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Abutilon theophrasti- Velvet Leaf

Abutilon theophrasti Velvetleaf, China Jute, Buttonweed, Butterprint or Indian Mallow
Abutilon theophrasti has many many common names- so many that I wouldn't be surprised if it had one common name for every star in the sky. Velvet Leaf, Indian Mallow, China Jute, Buttonweed and sometimes Elephant Ear are used to refer to this annual that is native to Southern Asia. It was introduced into North America in the 1700s where it made itself at home in roadsides, cultivated fields and gardens. Velvet Leaf is considered a noxious weed because it can considerably reduce crop yields as it steals water and nutrients from crops.

When I Collect Bells Of Ireland Seeds

When I collect Bells of Ireland Seeds
Most of my Bells of Ireland have started to go to seed so I thought I'd post a picture of when I know to collect Bells of Ireland Seeds for those growing this plant for the first time or those that may want to grow it in their garden in the future.

The most obvious sign is when the bracts fade from green to the light brown color you see in the image above. If you look inside the bract you will see that there are (usually) four seeds that resemble a pie cut into four segments- occasionally only two seeds will form. I usually keep an eye on the seeds and collect them right after they've turned brown and a gap develops between each of the segments so I know they're ripe.

Last year when I first collected seeds from my plants I got a big surprise when I encountered the spines that develop below the bell-shaped bracts. When they're completely dry they hurt pretty bad so make sure to wear gloves when handling the spent blooms. There are also spines on the edges of the "bell" that you should look out for.

Previou entry: Bells of Ireland flowers


Eryngium planum- Alpine Sea Holly

Eryngium planum- Alpine Sea HollyEryngium planum is a herbaceous perennial that is hardy in the US in zones 5-9. It grows to a height of about 3-4 feet tall and spreads about 16-24 inches wide. Eryngium is native to the Alps, Jura and the Balkan mountains. It can be propagated by division, seed and root cuttings. Propagating it by division may be difficult because of the tap root.


Belamcanda chinensis-Blackberry Lily

Belamcanda chinensis-Blackberry Lily flower and seed podThe Blackberry Lily is native to China and Japan and is not actually a lily- it is in the Iris family. Belamcanda chinensis is commonly called "Blackberry Lily" because of the cluster of shiny black seeds that are produced after the seed pod splits open.


Small White-Pieris rapae

Small White Butterfly Pieris rapae
The Small White butterfly commonly called Small Cabbage White can be found in Europe, north Africa and Asia. It was accidentally introduced into Canada in 1860 from Europe and has since spread as far south as northwest Mexico.

Black Swallowtail-Papilio polyxenes

Black Swallowtail butterfly Papilio polyxenesOne day while photographing the Red Admiral Butterflies in my garden this Black Swallowtail stopped for a short visit. I'd never seen a Papilio polyxenes in my garden before so I rushed to get the camera to photograph it. Unfortunately it didn't stay still long enough to get a sharp picture of it but I was at least able to document its visit to my garden.


Daylilies In My Chicago Garden

Shortly after I joined and started participating on GardenWeb I came across a thread where experienced gardeners were adopting newbies to gardening like myself. I ended up getting adopted by an experienced gardener who shared some tulips, alliums and daylilies from her garden with me.

Various daylilies growing in my chicago garden


Lace Bugs

Lace Bugs and Spider on Sunflower LeafI decided to pull out some sunflowers in my garden that were starting to look particularly bad. The leaves were turning yellow or developing yellow spots and just generally not looking very good. While I was cutting them down and bagging the plants I noticed some small bugs on the leaves that I hadn't seen before. At first I thought they were crumbs or some kind of plant debris but then I started noticed them bouncing up and down sort of like a needle on a sewing machine.

Spotted Cucumber Beetle

Spotted yellow cucumber beetleThe spotted Cucumber Beetle is a common beetle found in the home garden. It has a black head and antennae with a yellow-green colored body. It has twelve dark spots on the top and three pairs of short legs. One common name is the southern corn rootworm because in the larvae stage it feeds on the roots of plants.


Nasturtium 'Jewel Mix'

Nasturtium Jewel Mix Flowers
Nasturtium 'Jewel Mix' is probably the most commonly found Nasturtium on seed racks. I've found seed packs of this annual priced as cheap as 25 cents and when I see them for that price I always pick up a few to give away. I think one of the main reason I like 'Jewel Mix' so much is because the color combinations change almost daily when you're growing these in your garden.


When I Collect Poppy Seeds

I've finished collecting the last of the poppy seed heads in my garden this weekend and I thought I'd make a post to show the visual clues of when I know it is time to collect poppy seeds for those that don't know when to collect them.Saving and collecting poppy seeds from the poppies you grow in your garden is easy.

how to save poppy seeds

The two visual clues that I've picked up growing these plants is to first look for the color change. The seed pods on these poppies go from green to a purplish-brown color when the seed heads have dried.

Euphorbia Obesa In Bloom

Euphorbia Obesa Flowers with Wasp
My Euphorbia Obesa plants are in bloom and I was surprised to see a wasp climbing over the flowers. As you can see the blooms on a Euphorbia Obesa aren't much to look at so I grow the plant for it's interesting shape.


Graphocephala coccinea: Candystriped Leafhopper

leafhopper aster yellows spreader
I found this striking bug in the garden a while back and was mesmerized by the colors but I couldn't get a good picture because it kept hopping away whenever I got close enough. I'd been waiting to see if I could get a better photo of it before uploading but I haven't seen them in the garden since I took this picture.


Top 10 Poisonous Plants.

A garden filled with the Top 10 Poisonous Plants would be an interesting gardening theme. You wouldn't even have to travel to remote places to find the plants for your garden or pay an arm and a leg for such dangerous plants. They're not even illegal to grow, as a matter- of- fact you can buy all of them in a garden center near you.

Introducing: Mr Black Thumb

Black CatSince today is Friday the 13th I thought I'd take this opportunity to post a photo of my cat. Two years ago this stray cat started visiting my garden and I began to feed him. As everyone knows once you feed a stray animal it basically becomes yours and you can expect it to stay around.

Echinacea purpurea sport?

Echinacea purpurea sportI purchased a packet of Echinacea purpurea seeds from Burpee seeds about two years ago. This year they've started to bloom but I can't help but notice that some of these Purple Coneflowers are different from the rest. Some blooms on the same plant have normal flowers or contorted flower petals and some like the one above have no flower petals at all.


Lilium lancifolium-Tiger Lily

Lilium lancifolium-Tiger LilyLilium lancifolium is one of several lilies that go by the common name of Tiger Lily and considered one of the earliest lilies to be domesticated. It was introduced to the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew by William Kerr who "discovered" several popular garden plants in Asia when he wasn't busy supposedly getting high on opium.


Climbing Lily Flower

Gloriosa superba 'Rothschildiana' Climbing Lily
This is my second year growing these plants and two of them have just started to bloom in the container garden. Last year I planted one of the tubers in the ground and cut it when I was going to pull it up at the end of summer, I decided to plant them in containers this year to minimize the chance of damaging them when I lift them.

Hemerocallis 'Fairy Tale Pink'

Hemerocallis (day lily) 'Fairy Tale Pink'
For someone who doesn't like pink flowers in the garden I sure do have a lot of them. I bought this 'Fairy Tale Pink' Daylily at a Home Depot garden center last year after it was discounted. It was on a rolling cart among other plants that were discounted because they were damaged or looked beat up. Two ladies were looking at it but put it down because they thought it was dead.


Brown Lacewing

Brown lacewing pest control
As the sun was setting one day I went out into the garden looking to photograph bugs. And like is common for me I got down on the ground and close up to the foliage and waited to see what moved or landed. Moments later this rather boring looking bug landed on some foliage and I decided to snap a photograph of it.

Recently while clearing out my hard drive I came across the photo and was pleasantly surprised by the effect of the setting sun on it's wings. To me it looks like the sun streaming in through a stained glass window and aside from this "aint it cool" effect I didn't think much of this bug that I've seen a lot around Chicago.

That all changed today when I learned that this brown lacewing bug is actually very beneficial in the garden. I don't know if it helps with pollinating flowers but I've learned that in the larvae stage and even as adults they are voracious eaters of aphids and mites. Like ladybugs they are a biological control of pests that we should encourage instead of using insecticides.

One really cool (to me at least) factoid about this bug it is that it's also known as "trash bug" because Green Lacewing larvae cover themselves in debris and insect carcases as seen in this photo. I'm guessing this is a method of camouflage that helps the larvae avoid becoming a meal .

Chalybion californicum- Mud Dauber Wasp

Chalybion californicum Metallic Blue Wasp, Mud dauber wasp
I was photographing some butterflies in my garden when this metallic blue wasp landed near me and startled me. The blue green color of this bug is striking and I'd never seen one like it in Chicago before. After some Googling I've learned that it is a Chalybion californicum or commonly called a Mud Dauber Wasp.

Adenium Obesum: Fertilizer Damage

Adenium Obesum Fertilizer Damage
A couple of weeks ago I somehow mistook my liquid houseplant fertilizer for my bottle of liquid cacti & succulent fertilizer when I decided to fertilize my Adenium Obesum plants. The next day the leafs starting showing signs of fertilizer burn and were browning at the tips.

Atteva punctella-Ailanthus Webworm Moth

Atteva punctella-Ailanthus Webworm Moth in ChicagoAtteva punctella or Ailanthus Webworm Moth is thought to be native to South Florida and the American tropics. How it made it to my garden is a bit of a mystery because it isn't suppose to over winter in cold climates.


Sunflower Jade Hybrid

Sunflowers (Helianthus annus) are popular annuals because not only do they provide beauty to a garden but they also serve as a food source for animals like birds, squirrels and humans. They also seem to have a special place in the hearts of people who don't even garden and be found replicated in many mediums from t-shirts to paintings. They've even sort of become the icon of Green ideology. This spring my sister gave me a packet of sunflower seeds she received at the gas station when she filled up her gas tank at BP.


"Don't Tell The Boss You Saw Me Here"

Last weekend I stopped at a seasonal garden center in the parking lot of a strip mall in Berwyn, IL. The little garden center is located in a corner of the Cermak Plaza that has the strangest collection of public art I've ever seen and most of it has been there since I can remember. The exception being the sculpture that was made out of trash that was torn down a couple of years ago.


Danaus plexippus- Monarch Butterfly

Danaus plexippus-Monarch Butterfly
While I was admiring and photographing the the Red Admiral butterflies in my garden a Danaus plexippus landed right next to them on one of the remaining poppy flowers in my garden. This Monarch Butterfly landed for a few seconds allowing me to capture a couple of shots of it before it took off.

Vanessa atalanta 'Red Admiral' Butterfly

Vanessa atalanta 'Red Admiral' butterfly
The Echinacea purpurea blooms in the garden have attracted a number of butterflies into the garden. Vanessa atalanta or 'Red Admiral' as it is commonly known has been the one to show up in greater numbers.