Monthly Archives: May 2010

The Dreaded Red Lily Beetle

Oriental lily ‘Sorbonne’

Last weekend after giving my talk on gardening for fragrance at the Wenhmam Museum, Elizabeth Hourihan from Carpenter and MacNeille, Yvonne of Yvonne Blacker Interiors, Pat and Leon from Finn-Martens Design, and I walked across the street to the charming Wenham Teahouse. The company was as enjoyable as was the lunch delicious!

The front walkway leading to the Teahouse is bordered by flowering perennials and seasonal blooms. Unfortunately, the Oriental lilies, which I imagine were planted for their welcoming fragrance, were in the process of being decimated by the red lily leaf devil. I began to hand pick the beetles, but then thought better of it…I didn’t want my friends to think I was over-the-top obsessed nor to walk into the dining establishment with squished red lily beetle all over my hands. If you do not vigilantly destroy the adult beetle, their larvae, and eggs, the red lily beetle will destroy all the leaves and buds of your favorite lilies. To my utter dismay, just last week, I saw one on the leaf of my beautiful native Turk’s-cap lily (Lilium superbum).

While at a local nursery, a woman came in asking the salesperson what poison to purchase to spray to rid her garden of the red lily beetle. I never tire of bending people’s ears to let them know that when you spray pesticides in the garden, pesticides of any kind, you are killing not only the pest, but all the beneficial insects as well. With early hand monitoring of red lily beetles, Japanese beetles, aphids, and what-not, you will not have to resort to spraying pesticides. I wrote the following information nearly seven years ago and am only too happy to pass along:

This past growing season the dreaded red lily beetle attacked our lilies. I had heard innumerable reports from fellow gardeners of this nasty import with its voracious appetite for lily foliage and wasn’t too surprised when evidence of them began appearing on several choice Oriental lilies. The adults chew noticeable round holes in the foliage. The growing larvae decimate the leaves and the flower buds. About 3/8-inch in length, the beetles are bright cadmium red with thin black legs. Because they have no known predators in North America and because of their extended egg-laying season, from spring through summer, they are difficult to control. As soon as you see signs of the beetle (be on the lookout as early as the first of April), monitor the plants daily. Squash any beetles that are visible. They are quick, and you have to be quicker. Next check the undersides of the leaves for the following three signs: glistening, miniscule reddish orangish eggs (usually, arrayed in a tiny line), their vile black, gloppy excrement, under which is concealed a growing larger larvae, and hiding adult beetles. Destroy the leaves that are hosting the larvae. The only way to maintain attractive lilies throughout the season is by constant vigilance, handpicking the beetles and their larvae in all stages. (Pages 155-156 Oh Garden of Fresh Possibilities! David R. Godine, Publisher).

Adult Red Lily Leaf Beetle (Lilioceris lilii)

I would add to the preceeding, that, with early monitoring, you will make a dramatic impact on the life cycle of the red lily beetle, and controlling them therefore does become easier as the season unfolds–but don’t let your guard down–especially if you have, as do we, lilies that come into bloom throughout the summer. When I say “they are quick, so you must be quicker;” the beetles are very devilish and will easily slip out of your hands before you have a chance to squish them. Approach the beetle cautiously (fortunately so, you will often capture two at once, because they are constantly mating). Place one hand under the leaf to catch it, before it falls into the leaf debris at the base of the plant. Once the beetle falls to the ground, it displays its black underside and is very difficult to see to retrieve.

Lilioceris lilii Eggs

The Fragrant Garden

The Fragrant Garden

Part Two

Located on the southeast side of our home is the primary pathway, which we walk up and down many times in the course of the day. We built the path using bricks from a pile of discarded chimney bricks. Ordinarily I would not recommend chimney bricks, as they are fired differently from paving bricks and are therefore less sturdy. We laid the brick in a herring bone pattern and luckily they have held without cracking and splitting. The warm red tones of the brick complement the creamy yellow clapboards of the house. A tightly woven brick path is a practical choice for a primary path as it helps keep mud out of the home.

Planted alongside the house walls and on the opposing side of the path, in close proximity to our neighbor’s fence, are the larger plantings of Magnolia virginiana, ‘Dragon Lady hollies,’ Syringa, Philadelphus, and semi-dwarf fruiting trees, Prunus and Malus. Weaving through the background tapestry of foliage and flowers are fragrant flowering vines and rambling roses. These include the most richly scented cultivars of honeysuckle and Bourbon roses. Viburnum carlcephalum, butterfly bushes, meadowsweet, New Jersey tea, and Paeonia rockii comprise a collection of mid-size shrubs. They, along with perennials, bulbs, and annuals—narcissus, tulips, iris, herbaceous peonies, lavender, Russian sage, lilies, and chrysanthemums —are perfect examples of fragrant plants growing at mid-level. Closer to the ground is a carpet of scented herbs, full and abundant and spilling onto the brick walkway. The length of our pathway is lined with aromatic alpine strawberries, thyme, and sweet alyssum. This most sunny area in our garden permits us to grow a variety of kitchen herbs. The foliage of the herbs releases their scents when brushed against. Including herbs in the flower borders provides an attractive and practical addition to the fragrant garden.

Mock Orange (Philadelphus 'Innocence') Red Admiral ButterflyMock Orange (Philadelphus ‘Innocence’) and the Friendly Red Admiral Butterfly

The fragrances are held within by the house and neighboring fence and the living perfumes of flowers and foliage are noticeable throughout the growing season. All the plants are immediately available to see, touch, and smell. The intimate aspects of the garden are revealed by the close proximity of plantings along a much-used garden path.

Native Sweetbay Magnolia (Magnolia virginiana)

Cecropia Moth (male) on Sweetbay Magnolia virginianaMale Cecropia Moth on Sweetbay Foliage

When selecting plants for a fragrant garden, it is not wise to assume that just because your Mom had sublimely scented peonies growing in her garden, all peonies will be as such. This simply is not the case. Take the time to investigate nurseries and arboretums during plants’ blooming period and read as much literature as possible. There is an abundance of information to be gleaned and sifted through to find the most richly scented version of a plant. When seeking a fragrant cultivar, one may find that it is usually an older variety, one that has not had scent replaced for an improbable color, convenient size, or double blossoms by a well-meaning hybridizer. And despite our best effort to find the most richly scented version, there will be disappointments along the way, as fragrance is highly mutable. Soil conditions and climate play their role, and some plants simply don’t perform as advertised.

Paeonia rockiiPaeonia rockii

A well-thought-out pathway looks inviting when seen from the street and the fragrance beckons the visitor to enter. The interwoven scents emanating from an array of sequentially blooming flowers and aromatic foliage create a welcoming atmosphere. Have you noticed your garden is more fragrant after a warm summer shower or on a day when the morning fog has lifted? Scented flowers are sweetest when the air is temperate and full of moisture. Plant your garden of fragrance to reflect the time of year when you will most often be in the garden to enjoy your hard work.

There are few modern gardens planted purely for fragrance. Maybe this is because there is now a tremendous variety of appealing plant material, offered by growers to eager gardeners ready to purchase what is visually enticing, by color and by size. Perhaps it is so because in the past fragrant plantings served the function of disguising unpleasant odors from outhouses and farmyards, and we no longer have to address these concerns. But the pendulum has begun to swing (albeit slowly) toward planting a garden designed for fragrance. Scent, along with rhythm, scale, harmony in color, and form, should ideally be an equal component in garden design. Plant scented flowering shrubs under windows and close to and around the porch. Plant fragrant vines to climb up the walls near window sashes that will be open in the summertime. Plant scented white flowering plants near to where you might brush against them while dining al fresco or to embower a favorite garden spot designed for rest and rejuvenation.

“True vespertine flowers are those that withhold their sweetness from day and give it freely at night. “(Louise Beebe Wilder). Imagine the dreamlike enchantment of the fragrant path through the night garden. The vibrantly colored flowers have vanished. All that you will see are the white and palest shades of pink, yellow, and lavender flowers reflecting the moonlight. Perhaps you will have the breathtaking experience of an encounter with a Lunar moth.  Syringa vulgaris ‘Beauty of Moscow,’ Madonna lily, Philadelphus, Japanese honeysuckle, Lilium regale, Nicotianna alata, Oriental lily, tuberose, night phlox, peacock orchid, Stephanotis floribunda, gardenia, Jasminum sambac, Angel’s trumpet, and moonflowers are but a few of the white flowers with exotic night-scents for an entrancing sleeping garden.

A thing of beauty is a joy for ever:

Its loveliness increases; it will never

Pass into nothingness; but still will keep

A bower quiet for us, and a sleep

Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing.

— J o h n K e a t s ( 1 7 9 5 – 1 8 2 1 )

Excerpt from Oh Garden of Fresh Possibilities! (David R. Godine, Publisher)

The most sweetly scented flowers…

Stephanotis floribunda Stephanotis floribunda

“Scent is the oxidation of essential oils of flowers and leaves. The most intensely scented flowers, lily of-the-valley, orange blossoms, gardenia, Stephanotis floribunda, and tuberose, for example, have thick, velvet-like petals that retain their fragrance by preventing the essential oils from evaporating.

The greater the amount of essential oil produced, the lesser degree of pigmentation in a flower. The oil is the result of the transformation of chlorophyll into tannoid compounds (or pigments), which is in inverseratio to the amount of pigment in a flower. Plants with blue, orange, and red flowers have a high degree of pigmentation and usually generate little or no scent. Pure white flowers release the strongest perfume, followed by creamy white, pale pink, pale yellow, yellow, purple-pink and purple. As color pigment is hybridized and intensified in flowers, fragrance is usually lost or compromised.”  -Oh Garden of Fresh Possibilities!

J’adore New York

My friend and fellow writer Isabelle Laflèche, along with her charming boyfriend Patrice, stopped by on her return to Montreal Sunday afternoon. She presented me with a copy of her dazzling debut book, J’adore New York. I simply could not put it down last night, and am suffering greatly today from lack of sleep. J’adore New York is semi-autobiographical; Isabelle draws upon her experiences as a corporate lawyer for a large Manhattan firm, and from her love of all things stylish.

Isabelle’s story revolves around the brilliant and très chic French transplant Catherine Lambert. Our heroine is poised to make partner, and between juggling the loneliness of working long hours in a lamentable job, office politics, and her desire to explore New York, she longs to find romantic love. Think Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday, but with a modern twist. The princess is now the high-powered career woman, longing for the beautiful life of personal and professional fulfillment. In Catherine, Isabelle has created a woman of many dimensions—feistily determined to succeed, yet occasionally insecure, trusting and sagacious, sensual, sexual, and down-to-earth. Captivating and a page tuner, I highly recommend J’adore Dior to anyone looking for a wonderful summer escape, especially if you have ever felt trapped in a tortuous job.

I have both the French and English editions of J’adore New York and both jackets are equally as beautiful, don’t you think?

Moon Vine

It was my joy to give the lecture, held at the Wenham Museum’s North Shore Design Show, on gardening for fragrance. Thank you to Lindsay, Yvonne, Leon, Pauline, Elizabeth, Julie, Lisa, Sandra, Polly, Eliza, and everyone else whose name I did not get, for your interest and great questions.

No garden planted for fragrance would be complete without growing moon vine. Plant moonflowers and cypress vines in late May and early June for September blossoms. Moon vine will give you dreamily-scented late summer nights and cardinal climber will provide nectar for southward migrating Ruby-throated hummingbirds

Moon Vine, Moonflowers (Ipomoea alba)Our moon vine-embowered porch in September

“You can tell in the afternoon which buds will open that night. In the South, where I used to live, it was the custom to keep an eye on the moon vine, and when sixty or so buds showed they would open that night, to ask people over to watch them. Unfortunately, people in the country talk so much that I cannot recall seeing the buds open very often. They tremble and vibrate when they open. Usually someonewould say “the flowers are out,” and everyone would run over to admire them, then back to jabbering.

Equally festive is the night-blooming cereus. In our neighborhood there lived an old cereus in a tub. It was ninety-seven years old, the last time I saw it, and produced 120 flowers open at once. When it bloomed (and you can tell by afternoon which buds will open) its proud owner would phone round the neighbors and there would be punch or champagne (rather dangerous in hot weather) and cucumber sandwiches for refined persons, and ham and potato salad for mere mortals. These parties, once such a feature of the American summer, were always spontaneous, since you only had a few hours to plan them and invite people. It was always astonishing to see how many people could come at the last minute.”

— Henry Mitchell ~ The Essential Earthman


Ruby-throated Hummingbird and Cardinal Climber, Cypress Vine Ipomoea x multifida

Perhaps this is the summer we will have our first moon vine party–and I will provide tea sandwiches for my refined friends and ham and potato salad for we mere mortals. What fun to imagine. Grow cardinal climber and moon vine together for a delightful combination of delicately toothed  and bold heart-shaped leaves–day flowering red trumpets for the hummingbirds and night blooming sweetly scented blossoms for you.

*Logees Greenhouse carries night-blooming cereus (Epiphyllum oxypetalum).


North Shore Design Show: Favorite Spaces

Dear Gardening Friends,

Please join me Saturday May 22nd at 11 am at the Wenham Museum where I will be presenting my latest talk, with photographs, titled “The Fragrant Path.” The Wenham Museum is offering a week-long program of special events, lectures, and presentations in conjunction with their 2010 Spring Benefit North Shore Design Show: Favorite Spaces. Last year’s show was a fabulous success and this year’s has been greatly expanded, with a longer running date and more programs. Not to be missed are two of my favorite designers, Elizabeth Hourihan of Carpenter & MacNeille and Yvonne Blacker. The theme of last year’s show centered around recreating favorite scenes from childhood tales. Elizabeth’s exhibit featured custom built cabinetry highlighting the beautiful workmanship of Carpenter & MacNeille and the children’s book author and Gloucester’s own, Virginia Lee Burton, including original textiles by Burton’s Folly Cove Design Studio. Yvonne’s exhibit was an utterly delightful woodland teaparty. I cannot wait to see what they have come up with this year!

Warmest wishes,

Kim

The Graduate!

We are rejoicing! The day began beautifully –with cerulean skies and Liv’s favorite breakfast, chocolate chip pancakes. Liv sang the mezzo solos in the Mozart Coronation Mass this morning at the Eliot Church in Newton, under the dirction of the gifted conductor David Castillo Gocher. She, and we, will miss David. He has received a fellowship to study at Northwestern University in Chicago. Congratulations David! We raced back to Boston where we found Commonwealth Avenue mobbed with students and parents; Nickerson Field even more so. Eric Holder, the U.S. Attorney General, was the keynote speaker (frankly, a generic speech was given, nothing like Jerry Saltz’s inspiring talk given the preceding day at the CFA convocation) and after the usual pomp and circumstance, the graduates were conferred. These past four years have flown by. She has worked so hard and we feel blessed that she has her degree from the College of Fine Arts. Thank you Boston University! Liv is traveling west for a few weeks and then working as the orchestra librarian at Tanglewood this summer. I don’t know what the future will bring, and with her artistic nature, I am sure she will undergo many transformations. I do know she has the tools to live the beautiful life–determined spirit, passion to create, incredible work ethic, and joie de vie. We are so very proud of our beautiful, musical, and hard-working daughter, and oh so happy for her.