Thursday, February 28, 2013

Up Close with the Garden Spider


Black and Yellow Argiope aurantia

Spiders! For many people the very word sends them running for a can of bug spray.  I admit, I do not like spiders in my house.  I really don't want the extra housekeeping chore of wiping down cob webs, but I do recognize that spiders play a very important part in our environment.  If I have a spider in the house, he gets sent out the door and not sprayed.

This past fall, I was working in my garden when I spotted the spider in the photo.  It is a common Black and Yellow Garden Spider or orb weaver. "Orb" means that it spins it's web in a circle.  The web can be about two feet in diameter.  If you see a zig-zag of white silk in the web, that was made by a male spider.  The male spider is smaller and he will make a much smaller web than the female. The web and can be found on shrubs, tall plants or flowers.  Males and females will build webs near each other or together. The web is normally two to eight feet up from the ground.

This spider is beneficial to the garden because it feeds on other insects that can damage our flowers, leaves and buds.  Even though spiders are beneficial, they do eat the good bugs along with the bad bugs. When an insect gets stuck in the web, the spider will feel the vibration and come running for the kill. This garden spider prefers a sunny location with no winds to build their web. It is also a busy spider, because each night it eats most of it's web and builds a new one for the next day. It is active during the day hours and is harmless to humans.

Garden spiders breed once a year and after mating, the male dies and sometimes is eaten by the female. The female lays her eggs in a sac that is attached to the web. The female guards the egg sac from predators for as long as she can. This sac can contain over a thousand eggs in it, and like in the story of "Charlotte's Web", the female weakens and dies.  The baby spiders hatch from their eggs in the fall but continue to live inside the sac during the winter. When the weather warms, the babies leave the sac to start their life in the garden.

The next time you are working in the garden and see a spider, "think" before you "spray".  Mother Nature has already provided a safer way to deal with insects in the garden than insecticides and one that is safe for humans and other creatures that make the garden their home.

Happy Gardening!


Friday, February 22, 2013

The Dragon's Eye

Dragon's-eye Japanese red pine
Several years ago, I was touring a garden in Ohio and I spotted this very unusual pine tree.  Luckily, the tree had a identification sign posted with it's name on it.  The tree was Pinus densiflora 'Oculus Draconis' or Dragon's-eye Japanese red pine. The tree was very unusual and from the distance it did indeed look like there were 'eyes' on the ends of the branches.  I never forgot that tree. 
Dragon's Eye is a slow growing tree that can reach over 30 feet and spread between 15 to 30 feet.  It can grow about 6 inches a year and prefers full sun to part shade. It is very adaptable to different soil types as long as it is well drained. What makes the tree so interesting is that it has showy foliage and it has interesting bark. The needles are marked with bars of yellow and green. This variegation remains all year and intensifies late in the year. The bark is often orangish-red when young and peels off in scales.The trunk is often twisted giving the tree an unusual look. It is a very graceful looking tree when mature, but it may look a little ungainly when young.  Dragon's-eye makes a wonderful specimen tree in any garden and it will look great when planted in front of evergreens to show off it's color. It grows in zones 4-9.
When I saw this plant, I knew it was one that I wanted to add to my garden in the future. Well I did it, I purchased a small tree and it should arrive sometime in the spring. These trees can be expensive and that is why I purchased a small one.  Hopefully we will mature and grow old together!
Happy Gardening!

Friday, February 15, 2013

Garden Blogger's Bloom Day - February 2013

This Garden Blogger's Bloom Day does not find much blooming yet in my garden.  The Witch Hazel is blooming some days and other days the petals are curled up from the cold.  The Hellebores in the garden are starting to show some color in what will be blooms, but they are also waiting for warmer weather.  Yesterday was a good day to get out and start cleaning up the gardens and I did get lots of leaves cleaned up. Today it is cold and we have a few snow flakes that are coming down.
 I have been digging up and potting perennials and shrubs due to a patio and deck remodel. It is not an easy job when the plants have not started coming up. Today the installers are taking down part of the deck and setting the post for the new stairs.  Next week another company will start installing patio pavers.  Once the pavers are installed the deck installers will start rebuilding the deck and stairs.  This project will be going on for several weeks depending on the weather.  After the pavers and deck are complete, I will start building a fish pond next to the patio that will be bigger and deeper than what I currently have.
The plans for the deck and patio is on schedule and I can't wait to see what it will look like when the trees and shrubs leaf out and the perennial plants break ground.  Check back for future blogs and pictures on the entire remodel from start to finish.  That is about all that is going on in my garden this month, which is more than enough. Next month's Garden Blogger's Bloom Day should have flowers and a complete patio and deck.
Happy Gardening!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Add Some "Spring" to Your Containers

Spring is coming and now is the time to start getting that landscape prepared for it's arrival. You can start cleaning up the garden beds, picking up yard debris and pruning different plants in the landscape. Garden maintenance needs to be done early before many of the spring flowering plants and bulbs start to break ground and grow.
As you start the process of spring cleanup, consider adding some color to that drab winter garden with some colorful containers of spring flowering plants and bulbs.  Many local stores will be receiving in pots of tulips, daffodils, hyacinths, ornamental cabbage and pansies that can be planted in containers to give some much needed color to the garden. 
When selecting containers look for ones that compliment the plants that you will be using.  Containers can be ceramic, cement, wood or other types of materials.  They should have good drainage, color and be frost proof. When planting your containers, use a quality soil designed for containers.
 Use a thriller, spiller and filler method for planting.  If you have not heard of this method, a thriller would be something big and attractive like the tulips in the picture above.  The filler would be a smaller plant to fill in the pot and the spiller would be a plant that hangs down the sides of the pot. The ivy in the picture above is serving as a filler and a spiller. You can have multiple plants for fillers. Remember to select plants that can withstand changing weather and temperatures based on the zone that you live in.
Here are a few examples of  containers and window boxes decorated for spring. You might notice that all the containers used ivy for the spiller plant.  When your containers need to be changed you can remove the spring plants and continue to use the ivy with summer and fall blooming plants.
Azalea and ivy
Daffodils, spikes and ivy
Tulips, daffodils, ivy and a houseplant
Azalea and ivy
Assorted spring bulbs with ivy
Cyclamens and ivy
Assorted spring bulbs with ivy
Tulips, pansies and ivy
Tulips, ivy and pansies
When preparing your containers for spring, add some moss or wood mulch on top of the soil for some added protection for the plants from the cold.  Use one or group several containers together for added color and balance. Don't forget to add some colorful containers inside your home to enjoy.  Now get out there and start getting that garden ready for spring!
Happy Gardening!

Friday, February 1, 2013

Adding Warmth to the Landscape

Each year in my landscape, I take on a new project. Over the last 10 years, most of what I have been doing was adding plants, beds and pathways.  This year, I plan to take on an area of the landscape that has been very much neglected. I have been looking into installing a larger patio area. A warm inviting place where family and friends can gather.  Our current patio area is very small and not very appealing. 
 I have taken lots of pictures from different garden shows that I have attended, looking for ideas that I like and could use for the project.  One of the current trends is adding a fire feature to the landscape. I was exploring all the photos I have taken over the years looking for what would look good with my design.  After looking at all my photos, I decided to share some of them with you. If you are sitting at home on a cold winter day and planning your landscape for next year, take a look at some of these ideas.  I have lots of photos of different fire features in many price ranges from the simple project for the DIY person to the expensive installation by the PROS.  Look at the possibilities!
What type of fire feature did I decide on for my patio project?  I found a very nice hammered copper chimenea fire pit.  I live in a home that once was a barn and my family likes a very rustic look.  The hammered copper and black wrought iron chimenea seemed just right for my project. It was easy to clean, move and I love the look of copper in the garden.
I now have a plan for the patio project and I am getting bids for the paver installation.  All I need now is some warm weather to dig and transplant out some shrubs and perennials in the area that will need to be moved during the installation project.  During the project, I plan to have under decking installed to create a dry area for those rainy days.  Since the area will be tore up for awhile, my plan will also include enlarging and moving my fish pond closer to the patio area where you can enjoy watching the fish. Some of the project will take the PROS and some of the project I can do myself, like installing the pond and plantings. I know one thing. It is going to be a very busy spring!
Check back for my blogs on this patio project in the next few months and see the final results.
Happy Gardening!

'Golden Shadows' Pagoda Dogwood

Years ago, I purchased a very small tree that was only 6 to 8 inches tall. It was a 'Golden Shadows' Pagoda Dogwood. It had beau...