Thursday, June 30, 2011

Mother Nature's Artistry

I'm not sure if this is "artistry" or "accident". In any case, I thought it was interesting. A single leaf of Costus barbatus failed to completely unfurl. This caused the tip of the next leaf to get caught in the curl, preventing it from opening fully. The process became self-perpetuating, with each leaf holding on to the tip of the next. Now this spiral ginger is a spiral staircase!

Mother Nature's Artistry is featured here on the last day of every month. Check back again next month to see what Mother Nature has been up to!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Bloom Day - June 2011

In spite of our severe drought, lots of plants are trying to bloom. Here's a sampling of what's picture-worthy this month. Click on the links for more photos and information about each plant.

Nidularium leprosa, Billbergia 'Windii'
Portea petropolitana, Quesnelia arvensis
Aechmea fasciata, Neomea 'Popcorn'

Russelia, Plumbago
Bush Daisy, Bauhinia
Spiderwort, Tabernaemontana
Cestrum, Duranta

Hamelia, Costus barbatus
Elderberry, Coral Porterweed
Crinum, Cereus
Quisqualis, Maypop

Jatropha, Shrimp plant
Thevetia, Blue porterweed
Cosmos, Turnera
Knock-out Rose, Brugmansia

Pentas, Justicia
Brunfelsia, Tecoma
Sambac Jasmine, Ruellia elegans
Allamanda, Gold Shrimp

When you're done browsing in my garden, visit May Dreams Gardens for blooms from around the world.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Billbergia 'Hallelujah'

Billbergia 'Hallelujah' is grown more for its colorful foliage than for the flowers. Although the red, white, and blue blooms are showy enough, it's the stunning blends of red, pink, purple, and white on the leaves that gets everyone's attention.The plant grows to about a foot in height, and develops its best color when it gets direct sun at least part of the day. In tropical climates, a little shade during the middle of the day is preferred.Flowering can happen at almost any time during the year, and like most Billbergias, the inflorescence fades within about three weeks.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Elderberry (Sambucus canadensis)

Elderberry, or Sambucus canadensis, is a prolific fruiting shrub or small tree. Flowers and fruit appear simultaneously throughout the spring and summer. The white flower clusters are 8-10 inches across and can be made into elderflower fritters. Just pick entire flower clusters, dip in batter, and fry. Dried flowers can also be made into a tea.
The blooms are quickly followed by the fruit, which turns a dark purple-black color when ripe. The fruit can be eaten dried, or cooked into jams, jellies, pies, or wine. Eating large quantities of fresh fruit is not advised due to small amounts of poisonous alkaloids. Cooking destroys these alkaloids. The fruit is not only good, it is good for you. Elderberries contain more vitamin C per unit weight than oranges.
The ripe fruit attracts more than 50 different kinds of birds, so count on sharing a portion of your crop with them. The birds spread seeds wherever they go, and this plant can be found growing wild in most rural parts of its range.
Elderberries also spread by root suckers, and can become quite aggressive if allowed to roam freely. They perform well in mixed shrubby borders, or along fence-rows, where suckers will not be a problem. Plants grow 12-15 feet tall with multiple trunks or stems. Twigs have a distinctive warty appearance, and older trunks have deeply furrowed bark.

Elderberry is native to the eastern half of North America, ranging from USDA Zones 3-11. In most of its range, the pinnately compound leaves are deciduous, but in Zones 9-11, the plant is evergreen. It grows in full to part sun, and prefers moist soil, but is also very drought-tolerant. Propagation is by seeds, stem cuttings or sections of the root.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Harvest Monday - June 2011

On the first Monday of every month, I spotlight what I'm harvesting that week. I also join in on the Harvest Monday meme hosted by Daphne's Dandelions.
The severe drought we're in has adversely affected the harvests all spring. We should have received over 14 inches of rain by the end of May, but we've only had six inches.
Here's what is still producing:
Elderberries are doing well, and there is fruit to pick every day. In fact, I've been giving them away!
The White Sapote harvest season is just getting started, but the tree is loaded with fruit. I may be making White Sapote pie again this year!
This is a very ripe Persian Lime! Their season is also just getting started, and I'll be picking fresh limes over the next several months.
Valencia oranges are a late-season variety, and they are the last to be picked. They are considered the best juicing orange, but they're delicious eaten out of hand too!
In addition to the tree fruits, I've also been picking a few tomatoes here and there as they ripen. Unfortunately, our dry weather has been accompanied by high temperatures which inhibit tomato pollination. June is supposed to be our rainiest month of the year, so my fingers are crossed that the downpours will begin any day now!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Creature Feature - Ant lion

This month's featured creature is the antlion, also sometimes known as the doodlebug. This carnivorous insect gets its name because it preys primarily on ants.
Larvae of this species dig a pit in the sand, bury themselves at the bottom, and wait for ants to tumble in. The loose sand and steep walls of the pit prevent the ant from easily climbing out. If an ant does manage to start climbing, the antlion literally throws sand at the ant, causing it to fall back to the bottom of the pit, where it is devoured.
There are more than 2000 species of antlions around the world. Larvae of most North American species are about the size of a human fingernail. The crater they dig is usually a few inches across. Interestingly, the size of the crater is not related to the size of the larvae, but how hungry it is. The longer it has been since an antlion has eaten, the larger the crater will be.
The larval stage lasts for up to three years. The insect then spins a cocoon, where it spends around three weeks in a pupal stage. After that, the adult emerges, spending about a month mating and laying eggs, and then it dies.
Here's a National Geographic video that features an antlion capturing its prey.

The First Friday Creature Feature is hosted right here on the first Friday of every month.  You're invited to join in!  Here's how:
1. Write a post featuring some creature that lives in your garden.
2. Within your post, include a link to my Creature Feature post so your readers will know where to find the creatures.
3. Add your link below and leave a comment.
Thanks for participating and please join in again next month!