Between work and the heat of the day, often the most pleasant and practical time to be out in the garden is in the evening. Since this is a prime gardening time for me, one area of the yard was transformed into a white garden to provide some shimmering but soothing interest at the end of a long day.

Something about this space just called for a white, rectangular garden. There was a blue spruce, white beauty bush, white lilac and white spirea already in this area and a clump of 5 young grey birches with white bark. While loosening the soil in that area as well as in other spots throughout the yard, we managed to accumulate a fair amount of nice sized stones that were used to edge the bed. Then a pathway was created that ended at a small stone patio.

White garden in winter 2008

White garden in winter 2008

Plants have come and gone through the years. The 5 grey birches were toppled one by one in severe ice storms and now a Carolina silverbell stands in their place. A beautiful star magnolia was lost in that October snowstorm and other plants have been extracted for trying to take over the world.

A colonial style garden arbor was placed next to the patio supporting a white climbing rose and autumn clematis. I found the most perfect plant holding statue to go underneath it!

Found the perfect complement to the wrought iron arbor. dmp UConn

Found the perfect complement to the wrought iron arbor. dmp UConn

Not that I have a lot of chances to just sit and enjoy but when I do, I find this is the garden I gravitate to.

Seating on patio in white garden

Seating on patio in white garden

If the thought of a white garden appeals to you, there are several things you might want to consider when planning it. Plants with white flowers or variegated leaves really show up more in shady areas than in sunny ones when viewed during the day. They also stand out more with a green or other dark-colored backdrop. When planning a white garden, judicious use of a building, fence, evergreens or other shrubs can supply the darker contrast needed to make the garden come alive.

White garden entrance. dmp UConn

White garden entrance. dmp UConn

Also, not all white flowers are pure white; they can range from white to cream and even be tinged with green or pink. Along with white flowers, one can include silver-leaved foliage plants like dusty miller, ‘Silver Mound’ artemesia, Japanese ferns and salvias. Think about integrating variegated leaved shrubs or perennials, trees with white flowers or even plants with new growth that comes in white like the ‘Gentsch White’ hemlock.

Gentsch White hemlock. dmp UConn

Gentsch White hemlock. dmp UConn

White flowers, more so than other colors, can really take on an unattractive brown appearance when they go by. More deadheading than usual might be called for unless plant selection is carefully made.

Look for plants with white flowers from early spring (think bulbs) throughout the summer and into fall. There are thousands of species and cultivars to choose from. Consider the judicious use of garden ornaments to continue the white theme whether it be a bench, urn, birdhouse, statue or fountain.

White corner post. dmp UConn

White corner post. dmp UConn

While I integrated white flowering plants into an almost predetermined space because of the shrubs and trees already present, I have seen some white garden beds cut out in the shape of a crescent. A down to earth moon garden if there ever was one!

Happy Gardening!

Dawn P.

Program at the Museum of Natural History UConn campus on July 25, 2015 1- 3:00 p.m.  (more…)

Lots of happenings in the vegetable garden this week as things start to take off. Yellow summer squash and zucchini are starting to produce fruits. The first flowers that appeared were male, identified by their long stems holding the blossom. Female flowers have a small squash shaped ovary at the blossom base, that if becomes pollinated, will grow into a full-sized squash.If the pollination of the female flower does not happen, the tiny squash will drop off. Female flowers appear about a week after the first male flowers are put out by the plant.

Female squash blossoms with a fruit behind it. Photo by C.Quish

Female squash blossoms with a fruit behind it. Photo by C.Quish

Male squash blossom is on the long stem. Photo by C.Quish

Male squash blossom is on the long stem. Photo by C.Quish

At the first appearance of blossoms, the squash vine borer also was seen. The adult is a clear winged moth that lays her eggs on the hollow stems both varieties. The egg hatches into a larva tunneling into the center of the vine, feeding on the inside of the stem and blocking the transmission of water to the leaf and all plant material above their feeding site. The result will be wilting of the plant.

Squash vine borer adults, Jeff Hahn photo, UMN.edu

Squash vine borer adults, Jeff Hahn photo, UMN.edu

Control measures are trapping adults, preventing egg laying, and killing larva once stem is invaded. Trap adults by placing a yellow bowl or container filled with soapy water in the garden. Adults are attracted to the color yellow, will fly to the container where they become trapped in the soapy water. Check for eggs on the stems daily and crush any you find. Some folks wrap stems with aluminum foil to create a barrier to egg laying. If larva are found inside the stem, use a hat pin to poke through the stem into the larva to cause death of the insect while the stem will not be harmed much. Another way is to use a knife to slice lengthwise into the stem, dig out the larva, put the stem sides back together and cover with soil. The plant often recovers. Chemical control includes applying insecticide to the base and stems of the squash plant. This will kill the larva before it has a chance to burrow into the stem. Registered insecticides again the squash vine borer are neem, Surround, permethrin and pyrethrins. Always follow pesticide label directions.

Kale, bok choi and Swiss chard are keeping us in greens. The dreaded small caterpillars are starting to appear. Imported cabbage moth, crossed striped caterpillar and the cabbage looper are all common in Connecticut. Insecticidal soap, Bt and spinosad are organic control measures that work well on the early stages of the caterpillar. Apply at recommend label times to keep up with any new hatchings. Be aware of any white moths flitting around the cole crops to alert you to egg laying and the subsequent caterpillar presence.

Cross-striped cabbagworm larva (Evergestis rimosalis). Clemson University USDA Cooperative Extension Slide Series, www.insectimages.org

Cross-striped cabbagworm larva (Evergestis rimosalis).
Clemson University USDA Cooperative Extension Slide Series, http://www.insectimages.org

Cabbage looper larva (Trichoplusia ni) and feeding damage. David Cappaert, Michigan State University, www.insectimages.org

Cabbage looper larva (Trichoplusia ni) and feeding damage.
David Cappaert, Michigan State University, http://www.insectimages.org

Tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers were planted late as my garden had to wait for other responsibilities to happen before planting took place this year. All seem to be slow due to the colder spring soils, so maybe this is a blessing in disguise and I will have an extended harvest. I plan on planting spinach, lettuce, kale and carrots during August for later season crops. Colder hardy varieties will be selected and I will use row covers later to protect from frosts.

– Carol Quish

Last week, an adult Oriental beetle was spotted on some lettuce in our vegetable garden. This in itself is not really a big deal because, unlike Japanese and Asiatic garden beetles, these adults are not voracious feeders and don’t typically require control. It can be important for a couple of other reasons though, to note the annual emergence of this species. One is that it typically precedes the emergence of the Japanese beetle by 1-2 weeks, so it’s a heads-up to be on the lookout for them. The other is that the larvae or grub stage of the Oriental beetle can cause significant damage to the roots of cool season turfgrasses and some ornamental plants including those in pots.

Adult Oriental beetle on lettuce.  J. Allen photo.

Adult Oriental beetle on lettuce. J. Allen photo.

The adults are 3/8 to 7/16” long and have quite variable color and markings. They can range from light tan to dark brown and many have alternating dark and light line patterns on the wing covers (elytra). After emerging in mid to late June in southern New England, beetles feed and mate. Females lay eggs a few inches deep in moist soil in small groups for a total of 20-30 eggs per individual. If drought conditions prevail, egg-laying may be delayed as long as into September. Grubs hatch 18-24 days later under average temperature and weather conditions and feed on roots and organic matter near the soil surface. As grubs increase in size and grow through three instars or stages, the amount of damage done to host plants increases too. Third instar larvae overwinter deep in the soil (8-17”). They migrate upward and resume feeding when the soil warms in the spring. After feeding for 4-5 weeks, the grubs pupate and transform into adults, completing the annual life cycle.

If you are concerned (or know) that white grubs, the larvae of Oriental, Japanese and several other scarab beetles, are damaging your lawn or other plants, it is important to correctly identify the beetle species for selection of the most effective control strategies. Pheromone traps are available to monitor for the presence of adult male Oriental beetles. Because these traps only attract males, they do not have the potential to increase damage in the area as Japanese beetle traps can. Identification of white grubs to species requires a close look at their little rumps. Using a hand lens, inspect the pattern of ‘hairs’ on the lower side. The Oriental beetle grub has two parallel rows of small hairs down the middle.

How do you know if you have enough grubs to warrant a control product? For Oriental beetle, thresholds of 8-10 grubs per square foot of lawn are suggested. Peel back a one foot square section of turf and check the soil and roots for grubs. White grubs will be in a C shape. They’re going to be most numerous and problematic in sunny areas. Don’t forget about grub identification!

Management strategies include cultural practices, biocontrols and chemical insecticides. For both biocontrol and most chemical products, the early instar or youngest grubs are the most vulnerable and therefore the most easily controlled. More information on these can be found at these links: http://www.beyondpesticides.org/alternatives/factsheets/Grubs.pdf

http://www.ct.gov/caes/cwp/view.asp?a=2815&q=376940

Connecticut claim to fame: The Oriental beetle was first confirmed in the United States here in 1920. It didn’t appear to spread much until around the 1970s. Since then it has expanded its U.S. distribution to include most of the east coast and extending westward to Ohio.

If you need assistance with grub or beetle identification, or control tips, contact the UConn Home & Garden Education Center by phone at 860-486-6271 or by email at ladybug@uconn.edu.

By J. Allen

Last week’s blog entry by Dawn Pettinelli was devoted to National Pollinators Week, stressing the importance of pollinators and their ecosystems. Between the vegetable garden, the flower beds, and the hanging baskets there is no lack of bright, beautiful flowers in our yard that have bees, butterflies, and other insects flying among them.

2012-08-19_12-19-38_209

I recently walked past a male Winterberry, Ilex verticillata, in my yard. As it doesn’t have very showy flowers or unusual foliage it has been relegated to an inconspicuous location on the side of the house where it is still in proximity of the female winterberry. However, as I strolled past it en route to the window boxes at the front of the house, something caught my attention.

The small white flower petals were dropping in such large numbers that it looked like snow falling to the ground. Looking at the bush I saw that there was a flurry of activity going on among the leaves and  blossoms. The number of bees and other insects visiting the tiny flowers was awesome.

Bumblebee on the Male WinterberryHoneybee on the Male Winterberry

The drupes of the female Winterberry are an important food source for birds and can persist on the branches long into winter. It is a deciduous plant and therefore it is even more striking to see the bright red berries against a fresh snowfall.

Female Winterberry Drupes

I then started to look at some of the other plants in our yard that had been selected more for their utility or  foliage than for their blossoms. There are three different varieties of Heuchera that I chose for their foliage which ranges from lime yellow to beautiful sunset colors to dark, almost purple leaves. I almost forget that they will produce the delicate stalks and tiny bell-shaped flowers that give it its common name of Coral bells. The main axis of Heuchera have an indeterminate growth that is known as thyrse. The native Americans used some species of Heuchera medicinally as an anti-inflammatory or a pain killer.

HeucheraHeuchers FlowerHeuchera Flower Close-upHeuchera 2

The dwarf Yaupon Holly, Ilex vomitoria, is also in bloom right now with the most delicate white flowers. The 4-petaled, ¼”  tiny flowers have an almost extra-terrestrial look to them. This plant will also produce small red drupes that will be eaten and dispersed by the birds. Raccoon and skunks will also consume the berries and deer will eat the foliage and twigs. The Native Americans brewed a tea from the leaves of this plant which the Europeans mistakenly believed could cause vomiting thereby erroneously giving it its Latin name.

Yaupon Holly Flower

Joe-pye weed, Eupatorium purpureum, has great striking deep reddish-purple stems that lead to red-veined leaves but I love when its tiny flowers make their appearance late in the season. A Native American healer whose name was Jopi used these plants to treat ailments and cure fevers and they became known as Joe-Pye Weed.

Joe-Pye Weed

And one last example of a native shrub that has flowers that are often overlooked is the American willow, Salix discolor, more commonly known as the pusssy willow. We, like so many others, cut stems loaded with catkins to bring indoors in the early spring. Our plant is a male and the small furry catkins develop into fluffy yellow bunches of minute flowers. As with so many other plants that are indigenous to New England the pussy willow was also used by the native Americans as a painkiller

Pussy Willow Catkins         Male Pussy Willow Flowers


There are so many native shrubs that bring diversity to our environments whether by adding beautiful colors to our landscapes in all of the seasons or by providing the pollen and nectar that is so necessary to the bees and other pollinators. Visit the Alternatives for Invasive Ornamental Plant Species site from the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station and the Connecticut Invasive Plant Working Group for a list of some great native plants.

Susan Pelton

(all images by Susan Pelton)

In case you have not heard, Pollinator Partnership (www.pollinator.org), a nonprofit “dedicated exclusively to the protection and promotion of pollinators and their ecosystems” has a signature initiative, National Pollinator Week, which was started in 2007. Their mission is to promote the health of pollinators through conservation, education and research. The Pollinator Partnership is also proud to announce that June 15-21, 2015 has been designated National Pollinator Week by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

First, think about who our pollinators are – European honey bees, native bees, butterflies, birds, bats, beetles, moths and other animals. There are more than 200,000 species of animals that can pollinate plants. All of these animals transfer pollen from one flower to another in their quest for nectar and pollen. More than 1000 crops depend on these animals for pollination in order to produce the food, spices, beverages, medicines and fiber we rely on. We have not only seen a drastic decline in managed honeybees over the past decade or so but also a reduction in native pollinators as lands supporting native plants are turned into agricultural monocultures, industrial zones, parking lots, residences with large lawn areas and little plant diversity and other uses that do not encourage the growth of native plants. The decline of both managed and native pollinators has also been linked to pesticide use.

Bumble bee on marigold by dmp

Bumble bee on marigold by dmp

 Gardeners and other concerned citizens can help reverse this trend. A number of conservation and gardening organizations got together and formed the National Pollinator Garden Network which has just launched a new nationwide campaign – the Million Pollinator Garden Challenge.

poll challenge

The organizations behind this campaign are hoping for one million pollinator gardens by the end of 2016. Becoming a supporter of this campaign requires two steps. Planting a pollinator garden and registering it. Do note that there are no size requirements for your pollinator garden. They can range from a single window box to a farm to a whole college campus.

Step one does require a little thought and planning. To start with, what kinds of plants should be grown in a pollinator garden? Ideally, there should be native plants to support native pollinators because these plants and animals evolved over time and often have specific roles to fulfill. The plants in the garden should not only support adult pollinators like bees, butterflies and moths but, in the case of butterflies and moths, their larval or caterpillar stage as well. This may require a little research but there are plenty of good websites and books out there. The problem with some non-native plants is that they may not produce enough nectar or pollen to support a native pollinator species or, in the case of larvae, may be unpalatable. The Xerces Society has a pollinator plant list that one can begin with:  http://www.xerces.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/NortheastPlantList_web.pdf

Butterfly on rudbeckia by dmp

Butterfly on rudbeckia by dmp

This does bring into question ‘nativars’. For those not familiar with this term, it refers to a cultivated variety of a native species. So if, for instance, if a New England aster has a particularly nice color or growth form or resistance to an insect or disease, it might be vegetatively propagated and sold, and would then be known as a nativar. But is it’s pollen as nutritious to our native bee species as the original native plant’s? Sometimes the answer is yes, sometimes no and sometimes no one knows. So much about these interactions are yet unknown so it would be great if more research would be done in this area.

My hope is that providing enough variety in my garden will balance out the effects of planting some non-natives and some nativars. The diversity card seems to be working as I have all sorts of native bees, flies, butterflies and even ruby-throated hummingbirds and bats (although I wish the bats would stay out of the house!).

If you are planning on taking up this challenge, then choose plants that provide nectar, pollen and food for moth and butterfly larvae. So don’t plant those pollen-less sunflowers because, although they are neater as cut flowers, they are useless to pollinators, not to mention goldfinches. Single or semi-double flowers are more attractive to pollinators than doubles because they produce more pollen.

Male green bottle fly on chocolate daisy by dmp

Male green bottle fly on chocolate daisy by dmp

Try for continuous bloom from early spring (crocus) through late fall (single, hardy mums). Even though these two plants are not native, they are mobbed by pollinators at the beginning and end of each gardening season in my gardens.

Site your container planting or garden in full sun and if located in an exposed windy site, try and shelter it from persistent winds by locating it next to a building, large shrub or other windbreak. Pollinators need water so set out a bird bath, puddle rock or even a more elaborate fountain or pond so they can access it.

Most importantly, keep an eye on your plants and notice if bees and other pollinators are visiting them. If so, register your site. If not, switch out some of the plants for more native ones and see what happens.

If you are interested in learning about pollinators and more, UConn Extension will be hosting Bug Week from July 20-25, 2015. There will be events, interactive activities, and programs that you can do on your own. Browse our site, and if you have questions email us at bugweek@uconn.edu or call 860-486-9228.

Bees congregating on dahlia towards nightfall by dmp

Bees congregating on dahlia towards nightfall by dmp

Whoever came up with that adage, “The only good bug is a dead bug” most certainly did not understand man’s reliance on insects. Get to know them! Appreciate them – or give up coffee and chocolate, for without pollinating insects we would most certainly not get to experience these two treats.

Good gardening!

Dawn

UConn Plant Database photo of young yellowwood tree.

UConn Plant Database photo of young yellowwood tree.

Yellowwood in full bloom, photo from uky.edu

Yellowwood in full bloom, photo from uky.edu

 

Trees with large, showy flowers always attract attention and a closer look. Yellowwood is one such tree not commonly seen here in Connecticut. I am lucky enough to work on the UConn Storrs campus where many more unusual trees are planted and growing well. Behind the W.B. Young Building which houses Plant Science and Landscape Architecture, on the lawn as you exit the south end of the parking lot, is a glorious Yellowwood tree displaying its large, white flowers hanging down like wisteria clusters. As the flowers age, the petals are gently dropped speckling the lawn and mulch white.

 

Yellowwood flower. C. Quish Photo

Yellowwood flower. C. Quish Photo

Cladrastis kentukea is the Latin name for Yellowwood, referring to its native range in the south-east portion of the United States, mainly Kentucky, Tennessee and North Carolina. It is hardy here in Connecticut, as the one planted on campus proves. Research shows it is hardy to zone 4. Locate in full sun and well-drained soil to ensure success with this tree.  It is also sometimes known as Virgilia. The common name of yellowwood comes from the color of the heartwood of the tree. It has a yellow hued wood used for decorative wood working and gun stocks. The color can be extracted from the root to be used as a dye.

V-shaped form and rounded crown of Yellowwood tree. Photo by C. Quish

V-shaped form and rounded crown of Yellowwood tree. Photo by C. Quish

Yellowwood is a medium-sized tree with a uniform, rounded shape suitable for use as a specimen planting or a lawn tree. It makes a great focal point providing great shape, a flowering period and superb interesting branch shape, and interesting bark. The bark is starts out with soft yellow/green twigs, which change to a reddish-brown and finally to a smooth grey to brown at maturity, It has a habit of setting horizontal branches below six feet adding to the structural interest of the tree when it is leafless. The leaves turn from green to clear yellow, orange and gold during the fall.

Yellowwood wood, UConn plant database

Yellowwood wood, UConn plant database

Fall color, UConn Plant database photo

Fall color, UConn Plant database photo

Yellowwood bark, uconn database

Yellowwood bark, uconn database

-Carol Quish

 

 

 

 

 

 

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