Thursday, July 31, 2008

Feeding The Bugs

From Paul

spicebush swallowtail larva

Feeding the bugs

As much as it seems to run counter to what gardeners normally want, I like to feed certain bugs. Caterpillars, to be more specific.

As a kid, I spent many hours watching Monarch caterpillars eating their way through the leaves of the common milkweed (Asclepias syriacus). For some reason, I came to believe that was the only milkweed they fed upon. So, I was very happily surprised a few years ago to find many of my Asclepias incarnata (swamp milkweed) cultivars ('Ice Ballet', 'Cinderella', and 'Soulmate'- all various shades of pink) serving as host-plants to around a dozen Danaus plexippus (the latin moniker for Monarch butterflies) larvae.

early instar of spicebush swallowtail larva

Other garden-plant/butterfly relationships are quite common, although not all are exactly desirable. The larvae of the cabbage white (Pieris rapae) may be unwelcome to the grower of any of the mustard family (which includes cabbages, lettuces, turnips, broccoli, etc.). Still, it feels like there's a certain magic going on when one stirs up and walks through a fluttering cloud of dozens of them.
In my own garden, I allow the caterpillars of black swallowtails (Papilio polyxenes) free rein to munch my bronze fennels. This year, in the hopes of watching the metamorphosis from larvae to butterfly, we built a "cage" to hold larvae and their food. I may have to supplement the fennel with other plants in the parsley family (dill, carrots, Queen Anne's lace, etc.). As exciting as it is to watch this development, I got even more excited earlier this week when I discovered caterpillars of the spicebush swallowtail (Papilio troilus).

I've had a spicebush for several years now (there's one at the CGC, too!), and have also been aware that it was a larval food plant, but apparently missed seeing the caterpillars before. Now that I know they've "found" the plant, I feel like the plant has yet another season of interest (although rather a subtle one)!

The CGC has many plants that serve as both larval food host and nectar plants for adults (butterflies). Stop by and take a closer look to see who is nibbling on what!

black swallowtail larva

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Shopping & Searching

From Terry

Here's something that is easy to do and is a win-win for both you and the Civic Garden center:

If you're looking for a search engine that benefits our cause, consider Here's what makes so useful:
1) We receive exactly $0.01 per qualified search - no hidden fees, no vague percentages, no limits;
2) Donation checks are sent every month;
3) It's free, fast, and powered by Yahoo! Search;
4) You can keep track of your individual contributions through their parent program,;
5) If you shop online, up to 26% of each purchase via also benefits our cause!
6) It's powered by (a site that has been helping causes raise money online since 1997), so we know it's not just a flash in the pan!
See it for yourself at:

So, go ahead, do a little surfing and a little shopping and automatically make a contribution to the Civic Garden Center! Thanks!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Rescue of Long Time Roving Chow

I wish I had taken a photograph of Gibson, today. She stopped by with her new human. Gibson has been roving the grounds of the Civic Garden Center for about six years. All this time, people that worked at the Gibson House (up the hill from our grounds) have been feeding her. We all tried at one point or another to get close to her but she was always elusive and skittish.

When the tenant's of Gibson house were moving, one of them decided it was time to rescue this matted, smelly Chow and did so by hiring a company to humanely trap the dog. They accomplished the feat and Gibson, the chow, was carted off to the groomer to be shaved and bathed. She then made a trip to the vet's office, had a full check up, shots, and was confirmed to be in good health.

Happily, Gibson, now has a home that she shares with two other dogs. All of us at CGC, including our Dirt Crew, were relieved to know that Gibson is well and being well cared for. It's so nice to share true story with a happy ending and to have finally been able to pet Gibson!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Paul's Personal Mission

From Paul:

What goes around…

This will make me sound like a pessimist and, really, I'm not. I'm just passing on my observations. Can I help it that I notice things that others would rather not see?

The weeds are thriving this year. Woodsorrels (both Oxalis dillenii and O. corniculata) are rampant. Pokeweeds (Phytolacca americana) are flourishing. In our own yard we've been trying to keep black medick (Medicago lupulina) at bay (to little effect).

Then there's the poison ivy.

One of my personal missions in life is to make sure that as many people as possible know what poison ivy looks like. If I don't accomplish anything else important, I can rest assured that I have helped a few more folks avoid contact with the stuff.

That's been both easy and difficult this year. Easy because it seems to be growing very vigorously this year (probably due to the increased rainfall we've experienced this year, but I understand we can expect increased growth rates as atmospheric carbon-dioxide levels rise). That makes for lots of samples to show off. Difficult because with so many "samples," I can't keep visitors to our gardens from coming across them before I have made sure they've been "introduced."

So, here's a sample of Toxicodendron radicans (Rhus radicans). Consider yourself safely introduced (no need to shake hands!), and go forth keeping in mind the old saying "Leaflets three, let it be." (Is it just me, or can you hear Paul McCartney singing that, too?)

Thursday, July 10, 2008

From Cara:

I just returned from vacation Tuesday, after being away for 10 days, and was amazed at how much growth has occurred in the gardens here (and for once I am not just talking about weeds)! When I walked up the brick path into the building I noticed the two urns in the herb garden were overflowing with pink and purple petunias, and the cannas and elephant ears had grown at least a foot in height and were much fuller. The blossoms on the Annabelle Hydrangeas have more than doubled in size, and just about every Daylily in the collection is showing off its colors. The butterfly garden is abounding with flowers, and next to the Daylilies and the All-American Selections Annual Display, it is quite a show! I am not sure if it is the rain we've had recently or just having been away for over a week, but I am continually impressed with the beauty of the gardens here and how the plants thrive. It makes me see how many little things are happening everyday that we pass right by and give no notice to. Even working in these gardens everyday, I realize that even I need to stop and smell the flowers!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008


Here's something fun to do and CGC gets all proceeds from the tickets that we sell.

2008 Meyer Aquascapes Pondarama
6th Annual Pond Tour

Saturday July 26th & Sunday July 27th

Come join us for a self guided tour of twenty-eight of the most beautiful water features in the greater Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky area. Check out for further information. Tickets are available for purchase ($10.00 each) at the Civic Garden Center.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Holiday Schedule

From Terry

This is a short blog today. I just wanted to let folks know that the CGC will be closed for the weekend in observance of Independence Day. The staff will be using this time for "extra" vacation, and enjoying time with family and friends. The gardens are open, though, just not the building. You are always welcome to come for a stroll, pack a picnic and enjoy the scenery. Don't forget to look for the plant of the week. It's a Golden Raintree (Koelreuteria paniculata) and is in full glory right now! Have a wonderful holiday!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Contemporary Quilt & Fiber Artists Exhibit

From Terry

Members of Contemporary Quilt and Fiber Artists are exhibiting their art in a "Summer Showcase" at the Civic Garden Center July 1 - 31. More than fifty quilts and a variety of hand-crafted dolls, bowls, orbs, scarves, shawls, and bracelets are available for public enjoyment. Almost all items are for sale.