sunset henry Park Fall 2012

Sunset at Henry Park, Vernon, Ct. in October 2013

Reflected light, Iridescence, and refracted light  ( interference ) are ways in which colors are made visible to the eye. Creatures only see light in the wavelengths visible to their unique eye structure. A rainbow represents the light spectrum which results from the sun striking raindrops ( or other prisms such as quartz ) and having its wavelengths bent, or refracted so that colors are made visible. These are the colors the human eye can see. There are more colors- such as ultraviolet or infrared which are only visible to creatures possessing eyes that are able to see these colors. Bees and some other insects see ultraviolet and are attracted to certain flowers by ultraviolet “ nectar guides” which lead the insect into the flowers far enough to ensure pollen pick- up or transference. Nature, of which we are a part, is full of the effects of sunlight striking objects and the colors that result are formed by what happens afterwards.

Light travels in a straight line  until it strikes something. When light hits an object it gets reflected, or bounced off, in different directions. Colors occur because light, composed of a broad spectrum of wavelengths will reflect and scatter differently after striking different objects. Some substances absorb certain wavelengths while the rest are then scattered.

One of  the effects of light scattering through the atmosphere has given rise to the saying “ red sky at night, sailor’s delight, red sky in morning, sailors take warning.” This is because weather systems generally move from west to east in the middle latitudes because the prevailing winds are westerlies. As rays of sunlight are pass through the atmosphere, they split into colors of the spectrum as they ricochet off water vapor and dust particles. The amounts of these particles determine what colors we see in the sky, and they can be useful  indicators as to weather conditions.

If we see a red sky at night, it implies the setting sun in the west is shining on clouds or particles of dust and water vapor  to the east and atmospheric conditions to the west are clear ( or else you would not see the sun setting ). The sky appears redder if you can actually see the sun setting. As the sun still shines from the west, clouds that have broken up and moved east are still being shined upon by the setting sun, even after both the clouds and the sun may have disappeared from sight. Red light still breaks through the atmosphere while the shorter wavelengths will scatter and break up. Usually this indicates high pressure with its stable air is coming from the west and fair weather should follow.

Red sky in the morning often indicates that a high pressure system has passed through and a low pressure system storm system may be moving in from the west. If the color of a morning sky is a deep, blazing red, it can indicate high water content exists in the atmosphere and rain may be on the way.

9-24-14 6 38 a.m.

September Dawn

Another way we see colors is through light reflected off pigments of objects. Grass appears green because chlorophyll in cells absorbs all colors except green, which is reflected as the sun’s rays hit the leaf surfaces. Amounts of chlorophyll in different species of plants are different and produce deeper, darker or lighter greens accordingly.  Pigments are colors that last and are not affected by turning an object at different angles. Colors are produced by the selective absorption and reflection of specific light wavelengths. A green caterpillar looks green at all times if struck by light because certain wavelengths of light are absorbed, while green wavelengths are reflected and made visible to an observer. Usually only the outermost cells of an organism have pigments which produce the constant colors of species.

In contrast to colors produced by pigments, structural colors are created by the physical interaction of light with the intrinsic characteristics of structures within an organism. Iridescence is a type of structural color that is especially found in certain beetles and butterflies. Incoming light strikes many layers of plates or scales which results in multiple instances of constructive interference where light is reflected many times and produces vibrant and intense colors. Metallic colors in some beetles, such as Bupestrids and some Cicindela and others , plus the iridescence colors of many butterflies are the result of structural interference of incoming light. These insects also have pigments that produce constant colors. But light interference produces colors that can change as the viewpoint of the observer or the insect changes. Or if the butterfly or beetle move into a shaded area, or it gets cloudy, iridescence is affected temporarily. This can make photographing insects exhibiting structural colors a vexing enterprise, frequently requiring patience and a lot of moving around as the insect moves to areas of different lighting. Full sun produces the most striking and clear colors and edges, so sunny days are optimal for seeing the best iridescent colors.

 

Hologram moth with green patches

Hologram moth with green patches

patches now appear yellow as light source angle and viewpoint change

patches now appear yellow as light source angle and viewpoint change

6-Spotted tiger beetle showing metallic iridescent green

6-Spotted tiger beetle showing metallic iridescent green

 

Some plants have brilliant, shiny fruits that have  an inner geometry of films and pockets that make for an aesthetically pleasing color that can last sometimes for many months, Winterberry maintains its bright red coloration throughout the winter, making it a vibrant contrast to white snow that may stick to its branches. It is highly visible to any wildlife that may need its fruits for survival.

Birds have feathers than produce colors both by pigments or by light refraction caused by the structure of the feathers. Feather color may be the result of either or both. The throat of the male Ruby- throated hummingbird refracts light like a prism which results from the structure of the feathers splitting light into the rich ruby color. Depending on the angle of the viewer, the throat can appear black  or an iridescent ruby red. Sometimes tiny air pockets in the barbs of feathers will scatter incoming light that produces a blue color, like that of a blue jay or indigo bunting. Backlight the same feathers, and they look brown because of melanin in the feathers.

This is just the tip of the iceberg, a mere reflection and consideration of how  color is produced in nature. We can all be backyard scientists if we slow down and observe our natural surroundings, of which color just one primary part of the composition. Even in the winter gloom, there are vibrant sunsets and other splashes of heartening colors in the landscape that can cheer us up, if just for a moment.

Pamm Cooper                                                all pictures copyright 2014 by Pamm Cooper

Last week I was fortunate to attend the 2014 International Annual Meeting of the American Society of Agronomy (ASA), the Crop Science Society of America (CSSA) and the Soil Science Society of America (SSSA) in Long Beach, California. The theme of this year’s meeting is ‘Grand Challenges, Great Solutions’. Most of the days are spent listening to 15 minute presentations or viewing research-based posters on a variety of topics ranging from adaptive nutrient management to zinc and everything in between.

Hollywood sign from Griffiths Park Observatory

Hollywood sign from Griffiths Park Observatory

One of the best parts of these conferences is being able to go on field trips to a variety of destinations depending on where the conference is held. Last Sunday was the Urban Soils, Agriculture and Brownfields of the Los Angeles Basin tour. The day-long tour started out at the Griffith Park Observatory at the base of the Santa Monica Mountains. Most readers will recognize the iconic Hollywood sign in the distance but the true high point of this stop was examining some of the granitic saprolite (rotting bedrock) that was the parent materials of the soils in the southeastern part of the park. The soils were very light in color and sandy and vegetation on them was somewhat sparse especially on slopes. Trees damaged by forest fires a few years prior to our visit were also pointed out.

Granitic soils at Griffith Park

Granitic soils at Griffith Park

Next stop was the Taylor Yard Brownsfield and reclamation project. Taylor Yard is a 247 acre former railroad site that has about 2 miles of frontage on the Los Angeles River. This is very special as it is the largest undeveloped piece of land along this river. A group of citizens, spearheaded by Melanie Winters, for the River Project and has been advocating and fighting for the creation of an urban park for passive and active recreation uses as well as ecosystem recreation and stormwater detention. While the purchase of a final 44 acre parcel is still in the works, this area now supplies city residents with ball fields and nature trails.

Melanie Winters of the River Project

Melanie Winters of the River Project

At Echo Park, we got to see an Anthraltic Xerorthent. Soil scientists classify soil by their defined properties in a manner similar to how botanists classify plants or zoologists, animals. What this basically tells us is that it is a young, well-drained soil developed in human transported material without a lot of subsoil development yet. Some of the neighbors joined our group to hear our NRCS guide describe the soil to us.

Randy Riddle of the NRCS showing us an anthraltic xerorthent

Randy Riddle of the NRCS showing us an anthraltic xerorthent

La Brea Tar pits was really quite fascinating and I wish we could have spent more time there. It is really hard to fathom that we are able to view bones from creatures that existed up to 40,000 years ago.

The bones of many animals are glued together in this tar. Scientists carefully separate them out bit by bit.

The bones of many animals are glued together in this tar. Scientists carefully separate them out bit by bit.

Animals were attracted to the thin layer of water on top of the sticky tar. Once they went over to take a drink, they were trapped in the tar and either died of hunger or thirst or became dinner for carnivores who in turn also became trapped,  and died.

The tar pits are covered by a shallow layer of water that attracts animals even to this day.

The tar pits are covered by a shallow layer of water that attracts animals even to this day.

Last stop was Ocean View Farms, the largest community garden in Los Angeles County. It was established in 1977 and sits on a hillside overlooking Santa Monica Bay. There are over 500 plots and they have quite a long waiting list. The gardens varied considerably in their contents – from vegetables and herbs to roses and other ornamentals. Fruit trees are also planted and the harvest is shared.

Their composting system was most impressive. Garden trimmings and debris get put in a large pile, except for a couple of noxious weeds which get sorted into a trash container. Then, on Saturdays, dedicated volunteers come and put the trimmings through a shredder and into a large pallet bin. The trimmings are layered with horse manure from a neighboring stable. The compost is turned by hand and when it ends up in the finished bin, it is first come, first serve for the gardeners.

Composting system at Ocean View Farms

Composting system at Ocean View Farms

Long Beach is really beautiful and the days were warm and sunny. I couldn’t wait to get back to the East Coast, however. There are just way too many overly pruned plants out  there! Plants are not meant to be square!

One of the many square plants

One of the many square plants

Soils rule!

Dawn P.

Lots of squash and pumpkins, P.Cooper photo

Lots of squash and pumpkins, P.Cooper photo

The farm stands and farmer’s markets have been abundantly overflowing with multiple varieties of winter squashes and pumpkins this year. Was it the beautiful and colorful fall that lingered unceasingly this year that made me want to get out and visit many produce places, or was it the autumn recipes and foods which included pumpkin everything that sent me seeking different types? I don’t care, just glad I took some time to ‘go squashing’ with a friend. I like this new verb phrase. We went in search of a cornucopia of different varieties, hoping to find a new favorite and quite possibly a new addition for next year’s vegetable garden.

Honey Nut Butternut Squash, A new find! P.Cooper photo

Honey Nut Butternut Squash, A new find! P.Cooper photo

We did find a new squash we love! Honeynut Butternut, (Cucurbita moschata), is a mini squash,  developed by the Plant Breeding and Genetics department at Cornell University.  Honeynut squash is a combination of butternut and buttercup squash types. It is only about one to one and half pounds, dark tan and adorable. The inside is darker orange than standard butternut and a bit denser and sweeter like a buttercup squash. Being smaller in size, it bakes more quickly than a larger three-pound butternut. It is still a butternut, which the squash vine borer pest avoids, which is good news for me. I will be growing this variety next year. Seed is available through Harris, Rene’s Garden and High Mowing seed catalogs and online. Probably other companies will be selling this wonderful squash also.

Peanut Pumpkin aka Galeux d’Eysines. P.Cooper photo

Peanut Pumpkin aka Galeux d’Eysines. P.Cooper photo

Another unusual find was the Peanut Pumpkin. (Cucurbita maxima “Galeux d’Eysine”).  It was developed in France in the Eysine region during the 19th century. The peanut looking growths on the outside skin are formed from hardened sugars that weep out of the skin. It is very decorative and is very edible with a rich pumpkin flavor. The more warts on the outside, the sweet the flesh will be on the inside.

Blue Hubbard and Waltham Butternut. P.Cooper photo

Blue Hubbard and Waltham Butternut. P.Cooper photo

Blue Hubbard Squash,(C. maxima)  is an odd, large shape and uncharacteristic grey color. They are best baked in the oven, as they tend to be watery when peeled and boiled. They are hard to cut open, even dangerous to attempt. We heard the best way to open them is to drop out of the car onto a driveway and they split right into pieces. The person passing on this tidbit of advice didn’t plan it that way, but it works. Blue Hubbard plants are highly attractive to the pest cucumber beetle. The plants have been used as a perimeter trap crop surrounding the field or cash crop of other species of squash. When the cucumber beetles fly into a field of  squash, they will stop at the blue hubbard first for a glorious feast. The farmer or grower can then spray only the blue hubbard to kill the cucumber beetle since almost all will be feeding there, and keep the other squash inside the perimeter beetle free. The blue hubbard squash was not intended to be harvested, only used as a sacrifice crop. Blue Hubbard plants are fast growing and strong, quickly replacing any leaves damaged by the cucumber beetle’s feeding. I am glad some farmers grow blue hubbard as the intended crop and do harvest their fruits. Perhaps these farmers do not have many cucumber beetles in their fields. Lucky them!

Acorn and Butternut Squash, P.Cooper photo

Acorn and Butternut Squash, P.Cooper photo

Traditional and commonly found Butternut(Cucurbita moschata) and Acorn (Cucurbita pepo var. turbinata), squashes are ripe and plentiful. A great starchy vegetable filled with vitamin A. Acorn squashes are perfect vessels for filling with sausage stuffing or grain mixtures.

Spaghetti and Buttercup Squash. P.Cooper photo

Spaghetti and Buttercup Squash. P.Cooper photo

Spaghetti squash is a thin-skinned winter squash with flesh the pulls apart into strands resembling spaghetti once it is cooked. Microwave or bake, then top with favorite sauce or seasoning. The taste is rather bland, reminiscent of zucchini to me, but a good base to carry other flavors. It is not a great storage squash, but easy to grow.

squash 2014

Baked Winter Squash. Photo P.Cooper

Have a squash tasting party to share your finds and new recipes tried. Perfect way to celebrate the fall.

-Carol Quish

 

 

 

When my husband and I headed to Boston to board the Norwegian Dawn to the beautiful island of Bermuda we were very excited. The first item on our list of things to do while on the island was to visit the Bermuda Botanical Gardens. Having kept an eye on the weather reports we knew that Hurricane Gonzalo could make landfall on Bermuda on Friday the 17th of October. We were not scheduled to get there until Sunday, the 19th, and ever the optimists, felt that we would still be able to dock in King’s Wharf. We even discussed going to the Botanical Garden to help with any clean-up that was needed after the storm.

The hurricane made a direct hit on Bermuda causing $200 million in damage and leaving 90% of the island without electricity. As such, the cruise ship would not be able to dock there. We were then redirected to Nassau, Bahamas and Great Stirrup Cay. Off we went to the ship’s library to look up information on the Bahamas. I was very happy to discover that there is a Botanical Garden in Nassau and that across the road from that is the Ardastra Gardens and Zoo. The day that we docked in Nassau we jumped on a city bus and headed for the Botanical Garden, ready to get some amazing pictures. Once again, it was not to be. There had been a big food festival on the grounds of the Botanical Garden over the weekend and it was closed so that they could clean up. Ok, a deep breath and then a walk across the street to the Ardastra Gardens and Zoo. It did not have an amazing array of flowers but there were several tropical varieties that were new to us.

Epiphytic orchids at the Ardastra gardens

Epiphytic orchids at the Ardastra gardens

Epiphytic Orchids

Epiphytic Orchids

It was very interesting to see the orchids that were growing on the sides of the trees. Known as an epiphyte, these orchids are not parasitic to their host plant. Their roots are used primarily for support and for attachment to the host plant. As autotrophs, they derive their nutrients and moisture from the air, the rain, and the debris that collects around their base. They use available sunlight for the process of photosynthesis. In turn, they provide a habitat for animals, fungi, and bacteria. Epiphytes can also create a cooler and moister environment in the host plant canopy to the benefit of the host plant. Many other familiar plants also in the epiphytic category include mosses, ferns, lichens, algae, cacti, and bromeliads.

Ferns growing in the limestone at Fort Fincastle

Ferns growing in the limestone at Fort Fincastle

Plants growing in the limestone

Plants growing in the limestone

And while these species of ferns and plants are not epiphytic, we found them growing in the cracks in the limestone walls of Fort Fincastle, Nassau. We also saw many plants that had adapted themselves to grow in the sandy, rocky areas of the beaches. These plants can greatly reduce the damage that can be caused by wind or water erosion.

Great Stirrip Cay

Great Stirrip Cay

Although we didn’t get to visit our first or second choices, we still saw some beautiful and interesting things. And we even got to see the trained marching flamingos at the Ardastra Zoo!

The marching flamingos!

The marching flamingos!

Susan Pelton

The native persimmon (Diospyros virginiana) grows throughout much of the eastern United States from southern Connecticut south through Florida and west as far as Kansas and Texas. This medium sized, sometimes shrubby tree can be a nice addition to the landscape and produces attractive edible fruit in the fall. While it will do best in Connecticut in the milder climate near the shore, it may thrive in a protected location further inland.   It’s not picky about the site; just about any type of soil will do, it tolerates shade (but will grow more slowly), and has minimal pruning, fertilizer or irrigation. It has few important pest and disease problems.

This is a slow-growing tree, reaching a mature height of 30 to 60 feet. It sometimes has a single trunk and sometimes stems are clumped.   The leaves are deciduous, alternate, simple and entire (non-toothed edges). The native persimmon (unlike the Oriental) is dioecious meaning there are female and male trees. Both are required for pollination and fruit production, but one male can provide a sufficient pollen source for up to 20 female trees. Pollination is by insects and wind and the flowers are used by some bees for honey production. Flowers are small and not showy and are produced from March to June depending on the location. It would lean toward June in Connecticut, the northern-most edge of its range. Berry type fruits ripen in the fall.

Persimmon fruit and leaves. J. Allen photo.

Persimmon fruit and leaves. J. Allen photo.

Persimmon fruit is about an inch in diameter. Ripe fruit is yellow to orange to red in color and may have a glaucous (white) bloom. Berries may contain zero to eight flat, brown seeds about a half inch long. Before ripening is complete, the fruit has a bitter astringent flavor. Once it’s soft it has a sweet flavor and can be used to eat fresh, dried or cooked into desserts or candy. It is sometimes fermented with hops, cornmeal, or wheat bran into a type of beer. Dried and roasted seeds have been used as a coffee substitute and the leaves have been used to make tea. The fruit is high in vitamin C. Many animals feed on persimmon fruit including song birds, skunk, raccoon, opossum, squirrels, deer, turkey, crows, rabbits, hogs and cattle. It can cause livestock to become sick. One downside of the native persimmon in the landscape is that deer will browse on it.

In traditional medicine, the inner bark and unripe fruit of the persimmon have been used to treat fever, diarrhea, and hemorrhage. Fruit extract has been used to make an indelible ink. The seeds were sometimes used as buttons during the 1800s. The wood is very hard and strong and is good for turning. The heartwood is very dark and resembles ebony but one reference states that a persimmon tree must be 100 or more years old before there is enough dark heartwood to produce a useable yield.

Our native persimmon has been introduced into Europe as an ornamental because of its hardiness, adaptability, attractive leaves and abundant fruit. It is difficult to transplant once it’s a few years old because it forms a deep taproot. In some areas of the U.S., this tree is considered a woody weed when it becomes dominant in pasturelands. For landscape use, a number of cultivars have been developed from the wild type including ‘Early Golden’, ‘John Rick’, ‘Miller’ and others. Additional common names used for native persimmon include simmon, possumwood and sugar-plum.

J. Allen

monarch on aster 

Happiness is a butterfly, which when pursued, is always just beyond your grasp, but which, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you.  ~Nathaniel Hawthorne

This year was a disappointment in many ways due to a harsh winter and droughty, hot summer. Many plants in both gardens and the natural landscape suffered as a result, but certain creatures had a splendid year. Butterflies in particular seemed to do well, especially certain species of hairstreaks.

In my area, Black Swallowtails were not as common due to the activities of certain predatory wasps. A friend had twelve caterpillars on her dill and fennel she bought for the express purpose of watching the caterpillars develop. Eleven were eaten by the wasp or paralyzed and taken away for the wasp larvae to eat. Only one lived to make a chrysalis, and that was because a protective mesh was put around the fennel plant to keep the wasp out.

Giant swallowtails appeared for the third year in a row, at least in the northern parts of the state. These tropical butterflies wander up here and were not known to overwinter here. But several people were reporting a third year of spotting the larva in their gardens, so perhaps they may become residents as the weather permits. Look for larva on gas plants, rue, and skimmia, as well as on citrus plants put outside for the summer. This butterfly is the largest swallowtail in North America, so caterpillars are equally large and can defoliate plants. In the south where citrus is grown commercially, the larva is considered a pest.

Last year I found a population of Baltimore butterfly larva in leaf shelters constructed for overwintering. In late spring the caterpillars were everywhere in the field in various stages of forming chrysalises. These butterflies are uncommon, but may be found locally in wet meadows where the larval host plants are found. Turtlehead and English plantain are common host plants of these caterpillars. A couple of weeks later, this field abounded in the Baltimore butterflies. This field is a property managed by the CT. DEEP and the manager is careful to mow around the caterpillars when they are “ nesting”. Look for these butterflies in June.

Baltimore Checkerspot at Belding WMA July 6, 2014

Baltimore Butterfly on Common Milkweed

Tiger Swallowtails and  Spicebush Swallowtails emerge about the time their respective larval host plants start to leaf out. Tigers prefer small trees- especially black cherry, tulip tree and magnolia, while spicebush and sassafras are the host plants for the Spicebush caterpillars.

This year there was an abundance of two hairstreaks at the golf course where I work. In the mornings and early afternoons I had to remove them from fairways and greens to avoid mowing them over. These were the Banded Hairstreak and the Hickory Hairstreak, the former common and the latter uncommon.  Both larval stages may be found where oaks  are abundant and flight is from June – August. This year they were around for at least two months, probably as they eclosed gradually depending on temperatures where the chrysalis was formed.

banded hairstreak

Banded Hairstreak saved from a mower

Common Buckeyes, Red- banded Hairstreaks and Fiery Skippers, vagrants that were noted in Connecticut in good numbers in 2012 have been few and far between since then. Places where I could usually find them over the years were unproductive in searches this year.

A site where wood lilies are abundant always provides an opportunity to observe a number of butterflies that like these flowers. Native to our forests, wood lilies grow even where forests have been cleared, and there are local areas where they can be found. The butterflies that use them as a food source and a perching or patrolling spot ( males ) include: Spicebush Swallowtails, Coral and Gray Hairstreaks, American coppers and many skippers. If a male is using the flowers as a patrol site, if you scare it away it usually will return or pick a flower not too far away. It is to note that the Spicebush Swallowtail is one of the few butterflies that can squeeze into a lily flower to obtain nectar and then back out with no harm done.

American copper on wood lily Ju;y 2014

American Copper on Wood Lily

 

coral hairstreak on wood lily Mt Rd 7-18-14II

Coral Hairstreak on Wood Lily

As the year winds down, there are still some butterflies flying around, especially migrating species such as  Cabbage whites, Sulphurs, Monarchs and Painted Ladies. Question marks and Commas are seen in flight as late as October and Mourning Cloaks can be seen in flight both in spring and late summer or even winter. Mourning Cloaks overwinter as adults and may fly during the winter on warm, sunny days. As a note to monarchs, this year there were more reported sightings than last year, so perhaps populations may be rebounding somewhat. MonarchWatch.org is a good site for anyone interested in this butterfly.

Mourning cloak July 11, 2014 Mt RD

Mourning Cloak

As a final note, it is always a pleasant surprise to see a butterfly of any kind to those of us who delight in them. The caterpillars are also fascinating and I have raised many since childhood. I have kept records for years on where and when I find specific butterflies and their caterpillars and the value of this information is well worth the time spent on all the hiking, leaf turning and  documenting involved. And the best part is that each year is different,

Pamm Cooper    All photos copyright 2014 by Pamm Cooper

Years ago when I worked as a horticulturist at Old Sturbridge Village one of my favorite plantings was right by the entrance to the visitor’s center. During the summer it was planted in white sweet alyssum and pale yellow petunias, not very memorable until about now when the lovely lavender colchicums popped their heads up through the white and pale yellow carpet eliciting much delight with the visitors. The folks staffing the visitor center were constantly being asked what that flower that looked like a giant crocus was.

Colchicum autumnale
Colchicum autumnale

Colchicums have been called autumn crocuses, naked ladies, meadow saffron and mysteria, just to mention a few common names. Do note that these bulbs, actually corms, are not crocuses but rather members of the lily family and they are poisonous which means that deer, woodchucks, voles and rabbits leave them alone. If you’ve just moved into a house with fall blooming crocus like flowers and want to know how to differentiate colchicums from crocuses, the former have 6 stamens while the latter have only 3.

The botanical name, Colchicum, comes from the land on the shores of the Black Sea once known as Colchis, now Georgia. According to Greek mythology, this was the home of the sorceress, Medea. When she discovered the unfaithfulness of her husband, Jason, who led the Argonaunts in their quest for the Golden Fleece, she poisoned her children to punish him.

Colchicums were grown at the Village because they were introduced to Europe sometime in the late 16th century and were popular garden plants for about 200 years. Now with renewed interest in heirloom plants, their popularity is again growing. As it should! Colchicums are beautiful yet tough plants for droughty sites where some early fall color is welcome. They do great in drifts under the high shade of large trees as well as in partially to full sun sites in the perennial garden or shrub bed.

If these flowers appeal to you, keep in mind several cultural suggestions. Plant colchicums as soon as purchased from garden centers or catalogs, in the fall, about 3 to 6 inches deep in a well-drained soil in full to part sun. The corms should bloom a few weeks after planting. When the foliage arises in the spring, fertilize with natural or synthetic products as directed on the package. Try to keep the soil pH around 6.3 or so. Consider planting colchicums where they will make an impact. Often this is in complementary or contrasting colored annuals or in beds of groundcovers, especially the chocolate leaved ajugas.

After admiring these little beauties and my favorite dahlia, ‘Peaches’n Cream’, it was off to the vegetable garden to collect the harvest from the past few days.

Peaches'n Cream

Peaches’n Cream

Monday morning woke to a very light frost in the lowest sections of the yard leaving the vegetable garden untouched so there was still a fair amount of produce to harvest. ‘Butta’ summer squash has been extremely prolific. 4 more squash were added to the stash in the frig making this weekend officially summer squash relish making time. The fall crop of mixed radishes was ready for picking as well.

'Butta' summer squash and mixed radishes

‘Butta’ summer squash and mixed radishes

The winter squash, ‘Early Butternut’ and ‘Tennessee Sweet Potato’ can stay out in the garden until a hard frost threatens. I grow members of the butternut family (Cucurbita moschata) every year as they have solid stems so are not susceptible to squash vine borer damage. The ‘Tennessee Sweet Potato’ squash is a 15 pound, pear-shaped heirloom although it is new to my garden this year.

Butternut and Tennessee Sweet Potato Winter Squash

Butternut and Tennessee Sweet Potato Winter Squash

Munched on Asian greens!

Munched on Asian greens!

Those rotten little cross-striped caterpillars ate every little leaf bit of my Asian greens – just during the last few weeks! Thankfully, there are still lots of chard and a fall lettuce crop coming in.

The squirrels kept climbing on the sunflowers to get the seeds causing the plants to bend and sometimes break. They were staked up as good as possible and one sunflower produced this row of flowers along a now horizontal branch.

Sunflowers grow out on a limb!

Sunflowers grow out on a limb!

Enjoy these nice fall days!

Dawn

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