We are resting at home and doing well. Both sets of grandparents have been taking shifts visiting, and they are taking good care of us. So I finally got to enjoy some time outside and online today :)
When I took a walk around the neighborhood last night, I noticed that pansies and mums are starting to appear in garden beds and containers. Maybe it's a little early for around our area (zone 7), but with motherhood only 3 weeks away (more or less) it probably is a good idea to get ahead of the game this year. (Not to mention that my zinnias are still pouting a bit, so I'm eager to compost them.) So I'll probably be off to the garden center this week.
Pansies and violas in containers are my favorites for winter color. Both are considered "hardy annuals" in zone 7, and they will even recover from an occasional freeze and keep on blooming. The plant in the picture above survived the ice storm of 2004 on my front porch. The frozen flowers faded, but new ones cropped up soon enough.
New tip for pansies to try this year- When deadheading, which is essential for repeated flowering, I hear that pinching back the top couple leaves will help keep a the plant bushy.
Pansies and violas are the staple winter color plants around here, but of course there has to be more! Earlier this year I went to a lecture on winter color in the garden. Since I was raised in a state where the landscape was frozen solid for the winter, the concept of gardening for the winter season fascinates me. The speaker, from Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden, was really into the lenten rose, or Hellebores.
Has anyone had luck with these, or recommend another winter bloomer?
OK, the issue of invasive plants in the garden, or "plant spam", has probably been beaten into your head already, so I don't want to dwell on that today. What's motivating me to post about this particular invasive is the disturbing irony behind the strategy to combat it.
Photo by deu49097
According to an article in this weekend's addition of The Wall Street Journal, "If There's a Weed There's a Way at the Beetle Factory", a NJ lab is not able to keep up with the demand for their European beetles that eat purple loosestrife.
I'm sure there's been extensive studies as to how this European beetle will effect the ecology of North American wetlands, but intuitively this strategy seems dangerous to me. Doesn't seem a little ironic that they are using non-natives to fight a pest that became a problem because it's non-native? If the beetle runs out of loosestrife, what's stopping it from adapting to eat plants native to the bogs?
Thinking that we can manipulate non-native plants to solve our problems has already led to major ecological problems here in the Southeast US. It's hard to believe, but once KUDZU was thought to be the answer to our problems. Kudzu was introduced purposefully to inhibit erosion. Well it might have helped with erosion, but it certainly has caused more problems than it solved.
Ecological systems are so complex that I think most ecologists would admit that we never really know how a new species will effect an ecosystem. So why does there seem to be no end to our ecological hubris?
"Pupating" Eastern Black Swallowtail
In my driveway, I later saw a Eastern Black Swallowtail who had recently emerged from the cocoon! I spotted the empty cocoon on the side of the garage. (By the way, these cocoons don't look anything like mystery cocoons I've spotted on my rose bushes ,which are probably bagworm.)
Another swallowtail cocoon- by Lenses
The butterfly was still wet-winged and struggling, so I moved it to a sunnier, safer spot. I hope it survived to flutter around like this Eastern Black Swallowtail I photographed last summer.
You may also be interested in my previous posts on butterflies and butterfly gardening: