29 February 2008

Pine Ridge Gardens Has Woody Plants for Butterflies

Woody perennials for attracting and feeding butterflies will come back for years to bring the flying flowers into your garden.

Pine Ridge Gardens in London Arkansas has a handy chart on their website that explains what to plant for whom. Click on the link to see the entire list of plants you can order to enhance your chance of raising butterflies this summer.

Woody plants for food for caterpillars with each plant's botanical and common name

Amorpha fruitcosa Lead plant Dogface, Gray hairstreak
Aronia melanocarpa Black chokeberry Striped hairstreak
Asimina triloba Paw Paw Zebra swallowtail
Aristolochia macrophylla Bigleaf pipevinePipevine swallowtail
Aristolochia tomentosa Dutchman's pipevine Pipevine swallowtail
Carpinus caroliniana Ironwood, musclewood Red spotted purple, tiger swallowtail, marine blue
Carya illinoiensis Wild pecan Gray hairstreak
Carya ovata Shagbark hickory Banded hairstreak
Ceanothus ovatus Inland NJ Tea duskywing
Celtis tenufolia Dwarf hackberry Question mark, mourning cloak, Tawny emperor & hackberry butterfly.
Cercis canadensis Redbud Henry's elfin
Cornus species Dogwoods Spring azure
Fagus grandifolia American beech Early hairstreakFraxinus quadrangulataBlue AshMourning cloak, two-tailed tiger swallowtail
Ilex opaca American holly Henry's elfin
Juniperus ashei Ash's juniper Olive hairstreak
Juniperus virginianaEastern red cedar Olive hairstreak
Lindera benzoin Spicebush Spicebush swallowtail

You get the idea - click on the link to Pine Ridge Gardens to learn and to shop.

28 February 2008

Susie Lawrence Gives Proven Seed Starting Tips

Susie Lawrence is well known by most people who shop at the Muskogee Farmer's Market. For the past 14 years, Lawrence has been there selling cut flowers, herbs and vegetables that she grows from seed at her greenhouse in Braggs.
Lawrence offered her advice for gardeners who want the advantages of growing from seed for their own gardens.

"Get a how-to seed starting book, such as 'Park's Success with Seed' by Ann Reilly or the newest edition by Karen Park Jennings," Lawrence said.

"Park's Success with Seed" 1978 edition sells online for around $5. The 2006 revised edition costs $25.

"Success With Seed" has its own Web site http://www.successwithseed.org/. The photographs and information in the 2006 book are duplicated there. On the left side of the site's main page, click on links to find out which seeds require pre-soaking, are easy to grow, are for containers, shady spots, etc. Park's blog at http://gardenblog.typepad.com/ has more seed starting information.

"Also, Johnny's Selected Seed catalog (www. johnnysseeds.com) and their seed packages have really good cultural information," Lawrence said.

Johnny's provides growing information for each seed. For example, click on Agastache, Korean Mint. The link describes the plant in detail, then click on Growing Information and you will find: Germinates in seven to 10 days at 68 to 72 degrees. Start indoors six to eight weeks before last frost, cut flowers, dried flowers, no support needed, etc.

Lower cost and wider variety are the primary reasons to grow from seed. For example, a pack of 100 Agastache seeds costs $5. Start a pack of seeds and you can fill a bed with plants that are rarely available in garden centers.

Common plant seeds require air circulation, sterile seed starting mix, moisture and warmth. Many seeds require dark to germinate but home windowsills rarely provide enough light to grow seedlings into healthy transplants. A fluorescent bulb placed a few inches above the sprouted seeds is necessary to prevent pale green leggy starts.

"The most important things to know when you are starting seeds are: whether they need dark or light to germinate; if they need cool temperatures or bottom heat; and, to keep them moist but not wet," Lawrence said.

Seeds that need light to germinate are planted on the top of the soil and seeds that need dark to germinate are planted one-fourth to one-inch deep. Seeds that need light to germinate include: Columbine, Mexican Sunflower, Nicotiana, Oriental poppy, Petunia, Salvia, Sweet Alyssum and Yarrow."

Seeds that need light to germinate can be dusted with a little vermiculite to keep them from drying out," Lawrence said. "Be careful and do not cover the seeds."Seeds that require dark to germinate include: Borage, Coriander, Fennel, Bachelor Buttons, Periwinkle, Phlox, Sweet pea and Verbena. Coleus appears on both dark and light germination lists, depending on variety.

"Larger seeds often benefit from soaking them overnight before planting," Lawrence said. "But, don't let them dry out between soaking and planting."

Seeds that benefit from soaking include: okra, Thrift, Crown Vetch, Mallow, Lantana, Morning Glory, Sweet Peas and Chinese Wisteria. Most seeds germinate best at 70-degree daytime and 65-degree nighttime temperatures but there are exceptions.

Seeds from arctic or mountain regions germinate better in cool soil. Though they will come up with added heat, the plants may be weak.Seeds of plants from the desert or the tropics need warm soil. J L Hudson Seeds catalog (http://www.jlhudsonseeds.net/) lists seed-starting soil temperatures as Cold 34 to 45F, Cool 50 to 65F, Warm 65 to 80F and Very Warm 80 to 100F.

Monkshood seeds germinate in melting snow in their native environment so they are soaked in cold water in the refrigerator for two weeks, changing the water daily. Growing plants need soil bacteria and insects to thrive but seeds are more vulnerable. Start with sterile seed starting mix or sterilized soil. Containers can be recycled but should be soaked in a ten-percent chlorine bleach solution and rinsed before using.

"The clear plastic clam shell containers that strawberries and grapes come in are great to start seeds in. Just make sure there are holes cut in the bottom for drainage," she said.

Garden and home improvement stores as well as online retailers sell seed-starting kits that work well. If you use the ones with plastic tops remove the plastic every day for a few hours to provide air circulation and prevent damping off fungal disease. As soon as you see seeds coming up, remove the cover and leave it off.

Damping off disease is caused by too much water and lack of air circulation. Watering seeds by misting keeps them from drowning while preventing them from drying out and dying before they germinate.

A fan running gently in the area of the seedlings keeps the top of the soil dry and strengthens the stems of the plants. When seedlings have a second set of leaves gently brush your hand across them to strengthen the stems.

"Keep a record of the date seeds were started, whether they need light or dark, cool or heat, bloom or harvest dates and general comments to refer to in the future," Lawrence said.

27 February 2008

Start Seeds Now to Attract Butterflies to Your Garden This Summer

Monarch Watch is restocked on their Monarch Butterfly Waystation Kits. You don't have to become an official stop for migrating Monarchs in order to plant the seeds and enjoy the view.

Use the discount coupon code 2008SEED to get 15% off Monarch Waystation Seed Kits. Each Kit includes 12 seeds of 12 plants. Six of the plants are for adult butterfly nectar and the other six are to feed caterpillars. These host plants are where the adults lay eggs and are the plants the caterpillar stage Monarchs eat in order to grow into butterflies.

MILKWEEDS are both host and nectar plants. Aphids love them, so put them in full sun. The information from Monarch Watch on the contents of the seed packs:

BUTTERFLY WEED (Asclepias tuberosa) Perennial; Height: 1 to 2 feet; Blooms summer/fall. Attractive prairie plant with orange clusters of dainty flowers. Attracts butterflies. This drought-tolerant plant blooms from June to September. Host plant for monarch and queen larvae. For best germination rates, seeds should be cold-stratified at least 6 weeks prior to planting. Start seeds indoors, covering with 1/4 inch of fine soil. Transplant outdoors when weather has warmed in the spring. Can be sown directly outdoors, but may take a season to bloom.

SHOWY MILKWEED (Asclepias speciosa) Perennial; Height: 3 to 5 feet; Blooms summer. Beautiful pale pink inflorescence. Blooms June to August. Host plant for monarch and queen larvae. Good nectar plant for butterflies. For best germination rates, seeds should be cold-stratified at least 6 weeks prior to planting. Plant seeds outdoors in early spring. Prefers full sun. Drought tolerant.

COMMON MILKWEED (Asclepias syriaca) Perennial; Height: 3 to 5 feet; Blooms summer. Flower clusters are greenish purple to dull purple. nice fragrance. Blooms June to August. Host plant for monarch and queen larvae. Good nectar plant for butterflies. For best germination rates, seeds should be cold-stratified at least 6 weeks prior to planting. Plant seeds outdoors in early spring. Prefers full sun. Drought tolerant.

SWAMP MILKWEED (Asclepias incarnata subsp. incarnata) Perennial; Height: 4 to 5 feet; Blooms summer. Does well in wet areas. Flowers are bright pink and rarely white. Host plant for monarch and queen larvae. Good nectar plant for butterflies. For best germination rates, seeds should be cold-stratified at least 6 weeks prior to planting. Plant seeds outdoors in a sunny area. Cover with 1/4 inch of soil. Does not like transplanting. Can be grown in containers.

SWAMP MILKWEED (Asclepias incarnata subsp. pulchra) Perennial; Height: 2 to 3 feet; Blooms summer. Does well in wet areas. Flowers are red. Host plant for monarch and queen larvae. Good nectar plant for butterflies. For best germination rates, seeds should be cold-stratified at least 6 weeks prior to planting. Plant seeds outdoors in a sunny area. Cover with 1/4 inch of soil. Does not like transplanting. Can be grown in containers.

TROPICAL MILKWEED (Asclepias curassavica) Annual; Height: 3 to 3-1/2 feet; Blooms summer/fall. Tropical plant with glossy leaves and brilliant red-orange flowers. Sturdy stems make this an excellent plant for windy areas. Perennial in the south. Host plant for monarch and queen larvae. Good nectar plant for butterflies. Plant seeds outdoors in a sunny area. Cover with 1/4 inch of soil. Can be grown in containers.

SWAN PLANT (Asclepias fruticosa) Annual; Height: 3 to 6 feet; Blooms late spring to mid summer. Flower clusters white and cream. Host plant for monarch & queen larvae. Good nectar plant for butterflies. Perennial in frost-free areas. Grows in partial shade to full sun. Cover seeds with 1/4 inch of soil. Drought tolerant.

PURPLE MILKWEED (Asclepias cordifolia) Perennial; Height: 2 to 3 feet; Blooms late spring/early summer. Smooth heart-shaped leaves and purplish-violet & pink flower umbels. Host plant for monarch and queen larvae. Good nectar plant for butterflies. For best germination rate, seeds should be cold stratified for 2 to 3 weeks. Seeds also may be planted outside in the fall. Plant does best in full sun but can handle partial shade. Requires well-drained soil. Drought tolerant.

General Nectar Plants
COSMOS, Dwarf Sensation Mix (Cosmos bipinnatus) Annual; Height: 1 to 2 feet; Blooms May-November. Flowers have a yellow center disk with rays of white, pink and red petals. Sow 1/16 inch deep in the spring after danger of frost. Germinates in 7 to 21 days. Seedlings are not winter hardy. Requires full sun and well-drained soils. Do not fertilize. Fertile soils produce tall, lanky plants with few blooms.

JOE PYE WEED (Eupatorium purpureum) Perennial; Height: 5 to 7 feet; Blooms July-September. Small pink flowers in large dome shaped clusters on sturdy green steams with purple leaf nodes. Good butterfly nectar plant. For best germination rate, seeds should be cold-stratified for 2-4 weeks prior to planting. Plant outdoors in an area of full sun to partial shade. Grows best in moist soil.

FLOSS FLOWER, Blue Horizon (Ageratum houstonianum) Annual; Height: 1-1/2 to 2 feet; Blooms summer. Puffs of mid-blue flowers on long stems. Sow late winter to mid spring at 60 degrees (F) in a good seed compost. Keep soil damp but not wet. Germination usually takes 10-15 days. When seedlings are large enough to handle, transplant and grow in cooler conditions. Gradually aclimitize to outdoor conditions for 10-15 days before planting after all risk of frost, 6-12 inches apart in a sunny spot in good garden soil.

PURPLE CONEFLOWER (Echinacea purpurea) Perennial; Height: 2 to 3 feet; Blooms summer/fall. Produces beautiful, large purple flowers with bronze, dome-shaped centers on long stems. Plants are drought resistant, but can tolerate moist soil. Good butterfly nectar plant. Select a sunny location and plant seed in early spring. For best results, mix seed with a cup of sand for better distribution of seed over the planting area. Keep moist until plants begin to grow. Water only when necessary.

TITHONIA TORCH, Mexican Sunflower (Tithonia) Annual; Height: 4 to 6 feet; Blooms summer/fall. Vivid orange-scarlet single flowers measure 3 inches across. Stands heat well. Attracts hummingbirds and butterflies. Makes an excellent cut flower. Plant seeds in a sunny location after all danger of frost has passed. Sow seeds 1/4 inch deep, 6 inches apart, thinning to 2 feet apart when plant reaches 3 inches tall.

VERBENA (Verbena bonairiensis) Perennial; Height: 3 to 6 feet; Blooms summer/fall. Tall, self-supporting plants. Clusters of tiny lilac purple flowers are very fragrant. Good nectar plant for butterflies. Plant seeds outdoors in early spring, covering with 1/4 inch of soil. Prefers full sun. Reseeds itself freely.

Many other flowers can be interplanted with butterfly weed and the other seeds offered above to attract butterflies. Others that are easy to grow from seed, love to bake in the summer sun, and bring a butterfly show - Asters, Joe Pye Weed, Staghorn Sumac, Elderberry, Zinnia and Calendula.
Triangle Flashback Calendula from Johnny's Selected Seeds
Solar Flashback Calendula from Johnny's Selected Seeds
Deja Vu Calendula from Johnny's Selected Seeds

Get some seeds and plant them now so they can have a few weeks of cold nights in order to germinate.

26 February 2008

Pots for Environmentally Conscious Gardeners

Photo: Comfrey in last year's garden

Last summer, Ball Horticulture announced Circle of Life plants and pots for the green conscious gardeners among us. At the link provided, Ball even has links to sustainable gardening. According to the press release, Ball partnered with Summit Plastic Company to make rice hull pots in six sizes from 3.5 inches to a "trade" gallon.

This is great news in an industry that has a hard time disposing of seedling trays, plastic pots, plastic bags, etc. none of which we can take to a recycling center for earth friendly disposal.

Fun Time Happy Garden Explosion blog says Target is marketing a similar product under a different name.
Enviroarc is making not only garden pots but dinner ware out of bamboo pulp waste. The pots come in pretty colors, assorted shapes and sizes.

According to the Sustainable is Good blog, even the giant, Bonnie Plants who supplies Lowe's, Wal-Mart, Home Depot, etc. puts some of its transplants in biodegradable pots.

If and where we have a choice, we can select biodegradable pots or pots made from recycled materials to let growers know that we want less plastic that is not earth friendly.

Lurching Toward Spring

Lurching Toward Spring, in my book, is this series of warm days that make plants optimistic and break ground, followed by 25-degree nights that shock them back into realilty. Jump back, it is not spring yet.

Most days that go above 55-degrees you will find me outside doing something, though not always much. If you can get outside this week with the temperatures going up to 60-F on Thursday, here are a few things to do.

Remove winter cover from shrubs, bulbs and beds.

Plant dormant shrubs and trees. Divide and re-plant day lilies.

Feed trees in 2-inch deep holes around the drip line.

Mulch trees and shrubs with manure for spring growth.

Fertilize shrubs and evergreens now. Use evergreen or azalea type food for evergreens.

Water in dry fertilizers.

Prune summer flowering shrubs now but not spring flowering ones. Remove the larger, center stems and branches, dead stuff, broken limbs, etc. Clean out small branches that prevent sun from reaching the roots.

Prune back your honeysuckle, cross vine, etc.

Feed but do not prune crape myrtle.

Spray fruit trees with dormant oil fruit spray.

Start dividing perennials.

Water the plants stored in the basement or garage to get them ready for spring warm weather.

Keep summer bulbs dry and in the dark at under 50-degrees.

Start seeds. Park Seed has obligingly put their 2006 revised book, "Success With Seed" on the Internet. Just as each seed has its own pages in the book, those pages are reproduced on the web. Check to see how to plant.

Tom Clothier has a website dedicated to seed germination information.

Thompson and Morgan printed a seed germination book years ago. Since it is out of print, the database is reprinted at Backyard Gardener.

Plant rhubarb and asparagus, berries and grapes.

Till the vegetable garden.
Photo: Edamame crop last August. I'll plant them again despite the rabbit hassles of last year.

25 February 2008

Hydrangeas, Shrub Pruning, Vermicomposting, Black Magic Ivy Geranium

Linda Orton, president of the Mid-South Hydrangea Society sent out a great newsletter this month. I wish they were closer because their quarterly meetings always look so enticing.

The Mid-South Hydrangea Society is located in Memphis Tennessee. Their quarterly newsletter is worth at least $10 a year and members get to attend the members-only annual tour. This year's tour is June 7th and I can't wait to go.

Orton said she had resolved in 2007 to limit her plant purchases to only those that would fit into her garden. (Don't we all make that promise to ourselves every year?)

The newsletter covered an international hydrangea tour and a pruning chart from Walter Reeves' website. If you have any pruning still to do (;-) check out his guidelines at this link for what to prune month by month. Another version is at this link. They are both Adobe pdf.

If you want to join, contact membership chair, Linda Lanier at hydrangealady@comcast.com.

A thousand vermicompost worms arrived in the cloth bag inside a paper bag inside the box pictured. Some were crawling out of the bag between the fibers. The box is cute enough to save.
Check out the Black Magic Ivy Geranium I spotted at Blossom's Garden Center in Muskogee. It would blend well with pink or white Ivy Geraniums or other vining plants in the same pot.

The cardinals are everywhere in our yard right now. They nest in a pair of old pine trees in the front. I'd like to remove those old trees but don't have the heart to displace the cardinals.
Several trays of seeds were planted yesterday and today - early veggies and a few flowers. I planted them in sterile seed starting mix in those trays that hold 32 plants. They are misted every day in the hope that this year I won't drown them with kindness in the form of too much water.
What are you planting?

21 February 2008

C. Colston Burrell Speaking in Tulsa and Oklahoma City

MARCH 1, Saturday, 3:00, Tulsa Garden Center, 2435 S. Peoria AveTopic of Burrell's talk: "Design Ideas and Plant Combinations for Winter Gardens"

MARCH 2, Sunday, 2:30, OKC Zoo Educational Building, 5101 Northeast 50 StreetTopic of Burrell's talk: "New and Underutilized Perennials"

Both talks are sponsored by the Oklahoma Horticultural Society (http://www.okhort.org), are free and open to the public. Books will be available for sale and book signing. Oklahomans are in for a treat. Noted naturalist, perennial expert and author C. Colston Burrell is speaking in Tulsa on March 1 and in Oklahoma City on March 2.

In a telephone interview, Burrell said he is looking forward to his first trip to Oklahoma.

"The topic of my talk in Tulsa is adding structure and beauty to your winter garden," Burrell said. "Winter's garden starts with the leaves changing colors and seed pods forming on flowering plants. It is a matter of looking, seeing, then finding interest and beauty in the subtle appeal of your garden's structure."

Burrell described his Tulsa talk as "an image heavy presentation" that will help gardeners create winter beauty through plant combinations. Some of the keys to planting for winter interest include: Structure, fragrance, privacy/intimacy, layering plants and repetition to create a unified feeling.

Teaching, writing and landscape architecture have been Burrell's lifetime work. In addition to writing 12 books, he teaches in the Department of Architecture and Landscape Architecture at the University of Virginia, and lectures around the country on design, native plants, garden writing and ecology. Burrell's passion is using ecological solutions in residential and commercial landscaping schemes. He is an expert in designing plant combinations that use native plants.

"I like to give simple but effective ideas for perennial combinations that work for beginners as well as experienced gardeners," Burrell said.

Burrell's book, "Perennial Combinations: Stunning Combinations That Make Your Garden Look Fantastic Right from the Start" is consistently a top 10 seller at Amazon, the online bookseller.

"A new revision of Perennial Combinations is coming out later this month," Burrell said. "It is updated and has a new 30-page chapter on 'Bold Garden Accents.'"

Other books to his credit include: "Rodale's Illustrated Encyclopedia of Perennials," "Perennials for Today's Gardens," "Landscaping With Perennials," "Woodland Gardens," "Perennials," "The Natural Water Garden," "Ferns: Wild Things Make a Comeback in the Garden," "365 Down to Earth Gardening Hints and Tips," and "Intimate Gardens." His current writing project is "Butterfly Gardening with Native Plants."

Both "A Gardener's Encyclopedia of Wildflowers" and "Hellebores: A Comprehensive Guide" won the American Horticultural Society's Book Award. Judith Knott Tyler, co-owner of Pine Knott Farms (www.pineknotfarms.com and (434) 252-1990) in Virginia, collaborated with Burrell on writing, "Hellebores: A Comprehensive Guide." Released last year, the 300-page book about Christmas roses and Lenten roses will help homeowners select the right species for their shady garden spots.

While most of the book is how to succeed in growing and propagating Hellebores, a 60-page chapter is dedicated to the history of these winter blooming perennials. "Intimate Gardens" explains and illustrates how to use space, enclosure (walls, fences and trellises) and plants (hedges or large trees), to create a place for relaxing. For example, container plantings and tall plants such as hollyhock around the perimeter of a garden contribute the frame of the enclosure and add to the feeling of intimacy. Burrell's talk in Oklahoma City should be as interesting since the topic there is new and underutilized perennials. The focus of the talk will be how to use underrated garden treasures in a way that will give our gardens more interest and beauty all year.

Burrell was a founding member of the Virginia Native Plant Society and literally wrote the book on using native plants in your garden. Called "Native Alternatives to Invasive Plants", the book identifies and describes an invasive (think Honeysuckle or English Ivy) and suggests hardy American native plants for similar situations (Clematis, Peppervine or American Bittersweet in this example). In addition to books, Burrell is a regular contributor to "Horticulture", "Landscape Architecture", and "American Gardener" magazines.

Burrell was curator at the U.S. National Arboretum and the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum. Through his landscape design company, Native Landscape Design and Restoration, Burrell has worked to preserve prairie and wetland areas in parks and on corporate campuses, as well as designing residential gardens. On his ten-acre Blue Ridge Mountain home site in Free Union, VA, the gardens are being designed and planted with the best native plants available.

"I'm looking forward to seeing Oklahoma's Tallgrass Prairie Preserve and as many gardens as I can while I'm there," Burrell said.

Both talks are sponsored by the Oklahoma Horticultural Society (http://www.okhort.org), are free and open to the public. Books will be available for sale and book signing.

MARCH 1, Saturday, 3:00, Tulsa Garden Center, 2435 S. Peoria AveTopic of Burrell's talk: "Design Ideas and Plant Combinations for Winter Gardens MARCH 2, Sunday, 2:30, OKC Zoo Educational Building, 5101 Northeast 50 StreetTopic of Burrell's talk: "New and Underutilized Perennials"

20 February 2008

Late Winter Gardening and Vermicomposting: The Worm Hotel Is About to Have Guests

Lowe's has their late winter vegetable starts in. Packs of 9 plants are about $3.50. I want to plant Brussel sprouts and broccoli using starts so I asked Sue Gray at the OSU Extension in Tulsa for some guidance. Here is her response.

"Go ahead and plant your brassica starts, but DO protect those tops….especially whenever it's going below 32 degrees F……the storebought transplants are probably not hardened off….so you may want to spend a little quality time on them or go ahead and cover with some kind of protection from wind, extreme light AND cold."
So, my new babies are inside under lights for now since we are supposed to get several more freezing nights this week. I'll transplant them out of these cells because there are two plants in some of them.

Composting with worms, vermicomposting - Hubby built a four-story hotel for the compost worms we ordered from Uncle Jim's Worm Farm. I called Uncle Jim and the Red Wrigglers (Eisenia foetida) are supposed to be shipped this week.
We saw a similar four-story structure on the Internet and followed other instructions from the book, "Worms Eat My Garbage."
Basically, compost worms eat fruits and veggies plus shredded, damp newsprint. Many composters keep them in a can or plastic bin under the kitchen sink since that is a handy, warm, dark place for feeding and keeping track of them.
They do not try to escape all the time like caterpillars, but rather, keep to dark places under several inches of the damp, torn newspaper or shredded office paper.
You can tell by the design that they need air and plenty of bedding.
Also, note that the bottom tray is lifted with wood blocks under it and a drip tray on the floor. "Worms Eat My Garbage" said all these features are important for this type of setup.

I'll take a few more photos of the excited worms when they see their new digs. They should be dancing - I'll keep the blog updated.

Hopefully, I can involve the Junior Master Gardener Program at Whittier Elementary School in the project of raising another generation and making compost worm kits to give away on Earth Day at Muskogee Farmer's Market.
The City Farmer website has all the information you need to do a Red Wriggler composter.
A few points emphasized on the site:
Damp bedding is what the worms live in and can include cardboard, shredded leaves, straw, sawdust and aged manure - the more variety in bedding the better the resulting garden compost.
They also need a bit of sand or soil as grit for digestion.
Since worms are like us and are made up mostly of water, the bedding has to be moist to support their life. (They can't go get a glass of iced tea when feeling dry.)

17 February 2008

Truth About Garden Remedies

If you have enjoyed the V8 commercials with the people popping themselves on the head, then you know how it feels to read this great little book from Timber Press.

Jeff Gillman , PhD, actually did experiments to find out if the soil amendments and mother's little helpers some of us believe in actually are effective. Well, sufice it to say, most are not.

I was happy to find out about most of the truths Gillman reveals because it will save me quite a bit of time and effort in the future.

The forward was written by horticulture giant Michael Dirr, one of Gillman's mentors.

The book is written in a down-to-earth style with plenty of tongue in cheek comments sprinkled throughout.
Photo: Blossoms Garden Center in Muskogee

In northern Canada there is a garden blogger whose cheerful resolve toward gardening is a real treat to read. Click on Northern Exposure Gardening to see what it is like to garden in an area with no soil, no commercial farming and a very short growing season.

Another favorite garden blog is Garden History Girl. The author is earning a Masters Degree in Garden History from the University of Bristol in England. She shares what she is learning and it has been so fascinating to learn what she is learning without leaving the house.

And then there is the fun blog of illicit cultivation, Guerrila Gardening. You may find inspiration or your true calling by reading about the work of these young people who are waging war on ugliness. You will see pictures of before and after, happy children, updated planters.

15 February 2008

Perennial Plant Association Plants of the Year, Dahlia Photos

The Perennial Plant of the Year is awarded to plants that are special in their ability to withstand the onslaughts of the garden: Bugs, disease, erratic weather, gardeners leaving on vacation, mold, virus attacks, etc.

A new e-book (in Adobe pdf) from Doug Green summarizes the Perennial Plant Association picks and is available free at the link. The e-book covers PPA plant selections from 1990 to 2009. Each plant has its own page with photo, growing instructions and useful information such as propagation tips.

When you look at the the zone information, remember that Muskogee is cold zone 7 and heat zone 8. The zone information provided in the e-book is cold hardiness.

Photo: Blossom's Garden Center
in Muskogee - getting ready for spring
Photo: Pelargonium in bloom at Blossom's

Sunset Magazine is the gardener's Bible on the west coast and their blog has a wonderful preview of dahlias. Click on this link and enjoy the inspiring photos on the Feb 15th entry.

Rain, snow and sleet combined with freezing temps will keep us out of the garden this weekend but we can consider which perennial seeds to start under lights for April 15th transplanting outdoors.

14 February 2008

Sooner Plant Farm Excels

Photo: Brian Chojnacki, owner Sooner Plant FarmPhoto: Sooner Plant Farm

Sooner Plant farm does booming business online, over mail

Brian Chojnacki started Sooner Plant Farm in Park Hill with his father-in-law, Ivan Fuson, in 1999. Although local gardeners may not know about it, Sooner Plant Farm is highly regarded across the country as a high-quality mail order plant supplier.
"We shipped to 48 states last year," Chojnacki said. "Our Internet business has grown faster than our expectations and we are well known for the quality of our plants as well as our customer service."
Unique to mail order companies, Sooner's Garden Clubs offer a variety of discounts. The basic, while not required for purchases, Sooner Gold members receive a 20 percent discount and basic membership provides an automatic 10 percent discount. Basic membership is $9.95 and gold is $29.95 per year.There also are discounts for early season purchases, and multi-plant discounts when more than one of a plant is ordered. Members receive an e-mail newsletter and a potted 2-year-old Japanese Red Maple tree with their first order.Chojnacki's Web site, http://www.soonerpantfarm.com/, has a detailed plant selector drop down menu with helpful lists including: Oklahoma Proven, Biltmore Horticultural Selections, Proven Winners and Texas Superstar. Each item has a plant photo, description, hardiness zones, price and other useful information, perfect for finding just the right plant for a problem area.
Northeast Oklahoma is USDA cold zone seven. Since most of the plants Chojnacki offers are Oklahoma grown, their survival chances are greater than those grown in Oregon or New York. Sooner's plant inventory includes 964-varieties of perennials, trees and shrubs.
Chojnacki said everything they ship is at least 2 years old."We grow around 500 varieties here," Chojnacki said. "That includes 100 trees, 300 perennials and 150 shrubs. We get our root stock from all over the country from nurseries that do not sell to the public. All our plants are from the U.S."Some of the sure-to-be-popular items available from Sooner this year include 21 varieties of cone flowers, Coral Bells Heuchera, Kaleidescope Abelia, Coral Bark Japanese Maple, 15 varieties of Encore Azaleas, 5-gallon Oklahoma Red Bud trees, Baptesia, Plumbago and Desert Willow.
Sarting this year, Sooner also will sell fruit trees including apple, peach, pear, plum, blueberry and cherry.In the new 19,000-square-foot greenhouse and two acres of growing space, perennials and trees are developing roots for spring sale.
"We have varieties for Oklahoma that gardeners cannot find other places," Chojnacki said. "Fleming Hibiscus from Nebraska that is hardy here grows to 2 feet tall with multiple flowers."
Sooner also offers a wide variety all of Dr. Carl Whitcomb's crape myrtles that were developed in Oklahoma to resist powdery mildew. Many of Whitcomb's varieties have red to purple leaves in the fall instead of the traditional green.
"We ship plants all year," Chojnacki said. "When they order, customers can select to ship now or let us ship to them at the best time for their zone. If we are shipping to states with specific state inspection requirements, that can add two weeks to our shipping time since we have to have an inspector come out."
When Chojnacki graduated from Dupage Horticulture School near his native Detroit, Mich., the students went on a graduation tour that included Greenleaf Nursery. That 1985 trip brought him to Oklahoma permanently."Greenleaf is a top-notch grower," Chojnacki said. "At the time I was a plant propagator and I stayed with them for five years. Then, I worked at Midwestern Nursery for several years before opening Sooner Plant Farm. Horticulture has always been my plan for life."
Terrisa Wells, a graduate of Bacone College horticulture program, does all office and customer service work along with packing each shipment in specially designed boxes that protect the plants during shipment. Wells started at Greenleaf Nursery at age 16. She also has wanted to work with plants her entire life.
"I want try to sell everything that is new as well as the plants that have proven to be successful," Chojnacki said. "The growers promote them all over the media and gardeners like new things, and we just want to be their first choice when purchasing plant materials"Since not every new introduction will grow in every growing zone, Sooner's Web site will soon have has a customer comments section where gardeners can discuss how well specific tree, shrub and perennial varieties grow in their gardens.
Chojnacki is speaking at Muskogee Garden Club at 10 a.m. Feb. 21. His topic is "Twenty Great Plants for Oklahoma." The public is welcome to come to the meeting at 9:30 for coffee before the presentation.
Watch http://www.soonerplantfarm.com/ Web site for the early plant sale — an additional 5 percent off."If customers take advantage of the Sooner Gold Club discount plus the other sales they can save up to 40 percent on plants," Chojnacki said.
If you want to call Brian or Sooner Plant Farm, you can reach him at (877) 683-2500. His name is pronounced cho-nak-ee.

13 February 2008

Is Participation In Project BudBurst for You?

Project BudBurst is a new program starting Feb 15th and if you have time to put bloom dates into their database, you would be helping to track global warming.

Science Daily reported the story today.

Here is the information from the BudBurst website -
Join us in collecting important climate change data on the timing of leafing and flowering in your area through Project BudBurst!

This national field campaign targets native tree and flower species across the country. With your help, we will be compiling valuable environmental and climate change information around the United States.
Register Now - Become a member of the Project BudBurst community! This allows you to save your observation sites and plants that you are monitoring throughout the year and for coming years.

The citizen science observations and records are entered into the BudBurst data base.

As a result of the pilot field campaign, useful data was collected in a consistent way across the country so that scientists can use it to learn about the responses of individual plant species to climatic variation locally, regionally, and nationally, and to detect longer-term impacts of climate change by comparing with historical data.

The Chicago Botanic Garden and University of Montana are collaborators on Project BudBurst, which was funded with a grant from the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

The project is also supported by the National Science Foundation and Windows to the Universe, a UCAR-based Web site that will host the project online as part of its citizen science efforts. Project BudBurst collaborators also include the Plant Conservation Alliance; USA-National Phenology Network; and the universities of Arizona; California, Santa Barbara; Wisconsin-Milwaukee; and Wisconsin-Madison.

The University Corporation for Atmospheric Research is a consortium of 70 universities offering Ph.D.s in the atmospheric and related sciences. UCAR manages the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) and the UCAR Office of Programs (UOP).

Sounds like a good cause and an easy way to help make a difference.

Garden Whimsey

We are back home from a week in Santa Cruz California where my favorite bumper sticker was "Keep Santa Cruz Weird".

I thought you would be as entertained as I was by some of the whimsical garden ornamentation we saw on our walks.

Photo: Animals surround a garden Nativity Scene
Photo: There are about 50-bowling balls in this front yard

Photo: In the center of the photo,
notice that the arbor is bed springs for a single bed.
Photo: Toto internal works
adorn a rock garden in a birdbath
Photo: A home made mailbox
Photo: This is an assortment
of blue glass and broken pottery made to simulate a stream.

I'm glad to be home to dig in my garden again. As I went around pruning today, I saw Crocuses blooming and daffodils coming up all over our yard.
Bulbs in pots are coming up in the garage and the shed.
It is almost time to start seeds indoors - we are 8-weeks from our last frost date.

Landscape and Garden for the Birds and Butterflies

Birds and butterflies bring pleasure to everyone, especially gardeners, birdwatchers and children. The view of a red cardinal in February's dull landscape can cheer even the casual observer.

Birds not only bring beauty to our yards, they help control insects.Though many people put up bird feeders, the requirements for attracting more beneficial wildlife include plants that provide food, sources of water and shelter such as ground cover plants and brush piles.

A wet place in the garden can attract butterflies, frogs and salamanders. A dripping hose can provide enough water for the mud needed by robins and swallows for nest building.

Even though caterpillars and birds can do some damage to beneficial plants by eating them, they pay their rent by reducing the number of harmful insects and plant diseases in your vegetable, herb and flower beds. In addition, once a commitment is made to supporting wildlife, the cost of poisons will drop significantly.

Oklahoma State University Fact Sheet F 6435, "Landscaping and Gardening for Birds," points out that trees and shrubs are important to attracting wildlife. Perennial flowering plants, vines and vegetable crops attract birds. If you use a birdbath, there should be ten-feet clear all the way around it to prevent predators. It also helps to put a rock and stones in the birdbath for birds to sit on. Move birdbaths away from bird feeders to reduce the water spoilage.

Whenever possible, leave dead branches and tree trunks in the landscape for birds such as chickadees, warblers and nuthatches to hunt in them. Ground birds will spend the winter in a stack of limbs. Birds use dust for dust baths. If a small area can be left unplanted and dry for them, they will use it. Stir the soil and put some sand or crushed eggshells nearby for the grit they need.

Fact Sheet F 6435, "Landscaping and Gardening for Birds," has a six-page chart of trees, shrubs, vines and herbaceous plants that you can gradually add to your landscape to attract wildlife.

And, gardeners do not have to use native plants exclusively. For example, plant a bed of petunias and zinnias to provide nectar got hummingbirds in the summer. English ivy provides shelter for wildlife all year and Cosmos seeds are eaten by Goldfinches.

Oklahoma State University Fact Sheet F-6430 "Landscaping to Attract Butterflies, Moths and Skippers" is a 12-page publication that identifies trees, shrubs, annuals and perennials that are attractive to adult butterflies for nectar and caterpillar stage insects for food.

Habitat can be created even in a small yard or on a balcony. Use a large pot or a series of pots to plant small trees such as Paw Paw or Dogwood, berry-bearing shrubs such as Winterberry, and then plant ivy or other low growing plants at the bottom.

When planning a spot to support wildlife, think in layers: Tall, medium and small trees plus shrubs plus ground cover.

Planting ideas: In half sun plant Columbine, in full sun plant Butterfly Bushes, on a fence plant a Trumpet Vine and in garden spots that stay moist plant Sweetspire or Spicebush.

A book that is useful for our area is, "Landscaping for Wildlife" by Jeremy Garrett, published 2003 by University of Oklahoma Press. Garrett's emphasis is on providing wildlife habitat all year.

The elements are food, water, cover and features for specific creatures you want to attract.Honeysuckle provides fruit for songbirds, cover for rabbits and most years a bird will nest in the vines. Spring Azure butterflies use the nectar.

Cherry Laurel is a durable tree that provides berries, cover and a place to build a nest.

Hackberry provides berries for birds and is a host plant for mourning cloak, hackberry emperor and American snout butterflies.Providing water is especially important in the winter and during the heat of the summer. Use a patio pond or plant a children's wading pool in your yard.

A pond with water plants will attract lots of wildlife. Consider: Buckbean for hummingbirds, Water Plantain for Cardinals and songbirds, Joe-Pye-weed for butterflies and hummingbirds, Milkweed for caterpillar food and nectar, and, Spicebush for hosting Eastern Tiger and Spicebush Swallowtail butterflies.

If you can attract box turtles to your yard, they will eat garden slugs, grasshoppers, beetles and caterpillars. (Avoid applying slug-killing chemicals where turtles live.) Provide a moist shady spot and a wet place to soak in the hot months and turtles will come to stay. Feed box turtles ripe fruit such as watermelon, cantaloupe and bananas.

"Landscaping for Wildlife" has charts and drawings that illustrate gardens for attracting butterflies, birds, reptiles, amphibians, etc. plus nest box designs with patterns and construction tips.

The book is out of print at OU Press so it sells for $70 online. The North America Butterfly Association offers it at $30 www.naba.com, sales@butterflybuzz.com or (541) 388-1659.

Garrett owns a nature tour company in Vermont www.natour.us.

Oklahoma State University Fact Sheets are available from Muskogee's Extension office at the fairgrounds, 686-7200 and online at www.osuextra.com.

Web sites with information on back yard wildlife habitat include: Wild Birds Forever http://birdsforever.com/chart.html, The Wild Ones at www.for-wild.org and Birds of Oklahoma www.birdsofoklahoma.net/Butterflies.htm.

03 February 2008

Do You Know About Vermicomposting or Mazus Reptans?

Photo: February Fussing over plants in the shed.
In preparation for my compost worm giveaway at Muskogee's Earth Day celebration, I'm reading "Worms Eat My Garbage" by Mary Applehof and have set up a Google alert for anything related to vermicomposting.

In case you don't know, vermicomposting is practiced by making a container of moist, torn newsprint, kitchen food scraps and Red Wriggler worms. The worms eat through the materials over time, creating the most perfect way to maximize the use of kitchen scraps.

Reading on the web, some people get into the hobby to reduce landfill, others do it to produce sterile fertilizer for their garden or houseplants. The stuff pigs and cows produce is called manure. The stuff worms produce is called castings and it sells for big bucks at the organic garden shops online.

One blogger claims that Red Wriggler castings are the purest humus in the world and that they prevent harmful nematodes, bacteria growth, pathogens and fungi.

If you know about vermicomposting from experience or find useful information on the Internet, please let me know about it before my first 1,000 worms arrive at the end of February.

The Monarch Butterfly support network, Monarch Watch now has a blog with up to the minute updates on Monarch Butterfly waystations, migrations, tagging and population numbers.

Classy Ground Covers is offering a variety of discounts during February - a sort of a pre-season jump start. For example: 50-bare root daylily plants for $53.50 and 50 hostas for $68.50. Plan to put all these in pots with good, sterile, potting soil for a few months until after our last freeze date on April 15. The site has links to help you choose plant possibilities.

I liked this semi-evergreen choice for zone 7, full sun - Mazus reptans (Purple Mazus: Scrophulariacaea).

Further research indicated that it grows 2-inches tall, prefers moist soil, can take occasional foot traffic, is NOT invasive, no pests, no disease problems.

Perennial Gardening on the Prairies, a Canadian garden site shows the plants a year after they were grown from seed. The site owner said the runners could become a problem but the lcoation I'm thinking of would not support vigorous growth.

Have you heard of or grown Mazus reptans? If so, let me know how well it grew for you.

Stepables is a company that garden writers learn about during conferences but we do not see their products in very many plant outlets. Their plant search link provides a quiz to help you identify the plant choice that is right for your yard.

Thinking about an area between the back door and the hammocks, I put into the quiz: Walk on it twice a day, in full sun, low water requirements, any height, any growth rate, zone 7, any color, clay soil.

The result was four choices that I had not considered - Links to more information on Mineature Veronica Speedwell, Lotus Plenus ('Double Bird's Foot Trefoil'), Sedum John Creech and Helichrysum Dwarf Strawflower.
Lots of attractive possibilities to consider. I especially like those I can start from seed.

02 February 2008

Hellebores - a new book by Colston Burrell and Judith Knott Tyler and helpful advice!

written by Colston Burrell and Judith Knott Tyler
Hardcover, 296 pages with 146 color photos
Winner of American Horticultural Society Book Award

From the Timber Press website, "A mere 10 years ago, hellebores were considered connoisseurs' plants — subdued in coloration, hard to find, and the subject of much snobbery."

Oddly enough, even though I still consider myself a novice gardener, I was growing Hellebores 20-years ago.

Also, "Cole Burrell and Judith Tyler have produced what is arguably the definitive book on this genus, packed with up-to-the-minute, comprehensive information on growing, maintenance, design, hybridization and selection, and trouble-shooting."

It would be hard to imagine anyone writing another book about Hellebores for at least a decade to come - this volume is so complete.

What's cool is that Judith Knott Tyler and her husband, Richard Tyler, own Pine Knot Farms, a wholesale and retail nursery specializing in herbaceous perennials, with an emphasis on hellebores. And, Tyler responded to my emails for information specific to growing Hellebores in our area.
Photo: Helleborus x hybridus from Pine Knot Select - These are the variety Judith recommended for our area. If you click over to her website there are lots more.

"An artist by training, Judith channels her creativity into making gardens, layering the forms and textures of plants into living sculptures that change with the seasons. Hellebores fascinate Judith because as she says, "Any plant brave enough to reach its peak flowering time during the dull days of late winter, deserves a place of pride in most gardens. If we consider the wide range of conditions many of the species will tolerate, there is truly a hellebore for almost any garden."

Here are the highlights of our email conversation -
Me: I would like some information about growing Hellebores in our Ozark Plateau, zone 7, northeast Oklahoma. I'd liketo refer readers to specific plants on your site, so if you have time, could you give us some advice? Our average annual rainfall is 44-inches. Average annual temps: 70-days at 90-degrees and above plus 70-days at 32 and below. We have brick plants in the area - lots of clay. We tend to have acidic soil because of an abundance of oak and Loblolly pine trees.

Judith Knott Tyler wrote:
"Without a soil test it's hard to say, but in most areas oak/pine forest are okay. If the soil range is between 5 and 7 ph Helleborus x hybridus should do fine.

I suspect the problem lies with drainage if you can make bricks. We have similar problems with clay, which requires amending with material to increase drainage, bark, gravel and so on. Here we find that planting on a slope helps a great deal with drainage, even if it's a slight slope created at the edge of a bed.

There also may be a problem with plants people use. Many hellebores sold in the US came into the country as bare root plants, get potted up and sold rapidly before they have a chance to root into their pot. These plants rarely make it in the landscape. We sell plants wholesale to Rising Star Plants in Bartlesville OK who grow them on site.

If Oklahoma soils are similar to the plateau off the Appalachian Range around Knoxville or the high plains of Lubbock (very alkaline soil) or Denver CO many species of hellebore should do quite well there.

Helleborus x hybridus, the Lenten Rose has perhaps the widest range of both availability and usage. Once established in well drained soil most hellebores perform admirably in either shade or sun if they can be protected from the killer 2-5 PM western sun.

Your averages seem quite like ours here in Virginia but soil issues can alter how well plants perform.

H. niger is a bit more demanding, especially of soil conditions. The Mediterranean species and hybrids, argutifolius, lividus and H. x sternii seem to enjoy the Denver area from what I have heard from our customers."

CONCLUSION So, site them where they can avoid the afternoon sun in the summer, loosen up the soil to make sure you have good drainage and start with the Helleborus X hybridus.

Happy growing!

01 February 2008

Upcoming Events for Gardeners

The upcoming events for gardeners are stacking up. Few of us have the energy and financial resources to go to more than one a month.

Here are a few to consider-

Feb 22-23 Richard Reames is teaching workshops on shaping live chairs at the Kansas City Garden Symposium. A few months ago I referenced his astonishing work in this bloog.

March 1 Cole Burrell Free talk at the Tulsa Garden Center 3:00. Burrell's books will be for sale and sales will benefit the Oklahoma Horticultural Society.

March 5 to 9 Wichita Garden Show

March 9-16 Indiana Flower & Patio Show, Indiana StateFairgrounds, Indianapolis

May 2 to 4 Orchard in Bloom, 19th year, Holliday Park, Indianapolis
Photo: Lettuce under lights in the shed
Photo: Pregnant onion flower

reaching for the skylight in the shed

Photo: Birdbath and gazing globe in the snow
Photo: The oak outside the back door