The Wild Gardener

Welcome to the 2019 Global
Warming Summer Days of
The Wild Gardener!

--and find the answers to all sorts of questions dealing with gardening, wildflowers, native plants, an occasional orchid (or two), your life style, and how to bring Nature's World (usually minus "tooth and claw") into your own back yard. My email is located at the bottom of the page, in case you wish to get in touch about the site, my opinions, your opinions, of just the crowded path leading to justice in America.


     
     

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Books Written and Illustrated by Peter Loewer

Educational Presentations with Peter Loewer

Growing Unusual Fruit

Prints by Peter Loewer

Vitreographs: Series 1

Vitreographs: Series 2

A Fungus, Among Us!

On the Green Road with Tosca and Forest

The Trip to Scotland

The Botanical Gardens

The Beauty of the Moss Garden

Ferns for the Graceful Garden

Smithsonian Archive of American Gardens

Plant & Seed Sources

 

 

 

"Remember, a paranoiac is simply a person in full possession of the facts"

"Anyone who has a library and a garden wants for nothing." Marcus Tullius Cicero.

 

 

 

"Every breath is a guinea in the bank of health." Robert Morley in Truman Capote's script for Beat the Devil.

 

 

 

"A narcissist is someone better looking than you are." Gore Vidal.

 

 

"Since then the Moon has heard jackals cheeping in thyme deserts--" Arthur Rimbaud in "A Season in Hell."

"A jay hasn't got any more principle than a Congressman. A jay will lie, a jay will steel, a jay will decieve, a jay will betray; and four times out of five, a jay will go back on his solomnest promise. The sacredness of an obligation is a thing which you can't cram into no bluejay's head." Mark Twain in his story "What Stumped the Bluejays."

"He's not worth a sack of peatmoss!" said by orchid grower Ray Milland to Detective Columbo in the 1972 TV program entitled "The Greenhouse Jungle."

"History celebrates the battlefields whereon we meet our death, but scorns to speak of the plowed fields whereby we thrive. It knows the names of the kings' bastards but cannot tell us the origin of wheat. This is the way of human folly."
-- J. H. Fabre

 

 

 

 

 

Stealing the Garden! What was once the glory of the garden is now color swatches parlayed by interior decorators into TV shows of such insignificance, that even Fox News has purpose. Thanks to Pam Beck for sending me the following quote from the BBC Garden Site:

"I have to say that I am really angry at the moment. I have watched with increasing frustration my beloved hobby, my chosen way of life, the thing I love the most hijacked by what seems to me to be a gang of interior decorators and installation artists."
-- Nigel Colborm

 


Summer Is Stepping Out from the Wings--
Still Hot and Twisted!

Spring arrived early this year and our climate is beginning to look like the results of crying out "Trump!" in a game of bridge where all the cards are stacked against you. Whatever the card you picked, the results will be a climatic topsey-turvey, and include, not in any prescribed order, heaviest rains falling since record-keeping began, temperatures going up above the equator and falling in the ocean and lands below the equator. Why not find a relative in Australia, and ask them how the present winter is going?
In almost three decades of visiting and living in Asheville, this spring is the first time ever for Lenten roses
beginning to bloom on February 24 and today on July 6, every perennial that nature planned for opening in summer have already hit the blooming big time with such abandon to horticultural principles you begin to wonder what's next? For example, once just a short time ago, when heavy rain fell it usually averaged one inch per hour; not its two inches and getting deeper! But take solice in the fact that our Presdent still thinks publicly that global warming is a hoax invented by the Chinese.

One of the Few Advantages of Global Warming
in Western North Carolina!

As I write this it's only ending the first week of July, but out in the front yard crepe myrtles are blooming--a month or more early--while back on the deck my hybiscus flowers (see below) are opening to 9 inches across by 11:00am, seedlings of the black-eyed susan vine that emerged two weeks ago, are already opening flowers!
When walking the mountain trails where the wildflowers bloom, from violets to trilliums, all the blossoms were generally two or three weeks early. And as gardener, I know that we'll pay for these early periods of early flowering. According to Wicke- pedia: "The area's summers, in particular, though warm, are not as hot as summers in cities farther east in the state, as the July daily average temperature is 73.8 and there is an average of only 9.4 days with 90--or above--annually. Moreover, warm nights where the low remains at or above 70 are much less common than temperatures in the 90's.

New to our city? You will note the preponderance of hotels that are springing up like ugly mushrooms wherever they get a chance to improve on the existing city layout. And, if you venture out-of-town you will note that the hotel virus is sprouting to places nobody ever thought a hotel could succeed.
Amazingly, folks who have lived here for a decade or more, are not entirely sure why the tourism success has blossomed like ragweed on a hot summer night, but I think I have an idea as to what will happen when the tourists stop coming to see what they are coming to see, and are not happy about the money charged for what was once a $95.00 deal, now going for $250.00. What will happen?
Suddenly, as the temperature warms, you will find that adversiting geniuses will change our city to the last place to live with a reasonably comfortable lifestyle. Then with the number of carpenters, floor-people, landscapers, etc., etc., looking for work, those excess hotel rooms with change to rentable or buyable co-ops, and investors will once again rake in the moohlah!

I'm Amazed That So Many of My Books
Are Available from Amazon.com!

Over the years since back in 1974, I wrote my first book The Indoor Water Gardener's How-to Handbook, whatever the problems in life, I've continued to write and illustrate books dealing with great naturalists like Thoreau, great gardeners like Thomas Jefferson, and lots of illustrated books concerned with gardening with annuals, biennials, fragrant flowers, perennials, and wildflowers. Now to my amazement, I've found most of them linked to an Amazon site where ordering is easy, no traffic involved, and delivery guaranteed. Just click the following link: Which will be added as soon as I get the correct instructions from Amazon.

A Beautiful New Butterfly Visits the Garden

Around 3:00pm last Sunday (July 21) a new butterfly appeared in the garden and because of its size and wing design, at first we thought the visitor was from the tropics, just another extreme event linked to climate change. But while the giant swallowtail Heraclides cresphontes was once listed as living in the North American Subtropics, it seems to be traveling about. Dr. Frank Lutz (the author of the Field Book of Insects, first published in 1918, and re-edited in 1948, and still one of the best in existance) noted that back then it had been spotted in Southern Canada, quite surprising because the host plants are usually thought to be citrus trees, but now include goldenrod, milkweed, and honeysuckle flowers, among others.
As Dr. Lutz wrote: "In the South it's called Orange-dog because its larva feeds on citrus leaves. The horns on the larva are fleshy affairs that may be withdrawn or extruded through a slit in the thorax. Not only is the sudden appearing of these horns supposed to frighten the larva's enemies but the horms exhale an odor which, in some species, is quite disagreeable--in other words, the young of these beautiful creatures are insect skunks." My thanks to William Camp Vann for the use of his photo. Mr. Vann is the man behind www.edupic.net, a great service for education.

A Paper Wasp Visits some Blooming English Ivy

I tend to take great care when sharing any neighborhood with even one wasp. Unlike bumblebees, or most busy honey bees, wasps of any species have a tendency to live their lives with a tight fuse cleverly hidden somewhere on their body. Paper wasps (Polistes bellicosus), like the majority of their clan, are known to have such short tempers so in their company, be aware that stings are memorable and will usually need at least an icecube to relieve the pain.
In the accompaning image, the wasp is seen to be entranced by the nectar produced by a small, green flower with five green petals, unfamilar to most flower-people in America and slighly less unknowable by visitors from England and Europe, because it's good old English ivy (Hedera helix), that after growing some 30 or 40 years, assumes its adult role as a sometimes climbing sub-shrub, or more often than not, a small, but growing shrub, usually flowering in mid-summer. Later in the summer, small, dark-blue berries appear but in all the years of allowing ivy to climb on some of my oaks, I have never found an ivy seedling.

A Great Summer Bloomer from Afar!

A great traveling, garden, and personal friend of mine (who see's the world when ever he and his wife can get away from responsibilites at home), returned last year from a happy trip to Easter Island, and, as he is so inclined, brought seeds of a flowering plant unknown to his, up-to-then, encyclopedic mind. The scientific name of this small shrub is Turnera ulmifolia, honors English naturalist William Turner. It's a bright, bright yellow bloomer with very attractive foliage that keeps up all summer long only slowing down as the days shorten, then to over winter in the greenhouse. The plants will do nothing except sit on the shelves until the days begin to get warmer and spring is definitely in the wings. Turnera is also known as the ramgoat dashalong or yellow alder, and belongs in the Passifloraceae Family, originally native to Mexico and the West Indies. In the continuing search for effective drugs in the war against evolving bacteria, a recent study found yellow alder to be a potential weapon against methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus.

Graceful and Beautiful Deer Fern Is a Deer-resistant Plant

Across America as the amount of open but uncultivated or un-invaded land continues to shrink, and the deer (and, in general, the critter population) continues to grow in numbers, it's getting succeedingly more difficult to garden, not only in the suburbs, but in the burgeoning city and far out into the wild. So more and more gardeners are looking for plants that deer might pass over or ignore completely. And please remember that when a deer is hungry, with the hunger bordering on starvation there is very little that they will not attempt to ingest, and this is not one.
Deer fern (Blechnum spicant)is a native plant originally from the Northwest with fronds about twenty inches tall, requiring little maintenance, but preferring consistent soil moisture. These ferns also prefer full shade, especially in the Southeast. They are hardy in USDA Zone 5 to 8. And as the picture shows they should be welcome in any garden!

An Opened Chambered Nautilus Shell

Many years ago while wandering a book store located in The Lower East Side, not far from Kamenstein's Hardware Store, I bought a book of poems by Oliver Wendell Holmes--a good friend of Ralph Waldo Emerson, and therein I found his poem dedicated to the chambered nautilus, a member of the great mollusk clan that has as its domicile a spiral-shaped shell that is divided into a series of rooms or chambers beginning at the heart of the spiral. Then as season follows season and the creature within grows, the chambers expand their size and the inhabitant must move on up to a new room at each passing year. The term nautilus is from the Greek word for a sailor, so named because the mollusk is a sailor on the open seas and the shell his sailing ship in which it sails. In the first stanza of the poem, a man who walks the shore finds the discarded shell of a chambered nautilus and he imagines this creatures life at sea.

"Year after year beheld the silent
That spread his lustrous coil;
Still, as the spiral grew,
He left the past year's dwelling, for the new--"













A Glow-in-the-Dark Mushroom Rises up for Early
August Thinking that It's Already September

Here's a great mushroom for the fall, known as the Jack-O-Lantern because the gills actually glow in the dark. In fact, in an unlit closet, these beauties of the night actually produce enough wattage that if held close to a newspaper, you can read the small type-- although it has a greenish-blue tint. The inset photo is from a French mushroom site and shows just how they can glow! Look for this clumping mushroom at the base of oak trees not only in the forest but on suburban lots. A similar, but phylogenetically distinct species is found in Europe but over here ours is known as Omphalotus illudens.While not completely poisonous, this particular mushroom can be misread because it resembles a popular eating variety known as a chanterelle, but these "Jacks" contain the toxin illudin and they are poisonous enough to lead to severe cramps and possibly a trip to the hospital. Any Film Noir buffs might recognize the poison illudin as the one that led to the death of the hero in that great thriller, D.O.A..

Lovely White Morning Glories, Wildflowers of the Mountains

Also blooming this week is the manroot or wild potato vine (Ipomoea pandurata) is a rambling perennial vine that can grow to fifteen feet in a season, producing large white funnel-form flowers with purple centers, the flowers usually about three inches wide. Even though each bud is open for only a day, there are many buds on those stems, and you will have flowers for weeks at a time. The vines spring up from a very large tuber that resembles a cultivated sweet potato and American Indians used these tubers to make a poultice for treating rheumatism, and also for a laxative. So be advised to leave healing qualities to those who know and allow this vine for flowers only.




The Jumping Spiders

There are 300 species of jumping spider found in the United States and Canada, my favorite being the zebra spider (Salticus scenicus), especially because one or two are always found in my greenhouse, usually showing up in very early spring. These arachnids, have never been a threat to my home or hearth, and I still am slightly bewildered to fine there are exterminating firms advertising their ability to remove these pests from your surroundings.
Most members of the jumping spider clan are small, with only a few species exceeding a half-inch, the rest being, comfortably, smaller. Why should being small become such a comfort? Well, if they were the size of tigers, there would probably be few of human folk around, because jumpers can run like the wind, leap up in the air like Superman, and dance as though life depended up such exertions. And being able to leap from place to place, they are excellent in catching any food they require. These acrobats have been observed leaping up and away from a perch, to catch flying insects, and if they make a mistake in judgement, before any jumper leaves the ground, or any tree branch, or table edge they might be sitting upon, they attach their rears to the roost using a silken dragline, so if they miss, instead of falling to their death they pull themselves back or use the dragline as a parachure, gently falling back to where they began. Some of these leaps exceed more than forty times a spider's body length. Then to add to the mix, these jumpers have amazing eyesight, and their larger eyes are capable of seeing a focused image--like your face--up to eighteen inches away. So, you ask, "Is this is important?" I reply, "It most certainly is." Because these spiders are so curious, and usually rulers of all they survey, they can be coaxed to sit on your finger tip, actually be aware of your presence. Suddenly, they look straight at you--eyes to eyes, so to speak--and start waving the short and hairy spidery arms (called palps), found next to their jaws not far down from their eyes, ready to strike up an arachnid conversation. I kid you not.

A Bumblebee and a Small Beetle at the
Bloom of a Cardoon

My cardoon is blooming early, an unusual event at the plant is only two-feet high. But the blossom quite resembles one of the sky fireworks expected to fly over the city of Asheville tonight in celebration of the Fourth of July. Cardoons are marvelous plants for a special spot in the center of a garden bed or used for their silver-gray leaves alone at the edge of a stunning border.

"The Wild Gardener" Is Back on the Air--TWICE!

That's cyber-air but air none-the-less. Once a week I'm again voicing my hort-thoughts on Asheville-Fm and all you have to do is click the link The Wild Gardener and the voice and the thoughts are there, if you know how to listen to radio from your computer.

The Naked Ladies Are a Bit Early!

Their scientific name is Lycoris and their leaves appear--without flowers--in early spring and then in about a month, the leaves vanish and nothing more is seen until in mid-September, suddenly blossoms appear on stems naked of leaves, hence the common name. Down south they are also known as hurricane lilies but in this year of 2019, the lilies began to bloom last week just after celebrating the Fourth and unlike previous years this time around we are celebrating monsoon rains instead of hurricanes, so, in celebration, the stems are now twenty inches high.

A Carpenter Bee Awakes in the
Blossoms of the Great Blue Lobelia

Early Monday morning of August 20, I was about to plant a great blue lobelia (Lobelia syphiliticus) out in the new meadow garden when I noticed that a carpenter bee was sound asleep wrapped in the beautiful blue petals of this fascinating wildflower. So I let him snooze until the morning sun touched the plant and the bee woke up to a new day. Back in the 1700s it was believed that a drug made from this plant would cure syphilis but, unfortunately, for the New World and the Old World, it didn't work. Carpenter bees are almost identical to bumble bees, the difference being that the body of the carpenter is black and the body of the bumble is black striped with yellow. Both make honey.


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An Eastern Box Turtle Rests in the Garden

Eastern Box Turtle

Their scientific name is Terrapene carolina carolina and it's our only turtle species that can enclose their bodies completely in their elegant hinged shells. We have a garden not far from a lake best described as an open woodland and these land turtles have a home range of about 250 yards so the turtle above continues to roam while searching for berries, funguses, and fruit; they abandon the carvierous live style upon reaching adulthood.

An Antlion on a Coleus Leaf



The image on top is the adult flying form of the antlion, a beautiful insect that looks quite tame and benficient, but when growing up to fit the lion in their name, the larva are both are vicious and predatory beyond belief. In North America that larval form is called a doodlebug because of the looping and seemingly unplanned trails they leave while wandering about the area where they construct their pits, pits used to trap small and wary isects, including a host of ants. The antlion's scientific name is Eurolon nostras and they belong to a group of about 2,000 species of insects in the family Myrmeleontidae. Most members of this family are especially reknowned for those fiercely predatory habits practiced by the larvae. And the members of many species dig pits that passing small insects fall into, then to be devoured by the lion that waits with open jaws at pit bottom. Imagine the drama that waits for you in the garden where all looks normal, peaceful and serene, while vegetables grow and produce fruits for our table.

The drawing above at left shows the antlion larva at the bottom of the pit, jaws gaping, and waiting for the ant walking the rim to fall into the trap below. The pit is usually found in the neighborhood of a working garden, where the soil is loose or has a good deal of sand. The drawing came from the Third Edition of Field Book of Insects by Frank E. Lutz, PhD, first published in 1934. The book is a prized possession that has been in my library since the 50s.
The colored image on the right is from an old scientific illustration--hand-colored--best described as a portrait of the antlion larva, published towards the end of the 17th century.

The Harvestmen Are Early

Harvestman visiting a pineapple lily

Harvestmen are members of the spider family but have their own order. They resemble the visiting Martian spaceships described in H. G. Well's sci-fi novel The War of the Worlds but are far more beneficient. Often called daddy-long-legs, some scavenge on dead invertebrates and others on bird droppings and some even sip drops of flower nectars. Until the arrival of winter when they are driven to shelter in leaf litter on the ground, you'll see them harmlessly wandering through the garden as they look for something to eat; they are harmless. Return to top

The Triple Daylily 'Kwanso' Blooms in
Gardens and along Roadsides

Originally blooming in Eastern Asia and carried along the Old Silk Road by carts, wagons, and feet, the tawny daylily eventually made the journey to the fields and roadsides of America. During most of the 1900's daylily hybridizers have delighted in breeding tetraploid plants, plants that tend to have sturdier sepals and petals with many color traits not found in diploids. Until this time nearly all daylilies were diploid. Called "Tets," by breeders these plants have 44 chromosomes, while triploids have 33 chromosomes and diploids have 22 chromosomes per individual. Hemerocallis fulva 'Europa', H. fulva 'Kwanso', and H. fulva 'Flore Pleno' usually do not produce seeds and reproduce with underground runners. A polymerous daylily flower has more than three sepals and more than three petals. Some gardeners link "polymerous" with "double," many polymerous flowers have over five times the normal number of petals.

The Single Most Important
Architectural Treasure in Asheville!

It's in the news again! Another hotel threatens an area right in the middle of Asheville's downtown, the home of the Basilica of St. Lawrence (1909). Designed and built by Rafael Guastavino Sr., this magnificent structure is a salute to the entire spirit of humankind and the master's last project completed in his lifetime. It's one of only two churches built worldwide where Guastavino Sr. served as the primary architect. And please grant the City of Asheville the wisdom necessary to provide the gracious and dignified surroundings necessary for such a great ediface by supporting the church in its efforts to control development in the line of sight surrounding the church's property.



 

A Salute to Leeks and Garlic:

Morris Graves (1910-2001) remains today one of the more interesting of American artists, a man who devoted most of his life to extolling the wonders and beauties of nature. In 1932 after graduating from high school he settled in Beaumont, Texas but soon returned to the Northwest living around Seattle. His early work featured oils and often touched on birds, especially birds that were metaphysical orphans of the storm. In the early 30s he bagan to study Zen Buddhism and in 1934 built a small studio in Edmonds, Washington that soon burned to the ground and included all his works to date. In 1940, Graves began building a new house, which he named The Rock, on Fidalgo Island. He lived at The Rock with a succession of cats and dogs, all called Edith, in honor of poet Edith Sitwell.









 

Tough Plants

The following pictures (except for the Arundo donax, photographed in a Wake Forest garden) were taken in my garden during the late spring, summer, and early fall of two years ago. I call them tough plants because they are growing in garden clay laced with shredded leaves and if in pots, bagged potting soil that is fertilized two or three times during the growing season.

Euphorbnia 'Silver Fog' Giant Reed Grass Geraniums in a Pot
Cladiums in a Pot Naked Ladies Yucca and Begonia
Meideland Rose and 'Green-and-Gold' Solomon's-Seal Japanese Maples in Pots


 

Here's another bit I was tardy about:

Some Trees, Shrubs, and Perennials that Grow Under Black Walnut Trees

Many months ago I promised to run the old column on what you can grow in the vicinity of walnuts. Walnuts, as most gardeners know, produce a poison chemical known as juglone, a chemical that attacts a number of other plants causing them to languish, then slowly fade away. Plants include important food crops and esthetic landscape and garden plants grown for their beauty alone. The most important garden vegetables, like peppers and tomatoes, refuse to exist in the company of juglone but, fortunately, there are many other plants that will.

Apples and Crab Apples, lilacs, viburnums, white birch and river birch, larch, lindens, most maples except silver maple (Acer spp.), hydrangeas, pines, spruce, oaks, eastern red cedar, dogwood, staghorn sumac, hawthornes, arborvitae, white ash, honey locust, American elm, elder trees, cherry trees, pears, plums, and roses, among many more.

Among veggies, look for cabbages, potatoes, rhubarb, blueberries, and grapes, among others.

Flowering plants feature columbine, peony, violets, coneflowers, bee-balm, yarrow, and calendulas.


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And let's not forget the squirrels of Asheville, rather entaining but by some considered trouble-makers, as they spend their fun-filled days in eating birdseed, chewing off high branches of oak trees, and using the tactics of jewel thieves in Topkapi when finding that birdseed. Look below and hear that tap of clashing sabers. Listen! You can almost hear the memorable score of Manos Hadjidakis as these furry critters play at fencing (courtesy of a Victorian stuffed-animal display in a small antique shop just down the road from Sissinghurst).

Dueling Mice

 


Two Favorite Books from The Wild Gardener are offered for sale at Local Bookstores--and the new edition of "Loves Me--Loves Me Not!" is also on the stands.


Two new books from my studio, the first is a second edition of Solving Deer Problems, first published in 2003, originally using with black and white photos but now brightened with the over 100 color shots, many of fantastic plants that are generally shunned by deer and ready to grow with exuberence and brighten your garden world. The second book is titled Hydroponics for Houseplants and includes everything you ever needed to know about growing houseplants in water instead of soil. This book contains dozens of my pen and ink drawings of plants along with a number color photos of live plants doing great without a hint of soil in the neighborhood.

And thanks to the good graces of Bella Rosa Books and its publisher, Rod Hunter, The Wild Gardener, that award-winning book that opened up American gardens to the wonderful world of native plants, is back in print. Selected as one of the 75 Great Garden Books by the American Horticultural Society and winner of the Garden Writers of America Art of Communication Award, this book is not only full of hort-knowledge but entertaining as well.
In addition Mr. Hunter has also republished Thoreau's Garden and in addition now stocks that great children's book The Moonflower.

In Asheville, the books should be found or ordered from Malaprop's downtown or at the bookstore of the NC Arboretum. The hydroponics book is available at Fifth Season, the new Asheville store devoted to horticultural pursuits and located in the Whole Foods Plaza, across from the Asheville Mall.

Remember the World of Strange Flowers--

There are a number of very, very strange flowers living in the world today, having nothing to do with prehistoric times. One belongs to a group of tropical plants with blooms referred to as pelican flowers or calico flowers.
The most bizarre is the pelican flower, Aristolochia gigantea, which first arrived in England being shipped from Guatemala in 1841. This is a high-reaching vine that can top ten feet or more in an Asheville backyard, and bears flat, smooth, heart-shaped leaves that emit a slightly rank odor when crushed. The six-inch flowers are off-white, veined with purple, and sit on top of a U-shaped tube of a greenish color and also with an unattractive odor. Best as a flower for the evening garden, this is a showstopper.
The vines do best in pots that hang on wires, allowing plenty of room for growth. They can also be carefully unwound from one wire and rewound on another but remember to maintain the counter-clockwise turns.


 


 

 

 

   

Peter Loewer: The Wild Gardener, Asheville, NC.

My email addy--as they say in our sister country of Austrailia--is thewildgardener@earthlink.net!

     
   

All contents of this site are Copyright © Peter Loewer, All Rights Reserved.







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