Showing posts from May, 2008

SPAM and BACON What Do You Like?

Photo: Hollyhock buds

The New York Times ran a piece around January listing and defining new words and their use.
We all know what SPAM is - it's the junk mail in your email box.

BACON is SPAM you requested so it is of higher value. BACON includes email newsletters, discussions, photos, notices etc.

My question is which emails do you actually look forward to? Which ones do you open even when you don't have time to read everything in the inbox?

I have a few favorites - some are garden related, others are not. Let's trade.

Renewing America's Food Traditions

This new book from Chelsea Green Publishing presents a fascinating approach to preserving traditional foods: Get them back into the foodchain.

Not all the foods discussed by the authors are plentiful enough to eat but many are. The extinct or nearly extinct ones such as flying squirrel have to be brought back off the edge before they can return to the table.

Chelsea Green publishes books for people who care: Their titles include the politics and practice of sustainable living, renewable energy, green building, organic gardening, eco-cuisine, and simple living.

"Renewing America's Food Traditions: Saving and Savoring the Continent's Most Endangered Foods" has an overview of the history and decline of specific foods for each area of the U.S.

The sections of the country (and the book's chapters) are named Bison Nation, Chestnut Nation, Chile Pepper Nation, etc.

Northeast Oklahoma covers two areas: Cornbread Nation and Bison Nation.

Some of the foods that are in danger of …

Animal Named Plants Make a Fun Garden

Make a garden of animal named plants

Expressions such as “red as a beet” and “cool as a cucumber” are common ways to use plant names in everyday conversation.

And on the other hand, for some reason, many plants have been given animal names. Several zoos and botanical gardens used this idea and planted children’s gardens with animal named plants.
The Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in Colorado Springs, Colo., provides a list of their animal named plants at
Glasshouse Works, an online plant seller, offers plants in two categories: Tropical Zoo Animal Plants and Hardy Zoo Animal Plants at One California landscape company lists plants by animal names at
Grandparents, parks and schools are using animal named plantings to help children learn science and math as well as giving them another reason to be physically active.
In one season, a garden could be completely transformed. …

Grow It Yourself Dining

Burpee Seeds reported double sales this year as more and more people are growing their own food which translates into seed sales. Vegetables transplants and fruit tree sales also increased this spring.
Photo: Romaine lettuce in the garden. At the grocery store today, we saw the profit of our efforts. The snow peas are $5 a quarter pound and the English peas are $6 a pound. Instead of paying those prices, we pick them off the vines. Home gardening is risky because it doesn't always succeed but in economic downturns people at least make an effort. An article in the Baltimore Sun had some of the numbers: Seed Savers Exchange, a nonprofit dedicated to preserving heirloom vegetables, sold 10,000 tomato and pepper transplants to customers in early May, double its usual amount. The fruit tree folks, Stark Brothers Nurseries and Orchards Co., is working overtime to keep up with orders. And the stories continue -click to read the column by Ellen Simon of the Associated Press. Even if you h…

Clematis for Months of Bloom and Some Research Helps Prevent the Planting of Invasive Species

I thought you might like to see two of the clematis in bloom. The deep purple Jackmannii is on another support and much older so it has hundreds of blooms. The wonder of clematis is that if you have enough of them in your garden the bloom is continuous for months. All the plant guides say they want their roots in shade but you can see them thriving on chainlink fences too. An interesting site about a California effort, Plant Right is educating the public about invasive plants. The point is that invasive plants cause more harm than gardeners may know. They consume natural resources and displace native plants. Kudzu was originally planted to solve a problem with another invasive plant. A little research would have prevented the eventual rampant spread of it. Some of the California invasives such as Vinca and Russian Olive are also problem plants here. The U. S. Department of Agriculture maintains a website with information about invasives across the country. The Forest Service has a coo…

Want A Better Lawn?

Grass needs light, fertilizer, water and mowing at the correct level. Sounds easy enough.

But, what about trees in the landscape? They not only rob the lawn of water and fertilizer but also block out the light. You can help the situation by trimming trees up, that is, remove the lowest limbs. Removing limbs up to ten or fifteen feet from the ground will allow grass and ground-covers to get enough light to thrive.

Heavy traffic areas may require grass as tough as Bermuda grass. Playground areas are especially prone to wear spots and deterioration.

Fertilizer for lawns and grass are heavy on the nitrogen - the first of the three numbers on the fertilizer bag. Too much fertilizer is bad for the plants and for the environment so under-fertilize if you are unsure.

Watering should be done less often and more thoroughly. Avoid sprinkling since it encourages the roots to grow at the surface of the soil instead of at a deeper level.

Mowing should be done when it would cut no more…

Cactus Love

Do you love a good cactus for the windowsill or in a garden pot? This gigantic one lives in Mexico.
Photo: Dr. Bruce Hoagland, University of Oklahoma, Natural Heritage Inventory and Department of Geograpy, Norman, OK . Photographer: Amy Buthod of the Oklahoma Biological Surey.
According to Dr. Hoagland, the cactus in the photo is bisnaga gigante (Echinocactus platyacantha, syns = E. granids, E. ingens, E. palmeri and E. visnaga, according to the New Cactus Lexicon). The photo is from the state of Tamualipas, Mexico near Las Palmillas.

Check out these websites
Department of Geography University of Oklahoma
Oklahoma Natural Heritage Inventory
Oklahoma Vascular Plants Database
Closer to home, the wonderfully scented
Photo: Mock Orange blossoms are cheering up the fence line planting.

Gorgeous weather for gardeners, isn't it? The early season vegetables are ready for the table and mid-season vegetables are thriving. Early flowers are filling gardens and summer flowers are forming buds.


Memorial Day Poppies

Day 4 of Blogger not taking uploaded photos.

Memorial Day Poppies

At one time the holiday we now call Memorial Day was called Decoration Day. The first observance of Decoration Day in the United States was on May 30,1868. Flowers were placed on Union and Confederate soldiers’ graves at Arlington National Cemetery.

By 1890 all the northern states recognized Decoration Day. Southern states acknowledged it after World War I when it changed to recognition of soldiers from that war.

The flower that has become associated with the holiday is the red poppy.

The red poppy tradition comes from when the bombardment during World War I made the soil full of rubble and lime. Poppies took hold and thrived. When the war ended and the soil healed, the poppies disappeared.

The 1915 poem, “In Flanders Fields” written in observance of the fallen soldiers is by John McCrae, a Canadian physician and soldier.

In Flanders Fields

In Flanders Fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row
That mark our place; a…

Warm Weather is Here!

I've been trying for two days to put photos on Blogger but the uploader is out of order, malfunctioning, etc. So, no photos until it is resolved. Google has this problem often enough to make a blogger wonder.

But on to gardening fun.

Warmer weather after the rain has led to weed pulling like crazy. Today's planting: More cosmos, castor bean, purple majesty millet, Red Russian kale, nicotiana, salvia. Just a few of each in beds where they could be squeezed in.

What do you do with all the leftover plants after starting a pack of seeds?

Our plumber and his wife came over on Sunday and took a couple of boxes full of plants and we donated some to the Conservation District's fund raiser. Some parsley, asclepias, and cosmos are being saved for my butterfly in the park project. But! There are still many more that want their little roots in the soil.

Do you Gutenberg?
Project Gutenberg is a great resource for gardening (and other) information. Today I was reading online a horticulture ma…

Fafard Organic Soils, Toad Lily for Shade, Two Steps Forward Blog

If you choose to grow organically, finding organic soil is a little easier if you can just buy certified soil to meet certification requirements.

National Sustainable Agriculture Information Services website has formulas you can follow. The link has a very informative article on potting soil for organic growers.

In the alternative, organic potting soils are available for purchase from companies such as Fafard. Everything in the bag is certified organic and meets all the organic program standards - no chemicals, pesticides, or fertilizers.

Of all the plant failures we gardeners have over the years, there are an equal number of successes to keep us going. It took 2-years to encourage this plant to thrive and the little late bloomer made up for lost time this spring. It's Rose Queen Salvia. Photo was taken yesterday morning -

There is a gorgeous Tricyrtishirta Toad Lily in the shade garden and I can't ever get a good photo of it in the deep shade in the fall when it is showing o…

See Through Plants

We have a patch of bachelor buttons at the back of our lot. The seeds were planted years ago and now the plants re-seed themselves for a late spring show every year. The extent of my effort is to pull out half of them so they can have room to grow and some weeding.

Bachelor buttons qualify as see through plants if they are thinned out enough.

Many of these tall plants can be placed at front-third of a flower bed with some great plants to see behind them.

Black C0hosh, Fennel, Red Hot Poker, Gaura, Valerian, Verbena bonariensis are the ones usually recommended. But I also like Asclepias, Bishop's Weed, Dill and other tall plants close to the front of the border.

Do you ever mix it up or do you stick with the traditional scheme of planting the tallest in the back and shortest plants in the front?

By the way, I was reading a garden book at lunch. The author listed the reasons plants have to be screened in the spring when they are tender. You know, things like rabbits (which we have aplent…

Prune, Cutback, Deadhead and Clean Up

One of the beauties from our collection of iris.

Great weather today for getting out in the yard - 75-degrees F with a light breeze.
There are many tasks to take care of already that require loppers and pruners. I love the Fiskars pruners with the rolling handle. An entire day of cleaning out beds, cutting out shrubs and young trees, trimming daffodil and iris plants and my hands do not hurt. (What Americans call pruners, the British call secateurs - I'm reading a British gardening book)
"Down to Earth" by Helen Dillon.

Now that the weather has cleared, I'm planting 20-plants a day as a goal. Of course weeding and soil amending is being done in order to give my babies a chance to thrive. I still have about a 50 percent thrive rate. The other half are eaten by bugs and bunnies, fail altogether or just never make the grade.
This is a good time to make the first cut on your chrysanthemums. Begin pruning them back now so they will bloom on full, well-branched…

Find a Pot and Fill It

Fill Those Pots!
Pots of plants on the front porch, by the driveway or placed in a resting spot in the shade, add an inviting touch to the appearance of your home or business. Whether you are using last year's containers or purchasing new ones, keep in mind that you are creating an environment for living plants and their roots. The size of the pot, the quality of the soil environment, fertilizer and water are the elements to consider even before plants are selected. CONTAINERS Clay pots allow the soil to dry more quickly and plastic pots are easier to move but their tendency to hold moisture can lead to root problems. Wood containers such as half-barrels and crates make great growing conditions for plants. Cement is difficult to move and retains heat but can be perfect for plants like bamboo. Glazed pots are non-porous and plant roots cannot breathe in them so many gardeners put clay pots inside them.

Drainage holes have to be present in growing containers unless you want to create …

101 Kid-Friendly Plants for Fun and Family

Ball Publishinghas a cool new book for parents and grandparents,
"101 Kid-Friendly Plants: Fun Plants and Family Garden Projects"
by Cindy Krezel ($10).
Just in time for summer fun in the garden, Krezel's book reflects her 15-years of gardening with children. The ideas in the book are directly from her experience - not theory.
She suggests that you start with seeds because there is so much to learn from using them (I agree). Watermelon and sunflower seeds are large enough to be handled by even the smallest children. Each of the 100 bright yellow pages pictures one plant, describes it and gives project ideas. Other content includes: Gardening basics, Bulbs in pots, Container gardens, Plants to NOT use with children and theme gardens. Themes include butterflies, dried flower garden, edibles, five-sense garden, plant a rainbow, science experiments, etc. The book makes it easy to imagine playing outside in the garden with children because Krezel's approach is whimsical as w…

Talk About Rootbound!

I'm embarrassed to display this example of why spring is a good time to check your potted plants for being rootbound. This is a gorgeous Dicliptera from Bustani Plant Farm. It was supposed to go in the ground but I put it in a giant pot instead and it bloomed all summer with no care from me other than running the hose on the it to keep it moist. Then it spent the winter in the garden shed.

The pot had to be smashed in order to liberate the plant to put it in a larger pot with fresh soil. Needless to say, this trooper of the garden looked great despite my poor treatment and it looks even better with a little nutrition. This plant's grey, soft leaves are beautiful and it flowered all summer last year.

Description from the Bustani site: "Dicliptera suberecta (King's Crown) #164 $6.00
Tropical/Slightly hardy Perennial – Sun, partial shade – 18”x30” – Zone 7-10 –
Family: Acanthaceae Origin: Uruguay
The soft leaves of King’s Crown make it a garden worthy plant because…

Name That Glad; Name That Mushroom; Fashion in the Garden

This glorious glad is blooming for the first time this year. It's fuscia color is accented with lavender. The tag is nowhere to be found so I can't identify it. Any ideas?

Mushrooms are popping up and gardeners are wondering which ones they can eat. There are a couple of good resources online. Check with the experts at the
Forest Mushrooms site and this Ohio State University Fact Sheet before you saute.

We bought this water iris last year at a plant sale.

One garden writer in Connecticut asks in her column this week, "What do you wear when you garden?" Good question. I wear pretty junky clothing and Muck Boots most of the time. Shorts or long pants depending on the weather.

So, What are you wearing when you dig, mulch, prune, and plant?

Easy Propagation Method and Voodoo Lily

Easy propagation method.
When the variegated ivy put out a long shoot of growth last fall, I tucked one end of it into a shorter bowl filled with vermiculite.
Both bowls sat on an east facing windowsill over the winter and were watered infrequently but at the same time. Both containers dried out between watering.

Today, I cut them apart. How easy is that?

When Brent and Becky's Bulbs had their end of the season sale, I bought a Dragon. It was planted in a large pot and stayed in the garden shed over the winter. Here is its bloom as of yesterday.

Paghat says, "Dracunculus vulgaris (aka Arum dracunculus) is variously called the Dragon Arum, Voodoo Lily, Ragons, Snake Lily, Black Arum, Black Dragon, Dragonwort, & Stink Lily. In Greece it is called Drakondia, the dragon or serpent being the long spadex inside the enormous maroon-lipped spathe.It is native to the Balkans, to Mediterranean Europe, Greece, the isle of Crete & the Aegean Islands, all the way to Sou…

Salvias are Blooming with the spring Wildflowers

The wind has been terrific today. This afternoon it rained while I was mowing and then there was dime size hail. Spring has one surprise after another.

While holding the Salvia Greggii Pink Preference (Bustani Plant Farm) for a photo, a bee landed on my hand. They are all over the plants of course and you can actually hear them buzzing while doing the weed pulling. Ah, the joys of gardening.

In the shade garden, native Columbine
has taken hold and is slowly increasing in size as the years go by. We made the garden boundary with stones dug out of a planting hole for a crab apple tree. The bed was made from the contents of the compost pile, plus peat and cottonseed hulls. Every year, we add peat to keep improving the soil conditions.

Another 30 tiny seedlings and larger plants went into the ground today. The seeds of Red Star Hibiscus or rose mallow (Hibiscus coccineus) are getting their first true leaves.

Also the Edamame and cucumbers are sprouting and I think the seed starting is over fo…

Viburnums by Michael Dirr

This Viburnum beauty is blooming in the back yard next to pink bearded iris and snow peas in flower.

When a plant is easy to grow, with flowers in spring, attractive leaves in the summer, fall color and winter berries, you would expect to see it everywhere.

Viburnums have all of those qualities. Plus they are strong plants with few disease or insect problems. Gardeners can choose Viburnums that grow 2-feet tall or 30-feet tall. The butterfly attracting flowers are usually cream-white but some are pink. Some varieties have shiny leaves, some are leathery and others are velvet textured. Fall leaf color can be red, purple or orange.

The varieties that produce fruit include berries that are orange, red pink, blue or black. To get an abundant supply of fruit, gardeners only have to plant two different types.

These shrubs can be grouped to make a hedge or privacy screen or planted as individuals. Deer are not fond of the leaves though some grazing happens in years when other food is not availab…

Which Flowers to Plant for Re-seeding and Plants' Bloom Time

Many plants re-seed and provide a full flush of growth and flowers the following year and some are stingy with their reseeding. These are poppies. It's hard to believe that they will be three-feet tall with vivid flowers in a few months. Do you have favorite re-seeding annuals? I'm looking for more to plant and would welcome ideas and suggestions. Among other flowers that make a flower bed glow with color, these annuals re-seed: Phlox, marigold, bachelor button, calendula, coreopsis, spider flower, columbine, hollyhock, Johnny Jump Ups (violas), and ? Gardeners have luck with many flowers re-seeding. What works for you?
Harvard University has a clever list on their Arnold Arboretum website that identifies plants by bloom time. Order of Bloomwas developed in the 1950s. What a great resource for continuous bloom even though Boston Mass may be in a different cold and heat zone than the one in which your garden grows. Another plant database online that has good descriptions is at th…

Do It Yourself Projects

If you have the energy for a do-it-yourself project, a small patio can be easy to do in time for summer guests and entertaining.
In a corner of the yard that gets shade, we laid concrete cinder blocks and sprayed a brick colored stain on them to give them a better look. It's big enough for a table and 4 chairs where you can relax with coffee in the morning or a book in the afternoon. The photo was taken this morning during a break in the rain.

Did you plant the 2007 plant of the year, Nepeta, last year?
We planted a row Nepeta Walker's Low from Bluestone Perennials last year in the front of our driveway garden. This week it is blooming its head off.
The scent brings honeybees, butterflies and other pollinators into the garden. We need the pollinators for our fruit and vegetables beds.

The pinkish purple flowers in the center of the picture, behind the Nepeta are Dame's Rocket. Last year we had one, this year there are four.

Also blooming in that bed are two types of …

Spring and Summer Blooming Lilies

This year I bought spring and summer blooming bulbs from Brent and Becky's, Easy to Grow Bulbs, Old House Gardens, Van Bourgondien, and a few others including the sale racks at Lowe's. This lollipop lily is one of the ones that came from Easy to Grow. The box of summer flowering bulbs from Old House Gardens was just planted within the past week. They will bloom in the hot days when other flowers are fading from the heat.

So, do you love to plant bulbs like I do? They come up and bloom and usually have long lasting flowers. They make more bulbs that can be divided over the next few years.

Last year the tiger lilies produced seeds that I planted and now they are also coming up.

The Plant Conservation Alliance is a source of information on a variety of topics of interest to gardeners. Lots of information about native plants to browse.

Residents of Maryland are lucky in that the site has a separate link about native plants for wildlife habitat restoration in that state.


Ways to Shape Your Plants

You may have pinched the top growth off of coleus and other ornamental plants to keep them full. We also commonly cut the bottom leaf growth off of tomato plants to bury them several inches into the ground at planting time.

What else do you pinch, prune, trim, coerce into more appealing shapes? Espaliered pear and apple trees are beautiful in the right setting. Thomas Jefferson had his fruit trees trained on wires as a space saving measure.

On a garden tour last weekend I saw Rose of Sharon shrubs being trained into lollipops. How clever to use plants that are easy to grow here and will adapt to pruning and shaping.
The homeowners cut back all but five branches and then put tree wrap around the trunks to block the sun from encouraging growth. The shrubs are between the house and the sidewalk so it is practical to control them.

When they bloom from June to August the flowers will be at eye level as you walk on the sidewalk. If they were not pruned, the shrubs would prevent the placement…

Love Blueberries? With Preparation, You Can Grow Your Own

When gardeners want to try something new, expert advice is always welcome. Several people had asked me about blueberry growing so I contacted our local expert, Andy Qualls who grows two or three thousand plants for the family's wholesale fruit business.

Blueberries have become one of the most popular fruits. Growing a few bushes at home is possible if you follow the advice of an expert and start right from the beginning.

"Blueberries are very productive after only a few years and are not difficult to grow," Andy Qualls said.

Qualls works for Muskogee County Conservation District; and, his family grows more than 2,000 blueberry plants on land south of Muskogee.

They sell the fruit wholesale only to Arnold's in Muskogee and Conrad Farms in Bixby from mid-June to August.

"We have had the most success with Northern Highbush and Southern Rabbiteye varieties," Qualls said. "A home gardener who wants enough blueberries to eat and some to freeze or make into jam w…