Friday, September 05, 2008

Monarch Chrysalis Update and Other Treats

Here's Thursday's update on our developing Monarch Chrysalis ... Fernymoss took this shot a little after 6:30 tonight when the light wasn't the greatest (it's been cloudy and rainy again today). We can detect a little more progress (you can begin to see the coloring in the wings), though the chrysalis still seems a bit on the cloudy side, but at least we didn't miss the emergence yet! I'm wondering if this sudden cool down has slowed its development a bit (care to weigh in on that, Shady?). We're supposed to get back into the sunnier 70s this weekend, so maybe that will make things move along more quickly ... No matter, we'll keep watching and posting on its progress...
Ok, this is an evil teaser shot of an upcoming post on the Toad Lilies who are starting to burst into bloom in the Woodland Garden, and there are going to be a lot of them! This particular cultivar, 'Amethystina,' was really slow to get going at first (it was a tiny mail order plant about 4 years ago), but this year it has really come into its own, and this the most it has ever bloomed thus far. What we really liked about this particular shot is that it shows the flowers at all stages of blooming ... from the bulbous buds, to the half open, fully open and even spent blooms. It's part of an ever expanding Toad Lily colony very close to the house, just outside our dining room windows, so every morning when I put up the blinds, I can get a good look at them. All 3 of the ones in this location in the Woodland Garden are spreading quite nicely, and our original one (which goes back about 7 years or more) is positively huge this year ... almost 4 ft tall! It's currently putting on a lot of buds, but has yet to start blooming in earnest.

Can you see now why I'm always proselytizing Toad Liles for the late summer/fall garden? They thrive in moist conditions in part to full shade, are virtually maintenance free (unless it's dry when, of course, they must be watered regularly), prolific bloomers, and produce downright fantastical flowers. Fernymoss likes to refer to them as 'Dr. Seuss Flowers' because of their whimsical forms ... they inevitably evoke comparisons to Orchids, but are in fact members of the Liliaceae family. One warning though: once you get hooked on Toad Lilies, it can quickly become addictive! I did refrain from buying any new ones this year, but that was only because the ones I saw for sale we already have! Stay tuned for an entire post on them coming soon....

Obviously there's a lot going on in this shot, so a little explanation is in order ... I think I've already whined and moaned about how the volunteer morning glories are threatening to take over again this year, but this is a kind of fun shot nonetheless. Believe it or not, that pole in the foreground is the support for a Blue Wisteria that Fernymoss is training into a tree form ... he had tied it earlier this summer and then these morning glories came in and picked up the task, so when we figured out that most were the purple ones (Grandpa Ott) we'd just let them do the tying for us. Since it was so cloudy today, these were still open in the early evening when he took this shot.

No worries though, the Wisteria is doing fine and is nicely supported, but the morning glories are going to have to go either before or after frost. To the left, and in the background, you can see our Castor Zanzibariensis in the back yard where it continues to grow ... seemingly by the minute! It's at least 7 ft tall now, and provided we don't get an early frost, it should put on at least a few more feet before all is said and done. Personally, if it doesn't get a chance to bloom, I'll be ok with that, because we have so many seeds from last year's plants we're in good shape for a couple of years (and have plenty to share). Castor seed viability is remarkable in that it will last at least 2-3 years, though when planting older seeds, we always plant several just to make sure at least a couple germinate. They're such an exotic, easy and fun plant to grow that we just have to have a few each year. I keep dreaming of an entire row of them lining the back garden space ... though if we did that, Fernymoss would have a lot to saw down after the killing freeze ... still, I think it would be a fun experiment!

Ok, this one's for Gail ... Here's a quick update on the new Celosia 'Caracas' plants that we have out in the front boulder bed ... this one is leaning over a bit (got top heavy!), but it shows how well they branch and bloom without any prodding. I continue to be impressed with this new variety, and look forward to seeing more of it next year (we'll be spreading a lot of seed around!) ... with its bronzy red foliage and stems --not to mention the blooms!-- so if you're already a fan of Celosia in any form, this is definitely one to look for in garden centers next year! Oh, and it's grown to over 4 ft so far ... what more could you ask of a Celosia?


Shady Gardener said...

What vibrant color!!! :-) I'm liking that celosia more every time I see it! Such a distinctively beautiful plant. I really like those morning glories, too. Do they get any shade, IVG? Did you start counting your days after the chrysalis was formed? You should see changes very soon!

Gail said...

Hello IVG!, Good Morning, Fantastic post! The Celosia is a great color, I am equally crazy about the leaves! Now will you collect seeds or let them grow where ever they fall? More info please! Did you know mine are in a container? They aren't as tall or branched like yours, but the flower is still pretty!

The Toad Lily is a most interesting plant. I told Shady that your gentle prodding motivated me to finally purchase T 'Empress". A beautiful little flower! Then this morning I found this one: Tricyrtis 'Imperial Banner' is an exciting new sport of Tricyrtis 'Empress' with cream and dark green variegated leaves and deep purple stems. The lovely orchid-like flowers are heavily purple spotted over a white base. Prefers a moist woodland setting. From Garden Crossings". It bears investigating!
Variegation would be nice in the woodland garden.

Well, it is finally raining and it will be a good few days to transplant new purchases!

Thanks for the mention!


Roses and Lilacs said...

The celosia is gorgeous. I wonder if it dries well and keeps its color?

What grass is that? I love it.

boran2 said...

Hi IVG! So many things going on and my garden is starting to wind down. I love those Celosia!

boran2 said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Iowa Victory Gardener said...

Hi Shady,
Isn't the color great? (I'll definitely put some seed aside for you when we collect it.) Those MGs are just plain old 'Grandpa Ott' variety, a very common one, in fact it's a weed in our yard!

We're still keeping watch, but with this rainy, dramatic cool down of late, not much has been going on with the chrysalis, and it still looks pretty much like the last shot. Maybe with warmer weather later this week it will get going?

Iowa Victory Gardener said...

Hi Gail,
As for the celosia, we'll collect some seed and just let the rest scatter about as it may, but each flower produces literally hundreds (if not thousands) of seeds, there's plenty to go around! Next year, try starting them in pots in early spring and then set them out in the ground as it warms up and hopefully you'll get bigger, branchier plants!

Yay! I made another Toad Lily convert! I'll have to look up those new ones you got ... there are so many cultivars, it's hard to keep up with them all, but they all seem to share the same basic, stunning beautiful characteristics. I've never met a Toad Lily that didn't steal my heart!

Glad you are (were?) getting rain! It was another dreary, chilly rainy day here today, *sigh.*

Iowa Victory Gardener said...

Hi Marnie,
Glad you like this one! Unfortunately, none of the 'plumosa' varieties dry very well, hold their shape or color, which is a pity. When we had the 'cockscomb' type we always dried those and they will last for several years before they start falling apart.

That's 'Porcupine Grass' (aka: Miscanthus sinensis 'Strictus') ... it's pretty common around here and easy to find at nurseries, but it's such a pretty one we just love having this huge stand. And it does put up really tall plumy blooms in fall that you could dry and use in arrangements, though we just leave ours on the plant for winter interest (it looks great with snow on it).

Iowa Victory Gardener said...

Hi B2,
Things are beginning to wind down a bit here, but there's still a lot to come, we hope. I bet you have interesting stuff going on in your garden, but you just haven't found it yet! Maybe you should BoranBoy on the hunt for caterpillars and chrysalises? That would keep him busy for a while, I bet. :-)

As for the Celosia, look for it next year by name, and remember where you saw it first! (hehe, gotta earn my commission somehow, HA)

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