31 July 2008

Good Community Citizens

Honor Heights Park in Muskogee OK is in full bloom right now partly because of a donation of 550-Encore Azaleas from Greenleaf Nursery, Inc. in Tahlequah.

Muskogee Parks and Recreation Direction, Mark Wilkerson, said that the donated plants were put in three locations. Two beds are near the main parking lot and the other bed is near the 48th Street entrance.

“The uniqueness of these plants adds a lot to the park especially since they bloom at the same time the Crapemyrtles are flowering,” Wilkerson said. “This is a significant gift to Muskogee. We are putting signs at each of the plantings to acknowledge Encore Azaleas and Greenleaf Nursery.”

The Encore Azalea website lists Honor Heights Park as a place to see “Encores in Action”. (http://www.encoreazalea.com/encore/stat_gardens.cfm)

Plant breeder, Robert E Lee of Independence LA invented the Encore Azalea by crossing spring-blooming azaleas with Rhododendron oldhamii, a summer-blooming azalea from Taiwan. The result is an azalea that blooms spring, summer and fall.

Larry Ahrens, Sales Vice President,
Greenleaf Nursery, Inc., said, “We are happy to help enhance the beauty of the park. Since Encore hybrids and crosses are new, and still being worked on, we will be able to use the planting at Honor Heights Park as a benchmark to see how they are blooming in 2, 5 and 10 years.”

There are 23-Encore varieties and each one begins blooming in the spring. New shoots and buds begin to grow after that first bloom and the “second act” of blooms opens in mid-summer and goes into the fall.

The flower-color-key to identifying the 11-varieties donated to the park is: Carnation – medium pink blooms; Debutante – large light pink flowers; Autums Embers – deep orange red flowers; Empress – medium pink flowers; Autum Rouge - upright growth and deep red-pink blooms; Autumn Royalty - large, rich purple blooms, voted Azalea of the Year by the American Rhododendron Society; Sangria has one of the largest blooms in the Encore Azalea collection, dark pink flowers and dense growth; Autumn Starlite – white with Pink fleck flowers; Autumn Sunset – vivid orange-red flowers; Autumn Sweetheart – light pink with lavender dots; and Autumn Twist – white and purple striped blooms.

Jim Thompson, Vice President for Advertising and Marketing at Greenleaf Nurseries, Inc., is a former parks director himself and understands the importance of beautiful parks.

“We know that the weather has been hard on Honor Heights Park,” said Thompson. “The ice and unusual freezing weather took its toll. We wanted to help bring the park back to the shape it was in before these natural disasters hit.”

When the Main Street horticulture improvements were made earlier this year, Greenleaf offered to help with plants, too.

Thompson said, “Greenleaf Nursery got its start near the present location of Lowe’s on Shawnee Bypass. Even though that was 65-years ago the founders still feel that they are connected to Muskogee.”

How to care for Encore Azaleas
Site Selection: Plant where they will receive 6-hours of full morning sun to all day filtered-shade. Prevent exposure to drought or heat stress from intense afternoon sun.

Prepare the planting area: Dig a hole 6 to 8-inches deep and fill with water. If there is still water standing in 12-hours choose another location or improve the drainage. Get a soil test and amend soil to pH of between 5.5 and 6.5.

Planting: Dig, loosen and amend the soil at least 1.5 to 2-feet out from the center of the planting hole. Add compost or peat to soil. Remove the plant from the pot and loosen the roots. Then plant the root ball slightly above soil level in the center of the prepared area. Water to settle the soil and cover with mulch to conserve moisture.

Ongoing care: The first year, keep the soil moist until winter. In subsequent years, water your azaleas when the soil is really dry. Fertilize until August with Azalea food according to the package directions. Over-fertilizing and under-watering cause brown leaves.

Fall and Winter care: Azalea roots grow over the winter so do not allow them to go dry. Cover the area with extra mulch if the winter is extremely cold.

Pruning: Light pruning to remove dead or broken branches is all that is needed. For shaping, cut after the spring bloom cycle ends.

30 July 2008

Looking for Seeds of Maxus radicans 'motley mazus'

A reader wrote today in response to a February blog entry, "Stepables has a new variety of mazus radicans "motley mazus". It has a varying array of dark foilage with white blooms and can tolerate heavier foot traffic. I am very interrested in mass planting this but it is cost prohibative thru this source. Do you know if this plant is available by seed? I am having difficulty finding information via the web for this." Thank you ~ Bruce
I love a research question so I hit the search engines. Here is what I found.
The native range for Mazus miquelii Makino distribution:USA (MA, ME, MI, NC, NJ, NY, PA, WV). County distributions for the following U.S. states are available at PLANTS:MI, NC, NY, PA, WV. That info is from the USDA.
Missouri Plants' site says Mazus is "Native to eastern Asia. Other info. - This little introduced species is rare in Missouri but will most certainly spread with time. The small flowers are quite striking and the plant is sometimes grown as a rock garden ornamental. It grows easily from seed and many seeds are produced with each fruit. Many flying insects are attracted to the flowers."
Easy to start from seed - encouraging information.
B & T Seeds may have Mazus radicans seeds available from a source but you have to fill out a want list form at this link.
Plants for a Future says its leaves are edible but no info on seed sources. But at the Pfaf site I learned that Mazus is in the plant family, Scrophulariaceae along with Foxglove, Snapdragon, Eyebright, Hyssop, Toadflax, Monkey Flower, Lousewort, Beardtongue, Penstemon, Figwort and Mullein, among others.
At the Perennial Club I found that it's common name is Freckled Mazus. Here is their info
Mazus radicans, Common name : Freckled Mazus
"Freckled Mazus is a beautiful groundcover for any sunny to partly shaded area with moist or even wet soil. Plants form a low creeping mat of bronze-spotted leaves, studded with small lavender-mauve flowers in late spring. Perfect for planting between flagstones or using as a lawn substitute. Evergreen in mild winter regions. Plants are easily divided by ripping apart into pieces and replanting each small bit with roots attached. Tolerates hot, humid summers."
Mazus radicans is listed as available on the 2007/08 seedlist of the Scottish Rock Garden Club. If you contact them and join, you could get seed through a members' trade.
Other than that, there seem to be no seeds at any of the common and obscure seed sources I know about. Most of the references say that the plants produce quite a bit of seed. You may have to bite the bullet and purchase a couple of plants in order to have seed and fill your garden slowly.
Arrowhead Alpines has the plants for $5.50.
By the way, this is not actually a new plant. The plants were written about as early as 1927 at the Royal Society of New Zealand.
Thanks for the search challenge. Maybe another reader has an idea about where to find the seeds.

29 July 2008

105-Degree July Days

We are going on our third day over 100 and the earth is cracking where it was spongy and flooding only a few weeks ago.

Gardening now is watering.

The fall crops seeds I put into seed starting mix ten days ago have not germinated. Either they are sitting there in heat dormancy or they can feel the heat and are saying no thanks to the possibility of coming up out of the soil.

A few Kurbis and almost all of the cute fall marigolds came up and look pretty good right now in their pots.

The Jefferson Monticello site describes these Tagetes patula 'Striped' marigolds, "Curtis' Botanical Magazine is a popular London periodical that, beginning in 1787, has illustrated the latest in floral fashions. A handsome form of Striped French Marigold was illustrated in a 1791 issue. French marigolds are the easiest of flowers to grow. Sow the seeds in a well prepared, sunny site after the last spring frost date. The plants will grow to three feet in height and create a dazzling display until the first frost in the fall."

If the bugs, weather and mildew don't get them we could have a wonderful display for Sept, Oct and Nov.

Today I added raspberries to that home made apple pectin in yesterday's blog. It took some tweaking but it turned into a remarkable jam.

I'm searching for ways to preserve the garlic harvest and found this recipe in Barbara Kafka Microwave Gourmet Healthstyle Cookbook
Garlic to Go
Put two-thirds cup peeled garlic cloves and three-fourths cup water in a microwave safe bowl and cover. Cook 8-minutes.
Transfer to a blender and add one-fourth cup olive oil, one-half teaspoon salt and pepper.
Blend until smooth. Refrigerate or freeze.

Have you ever tried anything like it? Do you have any ideas for making our home grown garlic stay viable for winter use?

28 July 2008

More About Jam and Butterfly Gardening

It is 100-degrees every day now so all the time in the yard is before lunch. After lunch, time in the kitchen keeps me having great fun.
Every day several small apples fall out of the tree and I pick them up. I wondered what to do with them and found an answer. A book about preserving suggested that you can make pectin from them.

This beautiful volume is called A Passion for Preserves by Frederica Langeland. The photographer, Bill Milne, is skilled at tempting readers to recreate the products he illustrated. This link will take you to the Amazon site where copies of the book are 78-cents and up. At Amazon, the customer complaints are true - the ingredient list does not always match the recipe, the recipes are in pounds of fruit and they are not the quick and easy type.

It's not too difficult, though, to make your own pectin if cooking is your hobby. After cooking the apples in water, the juice is drained off overnight.
Next, the resulting liquid is cooked with sugar to become a sort of a candy-like substance that is used to make jam.

Another interesting recipe from the same book that I tried, is to use the skins and pits from canning peaches to make peach vinegar. Practically cost free and worth a try. As you are peeling the peaches you put the peels and pits into a jar and then cover them with cider vinegar.

RAISING BUTTERFLIES The bed we planted with fennel for the butterflies to raise their babies is beginning to show activity. This swallowtail is inside the center stems of the plant laying eggs.

Some caterpillars are growing large and the birds are finding them to eat. So today, I put a little netting over the fennel plants that had several caterpillars on them.
A big thrill today was finding a Swallowtail chrysalis for the first time. Of all the adults and larva, this is the first time we have had a chance to see the stage in between.

What's happening in your kitchen and garden?

25 July 2008

Peachy Friday

The peach tree is being harvested and we are very happy with its first production. The tree-fall and the otherwise less than perfect ones were cut into pieces to be cooked with fruit sugar and lemon juice. For that cooking I left them unpeeled since they would cook plenty long enough to make peeling unnecessary.

I wanted to find a way to use those bits and pieces so I checked the Internet for a salsa or chutney recipe.

From the Food Network site I made this Peach Chutney recipe but added more garlic and some Poblano pepper.

Peach Chutney
Recipe courtesy Jimmy's Uptown, Harlem New York

1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
2 shallots finely diced (onion in a pinch)
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and diced (can't buy them because of the problem with them right now so pablano pepper had to do)
1 1/2 pounds fresh peaches, blanched and diced
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup brandy (this really made a difference in the good way)
1/2 cup cider vinegar
Salt and pepper

Melt butter, add garlic, shallot and jalapeno and sweat for 1 to 2 minutes, add diced peaches. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes, add sugar, deglaze with brandy and vinegar and allow to cook on low heat until peaches are soft. Season with salt and pepper.

And from My Recipes I found this one with dried fruit, onion, garlic and pecans.

Chunky Peach Chutney
2 medium-size sweet onions, chopped
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh ginger (I keep this in the freezer)
2 garlic cloves, minced (5 or 6 is more like it)
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 pounds peaches, cut into chunks (do not peel)
2 Granny Smith apples, chopped (tree fall from the apple tree)
2 cups white wine vinegar
1 cup pitted dried cherries (left this out)
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar (left this out)
1/2 cup dried sweetened cranberries (doubled this)
1/4 cup fresh lime juice (about 2 limes)
2 tablespoons brandy* (doubled this - the alcohol boils off but the flavor is deepened)
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup chopped toasted pecans

Sauté first 3 ingredients in hot oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat 3 to 5 minutes.
Stir in peaches and next 9 ingredients, and cook, stirring occasionally, until sugar dissolves.
Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer, stirring occasionally, 1 hour or until thickened.
Stir in pecans
Makes 7 cups

The results of each are quite good and are now canned, thanks to he who does the boiling water kettle outdoors.
(Blogger isn't allowing photo uploads tonight. Maybe later in the weekend.)

24 July 2008

Nurseryman Roy Diblik's book

For me, sometimes, less is more, and nurseryman Roy Diblik's new book fills a need I have had for a cookbook approach to solving a garden recipe problem. Don't get me wrong. I love my encyclopedias of plants but this paperback is 132-pages and has formulas for successful garden beds. User friendly.

Roy Diblik's Small Perennial Gardens: The Know Maintenance Approach

Diblik has 30-years of plant experience and is a co-owner of a Wisconsin nursery, Northwind Perennial Farm, where he and his two partners grow 400,000 plants - enough to know what plants need.

Here's what I like - the entire book is focused on plants that grow in regular soil (no pH balancing required), all the suggested plants are compatible in their water and sun needs, dozens of plant schemes are divided into categories (calm, fresh, elegant and friendly) and there are photos of some of the finished beds.

The artistically inclined will appreciate the finely drawn watercolors of plants and flowers by Elizabeth McCown Dunham who is a technician at Knight Hollow Nursery in Wisconsin.

Horticulturist Diblik was one of the founders of Natural Gardens in St. Charles IL. Comments of interest are at j.siegel designs, Wisconsin Gardener, Garfield Farm Museum, and GazetteExtra.

He is described in the Herbaceous Perennials Symposium program as an expert in landscaping and native plants. Also, Diblik was closely involved in the selection and installation of thousands of plants at the Lurie Garden in Chicago. The more you read the more you realize what a trustworthy expert he is in planting low maintenance gardens.

There is a long bed in our back yard that will become one of these designs. My only complaint about the book is that I wish there had been a lot more pictures of what the bed-designs look like when they have been grown so I could get a better idea which one to choose.

The publisher of the book is American Nurseryman, $25, at the website.

23 July 2008

Preserving Summer's Flavors

Every year gardeners and cooks preserve the bounty of summer by drying, freezing and canning produce. Some use the ones that came from a grandmother's kitchen and others experiment with new flavors.

Here are a few recipes I have used for decades.

Eggplant Caviar
This recipe was in a Gourmet magazine in 1973. It calls for one-pound of eggplant so for every pound of eggplant you want to preserve, increase the other ingredients. There is no need to be precise. The more finely you chop the ingredients the less lumpy the spread will be. Large black skinned eggplant have to be peeled after baking. The long thin Asian eggplants do not have to be peeled. Just remove the stem and flower ends – they are pretty crunchy.

The 4-ounce jelly jars and a 15-minute boiling water bath preserve Eggplant Caviar for gifts and personal use during the winter. (Hoopes Hardware in Muskogee 918-682-0711 will order cases of the 4-ounce jars - $7.49 a dozen.)

Bake one-pound of eggplant at 400 for 1-hour and cool.

In a skillet, sauté 1-medium onion in 3-Tablespoons olive oil for 8-minutes.

Stir in one-third cup minced green pepper and 2-small cloves garlic, minced.

Cook, stirring 5-minutes.

Peel and chop the eggplant, add the onion mixture, one-half cup peeled and chopped tomatoes. Add salt and pepper to suit your taste.

Cover and cook over low heat for one-hour. Remove the cover and cook 30-minutes until the mixture thickens into a spread.

Stir in 1-Tablespoon lemon juice and a one-half teaspoon sugar. Taste and add more salt, lemon juice or sugar to suit your preference.

Serve with crackers.
Pepper Jelly
The first time I saw this in jars on a friend's counter twenty years ago, the beauty of the red and green pepper flakes floating in the jelly made a huge impression and I had to have some sitting on my pantry shelf.

Usually a bar of cream cheese is put on a serving platter, the pepper jelly poured over and crackers served on the side. Pepper Jelly also makes a great dip for oven fried chicken or fish. Once you make a batch and try some, other uses will come to mind such as dipping fresh vegetables.

This has to be made with liquid pectin, which comes in pouches in a box. All attempts at making it with regular powdered pectin failed to set.

Some cooks prefer jalapeno peppers but mine is always made with red, green and/or yellow bell peppers plus banana peppers if the garden is bursting with them.

Chop three-fourths pound of cleaned peppers into slivers.
Add 2-cups cider vinegar and 6-cups sugar

Boil for 10-minutes, stirring. Add 2-pouches liquid pectin and bring back to a full boil. Boil a full minute. Either skim off foam or add 1-Tablespoon butter to calm down the foam.

Pour the jelly into the hot, sterilized canning jars. (I use 8-ounce jars for home use and 4-ounce jars for gift packs.) Wipe off the top and seal. Boiling water bath 15 minutes.

Curry Pickles
These are from an old Farm Journal cookbook. They have only a little curry powder in them and are more like a bread and butter pickle since they have a generous amount of sugar in them.

I vary the recipe from year to year, using less onion or more cucumber, depending on what is available.

The night before canning, slice 4-cucumbers, 10-onions and 2-red bell peppers. (Or 8-cucumbers and 3-onions.)

Top with one-half cup canning salt. Table salt will make the brine cloudy because of the additives in table salt. Cover with cold water. Let the vegetables sit overnight.

The next day, drain off the soaking water. Add 1-pint vinegar, 1-cup water, 4-cups sugar, 3-Tablespoons pickling spices, and 2-Tablespoons celery salt. (Change the seasoning to your taste – add garlic if you like it.)

Heat to boiling and cook 15 minutes.

Add 1-teaspoon curry powder.

Ladle into six, hot, one-pint, sterilized jars, seal with canning lids. Process in boiling water bath for 10-minutes. (To keep the house cooler, we use a propane-fueled turkey-fryer outside for all the boiling water baths.)

Whether you grow your own or buy at local produce stands, nothing beats having your own home canned goodies on the shelf to cheer up the winter table.

For other great ways to preserve the flavors of summer check out homecanning.com or the U. S. Department of Agriculture's advice at http://uwacadweb.uwyo.edu/cesnutrition/Food_Preserve/usda_home_canning.htm and http://foodsafety.psu.edu/canningguide.html

22 July 2008

The New Encyclopedia of Orchids

The New Encyclopedia of Orchids by Isobyl la Croix is the latest
book on orchids to be released
and it is quite a phenomenal accomplishment.

Libraries, collectors and gardening enthusiasts will easily recognize what a beauty it is with 500-pages of orchid descriptions and photographs.
Ms. la Croix also wrote Epiphytic Orchids of Malawi (1983), Orchids of Malawi (1991), Flora Zambesiaca Orchidaceae (1995, 1998), and African Orchids in the Wild and in Cultivation (1997).

A trained botanist, she and her husband spent 22 years in the tropics, mainly in Africa, collecting, studying, and growing orchids.

The author selected 1,500 species to include in the book - there were 25,000 species and 100,000 hybrids to consider.

Did you know that orchids are found on every continent except Antarctica? Of course, most grow in the tropics.

The book has information on cultivation, pests and diseases, conservation and propagation, in separate short chapters.

Then, on page 26, the A to Z of Orchids makes up the remainder of the book.

At the end of the book, following the encyclopedia entries, there is a 2-page Glossary, 4-page Bibliography, Indexes of Common and Scientific Names, and a comprehensive index.

Timber Press is the publisher of this authoritative release.

It is also, definitely, time to learn more about our native orchids in Oklahoma - Here are some links to explore when you have time.
Oklahoma Orchid Society
Oklahoma Wildflowers - OK Wild

Oklahoma Native Plant Society

21 July 2008

Wins and Losses in the Garden

On a happy note, the cucumbers are continuing to produce pounds of fruit that we are giving away every week.

Early this morning we picked 2-gallons of blackberries, enough broccoli for lunch and 2-colanders of cucumbers. I'm collecting the 1-inch pickling cucumbers to make French Cornishons.

From what I've read, many people do not care for them but the 3-jars I make every year disappear easily enough.

To make Cornishons - pick 1.25 pounds of 1-inch cucumbers, wash them and put them in a glass bowl. Sprinkle with 2-Tablespoons salt and cover with water. Let sit overnight.
The next day, sterilize enough jars to can 1-quart of pickles. Boil 2-cups wine vinegar and 2-cups water with 2-teaspoons sugar. Drain and pat dry the cucumbers.

In each canning jar put a peppercorn, a clove of garlic and a bay leaf. Add sprigs of herbs such as tarragon, thyme or savory.

Put in cucumbers and top with vinegar water. Boiling water bath 10-minutes or refrigerate for 2-weeks and eat them fresh with cheese and crackers.

The Wings and Warts vines all got squash vine borers

Life stages of squash vine borer; adult male (a), adult female (b), egg (c), larva (d), earthen cell (f), pupa (g).

The rabbits ate every single sunflower seedling last night.
Win some.
Lose some.

20 July 2008

Gardener's Tools for Skin Care

By July, gardener's hands and nails are showing signs of doing "just one more thing" without gloves. Fingers and wrists are a little grumpy in the morning from repetitive weed-pulling action. Arms and calves are spotted with poison ivy and bug bites.

What are your favorite products for combating gardener wear?
I confess to using Deep Woods or Backwoods strength bug bite protection. I know I'm supposed to use something more health-food-store-ish but haven't found anything effective enough. Do you know a product that works as well?
sent me a sample of their deep-cleansing hand scrub and replenishing hand cream and they are wonderful.

Their site calls the scent "clipped grass, aromatic parsley, cool watercress, dewy moss and a pinch of pink peppercorn."
That sounds like the wine descriptions of a hint of this and that which I can never taste - but the cream has a pleasing, soft, clean scent.

The hand scrub is refined enough to make my hands look renewed without being torn, if you know what I mean. Some of the scrubs on the market seem to remove a little too much.

The hand cream soaked in immediately and left no watery or greasy residue - I could use my hands right away without sort of waiting for them to dry. The skin softening effect lasted most of the day.
The other product I use religiously now is Burt's Bees Poison Ivy Soap. The trick for me was learning that I have to use it every time I come in to shower, not just when I think I have contacted poison ivy.

Even if I still get a few bumps, I continue to wash arms and legs with the soap and it dries up any small rash that I get. So far, it has replaced the prescription medication I have had to use in the past.

So what works for you?

17 July 2008

Good Bug Bad Bug by Jessica Walliser

To spray or not to spray?
Jessica Walliser's Good Bug Bad Bug answers the question.

When lily leaves are chewed and the squash vines wither and die, chemical warfare comes to mind as the only way to rescue your hard work. Many products are available for wholesale attacks on insects but maybe that's not the first approach to try.

Jessica Walliser teaches organic pest management and has a new book out, Good Bug Bad Bug, in which she identifies the difference between the good and the bad. The weather protected, laminated pages of her book describe and picture 24 destructive pests and 14 of the most beneficial insects.

"This book has been a dream of mine for years," Walliser said in a telephone interview. "Students in my classes asked for an easy to use, affordable bug guide and St. Lynn's Press was willing to work with me to produce exactly what they need."

Walliser said that the book is geared toward anyone who is looking for safer and more natural solutions to problems in the garden. When people realize how many environmental issues a product like Sevin actually causes, they want to find something less harmful.

Each page contains a color photo either of the insect and or image of the damage they cause. You’ll also find its scientific name, lifecycle facts, tips for spotting the damage, a list of susceptible plants, what biological controls and preventive actions to use, and some organic products you can use safely.

"Only 10-percent of insects are actually harmful to your garden. The other 90-percent are either benign or beneficial," Walliser said. "People should ask for organic pest control products in their local stores, so managers know there is a market for them."

Many of the insects destroyed by a blanket of insecticide are pollinators, decomposers, or food for someone higher up the food chain. For example, baby birds only eat insects.

To move toward a more organic approach, eliminate chemical synthetics in the garden and put in plants that attract beneficial insects.

The task of planting things that attract beneficial insects is fairly easy since the list includes many common garden plants. All flowering herbs (thyme, dill, fennel, oregano, sage, cilantro, and basil for example), Shasta daisies, asters, cosmos, Joe Pye weed, brambles (berries), alyssum, lemon balm, goldenrod, yarrow, feverfew, and flowering buckwheat are all great choices.

The book is loaded with practical information to help identify insects and provides realistic and proven techniques to control and prevent them along with safe and natural products to manage them.

Four steps of pest management: 1. Identify the pest and the plant host. 2. Use preventative and cultural methods first. 3. Use beneficial insects to consume the harmful insects. 4. Use organic controls only when other methods fail

Stressed plants are more vulnerable to insect infestations because their immune systems are failing. Unlike healthy plants, which emit odors to let insects know that they are not a good place to feed, stressed plants send chemical signals alerting insects of their vulnerability.

The book has some fascinating information about insects. For example, beneficial wasps will not go onto plants where ladybugs have been for fear that their eggs or young will be eaten along with the pest. The ladybugs' feet emit an odor that the wasps can detect.

Another great tip: use floating row cover on young plants. Since younger plants are more susceptible to pest damage, the covers keep them shielded from pests and allow them to reach maturity pest-free. Peaceful Valley (groworganic.com) sells floating row cover as well as insect control products used by organic growers, seeds, etc.

And, rotate where you put plants from year to year.

For example, flea beetles emerge as adults from the soil where they grew last year. If eggplant is put in the same place with row cover over it, the insects are trapped under the fabric as they emerge. Put the eggplant someplace else next year.

"Nine billion organisms live in every teaspoon of garden soil, helping plants access nutrients and fight pests and disease.” Walliser noted. “Adding organic matter to your soil to keep the soil organisms healthy is a must. Organic matter includes compost, leaf mold, well-aged manure, mushroom compost and other organic material."

Walliser writes for Organic Gardening, Hobby Farms and Popular Farming magazines, along with several newspapers. She co-authored the 2007 book, Grow Organic.

Good Bug Bad Bug, published 2008, $16.95 at your local bookstore and St. Lynn's Press (stlynnspress.com) and $11 online.

Podcasts of Walliser's "The Organic Gardeners" radio shows are available for computer listening at www.lime.com/radio/the_organic_gardeners/podcast.

16 July 2008

Easy Peasy Zinnias

This year we planted a few kinds of zinnias from seed.

The first photo is a new bed at the back of our 2 acre plot. The cosmos is going to seed for the birds, but you can see the zinnias mixed in the bed.
Also in this new bed are Asclepias, marigold, castor bean, Bishop's weed, hibiscus, and a few other butterfly and skipper friendly plants.

My eventual goal is to make that
back area into a Monarch Butterfly
station for October when they
migrate through our area.

These little button zinnias are
very rewarding! They produce
dozens of flowers on each plant
and require nothing except a little water and weeding.

The spider zinnias are at least 3-feet tall
with the first blooms on the top.
All the zinnias are from Renee's and this photo is
from her website. I got the seeds last spring but just put them in pots about 5 days ago.
They are up and should have plenty of time to
develop into the fall pick-me-up our flower
beds always need by September.

15 July 2008

Hardy Hibiscus Growing Wild

Photos of wild Hardy Hibiscus growing on Highway 69 south of Muskogee arrived via email from Andy Qualls of the Oklahoma Conservation District.

Hardy Hibiscus, Hibiscus Moscheutos, is also called Swamp Mallow and Rose Mallow.

"The Hardy hibiscus on the wetland on US 69 is just now beginning to bloom and will bloom more heavily over the next few weeks. The flowers only last one day but each morning a new crop of flowers blooms. Those have large flowers (about 4") and are mixed colors from nearly red to white. In about a week they will be very nice and will last into August."

If you are in the Muskogee area in the next month, check them out. Qualls said they are south of the Bicycle/Hiking path overpass.

I'll try to find them over the next two weeks and give more details about the location and how to get a good view of them.

14 July 2008

Fruit Beautiful Fruit - Waiting for Ripening

Hey! Lots of rain, sunshine, no late-spring freeze and we have fruit.




Every gardener knows, it's not over till the fruit comes into the house. Intervening variables such as hail, wind, bugs, disease, whatever can appear. But we have had one cobbler with apple tree fall, shared one nectarine and a dozen blackberries.
Hope springs eternal.

13 July 2008

Flora and Fauna

I set out with the camera this morning to get photos for this week's column on the new book, Good Bug Bad Bug. It's a great book and my conversation with author, Jessica Walliser was a delight.
This Swallowtail beauty sat on the grass in front of me long enough to show off for the camera.

By the way, click on What's That Bug to identify butterflies you see around your place.

It is annoying how many Bradford Pear trees the birds plant on our place. Some of them escape our notice until they are too big to easily remove. They are making fruit now and I have to admit that they are very pretty. Last night's rain was still on the berries when I captured this shot.

John Leonard, co-owner of Organic Gardens said in this week's email, "At the present time we are planting nearly 2 dozen varieties of fall crops including: winter squashes (I'm talkin' some crazy lookin' stuff!), pumpkins, cabbage, broccoli, & cauliflower. We'll cross our fingers, say a prayer, & go from there!"

What seeds are you planting?

This weekend I started seeds in pots: German pumpkin from Inge our German cousin, Black Seeded Simpson lettuce, mesclun, gourds from Jan at Hungry Holler, Apricot Blush Zinnia from Renee, and something else.

I keep trying to remember to put out some Morning Glory seeds along the back fence for late fall bloom.

We did a lot of pruning and trimming this weekend. The Walker's Low was cut back by half, even though the bees were dancing on the remaining flowers. Also, as I cut off the tops of the iris, frogs jumped out and gave me a look so I made little piles of cuttings for them to stay cool under until they find a new place to hang out.

12 July 2008

The Cactus Family - new book and an upcoming Eastern Cactus and Succulent Conference Aug 16

The 16th Eastern Cactus & Succulent Conference in Chelmsford, MA
Aug .15 -17 will be held as scheduled.

Speakers include Steven Hammer - of the Sphaeroid Institute, California, international authority on Mesembryanthemums, Haworthia and other South African succulents.
Ernst van Jaarsveld - Kirstenbosch Botanic Gardens, South Africa, internationally known authority on Gasteria and the Flora of South Africa.
Panayoti Kelaidis - Denver Botanic Garden, intl. authority on hardy succulents and alpines.
Mark Dimmitt PhD - Arizona Sonora Desert Museum, Adenium, Pachypodium, Trichocereus & more.
Dennis Cathcart - of Tropiflora, Florida, explorer and grower of bromeliads.

Click here to go to the conference website for all the information.

The end all be all 776-page book of cactus has been released by Timber Press.
The Cactus Family by Edward F. Anderson, Foreword by Wilhelm Barthlott and a chapter on cactus cultivation by Roger Brown.

I could do no better than the Timber Press website description, so it follows here.

This long-awaited, monumental work covers the Cactaceae in an encyclopedic manner, addressing 125 genera and 1810 species.

The most comprehensive single resource on the subject available today, it includes more than 1000 color photographs in addition to other illustrations.

The introduction to each genus concentrates on the discovery of the cacti, and the improvements in our understanding of them, many of which result from relatively recent investigation.

As stated in the foreword, "Cacti have a special fascination all their own. Miniature spiny dwarf cacti less than an inch in diameter are hidden in the arid regions of North and South America; the majestic columns of the giant saguaro, Carnegiea gigantea, dominate the deserts of Arizona.

Yet all these cacti, given time, offer the surprising paradox of brilliant flowers, their delicacy a striking contrast to the strong spines that keep the viewer at a respectful distance."

This remarkable diversity is fully described and illustrated in this authoritative encyclopedia, which is both scientifically accurate and readable.

The Cactus Family won the American Horticultural Society Book Award and Horticultural Libraries Literature Award.

This book is an accomplishment by any horticultural or publishing standard. The photographs and descriptions could make a collector out of a casual grower.

Biographical information about the author from the Timber Press site:

The late Edward F. Anderson was Senior Research Botanist at the Desert Botanical Garden, Phoenix, Arizona. He was past president of the International Organization for Succulent Plant Study, a fellow of the Cactus and Succulent Society of America, and a member of the Linnean Society, London. In addition, Anderson was professor emeritus, Whitman College, where he taught biology for 30 years. In 1998 Dr. Anderson was awarded the prestigious Cactus d'Or, given by the principality of Monaco for outstanding research on succulents. His publications include Peyote: The Divine Cactus, Plants and People of the Golden Triangle, also published by Timber Press, and Threatened Cacti of Mexico. He was also a contributor to several other books and published numerous papers during his more than 45 years of research on cacti. Edward 'Ted' Anderson passed away in March 2001.

10 July 2008

Rhododendrons in Lendonwood Gardens

Dr. Leonard Miller Knows Rhododendrons
Rhododendrons are members of the Heath plant family, a large collection of thousands of evergreen and deciduous shrubs that includes Azaleas.

Gardeners distinguish between rhododendrons and azaleas but plant botanists do not. Usually, rhododendrons are evergreen and usually azaleas are deciduous. There are other distinctions between the two in the leaf shape, number of stamens, etc.

What they have in common is a wide range of flower colors and their growing needs.

Past president of the American Rhododendron Society, Len Miller, has a collection of 300-rhododendrons at his Lendonwood Gardens in Grove OK.

Miller said that anyone who wants to grow rhododendrons in Oklahoma has to realize that all growing conditions have to be met and all are essential. He outlined those conditions as acid soil, moisture and drainage.

"Their natural growing location is on the northern slope of a mountain," Miller said. "They have to be well protected in Oklahoma in order to be successful."

According to Miller, rhododendrons can grow well here tucked under trees where they receive a maximum of 2-hours of morning sun and no afternoon sun, ever.

"Go out at 4:00 in the afternoon on a summer day to make sure the location receives no direct sun between 3 and 7," Miller said.

Rhododendrons need acidic soil and Miller urges anyone who wants to grow them to get their soil tested and amend the soil to achieve a pH of 5.5 before planting any shrubs.

"In my beds of established plants, the soil gets up to a pH of 6.2 to 6.5," said Miller. "I add sulphur at the rate of 1-pound per 100-square feet to acidify it. A cup of sulphur sprinkled on the ground (not dug in) around each plant will do it."

Miller said that rhododendrons have fibrous surface roots that are damaged by any digging around them. All of the plants' roots are in the top 6 to 8-inches of ground.

The soil has to be kept moist all year and the plants should be well mulched with pine bark mulch, not peat moss. Water rhododendrons when they are flowering, after flowering, during dry periods and late fall before the first freeze. Long, dry spells will require a soaker hose to get the moisture down 8-inches deep.

To plant a new shrub, Miller said to dig a hole 5-feet wide and 8-inches deep. Mix 6-cubic feet of pine mulch with the soil removed from the planting hole. Fill the hole and pile the pine-bark soil to make a raised planting area.

Remove the plant from the pot and cut the root ball in half. Spread the roots out, butterfly fashion. Plant the shrub above the soil level on 3 to 4-inches of pine-soil. It is a good idea to score and tease out the roots before planting.

Since rhododendrons' native location in on sharply drained mountain sites, drainage is key to success. The northeast side of the house is a good location.

"Sixty percent of the rhododendrons sold in Oklahoma will not grow here," Miller said. "Anyone who wants to grow rhododendrons should visit Lendonwood Gardens or other Oklahoma botanic gardens to see what is growing well."

Miller also suggested that potential growers do an Internet search for Taiwan hybrids and plant them in the winter.

"The Taiwan species and hybrids are a cross between hardy rhododendrons with those from the tropics so they can survive Oklahoma's hot humid summers," Miller said. "Rare Find Nursery sells the best ones for our area." (www.rarefindnursery.com)

Also, Miller is working on releasing hybrids for Oklahoma. One of the cultivars he recommends, Peppermint Twist, is available from Rare Find Nursery. It is described as having red buds, opening to rose pink flowers with red flecks in the throat and a white circle in the throat, which slowly grows larger each day. The leaves are glossy, dark green. A vigorous, compact, sweet rhody.

"Don't feel bad if your rhododendron dies," Miller said. "The nurseries sell what they can get and push them off as annuals."

Miller’s best advice is to visit his Lendonwood Gardens in Grove, look at the rhododendron gardens there and pick the varieties you like the best. Even on a 95-degree summer day, the shaded gardens are a relaxing oasis.

Dr. Miller began working on the garden soon after he returned from a tour of duty in Viet Nam 35-years ago. Lendonwood became a non-profit corporation 12 years ago.

Later, his family home and additional land were added to the public area. There are 300 specimens in the Rhododendron collection, one of the largest collections of false cypress in the country, 500 daylily varieties, 125 hosta varieties, 75-Japanese Maple species.

If You Go
Lendonwood Gardens is at 1308 West 13th Street (Har-Ber Road). Open every day from dusk to dawn. Adults $5 donation. Directions: From U.S. 412 take the Jay exit North on U. S. 59. In Grove, turn left onto Har-Ber Rd. More information www.lendonwood.org and 918-786-2938 or 786-8375. For wedding rental contact Teesha Kolczun at 918-787-9952.

09 July 2008

Two Gardeners Two Gifts of Seeds

Gardeners I have met are the most generous people. This week I met two plant-loving women in the course of working on stories.
The first one is Maggie Patrick who is a volunteer at Lendonwood Gardens in Grove OK. Maggie and her husband live on the property so she was walking through the same area we were admiring the view. She gave us tips on the gardens that made us feel as though we had had a private tour.
Then, on our way out, Maggie gave us seeds for a Japanese Maple that she is fond of. What a generous gesture.

I searched the Internet for planting help and the summary is this:
Soak the Japanese Maple seeds in warm water at least 24-hours. Then, put them into a baggie with 50-50 sand and peat moss with a sprinkle of cinnamon as a fungicide. Put the baggie in the front of the refrigerator for at least 3-months. Plant in individual pots, 1-inch deep with sand on top to prevent mold forming. Expect them to take 3 to 6 months to emerge.

On the way home from Lendonwood, we stopped at Hungry Holler to meet Jan Meng and to see her gardens and art.

Her address had been given to me at least a year ago and I have carried her business card in my change purse that long, looking at it every time I sort through the other stuff in there. I knew she lived between Grove and Muskogee on a road we do not normally travel.

Meet Jan Meng, gardener and artist of excellence. This photo was taken inside her studio which is piled with gourds and art stuff.

This photo is her Cottage Gallery where she displays and sells painted gourds, gourds made into night lights, the hand carved wooden utensils her husband, the Zen Spoonmaster, crafts, and the works of other artists in her circle.

For a lake house commission, Jan is creating stepping stones. These are a few of the completed ones set in place.

Jan's gourds are amazing art that starts with growing the gourds at her home in Eucha. On our way out, she gave me gourd seeds and seeds of the money plant to start in my garden. Generous to a plant loving stranger.

Gardeners leave my house with plant starts or seeds, whatever they fancy. It a constant joy to be part of this huge club.

08 July 2008

Good News for Montana Environmentalists

Grist reports that a 500-acre Nature Conservancy/Trust for Public Land deal in Montana is the largest in U.S. history.

The two entities are paying Plum Creek Timber $510 Million for the land. Habitat for grizzly bears, lynx, moose, wolverines and bull trout will be created. The lumber company will continue to remove timber using sustainable methods.

Montana Senator Max Baucus (D) added a tax-credit-bond-mechanism to the new farm bill and used it in the transaction. The Farm Bill feature allows non-profits to receive federal land purchase money through conservation grants.

Tip of the Trowel to Senator Baucus.