Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Cercospora Leaf Spot on Crinum

I'm giving a talk on pests at a Crinum Workshop later this week at Moore Farms. When asked to do it, I think I declared, "Crinums don't really have any pest problems." But in putting this talk together, I've been reminded that they do have a scant few. This is not an overly troublesome bulb.

If you're not familiar with this plant, Crinums are old-fashioned Southern bulbs that are often found around old homesteads. Their bulbs can get really big- bowling ball size- and will form large clumps over time. My grandmother called them Milk-and-Wine Lilies; other names include Cemetery Lilies, Spider Lily, Cape Lily and Poison Lily. Poison Lily. I'd love to know the back story on that name.

One of the common diseases is caused by the fungus Cercospora. The spots are circular with a yellow halo. As the disease progresses, these spots coalesce and cause entire leaf dieback. While it doesn't kill the plant, Cercospora Leaf Spot does impact the beauty and vigor of this bold-textured plant.How do you manage this disease? By keeping the leaves dry.

Fungal plant pathogens need about 8 hours of continuous leaf wetness. If you have an overhead irrigation system that runs late in the day, the leaves will stay wet overnight.....and your chances of leaf spots (and other problems) will increase.

If you have this leaf spot, cut off infected leaves, increase air circulation (to decrease humidity) and keep the irrigation off the leaves.

If you want to know where to get this pass-along plant, check out this month's Southern Living and read about South Carolina native Jenks Farmer and his Lush Life nursery. Their article shows the more beautiful side of this plant.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010


Today is the one-year anniversary of my grandmother's death. She was my best friend and confidante- I miss her every day. While not the whole reason I am in horticulture, she certainly had a significant impact.

I can remember her working in her garden all through my life. There was a bank of creeping phlox by her driveway that would bloom around Easter and I loved it. To a five-year-old, the bank seemed to go on forever, and I was taken by the blanket of deep pink flowers. I think that was the spark that started the flame.

She gave me this picture a couple of years ago from one of her many albums. On the back she wrote "Kari's first horticulture lesson."She and my grandfather were tied to the earth. I lived with them in the summers during college and we would spend the cool evenings picking vegetables, blueberries, blackberries and raspberries. And from this harvest, we canned and froze what we could not eat fresh. This time of year, she would often make a cobbler of peaches, blackberries and raspberries which she called "Mixed Berry Cobbler." It was the best (Hey Kelley- you want to try to replicate it next time we are home?).

And her flowers. She favored old-fashioned plants like Bearded Iris, Flowering Almond, Queen Anne's Lace, Money Plant and Phlox. Her flower arrangements were often a combination of these flowers that she seemed to effortlessly collect from her garden. I have a few of the vases she commonly used, although my arrangements are much simpler.

All in all, she was a special women and I just wanted to share that today.

(My God. When did this journal go from plant disease to birds and tears? Soon it will refocus, I promise.)

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Baby jay update

I think it's official: she's a real bird now.

When I came back from Delaware, I saw a big change in Baby. While she stills comes for crickets, I now only see her about once a day, sometimes less. She'll fly to the porch railing and begrudgingly get on my finger, but once I give her a cricket or half a grape (she loves them), she quickly flies to a nearby pine tree to eat it.What conflict I feel! The naturalist side of me wants her to be a successful and independent blue jay while the maternal side of me wants her to need me forever! I know that as she continues to become a better forager, she'll come around less and less.

How do I know that she's now good at finding food? Well, she's still alive and I've been out of town 11 of the last 14 days (I know. I'm exhausted). That means she's doing something right.

The night I got home from Delaware, her feathers were stained red. Of course, my first thought was that she had narrowly escaped attack by a bird of prey while I was gone (what is wrong with me?). It was berry juice.

Since I have gotten home, I've watched her attack insects on the ground that she spots from her favorite pine branch. And I've scolded her for bullying a pair of cardinals in the weeping yaupon holly outside my office window. Like Pinocchio with his strings cut, Baby has become a real bird.

I've been gone for three days now. I wonder if she'll come around at all when I get back. The thought just made my mouth turn down at the corners and my eyes glimmer a bit. I'm not sure if she will.

P.S. The picture is from my first week with Baby. She looked so pathetic when she held her wings like that. It still pulls at my heartstrings to see that!

Thursday, June 10, 2010


I just got back from an amazing trip to the gardens of the Delaware Valley (Mt. Cuba, Longwood, Chanticleer, Winterthur). I'll write about it once I've had a chance to think about it for a few days. You know those experiences that pull you out of your creative/professional/personal rut? This was one of those experiences.

Throughout the trip, I had an ongoing discussion about stewardship with Jenks Farmer. If you know me, you realize that I am have a heightened awareness about our diminishing wild spaces and the impact it has on dependent plant and animal species. And it's sometimes hard to convey my position without making people think that I am a "native plants only" kind of person. And I'm not. I'm glad that tomato and basil have come together. And I can't imagine a garden without hydrangeas.

So here are my guidelines for good horticultural stewardship in the garden:

1. Never plant anything that has been identified as an invasive plant (regardless if you've never personally seen it be invasive....you must trust the experts on this). And remove invasive plants that are currently on you property.

2. Create a landscape that is mostly native trees, shrubs and perennials. You will have a bird and butterfly paradise if at least 60% of the plants are native to your region. The rest of the plants can be exotics. Make it diverse.

3. Limit the size of your lawn. I'll explain why in another post. You don't have to eliminate it (they are often important in a garden), but don't have more than you need.

4. Do not use pesticides. I make exception for ant bait and limited herbicide use.

5. If you have a large property, allow areas to be wild (i.e. left alone). This will provide shelter for birds, bees and other beneficial species.

6. Only use the irrigation system when absolutely necessary. Once a landscape is established, turn it off and let it fend for itself. So all of this discussion of stewardship made me think of my interaction with Baby Jay. Am I wrong to have a wild bird that allows me to hold her? Probably.

Although she lives in a nearby wooded area and can find her own food (she proved she can live 4 days without me....I'm so proud), she's not completely independent. She'd rather eat bait store crickets if given the option, so several times a day she sits on the railing of my porch and begs for food. And this puts her a risk to be eaten by a Red-Tailed Hawk.

Am I going to ever imprint another bird? No.
Am I going to keep feeding Baby? Yes. I'm too attached.

I did the math, and based on the volume of insects she has eaten over the last few weeks (not including the Red Wiggler worms that she didn't like), I'm looking at about $12 per week. That's about $650 a year. For a 3-ounce bird that lives in the woods.

I'm registered at the Folly Beach Tackle Shop if anyone would like to chip in on some crickets.


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