Thursday, June 23, 2016

Check your Roses for Japanese Beetles

I think I have had most problems associated with roses (rose rosette disease, aphids, fungus, etc.), but this was a new experience for me. Yesterday morning I noticed a congregation of beetles on a rose bloom. I didn't know what they were but was certain they were not good guys, and so I picked them off and crushed them with a rock. (I found out later that this may not have been the best thing to do.) I looked them up on the internet and it turns out they were Japanese beetles, the same type that eat the roots of your grass as grubs in the larval stage of their life cycle. Turns out that after they emerge from the lawn, they appear as these beetles to feed (rose blooms are some of their favorite things to eat) and mate. Here is what they look like.

Here is what my rose bud looked like after I picked the beetles off. Left long enough, they eat the entire bud. I found them on 'Mr. Lincoln,' a hybrid tea rose. A Drift rose planted next to Mr. Lincoln has not been affected, at least not yet, but I think they feed on all kinds of roses.

The good news is that control at this stage is as simple as picking them off and destroying them. After I crushed the ones I found, I read that crushing female beetles releases the pheremone that attracts adult male beetles. So, in addition to being icky, crushing them is not the recommended practice because it is a siren call for the beetles in your neighbor's yard. The best advice is to pick the beetles off and put them in a container of soapy water. You can read more about Japanese beetles and how to control them in this article by the American Rose Society.

Thinking about Japanese beetles reminds me of what a complex thing the web of life is. In the grub form of its life cycle, the Japanese beetle is a favorite food for moles. Moles have been very active in our yard this year, tearing up the lawn and flower beds, so we use a trap to kill them. If left alone, I suppose the moles would do a lot to keep the Japanese beetle problem in check, but they do damage to the lawn and garden in the process. So by removing the moles, I increase the Japanese beetle population. I suppose that each action we take in the garden (and in life in general) is neither entirely good nor entirely bad but complex, affecting other organisms in a way we often don't realize. That being said, I can't think of one good reason not to kill all the Japanese beetles I can.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Vacation Musings

Last week, Jack and I took our 12-year old grandson on a trip to Washington, DC, with a side trip to the nearby mountains of West Virginia, where Jack's brother has a cabin. We also took a detour through the countryside of southern Pennsylvania. Those of us who are interested in gardening and garden design are always on the lookout for horticultural interest: unfamiliar plants, interesting garden designs, or something that inspires us. Here are a few things from our trip that interested or inspired me. 

First, a beautiful stream near Franklin, WV, near the spot where the stream joins the Potomac River (which looks like a shallow, rocky stream in this area).  This stream caught my eye because, like many gardeners,  I love water features. One of the things that attracted me to the house that Jack and I bought was that it had a water feature (small waterfall, stream, and pond) with a lot of promise. I say "promise" because when we moved in, the area surrounding the stream looked unnatural to me. It was planted with a random assortment of wildflowers (echinacea, rudbeckia, ox-eye daisies, etc.), herbs, and grasses. It looked something like a stream running through a prairie. Not the look I was going for. I wanted something more like this stream we came across near Franklin, WV. So I took this picture for inspiration as I continue to work on our stream.

And speaking of natural water features, we also toured the famous Falling Water home near Mill Run, PA, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. A water feature can't be any more natural-looking than this. It is an actual spring-fed stream.
Falling Water
Photo by Sam McCormick

Back to the West Virginia part of this story. My brother-in-laws's cabin is in the woods near the top of a mountain. In May, his hillside is covered with wild lady slippers (Cypripedium acaule). When we were there last week, the blooms were gone, but the mounds of green foliage were still attractive, looking a bit like small hostas. This is what the lady slippers look like in bloom.

Photo by Harold Edwards

Mountain laurel are abundant in this area, but, unfortunately, we also missed those by a few weeks. Here and there a few blossoms were hanging on.
Kalmai latifolia
Photo by Sam McCormick

The final plant I want to share with you from the mountains of West Virginia is a strange one, indeed-- a completely white plant commonly called Indian Pipe. 
Monotropa uniflora
Photo by Harold Edwards
 Looking something like a strange mushroom, Indian Pipe is actually not a fungus, but a flowering plant that lacks chorophyll, and thus cannot make its own food. It is a parasite that depends on fungi to provide its nutrients. Click here for more information on this fascinating plant.

Next post: horticultural information from our nation's captial.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Update on 'Jubilation' Gardenia

Last summer, I wrote about how much I liked a new gardenia cultivar, 'Jubilation.' It was purported to be more hardy than some of the others and I liked the fact that it was a a re-bloomer. I bought two plants and put them in pots for the summer. (Read the complete rationale for choosing this cultivar by clicking here.

Fearing I might lose the gardenias over the winter in pots, I planted them in the ground as fall approached. I put one of them in a bed near the patio, and the other in a bed near the garage, thinking those would be the best sites to enjoy that wonderful gardenia fragrance. I did this with some trepidation, as both beds adjoin the house and have both bad soil (I think the previous owners must have used a lot of cheap, bagged topsoil in those beds) and drainage issues. I amended the soil in the areas where I planted the gardenias and crossed my fingers, hoping for the best.

The gardenia planted by the garage began to decline almost immediately, and I took it out before winter ever arrived. The other one survived the winter but looks awful. If I did not consider it a challenge to see if I can get it to live, I would probably call it quits on this one, too. I think my problems growing 'Jubilation' are not problems with the cultivar but rather the growing conditions I put it in. 

Earlier this spring, I came across a small pot of 'Jubilation' and so I bought it to put in a pot for the summer. Growing in a pot may have to be the only solution for me if I want to grow a gardenia in the particular locations I picked out. Here's what that gardenia looked like this morning. That little plant is loaded with blooms and its fragrance is wonderful. Even the old blooms look good, fading to a butter yellow before they eventually fall off.

While I would really like to have gardenias in the ground in the locations I picked out, I obviously need to do a lot more work on the soil in those beds before they will be suitable for gardenias. In the fall, this gardenia will go into the sunroom for the winter, and next spring I will re-pot it to enjoy on the patio in the summer.