Articles (Blog)
Posted on September 16, 2019 8:00 AM by Gerry Trout
This is Beautyberry, Callicarpa americana, in the family Verbenaceae.  It is a native shrub in the southern US, and is often used as an ornamental shrub to attract birds to the garden.  This one is growing out of the sidewalk at the Methodist Church in Blairsville.  It was probably planted by birds or deer.  They love to eat the berries.  
When Beautyberry is in bloom, it's not that noticeable.  But, when the berries ripen to this bright purple all along the stems, you can't miss it!  It's in this beautiful stage now, so be on the lookout.  I hope you see some in your travels.  
Posted on September 13, 2019 8:00 AM by Gerry Trout
I showed you the Devil's Walking Stick last month, in bloom.  
Now those blossoms have done their job, and the trees are fruiting.  
All I really said about it was that it has a nasty thorny trunk.  Let's learn more about it.  
Its botanical name is Aralia spinosa, in the family Araliaceae.  Other trees, shrubs, vines in this family include Sarsaparilla, Ginseng, and English Ivy.   Aralia spinosa is also commonly called Hercules-Club.  They grow in woods and on riverbanks from southern New England to Michigan, and from eastern Texas to north Florida.  We've seen them all along the roadsides in our travels to Atlanta and Chattanooga, and my sister in Yorktown, VA has seen them along the roads there.  
Be sure to notice them in our neighborhood. There are several on Five Forks Drive across from Naples Lane, and some down Stonebriar, near the Crabapple sign.  They are really beautiful right now, with their dark purple berries.  The berries are pretty, but NOT EDIBLE.  So just look, DON'T TASTE.  I say that as a reminder to myself.  ALWAYS check the field guides, before tasting anything in the wild.  And, even then, be cautious and positively identify whatever it is.
Posted on September 9, 2019 8:00 AM by Gerry Trout
Categories: Crafts
Hahaha!!!  Made you look.
This is a winter project from a couple of years ago.  My sister challenged me to a knitting project.  She sent me the pattern, and I knitted a praying mantis.  You can't go wrong with purple and green, for a giggle.  This one is 10 inches long.  It lives in our living room, and hasn't caught a single caterpillar.  ;)~
Posted on September 6, 2019 8:00 AM by Gerry Trout
We saw this Praying mantis in the sage today.  Beautiful!!  It was about 4 inches long, and didn't move for a long time, well, long enough for me to go inside, get my camera, come back out to the sage, and take a few pix.
We've seen them in the gardens before, sometimes eating our precious Monarch caterpillars.  I don't really love that, but it's the way of Nature.  Everybody has to eat something.
I read about Mantises, and learned that there are over 2,400 species in the Mantidae family of insects.  They live all over the world, and got their common name:  Praying mantis, because of the way their forelegs are folded while they remain stationary, waiting to catch and grip their prey.  And I loved this description:  Mantids are "mostly ambush predictors."   That paints a pretty picture, doesn't it? 
I hope you get to see one in your garden, they are so pretty.
Posted on August 30, 2019 8:00 AM by Gerry Trout
Everybody loves to hate Kudzu.  Well, hopefully I'm going to give you a couple reasons to love it, or at least, not hate it.
Kudzu, Pueraria montana, is a trailing vine that resembles giant garden beans.  Each leaf has three leaflets, and are sometimes as much as four inches wide.  It has purplish pea-like flowers that grow in clusters, and are very fragrant.  Kudzu is blooming right now.  You can't see the flowers at 45 mph, but you can definitely smell them.  Roll down the windows when you're near it, and you will get the smell of grape Koolaid.  
Kudzu originated in China and was brought to America in the late 1800's.  Originally, it was introduced as an ornamental and forage crop for animals.  Farmers were encouraged to plant it for erosion control, and to stabilize the soil.  It was widely planted for erosion control by the Civilian Conservation Corps under President Franklin Roosevelt.  Apparently they planted some near Murphy, NC.  Because it's all over.
We stopped near King Ford, and I took this picture, so you can see the blooms. My picture doesn't show the plant, but you KNOW what that looks like.  I want you to see the blooms.
Reasons to love it #1) It has not yet invaded Five Forks.  #2) It smells pretty.  #3) The young leaves, roots, and flowers are edible. (Don't trust me; do your own research, if you're interested.)  #4) The flowers are used to make jelly.  (I've seen it at the Blairsville Farmers' Market.)  
Funny story...When my sister first came here years ago, she referred to the Nantahala gorge as the Kudzu National Forest. Love it!!!
So now, when you see Kudzu, you know more about it, and you don't have to hate it; you can see value in it.  
Posted on August 27, 2019 8:00 AM by Gerry Trout
In July, I wrote about the Sumacs blooming.  I have read about four similar kinds of Sumac in our area.  I only wrote about three of them.  And I promised to show you a picture of the fourth one, the Staghorn Sumac, Rhus typhina.
See why it's called Staghorn?  The branches, twigs, and blossoms are hairy, and resemble the velvet of deer antlers.  
I've been looking since July for one that was in a safe enough place to take its picture.  They are blooming all around, but none safe enough to say, "Hey!!!!  There's one, let's stop and take a picture!"  So this picture is from the Internet.
I wanted you to see it, so you can identify it when you're out and about.  
Posted on August 24, 2019 8:00 AM by Gerry Trout
Remember Roxanne and Jim's beautiful pink Clematis?  It bloomed last April.  You can check out the article in the archives, or scroll down to April 28th.
Another Clematis is blooming all over the place, right now.  It is Clematis virginiana, commonly called Virgin's bower.  It is a common vine, and very noticeable, once you start noticing it.  It has masses of creamy white flowers, and climbs over shrubs and fences.  You can see it all along the roadways; there's some by the little bridge on Moccasin Church Road.  
The picture above was taken in Blairsville, behind the Napa store.  I've been seeing this Clematis for years, adorning a chain link fence.  I love when it blooms!!
Watch for it on your next trip out.  You can even spot it at 45 miles an hour.  
Posted on August 16, 2019 8:00 AM by Gerry Trout
Look around, you can see this "weed" growing everywhere.  And they're blooming right now.
Botanically, it is Eutrochium purpureum, and is in the sunflower family.  Its common name is Joe Pye Weed, or Queen of the Meadow, Gravel Root, Kidney Root, and Purple Boneset.
Joe Pye Weed was used to treat a variety of ailments, as some of the common names suggest.  In the 18th century Native Indians used it in the treatment of kidney stones and other urinary tract ailments.  And folklore says that American colonists used it to treat typhus outbreaks.
Let's steer clear of the medicinal uses for Joe Pye Weed; and just enjoy its beauty in the meadows.  That's my plan.
Posted on August 14, 2019 8:00 AM by Gerry Trout
My friend gave me this Night-blooming Cereus plant several years ago.  It was just a cutting, stuck in a pot then.  
Cereus are members of the cactus family, and not native here.  As you can see, the plant is a little gangly, not real pretty.  This picture is two years old.  Since then, it has lived outside summers and falls, and over-wintered in the basement.  It's a lot worse looking now.  But I've kept it alive because I knew what was coming...eventually. 
Well, this year it set 3 flower buds, and last night at 10 o'clock 2 of them BLOOMED!!!  Each flower was about 9 inches across!!!    I think I took about 30 pictures, and this one is the best.  I wish you could have been here to see the real thing.
Magnificent!!!  Worth all the inside, outside, repotting, pruning, and waiting.  Each blossom only lasts one night, then it's  finished.  You really have to keep watching, so you don't miss the big event.  
There is one more blossom looking like she might open tonight.  So exciting!!!!
Posted on August 11, 2019 8:00 AM by Gerry Trout
If you've been walking lately, early in the morning, you've probably noticed a strong, sweet smell in the air.  The Sourwood is blooming, and it is very fragrant.  
When you smell it, look up, and you'll probably see this.  
Botanically, it is known as Oxydendrum arboreum.   It grows up to 60 feet.  And is prevalent in our woods.  
In the fall, it is easily recognizable because the leaves turn kinda pink, and the seed pods are white.  Beautiful!!
Plant identification is one of my passions.  Hope you enjoy it too.
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