Thursday, June 30, 2011

Have a safe and Happy 4th of July!

Dear Friends,

It truly is summer and I hope you are enjoying outdoor living more than ever.
Don't let those empty containers sit there any longer.

Stop by soon.

Warm Regards,

"Summer is the time when one sheds

one's tensions with one's clothes,

and the right kind of day

is jeweled balm for the battered spirit.

A few of those days and

you can become drunk with the belief

that all's right with the world."

- Ada Louise Huxtable

Swallowtail Butterflies and Parsley?

Recently, Debbie and a few Woodbridge customers have noticed butterflies fluttering around parsley. Parsley is a host plant for Black Swallowtail butterflies to lay their small yellow eggs. When the caterpillars "hatch" they will eat the parsley or other plants in the carrot family, including dill, fennel, Queen Anne's Lace, and even carrot tops. Comparatively, Monarch butterflies will only lay eggs on milkweed.

Black Swallowtail butterflies are so easy to raise that many pre-schools and elementary schools incorporate them into their class time. At the Scituate Early Learning Center, the teachers help students locate eggs and caterpillars in the wild, raise them in an enclosure in the classroom, then release the butterflies outside.

Growing up I was taught that caterpillars make a cocoon and changed into butterflies inside. Recently, my son has taught me that caterpillars build a chrysalis.

Cocoon or Chrysalis?

The difference between a cocoon and a chrysalis is drastic (if you happen to be the inhabitant). Once the caterpillar begins its metamorphosis, it is called a pupa. Butterfly pupa attach themselves to a twig using their silk, then enclose themselves in a hard casing called a chrysalis. Within the chrysalis, their transformation completes when they hatch in the Spring.

A cocoon is the silk enclosure that some moth caterpillars spin around themselves before they finally molt into pupa from inside the cocoon. There are four stages from egg to butterfly: egg, caterpillar (eating phase), pupa (transition stage), and finally butterfly. Caterpillars grow so fast that their skin can't keep up, so five times prior to becoming butterflies, they shed heir skin (molt). The stages between molts are called "instars".

Let them eat....parsley and ...
If you are lucky enough to find Black Swallowtails in your garden at any stage of their life, you can easily help them by providing a few plants they enjoy, as well as shelter and water. Black Swallowtail butterflies drink the nectar from many flowers including purple coneflower, red clover, thistle, and milkweeds. Be sure to have a variety of these in your garden to entice them to stay around and lay more eggs. Since caterpillars are eating machines, you may want to plant more of their favorite host and nectar plants.
To learn more about the butterflies common in Rhode Island, I recommend the website: where you can click on the butterfly's name to learn about its favorite host plants.

For more great pictures of Black Swallowtails, visit:

Research by Renee C. Brannigan
"The dandelions and buttercups gild all the lawn:

the drowsy bee stumbles among the clover tops,

and summer sweetens all to me."

- James Russell Lowell

Blueberries and Pink Lemonade?

Pink blueberries?  

A fairly new variety of juicy blueberry is available at Woodbridge Greenhouses that has odd-colored fruit to match its odd name: Pink Lemonade (Vaccinium 'Pink Lemonade').

This intriguing blueberry bush promises four seasons of interest for your garden. Spring blossoms of pinkish-white are bell shaped and self-pollinating. In mid to late summer the mild-flavored fruit that began as a pale green has changed to a dappled pink and will ripen to a deep pink color. When the cool evenings of autumn arrive, the glossy green foliage brightens to orange then fades to a reddish-brown. Fruit left on the shrub will attract songbirds.

When planting Pink Lemonade, give it room to grow. It may reach five feet tall by five feet wide.

Ripe Vaccinium 'Pink Lemonade'
Pink Lemonade Blueberry is a surprising change from traditional blueberry bushes and will complement your garden year round.
"If seeds in the black earth

can turn into such beautiful roses,

what might not the heart of man become

in its long journey toward the stars?"
- G.K. Chesterton

Azalea or Rhododendron?

Azaleas have always seemed so petite next to most Rhododendrons.

The group of plants we call Azaleas is a smaller and a more specific classification of the larger genus of Rhododendrons. Their differences outnumber their similarities. (Please understand that the following are generalizations since some varieties have been cultivated specifically for different features and tolerances.)
Rhododendron Blossoms
  • Azalea foliage is usually more slender, pointed, softer and fuzzy.
  • Rhododendrons have thicker, darker green leaves, rounder tipped leaves without hair, even the small-leafed varities which are easier to confuse with Azaleas. 
  • Azaleas are generally sun lovers that can tolerate partial shade.
  • Rhododendrons prefer much shadier locations.
  • Azaleas flowers are smaller and funnel-shaped with 5 stamens.  
  • Rhododendron Leaves
  • Rhododendrons flowers are larger and bell-shaped with 10 stamens.
  • Azaleas commonly grow 2 to 12 feet tall but are often trimmed to a small shrub-sized plant.  
  • Rhododendrons average 4 feet tall and can reach 15 feet tall.
Azalea Blossoms
  • Azaleas: white, pink, red, yellow and purple.
  • Rhododendrons: pink, mauve, lilac and purple.
  • Both are wonderful in the garden year round with some keep their foliage throughout winter. 
  • Both need acidic soil with high organic content to survive.
Hopefully this will help to reduce any confusion about these two great plants that have been garden staples for many years.
Azalea Leaves

Research by Renee C. Brannigan

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Monthly Email Newsletter

Hello everyone,
You probably noticed that the subject line of the June email newsletter read: Azaleas vs. Rhododendrons. My mistake, that's a teaser for the July newsletter!

It should have read: Hummingbirds & Celebrate Perennial Garden Month in June.

Sorry for any confusion.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

"Kind hearts are the gardens;

kind thoughts are the roots;

kind words are the flowers;

kind deeds are the fruits."

- English Proverb


Memorial Day weekend our yard was host to a handful of hummingbirds. The acrobatic antics of two male hummingbirds were particularly surprising since two males were uncharacteristically  rested together between acting out their normal territorial behavior. 

Curious Male Watches
A female holds her own against 2 territorial males.
These pictures are of Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds. The only ones  that breed east of the Mississippi River, even though there are 15 other species in North America. Most Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds have over 900 feathers which are replaced yearly. 

Male hummingbirds defend their feeding territory (roughly a quarter acre) aggressively by dive-bombing intruders to protect their food supply. 
Hummingbirds are the most entertaining birds to visit our yard. With patience, they get used to our presence, so we can the action watch them up close. 
Male watching for his buddy.

In a single day, a hummingbird may gather nectar from approximately 1,000 flowers. In addition to sipping sugar water from feeders, Hummingbirds also search out small bugs and spiders for protein.

A staring contest.

They measure 3” from the tip of their beak to their tail -- the smallest of all birds. Adult hummingbirds weigh less than a nickel.

Two males resting in the same bush.

 The blur of their wings means they move quickly, but 60-80 times per second in normal flight, and up to 200 times per second in courtship dives is beyond fast. Watch this slow-motion video of hummingbird at feeder:

The male on the right has his tongue extended

Combine speed with acrobatic agility and hummingbirds can reach maximum velocity almost instantly after leaving a perch. With the help of their broad tail feathers and ability to rotate their wings in a circle, they can perform airshow worthy antics: lifting off using only wing power, stopping instantly, hovering, flying backwards, and even upside-down at times. 
Grooming time for the male on the right.

Nearly indistinguishable from adults in size, young males are mistaken for females until their first winter when they develop their red chest.

Leaving your hummingbird feeders out until late autumn will not upset the hummingbirds' normal migration pattern.

Attract them to your yard:


If hummingbirds live in your area, attracting them may be as simple as putting out a Hummingbird feeder and planting a few of their favorite flowers:

Whether in a garden bed, hanging pot or potted on your porch or patio, red, tubular flowers attract hummingbirds. Add a few of these plants to your garden: Fuscia, Petunias, Hollyhock, Hibiscus, Azaleas, Rhododendrons, Bee Balm, Begonia, Salvia, Honeysuckle, Columbine, Coral Bells, Delphinium, Flowering Quince, Foxgloves, Geraniums, Impatiens, Sage, Nasturtium, Nicotiana, Penstemon, Sedum, Shrimp Plant, Torenia, and Verbena.
Provide fresh sugar-water in a hummingbird feeder or two in different parts of your yard.


Hummingbird Feeders come in a variety of shapes and styles. Those with a perch allows them to rest while sipping sugar water. Look for a style that can be easily taken apart for cleaning. Clean your hummingbird feeder with hot water and vinegar. Anything stronger may harm these delicate birds. Be sure to rinse thoroughly before filling with sugar water.

The solution is a simple syrup of 4 parts water to 1 part water (4 c to 1 c. refrigerate remaining solution for refills). Red dye is not necessary. Most feeders have some red on them which is enough to catch the hummingbirds attention. I use hot water to dissolve the sugar, then let the solution reach room temp. before serving.

Try building your own feeder: Hang the feeder in a semi-protected area near a tall bush or tree to shield your hummingbirds from birds of prey, including hawks, crows and cats.

Provide bathing needs such as a misting device to provide the birds with a gentle spray.

"It's beautiful 

the Summer month of June

When all of God's own wildflowers 

are in bloom

And sun shines brightly 

most part of the day

And butterflies o'er 

lush green meadows play.

- Robert Burns


The quiet stars came out, 

one after one;

The holy twilight fell upon the sea,

The summer day was done."

- Celia Thaxter

June: Perennial Gardening Month

Dogwood Tree
June is such a great time to plant perennials that The Perennial Plant Association has named June "Perennial Gardening Month"

Perennials are perfect for all types of gardeners. Whether you're the type who tends just a few plants or enjoy spending all weekend playing in the dirt.
If you're not familiar with them, perennials are plants that dependably grow back every year for several years. They require little care and come in an unlimited variety of sizes, shapes, colors, textures, etc.

Perennial Advice:
  • To make sure you always have flowers blooming in your garden, a little planning is in order. Our helpful staff at Woodbridge Greenhouses can help you select a combination of plants that will bloom successively this summer until fall.
  • As the saying goes, remember that the first year you plant perennials, they sleep; the second year they creep; and the third year, they leap.
  • Unless your garden is very formal:
    • Plant odd-numbers of perennials.
    • Stagger plantings so they are not in rows.
  • Mulch heavily to reduce weeds. Beneath large areas of mulch, lay down a layer of weed block – you'll be glad you did! 
  • Remove spent blossoms to encourage more blooms and stronger plants.

It's JUNE! Danger of frost is past and the hottest days of summer haven’t arrived…yet. Your favorite perennials, and some new beauties, are waiting for you at Woodbridge Greenhouses. While you are here, visit our display garden, filled with perennials (enter through the arbor to the left of the Design Cottage).