Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Monarch Metamorphosis and Migration Miracles

While this is going on in my kitchen...

...this happened just three miles away.

We're smack in the middle of peak monarch migration through our area here in northwest Ohio. Several hundred of them stopped to rest and stay warm through the night at the home of Steve and Deb Plummer, near Latty, on Monday.

Normally, during the day, migrating monarchs are in the air en route to their wintering grounds in central Mexico and will travel 25-30 miles per day. But flight isn't particularly efficient or even possible when the temperatures are below a certain level. (Generally, 50°F.) Monday struggled to reach 58° here and coupled with the rain, these smart flyers decided to stay put.


Deb had contacted our local newspaper, the Paulding Progress, for which I write a weekly gardening column, to let them know about the visitors. My editor then contacted me to see if I could go snap a photo or two for this week's paper. I ran out the door.

We have seen overnight roosts here three times before (2003, 2007, and 2011), with two of those times being right here in our backyard at Our Little Acre. But we've never seen so many.  We're going to venture a guess at possibly as many as 500 monarchs were traveling in this caravan.

They're mostly silent, even with several testing the prospect of moving on. Once in awhile, we could hear the gently flutter of their wings. Romie remarked that seeing them draped on the trees like this reminded him of photos we've seen of them as they are in winter diapause in the oyamel fir forests of central Mexico.

It's a dream that I will likely never realize, to visit the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve near Angangueo, Mexico, during winter, to see them in all their miraculous glory. But you never know.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Daylily Proliferations

Hemerocallis 'Sarah Christine'
I have never really thought of myself as being a daylily fan (no pun intended!), but I've been rethinking this in the last few years.  Every time I see a beautiful one, I want it. In spite of the foliage of some of them getting rather ratty looking late in the season, I still want it. I've made a compromise with those by cutting the foliage back to about 8-10 inches and pulling off the brown and yellowed leaves.

As a result of my non-love of daylilies, I have no less than 44 different ones (possibly a couple more that I missed when I just went out to count) and I have a wish list of some that I'll buy if I ever run across them.

One of my favorites is a very large lemon yellow one, called 'Sarah Christine'. The American Hemerocallis Society's Online Daylily Database says this about it...

 'Sarah Christine' 
Introduced by Millikan-Soules in 1993

Scape height: 28 inches
Bloom size: 6 inches
Bloom season: Early-Midseason
Ploidy:  Diploid
Foliage type: Evergreen
Fragrance: Fragrant
Bloom habit: Diurnal
Color: Pale yellow and ivory to pink bicolor with cream throat
Parentage: (Siloam Mama × Groovy Green)

I would challenge the bloom size as stated in the database.  Mine have gotten larger than that on a regular basis. Regardless, it's one of the larger blooming daylilies out there. Its color doesn't really command attention because there are a gazillion yellow daylilies (at least), but its size certainly does, and that makes it worth having.

This week as I was walking through the garden doing a bit of late summer clean-up, I noticed 'Sarah Christine' was doing something her friends and cousins hadn't. She had proliferations! I've had a daylily do this before, but I didn't do anything with them and merely cut off the scape and composted it.

What are proliferations?

Sometimes a daylily will start to form little plantlets at nodes on the stem of a flower scape. These will often form roots while still attached to the plant. If the stem of the scape is cut on both sides of the plantlet - the proliferation - and put into potting soil, a new plant can be grown. It will be a clone of the mother plant - in other words, identical to it.

'Sarah Christine' has several proliferations on this flower scape. The middle
one is actually two, which I will pot up together.

The reason I don't get too many of these is because I'm pretty obsessive about cutting scapes off once they're finished blooming.  I missed this one.

There are four proliferations on this scape.

I cut it off at its base and then cut each proliferation and put them in water so they can form some roots before I pot them up. I'll keep the potted plants in the greenhouse this winter and then plant them out near the mother plant in the spring.

'Sarah Christine' had babies!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

A Self-Seeded Surprise

Since the majority of the garden where we have the most space to grow edibles has become mostly shady, we needed to find somewhere else to grow things like corn and squash. Our neighbor to the south has a large yard with no trees at all and a few years ago, he graciously allowed us to dig up a rectangular area at the back of his property for us to garden.

Last year, we grew corn over most of it, including beautiful 'Glass Gem', a flint/popcorn variety that took the internet by storm the year before. Though we saved plenty of seed from last year for growing it this year, we didn't plant any.

We did plant three different kinds of sweet corn and we got a decent crop for eating, but that season was over several weeks ago. Last weekend, Romie mentioned that there were several stalks in one corner of the plot that remained green while the rest were drying and straw-colored. He suggested that perhaps these were volunteers from last year's 'Glass Gem', since that matured later than our sweet corn varieties.

Curious, we walked over there and I peeled the husks back on one of the ears and how about that? 

Either these were seeds that we'd planted last year and they hadn't germinated until this spring (not too likely) or there was an ear that got left on the ground last year long enough that it dried sufficiently to have some kernels pop off the ear onto the ground. That doesn't seem too likely either, since we saved all available seed at the end of the season and I don't think we missed harvesting any ears.

However it happened, we're going to have eight or so ears of 'Glass Gem' this year! What a happy surprise. :-)

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