Sunday, September 29, 2013

Anthurium Madness

This has been a great year for Anthuriums here on The Edge.  Early in the year I visited a LGC [Local Garden Center] that is a bit further away and so is only visited about once a year.

'Otazu!'  They had this spectacular plant with very dark burgundy flowers.  Sexy!

I brought him home and found out that at least three of his blooms had been fertilized.

Look at those bulges on his spadix!

I harvested one to start myself (which I will post about in the future unless ALL the seeds get fungus [can you guess how it's going so far?]) and I mailed one to Mr. Subjunctive over at PATSP.  He's much better at seeds than I am.  If he has time between routine care for his over 1000 house plants.  [and people say I have too many plants!  Ha!]

Then, during July, The Husband and I went down to Connecticut for a weekend get a way.

No trip to Connecticut is complete without a trip to Logee's.  This is a houseplant fanatic's wet dream.  Well, at least humid dream.  Their greenhouses are packed with plants.  Benches contain plants in pots for sale but planted right in the ground are the show pieces (and probably stock plants).  Huge, gorgeous houseplants fill the space.  You often have to turn sideways to get past them.  

And there, tucked in the back, a PURPLE ANTHURIUM.

This plant has been on my desperately want list since I saw one in a garden in Panama.  I'd gotten to the point I was considering ordering one from Hawaii (or Florida if I could find a mail order place there that actually had them in stock) and pay the outrageous shipping.

I wish this one had come fertilized.  Maybe I can try to fertilize it myself....  

At this point I thought my life was complete.  I had my dream Purple Anthurium.

Then I visited another LGC that isn't so L.  What did they have?



Now what am I going to lust after?

Oh, yeah.

File:Tacca chantrieri1.JPG
Tacca chantieri image by Pismire via Wikimedia Commons


I think I might need more plant room though.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Fall, when a gardener's fancy turns to...


I learned  how to garden in The South and down there it makes sense to put things in now.  There will be a long fall for them to get established, followed by a mild winter and a nice spring before new plants have to deal with the hardest Southern Season - Summer!  When it's HOT and, often, dry.

Aster x dumosus 'Alert' [is Aster a valid genus still/ again?]

Here in New England most gardeners put up their shovels in June (or July) and don't pick them back up until the following Spring.  

Chasmanthium latifolium var. $5!!!! [Sea Oats, or River Oats if you don't live near the ocean]

Not me.  I know we'll still have a nice, long, cool fall before the Worst Season (winter - brrr!) and because garden centers don't want to care for plants for another year, and no one else buys them, all the plants are ON SALE!!!

Gaura unk but the flowers have both white AND pink.  I hope they continue this way.

Unfortunately at this time of year selection is limited and labels are often missing or wrong.

Agastache hopeitsurvivesthewinter [I lost a few to the wet spring and a few more to my over-zealous neighbor's string trimmer.  Really.  There is a brick border on his side but he overseeds the property line into my perennial beds so he "can't tell" where the line is.  I may have to do something about that.  Next  year.]

Coreopsis found with the perennial Coreopsis varieties but I'm suspicious it's an annual.  Still, it was on sale.  I guess we'll see in the spring.

Still, new plants, dirt under fingernails, and I'm adding to the garden, not taking away.  Which is nice to do at this time of the year.  Just have to hope for a mild winter.

Is an early spring to much to ask for???

Monday, August 26, 2013

Pollinator Season

It's August and my pollinator populations are at their peak.  

I admit to choosing plants that attract pollinators because I like to watch the little ecosystem in my yard.  I watch the bees, wasps, their mimics and their predators darting around my flowers.  I feel like I'm contributing to the environment - increasing the population of a group of organisms that are in decline.

Plus I kind of think they're pretty. 

And, no, neither The Husband nor myself has gotten stung in the garden.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Liars, Politicians and... Your Local Garden Center?

I try very hard to buy the right plant for the right spot.  For example - I purchased a Buddleia (Buddleja) Nanho Purple for the corner of my yard, to anchor the perennial beds that run along the side and front of my property.  Nanho Purple, according to the Missouri Botanical Garden, the plant tag, Dave's Garden and several other sources, grows to between 3 and 6 foot.  Big but not massive.


Here's my Nanho Purple now.  I'm starting to worry that it will hit the overhead wires soon.

All right, so someone mislabeled the plant.  Everyone is entitled to a mistake now and then.

Here's another Buddleia (Buddleja).  I ordered this one on-line as Evil Ways.  It grows to be 3-4 foot (again using MULTIPLE web sites for information).


One more.  How about Cornus Garden Glow (a shrub dogwood)?  With a mature height of 5-6 foot.  Perfect for under the kitchen window (which is about 8 foot off the ground).


I'm having problems seeing out the kitchen window into the backyard.  Think we can move this?

What's really frustrating is that I bought these three plants (and my [not pictured] "annual" Sanbucus Black Lace [a 6-7 foot tall shrub]) at DIFFERENT PLACES.  I can't even just say that one garden center has a problem with labeling.  The problem is more wide spread.  Three different Local Garden Centers and one (well respected) mail order catalog.

The Husband chalks this problem up to my overly green thumbs.  It's true that most of the plants in my yard reach the maximum size they're reported to reach (or a bit more) but these are clearly not my "fault."

What is a gardener to do? 

Thursday, June 20, 2013

What Were They Thinking?

There is a rather large house with a fair amount of road frontage not far from where I live.  I guess they weren't sure what to do with that long stretch of road side and so they decided to entertain passerbys.

It's a wonder more people don't wreck from closing their eyes at this monstrosity.

Can you image how much they must pay for upkeep?

And one more, just for the NSA.  Now they can use their satellites to find this hedgerow and narrow down where I live.  I'm sure they'll just file that information away.  Until I do another anti-pesticide rant.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

House Plant Update

It's June.  The weather is warm and sunny and it's prime gardening season.

Yeah, that's not what's happening this year.  It's been a mostly gloomy, overcast, and cool month so far.  My garden looks great but it's been raining so much that I haven't kept up with weeding so I'm going to do an update on my indoor plants.  The ones who don't care that's it's gloomy, overcast and cool.  They're growing and blooming anyway.

My Anthurium possibly 'Otazu' continues to look great.  I think the blooms were fertilized in the green house before I bought this beauty.  Look at the swellings on the Spadex (the, ehem, suggesting looking part of the bloom)!  I promised seeds to Mr. Subjunctive at PATSP as soon as they're ready.  Because he needs more houseplants.  And because I'm lousy at seed starting (I can get them started but they usually don't make it to transplant size).

I've been thinking about making some changes in my house plant collection.  I've had this Hoya for years - I got a cutting from a friend and it's never done much.  It's a long vine and I have filled all of my "hanging" pot spaces.  Since it doesn't look spectacular (I like LOTS of leaves on a plant) I had been thinking of replacing it with something else.  So I move it to a different spot and then it does this.  Yep.  It's going to bloom for the second time in as many months.  Maybe I'll try cutting it back and keeping it.

I've also been thinking of getting rid of some of my "spiky" plants - aloes and Sanseiveria sp. (of which I have five different varieties).  They are hard to manage in limited spaces.  There's no squishing the plants together to fit more in the same window.

This one I'll have to keep.  Yes, it's a Sanseiveria trifasciata, the most common species in the house plant trade.  But it's from a cutting from a plant my mother got back in the mid-70s.  I've had it grow up and taking cuttings and had those grow up and rinse and repeat several times.  This is not the first time it's bloomed, either.  The first time it bloomed it took me quite a while to figure out the source of that smell.  Especially because it's a night bloomer.  Great for the bedroom if you have enough light.

Lastly, I had a recent (sort of) message on an old post about a fern that had spots on the leaves and I wasn't sure of the cause.  No word on the cause but I wanted to let the writer know that the fern in question is still doing well.  Too well.  I split it into two baskets because I was tired of the too-frequent watering and now it's filling two baskets and starting to need frequent watering...  Anyone want one?  

And now, just for our friends at the NSA, a short video of common loons. 

Those males are just so sexy when they puff up their chests.  And I love their sweet calls.  Almost as attractive as male pigeons displaying [I'm serious - if men could coo like that!  Whew!].

Better version is on YouTube at

Friday, May 24, 2013

What a Biology Professor does on Summer Break

The semester is over.  I'm tired and ready for summer.  Sleeping late.  Working in the Garden.  Getting attacked by angry gulls.  You know, the usual.

Last week I went to Shoals Marine Laboratory on Appledore Island Maine.  This is a research island.  While you can visit you should not expect 5 star accommodations.  Rooms are dorm style with two sets of bunk beds in an unheated/un air conditioned room and one half bath for each two rooms.  Showers are in another building and are heavily discouraged (one or two per week, unless you really get covered with gull poop).

I went out to work on two different projects.  One was a gull banding/ re sighting project that is monitoring the gull population long term.  We located and noted previously banded birds, found their nest sites when possible and banded a few new gulls (if a banded birds was breeding with a non-banded bird we went after the non-banded mate).  

Now if you think this is easy...

That's right.  We're wearing bike helmets.  There are two species of gull that breed on the island (well....  I'll get to that in a sec) - Herring gulls (smaller and paler backs) and Greater Black Back Gulls.  When they are nesting they can be quite aggressive and will attack people.  They dive bomb pedestrians and either 1) poop on them and/or 2) smack them in the head.  They can and do draw blood if you aren't well protected.

 Greater Black Backed Gull on nest

Herring Gull

Now to that other gull species...  We were fortunate to spot Pierre on my walk about.  He's a Lesser Black Backed Gull, a species normally found in Europe.  

The Lesser Black Backed on the Left, Herring Gull on the Right

Several years ago Pierre showed up on Appledore and bred with a Herring Gull female.  They successfully reared chicks.     Since then he has returned several times and bred with several different Herring Gull females.  I guess you could say he's an ex-pat Brit living it up with the American Gullrs.

For the first time (I think) this year we found what could possibly be one of Pierre's offspring.  A Hybrid Lesser Black Back - Herring Gull cross.

So she looks a lot like a Herring Gull expect for the legs (not a great picture of her legs).  Instead of the normal pink her legs are kind of yellowish (her feet are still mostly pink).  We had hoped she would hook up with a local Herring gull and nest where we could get at the nest so we could catch her and get a blood sample to confirm paternity but if she's nesting we never saw where.

Note:  I am calling it a "she" but it's very difficult, often impossible, to determine gender in gulls

Note 2:  Yes, different species of gull can often interbreed and produce hybrid offspring.  It's one of the things that makes gull identification a bit more tricky than most people would expect. 

Note 3:  I didn't get any photos of my main project on this trip.  I was collecting samples of gull feces for a study on viral diseases in wildlife.  Not exactly glamorous but it did earn me my field biology nickname:

Guano Girl!

Friday, May 17, 2013

Edgy Gardening

One of my neighbors (a very good gardener) believes in using the wisdom of the ages to plant her vegetable garden.  She waits until after memorial day to plant tomatoes because that's the way it's always been done here in New England.

Not being a local AND being an observant person I know that spring is coming earlier and earlier (global climate change, ya'll!).  Every year that I've lived her I've put out my first tomatoes early.  Just 2 or 3 plants in the bed near the driveway.  Every year that I've lived her these plants have done just time and I get the first tomatoes of the year.

This year is no exception.  This guy and his buddy (not pictured) went in May 5th.

Don't tell my neighbor how this is cheating.

Why cheating?  Did you miss the cheat comment?  

I plant them near the driveway.  In a slightly warmer microclimate.  The driveway holds heat from the day and the plants closest to it stay warmer.

Now I haven't had a tomato killing May frost in the four years I've lived here so I could probably get away with a different location for the tomatoes but I do like to hedge my bets.

It's also how I manage to keep Mexican Feather Grass (Nassella tenuissmia), commonly considered a zone 7 plant in my zone 6 garden space.

I cheat.


Monday, May 13, 2013

Star Trek Weekend in My Garden

No, no, no.  NOT next weekend when the next Star Trek movie comes out.

No, I'm not confused with Star Wars Day from a few weeks ago (May the 4th be with you).

THIS last weekend was Star Trek Weekend in my Garden.  My Asclepias tuberosa (Oragne Butterfly weed) has been up for over a week now.  It's the official last plant to come up in my garden.  Once it's up I go around and see who didn't survive the winter.

This past winter was particularly difficult for plants.  Early on it was a mild winter and early in the spring it got warm and several plants broke dormancy.  Then real winter hit and we were cold and snowy for weeks (months... years???).  Some of the plants that broke dormancy were hit hard by the cold spell.

He's dead, Jim.

Jim, he's dead.

I'm afraid he's dead, Jim.

The Contorted Filbert (Corlus avellana 'Contorta') was not much of a surprise.  I bought it at an end of year sale and it was the most horrifically root bound plant I'd ever seen.  

The Rosa (Don Juan) was a surprise.  It had done well in the past but this year it was dead down to the graft.

The Sweet Autumn Clematis (Clematis terniflora) was also a BIG surprise.   You can see last year's growth.  But down at the soil level the stems were rotted (see second picture).  I'm very dissapointed in this one but it does give me a chance to power wash and re-stain my deck this summer....

I also lost a couple of Agastache but I have plenty of seedlings that I can move around to fill in spaces so that's not a big problem.

I hope you get the Star Trek reference by now.  If not see below.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

North of Boston

We live North of Boston in an area known at the North Shore.  Far enough out of town that our lives and jobs were minimally impacted by last week.  The Husband works in Cambridge so he got a bonus day off on Friday when that area was shut down for The Manhunt.  I just cancelled a quiz since several of my students couldn't get to school because they were "sheltering in place."

We don't know anyone who was physically injured during the bombing or its aftermath.  I do know of one 6 year old who was watching his father run the marathon and was still in town and caught in the chaos when the explosions occurred.  He's been having nightmares.  That's the worst of it for me.

So I find myself conflicted.  Should I write a blog post about the Boston Marathon Bombing or not?  [here it is so you can figure that out for yourself] and if so what angle should I take?  I'm not great at writing serious pieces - I try to find the funny in life [and often succeed to the groans and eye rollings of those around me].  So here's my odd balled view of the negative side of things.

Damn those politicians who are forcing me to side with the Terrorists!  You know the ones.  The ones who want to take away all of the surviving terrorist's rights because of the heinous nature of his crimes.  Are we not America?  Are we not supposed to be the pinnacle of freedom and rights for men [or is it just rights of rich, white, heteronormative men].  If we don't treat our criminals better than countries we declare terrorists states then who are we to judge them?

Oh and WTF is up with not requiring background checks for gun purchases?  Please explain to me how you can defend the rights of criminals and nutjobs to purchase guns whenever they want and then demand that all rights be taken away from an American citizen who commits a crime with said guns?  

I hate feeling like I have to stand up for the rights of someone who thought that bombing innocent spectators at the marathon was a good idea.  But I am.  What does that say about me?  More importantly what does that say about the politicians?

On the Positive Side: 

Spring in [finally] arriving.

It's very nice to to far enough away that I wasn't seriously impacted.  I'm very glad we live in a society and a time where events like this are a rarity and we can get life back to normal within a couple of weeks.  [except for the airline security theater]

And now here's a picture of a cat in a box.  Because the internet needs more pictures of cats.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Mystery solved!

I have solved the mystery of the identity of the shape in part 1 of my last post.  With any luck in another month or so it will turn into this....

File:Hyalophora cecropia1.jpg
Image thanks to Tom Peterson, Fermilab via Wikimedia Commons.

Oh, and Mr. Subjunctive - you sure you don't like living in warm climates?   Let me just show you this...

That's right.  Anthurium growing outside!  There was a whole field of them at a garden I visited in Thailand.  Tempted yet?  ;)

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Mystery Science Theater 2013 - April edition

Today I present series of garden mysteries to ponder.

Mystery 1:  what IS this?  A cocoon?  A chrysalis?  A leaf folded over and sealed to protect someone from winter's chill?

I noticed this when the shrub dogwood lost it's leaves.  All winter I thought it was a couple of leaves that had somehow wrapped around the stem.  Today it was [finally] warm enough to investigate.

What could be/have been inside?  I think I need to wander over to BugGuide and see if anyone there can ID this...  And/or I really need to take an entomology course...

Mystery B:  I actually have a good idea what this might be.

Some caterpillar crawled into my Spirea and formed a chrysalis.  This is what's left.  See that row of dots?  I'm thinking Monarch.  I certainly have their caterpillars on my Asclepia tuberosa during the summer.

Mystery 3:  Where did the snakes go?  Yesterday when I went into the garden I could hardly move for snakes (I think I spotted 7 or 8 individuals).  Today?  One.  I guess they all left the hibernaculum where they spent the winter and headed into the woods.  Good luck, snakes, see you all in the fall!

Last mystery of the day:  WHY does it have to get colder again tomorrow?  WHY can't it stay nice and warm and sunny all through the rest of spring and into summer?  WHY do I have to live in frigid, arctic New England?  [oh, yeah, that last one is because of The Husband's career.  Maybe he needs a new career.  Or I need a new Husband...  Hey, Mr. Subjunctive, want to move to Florida with me?  ;)]

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Hello, Sexy!

Even though it is April the weather is still not warm and the garden is still not doing much.  I have some crocuses blooming.  Seriously.  That's it.

So I have major Garden Withdrawal Syndrome.  Too long without my hands in the dirt and I start craving plants.

Yesterday found The Husband and myself near a garden center with a large collection of greenhouses and I insisted on stopping.  Not like we can buy and plant anything yet but just give me the smell of dirt and growing things.

Then I found THIS.

What a sexy Anthurium.  Large, dark burgundy flowers.  Yum.  I am developing a bit of an obsession.  I may need to add some windows if I ever find a good source that has purple and orange blooming Anthuriums.

So I did get to do a little gardening this weekend.  Yeah, me.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Perfect Timing

It's FINALLY starting to look like Early Spring here at The Edge.

The snakes have come out of hibernation and are looking for love.

The crocus are blooming.

At this time of year I feel like I can't have enough crocus, especially the bright yellow ones.  So I took photos of the garden to see where I can add some for next spring.

As I come inside from my brief foray into early season gardening (when it started to rain - bah!) I grabbed the mail.  Inside was my spring copy of Brent and Becky's bulb catalog.

Perfect timing.