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March 26, 2016

Saturday Gardening Thread: Bookworm Edition [Y-not and KT]

Note: Open Thread Below for non-gardening discussions.


Y-not: My heart wasn't in this week. Although the Gardening Morons are a uniformly wonderful bunch, my motivation to produce content is at an all-time low thank to a vocal minority of commenters on other threads.

Fortunately, the incomparable KT has content for you this week:

Greetings, Horde! The windy phase of spring has started here in the San Joaquin Valley. People are sniffling from blowing pollen. My Roger's Delight Geranium (well, O.K., Pelargonium) had more flowers a couple of weeks ago. Here are a couple of the remaining small clusters with Ruby Rocket snapdragons. Part of the "Rocket" series. They are supposed to grow pretty tall. Shoulda started them earlier.

Our climate is not ideal for geraniums (pelargoniums), but I have kept this one alive for several years, in part shade. Almost lost it to frost and wet soil a couple of times. When I remember, I start a few cuttings as bloom slows down in late spring. You can see that some of the stems are getting past their prime.

Roger's Delight is sort of like a small Martha Washington geranium with lemon or lemon-rose scented foliage. It seems a little tougher than the large-flowered Martha Washington types that I loved so much in Southern California. We have some scented geranium fans in The Horde. Has anybody gone big with the Martha Washingtons? I think it would be fun to post some photos sometime, maybe along with some Azaleas or Rhododendrons for comparison.

Insect of the Week

The Geranium Budworm is a major pest of zonal geraniums - the kind most of us think of first when we say "geranium". Some of the other types of geraniums seem more resistant to this particular pest. I have never noticed them on my Roger's Delight. In Southern California, I inspected zonal geraniums for tell-tale holes in buds and squished the worms inside. When populations are high, these worms can destroy nearly all the flowers on a plant.

This caterpillar can change color depending on what it eats, so sometimes it can be quite colorful. It is also known as the Tobacco Budworm. It feeds on the flowers, flower buds and tender foliage of several desirable plants, including edibles, and on a lot of weeds, too,

It particularly likes petunias, which are related to tobacco. Here is a study comparing lacewings to Bt for control of this pest. Bt won. But don't expect miracles. Once they get inside a bud, systemic insecticides are about the only thing that will touch these caterpillars. The authors of the page linked above advise us to look on the bright side: the worms could destroy some older flowers, stimulating the plant to produce new ones!

Ever felt like this petunia looks?

The University of Florida has a more comprehensive profile of this worm, its habits, enemies and controls in its Featured Creatures series. What a long list of host plants! It is very closely related to the corn earworm and attacks plants in a similar manner. Sounds like weed control, cultivation and destroying dead flowers all help. There are some parasitoid wasps that lay eggs on them, too.

Have you had experience dealing with these bud and flower-destroying caterpillars?

Book Nook

I have dreamed about creating a little spot in the garden just for reading. Has anyone out there actually achieved this? Reading a book about gardening in the garden could be especially nice. I may not be the only one who would like this. In the comments to last week's thread, Tammy al-Thor said, "We should all list our favorite gardening books and authors some day." Great idea.

Of all her garden books, Tammy seems to love The Four Season Landscape by Susan Roth the best. Tammy also notes that this author "has one about Weekend Gardening that is well worth it."

Commenters recommended several other general gardening books to those who had a gardening challenge. And some books were recommended just for the pleasure of reading them. I'm going to try to summarize. Get that AoSHQ Amazon link ready if you are looking for some fun and informative reading. If you have another favorite, please let us know about it in the comments:

Vic recommends the New Complete Guide to Gardening by Better Homes and Gardens. Especially for beginners.

JQ Flyover said,

Fave garden book would be Sunset Western Garden Book. Plants referenced alphabetically, by both latin and common names, with illustrations, so you can actually FIND what you're looking for. Also it has sections on plants for particular areas, such as for privacy screening, drought-tolerance, shade, etc.

Downloaded (at no charge) the Idaho Master Gardener handbook from UI extension site. Definitely for the more serious side of gardening and farming.

We have discussed the Sunset Western Garden Book in a previous thread. It is the one I grab most often when I have a new plant or project in mind. JQ may have the same edition I do, with plant illustrations. The newest edition includes common names in the plant descriptions, but the alphabetical common name cross-references were given up in order to add photos of plants.

Does anybody have a report on The New Southern Living Garden Book? I wonder how many similarities there are to the SWGB, since both parent magazines are now part of the same "corporate family"?

When it comes to reading for pleasure, my choice among general gardening books is Principles of Gardening. The author is hoity-toity enough for the AoSHQ Sunday Morning Book Thread. "Hugh Johnson is the world's pre-eminent writer on wine." Maybe some of the people who frequent the Food Thread on Sundays have one of his pocket guides to wine.

This author writes really beautifully. Some reviewers compare the Principles of Gardening to a long essay on gardening. But is includes a lot of useful details for an essay. The photos are also wonderful. The information on historical gardening is especially well-presented.

Someone took my book. A dark cloud forms over my head when I remember this. I had the 1983 version (fine quality paperback) and loved it. The subtitle of that version is "A Guide to the Art, History, Science and Practice of Gardening".

I think the first edition was released in 1979 The title seems to change with each major update. The 1997 edition gets 5 stars at Amazon.

There is also a "Gardening Companion: Principles of Gardening" from 1998. It doesn't seem to have attracted the following that the others did. Hugh Johnson has also written books about trees. I think the latest (2010) is The World of Trees.

So that brings us to books about specific gardening subjects. There's a lot of ground to cover. Can't do it all today. Do you have a gardening passion? Our friend JTB seems to have one. I think it would make a fun topic one of these weeks:

I have a book from the 1970s called "Pirating Plants" by Peter Tobey. Lots of stuff on grafting and weird ways to propagate plants. Kind of a fun, late Hippie era read, especially if doing it to experiment without too many expectations. . . .

I've always regarded seeds and other means of propagating plants to be very cool. Even when Mrs. JTB and I were too busy to garden or have house plants, I would glance through the 'Pirating Plants' and 'New Seed-Starters Handbook' just for pleasure.

I think seed catalogs often provide some nice book recommendations, depending on your interests. This year Pinetree offers books in the categories like Gardening ("Epic Tomatoes" by Craig Lehoullier sounds nice); Children's books, puzzles and coloring books; Cookbooks featuring garden produce; Preserving (two whole pages); Healthy Living and Crafts and Hobbies. An amazing range of garden-related books. I like their clearance page. But I always want to read more books that I know I will have time to read. So, suggestions from The Horde on the best books are a big help.

Hope you have time for some fun and relaxation this week, either working in the garden or reading about gardening.


Y-not: Thanks, KT!

Link to the archives. (Looks like I need to update the archives sometime soon.)

Have a good day, gardeners.


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