Thursday, October 8, 2009

"In the garden, Autumn is,
indeed the crowning glory of the year,
bringing us the fruition of months
of thought and care and toil.
And at no season, safe perhaps in Daffodil time,
do we get such superb colour effects as
from August to November."
- Rose G. Kingsley, The Autumn Garden
"Just before the death of flowers,
And before they are buried in snow,
There comes a festival season
When nature is all aglow."

- Author Unknown

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Garden Bug of the Month: Ladybugs

Lady Bug, Lady Bug, Fly Away Home...

It's a common belief that ladybugs bring good luck. Perhaps you've been lucky enough to find lady bugs in your garden, or puzzled to find them in your home during the winter. We've compiled a variety of ladybug facts to perhaps unravel a few mysteries:
  • Coccinellidaeis is the family of beetles known as ladybugs (in North America), ladybirds (UK, Ireland, Australia, South Africa), and lady beetles (preferred by some scientists), other names include ladyclock, lady cow, and lady fly.
Colors, spots, and stripes?
  • Most orange ladybugs are an Asian species imported in the late 1970s to fight crop- and tree-eating pests.
  • Ladybugs also come in pink, yellow and even black.

  • The bright colors of ladybugs warn predators of the insect's disagreeable taste.
  • Can have as many as 20 spots.....or no spots at all
  • The number of spots on a ladybug do not identify its age.
  • The number of spots on a ladybug identify the species.
How Ladybugs got their name

According to legend in Europe, during the Middle Ages, swarms of insects were destroying the crops. The farmers prayed to the Virgin Mary for help. Soon ladybugs arrived and ate the pests saving the crops. Their red wings were said to represent the Virgin Mary's cloak. The black spots were symbolic of both her joys and her sorrows. The farmers began calling them "Our Lady's Bird" and "The Beetles of Our Lady". Over time they became popularly known as "Lady Beetles".

Ladybug Metamorphosis
In the springtime, ladybugs move into dense foliage where they will live, feed, lay
eggs, mate and pupate.
  • New life starts when a female ladybug lays a cluster of eggs (from 20 to 50 eggs) near an aphid colony which hatch in about seven days, usually in March and April.
  • Ladybug larvae resemble miniature blue-black alligators. The larvae are larger than their parents, and eat more than them, too. Each larvae will eat more than 400 aphids during their brief larval stage of about two weeks. When aphids become scarce, the larvae will devour smaller ladybug larvae; this cannibalism is a form of population control.
  • When ladybugs emerge from their pupal cocoons, a few hours in the sun will dry their wings and deepen their color.
  • In autumn ladybugs supplement their diet with pollen to store up energy. Then large groups of ladybugs over-winter (hibernate) together in a dry, protected spot, such as at the base of a tree, along a fence row, under a fallen tree, or under a rock.
  • When spring temperatures rise and the aphid population blossoms, ladybugs will emerge to lay their eggs. For several days ladybugs will then devote themselves to a frenzy of eating and mating. Once clusters of yellow-orange eggs are laid to continue the lifecycle, the adult ladybugs will die.
Should ladybugs show up as unwanted guests inside your home, it's most likely the Asian lady beetle. Asian lady beetles can be yellowish-orange to red with 19 black spots on the back that vary in darkness or may even be missing.

Ladybugs in your home are only a nuisance since they do not feed, lay eggs, or reproduce indoors; nor will they damage your house structure, carpets, furniture.

Should you find some ladybugs in your home this winter, consider it natures way of letting you know that you have a gap or crack in your home to repair before less pleasant creatures gain entry.

Natural Pest Control
  • Gardeners and farmers alike use ge numbers of ladybugs to control pests (aphids, spider mites). In the 1880s, California Citrus Growers purchased thousands of Australian ladybugs to save crops from a destructive scale insect that came from Australia and was killing large groves of lemon and orange trees. It took two years, but $1,500 worth of ladybugs conquered the scale insect infestation and the trees bore fruit again. The Australian ladybugs saved the California citrus industry that is worth half a billion dollars today.
  • The Mall of America releases thousands of ladybugs as a natural means of pest control for its indoor gardens.
By the case you were wondering:

Ladybug! Ladybug!
Fly away home.
Your house is on fire.
And your children will burn;
All except for little Nan,
Weaving gold laces
as fast as she can.

This children's rhyme dates back to Medieval England when the farmers would clear the fields after the harvest to prepare them planting by burning the old Hop vines. The poem was sung to warn ladybugs who were still eating aphids on the vines. Her children (larvae) could crawl away from the danger, but the immobile pupae (Nan) remained fastened to the plants (laces) and couldn't escape.


"There is no season when
such pleasant and sunny spots
may be lighted on,

and produce so pleasant an effect
on the feelings,

as now in October."

- Nathaniel Hawthorne

Plant of the Month: Fothergilla

A favorite of ours, the lovely, Dwarf Fothergilla (Fothergilla gardenii) is a dense, mounded flowering shrub that deserves a place in every home garden. It is a year-round beauty that is on URI's Sustainable plant list and is native to North America. It grows as wide as it does tall, and doesn't require any pruning.

Blooming from April through early June, the fragrant, white bottle-brush shaped flowers put on a delicate show before the leaves emerge. The
honey-scented flowers last about two weeks and later develop into green seed capsules.

Fothergilla is also called Witch Alder, and is a relative of Witch Hazel. It
produces small witchhazel-like nuts. In summer the distinctly-veined, leathery leaves are a deep, dark blue green.

Come autumn Fothergilla's foliage turn brilliant, almost fluorescent, shades of red,
orange and yellow in the fall. For the best multi-colored autumn display, plant it in full sun. Fall color develops from a scarlet tip and ranges from yellow, orange, and magenta. An evergreen backdrop of Rhododendrons or Arborvitae will accentuate Fothergilla's colorful fall show. During winter fothergilla's tangled branches provide nice texture to your winter garden.

When planting Fothergilla, it prefers acid, moist soil in either full sun or partial shade. It flowers best and produces best autumn colors when planted in full sun. It is highly adaptable, so will do well in part shade.

Fothergillas are named for Quaker physician John Fothergill (1733-1814), a physician and gardener in 18th Century London.

The lovely, dwarf fothergilla (Fothergilla gardenii) is a dense, mounded flowering
shrub that deserves a place in every home garden. Fothergilla may be small, but with year-long interest, it can have a big impact in everyone's garden.
Youth is like spring,
an over-praised season
more remarkable for biting winds than genial breezes.
Autumn is the mellower season,
and what we lose in flowers
we more than gain in fruits."

- Samuel Butler

Best Time to Plant Trees and Shrubs...

Why is Fall the Best Time to Plant Trees and Shrubs?
by Renee C. Brannigan

For gardeners the cool fall temperatures are wonderful for working outside. Take advantage of this season and our End of the Season Sale to add a new tree or a grouping of shrubs to your landscape. If you have plans to add to your gardens, fall may be the best season to plant, surpassing even the spring for many reasons:
  • The cooler fall weather is less stressful for plants, as well as gardeners. The trees are entering their dormant phase, so handling them now will be the least disruptive.
  • The soil is usually warmer and dryer than in the spring and has not frozen yet..
  • Since plant roots grow when the soil temperature is 40 degrees or higher, planting now gives them time to acclimate before the ground freezes and before spring rains and summer heat stimulate new top growth.
  • Although plants are dormant during the winter months, their root systems are developing and becoming established. Since there is no growth in the upper branches, the plants energy is directed towards its root system, making it stronger. Once spring arrives, this expanded root system can better support and take advantage of the spring rains to facilitate the surge of spring growth.
  • Ground covers and shallow-rooted shrubs may be heaved out of the ground by alternate freezing and thawing of the soil that often occurs in winter. Prevent this with a 2-4 inch layer of mulch will minimize wide soil temperature fluctuations.
A few planting tips:
  • Wait until early spring to fertilize
  • Water well in the fall before the ground freezes.
  • Natural woodlands left intact can easily be amended and "tamed" by incorporating wildflowers and shade loving shrubs to create a nice transition between your yard and the woodlands.
  • Low-growing shrubs incorporated into a rock garden with ground covers are a great solution for a steep slope and/or surface stones or ledge.
  • When choosing a tree, definitely keep in mind the mature size of the tree or shrub you are considering. It sounds obvious, but it's easy to forget when you see a really nice tree or shrub.
At Woodbridge Greenhouses, we are happy to help you choose trees and shrubs. Another great resource is the University of Rhode Island's List of Sustainable Trees and Shrubs
( The list excludes invasive species while including native plants that are: better acclimated to the region, not as prone to pest problems, and more favorable for native wildlife than exotic plants. Sustainable species are also lower maintenance, have fewer pest issues, and need less water.

The URI Sustainable Plant Guide lists plants which do well in Southern New England (USDA Hardiness Zones 7a-5b). While many favorite plants aren't listed (either because they are high maintenance or due to pests), as they say on their website:
"Life would be indeed dull without a rose,
but most of us would not want to maintain a half-acre of them."

A sample of listed trees include: Red Maple, American Hornbeam, Hackberry, Sour Gum, American Hop Hornbeam, Fire Cherry, and White Oak trees. Some of the native shrubs listed are: Sweet Pepperbush, Winterberry Holly, Mountain Laurel, Swamp Azalea, Highbush Blueberry, American Highbush Cranberry.

Enhance your yard with some trees and gain many benefits:
  • energy savings by shading your home during summer months next year and many years to come;
  • trees produce oxygen, cleaning the air you breathe;
  • create sound and visual screens;
  • add color and texture to the landscape;
  • provide shelter and sometimes food for birds and wildlife;
  • fresh fruit and nuts for you to enjoy;
  • increase your home's property values; and
  • control runoff in heavy rains
While we are celebrating trees, take a moment to learn about the Rhode Island Tree Council and their list of Champion Trees found throughout our state: