Sunday, July 31, 2011

Flowers and Fruits and ... Ugly Bugs?

Sweet Summer Cherry
                There is a moment in summer when the gardener spots that first gleam of red hidden beneath the foliage. She stops, maybe squats down to look more closely.  The ground is warm beneath her feet, and the scent, that unique raw smell of growing tomato plants surrounds her. (If you've smelled it, you'll understand. If you never have, the closest I can come is the flavor of a green tomato mixed with sunshine and fresh flowing water.) The fruit slips into her hand at the lightest touch, and there it is, gleaming tantalizingly in the sun: The season's first tomato. 

Needless to say, immediately after photographing it, I consumed it!
Buoton De Rose Begonia

In the flowerbeds, my "Shady Garden" out back is turning up begonias and lilies. I just seeded a whole heap of China Aster around the birdbath, too, so hopefully we'll have some late summer color coming on.

Sadly, out front, the poor gladioli are having a fairly short season and between the afternoon heat and the ravages of the katydids, aren't looking so good.  Where is my mantis! He saved me last year, but I've seen neither hide nor probiscus of him this year!
Gladiolus- Prosperity
My favorite pink/white bi-colors are going now, with the yellow and purples coming into bloom right behind them.
The most stunning gladiolus in my current collection is the white Prosperity from American Meadows. Simply GORGEOUS! White with just a hint of peachy yellow blush. It was supposed to be blooming with the Ravens right now, but the katydids have chompedchompedchomped up the poor Ravens so I don't know if they'll bloom at all.

But the big thing today was this...

These funky leaf-blisters are all over the poor manzanita bush. It looks like something rolled the edge of the leaf up to create a bubble (which I now know is called a 'gall') with sickly reddish color and livid nasty pink veins. Now maybe I watch too many alien horror movies, but these things look like they could start breathing on their own at any second!

Curious, I broke one open and about a gazillion little greenish-black bugs crawled out!  EW! BUGS! (Okay, 'gazillion' is a kind of wide estimate. Maybe not so much with the accuracy there.)

Okay, what are they?  I thought hunting them down would be hard but a quick Google-hunt refined down to "manzanita leaf bug" found them. And sure enough, they are... TA DA!  "Manzanita leaf bugs".  Needless to say, that was somewhat anti-climactic.  They're actually called Manzanita Leaf Gall Aphids, aka Tamalia coweni.

Nothing I'm seeing says that they do real harm, but I'm not feeling overly generous to them at the moment. In fact, I think I see a wonderful career in Green Waste Management in their future.

Monday, July 11, 2011

In the Veggie Garden

Veggie gardening in limited space is always a challenge. I grew up with vegetable gardens that covered half an acre tilled into a perfect rectangle, with neat long rows of plants side by side, so when I first started looking into urban gardening, I was impressed that people were growing food in such small spaces.

My vegetable garden is about ten feet by sixteen feet, sloped at an angle. Before we took it over, it was covered with nasty flowering shrub, which, fortunately for us, had done much to mulch and protect the soil beneath it.  I was pleased to find good loamy soil under those hideious shrubs, but I was still hesitant when I planted those first seeds this spring. In fact, I was feeling downright brave when I purchased tomato plants. They looked so small and fragile, and I was going to just stick them into the dirt?

Fear and hesitation has given way to pride and joy when I look at my little urban garden! It surpasses my wildest dreams. The snap peas and the pole beans are unbelievable in their profilic attempts to take over the rest of the garden. The zucchini has already gotten out of control, and the tomato plants are four feet tall and covered in blooms and burgeoning fruits. Planted in amongst everything else are onion and garlic starts, bush beans and dwarf peas, radishes and carrots; I just tucked the seeds wherever there was an opening.

It seems so silly now to have worried so much!