June 28, 2009
June 26, 2009
Wednesday started off like any other day until we received the memo from the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS). It seems that nearly all of the cities and counties that make up the Hampton Roads region have been put under a fire ant quarantine. According to the memo, the number of fire ant mounds treated (free of charge) by VDACS has increased from a yearly average of 33 , to 642 in the last six months of 2008. A shocking figure, but are the ants on the march, or is there greater public awareness, maybe some of each. The quarantine restricts the movement of such items as nursery stock, sod, soil, mulch and even mud-caked construction equipment. You are not allowed to send any of these items out of the quarantine area unless it has been certified to be free from fire ants. In my opinion all of this was unfortunately dumped onto affected businesses without many details on how one gets certified. It had me wondering if we were going to have to ask for ID's to make sure we did not sell plants to people outside the quarantine, or would there be roadblocks at the county line to check for contraband begonias and azaleas. I put a call in to the local VDACS office to get clarification, the poor lady who answered the phone said she had been inundated with calls, but no one had provided her with information, and she would have someone else call me.
Not long after I finished reading the memo, the phone rang and WTKR TV was on the phone wanting to know if they could come out to get my thoughts. I did not want to sound like an idiot, especially on TV, so I got a quick on-line education on the critters to add to what I already knew. There was no interview, I just had to stand there and spout ant facts for the evening news. After the cameraman left, the phone rang again. This time it was the Daily Press asking me to answer ant questions and wanting to know what affect this would have on our business. I spoke at length with the reporter, and she must have liked what she heard, because she decided to come out to the store with a photographer. Later that day a gentleman from VDACS returned my call, and apparently retail garden centers that do not grow or ship product will likely not be affected. Even so I asked if they would come out and give us an fire-ant-free clean bill of health. We also decided to get more fire ant bait onto the shelves, as VDACS will no longer treat fire ant mounds in the quarantine area. As expected this story was airing on all of the TV stations that evening, thankfully it was not as sensationalized as I had expected.
On Thursday it was an "above-the-fold" story in the Virginian Pilot, complete with little ants surrounding the headline. Later that morning The Smithfield Times (The Pulse of the Counties) called me for yet more questions. Of course now all of this ant news and any other news story has been pushed well aside for Michael Jackson news (I am sure a certain governor in South Carolina is not in mourning tonight). Even though I was never a big Michael Jackson fan, I am sorry he is gone, but now I have that Alien Ant Farm cover of Smooth Criminal stuck in the folds of my convoluted brain.
I guess I am becoming Ant-Man.
June 24, 2009
That said, it was such a pleasure and not at all awkward to meet Helen, Janet and Racquel on Monday. We had our own mini version of Garden Blogger's Spring Fling on the second day of summer. Only no one had to take a plane or rent a hotel room, then again there was no sea of salvia to roam through and no Cloud Gate - but there was a chance to get to know people (albeit too briefly) who I hope I will see again soon.
June 21, 2009
I spoke last year in a post here about our compost pile at work. It is where we dump dead plants, clippings, branches, raked debris, etc. Each year I am amazed at what comes up from a pile of presumably dead things. Earlier this week I doused myself with DEET and took a stroll through the pile to see what early summer had to offer.
Perhaps the most prolific plant growing on the pile is Verbena bonariensis, which is also known as Verbena-on-a-Stick. I tried to get a picture of the bright yellow Goldfinches feasting on the purple flowers, but was suffering from camera limitations. I like how you can see one of our abandoned cube trucks in the background of this first shot.
Here the Verbena is competing for the camera's attention with the other major player on the pile, Queen Anne's Lace (Daucus carota), which does not seem very particular as to where it comes up.
Rose Campion (Lychnis coronaria)
Does anyone know the name of this little wildflower?
Evening Primrose (Oenothera speciosa)
Castor Bean (Ricin commonis)
Some plants are notorious for their invasiveness and earn a spot on the Least Wanted List. Such is the case of the Purple Loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria), which we have not sold in 10 years. I remember driving through New England some time ago and being awed by the beauty of this plant covering acres of ground, but that was before I knew how persistent some plants can be.
June 15, 2009
which is the perennial species most in flower in my garden for this June Bloom Day. I have lost count of how many different varieties I have and most of their names are lost to me as well. I just enjoy what comes up.
as in the Greek word root for blood, as in Blood Flower, one of the common names for this tropical Milkweed (Asclepias curassavica). It is a great butterfly (and aphid) attractor which we carry at work in an inexpensive cell-pack for $1.38, so I bought 3. I have grown them now for three years, and last year I was disappointed that they all came out yellow. But if you look for foliage that has a tinge of bronze to it, the flowers will come out two-toned. "H" is for Honey Bees...
who have been enjoying the Black and Blue Salvia (Salvia gauranitica 'Black and Blue').
"H" is for Heady...
which describes the fragrance coming from the August Beauty Gardenia (Gardenia jasminoides 'August Beauty'). When is someone going to come up with a cake that tastes as good as this plant smells? "H" is for Hell Strip...
which is where the next two plants not only survive, but thrive. Hell Strips are the little patches of soil between the sidewalk and the street where plants are subjected to lots of heat from the pavement. The first picture is Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea), and the second is Malva sylvestris 'Zebrina'. Both of these came up from seed I did not plant, in fact the Malva comes up in nearly any crevice or crack in the sidewalk. Anything willing to grow under such conditions - I just let be.
"H" is for Hate...
as in I hated waiting 10 years for this Clivia miniata to bloom. "H" is also for Hate Speech which is what you do when you use the common name for this plant, Kaffir Lily. Kaffir is a racially abusive term to describe Africans. It originated from the Arabic word kafir, which means heathen or non-believer, but eventually became a more offensive term in the mouths of Europeans. Who knew that using common plant names could be so politically incorrect? I'll stick to Clivia. "H" is for Hazy, Hot and Humid...
which describes our typical summer weather. This is fortunate for one of my newest plants, Rudbeckia maxima. According to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, this plant likes hot humid weather, I am not sure about the hazy part."H" is for Hydrangea...
which are competing for my attentions with the Hemerocallis.
Finally, "H" is for our Hostess...
June 5, 2009
"High geraniums are shrubs. You remember momma had blue ones growin' in the shade out by the shed in the back yard".
"Low geraniums are red and orange and you gotta bring 'em in fo' the winter".
She may have had the names confused, but at least she knew where they should be grown. My own "high geraniums" are just coming into full bloom this week.
Hydrangea macrophylla var. serrata 'Kiyosumi'
Hydrangea macrophylla 'Mariesii Variegata'