Tuesday, July 24, 2018

We Share our Gardens with Insects

I happened to catch a rare visitor to my garden the other day. It was a large pure black wasp but as I'm not an insect expert I had to look it up. It turned out to be a Great Black Wasp and in fact they're quite widespread throughout the U.S. Although we rightly celebrate bees and butterflies of all kinds, as well as our friend the Ladybug, the truth is that we share our gardens with a great variety of insects. Although some of these are pests - aphids and caterpillars come to mind - there are a great many beneficial insects that we may or may not see. They eat the insects we don't want and also in some cases protect certain plants in our garden from tiny unwanted predators. So, raise a glass to all the friendly denizens that visit or live in our gardens. Long may they linger.
Now this week's photos.

It was a long wait but my Gladiolus primulinus Mirella has finally opened its first flowers. Described as 'vermillion red' it certainly is one of the most colorful of all species gladiolas.

I previously shared  a photo of my richly colored Lilium Fujian. Here's more of a closeup. One of the largest (8" across) and most beautiful lilies I've ever grown.

Do you do the voodoo you do so well? You do if you're growing Sauromatum venosum, better known as Voodoo lily. Its 'pungent' dark burgundy spathe has meant that this arum family member is grouped together with other stinky flowers, like the Titan arum or Dracunculus vulgaris (Dragon lily). Here are the leaf shoots, along with the mottled stems.

Cotyledon orbiculata var. orbiculata. Here are the colorful flowers on the succulent affectionately known as Pig's Ear. 

A second life. That's what we can offer plants if we give them a 'haircut' after the first wave of blooming. That's what I did with my little Nemesia and it's rewarded me with a second bloom season.

Here is the Great Black wasp on my Eriogonum grande rubescens flowers. This CA Buckwheat is one of the best plants to add to your garden for attracting pollinators and birds.

This hard to find Lilium leitchtlinii offers golden yellow petals that are lightly recurved and heavily spotted. This Asiatic lily hailing from Japan isn't actually a tiger lily but it certainly does resemble one.

Thunbergia Arizona Red. This has grown through the fence slats and is now grabbing some sun on my neighbor's side. 

Laurentia axillaris. Finally a decent photo of my Blue Stars plant. It is to me such a joyful plant, as if these were terrestrial (not celestial) stars dancing on top of its fern-like foliage. 

What looks like a 'stick with green stuff' is actually my Amorphophallus henryi and I'm very excited about its recent appearance. If that genus somehow seems familiar, it's because it has a very famous 'cousin', the  Titan arum or Corpse flower. That huge flower is now on display at the SF Botanical Garden, though by the time you get this it will have closed. Amorphophallus titanum is thought to be the world's largest flower, measuring up to 10' high and 3' wide. It's not actually a single flower but an inflorescence (a stalk of many flowers). My 'little' A. henryi will achieve a modest height of 2' and produce a single spathe.

There's nothing quite like Gloriosa lilies. With their 'flaming' upright petals and leaf tendrils they are one of the most recognizable flowers in the world of gardening. And one of the most beautiful.

There is something immediate about lily flowers. They're often big and brassy, with many also fragrant. All reasons to grow them. Here's one more reason - they are one of the most reliable bulbs, especially here in our mild Bay Area. 

One of the most pleasant surprises in my garden this year has been my Viscaria Blue Pearl. It has been a blooming machine and combines well with my Gomphrena decumbens.

This sparkling Pelargonium is well named - P. Fireworks Red & White. 

File under the "This is why we garden' category the fact that I walked out in the garden this morning to find that my Notocactus magnificus had produced its first yellow flower. So pretty!

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