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Archive for the ‘General’ Category

Our Hummingbird Feeders

Posted by Mark Wessel on August 29th, 2013  •  4 Comments »

Male Ruby-throated Hummingbird

Male Ruby-throated Hummingbird

It has been many years since we have maintained a sugar water hummingbird feeder. Why bother when we can grow them.

Agastache "Tango"

Agastache “Tango”

One male and one female were present most of the summer. The first day a youngster started showing up was the last day we saw the male.

Salvia involucrata "Bethellii"

Salvia involucrata “Bethellii”

Salvias are our mainstays. Many of our varieties bloom from late spring till frost.

Salvia guaranitica "Black and Blue"

Salvia guaranitica “Black and Blue”

A few wait until September to start blooming.

Salvia "Black and Blue"

Salvia “Black and Blue”

Salvia "Wendy's Wish"

Salvia “Wendy’s Wish”

Salvia "Wendy's Wish"

Salvia “Wendy’s Wish”

Many over winter in our root cellar. Others I root cuttings.

Cardinal Climber

Cardinal Climber

Tubular flowers seem attract the most attention.

Posted in : General, Uncategorized  •  Tags: ,

Yucca Bug: Follow your nose and watch your eyes.

Posted by Mark Wessel on October 28th, 2011  •  2 Comments »

Gardening is an activity that requires you to use all your senses. The sense of smell for pest identification is often overlooked.

For several years, a fragrance emanating from a perennial border I tended eluded my identification. I sniffed and sniffed. At one time I thought it was coming from the seedpods of the Nigella or Love in a Mist. When crushed, the un-ripened seedpods of Nigella smell very much like artificial grape. This wasn’t the aroma.

While working in another bed, I smelled the same fragrance.  Immediately, I wondered what the beds had in common.

Yucca. I went to the yucca plant and observed a bunch of bugs. Often, when people refer to bugs, they are talking about any insect. The insects I was observing were true bugs. I stuck my nose into the abyss and sure enough, I found the source. Later that day I went back to the original bed with the fragrance and that yucca also had an infestation of the same bug.

What are these bugs? I went home and goggled Yucca bugs. That was all I needed. The insect pest in question was appropriately named Yucca bug. For better pictures click this link.

Why the fragrance when these bugs feed? I do not know. I can speculate. I think it has something to do with Saponins that occur in yuccas. After the insect feeds on yucca the saliva or fecal material smells of cheap detergent. Saponins are detergent –like chemicals that occur in many plants. Yucca schidigera and Quillaja saponaria (soapbark tree) are two commercial sources for these chemicals.

You do not have to stick your nose right in a yucca to smell the aroma of feeding yucca bugs. If you do chose to use this method, watch your eyes. You are sure to get poked if you aren’t careful. A few days ago I was walking back to the barn at my parents house. The fragrance hit me. I turned and looked. A yucca was thirty feet away and loaded with yucca bugs.

They are fairly easy to control. I have used Pyola and soaps to knock them back. There are a few systemic insecticides that offer longer-term control.

Some sources say that the Yucca bug will not kill your yucca. This is partly true. If the plant is not in optimum growing conditions, I have seen the bug finish them off.

Posted in : General, Pest and Disease, Wildflowers  • 

Who’s silly idea was this anyway?

Posted by Mark Wessel on June 22nd, 2011  •  No Comments »

Pucker up Baby

That’s right, whose idea was this? I am not talking about kissing a horse. That wasn’t so bad. I am talking about a gardening blog. Aren’t there enough already? Do I think I really have something to say that hasn’t already been said?

Cornus controversa

It all seemed like a wonderful idea in the winter. Less daylight, colder temperatures, and snow cover add up to more time to spend writing blog posts. The only problem is the lack of blog material. In the summer, it is just a matter of looking out at your garden. There is always something new happening. In the winter, much more creativity is needed to craft a meaningful post.

Southern Magnolia

Spring’s arrival offers more than warmer temps and pretty flowers. Potential blog fodder increases. The great aspect of early spring is that there is still plenty of darkness to keep you out of the garden and at the computer writing.

Tree Peony

Then late spring and early summer hit. So many subjects to write about, so little time.

I am a professional gardener. I am also a hobby gardener. Plus, I help friends with their gardens. This all adds up to a dawn to dusk gardening life.  It also adds up to not much time for my blog.

Grecian Foxglove Digitalis lanata

In a perfect world, I would be posting once a week. My last post was in early May.  I am letting my thousands of followers down. Every day, hundreds go to the site looking for new and wonderful gardening insight. This weighs heavily on me. It’s like an unpaid bill. Pure torture.

WOW! What a Smoke Tree

Blog topics too numerous to list have passed. Whole genera of plants have come into and out of bloom for the season. Wonderful gardens have been visited. One day, not long ago, I found an Emerald Ash Borer adult on my kitchen floor and a Brown Marmorated stinkbug on my elderberry bush. How could a person not write about finding two of the most destructive pests to come along in recent history in a single day?

Nation Champion Burr Oak --- Photo: Meg Hanrahan

There is hope. The solstice is here. My gardening life starts to shift to a little less hectic pace. I have several new postings started and a long list of ideas. Hopefully my next posting will be soon. If not, maybe I will be writing another bunch of excuses in two months.

Posted in : General  •