03 December 2018

Gifts for Gardeners

Gardeners may be the easiest people to have on your gift-giving list since their interests range from houseplants and herbs to landscaping, water gardens and vegetable production. Gift ideas can range in price from free garden help to high end power tillers with decorative containers and seed packets in between. 

Easy to find items such as gloves, small tools and a magazine subscription can be combined in a gift basket. For stocking stuffers consider nature-themed ornaments for pots, binoculars for bird watching, an Eco newspaper pot maker or a rain gauge.

For more ideas we visited Grogg’s Green Barn in Tulsa, a local resource for everything organic. They have squirrel-proof bird feeders with an outer wire cage where birds can perch and an inner wire cage where the seeds are placed. 

Grogg’s also has Water Right Featherweight hoses, Tumbleweed WormCafe above ground worm farms, Gorilla Grow Tents available as complete indoor growing systems and Rokz Spirit Infusion Kits.

Many grateful gardeners have received a truck-load of soil, composted manure or mulch with a certificate good for helping spread it where it goes.  Nature posters, note cards and framed photos of their garden might also be welcome. 

 For botany and butterfly lovers, seeds of native plants are always appreciated and they are often planted in the winter. Of course, sweatshirts with nature scenes and just about anything with flowers, birds, butterflies and scenery are possibilities.  Handmade items could include flowers dried and pressed between glass or framed, some of those newspaper pots for transplants or hand-painted rocks.

There are many choices for senior gardeners such as a rolling garden seat, a padded kneeling bench, a standing garden planter, a lightweight wheel barrow, ergonomic hand tools, a raised bed, telescoping tools and a water wand to reach plants with less stretching. 

Add in bird houses, bird food, a bird bath, bird bath warmer, garden membership, hand cream, loppers, or a garden apron and the choices seem endless.

25 November 2018

Poinsettia Season is Here

Borovetz Carson Greenhouses, 3020 North St between South Country Club and York
Mon to Sat 10 to 6 and Sun 12 to 6   Information 918.682.4404 and 348.1270

Poinsettias are a universal symbol of the holidays in the US, appearing on cards, in arrangements and of course, live plants. Poinsettia  leaves or bracts come in red, white, pink and marbled. The flower is a tiny green center that is barely noticeable.

When selecting live plants, look for bright, wilt-free leaves, and unbroken stems.  The tiny flowers should be mostly pollen-free. Buy wrapped Poinsettias on your way home from shopping since even brief exposure to cold can cause damage. 

Pete Carson has opened sales of his Muskogee-raised Poinsettias at Borovetz Carson Greenhouses.

In addition to a variety of leaf colors, he has four sizes 
- Pixie is 4.5 inches with 1 plant. 
- 6.5-inch pots have two plants
- Eight-inch pots have 3 plants that make a taller display used for a hearth or stair steps.
- Hanging baskets are 10-inches in diameter with 4 plants.

Temperature is critical for Poinsettias so keep them away from doors, windows and heat sources. At night 55-degrees is ideal. 

 “Water them every three days,” Carson said. “Check the decorative outside foil cover and make sure it has drainage holes cut into it. Water Poinsettias in the sink with room temperature water. Fill to the top of the pot and let the excess drain off.” Too much or too little water will cause the bottom leaves to drop.

Poinsettias are not poisonous so do not call poison control if curious pets or children eat a leaf.  

Mexican legend says that a poor child gathered weeds into a bouquet that turned red when they were offered at the altar causing them to be called Flores de Noche Buena or Flower of the Holy Night. The plant is named for Joel Robert Poinsett, the American Ambassador to Mexico in 1829.  

18 November 2018

Marigolds or Tagetes can be Dwarf or 16 inches tall

Marigolds, or Tagetes, are one of the most cheerful plants that are easily grown from seed in the spring. Their ease and variety make them a good choice for children and family gardens.

Since the plants die with the first freeze and return from seed each spring, this fall’s seeds can be collected to start indoors. The plants will drop their seeds in the garden now and come up next season. You can transplant the seedlings around your other flower beds and containers or just thin them out.

Since they bloom all the way to our first hard freeze, Marigolds make a good cover for bulbs and daylilies that have faded for the season. Scientific experiments have recently disproved Marigold’s ability to repel garden pests so just plant them for their beauty. 

Nutrient-rich Marigold flowers attract pollinators and can be used as a saffron substitute or to make tea. When you see Marigolds used as an ingredient in medicinal creams, it is the Calendula variety that is high in antioxidants.

Newer varieties include: 

Garland Orange Marigold - 3 to 3.5 feet tall, 2-feet wide, wind tolerant, double-flowers are 3-inches across. Bred as a cutting flower and used to make garlands. Start seeds indoors in early March. The best germination is at 75 degrees. After they come up put the plants under bright light and give them at least 55 degrees. Space the plants 2 feet apart in your garden and for best flowering, avoid fertilizing.www.parkseed.com

Marigold Garden Joy 16-inch stems with 5-inch wide, ball-shaped, fragrant, deer resistant flowers in gold, orange and yellow. Bred to withstand heat, humidity and disease.  Start seeds early spring in the garden or  indoors. Space plants18-inches apart.  www.jungseed.com

Marigold Alumia- 10-inches tall with double, citrus flavored, cream to dark orange flowers on strong, branching stems. Good for containers and mass planting. Start seeds indoors in Feb, with 75 degrees for germination. Plant one foot apart in the garden. www.harisseeds.com

11 November 2018

Pawpaw Trees Have Three Season Beauty

In the 1500s the large fruits of  Pawpaw trees fed Hernando DeSoto’s conquistadors during their expedition in the Mississippi Valley. A favorite food of American Indians at the time,  early settlers used the fruit to make jelly. The trees’ inner bark was used to make cloth and to string up fish.

Pawpaw trees have a wide native range from New York and Ontario to Iowa and Texas.  The trees mature at 10 to 20 feet tall and wide with a round, upright pyramid form that requires no shaping.

Pawpaws are cold hardy to zone 5 so they are quite happy in our zone 7 weather.  The pink flowers in the spring are very pretty and prolific. After pollination, yellow fruits form to ripen later in the summer and fall. The fruit is said to taste like bananas though ours is always eaten by wildlife long before we can harvest any.

The leaves are large, light green ovals that turn lime green and then pale yellow in the fall, adding to November color in the garden. 

Our first tree came from Stringer Nursery in Tulsa when they sold them for $10 apiece because volunteer trees were dug out of the owner’s back yard. In order to have more fruit we purchased a second variety from the Kentucky State University breeding program a few years ago (http://www.pawpaw.kysu.edu).

There are over 45 Pawpaw or Asimina triloba cultivars. Convis has 1-pound fruit, Davis has half-pound fruit, Overleese is a heavy producing variety, Sunflower is said to be self-fertile and Wells has fruit with green skin and orange flesh.

According to the University of Kentucky Horticulture Dept. more Pawpaw is being planted because of the beauty, the fruit and because the trees produce an organic insecticide as well as a potential cancer therapy.

Our first tree was planted to provide habitat for Zebra Swallowtail Butterfly caterpillars.  If you can get fruit away from wildlife, they have vitamins A and C, protein, potassium, magnesium and unsaturated fats.

04 November 2018

Aster Tataricus Fall Beauty

Fall is for asters and they are popping up in lawns at 2-inches tall and in gardens topping out at 10 feet tall. In between there are dozens of other Aster heights to chose from when deciding which ones to plant. 

Aster Tataricus is large, with toothed leaves and hundreds of light blue flowers with yellow centers. This variety spreads, creating colonies and providing October-November nectar for hundreds of butterflies.

In a sunny location, a cluster of Aster Tataricus can have 20 Monarch butterflies at a time, swaying in the breeze on the Asters’ strong stems while sunbathing and collecting strength to continue their voyage south. 

For the most part the stems can stand without staking but when we have a big wind and rain storm they will fall over. Usually, we do not bother to stake them since the skippers, butterflies and bees cover the flower heads just as much.

Even though the flowers are only an inch wide, the large clusters are a beautiful addition to flower beds. 
Aster Tataricus is reliable in most soils and is cold hardy in zones 3 to 9.

As with most plants from Asia (Siberia to Japan) they have to be divided and thinned regularly. In China the roots are used in treatments for colds and infections.

Pruning Asters mid-spring can keep them compact, making them suitable for the middle of a bed. There is also a hybrid called Dwarf Tatarian Jindai that matures at 4 feet tall.

Tatarian Asters are herbaceous perennials, meaning that the roots and rhizomes live for many years but the plants disappear in the winter. When the leaves emerge in the spring they grow quickly and some garden writers say they look like a bed of Swiss Chard or tobacco because the leaves are so large.

Gardeners who grow Tatarian Asters usually have plants to share. Just ask for some roots so your garden will attract and feed migrating butterflies next November.