Maybe you have seen the warty, lumpy, softball-sized green balls along the side of a country road. They fall from the trees in October and, more often than not, are still lying there in December. Maybe you’ve run over them, their soft yellowish flesh giving way with a gentle pop to the weight of your tires. Drivers behind you might notice the pulpy imprint of your passing. Like a pie crust under a rolling pin, the splat in the road flattens and expands with each succeeding set of tires; a day or two later it is likely to have faded to nothing.
The warty balls have a pleasant smell, a little like an orange peel. Unlike most tree fruits, they are not devoured by deer — or other animals either for that matter — but left to rot where they fall. The fruits are called “monkey balls,” “hedge apples” or, more commonly, Osage oranges, also the name of the tree that bears them (Maclura pomifera
) ... >> read article
Winter bugs are like uninvited guests who stop by unannounced and stay well beyond their welcome. To add to the dilemma, these guests leave their frass (the technical term for insect poop) about, some emit offensive odors, and others just make you want to scream.
The most common of these pests invading your home this winter are likely the stink bug, the lady beetle and the boxelder bug. While the brown marmorated stink bug and the Asian lady beetle were accidentally introduced in the 1990s, the boxelder bug is a native species ... >> read article
Walk into older gardens and many of us get jealous over the drifts of intermingled perennials and mature trees. “I could have such a garden, too,” we mutter, “if only I had started 40 years ago and inherited drifts of mature perennials and vast rhododendron shrubs.” One of the ways to make a garden look informal and mature – without waiting 40 years – is to incorporate self-sowers, plants that readily distribute themselves from seed.
For quick effects, self-sowing annuals are the way to go. As with most annuals, Midwestern gardeners can plant both cool-season and warm-season annuals. Cool-season annuals tolerate frost but not heat (think pansies) ... >> read article
The Chinese parrotia (Parrotia subaequalis
) is a wonderful small tree that is newly introduced to cultivation, with several online nurseries finally beginning to offer it. This is excellent news, as this member of the witch hazel family is destined to be a highly sought after in the home landscape. The autumn foliage of Chinese parrotia is unmatched, with the clean green leaves changing to spectacular shades of scarlet and orange. There is excellent winter interest, as well. The smooth gray bark exfoliates with maturity, revealing a patchwork of green, gray and creamy white ... >> read article