Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Finally, the orchid tree buds


Here is a close-up of buds on the anacacho orchid tree (Bauhinia congesta). I think they look like little clusters of green bananas. The tree is still covered in blooms and buds, although I think it's probably past the absolute peak of its bloom. Last week, while D and I were out walking the dog, we saw a huge orchid tree absolutely loaded down with flowers in the back yard of a house in the next block. Its trunk was quite a bit bigger around than our tree (although it was not much taller) so maybe we have that to look forward to in a few years.

We seem to be past the weirdly chilly weather of last weekend (at least the chill seems vanquished this afternoon, with temperatures in my backyard near 80). Although I'm fairly certain that the temperature here didn't get below freezing, it did get down to 35 or even 34. The leaves of the bat face cuphea purpled up a bit although the plant looks fine but some coleus in the front planter look a bit worse for the wear. I didn't realize coleus was so cold tender but I guess it makes sense. The smaller plants dropped a number of their leaves and leaves on the others look shriveled and brownish. I guess I'll wait and see if they recover.

I've been patrolling the garden with extra vigilence the last few days, looking for signs of decline or disease. Usually every year before our big party at least one part of the garden develops some kind of funk. Some plant spontaneously dies overnight or insects attack and chew a whole section to pieces. So far nothing horrible has happened this year although powdery mildew has taken hold of the Old Blush rose, shriveling its new foliage and damaging some of its buds (and it looked so lovely just a few days ago, I wail). Climbing Pinkie shows some signs of mildew as well although nothing as bad as Old Blush and I'm keeping my fingers crossed that my application of a solution of baking soda, water and dish washing soap (the recipe found on the Natural Gardener's website) will keep it in check until it bursts into a riot of flowers as it looks set to do any day.

And the annual infestation of what I have tentatively identified as Colorado potato beetles has started. A year or two ago I took some leaves covered with little brown spots to Barton Spring Nursery and was told they were the mark of the Colorado potato beetle. I finally saw some of the bugs (they hang out on the under side of the leaves and are remarkably fast) and compared them to pictures online and they look similar although not exactly the same.

Whatever they are, the little reddish black bugs attack only certain plants and mostly just disfigure them. Unfortunately one of the main targets are the salvias, of which I have a large number. They also love the bush germander, which is where I first noticed the damage this year. I spray with some kind of environmentally friendly insecticidal soap, which knocks them back but not out. But mark my words, I have my eye on you, bugs.

3 comments:

Dawn said...

Hi Susan,

The photo of your orchid tree is lovely. I can almost smell the fragance from here. I must get one of my own for my front garden.

Good luck battling the mildew and potate beetles. Sounds like you are taking good action.

I'm really looking forward to meeting you and seeing your garden.

Take care,
Dawn

Susan said...

Dawn — I was just out in the garden, fretting about how the rose bushes are going to be past their prime next weekend and whether those beetles are really gone. I think I just need to stop worrying and enjoy the loveliness before it starts raining (although I have to say I wouldn't mind a bit more rain).

See you soon.

— Susan

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