Adventures of a Transplated Gardener- Ginny Stibolt

Ginny Stibolt with a pile of 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 Eighth postings page (from 5/3/08 to 8/25/08). Topics on this page include: expanded rain garden, Fay, rain gauge, Garden Rant, butterfly haven, rain garden, mystery, US Sugar, errors, summer solstice, grow more food, back meadow, coral honeysuckle, swallowtails, microclimates, Mothers' Day5 wrens.  


Snapping turtle after Fay.  Photo by Stibolt

8/25/08 It isn't even the end of the month and we have already received more than 16 inches (including the 8 inches from Fay) when the 30-year average for the Jacksonville region is 6.8 inches for August.  And this is on top of more than 10 inches of rain in July when the 30-year average is 5.9 inches.  All this rain has tested my expanded rain garden--my most recent article covers this adventure.  

<< Two days ago this mud-caked snapping turtle crossed the street and headed toward our front pond.  It looks like it had buried itself to sit out the storm, maybe.

Immature red-shouldered hawk on our lawn.  Photo by Stibolt

My podcast about a young red-shouldered hawk that has taken up residence in our yard was posted today.  As promised, here are the links that I talked about:
Cornell's Ornithology Lab's website provides details on birds and birdhouses: www.birds.cornell.edu.
Audubon Society's website provides descriptions, plans, guidelines, kids activities for creating and maintaining bird-friendly backyards: www.audubonofflorida.org.


3 trees fell over onto our septic tank drainfield. Photo by Stibolt

8/23/08 Fay Fatigue!!  Tropical storm Fay finally got here and stayed and stayed.  What a strange storm.  It never became a hurricane, but it did dump almost eight inches of rain on us in four days.  We lost a couple of medium sized trees out back near our elevated drainfield--they just tipped over.  It's probably not all bad because their roots could have compromised the drainfield integrity.  Anyway that's what I'm telling myself.  

We won't work to remove the trees until the soil dries out some.  We don't want to tromp all over the drainfield in such soggy conditions.  There's plenty of other clean up to do with lots of small branches downed all over the property and to bring out all the porch plants that had been stowed in the garage.  I also took the opportunity to clean out the potting bench area as I put it back together.  Today the butterflies and birds were back out looking for flowers that didn't get blown over.  We also saw that golden orb in the sky that we hadn't seen in so long, but it went away again as the trailing bands of rain and wind ran through the neighborhood.


Zebra longwing on orange zinnia.  Photo by Stibolt

8/18/08 Well, today we're waiting for tropical storm Fay to make her way here.  Today she's passing through the Keys and she's supposed to come through here on Wednesday.  I trust the weather people are correct and she'll be a category I hurricane for only a short time and will have calmed back down to a tropical storm before she hits us.  We've already had 4.5 inches of rain in August after a wet July, so we really, really don't need any more rain right now, but we're ready for it with our rain barrels and rain gardens.

My podcast From Stump to Butterfly Haven was posted today.  I wrote an article about this a few of weeks ago.  While I posted several butterfly photos with the article, I thought you might enjoy this zebra longwing butterfly as well.  I hadn't seen many of these butterflies in past years, but this year, they've been plentiful.  I did plant some passion vines to attract them, but I only saw gulf fritillary caterpillars (one of their relatives) eating the vines, not the longwings.  

Zebra longwing (Heliconius charithonia) is our state butterfly and unlike most butterflies, they feed on both nectar and pollen. Researchers think that by eating pollen the zebra longwings live up to six months and without pollen, they live for only a month or so.  So...  this is yet another reason why butterfly gardens with a good variety of flowers are important for the health of our environment.


Ginny's rain gauge.  Photo by Stibolt

8/12/08 Today my podcast, Murphy's Law of Rain, was posted on Jacksonville.com.  We had 4 inches above the 30-year average for July.  I've talked before about our monthly rainfalls averaged over 30 years.  One item you need as a responsible, water-saving household is an accurate rain gauge mounted in an open area away from trees and buildings.  This way you will know how much rain falls on your property because rain is highly local in Florida.  The weather forecasters only provide rainfall from a few centralized collection points.  Once you know what is falling, you'll then know if and when irrigation is required for your landscape.  My husband keeps track of the rainfall--at 9am he reads the rain gauge and records results on his computer.

On this podcast I also talked about rain gardens and handling stormwater.  The rainy season is a good time to observe what happens to all that extra stormwater that falls on your property.  A good rainy season will help you plan for the worst case scenario.  If you retain all the stormwater on your property, it's better for out waterways and the stormwater system in your neighborhood will not have to work so hard.

Don't forget... only 3 more days to enter the contest to win a book.  Your chances are very good because not many people have entered.  So help me pick the photos for my book.  See below. 


7/29/08 Win a copy of Sustainable Gardening for Florida: Today Susan Harris at Garden Rant (See below.) posted an entry to her blog with a link to my possible book photos page.  There's a contest where everyone who weighs in on their favorite photos for my book will be eligible to win one of two books that I'll give away next year when it's published.  So while I urged you to look at it below, if you respond within the garden rant, you could win a book.  Here's a link to the Win a Book! podcast.

While I was in Maryland, I visited with John Markowski, my book's illustrator, and picked up all the drawings for the book.  Another step closer...  Yippee! 


Susan Harris and Ginny Stibolt.  Photo by Stibolt

7/22/08 Yesterday Susan Harris of GardenRant.com, RegionalGardenGurus.com, and SustainableGardening.com gave me a personal tour of her Takoma Park, MD gardens.  Fun to meet up with an online friend in person.  After following her online garden adventures, I recognized her place even without the house number.  She fed me a great lunch and we chatted for a couple of hours.  Thanks Susan for the great hospitality!!


Ripe elderberries in Ginny's back meadow.  Photo by Stibolt.

7/15/08 Today my podcast defining sustainable gardening was posted.  As I was working on the original proposal for my book, Sustainable Gardening for Florida, I had to define what the heck it was.  Since Mother Nature will convert any "gardened" space back to a wild state unless the gardener intervenes, a garden is not sustainable by itself.  I came up with eight different principles or goals to keep in mind for reducing your footprint while managing the landscape. 

<< Speaking of sustainable, these elderberries grew by themselves in the back meadow that used to be lawn.  They require no care and produce beautiful white flowers over many months and now the berries are ripe for us or the birds.  How's that for sustainable?  


7/11/08  I need your help!!  When my book received its final approval by the board at University Press of Florida in May, the board surprised me and my editor with the approval of 8 pages of color photos grouped in the middle of the book.  I've been working on this project for more than two years now under the assumption that we were limited to 40 black and white images.  My friend John Markowski, a gardener, architect, landscape architect, and professor, has been working on line drawings to illustrate and illuminate the text.  There will be around 30 drawings.  (I used one in my second rain barrel article.)

So this is where I need your help.  I've posted a selection of possible photos to include in the book.  What do you think?  Here's the link: www.sky-bolt.com/bookphotos.htm.  Please name the top ten photos and remember this is about sustainable gardening--see chapter list below.  Send me an email.  I'll let you know how this comes out.  Thanks so much for your help.  

1) Introduction to Sustainability; 2) Gardening Strategies; 3) Compost and Mulch; 4) Smaller, More Sustainable Lawns; 
5) Habitats and Meadows; 6) Trees and Shrubs; 7) Container Gardens; 8) Edible Gardens; 9) Integrated Pest Management (IPM); 10) Water and Irrigation; 11) Harvesting Rainwater; 12) Rain Gardens, Bioswales, and Bog Gardens; 
13) Waterfront Gardening: Dealing with Salt, Sand, Muck, and Erosion; 14) Preparing for Disasters: Hurricanes and Fires.


Female eastern tiger swallowtail.  Photo by Stibolt

7/9/08 My podcast on handling stormwater that falls on your property was posted today.  Just in time because we've had a whole bunch of rain recently.  The other day we had 2" in one afternoon.  Our newly expanded rain garden that I talked about in the previous post did quite well during that torrent.  

Meanwhile, I posted a new article on our butterfly island: From Stump to Butterfly Haven. I've mentioned this project in passing in other articles, but I thought you'd enjoy hearing about the whole transformation.  I also found out while I was looking for information about the eastern tiger swallowtail butterflies that you can easily distinguish the female from the male by the blue areas in the lower sections of her wings.  If you look below at another photo of two tigers on this island, it looks like the one on the right is male, but he didn't hold his wings still for the photographer.  Sometimes the female may also be all black except for those same blue parts.  Isn't it cool to learn something like this?  You too, can amaze your friends with your new-found knowledge.   Be sure to listen to my Butterfly Gardens podcast for even more information.


The overflow arrangement for our front raingraden.  Photo by Stibolt.

7/3/08 There's an article by Adrian Higgins in today's Washington Post about rain gardens.  With links to the low impact development website which has rain garden templates and examples.  

We've expanded our rain garden on the front corner of the house that catches the water from the downspout there.  I'll post an article about what we did sometime soon, but it does include this overflow arrangement so the excess water doesn't run across the pathway out there.  We created an upper tier in the rain garden where the water that fills up to this level will drain into the rocks wrapped with heavy-duty weed barrier cloth.  Here's a link to my original rain garden article


7/1/08  You might be interested in this interview, "Michael Pollan on What's Wrong With Environmentalism," from a new on-line environmental magazine called  e360 published by Yale University.  One of Michael's ideas is that environmentalism starts in your own garden and what you put on your table.


Kashmir boquet.  Photo by Stibolt.

6/30/08 Today my podcast on planning for microclimates was posted.  This is a follow-up on the column I wrote about how we've handled some of our microclimates from hot and dry to sloped and wet... 

I finally solved a mystery last week about a plant that a neighbor gave to me several years ago--saying it was some kind of hydrangea.  Since it has opposite leaves, I thought she might have been right.  It has been spreading around the front area under some water oaks amongst the azaleas since then.  The darn thing finally bloomed and while it's pretty as my neighbor promised, I'll probably start pulling it out.  I found out that this has a number of common names: rose glory bower, Kashmir bouquet, Mexican hydrangea, and Cashmir bouquet.   Reminds me of soap.

Here's a link to Floridata's profile on this plant to find out why I'll be removing this plant: (Clerodendrum bungei)


6/24/08  Oh my gosh!!  Florida has made a deal to purchase US. Sugar with its 187,000 acres of farmland just north of the Everglades.  Most of this property will be returned to its natural state to improve the flow of water from Lake Okeechobee to the Everglades.  Marjory Stoneman Douglas (She wrote The Everglades: River of Grass in 1947.) must be cheering from her grave.  This is a stunning development--just stunning.  I've got goose bumps!!  Here's a link the the NYTimes story. Even though there is a lot of negotiating and work to make all this work, I'm optimistic.  Way to go Governor Charlie Christ!  Here's a link to my podcast on the subject: US Sugar Deal.


Black swallowtail caterpillar.  Photo by Stibolt.

6/24/08 Success!!   We have black swallowtail caterpillars in our parsley!  In my column on parsley, I mentioned that I'd planted enough for us and for the caterpillars, but at that time I hadn't actually seen any.  It's ironic that they are on the unplanned for curly parsley, not the flat-leaved variety.  Hmmm.

My podcast Errors in Landscaping was posted today.  This is a short tour of the neighborhood looking at what some of my neighbors have done to their woody plants.  Here are some resources for further information:
International Society of Arboriculture's website provides a search tool to find a certified arborist near you: www.isa-arbor.com.
University of Florida professor of horticulture, Ed Gilman's website has detailed information on pruning, planting, and other care of woody plants: http://hort.ifas.ufl.edu/woody


Bouquet of calla lilies on my desk.  Photo by Stibolt.

6/20/08 Celebrate The Summer Solstice tonight at 7:59pm EDT. My office faces east and I've been watching the sunrises move farther north.  As of tomorrow they'll start moving south again, as always.  While we're talking about my office, on my desk I have a lovely bouquet of calla lilies from the front garden.  I don't cut them until they start fading in the garden, but I can enjoy them for a week or more by cutting them.  As with most bulbs, if you cut the blooms, it strengthens the bulb.  Of course cutting three of the leaves to make a better flower arrangement doesn't help the bulbs any, but so it goes.

Zebra longwing caterpillars on a passionflower vine. Photo by Stibolt

A couple of weeks ago I saw some Gulf fritillary butterflies flitting around the yard.  Yesterday, I saw that they had done their work and their eggs have hatched on my passion flower vines.  The vines are bigger this year and can support more caterpillars.  I saw a lone zebra longwing butterfly a few weeks ago, too, and was hoping to see some of those caterpillars on the passion vine.  They would be white with black hairs, but I haven't seen any so far.  We butterfly gardeners hope for a moth-eaten landscape.


Parsley flower on my Italian flat -leaf parsley.

6/11/08 A couple of news items recently have made the case for growing your own vegetables stronger than ever.  Here's a link to an AP story: Why did food sellers treat tomatoes like hot potatoes?  There was another article in today's NY times in the dining section, not home and garden: Banking on Gardening. Combined together these articles give two of the most important reasons for growing your own food: 1) it's safer, and 2) it's more economical.   That you might also increase vegetables eaten by more members of your family is a bonus.

Also, today I posted an article called, "The Tale of Two Parsleys."  Here is a photo of a flower in the bed of Italian flat-leafed variety parsley.  I also ended up with a surprise second crop of curly parsley.  Rich in Vitamins A, C, & K.  Sow some parsley in next fall's garden, and enjoy better health and better butterflies.  I didn't mention in the article that it's best to soak the seed overnight before you plant it, because otherwise it will takes a long time to germinate.  My mother used to say that parsley goes to hell and back before you see sprouts! 


elderberry in the back meadow.  Photo by Stibolt.

6/6/08 Our back meadow has been looking much better since I pulled out all of that invasive wedelia.  While the elderberry has been expanding out there since we stopped mowing four years ago, it looks really good this year with lots of blooms as shown to the left.  Maybe we'll even get to harvest some of the elderberries this year, or maybe the birds will beat us to them again.  My podcast on the back meadow was posted today.  

I'll post an update on the whole project from pulling the wedelia to sowing some wildflower seeds on the Meadow page soon.  


Coral honeysuckle.

5/30/08 My podcast on our native hummingbird magnet, coral honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens), was posted yesterday.  We have a big vine right next to our hummingbird feeder and it reduces the "hummer wars" a little.  It's fun to watch the hummingbirds push up to their eyeballs into these pendulous tubes.  We are just beginning to see female hummingbirds.  For the last couple of months we've seen only males, and as beautiful as they are it's good to have the ladies back.


2 swallowtail butterflies visit Ginny's zinnias.  Photo by Stibolt

5/21/08 Two freshly emerged swallowtail butterflies graced our zinnias the other day.  Aren't they beautiful?  We harvested the rest of our lettuce and Swiss chard.  Our thought was that the greens will keep better in the refrigerator than out in the hot sun and that no more bolting will take place.

My podcast, The Lawn Less Mown, was posted yesterday.  Here's the link to the related article.


As two small bees (about 1/2-inch long) work furiously amongst the numerous stamens of the prickly pear flower, pollen flies everywhere.  Photo by Stibolt

5/14/08 Microclimates:  I posted an article today on how we've handled various microclimates on our lot.  The typical advice relating to microclimates is to plant succulents in hot dry areas, but there are more microclimates than just hot and dry.   

Succulents are a group of plants that have fleshy stems, extensive root systems, and/or thick cuticles.  They withstand drought very well.   I talked mostly about our prickly pears which are a true cactus, but there are many more succulent plants than just cacti.  All cacti are succulents, but not all succulents are cacti.

As two small bees (about 1/2-inch long) work furiously amongst the numerous stamens of the prickly pear flower, pollen flies everywhere. >>

Also today, my most recent podcast was posted where I talked about the 2007 word of the year--locavore.


Mother spider with babbies on her back.  Photo by Stibolt

5/11/08 Happy Mothers' Day to all !!   I thought you might be interested to see a mother spider that was on our screened porch out back.  See all the babies clinging to her abdomen?  Oh boy, more bug eaters.

The mulch gets dumped on the driveway. Photo by Stibolt

We acquired another huge load of mulch the other day, even though the one we have out in the front meadow is only half used.  When we heard a tree chipper in the neighborhood, my husband rode his bike to locate the chips, because we have a couple of big projects that need a lot of mulch.  More on the projects later.  One of our previous loads of tree chips was from this same tree trimmer.  This time, we had it dumped on the side of the driveway near the rain barrels so it would be closer to the projects and so we can just leave it there until it's all used up.  We'll use all of this pile before we continue to use the old pile out front.  


4 wrens think the photographer is a parent; one is not fooled.  Photo by Stibolt

5/3/08 While we are talking about bird-friendly yards, we have five baby wrens being raised on our front porch.  The nest was constructed under the leaves of a spider plant and peace lily in a pot placed in a wicker planter.  We haven't watered this pot since we noticed the nest, so the plants have suffered.  We also have reduced our use of the front door.  It's a small sacrifice for five new insect-eating predators in the neighborhood. 

Ladies tresses orchids grow in the front meadow.  Photo by Stibolt

The two parents make dozens of trips each hour with bugs for their brood and we've enjoyed a close-up view because the nest is visible from one of our front windows.  This is a very good year for the wrens.  The last time we had knowledge of a wren nest, only three fledged. Here's a podcast on our 5 Baby Wrens. (Update on 5/7/08: While we were out doing some errands yesterday, a predator, probably that red shouldered hawk, took the babies.  The hawk probably has babies of its own to feed, so that's the circle of life.  I cheer for the predators--their success is a mark of a balanced ecosystem, but I was so looking forward to watching them learn to fly.)

I spent some time this week transplanting about 40 ladies tresses orchids (Spiranthes spp) from the lawn before we mowed it again.  I replanted them in various garden and meadow areas where they joined ones that I'd rescued in previous years.   I love these treasures from the lawn.  One of the places they landed was around the newly expanded rain garden next to the front porch.  More on this project later.

I called my daughter on May Day.  When we lived near Annapolis, I would pick her up from school on May Day every year and we'd go down to Annapolis for the May Day basket celebration.  The garden club hands out ribbons for the best baskets for commercial or residential entries.  The winners are invited to a tea.  This contest started in the '50s and has been one of the traditions since then.  Next year we decided that we'll fly up there, pick up my granddaughter from school, and enjoy the celebration again.   I'll take some photos and post them here.  

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Ginny Stibolt 2004-2011

 

Website by www.sky-bolt.com