When the Cosmos Speaks in Orange

“Orange is the colour of truth.”

– Anthony T. Hincks


I’ve always loved orange. My favorite color is black, actually, but that’s for a whole separate post. (It’s not a stretch to see how someone like me would adore Halloween, huh?) But Orange. Orange somehow makes me feel grounded, centered, comforted. It’s that color that rings closest to pure for me. I’m not really sure why. The best explanation I can retrieve, from the depths of my inner self, is that orange conjures up memories of fall and memories of fall equate, in my heart, to Thanksgiving dinner around my grandparents’ table. Truth be told, a bit of sadness often wells within me when the orange is traded for Christmas red.

I think that’s one of my most favorite memories…Thanksgiving dinner. When we celebrated at my grandparents’ house, there were always ten of us. Two old, four mid and four young humans packed around a table in a dining room that had way too much furniture residing in it. And it was always just a smidge too warm in the house, but you wore a sweater anyway, and the whole space smelled like giblet gravy. And there was china on the table and laughter and delicate goblets and the clinking of silverware and pride seeping from every pore of my grandma’s skin over the quality of her cornbread dressing. And there was always pie with Kraft® Cool Whip. I remember one particular Thanksgiving in high school where I went out back by myself to gather pecans from under their massive tree. My grandma spent three-quarters of pecan season cursing squirrels in her head, but NEVER out of her mouth, so I’m sure I was out there trying to get a jump on things to help out. I was wearing a cream-colored sweater that J. had bought for me as a gift, jeans and brown Bass loafers, if any of you from the early 90s remember those. The sky was a perfect warmth of gray with a nip in the air. As I dropped pecans one by one into the paper sack, I remember feeling so thankful, so blessed, so loved and so nearest to God in the most defined place of contentment I can recall over the entire course of my life. Sometimes when I need grounding now, I go back to that place in my mind, step into that yard and just live Thanksgiving at Grandma and Grandpa’s for a few minutes. It was the one place where there were no expectations. In THAT place…you were simply embraced. You might have heard of this thing. It’s called unconditional love. It’s why, I suppose, when the universe speaks to my soul, it uses orange words.

So, you can only imagine how the color orange in my garden brings me great joy, and especially orange at this time of year. It’s like a double win! If you are looking for the perfect fall orange in your landscape, my all-time favorite winner is the old-fashioned Tall Orange Cosmos (Cosmos sulphureus). I have literally been waiting for weeks now for our stand to open up in the pollinator garden, watching with high anticipation as buds began to form everywhere across the crowns of dozens of plants.  Finally, this week, after the turn of the autumnal equinox, which happened to fall on my birthday, the buds all opened into a stunning array of contentment.


The best thing about including this flower in your garden, is that you just don’t have to work at it. You sow seeds, sit back and watch them come up. In North Texas you can either sow in the fall before the first frost or wait until spring and sow in early March. We literally started with two or three plants last season that came up from a mixed wildflower packet, and this year we have DOZENS! I mean…why only have a sprinkle of joy when you can douse yourself in it??? And it is a true favorite of pollinators.

If that still doesn’t sell you, then let me say that the Orange Cosmos is the perfect compliment to your humanitarian efforts. If you are looking for ways to become more sustainable in your gardening efforts and not spend hard-earned resources buying plants, you can easily harvest seeds from one single plant and share them to other areas of your garden. You will even have so many seeds that you could #plantsharenow with friends! Just wait for the flowers to die back and you will see long, spear-like seeds develop where the petals once were. Just knock them off into a paper bag, and you’re done!


Now, I will admit that if you are a person requiring “order” in your garden, this might not be the plant for you. Our Cosmos definitely push J.’s sense of appropriate boundaries. Their stems intertwine like unkempt toddler hair, some will insist on raising their hands while the rest of the class sits quietly and they aren’t terribly considerate of stepping aside for sidewalk dog-walkers or scooter riders.


But, I have to say, I believe contentment often reveals itself in spaces a little less ordered and peace resides outside the boundaries, where you simply let go and embrace the tangles. So dog-walkers beware! You’ll just have to step over the Cosmos or pass around it. Or, even better, you COULD allow the petals to brush up against you…as you walk straight through.


All the best,


– All Content Photos by Amanda J. Schulz


Skull and Dagger? Maybe – Morbid Monday

“MISERICORDE, n.  A dagger, which in medieval warfare, was used by the foot soldier to remind an unhorsed knight that he was mortal.”

– Ambrose Bierce


It could be the looming death of summer, as back-to-school is upon us this week. Or perhaps it’s the agonizing wails emanating from my son’s bedroom, as he is being “tortured” (his words) to finish required reading before Wednesday’s start of class (I mean, seriously…how painful can a book with a Golden Retriever named Ranger on the cover be???). Or maybe it’s just the reality of Monday puncturing my soul after vacationing for two luxurious weeks, where time had little meaning. Whatever it is, it’s got me feeling somewhat morbid. Which means you’re in luck, because I’m in the mood to share.

When you spend time studying insects in the field, as I have for several years now, not only do you notice all of the amazing details and transformations, but you begin to quickly hone in on anything that seems off. Just yesterday, for instance, J. and I noticed a bee trying to fly from flower to flower, but it was like she was drunk. Sometimes she would land on the petals and simply fall off backwards. Upon closer inspection, we could see that she was missing her left antenna. A similar thing happened back in July, as I spent a morning capturing images of butterflies in the pollinator garden. On this occasion, though, my spidey sense led to a bit more gruesome discovery.

I was standing along the lower level of the garden, looking toward the Pincushion Flowers on the upper path, when I spotted a male Cabbage White butterfly. Immediately, I knew that something was wrong. How? He was hanging from the underside of the flower. If you know anything about butterflies, you know that they land on top of flowers to nectar, certainly not under them. They might crawl around to the undersides, but you never see them limply dangling like this.


I quickly scurried around, up the steps and along the top path to get a better look, all the while keenly aware that opportunities in the world of live photography are fleeting. It’s like running the 200m in the Olympics, gold being measured by milliseconds. I eased in, ever so delicately, and it was then that I became aware of the brutal truth…my friend was not alone. Within the shadows I could see him, crawling, stretching, adjusting, predator sucking the last drips of life from prey…the Jagged Ambush Bug.



The Jagged Ambush Bug hides on flowerheads waiting for other unsuspecting soft-bodied insects. It stabs them with its proboscis, injecting a poison that first paralyzes the victims and then melts their inner contents into a sludge, easily drinkable through his straw-like rostrum. His size, stealth and potency allow him to attack subjects many times his size, like our friend Cabbage White.


At first glance, the scene is reminiscent of the dagger thrust through the top of the skull, the symbol of death and power, tattooed by centuries of seedy sailors upon their arms. Unlike the sword, carried by gentlemen in official battles, you cannot see the dagger coming. It is the weapon of deception, easily concealed until the precise moment of deathly surprise. Yes, at first glance, this is what you see…the Ambush Bug with his dagger piercing the skull.  That is, unless you know butterflies.

You see, if you know butterflies, you know that the dorsal side (top side, back side) of the butterfly typically features the most prominent coloring, the thorax has all of the fuzzy hairs and the abdomen appears rounded. The ventral side (bottom side, under side) often exhibits duller coloring, the thorax has shorter hairs and the abdomen is virtually flat (unless of course it’s a pregnant female). So let’s turn this photo on its end…


What you see here are the colorful dorsal wings of the Cabbage White, once fully raised arms in flight now sunkenly lowered, the backside juncture between his thorax and abdomen pinched in a downward rigor mortis “V” from the paralytic poison. You see it? Are you getting it now?

Here’s how the tragedy plays out…

The villain lies in wait, upside down, beneath the blossoming flower, like a vengeful spider. Cabbage White floats in, a knight in shining ivory glory, to just the wrong flower at just the wrong moment, a true fate of time and circumstance. He dismounts from his journey to begin a long, cool drink of nectar when suddenly a violent thrust pierces him from beneath, a misericorde, wounding him where most vulnerable in his armor, not through the skull, but rather straight up through the THROAT! The villain pulls him down through soft petals of flower, nauseous color swirling around him, paralysis setting in, his wings lowering to a pathetic droop, only the dagger holding him in mid-air suspension until his very last breath, never to know the number of minutes he will dangle. And then, it is over.

Peachy, huh? Yeah, that’s the way the world works out there in the garden, people.


Ever dream of floating like a butterfly? Guess I just dashed those dreams. I think I’ll take a walk outside on two legs now, like a human, with liquid on some ice, in a glass, gratefully enjoying my Monday evening. Maybe you should do the same.


All the best,

A. J.

– All content photos by Amanda J. Schulz








My Victims, My Trophies, My Disguise – Morbid Monday

 “What a tender, young creature! What a nice, plump mouthful – she will be better to eat than the old woman. I must act craftily, so as to catch both.”

– The Wolf, Little Red Riding Hood (Brothers Grimm)


I would like to point out that once you start photographing the world, you begin to see some utterly bizarre things. Over many months now, I’ve been collecting snapshots of the odd, the freaky and the macabre, initially because I was astounded by the sights, but then, later, because I wholeheartedly wanted to force my ghastly experiences upon fine folks like you. Hmmm. What does that say about me???

With that said, I’m adding Morbid Mondays to this blog. Get excited, people. Hey, Monday in and of itself is pretty morbid, correct? No big deal adding a little more to the pile, right??? It’s like painting blue on black.

So…let us now begin with our FIRST tale of terror…BWAHAHAHhahahahaha! (That’s an evil laugh. You’re welcome.)


Several weeks ago we were doing some maintenance on our bee hive. A few days before that, we had left some scraped comb on the ledge outside of the hive. When we were finished with our hive work, I noticed something strange crawling on the discarded comb. J. lifted it up so that I could photograph it. To my shock and awe, I captured this. Just study it, piece by piece, and take it ALL in…

If you said that this appears to be a couple of ant skeletons, perhaps a tiny black hive beetle in the center, random loose aphid skins, some wax, various unidentifiable fibers and bits of leaves and detritus, all held together by interwoven legs and antennae…you nailed it. As J. tilted the menagerie where I could get a better angle, I finally saw him. He is Atlas, traveling briskly along the edge of the comb. The Green Lacewing larva.


Notice his slender body stretching the length of the pile. It’s as if he is parading about, flaunting a fascinator fashioned with dead bodies atop his head. A little Buffalo Bill-esque, if you ask me Clarice, but this is simply what he does.

The Green Lacewing larva is the predator of all predators, and, just like Little Red’s wolf, he kills by deceit. You can see the sharp jaws extending outward just past his cold, ebony eyes. He uses those jaws to pierce soft-bodied insects, especially aphids, sucking out their entrails and then tossing their lifeless carcasses upon his back. Uhhh…morbid. There is a method to his madness, though. He covers himself, partly as a camouflaging technique against birds and other predators but also as a disguise. He puts on the clothes and cap of grandmother (the remains of his kills), in order to fool Little Red (the aphid)…his tender, plump favorite. Well, actually, to fool the ants.


C2B1C571-CA80-4AFE-93DF-D39946350675You see, aphids secrete a substance called honeydew, which you can see dripping from them in the photo above. These aphids were on a stem of our milkweed in the pollinator garden. Honeydew is a delectable food for ants, so they want as many aphids as possible around. Thus, they are happy to become their protectors. A naked lacewing larva approaching a colony of aphids will often find itself quickly ejected by angry ants. So the lacewing gets wise and begins the disguise. Upon covering itself in the remains of its prey and whatever it can gather, especially the wax and debris of aphids, it can sneak past the guardian ants and infiltrate the colony. What’s especially humorous about our Atlas is that he is carrying the carcasses of ants. Now lacewing larvae aren’t especially known to eat ants, so I’m thinking that he found a couple of casualties, left behind under separate circumstances, and scooped them right up thinking, “AHA! Now I shall appear as just another couple of soldiers traveling through the army.” The cowardly lion donning the uniform of the witch’s guards. Clever, my friend. Very clever.


So here’s the long and the short of it. If Monday gave you the blues today or, WORSE, seemed like utter death just trying to make it through…cheer up! At least no one is wearing your torso as a hat tonight.


All the best,

A. J.

– All Content Photos by Amanda J. Schulz













The Magnificent Seven

“Summer was our best season…it was a thousand colors in a parched landscape… ”

– Harper Lee, “To Kill a Mockingbird”


When I pull up my WeatherBug® app these days, it shows a sun with cactus. It’s been a sun with cactus for days. It’s predicting a sun with cactus for another straight week. In case you’re a little slow on the uptake, that basically means it’s hot. It’s blazing hot. It’s some kind of near to hell hot. It’s so hot here in North Texas that my Facebook® feed has become a littered highway of automobile dashboard photos depicting 105°, 108°, 112°…you name it. When I walk from the house to the garage, I literally feel like I’m in the movie The Magnificent Seven, only no one is shooting at me. My dad always loved that movie, but as a kid I just remember thinking that all those people looked so hot. It was like the sun was glaring all the time, the landscape was a bunch of sticks and rocks, there were lots of men brandishing firearms and donning pants and vests and long sleeves, and everyone kept falling and rolling around in the dirt. Miserable. That’s pretty much how it is here. At some point, it honestly doesn’t really matter what the dashboard number says, you just don’t care anymore. It’s all the same swelter. You stand and sweat, along with everyone else standing and sweating, longing for the moment when someone posts a photo of the first Pumpkin Spice Latte. Ahhhh…fall.

I have to admit that we have spent precious LITTLE time in the garden these past few weeks, and I have been seriously “momming.” This “momming” thing is not for the birds, people. I’ve been shuttling kids to movies, dropping off and picking up from camps, trekking around water parks, fixing seemingly endless meals and snacks…I was even assigned a part in a YouTube video this weekend by my son…all while still working for my clients and longing for the moment when someone posts a photo of the first day of SCHOOL!!!  LOL. Can we get a “yes” here that, as of July 23, we’re all pretty much ready for this?!?!?

When we WERE out, here and there, in the garden this last week, I honestly couldn’t help but marvel at some of my tried and true favorites still pushing on through, despite the perpetual sun with cactus. I surmised, though, that some of you might be blankly staring out a window, somewhere right about now, and disheartenedly wondering, “What the heck can I plant NEXT spring so that my July flower bed doesn’t look like a Mexican village taken over by the Calvera?” Have no fear. The Magnificent Seven are here. I snapped these photos Saturday when it was 109º at my house, and ALL of these beauties were bloomin’ hot (total pun intended)! I guarantee, with a little planning this coming spring, these can be surefire color-slinging saviors for your garden next summer. Here they are, riding into town to the rescue!


You:  “I want ZERO maintenance. I mean…I want to throw out some seeds, watch some plants come up and not do anything but water twice a week.”

Me:  “I hear ya. I’ve got ya covered.”



Both of these specimens are in their second round of blooms right now, the first having been a spring bloom. If they can grow from seed on a Texas roadside, they can certainly grow in your garden!



These are old-fashioned garden favorites! I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE Zinnias for their variety. From the tiny Thumbelina blooms to the giant doubles, they come in a palette of color in all shapes and sizes. I tend to love the giant doubles in pink, seen above. Your basic Orange Cosmos is also a winner, standing up to all kinds of heat with continued green foliage, AND attracting bees! The best part…all you have to do is scatter seed and watch them come up!!!


You: “But I’m okay with a LITTLE work. I don’t mind using a few tools.”

Me: “Then I’ve got the two for you!”



If you need to “feel” like you’re gardening, then these two choices might be perfect for you. Autumn Sage is a super tolerant plant to grow and it comes in a variety of colors. It’s a medium-height clumping grower that will provide continuous color from spring until frost. I have it growing in red, pale pink and deep purple in my garden. You’ll need to have hand pruners in the spring to cut back all of the old, dead stems and help shape the plant as it begins to sprout. Want something bigger? Orange Zest Cestrum might be my most favorite shrub right now. We have this planted adjacent to our pond, and it provides lush, dark green foliage and continuous orange-yellow clustered blooms, again, from spring through frost. It attracts a multitude of interesting insects as well, but not really pests that harm the plant. In fact, it’s known for being relatively pest resistant. Once it begins to sprout in the spring, you will need a good set of loppers to trim off branches that you don’t want in order to begin to shape the shrub upward for the blooming season. This shrub gets big. Ours is easily between 5 to 6 feet tall right now and about 4 feet wide, so allow some space for this girl.


You: “These are all great options, but what about a plant I can easily get a start of from a friend?”

Me: “Oh, so you want to #plantsharenow? I like your style!”




This, ladies and gentleman, is the Yul Brynner of the Magnificent Seven. The leader, the champion, the one J. and I just said this week that, “We need a LOT more of.” If you want something big and showy to really add major pizzazz to your beds, I cannot recommend Phlox enough. Now, this is definitely an example of a plant that is easier to grow from cuttings or transplants, rather than seed, but that’s the best part! If you’ve been following this blog, you know that I like sustainability through the concept of using and sharing what you have, whether through seeds or starts. We transplanted shoots dug from the clumps of my mother-in-law’s Phlox into our garden last fall. They went dormant in the winter, then re-sprouted this last spring and REALLY started blooming when the heat cranked up…so, you can see, this plant species checks a lot of boxes! I’ve loved this so much that I would have it in every bed, if possible. And, hey, anything’s possible, right?


I hope these suggestions might help you feel a little bit better when you look out your window next July. These plantings truly will liberate any struggling, sun-filled summer bed. So don’t be dismayed by your swelter! I say, “Own it!” Well, at least own it in your flower beds. I have no control over the efficiency of your air conditioning or how many times a day you have to shower.


All the best,

A. J.

– All content photos by Amanda J. Schulz

Thirty Something

“If we love Flowers, are we not ‘born again’ every Day…”

– Emily Dickinson, Letter 1037


As I sat down this weekend to piece together my latest photo compilation, I could not believe that thirty something days had passed since the last Week in Review. My…how time flies! And, let me tell you, it’s quite the anthology of uploads to sift through when you have a month’s worth of photography. I will try exceedingly hard not to do THAT again anytime soon.

I began this month’s shoot on Mother’s Day when I took about an hour to myself to walk through a meadow near White Rock Lake, close to my home. Walking in a field, or a meadow, or a forest, or even my own familiar gardens is nothing short of poetry for the senses to me, and, with each step, I am refreshed, renewed and somehow reborn.

Today, I desire this post to be less about words and more about the visual life story of nature. Honestly, as I scrolled through some of the amazing captures this month, and selected my top 30 images, I felt at a loss for adequate words. It reminded me of Dickinson when she wrote, “Nature is what we know, yet have no art to say.” As you walk through my monthly outdoor journey, simply feel it’s story through color, texture, light, depth, detail.

Truth is…Mother Nature really needs no words to make her point.


All the best,


“Nature” is what we see —
The Hill — the Afternoon —
Squirrel — Eclipse — the Bumble bee —
Nay — Nature is Heaven —
Nature is what we hear —
The Bobolink — the Sea —
Thunder — the Cricket —
Nay — Nature is Harmony —
Nature is what we know —
Yet have no art to say —
So impotent Our Wisdom is
To her Simplicity.

– Emily Dickinson


“The Tree Stands Alone” (Queen Anne’s Lace meadow near White Rock Lake)


“Lady Luck” (Seven-spotted Lady Beetle on Queen Anne’s Lace)


“Peek-a-Boo” (Gray Hairstreak on Green Milkweed)


“The Stroke of Midnight” (Queen Anne’s Lace bloom ending)


“Good Evening” (Purple Nightshade at dusk)


“Fierce Beauty” (Milk Thistle begins to open)


“Flying Solo” (Clasping Coneflower blows in the breeze)


“With the Sun at My Back” (Milk Thistle in full bloom at sunset)


“Make a Wish” (Salsify “puffball” seedbed)


“Load On My Back” (Female Valley Carpenter Bee on Passion Flower)


“Oh, Sweet Nectar” (Pseudodynerus Mason Wasp on Tickseed)


“And…We Have Lift Off” (Honey Bee with pollen cargo from Texas Primrose)


“Too Hot for Leg Warmers” (Two-spotted Longhorn Bee on Coneflower)


“This Round’s On Me” (Two Honey Bees at the Butterfly Weed Bar)


“They Call Me Mellow Yellow” (Male Valley Carpenter Bee on Passion Flower)


“Taking an Evening Stroll” (Blue Mint Leaf Beetle on Spearmint)


“Look into the Reds of My Eyes” (Immature Giant Leaf-footed Bug on Boxwood)


“How YOU Doin’?” (Male Green Anole Lizard getting his flirt on)


“Hey, Hey…the Gang’s all Here!” (Colony of ants on parsley bloom)


“On the Move” (Gulf Fritillary caterpillar ready for chrysalis)


“If You Give ‘Em an Inch…” (Looper caterpillar on Clasping Coneflower)



“Blue on Black” (Female Pipevine Swallowtail nectaring before laying)


“In the Beginning…” (Female Gulf Fritillary having just laid an egg)


“Winged Tapestry” (The beauty of the Common Buckeye)


“Pure Gold” (California Poppy)


“On Pins and Needles” (Pincusion Flower)


“Remains of the Dove” (Safflower sprouts under bird feeder)


“If the Shoe Fits” (Lady Slipper Balsam Flower)


“Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head” (Sunflower after a sprinkle)


“Overtaking the Path” (When whimsical wins)

Ladies and Gentleman…The Beetles!

No, this isn’t the Ed Sullivan Show and I’m not introducing Liverpool’s most famous rock ‘n’ roll jet setters (wrong spelling anyway). I’m not even talking about the Volkswagen, which, incidentally, I heard a while back might be retiring our lovable Herbie. No…I’m talking about the tiny little members of the Order of Coleoptera that decided to make a perplexing appearance in our pollinator garden this spring.

Just before I left for spring break vacation in Orlando, J. and I noticed a plant variety coming up in various areas of the pollinator garden that we didn’t recognize from last year. This isn’t too surprising, though. We scattered a few wildflower mixture packets in the spring of 2017, and some of those seeds need a nice cold winter to harden over before they actually germinate. Nonetheless, there was much debate over the identity of our new friends, solely based on leaf structure. Before we left for the spring break week, our thriving little plants looked like this…


When we came back, they looked like this…


Every…last…one of them.

The picture above doesn’t do it justice. At least that plant still had some leaves. Some of the others literally looked like green sticks. It was a sunny day, and, as I puzzlingly peered downward, something beautifully golden shimmered beneath the sun’s spring rays. I happened to have the macro lens on my camera and zoomed in. You know that phrase, “All that glitters is not gold?” Yeah. There’s a measure of truth to that. There they were, just feasting away on the tender, green goodness of our newfound friends. These guys…


So now we had a double quandary on our hands. Not only did we not know for sure what plant species we were looking at, but we had NO idea what kind of beetle this was. I can’t tell you the hundreds upon hundreds of insect photos that I have from our first year in the pollinator business, but I KNEW that I had NEVER documented this beetle before.

This is where I diverge from the average gardener. Most would feel an alarming sense of urgency to undertake eradication. The pirates…may they plunder no more! But this is where I, the consummate student and researcher, come in. My first thought is to ask, “Why is this happening?” Then I use words within my brain like “observe” and “study.” Then I tell myself to look beyond what is right in front of my nose to see if anything else about the remaining surroundings is of interest. And then, of course, like every other good human, I turn to Google®. I’ve logged insects for about a year now. I’m getting pretty good at keyword descriptive searching, so it wasn’t long before I came up with several articles on Phaedon desotonis, or, what we can all more lovingly call:  the Coreopsis Beetle.

Well, that killed two birds with one stone. When you know the insect, then nine times out of ten you can research its host plants and narrow down to the plant that you have. Coreopsis would definitely have been an indentification option for these plants. It all made sense once the devouring culprit was named. Through my research I learned that wild Coreopsis is the state flower of Florida, and these beetles have been a NIGHTmare for them. That’s when I also discovered, unbelievably, a 2012 article by Mike Merchant with Texas A&M Agrilife Extension on the very subject of this beetle beginning to pop up in Texas. I say “unbelievably,” because Mike happened to be the instructor on entomology for my Master Gardener’s certification coursework. In that same search, I also stumbled across a post by the Texas Invasive Species Institute (TISI) calling for residents to report any establishment of the species in Texas. So, I reached out to both Mike Merchant and TISI to report my findings.

You’ll see in Mike’s article that he ended up doing an update with some of my information. My TISI contact requested that I collect some of the beetles to send in for identification. When I asked how they wanted them collected, I was told to use a water tight container filled with ethanol, like “vodka, rum or everclear.” Yikes! We had just enough Tito’s left to do the trick. Sorry Tito’s. I definitely would have preferred you in a nice Saturday Bloody Mary. 😉

Of additional interest was the fact that we had two other varieties of Coreopsis, that we already knew about from the previous year, that the beetles didn’t seem to have as much of an interest in. Or, maybe, when given the choice between several varieties, they just preferred one over the other two. Kind-of like if you give a kid the choice of broccoli, a bowl of strawberries or chocolate ice cream…he might be willing to eat all three, but he’s going to go for the chocolate ice cream first. And if his stomach fills up on chocolate ice cream, he likely won’t have room for strawberries and broccoli.

So, I collected a dozen or so beetles and then just watched the garden to see what happened. I’ve had enough experience to know that if you sometimes just let something run its course, the plants can come back and thrive. As long as enough green is left to keep photosynthesis going, nature keeps pushing them forward. That is exactly what happened in our garden. The beetles ran their course, and the plants continued to put out more leaves.

Fast forward to today…

I waited and waited to see the chocolate ice cream once it bloomed, so that I could include that in my findings to TISI.  It ended up being a Coreopsis variety that is more often referred to as “Tickseed,” although you might hear some people call any Coreopsis a “Tickseed.” Now I had the images of all three varieties in bloom, especially noting the one the beetles absolutely loved.

Mouse-eared Coreopsis (named so because of the shape of its leaves) [The “broccoli”…beetles had zero interest in this]


Nana Coreopsis (big blooms, tallest of the three varieties) [The “strawberries”…beetles had a very slight interest in this]


Tickseed Coreopsis (this variety starts with clusters of tiny buds that bloom much smaller flowers than the other two) [The “chocolate ice cream”…the beetles couldn’t get enough of this]


So, my beetles and my data are headed to TISI for evaluation. We’ll see what the “official” findings are. I chose to write this post because, as I’ve now completed the coursework and final exam for my Dallas County Master Gardener’s certification, I learned that a vast majority of questions that come in from the public involve, “What is wrong with my (fill in the blank)?” In the event that you one day stand scratching your head in dismay saying, “What is wrong with my Coreopsis???” as it devolves from lovely green seedlings to sticks, may you remember to peer down and hunt for a little shimmer of gold…and then hit the Tito’s.


All the best,

A. J.



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