Tiny Dinosaurs (Six on Saturday #60–October 17, 2020)

Pollo and Kylling 2
Kylling and Pollo look for grubs in a rotten log.

For the past two years, Youngest Offspring has been arguing in favor of backyard chickens, and her long campaign has finally been successful. My garden project this summer was building a coop and run next to my greenhouse, and on September 24, three pullets from a local farm moved in.

1. The coop

Coop-front
The chicken “barn quilt” was painted by my wife. Access port for the nest box is visible at right.

Since we have never kept chickens before, it took us a long time to decide exactly what to do about a coop. We considered various prefabricated coops but eventually decided to build our own. I purchased plans for the Basic Coop from TheGardenCoop.com but modified them to make the coop slightly taller and 3′ x 4′ instead of 3′ x 3′. This made the materials somewhat more expensive, but should allow us to keep up to five birds.

Coop-back

2. The run

run

The run is about 10’ x 20’, half covered with transparent corrugated polycarbonate and half open to the elements. I built a rough perch from the trunk of a young black tupelo tree (Nyssa sylvatica) and threw in some rotten logs for scratching and grub hunting purposes.

3. Security

apron
anti-predator apron around the perimeter of the run.

We decided not to allow the chickens free range in the garden, because of the danger from predators. The birds are basically Youngest Offspring’s pets, so we want to protect them as well as we can. Raccoons are probably the biggest threat, but other predators in our area include foxes, coyotes, dogs, cats, skunks, opossums, hawks, and owls. There’s an outside chance of weasels or bobcats, or perhaps a mink following the creek up from the Eno River. Rat snakes probably aren’t a threat to adult chickens, so I’m not worried about excluding them—we’ll just remove any egg raiders we find.

At night, the chickens are confined to the coop, which will hopefully exclude nocturnal predators. For maximum ventilation without sacrificing security, the coop has a ceiling of heavy galvanized hardware cloth topped with corrugated polycarbonate. The large cleanout door and small door connecting to the coop are both secured with swivel hasps. I use carabiners to “lock” the hasps at night, because they’re easier to remove than padlocks but hopefully will be too difficult for dexterous little raccoon paws

The sides of the run are welded wire fence, and the part that doesn’t have a roof is covered with chicken wire to keep out hawks. Around the perimeter, we placed a horizontal apron of the same fencing material. When hidden beneath mulch it will hopefully slow down any dogs or other diurnal predators that try to dig under the fence.

So, fingers crossed. I hope we haven’t set up a buffet with free chicken dinners.

4-6. The girls

Hanchen
Hänchen

Pollo_and_Kylling
Pollo (left) and Kylling

Hähnchen is supposed to be an Ameraucana, but the farm said it is possible she is an “Easter Egger” (Ameraucana hybrid). Pollo is a cuckoo Marans. Kylling is a Red Star. In November they will be joined by a barred Plymouth Rock and an Easter Egger. Youngest Offspring has reserved the names Frango and Kuritsa.

The Propagator is the host of Six on Saturday.  Head over there to see his Six for this week and find links to the blogs of other participants.

Six on Saturday #58 (July 4, 2020)

Happy Independence Day to all readers from the U.S.A.  As befits the Fourth of July, today is forecast to be hot and humid, with the highest temperatures so far this year.  It seems we have finally left the prolonged period of cool, wet weather and have entered a more typical summer weather pattern with highs in the low to mid 90s (32-35 C) and occasional thunderstorms

1. Sinningia araneosa

Sinningia_areneosa

Several of the Brazilian sinningias have proven winter hardy in my garden, but with only a single plant, I haven’t been willing to test this little beauty.  I currently grow it in a plastic pot, exposed to full sun outdoors in summer and with a dry winter dormancy in the greenhouse.

2. Sinningia ‘Towering Inferno’

Sinningia_Blazing-Inferno

And here is one of the hardy varieties that grow well in the open garden.  Sinningia ‘Towering Inferno’ is a complex hybrid that probably incorporates genes from S. aggregata, S. sulcata, S. tubiflora, and S. warmingii.  Hummingbirds love the flowers, for obvious reasons.

3.  Hemerocallis citrina

IMG_8993

Hemerocallis citrina (syn. H. altissima) is a very tall daylily species, perhaps the tallest, with inflorescences about 6 feet (1.8 m) long.  The flowers open before sunset, are strongly fragrant all evening, and collapse before dawn.  Perhaps it should be called a nightlily?

4.  Hemerocallis ‘Free Wheelin’

IMG_8920

H. ‘Free Wheelin’ is an interesting spider daylily hybrid with enormous flowers, 9-10 inches (~24 cm) wide even with the curled tepals.  I have never seen anything like it before.  My young plant had only one inflorescence this year, so only a single flower at a time.  Hopefully it will be bigger next year.

5.  Crocosmia ‘Lucifer’

IMG_8905

‘Lucifer’ is an absolutely gorgeous plant when in bloom, but think hard about where you want to grow it.  The corms multiply rapidly underground and are almost impossible to remove completely, so once planted in a flower bed, it will be there forever.

6. Kniphofia ‘Lola’ (red hot poker)

Kniphophia_Lola

Kniphofia flowers are more than a little bit garish, but this large form looks pretty good in a “hot colors” bed mixed with other bright red and orange flowers.  In their native South Africa, the large Kniphofia species are pollinated by sunbirds, so it isn’t surprising that in North Carolina they attract hummingbirds.  Some websites indicate that ‘Lola’ is a cultivar of K. uvaria.

The Propagator is the host of Six on Saturday.  Head over there to see his Six and find links to the blogs of other participants.

Six on Saturday #57 (June 20, 2020)

Is it Saturday again?  Here are six plants that are currently flowering.

1. Amorpha canescens (leadplant)

Amorpha-canescens

This is a plant that rewards close inspection.  Its purple flowers with golden yellow stamens are gorgeous, but tiny.  A. canescens is native to the central United States, from Minnesota and North Dakota to Texas.  I grow it a sunny, dry location near our rosemary bush.

2. Canna ‘Lucifer’

Canna-Lucifer

The somewhat dull orange-red flowers of ‘Lucifer’ can’t hold a candle to Canna ‘Flaming Kabobs’, but ‘Lucifer is probably much better suited to small gardens.  It is a miniature, standing only 3 feet high with inflorescence (90-100 cm), less than half the height of ‘Flaming Kabobs’.  I am growing it in somewhat poor, dry soil, but it has proven to be a tough little plant and has slowly spread into a clump about four feet wide.

3.  Habranthus tubispathus var. texensis (Texas copperlily)

Habranthus -texensis

This is a rather nice weed.  Seed must have drifted from some potted bulbs, and now a little Habranthus is blooming right at the edge of our driveway.  H. tubispathus has a disjunct range in southern South America, Mexico, the Caribbean, and the gulf coast of the United States.  It seems likely that it was originally native to Argentina, Uruguay, and Paraguay, but was introduced to other areas by early Spanish explorers and settlers.

4. Lonicera sempervirens (coral honeysuckle)–again.

Lonicera-sempervirens

Although some selected cultivars of our native L. sempervirens flower on and off for much of the summer, this wild vine at the edge of my garden usually blooms only in April.  I suspect it has been induced to flower again by the unusually cool and wet weather we have been having.

5. Buddleja davidii (butterfly bush)

Buddleja-davidii

I’m keeping a watchful eye on this plant.  It volunteered in the garden and has the potential to become quite invasive in our climate, but so far I have not found any more seedlings.  I keep it around, despite its large size and ungainly branches, because butterflies adore the flowers.  Some years, it is completely smothered in several species of swallowtail butterflies, but this year there are hardly any around.  I wonder if the wet weather is to blame.

6.  Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Bailmer’ (Endless Summer Hydrangea)

Endless-Summer

I have shown this plant before, but it is blooming particularly well this year.  Gardeners generally think that blue flowers occur when H. macrophylla is grown in acidic soil and pink flowers in neutral or alkaline soil, but the situation is a bit more complex, depending on availability of aluminum ions and the amount of phosphate in the soil.  Having blue and pink flowers on the same plant, and even on the same branches, should probably tell me something about my soil chemistry, but I have no idea what.

The Propagator is the host of Six on Saturday.  Head over there to see his Six and find links to the blogs of other participants.

Six on Saturday #56 (May 23, 2020)

oxalis-articulata-2
Oxalis articulata

File under things that are counterintuitive:  the Raleigh/Durham, North Carolina area, which I perceive as being fairly sunny year-round,  receives more than twice the annual rainfall of notoriously damp London, England.  Part of the answer to this apparent conundrum is that London has more drizzly days (RDU has 109 days with some precipitation vs London’s 164).  Furthermore, we tend to have tropical-like afternoon thunderstorms during the summer, so many of those 109 rainy days are mostly sunny with thirty or forty minutes of heavy rain around the evening rush hour.

But sometimes we do have prolonged wet periods.  The freeze warning two weeks ago proved to be a false alarm, but this week has also been cooler than normal.  It was the cool of clouds and heavy rain, though, not the chill of dry Canadian air driven south.  Between Monday night and Friday morning, we received 6 inches (~15 cm) of rain.  The garden is looking particularly lush, but some plants are a bit floppy after growing like crazy for a week under heavy cloud cover.

Despite several of this week’s Six on Saturday originating in South America, all are garden plants that grow outside in the ground year round.  Most of these photos were taken last Saturday, before the heavy rain.  They’d look a lot more bedraggled if I photographed them today.

1. Cypella herbertii subsp. brevicristata

herbertii-brevicristata
Cypella herbertii subsp. brevicristata

Cypella herbertii is a small iris-relative from Argentina and Uruguay.  I have previously written about C. herbertii subsp. herbertii, and everything I wrote about culture applies to this subspecies, too.  Technically, the two subspecies are distinguished by the length of the stigma lobes, but the two forms that I grow also differ in their color:  my T. h. brevicristata has flowers of a clear yellow, while those of my T. h. herbertii are more orange.  This is the first year that my T. h. brevicristata has flowered, so it will be interesting to see if I get a mixture of colors among the volunteer seedlings in future years.

herbertii-herbertii
For comparison, here is Cypella herbertii subsp. herbertii

2. Hippeastrum x johnsonii (St. Joseph’s lily)

Hippeastrum-johnsonii

I featured this hybrid in my very first blog post.  At that time, I was growing it in my greenhouse, but I have since transplanted it to several places in the garden.  The best clump grows in full sun beside the bird bath, in soil that stays damp year round. H. x johnsonii,  a cross of H. reginae (southern Brazil) and H. vittatum (Peru), was the first artificial Hippeastrum hybrid. Its name commemorates Arthur Johnson, an English watchmaker and horticultural enthusiast who first made the cross at the end of the 18th century.  Surprisingly, given the origins of the parent species, H. x johnsonii is reputed to be among the most cold-hardy and vigorous of all Hippeastrum hybrids.

3. Clematis ‘Rooguchi’ (?)

rooguchi

The first flower on a Clematis that I planted last autumn.  I’m not entirely sure that it is correctly labeled.  The flower looks right, but Missouri Botanical Garden’s Plant Finder says that C. ‘Rooguchi’ is a non-vining hybrid lacking the twining petioles that help the vining varieties climb.  My plant definitely has twining petioles and is enthusiastically climbing some deer fencing stapled to the pergola.  Some websites agree with MoBot, while others say ‘Rooguchi’ is a climber like my plant.  Perhaps there are several different clones of the same cross all going under the same cultivar name?

4. Foundation plantings

Rosa_and_Phlomis

A two-for-one entry.  Along the south-facing foundation of our house, I planted a row of Rosa ‘Home Run’ and a clump of Phlomis fruticosa (Jerusalem sage) which is slowly spreading to surround the roses.  The Home Run rose is single-flowered (which I like) but lacks fragrance (which I do not).  Most importantly, though, it is very resistant to blights and mildews during hot, humid weather.

Home-run

P. fruticosa is marginally hardy here, so planting along the south foundation gives it sun in winter and protection from cold north and east winds.  Even so, it doesn’t flower very well and is sometimes damaged by snow and ice sliding off the roof. I do like the foliage, though, and the contrast with the glossy rose leaves.

Phlomis-fruticosa

5. Oxalis tetraphylla ‘Iron Cross’

Oxalis-tetraphylla-1

O. tetraphylla is from central Mexico and is one of the Oxalis species that grow from little corms.  I received it as a freebie in a bulb order five or six years ago and decide to chance growing it in the ground.  So far, it has been well-behaved in the garden, tolerating freezing temperatures and showing no tendency to spread and become a weed like some Oxalis.

Oxalis-tetraphylla-2

6. Oxalis articulata (syn. O. crassipes)

oxalis-articulata

I found this plant growing on our property when we first moved into our newly built house.  O. articulata is a South American species with a long history in cultivation, so I suspect that like the Gladiolus ‘Eno Orange’ it may have been planted by previous owners of the land and survived the intervening years when the property was left fallow.  I have since dug it up and distributed the knobbly little rhizomes to several places in my garden.  O. articulata can apparently become mildly invasive in some climates, but my plant seems to be sterile, at least in the absence of another clone, and shows no inclination to spread on its own.

The Propagator is the host of Six on Saturday.  Head over there to see his Six and find links to the blogs of other participants.

Spring lady’s slippers (Six on Saturday #55, May 9, 2020)

The weather has turned unseasonably cold, to the point that the National Weather Service has issued a freeze warning for most of central North Carolina tonight.  If it does freeze, this will be the latest frost in more than 20 years, a full month after the average last freeze for this area.  Consequently, the tropical plants that I have been moving outside over the past few weeks will need to be moved back into the greenhouse or living room this afternoon, probably to stay there until Wednesday at least.  There’s not much to be done about subtropical plants out in the garden which are already well into their spring growth; hopefully the fresh canopy of deciduous leaves on the trees will provide some protection from radiative cooling.

For this week’s Six on Saturday, I am focusing on a single group of greenhouse plants:  tropical lady’s slipper orchids of genus Paphiopedilum.  A google search will turn up reams of information on cultivating paphs, so I’ll only say that I use a potting mix of Orchiata bark, large perlite, and stalite in roughly equal proportions.  To this mix, which is suitable for a wide range of orchids, I add a small amount of crushed oyster shell to provide calcium for the paphs that grow on limestone.

Although different species and hybrids flower throughout the year, there is a peak of blooming in spring.  Here are six that are flowering now.

1. Paphiopedilum philippinense varieties.

Paph philippinense-1

No prize for guessing the home range of this species.  P. philippinense is fairly widespread in the Philippine archipelago and consequently exhibits significant morphological diversity.  The plant on the left is a dwarf specimen that I have been growing since 1997.  Its relatively short petals would probably define it as P. philippinense var. laevigatum, a variety that is relatively uncommon in cultivation.  The taller plant, with its long twisted petals, fits the description of P. philippinense var. roebelenii and is more typical of the specimens that are favored by orchid growers.

Paph philippinense-2

2. Paphiopedilum QF Ikaika

Paph_hybrid

This is a new hybrid registered in 2019.  Its parentage is Paphiopedilum (rothschildianum x anitum) x philippinense, and I’m going to rate it a solid meh.  I assume the breeder was going for large size (from P. rothschildianum), dark color (from P. anitum), and twisted petals (from P. philippinense).  Instead, the plant inherited mediocre color, moderate size, petals with hardly any twist, and a small, squat pouch.  I’ll give it a few more years to mature, but if it doesn’t improve, it is destined for an orchid society raffle table.

3. Paphiopedilum venustum

Paph_venustum

According to Hennessy and Hedge [1], this species from the southeastern foothills of the Himalayas was the first tropical lady’s slipper introduced into cultivation (collected 1816, flowered in England 1819).  It has been popular ever since for its veined pouch and distinctively mottled foliage.  It definitely comes down on the bizarre/grotesque end of the scale, rather than pretty/elegant.  I like it.

4. Paphiopedilum callosum var. sublaeve

Paph_callosum-sublaeve

A dwarf variety of P callosum that seems to be somewhat intermediate between that species and P. barbatum.  This is a first-bloom seedling that I got as a free bonus in an orchid order about a year ago.

5. Paphiopedilum lowii

Paph_lowii2

Compared to the P. lowii that I blogged about last year, this clone has a darker pouch, more brown pigment in the dorsal sepal, and more horizontal petals.  I particularly like the horizontal stance of the petals–

6. Paphiopedilum appletonianum with deformed flowers

Paph_appletonianum

This is the second time this plant has bloomed, and the flowers were deformed last year, too.  I’ll give it one more chance to produce a normal flower before I toss it in the compost bin.

The Propagator is the host of Six on Saturday.  Head over there to see his Six and find links to the blogs of other participants.

Reference:

1. Hennessy, E.F. and Hedge, T.A. (1989) The Slipper Orchids, Acorn Books, Randburg, R.S.A.