Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Wildflower Wednesday

This is my Coreopsis. I got this from a wildflower seed pack at Walmart about 3 years ago and it has done wonderfully. Its one of the first flowers to bloom in spring and keeps on blooming until winter. The summer heat doesn't bother it at all! I rarely have to water them.

I love this plant for its bright vibrant flowers. Bees love them too. After pollination, they set seeds and are a reliable re-seeder. Anywhere you scatter the seeds, new plants pop up.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Purple Coneflowers

Purple coneflowers are great addition to a southern garden. They are a reliable perennial, drought tolerant, and the butterflies love them. Birds like to eat the seeds too, so I don't dead head mine.

I got my start with coneflowers from my friend and neighbor Kiki. She had a huge patch of purple coneflowers and was nice enough to dig me up some. She only gave me 3-4 plants, but they have multiplied into a ton of plants! I'm going to divide them soon and give my granny some.

Coneflowers are one of the few plants that tolerate Louisiana summers. They hardly ever wilt and keep blooming all summer long!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Garden Invaders

4 O'clocks are one of the toughest plants I've seen. Nothing kills them. This picture was taken at my parent's house in Walker and the 4 o'clocks are over 5 feet tall. These plants have been growing in this flower bed for several years and they have pushed many plants out of their way and taken over the flower bed.

I don't like 4 o'clocks and I've tried to kill these plants several times. I dug most of the tubers out of the bed, thinking that would control them. Didn't work. They came back just as strong next spring. Then I tried spraying Round Up. That made a few leaves turn brown and fall off, but it didn't kill the plants. Since then, I have given up in my war against 4 o'clocks.

There is one redeeming quality of 4 o'clocks.....moths love the flowers. I'm pretty sure Hummingbird Moths like this plant. My favorite moth is the Luna Moth. When I lived in Clinton, LA I'd see this moth all the time. We lived in the middle of the woods and Luna Moths like to live in hardwood forests. Haven't seen any in St. Gabriel.....probably too much sugarcane.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Plant Propagation

Rooting plants from cuttings is a quick and easy way to grow more plants. When I worked at a plant nursery, a lot of people were doubtful that they could successfully grow plants from cuttings. I'd always encourage them to start with something easy to root, like a pothos ivy. That was the plant that I first grew from a cutting. I started propagating plants when I was 11 or 12. After years of perfecting my technique, I'm pretty good at rooting plants. I've grown so many plants from cuttings that I've lost count. Most recently I've grown Gardenia, Firespike, and Turks Cap.

Here are some steps to grow your own plants:
1. Take a cutting from the top portion of the plant. You want your cutting to be a stem that the plant has recently grown. Make sure the cutting is around 7-8 inches long and has plenty of leaves.

2. Carefully pick most of the leaves off your cutting, only leaving a few leaves at the top of the cutting.

3. Gently put the cutting in a pot filled with potting soil.

4. Water after the cuttings are planted. I water my cuttings every other day, unless it rains.

If your cuttings are successful, you should see new growth 2-3 weeks after planting.

The above picture is Pride of Barbados. I took cuttings from an existing plant a month ago, and already they are putting out new growth! This is an excellent plant to give your garden a tropical island feel. Be sure to plant it on a south facing wall because it doesn't like Louisiana winters. If you mulch heavily before a freeze comes, you should be able to save the plant and enjoy it next spring.

This is a close up picture of the new growth on the Pride of Barbados.

Aren't the flowers pretty?

These are pots of Russian Sage. I love this plant because it blooms for months and the bees love the lavender colored flowers. The leaves are silver and smell strongly of sage if you brush against them. It get about 4-5 tall and wide and loves the sun. When spring rolls around, definitely get this plant for your garden (or I could root you some cuttings!).

This is a picture of Bottlebrush cuttings. This is another plant that loves the sun and has neat bottlebrush shaped red flowers. Its also very easy to root from a cutting. Be careful where you plant this one! It gets around 10 feet tall.

Friday, July 16, 2010


Cicadas are really neat bugs. Did you know that the young cicada burrows down into the ground and "hibernates" for several years? Sometimes they can stay underground for up to 17 years! I read online that while underground, cicadas live by eating tree roots. You can read more about them here

The picture above is from my yard. This is the shell of a cicada that tunneled up through the ground and climbed on a lantana stem. Then, it popped out of its shell! Notice the "split seam" down the center of the shell.

Here is another cicada that climbed up my dog's pen. This seems to be a popular place for cicadas to shed their shells. I find so many empty cicada shells in his pen!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


Every year I get mealybugs on my Meyer Lemon tree. This year the mealybugs are everywhere! This tree is at my parent's house in Walker, LA. I'm hoping my dad will soon have time to spray the tree and kill the bugs. The best product to spray on citrus trees is Ultra Fine horticultural oil. It kills any pests on the tree and doesn't harm the fruit. I always wash the fruit before I eat it, that way any oil still left on the fruit will get washed off.

Here are some immature lemons. In the fall, I'm hoping to have a big lemon harvest.

This is my dad's quince tree with some immature fruit on it. The quince is around 4-5 inches long. They turn yellow when ripe.

His trees are about 10 feet tall and have lots of fruit! He grew the trees from seed and this is the first year they've set fruit. Quince trees not only produce fruit, they also make pretty flowers in the spring.


Here is Mike. He's about 3 years old and weights 15 pounds! He loves stuffing himself into boxes that are too small for him. He's sitting in an old corn dog box.

This is Kitty. She doesn't do much else except sleep on the sofa. She's a few years older than Mike and weights 11 pounds.

Monday, July 12, 2010

BREC Bluebonnet Swamp

A few Saturdays ago Dave and I spent several hours walking through BREC Bluebonnet Swamp in Baton Rouge, LA. Although it is located off a major highway (Bluebonnet Blvd) the park is quiet and there are plenty of wildlife to be seen.

At the entrance/parking lot there is a small pond that has plenty of turtles and fish. The turtles were shy and sunk in the water if we got too close. We also saw a water snake swimming across the pond!

The park's walkways are almost all wooden boardwalks like this one.

This is one of my favorite shots of our trip. The white flowers in the foreground are Lizard's Tails (Saururus cernuus). They love growing in the boggy soil of swamps and I've also seem them growing on the edges of ponds. Notice the tree trunks in the background. They have buttressed trunks which mean the bottom portion of the trunk flares out. This helps with stability in swamps.

We saw a banded water snake just a foot or two away from the boardwalk. When I looked closer, I saw a whole group of the water snakes! There were adult snakes, teenager snakes, and baby snakes. It hadn't rained in several weeks, so the snakes were huddled in one puddle off the walkway. They didn't seem to scared of us either.

One of my favorite native plants is the Indian Pink (Spigelia marilandica). Indian Pinks look best when planted in mass plantings (like these are). Here at the swamp they were planted right off the walkway in some shade.

I hate these grasshoppers! These are baby lubber grasshoppers. Once they reach adulthood, they will be huge! And they will eat anything they can. This one is sitting on Dave's fingernail and was one among 100 little baby grasshoppers.

Sunday, July 11, 2010


Pink Princess philodendron is a good container plant for shade. It grows slow and doesn't need too much attention. I ran across this plant last year when I worked at a plant nursery. The original plant was growing in a 3 gallon pot and some of the stems were draping over the side and beginning to grow roots. One day I was assigned the task of trimming back the plant and making it look more presentable. Some of the stems had started growing roots and those were potted up to make more plants. A few employees, including myself, were allowed to take a few plants home with us. I love getting free plants!! Now I have two pots with Pink Princess philodendron.

Saturday, July 10, 2010


Today was a rainy day in St. Gabriel, LA. I love sitting on my back porch when it rains. As the rain slacked off, I noticed a hummingbird on the feeder. I went inside, grabbed my camera and went back to the porch to begin my hummingbird stakeout. It took several minutes but eventually he came back to the feeder.

I used the sports setting on my camera. This is the best way to shoot hummingbirds because this setting makes the camera take several pictures per second.

I love this picture because you can see his tiny feet!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Walk to the River

I live very close to the Mississippi River. Right across the levee. Dave and I take walks down to the riverbank every now and then, and I always bring my camera with me. This walk wasn't too exciting...all we saw were butterflies and birds.

The picture above is a white heron. They love to hang out in shallow water where they can eat little bugs and fish. Since they see people often, I was able to get relatively close to this one.

While we were walking further in the woods, Dave spotted this monarch butterfly. I rushed to get my camera and focus on him before he flew away. I was able to snap the picture right before he flew away. I see alot of these butterflies around my garden. They love the purple coneflowers!

We've been getting a ton of rain lately, so the trail to the river is very muddy. If you take the time, you can find all sorts of animal prints in the mud. These prints were made by a raccoon. Judging by how deep the prints were, I'd say he's pretty fat! I'm sure he comes over the levee to my house at night and eats the leftover dog food.

This is a native hibiscus. You can find them growing in ditches or on a riverbank. They can get pretty tall, I'd say this one is almost 6 feet. The flowers are around 4 inches across.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Black-eyed Susans

Black-eyed Susans (Rudbeckia hirta) are one of the best plants for southern gardens. My first one was given to me by my grandmother. She has them planted all over her yard. Since my grandmother had such good luck with her Black-eyed Susans, I was expecting them to grow well in my garden too. I was not disappointed! The one plant she gave me has turned into about 10-15 plants. Here's some reasons why you should grow them too:

They hold up in well in our hot summers. Its hard to find plants that don't melt when the day time temps are in the 90's. They are also drought resistant, which means I don't have to lug the hose out and water them every day. They are a reliable perennial for Zone 8. I've had mine for several years and they keep coming back! Lastly, Black-eyed Susans reseed easily, making them good plants to share with neighbors.