What’s In a Name? Part 1 Cicada Killer

These two inch long wasps are scary enough, but the name Cicada Killer makes one think twice about them. They have the less scary proper name of Drimipsis maculata. The giant wasp does kill cicadas, but otherwise ignores humans.  I must have dozens of them this year.  They fly close to the ground and I can stand among them as the large females circle around.

The calls from cicadas have lessened as the female Cicada Killers collect them to take into the 10 inch tunnels that are being dug in all my beds.  Meanwhile, the males fly around and spar with each other and mate with the females.

I have found many more of these sandy nests around the yard this year compared to previous years.  A few times I have seen a female go into a tunnel and once saw a wasp dive into the nest with a cicada which they lay their eggs on to feed their larva. While these wasps are pretty chill, I did see one chase a hummingbird away from her territory. Sadly, these big gals only live 60 to 75 days and their only goal in life is to reproduce.

I checked through my blog and realized I have posted quite a few times on these wasps.  Check out the links if you would like more information on these fascinating creatures.


It’s Beginning to Look Like Spring

I found it surprising that Spring seems to be on the way.  Maybe it is because I have not done my Fall clean-up.  The first two photos are two different salivias that are holding on to old growth while the new stems are already quite tall.  The other photo is rosettes of the cardinal flower well under way.

It has been an unusually warm winter and the cannas, gingers and drimiopsis seems to be coming up too early.

The native onion grass is popping up in the leaves along with corocosmia and snowflakes.

Even the Rose of Sharon seems to have had a short rest.  As always, there is good and bad with all this growth.  The good part is looking forward to a wonderful early blooming spring, but winter is not over and a hard freeze will knock all this new growth back to start over again.


Possible Suspect in “Bed” Case

I glanced out of the window and saw one of my plants jiggling.  While I was trying to figure out why, this Red-eared Slider came out of the bed.  I grabbed my camera and headed outside.  I assumed the turtle was away from water to lay some eggs.  I inspected my flower bed and found the African Hosta, Drimiopsis maculata, in this bed was flatten also.  Did I solve the mystery of my previous blog “Who’s Been Sleeping in My Bed?”

After the photo shoot, the turtle headed back into the flower bed.  Female Red-eared Sliders will travel long distances over land to lay their eggs. I would guess this one is from the lake not too far from my house.  She had to cross the street to get here.

The female turtle will search for a suitable place to lay 2 to 17 eggs.  This may explain why I am finding plants that are flattened, but not eaten.

Red-eared Sliders can lay 5 clutches in a year.  The eggs incubate in 2 to 3 months. One problem with incubation is that raccoons like to eat the eggs.

After the turtles hatch, the babies must find their own way to water.  A few years ago, I found this one heading down my driveway to the lake.

With gloved hands I caught  the little turtle and took it across the street to the woods near the lake.  Hopefully, this year I will find some more hatchlings.

 


Who’s Been Sleeping in My Bed?

During my morning walk through the yard, I noticed my little bed of Drimiopsis maculata was partially flatten.  What critter decided to curl up in my bed?  I will probably never know, but I sure don’t like it.

Drimiopsis Maculata grow really well in the Southern garden.  They are a great substitute for hostas and are sometimes called African Hostas, as they are originally from South Africa.  The plant grows in shade, any kind of soil and easily reproduces which makes it the perfect plant for the Automatic Garden.

 

 

 


Currently Blooming

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I have been a bit worried about whether or not my perennials and reseeders would come back this year after all the harsh weather.  Butterflies and Hummingbirds are starting to arrive and there was not much for them to feed on as the freeze took most of the flowers.  I have been relieved the past week or so to see my plants returning. The following photos are of plants that have faithfully grown in the Automatic Garden for years.

I have a large collection of Amaryllis, but they have not bloomed over the last few years.  I was thrilled to find this one blooming.

This little Coreopsis has started to put out a few flowers.

Clematis do not enjoy our climate, but this one is in a pot on the shaded patio.  It really liked the cold spell and has put out several blooms.

The White Soldiers (Drimiopsis maculata)  have been a prolific and are planted throughout the gardens.  This patch sat in water for days.

Old faithful, my red Saliva  (Coccinea), was completely mowed down from the freeze and is just starting to come back.

This small shrub was started by seed. The original Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow (Brunfeisia) was accidentally cut down recently.

The red Canna was a passalong and I don’t think any amount of bad weather could kill it.

For nearly 20 years the Back Eyed Susan has been reseeding itself.

Bees and hummers are happy to see the Gulf Coast Penstemon flowers. This plant is also a passalong and does so well that it needs to be thinned every year.

The Columbine aquilegia has not done well lately, so it was good to see several plants blooming this year.

Speaking of faithful, the rabbits are back and appear when I am out in the yard to remind me to put some seed down for them.

Of course no good deed goes unpunished and the rabbits ate my new Coneflower down to the ground.

 

 


Spring Clean-up

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A killing freeze descended on this part of the country and for the Automatic Garden, it was a blessing in disguise.  I had been away from the garden quite a bit last year and many chores went undone.  The Automatic Garden did what it was designed to do and kept on growing, propagating and reseeding, resulting in a interwoven tangle of plants.

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The freeze gave clarity to what needed to be pulled, transplanted and cut back.  I have been spending hours everyday getting the garden in shape.

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Other chores included filling in a hole dug over the winter by some animal, which was probably an armadillo.  It was much more work than it looks and the dirt is heavy clay. The extremely strong gingers were able to push their way through the pile of clay and the dirt had to be carefully removed.

Volunteers had to be rounded up and replanted into their places in the garden. There were many, but free plants are a good thing.

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A scant few flowers have begun to bloom in the garden.  Most years have flowers blooming all year around, but the freeze knocked back almost all of the winter flowering plants. This red canna is a welcome sight.

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Drimiopsis maculata unfurled its spotted leaves and sent out flowers in no time.  The plant is a great substitute for hostas in the South.

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The climbing rose is blooming and dripping from a tree.

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Pink Flamingo Celosia  usually stands three feet tall before blooming, but this one couldn’t wait.

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The Shrimp plant came back from its roots and the few blooms were welcomed by the Buff-bellied Hummingbird that has wintered here.

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The Bottlebrush has perfect timing providing food for the arriving Ruby Throated Hummers and the honey bees that are living near by.

Bit by bit I am seeing my hard labor paying off and I have high hopes for a beautiful garden this summer.