Zinnia: All-purpose flower

I may look like the crazy flower lady, with zinnia taking up a good chunk of space in my vegetable garden.  But there are great reasons to grow zinnia as a "crop".  The butterflies love them as a nectar source.  And they make great cut flowers; I like having a bouquet of garden flowers on my desk that will last a whole week.

This is a gulf fritillary butterfly.  I grew their host plant, passion vine, at my old house and got to see their caterpillar stage.  Below is the picture I took a few years ago.


Cracks in Tomatoes

Are your tomatoes cracking up on you?  It's all this rain we've been having recently.  The abundant moisture causes them to grow too fast.  The tomatoes are like the Hulk, bursting at the seams because of a sudden growth spurt.  


Tomato Competition

We have a competition going on to see whose tomato plant can grow the best tomatoes.  So far Big Boy (my son) is beating out Amelia (my daughter) and German Queen (me) when it comes to sheer mass production.  I'm still waiting on mine to turn, but I think they'll be tastiest.  


Ultimate Plant Cage

 My tomatoes are finally ripening!

No, I didn't stick all those stakes in at an angle, they are actually anchored like that from a central ring staked in the ground.  This is the Ultimate Plant Cage I was given to try out.  Overall it is working pretty well, though it was probably designed with more delicate plants in mind. 

But the Ultimate Plant Cage has allowed the tomato plant to spread out a little bit, which I'm thinking is good for air circulation and letting in more sunlight.  In the typical cages the branches tend to get smooshed together as they grow bigger.


Time to prune azaleas!

My azaleas are starting to fade, so now it's time to cut back some of the long straggly branches.  This picture was taken a couple weeks ago by my daughter.  


Oconee Bells

I was so excited to finally see these rare wildflowers in bloom at Devils Fork State Park.  The Oconee Bells (Shortia galacifolia) is a special treasure of the southeast of the United States.  They only bloom for a couple weeks each year.

I found the story of Asa Gray's obsession with this wildflower really interesting.  He spent 38 years looking for them in the wild after he saw this unnamed species in a collection in Paris.  Then, almost 90 years after they were first discovered, the teenage son of a amateur botanist stumbled upon them, and they were rediscovered.