31 March 2008

Broccoli Raab Keeps On Giving, What Causes Hayfever?, Do You Mark and Identify Plants in Your Garden?

Photo: The asparagus broccoli/broccoli raab/rappini

from last year is blooming and re-seeding again. It is definitely a seed packet that keeps on giving. I think the first seeds I planted were put in 3-years ago and it replants itself around the yard every year now.

Livingston Daily has a Buddy Moorehouse column about a new book on perennials that tells the reader what plant to put in which environment.

The authors Karleen Shafer and Nicole Lloyd wrote their "Perennial Reference Guide" in response to a perceived need.

Perennial Resource dot com says, " An exceptionally thorough book of lists of every category of perennial including: dry shade, erosion control, aromatherapy, native, winter interest, and much more."

Has anyone read this one? Is it as great as it sounds?

Sue Hollis of Kansas City pointed out on the Trillium conversation that as a general rule, pollen from showy flowers will not cause hay fever. Pollen from non-showy flowers of ragweed, grass, trees causes hay fever.

Hollis said, "The reason is budgetary. Showy flowers put all their energy into producing a flower to attract pollinators. The pollen is comparatively heavy and slightly sticky so it will stick on whatever creature is doing the pollinating and get carried to another flower. The inconspicuous flowers produce very large amounts of light weight pollen that will blow in the wind to another flower.
Of course, the nearest showy flower (such as goldenrod) gets blamed for the hay fever because it is readily visible. That is not to say that ingesting the heavier pollen would not cause problems - it is possible although I never heard of such."

Paw Paw Everlast is an odd name for a company but it is one of the recognized names in plant labels.

I bought the ones they say are for roses. Do you mark your plants so you can remember what you put where? Which kind of labels do you use?

30 March 2008

Problems and Beauty at the End of March in the Backyard

It's the only the end of March but gardens, gardening and planting have taken over most of our thoughts and waking hours!

Today, I planted two types of basil seeds - lettuce leaf and Italian pesto. The plants need heat to do their best and this is a good time to get the seeds started inside.

With this week's 70-degree days, many of the trays of seedlings get to spend the day outside.

The perennials have been moved out but they can always come back in if there is a frost predicted.

The Brussels Sprouts and broccoli, snow peas and English peas are doing well in the ground and it is time to move the Arugula seedlings into the ground

I'm having a little trouble with the lettuce this year. The seedlings are about 1.5 inches tall and their color is good but their stems are flimsy.

Does anyone have an idea how to make them stronger? I'm afraid they wouldn't last long in the ground though we put them onto outside tables every day to try to harden them.

Views from the back yard today -

The first year we were here we planted native plums for the birds. Those first trees are colonizing around a shallow pond toward the back of the property.

Two years ago a dear friend, Helen, helped me dig Oklahoma native peach saplings out of a ditch across from her house near Lake Eufaula OK. They are blooming and may produce fruit this year.

So far, the fruit yield from the nectarine tree has been pretty low. But last year's mid-April freeze was part of the reason. The flowers have a heavenly scent.

For old-fashioned back yard beauty, it is hard to beat Bridal Veil. This one came as a house warming gift from my sister Barbara.

This is a small flowering almond that my friend Jan gave me last year. It was a piece of her shrub and it is just getting started. What sweet pink flowers it has.

If you haven't started your seeds yet, get going or scout local nurseries for nice looking plants. Enjoy this spring weather - it is perfect.

29 March 2008

Vermicompost With Junior Master Gardeners

Normally, I only put my writing on my blog but here is a column about the Junior Master Gardeners at Whittier Elementary School learning about compost worms. The students made homes for their worms and then were excited to select a worm for their very own.

Junior Master Gardeners learn, squirm with worms
Program 'gives kids exposure to nature,' teacher says

By Cathy Spaulding Phoenix Staff Writer

The worms crawl in, the worms crawl out. Their duty is helping the vegetables sprout.

That's what the Junior Master Gardeners at Whittier Elementary School will learn in a joint program with Muskogee's Farmers' Market.

Students in Whittier's Junior Master Gardener program spent Friday afternoon filling jugs with dirt, coffee grounds, shredded paper, vegetable scraps, leaves and wet spaghetti and putting a worm in each jug. There, the worms will make compost for vegetable gardens.

How?"The worm eats everything and poops," said Martha Stoodley, a volunteer with Muskogee Farmers' Market. The Farmers' Market is helping with the composting program. The Whittier students will feed and tend to the worms over the next few weeks, then help give out worm composting kits when the Muskogee Farmers' Market opens at the Muskogee Civic Center on April 19, Earth Day.

Whittier's Junior Master Gardener program meets after school two Fridays a month. It is funded through a Learn and Serve grant from the Cherokee Nation.

"The Junior Master Gardener gives kids exposure to nature," said Whittier second-grade teacher Melissa Brown, who sponsors the program. Students in second- through sixth-grade are participating in the program.Program participants got down and dirty in Brown's classroom Friday as they dug their hands through the dirt and ground coffee and ripped apart bell peppers.

They put the coffee and dirt in first, then a bed of shredded office paper, then the food, then the spaghetti.

"I put in dirt, leaves, paper, leaves, dirt, paper so my worm will have two places to stay," said fifth-grader Jacob Hubley. He said he named his worm "Worm Norris, Law of Coffee Bean Town."Jacob already knew a few facts about worms. "If you cut a worm in half, it will poop, too," he said. "I should know. I go fishing with them."

Other students got a hands-on lesson in worm behavior.

"They're mating on my hand," participant Chris Watson said, holding his arm up to show what was going on.

Stoodley confirmed that, yes, that was what the worms were doing.Brown will keep the worm habitats in her classroom.

Fifth-grader Patricia Lemon said she plans to feed her worms lettuce and bell peppers every day.

"You have to keep it in the shade," Patricia said."And make sure your little sister or brother doesn't suffocate it," said fifth-grader Elizabeth Smith.

Brown said the composting program is one aspect of the Junior Master Gardener program. She said students are converting a school courtyard into an outdoor classroom that will include different types of fauna including tropical and desert. The classroom also will feature a butterfly habitat.

27 March 2008

Moonshadow Herb Farm

Home-grown plants make herb farm unique

The daffodils, crocus, flowering almond and forsythia are bursting with their spring song so it must be time for opening weekend at Moonshadow Herb Farm in southeast Muskogee.

Even though it is still a little early to plant some things, no one wants to miss out on seeing what Sharon Owen has grown over the winter for their medicinal and culinary garden beds.

"Each year I propagate new plants from cuttings of my stock plants," Owen said. Seedlings are grown from organic seeds. I do not buy from wholesalers and re-sell. I grow my own earth-friendly, chemical free stock."

Owen's new, larger greenhouse has made it possible for her to grow an even wider variety of plants this year. Plus, the herb garden in the back was re-worked and new beds planted to adjust to changing weather patterns.

"Moonshadow is a small, retail nursery specializing in medicinal, crafting, ceremonial, culinary and obscure herbs," Owen said. "Examples of herbs considered obscure include Our Lady's Bedstraw, Cost Mary (Bible Leaf), and Sweetgrass. There are also herbs to make theme gardens such as a kid's pizza garden, or to create a butterfly garden or Biblical garden."
Customers were shopping early last weekend.
Bo Mullins of Muskogee said, "I'm buying the Joe Pye Weed to use as a medicinal herb and the Mexican bush sage is going in the garden just because it is gorgeous."

Karen Coker of Muskogee said she was purchasing the Joe Pye Weed for its ability to provide nectar for butterflies at the end of the summer.
"I'm Cherokee," Coker said. "I like to buy traditional plants like Cherokee purple tomatoes because they were developed by the Cherokees and the tomatoes grow to a pound apiece and taste spectacular."

Coker explained that the ceremonial sage that Owen grows is burned in smudge pots by many Cherokees to purify the environment.

Whether you are shopping for heirloom tomato plants, herbs or scented geraniums, Moonshadow Herb Farm has something for everyone.

The prices at Moonshadow are: 3.5-inch pot annuals and half-hard annuals $2.75 each.Perennials in 3.5-inch pots $3.25 each. Quart-size annuals and half-hardy annuals $3.50 each. Quart pot perennials $3.75 each. One-gallon potted herbs are $4.25.

The pineapple sage in the photo has red flowers that bloom from August to frost. In all, Owen offers six types of sage (salvia) this year for culinary and ceremonial gardens.One item that Moonshadow is noted for is Pelargoniums, commonly called scented geraniums.

"I propagated 18 varieties this year," Owen said. "That includes the most popular ones plus a few collector varieties." Examples of Pelargonium choices include Attar of Roses and Ole-Fashioned Rose for potpourri and cooking, Rensham Lemon, Citrosa and Orange Fizz with citrus scents, plus Staghorn Peppermint.
Pelargoniums make wonderful additions to any garden; they provide aroma, texture.
Pelargoniums are excellent in containers. Most varieties repel insects, not just the Citronella, which is the one used to produce Citronella oil repellent.
Owen said, "If anyone is interested in particular plants they may call or e-mail me and I will reserve them to be purchased at the open house on March 29. Later in spring, additional plants will be available."

Moonshadow Tomato plants for 2008Cherokee Purple — an heirloom with purple-red meat.Brandywine, Suddith's Strain — an Amish heirloom with potato leaf.Rutgers — high yield, Campbell's Soup development for canning.Black Plum — teardrop shaped purple cherry tomato.Red Pear — 2-inch pear tomatoes, heavy yield.Sun Gold Cherry — 1-inch gold-orange tomatoes — 60 days.Sun Sugar Cherry — heavy yield, sweet, half-ounce golden tomatoes.Yellow Pear — 1.5-inch pear shaped, heavy yield.

"Other hard-to-find plants I have this year are Lovage and Pearly Everlasting," Owen said. "Lovage is a perennial herbal, celery substitute. Pearly Everlasting is a cute dried flower that crafters use. There is also Feverfew, a delicate white flowering herb said to help prevent migraine headaches."

Nine varieties of basil are in the greenhouse: Purple Osmin, Thai, lettuce leaf, Mexican cinnamon, Krishna Tulsi, Mrs. Burns Lemon, Napoletano, Genovese Sweet, and lime. They each add wonderful scent and flowers to the garden during the heat of the summer, to say nothing of their endless uses in the kitchen.
Other plants you may have been looking for that you can find at Moonshadow include: Aloe, Arnica, BLOOD SORREL, Boneset, Borage, Burdock, Horehound, Motherwort, Mugwort, Stinging Nettle, Night-blooming Cereus, Pregnant Onion, Patchouli, Pennyroyal, St. John's Wort, Mad Dog Skullcap, Soapwort, Sweet Grass, Syrian Oregano, Valerian, and Wormwood.

"The main garden is not fully re-planted yet, so it will not be in its full glory this year," Owen said. "Even so, people are welcome to come meander, look, touch and smell. The gardens are open for tour groups of children and adults by appointment so they can enjoy and see what grows well in our area."

25 March 2008

The Perfection of Spring

The beauty we find in the blooms of spring bulbs is partially because the winter look of the landscape is open, clear and softly colored in tans and greys.

Even when the slim green leaves of the bulbs emerge most of our time is still being spent indoors, braced against the wind and cold.

Then, in March, all this color emerges. Not so much the reds and purples that the heat of summer demands to capture our attention, but soft yellows, whites, and pinks are the colors of spring. Even the red of tulips is tempered by the delicacy of their translucent petals.
The scent of spring is the soft scent of daffodils and the sweet scent of hyacinths. Bright colors contrasting with ground that is mostly shades of brown.

It's no wonder that so many poems and songs have been written about spring. It has its own divinity, don't you think?

22 March 2008

Tulsa Master Gardeners Plant Sale Orders, April 5 - Sooner Plant Pickup, Sustainable Green Country Conference, Do You Propagate?

The annual plant sale has lots of bargains and plenty of choices. The deadline for pre-ordering is March 28. Here is a link to the list of plants they are offering this year. Pre-orders are prepaid and will be available for pickup April 17.
Another choice you have is to just go to the sale on April 17 and buy what looks good to you.

At their site, plants are listed and described. Flats of 36 plants are $14 and 4-inch pots are $2.50 - Such a bargain. And the proceeds go to a good cause.

The order form is available where it says click here for order form.

Saturday April 5 will be the first customer pick up day at Sooner Plant Farm just south of Tahlequah. It's the best way for locals to pick up their Internet orders without paying shipping PLUS we can wander through the plants. Sooner is open to the public only one day a month.

Some of the Best Plants for Oklahoma according to Brian Chonacki,
owner of Sooner Plant Farm are listed here, but go to the website and see all the wonderful possibilities.

1. Asclepias incarnata, tuberosa 2. Baptisia australis 3. Echinacea
4. Euphorbia griffithii, myrsinites, polychroma 5. Azalea ‘Encore
6. Callicarpa 7. Vitex agnus - castus 8. Amelanchier 9. Chilopsis
10. Chitalpa tanchkentensis 11. Acer truncatum 12. Acer buergerianum
13. Taxodium distichum 14. Sedum 15. Wisteria frutescens

Toward the bottom of the Sooner home page there are links to click for trees, flowering shrubs, grasses etc. Within each link there are choices to click on to find the photo and description for each plant.

Photo: This beauty is coming up in the back yard.

Sustainable Green Country is having their Sustainability Conference March 28 and 29 in Norman OK. "Red Dirt, Green Culture: Growing Healthy Communities" is the title.

-30 speakers and workshops on subjects including transportation, biofuels, community building and conflict resolution, alternative energy, religion and environmental ethics.

- Events will be located throughout downtown Norman, at venues such as the Norman Public Library, Mainsite Art Gallery, Norman Chamber of Commerce, Dreamer Concepts Studio and Foundation, Andrews Park and Republic Bank. Transportation between sites will be assisted by bike taxis and walking guides.

For more information and to register for the conference, go to http://www.normansustainability.org/ or contact Gene Perry at (405) 640-9119 or info@normansustainability.org.

your plants to make more? When do you take the cuttings? What rooting hormone do you use? Are you rooting them in sand, vermiculite, perlite, potting soil?

I've been researching information for propagating some of my backyard plants and thought I would share a few of my finds.

University of California at Davis

Grow It database

Pacific Northwest Cooperative Extension

These and more links are available at the Open Systems Project. Here is the link to the search results.

Last fall I put 8 lavender cuttings into sand and kept the pot warm and around grow lights. Today I dumped it out and found that every cutting had roots. So now I want to do more.

What's your experience with propagating plants with vegetative cuttings?

More cold nights coming. Plan to protect your young plants.

20 March 2008

New Home and Garden Television Channel 22 in Muskogee OK

Muskogee Garden Club met tonight at Blossom's
Garden Center in Muskogee. In this photo attendees are enjoying sandwiches before the meeting. Left/center is Sharon Owen, owner of Moonshadow Herb Farm.

Another photo from the meeting. In the turquoise top is Bernadette Feickert (Bernie) of Miss Addies' Restaurant fame and on the right is Marci Diaz, Station Manager of the new cable Channel 22, INTV.

The new television channel will be launched in Muskogee on March 26.

Feickert is the host of their new home and garden program called "Creating Comfort with Bernie Feickert".

If you have a story idea to tell Diaz about you can call her at 918.360.3705.

Here are Meaghan McCawley, Producer, and Greg Mashburn, Director for the new Channel 22.

Here's a photo of Bernie Feickert with Matthew Weatherbee, co-owner of Blossom's Garden Center, filming the program that will run some time after the station's March 26th launch.

19 March 2008

Pine Ridge Gardens in London Arkansas

Here's my Thursday column for this week -

Gardening: Nursery business grew out of love

Mary Ann King, owner of Pine Ridge Gardens in London Ark., always loved to grow things. And she has always wanted to try everything.

For example, when she decided to grow vegetables for her family she grew 12 kinds of tomatoes and ten kinds of beans.

That love of gardening grew into a nursery business that is now well known across the country for its wide selection of native plants that King grows mostly from seed.

“I was a founding member of the Russellville Farmer’s Market,” King said. “When the family grew up and I did not need so much from the vegetable garden, I turned to growing every kind of jonquil and the other minor bulbs. Then, I started growing all the kinds of iris. And after that I started growing perennials from seed.”

In 1992 King ordered her first greenhouse and took horticulture classes at the local college.
“My focus is on plants for birds and butterflies now,” King said. “I grow what you can't find other places.”

More than half of the customers who buy from Pine Ridge Gardens come in from Mississippi, Texas, Louisiana, Missouri and Oklahoma to make the drive down gravel and dirt roads to King’s 65-acre site.

Many opt to order from the online or print catalog and have plants shipped to their homes.
“More people are interested in native plants now,” King said. “With the proper selection, you can have a garden that takes less care and is more drought tolerant.”

The next open house will be March 29 and 30. You have to call or check the Web site for additional dates.

“I’m open on Saturday and Sunday almost every other weekend until mid-June and then I re-open for September and October,” King said. “People come every week by appointment, too. They schedule a visit here along with other driving destinations.”

In addition to a dozen areas of trees and plants, Pine Ridge Garden has an arboretum that King put in place when she gave up raising cattle. Most of the trees and shrubs are natives that are thriving on a natural setting and only the rain they receive from nature.

You can take a self-guided tour to walk among unique specimens such as Zanthoxylum (toothache tree), Gooseberry bush, American Yellow-wood (Cladrastis kentukea), Mexican Buckeye, Sloe Plum shrub, Carolina Silverbell (Halesia tetraptera), etc. Most of these plants are native to the Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas area.

Around the pond, visitors can walk along dozens of plants growing in their natural setting which provides an opportunity to observe their growing habits and what they will look like at their mature size.

King shares her knowledge as she walks.

“Paw Paw trees want protection from the afternoon sun,” King said. “They are vulnerable in especially in their first few years until they get established.”

King buys seeds for the over 350 plants she grows from many sources. Over the years, she has made friends with other plant lovers who send her seed from their travels around the country. And, she has the talent to grow them into mature plants.

“I also like to grow all kinds of grasses, rushes and sedges,” King said. “I think they are underused in most people’s gardens. These are the plants that birds use for nesting cover and some butterfly caterpillars use for food.”

Elymus Churchii or Church’s Wild Rye grass has recently been identified in Arkansas and King is starting it from seed. She grows other Wild Rye Grass varieties that are available for sale.
King also goes out onto her land and collects seeds.

“Baptesia, thistle, wild azalea, sumac, hydrangea, goat’s rue and milkweed are all seeds that I collected to grow into mature plants for customers,” King said. “Customer requests have led to my growing a lot of the plants I sell.”

King has a personal collection of plants, too, including pineapples she grew by cutting the tops off from grocery store pineapples and planting them.

“We do not collect native plants from the wild and sell them,” King said. “Native plants should be left where they are growing unless they need to be rescued from upcoming construction.”

When King started in 1992, she grew wonderful perennials, loaded them into her truck and tried to sell them to garden centers. At that time garden center owners did not recognize the unique plants in her stock. She joined plant associations and gave talks wherever she could to get the word out.

“By 1997, people started hearing about me, my perennials and native flowers," King said. "People started asking for wax myrtle, other bird habitat and the things I grow. My focus changed to birds and butterflies.”

Other unusual habitat plants available at the nursery include: Umbrella Magnolia, Corkwood, Black Chokeberry, Texas Hibiscus, Saltbush, Swamp dogwood, Buckeye, Hickory, Hornbeam, Wood Vamp, Tree Huckleberry, Devil’s Walking Stick and Wahoo.

“If I have any regrets about the business, it’s that I didn’t start it sooner,” King said. “I hope I never have to retire.”

The Pine Ridge Gardens catalog is online at http://www.pineridgegardens.com and print catalogs are available by subscription three years for $5. The online catalog has a link called, “Selections,” where customers can search for suggested plants by category - butterflies, nectar sources, attracting birds, wetlands and xeriscape.

If you have a chance to walk through King’s extensive garden center, you will realize that the catalog represents only a fraction of the possibilities for your yard.

If you go Pine Ridge Gardens in rural London, Ark., it’s a two and one-half-hour drive from Muskogee. To make an appointment: (479) 293-4359, office@pineridgegardens.com or send a fax to 479 293 4659. A map with driving directions is on the Web site.

18 March 2008

March 18th Flooding

How does your garden grow? Not much of a gardening day today in Northeast Oklahoma with 4-inches of spring rain! But there are seeds to sort and a potting area to straighten up after a marathon 2-days of planting and transplanting.

It is illogical to imagine that it will never stop raining but look at this creek - the water is almost up to the bottom of the bridge.

The flooded and impassable street is (looking north on) Gulick between Smith Ferry Road and 53rd Street.
If you live in an outskirts area like ours you know that each time a wooded area is cleared for another housing development, the thousands of trees that held the rain in check are no longer there to do their job so flooding is the result. Ah, progress, your stings are everywhere.

Yesterday it was overcast all day but I took a few backyard snaps of the spring flowers anyway.
The storms have beaten them down but they will bounce back when the rain stops.

The grow lights are on the plants in the shed (I estimate there are 1,000 babies out there right now) and I'm headed out to plant some geranium slips my cousin sent from Germany.

16 March 2008

Pocket Guide to Palms by Robert Lee Riffle

How about adding something completely different to your landscape? When C. Colston Burrell spoke in Tulsa he showed us slides of his gardens, including a palm - zone 7.

So, which palms should you grow in your atrium and which ones outdoors?

Timber Press has added a new book about palms to their Pocket Guide line. Click on the link to see their description.

Many palms can take cold temperatures as low as 5-degrees F, but not for many nights in a row.

Here in northeast Oklahoma many people grow hardy banana palms in their yards with a thick mulch in the winter. I dug mine up and put it indoors for the winter to see if it would grow bigger this year.

But I digress, back to the book.

On two of the early pages Riffle identified drought tolerant, water-loving, fast growing, ground cover and other categories of palms for easy reference.

Then, the next 200-pages are a ready reference for 200-palms with photos, descriptions, native habitat, and growing needs.

14 March 2008

It's All Growing Now

Every bed has something growing through the surface of the soil as I move back the mulch and leaves. Frankly, I'm afraid to bare everything because of last year's awful mid-April surprise.
The weeds are happy, too. The warm days and nights make them grow well. Do you enjoy weeding or dread it?
Each morning the flats of seedlings come out of the garden shed and every night they go back in to be protected under lights.
The arugula and chard are ready to move out of their tiny vermiculite cells and into larger containers. The spinach seedlings are putting roots out the bottom of their tiny seed cells.
Here's a question. How many more kinds of seeds do you buy than you have time and room to plant? The photos, the catalogs, the seedracks - do they tempt you beyond the size of your garden?
A great gardener I know plants her seeds in a flower pot, never in the ground. I've also had limited success with planting directly in the ground so this year most are being started in containers. Which seeds do you have success with direct sowing?
If you are looking for more tips on seed starting, Renee's has tips "Starting Seeds Indoors" and "How To Guides With Photos" with a variety of seedling transplanting help. The pictures are worth a few thousand words.

13 March 2008

Blossoms Garden Center

Each year that Blossoms Garden Center is open, owners Lora and Matthew Weatherbee grow their business to accommodate more customer requests. This year a new growing house was added.
"We are really proud of what we grow," Matthew said. "This year we are growing several Proven Winners that gardeners may not find other places."
Proven Winners are patented plant varieties that cannot be commercially propagated without a license. The company selects new varieties that are tested for two or three years before they are offered. Superbells calibroachoa, Diamond Frost Euphorbia and Soprano Osteospermum are a few of the many familiar Proven Winners varieties.
City Line Hydrangeas are new dwarf hybrids from Germany that grow from 1 to 3 feet tall in sun or part shade.
"The City Line hydrangeas are compact and perfect for containers if gardeners do not have a lot of ground space. Blossom's carries City Line dwarf Berlin, Paris, Vienna and Venice," Lora said.
Hydrangeas grow best in well-drained soil amended with peat moss, compost or leaf mold. Fertilize early in the spring and keep the watered all summer. Prune hydrangeas immediately after they flower. Other hydrangea varieties that will be available include Oak leaf Little Honey with white flowers in the summer and red leaves in the fall and Alice, which grows 5 feet tall and wide with white summer flowers.
"Most perennials can be planted in March," Matthew said. "Even if we would have another April freeze like last year, the perennials should be fine in the ground."
This year you can grow heat-tolerant Munstead English Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia), which blooms in late spring and summer. It is a perennial that will increase its footprint the following year. It is attractive to butterflies and used as cut and dried flowers. If you want it to live through the winter it has to have dry feet so plant it on a slope and amend the soil with sand, chicken grit or crushed oyster shell.
Among the hundreds of annuals and perennials at Blossom's, some other customer favorites include:
• Shasta Daisy (Leucanthemum) — perennials that come back reliably in almost any soil. They start blooming in late spring and will continue to bloom for weeks if the fading flowers are kept cut off.
• Other popular daisies — Silver Princess is a late-blooming dwarf that grows only 1 foot tall and blooms with white flowers and Snow Lady grows 8 to 12 inches tall, blooms July to September, with 2-inch white flowers with yellow centers. Snow Lady is a 1991 All America Award winner.
Muskogee gardeners plant lots of Lobelia Queen Victoria or Cardinal Flower. It has 36-inch tall purple-bronze foliage and red flowers in June, grows best in moist part-shade, attracts butterflies and hummingbirds.
Asters are rewarding as they return every year to bloom in late summer and early fall and bring butterflies to the fall garden.
East Indies Aster Wartburg Star (Aster tongolensis) has a lavender flower with a gold-yellow center.
Wartburg Star grows to 18 inches tall and wide in well-drained soil in full sun.
A smaller aster for part-shade, Happy End Alpinus aster, is compact with pink flowers.

"Some of our best selling plants last year were flats of angelonia (heat-tolerant snap dragons), osteospermum (African daisies), and begonias," Matthew said.
"As far as annuals, we anticipate that last year's favorites will once again be popular such as the sweet potato vine, Million Bells, lantanas, osteospermums, red geraniums, and Wave petunias. But we are also trying some new things like red Hawaiian Ti."

Million Bells have 1-inch, trumpet-shaped blooms that attract hummingbirds until frost without any special care. They can be used as groundcover or trail from hanging pots in the sun. This year Matthew and Lora grew a variety of mixed-color baskets because they were a customer favorite last year.

They also grew a variety of large, ivy geraniums in hanging baskets in assorted colors.And, customers love hanging ferns for their porches.

"We have 400 Muskogee-grown, 12-inch hanging Boston ferns ready for sale," Matthew said. "In addition, the larger Kimberlee Queen and Macho fern varieties are ready in 12-inch patio pots.

"Most of the annuals, including banana trees, will be ready and available on opening day. A large shipment of tropical plants such as hibiscus, mandavilla, and allamanda (golden trumpet vine) will not arrive until mid-April after the threat of frost has passed."We also order plants for customers who want annuals and perennials we do not have in stock when they come in," Matthew said.

"Lora creates patio pots and special arrangements for customers every year and she can help them design plantings for their pool areas and porches."

The Weatherbees are active in their work for Muskogee Garden Club's civic projects such as the downtown Broadway planting. Matthew is on the board of directors for Muskogee Parks and Recreation Department and is on the committee to build a butterfly house garden and education center in Honor Heights Park later this year.

Muskogee Garden Club's March 20 meeting will be at 6 p.m. at Blossoms the night before the garden center opens for the spring. Matthew's talk will be on container gardening. Guests and visitors are welcome.

For more information, call 683-0581.

11 March 2008

Sunny Days Perfect to Garden

It was a great day to be in the garden - sunny and 70 with just a little breeze. All the seeds that are up got to go outside to sunbathe. The lettuce looks like it went from one-fourth inch to a half inch tall in the past two days.

Today's accomplishments: The Devil's Walking Stick from Pine Ridge Gardens went into its new home, two Cherry Laurel trees are now in the ground, Renee's Breadseed Poppy seeds were planted in the ground, the blackberry pruning was completed, the edible pea pods are just popping up in the seed tray, weeds were pulled.

What's happening in your garden this week?

Photo: King's Crown that overwintered in the garden shed and now is blooming in there.

Southern Living Magazine is very popular in this part of the world. When we lived in California, Sunset Magazine was the one to have. I still use my Sunset garden book even though it is geared for the west. Their plant descriptions cannot be beat.

In today's post, Sunset online has a piece about vermicomposting, called "Fresh Dirt" and it focuses on how much better it is to feed your kitchen scraps to worms than to send it to a landfill in plastic bags.


Photo: Sharon Owen shared a photo of terrapin love in her yard.

Science Daily reports that butterflies and moths actually remember what they learned when they were caterpillars. What a remarkable finding.

An associate professor of Biology at Georgetown University, Martha Weiss, remarked that it is intriguing to consider that a caterpillar can remember what it learned even though it turns to soup in the metamorphosis stage before it re-forms as a butterfly or moth.

Miraculous, actually.

Susie Lawrence sent along this announcement and it may be just what you are looking for.
HERBAL SOLUTIONS CLASS AT Northeastern State University, Tahlequah OK
This class will include a short history of herbs and how to identify common herbal plants. You will learn how to store herbs, prepare herbal teas, hot compresses, fomentations and the advantages of tinctured herbs. There will be an overview and discussion of Goldenseal, Echinacea, Ginger, Wormwood etc. Supplies can be purchased from the instructor for approximately $35.
Date: 6 Tues., Apr. 1 – May 6, Time: 6:30 - 8 p.m.
Location: Business & Technology Bldg., Room 102
Fee: $35, Limit: 20, Instructor: Linda “Pickle” Reynolds

10 March 2008

Seed Starting Containers

Starting seeds is as much science as art and I'm still learning how to use science to perfect the art of the perfect seedling.
If you have any tricks, I'd like to hear them.
Continuing to plow ahead, here is what I'm doing now

The seed starting containers are
blueberry boxes that were well washed. The bottom of the container is filled with sterile potting soil for annuals. Seed starting mix is put on the top and then seeds are planted in rows. Then, more sterile seed starting mix is put on the top according to the needs of the specific seeds.
Once the seedlings emerge, the top has to be lifted. The same identification tag of a plastic knife written with paint in a pen stays with the container.

Another method that's good for some seeds is to use a thoroughly cleaned Styrofoam egg carton. Several holes are punched in the bottom of each cup for drainage. The top of the egg carton was cut off to use as the saucer to catch the drips.

Some seeds come up well and others disappoint. Arugula and chard are going gangbusters and are about to set their first true leaves. The spinach I planted in a 72-hole container did not germinate very well. Less than half of the seeds germinated.

What works for you?

Oh, and yippee, Blogger is functional again. Thanks Google.

What's Growing?

Over the past week, I have been interviewing garden center owners for upcoming columns - their excitement is palpable and contagious. Every time I leave one of them I come home and plant more seeds or transplant something.

Are you working in your garden yet? What cuttings are you taking? What seeds are you starting? Clearing out flower beds?

This week's weather forecast is much better than all those below normal ones we have had for the past month. Back to normal 50s during the day and above freezing at night.

I feel for the Ohio gardeners - almost 2-feet of snow on their spring bulbs has to melt before they get to enjoy spring.

Our new neighbors moved into a home where gardening and landscaping was spare. I was so grateful that they took some of our excess canna lilies to their house in the back of their truck on Sunday. Plants as valuable as cannas have to go to new homes instead of the compost pile and now the corms have gone to a happy home.

And, besides, I volunteered at the Tulsa Home and Garden Show and Oklahoma's own
Horn Canna Farms (www.cannas.net) was there. A bag of those bright pink cannas with burgundy leaves came home with me and I had to make room for them.

Also, Steve and Ruth Owens had booth at the show where their booth won first prize for its gorgeous display of plants. Their garden center, Bustani Plant Farm is near Stillwater OK and they have their first print catalog out this spring. Click on the link to see what they are up to.

We are still working on spring cleanup: picking up twigs and branches that fall every week, weed pulling, blackberry cane pruning, etc. I'm going to keep an eye on the daylilies and try to catch them just as they emerge because a few of them need to be divided this year to keep them healthy.

Sorry, no photos: The Blogger software is having a bad week and will not accept photographs - Trust me I have invested several hours over the past 2-days trying to change its mind and now surrender. Every gardener has experience in learning that skill.

08 March 2008

Snow in March

How does your garden grow? Perrenials are popping up all over the gardens. This is a very exciting time and there is so much to do every day to get the beds ready.

We put up the bunny fence already. Something was eating the tops off the Brussels Sprout transplants. Then, today I noticed that another top had been eaten. So, after the snow melted I reluctantly put Sevin dust on the plants. It could be early cutworms eating off the tops. I don't know if there are enough leaves left for the plants to survive.
The blooming daffodils got a good coating of snow. They all recovered and were standing tall by the end of today's sunny afternoon.

06 March 2008

Fun Gardening Stuff

The photo is a praying mantis egg case that Mary Ann King at Pine Ridge Gardens took into her greenhouse. When the nymphs hatch they will eat the insects in the greenhouse, providing organic insect control.

There is so much fun stuff out there related to gardening.

The Oklahoma City Council of Garden Clubs made the news on NewsOK. Marilyn Lahr, president said she loves gardening she said, "And you meet the best people in the world.”

No kidding! Gardening attracts wonderful people and garden clubs and classes give us a chance to meet each other.

Here's a great quote from a blog called The Eleventh Stack "With spring on the way, another idea is offered by ORson Scott Card who says, “Unemployment is capitalism’s way of getting you to plant a garden.” It certainly isn’t necessary to quit your job to dig in the dirt, but why not take a day off and grab some seeds and a shovel?"

The Eleventh Stack is a blog for the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh PA.

The 2008 Mid States Cactus an Succulent Conference will be held in Grand Junction Colorado. The dates are June 12 to 15 and it is reasonably priced at $85 for the entire conference. Click on the link above - it will take you to the informative website.

Take a minute and look at this

Smell Like Dirt blog. On the entry "Global Worming" the author, Carol Buie-Jackson, has a video of herself setting up a worm composting system. Great tips and she shows how easy it can be to get started.

Friendly Worm Guy gives encouraging information and advice and also tells how to use the worm castings on your plants. And ZWire has a story about a grandmother who started vermicomposting to help her grandchildren learn to be green.

We are feeding our worm hotel and spraying the bedding to keep it moist for them - we should have a bin of organic plant food in a few months. We will not be attending, but if you are ready to learn to make money through worm farming, there is an entire conference dedicated to the topic. May 19 and 20, click on the Composting Council's link for more information.

The Jig Zone has an online jigsaw puzzle of daffodils in a scene. Fun diversion for this cold week.

The seed planting continues in the garden shed with at least one vegetable, annual or perennial seed planted every day. The veggie garden progress report: In the ground - broccoli and Brussels sprout starts, English and edible pod peas, radish seeds.

Grape Pruning

Whispering Vines is on West 51st Street in Tulsa
Dean Riesen will demonstrate grape pruning on Mar 15 and 16
All the grape clippings you can prune on March 15

Dean Riesen brought wines from of Whispering Vines Vineyards and Winery to Muskogee last weekend to participate in the Shriner's Flying Fez wine tasting fundraiser.

On March 15 and 16. Volunteers are invited to come help prune two-acres of their vineyards in Tulsa.

"We can use every person who wants to come help," Dean said. "In the morning we will have coffee and donuts at 7 for the first class. We start the training indoors and then go outside to demonstrate correct pruning methods. I will also teach them how to root their cuttings at home."

Last year 15 family members and friends came to the pruning event.Doreen Riesen said this the first year they are opening it up to the public.

"We have all the equipment, will provide the training, lunch and winetasting," Doreen said. "Everyone who helps with the pruning can select a bottle of wine free to take home and they can buy other bottles if they want."
The Riesens started fulfilling their dream by taking the Oklahoma State University Viticulture and Enology Classes.(
http://www.hortla.okstate.edu/grapes/grapes.html) Dean and Doreen both took unpaid jobs at the now closed Natura Winery. Dean started by pulling weeds and worked up to pruning and pressing grapes while Doreen learned the hospitality side of the business.

The grapes they started growing at their Keystone Lake home in 2003,produce about a thousand gallons of wine a year. The grapes are madeinto 13 varieties of wine.

"We bought these five acres in Tulsa County from the herb farm next door so the soil was already really good," Dean said. "On this property we grow zinfandel, cabernet franc, cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah,Chardonnay, Riesling, Muscat Canelli and Sauvignon Blanc grapes. Those are the types the volunteers will be learning to prune and taking home cuttings from."

Dean said that there is a lot of variance on actual plants so he willtrain volunteers for each grape variety.

The grape pruning basics volunteers will learn include:
• Remove all the branches that grow toward the ground.
• Six branches are left on each side of the main plant.
• Cut after counting two buds from the stem.
• Remove old wood (grape clusters grow on this year's growth).
• How to root cuttings at home.

"If the leaves are allowed to shade the roots of the plants, they become vulnerable to black rot disease," Dean said. "You have to learn how to be kind of cruel to have healthy productive plants with high sugar content fruit."
In August there will a harvest party with food and wine taste, similar to the pruning event.

"One of the reasons micro wineries like ours can make some really great wines is that we hand select the grapes that are used," Dean said. "Large wineries put everything into their vats that the machines harvest. That can include stems and leaves. Each cluster that we harvest is selected and any that don't look good are left on the ground."

Dean explained that Cabernet and Riesling vines produce fewer clusters and therefore grow more slowly than zinfandel so cabernet wine is more expensive. Zinfandel produces larger clusters with more grapes so it costs less per bottle.
In a large room at the winery, vats and oak casks line the walls and tables fill the center. The oak barrels are used to age red wines. The Zambelli Internationale grape crusher, destemmer, bottle filler,bottle corker, and all the other equipment used to make wine are insight. Last year at the harvest event, volunteers learned how to use the equipment.

The dining room is used for dinner events and is rented out for rehearsal dinners, showers and other private parties. A full kitchen is provided.

"We hosted a Valentine's Day Ultimate Murder Mystery for about 80people," Doreen said. "The next dinner event we have planned is at Halloween, but there may be something before that. The dinners are salad to dessert, white table cloth and waiter events."

Dean works full time at T. D. Williamson (TDW) in Tulsa. TDW works with United Way in many fund-raising events. The Riesens are hosting the second annual Poker Run. This year's event on May 3 begins at the winery at 10 a.m. and ends at the winery with wine tasting and food.

The Whispering Vines' T-shirt motto sum up the Riesens' approach to running their business, "Blending Wine and Friends."

To find out more, go to
http://www.whisperingvines.net/, orriesenvineyards@netzero.com or 231-7928.

03 March 2008

OK Horticulture Society Spring Lecture 2008 - Cole Burrell's Winter Landscape Talk

Russell Studebaker introduced Cole Burrell at the Tulsa Garden Center on Saturday. Studebaker is program chair for OK Horticulture Society. His nickname is World Famous Horticulturist and he applies his extensive experience and knowledge to garden writing for the Tulsa World and other publications as well as speaking in several states at conferences.

Cole Burrell made a dozen suggestions to perk up winter landscapes. Burrell lives in zone 7 Virginia so many of his ideas would work here as well.
Photo: Burrell at the book signing

Deciduous Shrub possibilities included:
Callicarpa americana
Ilex verticillata
Cornus sericea Flaviramea
Viburnum x bodnantense
Cornus sanguinea 'Midwinter Fire'
Daphne bholua
Hamamelis, Galanthus, Eranthis and Helleborus
Corylus and Leucojum vernum
Juglans regia

If you ever have an opportunity to hear Burrell speak, try to go. His presentation is informative and entertaining.