Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Hail No!!!

As I was celebrating the rain this morning I thought, "great, I don't have to water" I must have overlooked that it hailed out too. All of the big-leafed plants took a pretty big hit. The Gryphon begonia was completely roughed-up. I think they'll all bounce back, but there were 1/4"-1/2" sized holes scatter-shot through the leaves with hanging chads dangling off one side. Here are some photos from the fallout. The last one is the saddest. I found a Tulip tree seedling and had just potted it up for my son. Truth be known, he probably would have killed it, but at least it would have been his to kill.

Gryphon begonia showing hail damage breaking the leaf petioles and holes in the leaves

Hosta with hail damage

Asarum europeaum    (European Wild Ginger) with hail damage and shrapnel from another plant

Calla Lily leaf with hail damage

Liriodendron tulipifera (Tulip tree) sheared-off at the stem.

Wordless Wednesday - Clematis

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Plant combinations

Sometimes interesting plant combinations happen by sheer coincidence. Honestly, almost all container combinations in my garden are coincidence. These two lovelies are in separate containers, but in close proximity to one another. The dark green with silver and burgundy highlights of the Gryphon begonia leaves next to the bright pinks of Raspberry Blast Supertunia petunia really make the pink color pop. I love it!

Petunia 'Supertunia Raspberry Blast' with Gryphon Begonia hybrida in front

Sunday, June 12, 2011

There is no scaring a Carpenter Bee

This is a follow-up post to my June 4th post, "Shoot, Carpenter Bees." Since I scared the Carpenter bee away last time I saw it, I was pretty sure it would find another spot to go and chew on. I took a glance at the little hole chewed into my trellis.

A hole started by a Carpenter bee (Xylocopa virginica).

Since the last post, that bee had returned. Carpenter bees chew into wood about 1/2", then take a right turn and keep on chewing a tunnel with the grain of the wood for about 1 to 2 feet.One out of 4 legs of the pyramidal trellis is now tunneled out by that same little critter.

Xylocopa virginica (Carpenter Bee) takes a right turn

I was surprised at how easily that bee was scared away. Silly me.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Wordless Wednesday - Still blooming

Trollius europaeus (Globe flower)

Xylocopa virginica on Ligustrum vulgare (Carpenter bee on a Common privet)

Pelargonium x hortorum (Common geranium)

Xerochrysum bracteatum (Straw flower)

Monday, June 6, 2011

2D barcodes and gardening: More than just a label

QR Code
Microsoft Tag
I work in the College of Engineering as a web designer. I've been pushing for over a year to use something different and attention grabbing, in a field surrounded by different and attention grabbing. This is why I find it so interesting how quickly and well the nursery-related industries have been able to adopt different bar code technologies and put them to good use.
This is the first year that I've seen QR Codes and the Microsoft Tag used effectively in the industry. These codes and tags are frequently called 2D barcodes or 2 dimensional barcodes. In January 2011, a tradeshow/conference I attended used them to show off new plants that are thought to be hot on the market this year. (The examples go to my facebook page)

According to Direct Marketing News, in March, Home Depot launched a QR Code campaign. If you stroll through the garden center and glance at the tags, you can't miss the funky black and white image on the tag. They've been good enough to give instructions on how to use it for the uninitiated right on the tag.

Screenshot of site brought up from Home Depot QR Code

What happens when you scan the code with your mobile device? It automatically takes you to a web page that offers offers you immediate information in a mobile friendly design. Information like what the plant is, what it looks like at peek bloom and all of the details that are on the back of the tag are available. But who cares? That information is available on the tag right there on the plant. In fact you're holding that information in your hand. The real glamor is found in some of the other tips that they include further down on the page.

There are suggestions for companion plants, general plant info (which includes what a perennial is), and watering and planting tips. They do something else interesting here. They don't beat you about the head with commercial branding of everything they have to offer. They offer almost anything you might need listed, but they don't say things like, "don't forget to visit isle 10 for your fertilizer." I like that, but someone else might find that helpful. Having worked in garden centers myself, many people are interested in picking up all the right supplies in one visit and getting out. So there may be room for change in their marketing strategy.

Lowe's, Home Depot, and more often the growers themselves are offering up more information to consumers through the use of these codes. Outside of the nursery industry, you can find larger companies using 2-D bar codes in magazines, newspapers, and catalogs. I personally find them very interesting, with great potential. No more trying to type in the simplest of urls, just need to hold still long enough to scan, and it takes just a second.

Screenshot of site brought up from 2011 National Green Centre
Conference and Tradeshow Catalog QR Code

There is a lot of information that can be shared in a code too. Each type of 2D barcode is created differently, shares slightly different bits of inform

ation, and can hold different types of information. This media isn't just for pushing a website. I have my contact information included on one, as well as website links, and short resume. QR Codes are free to create and you don't have to have an account with anyone to have one. The Microsoft® Tag is proprietary. An account needs to be set up, but this allows you track all of your codes created, and change data as necessary. Currently it is free.

How do you scan a QR Code, or a Microsoft Tag, or other bar codes available? You must have a mobile device (cell phone, ipod touch, etc.) with a camera. An application (app) for reading the code you're interested in must be installed. Open the app, snap a photo of the code, and you should be off and running. I highly recommend that you check your particular device for details on installation.

Best ways to see it in action are to watch a friend or try it yourself. Want to create a QR Code? Try the Kaywa site for QR Codes or the Microsoft Tag site.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Shoot, Carpenter Bees

I've had a few altercations with Carpenter bees (Xylocopa virginica) in the past, but they were few and fleeting. A few friends have had serious issues with them to the point where it sounded like mice were chewing on wood during dinners in their gazebo, but no worries, it was our cute fuzzy little friend. They are said not to cause much structural damage in most cases, but I am afraid that a 1/2" hole in some of our old wooden windows would be difference between drafty and just plain open.

Carpenter bee (Xylocopa virginica) working on a stained wooden trellis.
I did learn a few interesting tidbits about Carpenter bees from different Extension web resources. The University of Missouri Extension Carpenter Bees and the University of Illinois Extension Carpenter Bees Factsheet (pdf) were very quick and helpful. They mention that these tunnels can be very long, "sometimes extending 2 or more feet," run with the grain of the wood after the initial tunneling, and lay their eggs in chambers inside the tunnels. They are relatively harmless, unagressive, and the male does not have a stinger. The shiny abdomen is a great way to tell the difference from the fuzzy abdomens of bumble bees (Bombus spp.), their sometimes confused look-a-likes.

A hole started by a Carpenter bee (Xylocopa virginica).

On a more humorous note, the size of the tunnel is described to "look as if someone has shot a 45-caliber bullet into the wood," in the Illinois factsheet. If you have the this background, you know exactly what this may look like, if not, then you may have learned two things. What a Carpenter bee tunnel looks like and the size of hole a 45-caliber bullet would come out of.

I spotted this little critter digging away on a trellis that my mom made for me. Now, if my mom had seen this, there would be no question of the future of this bee, but I had my camera in-hand and was on a routine garden walk and shot it with a Nikon D90 instead.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Wordless Wednesday - Silver and Gold

Cerastium tomentosum 'Yo Yo' (Snow in Summer)

Physocarpus opulifolium 'Mindia' (Coppertina Ninebark) and
Berberis thunbergii (Golden Pillar Barberry) combination

Aquilegia (Columbine)

Stachys x byzantia 'Countess Helen Von Stein'

Cornus florida 'Cherokee Sunset' (Cherokee Sunset Flowering Dogwood)
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