Thursday, August 30, 2012

Maryland flora I pine for

A view of the Naval Academy from across the Severn River with a fringe of cordgrass in the foreground. 
I spent much of my adult life just north of Annapolis, a delightful place for so many reasons. Last week my husband and I made the trip north to familiar territory for a send-off party for grandson Weber Stibolt, who's heading off to the University of Delaware this fall. He'd just come back from an orientation, which included two days on campus and four days hiking the Maryland section of the Appalachian Trail with a group of ten other freshmen.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

I don't love crape myrtles, but...

A crape myrtle in Ginny's back yard.
I don't love crape myrtles (Lagerstoemia indica & spp.) because they are sooo over planted in Florida. Most species are native to India and other parts of Asia, but they certainly do well here and new varieties are released each year. The Atlas of Florida Vascular Plants shows that it has escaped in a number of counties in central and northern Florida.

As a native plant enthusiast, I would not plant crape myrtles in our landscape. I would choose something native and not so commonly planted.  This way I would add to the diversity of the canopy in our yard and in our neighborhood, which is what we strive for when creating habitat and balanced ecosystems.

That being said, as a sustainable gardener, I let established plants stay as long as they are not invasive. When we bought our house in 2004, there were a few crape myrtles already in the landscape. As is the custom around here, they had been hat-racked at about seven feet high. We did a little judicious pruning to reduce the number of sprouts at the seven-foot level, and now eight years later, this crape myrtle has become a lovely, 25-foot-tall tree.

The insect-eating birds use it as a perch as they wait to pounce on bugs in the lawn, plus the hummingbirds drink the nectar. So while I would not have planted it, I think the crape myrtle enhances our backyard and its ecosytem.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Not more queen palms!

A restaurant wins a landscape award with its queen palms, but why?
The St. Augustine Beach Tree Board and Beautification Advisory Board for landscaping awarded this restaurant with their Best Commercial category. See the article in the St Augustine Times, The Groove landscape wins honor.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Do You Know Snow Squarestem?

Great purple hairstreak on a snow squarestem.
Snow squarestem or salt and pepper (Melanthera nivea), a member of the daisy family (Asteraceae), attracts a high volume of butterflies, skippers, bees, wasps and even hummingbirds. It has only white disk florets in its flower head. Unlike a sunflower, it has no ray florets that look like petals. Its common name comes from the white flowers and its square stems with a mostly opposite leaf arrangement. Many members of the mint family (Lamiaceae) also have square stems and opposite leaves, so when I first heard the common name I assumed that this was in the mint family, but the plants are classified mostly by their flowers’ characteristics, not by their stems or leaves. (See A Plant by Any Common Name…)

Friday, August 10, 2012

Cats in the Landscape Controversy

USA Today posted an article House cats kill more critters than thought by Elizabeth Weise, which reported on a study where 60 cats near Athens Geogia were outfitted with tiny crittercams to record what they did while they roamed around their neighborhoods. The results were startling and showed that not only did the cats kill more than previous estimates, but they also endangered themselves.

Screen shot from USA Today

Monday, August 6, 2012

Two Geezers and a Shed!

The garden shed in its original place was too far from the house to be useful.
When we purchased our house back in 2004, it came with an 8 x 10 foot garden shed about 180 feet behind the house, which is about half way down to the lake. In this position, it was too far from the house and garage to store garden tools and it was too far from the lake to be used as storage for boating equipment. We’ve used it to store tomato cages and some little-used tools like a posthole digger. We had not removed the stuff left over from the previous owner—gallons of partially used paint, a pickup truck toolbox, PVC pipe leftover from various projects, a non-working pump, and other junk.