Friday, August 29, 2014

Update - Overseeding Turf with White Clover

Here's an update of our patchy turf situation this spring (click here for the original post).

Just delighted with the results.

The White Clover is doing well. The sidewalk edges are green and lush, when for years, dog urine and salt damage left burned edges - grass never took.

All the patches have grown in with clover. Clover flowers have bloomed and with mowing, have been sheered back to green again.

The clover is actually much greener than the grass right now, given the last two weeks have had little rain.

It's even stronger and outgrowing the few spots of quack-grass.

All in all, we're truly happy with the results.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Look for Gypsy Moth Egg Masses In August

Please, if you have any hardwood shade trees on property you own, or property you frequent, take a look at this photo.
Beige, almost cotton-like, fuzzy masses are on hardwood shade trees right now.

These are egg masses laid by the Gypsy Moth (Lymantria dispar dispar) . It's an invasive species of moth (brought over from Europe) which can devour and devastate tree canopies all over the GTA. Eventually, when populations of Gyspy Moth get out of control, they weaken trees and reduce our tree canopies in urban situations.

August is the time Gypsy Moth lay their eggs. I've seen egg masses 6 inches to 10 feet off the ground on nearly all sides of a tree's trunk. It's been said the Gypsy Moth favours the south-east side (more protected) but not always.
Here, the mass has been placed approximately 10 inches off the ground level.

You may not see an egg mass, but instead the pupae skin remaining. This means the adults are close and perhaps in a few days masses will show up on the tree.

Here, below the egg masses (by the raised bark) you see pupae cocoons nestled on the trunk of a Gledistia (Honey Locust).

I just wore gloves and wiped the masses off. Simple. Remove any pupae too. The egg masses have a hairy fibre which has been known to irritate bare skin. So don't use your bare hands.

Each mass must have100 eggs, if not more. Fibrous, paper like vomit covers the eggs in a protective mass, incredibly making them safe for overwintering. Quite remarkable, really.

I was lucky, I found this female Gypsy Moth - having just laid her mass of eggs. Females are flightless, so she just sat there while I grabbed the camera. Pale beige/white in comparison to the male moth, she is larger and will die shortly after laying the eggs.

On this walk alone, I found masses on young trees, 50ft trees and even small fruit trees. Cultivars as: Tilia (Linden), Gleditsia (Honey Locust), Quercus (Oak), Malus (Apple) and Acer (Maples).

Don't be afraid or grossed out. If you see a mass, just take a leaf from the tree or a small stick and squish the soft mass of eggs and wipe away from trunk. You'll be doing the trees a big favour and the environment.

The tree will THANK YOU by having lovely, intact leaves next May-June (when the caterpillars emerge to feast). If we do this more often, less chemical and biological controls need to be sprayed from helicopters above.

Have a look at the Invading Species website for more info on the Gypsy Moth.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Fish Bowl In The Garden

I wish I could build a pond in my tiny garden, but with a huge Gleditsia (Honeylocust) tree planted on the fence-line, yikes - it would be a lot of work to keep clean and too shady to attempt. I love watching fish swim about and see living plants grow in water. Relaxes me.

My compromise:

Found this great flask/terrarium at Pier 1 Imports. Made in Spain, it's quite durable - with rather thick glass (weighs a ton without the water), I thought it was the perfect choice for my new fresh water pets: "Goldie"& 'Gorbie".  I've seen other terrarium style glass bowls and such but all made from glass too delicate for outside. This one is perfect.

The small spouted neck will prevent unwanted animals and birds from attempting to grab my fish.  Big enough to provide air, to access and clean.

I've added two fresh-water, living plants:
Hornwort - ferny plant and Duckweed - lime green butterfly floaters
Both plants will oxygenate the water and Goldfish eat Duckweed, when nothing else is available. (Great back-up food source for weekend getaways).
Portable enough so that I can take it inside come any change in weather. Still need to find a perfect stand but for now, it nestles into my planters.
Because Hortwort floats, best to get sinking Goldfish food. That way the fish don't have to tangle and fight with plant life.

To help clean the terrarium, this little fresh water snail will help a lot.
I chose goldfish for their tough ability to withstand temperature ranges and for their colouration. 'Goldie' stands out quite well, to give visual interest.

Was glad to find 'Gorbie' (named after Mikhail Gorbachev :) isn't he/she cute?

Best friends.
I will warn you, this is not the easiest to take care of. Each week, I remove about 1/3 of the water. I have a turkey baster that I use to suck out the waste at the bottom and I wash the bowl once every 2-3 weeks. It is a labour of love, but sooo worth the effort.

This would be great for condo/apartment balconies too.

Saturday, August 09, 2014

Photo of the Month - August 2014

Softest foliage ever - Plectranthus argentatus 'Silver Shield'. Grown in several of my containers this year. Just got to love the beauty of each fuzzy leaf up close.

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Planter Designs - Plant Combinations That Work

I've been blessed with a job that allows you to play with living colours.

A few principles govern plant placement, but for the most part it's light requirements and colour that dictates what can work.

Rules to follow when buying choices for planters:

1) "Thriller" (generally something with height and colour)
2) "Filler" (fills in gaps and provides interest)
3) "Spiller" (the overflowing growth that softens edges and makes the container blend in with the plants)
4) Contrasting colours

This square planter is quite tall off the ground - nearly 3.5 feet. So height is key, plus a lot of spiller. 
The above container is in part sun with the following:  Canna (centre), African marigolds, lime Coleus and Pennisetum rubrum grass (filler) and blackie and lime ornamental potato vine (spiller).

I find with larger containers, you need more fillers and thrillers to gain interest.
Given that the above planter gets full sun all day, I used 3 Cannas in the centre, African marigolds and Blaze Lantana as filler, with bronze Sweet Caroline and lime ornamental potato vine, purple verbena and wave petunia as spiller.

Not all containers have to have annuals - this one has a mixture of both perennial and annual selections.
More for part shade, the height in the above container is achieved with Rudbeckia goldstrum, fillers are: Angel wing Begonia, Silver Dusty Miller and Astilbe (textural leaves). Both Lamiastrum Jade frost and Lamium Pink Pewter is used as a spiller. In zones 6 and higher, the perennials in this planter will overwinter quite nicely.

Whether you have large scale plantings or small, a really tiny, shallow terracotta pot can still support larger sized plant material. Here I used two shades of Coleus in the background, Angel Wing Begonia as filler and a Lobelia mix for the spiller. Great for a shady spot.
Texture is important too - the grass in the centre give real height and movement in the breeze. Symmetrically placed, the plants really compliment each other.
Plants used: Arundo donax (grass), Ageratum (blue), Lime Potato vine, Red potato vine and balcon geraniums.

Symmetrical and asymmetrical ways are easy to accomplish:
Make sure you give adequate room for growth. Before you design layout - take into consideration if you have all around views or flat sides (up against buildings..etc).
Using grasses that have soft plumes help add visual interest from far. (Grass: Pennisetum setaceum)
This asymmetrical design enable the grass not to overtake the rest of the plant material. Depending on the grass, you need to make sure it doesn't smother the others.

Sometimes in shade, it's difficult to find tall thrillers. Add an obelisque and a climber or trailing plant to achieve height in the centre. Here, I wind Lamiastrum Jade Frost in the centre for height.

You can get a lot of colour even without flowers. Mix foliage colours for contrast.

Sometimes, less is more. Sticking to 3 different plants makes a bigger show.
Have fun with all kinds of choices. The garden centres have heaps of plants to choose from!
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