Full Bloom

Here are the Paperwhite narcissis (members of the Daffodil group) in full bloom. This picture was taken on the fifth week after they were brought out into the house. They have been refrigerated in their pot for a few months prior. Paperwhites do not need a cold chilling period, they will grow right away. I just refrigerated them to attempt to time them for a certain date. So now I know that at a chilly and sunny spot they take 5-6 weeks to come into full bloom. My target date was Valentine’s Day but they are a couple weeks early. Next year I will set them out in the house 2 full weeks in to January to try to get the timing right.

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Paperwhites Week 4

Fourth week on the Paperwhites. We now have the first little flower. I mistakenly posted this yesterday as week 3 but it is week 4. They were taken out of the refrigerator on December 21, 2012. My goal is to time them to coincide with Valentine’s Day. I think this will always be approximate. The warmth of the house and how much you water them will affect their growth rate.

Hops Harvest

I have now completed the harvest of my fresh hops. I always have a question in my mind as to when they are ready. After Labor Day, they seem very numerous and ready to go. I have held off to the last minute when some of the varieties turn a little bit golden. I read that if they get very dry and golden, the flavor molecules start to fall apart and the flavor will be less. I have not had that problem yet, they are very sticky on the fingers and full of aroma.

In search of the perfect IPA beer, I have used a LOT of hops in my brews. So far the only thing I have not tried is dry hopping after the fermentation. This last batch I just tried doing that so we will have to wait and see if it is any better. Dry hopping is the procedure of throwing hops in after the fermentation has slowed down and letting them soak in there for a week or two. I never did this because it seemed like it would contaminate the beer, but I just tried it and nothing seems bad in there yet.

Fresh Hops Cones

Fresh Cones

Ready to pick now.

Trough of Tulips

Tulip Trough

The other little project I did today is to plant 60 tulip bulbs in this old trough I found over at my Father-in-law’s house. I broke up the old soil in it and added a peaty soilless mix that contains time release fertilizer pellets. Then the bulbs were scattered and pressed in pointing up. (If you have never done this before, the tip goes up and the tiny flat root plate goes down. Sometimes it is a little hard to tell.) Then over the top went more soilless media. They will be protected from animals in this container. It should get chilled in the garage all winter but not frozen really hard.
I saw this done this past May when I went to Keukenhopf in the Netherlands. They used so many bulbs that it made a stunningly thick display. I purchased these bulbs at a home store for ten dollars per bag. I used two bags for this trough. The flowers are going to be a mixed pastel collection. One bag is mid season and one bag is late. I expect them to be quite tall too. We will see if I get a long season of bloom out of them. Now to water them and wait for SPRING!

Parrot Tulip

This flower form is the Parrot Tulip. They come in various blended colors. Spectacular!

Black Eyed Susan Vine

Black Eyed Susan Vine

We have been growing a good garden plant for a few years now. It is commonly called the Black Eyed Susan Vine. Many gardeners grow the plant known as Black eyed Susan which is like a daisy with orange petals around a brown center. That plant is a Rudbeckia species and is completely different, botanically from the vine by the same common name.

The vine is called

    Thunbergia alata

and it falls in the plant family Acanthaceae. All the members of this family have petals that are united more or less at the base into a roll or tube. The BES vine has the petal bases joined and a simultaneous color change to a purple-brown. The petals at the mouth of the flower are lobed so that they appear to be five separate petals. The color tones vary depending on the variety from yellow to deep orange.

The care of the BES vine is very easy. In our part of the country, they are put in after danger of spring frosts and grown as a summer bedding plant. If you are lucky enough to be in an area that has no frosts, it can live for a long time as it is a frost-tender perennial. When I planted them in the spring they were about 6 inches tall. By this week, when they were pulled out, one of them had climbed up to my second story deck and run along the railing spindles for about 6 feet. They do not get too weedy or anything, they are nice cheerful plants. They flower very well if they get enough sun. They can take full sun as long as they do not dry out too much.

As far as decorative value, they do well on a fence or trellis. They would stand out well when grown with a complementary color in the blue tones. A suggested combo would be ‘Heavenly Blue’ morning glory and the orange Black Eyed Susan vine. Happy gardening!

Sri Lanka Weevil

On a recent visit to Florida’s Manatee county, this poor Crepe myrtle was brought to my attention.

A branch from a crepe myrtle eaten up by the weevil

The owner of the plant said that white insects were found on it. Sure enough in a few seconds of searching, a white weevil was found. Here you can see him pinned down for a really awful picture.

The perpetrator pinned down on the countertop by a shish-kebab skewer. They are not much for flying away.

After a few minutes search on the internet, I think this insect is probably the “Infamous” (heh-heh) white weevil from Sri Lanka. As one of the many invasive insects coming into the USA each year, this one is without natural predators or diseases and has been increasing in Florida and other places. This insect has a very wide range of plant hosts so it will probably be successful all over the place. It seems to eat everything and the kitchen sink. Unfortunately, it seems to eat citrus plants which will cause Florida some problems. Obviously, it likes Crepe Myrtle too.

I do not know anything about this insect in particular since it is a relatively new import, but I know about a cousin of it, the Black Vine Weevil. I can tell you about its life cycle and how nurserymen have been handling it.

The Black Vine Weevil is primarily a root feeding insect. Most of their lives they exist as immature grubs that eat roots of susceptible plants. They overwinter in the soil, moving downwards as the soil temperature drops in the fall. After winter, they warm up and rise shallower and shallower in the soil until they are just under the surface by spring. Here they pupate and turn into adult beetles. If you are a curious human, your best bet is to find them in the shallow soil or leaves on top of the ground. The Black Vine Weevil is nocturnal in its adult form.

The adults emerge when the weather turns warm and they begin to feed on the foliage. All weevils have a snout with a little mouth at the tip. It is characteristic of the Family. The little mouth chews a smile shaped bite out of the leaves of its host. You can pretty easily look at a weevil-eaten leaf and say it was done by a member of the Weevil family. The only other insect making even close to this feeding pattern is the grasshopper and their feeding is quite rough-looking in comparison. Anyway, the feeding damage occurs at night and is sometimes quite heavy. Our little friend on the Crepe-myrtyle make a big mess of the leaves. In the day, weevils of the Black Vine type sleep down in the shade under the plant. That is where I found the Sri-Lankan one too, so it may be nocturnal also.

Something very strange occurs with the Black Vine weevil. There are no males. Only females exist. Females spontaneously create parthenogenic eggs and lay them in the soil under host plants. I do not know why they never have any males, but there it is, ladies. A species of complete feminists for you. I am not sure how common this is in weevils but there are a few other insects that do this durung certain times of the year, like aphids. I do not know of any other completely female species, but, like I always say, I don’t know much.

As far as control, they Black Vine Weevil can be treated by dosing the soil around the affected plant with a water can full of pesticide. This is best done in early summer as you notice the first little bit of adult notching on the new leaf growth. Then spray the foliage once per month during the summer. The first drenching in the soil will kill active grubs that are root-feeding. Then the adults eating the leaves get knocked off from their lunch. If you are into this sort of thing, you can easily flashlight your way around the garden at night and hand-pick hundreds of them. They are slow and non-flying. Hand collection is not a good control measure because they hide in the shadows and are pretty sneaky. Weevils also walk into homes pretty frequently on cold nights. They come in and get lost and never get out. If you have weevils in your foundation plants, you will probably find a few lost in your garage!

The Dahlia Show

After the hot days of summer, the dahlias are in their full glory. I did not know the height or color or even the cultivar of most of them when they were planted. They all grew. Some were very huge. The smallest was about 2.5 feet and the tallest (before the wind got at it) was about 6 feet. Here are some very nice flowers to enjoy on todays’ photoblog. These were taken with a Samsung Fascinate phone, so they are slightly overexposed. Enjoy.

Devil du Roi Albert

Anna Mari

Vet's Love

Brookside Cheri

Fleurel

Gloriosa

Firepot

Hamilton

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