30 May 2007

End-of-Season Sales, Mulching a Path, Bluestone Perennials, Caterpillars

Blossom's Garden Center is having their end-of-the season sale Thursday - tomorrow. Go grab some bargains to complete your garden.

As the beds in the back yard have grown and the shrubs have expanded, it was becoming a challenge to get in between things. Three weeks ago my garden column was on covering a patch of weeds with newspaper and then topping it with mulch. The photo on the left is the end result. One less slice of the back yard has to be mowed.

Bluestone Perennials website has an easy to use online catalog where you can browse their half-off everything sale.

The front of the bed in the photo is lined with Nepeta Walker's Low from Bluestone.This year I ordered several dozen plants from Bluestone - for my garden and for a few friends. One type of plant arrived looking less than desirable and they replaced it. Everything from them has taken root and thrived so far. So, I'm impressed.

Here's the progress report on the tiny Spicebush Butterfly Caterpillar found on what else? the Spicebush. In the first photo I put up he was brown, tiny. Now, look at it. Six more leaves have chew lines and are folded over. Inside each damaged leaf there is a pencil line of a tiny, brown caterpillar.

If the rains stops and we get some sun, the tomatoes and blackberries will have a chance to ripen. In the meantime, the snow pea vines are producing a month later than usual - a great bonus for the rainy weather.

27 May 2007

Dame's Rocket, Diagnosing Plant Damage, Barrel Cactus

Dame's Rocket, a type of mustard is the pretty purple flower in the photo. Many garden writers say to pull it out and burn it if you find it in your flower beds because it is so invasive.

So, I wonder, do you pull up pretty natives and put them in plastic bags in the trash so not one seed escapes?

It seems extreme to me but I may be eating those words next year if Dame invades aggressively.

Quite honestly, as difficult as it is to get anything to grow, what harm could a few purple beauties do?

These are edamame seedlings that have been decimated by something.

The empty spots in the seed starting tray had little plants in them until a bed was made for them in the garden.

After one row was planted, I put the flat nearby until more spring plants could be harvested.

When I went out to pull three large heads of greens, all the edamame had lost its head - something that chews and prefers tender green vegetables has moved in.

Barrel cactus is native to southwestern Oklahoma where this one came from. It's been blooming every spring for four years. When the original pot broke, transplanting it was prickly, but worth this year's show!
This is one of the edamame eaters.
There are at least four of them out there.
When the sun finally came out today I saw two adults romping.
No doubt happy that their offspring are so well fed.

26 May 2007

Japonica Pruning

Nasturtium bud and fading flower in today's garden.
A reader asked, "When is the best time to to prune a Japonica?"

I did a quick internet search and found at least a dozen plants with Japonica in their name, including: Japonica Lonicera - Japanese Honeysuckle, Flowering Quince Japonica, Cryptotaenia Japonica, Euonymous Japonica and Caradina Japonica. Fatsia Japonica is commonly known as aralia. The common names for Spirea Japonica is Japanese Spirea.
So, the answer is, "It depends on which plant you have."

Here is the shorthand answer - Many spring blooming shrubs and vines are pruned just after flowering so they can make the flower buds for next year on the wood they grow this summer. Other spring flowering plants are pruned in the late winter.

If your Japonica is a Honeysuckle, prune it late winter because they bloom on new growth. If it is the Spirea Japonica, prune it next February according to The Missouri Botanical Garden's home gardening site.

Pruning can be a confusing topic. For example, Butterfly Bushes (Budlia) are pruned depending on their variety, confusing gardeners even more. According to the Tulsa Master Gardeners website, Budlia alternifolia blooms on the previous season's wood (so cut after flowering) and Budlia davidii blooms on new wood so it is cut to the ground in spring before flowering.

Could your Japonica be a flowering Quince with pink to red flowers in the spring? Its Latin name is Chaenomeles speciosa. The University of Arkansas Extension Service has an online pruning guide that recommends pruning flowering quince immediately after blooming. See page 4 at that link for a list of shrubs and when to prune them.

No matter which plant you have, pruning dead, diseased and damaged growth can be done at any time. Up to one-third of any shrub can be removed for shaping purposes. If you decide to remove entire branches of a shrub, cut out a few of the largest and oldest first, leaving the youngest branches in tact. Stand back and look, then cut more.
If this does not help, can you describe the plant? Maybe I can help identify it. Is your Japonica a shrub or a vine? When does it flower and what do the flowers look like? Once we know more about it, the advice can be more specific.

25 May 2007

Spicebush Butterfly Caterpillar

The daylily pictured came with us when we moved from the west coast to Oklahoma and has bloomed reliably every year no matter what weather Mother Nature provides.
This little guy or gal spicebush swallowtail butterfly caterpillar was on a spice bush I just bought in order to attract spicebush butterflies.
You have to be amazed by their finding the plant within a few weeks after its arrival. And, by the way, what a strange looking little thing with the eye markings. Double click to see more detail.

We had almost an inch of rain, thankfully. All those seedlings for the garden tour sale are getting the right stuff for June 9th. The lavender flower is a pole bean I bought from an Italian seed company. I'm not impressed by their germination rate - about 50% in our garden. We shall see how they produce. In the meantime the flowers are very pretty moving up the trellis.

The poppies are already making their seed heads for next year, the blackberries continue to make hundreds of flowers a day, new flowers bloom every day.

I planted several bulbs from Old House Gardens that were new to me and one or two have bloomed proving that adding new plants is a good thing for renewing one's interest in gardening.
Also, have to confess to buying arum from the Brent and Becky's Bulb's 50% off sale today. Some things are too good a deal to pass up.
Hope your gardens are bursting with excitement, too.

24 May 2007

Frank Sadorus Photography on Illinois State Museum Website

In Today's Garden
Cucumbers every day, green tomatoes on half the plants, snow peas in salads from the garden, flowers on the pole beans, summer squash forming on volunteer plants and flowers blooming. These are some of the reasons we love to be in the garden.

On the Web
The Illinois State Museum website is a treasure trove for nature lovers. Their link for Botany is described, "The ISM botanical collections include more than 111,000 botanical specimens that are housed in the herbarium, which has one of the largest collections of Illinois flora in the state. The internationally significant Cutler-Blake ethnobotanical collection preserves remains of prehistoric cultivated plants that represent much of the primary evidence for early American Indian plant domestication in North America."
The link at their site that I found even more fascinating, though, is the online photography show of Frank Sadorus. Sadorus lived on a family farm in Illinois and was an amateur photographer who used glass plate negatives. The online show is 500 of his photos of farm equipment, flowers, animals and people in the years between 1898 and 1912.

Photo from the collection. Click here to see the collection.
Used with permission from Director of Art for the Illinois State Museum and Karen Witter.

Another link that is just plain fascinating is one to Natural History magazines article on daffodil biometrics. "The petals of the daffodil, as well as those of many other plants in the genus Narcissus, do not point skyward (as do those of the tulip blossom, for instance) but droop to one side of the stem. This makes the flower appear to be gazing..."

"Etnier and Vogel also conducted experiments to find out why daffodils don't merely twist in the wind but do so with their blossoms facing downwind."

I won't ruin the surprise - go take a look at why the science of flowers can be so interesting.

23 May 2007

May 23 2007 in a very busy garden

Left: Blue and white Larkspur
with rose campion.

Right: Shrimp plant is a zone 9
beauty that will become 3 by 3 by the end of the summer
These are seedlings and recently planted seeds for the upcoming Muskogee Garden Club plant sale at the Centennial Garden Tour June 9 and June 10. Plant seedlings include rose campion, snow on the mountain, love-lies-bleeding amaranth, purple millet, cleome, blackberries, mint and a few others. Seeds that we hope will be up and garden ready for the 9th include teddy bear sunflowers, Mexican sunflowers, sunshine sunflowers, Indian blanket, Berry Basket and Decor zinnias from Renee Seeds and others.

Anise Hyssop is the lavender spire in front and rose campion is the deep red flower in back. They were both started from seed two years ago.

Great gardening weather and welcome rain is coming. It is easy to be an optimist this spring!

22 May 2007

Hard to Beet This Catch of the Day and Carl's Birthday

The beets all have to come out before the weather beats them up. This morning I watched the sun come up while I was pulling these. What a great way to start a day.

Snow peas are just now forming - the spring has been a little late for them. It's unusual for the snow peas to be in flower when the blackberries are already forming on the vines. What a berry crop this year! Last year because of the drought there we so few that we had none to give away. This year will be very different - assuming the storm on the horizon does no damage.

The Muskogee Garden Club's Centennial Garden Tour is coming up June 9 and 10 so yesterday I planted a few hundred little pots of things for the plant sale. If they all come up and survive, there will be purple majesty millet, amaranth, rose campion, sunflowers, summer squash, loofah sponge vines, and a few other odds and ends.

So you want a big dramatic planting pot but don't want it to weigh a ton? Check this out.

The orange disk inside the tall flower pot is an Ups-a- Daisy planter insert. It's a circle of plastic that is designed to fill in the bottom of large planting containers.

The Ups a Daisy already has drainage holes in it. Just insert the disk and put a potted plant on top. The pot in the photo already had three small bump-outs in it for a pot to sit on. The Ups-a-Daisy is a definite improvement over filling the bottom of the big pots with Styrofoam peanuts which is the customary method of filling them up high enough to put a plant in them.

Ups-a-Daisy comes in 9 sizes from 12-inches to 18-inches. They are designed to fit half way or two-thirds of the way inside a tapered sided planter. The 10-inch is $4.99 and the 18-inch is $12.99 (cheaper than potting soil? maybe). The manufacturer Klanga, Inc. in Spring Grove Illinois makes them out of recycled plastic.
Westlake Ace Hardware and Southwood Nursery in Tulsa both sell them.

Today is the 300th birthday of Linnaeus whose name was actually Carol von Linne. This is the Swedish physician who invented our system of categorizing and naming plant families.

Before he completed his degree, the university encouraged him to travel to Lapland and record all the plants he found there. In order to sort out all the plants, he designed the system we now use. While in graduate school he also became the curator of a private botanical garden.
Linne became a professor at Uppsula University where he oversaw the restoration of the University gardens.
He continued his work as a physician at the same time and was the doctor to the Swedish royal family.
The Linnean Society of London holds many of his paper and their website has fascinating items in the Links section. The weblinks are there for nature sites, more Linnaeus sites, herbariums, etc.

16 May 2007

Brent and Becky's Bulbs, Mid-May Gardening

If you have room for more bulbs, Brent and Becky's announced their 25% off sale today. The email said all remaining summer flowering bulbs are discounted until they are gone. It looks like every imaginable color combination of Caladium and canna lily is on the sale.

In the vegetable bed, transplants of Edamame (edible soy bean pods) are going in where the lettuce and radishes came out. The slugs had to be "treated" before anything could be planted in one little strip where greens were being eaten by something that makes little round holes. The next seeds to go into that spot will either be vining melon or potimarron but the bugs must go first.

The coleus came back!

The shade beds are really taking off after the rain and a few mild days. Tiger lilies given to us a couple of years ago by David Gerard, a friend at the Phoenix, are showing off at over 3-feet tall. They are forming flower buds and will have those remarkable dark orange flowers with freckles.

Also the daylilies from Nelson Myers' garden are spiking tall buds. The 20 or so colors we have do not bloom all at once. They overlap in their timing so the bloom period seems to go on for a month.

The cucumber vines and the tomatoes bought as plants have flowers. The tomatoes I started from seed are further behind but look good. A few of the pesto basil volunteers came up in unexpected places and I stacked little rocks around them so I will not walk on them or pull them out by mistake.

It's too early, but every year about this time have to dig one out to find out that the garlic has not formed heads yet and neither have the red salad onions.

There is a lot going on this time of year in the garden. I hope yours is blooming and popping, too.

14 May 2007

News of the Natural World

There is a lot of news of interest to nature and outdoors-types in Science Daily today.

BEES - First there are new reports about the sudden lack of honey bees to pollinate fruits and vegetables. Science Daily reports that "in the United States, half a million to a million colonies out of a total 2.4 million colonies have died this winter."

Habitat loss and disease in Europe together with a 50% drop in managed honeybee colonies in North America created a global phenomenon known as the ‘pollination crisis’.

Cornell and other research universities are making plans to investigate the cause and the federal government is considering investing tens of millions of dollars for competitive grants to programs targeting honeybees' health. Medicare for bees but without the paperwork.

SPIDERS - Entomologists at Louisiana State University report that brown widow spiders are becoming more common in Louisiana. They are as poisonous as the black widows.
brown widow-Dr. Chris Carlton, Louisiana State Arthropod Museum
The brown widow spider has a yellow-to-orange hourglass marking on the underside of its abdomen and hangs out in brush piles.

CARROTS - The seed catalogs are full of carrots in yellow, orange, red and purple but they have not caught on with the grocery buying public, no less the restaurant eating public.
Now that scientists have released study results that indicate these rainbow carrots have more healthful properties than tomatoes and other vegetables, maybe a demand will be created.
Specifically -
Xanthophylls in yellow carrots linked with good eye health.
Lycopene in red carrots is believed to guard against heart disease and some cancers.
Anthocyanins in purple carrots are considered to be powerful antioxidants that can guard cells from the destructive effects of free radicals.

More pressure to eat your carrots. Fall seems to be the best time to plant carrots in zone 7. Next time you see seeds pick some up to plant in September when the remnants of the summer vegetables come out.

13 May 2007

Today in the Garden

The Mystery Plant now spans over 4-feet across with each branch topped with one of these crowns. Photos of the plant have been emailed to a few plantsmen and experts who have said it is some kind of primrose. One said to dig it out and another said to wait until it blooms. We're waiting.
The strawberry bed is a small raised bed topped with straw. A drip irrigation system is built into the soil and connects to the hose from the edge of the bed.

The baby's breath came up from seed planted last year. The lavender flower is a native that was planted a year or two ago. Now it's almost 3-feet tall and covered with flowers loved by bees, butterflies and their relatives. That corner of the flower bed is always busy. While I was focusing the camera and macro lens, I was being buzzed the entire time.
Only one kind of tomatoes is being attacked by slugs so pans of beer were put into place after watering this morning. The greens are also being nibbled on but they can still be harvested.
Bunnies or someone else snacked on the lavender to the point that they became 2-inch stubs. Being topped with strawberry baskets for a few days gave the plants a chance to fill out again.
I planted 20 or so Asclepias tuberose (milkweed) seedlings in several spots around the beds in the hope that next year they will bring migrating Monarch butterflies to our yard.
Happy gardening is easier now that plants are taking hold and flowers are blooming.

10 May 2007

Magenta Spreen Lamb's Quarters

This is a seedling of Magenta Spreen Lamb's Quarters that popped up in the vegetable bed. Sharon Owen at Moonshadow Herb Farm gave me her mother last year when it was about this same size. By the end of the summer the plant was 8-feet tall. No joke. No exaggeration.

Sharon told me it would make a million babies if I didn't take the seed heads off. Well, if you weren't here last summer we had 30-days over 100-degrees and watering to save trees was the primary "gardening" going on. (The water bill was $300 a month, for 3 months. We love our plants.)

No seed heads were removed and thus the pink centered beauties are coming up. Funny how you can plant some things with tremendous care and have a big failure and other plants are so agreeable as to show up without any work at all on the gardener's part.

Owen said in a email today, "They're a type of giant Lamb's Quarters. A customer gave one to me years ago. Since then, Seeds of Change catalog has begun carrying this plant. In their 2005 & 2006 catalogs it was under "Rare Plants" (seed pkt). You use it the very same as you would ordinary Lamb's Quarters - it's a good spring pot herb - fresh, too, in salads (small leaves). I was told the by woman who gave it to me that in the 'old days' Native American and/or pioneer women would use it for rouge or to color lips - which it does & doesn't stain the skin. The powder lays on the skin for quite a while."

On a website about wild edibles they describe - Lamb's Quarters (Chenopodim album) as a European native with leaves that taste like spinach. Leaves are very nutritious and have often been used as a famine food. .... I like to add them to salad greens or stir fries where the quantity doesn't matter. ... There are a few cultivated varieties - look for 'Magenta Spreen', with pink-tinged foliage "

Another site called it tree spinach.

Seeds of Change still carries it in their catalog if you are interested. They call it Lambsquarters, Magenta Spreen Chenopodium giganteum and describe it as rare. They also say to eat the leaves of this spinach relative when they are young.

The last line in the description is, "Harvest before it goes to seed as it will invade the garden if allowed to go to seed." That probably helps explain the price - 25o seeds for $1.90.

If you decide to grow a patch of Magenta Spreen to enjoy their beauty or to eat them, Owen said they can be topped or pinched back to make them more branching and less spindly - you know, a single 8-foot tall stalk of spinach blowing in the wind.

08 May 2007

Daffodils, Today's Garden

This is Brian S. Duncan's latest invention for the daffodil industry.
Not available for purchase ... yet . Duncan has been breeding new, wonderful daffodils for 40 years. He sells exhibition quality bulbs to Ringhaddy. (Ringhaddy Daffodils, 60 Ringhaddy Rd, Killinchy, Co. Down BT23 6TU, Northern Ireland e-mail: ringdaff@nireland.com)

On a more humble note, here are some photos from our spring yard today.
Double click on any photo to see more detail in a full window.
Butterfly enjoying the bachelor button patch
full bloom, tight bud and opening bud

Columbine with Nepeta Walker's Low and May Night Salvia

If you are looking for something to do but cannot wade through the water yet, start seeds in pots of sterile soil. Put them outside where they will receive sun and rain. Seedlings can be planted out when the ground dries out enough to walk on it.

07 May 2007

Snow-on-the-Mountain, Purple Majesty Millet and Help for Growing Tropicals

Between the rain and the mild temperatures, volunteers are popping up everywhere.

The photo is of Snow-On-the-Mountain (euphorbia marginata) whose children (from last year's crop) are growing by leaps and bounds - between everything. I'm pulling some out and repotting them to give to friends, moving others into beds in the back, etc. But I still have dozens that are already 4-inches tall and dread pulling them so I weed around them until I can get them new homes.

Also - last year's crop of Purple Majesty Millet (Pennisetum glaucum) was great. I bought the extra large 100-seed package from Johnny's Selected Seeds. The first planting was a dud but the second planting in June worked exceptionally well. The trick seems to be that that they need heat to thrive. In October, we harvested 30-seed heads. If you would like a few Purple Millet seeds to plant in your garden send an email to mollyday1@yahoo.com and include your postal, mailing address.

A walk around the yard after the 2-inches of rain today showed me that nothing is in danger from a day of wet feet. The water is still standing inches deep - splash splash - everywhere and over by the tomatoes and garlic you can watch the water flowing down the hill.

Banana Garden's website is a fun place to visit for information about banana trees and other tropical plants such as bamboo, ginger, bromiliads, etc. They even have a column on planting wildflower seeds.

Their article on the difference between tender and hardy perennials is something all plant buyers need to know. Hardy perennials survive winter temperatures and freeze-sensitive tender plants(tropicals) cannot. The tender ones have to be protected over the winter if you hope to see them in the spring (dahlias, caladiums, calla lilies). Knowing the difference can save you money and disappointment.

Did you know that palms are flowering trees and the species includes iris, orchids and lilies? Me, either. Check it out if you have some interest in bananas, palms and other exotics.

05 May 2007

P. Allen Smith's home in Little Rock and Sales

On one of the tours at the Master Gardener's Conference in Little Rock we toured the gardens at P. Allen Smith's personal residence in the historic Quapaw District. The photos are of Smith during his keynote speech, and some from his home. Double click on them to make them large enough to see some of the detail.

Garden shed
From the sidewalk Porch

A tour of the rural Garden Home Retreat he is building can be found at the link.
You will find an abundance of gardening guidance and you can subscribe to his email newsletter at pallensmith.com - there are even recipes in the email newsletter and on his site.
Sales Sales Sales - Here are some of the sales being advertised online this weekend. Take a look - you may be inspired.
Bulbs and perennials at Dutch Gardens
Tropical container patio plants from Logee's
Daffodil bulbs from Brecks
Van Dyke Zinnia seed sale at Redbud Farms (a moving sale)
$5 off a $30 order at Burpee Seeds

01 May 2007

Mailorder Flower Bulb Source

Before I leave for the International Master Gardener's Conference in Little Rock, I want to give you a heads up about Touch of Nature. There are hundreds of mail order sources for flower bulbs. Some companies consistently disappoint and some always deliver bulbs that grow and bloom.

Everything I have bought so far from Touch of Nature has survived, grown and bloomed. They have sales that are worth watching for. (Right now daylilies are on sale.) The Dutch iris in these photos are ones I bought at the end of the season last fall - 25 in a bag for $7.50 plus shipping. As you can see they are all blooming or in bud. The dark one is Purple Moon; the light blue one is called Hildegarde.

The owners, Bert and Ingrid Leek, encourage customers to send photos so there are many to browse. Information about how to enter their photo contest is online, too.

If you want to be notified of sales send an email to specials@touchofnature.com and put your email address on their list.

While I was planting Woodland Phlox from Wild Things Nursery this morning, I was weeding. Under the weeds I found this little guy. Our yard is a shelter for the turtles injured by over-excited neighborhood dogs. Most of the adults have teeth marks in their shells. Lots of babies are born in and around the trees and beds.

The Master Gardener conference should be exciting and I'll pass on what I learn. Happy gardening.

May Day, Preen and Baby Snakes

There's a new Preen product available only at Lowe's. It is a mulch that has a pre-emergent already in it. The product literature says it will prevent weeds for six months. We are trying it on these Sweetspires because they require weekly Bermuda grass weeding over the summer.
The color is too red but may fade in the summer sun.
We decided to remove a riparian area (weeds and vinca) next to the house where baby bunnies have been born and where baby snakes have also been born.
The photo is of one of the baby snakes that was displaced this week. He/She is climbing up the house after scaring us by peeking into the window and wiggling its head at us.

It is May first and we have cooling rain for the week which is great for the transplants as well as recently planted seeds. The rain makes this a perfect time to distribute fertilizer, too, since it will be watered-in while the plants are under cloud cover. (Hot dry weather + fertilizer can lead to burning)
Stay on top of picking lettuce and other spring greens before they bolt. Put in annual flowers now. Pull weeds. Plant shrubs and trees as soon as possible after the rain stops. Look carefully around peony, rose and other buds for signs of insect eggs and wipe them off with a paper towel dipped in a mild solution of dish soap in water.