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Mh june 2020


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Maypop Hill Newsletter

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Mh june 2020

  1. 1. June 2020 An occasional report on what’s growing at Maypop Hill Nursery and the Miley homestead in Norwood, Louisiana; to subscribe to the free newsletter, contact us by email: web: seating There’s always someplace to sit outdoors on Maypop Hill. Our favorite sitting area is a covered swing next to Holly Gully. On the right side of the picture is a Red Mulberry tree (Morus rubra), which volunteered a few years ago and which drops lots of tasty dark fruit all over the bricks. Small deciduous trees behind the swing provide safe shade in summer and warm winter light: Hop-tree (Ptelea trifoliata), Silver-bell (Halesia diptera), Fringetree (Chioanthus virginicus, and Southern Blackhaw (Viburnum rufidulum). Behind the swing and on the back side is a trellised vine with large leaves. Can you guess why we planted that vine? While the leaves do screen hot sunlight which filters through the tree leaves, they actually serve a different purpose. What purpose? hint hint →
  2. 2. 2 If you guessed the vine on page 1 is a Woolly Dutchman's Pipe, then you are probably a botanist. Or a lepidopterist. Or an ecogardener, who grows plants that benefit the environment. In this case, the vine, whose botanical name is Aristolochia tomentosa, is a host for the blue and black Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly (Battus philenor). The lovely lady butterfly in the picture on page one kept flitting around us on a pleasant day in late May. She skipped from leaf to stem, looking for best places to lay her tiny clutches of orange eggs. In a few days, the three or four separate egg clusters hatched into a dozen or more caterpillars. As they grew, the little “cats” transformed pipevine leaves into caterpillar bellies and feet and feelers. In no time at all, the pipevine cats had stripped all leaves from the vine. We hurriedly cut leaves from other plants and wove them into the remaining stems to feed the tiny eating machines. And then . . . they were gone. No pipevine leaves. No instar stages of the boisterous baby butterfly brood. They crawled off and up and away to metamorphose into cocoons and adults. Will the Dutchman’s Pipe vine make its odd pipe-shaped flowers this year? Hardly. Will it survive at all? Probably, maybe. If not, we’ll plant another one. The caterpillars are gone, hopefully to multiply -- and not to feed the green lizards (anoles) which are able to stomach the toxins produced to deter predation by birds. But we must also recognize that Nature has her own idea about biological life cycles. The pipevine cats also left behind signs of their presence. Do you see the little black dots in the small birdbath under the vine? They’re all that remains of the pipevine leaves after the caterpillars digested them, a process, by the way, that was noisy enough for us to hear their chomping. Well, as they say in butterfly circles, frass happens.
  3. 3. 3 Hummingbords favor Coral Honeysuckle, above. Bees and butterflies relish the large landing pads of Purple Coneflower, top right. These plants came from seeds from west Louisiana, courtesy of Almost Eden Nursery, which sells rare-ish plants at the Louisiana Native Plant Society meetings in February. This “straight species” coneflower is taller, blooms for a long, long time, and is much hardier than the cultivars we have planted over the years. Middle right, a giant coneflower, Rudbeckia maxima. Besides bees and butterflies, this black-eyed Susan also feeds small birds with its seeds. Below is a Scrub Titi, where Lucy the Tiny Terror sits and waits for a koi to jump out of the pond and into her always hungry little jaws. Scrub Titi (Cyrilla arida) is almost evergreen and does not send out root suckers like other Cyrilla species do. Its striking white racemes make boocoodles of nectar and pollen for many bees, butterflies, and countless other insects which fly too fast for us to get a picture. Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata) grows like a “weed” -- making flowers and maypop fruit even when hordes of Gulf Fritillary butterflies eat up their host plant,
  4. 4. Maypop Hill Nursery & Publications Betty and LJ Miley / native plants & sustainable land use web: email: 4 Our hugelkultur pot garden is still less than half finished. Wood chunks and branches fill the bottoms, with natural soil and finished compost on top of that. We try to keep other big pots full of compost materials (kitchen scraps, leaves, other organic matter) and of course well-rotted compost to keep containers topped off. A large comfrey plant on the far left is planted in the ground, where it accumulates nutrients deep in the soil. It’s a permaculture thing! Tomatoes and potatoes have volunteered in several pots and are doing great. Strawberries, walking onions, and an unhappy rhubarb (a Yankee plant) fill three other pots. A Prime-Ark Freedom blackberry is growing in a pot on the back side. The tall pots and fence keep out rabbits and deer and the wire fence supports blackberry and tomato vines. Speaking of Compost A few years ago we were inspired to try making compost tea. We filled buckets with horse manure and aged it and steeped the stuff in water. The tea supposedly increases beneficial microorganism populations in the soil. It was a lot of work. And, as you have probably concluded by now, we Maypop Hill dwellers always look for easier (easiest) ways to get projects done. Our compost policy now is to take organic material, then put it in a pot and let it rot. You can even buy composed manure in bags or by the truckload from a farmer. But should you????? You may want to read these articles about people who bought and applied good old livestock manure on their property. They were not aware, until it was too late, that the manure came from cows and horses that had eaten grass or hay from a pasture sprayed with aminopyralids and/or clopyralid herbicides grazon-contamination/