The Yellow Farmhouse Garden

October 12, 2017

The remarkable salvia flower

Filed under: Flowers — bob @ 6:02 am

You can find some really amazing things in the garden if you know where to look. For example, look closely at a salvia flower and you will see something unique.

Like most flowers, salvia produces nectar to lure pollinators such as wild bees, honeybees and others. And as usual the pollinators end up carrying pollen it picked up from the first flower to the next flower it visits thereby pollinating the second flower and others after that. Usually nectar collection is pretty straight forward, the bee simply visits the flower and sucks out the nectar and moves on to the next flower.

In the case of salvia however, something marvelous happens. The flower has a tiny structure that blocks access to the nectar. Instead if simply inserting its tongue and sucking out the nectar, the pollinator has to physically push itself deeper into the flower past the blockage in order to get to the nectar. That tiny gate that is hindering the bee is connected to the flower’s stamens by way of a pivot point like a see-saw. At the other end of the see-saw are a pair of stamens. At the very end of each stamens is a pollen sac.

Use a pencil to mimic the pushing behavior of a bee inside the flower and watch the stamens move.

Use a pencil to mimic the pushing behavior of a bee inside the flower and watch the stamens move.

When the pollinator pushes against the blocking structure, it causes the stamens to pivot downward. As the stamen moves down and touches the pollinator’s back, pollen is released from the pollen sacs onto the insect. The pollen sticks to that spot on the insect and once it is done gathering nectar, it moves on to other salvia flowers carrying the pollen with it.

All salvias have this astonishing mechanism in their flowers. Different species of salvia have slightly different lengths,sizes and shape of stamens. Some scientists believe that the different lengths of stamen by species minimizes hybridization ie. the pollination of two different species with one another. One type of salvia may deposit its pollen toward the rear of the insect while another may deposit at the front thereby reducing the mixing of pollen.

We’re nearing the end of the growing season but there are still some salvias blooming.

Bob

 

September 28, 2017

Sneezeweed in the garden

We were sitting out on the porch earlier this week enjoying that summery weather.  One flower caught my eye, it was fresh and bright among the others that were either gone or fading fast. It was one we forgot that we had planted this spring it was sneezeweed.

Sneezeweed, also referred to as Helenium  by many gardeners, is not as elegant as some other flowers but it provides a nice splash of color this time of year.

This plant is native to our area and in the wild, it is normally found in damp spots. Our flower garden is high and dry with very sandy soil and a southern exposure. Since we water that garden whenever it needs it, the sneezeweed seems to have adapted nicely. Often, when gardeners grow sneezeweed  in rich garden soils it grows tall but the stems will be weak causing the plants to fall over. That means more work for the gardener: staking and tying the plants. Cutting the plants back during June encourages branching and keeps the plants shorter avoiding the need to stake them later in the season. Ours are about three feet tall and were never cut back yet the stems are strong enough to keep the plants upright. That’s probably due to the growing conditions in our garden.

The full flower heads measure about one and a half inches across. Later the ray flowers drop off leaving behind the round disc flowers.

The full flower heads measure about one and a half inches across. Later the ray flowers drop off leaving behind the round disc flowers.

Helenium belongs to the compositae family of plants and like most of the plants in this group, they have composite flowers. What most people (other than botanists) call its flower is actually two different types of flowers combined into a single display. The outer ring of petal-like things are the “ray florets” or flowers. The center ball-shaped structure is a cluster of other tiny flowers called the “disc florets”. Daisies, sunflowers and dandelions all have similar flower structures.  If you watch bees visit these flowers, you can see them collecting nectar from each little floret.

Sneezeweed is a perennial and will continue to come up every spring for several years. Horticulturists and plant breeders have developed many varieties with different colors and growth habit. They are more civilized than their wild cousins but still retain the basic Helenium characteristics.

Bob

 

 

 

August 22, 2017

Monet Garden of Muskegon

Filed under: Events,Flowers — bob @ 4:37 pm

A couple of weeks ago while traveling in the west side of the state, we had some extra time on our hands so we decided to turn off the highway and do a little bit of site seeing. We turned on Google maps and it made a suggestion for us based on our location. All it said was “corner of 5th and Clay” and displayed an unflattering photo of a utility pole with some plants behind it. We decided to “bite” and made the detour to 5th and Clay. There we discovered the Monet Garden of Muskegon. It’s a wonderful urban oasis designed, planted and maintained by the Lakeshore Garden Masters an independent garden club based in Muskegon County. According to their website, the garden was planted in 2001. It’s heartening to know that an independent group of volunteers can keep a project like this going for 16 years.

View of the garden  from the middle of the intersection.

View of the garden from the middle of the intersection.

After driving through the city streets it was a bit surprising to see the garden for the first time from my car since we didn’t do a online search for it.

The gardeners have install a bridge reminiscent of the one in Monet famous painting.

The gardeners have install a bridge reminiscent of the one in Monet famous painting.

I’ve never been to Giverny to see Monet’s house and gardens so the paintings and published photos are all I have as a reference.

Moving water adds another dimension of interest.

Moving water adds another dimension of interest.

It’s pretty neat to see the designers’ interpretation of Monet’s original. I’m thinking they must have visited Giverny, France.

Vertical feature's like this arch over the pathway gives the illusion that the garden is larger than it actually is.

Vertical feature’s like this arch over the pathway gives the illusion that the garden is larger than it actually is.

We spent an hour or so at the garden in the afternoon on a week day and with no other visitors there, we had the whole garden to ourselves. It’s a relatively quiet spot with little car or truck traffic. There’s no cost for admission, you just park in the street and walk through.

Bob

July 12, 2017

Rose sawfly emergence

If you ever grew roses you probably have seen those ugly, slug-like rose sawfly larvae eating leaves on your roses, or at least the damage they do. That’s the way we usually see them, as larvae. Rarely are the adult insects ever seen by gardeners.

Rose slugs feed on one side or the other of the leaves, usually it’s the underside. When they first hatch from the eggs and while they’re growing, the slugs are very small so they have very small mouth parts. That means they can’t take very big bites and only able to eat the softer leaf parts leaving the tough veins of the leaf.  And they only eat one surface of a leaf leaving the other side intact. This results in a characteristic “windowpane” feeding pattern. Later as the leaf parts dry, the windowpanes turn brown and fall out. It’s not unusual for an entire rose bush to be defoliated like this.

Last week, on some ‘Knock Out’ roses, I witnessed a surprising phenomenon, a swarm of rose sawfly adults. It was a frenzy of activity, hundreds of them flying in and out the the rose branches stopping only briefly to mate. They would swam all over one bush then move on to the next until they visited all nine rose bushes. The way they were flying really looked a swarm of bees or wasps. That should not be too surprising since they are are members of the insect order Hymenoptera which includes bees, ants and wasps among others.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to capture a video for you but I got a few photos.

The adult sawflies do not chew on buds.

The adult sawflies do not chew on buds.

 

 

Sawflies were on every part of the plant.

Sawflies were on every part of the plant.

Closeup of adult sawfly.Closeup of adult sawfly.

The entire event lasted about two hours, then they were gone, with just a few stragglers left behind. I assume they laid eggs on the rose plants during all that activity. I’m expecting a huge outbreak of rose slug larvae from them.

When all that was going on, I was thinking that I had two choices: I could spray all of those sawfly adults as they were buzzing around and destroy them right then and there; or just leave them alone to see what eventually happens. Actually, since I didn’t have any insecticide or sprayer at the time, the decision was already made.

This will be an unintended but interesting experiment. I’ll let you know how it turns out.

Bob

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

May 11, 2017

Mother’s day plant sale at Matthaei Botanical Gardens this weekend

Filed under: Events,Flowers — Tags: , — bob @ 12:05 pm

The Matthaei Botanical Gardens – Nichols Arboretum annual Mother’s Day Plant Sale is coming up this weekend, May 13 and 14.

About three weeks ago I visited the Gardens and got a sneak peek at the plants growing in the greenhouse. I can tell you that these are no ordinary, anonymous plants grown by an impersonal factory growing operation. They are lovingly grown and tended by Adrienne O’Brien and her helpers right in the greenhouse at the Botanical Gardens. When I was there, the plants were still young but were growing strong and looked absolutely wonderful.

Horticulturist Adrienne _________ leads  team of plant grower at Matthaei Botanical Gardens - Nichols Arboretum

Horticulturist Adrienne O’ Brien leads her team of plant growers at Matthaei Botanical Gardens – Nichols Arboretum.

 

A month ago Adrienne was worried that the plants were ahead of schedule.

A month ago Adrienne was worried that the plants were ahead of schedule.

Now the plants are ready to go home to Mother’s house.

The plants will be sold in the same greenhouse that they were grown in.

The plants will be sold in the same greenhouse that they were grown in.

Wide variety of beautiful hanging baskets

Wide variety of beautiful hanging baskets

Container plants make a great gift for Mom on Mother's Day.

Container plants make a great gift for Mom on Mother’s Day.

Whimsical planters like these are lots of fun.

Whimsical planters like these are lots of fun.

 

The sale runs from 10:00 am to 4:30 pm both days (9:00 am if you are a member). Matthaei Botanical Gardens is located at 1800 N. Dixboro Road, south of Plymouth Road, Ann Arbor. See you there!

Bob

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