Night Blooming Jessamin Cestrum Nocturnum “Orange Peel” and a Garden Visitor

For those of you who have suffered through my below average photography skills, I am proud of today’s post.  I went to a plant sale at the Dallas Arboretum in 2007.  It was the last day of the sale and what was left were mostly annuals.  I don’t spend a lot of money on annuals because when building your garden, they are just not a good investment.  Perennials are the stable in any flower garden as they are mine.  I did find a tiny little plant labeled Cestrum Nocturnum “Orange Peel”.  The very informative lady at the table said it was part of the nightshade family, had small orange flowers, was frost tender, and liked a little shade.  So I grew it in my shade garden since this last season with disappointing results.  It did grow but did not flourish and never flowered.  This year I decided to move this plant (commonly known as a Night Blooming Jessamine, still a mouthful to say, to my cutting garden for more sun and hopefully it would survive winters without as much protection.  To my delight it has bloomed for the first time and seems very happy where she is.  I have not ventured out at night to experience what is described as an intoxicating scent but will soon enough.

This plant is a woody shrub with long sword like nearly evergreen leaves and small syringe type orange blossoms.  The bees seem to love them.  I took a picture of the first blossom (below) and didn’t notice the guest appearance until I saw it on my computer.

You have to look closely to see him but he is nevertheless there laying in wait, camaflouged and ready to pounce.  Now I don’t see a lot of insects except roly polys and the occasional mosquito.  You would think as an organic gardener I would have built an encyclopedic knowledge of garden pests and beneficial bugs.  I haven’t.  The truth is I don’t really care unless they are doing major, concentrated damage.  Then I look it up, figure out the best strategy (usually soap or insecticidal oil) and go with it.  So I can’t tell you what this guy is but he looks like a predator to me.  So welcome to my garden and bon appetite.

Tasty gardening and remember to “bee” positive!

Pest and Fungus Control Practices in an Organic Garden

I have been asked about my mulching and watering practices that I use to deter black spot on my roses.  First of all, I choose disease resistant roses, David Austen roses, Don Juan and Blaze, Peace, a few knockouts, Queen Elizabeth, Zephren Druin are all good but I also have a few tea roses and unknown hybrids that are a little more susceptible.

Second, all watering except for natural rain comes through a soaker hose I have attached with a timer for my cutting garden where most of my roses grow.  This prevents splashing on the leaves and minimizes the spread of black spot.

As for mulch, I clean out all last year’s mulch by January and prune the roses as needed.  Then, because some of my flowers re-seed themselves, I hold off on the mulch until any new plantlets have declared themselves.  This ensures my larkspur, bachelor button, and any new Rudbeckia and cone flower can set seed.  Then in May, I apply a fresh covering of live oak leaves at 3-4″.  I use live oak leaves because that is what I have and although live oaks are evergreen, they do “shed” a truckload of old leaves in the spring which is exactly when I need them.  Anything I don’t use goes to compost with a generous helping of bloodmeal to help them break down into great compost by fall.

That usually does it but sometimes our springs are a little soggy like this one has been and we didn’t have even one hard freeze this year so fungus and insects are at a high point and feasting on my roses especially.  Then I do use a fungal spray which also deters feeding insects.  Here is the recipe:

  • 4 tsp. Baking Soda
  • 1 Tbsp. Horticultural Oil (I use a light year-round oil)
  • 1 Gallon of Water

Mix and apply to the leaves with a pump sprayer (pictured below) or a regular spray bottle.  I use both.  That’s it.  The baking soda takes care of the fungal infections and the horticultural oil encourages the mix to stick to the leaves and also deters the bugs.  I have used commercial sprays in the past for both fungal and pest control and I can truly say that going organic has not reduced my ability to control these garden problems.  Plus, when I see a tomato (also planted in my cutting garden) I can eat it right on the spot like an apple which is my favorite way to eat a homegrown tomato.

I keep the green spray bottle near a struggling crepe myrtle that is having a problem with big white nasty aphids.  I have transplanted this tree to 3 different areas as my garden has grown and it is now in a spot that I like but it does not have as much sun as these little trees like so it has been susceptible to these bugs that came in on some azaleas from the nursery.  This is what they looked like a few weeks ago but I am glad to say that most of them are gone.

So that’s it.  Water and feed your plants and add compost at least once a year.  Strong healthy plants are the best defense against an invasion of bugs or disease.

Organic Gardening and remember to “bee” positive!

P.S.  BTW the baby robins are all doing well.  Mom and dad are flying their tail feathers off to feed the triplets and this is the sixth day from when they hatched.  Their eyes are open today and they are looking less like tiny dinosaurs and more like birds.  I will post some pics of the little family tomorrow.

Diatomaceous Earth

I know I talk a lot about organic gardening. Here is a great discussion on Diatomaceous Earth (DE). DE is a great organic alternative to pesticide for many garden pests. If you have dogs, spread this in the yard instead of using strong pesticides directly on your pets for flea control.

Happy gardening and remember to “bee” positive!

Diatomaceous Earth is a natural, organic garden pest control, it is a powder made of 100-percent organic ground fossils of diatoms that came from fresh water


Diatomaceous Earth kills by physical action- not chemical. While it seems like a harmless powder to us, it is actually quite sharp and hazardous to insects. It must come in contact with the pest to be effective. It will scratch and puncture the exoskeleton of soft-bodied insects, thereby causing them to dehydrate and die.

I dust it on the plants to reduce numbers of whiteflies and aphids, I first spray the plant with organic insecticidal soap, then I dust the powder on the wet plant and it sticks for days.

I didn’t really know I had an aphid problem until I noticed the drying and yellowing of my out of season watermelon plant that was doing pretty well until its infestation, and one of the corn plants. I…

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