Saturday, August 18, 2018

Fantastic Hidden Beauty On The Summersweet

It is so easy to be drawn close to the Summersweet by its amazing scent.  The pink flowers are beautiful now.  I stopped to inhale some of the heady perfume and then I saw an unbelievably gorgeous, hairy black orange and yellow caterpillar.  I knew right away I had never seen this kind before, but even from a distance I could see 4 yellow tufts that told me it was a tussock moth caterpillar.

 Although it is tempting to pick up a specimen this interesting,  that would be a rash decision and you get the rash.  I happen to have a field guide for caterpillars so I can tell you that this is Orgyia antiqua, the Rusty Tussock Moth caterpillar.  It is without a doubt one of the fanciest, most beautiful caterpillars I have ever seen.  This is a great picture, showing all of those different orange black and yellow hairs.  Be sure to click on the picture to see it as large as possible!  Still it cannot compare to actually seeing this real life.  It  is not native and may turn out to be a pest, but  it is a good looking caterpillar and I saw just one.

Friday, August 17, 2018

Sweet, Sweet Summersweet

Many of the plants in our gardens remain there because of some personal connection between us.  Summersweet is just such a plant.  Daughter Amy and I were hiking in Minnewaska as part of a return trip to her life in NYC.  Unexpectedly, we were surrounded by an unbelievably sweet scent.  Late August does not feature many native plants in bloom so we left the trail and walked into the breeze that carried the aroma.  Soon we found a head high bush covered with tiny white flowers.  All that we took away was a carefully crafted mental image of the plant.  Our description allowed Becky to identify the bush.  It remains one of our treasures since it always carries me back to a special day spent with my daughter.  We  also displayed a certain amount of woodsman skill since we were able to return to the trail.

This plant has a downside as a garden subject.  This photo shows the dried remains of last year's flowers.  They will snap off easily and that job is pleasant if done during full bloom but the sheer numbers of dead stems demand more time than we have to spare.  Some are broken off each time we pause to sniff,  but many remain.

Ruby Spice was purchased at an end of season sale from a roadside stand.  These genetically altered flowers are intended to hide the golden colored pollen balls that stain the pure white natural flowers.  That they accomplish with attractive grace.  This bush was stunted by its summer spent in a small pot but it has recovered nicely.  It is written that these plants can be controlled by pruning.  We need to try that but cutting away perfectly healthy plant parts does not come naturally to us.  So our sweet bushes are expanding and closing off the path forcing us to brush against the open flowers as we pass releasing even more aroma.

Root suckers are a method that these plants use to create new growth.  The little guy in the path is well shaped and will definitely be placed in a pot.  If we can bring ourselves to nip off its top growth, the second plant would match the smaller plant.  We will have to find the perfect place to set out two similar plants that will soon grow into monsters.

Summersweet sends out suckers freely.  That source of new plants could supply goods for a plant sale.  Here again if time was in greater supply, we could do something new for us.  A respected mail order nursery offers this plant for sale at $27.99 plus shipping.

A comparatively short time ago, this root sucker plant was placed at one end of our dry stone loading dock  That structure is completely hidden by dark green glossy leaves and delightfully scented flowers.  Not all of our transplants now show such luxuriant growth.  One was placed on the north side of blueberry hill to delay new growth in an attempt to avoid late frost damage.  I failed to notice the clear signs of a deer trail that passed right next to the transplant spot.  A protective wire cage limits the deer grazing but they keep the bush trimmed close to the cage sides and top.  This plant must not be a deer favorite since they avoid the bushes in the garden most of the time.