Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Container combination

Coleus "Defiance" and Variegated Plectranthus (Swedish Ivy)

Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


The name sounds disgusting, doesn't it? Actually, they don't look that menacing when you see them on the plant. In fact, they can be easily mistaken for a cone or part of a plant. Don't be misled though - these devious critters are highly destructive and can kill a plant before you realize what has happened. There are different types of bagworms but the evergreen bagworm is the one addressed here. It is prevalent in the eastern U.S. and attacks evergreens such as arborvitae, red cedar, junipers, etc. Even decidious trees are vulnerable, however, damage is minimal to them because they shed their leaves.

This is what they can do -

Bagworms are actually the larvae of a moth. They are 1-2 inches long and create a cocoon made up of silk and bits of dead foliage and twigs. During the summer months, the larvae consumes plant foliage and retreats into the cocoon when disturbed. The larvae carries the cocoon (or bag) around and it larger and larger as they eat more and more. By late August, feeding stops and a pupa forms inside the bag. A moth emerges from the pupa. The female moths stays inside the bag. The male flies to bags containing the females and they mate. The female then lays 300-1000 eggs in the bag and then she promptly dies. The eggs hatch the following May and early June and the whole vicious cycle starts over again.

You can control them by spraying an insecticide but this has to be done in May and early June to be effective. The larvae are so small, most gardeners don't see them until the bags start to form. Feeding slows in August so spraying doesn't do any good after that.

Hand picking them is another alternative. Of course, if it is a large tree, that option might be out of the question.

A few years ago, I noticed bagworms on our Colorado Blue Spruce. I picked them off and never saw them again. This year I've noticed them on the junipers out next to the street. This morning I spent an hour picking them off and tossing them into the road where I envision car tires squishing the disgusting buggers to kingdom come.

Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy

Monday, July 19, 2010

The late July garden

There is not much to report as far as blooms are concerned but due to some generous rainfalls during the past week, the garden is green and not as tired looking as it normally is this time of year. The heat and humidity, coupled with drought, is not a pretty picture. Of course, things would look better if I were out weeding, but this time of year I'm doing good to just get out and take photos.

Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Salvia "Black and Blue"

Salvia 'Black and Blue' (Salvia guaranitica) (aka Blue Anise Sage, Brazilian Sage, Sapphire Sage)

There are more varieties of salvia than you can shake a stick at and I love them all but if I could only choose one, this would be it. Salvia 'Black and Blue' is named for the color of the flowers - cobalt blue flowers that emerge from jet black calyces. These tubular flowers persist throughout the summer (plants can be sheared in mid-summer for fall bloom) and it is one of the top favorites of hummingbirds. Although the flowers are the star attraction, the foliage itself is quite nice. Light green fuzzy leaves are strongly scented with a sage-like fragrance. This salvia is considered somewhat tender but it has overwintered in my garden for the past four years. Mulch it heavily during the winter months and be sure you grow it in well-drained soil - wet feet will certainly kill it during the winter months. (Cameron at Defining Your Home, Garden & Travel advises not cutting the stems back during the winter months). It will spread but not to the point of invasiveness. Share it and enjoy!

Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Daylily and a Sheriff in the family?

This vibrant daylily was in a friend's garden. Isn't is striking? I wasn't able to get the name of it because she wasn't there when I took the photo but I hope she can tell me soon.

There's not much to report from the garden. The heat has been relentless but as least we've had rain (2 inches so far this week). The tomatoes and cayenne peppers have been producing like crazy.

In non-gardening news, it looks like my cousin could be the next Sheriff of Franklin County!

Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy

Friday, July 2, 2010

Blueberry Coffee Cake

I made this for a breakfast reception at work. The recipe came from the Internet but I made a few changes.

Streusel topping:
1 cup brown sugar
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 stick butter

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter
1 cup white sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 cup fresh blueberries

For the glaze:
1/2 cup confectioners sugar
2 TSP. lemon juice (approx.)

1. Pre=heat oven to 350 degrees F. Coat a springform or Bundt pan well with cooking spray. (I used a springform pan)
2. Make the streusel topping: Mix 1 brown cup sugar, 2/3 cup flour, and cinnamon in a medium bowl. Cut in 1/2 cup butter or margarine; topping mixture will be crumbly. Set aside.
3. For the cake: Beat 1/2 cup butter in large bowl until creamy; add 1 cup white sugar, and beat until fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla. Whisk together 2 cups flour, baking powder, and salt; add alternately with the buttermilk to the creamed mixture, beating well after each addition.
4. Spread half the batter in the prepared pan. Cover with berries and half of the streusel topping. Add add remaining batter by tablespoons. Cover with the remaining streusel topping.
5. Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 45 to 55 minutes, until golden brown. Remove pan to wire rack to cool. Invert onto a plate after cake has cooled.

Make the glaze: To make the glaze, add lemon juice a little at at time to confectioners sugar until it reaches desired consistency.

Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy