Thursday, April 28, 2011

April 28, 2011 Butterfly Gardening

This evening I went to a class on Butterfly Gardening offered by the Botanical Garden of the Ozarks. It was interesting, informative, the photos were beautiful and the folks were friendly. Overall, it was a lovely class. Dr. Rita Littrell presented her computer slideshow on butterflies.  Most of the pictures were from her own garden. Dr. Littrell is not an entymologist or horticulurist or even a gardener by trade.  Rather, she is self-taught. Her interest in butterflies stemmed from being a mother. She wanted to show her son the transitions a caterpillar made to become a butterfly. She is now known to some locally as "the butterfly lady." She knows and shares so much about these beautiful creatures. I was impressed by the lengths she went to protect them in their various states. Truly a butterfly passion! I have no doubt she has inspired others as she has myself.

We didn't get any rain today (hurray!) and the sun shone all day. Temperatures this evening are warmer than yesterday. There were some winds today but nothing severe. All my plants are at least surviving.

Oooh... also, some of my trees from the Arbor Day Foundation came. Their little bare roots are sitting in water in my kitchen sink.

The Botanical Garden of the Ozarks member plant sale is tomorrow. I need to figure out some plants I want before I go so I don't wander around saying to myself, "I want that. I want that. I want that." It's important to know if you have the right conditions to support the plant and if it's mature growth will fit what you really want. Also, I have been keeping an eye on allergies.  The book Allergy-Free Gardening by Thomas Leo Ogren is a great book and I am working on adding plants the author claims are at least 5 or below on his scale. I love this book so much, I ordered it online. According to the Ogren Plant-Allergy Scale (OPALS), butterfly weed or milkweed is only a 3, so I should definately look at it tomorrow.  On the other hand, Joe-Pye Weed is a 7.  Too bad.  Moonflowers which Sphinx moths (not a butterfly) love, is a 3 on the OPALS. These moths also host on this plant. Dutchman's Pipevine is also a 3 and they help support the Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly. Perhaps I overlooked it, but I couldn't find Garden Phlox in his book. It's supposed to be a great nectar plant. The spicebush, which Spicebush Swallowtails love, is an OPALS 3. The Black Swallowtail loves parsley, dill (3), and fennel (5). I couldn't find garden parsley listed in Ogren's book. Toadflax (1) and snapdragon (1) are favorites of the Buckeye Butterfly. Persimmon trees, which is one of the host plants for Luna Moths, is a 3.

Milkweed, depending on the type, will grow anywhere from 18"to 40." It needs full sun. Monarchs love it along with other butterfly types and hummingbirds.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

April 27 Provence Lavender

Between the time I set up the rain guage last night and now, we've gotten a little over half an inch of rain.  The temperature has dropped to 54 degrees. Brrrrr. 

David was down at the Farmer's Market yesterday taking pictures and he brought home a Provence Lavender (Lavendula x intermedia) plant. I've never grown Lavender before but have wanted to. It looks lovely.  Mountain Valley Growers, a website I found by searching Google, has many different types of Lavender listed and has provided great pictures of them so you can see the differences. I didn't even know there were so many different types!

Unless otherwise stated, the following information about Provence Lavender was gleaned from the Mountain Valley site. Provence Lavender is a hybrid of the English lavenders. They are great for lining the driveway or as border plants.  Apparently, "they ... bloom lots, grow just the right size, and smell like a million bucks."

The 'x' in the name Lavendula x intermedia refers to it's parentage. It's a cross between two varieties: Lavendula augistifolia (English Lavender) and Lavendula latifolia (Spike Lavender). Though Provence Lavender has qualities of each parent, they either do not make seeds or produce sterile seeds.

Ideal soil type for Lavender should be well-drained with a pH beween 6.5 and 7.5. Yellow growth in Lavenders can indicate soil imbalances. In hot, humid areas, put Lavenders in raised beds or on a mound to help prevent fungal disease and rot from exposure to too much water. Let the soil dry out before watering again.

Lavenders must have full sun. It usually takes 3 years before they reach their full size. It's essential that they be pruned each year to extend the life of the plant. Cut the green flower stem off and about 1/3 of the grayed leafy stem. Do not cut back to only woody stems.  This will likely kill the plant.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

April 26, 2011 Landscaping 101

I found and joined an online Landscaping 101 class through the local library today.  So excited!!! The first assignment has us testing our soil. I just came from Lowe's with my soil testing kit. It sounds more complicated than I thought it might be. I've also invested in a rain guage/thermometer combo that will help me keep track of weather conditions, which is my intention with this blog. While at Lowe's I couldn't resist also picking up pond testing strips. Our poor little pond...... Those little lily pads are the only things keeping it from looking completely depressed.

It has been cloudy most of the day today, though I do vaguely recall actually using my sunglasses for about 15 minutes in walking to my car after work. Thunder is currently sporadic. Sprinkles led the dogs and I back indoors from our short foray into the backyard. David is driving in the midst of the storm now about 20 minutes North of here. I feel a downpour is eminent. My supervisor at work said 13 inches of rain has fallen at his house in Goshen since this deluge began. Seems difficult to imagine, but I believe it.

Monday, April 25, 2011

April 11-April 25 2011 Flooding

April 11 through the 14th, it rained sporadically, with some sunshine in between. Some golf-ball-sized and smaller-sized hail occurred that week as well. Beginning April 15th, it has rained almost continuously and continues to fall as I type. Roads out toward Elkins are closed, schools have called parents to pick up their children. The small creek on Wedington between the VA Hospital and I-540 is supposedly flooding the road. Temperatures are still above freezing.

Bean, tomato and pepper sprouts have made it so far....