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Daylily Fever

 

Arachnidan Trap daylily (Photo/Zora Ronan)

Arachnidan Trap daylily (Photo/Zora Ronan)

  I’ve been receiving calls and emails about Zora Ronan’s upcoming open gardens this weekend and hearing from people who plan to make the trip to see her daylilies. For those of you who cannot attend, Zora sent some tips on dividing daylilies and other general advice:

    When or if to divide a daylily is a decision to be made based on the plant’s health.  If it is not looking unhealthy, is still blooming freely and has not outgrown its space, there is no reason to disturb it.  I only divide when one or more of those problems occurs.  Daylilies vary greatly in how fast they become crowded.  I have some that get divided every 4 years or so and some that have been fine for more than that time.  The biggest problem in waiting to divide until the plant is very overgrown is that it can become very large and hard to handle.  When I do divide, I replenish the soil with lots of compost and a bit of peat. 

   Daylilies are considered the perfect perennial because they survive and thrive with very little care.  However, good nutrition and adequate water is always going to improve daylily performance.  I do fertilize lightly every year with lawn fertilizer (no herbicide).  Daylilies can use a bit more nitrogen than other perennials to keep the foliage a nice healthy green.  I apply a 3-month time released fertilizer in the early spring–never any fertilizer after August 1.  If you have a good supply of compost, top-dressing with that every year is also beneficial and can probably take the place of artificial fertilizer. 

   Any dividing is best done in spring or after bloom has ended.  I would not divide any later than early to mid-September – daylilies need about 6 weeks to settle in before winter arrives.  We never know when that is going to happen.

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Good vs. Evil: Asian lady beetles and Japanese beetles

Asian lady beetle

Asian lady beetle - a good bug (photo/Cindy Hadish)

Their names are similar and they’re from the same region of the world, so I can see why some people are still confused about Asian lady beetles and Japanese beetles.  But when it comes down to it, there’s really no comparison. The bug pictured here – the reddish/orange lady beetle, is a beneficial insect. It feeds on aphids and other plant pests and doesn’t destroy anything, though I realize some people resent their intrusion in homes in the fall. On the other hand, the copper-colored Japanese beetle, a recent foreign invader in Iowa, is known to devour at least 300 plants, including hollyhocks, roses, raspberries, linden trees and grapes. If you see your leaves turning to lace, the likely culprit is the Japanese beetle.  Japanese beetles have no known predators here, other than me. So feel free to get rid of as many as you can. As mentioned previously, the most environmentally friendly method is to knock them into a bucket of soapy water when they’re sluggish – early evening seems to be the best time. If you have other suggestions – maybe from our East Coast readers and others who have learned to cope with Japanese beetles – please add your comments below.

Japanese beetles (photo/Cindy Hadish)

Japanese beetles - not a good bug, or just plain evil? (photo/Cindy Hadish)

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“Screaming for attention” Chinese chestnut

Chinese chestnut (photo, Brucemore)

Chinese chestnut (photo, Brucemore)

   Deb Engmark, head gardener at the historic Brucemore estate in Cedar Rapids, shares the following about an amazing tree on the Brucemore grounds:

     It’s time.  It’s blooming.  Brucemore’s Chinese chestnut is screaming for attention.  The first clue that the flowers on this magnificent specimen are present is the unmistakable aroma mingling through the landscape; earthy and spicy.  This perfume emanates from the chestnut’s canopy, which is covered in clusters of long chenille like tendrils resembling skinny hairy

Chinese chestnut in bloom (photo, Brucemore)

Chinese chestnut in bloom (photo, Brucemore)

fingers or spidery legs.  Approximately 50 foot tall and 50 foot wide, this low branching, wide spreading habitat makes it a great shade tree and, purportedly, an ideal climbing tree, though I do ask that you don’t climb our trees when visiting.

     The chestnut worth noting is standing among younger chestnut specimens. Due to this particular tree’s location in the area of the first orchard as well as its apparent age, estimated from the trunk diameter, height and spread of the tree, this is likely one of the oldest Chinese chestnuts in Iowa, if not the nation. Chinese chestnuts were introduced to the United States by seed in 1903. The original Douglas orchard, planted circa 1909, was in this location.  This was also the location of the Sinclair orchard, the estate’s first family.

    With consideration given to these facts and estimates by tree experts over the years, I feel confident about the age assumption and willingly share the information.  I encourage all to visit and view this majestic specimen, especially during the time of year when the Chinese chestnut drapes its branches in pungent, blooming finery.

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Flood photos part 2: Czech Village

Photos shot post-flood June 2008. Gazette photographer Cliff Jette and I were allowed to accompany shop owners when they first saw the devastation in Czech Village after the flood. Here is some of what we found:

Polehna's Meat Market was among the businesses hard-hit by the flood. Owner Mike Ferguson decided not to reopen the shop because of overwhelming rebuilding costs. (photo, Cindy Hadish)

Polehna's Meat Market was among the businesses hard-hit by the flood. Owner Mike Ferguson decided not to reopen the shop because of overwhelming rebuilding costs. (photo, Cindy Hadish)

Jan Stoffer and Gail Naughton, center, of National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library, make their way down 16th Avenue. (photo, Cindy Hadish)

Jan Stoffer and Gail Naughton, center, of National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library, make their way down 16th Avenue. (photo, Cindy Hadish)

Cliff Jette (right) shooting inside Polehna's. (photo, Cindy Hadish)

Cliff Jette (right) shooting inside Polehna's. (photo, Cindy Hadish)

Bozenka's Gif Shop, owned by Czech School teacher Bessie Dugena. (photo, Cindy Hadish)

Bozenka's Gift Shop, owned by Czech School teacher Bessie Dugena. (photo, Cindy Hadish)

Gail Naughton photographs Babi Buresh Center, next to Sykora Bakery (photo, Cindy Hadish)

Gail Naughton photographs Babi Buresh Center, next to Sykora Bakery (photo, Cindy Hadish)

Floodwaters remained in front of National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library, days after the flood (photo, Cindy Hadish)

Floodwaters remained in front of National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library, days after the flood (photo, Cindy Hadish)

Boat jammed behind cross near Joens Bros. Interiors (photo, Cindy Hadish)

Boat jammed behind cross near Joens Bros. Interiors (photo, Cindy Hadish)

Cliff Jette, right, talks to another photographer between Ernie's Avenue Tavern and Sykora Bakery (photo, Cindy Hadish)

Cliff Jette, right, talks to another photographer between Ernie's Avenue Tavern and Sykora Bakery (photo, Cindy Hadish)

Looking up muck-covered 16th Avenue SW, away from the Cedar River (photo, Cindy Hadish)

Looking up muck-covered 16th Avenue SW, away from the Cedar River (photo, Cindy Hadish)

Sign outside National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library (photo, Cindy Hadish)

Sign outside National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library (photo, Cindy Hadish)

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What do lightning bugs eat / An Evening with Fireflies

     An upcoming event at the Indian Creek Nature Center prompted me to call one of our awesome entomologists at Iowa State University. The Nature Center is having a walk at 8 p.m. Friday featuring one of my favorite insects –  the lightning bug!  

Lightning bug/ David Cappaert, Michigan State University, Bugwood.org

Lightning bug/ David Cappaert, Michigan State University, Bugwood.org

    What’s not to love about lightning bugs? They light up dark summer nights with their intermittent flashes and unlike other nighttime bugs, they don’t bite – in fact, they kind of tickle when you catch them. Best of all, in their younger stage, they eat slugs and other pests. 

Lightning bug larva/ Gerald J. Lenhard, Louisiana State Univ., Bugwood.org

Lightning bug larva/ Gerald J. Lenhard, Louisiana State Univ., Bugwood.org

   I wrote about lightning bugs last year after attending a workshop led by ISU entomologist Donald Lewis. Until then, I had no idea that  lightning bugs, as larvae, dined on not only slugs, but other insect larvae and snails – a real beneficial beetle! But I’ve had a nagging question since then: what do adult lightning bugs eat? After all, kids catch lightning bugs all the time, put them in a jar, punch holes in the lid and throw some grass inside. So do lightning bugs eat grass??

   Probably not, was the answer.  Donald Lewis said, if anything, they might occasionally feed on nectar. Some female species of lightning bugs use the signal of a different variety of lightning bug to attract males, and then, well, the male doesn’t become their mate, but their meal!  So, that’s what that species eats, but, he said, most adult lightning bugs appear to not eat much of anything.

   As an aside, he noted that punching holes in the lid of a jar might be more harmful to lightning bugs than leaving the lid intact and not-too-tight on the jar. Lightning bugs come out at night because they need a certain level of humidity and would basically dry up in the hot summer sun. Punching holes might allow too much air into the jar and also dry out the bugs. Safest bet might be a catch and release method. Get a good look, admire their flashing lights and let them fly free.

     Here’s some info about Friday’s (June 5, 2009) walk:   An Evening with Fireflies, Indian Creek Nature Center, 6665 Otis Rd. SE, Cedar Rapids. 1 ½ mile walk on grass-surfaced trails. Members, $3; non-members, $5. Children, $1. For more details, see: http://indiancreeknaturecenter.org or call (319) 362-0664.

    REMINDER: Remember to stop by the Gazette/KCRG tent between 9-10 a.m. Saturday (June 6, 2009) at the Downtown Farmers Market in Cedar Rapids. Sign up for the drawing (rattles, corn-made dishes and other baby items courtesy of Dandelion Earth Friendly Goods) and let me know what you’d like to see on the Homegrown blog and in The Gazette. The tent will be in Greene Square Park, along 4th Avenue, close to the corner along the railroad tracks. See you there!

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Meet me at the market

   The first Cedar Rapids Downtown Farmers Market of this season will be Saturday, June 6, from 7:30 a.m. to noon and I plan to be there. Stop by the KCRG/Gazette table in Greene Square Park sometime between 9-10 a.m. and say hi! I’d like to hear what you’re interested in reading about on this blog and in The Gazette.

  As reporters, we occasionally receive products from companies that we cannot keep. Dandelion Earth Friendly Goods recently sent several items that the eco-conscious readers of this blog might enjoy, so I thought it would be fun to have a drawing. If you stop by our table – remember, just between 9 and 10 a.m. or so – sign up and you could win some of these cute Earth-friendly products. 

   Here is some information that Dandelion sent:

Dandelion Earth Friendly Goods

Dandelion Earth Friendly Goods

At a time when “organic,” “green,” environmentally-friendly,” “renewable” and “sustainable” is a part of our everyday culture, consumers are sincerely moved to help preserve the planet and the health and well-being of their families. With the desire to champion an emerging “green” awareness, Re-Think It, Inc., is launching its collection of Dandelion Earth-Friendly Goods that turns living green into easy living.
   Dandelion Earth-Friendly Goods are made entirely using eco-friendly materials and processes, from organic cotton grown without pesticides and chemicals, coloring process and right down to the plant-based fibers used in filling the plush toys. The ReUsables – the divided plates, bowls and utensils – are made from corn, rather than conventional plastics comprised mostly of petroleum.
 
Stop by the table on June 6 to see these items and let us know what’s on your mind. For more on Dandelion, go to: www.dandelionforbaby.com
 

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Inspiration from living landscape history

Clematis at Brucemore in Cedar Rapids, Iowa (Brucemore photo)

Clematis at Brucemore in Cedar Rapids, Iowa (Brucemore photo)

The following is from Deb Engmark, head gardener at the historic Brucemore estate in Cedar Rapids, Iowa:

     I am in a constant state of wonder and awe at Brucemore; every direction I turn stimulates the senses. The birds’ twittering in the wisteria vine mingles with a slight scent of early blooming clematis growing along the grape arbor.  New growth is making its appearance throughout the gardens, as vividly illustrated by the lime-colored sprouts starkly contrasting against the dark green of existing foliage on the old Norway spruce.  Here on the Brucemore grounds, the new and old, past and present are demanding attention, clamoring to be experienced and shared.

     In an effort to appease my senses but also to share Brucemore’s role in American landscape history, I am leading a historic landscape tour. Wear walking shoes and bring a water bottle, this tour will cover a lot of ground and encourage discovery of this quiet, park-like space in the middle of Cedar Rapids.  Brucemore’s 100 years of Prairie landscape history, paired with the burgeoning spring plants, will make for an inspiring hike. Woven into the trek through the 26 acres of grounds will also be discussion of plants (mostly natives), theories of the original design, Brucemore family stories, and issues pertaining to current preservation and property use.

 Brucemore’s Historic Landscape Tour

Tuesday, May 26 & Thursday, May 28 at 6:00 p.m.  and Saturday, May 30 at 10:30 a.m. at Brucemore, 2160 Linden Drive SE.

Admission is $10 per person and $7 per Brucemore member. Please call (319) 362-7375 to register. See: www.brucemore.org

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