Around the Garden

A zinnia just opening.

The perfect host.


Autumn Gingers

X Maximun – Hedychium thyrsiforme

I was on vacation this summer when my gingers bloomed, missing the jewels of my garden. Thankfully, the gingers must have missed me too and put on some end of summer flowers. Above is the white Maximum Ginger that formed a pretty wreath of flowers around its cone.

Pink V- Hedychium hybrid

Pink V, which doesn’t look very pink to me, has bloomed in two of my beds.

Butterfly Ginger – Hedychium coronarium

White Butterfly Ginger, which smells divine, was the first ginger of my collection given to me by my mother-in-law.

Shampoo Ginger – Zingiber zerumber

Shampoo Ginger will turn dark red and it was actually used to wash hair. I haven’t tried it.

Yellow Dancing Lady – Globba Schomburgkii

The Yellow Dancing Lady was coming to the end of its blooming season, but I find the bulbils interesting. As the rabbits have disappeared from my yard, I have colonies of them coming up everywhere. Like most gingers, they need light shade in this zone and some did not pick the correct place to grow and got sunburned.

Spiral Ginger – Costus barbatus

The Spiral Ginger struggled for awhile, but has really grown and reproduced during the last few years. Even though I missed the big show of blooms, I am pleased that a few gingers bloomed late for my enjoyment.

If Wishbone Plants Were Wishes…

I would have endless wishes to make. Wishbone plants get their name from wishbone shaped stamens. It is a tradition to take the wishbone from a turkey and snap it in half with another person to make a wish. If you got the long part, your wish came true. I have lots of wishbones in my Torenia fournieri that I could snap. Can you see the wishbone at the top of the flower?

The Wishbone is a tough little annual plant that likes part sun and is reseeding profusely in my garden beds. In the evening, I find Hummingbird Moths feeding on them.

I was on a long vacation when the plants germinated and I found them everywhere when I returned. I normally transplant them when they are small, but they became too mature to move. Luckily, I focus on plants and not design. The Wishbones have helped make my poor Split Leaf Philodendron look a little better as it struggles after being frozen last winter.

The Wishbones appeared in the front yard and in patio cracks. How the plants will play when the gardener is away.

All of the Wishbones came up from seeds and here are some of the variations. Pink is the most prolific. Torenias have other names that include Bluewing, Clown Flower and my favorite, Summer Pansy which is its Southern name as we cannot grow real Pansies in the summer heat.

A New Crew Arrives

A new crew of hummingbirds has arrived in town. They took over guarding the feeders. The new group are Rufous Hummingbirds or possibly Allen’s. Both birds are very similar.

Rufous are one of the most aggressive hummers and lots of fights have ensued. They hit each other hard enough to hear the clash and can knock their competitors to the ground. But not to worry as many of the Ruby Throated have headed down the coast for the hummingbird festivals.

Hummer Mania

I now have more than ten migrating hummingbirds enjoying a stop-over in my garden.

I tired to post a video showing all the manic midair jousting, but I couldn’t get it to work.

So instead, I sat in the backyard with my camera ready to get some action shots.

I have five feeders up.

Each feeder has a “guard” that chases other hungry hummers away.

I believe most of the hummingbirds are Ruby Throated juveniles.

They are so intent on feeding, I can sit on the porch just five feet away and watch all the action.

This individual is definitely a mature male and is in charge of this feeder.

When getting access to the sugar water fails, the hummingbirds can always feed on the flowers I grow for them, such as this salvia.

Another hummer favorite is the Cigar Plant, Cuphea ignea.

A cold front has moved into the area, which means for us that temperatures will only be in the mid 80’s, but it could be a signal for the hummingbirds to move on. Luckily, our winter climate is just right for hummingbirds from the far Northwest and Alaska. The flowers and feeders will be ready for them.

Cardinal Flowers

Nature has the best timing and many flowers bloom at just the right time for the Hummingbird migration. I finally got some Cardinal Flowers to germinate a few years ago and they have become a Hummingbird favorite.

To make sure I’m always entertained, I grow the Cardinal Flowers right outside of my kitchen window. It is on the north side of the house and even though it gets plenty of sun, the plants tend to get tall and leggy. This year I cut the perennial Cardinal Flowers back in early spring and the plants developed at least four more stems.

More stems resulted in many more flowers and cutting them early kept the plants from falling over.

Cardinal Flowers have all the characteristics that attract Hummingbirds, a dark red color and tubular shape. I have been hosting about six Hummers for weeks. The little birds spend hours jousting in midair providing me with dawn to dusk entertainment.

A Shell of a Former Self

It is not unusual to find cicada exoskeletons hanging around the garden. This one was in good shape. I read that the cicadas slip out of their shell in the darkness of night.

This photo taken with my iPhone in the morning sun, came out a sunburned red.


If you were a bird and could choose a birdbath, which would be the most inviting? A natural stone bath surrounded by trees for a quick get-away?

A beautiful glass one tucked into a flower bed?

Or a dirty plant saucer on an open patio that was left behind when the pot was removed? As it turns out, the birds perfer the dirty plant saucer out in the open. So much for thoughtful placement and spending money on birdbaths.

Turtle Visit

Box turtles continue to visit the Automatic Garden. I’m not totally sure why the turtles come, but it may be the leaf litter that I allow to gather under the trees and the fact that this is the highest land in the area. I found this one heading into one of my flower beds. I got a really good shot that showed a small round hole on the left side of the shell.

I had another run in with the same turtle, identified by the same hole in the shell, as it was heading down the driveway to the street.

I quickly grabbed some gloves and redirected the turtle.

And yet on another day I found it again.

This time the turtle was cooperative and posed for a picture.

Mother of Thousands Revisited

The Mother of Thousands, Kalanchoe daigremontiana, can become very invasive. Each leaf grows rows of tiny plantlets that drop, roll or blow away to a new location and grow into another full size plant. Mother can grow in just a smidgen of soil. The plant does make very interesting flowers, but they bloom in the winter and need to be covered during a cold snap. This year the February freeze took its toll on them and I decided to clear them out as they are a bit of a pain.

But, then I saw them highlighted in the Longwood Garden’s instagram as a very special plant. Luckily, one can never get rid of the Mother of Thousands and I found some growing that I had missed in my mission to be rid of them. This time, I am growing them in pots (like Longwood) allowing the plants to be easily moved into the garage when it gets cold.

Longwood Gardens is in Kennett Square, PA. It is a 1,000 acres of gardens and fountains. Its conservatory contains many plants that are grown on the Gulf Coast, including Mother of Thousands.