Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Creature Feature

Box Elder Bugs (Boisea trivittata)

If you aren’t familiar with the box elder bug, you are among the minority. These true-bugs have black bodies rimmed in a bright fire-engine red. Something else you should know is that box elder bugs like the heat. In the cold, their metabolisms slow down making them experience life at a much slower pace, which is such a drag. Heat, on the other hand, gets their juices flowing and then the real fun happens. So when the weather is warm, they throw wild sun-worshipping parties for all their box elder bug friends.

These conspicuous gatherings start when one intrepid box elder bug finds a nice warm spot and emits a scent that summons others of its kind to the party, where they gather in a large reddish-black mass.

Though it can be alarming to see so many bugs together in one space, they are harmless insects with small brains containing just two main directives, eat and breed. Luckily they don’t eat or breed enough to threaten the existence of humans or the plants we love.

The real problems with box elder bugs happen in times of colder weather, like the fall, when they may move indoors (to your house) seeking warmth. People tend to become alarmed at these times since not many people relish the thoughts of sharing their warm homes with ugly, stinky bugs. In these cases, some control may be necessary.

It is important to understand a few key characteristics of the box elder bug in order to understand how to control them. First, they are attracted to and feed off of female box elder trees - the ones that produce seeds. Barring a qualified box elder tree, they will settle for other trees such as maples and ashes. If you are experiencing box elder bug infestations, it is a guarantee that there is a suitable host tree nearby.

Secondly, box elder bugs eat sap and tree juices. They don’t like or want any human juices, so you can breathe easy when you see them. They are a very minor pest of trees and have little or no impact on the health of their hosts. Horticulturally speaking, they don’t demand to be controlled.

Finally, box elder bugs grow from eggs which they lay on their host trees. Immature box elder bugs appear in the form of nymphs, which are similar in appearance to the adults, only smaller and lumpier. Their populations come in cycles and appear to be worst during hot and dry summers.

The best way to control box elder bugs is to remove any nearby host trees. If that is not an option, some degree of tolerance will be necessary. Since they don’t attack humans and do only little damage to trees, it is best to not use harsh pesticides to control them. In fact, pesticides will have only little success with these bugs. If you just can’t help yourself and you need to try something, insecticidal soap is effective and is less damaging to the environment.

To keep them out of your home, use caulk and insulation to plug up any possible entry points, like gaps around your windows. If they have moved into your home, they will congregate in warm, sunny areas, like windows. A vacuum cleaner is not only an effective box elder bug removal tool, but it is so much fun to suck those pesky bugs to their dooms!

Clifton Smith - Garden Manager

Monday, April 25, 2011

Blogger Profile - Clifton Smith

by Linda Townes

Clifton Smith is the Conservation Garden Park’s garden manager, as well as its blogger extraordinaire. His knowledge and wit make him an excellent choice for reaching readers in an educational and entertaining way.

Clifton has supervised crews for various landscapes in the Salt Lake City area, including the Conference Center at Temple Square. He has been managing the 4-acre Conservation Garden Park since 2005.

Raised in Southeastern Washington and Northern Utah, Clifton got his love of gardening from his dad—the one who always answered the neighbors’ questions about gardening. His father also was the first person Clifton knew who created and installed a drip irrigation system, long before pre-fab systems were available.

Clifton’s interest in gardening and plants led to a natural choice for education: a bachelor’s degree in Horticulture and a master’s degree in Water-Efficient Landscaping, both from Utah State University. When asked why he chose water-efficient landscaping as a degree, Clifton says “it just makes sense that Utah should have its own landscaping style.”

Clifton has answers to your questions—feel free to add them to his posts and he or another staff member will happily assist you.

Weekly Plant Spotlight

Sun Rose (Helianthemum spp.)

Ever since Adam was given the task of naming all of God’s creations, humans have had trouble coming up with original names. Once we find a name that works, we tend to use it to excess. The sun rose is a rose by name only and isn’t an actual member of the rose family. The sun rose’s problem continues with the genus name, Helianthemum, which means sun flower. So it’s neither a rose nor a sunflower, but its beautiful five-petaled flowers, which do open up in the sun, deserve an original name. However, a sun rose by any other name would still look as beautiful and, even though I can’t change its name, I can still enjoy their striking spring blossoms.

The flowers of the sun rose come in yellows, pinks, reds, stripes and oranges. Each flower lasts for one day, and that’s a lot of blooming for a plant that, at its peak bloom, looks like a carpet of flowers. The dark-green to grey-green foliage holds its own after blooming but can fade somewhat during the summer heat. It is well adapted to dry climates, however, and prefers full sun.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Upcoming Garden Events

These classes and events are coming up soon. Visit www.ConservationGardenPark/events.aspx for more information and to register for classes.

Vegetable Gardening
Thursday, April 28, 2011
6:30 p.m.
David Rice, Weber Basin Water Conservancy District
You can’t buy fresher, tastier vegetables than those grown in your own backyard. Learn the best methods for growing vegetables in Utah’s climate.

Mother’s Day Garden Fair
Saturday, May 7, 2011
9am-5pm
Join us for our annual Mother’s Day Garden Fair. There will be plant and garden-ware vendors, experts, workshops and mini-classes throughout the day. This is also an excellent opportunity to get that last-minute gift for mom! Admission and parking are free.

Spring Photography in the Garden
Thursday, May 12, 2011
6:30 p.m.
Wasatch Camera Club
Develop your skills as a photographer with the Wasatch Camera Club. Learn photography techniques that will enhance the quality of your photographs. Open to all levels of experience and any type of camera.

Attend two classes in 2011 and receive a $10 gift certificate to a local nursery. Our special thanks to Glover Nursery and Cactus and Tropicals for sponsoring our classes. (one certificate per person, while supplies last)

Monday, April 18, 2011

Weekly Plant Spotlight

Daffodil (Narcissus spp.)Narcissus was a hunter from Thespiae that was so handsome that everyone he met fell in love with him. In return, he scorned everyone he met. He eventually spotted his beautiful visage in a pool while out hunting and immediately fell madly in love with himself, wasting away while gazing at his reflection.

Narcissus is also the genus of the daffodil, whose beauty and characteristic dipping heads are reminiscent of the Greek tragedy. The flowers come in yellows and whites, although pinks are starting to be more common. Blooms are composed of a trumpet shaped corona surrounded by six petals. Many varieties are multicolored with the corona and petals being different hues.

Daffodils contain a poisonous alkaloid that can be toxic if consumed. They must not taste very good either, because all the regular bulb eaters stay away from it. For anyone who is still crying about the deer eating your tulips, give the daffodil a try.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Plan Next Year's Bulb Display

Spring is an excellent time to enjoy the beauty of all those bulbs you had the foresight to plant last fall. Unfortunately, by the time you get to next fall, you will have forgotten where you planted them and what they looked like. Now is a good time to take some pictures of your spring blooming bulbs and start planning for next year.



There are many local sources for flowering bulbs, but if you are particular about colors, choose a nursery that offers them in a wide variety. You may also want to look at bulb companies online, such as:



Monday, April 11, 2011

Weekly Plant Spotlight

Tulip (Tulipa spp.)
If you are reading this blog and don’t know about tulips, welcome to the world of gardening. Most avid gardeners put them to good use in their gardens. Tulips are relatively fuss-free plants if you are the average gardener. Tulips need a cold period in order to bloom, so plant them in the fall before temperatures dip below freezing. When planting place the bulbs close together in natural looking clumps which, when in bloom, look better than even rows and lines. Warm spring weather brings large, cup-shaped flowers in every color of the rainbow and many shapes. Tulips will provide several years of decent blooms before the blooms lose their energy and only leaves grow. If you are the un-average gardener and only want the best and brightest flowers in your garden, you may choose to dig up your bulbs every year and plant new ones. I let them grow until they displease me and then unceremoniously rip them out and give them to the garbage man. One final work of warning, tulips are candy for deer. If you live in an area with a large deer population, don’t even try tulips.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Upcoming Garden Events

These classes and events are coming up soon. Visit www.ConservationGardenPark/events.aspx for more information and to register for classes.

Simply Waterwise
Saturday, April 9, 2011
10:00 a.m.
Clifton Smith, Conservation Garden Park
Saving water in your yard doesn’t have to be complicated. Find out simple yet effective ways to use less water while keeping your landscape green and beautiful.

Simplemente, Eficiencia de Agua!
Sábado, 16 de Abril del 2011
10:00 a.m.
Yvette Amparo-Espinoza, Jordan Valley Water Conservancy District
El ahorro de agua en su patio no tiene que ser complicado. Encuentre maneras simple pero eficaz para utilizar menos agua mientras mantiene su jardín verde y hermoso.

Vegetable Gardening
Thursday, April 28, 2011
6:30 p.m.
David Rice, Weber Basin Water Conservancy District
You can’t buy fresher, tastier vegetables than those grown in your own backyard. Learn the best methods for growing vegetables in Utah’s climate.

Attend two classes in 2011 and receive a $10 gift certificate to a local nursery. Our special thanks to Glover Nursery and Cactus and Tropicals for sponsoring our classes. (one certificate per person, while supplies last)

Monday, April 4, 2011

Weekly Plant Spotlight

Saucer Magnolia (Magnolia soulangeana)
When you say magnolias, I think “the south,” where stately members of the genus grow to be large trees. In Utah, if you want to grow a magnolia, the saucer magnolia is the choice. Not nearly as large as its southern relatives, this magnolia is more of a large shrub, but it is easier to grow and will tolerate Utah’s alkaline soils. The first magnolia I saw in bloom was in Logan at an intersection I walked past often. I was barely starting my horticulture education, but I couldn’t mistake its lovely flowers growing on bare branches for anything other than a magnolia. Few flowering trees have flowers that can rival that of the magnolia. It is a must for spring gardens.