Showing posts from 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”. (

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 bl…

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 mazusradicans "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 prohibativethru 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 MazusmiqueliiMakino 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…

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 unt…

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 linkwill 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 o…

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 ga…

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…

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-hou…

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 th…

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 the…

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?
The Thymes 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 ren…

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 solution…

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.

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.

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.

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 pr…

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.
PanayotiKelaidis - 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 websit…

Rhododendrons in Lendonwood Gardens

Dr. Leonard Miller Knows RhododendronsRhododendrons 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 Okla…

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 Hung…

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.