Saturday, July 27, 2013

Water for the Potted Plants

We have a much larger and sunnier deck than in our old place so we have nearly doubled the number of pots to make an impact in that space.  In general I chose plants that like it on the dry side and will recover quickly if they get dried out.  Also these plants do not need to be deadheaded to continue blooming; however the Pelargoniums do look neater when they are cleaned up.

Here are a couple of photos of my compositions for full sun.  Aside from the Pelargonium cultivars these plants are all derived from North American species.  These Medallion Flower are doing quite well.  I've had mixed results with these.  I think they like warm moist sites.  This is the first year I've had the 'Evolution' Salvia, I usually get 'Victoria'.  They are doing well and I would not hesitate using them in the future.  This is the second year for 'Profusion' Zinnias.  These are great for pots low growing and dense, a great 'filler' plant.

Starting from the bottom are: Lantana camara 'Luscious Berry Blend',  
Melampodium padulosum/divaricatum (Medallion Flower), Zinnia 'Profusion',
  Pelargonium 'Balcon Princess', and Salvia farinacea ‘Evolution’

Here are more Zinnia 'Profusion' with Salvia splendens cultivars
and Salvia farinacea ‘Evolution’ backed up by Pelargonium 'Merlot'

Being in full sun these plants are in need of regular watering.  While there is a spigot nearby, we really did not want to deal with a heavy garden hose.  When we saw one of those light-weight expanding hoses in the store (as seen on TV) we thought it would be perfect.  At 50 feet it could reach from one end of the deck to the other with room to spare and its light weight would make it easier to maneuver and store.

The first few times we used it were OK, just a little leaky, but what the hey.  However, by the fifth time out the hose was hemorrhaging water at the nozzle end fitting.  I just waved the leaking nozzle end over the plants to water them.

Water is no longer coming out of the end of the hose.
The inner rubber hose broke free of the nozzle.

The inner hose expands like a water balloon

At this point I should have found the receipt and took it back to the store, but I really wanted to find out if I could fix it.  My opportunity came when the inner hose totally separated from the nozzle.  Now something had to be done!  I cut off the end or the hose to reveal a super stretchy rubber tubing about 1/2" in diameter.  This expands like a balloon under pressure and is kept in check by the nylon mesh outer hose.  The problem was that the original attachment to the male fitting was not done well.  Since I had some repair fittings for a 1/2" hose I thought I would give that a go.

My first attempt with the repair kit worked, so I got a male coupling from the store, 'slipped' it on and thought I was all set.  On closer examination of the on/off fitting supplied with the expandable hose, I found that it was leaking in two locations.  Not just at the valve, but also at what appeared to be a stress crack in the body of the fitting.  This was troubling but not entirely unmanageable.

The rubber hose was stretched over the 1/2 inch coupling, then the nylon outer hose was pulled into place.
The two-piece clamp was screwed tight and this seemed to hold well even under pressure.
I then replaced the coupler with a male fitting.
Note the two spots where the
on/off valve is leaking.

What turned out to be the killer was the catastrophic failure of the hose that occurred while I was taking the the photo of this fitting.  The nylon outer hose gave way allowing the inner balloon hose to burst.

The first image is of the hose conveniently rolled up into an extra flower pot.
Next is after the water was turned on and the hose was pulled out and tested in the photos above.
The last image is 2-3 minutes later when the outer hose failed, allowing the inner hose to burst.

 Since I had the coupling kit on hand,  rather than tossing out the hose, I chose to repair it one last time.  Now I am just using it to water the pots without putting any pressure on the hose (i.e. no nozzles or on/off valves).  I may have been partly to blame for this last failure, since the hose was not allowed to expand freely under pressure.  While I love the concept of this hose, mine was not particularly well made.  I will continue to use this one without putting pressure on it.

If you have one of these that has failed, it may be repairable.  If you don't have one, proceed with caution, there is more than one brand of this type of hose available.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

White Avens

I have curtailed my trips through the woods since the chiggers have become more active.  This has limited my search for wild flowers to the relatively open places.  There are still plenty of plants that are new to me to identify.  One of these native wildflowers that, while fairly common, is new to me is White Avens, Geum canadense.

This plant is about 2 feet tall and has been
in bloom for at least 2 weeks.

I first noticed this plant along the partly sunny edges of the woods at the end of June.  The 5-petaled white flowers looked like something from the Rose family, but I was pretty sure that it wasn't a cinquefoil (most are yellow) or blackberry (no thorns).  I was able to ID using Newcomb's Wildflower Guide; It has 5 regular flower parts, alternate arrangement of leaves and the leaves are divided into 3 or more leaflets.  I was a little slow in settling on Avens because most of the species in this genus have irregular leaflets that get larger toward the end of the leaf.  White Avens tends to have 3 similarly sized leaflets per leaf.  After the petals fall off a bristly receptacle is left behind.  While interesting close up they make the plant look wild and messy, not the best choice for a formal garden.

After blooming, the ripening seed heads will turn brown
 and give the the plant a wild, ungroomed appearance.

Most of my plants are 1-2 feet tall.  The white flowers bring some contrast to to a shady woodland edge.  They have an loose open habit, so they probably wouldn't well as a focal point.  I think they would work well as background plants.

I have an area under some trees that I nuked with round-up (formerly stilt grass, multiflora rose, euonymus, bittersweet poison ivy and horse nettle).  This may be a good spot to scatter some of these Avens seeds and see if they will fill in as a flowering ground cover.  I have not seen signs of deer browsing on the Avens, but I will need to keep a closer eye on that.

The flowers of White Avens is attractive to a variety of insects.  This image caught a small caterpillar and a fly.  Since it had been raining I think the caterpillar had just fallen out of a nearby tree.  I saw no evidence of the caterpillar feeding.  I annoyed it sufficiently that it left the flower and started crawling down the stem.

White Avens is attractive to bees, wasps and flies.
Not necessarily to caterpillars.

When this caterpillar 'stood up' it gave me a clue that it may be an inchworm or looper.  A perusal images on Bug Guide lead me to believe that this was a Common Pug, Eupitheca miserulata; although I'm sure it is as difficult to assign the species of a bug with a picture as it is to do so with a plant.

The caterpillar 'stood up' when I nudged it,
then inched its way down the stem.