Six on Saturday #31, June 16, 2018

This week has been a mixed bag in the garden–some things were good, some not so good.  Let’s start with the not-so-good.

1. Fallen sourwood tree (Oxydendrum arboreum)


A storm on Tuesday brought down a fairly large sourwood tree.  It skimmed a bluebird feeder but landed across our row of thornless blackberries.  The blackberries were supported by two strands of wire strung between to 4×4″ posts.  The wire held.  One of the posts snapped.  This afternoon, I’ll haul out the chain saw and cut up the trunk for firewood, but it’s going to be a pain in the neck digging out the snapped post to replace it.

Update:  the tree fell, because the center of its trunk was rotten and inhabited by an enormous nest of enormous carpenter ants who were not thrilled to have a chainsaw bisecting their home.  Run away!  Run Away!

2.  Japanese beetles (Popillia japonica) on pink banana (Musa velutina)


The Japanese beetles have started their annual rampage through the soft-leaved plants in the garden.  Spraying with insecticides is contraindicated when the beetles are eating flowers that attract other insects or are on plants that we want to eat, so we wander around the garden knocking them off into a bucket of soapy water.  I’m not sure if it does much to control their population, but it satisfies the need for revenge.

3.  Tigridia pavonia


Finally, I have a Tigridia pavonia that blooms red.  Tigridia corms are readily available in the spring, but only in packs of mixed colors.  For the last couple of years, my plants have all bloomed in shades of yellow, but this year, I got a batch that contained at least one red-flowering plant.  I had expected to treat Tigridias as annuals, but it turns out that they are fully hardy in my garden, despite cold, wet winter and heavy clay soil.

4. Fasciated Lilium formosanum


Fasciation, or cresting, is a rare developmental abnormality resulting from overgrowth of meristem tissue.  In this Lilium formosanum, the normally cylindrical stem has turned into a flattened plate with many more (though smaller) leaves than usual.


Most sources say that fasciation in lilies is usually a one-time event, with the bulb producing normal growth the next year.  This bulb was also fasciated last year, although the effect was less extreme.  It will be interesting to see if this is a permanent, stable condition.

Also, note the stems of the ubiquitous, weedy creeping cucumber (Melothria pendula).

5. Lilium ‘African Queen’


First bloom for a bulb that I planted last autumn.  Flowers are nice, but the stem is floppy.  Hopefully the plant is still getting established and will improve in future years.

6.  African baobab (Adansonia digitata) seedlings


I ran across some baobab seeds that I had forgotten about on a high shelf for the past fifteen years.  I guess they’re still viable.

I’m not sure what I’ll do with tropical trees that have the potential to grow to the diameter of a small house and live for thousands of years, but the internet suggests they are reasonable candidates for tropical bonsai.

That’s all for this Saturday.  For more Six on Saturday contributions from garden bloggers around the world, head on over to the Propagator.


Crinum macowanii

With a range extending from South Africa northwards to Eritrea [1], Crinum macowanii is one of the most widespread Crinum species in Africa.  The plants in my collection were bred from specimens originating in Zambia.


The slightly glaucous leaves of this Zambian form have attractive undulate margins, and although the inflorescence is relatively short, it emerges from the side of the bulb and is not obscured by the foliage.  The flowers are short-lived, like those of most crinums, but powerfully fragrant.  My large bulb produces several inflorescences in succession, usually in June.


I planted the bulb about eight inches deep and cover it with several inches of mulch after the foliage freezes off.  That seems to be all the winter protection it needs, even though it is planted in soil that remains quite wet in winter.  The bulb does not seem to offset, but flowers are self-fertile.  Seedlings have grown well, retaining some green leaves through much of the winter in the greenhouse.  My largest seedlings are currently about two years old, and I’d guess they’re about two more years from blooming.

In areas too cold for growing it in the ground, this is probably a reasonable candidate for cultivation in a large pot or tub.  When I purchased my first bulb, it bloomed in an 8-inch diameter pot and survived the winter completely dry, stored in the crawl space.  However,  the leaves have been much larger and inflorescences more numerous since I planted it out in a flower bed.



1. Duncan, G., Jeppe, B., and Voight, L. (2016)  The Amaryllidaceae of Southern Africa, Umdaus Press, Pretoria, South Africa.

Six on Saturday #30, June 9, 2018

This will be a quick Six on Saturday, as I’m running late.  Weather is typical for June:  currently 84 F (28.9 C), 70% humidity.  Expecting a high around 90 F (32 C).

1.  Monarda didyma ‘Jacob Cline’ with creeping cucumber


‘Jacob Cline’ is reputedly one of the best clones of our native scarlet beebalm.  As advertised, it seems to be very resistant to powdery mildew, but what I had not anticipated is how vigorously it spreads through moist soil.   From a single 8-inch pot, the plants have spread into a 10×20-foot clump constrained mainly by mowed paths surrounding the bed.  “Hummingbirdbalm” would be a better common name.

Even M. didyma can’t compete with the invasiveness of creeping cucumber (Melothria pendula), an annoying weed that crawls over everything and makes the flowerbed look even more overgrown and messy than it would otherwise.  The tiny cucumber-like fruits are edible when green, but they’re reported to be a powerful laxative when black and fully ripe.

2.  Gladiolus ‘Boone’


Gladiolus ‘Boone’ is one of the old glads that have survived for many years around southern homesteads.  This clone was found at an abandoned site near Boone, North Carolina and is now well established in the horticultural trade.  I got mine from Niche Gardens in Chapel Hill.  It is roughly on the same scale as the yellow Gladiolus that I suspect is G. ‘Carolina Primrose,’ and is significantly smaller than my Gladiolus ‘Eno Orange.’

3. Zea mays (sweet corn)


Youngest offspring brought home a single kernal of sweet corn from a “farm-to-table” field trip at school.  We didn’t have a good bed to grow it in, so I stuck it in a large pot along with some tomato seedlings.  So far, so good.

4.  Canna ‘Flaming Kabobs’


Here’s one that I have featured before.  You get to see it again, because it is my favorite canna and is the first to bloom this year.  I was worried that it might not survive last winter, but it came through with flying colors when several other cannas succumbed to the cold and snow.

5. Verbascum chaixii (nettle-leaved mullein)


Another repeat, but it isn’t easy coming up with six new plants for every Six on Saturday.   I wish my V. chaixii plants would seed around a bit, but so far I haven’t found any volunteer seedlings.

6.  Turtles!

Are we getting bored of box turtle pictures yet?  Never!  Here’s a juvenile that I almost stepped on.


And last, but not least, turtle butt!


This lady (I assume) was trying unsuccessfully to hide under some Stokesia laevis (Stokes’ aster) in the garden area at my workplace when I went outside to eat lunch on Friday.  So, it’s in a garden, just not my garden.

I think she is a river cooter (Pseudemys concinna) looking for somewhere to dig a nest.

For more Six on Saturday, head over to The Propagator, the host of this weekly exercise.

More box turtle excitement

This evening, as I was wondering around the garden trying to decide where to plant a pot of Hippeastrum bulbs, I noticed Penelope the female box turtle in a flower bed at the edge of the woods.  She was digging a nest!

Digging the hole.  Or, possibly, laying eggs.
Filling it in

Almost three hours later, she has filled in the hole but is still tamping down the soil and pushing things around on the surface.  I plan to stay up until she moves on, and then I’ll cover the nest with a metal cage to protect it from raccoons/opossums/skunks.

When we saw her walking across the lawn yesterday, we didn’t realize she was an expectant mother—though that might explain why she ate her strawberry with such gusto.

Female with strawberry

Female with strawberry2

As further evidence that box turtles are successfully breeding in the garden, here’s a juvenile that my wife discovered while she was weeding yesterday.

It isn’t an empty shell.  The owner is tucked away inside.

I am so pleased that our efforts to build an interesting and healthy landscape have created good habitat for the boxies.


A young rough green snake (Opheodrys aestivus) climbing on my florida flame azalea (Rhododendron austrinum)

I assumed that this tiny rough green snake was a recent hatchling, but according to Reptiles of North Carolina [1], most clutches are laid in June or July and hatch in August or September.  It’s hard to believe that something so small could survive the rigors of last winter.

It seemed to like this azalea and spent most of the afternoon in its branches, retreating to the center of the bush when I approached too close, and climbing to the tallest twigs when I moved away.



  1.  Palmer W.M. and Braswell A.L. (1995).  Reptiles of North Carolina. University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill.