Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Wildflower--St. Andrew's Cross

Recently my older sister showed me a plant that she wanted to identify.  I wasn't familiar with it, but, as it turned out, I was familiar with one of it's relatives.  Of course, I only knew the relative by face and not by name.  The plant my sister was looking at was a pineweed, hypericum gentianoides.  It has a brown woody stem.  The relative I'm more familiar with is hypericum hypericoides, or St. Andrew's Cross.  I've loved this plant since childhood, probably because I thought the yellow blooms looked like butterflies, but also because I liked the shade of green and the brown contrasts.  I probably also liked the shape of the leaves, which give the plant a handsomeness and symmetry.  Here is a little specimen growing in the front yard under my sycamore tree.  (It is a relative of St. John's wort, a plant sometimes used medicinally to treat depression.  Just looking at this little plant lifts my mood.)

Monday, August 22, 2016

Finally, muscadines!

Quite longer ago than I would like to admit, my brother gave me a couple of muscadine vines.  For the longest time, they were not trellised.  (I'm pretty sure if my husband loved me, he would have trellised them for me.)  Finally, I had my father cut a few cedar posts for me.  My son and I started digging a hole for the post, but we were too close to the drain lines we realized as the hole filled in with smelly water.  Well, I just needed to move the vines (or basically a cutting from them), which I did.  Darling son and I put up the posts and string.  Later we upgraded to the proper #9 gauge galvanized wire.  The vines lived and soon fruited.  I think I might have gotten one or two grapes.  Then there were two years where the grapes formed and grew to half size before falling off prematurely.  Bummer!
Finally, this year, I have a small harvest.  This is a named cultivar, but I don't know what it is--my brother has long since forgotten which cultivar he gave me.  I've had tastier ones, but these do have a nice, soft hull that can be eaten.  When I was a kid, I would swallow the entire inside, seeds and all and spit out the hull.  I'm a little more leery about swallowing seeds now (thinking they might give me diverticulitis, I guess), so on these grapes, I ate the hulls and the inside but spit out the seeds.  Mom used to make a dish called grape hull pudding (which was a baked sort of pudding that is more like bread pudding than custard).  I'm thinking this variety would be great for that application.  I'll probably eat the few I have this year fresh.

Here are three large ones of the few I ate fresh yesterday.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Rose of Sharon

This has been a great year for my Rose of Sharon bush.  The plentiful rainfall has resulted in a profusion of large blooms.  The variety I have is 'Lavender Chiffon.'  Here are a couple of pics Caleb took.

I also had a couple of blooms on the cuttings I rooted from the bushes next door.  I'm not sure what variety this is.

Now I just need to figure out a place to plant these in a landscape that is getting crowded with plants.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Do not touch the saddleback caterpillar

Yesterday, I was doing a little weeding in my mulched area and saw this critter on a leaf of my Oriental persimmon.  (It was on death row, having its last meal.)
These caterpillars can give you a very serious sting with their venomous spines.  If you see one, make sure you instruct any kids around that it is a very dangerous caterpillar.  With my gardening gloves on, I carefully removed the leaf with the caterpillar still on it, and crushed the caterpillar on the ground with a small garden tool.  I covered the smashed caterpillar with dirt because I had read that the spines can cause contact dermatitis even if they aren't attached to the caterpillar.
Apparently the treatment protocol for a saddleback caterpillar sting is to use cellophane tape to remove any spines; ice pack; then baking soda paste.  See a doctor if allergic reaction occurs.
(Now, I will mention that I used meat tenderizer once when I got stung by some sort of stinging worm.  I did get remarkable pain relief, but I've noticed that meat tenderizer is not a recommended protocol because it supposedly can damage skin tissues.)
Watch out for stinging insects, especially this time of year!

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Baby brown thrasher

Late this evening after I had just filled the water dish for the birds, I came by the fig bush.  I saw and heard the movement of a large bird in the foliage.  I was outraged.  The figs are not yet ripe, and that brown thrasher is already scoping out the bush!  I continued on around to the other side of the bush expecting to see a flash of rusty brown as the thrasher made its exit.  Instead it sat quietly on the limb next to an adorable baby brown thrasher.  Then the parent bird made its exit and the baby sat motionless even while I fetched my camera.

It might grow up to rob the figs, but right then it was too cute to be upset with.