What's Up 103: Squash, mulch, composites, native bloom, weevils

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In this issue:

Artistic skill nets more squash
No-mulch annuals?! Reprise
A composite season rushes in
Celebration of native bloom
Look ma, clean fingernails!
Hold your nose, pass the fish

Summer summary! It's the too-much season so in this issue we pass on short reports about all this: Magnolia scale, alpine strawberries, hydrangea wilt, mildew, high-phosphorus fertilizer, weevil beating, gardener's injuries, hawthorn rust, clematis wilt, gaura, ladybugs, lily bulb rot, cicadas, and late blighted tomatoes

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What a pretty face! Early American explorers found Gaillardia and hundreds more dramatic flowers, each species new to the Old World. You can imagine yourself as one of those early viewers, by looking out over your own garden right now. 

 

Mulch Tests

We've conducted many mulch tests for our own edification. They can make a bed look a bit odd in spring as we mulch one half of a plant group with one mulch, one half with another...

We've conducted many mulch tests for our own edification. They can make a bed look a bit odd in spring as we mulch one half of a plant group with one mulch, one half with another...

These 11 perennials (leopardsbane, Doronicum caucasicum) were equal plants in 4" pots when we planted them in April. We mulched some of the plants with hardwood mulch, some with cocoa hulls, the rest with fall leaves, then treated all of them the same in all other ways. Here they are on the first of August. The four front row plants have woody mulch and are about half the size of those behind, which were mulched with cocoa hulls (four in the middle row) and fall leaves (three in the back row).

These 11 perennials (leopardsbane, Doronicum caucasicum) were equal plants in 4" pots when we planted them in April. We mulched some of the plants with hardwood mulch, some with cocoa hulls, the rest with fall leaves, then treated all of them the same in all other ways. Here they are on the first of August. The four front row plants have woody mulch and are about half the size of those behind, which were mulched with cocoa hulls (four in the middle row) and fall leaves (three in the back row).

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Early, heavy bloom...

Liatris and Shasta daisies don't always overlap but this year the Liatris was ahead of schedule.

Liatris and Shasta daisies don't always overlap but this year the Liatris was ahead of schedule.

...in the kingdom of the sunflower

Composite flowers are those whose "real" flowers -- the structures that can produce pollen and seed -- are massed on one head. See them in the center of this sunflower head, each destined to become an oil-rich seed? All of the sunflowers (Helianthus spp.) are New World natives, unknown in Europe before the Columbian exchange.

Composite flowers are those whose "real" flowers -- the structures that can produce pollen and seed -- are massed on one head. See them in the center of this sunflower head, each destined to become an oil-rich seed? All of the sunflowers (Helianthus spp.) are New World natives, unknown in Europe before the Columbian exchange.

Europe and Asia had their own Compositae, such as blue globe thistle. See how each of the blue stars is a separate flower on this tall globe thistle? It's Echinops exaltatus, a Russian species, which is probably why it's among Janet's favorites. Yet to Europeans accustomed to this pretty plant, the beaming face of a sunflower or blackeye Susan was newer and more exciting.

Europe and Asia had their own Compositae, such as blue globe thistle. See how each of the blue stars is a separate flower on this tall globe thistle? It's Echinops exaltatus, a Russian species, which is probably why it's among Janet's favorites. Yet to Europeans accustomed to this pretty plant, the beaming face of a sunflower or blackeye Susan was newer and more exciting.

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American native high-summer bloomers 

Every one of the blackeye Susans or yellow coneflowers (Rudbeckia species) are North American natives. Above, left: Tall green headed coneflower (Rudbeckia laciniata) and blackeye Susan (R. fulgida).
Above, right: False sunflowers (12 Heliopsis species) all come from the New World.

Below, left: Gloriosa daisies (Rudbeckia fulgida variants, sometimes lised as a separate species, R. gloriosa). below, right: Coreopsis species number 140+, all from the New World or Africa.

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Although yellows are big among the New World Compositae, there are plenty of pinks, blues, purples and whites, too. Mauve and white come from the Joe Pye "tribe" of this big family (Eupatorium and closely related species). That tribe has about 500 species, mostly native to the Americas.

Although yellows are big among the New World Compositae, there are plenty of pinks, blues, purples and whites, too. Mauve and white come from the Joe Pye "tribe" of this big family (Eupatorium and closely related species). That tribe has about 500 species, mostly native to the Americas.

Blazing stars (Liatris species) are composites in the Eupatorium tribe, and all 40 of them are native to North America. If you think of them as spike flowers, rather than sunflower relatives, take a closer look at the individual buttons of flowers along that spike -- each is a cluster.

Blazing stars (Liatris species) are composites in the Eupatorium tribe, and all 40 of them are native to North America. If you think of them as spike flowers, rather than sunflower relatives, take a closer look at the individual buttons of flowers along that spike -- each is a cluster.

Purple coneflowers (Echinacea spp.) are all North American natives. Most are pink.

Purple coneflowers (Echinacea spp.) are all North American natives. Most are pink.

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