Experiencing the new in gardening

I discovered a Lily of the Nile, Agapanthus, which was a deep blue at my new home this year. The only ones I had ever known were either light blue or white. So, being a curious gardener, I looked up Agapanthus images using Google. I found that the genus Agapanthus consists of 4 species and the cultivars are often hybrids of these species.  I found a variety of deep blue and bluish-purple colors in hybrids that I had never realized existed and a range of named cultivars. ‘Midnight Blue’, ‘Storm Cloud’, ‘Bluestorm’ and ‘Mood Indigo’ are all a dark purplish blue.  ‘Northern Star’ has tall stems supporting blue violet flowers and petals with dark stripes down the petal’s center.

Even white to creamy white, Agapanthus, have a wide range of cultivars: ‘Alice Gloucester,’ ‘Bressingham White,’ ‘Snowy Owl, and many others. For more information on varieties of Agapanthus see: https://www.gardenguides.com/123357-agapanthus-colors.html

I also discovered that Agapanthus means flower of love, from the Greek agape, meaning love, and anthos, meaning flower. What is not to love about a flower that repeats annually to brighten our summer and fall days? No wonder so many are to be seen in so many front gardens.

Hotlips, a Salvia that attracts hummingbirds and bees

Another plant that I enjoy is ‘Hotlips’ sage (Salvia microphylla). I planted it outside my office window when I first moved in. It replaced a Cleveland sage that had died in the same spot, but ‘Hotlips’ has flourished, growing from a four inch plant to a three-footer in one year. Watching from my window, I enjoy hummingbirds and carpenter bees visiting the plant for nectar. Another beautiful flower at my new home is Black and Blue Hummingbird Sage or Brazilian sage (Salvia guaranitica), a Salvia with intense dark blue flowers with a black calyx. It is beautiful, but

Brazilian Sage is a deep blue and a favorite of bees in my garden.

checking it out, I discovered it can be thuggish and invasive. I think I can deal with that because it is so special.

Three old enemies at my new home are spotted spurge and creeping spurge (Euphorbia maculata and Euphorbia serpens) and field bindweed (Convolvulus arvensis). I have destroyed several thousand of these ubiquitous weeds that are everywhere in my new garden. Spurge is an annual, so if I can just keep them from going to seed, maybe I can get rid of it. I found that seeds of this species have longevity of about 6-7 years, so I need to stay diligent for a few years to be successful. Recently, during a nursery visit I spied spurge growing in several 5 gallon citrus pots—no wonder this weed spreads.

The bind weed is a perennial, so even if I can keep them from seeding, the plants will keep coming back. However, it is possible to eventually starve this deeply rooted perennial if you keep destroying the shoots as they come back. Due diligence is again required.

Recently, I discovered a horned tomato caterpillar eating one of my tomato plants. I found the rascal and put him on a volunteer tomato plant that I didn’t care about. I think it worked because a day later the small volunteer was half eaten. The reason I didn’t kill this creature is that tomato hornworms are the larval stage of white-lined sphinx moths (Hyles lineata) which is also known as

Sphinx moth or hummingbird moth is a beauty

the hummingbird moth.

They are the size of a hummingbird with a 2-3 inch wingspan and also have the same capability of hovering like hummingbirds which is a rare feat in the animal kingdom. They are beautiful, nocturnal and feed on nectar usually preferring white flowers. Fragrant white vining moonflowers (Ipomoea alba) open in the evening when the sphinx moths get started feeding and years ago I observed sphinx moths feeding at moonflowers which I had painstakingly grew from seeds.

When I was a five year old on my Dad’s farm and had no inkling that hornworms became pretty moths, my older siblings and I were sent out to rid 3 acres of tomatoes of hornworms using an inexpensive organic method. We were each equipped with a pair of scissors and, when finding the pest, we cut them in two with the scissors. Of course, if you have ever tried to hunt these green hornworms, you know that they are well camouflaged on the tomato plant. I have no idea how many we missed, but I am certain that a few survived to become beautiful hummingbird moths.

Happy gardening and spare a few tomatoes and their caterpillars for the sake of sphinx moths.

If you have a gardening related question you can contact the UC Master Gardeners at 209-953-6112. More information can be found on our website:  http://sjmastergardeners.ucanr.edu/CONTACT_US/

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    Lee Miller

    Lee Miller is a University of Delaware graduate and retired fisheries biologist, he gardens on 10 acres and makes wine each year with the help of a cadre of friends. However, his first love is gardening and he grows various fruit trees, heirloom ... Read Full

    Marcy Sousa

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