Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Porcupine is Hibernating Now

Hi folks, just a quick post here tonight, but I promise I have more and better to come soon, once work calms down just a wee bit. Apologies for going AWOL again lately, but we're hitting a peak time at work and I've been working insane hours the past couple of weeks, thus the paucity of posts. I took these shots late in the afternoon on November 2, which was one of our last recent "warmish" days, and now we're in the sudden cold, with freezing rain, sleet and rain forecast for tonight and through tomorrow. So much for that brief fling of Indian Summer that lasted what ... about five days? Such are the caprices of Iowa fall/early winter weather!

Anyway, this first shot is a close up of the feathery plumes of Miscanthus sinensis, aka 'Porcupine Grass,' one of a few of our ornamental grasses we have planted. We started with two small pots of it about four years ago, and it has really staked out its territory now, and boasts a commanding presence just behind "Finger Rock" near the corner of the front Boulder Bed.

This second shot shows the entirety of its stand, as well as its numerous bloom stalks, which provide some really nice winter interest to the garden, especially when they're covered in snow! (Not that I'm in any big hurry to see that, there's plenty of time in December and January for it!) 'Porcupine Grass' didn't get its name by chance, and if you've ever encountered it up close and personal, you'll know why! It's very sharp and can inflict some nasty cuts and scratches to unprotected skin, but provided you keep your distance, it's a great garden specimen with lots of interest throughout the growing season and beyond, well into the winter months. It's really a very low maintenance plant that's not picky about soil, does well in heat and drought, and only asks for a cutting back (to about 3-4 inches) in early spring (about the time the bulbs start blooming), and it's quite happy to perform in sunny areas, expanding gradually to form a large clump over the ensuing years. Should it get too big for your space, you can easily divide it and plant the sections elsewhere or share with your gardening friends. That's not likely to happen with ours for a while at least, and if and when it outgrows its present spot, we'll probably just move new divisions to other parts of the garden ... that's how much we love this plant!

Though this shot is a bit dark in the foreground, if you look closely, you can just make out the Celosia 'Dark Caracas' lying down in front of the rock, a victim of both recent high winds and freezes. We tried collecting some seed from it this past weekend, but apparently it has already dropped most of it, so it should be popping up all over the area next year once the ground warms in late spring. We're still going to see if we can scrape up a bit from the two plants to start indoors so we can plant it elsewhere next year. (Note to Gail: now would be a good time to see if you can collect some, since you've had your first frost!) As I've noted previously, this is a must to plant if you're a fan of Celosia species, and if you're lucky enough to find it in garden centers next year, do consider giving it a sunny home for the season!

Just as an aside, I received an email from a woman in Clermont, France over the weekend about problems with aphids on this plant (she's valiantly trying to grow it indoors!), and though we've never had this problem with any of our various Celosias, I've wondered if anyone else has experienced this problem ... I recommended an infusion of Cayenne pepper steeped in boiling water with dish detergent added to it as an insecticidal spray. That has worked wonders for us in the past when we had an infestation of Whiteflies on our tomatoes one year, and also should work for some of the other common 'sucking' pests associated with certain plants (such as spider mites). It's an eco-friendly and organic solution that costs little and doesn't harm either the plant or the soil, so maybe you can put this tip to use with your own plants. If you don't have Cayenne on hand, you can also use those little packets of crushed red pepper that often come with pizza ordered for delivery! We've used those and they work fine as well, and you can pat yourself on the back for re-purposing something that you might ordinarily discard in the trash! (We keep those around just in case we need them for just this purpose!)

Ok, sorry for probably spotty posting this week, but hope springs eternal that I can get back on track again soon, and as always, I truly cherish my regular readers, whether you comment or not. You're the rays of sunshine who brighten the dreary days of fall and winter now upon us....


Gail said...


Tagged and bagged the celosia! I had a few flowering stalks that I cut for an indoor arrangement and they are actually going to seed! Not sure they will be viable but hey why not give it a try. By the way the celosia came through the frost! It might be a little hardier then I thought...I did see a giant stand of a similar type at our local botanical garden...must see how it's doing.

Really, you will get snow in December? I remember snow we used to have one or two pleasant snow showers a year but not anymore!

Talk with you later!


boran2 said...

Nice photos, IVG. We've been thinking about getting some tall grass for a while. Maybe 2009 will be our year.

Shady Gardener said...

IVG, Beautiful stand of grass! I like your helpful hint as to "critter control" and will copy it for next year. Our forecast shows a couple of sunny, slightly warmer (40s) weather Monday and Tuesday. Perhaps you'll be out from under your heavy load by then. And perhaps I'll be out raking? ;-)

Iowa Victory Gardener said...

Hi Gail,
Good for you, you were on it sooner than we were! I think if we had cut some of the blooms before frost and dried them, we could have used them indoors as well. I'd say yeah, why not try those seeds that drop from your dried one and give them a shot! As we always say when planting seeds of questionable viability ... no harm done, and if they come up they do, otherwise they're compost!

Iowa Victory Gardener said...

Hey B2,
This is sure an easy tall grass to grow, just give it time (unless you spring for a big plant to start with ... ours were in 4 in pots and small). Pampas Grass is cool too, but it didn't do well for us and didn't survive the winter. The taller Fountain Grasses are pretty too, but Porcupine is really attractive because it has the yellow "stripes" on the blades....

Iowa Victory Gardener said...

Hi Shady!
Do you remember this from when you visited? Obviously it's lost its color now, but it was so pretty this year. I'm surprised you didn't know that tip on "critters," we've used it for pests for years... And cayenne sprinkled on things rabbits eat will discourage them too! Problem is, if it rains you have to re-apply it.

I sure hope it warms up a bit soon, because we're not used to the cold yet, even with the heat on! We just need a couple of nice days to get the rest of the crocus and fritillarias in....

Janet said...

Neat idea!!!

Sucking pests. So can I use this remedy on politicians?? :)

Iowa Victory Gardener said...

LOL, Janet!
I can't guarantee it will work on politicians, but it might at least make them feel unpleasant sensations, lol.

Works great for a lot of bugs, and dish soap spray is a handy friend for indoor plants too.

Anonymous said...

I love it! Very creative!That's actually really cool.


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