Saturday, March 16, 2024

Easter Wildflowers

Crocuses coming up in the yard. This is under our bird feeder where I initially planted a pack of ~25 of these all spread out in a ring many years ago. Today each one of those bulbs has divided into a clump just like this one. I count about 56 flowers here. 

This is an early source of pollen and nectar for our honeybees but we had such a warm winter that other options have peaked their interest. Still, it's good to have options to fall back on. 

A hyacinth from one of many Easter Plantings. I wish I could grow more of these but the squirrels and more recently rats that inhabit our yard think they're delicious so I rarely get them to come back each year. This one surprised me with how many flowers it has on it. Normally when last year's hyacinths come up again they don't have anywhere near as many flowers so this one is doing something right. 

A "Pix Zee" Peach Tree which is a super dwarf patio tree that only gets ~6 feet at most. I grow this in a pot and move it around wherever I need a pop of pink in the spring. They are self pollinating but stone fruits don't do well in my yard thanks to squirrels picking them off the tree long long long before they're anywhere near ripe. 

Daffodils in the front side garden. I like this mix of white, orange, and yellow but wish I'd mixed them up a bit more instead of planted them in rows.

Saturday, March 9, 2024

Queen Ant Physogastriming

The queen ant in my young Camponotus chromaiodes colony has started "Physogastriming." This is when the ovaries of a queen ant kick into high gear and start producing eggs at a much higher rate than typical in the year. Normally when queen ants do this it's done in phases to produce large batches of eggs. This helps the colony hit a sudden population burst early in the year for probably a whole lot of different reasons. It makes up for not laying over the winter, the added workers will make the colony more competitive with other colonies, they can steak out their territory better, and if they need to find a better location or additional satellite locations to extend the nest then they're better able to do that and populate them with defenders. 

Workers do something similar but not exactly. Even though they're sterile, they can still have ovaries and in some species it's common for workers to even lay eggs of their own. That is not the case here (I don't think.) Usually these tropic eggs are offered as food to the queen or her larva. In the rare case that they do develop they will only ever become a male because they're not fertilized. In a different genus, Formica, it's common the majority of the males in the colony to have been born from the workers.

More commonly though, workers will become repletes. The food is simply stored in a social stomach and as it expands we see a similar effect with the white membrane showing through. 

Monday, March 4, 2024

The 2024 Philadelphia International Flower Show

This year's theme was United by Flowers, which is as good a theme as any I suppose. I liked this year's show because it was well balanced. In years past the designs were too heavy on bulbs, then they mixed it up a bit, and it was nothing but orchids for one year, then there was another year where it was lots of plants from Australia and tropical parts of the world. This year's show brought everything together really well. 

 We entered and there as that immediate fragrance of hyacinths that reminded us that spring is just around the corner.


Lines of cherry trees, hanging balls of what I think are statice in assorted colors, with a garden planted with orange tulips and grasses, with these fancy bouquets of roses, delphiniums, and a dozen other things, and they're all mirrored in the reflection of the black pool of water.

 It's almost like watching fireworks at night. It's just this huge celebration of flowers.

Moving onto another design we have a bamboo structure with lots of plants growing on. While some of these seem to just be cut flowers, lots of the orchids I believe were epiphytes. It's nice seeing a design where some of the elements would also work in nature. 

Also the lighting in this part of the event is awful for taking pictures. Lots of the promotional material and behind the scenes videos show all the ceiling lights turned on. It would be nice to go to a show where they left all the lights on. 

Gradually the show moves from high art, impractical pieces that are over flowing with flowers, and then onto landscapes, then more art set pieces, and gradually into just single plants in pots, then shops selling plants, then shops selling things that can be used on plants, then shops that are just selling items that can be used outside. 

Pictured above I would put in art set pieces. We have hanging baskets with wreaths of flowers hanging from them. Very pretty in a flower show setting but probably not in many homes. 

I like the idea here but I'm not a fan of the color scheme. I think they were going with the USDA Growing Zones. There is a classic car hidden in there.

I regret I didn't get a nice enough shot of the full display this is from. But I loved the use of leaf litter in it. Despite all the plants used in these displays most of the shows just use patches of lawn, but the use of decorative leaves was refreshing to see.

The line was going out the door seemingly just to see this. You'd think France put the Mona Lisa on tour for how long we waited just to get close. When we finally managed to get to her, I have to say it was just okay. The abundance of fabric on the chest and front seems almost like cheating and it was better when we were far away and only able to glimpse that fantastic hat. My photo doesn't do her any justice as she was a bit of a show stopper. But it was nicer when she was 10 feet away.   

This was another great display. Lots of design going on as if inspired by a children's toy or 1980's game show. And to have made it with the price of wood being what it is.

It's like looking through a window into someone's room. 

This display wasn't getting enough attention. Who wouldn't love getting their hair done up in a florist shop? People with allergies probably, but as a concept the two stores seem to marry perfectly together. 

I "liked" this one I think but I'm not really sure what to make of it. I know it's supposed to be the potential of an abandoned lot but it's hard say look how great these broken cement columns look. It's like a landscape you'd see in a video game like Fallout. The only thing missing is an abandoned car covered in rust. 

This is a great example of beautiful flowers but the full exhibit isn't all that practical. 

This looks amazing. Who wouldn't want to have Easter Dinner at that table. If only the table were a little bit wider so you could put the food on it. As pretty as the flowers are, you probably can't see the people sitting across from you very well. Very pretty but not very practical.

This is another one that looks like an abandoned lot. I love that they used Staghorn Sumac as you don't see that a lot. The trouble though is that is a suckering species so this isn't a very practical landscape. Most of what is planted though is native so there's this idea of succession as the landscape ages. 

Echinacea pallida isn't often used in these displays, especially since they flower in the summer time, so someone has a greenhouse of these. 

I laughed when they thought to include decorative trash. 

I thought these tulips looks pretty and made a note to track some down for next year. 

This is a more practical dinning room. The centerpieces are pretty and up high so they don't distract or block the view of guests seated at the table. 

As much as I've complained about the use of bulbs in the past, this is what my front yard is going to look like in a few weeks. I've come to appreciate sweeping drifts of color especially when it's used sparingly. Seeing what 10 or 100 of something looks like side by side is always great to get an idea of what they will grow well with. Stem length and foliage color/texture and flower color are all factors to consider, and sometimes bulb mixes aren't mixed well enough. The line in our front garden was completely lacking the purple tulips that were supposed to be in the mix.    

As an example of timing issues, mixed among the yellow Daffodil/Narcissus here were some sort of crocus which were only just pushing through the soil. So look for those if you see the show on this coming Friday or Saturday I guess. 


I love seeing almost full sized trees in these shows. Normally they're something flowering but this display used a full on Pine Tree. 

This is a nice practical garden. I've seen youtube videos of gardens that look like this in the spring.Good job. 

The Amsonia wouldn't be flowering but it's a design and great to see them used. The Mt. Cuba Center just released the results of a 10 year trial on these so perfect timing as well.

 Summitry, now if only I'd held the camera level. 

Floral displays as Art didn't really catch my eye this year. One group seemed to use the same props from last year so I basically skipped them.

Onto single plants, or pots containing one type of plant. 

These can be just as enjoyable as those huge displays and landscapes overflowing with flowers. Often these are bread by people from seed who have bread them specifically to bring out different colors or textures that might not be available on the market yet. 

Other times it's just a really well grown plant.

In the case of the Orchids, it's often both. 

This unimpressive little plant is a Sundew. The leaves have hairs with little dots of glue on them. When they catch an insect the whole leaf will coil up and bring the dead insect to the middle. I like to think it was the reason I didn't see any flies around.

There was a bonsai tree section with some very impressive entries. One of them was over 100 years old. Sadly I was getting pretty tired by then so I didn't take too many pictures of them.

Even commonplace plants such as these African Violets had a spot to shine at the show. I say commonplace because they're in every garden center at Home Depot and Lowes.

The sign reads "This ATCO Lawn Mower from England is one of the first riding lawn mowers ever produced. It hales from 1910 and still works!" I kind of wish they had demonstrated it cutting but also understand it's a gas powered engine and would slowly fill the convention center with carbon monoxide.

This wasn't so much a landscape as it was a stall selling fine prick work and pavers.

These stalls have everything you could possibly want... or not. There was another stall selling kites, another one selling things made of wood, a leather shop... their connection to the flower show was tenuous at best.

I did find a few shops selling plants, seeds, and things you would actually use in a garden so that's nice. It was a great show and I look forward to going to next years.