Adventures of a Transplated Gardener- Ginny Stibolt

Ginny Stibolt digging mulch: typical!

Ginny's Garden Log

 

The main purpose of this log was to expand on the gardening adventures that Ginny wrote about in her Adventures of a Transplanted Gardener columns, but now she writes at The GreenGardeningMatters blog.

Current postings and other posts to Ginny's Garden Log Meadow page 

This is the Fifth postings page (1/12/07 - 8/15/07): Topics include: jewels, podcast links, onions, first draft, wildflowers, SW trip, compost, myths web page, spring, herbs, podcasts, wedelia, yellow jackets. . 


Zinnia rich island in the back yard.  Photo by Stibolt

8/15/07 Yesterday I posted a column called "Jewels of Summer," in which I relate what I've found out about zinnias--those Mexican natives and jewels of the summer.  Or are all the butterflies they attract the jewels?  I think it's probably both.  The zinnias have thrived in this hot, fairly dry summer.  

This wild island in the back yard is filled with various zinnias, from white singles to coral quadruples.  I talk about this in the column, but I didn't mention the island.  We created this sunny habitat in 2004 after hurricane Frances took out the sweet gum there.  After the tree was removed, my husband and I carted ten or fifteen wheelbarrow loads of pond muck from the front pond and dumped them on the stump.  The island has grown every year as we take out more and more lawn--well what passes for lawn anyway after 3 1/2 years of no fertilizer and no pesticides.  Other inhabitants of the island include, hidden ginger lilies, asters, Maximillian sunflowers, St. John's wort, monarda, and untold lizards, salamanders, toads, and frogs.    


8/9/07 Today I recorded four podcasts with Cherri Pitzer at Jacksonville's Times Union.  I promised links to some websites where you can find more information.  
For information about Wildflower grants, check here: http://floridawildflowercouncil.org
For information on Integrated Pest Management (IPM): University of Florida Extension Service IPM websites: http://ipm.ifas.ufl.edu  and http://schoolipm.ifas.ufl.edu   
Horticultural myth debunking goes on at Dr. Linda Chalker-Scott's website: www.theinformedgardener.com 
Dr. Ed Gilman, UF professor, presents a lot(!) of information on the care and feeding of woody plants:  http://hort.ifas.ufl.edu/woody/  
For more information on coconut coir (pronounced core), link here:  http://vgrove.com/coir.html 


Cream of tomato soup topped with a dollup of yogurt & onion greens from the garden.  Photo by Stibolt.

7/29/07 I just posted a column called The Skinny on Onions--there was a lot I didn't know about this vegetable.  For instance, who knew that Vidalia onions are not a particular cultivar, but are several varieties grown near Vidalia, GA?  The Georgia onion farmers have trademarked the name.

After hosting the grandkids and their parents for a couple of days this week, we had an excess of milk to use up and we're still harvesting tomatoes from our garden .  I opened up my old "Joy of Cooking" and conjured up this yummy variation of cream of tomato soup. 

Here's the approximation of the recipe for my soup:

Brown 3 small onions--chopped , 1/4 of a large bell pepper--chopped, and 1/2 cup of chopped celery in olive oil.  Pepper, both fresh ground black pepper and a dash of dried red pepper flakes, to taste.  Run it through a blender and pour into a large bowl.
Puree 8 medium tomatoes and 1/4 cup of fresh basil in blender, and add to the browned veggies in the bowl. 
Make a white sauce with 1/3 cup of tub margarine,  1/3 cup of flour, 2 cups of chicken broth, and add 3 cups of skim milk last.  Stir constantly until slightly thickened and until it's free of lumps.  Then stir the white sauce slowly to the the pureed vegetables.  Serve warm or chilled with a dollop of non-fat yogurt, chopped onion greens, and a dash of dill weed.


7/22/07 Yippee!  I finished the first draft of my book, "Sustainable Gardening for Florida" last week!  I turned it over to my editor at University Press.  He will send it out to pre-readers to check for accuracy, readability, etc.   I also sent the chapters to my graduate school advisor (I hope she'll see that I've come a long way since my master's thesis in 1978.) and to some other folks whom I trust will give me good feedback.

So now I can get back to the gardens and to the writing.  I have seven articles for Vero Beach Magazine to work on this summer.  The rewrites for the book will come later.  So look for more frequent updates here.  Thanks for reading.


Bouquet from Ginny's yard.  Photo by Stibolt

My picking garden has begun to produce those prolific blooms I've been hankering for: zinnias, coreopsis, gaillardia, & rudbeckia. >>

I've been concentrating on my book.  It's coming along nicely and from what I've seen, no one else has approached gardening and landscape management like this and in my research I've done a lot (!) of reading.  I meet with my illustrator, John Markowski, in the middle of June, so I need a list of illustrations before then.   

I have written a short article on wildflowers, though, and I will carve out some time on June 2 to go on a wildflower walk led by Gil Nelson, noted Florida nature author.  We'll be looking for Bartram's Ixia in Jennings State Forest in Clay County.  More details and a map are on the Ixia Chapter of the Florida Native Plants Society's website: www.fnps.org


Purple Sage in Palo Duro Park in TX.  Photo by Stibolt

We were on the road for almost three weeks to look at desert flowers out in the Sonoran Desert, Saguaro National Park, and Organ Pipe Cactus National Park out in the South West.  Great trip.  Isn't this purple sage unreal? And the fragrance...

Saguaro Catus and Ocatillo.  Photo by Stibolt

We learned that saguaro cacti don't develop their arms until they are one hundred years old!  The arms make them look human--doesn't this guy look like a band leader? The holes in the cacti are drilled out by woodpeckers, but are then used by a variety of birds.

We came home to smoke in the air from Georgia's wildfires, and weather that was so dry, that the lawn still doesn't need mowing after three weeks.  While the desert was interesting, I was happy to see a nice big magnolia in full bloom in eastern TX.  Good to be back at sea level and to have moisture in the air.


cedar waxwing.  Photo by Stibolt

4/7/07 Getting ready for the tomatoes.  We are a a little late in planting our tomatoes and peppers this year, but the beds are ready to go and with a freeze warning tonight, maybe the delay turned out to be fortuitous.  I've used up the supply of compost with all the spring seed plantings, but I have another pile that's almost ready.  I created a new pile using the winter crop leftovers and filamentous algae pulled out of the lake as the green material  leaves from the lawn and old weeds from top of the passive compost pile.

The cardinals, which I mentioned in my spring article, hatched last week, so now there are three squeaking babies in our jasmine vine trellis.  The female did all the sitting on the nest, but both male and female are feeding them.   A flock of beautiful cedar waxwings came through the yard this week.


3/27/07 The old gardening wives' tales take a hit.  

Linda Chalker-Scott's website (my new favorite website) puts to rest many of those old gardeners' tales and rumors.  Linda, an urban horticulture extension agent in Washington State with a PhD, has been working for years to substantiate or disprove many of the popular gardening myths.  She looks for scientific studies that can be replicated to back up her arguments.  Her site is the "snopes.com" for serious gardeners.  So the next time someone claims that,  "Topping trees is a good pruning practice and that trees will be fine after a year or two to recover."  Check out Linda's site before you do anything rash.


Wild taro roots with a gum ball for scale.  Photo by Stibolt

3/22/07 Oh spring has sprung and the gardener works up a sweat...  

I was discouraged to find that wild taros, which were growing with the wedelia down by the lake, send out these long strings of bulblets in all directions, including under the lawn and through the bulkhead into the lake.   They look sort of like rosary beads, don't they?  I had no idea that getting rid of these noxious invasives down there would be such a chore..

Anyway you can read what other spring projects and vernal equinox celebrations are going on in our yard.  I wish you a very happy spring.  


Rosemary at Giny's back door--note the bright green, flat-leaved wild garlic in the foreground.  Photo by Stibolt

3/5/07 I just posted an article on herb gardens.  What I didn't include in this article was the fact that great majority of our herbs are members of only four different plant families:
The mint family (Lamiaceae): Some of our most popular herbs are members of the mint family. These include basil, thyme, marjoram, oregano, rosemary, lavender, sage, summer savory, lemon balm, and of course, the various mints.  Members of the mint family have square stems and opposite leaves. (Opposite leaves occur as pairs on the stem, directly across from each other.)
The mustard family (Brassicaceae): In addition to the black and white mustards, there are several herbs including arugula, and horseradish. This family is more important for our vegetables including radishes, and all the cabbages. All the flowers have four equal petals, which is why this family used to be called cruciferae.  The new rules for family names use genus name from the family. 
The carrot family (Apiaceae): This family includes parsley, dill, caraway, cilantro/coriander, chervil, anise, cumin, celery, and fennel. They have hollow stems and their small flowers are arranged in a flat-topped flower head.
The onion family (Alliaceae): This family includes onions, leeks, garlic, chives, and others.  Onions are monocots with parallel veins in their leaves and have underground bulbs or corms. The flowers are usually arranged in globular heads. Onions used to be part of the lily family, but now they are on their own.  

If you are going to start a Mediterranean herb collection in your garden, make sure that you provide good drainage and a sunny location.  This collection can provide good variety in texture and different colors of foliage, from bright green, to purple, to gray.  After initial establishment, this garden will need little extra water, so don't drown your herbs or mix in plants that do require lots of water.  Most of all, have fun with your herbs.  


3/3/07 The other two podcasts were posted yesterday.  Here are the links:  Invasive Aliens & Spanish Moss TalesI've been occupied with some writing projects and a couple of trips, so I've been remiss in posting anything here.  I guess we'll call it a winter break, but I'll be back soon with more adventures of this transplanted gardener.


2/13/07 I recorded four more podcasts with Cherri Pitzer at The Times Union today.  In the session on planning your landscape for hurricanes I promised links to two websites.  University of Florida's Extension Services Storm site is http://treesandhurricanes.ifas.ufl.edu where you may download a great booklet on pruning, hurricane safety, and more.  The Tree Care Industry Association's website is www.tcia.org where you may locate a certified arborist in your neighborhood to take care of your large tree pruning projects.  
Here are the links to the first two podcasts:  Hurricane Readiness & Tomatoes for Florida's heat.  


a bank where half of the wedelia has been removed.  Photo by Stibolt.

1/31/07 More wedelia removal.  I thought you might be interested to see a before an after on the wedelia.  This is the bank near the yellow jacket nest.  (See below.)  I wanted to get this part done before the ferns in the ravine grow too much.  These are the net-veined chain ferns (Woodwardia aerolata) down here.  If I didn't remove the wedelia, it probably would have been smothered.

I've been working intermittently, because it's been cold.  We actually had our first real hard frost a couple of days ago.  It affected the topmost parts of the wedelia, but not enough to make the job easier.  I've also been busy with other projects.  I often think as I'm pulling this stuff out that if I could clone myself as easily as it does, I might make better progress.  As I get further along with this process, I'll post it on the meadow page.  

I read a gardening book for Florida that was released by a reputable publisher in 2002 and I couldn't believe that they list wedelia as a desirable species.  The authors warn that it will cover a bed quickly, but with a little trimming, it will be a great addition to your garden.  Didn't they read the invasive lists before they put the book together?   Maybe I'll enlist the authors to show them what a "little trimming" looks like.


Some critter raided the beehive out back.  Photo by Stibolt.

1/12/07 I've got hives!  So I was pulling wedelia on the bank in a wooded area out back near the lake and saw that some predator--maybe a raccoon or an armadillo--has opened up this in-the-ground nest.  I knew there was a nest in the region because I was chased off the bank last year when I started to dig up a beautyberry I wanted for the front.  

Today I got a closer look at a couple of inhabitants--they have black and yellow stripes near their heads and the abdomen was an orange-yellow with hardly any stripes.  They were slow moving, but as they crawled out of the ground, I took a few more photos and got out.  I didn't need to worry, though, because these were queens--they are the only ones to survive a winter.  What we have is southern yellow jackets (Vespula squamosa), which is a wasp and not a bee.  

Closeup of the yellow jacket nest. Photo by Stibolt.

I also found that they are voracious meat eaters and will eat other insects and carrion.  They are quite beneficial and we're lucky to have them.  Oh those mole crickets better look out!  The queens will either stay in this nest or fly out when the weather is warmer to found new colonies.  I'm not sure that this nest will continue to be used since it is so torn up.  There's no honey in the combs, only larvae.  

Yellow jacket queen emerging from hives in spring.  Photo by Stibolt.

 

Here's a link to more information:  http://creatures.ifas.
ufl.edu/urban/occas/hornet_yellowjacket.htm

I went back down later in the day and finished pulling out the wedelia.  You can see the two sprigs in the upper photo to the left of the opening.  I don't mind an interesting interruption like this, because now I know a lot more about yellow jackets.

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Ginny Stibolt 2004-2011

 

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