Tuesday, August 30, 2011

A New Caterpillar In the Garden-An Exciting and Lucky Find


Today is a day off from work and as is usual, I am spending it in the garden. While gathering up a dead shrub I happened to glance down at a nearby baptisia and spotted three prickly looking caterpillars that I had not seen in the garden before. Hmmmm, I have several baptisias and some have been eaten to the stems so this caterpillar interested me. Not the mention that after my encounter with a prickly saddleback caterpillar I am very wary of prickly caterpillars in the garden. Prickly caterpillars can sting you severely so it is always best to leave them alone!! I kept my distance, took a few pictures and got on my computer to try to identify these caterpillars. 

I am not good at identifying caterpillars or even butterflies for that matter, but there is a handy site called Caterpillars that has a link to a  BuGGuide where you can look up what seems like millions of pictures of caterpillars and hopefully get an identification. Bingo! It only took me going through about 50 pictures before I found my caterpillar. It seems it is an instar of the Automeris moth.

The Automeris moth is a common moth of North America and one of its host plants is baptisia. These caterpillars in the above picture appear to be an early instar. The caterpillars of the Automeris go through five changes (instar stages) before they begin their metamorphosing into a cocoon to turn into a moth. 

I think the little caterpillars were a neat find in the garden but I am ever so grateful I did not brush up against these caterpillars because, not surprisingly, the prickly hairs STING! If you have never had the misfortune of brushing up against a stinging caterpillar such as these or the saddlebacks I can describe the pain for you. It is instantaneous and feels like someone poured burning water on your skin. The skin will turn red and look like it is burned. The pain will usually subside in a few days but I promise you won't ever forget the experience so beware when spotting new caterpillars....

in the garden....

Words and Photos Property of In the Garden Blog Team, In the Garden

Thursday, August 25, 2011


This Garden Spider has been living in my Georgia Gardens for some time. I keep an eye on it when I am near the Semi-Formal Garden area where her web is located.
This Argiope aurantia has really gotten fat lately. Hum, I wonder if this is a female and she is full of eggs or just a well fed spider?
This one showed up a few days ago and moved nearby the fat spider. This one has a sac of some type in its legs. I was thinking maybe a sac of baby spiders.
But after reading a bit on this spider at this Link: Click HERE. I think that maybe this spider has a meal waiting for it inside a silk pouch. I am seeing more and more of these beautiful SPIDERS, In the Garden...
Words and Photos Property of In the Garden Blog Team, In the Garden

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Fabulous Ornamental Vegetable Garden (aka Pot-AH-ger)

I must say my Vegetable Garden/Potager has given me my most joy this year. It is not because it is doing fabulously, or looks good, or attracts butterflies and wildlife. I do enjoy all of those things but the main reason I love this garden so much has to do with my husband. He, being of the manly kind who prefers greasy cars and boats to wonderful smelling dirt; does not take much of an interest in my gardens. He enjoys them fair enough and knows they add to our home and property but generally they don't interest him-except for the potager. I always know when he's been browsing in it; which he does daily. I come into the kitchen and the counter will be filled with fresh vegetables from the garden courtesy of Mr. Fix-it. I simply love it that he takes an interest in this garden and this is why my potager gives me so much joy. 

While preparing this post on the potager I happened to look up at my large PVC arbor and spotted the crossvine 'Tangerine Beauty' blooming. Wow on it as it is my favorite native vine. In fact, I will soon (already done) be chopping down my wisterias in order to replace them with this lovely and less aggressive and less heavy crossvine. The crossvine  blooms in the above picture are about 15 high and were very dark so I used a fill flash. I like how the effect of these blooms came out against the cloudy sky. Crossvine is a rebloomer, reliable in sun or shade and not picky about soil or moisture. It is a lovely vine I've been growing many years so I would recommend it to others. It will spread pretty fast once happy so even though it is less aggressive than wisteria it still needs a strong support as it is no wimp in the garden.
Today was the day I finally removed the screen from my upstairs dormer and took a few aerial shots. Here I show you the vegetable garden in its entirety from the second story window. I wish pictures could give you the feel of the whole garden but they don't. However, I do think this long and high picture helps out with the scale of my backyard and the vegetable potager. We live on one acre and the amount of real estate in this picture probably encompasses only about one twelfth of the property. I try to fit lots of plants and gardens into my little one acre as you can tell. The PVC arbor is in the left hand corner of the picture and this is the east side of the vegetable garden proper. To the right of the vegetable garden is my very full Sunny Perennial Border. This border is about four feet wide and traverses the entire northern and eastern sides of the vegetable garden. To the north and south of the gardens there are multiple mature oak trees; which provide shade for the vegetable garden (tongue in cheek because of course you want NO shade for your vegetable garden says I). I'll orient you to what is what as I walk through the garden on my morning walk.
We enter one of three gates into the enclosed vegetable garden from the east under the PVC arbor which holds a crossvine and gelsemium as well as annual vines like cypress vine and hyacinth beans. The brick pathways are obscured by self seeders I allow to grow. The multiple self seeders in this walkway and picture include: 'Chocolate' eupatorium, chives, great blue lobelia, lambs ears, and beautyberries. Additionally catnip, sedums, flowering tobacco, verbena bonariensis, dill, zinnias, cleomes and cosmos grow among the cracks of the bricks in this garden. If you should spot a weed growing amongst the self seeders just let me know! I hate weeds here that's for sure. The plants soften the bricks and help to create a more diverse garden so I leave most of them and pull only those plants that I don't wish to self seed anymore or which are in my way when I walk in this garden. 

Many readers ask about the wonderful metal gates adorning my vegetable/potager garden. I was fortunate enough to purchase three of these gates (two are identical and this one stands alone) at the Nashville Flea Market several years ago. I painted them yellow with a good quality metal paint and have really loved them in my garden. If you are local and have not been the Nashville Flea Market you are missing out. I once read in one of my women's magazine that the Nashville Flea Market is rated as one of the best in the country. It is a wonderful place for great architectural finds for both the garden and the home. If you are not local but planning a visit to the region the Nashville Flea Market is generally held on the last weekend in each month except December. Check their website for more information.
Looking to the left as we enter the garden we see two beds. The first one contains blackberries (only one of two survived) I mail ordered from Farmer's Seed. It is a thornless type but I can't remember the name at this point. I also  transplanted another blackberry from another area in my garden to another location in the potager which will not be shown in this post. Among this bed are self seeding beauty berries. I will soon be digging them for the Montgomery County Master Gardener Plant sale scheduled for 8 October at the Habitat ReStore on Madison street. Directly behind this bed looking to the west-southwest is another bed you'll see better below. The chives, lamb's ears, lobelia and other plants in this area are all self seeders. This bed used to be my nursery bed until I moved the blackberry plant there.
Looking to the right I do not show the three 'Sunny' knockout roses or dwarf irises under the PVC arbor but take my word they are there. That small garden containing the roses is just to the right of the 5 gallon bucket you see in the picture. I leave a few buckets in this garden to not only catch rainwater but to tell me when I've reached one inch of water when I water with my sprinkler once per week.You can also use tuna cans set about in your garden to measure the amount of water your garden receives from sprinklers. 

The bed I focus on in this area contains the cantaloupes and vining crops and is not visible due to the sprawl of the vines. The vines have trickled onto the brick pathways. Normally I would train the vines to grow up my A-frames but for some reason I was negligent in doing this in this particular bed this year. Actually though, cantaloupes seem to do better when left to sprawl and I do not mind their sprawl because those fresh cantaloupes are just so good! We've picked one, lost one due to not picking it in time and still have four more cantaloupes to come. There is also a watermelon or squash vine growing in this bed. I won't know until the fruits are mature exactly what it is that grew but I do know I threw out both squash and watermelons here.
Looking back to the left past the blackberry bed with its self sowers we see a long bed containing carrots and zucchini (in the foreground under the A frame) that were successive sown in late June. They are doing well. On the other side of them are my four 'Better Boy' tomatoes. We are consistently picking tomatoes to eat fresh daily. Mr. Fix-it always eats tomatoes and cucumbers with his dinner. I'm not sure if this is something he established for health or not but it is a healthy habit. We obviously enjoy the fresh picked ones very much during the growing season. I have found that four tomato plants are just about perfect for our family of three. I have enough to eat daily but not quite enough to freeze; which I would like. But nonetheless it works out for us with our small vegetable garden.
This round bed used to hold bananas. It was the focal point of my potager but I decided to remove the bananas last year. It took a LOT of work to completely remove them since they were so well established but I don't regret taking them out. I decided to consolidate my fruits and vegetable all to one location this year so all edibles would be fairly centrally located. Here I have planted two 'Bluecrop' blueberries from another location in my garden then I added two new blueberry bushes last fall. They are 'Powderblue' and 'Climax'. You'll see a ripe 'Powderblue' below. 'Powderblue' and 'Climax' are rabbiteye bluebeerries (Vaccinium corymbosum) and the 'Bluecrop' is a northern highbush blueberry. I have found the 'Bluecrop' never needed a pollinator but I did have two of the 'Bluecrop' and they apparently worked together to produce a good crop each year-once they matured after about four years. The 'Powderblue' and 'Climax', the rabbiteye cultvars (Vaccinium ashei), are recommended for the south but in my experience I like the 'Bluecrop' or highbush berries better for my garden. To be fair it may be that the two new rabbiteyes I just added last fall need more time to mature but so far their ripening dates are a bit out of order for me. The 'Bluecrop' was ready for picking in late June to early July (even though the robins ate them all). I like the large crop at this time. So far this year the 'Climax' really did not produce and the 'Powderblue' are producing but it doesn't seem like the berries are coming at a logical time. They are just now ripening up nicely in mid August. To me that is late but I guess it can be good considering the blueberry season is very long in my garden. Now if I could just get more than a handful or so I'll be content with the rabbiteyes. I'll give all the bushes time to grow. As we all know gardeners have lots of time and so we'll see how it goes for the blueberries. Remember, blueberries must have a pH of between 4.5-5.2 in order for them to do well. Be sure to soil test prior to planting these berries.
Just past the bed that houses my Pumpkin on Stick is another long bed (the northern side of the potager). Here is an ornamental self seeder I did not mention already. It is of course night blooming jimsonweed, aka Datura stramonium. It is a wonderful ornamental that provides the southern nighttime fragrance that is heavenly. The flowers only last one day and bloom in the evening to late morning then they are gone. These flowers positively glow at night. I never know where this night bloomer will sprout up but tend to let one or two of them grow so I'll have plants for next year because this plant is a tender perennial. It will not return in my Zone 6B garden next year. In and amongst its leaves you can see basil that is going to seed, and if you look closely you'll see the cucumber plants growing in this bed. Again, my potager/vegetable garden is an ornamental as well as functional garden for me. I believe in mixing things up in the garden and have the art down pretty well after all these years of gardening here in my Tennessee home. My garden is not going to be a designed garden because I wish to grow everything and anything and mix it all up in different ways. Ways many gardeners might cringe at but as is my gardening mantra, gardens must reflect the gardener and please only the gardener. If they don't and you have a garden then you either have an outside gardener or are a business person looking for curb appeal or to keep up with others or you are not a gardener. But my feelings on gardens might best be left for another post. But truthfully, who would garden if their garden did not please them and they did not strive to produce a garden they like?
Now on to close up of veggies. The pepper plants are growing under the A frame containing the many cucumbers and they are doing quite well. There is a tomato leaf in front of the pepper. I did not plant this tomato-it was a volunteer from last year that self seeded in the bricks and I just let it go to see what I would get.
The cantaloupes are doing quite well. They will most likely all ripen at once like they did last year. Here you can see some cosmos and flowering tobacco leaves. The cantaloupe vines spread into the self seeders but surprisingly all are working well together.
Here is the 'Powderblue' berry I promised you above. I ate this berry and a few others as soon as I was done taking the picture. It was a special treat.
We in the Ramsey family just celebrated a major milestone in our lives. Our baby Jimmy just turned 17! He is a senior in high school and will be graduating next year. It's so hard for us to believe. Here we are singing him Happy Birthday and getting ready for him to open his gifts and cut his cake. He returned home late after having a nice dinner with his girlfriend. You know during the teen years girlfriends are really important to young men. Jimmy had a fantastic birthday and we are looking forward to a good senior year and his graduation in the spring. It will be the first graduation both Mr. Fix-it and I will be able to attend. When the older three children graduated he and I were both deployed. Since our retirements we know that won't happen again. My mother also recently celebrated her birthday. There are lots of August birthdays in our family so let me just say to all a Happy Birthday....

in the garden....

Words and Photos Property of In the Garden Blog Team, In the Garden

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Critters Are Eating Well

By SKEETER What do we have here on top of the fence by our driveway?
A closer look reveals a half eaten apple!
Excuse the quality of this photo but it was humid out there and I did not spend too much time snapping pics. I am showing you this one though, due to you being able to see how strategically this apple was placed in between the fence diamond shapes. Perfectly balanced don't ya think? Now just how did this apple get on top of our fence? I know exactly how that apple got to the top of the fence. One of these little critters put it there and had a great snack. This squirrel is getting a drink from a birdbath in my Georgia Gardens. With a drought, they have been utilizing our birdbaths.
The apple tree does not belong to us but rather our neighbors. These are the neighbors which I tolerate living next door to me. They don't properly tend to their pets, fence or yard and they allow junk to pile up outside in sight of my eyes. They have planted an "Orchard" as they call it. Their orchard consist of about a dozen fruit bearing trees. I am not sure what all they have (I try to not look over there much) but apples and pears for sure. They do not take care of the trees and lose at least one, if not more each year due to our summer droughts. They never water the trees and I am surprised they have lasted this long. Look in the background and you can see one that looks as though it is dying if not already dead.
The trees are loaded with apples and pears and they are not picking them. I am not even sure they know the trees are full of fruit as they are never in this area of their yard.
They are ripe for the pickings' and the squirrels are the only ones picking them.
While snapping these pictures, I spotted this pear on the ground. Half eaten by the squirrels and now being nibbled by Ants.
And nearby, I spotted another apple! If you look closely you can see ants and a wasp taking advantage of the fruit. The Saint and I spotted one squirrel running up a tree with an apple in his mouth. We got a chuckle from that sight. I found another one in the middle of the driveway today while mowing. I find it funny how they grab a piece of the fruit then come into our yard to indulge in the spoils. The Saint and I are plotting a Night Maneuver over the fence. But until then, THE CRITTERS ARE EATING WELL, In the Garden...
Words and Photos Property of In the Garden Blog Team, In the Garden

Thursday, August 18, 2011


By SKEETER On Tuesday, I showed you the Rock Garden here in my Georgia Gardens. From this angle, you can see a rather large clump of green plant to the right bottom of the above picture. See it? A Coleus is popping out of it.
Okay, I shall go in closer for a better peek. Here, now you see it?
Okay, a closer look then. I discovered this same plant in the Semi-Formal Garden last year. I posted about it and asked you commenter's for help in identifying this mystery plant for me. Click HERE to see that plant from last year. Oh, and it returned in the same spot this year as well.
No one could ID the plant for me so when I found this second one growing in the Rock Garden, I decided to do a bit of research. As you can see in this picture, it is soft and fuzzy similar to lambs ear. It also blooms a cute tiny white flower which the bees, butterflies and hummingbirds enjoy.
This is one single plant and I did not put it there even though it looks as though I planted it, I did NOT plant this monster.
I say monster as it is taking over the Rock Garden on the East side! It is growing like a ground cover and overtaking things such as the turtle in the pot. Can you see him in the above picture?
Here is the cute little turtle. I have clipped this thing back twice to reveal the turtle but today, I cannot see him again. Yikes, this is an invasive plant for sure.
As I type, I can no longer see this ground squirrel in the garden as it has been swallowed up by the Little House of Horrors type plant for the third time!
Can you see a spot of red in this picture? That was once a healthy Salvia plant until this plant took it over. Some of you Florida Bloggers may know this plant as it is common in your area. If I am correct with my identification that is. I believe this plant to be "Mexican Clover" from the Rubiaceae Family. Click HERE to see if you think I am correct.

Guess what else is in the Rubiaceae family? IXORA as Tina guessed on the post from last year! With 7000 plants in this family, difficult to narrow down to Mexican Clover. The info says this plant can be found in Zone-9. Funny as I am in Zone-7B to a possible 8. Also it should die when in temps of 20 degrees. Ha, we had ice and snow in January and it still lives in the Semi-Formal Garden! Amazing how some plants do as they want no matter what the books say. Ha, kind of like me some times.

I like this plant and thus far, I am able to keep it at bay. It is easy to prune as I just pluck it off with my fingers. I don't even need a cutting tool! I find it strange how both batches of this popped up on its own and in gardens as if I planted it there!

I like this pretty lush ground cover and think its A KEEPER, (for now anyway) In the Garden...
Words and Photos Property of In the Garden Blog Team, In the Garden

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Pumpkin On a Stick & Other Garden Goodies

This is a two for one post. Normally I like to post just one subject but since I've cut back on posting and just can't seem to stick to one thing to photograph in the garden you all get a twofer! The main thing I'd like to share is my 'Pumpkin on a Stick'. Ever heard of it before? No, it's not a fair treat in the class of butter on a stick or koolaid on a stick but it is indeed a neat thing-you will not eat this 'pumpkin' though.
This pumpkin is actually an eggplant, Solanum integrifolia to be exact. This is an ornamental eggplant and as you can see the eggplants look just like pumpkins. I must say this has to be one of the neatest if NOT the neatest thing I've grown in my vegetable garden. I received this one little plant from a fellow master gardener when I won a door prize drawing. Thanks David! He was kind enough to supply me with all literature he had on this plant. David told me he purchased the seeds and started several plants for his garden and to give away to us master gardeners and to a select few of his friends. At first I thought my new acquistion was a brugmansia (which I believe is in the same family as eggplants-Solanaceae) but that was not the case.
Like all eggplants this one needs lots of sun, staking, fertilizer, and heat. My pumpkin on a stick has grown from a 4" plant in June to a more than four foot tall plant in August! There are several small fruits growing on it but only a few have begun turning the pumpkin orange as is characteristic of this fruit. I have read where these 'pumpkins' are great for use in dried arrangements. I suspect they'll come in handy for my garden club this fall. This is a very easy and rewarding plant to grow but I must say it has been mercilessly attacked by flea beetles. I do not normally use any pesticides in my gardens but have resorted to Sevin to combat the flea beetles. Overall the flea beetles have not severely damaged the plant but the damage could get to that point if not treated. 

So I ask you all-have you ever heard of 'Pumpkin on a Stick"? And if so what is your experience with growing it?
Now onto some late summer garden pictures. Here in Tennessee it is Surprise Lily time and boy oh boy do these ever make for treats in the garden. I have several clumps that were started when a gardening friend gave me some bulbs (in February of course). These lilies (Lycoris squamigera) have a great fragrance and last forever as cut flowers in the house.
The butterflies and bees have taken over all the self seeded cosmos in my vegetable garden. It is such a joy to watch all of the insects!
Here we are looking into the vegetable garden-jungle. Not a jungle really but quite full of plants and vegetation. The vegetables and orange cosmos have really done quite well this year. I must say this has been the best season for my vegetable garden. We are still picking great tomatoes and cucumbers and peppers. The cantaloupes and squash will be ready soon. The zucchini plants are the largest I've ever ever grown in my life and the funny thing is I haven't done anything special-except water regularly. I've never had cucumbers past the end of July in my garden. Disease and insects usually take out the cucumbers and squash but this year both have stayed away for the most part. 

I purchased an absolutely fabulous native grass a few months ago at the Perennial Plant Society meeting in June. It is 'Northwinds' Panicum virgatum. I call it my punctuation mark amongst all of the other frilly, roundy, and busy perennials. It really sets off the pineapple sage in front of it and Rudbeckia lacinata to the right of it. Asters and lantana round out the perennials in this area of the Sunny Perennial Border looking toward the Vegetable Garden, aka jungle.

Lastly, you know it is nearing fall when the ornamental grasses begin blooming in Tennessee. This one is my absolute favorite (even more than 'Northwinds'). It is 'Adagio' Miscanthus sinensis and does so well here in my garden that I've spread it all around. It is drought and shade tolerant-a total bonus here. I have it paired with a 'Limelight' hydrangea, an arborvitae, several 'Immaculee' peonies and a 'Little Richard' abelia along the northern edge of my Foundation Beds. 

I hope everyone is enjoying their summer and are looking forward to fall. My neighbor (Mr. C. the farmer) tells me it will be an early fall because all of the swallows have left his farm. He says they usually stick around through most of August but have been gone for a while now. I always listen to him because with all of his years of farming the land and loving the critters that live on it I've found he has a great deal of wisdom-and hasn't been wrong yet. 

in the garden....

Words and Photos Property of In the Garden Blog Team, In the Garden

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Rock Garden; Spring & Summer

By SKEETERI enjoy "Before and After" picture's in my Georgia Gardens. I can see the progress from season to season. In these photos, you will see the Rock Garden during Spring then we shall jump to the current time, being Summer. This picture above, shows you the area before the Rock Garden began.
Here is the Rock Garden the day I created it a year ago. *Click HERE to see how the Rock Garden began.

In the above picture, we have Spring of this year. The Month was April.
The same view in Summer. Everything has filled in nicely.
This recycled birdbath was a planter last year with its deep bowl. The bowl was broken when a limb fell on it while the Saint cut down a large oak tree last fall. I left the broken bowl on the ground as some of the plants stayed intact.
I replaced the bowl with another recycled one but it is too shallow for annual plants. It has cracks in it and does not hold water so it cannot be used as a birdbath. I am thinking of making this a little cactus garden but not this year as it is too late in the season.
I had lots of hosta in this garden last year and they did really well. They popped up this spring as healthy plants. Summer however, is another story. With the large oak tree gone, more sunlight hits the garden. Therefore, I had to move the hosta as they were burning up from the sunshine and extreme heat we had this summer. The Elvis Lives Hosta lasted longer then any but as you can see, he has also started to burn. He must be moved out of this garden as well. This will make the 3rd time I have moved poor Elvis. He keeps trying to die on me. Click HERE to see how Elvis began in my garden.
In April, you could see a lot of the Lava Rock in the Garden.
Same view now, reveals little lava rock.
In April, the hosta were still in the Rock Garden.
Once the Hosta were removed, Volunteers of Coleus and Perwinkle that seeded them self from last year, popped up. I added Serena Angelonia and Spider plant seedlings to fill in the holes. The low growing plant to the right is a mystery plant to me. I will talk more about this plant on Thursday... Long view towards the back woods and patio in Spring.
Same view in Summer. Notice the darkness of the woods as they are thicker now then Spring. Also the added canopy to keep the heat and sun off the patio. Self seeding plants now blooming. I do miss the shade from that huge missing oak tree, sigh.
I was happy to see the Ivy survived our cold winter with a Ice and Snow blanket in January. Two Lily's in this garden survived their first winter with me as well.
The Ivy did not perish to the sun this summer as I thought it would do. I added a Tropical Canna from that big sale at McCorkles Nursery back in June. Click HERE and HERE if you missed those fun post's. I was careful to keep this area watered during our drought to keep the new plants happy. In the background, you can see the Wishing Well Garden. Look at that happy Banana Tree! I want to connect these two garden some day with a little wooden bridge. Only time will tell on that idea... I had the garden hose and sprinkler set up about every 3 days in this area. The Canna is happy as she gave me a shoot!

A beautiful Bloom of a Shoot indeed! There are a lot of whimsical items in this garden but they are currently hidden by the tall plants. They show during the winter months when most of the plants are dormant, thus keeping this garden full of interest year round.

With more sun in this area, I am learning what works and what does not work in this garden. I shall pull this or that and add this or that as time goes by. I enjoy my little ROCK GARDEN; SPRING & SUMMER, In the Garden...

Words and Photos Property of In the Garden Blog Team, In the Garden