- Author: Launa Herrmann
Recently, I learned about a cleverly disguised predator of pollinators. In fact, both the bee and the butterfly easily succumb to its charms. This insect, commonly referred to as the orchid mantis (Hymenopus coronatus), is native to Asia's southeastern rainforests, primarily Indonesia and Malaysia.
In my own garden, I'm always on the lookout for a praying mantis (mantis religiosa). I find this insect fascinating with its ability to change color and a name derived from the “prayer posture” it assumes as if its hands are folded in gratitude for each meal. Yesterday, after I discovered one clinging to the support stake I had hammered next to a dahlia, I couldn't help but wonder how many butterflies and bees this local “impersonator of plant stems” had devoured that day.
A couple tidbits about this family of camouflaged Carnivora include:
- Adult females are known to eat the male during and after mating
- The mantis is equipped with a triangular head that rotates 180 degrees to scan its surrounding for prey.
- An orchid mantis is known to attract more pollinators than flowers since its color is indistinguishable from the 13 species of wildflowers in its natural habitat according to biologist James O'Hanlow at Macquaire University in Sydney, Australia.
- The front legs of the orchid mantis are toothed in shape yet cleverly disguised as the inviting petals of a flower.
To view additional photos and learn more about the orchid mantis, visit these websites:
- Author: JoEllen P Myslik
I think anyone who has been anywhere near an ocean has seen pampas grass (Cortaderia jubata). I actually grew up in Florida and pampas was one of the things my Mother loved most about going to beach and one of things she said she would miss most when they moved to Colorado.
But as most of us know, pampas is not only found it seaside locations, but very far inland as well. However, what many might not know is that it is an invasive, and in fact, is one of California's most invasive plants. A companion plant and look-alike is Cortaderia selloana, which comes in various forms and is sometimes found in nurseries. While not as invasive as Cortaderia jubata, Cortaderia selloana is, indeed, invasive. Since each plume produces thousands of seeds that can be carried by winds up to 20 miles, pampas grass spreads quickly, so unless it is planted in a very confined area with little chance that its seeds could blow over the fence; it is wise to avoid it.
What I had never personally seen though is pink pampas grass. On a walk this past weekend at the Point Isabel Dog Park, I caught a glimpse of the pretty pink plume in the setting sun. I thought it was very unique and quite stunning, but quickly realized I would have to be an admirer, not an owner.
But, according to the IPM website (http://www.ipm.ucdavis.edu/PMG/PESTNOTES/pn74139.html), these invasives seem to be readily available: in a study done in California in 2003, Cortaderia selloana was found in 35 of 125 nurseries (28%) in 9 counties. Plus, in researching information for this article, I found numerous sites that sold these plants as well as seeds, and of course, even on Amazon (which I'm convinced sells literally everything under the sun!). But I urge you; resist the temptation to purchase pampas in any form or any color, no matter how pretty or drought tolerant it may be. The bottom line is that it is an invasive, and as the IPM website states: “There are three basic aspects of weed control that also apply to invasive plants: prevention, eradication, and management.” So if you don't have it in your yard to begin with, your gardening job is easier since you don't have to eradicate or manage it.
- Author: Mike Gunther
SUMMER BLOOMS FADING
AUTUMN APPROACHES US SOON
IS RAIN POSSIBLE?
- Author: Betty Homer
This is the third installment in a four-part series where I feature an urban farm I visited this past summer on the Urban Farm Tour organized by the Institute of Urban Homesteading located in Oakland, California.
Aesthetically speaking, my favorite site of the farm urban farms I visited this year, was at Earthly Arts Farm located in South Berkeley. This was/is the site to visit to learn about maximizing food production while maintaining beauty in the garden, with an eye on water conservation.
This lot consists of 10,600 square feet and the area used for urban farming/gardening consists of 4,000 square feet (i.e., 37% of the property was devoted to growing food and other homesteading activities). The property owner, Sequoiah Wachenheim, is a very talented and interesting individual, who wears many professional hats, including, but not limited to, being both a landscaper and an artist.
Ms. Wachenheim's backyard farm is permaculture and French-intensive inspired. The aesthetics of her backyard farm reflects Ms. Wachenheim's years of experience in garden design and visual arts. Front and side yards are planted with drought tolerant ornamental gardens and pollinator habitat.
Ms. Wachenheim began the tour by discussing the history of her house and the property it sits on. It is an older home (I believe she said it was built in the 1930's) which was originally situated down the street from its current location. At some point prior to Ms. Wachenheim acquiring the property, the home was physically picked up and moved to its present location, such that it sits between 2 lots.
Ms. Wachenheim started improving her backyard 10 years ago by sheet mulching an applying horse manure. On the tour, Ms. Wachenheim told the story of how she had an acquaintance who would occasionally dump truckloads of free horse manure in front of her house. She carted most of it into her backyard, all the while tending to her sleeping child who was napping in a nearby baby stroller.
Over the years, Ms. Wachenheim has planted 26 varieties of fruit trees around the perimeter including, but not limited to, pears, persimmons, apples, pomegranates, peaches, cherries, mulberries, apricots, plums, lemons, limes, and oranges. She has added a small outbuilding constructed from salvaged wood and reclaimed windows, and a greenhouse. As water conservation is central to Ms. Wachenheim's garden design, she has a 1500 gallon rainwater catchment tank and 2 greywater systems located on her property which recycles all the grey water from her house. Ms. Wachenheim irrigates her plants on drip. She also keeps chickens for pets and for eggs and rescued a rabbit whose pellets help fertilize her backyard.
Although Ms. Wachenheim's was open to the public only on tour, more information about her can be found at http://www.earthlyarts.com/.
- Author: Betsy Buxton
This is a true story but the name of the Master Gardener has been changed to protect the guilty. In the spring of 2013, a Master Gardener whom I know intimately decided to plant a small vegetable garden in her back yard. Since she had a large weedy area at her disposal and really didn't want to plant too many veggies (she's married to a guy from Ohio who eats only green beans, corn, peas w/ potatoes generously plopped on the side – BUT NOT TOUCHING), she decided to use 2 plastic half barrels that she had found at the side of the road at work. Into 1 barrel went 1 “Sweet 100” tomato plant and around it, she strew some multi-colored carrot seeds; this was her idea of living dangerously! Since the carrots would be small for a while, she also tossed in some “Globe” radish seeds. In the other barrel half, she strew beet and more carrot seeds which were followed by the rest of the radish seed packet. Being a good, well trained Master Gardener, she of course had read the instructions and followed them to a “T”! She was expecting great things, things that her husband would eat. She watered and waited for the goodies to sprout. She waited and waited – nothing came up! No radishes, no carrots and, certainly, no beets!! So much for the follow directions and there they grow. Nothing!! Nada!! Zip!! So the well-trained Master Gardener said “Phooey ( r words to that effect) and give up her veggie garden plans. Oh yes, she got tomatoes, just not very many; but she got tomatoes!
After the first frost that year, the tomato bush croaked and was pulled up. Lo and behold, here were little ferny tops growing and 2 little beet sprouts. She decided that they were true “late bloomers” and left them alone to grow or become raccoon or possum or rat treats ( he lives close to the Suisun Marsh). They survived the cold and damp and were still growing this spring.
Leaving these veggies to their own devices, the Master Gardener left them alone – she watered as necessary but did nothing more. Last week, it looked like she had a passel of beets and carrots growing there in the half barrel. Nosiness took over and she decided to see just how many beets were in the barrel and ready to eat. With a yank, the “beets” came out of the ground. Yipe, there was only 1 huge beet with 5 leafy tops. When weighed, that beet was a 5 lb. whopper!! The 2 carrots each weighed 2 lbs each: 1 was light red-orange with bite marks out of the top of one side and the other turned out to be white with a 6 inch band of green at the top. The orange carrot was 10 inches long and the green/white one was 12 inches! Not too woody when cleaned and cut and cooked.
The beet unfortunately was shaped pretty much like a beef-heart and was a very pale yellow which faded into white when cut up and cooked and then pickled; the core was removed because of pith.
And what did the well-trained Master Gardener learn from all this? She told me: buy the fresh produce from the Farmers' Market and don't let beets and carrots grow for 2 seasons!