Plant of the Month: Rudbeckia hirta ‘Indian Summer’

Rudbeckia hirta 'Indian Summer'

Rudbeckia hirta ‘Indian Summer’

Rudbeckia hirta ‘Indian Summer’ is a superior breeding improvement on the classic Black-Eyed Susan. Like it’s parent, Rudbeckia hirta, ‘Indian Summer’ has hairy leaves and stems, the foliage is alternate and spread out along the main stem, there is only one flower per plant, and both are biennials. There the comparison ends. Continue reading

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Oystershell Scale on Lilac

My neighbor’s lilacs, while showing signs of lilac blight earlier in the season, continue to experience massive dieback. Today, I decided to perform a closer examination, since the proximity of his plants puts my plants at risk.

Lilac dieback from oystershell scale

Lilac dieback from oystershell scale

To my surprise, his lilacs are covered with oystershell scale, and the infestation is so severe that it isn’t worth trying to save the shrubs. Certain types of scale, such as euonymous scale, are ubiquitous, but oystershell scale–especially when it has clearly been present for several years–is unusual among reasonably well tended suburban gardens. My guess is that he probably purchased inferior stock at one of the local big box stores. Combined with yearly bouts of powdery mildew, and a location with insufficient airflow, the stressed shrubs were doomed to an attack by opportunistic insects. Continue reading

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Invasive Species

Lythrum salicaria in a colorful border

Lythrum salicaria in a colorful border

Back in the 1980s, it was almost impossible to pick up a gardening book or horticultural publication that didn’t recommend planting species that are banned or restricted today as invasive plants. Some states have extensive lists of banned or controlled species, while other state lists are more moderate. Sometimes the lists make no sense unless you understand the particular economics of a state’s agriculture. The bans or restrictions may be specifically to protect grazing cattle or cranberry bogs or even wildlife restoration. More often, the listed plants are so aggressive that native species are being crowded out. Continue reading

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Eye Candy for Gardeners

Rosa Morden Snowbeauty

Rosa Morden Snowbeauty

This photo seems to perfectly capture one reason gardeners have such a long-standing love affair with the rose. I can’t think of another flower as delicate and elegant when first opening as a rose. The Morden Snowbeauty rose shows just the faintest hint of pink before opening to pure white. Aren’t roses fantastic?

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Bristly Roseslug

Bristly Roseslug leaf damage

Bristly Roseslug leaf damage

It never ceases to amaze me how all it takes is one rose in a garden in order for the Bristly Roseslug to find it and attack. The roseslug is the transparent (when young) or green (when older) larval caterpillar of a sawfly (wasp), Endelomyia aethiops. The larvae are no more than one-half inch in length and, if you’re lucky, can be found  while eating leaves and promptly squished. Younger larvae skeletonize the leaves, as seen in the photo at left, while older larvae chew holes in the leaves, often along the leaf edges. Continue reading

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Four-Lined Plant Bug

Four-Lined Plant Bug nymph

Four-Lined Plant Bug nymph

For the past two years I’ve had problems with Four-Lined Plant Bugs. As shown in the photo at left (click to enlarge), the nymphs are black and red, so they’re easy to spot, even though they’re only one-quarter inch in length. They have voracious appetites, and with their chewing-sucking mouthparts they can leave numerous small holes on tender leaves. The plant tissue surrounding the holes dies from the toxins injected by the bugs and appears as a series of brown, shot-hole marks or the holes can blend together into more of a blotch. Continue reading

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Plant of the Month: Alchemilla mollis ‘Thriller’

Alchemilla mollis (Lady’s Mantle) is probably a well-known plant to many readers here. A perennial border classic, it is celebrated for its magnificent scalloped foliage and its delicate chartreuse-yellow flowers rising on wands above the main clump of leaves. It’s a great edging plant and an attractive visual filler among other flowers.

Alchemilla mollis 'Thriller'

Alchemilla mollis ‘Thriller’

The photo at left is the ‘Thriller’ variety in its second year, grown from one-gallon pots. I’ve grown both the standard Alchemilla and the ‘Thriller’ variety and, on balance, I prefer ‘Thriller’. Descriptions of both varieties can vary in publications or on the internet, but, in my experience, ‘Thriller’ is a larger plant whose leaves are distinctly green rather than gray-green. Continue reading

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