS pretty nice. In someone else's yard.

See my other garden drawings here

14 July 2010

The smell of disappointment

This is a picture of  one of my night scented stock, Matthiola longipetala. It is a ratty little weedy looking thing, which is okay. It is supposed to look like that. But those white flowers that open up every evening are supposed to be incredibly fragrant. Only mine aren't. I planted them in a little nook next to the porch so they could perfume summer evenings, but though the flowers open every evening, they have no scent to speak of. If I get down on my knees and shove my nose into them, I can just barely smell them -- but that is all! I'm so sad. Do mine just not smell? Can I just not smell them? Do they need something special in order to smell?

12 July 2010

Beautiful Buffalo

If you read virtually any gardening blogs at all, you probably already know that this past weekend some 70 of us were in Buffalo having the time of our lives. Given the already wall-to-wall coverage, I'll just add a few of my favorite photos, a HUGE thank you to our incredible hosts and organizers Jim and Elizabeth for putting together a practically perfect few days.

05 July 2010

Pink Poppies

These were supposed to be a mix of all different colors and forms of Papaver somniferum, but they've turned out to all be this pink. I'm slightly disappointed, but it is a lovely shade of pink. Especially when back-lit by the rising sun:

In their native habitat, I believe these are pollinated by beetles (I've heard it hypothesized that the dark spots at the base of many poppy flowers mimic the appearance of a beetle in the flower, so male beetles will visit in hopes of it being a female -- though I've not seen any research actually demonstrating that.) But here the hover flies are all over them.
I doubt the hover flies do a very good job pollinating -- they seem to just hang out on the stamens eating pollen. But there sure are a lot of them. And hover flies are cool, so I'm glad they're getting a good meal.