Enormous Poppies

June 9, 2008

Every year I forget just how big the blooms are on our oriental poppies (Papaver orientale). Maybe it’s because the flowering period is rather short. Or maybe because they die back after flowering and I don’t notice them all summer when I spend the most time in the garden. In any case they are certainly worth having in the garden, even if their glory is short lived.

The same night that I emerged from deep slumber to find cutworms I also found large herds of earwigs grazing on many of my emerging perennials. Dahlias and Monarda were the primary victims. One of my Bee Balms (Monarda Didyma ‘Jacob Kline’) that I was particularly looking forward to was wiped out in a single night (fortunately, it is now showing signs of life). Here is a photo of two Dahlia shoots that probably won’t live to see another day:

When I used the work ‘herds’ to describe what I saw I was not exaggerating. On one leaf there were probably as many as 20 earwigs of all sizes (eating must be a family affair). I was able to hand pick most of them but I was still seeing occasional damage so I knew there were probably more.

Having small children at home, I really did not want to resort to chemicals. I tried the rolled newspaper trick but it didn’t seem to attract very many (a little research later reveals that I was supposed to dampen the newspaper). I researched other natural options but gave up when I discovered that Sluggo Plus helped control both earwigs and cutworms. This option was additionally attractive because it was organic and safe to use around our veggies. I still find earwigs around the garden but everything is happily growing now (even the Dahlia in the photo above sent up another shoot). Next year I’m going to try again with the simpler home remedies but I’m going to start much earlier.

Digitalis Devoured

June 4, 2008

This year about a third of my Foxgloves have shared the fate shown in the photo (yes, that ‘stick’ in the foreground is a Foxglove, or rather, what’s left of it). For a while I couldn’t figure out what was causing the damage. Whatever it was, it certainly wasn’t showing it’s face during the day. Finally, when I couldn’t take it any more, I dragged my self out of bed at 2am to see who was feasting on my Foxgloves (as well as my Dahlias and Bee Balms, but that’s a story for another post). Can you guess what it was? That’s right, cutworms.

When I went out that night I was astonished by just how many there were. I didn’t try to count them all but I probably picked off at least 40 of these large plump caterpillars. I won’t say what I did with them but they certainly won’t be bothering these plants any more.

Cutworms seem to be quite smart for caterpillars. A couple escaped because I was not prepared for the fact that they drop away from the leaf as soon as they sense your fingers coming to pick them off. It didn’t take me long to wisen up and pick them with my hand underneath just in case. In addition to my Foxgloves, the cutworms in my garden are very fond of some of the Bleeding Hearts that I have (particularly Dicentra formosa). Next year I will be ready!


May 23, 2008

Finally several of my interests converge into a single outlet (sort of). You see, during the day I’m a software developer. At home, after being Dad, I love gardening. Technology and gardening don’t often intersect (aside from this spectacular exception) but I have been delighted and inspired by so many gardeners who have chosen to share their passion through their blogs. I’m not starting this blog on the assumption that I have anything useful/interesting to share but rather a place for me to record my trials, surprises, failures, and successes in gardening. There may occasionally be something useful here for the larger gardening community but that is not my purpose.

So why ‘geek’? Many would classify my choice of career as pretty geeky (writing physics/math/visualization software) but I’m talking about a broader definition of geek: I like the details. The big picture is great, and even helpful at times, but for me the details are where it’s really at. My wife can attest to this as I spend a (borderline unhealthy) amount of time reading plant encyclopedias and books on gardening. You might say I’m obsessed but it’s really not that bad…

Almost forgot. I love taking photos (I don’t think this is uncommon amongst garden bloggers). I will also use this blog to share pictures from my garden as well as the diverse flora that grow wild here in Southern Oregon (I’m a sucker for wild flowers). Keep in mind though, I like details, don’t expect to see any award-winning landscape designs on this blog. Besides, I’m a visual thinker and I believe that every blog post worth reading needs at least one picture. Here’s one of our native Trilliums growing happily in my shade garden.