Sunday, August 31, 2008

On Patrol

Hardy hibiscus are a really unique plant for our area. They have a great tropical look to them, with vibrantly colored large, dinner-plate sized flowers. They are very slow to come out of dormancy in the spring– we baby them in a warm green house before moving them out to the growing houses to give them an "edge." Unfortunately, they are also loved by the dreaded Japanese beetle. The other day I was peddling down a Crystal Lake street and saw some really nice hibiscus that obviously had not be ravaged by the beetles. I was intrigued by this and wanted to know, I knocked on the door to get this gardener’s secret, which she was more than happy to share with me and my intrepid readers.

The "secret" is one we’ve blogged about before but it goes to show that it does work: Sevin® and lots of it. The active ingredient in Sevin® is carbaryl, which is a very common chemical. You’ll find it in flea powders and sprays, so it is safe to use. Like Eight®, it is a topical spray, which means it has to actually touch the bug to be effective so you do need to re-apply it on a regular basis. But here is living proof that what we tell you at the store really does work when applied as per the directions.

Marcy invited me in to see her backyard, which included a beautiful water feature. Unbeknownst to me, her pond had been featured on the Countryside pond walk last month. I went to several pond and garden walks that day and hadn’t made it to hers and, boy, was I sorry but I was glad to see it at last. What a paradise. For the last several years the gardening trend has been the "outdoor room" and Marcy and George clearly consider the back yard as their summer living room. It features a beautiful brick paver patio, a raised water feature and lots of urban wildlife. They also recently put up a bat box in hopes of attracting bats to eat mosquitos. While most people would consider squirrels a pest, Marcy and her family put out peanuts for the squirrels and one in particular has become quite friendly, even touching noses with their cat!
While I was there Marcy had some questions about her water plants which I was happy to answer. Most of what she has in and around the pond are tropical plants, which in our area have to be considered as annuals or over wintered inside. One of her aquatic plants is actually one of my favorites– equisetum. As you can tell from its Latin name, it has something to do with horses and the common name is in fact "horse tail." This is an amazing plant because it is one of the oldest plants on earth dating back to the mid-Devonian period (350+ million years ago!) It is hardy in our area, but should be kept containerized since it can spread.

She also had several calla lily plants around the pond. The mother of my best friend from high school called them "death lilies," since they are often used in funeral arrangements. I like them because of their dappled foliage and unique flower, which can be purple, pink, yellow, green, deep purple and white. They are grown from bulbs in the spring and therefore not hardy in our area. They can be dug up at the end of the season and over wintered inside.

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