15 February 2018

Seeds from Italy Grow Italian 2018

Grow Italian is one of my favorite seed catalogs. The company is actually called Seeds from Italy but it doesn't matter. If you enjoy growing vegetables this is one resource that you will treasure. 

Seeds from Italy offers kitchen and garden gear, 500 varieties of heirloom Italian vegetables, flowers and herbs.

Started in 2001 by Bill McKay, Seeds from Italy was born because McKay couldn't find the Italian vegetable varieties he wanted to grow.

By luck, he happened upon Franchi Seeds, Italy's oldest family-owned seed company, which offers an extensive selection of traditional Italian varieties. Franchi didn't have an agent in the U.S., so Bill started importing the seeds and reselling them. 

In 2011, Bill sold the business to Dan Nagengast, a long-time market gardener in Lawrence, Kansas. In addition to growing vegetables and flowers for local markets, Dan was director of the Kansas Rural Center, a nonprofit that advocates for sustainable agriculture and family farms. The Lawrence Journal World wrote about Dan taking over the business and posted a video interview that you can watch here.

Dan is married to Lynn Byczynski, the founder of Growing for Market, a national periodical for market farmers, and the author of several farming and gardening books, including The Flower Farmer: An Organic Grower's Guide to Raising and Selling Cut Flowers. The couple's adult children, Will and Laurel, also work in the business. 

With all that said, the reason I buy from this company is because the packages of seed are large enough to share, the germination rate is the best I've found and the varieties are terrific.

For example, a pack of long, Italian, cucumbers (Lungo Verde Ortolani) is $3.50 for 150 seeds. The thin-skin Mideastern cucumber (Beth Alpha) is also 150 seeds for $3.50.

I bought their leek seeds one year and they were quite productive. Each year I left two plants to go to flower and those seeds gave us five years of leeks for the kitchen.

The vegetable names are in Italian and English, the online catalog is searchable and there is plenty of growing advice. Just go to http://www.growitalian.com/2018-catalog/ and browse around. It's a delightful experience. 

I always request a print catalog to savor with hot tea while deciding which repeat selections I'll get and what I'll add to my order to experiment with.

New this year, they are offering purple carrot, Marvel of Italy pea, trio of bush beans - go check them out.












09 February 2018

St. John's Wort with Ornamental Fruit

Hypericum inodorum
Hypearl Compact Red48" tall
Plant Delights Nursery posted on their blog recently about a new St. John's Wort with Ornamental Fruit, Hypericum inodorum Hypearl Compact Red. It is really beautiful! 

It's one of the hundreds of interesting selections in this year's catalog from plantsman Tony Avent and his crew at PD Nursery.

Tony said the hardiness range is 6a to 9b so we are just barely safe to plant it but with winter protection ... . 

Several years ago I received a garden writer sample plant of Hypericum Hypearls Renu from Blooms of Bressingham and it is thriving seven years later in part shade. 

Just in case you were planning to go looking for Blooms of Bressingham they now call themselves Must Have Perennials (wholesale) and rozanne and friends (retail).

Hypericum, St. John's Wort, in general, is considered a butterfly attracting plant and there are many varieties.

Common St. John's Wort, Hypericum calycinum, has a bad reputation for being quite invasive from Canada to Texas.

Hypearls Renu
At the Mt. Cuba Center in Delaware, they planted St. John's Wort in a dry rock garden setting and let it grow. It is very drought tolerant once established.

The species St. John’s wort (Hypericum spp.) is also recommended as a part-shade ground cover for our zone by Gardening Know How.

Plant Delights Nursery online catalog says, 
"Just exactly who is St. John, and why does he have worts? "Botanically speaking, 'wort' is an old English word meaning 'plant', not a skin disorder. Hypericum is a genus of perennial wildflowers that has been associated with John the Apostle for hundreds of years because it blooms on or around the Feast of St. John in midsummer.
In the Middle Ages, Europeans believed that hypericum possessed magic powers and would hang it around their houses for protection from witches and evil spirits. Prior to that, the Druids of pre-Christian Europe and the ancient Greeks also worshipped hypericum because its large yellow flowers symbolized the sun and its bounties. Even today, hypericum extract is a popular medicine to treat depression and other medical disorders, certainly the modern equivalent of being haunted by evil spirits, although that's not why we sell it.
We grow hypericum because it is a great landscape plant that attracts butterflies. It produces hundreds of yellow flowers during the summer months and it is extremely tough. Many hypericums are drought-tolerent, tolerate a wide range of soil types and grow well in full or part sun. When you are ready to buy hypericum for your perennial garden, we hope you'll check out our online offering of hypericum for sale. It is worth noting that some species are North Carolina native plants."


07 February 2018

Orchid Enthusiasts Meet Sat Feb 17

Here's a great opportunity to learn about Orchids from Cathy and Steve Marak. The Maraks are enthusiastic about orchids and give great presentations.

What Is It About Orchids?  At the February 17 meeting of Flower, Garden & Nature Society of Northwest Arkansas hear two orchid enthusiasts, Cathy and Steve Marak, as they talk about their collection of hundreds of orchids.  Both Cathy and Steve have held offices in the Orchid Society of the Ozarks (Steve is the current president.), and they are co-chairing the 8th Annual Orchids in the Garden Show and Sale.  That event will occur March 2, 3, & 4 this year.  

Meet Saturday, Feb. 17, in the Student Center of Northwest Technical Institute at 709 S. Old Missouri Road in Springdale at 9:30 a.m. for social time and the meeting at 10:00.  Membership is not required for first-time visitors.  Info:  479-466-8100 or 479-466-7265.


29 January 2018

Shrubs Prune and Rejuvenate

15-feet tall Burford Holly shrubs
This is an ideal time of year to prune shrubs either to reshape, clean up or completely rejuvenate them.

Rejuvenation or renovation pruning can mean taking shrubs completely to the ground or just above the ground. When done to healthy shrubs, they will quickly grow from the stump and via new stems.

The Burford Holly shrubs in front of our house began as one-gallon container size from Lowe's. They were precisely planted the same distance apart and allowed to grow there with minimal trimming for 16 years. Now they are 15-feet tall and 20-feet wide.

 Since they are evergreen, they are a great privacy screen from the dog walkers, bicycle walkers, cars and pedestrians. In addition, I can sit on the screened front porch in privacy. However, they've reached a point where they have to be rejuvenated: They are too big for their space, too tall to top prune and have almost leaves inside their woody structure.

Not all shrubs are amenable to this hard a cutting so pruning back by one-third or one-half is quite a bit safer. Shrubs that have lots of twigs and stems are likely candidates. These include Burford Holly, Dogwood and Viburnum. Junipers will not re-grow from that dead center; they must be removed and replaced.

Older shrubs that have not been pruned in several years become poorly shaped and have quite a bit of bare wood inside. Cutting them back hard, focusing on the older stems and branches for removal, makes the entire shrub younger with newer branching.

Alden Lane - January pruning
One way to go about the process is to remove one-third to one-half of the growth late-winter and then finish the pruning and shaping when new growth begins in the spring. We're removing a bit less than half of the green branching, all the dead and damaged branches and most of the crossing branches.

After removing dead, broken and diseased limbs, remove crossing branches. All cuts should be made just outside a swollen branch collar, leaf or leaf bud.

Avoid damaging the bark: Don't wiggle the pruning tool, use tools with sharp blades and use the right size pruner. Never leave a stub - see bottom center illustration on right.

One of the goals of pruning is to allow sun to filter into the center of the shrub so new growth can be forced away from the outer edges. On our mature shrubs there is as much as 3 or 4 feet of bare branch inside with a foot or two of green growth at the end of the branch.

Rose pruning El Paso Master Gardeners
Rose pruning is a different topic but the illustration is helpful to indicating what and where to make cuts when you are dramatically reducing the size of a shrub.

Pruning outside and inside, top and bottom, carefully selecting what to remove and precisely where. I always look for an outward facing branch or leaf node so the next growth faces outside the shrub and toward the light.


Pruning Flowering Shrubs - Rutgers University
It's so important to cut at the right place and at the correct angle. A bunch of wrong cuts will leave you with a shrub that will not re-grow. Here's another chart that illustrates the best practises.

Stand back and look at the shrub frequently during the process. Walk away, get a drink of water, come back and reassess what you are doing. I never just keep cutting. I step back, walk away, look at it from a distance and then resume the shaping process.

Heading back cuts branches at a bud. Thinning removes an entire branch at its origin, whether that's  the ground or a larger branch. No matter what you've been told in the past, it is no longer considered wise to dress the cut surfaces with anything - sealer, paint.

Now sunlight can go into the center of
our Burford Holly shrubs to encourage
new growth inside.
If you are pruning a spring flowering shrub, remember 'prune after bloom' is usually safe, though there are exceptions. Spring flowering shrubs bloom on last year's growth so pruning early removes the flowers.

Summer flowering shrubs bloom on new growth so they are pruned now before spring growth has begun.

Summer-flowering shrubs (prune before spring growth begins)
Botanical NameCommon Name
Abeliaglossy abelia
Buddleiabutterfly bush
Callicarpabeautyberry
Caryopterisbluebeard
CeanothusJersey tea
Clethrasummersweet
Hibiscusrose of Sharon
Hydrangea macropyllabigleaf hydrangea
HypericumSt. Johnswort
Iteasweetspire
Potentillacinquefoil
Rhussumac
Rosa spp.rose
Spiraea x bumaldaWaterer spirea
Symphoricarpos/coralberry
Vitexchaste tree

23 January 2018

Beefsteak Begonia Propagate Stem Cuttings

Beefsteak Begonia
Every two years Beefsteak Begonias, Begonia erythrophylla, benefit from being pruned and propagated. This is a very easy plant to take care of and the worst you can do to it is to keep a water filled saucer under it. These plants enjoy being dry.

In two years, the stems become long and move out over the edge of the pot, making the plant's mass too large for most environments.

Ours live on the screened front porch in the summer which has a western exposure. In the cold months, they live under full spectrum lights in the living room. 
They flower their hears out in either location, adding delicate pink bouquets wherever they are growing.

My original, single, leaf came from a leaf I plucked from an office dweller's plant that was 4 feet across and hung 3 feet down on those long stems. I grew that plant in a clear plastic to go box on moist vermiculite.

The stem you'll prune is the leggy part that has dropped its leaves. Make 4 to 6 inch long cuttings, cutting stems just below a bud or leaf junction. Don't leave any stem below the bud.
Mini greenhouse
MO Botanical Garden
Remove any lower leaves, allowing the cutting a few leaves at the top that will be above the soil. Also remove any remaining flowers or flower buds.

Use a pencil to make a hole in a container filled with moistened and drained sterile potting mix. If you are using rooting hormone powder or liquid, put some in a container and dip the bottom of the cutting, shaking off any extra. Place the cutting into the pre-made hole. Several cuttings can be put into the same container, using this process. I've put as many as 6 in a re-purposed salad mix box. 

To keep the container and its contents moist, create a greenhouse by putting the entire project into a clear plastic bag. Fill the bag with air to keep the leaves away from the sides of the bag. 

Brad's Begonia World
For the longer stems, just cut them into two-inch sections. No leaves are needed for this method. Follow the illustration on the left, putting less that half of the rhizome into the moist soil.
Rhizomes are fleshy and will simply rot if they are planted too deep or kept too wet.


I'm off to propagate! Good gardening.

According to Emily Compost, "Beefsteak Begonia was first named in 1670 by Charles Plumier in Santo Domingo after his sponsor Michel Begon, but begonias have been found growing in moderate temperatures all over the world. I don't know from what indigenous country Beefsteak originated or got its common name but it is a meaty begonia, rare, thick and red underneath, and substantial enough to feed a plant lover's hunger for many years. Of all my plants, this dear begonia is the one to curl up with at night with a good book.
This is a begonia that Ashley Wilkes would have given to Melanie before he went off to war in "Gone with the Wind". Its stoic ability to survive and thrive despite all odds is unparalleled and thus it comes with a history of being a plant that has been successfully passed down through generations of families. Today we call it an old fashioned variety of begonia bearing memories of its unusual, shiny "lily pads" on grandmother's windowsill. Or we remember the parlor palm next to the long fronded fern near the window with "that pancake plant".

17 January 2018

J. L. Hudson Seedsman Ethnobotanical Catalog

The seed bank, J. L. Hudson, Seedsman, is a unique catalog that continues to be a successful, non-commercial venture in La Honda CA.

Keep your computer or smart phone handy because you have to have the botanical name of what you are seeking in order to find it. Common names often appear in the description but not in the listing titles.

I've bought seeds from them several times over the 15-years I've been growing from seed. They have all manner of unusual and common seeds, some of which they categorize as Open Access and Reserved Access.

Every page of the seed list has a search engine that allows shoppers to find out if they have what you are seeking. Serious seed growers, shoppers and browsers can find many special items to try.

The catalog is typeset and very informative, albeit in black and white. No hideous Photoshopped flower and plant pictures but you can always find those on an image search.

Go browse around to find something new to try this year! http://jlhudsonseeds.net/
 New Arrivals - Updated 25 December 2017
"Preservation Through Dissemination"
Seedlist A - AkSeedlist Es - EzSeedlist Pe - PhVegetables A - D
Seedlist Al -AnSeedlist F - GSeedlist Pi - PzVegetables E - R
Seedlist Ap - AzSeedlist HSeedlist Q - RVegetables S - Z
Seedlist BSeedlist I - KSeedlist Sa - ShBulk Vegetable Seeds
Seedlist CaSeedlist La - LeSeedlist Si - SzOrganic Seed Listing
Seedlist Ce - ClSeedlist LiSeedlist Ta - ToReserved Access List
Seedlist Cn - CzSeedlist Lo - LzSeedlist Tr - TzNew Arrivals
Seedlist Da - DeSeedlist MSeedlist U - VBooks
Seedlist Di - DzSeedlist NSeedlist W - ZGibberellic Acid
Seedlist Ea - ErSeedlist O - PaBulk SeedsTobacco Seed


09 January 2018

Richters Herb and Mountain Rose Herb

The two best known and trusted herb seed and plant companies are Richters Herb and Mountain Rose Herb.

My herbie concoction making friends use Mountain Rose pretty much exclusively. I've used them both successfully.

Richters sends me a print catalog every year so, of course, I tend to select items from them - I can see and read about potential selections. Being able to sit with a cup of tea and a pencil makes it much more likely that I'll find things and then go to the website to get others.

In addition to seed packets, Mountain Rose has bulk herbs, teas, aromatherapy supplies, butters, oils, salts, extracts and syrups, facial care, body care and bath, containers for your concoctions, books, kitchen stuff and pet supplies.

For those of us who grow sprouts in the winter, they also have a few sprouting seeds.

One item that caught my eye is "Tasty Tea Collection". It's seven seed packets: thyme, tulsi, valerian, vitex, white sage, wood betony, wormwood, yarrow and yerba mansa.


Richters sells seeds, plant plug packs and trays, plants and supplies. They specialize in herb seeds, oils, kitchen gadgets, garden helpers, dried herbs, teas.

For example, here's the entry for Anise-Hyssop (I can smell it now and see the pollinators all over it).
Everything you need to know to decide, right there on the website page.
[Image]

Anise-Hyssop
Agastache foeniculum
Uses: Culinary/BeverageDuration: Perennial (hardy in zones 4-9)
When to Sow: Spring/Late Summer/Early FallEase of Germination: Easy
Anise-hyssop produces an abundance purple flower spikes, rich with nectar that attracts honey bees, and for beekeepers it yields a lightly fragrant honey. When you squeeze the leaves, a sweet anise-like fragrance is released. When brewed the leaves make an uplifting tea; crushed, they are a culinary seasoning; chewed, freshens breath. Essential oil is medicinal and aromatic, as are its leaves. Roots are known to benefit chest ailments. Sow into well-draining, moist loam, somewhere in full sun. Height up to 40in (100cm); spread 18in (45cm) 
P1145Plants$3.75/ea, $9.00/3 plants, $28.80/12 plants
P1145Plug pack 12$15.00/ea
P1145Plug tray 90$65.00/ea
S1145Seeds$2.75/pkt
S1145-001SowNatural(tm) Seeds$3.25/pkt
S1145-001SowNatural(tm) Bulk Seeds$5.00/g, $12.00/10g, $84.00/100g
S1145Bulk Seeds$16.00/10g, $128.00/100g
Currency: United States Dollar

01 January 2018

Black Cherry is Prunus Serotina

Native Black Cherry trees are a really good idea if you can add some wildlife beneficials to your yard.

Cold hardy in zones 3 to 9, Black Cherry is an ideal addition to your habitat shrub row.
Happy in sun or part-sun, these trees bloom in April and May providing nectar for pollinators and sweet scent for humans.

They have a long tap root so they have to be planted young and will resist being transplanted. Eventually, they grow 50 to 80 feet tall so keep them away from overhead wires.

The berries are said to be good for jam but the birds and other wildlife eat them all before we even notice that they've ripened.

NativNurseries offers them for under $5 apiece. This nursery has been recommended to me by habitat gardeners.

Dudley Phelps at NativNurseries said, "We will be growing plenty more this spring, and should have them back up on our website for sale beginning around the month of August. You can order then and request a ship date for when it is a good time of year for you to plant."
For our Zone 7 area, fall planting would be best so request fall shipping. AND Phelps will give you a 10% discount if you use the coupon code ALLTHEDIRT with your order.

Here's the scoop from Missouri Botanical Garden
Prunus serotina, commonly called black cherry, wild cherry or wild rum cherry, is native to eastern North America, Mexico and Central America. In Missouri, it typically occurs in both lowland and upland woods and along streams throughout the state (Steyermark).
It is one of the largest of the cherries, typically growing to 50-80’ (less frequently to 100’) tall with a narrow-columnar to rounded crown. It is perhaps most noted for its profuse spring bloom, attractive summer foliage and fall color. Fragrant white flowers in slender pendulous clusters (racemes to 6” long) appear with the foliage in spring (late April-May).
Flowers are followed by drooping clusters of small red cherries (to 3/8” diameter) that ripen in late summer to dark purple-black. Fruits are bitter and inedible fresh off the tree, but can be used to make jams and jellies. Fruits have also been used to flavor certain liquors such as brandy and whiskey. Fruits are attractive to wildlife. Narrow oblong-ovate to lanceolate, glossy green leaves (to 5” long) have acuminate tips and serrate margins. Foliage turns attractive shades of yellow and rose in fall. Mature trees develop dark scaly bark. Bark, roots and leaves contain concentrations of toxic cyanogenic compounds, hence the noticeable bitter almond aroma of the inner bark. Native Americans prepared decoctions of the inner bark for cough medicines and tea-like cold remedies. Hard, reddish-brown wood takes a fine polish and is commercially valued for use in a large number of products such as furniture, veneers, cabinets, interior paneling, gun stocks, instrument/tool handles and musical instruments.

Genus name from Latin means plum or cherry tree. Specific epithet comes from the Latin word for “late” in reference to the late flowering and fruiting of this cherry in comparison to other cherries.

Problems: As a native tree, black cherry is adapted to the climate and has good resistance to most pests. As with most cherries, however, it is susceptible to a large number of insect and disease pests. Potential diseases include leaf spot, die back, leaf curl, powdery mildew, root rot and fireblight. Potential insects include aphids, scale, borers, leafhoppers, caterpillars, tent caterpillars and Japanese beetles. Spider mites may also be troublesome.

Keep these away from walking paths because the cherries on the ground will smear on your house floors.



















23 December 2017

Columbine Love

Columbine is a lovely flower to see in sun or part-shade garden spots. The bell-shaped flowers are a gorgeous red-hot-pink with yellow center and anthers. 

Mary Ann King at Pine Ridge Gardens said in Plant of the Week - 
"Eastern columbine is native to Arkansas and all states from the Midwest to the eastern shores with the exception of Louisiana.  Zones 3-9.  

There are several misconceptions surrounding this lovely native.  Most folks think it is delicate – and I agree that it looks fragile.  But let me tell you it is one TOUGH plant.  

It will grow in the full sun, out between two rocks, or it will grow in the shade or anywhere in between.  I’ve seen it growing out of boulders where it has almost no soil.  It is certainly drought tolerant.  

I think it probably wouldn’t like soils that are too wet.  Hummingbirds adore it.  Bumblebees as well.  

Grows from 1 to 3’ tall.  After flowering, seed follicles form and fill with shiny black seeds.  The follicles splits along the top and you can catch these seeds and disperse them where you will.  I just like to take handfuls and toss them.  
Giant Mix from Harris Seed

The foliage is poisonous so rabbits and deer generally leave them alone.  

The main cultural practice that columbines don’t like is: being planted deeper than how they are growing in the pot and they don’t like mulch pulled up close to their crown."

There are many hybrids, that bring other colors to our spring flower beds. Harris Seed (photo) sells a mix of colors in bare root plants. 25 for $53.

Clementine Red from
Bluestone Perennials

Here's a double flowering hybrid variety, Clementine Red, from Bluestone Perennials. $13 per plant.


The natives, Aquigelia canadensis for example, are most likely to spread around your garden. Hybrids grown from cloning methods such as cuttings, chemical replication, etc. have shorter lifespans and spread only with ideal care and location.

Most seed companies offer seed packs of the single varieties as well as some of the doubles. A quick check from my computer yielded dozens of places to get them.

The best seed growing how-to resource, http://tomclothier.hort.net/, says that germination is slow and spotty with cold stratification helpful and probably necessary. Maybe if you want to grow from seed you should order now or soon.

16 December 2017

Poinsettia Care

Pete Carson opened Carson Borovetz Nursery for his annual Poinsettia sales event. Native to Southern Mexico, Poinsettias, Euphorbia pulchenima, dominate holiday home and office d├ęcor to the tune of 80-million sold each year.

This year we are offering four sizes and most of the colors available, said Carson.

Shoppers will find over 2,000 plants in various sizes and colors at the nursery. Here is a rundown of the poinsettias choices this year at Carson Bororvetz.

Casual observers never notice the Poinsettia flowers because they are so tiny. The colorful leaves or bracts that bring seasonal cheerfulness into our winter environment are not actually flowers.

Carson pointed out that even before the bracts turn colors you could see what color they will be by looking at the petiole or leaf stem. All the plants have green leaves when they are growing in October. But the stem that connects the leaf to the main stems carries the eventual bract color. Look for red stems on red poinsettias.

Carson will have white, pink, red, Monet, maroon, Winter Rose and Marble.



SIZE POTS AVAILABLE

Pixie is a 4.5-inch pot miniature with 6 to 8 blooms. Ideal for tabletop, bedside, desks.

Six and one-half-inch pots have 2 plants per container and there will be 12-blooms. This size is the most popular for home coffee tables and in churches.

Eight-inch pots contain 3-plants, planted close together to create a taller display. This height is often used around a fireplace when it is not burning.

Hanging baskets are 10-inches in diameter and will have 20-blooms.

HOW THEY ARE GROWN
In the middle of August when most gardeners are sipping iced tea, Carson received four thousand Poinsettia plant cuttings. When they arrived their root ball was about as big around as a ballpoint pen.

All Poinsettias are hybrids grown from cuttings, Carson said. Each variety has different growing characteristics that I’ve learned over the past 25-years.

For example, a cloudy spell will impact when the bracts become colorful. August and September heat, an October hard freeze and insect migrations, all have to be worked around. Carson keeps both growing houses controlled with fans and heaters to keep the Poinsettias at their required 75-degree daytime and 64-degree nighttime temperatures.

Carson said he has learned from experience how many of each color to grow and which size pots Muskogee area holiday shoppers need.

By the way, Poinsettias are not poisonous. A few individuals have an allergic rash after touching the sap inside the stems of all Euphorbias.
---------------------------------------------
HOME CARE OF POINSETTIAS
- Temperature is critical to long lasting color. Keep away from television, stove, fireplace, furnace ducts, cold windowsills and doors that are frequently opened.
- Night temperature of 60-degrees F is ideal
- Water twice a week and drain the saucer after every watering.
---------------------------------------
IF YOU GO
Carson Borovetz Nursery
3020 North Street between South Country Club and York Streets
Monday November 24 through December 24
Monday to Saturday 9 to 6
Sunday noon to 6
918.682.4404 and 348-1270 cell