Mosquitoes Preparing for Next Season's Coup!

Dave and Poppy enjoy the patio
 Okay. Maybe it's not the best timing to talk about mosquitoes in late October. But it's never too early to prepare for next year.

My garden has two seasons: jacket and gloves weather and mosquito weather. In my garden, mosquitoes are so numerous they have to work in shifts. Really. You know how the little stinging blighters are known to be most prevalent during dusk and right after dawn? That is true here, but my mosquitoes work just as aggressively in the middle of the day. They don’t even break for lunch!

I’ve solved both the working in the garden and the sitting on the patio activities with two different products, sent to me by ThermaCELL.

Patio sitting was the stuff of dreams before I tried the pair of mosquito repellents. The Mosquito Repellent Appliance is about the size of a large remote control, and repels mosquitoes in a 15’ by 15’ area. It comes in a variety of earth-tone colors, runs on a butane cartridge that lasts 12 hours, and repels by heating up a mat soaked in Allethrin, a synthetic copy of a natural repellent found in pyrethrum flowers. The mats start out blue and fade as the repellent is used up—usually in about four hours.

ThermaCELL also sent me a lantern, a pretty little thing that’s disguised as a decorative light. Operating just like the appliance with butane and Allethrin mat, the lantern also has a two-level light that can be useful if you’re enjoying the evening ambiance so much you stay out until dark. The lantern’s range is also the same as the appliance—15’ by 15’ of repellent coverage.

ThermaCELL lantern (left) and appliance
I am totally sold on these items, as they allow us to virtually thumb our noses at those bothersome, buzzing bugs. The only tweak I’d love to see ThermaCELL make to their products is the addition of an automatic shutoff mechanism. I don’t know how many butane cartridges have been used up because I’d forgotten to shut off the lantern or the appliance. I discovered a way to remember with the lantern, though. I turn on the light, as I’m less likely to wander inside with a light still on than a butane cartridge. It’s nearly soundless and almost scentless.

For anyone who spends time or would like to spend time outdoors when mosquitoes are about, these products are great! And if you're looking for a gift idea that will equate your name with a lack of swatting, or spraying or staying inside, these items make a great choice.

Lilies from the Papa Mac Chair

Poppy keeps Papa Mac's Chair warm for me.
It was no bigger than a shoe box--hard to believe it contained so many possibilities. My order from B and D  Lilies contained a fragrant mix of mostly white, some yellow, and accents of deeper colors. The majority is meant for what I've come to call my Papa Mac Garden.

The Papa Mac Garden can be seen from the Papa Mac Chair, the recliner that had belonged to my Dad, who was referred to by his grand kids as "Papa Mac." His name wasn't Mac. It was Al. Mac was his West Highland White Terrier. The family tradition of differentiating grandparents by their dogs' names began with my nephew Jason, who lived with his mom (my sister) and Tootsie Grandma, named for my Grandmother's dog, Tootsie. Both Tootsie Grandma (my grandma) and Papa Mac liked dogs and they liked flowers.

The Papa Mac Garden is the last one I see before it gets dark, as I'm settling into the Papa Mac Chair to watch a movie. I love the way white or pale-colored flowers practically glow at dusk and so I've chosen the lilies accordingly.

Lilium 'Eyeliner'
The Asiatic-Longiflorum hybrid, 'Eyeliner' will bloom first. Its Easter lily heritage gives it a bit of fragrance, according to the description. It also recommends viewing this 3-footer up close to enjoy the thin line surrounding each petal.

Lilium 'Porcelain Doll'
'Porcelain Doll' is an Orienpet hybrid, a cross between an Oriental and a Trumpet lily. This relatively short (3-4 feet) cultivar blooms July/August and has accents of pink with a golden throat. It's labeled as having a light fragrance.

Perhaps slightly earlier than 'Porcelain Doll' is 'Silver Angel', a fragrant trumpet hybrid that can reach up to six feet tall when mature. For its first season, however, it should be three to four feet. Its bloom season is listed as July.
Lilium 'Silver Angel'
The lily variety I'm most looking forward to is 'Lankon', an Easter lily/lankongense hybrid. The back story on this cultivar is its appearance and subsequent popularity at the 2011 Chelsea Garden Show. This first-of-its-kind lily was introduced by H. W. Hyde and Son of Twyford, Berkshire in the UK.

I'm picturing a warm day in mid-July, with low humidity and enough of a breeze out of the south-southwest to carry the scent of the lilies blooming in the Papa Mac Garden. It won't begin to get dark until around 8, the day and the dark-colored blooms fading slowly as the white flowers take on a luminescence that my Dad would have loved to see as he sat in his chair.

Lily 'Lankon'

Make the Best of Borrowed Garden Time

We're on borrowed time in the garden, and I'm keeping a close eye on plants that promise to bloom, fruit, unfurl or dry on their stems.

Hydrangea m. 'Endless Summer' in late June
Hydrangeas are on my radar, including the dozen or so heads of 'Endless Summer', all in various stages of bloom. Back in early April I cut back the tallest stems on two plants that receive about three hours of direct sun each day. The lower stems, which are afforded a sheltered existence by virtue of their proximity to the ground, had viable flower buds at the time. Those began to show color in mid-June, and offered a handful of blooms in a pale lavender through mid-July.

Hydrangea m. 'Endless Summer' with Hydrangea p. 'Vanilla Strawberry' in mid-September

By early September, the stems I'd cut back in April had produced new blooming stems that began to treat me to a series of blooms that's still going on today. In the next two photos you can see the progress of the blooms in a two week period. Things have slowed down quite a bit as the days shorten and cool off, but 'Endless Summer' is putting on quite an impressive fall display. Perhaps not impressive by east or west coast standards, but I'm not complaining.

Hydrangea m. 'Endless Summer' with Hydrangea p. 'Pinky Winky' in the foreground on October 1.
Hydrangea m. 'Endless Summer' with Hydrangea p. 'Pinky Winky' in the foreground on October 15.
And of course I am watching the nighttime temperature forecast so that I can pick my tomatoes. I'm still harvesting the grafted 'Pineapple', and a good number of cherry tomatoes as well. 'Pineapple' is a monster, producing fruit that more than fills an average hand. The strange thing is that it forms its fruits in clusters. This time of year, I remove each tomato as it begins to turn yellow so that the nutrients the plant produces can go to its smaller partner growing on the same stem. The photo here shows a good sized tomato that has begun to ripen and its green, joined-at-the-stem buddy that I mistakenly cut off along with it. The pruners are there for scale and the smaller tomato at the right is a smaller 'Pineapple' tomato that shows its gorgeous blushed yellow coloration upon ripening.
A week's harvest from one grafted 'Pineapple' tomato.

Succulents have small root systems and
loathe damp soil.
As days continue to shorten, plants dry out a lot more slowly. For some, like the potted plants, it's a good thing. But for those succulents I plan to bring indoors, cold and wet create a recipe for an uphill battle toward good health. I've found that no matter how well-drained your pot's soil is, it is never a good thing to bring in your potted succulents when they are wet, or even damp for that matter. The reason? It's hard to provide enough heat to dry the soil out to the level it requires.

Damp soil is an ideal environment for fungus gnats and other bothersome creatures that harass your cacti and succulents. And if the plants have yet to grow into their pot as is the case with the group in the terracotta pot at left?

Since it's my pot I'm talking about, I'm shuddering to think what might become of these little guys with their equally little root systems knocking about in this large pot. If they aren't allowed to dry out somewhat before I bring them inside, I'll have to put them on a heat mat, which helps somewhat, but time will tell, and I'll write about how it comes out in a few months.

Meanwhile, this has been my entry for GARDEN BLOGGERS BLOOM DAY, in which garden bloggers from around the globe check in with a view of what is going on in their particular corner of the world in which they grow things. GARDEN BLOGGERS BLOOM DAY is hosted each month by Carol Michel of May Dreams Gardens--a happy place where fairies voice concerns to garden beings who lend their specialized expertise to the imaginative blogs written by a fellow Hoosier (that's someone who lives in Indiana) and friend Carol Michel. Please seek out those blogs that speak to you and your interests. Take from them what you need, want, or like, and leave the rest--as Carol's fairies are fond of saying--to grow.

A Lighthouse Keeper's Garden

Did I see lots of wonderful things on my forays into other regions this year? You bet I did! And if it weren’t for my camera—and the fact that we I longer have to worry about developing failures—I wouldn’t remember them.

There are two criteria for any travel destination when my husband and I get into one vehicle together. It involves flowers and water, and it can be interesting when the two priorities meet. We visit lots of lighthouses, which are common features when coastlines find themselves prominently placed on agendas. 

Our latest lighthouse was in Leelanau State Park in Northport, Michigan. The Grand Traverse Lighthouse was built in 1858, and then converted to a two-family dwelling in 1900. I suppose it would be less lonely with two families. Even so, I imagined their lives in an era when there were no televisions, let alone home computers. 
The need for a lighthouse in a time before GPS was obvious, the coast extremely rocky as most northern Michigan shores are. 

Still, it must have been fun to explore for the lighthouse keepers kids. Visitors to what now is state parkland enjoyed their hands at stacking the stones into a mini Midwestern Stonehenge.

Sign: "Built by James McCormick in 1926."

We enjoyed the works of two lighthouse keepers from the early 20th century who created structures with what was plentiful—small, smooth, rounded rocks, and what was cheap—concrete. 

Each of the planters was surrounded by a low fence for protection from visitors. I don't know whether or not they had received much maintenance by staff, but they looked sturdy enough to withstand the northern Michigan weather for close to 100 years.

Sign: "Built by Peter Reinhold Johnson in 1920"

The boat planter was obviously a modern work. I can't imagine a lighthouse keeper relegating a boat to growing flowers. My guess is that it was one of several used at a time when the lighthouse residents were responsible for saving lives.
A boat to nowhere packed with soil and flowers.

Inspiration Through Travel: You Can Grow That!

If I actually needed an excuse for traveling, it would be for the sheer inspiration. Leaving our comfort zones expands our worlds, encouraging us to keep stretching into that next town or park or garden. We've been up in Michigan once again, this time on Little Traverse Lake, which is on the western edge of the Leelanau Peninsula.
On our way up north today, we stopped in the coastal town of Northport where I had to practically jump out of the car to take photos of a garden filled with the largest Zinnias I've ever seen. Turns out I wasn't the only one impressed enough to whip out my camera. A man from southern Michigan who was snapping photos told me he also didn't recall ever seeing Zinnias this large before. From a distance they looked like Dahlias. They were all doubles with diameters the width of my hand - probably at least 5-6 inches!
As I snapped away at this front yard garden, a man stopped and asked my husband, who was in the car with our two little dogs, if they were Cairn terriers. The man, whose name was Mark, said he had a Cairn named Eddie and that they lived just up the street in a house that turned out to have a fabulous garden with lots of Hydrangeas, begonias, sculptures, mums, and the same Zinnias that were at the other house. (It turns out, Mark and his wife own the house with all the Zinnias in the front yard and rent it out.) 
Mark told me the Zinnias are called "State Fair," and that his wife buys them in flats early in the year to plant in the gardens. According to the Hudson Valley Seed Library, it's a very old variety named at a time when attending state fairs was one of the best examples of a great family vacation. Indeed, according to the National Garden Bureau in their Year of the Zinnia brochure, Zinnia 'State Fair' was introduced by the Ferry Morse Seed Company in 1939. I love Zinnias, especially the cactus forms. But I will certainly be seeking out 'State Fair' next season to see if they will grow as large as those in Northport. To top off our encounter with another gardener and Cairn terrier fan, Mark brought Eddie out to meet our Abbie. They seem to have hit it off quite well.
Abbie (left) meets Eddie.
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