26 April 2016

Garden Art from Three Doors North in Hutchinson KS

We discovered a metal artist studio in Hutchinson KS, called Three Doors North. We asked the owner to make a sign for us for our garden, "Garden of Cosmic Speculation" that we had heard about through a novel.

The actual Garden of Cosmic Speculation is a 30 acre creation in Scotland. Our garden is named that out of pure whimsy.

Jon painted the plain metal sign.

Love Like a Rock
 One of the first pieces we purchased is the metal heart she called "Love Like a Rock". We bought it in a garden gift shop in KS.

You can check out Three Doors North at their Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/ThreeDoorsNorth/?fref=ts

The owner is Heike Kirk-Ettwein. Here is her Facebook page

The work is wonderfully creative and Heike is a delight to meet and talk with about her art and her methods.
One of her other pieces, this metal butterfly is no longer being made so we love it twice as much.

21 April 2016

Lilies Galore from Longfield Gardens

It is time to buy and plant lily bulbs. There are hundreds, if not thousands of lily bulbs to choose from and every year new hybrid colors and sizes are introduced. 

Lilies love part shade so they are ideal for adding beauty along fences, around perennials, shrubs, etc. As cut flowers, their trumpet shaped blooms are hard to beat.

One source for garden quality lilies is family-owned 
Longfield Gardens, (www.longfield-gardens.com, 855-534-2733).Their website has beautiful displays of the lilies they offer, garden advice, articles, videos, etc.

Black Beauty is one we have grown in part-sun in our garden for many years. They are tough plants that return reliably and produce a huge abundance of flowers. The outside of the petal is raspberry and the center is apple green. Fragrant flowers in July.
Purple Prince is a trumpet-flowered Oriental lily that grows 4 or 5 feet tall. The stems are sturdy so they are great to cut. The flowers are purple to dark pink. Fragrant.
Lollypop is another personal favorite that we have divided a few times over the years. It is an Asiatic-type with a simple trumpet. The tips of the petals are rose colored and the centers are white with a lime green touch. Lollypop stays short so it is good for planting in containers with other perennials. 
Lollypop’s stems are strong enough to withstand strong wind without staking.

Muscadet is a playful combination of white flowers with dark pink freckles and pale pink brushstrokes. Ruffled, scented, Oriental lily. Good for bouquets.

Playtime has ruffled white petals with a stripe down the center of each. The brushed colors are two-toned canary yellow and rose-red. Long lasting, scented flowers for cutting. Blooms mid- summer.

Stargazer is widely planted by the cut flower trade. The colors – all pinks and reds - are beautiful plus the flowers have a long vase life. This one is loved by butterflies in our garden.

Dizzy is a large-trumpet Oriental lily with white petals that have a deep red stripe down the middle. Fragrant, mid-summer color. This one is reliable in our garden.

Most lily vendors offer collections or samplers. Longfield has one called Cutting Garden, which is a collection of 24 bulbs in assorted colors and Asiatic Sunset Mix – 9 bulbs in warm colors...

Like all bulbs, lilies can be destroyed if the soil doesn’t drain well. After you select a planting area, dig a hole twice as deep as the bulb is.  If this is a new planting area, cultivate the soil a foot deep, adding organic material as you back fill the hole.

Put a small gravel or sand in the bottom of that hole and set the bulb in place. Add a little more sand and then fill the hole with rich planting soil.

Top the area with compost or leaf mold so there is a little mound up to 4 inches above the soil line. As the soil settles it will become even ground again.

After lily bulbs have been in place five years it is a good idea to lift, divide and re-plant them. The ideal time is two to four weeks after the flowers finish. Lift the bulb by digging down, around the area. The mother bulb in the center should be re-planted immediately.

The bulbils, the tiny bulbs around the outside of the mother bulb. are detached and planted in a growing bed. In a few years they will bloom and then can be moved to their permanent location.

When cutting lilies, leave as much stem on the plant as possible. The stem will continue to feed the bulb for next year’s flowers.

16 April 2016

Clematis Advice from Russell Studebaker

Horticulturist and garden writer Russell Studebaker wrote some tips for success with Clematis and with is permission, I'm passing along his expert tips.

Russell attended a talk by a Clematis nurseryman and fell in love ... hard. Most of us get excited about a certain plant and go crazy for it. 

Studebaker said in his email, "This is going to be my Clematis year.  I was so inspired by Dan Long's program to the club in Springdale I ordered more from him, too.  I have planted several and already have a late winter planted one in flower.  It's C. texensis 'Graveyete Beauty'."

Here are a few cultural suggestions:

 Plant the plants 1 to 1 & 1/2 times deeper than they were growing in the original pot. This ensures that some of the stem's latent buds will be able to grow should some disaster happens to the top stems.

 Plant in an organic,rich, well-drained soil, with compost or peat moss in a well drained .

Dig your holes 1 foot deep and a foot wide. Be careful not to damage the stems that are near ground level when planting.

 Select a site that has sun. An Eastern exposure is good. Use a 2 - 3 inch organic mulch around the plant's base and planting area.

Clematis that are being sold locally  are all vining types, so they will need wire, or wire mesh to attach their leaf stalks to twine & hold and to climb.

Their stems can not cling to large wide boards or bricks. Some will want to plant them with their climbing roses or near their shrubs like Forsythia or other deciduous shrubs. These vines will grow into those shrubs and make flowers on the tops of those shrubs. So things like Forsythia shrubs can have a second and later season of color with the Clematis flowers.

During the growing season, Fertilize them every 4 - 6 weeks with an organic fertilizer like Rose Tone, or Miracle Gro's Organic Rose Food. 

Water when dry.

Thanks, Russell for more of your expertise.

07 April 2016

Flowering Almond Shrubs are Prunus triloba and Prunus glandulosa

White Flowering Almond
In the spring, Flowering Almond shrubs burst with double flowers on 3 or four foot tall branches. The flowers are usually pink but there are white ones available, too. The flowers look like carnations but they are the size of a dime. 

Prunus triloba is a member of the plum family of trees and shrubs that includes cherries and the trees that produce almonds. 

Since Flowering Almonds are so hardy and reliable, they thrive where more vulnerable plants could be damaged by poor soil or harsh weather. They thrive in zones 3 through 7.

At their maximum size, Flowering Almond shrubs can grow 20-feet tall and 12-feet wide. They can be used as part of a flowering hedge row or pruned into small trees. Be sure to prune and shape them right after they flower.

When looking for them online and in stores you will find both Prunus glandulosa and Prunus triloba.

Pink Flowering Almond
Both are native to Asia. Prunus glandulosa is the dwarf form that stops growing at 6-feet tall and wide. Its flowers can be either white or pink.

Because they spread over time, Flowering Almond Shrubs are often given to us by plant friends.
Our pink one came from Jan Farris who helped me pass the Master Gardener test 10 years ago. Our
white one came from Russell Studebaker who is our plant friend par excellence.

Prunus triloba is the one to choose if you want a screening shrub as it can grow over 15-tall.
To be sure you get the double flowers, look for specific varieties. Prunus triloba "Multiplex" and Prunus glandulosa "Rosea Plena" both have double flowers.  Also, ask about the flower color if that matters to your color scheme.

Flowering Almonds like some protection from the summer’s worst heat, so in our area choose a place that gets some shade. When digging the planting hole, put in some compost for added drainage. Like most members of fruit and nut tree families, they prefer slightly acid soil.

They develop some drought tolerance as they mature but Flowering Almonds want moist roots. 

Mulch the surrounding area to keep the area weed-free and plant them away from the lawn. Soak the plants if the soil is dry several inches down in late summer.

Good compost is about all the fertilizer they need unless they seem to be failing. If the leaves are turning yellow, use a water-soluble fertilizer to drench the plant from top to bottom.  To fertilize the roots, sprinkle some crystals around the drip line (at the end of the branch where the leaves drip when it rains) and water it into the ground thoroughly.

Generally speaking, Flowering Almond shrubs are durable. If they are planted so close to other shrubs that air cannot circulate around the branches though, they can get aphids, scale, borers, spider mites and other insects and diseases. Be sure to give them plenty of room.

If you notice problems, start with the least harmful fix. Many insect problems can be cured with a hard flow of water. It can knock off aphids, mites, etc.

The next level up is insecticidal soap and horticultural oil. If those measures fail, move up to applying an insecticide.
Old Wood vs New Wood

The old adage “prune after bloom” applies to Flowering Almonds. Next year’s flowers form on this year’s growth so do any pruning and shaping now. 

First, look for buds on the old growth. Then cut the branch back to within a few buds of the old growth. I put a photo of old versus new wood into my blog which you can access through www.MuskogeePhoenix.com or directly through www.allthedirtongardening.blogspot.com.

New Wood vs Old Wood
Dead, broken and diseased wood can be removed at any time. If you are shaping or rejuvenating an old shrub, take off only one-third of the shrub in any single growing year.

 To make your Flowering Almond into a small landscape tree, remove the lower branches and thin out the upper twigs.

These are long-living additions to the garden. Enjoy!

01 April 2016

Which Veggies You Should Plant and Why

Most of know of Mel Bartholomew from his Square Foot Gardening fame.

His latest book is "High-Value Veggies" in which he lists and describes the results of extensive testing on what veggies we should plant and why.

Mathematically inclined Bartholomew studied the return on investment for dozens of typical garden plants and calculated their worthiness for our gardens based upon #1 productivity, #2 cost per pound if you had to buy them, #3 other usefulness.

Here are some of the lists he and his staff came up with.

The bottom 10 (make the least sense financially to grow): Potatoes, Brussels sprouts, bell peppers, Swiss chard, asparagus, okra, beans, celery and green cabbage.

The ten that have the most financial reward for your garden space: Herbs, parsnips, cherry tomatoes, garlic, heirloom tomatoes, turnip, leek, winter squash, spinach and hybrid tomato.

At our house we love parsnips and, based on his list, I'm planting seeds. But we don't need very many turnips to have a happy year so we'll just buy a few at the farmer's market even though they are highly rated in financial terms.

You have to plant what you love to eat fresh out of the garden, no matter what, according to Bartholomew. And, how much thyme can you use in a cooking year anyway? So, if something on his top ten doesn't make sense for your family, choose something that does.

There are other cool lists in the book, too. For example, the most beautiful veggies for the flower bed, veggies for children's gardens, best plants for specific challenging soils, best edible flowers, etc.

Pick this up for yourself or a gardening friend or your child's school. It's around $16 at online vendors. I spent a few days taking my breaks reading it and was reminded of things I had learned in the past (and forgot) plus learned several new tips along the way.

Quick! What are the healthiest veggies you can grow? Get the book to find out.

It's published by the cool people at Cool Springs Press. 2016, paperback.

30 March 2016

Solomon's Seal is Polygonatum

Solomon's Seal emerging Mar 2016
Variegated Solomon's Seal is emerging in our back woodland garden this week. A few leaves have unfurled but mostly they look like the photo on the right.

Cold hardy in zones 3 through 8, gardeners in most of the US can grow them successfully.

Our first little clump came from a plant sale at the Tulsa Perennial Society's annual event. 

This year's mild weather has caused the size of the clump to double! I'm over the moon thrilled, of course.

Fine Gardening Magazine comments that they are "well suited to woodlands, naturalized areas, shady borders, and rock gardens". Ours are thriving under large deciduous trees where the hammocks hang in the summertime.

We grow it for its beauty but foragers and herbalists grow it for it's health benefits.
Our Solomon's Seal April 2015

Cortesia Herbal Products has a couple of interesting photos along with plant lore.
"Solomon's Seal (polygonatum biflorummultiflorum, odoratum, etc.) is a medicinal herb that has diverse health restorative properties. It can be used as a herbal tincture, salve, tea or supplement. As an alternative remedy, it may offer relief, healing or mending to sports injuries and other conditions related to tendons, joints, ligaments, bones, bruises, connecting tissues, cartilage, etc. It also soothes and repairs gastrointestinal inflammation and injuries. It is effective for feminine issues, such as menstrual cramps, PMS, bleeding, and the like. Additionally, it is known to lower blood pressure and relieve dry coughs.
Solomon's Seal has a rich history that goes back many thousands of years. Herbalists and healers, both in Europe and North America and the Far East, have written about its diverse effects on numerous conditions. In 2010, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (Natural Resources Conservation Service) identified Solomon's Seal as a Culturally Significant Plant, noting its medicinal and restorative value among North American Tribal (Original Nation) peoples. It is our understanding that the National Institutes of Health is presently researching the benefits of Solomon's Seal for heart health."

28 March 2016

Soil and Health Library Online for YOU

Free, downloadable, e-books about radical agriculture,
natural hygiene/natural curse and self-sufficiency. 

The library’s topic areas connect agricultural methods to the health and
lifespan of animals and humans. 

The four areas in the The Free Digitalized Library are

*Radical Agriculture. * The nutritional quality of food determines the
health of animals and humans. Food quality is primarily determined by soil
fertility. This section includes key books that began the organic farming and gardening movement. 

*The Restoration and Maintenance of Health.*Ccollections on healing  disease and building/maintains health

 Several parallel approaches include natural hygiene/nature cure, iridiagnosis and naturopathy.

*Achieving Personal Sovereignty.* Physical, mental, and spiritual health
are linked to lifestyle. 

*Achieving Spiritual Freedom.

*Clippings and Miscellaneous.* Patrons have sent information and URLs with information and viewpoints. 

*Discussion Group**. *Yahoo-hosted e-mail forum a wide ranging discussion about how agricultural and gardening methods change the nutritional qualities of food, about the resulting health of the animals and humans that eat those foods, about the best ways to homestead, to grow your own food. This group is gently moderated by Steve Solomon.

I edited this but give 100% credit to Lawrence London who posted it on a conversation site I follow. 

24 March 2016

Yarrow for Every Garden!

Yarrow (Achillea or Achillia) comes in many colors and heights so there is something for everyone and every garden style. Cottage gardens are usually planted with the bright yellow and citrus colors; and, tidy and tightly planned gardens usually feature swaths of red and pink Yarrow.

Some recent colors that will stimulate your imagination include: Pineapple Mango, Peachy Seduction, Pink Grapefruit, Pomegranate, Queen Elizabeth, Cerise Queen, Wexer River Sandstone, Fire King, Lilac Beauty, Altgold and Summer Gold.
Seeds can be purchased in mixed packets of summer pastels, bright colors, all yellows, creams, etc.

All Yarrows love heat and will bloom for several months. Another one of their endearing qualities is that they prefer to be on the dry side so you can leave for summer vacation without worry. And, they are perennial, returning year after year, with minimal care.

Soil and fertilizer preferences are minimal. Lean soil and no fertilizer are best. Yarrows are also deer, rabbit, drought and dry soil tolerant.

Yarrow seeds are tiny so they are sown on top of the soil and kept moist until they emerge. It is time to buy seeds now since the soil temperature they prefer for germination varies from 40 to 68. Current soil temperature is 50-degrees F. (www.mesonet.org)

Not all Yarrow varieties are equal and it is a good idea to know what you are buying. Some spread by underground rhizome and take over a flower bed and others drop lots of seeds as their method of spreading. Many varieties are ideal as cut and dried flowers and there is even one that forms a low-growing ground cover. 
A. tomentosa groundcover 

The ones that are right for your garden depend on whether you need filler between existing perennial plants, an accent color or an entire new planting for a flower bed.

Achilles was the Greek hero of the Trojan War in Homer’s Iliad. The plant's names of staunch weed and Woundwort come from its early medicinal use for blood clotting but dozens of plants were named woundwort over the years.

The name Old Man’s Pepper, came from when dried Yarrow leaves were used as a as snuff. The spiritual properties assigned to Yarrow came from a belief that an ounce of Yarrow under the pillow of a single man or woman would bring a night-time vision of their intended spouse.

Less romantically, Yarrow tea is now used to treat colds and flu and has found its way into herbal cosmetics.

Yarrow is a member of the Asteracaea plant family of substantial and hardy plants for our zone 7 area. Others in that family are asters, daisies, mums and sunflowers.

Here are some tips on how to choose Yarrow varieties.

The native and somewhat invasive variety, Achillea millefolium grows 3-feet tall. The less-troublesome hybrid varieties to look for include Hoffnug (light yellow), Fanal and The Beacon (bright rose-pink), Liclac beauty (lavender-pink), Lachssenheit and Salmon Beauty (coral), Paprika and Trracotta (salmon-pink).

Achillea tomentosa or Wooly Yarrow makes a flat, spreading mat to 1.5 feet tall at the most. The leaves are fernlike or hairy. The flowers are a flat cluster of gold on 10-inch tall stems.

Achillea 'Anblo' Anthea (Achillea clypeolata x A. 'Moonshine') has flowers in a creamy light yellow from May to August.  This variety in particular is widely used in landscaping where the look of a fern would be desired but not practical.
Pure white Achillea, Boule de Neige matures at 2-feet tall. Perry’s White grows 3-ft. tall with large, double, white flower heads. The Pearl has button-like, double white flower heads.

Achillia Forncett Candy has pink flowers on 3-ft. tall plants.

Wet roots, too much fertilizer and too little sun are the only things to watch out for with Achillea.

21 March 2016

Beautiful Brassica

Flowers of Dynosaur Kale 
I've never met a Brassica I didn't like and that includes kale, chard, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Chinese cabbage, broccolini, kohlrabi, turnip, rutabaga, etc.

If you look up Brassica food plots you may be surprised to know that people plant plots of it to attract deer they can shoot. Being mostly vegetarians, we are appalled.

In fact, I think that Brassica is pretty enough to put into flower beds among perennial shrubs and other wonderful additions to the garden.

One of our favorites, Dino Kale has been grown in Italy since the 1700s and was a favorite in Thomas Jefferson's garden. Since it is a heirloom plant, you never have to worry about GMOs, hybridization and seeds not coming true when you harvest your own seeds.

Our winter was so mild that several kale plants remained productive. With this warm spell, I expect them to do some rapid spring growth and then I'll harvest the seeds and replant our tiny veg garden with summertime stuff like peppers.

It's not too late to put in some seeds. 60-days to harvest means you better get on it though before the heat arrives.

Now that's you've seen one plant from top to bottom, pick up a pack of seeds, plant them in pots and put them all over the garden wherever the bunnies won't get them.

We had to put chicken wire around our veg bed because the baby bunnies assumed that the seedlings were for their healthy diet.

Eat the small leaves in salads or rollups. We put them in a quiche last week. Tonight I'm making a kale-artichoke heart baked dip with yogurt and Asiago cheese.

No matter how much of it we harvest, blanch and freeze we run out long before we lost interest in eating more!

18 March 2016

Cocktails in Your Garden - C. L. Fornai


Whether you enjoy a cocktail, a cup of tea, or a meditation time viewing a green space,  C. L. Fornai's newest book, "The Cocktail Hour Garden: Creating Evening Landscapes for Relaxation and Entertaining" will support your goals.

To make your "green hour" special for you and your guests, Fornai suggests attracting night life such as night blooming plants, sensory-pleasing textures, pollinator attracting flowers and scented plants to please the humans.

Fornai's Recipe for Success includes these elements: Identify places in your yard that you enjoy; Set up seating areas for one, two and more; Add a floor of hard surface for feet and furnishings; Be sure the entertaining space is close enough to the house for carrying trays; Eliminate undesirable plants; Add garden elements that would make the space special.

It's still early spring and there is plenty of time to do all those things before summer nights practically drag us outside for a late in the day rest to appreciate the work that's been accomplished.

Chapter Two: Fragrance - you can already smell the lavender, rosemary, night blooming tobacco and other beauties. Fornai says ACTEAE simplex 'Brunette' is the best for night time perfume. (formerly known as Cimicifuga 'Brunette'. Gorgeous in a woodland setting, it's usually happiest in climates cooler than ours but would succeed in a micro climate. And, vines: Honeysuckle, jasmine, moon flower. And, Lilies ... well the list goes on and on doesn't it? What a joy scented flowers are.
Remember scented shrubs such as Gardenia, Daphne, Clove Currant, etc.

Chapter Three: Illumination - light reflects off of the moonflowers' surface as they open before your eyes at dusk. And, there are dozens of ways to add artificial lighting through electric, solar and battery-operated features. Plus, fir pits.
Grasses that move gently in the breeze add an element of light to surroundings and glow under artificial lighting.
Chapter Four: Sunset: After-Twilight Plants and Lighting- think silver and grey and shades of blue
Chapter Five: Planting for Butterflies - On every gardener's mind right now! Asters, Sedums, Coreopsis, Calendula, Joe Pye Weed, and others keep the butterflies coming back for more.
Chapter Six: Attracting the Birds - We love to watch the birds interplay in the grass, among the plants and busily setting up the birdhouses for their families. Grow some sheltering shrubs where you can enjoy watching the action.
Chapter Seven: Conversation with Earth, Air, Fire, Water and Sky - Use rocks, water,berms, wind chimes, and visual focal points to pull your green space together

Chapter Eight: The Green Hour Vegetable Garden: cocktail hour grazing - Pant Malabar spinach, cucumbers, vining beans and flowers where they can climb up a piece of fencing, tuck kale between flowers, grow cherry tomatoes for picking while they are warm,
Chapter Nine: Herbs, Flowers and Other Beverage Ingredients - Put herbs in shipping crates, grow tasty and scented herbs for snacking and beverage ingredients, make teas from the leaves of several flowers and vegetables, add berries from the garden as garnish.

This is such a lovely and delicious book. What a wonderful housewarming gift it would be. 170 page hardback in an easy to carry size. Lots of photos and recipes.$20, 2016, St. Lynne's Press.