My six for today include a few stories and a thief. Before the first story, though, I want to encourage others to consider offering six photos, tips, or stories of their own by going to the guide at https://thepropagatorblog.wordpress.com/2017/09/18/six-on-saturday-a-participant-guide/.
1. Prickly pear cactus (Opuntia humifusa), in the feature photo is at the center of the first story. On the east coast and in the Southeast of the US it usually blooms about my birthday (so do the Black-eyed Susans, which makes a nice namesake). The story here, though, is that my father supposedly brought a little bit of this back to Baltimore from basic training in Texas before being sent to Europe in World War II. From my grandmother’s home it traveled to my parent’s home in Baltimore, then to two homes of mine in Alabama. The short-lived waxy, yellow flowers are stunning, but the minute spines are absolutely evil. The first photo below shows some spines from last season; in the second the glochids are just developing. There is something about this cactus that keeps me transplanting it wherever I live. Maybe it is its connection with my father; maybe there is just something in it that reminds me of human nature.
2. The hosta garden below is a recent rejuvenation of a garden started well over a decade ago in a shady, wooded area when my mother wanted a bright spot to see from the kitchen window. Two weeks ago, I added the red pot and the large Sum and Substance Hosta to create a focal point. Actually, there are three new plants added to the plot, but I’m pleased that a number of smaller hostas have reappeared and that two Oakleaf Hydrangeas are reviving after an extended fall drought in 2016.
3. The Golden Banded-Skipper–or its caterpillar–is the next focus. While talking to Paulette Haywood Ogard, co-author of Butterflies of Alabama and contributor to the Alabama Butterfly Atlas, I found out that she had heard that Thicket Bean (Phaseolus polystachios), the host plant for the Golden Banded-Skipper (Autochton cellus) could be found at Highland Lake. There is no record of the butterfly having been seen in Blount County, but if there were evidence of the caterpillar on thicket bean, there would be evidence of the Golden Banded-Skipper. Paulette described the plant, which I remembered seeing. She sent me photos of the butterfly’s eggs and its caterpillar’s characteristic little tent made for shelter on the thicket been leaf. And, I went searching. I have a small patch of thicket bean, I found the eggs, the caterpillars, and the little tents. Paulette has gathered a few caterpillars to foster to the butterfly stage. Assuming success, the Golden Banded-Skipper will be recorded for the first time in Blount County, Alabama.
4. Thanks to Six on Saturday, the Propagator, and a recent Master Gardener presentation, I’m trying Limelight Hydrangea propagation from cuttings for the first time in several years. I started with eight, all of which were likely too big. Three are still with me. I am cautiously hopeful.
5. Japanese Maple fostering is another story of sorts. Fifteen years ago or so I gathered a tiny sapling from a lush Japanese Maple while visiting an area of mountainside land a colleague’s family had recently deeded to The Nature Conservancy. From that one three-inch tree I’ve fostered five others. Below is the latest.
6. Finally the thief. This photo speaks for itself.