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A Natural Greenhouse

Lewisia tweedyi

Lewisia tweedyi

Pleione formosana

Pleione formosana

Boechera (Arabis) koehleri (planted January 24)

Boechera (Arabis) koehleri (planted January 24)

 

When you are using your greenhouse to grow special plants like Lewisia tweedyi or Pleione formosana, or seedlings of an unusual western rock cress, you might be forgiven by reacting to the first sign of aphids with an immediate fog of insecticide.  However, I decided last winter that I would try to make the greenhouse as much of a natural environment as I could.  The windows open to the out of doors on warm days without screens so that insects are free to come and go.  The greenhouse manufacturer said that people liked this idea for pollination but I was thinking more about insect control.

In early December when I first began operations I saw a few ladybugs taking refuge from the cold.  I had hoped they might settle in, perhaps laying eggs.  And last week I saw my first ladybug larva busily patrolling the leaves for aphids.

Lady Bug larva

Lady Bug larva

They are voracious eaters (think of teenagers eating between meals).

And yesterday I spied a praying mantis.

Small Preying Mantis

Small Preying Mantis

I had seen an egg case in the hillside garden and put it into the greenhouse in February.  Though I never saw the hatching take place, they are apparently growing fast.  Unfortunately a few minutes later I saw this one get trapped in a spider’s web.  While both seemed to be about the same size, the spider definitely won the battle.  But there should be many more praying mantis wandering around the greenhouse at this point.

While i was watching the praying mantis and spider struggle I looked up and saw the dominant actor in the food chain.

Large wooly spider on citrus leaf

Large wooly spider on citrus leaf

This guy was alert and ready for action.  So while I do see aphids here and there, nature’s enforcer’s are busy keeping things within bounds.

Spider with turquoise bib

Spider with turquoise bib

 

 

Focus on A Birthday Gift!

Gaillardia detail

Gaillardia detail

This supermacro photo of the center of a Gaillardia flower is a birthday gift for Tuna.  She is the queen of small things and has taught me to appreciate objects like the tiny Epimedium flowers that my aged eyes might otherwise have missed.  Indeed I’ve found whole new worlds of beauty within the objects that I might otherwise pass by.  Included with the gift of this photo is the software that I used to create it.  Or at least the recommendation that Tuna should cash the check that we are sending and consider using it to purchase the Helicon Focus software that lets you combine pictures taken at different planes of focus in order to create a picture with extremely sharp focus over the whole image.  This is particularly useful for macro photography but also applies to landscape photography when you want to maintain both near and far objects in focus.  The company makes a complete working version of the software available for 30 days.

Other samples of my experimentations on Macros using this approach are shown below:

Stamens and Pistil on a Stella D'Oro Daylily

Stamens and Pistil on a Stella D'Oro Daylily

Tiny spider with fly on Snapdragon

Tiny spider with fly on Snapdragon

Snapdragon center

Snapdragon center

Happy Birthday Tuna!

Fall is on its way

A final flowering for Fall

A final flowering for Fall

We’re going through the last burst of flowering around here as the weather has been delightful — 70′s in the daytime and 50 at night.  We could still use a bit more water but at these temperatures it’s not so bad.  Probably the flowers capturing my eye the most at the moment are from a late purchase last year.

A Fall winner

A Fall winner

I’m not sure what these are anymore.  The leaves are very narrow for a Helianthus but they seem quite late for a Heliopsis.  In either case they are flowering up a storm right now and they are covered with buds.  The buds have a very characteristic way of unrolling which I should recognize — anyway it looks familiar.

Of course in the Fall you expect to see Chysanthemums and they are certainly performing up to snuff.

Fall Chrysanthemum

Fall Chrysanthemum

I also found the New England Aster to be especially pretty this year.  That purple/violet has way of electrifying the portion of the garden they inhabit.

New England Aster

New England Aster

And it’s hard not to sing praises to the Dahlias in the Fall.  Even those in the garden where I no longer remember what the names are.

Dahlia in the Garden

Dahlia in the Garden

It’s also a time to be grateful for the younger me who planted a Viburnum by the deck twenty years ago (I think it’s Viburnum wrightii).

Viburnum wrightii

Viburnum wrightii

And then we have the more recent addition of a tiny Sedum forest in the rock garden.

Sedum rupestre ‘Angelina’

Sedum rupestre ‘Angelina’

Of course we are not the only ones planting on this property.  The volunteer goldenrod plants are particularly spectacular at this time of year.  The bees and other insects pleasure in the intricate yellow blooms.

Goldenrod

Goldenrod

Which Goldenrod this is will have to be subject of a separate post because there are a fair number that grow in Maryland.

The butterflies are still playing hereabouts.  This cute little Skipper stopped by the Cosmos plantings but didn’t leave a detailed card with his name on it.

Some kind of Skipper on Cosmos

Some kind of Skipper on Cosmos

And nearby there was a spider that would be happy to dine on smaller insects.

Spider on Cosmos

Spider on Cosmos

Again the weather has been joyful and our froggie couple has been cuddling together watching the Fall flowers develop.  May you enjoy the season as much as we have…

The froggies get ready for Fall

The froggies get ready for Fall

Return of the Poppies

Last year, after planting bed of daffodils on the hillside, I decided to overlay the daffodils with poppy seed. Now I have planted poppies many times over the years but I’ve not had much success since we began to get other things growing and mulching it all. The poppies seem to like bare earth to get going in. This time I went beyond a few packets. I ordered 2 “packs of poppies” from Wildseed Farms. And as a result we got the best stand of poppies that we’ve had in years. First the daffodils did their thing and then in June and July we were getting many beautiful poppies. And on one of the poppies I found the most beautiful little blue-eyed spider who somehow adapted to a flower that he/she had no reason to expect to be in Maryland.

Poppies flowering after the daffodils in June

Poppies flowering after the daffodils in June

 

Shirley Poppy

Shirley Poppy

California Poppy

California Poppy

Spider with baby blue eyes

Spider with baby blue eyes

I grew up in Southern California and I’ve always had a soft spot for California Poppies. They volunteer along the roadsides and can appear with great abundance in the desert in a year with good rains. I took this picture in Joshua Tree National Monument last year.

California Poppies (Eschscholzia californica) in Joshua Tree National Monument

California Poppies (Eschscholzia californica) in Joshua Tree National Monument

In addition to enjoying them last year one of my hopes was that they would self seed and come back again along with the daffodils. The weather was just warm enough over Christmas that I noticed the seedling poppies emerging. They are pretty hardy little plants so I’m hopeful that they will survive the freezing weather yet to come.

California Poppy seedling

California Poppy seedling