Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Beauty in Wings

Tiger Swallowtail
I have been following this beautiful Tiger Swallowtail about the garden for over a week trying to get a good shot, but he wouldn't cooperate...today he was intoxicated by the pickerel rush.

According to Gardens with Wings, this unique species of swallowtail is a quick and strong flier, gliding when able. The males are a bright yellow, while the females can exhibit two different color forms; yellow and black and black and blue. The darker form is more common in the southern states. The caterpillar is just as remarkable, it resembles a small snake with eyespots. This butterfly particularly enjoys pink, purple, and red flowers, and is a wonderful visitor to any garden.

Family: Swallowtail (Papilionidae)
Subfamily: Swallowtail (Papilioninae)
Average Wingspan: 3" - 6"
Habitat: Fields, parks, suburbs
Similar To: Western Tiger Swallowtail

Plants That Attract This Butterfly

Common Buckeye
On the other hand, this Common Buckeye followed me around and posed for his pictures on a blue hardy ageratum.

According to Garden with Wings, this butterfly is a beautiful creature that is a must-have in all butterfly gardens. It is a fabulous chestnut brown with 6 bright colorful eye spots. These smaller butterflies are quick, energetic fliers that are entertaining to watch as they flutter close to the ground. Buckeyes can be hard to see when hiding because they are very well camouflaged when they have their wings folded up, appearing as a dull brown leaf. Luckily, more times than not they will be basking in the sun showing off their colors.

Family: Brush-footed Butterfly (Nymphalidae)
Subfamily: True Brushfoot (Nymphalinae)
Average Wingspan: 1 5/8" - 2 3/4"
Habitat: Open areas, fields, meadows

Plants That Attract This Butterfly

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Uncommonly Beautiful Milkweed

For all the years I've grown flowers, I've always pulled this plant out of my flower beds, believing it to be a weed.  That is, until this year.  For two years now, I've somehow managed to get myself up to my eyeballs in pollinators, their habitat and conservation.
In doing so, learning  milkweed is the only host plant for the monarch butterfly.  So I have gone forth and planted several Butterfly Weed plants, (asclepias tuberosa) around my property.  While aware there were other types of milkweeds I could plant, I've had no luck in coming across them when planting time came around.  One thing leads to another, you get busy, it gets later in the season and too hot to plant, you're burned out and busy watering.....well, I'm sure you know how it goes.  The search for other milkweeds gets abandoned.

When this volunteer showed up in the Pollinator Demonstration Garden this summer, Ray quickly identified it as a milkweed, and I decided it just had to stay.  Since I've always tossed this as a weed, I've never seen it in bloom.  I've been watching it all summer, eagerly looking forward to seeing the flowers it would produce.

Since I enjoy this type of surprise, I resisted the impulse to google it to see what it was going to look like.
At long last, the moment I had been waiting for had arrived.  Last week, while doing my field report on the bee population for Penn State, I was delighted to find what you see here.  I was so glad I had my camera with me and would be able to photograph the beauty of this plant.

I couldn't resist capturing with my camera, this little lady in hiding.

I think somebody should tell her the polka dots are a giveaway!

So if you see this plant sprouting in your flower beds, welcome it.
It's one of the good guys!
Common Milkweed, Asclepias syriaca

Friday, August 27, 2010

Humphrey the Caterpillar

Humphrey - Hickory Horned Devil Caterpillar
(Picture by Linda Secrist)
One of the cool things about working on the hotline, is the occasional surprise when a bug, or plant sample comes in, that is out of the ordinary.  I watched Steve get all excited last year when an example of Dodder, a parasitic weed, was brought in.  We learn about this stuff from books, and our MG classes, but it's rare enough, that Steve, in all his years in the Horticulture industry, had never seen a live sample, outside a classroom.

Citheronia regalis
(Picture by Linda Secrist)

The same thing happened this week with a huge, 5+ inch caterpillar, with a cigar-size girth, that was promptly named Humphrey by Barb Petrucci's granddaughter, Kenzie, in helping Barb that day.  Linda Secrist helped identify Humphrey as a Hickory Horned Devil, or Citheronia regalis.
The species overwinters as a pupa in the ground.
The larva, commonly called the hickory horned devil, is one of the largest found in the area. The full-grown caterpillar (Photo 1) is 100-125 mm long. The head is orange and the body bluish green or sometimes brownish. Useful distinguishing structures are the long conspicuous spines or horns on the thorax; there are two on the first thoracic segment and four on each of the second and third segments. Thoracic horns are usually orange tipped with black, but sometimes may be mostly black. Rows of short black spines occur along the back and sides of the body.

Caterpillars are generally present from July through September. When fully grown, larvae enter the soil and pupate.
Citheronia regalis
(Picture by Linda Secrist)
Another common name is the Royal Walnut Moth.  Humphrey was Dr. Raupp's "Bug of the Week" September 21, 2009.
Adults do not feed and live only a few short days, but caterpillars require several weeks to develop. The hickory horned devil occurs from Florida to New England.  In Southern states, two generations of this beauty occur each year and in the north, only one generation completes development each year.
The royal or regal moths and the giant silk moths like Nancy's earlier Polyphemus moth, belong to the same family Saturniidae.
Most members of this family are large moths, the cecropia being the largest moth in North America. Because of their large size and sometimes striking colors and shapes, they attract a lot of attention when they are encountered, even among people who have no special interest in entomology. Also because the moths are rarely abundant, they are hardly ever taken for granted when one announces its presence by fluttering against a window at night.

The caterpillar stages of these moths are also large and spectacular and are observed more often than the moths. Some are ornamented with spines and barbed horns which makes them seem likely candidates for roles in horror movies. For the most part, this horrendous appearance is all show as far as harm to humans is concerned. However, the spines on the io moth caterpillar are true defensive weapons and can produce a painful sting to anyone who carelessly handles them.
Adult Citheronia regalis - Clemson University
The adult moth emerges in late June to early July and has a wingspread of six inches.  The body is orange. The front wings are grayish with red-orange veins and yellow spots; hind wings are mostly orange with some yellow markings.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Best Annual Flowers in 2010

SunPatients in Full Sun
Alan H. Michael, Penn State Cooperative Extension Educator and Director of the Annual Flower Trials at the SE Research Center in Mannheim, PA has released the winners for 2010.

The objective of the trial is help gardeners, landscapers and commercial growers select the best annual flowering plants. This year we saw constantly high temperatures above 90 degrees F. with many days at or near 100. Little rain fell for weeks on end, and then we received sudden downpours of 2-3 inches with winds exceeding 40 mph, then back to heat wave conditions. The best varieties must not only tolerate, but also thrive under these conditions. They must exhibit excellent heat tolerance, sufficient vigor to recover from storm damage, disease and insect resistance, and the ability to produce new attractive leaves and flowers. Here are some of the best plants for 2010 based on their performance:


‘SunPatiens Series’ (Impatiens Hybrida) is similar to New Guinea Impatiens, but sun tolerant. They are bred by Sakata Seeds and sold by Paul Ecke Ranch. The whole series is attractive and blooms all summer in full sun. They remain compact and do nicely in either containers or landscape beds. ‘SunPatiens Spreading Corona’, an orange variety, ‘SunPatiens Compact Blush Pink’ and ‘SunPatiens Compact White’ are the top three, although all ten varieties performed well this year.

Jade Princess

Jade Princess

ORNAMENTAL MILLET – This grass placed in the top ten for the second year. Most grasses are grown for their leaves and secondarily for their flowers. ‘Jade Princess’ from Ball Horticulture (Pennisetum glaucum) is the exception. A compact ornamental millet that grows 24-30” high, it is excellent in a mass planting or containers. Its light green foliage produces tan-pink flower heads that turn many shades of brown with no pollen. Consumers selected it as our number one variety at the Penn State Consumer Day on July 31, 2010.

Pow Wow Wild Berry

ECHINACEA – This variety is an improved native coneflower, ‘PowWow Wild Berry’ (Echinacea purpura) bred by PanAmerican Seed. It’s showy, with 3 – 4” flowers that have an intense deep rose/purple color and is hardy to zone 3. It received the 2010 All American Selection Award. A seed cultivar, it works well in both gardens and containers due to its basal branching. Reaching a height of 24”, it begins blooming in April when it receive 14 hours of daylight. Combined with its sister coneflower, ‘PowWow White’ it makes an eye-catching display.


GRASS – The new introduction ’Vertigo’ (Pennisetum purpureum) is part of the Graceful Grass series from Proven Winners. The stunning mahogany foliage grows about 3 foot high in containers and about 4 foot in landscape. It makes a wonderful backdrop for annual flowers.

Vivid Yellow Portulaca

PORTULACA/PURSLANE – The Pazzazz Series of portulaca (Purslane sp.) from Danziger of Israel was far and away the talk of this trial year’s trial. The series had outstanding flowering with ‘Tangerine’ and ‘Vivid Yellow’ the top varieties. They took all the heat and drought we could toss their way and they asked for more. If only they would stay open longer during the day, they could be the number one plant this year.

Insect problems:

During the heat waves of July, Western flower thrips became a problem; we used sprays to reduce numbers. We then applied a biocontrol using a predatory mite ‘Cucumerous swarovski’ to keep them under control. Aphids were a problem, but by selecting soft (organic) insecticides we allowed natural biocontrol to develop.
The biggest problem in August and September is caused by a the same caterpillar that affects sweet corn, the Corn Ear Worm, but it is known as the budworm in flowers! The adult moths fly up from the south in August and lays its’ eggs on the youngest flower buds of petunias, geraniums and callibrachoa. It mines the inside of the buds, leaving a small, barely visible hole on an unopened bud. Control can be obtained by applying weekly applications of the biocontrol called “BT” (Bacillus thurenginsis) in August.

Disease Problems:

The internal leaves of petunia and calibrachoa began to turn brown during the few wet periods we had between heat waves. Diagnosed, as Alternaria Blight, similar to early blight on tomatoes, it required two sprays of Daconil – chlorothalonil fungicide to bring it under control. We also saw some Rhizoctonia blight that caused leaf death. Sadly no good biocontrol exists for these pathogens as of yet.
For complete results of the Penn State Variety Trials go to the website:


And the Winners Are ...

Sun Gold Cherry - Seed Source: Johnny's Selected Seeds
Thanks to the efforts of Peggy Corley, Priscilla Harsh, Sally Dallago, and Laurie Collins, all 162 entries have been recorded and tallied.  The winners are:

 Letter Variety             Total
 1 D     Sun Gold            597.00
 2 Q     Sun Gold Select II  581.00
 3 B     Black Cherry        567.00
 4 K     Jazzy               566.00
 5 H     Red BrandyMaster    553.00
 6 F     Brandy Boy          540.00
 7 W     Vorlon              532.00
 8 X     Rose                525.00
 9 S     Chianti Rose        520.00
10 O     Lucky Cross         515.00
11 I     Black Krim          506.00
12 R     Yellow BrandyMaster 504.00
13 J     Orange Fleshed
         Purple Smudge       499.00
14 T     Red Candy           493.00
15 P     Ceylon              490.00
16 V     Solid Gold          486.00
17 M     Big Pink            484.00
18 A     Aviuri              479.00
19 U     Prize of the Trials 472.00
20 G     Tye-Dye Hybrid      457.00
21 Y     Super Tasty         456.00
22 N     Pink BrandyMaster   455.00
23 C     Martian Giant       451.00
24 E     Double Rich         431.00
25 L     Golden Mama         425.00

Brandy Master Red from Totally Tomatoes

Letter   Variety             Total
 1 F     Brandy Boy          618.00
 2 K     Jazzy               610.00
 3 Q     Sun Gold Select II  601.00
 4 D     Sun Gold            586.00
 5 A     Aviuri              576.00
 6 C     Martian Giant       567.00
 7 B     Black Cherry        566.00
 8 J     Orange Fleshed
         Purple Smudge       562.00
 9 O     Lucky Cross         559.00
10 T     Red Candy           557.00
11 Y     Super Tasty         551.00
12 X     Rose                550.00
13 U     Prize of the Trials 549.00
14 V     Solid Gold          541.00
15 N     Pink BrandyMaster   537.00
16 M     Big Pink            531.00
17 S     Chianti Rose        531.00
18 G     Tye-Dye Hybrid      524.00
19 R     Yellow BrandyMaster 524.00
20 W     Vorlon              522.00
21 L     Golden Mama         518.00
22 H     Red BrandyMaster    516.00
23 E     Double Rich         514.00
24 P     Ceylon              507.00
25 I     Black Krim          495.00
Update: Tuesday, August 31, 2010.  Here's a link to George Weigel's coverage of the event.

2009 results can be found here.

Tomato Day 2010 Coverage

Heather and LeVan Gray of Chambersburg
Picture by Anne Finucane

We had 162 people submit entries rating the tomatoes in the 2010 Franklin County Tomato Taste Day.

Local press coverage included the Morning Herald of Hagerstown and the Waynesboro Record Herald.

Here's an excerpt from the Morning Herald:
CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. — Looks aren’t everything when it comes to a great-tasting tomato.

And looks can be deceiving.

“The ugly ones are better,” Master Gardener Mike Cannady said as he carefully sliced a bi-colored variety of one of America’s most-popular fruits.
Cannady joined about 200 tomato growers and connoisseurs Wednesday at the 10th annual Tomato Tasting Day at the Pennsylvania State Cooperative Extension in Chambersburg.
Go to the link for additional quotes from the public and other MG's.  Additional pictures and a video of Steve Bogash describing the event can also be found there.

People line up for their turn
Picture by Laurie Collins
Excerpt from the Record Herald:
Chambersburg, Pa. — The Franklin County Penn State Extension Office was the place to be Wednesday for the annual Tomato Tasting, hosted by the Master Gardeners.

People were invited to taste 25 different varieties of tomatoes in a range of flavors, sizes and colors and award each a score.

Tasting Underway (Picture by Laurie Collins)

More pictures at the link.

MG's Get Ready
(Picture by Laurie Collins)

Yours Truly having a good time, apparently
(Picture by Laurie Collins)
County Commissioner Dave Keller selects the 'Celebrity Judge' winner of the Salsa Contest - MG Darl Hospelhorn
(Picture by Anne Finucane)
MG's Nancy Miller and Darl Hospelhorn
(Picture by Laurie Collins)

MG Coordinator Linda Secrist awards Sheila Keebaugh the 'People's Choice' winner for her Salsa
(Picture by Anne Finucane)

Martha Crider and her grandson, Alex Martin of Newville mark their score
(Photo by Anne Finucane)
Many thanks go to Denise Lucas and Peg Bundy and their crew for their efforts to feed the many volunteers, and so beautifully decorate the Ag Heritage Meeting Rooms.  In case you didn't notice, the source of each of the arrangements was one of the Hort Center Demonstration Gardens - Fence, Herb, Perennial, Pollinator, and Wildlife/Meadow.  And the vegetable display came from the Victory Garden Class.
Lunch spread for Volunteers, Extension, and County Staff
(Photo by Linda Secrist)
Dessert Table
(Photo by Linda Secrist)
Flower Arrangements Decorate the Ag Heritage Meeting Room
(Photo by Linda Secrist)
Flowers from the Meadow and Wildlife Gardens
(Picture by Linda Secrist)

Update: Tuesday, August 31. Here's a link to George Weigel's coverage of the event.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Goldenrod and Ragweed

Closeup of the flower of Common Goldenrod, Solidago canadensis Picture courtesy of Annette MaCoy
Cumberland County home horticulture educator
Goldenrod, or Solidago canadensis, a native perennial, is often blamed for causing misery for allergy sufferers this time of year. The real culprit, however, is ragweed, or Ambrosia artemisiifolia, a summer annual. Allergies are caused by small pollen grains from plants and trees that use the wind to spread them over a wide area. The plant’s reproductive survival is based on these wind-blown pollen grains happening to fall on another flower of the same species of plant or tree located elsewhere. The chance of successful fertilization is increased by producing a huge quantity of small, light, pollen grains, which can carry over great distances.
Field of blooming Common Goldenrod, Solidago canadensis
Picture courtesy of Annette MaCoy
Cumberland County home horticulture educator
Unfortunately for us, that also means that we can breathe them in, causing an immune system response that results in the familiar symptoms of sneezing, running nose, and headaches that make outdoor activities difficult for allergy sufferers. Goldenrod, however, is a flowering plant that uses insects to spread its pollen around. These grains are larger and heavier, and produced in much smaller quantities. Goldenrod gets the blame, simply because they are far more visible and blooming at the same time that the inconspicuous flowers of ragweed are also blooming. The native, wild species of goldenrod are also somewhat aggressive, spreading both vegetatively and via seed and can be considered weedy by home gardeners and farmers. They do, however, provide a welcome late summer and fall nectar and pollen source for beneficial insects and pollinating bees, that make them a desirable plant to have around.

Closeup of the flower of Common Ragweed,  Ambrosia artemisiifolia
Picture courtesy of Annette MaCoy
Cumberland County home horticulture educator
Fortunately, plant breeders and hybridizers (mostly from Europe) have developed Solidago cultivars that are smaller and less aggressive, making them attractive additions to a home landscape, with the added benefit of providing a food source for the good bugs.  The European cut flower industry has also recognized their attributes and they are increasingly used in arrangements, especially for cemetaries.

Common Ragweed, Ambrosia artemisiifolia Picture courtesy of  Annette MaCoy
Cumberland County home horticulture educator

So, keep ripping out any instances of ragweed that you find, to reduce the amount of pollen in the air, and consider adding some goldenrod to your landscape.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Another Hummingbird Moth - Manduca spp.

Also known as a tomato or tobacco hornworm, in its larval stage.  Like the clearwings in Kathy's post below, they belong to the Sphingidae family and according to that University of Missouri fact sheet, are referred to as "hornworms" because they have a conspicuous horn or spine on the top of the last abdominal segment. The bodies of these caterpillars are usually free of hairlike setae and smooth except for shallow wrinkles in each segment.

Adult Tomato Hornworm
(Manduca quinquemaculata)

Adults are referred to as "sphinx," "hawk," or "hummingbird" moths. They are fast, strong fliers with a rapid wing beat and often hover in front of a flower to feed on the nectar in much the same manner as a hummingbird (and superficially they look like a hummingbird too!). The name "sphinx" is probably in reference to the sphinx-like position that some of the caterpillars assume when disturbed.
This one has defoliated part of my tomato plant (I have plenty, so I can share), a genetically ancient one, a currant tomato, Lycopersicon esculentum (Pimpinellifolium group), which still grows wild in Peru and Brazil. 

Parasitized Hornworm

You'll also notice that this caterpillar has been parasitized, probably by a small braconid wasp, Cotesia congregatus.
Larvae that hatch from wasp eggs laid on the hornworm feed on the inside of the hornworm until the wasp is ready to pupate. The cocoons appear as white projections protruding from the hornworms body (see photos above and below). If such projections are observed, the hornworms should be left in the garden to conserve the beneficial parasitoids. The wasps will kill the hornworms when they emerge from the cocoons and will seek out other hornworms to parasitize.

Parasitized Hornworm
The main difference between the currant tomato (aside from the size), and our common garden tomato, Lycopersicon esculentum (Cerasiforme group) is that the flowers of the currant tomato do not fully enclose the stamens and their pollen, so it's much easier for cross pollination to occur. Since I like to save seeds, these were planted well away from my main crop.

Currant Tomato - About the size of a pea
There are many other groups of the tomato plant with untapped genetic material which will provide a source to keep scientists continually working to bring us even more varieties of flavorful, healthful, and colorful fruits.

The parasitized caterpillar in the pictures above is probably a tobacco hornworm, Manduca sexta (hard to tell given the wasp cocoons, but the barely visible white stripe points there), in which case an unparasitized caterpillar and corresponding adult looks like this:

Tobacco Hornworm Caterpillar
(Manduca sexta)

Tobacco Hornworm Adult
(Manduca sexta)
Tobacco Hornworm - picture courtesy of Gary Ankney
Update:  Monday, August 23.  Gary Ankney, Fulton County (and honorary Franklin County) Master Gardener sends these pictures of a tobacco hornworm from his garden.  Although I said above that I have plenty and am willing to share with a few caterpillars, I would not do that for a full blown infestation, which can destroy your tomato crop.  They are fairly easy to hand pick and drop in soapy water as a mechanical method for control, without resorting to pesticides, but are notoriously difficult to spot.  An enterprising gardener, however, recommended using an Ultra Violet light, or a Black Light, at night to get them to light up and make hand removal easy.  Gary includes a couple of pictures of what they look like under Black Light. 
Hornworm under Black Light - picture courtesy of Gary Ankney

Hornworm under Black Light - Picture courtesy of Gary Ankney
Load some "Iron Butterfly" into your Ipod, go out in the garden after dark with a battery operated black light atop a spelunker helmet, and hunt for hornworms. And people wonder why we gardeners are sometimes considered a little eccentric ...

Later Harvest - Big Beefsteaks

Big Beefsteaks

Big Beefsteak Heirlooms coming in - outside the baskets:  Brandywines, Striped German, and Orange Strawberry.  Green Zebras, too.  The dark ribbed ones are an old, old, heirloom, Purple Calabash - one of the historic varieties grown at Renfrew's Four Square Garden, and John Brown's House.  Seed originally provided by Dr. Doris Goldman.

Genetic Source for 2011 Orange Strawberry, Brandywine, Green Zebra and Striped German

Seed saving underway for 2011 planting.  Choose your best fruits, squeeze pulp and seeds into a jar and allow to ferment for 4-5 days (can get a little smelly).  Strain, rinse and dry on paper plates, being sure to label them.

My Zoe Bear
Gratuitous Dog Pic