Month: September 2009

Ladybug, Ladybug …

September 29, 2009. Looking for a worthy fall project to engage youngsters in outdoor activity?  Check out the Lost Ladybug Project.  It’s another of those citizen scientist programs – like Project Budburst, Firefly Watch, and Frogwatch USA I noted in previous posts.  Lost Ladybug asks individuals of all ages to watch for and photograph ladybugs that frequent the area in which they live or work.  Then the organizers want everyone to upload photos to the Lost Ladybug website so they can be identified and mapped along with thousands of other ladybug photos.

The project began a few years ago, as a coordinated effort between 4-H Cooperative Extension Master Gardeners and researchers at the Cornell Institute for Biological Teaching, at Cornell University in New York.  Since inception, the project has now grown into nationwide effort.

Go to to see all the project details.  There you’ll find some cool, kid-focused projects and information,  all centered on finding, photographing, and learning more about ladybugs.

Ladybug-2 9-09_edited This effort tickles my gardener’s heart.  Ladybugs, such as this one found in my garden just last week, are a welcome sight.  Their main diet is aphids, the soft-bodied plant-sucking bane of so many healthy garden plants, but ladybugs will also dine on other soft-bodied pests. Plus, in south-central Connecticut, late summer and early fall often brings masses of ladybug beetles to light colored buildings – they really seem to like white – so this is a good time to get out that camera and join the Lost Ladybug Project.

To view many photos of different types of Ladybugs (which are actually beetles), visit The Bug Guide.  Hmmm … now which of the many beetles depicted there best matches mine?

Saving hydrangea blossoms

Peegee hydrangea-1 9-09 September 25, 2006.  As you scramble to enjoy as many blossoms as possible before frost finishes them off, don’t pass by late blooming hydrangea.  I find these some of the easiest blossoms to save.  Mind you I only have one hydrangea paniculata  tree (the peegee type) and one macrophylla ‘Bailmer’ (an endless summer variety) in bloom right now, but I cut blossoms off of both, with stems as long as makes sense for each blossom.  I arrange each in a vase arrangement, fill the vase with water, and walk away.  No more water, no more fuss.  The blossoms simply dry in the indoor air … and they hold most of their color.  This technique works when you wait until after the blossoms begin to turn either from white to pinkish or blue to purple/green.  It does not work with freshly opened hydrangea blossoms.

Right now, there are vases of hydrangea blossoms in many rooms of my house.  There’s even a large stoneware jar filled with huge paniculata blossoms adorning a front porch table.  After other outside pre-frost chores are done, I’ll pick off any browned petals, dump the water, and keep many arrangements through fall.  I’ll save other dried hydrangea blossoms for seasonal displays through winter (more on these uses as the holidays approach).

hydrangea macrophylla dried-3 9-09_edited hydrangea macrophylla dried 9-09_edited hydrangea paniculata dried 9-09_edited

If you don’t have a hydrangea paniculata tree , or the oak-leaf quercifolia shrub from which to pick, now is a good time to visit the local nursery to find one for early fall planting.  Just protect small trees/shrubs from browsing deer.  I used to surround mine paniculata tree with 4 foot tall chicken wire held upright with metal fence posts, but once the bulk of it grew taller than local deer, I was able to stop this practice.  Now the deer only browse on the lower branches and blooms, but there are still plenty for me to enjoy as well.  And, using the technique listed here, I’m able to enjoy hydrangea blossoms year round.