Monday, December 12, 2016

Poinsettias Are Popular in December Flower Arrangements

Poinsettias Are Popular for Decorating Outside 

I remember when I was growing up, we had a poinsettia plant near our back door. For some reason, my mom didn't care for it. Maybe it was because of the sticky white sap that dripped when she cut the "flowers" off to bring them in for December flower arrangements. Some people believe the sap is poisonous, but at worst it can cause skin irritation. She used to tell me it was poisonous.

Here on the California Central Coast, we can put poinsettias and sunflowers together outside at the same time, as long as there is no frost. I shot this scene in December one year as I was walking my neighborhood.

Poinsettias Are Popular in December Flower Arrangements
Poinsettias on Bench in Neighbor's Garden in December, © B. Radisavljevic 

People in frost free zones can plant the poinsettia for winter color in their gardens, as well as holly and pyracantha, which have red berries at this time of year. My area in Paso Robles is not frost free. We do have some nights below freezing. 

Many Motels and Hotels Use Poinsettias for Decorating During the Holidays

We often used to visit family and friends in Southern California for Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. We usually stayed at a motel in either Thousand Oaks or Orange County, or both. We saw this poinsettia plant on a table in a public area at the Best Western Motel in Thousand Oaks. 

Poinsettias Are Popular in December Flower Arrangements
Poinsettias on Table at Best Western Motel in Thousand Oaks, CA,  © B. Radisavljevic 

This photo clearly shows the parts of the plant. It has evergreen leaves. Red bracts surround the small yellow true flowers. It appears most businesses don't want to mess with the sticky sap anymore than my mother did. They use potted plants to do their decorating. 

Many people give potted poinsettias as gifts. Whether you receive one or buy one to decorate, you may wonder how to care for it. Poinsettias like sunshine, so if they are indoors, make sure they sit by a sunny window. Try to keep the temperature in the room from fluctuating too much. Although  these plants like moist soil, don't let water accumulate in the bottom of the pot's saucer or the plants may get root rot. Your plants will appreciate it if you remove the decorative foil as soon as the holiday season has passed. 

After the red bracts and flowers begin to fall, it's time to prepare your plant for storage if you want to keep it. Prune stems back to two buds and decrease the amount of water you give the plant. It won't be as thirsty as it was.Give it just enough water to keep it from drying out.  Store it in a cool place until late spring when all danger of frost is past. 

When the weather is warm enough again in late spring, you can safely set the plants outside in the sun. You may want to let them adjust by only leaving them out for a few hours a day and gradually increasing the time until they have acclimated to their new setting. Those who live in frost free areas may be able to safely plant their poinsettias in the garden against a south wall to keep them warm and to protect them from strong winds. For more detailed information and a different perspective from a friend who is actually growing poinsettias in her garden, please read Poinsettia – How Not to Kill Them by Maria Montgomery.

San Luis Bay Inn In Avila Beach Decorates with Poinsettias 

I took these photos when we were visiting a friend who was vacationing at the San Luis Bay Inn one December. This arrangement was in the lobby. Do you notice the white poinsettias in this display? 

Poinsettias Are Popular in December Flower Arrangements
Poinsettias on Display at San Luis Bay Inn in Avila Beach, © B. Radisavljevic 

I thought this arrangement was particularly striking.

Poinsettias Are Popular in December Flower Arrangements
Poinsettia Decoration at San Luis Bay Inn in Avila Beach, © B. Radisavljevic 
The San Luis Bay Inn was lovely during the Christmas season. I can see why my friend chose to stay there. If you plan to be  in San Luis Obispo County for the holidays, you might want to consider spending your vacation at the San Luis Bay Inn Resort in Avila Beach, just a short walk from the beach. It has everything you could want: kitchenettes in the large suites, wireless internet, large public areas for relaxing, swimming pool, jacuzzi, exercise room, and more.  It's a resort in every sense of the word. You can book through the banner below. Rooms fill up fast, so it's wise to plan far ahead. 


Saturday, June 04, 2016

The Mystery of the Baby Clary Sage

A Seedling Can Sometimes Fool You

That's why I was I was caught off guard today when I found this new garden surprise. It's a mystery to me how this baby clary sage plant I found in bloom today got where it is. I will try to solve it here.

The Mystery of the Baby Clary Sage
Surprise Clary Sage, © B. Radisavljevic

Why This Baby Clary Sage Plant Surprised Me

In August, 2013, about a foot from where this small clary sage is blooming today, this borage plant was blooming. Borage reseeds easily. 

The Mystery of the Baby Clary Sage
Borage in Bloom and Companions,  © B. Radisavljevic

If the clary sage and borage are not next to each other and neither is blooming, they can be easily confused. This is especially true if there were no known clary sage plants in an area where you knew you had had borage.  When I saw these seedlings in January, I just assumed they were borage and that they weren't yet mature enough to bloom.

The Mystery of the Baby Clary Sage
Borage  or Clary Sage Seedlings beside Calendula Flower  © B. Radisavljevic

The photo above shows you what I saw in that area in February 2015. What I believed to be the borage seedlings are to the right of the orange calendula flower. The eggshells are for snail control. The small plant closest to the flower, with the touch of blue, might actually be borage. It's hard to tell.

Seedlings Easily Confused with Borage

The Mystery of the Baby Clary Sage

All of the plants pictured above have leaves of similar shape. They all grow as rosettes,  with leaves coming from the center. Clary sage and mullein are so similar in looks that the person who sold me my first mullein had it labeled a clary sage, and later discovered her mistake. After the plant bloomed, it didn't look anything like a clary sage, so I went back to her and she was relieved to know who had gotten the mullein. She then gave me the genuine clary sage you see above.

Meanwhile, I had enjoyed the mullein so much I bought another when Fat Cat Farm was going out of business. That's the mullein you see above. The borage on the left is growing near some catmint (extreme left). There's no doubt about what it is since it's in full bloom now. In fact, in this heat it's beginning to fade and reseed. The photo below was taken during the first week of April.

The Mystery of the Baby Clary Sage
Borage in Bloom near Calendula, Catmint, and Hyssop  © B. Radisavljevic

Above, the borage is in the middle with light blue flowers. The yellow calendula is nearest the lawn. In between is a pot of catmint that has escaped into the flower bed. It has the very faint blue flowers you see. The purple flowers at the back are hyssop just beginning to bloom. I love its deep color. It's in full bloom today and I'll be sharing that photo in a future post.

So How Did a Clary Sage Plant Emerge Where it Did?

I suppose seeds could have drifted over from the main flower bed. In that case, this could be  the mother plant, about five yards from the baby clary sage.

The Mystery of the Baby Clary Sage
Clary Sage in Bloom beside Tricolor Sage and Oregano  © B. Radisavljevic

The clary sage is the only blooming plant in the photo above. Its leaves are curling during the hot part of the day. I'm sure this is the mother of my baby sages. Even if the seeds were not carried to the new location from here, they may have been planted in 2013. I just remembered that when I was transferring the clary sage to a pot, I had the pot very close to where those new plants are.

The Mystery of the Baby Clary Sage
Young Potted Clary Sage in February  © B. Radisavljevic

At the time I wasn't sure where I would put the potted clary sage. The pot is sitting only five feet from where my new baby plants are. By the time I moved the pot to its current location in the middle of June, it was in full bloom. It's quite possible some seeds were ready to fall and dropped as I was moving the plant. It is also possible that the seeds lay dormant until we got enough rain to germinate them. This would seem to fit the time frame for the plants being in bloom now.

To me it's a bit of a miracle that these should germinate and bloom. According to the Rodale's Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs, sage seeds store poorly, yet these just dropped into the ground and stayed until conditions were right for germination. Once they germinate, it takes them two years to actually mature enough to bloom. If they germinated in the rains of 2014, they are right on schedule. I believe the mystery of the baby clary sage has been solved.

What do you think? If you enjoyed solving this mystery with me, please share it with your friends. You will find sharing buttons just below, above the comment box where you can tell me what you think. How do you think the the baby clary sage plants got here?

Friday, May 13, 2016

Small Visitors to my Garden in Early May

Visiting Insects in May

Although we schedule our visits on a calendar, it's not so neat in the insect world. They appear by season rather than by date. So although I can say that these insects were all garden visitors during the first two weeks of May, some had been hanging around since April, and some, like the bees,  visit me during the entire year. Let's look at them. My most welcome guests this month have been the ladybugs, who flew in to clean up my aphid problem.

Small Visitors to my Garden in Early May
Ladybugs Busy Mating and Eating Aphids, © B. Radisavljevic

They have been a great help to me. In the photo above you can see the one on top eating one of the aphids. The two on the bottom of the flower are mating. You can see how the unwelcome aphids are sucking the life out of the calendula plants. In the middle of April I had four heavily infested calendula flowers and one infested wormwood plant. It took the ladybug air force a month to finish the job, but as of yesterday there are no more aphids and most of the ladybugs have moved on. Below is another calendula plant they cleaned up. Do you see all the ladybugs visible on just this one plant? I counted nine.  How many can you count?

Small Visitors to my Garden in Early May
Ladybird Aphid Eating Crew on Calendula Plant, © B. Radisavljevic

There are still a few ladybugs lurking in the rosemary and on other plants. I found the one below in the crotch of this clary sage plant. I'm hoping it's not about to be a meal for the spider that lives there. We will see it later.

Small Visitors to my Garden in Early May
Ladybird Hiding on Clary Sage Plant, © B. Radisavljevic

Another insect currently in my garden is the spittlebug. Spittlebugs are small insects who cover their motionless nymphs, who hang out on the foliage of perennials, shrubs, annuals, and herbs, with this unsightly foam as they suck juices from the stems. According to Sunset, they do little damage and leave after about three weeks. If they really bother you, you can wash the foam off with a hose. They do make the plant look a bit ugly. Here they are "decorating" my rosemary.

Small Visitors to my Garden in Early May
Spittlebugs on Rosemary, © B. Radisavljevic

The last insect, the one who visits almost every day, is the hard-working bee. Below you see it on fruity teucrium, a ground cover, which is blooming now. The bees love it. I couldn't fit them all into this one photo, and they kept flitting off to new blossoms while I was focusing.

Small Visitors to my Garden in Early May
Bees on Fruity Teucrium, © B. Radisavljevic

Before we leave the insects, here's one more photo of a bee. This one is working on a lamb's ears flower. The lamb's ears started to bloom just a few days ago. This photo is just the right size to pin if you'd like to share it.

Small Visitors to my Garden in Early May
Busy Bee on Lamb's Ears, © B. Radisavljevic

The Inconspicuous Crab Spider in Early May

This spider has visited many of my plants. I have seen her (and what I assume is her mate) on the calendula plants with the ladybugs and aphids, on the juniper bushes, and on the rosemary.  It is very hard to see on this rosemary plant, even when I blow it up. It's not a large spider to start with, and it can take on the coloring of the plant it's on to blend in. Can you see it in the lower right corner below? I had to get into a very awkward position to get this photo at all.

Small Visitors to my Garden in Early May
Inconspicuous Crab Spider in Rosemary, © B. Radisavljevic

One of these spiders seems to be living on my clary sage. It's much easier to see and photograph there. It usually scrunches up like this while waiting for prey to appear. I do have a video of two of these spiders interacting on a calendula plant, and once they start moving, they are fast. I think one may have been chasing the other. The one below is a female. The male is smaller. I saw a male on this plant a couple of days earlier. I don't see it now. I wonder if the female had him for dinner. To see how this spider mates, check the last photo on this blog post.

Small Visitors to my Garden in Early May
Inconspicuous Crab Spider on Clary Sage Leaf, © B. Radisavljevic

 Spiders & Other Arachnids
I love being able to understand which insects and spiders are visiting me. Here are some books which have been a great help in identifying and understanding them. The two books on the bottom right will appeal to children and are small enough to carry into the backyard for field use. The books on the bottom left have a format designed for teens and adults. All are illustrated and will help you identify garden visitors with six or eight legs. The short video at left above shows you some common spiders in action up close. Prime members can watch it for free. Try Amazon Prime 30-Day Free Trial

Sunday, May 08, 2016

Nigella - A Wonderful Garden Surprise

Nature's Little Garden Surprises

Sometimes exploring my garden with a camera in my hand helps me see things I might not take note of otherwise. This morning when I was out spider and ladybug hunting, I saw a strange flower next to my mums and hyssop. It was unique. After half an hour of research, I identified it as nigella (Love in a Mist.) 

Nigella - A Wonderful Garden Surprise
Rose Color Nigella Flower, © B. Radisavljevic

Although finding this nigella was a surprise, it is not an accident. I first saw nigella at Fat Cat Farm in May, 2013. It looked like this.

Nigella - A Wonderful Garden Surprise
Blue Nigella Flowers, © B. Radisavljevic

I came back about a month later for my final purchase before Fat Cat Farm closed its doors. By June the seed pods on top were beginning to mature. I liked the unique form of this flower and wanted some, but Rhoda said it doesn't transfer well and was about to die back anyway. I seem to remember her digging one up for me anyway and potting it without charging me.  I seem to remember planting it, with hopes it would reseed, since Rhoda had said it reseeds freely.  I don't see evidence in my photo  record of that  year that I did plant it, but I know if I did, it did not survive or reseed.

The nigella plants look just right in a rock garden. Some of them were in a rock garden at Fat Cat Farm. I snapped this shot on my last visit that June. You can see how the seed capsules have grown. Nigella does need  to be watered while it's growing and blooming. 

Nigella - A Wonderful Garden Surprise
Blue Nigella Flowers in Rock Garden, © B. Radisavljevic

Later that year I bought some nigella seeds and planted some the next spring, but I forgot about it -- until today, when I started wondering what those strange-looking pink  flowers were. I found an old flower book I had  around the house and started looking at all the pink flower photos. Bingo! When I saw the name nigella, it clicked. I had been thinking of them as blue, like the ones I'd seen at Fat Cat Farm. I've since learned they also come in white and rose. I must have planted rose. Amazon has a varied selection of nigella seeds if you can't find them locally.

Nigella flowers are attractive in bouquets, dried, or in the garden. It's best to plant them from seed on open ground in early spring. You may think they are weeds when they first come up. I admit, I almost pulled them, but I've learned by now to recognize certain leaf patterns as more likely to be flowers. I thought it only fair to let these plants show me what they were before I took drastic measures. I'm glad I waited. "Love in a Mist" has rewarded me for my patience. Tomorrow I'll take another look around to see if there are anymore I haven't discovered yet.

Meanwhile, I remember Fat Cat Farm fondly, and I do miss it. This photo taken in their herb garden is an appropriate tribute.  It is also the right size for Pinterest if you'd like to share it there, as is the photo after it. The sculpture is made of recycled materials. I did not see the name of the creator.

Other share buttons are just above the comment box below.

Have you ever had Nigella in your garden or seen it growing?

Nigella - A Wonderful Garden Surprise

Thursday, May 05, 2016

Ladybugs Mating - Caught in the Act

Record Number of Ladybugs on One Plant Today

This morning I went to do my almost daily ladybug count on my aphid infested calendula plants and I counted sixteen on this one plant. So far they seem to have devoured the aphids on the other calendula plants so they are partying on this one today. As I took a closer look, I saw these two mating. It was windy and I didn't think the macro shot would come out clear, but it did. So here they are.

Ladybugs Mating - Caught in the Act
Ladybugs Mating, © B. Radisavljevic

As far as I can tell from such a limited view, this mating ladybug couple appear to be convergent ladybugs. It appears that although I can't count the spots because of its position upside down, the ladybug hanging over them is a seven-spotted ladybug. I'm using the head for identifying it. They have "headlights."

I did get a video of this, but I haven't had time to edit it yet. I have so many ladybug videos from this past month I just may do a documentary. Stay tuned. I'm just glad they have all gathered on my calendula plant for an aphid feast.

 Original Ladybug Land with Voucher
Whether you are a child or adult, you will learn a lot about ladybugs (ladybird beetles) from these books and educational toys.

 I love any book by Gail Gibbons. She makes everything so clear in her bold illustrations.  Not only preschoolers, but anyone, including me, may learn something new. Good Garden Bugs is for adult gardeners. Kids will learn a lot from the other two items, which are just a sample of all that's available when you click through.

See my other post on ladybugs and aphids in the related links below.

If you want to share this post, there are sharing buttons below just above the comment box. This last photo is designed to meet Pinterest specifications. How many ladybugs can you find and identify in this photo?

Ladybugs Mating - Caught in the Act

I see six. Most are seven-spotted.

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