Are you tired of passionflowers yet?

This lovely little thing is Passiflora mooreana.  It’s easy to suspect the photo for making it look kind of faded and blue, but that’s the way it looks in real life – the whole plant has a kind of sage green tint to it.

a solo shot in the light of the westering sun:

They smell sweet, too.  I really love the ones with sweet scents.  It’s surprisingly powerful, for such a small flower – the flower is only about two inches across, if that.  Here it is next to P. caerulea. 

and a closeup of the center:

another one that’s blooming well right now, is Passiflora incarnata “Bill’s Delight,” a pure-white selection of the native species from Companion Plants nursery.  I had one of these a year ago, and then it suddenly died from the roots up – it looked like slugs ate the skin off the stem.  Now, it’s going gangbusters, sprawling out of its pot and putting up new shoots.

We have two big Golden Orb Weavers in the garden this year – I am going to start feeding them grasshoppers.  The mantises aren’t eating them up fast enough. 

\and the “Scentsation” rose that I planted for Chris is doing well – I really want for it to start putting out more flowers at a time, but it is still adapting and getting its feet under it.

 

 

Moth Night

1039905_10200851730709210_2017498441_o

This is something that I’ve always wanted to do, and have never done.  Now, I’ve hung around outside buildings and watched the moths and other night-time insects come and go… but I’ve never done the full-on, out-in-the-woods, light-and-a-sheet type experience, where you trap moths with light and count and observe and all that.  So, I figure it’s National Moth Week coming up a month from now, I should do it.

We’re being hosted by the Cedar Ridge Audubon Preserve, (just south of Oak Cliff) with ID guidance and leadership from Dale Clark of the Dallas County Lepidopterists’ Society.    We’ll be meeting up at 8:30 PM, and staying until half past midnight, or when we get really tired.  Or later, if there are lots of cool moths.  It’s not a wildly exciting experience, but it’s got a certain geeky cool factor.

If you’re on Facebook, I’ve set up an event page where you can RSVP: https://www.facebook.com/events/532248110170072/

It’s pretty straight-forward; we’re gonna look at moths and other bugs that fly up to lights, and look them up in books, and take pictures of them, and let them go after.  We won’t be killing or pinning anything, because of the Audubon’s rules, although we will detain the moths to ID and photograph them.

Y’all let me know if you’re interested in coming along!

Here’s a video, with kind of an idea of what to expect:

Sneak Peek

I’m sorry about the previous post being locked – it’s got a lot of information that’s not quite public domain yet.  But the general idea, I can give you….

 

Before Bill Wyatt passed in 2009, he and I had a talk about getting somebody to replicate his silk reel design.

 

These nice folks stepped up.  I met Roy and Henry at SOAR last October, and they agreed to give it a try.  We’re in the process of testing the prototype.

 

Yaay, silk!

Protected: Rode Hard, Put Away Wet

This content is password protected. To view it please enter your password below:

More passionflowers

We’ve had a beautiful weather year for the garden.  The moist spring turned into a warm but not parched summer, and our fall cold front came almost a month early, bringing lovely cooler nights and plenty of rain.  Because of the way our weather works in this part of Texas, it’s almost like we have two springs – everything gets a second wind, picks up, and rejuvenates.

Passiflora “Temptation x Temptation”

Through the summer, I’ve had the occasional bloom on my “Temptation x Temptation” passionflower vine.  This is a cross originally made by Volker Sanders in Germany, although I got my plant from Passiflorista on Ebay (Jim Nevers).  During the hottest days, the flowers suffered horribly – they looked like they had been under a heat lamp, with wilted petals and limp coronas.  I will have to get a photo if it happens again – it was a real surprise the first time.  The other types do not have this problem.  Now, however, it’s putting out these luscious, plump flowers with the most amazing coloring.

Passiflora “Incense”

When I have just one in my hand, the flower on “Temptation x Temptation” looks a lot like the “Incense” vine that it is adjacent to (and mingled with) – big, purple, curly flower.  But the color is really quite different.

“Incense” (L) and “Temptation x Temptation” (R)

“Incense” on the left, “Temptation x Temptation” on the right. If you look, you can see the different leaves, too – “Incense” has five-fingered leaves, and “Temptation x Temptation has three-fingered.

Close-up of filaments on “Temptation x Temptation”

 

Very close to, the corona filaments look like something from under the sea – maybe a sea urchin…

 

Corona filaments on “Temptation x Temptation”

Or a sea anemone.

“Temptation x Temptation” from the side.

From the side, there’s a lot of difference between the two flowers.  “Temptation x Temptation” is strongly reflexed – meaning that the petals pull back from the flower and arch downward, so looking from the top you see the corona floating in the air.  They’re also very robust and fleshy – this plant is a tetraploid hybrid, meaning that its parent plants were chemically treated during the hybridizing process to give it double the usual number of genes.  Tetraploids are famous for thick, hardy plants and big flowers. The anthers on this plant are often a little odd – here, they’re pointing upward at the sky, instead of downward at the theoretical bee that should be pollinating the plant.  They sometimes manage to rotate downward before the flower closes, but sometimes not.

Side view of “Incense”

In the side view, “Incense” is nearly flat.

 

A new addition – this one is “Blue-Eyed Susan,” with parentage similar to “Temptation x Temptation” and another hybrid, “Bucky” bred by Jim Nevers in Florida.  I’m hoping with these three tetraploid hybrids, I might be able to get some fruit.  “Bucky” in particular is known for good fruit. Because of the different chromosome number, tetraploid (4n) plants can’t set fruit with normal diploid (2n) pollen; they need 4n pollinators.

 

 

And this is “Blue Bouqet” – another hybrid, this one made by Richard McCain.  This game little plant just got out after traveling cross-country in a postal box; the whole plant isn’t much past a foot tall, but it’s bloomed already.  It’s supposed to be more blue, so we’ll see if that happens.  A lot of this kind of flower difference comes down to things like humidity, soil chemistry, hours  and intensity of sunshine, etc.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trapped!

The composting worm bin lives in the upstairs bathroom adjacent to my office/studio room.  So when things get weird in the bin, I know about it.

I think that I picked up earwig eggs when I added compost from the outdoor compost bin – I always do this to help stock up the micro-flora.  However it happened, I started getting more and more earwigs.

The pincers look fierce, but aren’t actually pinchy from what I can tell.  They stink a lot if squashed.

There are lots of them.  They thrive on the same kind of vegetable waste that I feed the worms, and they’ve reproduced like mad.  Of course, my options for insect remediation in the compost worm bin are quite limited.

Traps are usually the best.  I looked up how to trap these guys, and most of the sources pointed to a similar technique.  A straight-sided can, like soup or tuna, with a mixture of equal parts of molasses (or corn syrup), vegetable oil (with the possibility of a drop of added bacon grease, for fragrance attraction) and soy sauce.  Because of what I got hold of in the cabinet first, I’ve tried a couple of different oils.  It’s amazingly effective.

 

 

This is five or six days worth of earwigs.  They mostly end up in the trap overnight, as they are nocturnal.  I let it go a few days, then tip the oil out in a non-agricultural part of the yard (the chickens declare the bugs delicious!) and refill and reset.  Apparently it works in the garden or house as well.

Scientific American

I have a very definite niche.  Many of the things that I do, not a lot of people do.  And, I document most of what I do – with lots of pictures, which I post online.  So, when people are searching the web for something related to my unusual interests, they often find my pictures.  Then, if I’m lucky and they’re polite, they write me and ask for permission to use the pictures.  I usually say yes, although it’s case by case; sometimes there’s even a little money involved, or a contributor’s copy of a cool book or magazine.  I’m particularly likely to say yes if it’s for a museum supporting science, or for educational materials for schools – the only exception is if it’s for a religious organization promoting pseudo-science.  I think that teaching creationism to kids is an insidious and very damaging form of child abuse.  Sorry about the soap-box, but it’s something I’ve run into hard a couple of times.  If you want to tell children that God made silkworms for the express use of mankind, I respect your Constitutional freedom to say so – but I also have a right to sue if you use my copyrighted pictures without permission.

 

 

This time, it was a writer with Scientific American’s website; he was looking for some images to support an article on metamorphosis.  So, now, I’ve got a photo on their website, with links back to mine – and it’s a very cool article!

The article with my photo

Another article, related information, same author. 

 

Skeeterbag

This is not a paid ad.  I have received no promotional support for this endorsement – I just think these things are cool, and want to tell my friends.

We live in a lovely, wooded area of south Dallas.  We back up to the confluence of two year-round creeks, Crow Creek and Five Mile Creek.  This gives us a fairly lush vegetation, full of towering trees and wildlife – but it also gives us lots of bugs.

I hate spraying chemicals.  I use a few organic pesticides for the vegetables, but I also use a lot of old-fashioned, low-impact non-chemical solutions.  I catch grasshoppers in a net and feed them to the chickens; I encourage the wasps to eat caterpillars from the passionflower vines.  And starting this year, I started using Skeeterbags.

I had read about these last year, but didn’t get around to ordering them.  I tried a home-spun version involving tulle netting and duct tape… let’s just say, I decided that the price of the commercial version was definitely worth the cost.

 

Basically, it does just what it says on the box.  They’re easy to attach to a standard cheapo-model box fan, and they kill usually between 100 and 200 mosquitoes a night.  One is next to the chickens’ house, and the other is next to the garage.

 

 

The mosquitoes are all hanging on to the side of the netting first thing in the morning; by noon, they’re dried up and dead.   Every few days, I empty out the little pile of corpses.  They have definitely made a significant impact on the yard’s population.  Living next to year-round water, we’re never going to be mosquito-free, but we’ve gone from “I’m being eaten alive if I step out the door” to being able to walk over and check on the chickens without getting bitten.

Summer Update 3: Passionflowers and Butterflies

It’s been an exceptionally good season.  We had a warm, mild spring, followed by an unusually wet summer – so everything is green and lush!

I’ve been a fan of passionflowers for a long time. I have begun seriously collecting the hardy varieties, focusing on flowers and fruit.  Many of the new hybrids are cold-hardy for our Zone 8a garden, and the plants that I put in the ground last year and year before last, are really kicking in.

 

The biggest vine in the yard is Passiflora “Incense” – it is the first one I planted, and it has really thrived.  Sadly, it doesn’t make fruit – but it sets usually 30 to 50 of these flowers every day.  They’re usually between 3″ and 4″ across.

 

 

You can see how vigorous the vine is – it’s this solid across about fifteen feet of fence.

 

 

P. “Constance Elliott” is a color sport of P. caerulea; it is exceptionally hardy, and also has a sweet fragrance, especially in the evenings.  I love the water on the petals – it’s something that this species just does.  Except for the driest, hottest days, these flowers look like they’ve been freshly dew-kissed.  The buds actually drop water if you bump them.  Tennyson wrote in Maud, “There has fallen a splendid tear / From the passion-flower by the gate.” I like the idea of splendid tears.

 

 

This is P. caerulea, the species.  The plant is doing OK, but not as well as the Constance Elliott – I think that the location doesn’t allow it quite as much enriched soil to dig in to.  I’ve put alpaca manure on it, which has helped a lot.  Sadly, the fruit is fairly insipid – it tastes almost more like a vegetable than a fruit.

 

 

P. incarnata, the native species, is my favorite for fruit.  You can read here about foraging them on the freeway verge, and making jelly.

 

 

We had some surprise seedlings – I didn’t realize that Chris had re-used some peat pots I had (unsuccessfully) tried planting passionflower seeds in.  When he planted tomato seeds and put them on the heat mat, the heat caused the passionflower to germinate. These flowers are from the sprouts from this spring!  He made these bamboo and string trellises for them.  So far, haven’t gotten any fruit, but they’re working on it.

 

 

Along the lines of fruits and flowers – I’m also growing some new hybrids.  This is P. “Temptation X Temptation.”  It’s a tetraploid – which means that it has been manipulated to have double the number of genes.  This tends to yield very vigorous plants.  I’m hoping that they prove cold-hardy here; we’re on the edge of their zone tolerance.

 

 

This delicate and beautiful white flower is from P. “Bill’s Delight” – which I got by mail-order, and was doing really well until it just turned brown in the stem and died from the base upward.  I don’t know what got to it.  I’ll probably get another one this fall, and try it again; the flower is really lovely. There are other white P. incarnata sports that are supposed to have more fruit (this one has more flowers, fewer fruits) and I’ll probably try one of those as well.

Currently, in the yard I have: Passiflora incarnata, Passiflora “Incense,” Passiflora caerulea, Passiflora “Constance Elliott,” Passiflora belotii (=alatocaerulea), Passiflora lutea, Passiflora “Amethyst,” Passiflora “Bucky,” Passiflora “Temptation x Temptation,” Passiflora “Clear Sky,” and one hybrid that I’m not sure of the name, and I’m waiting for flowers to get help with an ID.

 

 

With passionflowers, we always get plenty of these – this is the chrysalis of a Gulf Fritillary, Agraulis vanillae.  Unfortunately, I have to use some organic insect spray against them to keep them from totally stripping the vines.  They can have any on the back of the fence, and I have the ones on the front of the fence.

 

 

Gulf Fritillary on the lantana.  This shot is from last fall, but we’ve had lots this summer as well.

 

 

This Giant Swallowtail, Papilio cresphontes, really loves the lantana.  It doesn’t sit still very well, though!  Every picture of it was blurred somewhere.

 

 

With all the rain, the basil is doing great, we’ve got lots of squash and tomatoes… but also lots of bermuda grass and weeds.  It’s just too hot to spend much time weeding.

 

Summer Update 2: Silk

Summer is usually a slow time for silk work.  I’ve got a couple of wild native species caterpillars going, but no China silkworms, and not a lot of projects in the chute.  But in March, I took my silk show on a live news show, to drum up interest in the Dallas Handweavers and Spinners Guild‘s booth at ArtsPark (link to the video).  The show went very well, and I’m pleased with the visitors we saw at ArtsPark.