Sunday, October 25, 2015


Arisaema heterophyllum
This is my main source of excitement in the garden at this time, my little Arisaemas are doing really well! I have never grown anything in the Araceae, except for houseplants (Philodendron, SpathiphyllumSyngonium, etc.), so this is fun for me. The seeds were easy to germinate, planted about a half-inch deep and covered with chicken grit in the beginning of September, I've kept the pot very moist (with a tbsp. of hydrogen peroxide per gallon of water). The seeds first send down a radicle, then the hypocotyl (the embryonic stem) which supports the seed leaves, or cotyledons.

Scilla latifolia Willd. ex Schult. & Schult.f...?
The seedlings of what I have received as Scilla latifolia (PBS SX3) are continuing on with a few more appearing now and then. I am wondering if the germination of this species is not very uniform, occurring over months? The leaf in the rear left has taken on a reddish hue, but they all seem to have some red undertones. I will keep this pot under lights through Winter while most of the pots that have yet to germinate will go out into a cold frame I am constructing.

Crocus goulimyi seedlings
An Autumn blooming crocus germinating for me now, I'm delighted! As per Ian Young's advice (from the SRGC Bulb Log, an excellent blog), I had sown the seeds deep in the pot halfway down. I filled the pot halfway with the soil mix, spread the seed, then filled the rest of the pot with more soil and topped with chicken grit. I've kept the pot moist since early September, and here are the results! Seeds often germinate around the same time the mature plants come into growth, telling me that the mature corms will leaf out about now and persist throughout Winter. We get little snow, that persists on the ground anyway, so this shouldn't be an issue. I count four leaves here, hopefully I'll get more.

Coreopsis tinctoria
 The annual tickseed that has self-seeded outside one of the driveway raised beds is continuing to flower, much to the agreeance of a variety of small flies (not shown). This one had a particularly interesting color pattern, most only have the red in the center. One of the few species to continue the floral display. It would seem that honeybees still have no interest in it, despite there being little else in bloom.

Calendula officinalis
I have been attempting different planting locations for the calendulas, spreading seed to various parts of the garden to see where they will flourish and naturalize. This was seed from a particularly attractive selection, but I don't know what the green growths in the center are a result of? They appear to be overgrown unopened buds. Strange.

Dolichovespula sp. (?)
Yellowjacket queens, and other social vespid queens, are leaving the nest and seeking Winter shelter. Like bumblebees, their colonies are annual and the newly mated queens are the only ones to live from one year to the next. They are generally pretty docile at this time, no nest to defend, and the cooler temperatures make it harder for them to move.


Pinus ponderosa, 100ft giants
Autumn is finally starting to not feel like Summer here in southwestern Oregon! Nights have been dipping into the low 40's F with daytime temps averaging in the 60's F. Rain from a week ago moistened the earth which has remained damp to this day, with rain predicted for tomorrow. I am loving it. I have always preferred cooler temperatures as they allow for a greater expense of my energy in the outdoors with much less fatigue and a sharper mind. The downside is in the interim season once known as "fall of the leaf" there are few flowers. Disappointment dissolves when other features of the landscape become the focus.

Pinus ponderosa cone
Ponderosa pine trees alongside Douglas fir are the dominant trees, dwarfing and outnumbering the oaks and madrone trees, the dominant broadleaved giants. The cones of ponderosa pines can be identified by the spikes on the bracts as well as the size, between two and six inches in length. Each bract conceals two winged seeds, but fallen cones are often devoid of the seeds from either wind or animals. Admittedly this would depend on how many birds and animals inhabit the tree's locality, my trees situated within a mixed-coniferous woodland thus a lot of wildlife.

Pinus ponderosa needles
Ponderosa pine needles are the longest in this area of any conifer (that I know of), reaching a length of nine inches. They tend to grow in clusters at branch ends giving the trees a characteristic pom-pom silhouette differing in that of Douglas fir which is more reminiscent of a candelabrum at the crown (see last two images). The individual needles in this pine are normally in bunches of three, occasionally two, and very sharp at the tips. I used to lack an appreciation for the coarse nature of the true pines (genus Pinus) but have since recognized their beauty which lies in the details, something to do with all plants and likely all life (and non-life, theoretically).

Sequoiadendron giganteum
I am somewhat perplexed by the presence of this tree. It stands somewhere around 100ft. where my driveway meets the road, yet I have not seen any other sequoias anywhere else outside of Palmerton Arboretum, which has one or two of the giants of similar height. It is possible that the trees were planted, maybe less so that they all (or this one) are the last remnants of the once northernmost range of this typically coastal species. I can imagine that if they did at one time grow wild here, they would have promptly been decimated by the arrival of the settlers who would have needed the best lumber for all of their needs (wood made nearly everything for those people).

Sequoiadendron giganteum
Unlike pine trees and similar conifers (besides true cedars and a few others), sequoias do not have needles but instead possess spirally-arranged scale-like leaves. A few obligatory facts: sequoias are the oldest living things on Earth, the eldest living tree somewhere around 2,500 years old and 275ft in height. Their girth is also unmatched, the largest over 150ft in circumference at the base of the tree! Small yellow pollen-producing male cones are produced at branch tips between December and May. The female flowers are in the form of small greenish cones that mature some time in Spring. Like all coniferous gymnosperms, sequoias are wind pollinated. After pollination seeds are slow to dehisce, cones sometimes remaining green for many years before drying out and shrinking enough for seeds to fall freely. Other times insect damage or fire are required for the seeds to fall.

Arbutus menziesii
Chlorophyllum (?)
The rain and cool temperatures has kicked off the mushroom season. Of course there may be mushrooms year round in certain places, but here they tend to only appear when there is water thus they are mostly produced in the wet season. Mushrooms are generally a good sign when they appear out of soil or much, less so when they are growing out of a living tree signaling rot. Although fungus produce mushrooms and other structures as a form of reproduction, the actual fungus body is underground composed of mycelia, a fine web of cell-thick filaments called hyphae. A single spore from a mushroom lands in a suitable location, and the fungus grows underground, radiating outwards as it ages. In some mushroom-producing species, mushrooms are produced on the outer edges and create what people have called "fairy rings." These organisms can reach immense size, though you would never see them. The largest ever discovered has covered 2,200 acres of land, and estimated to be roughly 2,400 years old! It is a parasitic honey fungus (genus Armillaria) in the Blue Mountains here in Oregon. This is the largest organism on Earth, but not the oldest.

Pteridium aquilinum
I had originally identified this as the oak fern (Gymnocarpium dryopteris), when I found a nice patch that hadn't lost its green (many patches have already gone into dormancy and turned brown). Yet this is indeed the common bracken, Pteridium aquilinum. The differences are hard to ignore, oak fern having leaflets with wavy margins, an overall fine texture, and less prominent veining. I believe the two ferns also like different conditions, bracken being more in favor of dry conditions, or at least more adaptable to them. This is a perennial fern, each frond appears on an individual stalk from the rhizome. Bracken can become a pest in gardens, something I have observed in the garden of Anna's parents, and become difficult to remove once established. There is also evidence that eating the young "fiddleheads" contributes to cancer due to the toxic compound ptaquiloside, presumably found in all parts of the plant. Another interesting thing i have read about bracken is the presence of extra floral nectaries which have been reported as being occasionally (rarely) worked by honeybees. The purpose of the nectaries is to attract ants who will defend the plants from other insect predators.

Ferns and conifers in general are somewhat of a mystery to me, their taxonomy is not in my spectrum of knowledge. Autumn, as the flowers fade, is a good time for me to learn some new skills and gain intimate knowledge of more primitive plant life. Following are a series of photos I took with a special project in mind.

Pteridium aquilinum
Pteridium aquilinum
Pteridium aquilinum, most turn this color in fall
Pteridium aquilinum, a few do this
Amelanchier alnifolia
While taking photos of the oak fern, I happened to see deeper in the wood this gangly shrub. Probably in response to the low light from the dense canopy in this northerly exposed slope, these shrubs have formed loose branches with mostly open space between. This is known as the saskatoon serviceberry (the name derived from a Canadian aboriginal word for the plant). They flower in Spring, with edible berries following. I will have to check again in Spring to see if these produce flowers.

Cornus nuttallii
Situated next to the serviceberry, I saw this large tree, maybe 30ft in height. With some help from some folks who know more than I, we agreed that it is Cornus nuttallii, Pacific dogwood. I did not see any fruit, clusters red and berry-like, but it is very possible that wildlife have already helped themselves to it. The discovery of this tree was all thanks to my desire to photograph the oak fern, for if I had not stopped by the side of the road to photograph the ferns I would not have seen this tree. Again, I will need to see it in Spring (with my camera, of course).

Lobaria pulmonaria
Prominently displayed at eye level on the trunk (≈6" diameter) of the dogwood, I couldn't miss this large green lichen. Lichen are commonly thought of as being rock dwellers, but they are found on many substrates including woody plants and soil. Lichen is not a single organism, but a composite organism typically composed of the union of an algae living among the filaments of a fungus. The epiphytic Lobaria pulmonaria, sometimes called tree lungwort, consists of a fungus and a green algal partner living together with a cyanobacterium in a symbiotic relationship. The separate organisms that comprise lichen are seldom if ever found living independent of the other(s), except in a laboratory.

Cladonia sp. (L) and Polytrichum commune (R)
Terrestrial lichen and mosses cover the ground in some places. I think of lichen as the coral of the land, though they are almost literally worlds apart. Some corals require another life form in order to gain nutrients, a symbiosis not that different in essence to lichen (but still very very different in every way). Seeing Cladonia (and some of the tree lichens shown below), it is not hard for the imagination to think of coral.

Oak apple
Years ago, my wife Anna asked, "Do oak trees make a fruit?" My first thought was that she was mistaken and had not seen it right, but then one day I had seen them too. They are misleadingly called oak apples, but I would not recommend a taste. They are in fact created by a type of tiny stingless wasp galled a gall wasp. They are harmless to both humans and the trees, as they do not possess stingers and they are not parasitic. The gall is formed after an egg is laid on the developing leaf buds, secretions instigating the formation of a gall which the developing larvae lives inside until it is mature and finds its way out. The adults do not live for very long, maybe a matter of weeks, so their primary task is mating and laying eggs. They do not eat, thus are not pollinators. They do, however, act as a food source in all stages of life to larger creatures including birds, so their presence is beneficial in that way. (See the rose gall, another type of gall wasp, here.)

Below is a series of photos taken from a single fallen stick of an oak tree, less than two feet long. This shows how the oaks are not only host to insect life, but a wide variety of epiphytes; a canopy ecosystem composed of countless organisms:

Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) and Ponderosa pine

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Flowers, Seeds, Bulbs, and Confusion

Mecaphesa (?) crab spider on Echinacea
As Autumn starts to show it's colors, I become highly interested in studying the flowering plants. I do so in order to embrace the best Autumn performers and eventually acquire more through whatever means necessary. This is one of the most fun parts of gardening, I think, because the observations of each gardener will be different per the particular garden.

My main priorities are as follows: plants provide forage for pollinators (particularly bees), deer are mostly uninterested, drought survivability, and lastly aesthetic quality. Each category limits the next, and books and guides are limited in their usefulness as few books focus on more than one of these things (drought tolerant plants, deer resistant plants, pollinator plants, etc.) and often they are wrong anyway. Many resources will state a plant deer resistant, but this is useless if the deer is hungry and the garden is the only green thing for miles. Same goes with pollinator plants, something I have invested a lot of time and energy (not to mention expense!) exploring and either validating by my own experience or adding an asterisk (e.g. *a good bee plant but only if such and such). Only by careful observation and casual analysis can the plants be accurately determined to be truly tolerant of challenging conditions (pests, climate) and attractiveness to beneficial fauna (pollinators, good bugs, birds, etc). This is my goal, but the paradox is that little of the information I provide to you may be accurate in your garden. That is the true lesson that we can all learn here, and I include myself because I too am always learning, a perpetual amateur (a philosophy of the late great James Krenov).

Mecaphesa (?) crab spider on Echinacea
The very last of the Echinaceas to bloom, I had deadheaded them to encourage a mild reblooming but their time has come to an end until next year. They had attracted a wide variety of bees and butterflies, and undoubtedly some moths (and the odd hummingbird).

One oft overlooked floral visitor are the diminutive crab spiders of the family Thomisidae. They are called crab spiders by their superficial resemblance to crabs, very distant relatives (both arthropods, particularly the Euarthropoda clade), with large front legs and crab-like movements (side-to-side). They are mostly ambush predators of other floral visitors including bees, but I imagine their role also includes capturing less favorable insects as well. I have always recognized that the presence of a strong predatory presence signals a healthy prey population, so I don't feel too bad when I find a captured bee.

Dried Echinacea inflorescence
When the flowers have fully dried is the time to collect seeds of Echinacea. If there is any green or any other color left they are not ready and the seeds will not dehisce easily causing much pain and frustration. Shaking the seed head is an easy test, fully cured seeds will fall out fairly easily (or at least a few). I find the best way to harvest seed is to do it by mechanical means using one's hands.

Dislodging seeds
If the seed heads are fully cured and dry, and a few seeds are jostled out easily by light shaking, they can easily be removed by pinching and pulling out the bracts with the seeds from the receptacle (the cone of the coneflower - see below). I advise caution as the bracts are very sharp and needle-like, they will penetrate skin and so for those with sensitive hands, without calluses, or a knack for injury, I suggest leather gloves. Some experimentation goes a long way. Alternatively the dried inflorescences can be cut off and dried under shelter and hit against the side of a bucket resulting in the seeds falling out inside.

The cone of the purple coneflower
Removing a section of the bracts and seeds the structure of the composite is revealed. The cone, or receptacle, is the point from which the bracts and true flowers grow. The bracts are nearly twice the length of the florets, surely variable among species and hybrids, with the florets inbetween. The ovaries, one per floret, is roughly equal length to the floret itself. I wonder if the cone-shaped receptacle is the true inspiration for the common name?

Agastache foeniculum
The primary bloom of the so-called licorice mint ended about a month ago. However, new spikes have begun to appear on some of the larger plants. My various flower beds have been a bit sparse recently compared to the rest of the flowering season, so I've seen less bees or pollinators of any sort (though this could also be attributed to me being extremely busy for a variety of unrelated excuses). These flowers were the main attraction, as far as bees were concerned, for the duration of their main bloom period.

Nicotiana sylvestris, first flower to open
Sharing the Echinacea bed in the front driveway are a few seed grown plants of Nicotiana. Though this is related to tobacco, you may have guessed by the name, this is in fact a highly toxic plant that could kill you if you tried to smoke it. It is however suspected to be one of the original parents of Nicotiana tabacum which is the most common form of tobacco found only in cultivation (other possible parents include N. tomentosiformis and N. otophora - see source).

The plant is an annual for some and short lived perennial for others. I am unsure whether it has reseeded from last year or returned from the crown. The long three inch flowers are supposedly scented, but I have detected no scent. I may not have smelled it at the right time of day, dusk is supposedly the prime time for this. Last year I watched as large carpenter bees stole nectar by biting holes at the base of the tube. This year I have seen the segments of the perianth eaten down to the tube, not sure what was to gain or if it was just a herbivorous insect.

Nicotiana sylvestris leaves
The leaves are covered in fine glandular trichomes, probably the reason it performs so well in hot dry climates. Small insects stick to the tissue until rain washes them away. I don't mind this, it is an interesting adaptation that I suspect also keeps certain herbivorous insects from eating the foliage. The nicotine produced by all Nicotianas is a potent insecticide used in organic gardening against aphids and other sap suckers. It is also highly toxic to warm-blooded animals, so deer do not touch it (and I would bet voles don't like it much either). A highly durable plant, though the flowers are susceptible to damage, a necessary compromise since it is insect pollinated. I am unaware of hummingbirds visiting the plants, but I am sure in quantity they would be attractive to them, particularly the red-flowered species.

Nicotiana sylvestris today
A small fly feeds on the florets of Coreopsis tinctoria
Self-sown tickseed (some species of Coreopsis have sticky seed that will stick to fur or pants) on the outer edge of the driveway bed. I allow this exploratory self-sowing because if it weren't for these there would only be aggressive weeds. I learned from The Medicinal Herb Grower by Richo Cech that plants choose their preferred habitat if left to their own devices. By allowing these to self-sow they have chosen to grow in the gravel rather than the soil. Water from the raised bed leaches down into the lean gravel, as does the inevitable trickle of nutrients from the comparatively richer medium.

Flies appear to be the most frequent and most observed visitors of the Coreopsis. Only occasionally have I seen small bees (never honeybees) visit them. A few continue to flower.

Narcissus papyraceus leaves
Last Winter I tried paperwhites (Narcissus papyraceus) in the house for the very first time. They bloomed around Christmas time. Anna hated them, she swore they smelled like burning rubber! I liked the smell, though I admit it was a bit overpowering and intense at times as the smell wafted through the air, thickly, as I washed dishes (they were in a small countertop fountain between the kitchen sink and kitchen window). I will also admit that smelling them too deeply, satisfying in the moment, made me feel mildly queasy.

Letting the leaves continue on for a month or two, I ceased to water them at some point and let them slip into dormancy. After a long hot rest through much of Summer on the front porch, I thought to myself "Why the hell not?" and planted them out in one of the raised beds. Every source says they are hardy to USDA zone 8, I am in USDA zone 7, but Hymenocallis 'Festalis' overwintered there just fine (yet didn't flower, sadly). I am encouraged by the early leaf growth, but simultaneously weary that they can make it through Winter. In their native Mediterranean range they bloom literally anytime from Autumn to Spring, vary variable. We shall see.

Lamium maculatum
Moving towards a shadier part of the garden in the bed surrounding the pump house, the deadnettle continues to produce a few flowers here and there. It probably likes the cooler daytime temperatures and would have flowered uninterrupted in a cooler climate. This is an extremely durable plant, contending with erratic watering, intense tree root competition, voles, and a recent dumping of conifer needles as strong winds have knocked every old needle out of every conifer at once just yesterday. The plants have spread out slowly, and have colonized the corners of the pump house beds well where other plants have failed.

Lamium maculatum and others around the pump house
The pump house bed was originally planted with a handful of inevitable failures and has since been brought to light by seed and cuttings. The coniferous tree root competition is fierce, so planting mature plants is unreasonable and doomed to disappointment. By seed and cuttings I have created a nice community. Colchicums do nicely here, as does a recent introduction of Sedum album. Cuttings of Geranium macrorrhizum have also been accepting of the situation and have settled in nicely. Many small bulbs have also been planted, but the presence of voles always has me questioning whether they will be there in the future. I am trialing vole resistance with a few genera, including Scilla, Chionodoxa, and Muscari as well as a few others in the Scilloideae.

Antirrhinum majus seed pod
One of the original survivors of the pump house bed are a few snapdragons. Having seen somewhere the seedpods look like skulls, I had to check, and voila! It's a bit of a stretch, but still interesting! Two interesting coincidences, the first being that the plants are toxic (where're the crossbones?), the second being that it is approaching Halloween! Appropriate indeed!

Petunia hybrid
I have an aversion to many of the most common flowers in horticulture, but for a few I have a soft spot and cannot deny their inherent beauty. Petunia, relatives of the tomato and members of the Solanaceae, are ignored by deer, tolerant of drought, and visited occasionally by bees (not honeybees) and moths (see Floral Visitors 22) have earned their place in my garden. Also, Anna likes them in hanging baskets of the porch so that is the best reason to keep them.

Tall Gladiolus hybrids - breaching the surface!
It became apparent that the South facing raised bed (seen here) was too crowded with tall Echinaceas and Gladiolus, so a few of each were transplanted. I was surprised to find the corms bursting out of the soil with dozens of small offsets, apparently happy with their growing situation. Though it is unfeasible to keep them where they were (hot, clay, raised bed with a soaker hose under coniferous shrubs) I will take the hint and transplant them to a similar situation that bakes but likewise receives sufficient water. Or I may just relinquish these corms to another gardener who likes them.

Tall Gladiolus hybrid corms - so many offsets!
Deer don't seem to bother them, but they serve little interest to pollinators and for most of the year remain as large floppy leaves with stems that break easily in the wind. I'm not a fan of staking, being a generally lazy gardener out of necessity, so I prefer plants that can stand up on their own. 

Ipomoea batatas
Though this has little to do with my garden, I was inspired by Ian Young's photographs of geophytes in the pantry (Bulb Log 35, 2nd September 2009). Sweet potatos (Ipomoea batatas) are not true potatoes, however, but actually a tuberous species of morning glory. This is a yellow-fleshed variety sold in American supermarkets as "yams," though true yams do not have pointed ends and are instead members of the genus Dioscorea (closer related to Tacca than Ipomoea  or Solanum). Another shocking difference (albeit only interesting to the botanically informed) is that Ipomoea exhibits dichotomy while Dioscorea is a monocotyledon. Whether a plant is considered a monocot or a dicot is determined by whether the seedlings have a single leaf or two (referring solely to the cotyledons, the seed leaves). This is of course irrelevant to the leaves seen in this photo which are essentially growing from a mature tuber.

A lonesome and mildly pathetic flower of Colchicum 'Lilac Wonder'
One of my other Colchicums finally came into bloom, and promptly laid down; it must have been an arduous task. This plant is in a fairly shaded position, and the leaves appeared to be distorted coming out last Spring. It was only planted a year ago, so maybe the disturbance of being shipped to a store and sitting in a box had an affect on the inner workings? The other individual I have of 'Lilac Wonder' was disrupted by voles or moles during growth this past Spring, but not eaten. The rodents tunneled all around the corm, no doubt significantly damaging the roots, and forcing the poor plant into dormancy.

Colchicum 'Lilac Wonder' detail
Another interesting observation is how last year the three-branched style was bent and sharply angled, another consequence of a major disturbance (being shipped from overseas). This year the flower is lovely and healthy looking, despite being on the ground. I await more blooms to appear, but I am not giving my hopes up. Perhaps another year is what it needs to settle in and feel at home.

Cimicifuga racemosa leaf
Close by I have planted three Cimicifugas, all racemosa. They have been met with nothing but strife in my garden, and I wonder if they will every attain great heights and show me a flower. The first year I had them there was no fence, so deer ate them to the ground. Last year they made it through relatively unscathed, but initiated growth late (I think) from the bitter cold Winter we had all endured. This year, turkeys I believe, got in through the fence and scratched up the entire shade garden, damaged every plant, and killed at least a few. The leaves of two of the Cimicifugas were all snapped off completely, surely resulting in another year of small proportions. F*** turkeys.

Cyclamen hederifolium
One area they had not damaged was in the center of the shade garden. I have a few small patches of Cyclamen hederifolium, though to be honest they are in my garden purely for aesthetic reasons since they offer little to nothing for pollinators, despite being a mostly bee pollinated genus in their native habitat (Mediterranean). They are related to the native Dodecatheon; a side by side comparison of the flowers will show their relation.

Cyclamen hederifolium
Cyclamen hederifolium
I find the emerging leaves as well as the successfully pollinated flowers to be very interesting. The seeds are not sprung or jettisoned mechanically but are spread by ants, so I have been told. This doesn't mean that the ants here would want anything to do with the seeds. While we do have a variety of native ants, the closest colony I have seen is of the large carpenter ants who have apparently no interest in seeds bearing elaiosomes (the fleshy appendages that attract ants). The carpenter ants are territorial and will kill other ants so I doubt the presence of other colonies in the direct vicinity.

Hemerocallis hybrid
These small daylilies, likely 'Stella d'Oro,' are quite pleasant grown in my shade garden. I do not like them out in the sun in parking strips (where I see them most often), the flowers take on a decidedly cup-shaped appearance viewed from the car and are not appealing. Up close in the shade they take on another character, though they bloom infrequently.

Hemerocallis detail
Same Hemerocallis flower one day later
A day after photographing the above daylily photos, the flower has already begun to go over. Daylilies are known for this, and loathed by some for this, but I think the dying petals bring a new aesthetic to appreciate to the table, best appreciated in a photograph since the dying petals are probably all but completely withered by now.

Tristagma uniflorum (syn. Ipheion uniflorum)
Various leaves from various bulbs have begun to appear around the garden. This scene was quite promising when I took the picture, they didn't perform too well last year yielding only two flowers out of several plants. Unfortunately upon an inspection yesterday I discovered the leaves were gone, and when probing with my finger the soil caved in to reveal a vole tunnel. Add Tristagma to the list of vole-eaten bulbs that will require caging in the future.

Leucojum aestivum leaves
Another discovery is that of Leucojum shoots appearing already. I had only planted them a short time ago (mid September - see by post on Bulbs). I wonder, is this normal to see growth already? I have resolved to start planting more from the Amaryllis family, toxic above and below ground, in a trial (a desperate attempt, to be honest) to see what I can successfully grow uncaged. As a skeptic, we shall see what happens.

Armeria pseudarmeria
In the rock garden with the Leucojum and Tristagma (RIP), Armeria pseudarmeria is going into a second bloom. It is occasionally visited by bees (more often by flies) in the Spring bloom, but in the Autumn honeybees tend to become less picky about their forage and instead try to gather as much nectar as possible to make honey to get them through Winter.

Armeria pseudarmeria seed heads
The seed heads of Armeria are interesting at a distance or up close, reminiscent of the Alliums that once resided here before the gang of voles took the bed hostage. The white pointed bracts are what make these interesting, the petals having dried up and either shrunken or fallen off.

Calendula with a skipper (Hesperiidae)
Outside the rock garden are a number of self sown Calendulas, the evicted residents of the raised bed. A variety of pollinators have been at work on these flowers, from bees to flies to butterflies. This butterfly was on this flower for a while, but it seemed to be unable to unroll its proboscis fully for some reason, so then acquired nothing from the flower. I recorded it, see it here:

A plant bug on Calendula
Mecaphesa (?) crab spider on Calendula
Pollinators aren't the only visitors to the Calendulas. This small spider, similar to the one seen on the Echinacea above, awaits a meal.

Calendula has flowers that close at night
Calendula seeds
Calendula has some of the easiest seeds to collect of any garden flower. Simply wait until they look like this (but wait until they are fully dry, no green as seen in the photo), and simply pull the whole cluster off the stem. They can be collected green, but they must be allowed to dry out further before storing them. They can be sown anytime, though early Spring is probably the best time. They are annual (in my garden anyway), but will reseed if they are grown in a suitable place. They are fairly drought tolerant, and the stinky foliage is not preferred by deer though they will occasionally nibble them. They like to be sown at depth, but success can also be had by just throwing seed in the general direction that you want them to grow. They will eventually work themselves into the soil by the magic of nature and germinate at some point.

Rosmarinus officinalis 'Prostratus'
Another "outsider" of the rock garden is a creeping rosemary, started as a cutting wedged between the blocks two or three years prior. This is the first year it has flowered! Honeybees have been working the flowers, making everyone (me and the bees, Anna couldn't care less! haha) very happy. I am reminded of the flowers of Trichostema with the arching sex organs (see the Trichostema post and compare). Rosemary lacks the gasoline scent of Trichostema, a feature that isn't the subject of many complaints.

Rosmarinus officinalis 'Prostratus'
It looks better in person!

Sempervivum arachnoideum
A tiny "cobweb houseleek" that continues to get accidentally buried seems to unearth itself . It is smaller than a 25¢ piece, less than an inch across. A few small offsets have appeared. I hope in time that it will expand to form a small carpet, and maybe even produce a few flowering stalks.

Calluna vulgaris
The heather has gone to seed, having completed flowering for the season. Now is the time to trim it back and shape it, waiting any longer will result in the accidental chopping of next years flower buds. At least that is the advice I have found online and in books. In reality Calluna is more lenient with trimming time, the window is far longer than Erica. The benefit of trimming now is that one does not have to wait until the capsules dehisce leaving bare leafless patches.

Alyssum montanum
Alyssum montanum, a star earlier in the year with masses of small yellow flowers, is now appreciated for its silvery foliage. It has integrated itself in with the Calluna in the center where the Calluna had become bare. The two seem to be happy with the arrangement, as am I. This kind of integrated planting is what I would wish to see in contemporary landscaping. The norm is to see boxwoods and daylilies and a handful of other durable and boring plants, grown at distances from each other with yards of bare mulch between them, enough room for a family of six to walk between the plants without touching a leaf.

In a time when drought is a major concern, adjusting the way plants are grown together can help. Close plantings conserve water by covering the soil, preventing evaporation. Close plantings also encourage microfauna in the soil to flourish, improving the soil quality and the soils ability to hold water. Dry dead soil becomes compacted and resists the penetration of water, even from rain. Live and active soil retains water well due to the many microscopic tunnels created by myriad microscopic organisms. In this way the type of soil is of little importance; even clay soil can be excellent if it is host to an active soil-dwelling community of microfauna.

Erica carnea
Winter heath is now coming into bloom, which will last well into Winter and perhaps into Spring when the first bulbs bloom (if the voles haven't eaten them all). Bumblebees are the visitors I expect to see here, particularly the queens. My second post to this blog (January 25th, 2015 - #2) shows a queen bumblebee on the flowers of heath.

Muscari 'Peppermint' offspring
This is second year growth of the progeny of Muscari 'Peppermint.' This pot was watered in the beginning of September. Muscari is typical for exhibiting leaf growth in the fall. Sometimes it will die back in Winter, or be eaten by deer, but this has shown to be of little consequence come flowering time in Spring.

Allium sp? mauve ex china 28”
New leaf growth of what was received as Allium sp? mauve ex china 28” (see Bulbs) is encouraging. Many Alliums in my garden are leafing out now. The plants I already possess are generally hardy, something in their oniony leaves keeps them from freezing or being damaged by frost.

Scilla latifolia (?)
I acquired this as Scilla latifolia from SX3 (the Pacific Bulb Society seed exchange), but had become confused when I discovered another Scilla named Scilla autumnalis subsp. latifolia Iatroú & Kit Tan which is considered a synonym of Prospero autumnale (L.) Speta. Scilla latifolia Willd. ex Schult. & Schult.f. is now known as Autonoë latifolia (Willd. ex Schult. f.) Speta. Scilla autumnalis subsp. latifolia Iatroú & Kit Tan (Prospero autumnale) refers to a distinct population of plants with very wide leaves growing only in the Mani Peninsula in Greece. It is not considered a subspecies as Prospero autumnale. Scilla latifolia Willd. ex Schult. & Schult.f., however, is found on the Canary Islands. Crystal clear, right?

In a recent discussion the confusion of names of the genus Colchicum on the PBS list, Jane McGary had pointed out the importance of naming authorities (the name after the species that isn't in italics; i.e. Scilla latifolia Willd. ex Schult. & Schult.f.). This lesson is illustrated well here where the same epithet is used to describe two completely different species alluding to great confusion. A goodle search for 'Scilla latifolia' brings up the Pacific Bulb Society 'Prospero' page as the first result which describes Scilla autumnalis subsp. latifolia as a synonym for Prospero autumnale, hence my own confusion. Another lesson for me: do not rely on a single source for information (including a tertiary source like the Pacific Bulb Society wiki). What the PBS wiki hosts is great information, but I was misled by the confusing nomenclature of Scilla sensu lato.

Arisaema heterophyllum
Another PBS SX3 seed emerges! This is very exciting to me, I've never grown Arisaema before!

Antiquated Japanese scroll painting?