The front of Mom's house is shaded by a huge pine tree and the soil there is almost entirely clay. Several years ago she gave up on flowers there and filled it with rocks and puts flowers in planters instead. She always fills three long planters with impatiens. I love to see them climb the outer wall of the house instead of flop over like they normally do when planted in the ground.
Mandevilla isn't hardy here (zone 7), but Mom puts hers in pots and treats them as annuals. She tried bringing them inside one year to winter over and it just didn't work out. These will die out once temps get down around 40 degrees, but for now they're beautiful on a trellis behind a porch swing.
I've never seen marigolds like those Mom grows. They love her sandy soil! Every year she broadcasts the seeds out and up pops a virtual forest of marigolds. That's my younger son trying not to get eaten by the pampass grass of unknown variety.
And speaking of being eaten...Mom's monster gourd plant is really starting to resemble the Little Shop of Horrors plant. It's abandoned the arch and is venturing out into the yard.
The gourds inside the arch are doing well, though, although Mom and stepdad did have to prop up the arch recently when it began to collapse under the weight of the plant.
Now we come to the bug ID. The gourd plant has become infested with aphids. *shudder* We're not certain what the black-and-orange bugs are, though. I'm hoping they're something beneficial that eats the aphids and not the plant. Sorry for the blurriness of the photo. (Note to self: break down and get a real camera instead of relying on the cell phone!) Any help identifying the bugs, as well as what to do about them if they don't eat aphids, would be greatly appreciated.
*edit* Could they possibly be lightening bugs?
A friend recently turned me on to Castor Bean. I, in turn, recommended them to my stepdad. I was told they'd help to keep squash bugs as well as gophers out of the garden. Stepdad purchased seeds (at the outrageous price of $3.95 for 6 seeds from Johnny's) and managed to get four plants up and growing. The good news is that it worked! The squash patch was huge and there weren't enough Castor Bean plants to cover the entire patch, but Stepdad did notice a dramatic decrease in squash bugs in the areas surrounding the Castor Bean plants. He also reports that he didn't have nearly the gopher problem in those areas either. The fuzzy/spikey areas are the seed pods. He says that so far he's gathered about 300 seeds and the plants are still producing pods! I imagine he'll have a LOT more Castor Bean plants in the garden next year.
Rounding out the tour of the gardens is a visit to the volunteer chilies. Five of them popped near one end of Mom's garden that she uses as a catch-all for whatever veggie waste that comes out of the kitchen. Stepdad always plants several of these every year so that Mom can make chile rellenos. These volunteers are actually making bigger peppers than the ones Stepdad planted in his garden!