Friday, August 15, 2008

Garden Lookaround Slideshow 8-15-08

Ajuga "Black Scallop" Struggling In This Heat

Once again I am trying to grow this new and expensive ajuga variety called "Black Scallop" which was developed in Germany. It is a beautiful pitch-black in cool winter and spring weather, but becomes dull and weak in our awful Mississippi summer heat and humidity. I should have known that what is a winner in Germany's cool climate must be at risk in Mississippi's sweltering temperatures. However, I like this plant so much I might bring a couple of babies inside for the air-conditioning.

Begonia and Creeping Jenny Border

As a trial this year in a flower bed I did this border of bronze-leaved begonias and golden creeping jenny, but I have been less than pleased with this combination. What was in my mind's eye and the reality of how this combination has turned out do not match. How true it is that we gardeners learn from trial and error and our mistakes, but then move on. Next year I will try something else in this bed for sure.

New Orleans Memory Lives On In My Garden

For many years we kept an apartment on Chartres St. in the heart of the French Quarter to use for weekends and Mardi Gras, and let me tell you, the good times really rolled there and I have fond memories galore of that happy time in my life. It had a front patio and a rear courtyard full of lush, beautiful tropical plants. The baby maroon castor bean in the picture above in my garden is a descendent of the mother plant in New Orleans which was as big as a small tree. I brought some of its seeds home years ago to plant and ever since they have flourished here. The seeds self-spread and come up around my garden every spring and bring me pleasure and happy memories of my French Quarter days.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Red Velvet Ant Invasion This Season But Beautiful and Beneficial

Common Name: Red velvet ant or "cow killer" Scientific Name: Dasymutilla occidentalis (Linnaeus) Order: Hymenoptera Description: These insects are wasps, not ants. Females are wingless and covered with dense hair, superficially resembling ants. The red velvet-ant is the largest velvet-ant species, reaching about 3/4 inch in length. They are black overall with patches of dense orange-red hair on the thorax and abdomen. Males are similar but have wings and can not sting. Several other species of velvet ants are common in Texas, including the gray velvet ant or thistle down mutillid, Dasymutilla beutenmulleri, and D. fulvohirta. Most are solitary parasites of immature wasps (Vespidae and Sphecidae), solitary bees and some other insects such as beetles and flies. Winged males can be confused with other Hymenoptera. Adults of the tiphiid wasp, Myzinum sp. (Hymenoptera: Tiphiidae) are black and yellow, 3/4 inch long . They can occur in large numbers, sometimes on flowers of landscape plants. Larvae are parasites of white grubs (Coleoptera: Scarabeidae). Life Cycle: Females seek the immature stages of ground-nesting bees, digging to the nesting chambers and eating a hole through the cocoon. She deposits and egg on the host larva, which soon hatches into a white legless grub. The immature velvet-ant eats the host larva, developing through several larval stages before forming a pupa. Habitat, Food Source(s), Damage: Mouthparts are for chewing. Lone females can be found crawling on the ground, particularly in open sandy areas. Adults are most common during the warm summer months. Larvae are solitary, external parasites of developing bumble bees. Pest Status: The common name, "cow killer," is thought to describe the painful sting these insects can inflict to man and animals, although it is doubtful that many cows are actually stung.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Hibiscus 'Red Hot' With Hot Red Flowers

Even if Hibiscus 'Red Hot' never had flowers, such as its bright red blooms shown here, I would love the plant. Its beautiful variegated leaves with red stems and red high lights pleases me greatly. When it does put out flowers, it is like trying to "gild a lily".

Yellow Mandevilla Flower

This tropical vine-like shrub is called "Yellow Mandevilla" but it is really not a mandevilla at all. My reference books verify it to be "Urechites Lutea", which is a mouthful to pronounce, isn't it?

Vivid Violet Vigorous Verbena

There are many flowers in each cluster, and although it is named "Purple Homestead", I would call this color violet, not purple, but whatever...I like its color and vigorous perennial growth habit.

Hibiscus Variegata's Lovely Leaves

This hybrid variegated Chinese hibiscus has leaves that are amazing to me. Each one has different variegation and the effect is dazzling.

Yucca 'Color Guard' Stringy Swords

The center sword-like leaves of this wonderful variegated yucca have strange stringy strands that curl off the sides. This plant has plenty of personality and I love it.

Bedraggled Hibiscus 'Mella Yella'

We were blessed with a thunderstorm last night and today bringing much needed rain. The winds tore the edges of these blooms.

Gaura 'Dancing Lady'

This little perennial is almost too dainty to be in my jungle, but I like its variegated leaves of pink, green, and white and the delicate flowers on its stalk.

Valentine Vine's Very Vigorous

This is a vine that people either hate or love as it can easily become too rampant and invasive if not monitored. I love the shade it provides on the west side of our patio from its huge dinner-plate size, heart-like leaves shaped like big green valentines.

Alocasia Calidora a/k/a "Persian Palm"

I grow several types of "Elephant Ears" but this variety has the most upright and pointed spear-shaped leaves, which will be huge by late summer.