30 August 2008

Two Butterfly Houses in St.Louis MO

Can you imagine? St. Louis MO has two butterfly houses. Talk about pastures of plenty! The dome shaped building on the left is at the St. Louis Zoo and the one on the right is at Faust Park in Chesterfield.
The butterfly house at Faust Park belongs to Missouri Botanical Garden.

The Faust Park house had 1,200 butterflies in it today. It was built with private funding from foundations, corporations, individuals and membership. Each bench and rock has a donor name on it to acknowledge the community support for the project.

The project began in June 1997. The 8,000 square foot Conservatory Garden is sheathed in 646 pieces of glass. The center vault is 36-feet high. Another 8,000 square feet adjacent to the Conservatory houses classrooms, theater, and gift shop.

Christner, Inc., Bannes Consulting and BSI Construction executed the design, project management and construction.

It is a tropical house with only imported butterflies in it. Around the outside there are gardens loaded with nectar and larva food plants for Missouri native butterflies.

Go if you can.

St. Louis Zoo is home to their Insectarium with a geodesic-domed butterfly house. The house is smaller than the Faust Park building, admission is free and it has several hundred butterflies to enjoy.

The St. Louis Zoo Insectarium has a native plant garden for butterflies to enjoy outside.

Both buildings have plenty of educational displays and gift shops.

28 August 2008

A Quick Answer to Growing Lettuce and Spinach

Planet Veggie Garden has a blog entry tonight that offers a simple, yet terrific, solution to a common problem: Where and how to grow non-irradiated, safe salad greens.

One of the three blog authors offers a solution: Fill a banana box with potting soil and plant lettuce and spinach seeds in it.

She points out that produce boxes are heavy duty enough to last two seasons. Put heavy paper over that rectangular hole in the bottom. Put the box on bricks or wood so air can circulate under them.

Fill the box with potting soil or amended soil from your garden. Click on the link above to read their entire column.

27 August 2008

Barbara Lawton's Parsleys, Fennels and Queen Anne's Lace

The Not So Humble Umbel
There is a family that includes sweet, spicy and poisonous among its almost 3,000 members.

Barbara Lawton, award winning writer and photographer wrote about this plant family in her book, Parsleys, Fennels and Queen Anne’s Lace. Here are a few items from the book to whet your appetite to learn more and then add them to your garden.

The family name varies from umbel, Umbelliferae and Apiaceae, but includes the plant that Socrates used to commit suicide, hemlock, and one of American’s favorite vegetables, the carrot

In a telephone interview from her home near St. Louis, Lawton said, Gardeners can just wander around the mint family planting any of them. That is not true of the Umbels-parsley family. People don’t realize how poisonous some of these plants, like hemlock, are. Hemlock and Queen Anne’s Lace look very similar.

What would Mexican food be without cilantro or German food without caraway? Sausage has to have fennel and potato salad has to have celery. All of these are members of the same plant family.

They are all called Umbelliferae because most of them have flowers clustered into flat heads. Umbra means shade and is the base of the word umbrella.

The parsleys are all easy to grow, Lawton said. I can see butterflies all over the annual and perennial fennels I grow as ornamental plants. They drop seed and I have plants to give away.

Since many members of the family are scented, their flower heads were found to be used in graves 60,000 years ago.

Shakespeare mentioned parsley in the Taming of the Shrew and in Hamlet he talked of fennel. The Merry Wives of Wind mentions Eryngium or sea holly.

Victorian ladies, forbidden from speaking in a forthright manner, used flowers to symbolize their emotions. For example, Angelica represented inspiration, coriander stood for concealed merit. A tussy mussy bouquet, containing fennel was meant to praise the recipient.

Wealthy gardener and garden designer Ellen Willmott, financially backed botanists and plant explorers. To reward her generosity, they named plants after her.

A frequent participant in garden tours, Miss Willmott always carried seeds of her favorite plant, the blue-green sea holly. Every garden Willmott toured was secretly scattered with seeds. Today, Eryngium giganteum ‘Bierberstein’ is nicknamed Miss Willmott’s Ghost.

Lawton said, Miss Willmott’s Ghost (Eryngium giganteum) and amethyst sea holly (amethystinum) are sensational. Another asset is that they tolerate salt, so they can be planted near the driveway.

Many members of the Umbelliferae family are considered medicinal today. Common examples: Dill added to salads to aid the digestion of raw vegetables, Celery is mixed with heavy foods as a diuretic, Angelica is added to liquors to aid kidneys. Caraway cleans the breath after spicy foods and aids digestion. Salmonella bacteria are killed by coriander and fennel is used to treat fatigue.

Parsley is widely used to soothe upset stomach, as well as to cure kidney and bladder problems. Anise seeds are chewed and made into liquor to be used as a digestive aid. Anise oil is widely used to soothe gums, added to cough drops and mouthwashes.

The wild carrot that grows in our ditches is commonly called Queen Anne’s Lace. The World Carrot Museum (carrotmuseum.co.uk) says that there is carrot pollen in fossils from 55-million years ago and that the first carrots were purple and white.

Parsnip roots are sweeter and more nutritious than their cousin, the carrot. The Emperor Tiberius enjoyed them so much he had them imported them from the Rhine River for his table in Rome.

Another popular parsley, Rattlesnake master (Eryngium yuccifolium), is an OK native, said Lawton. People are re-discovering these wonderful prairie plants to use in their gardens.

Most members of the family are pest free unless you consider butterfly caterpillars to be pests. Black swallowtail butterflies are sometimes called parsnip swallowtail because of their food preference.

This book is a fun, interesting and inspiring read. It contains chapters on native Umbels, the best ones for the gardener, the herbalist and dried flower arranger with color plates and historic drawings. Reading it will make you want to add Umbels to your garden.

Parsleys, Fennels and Queen Anne’s Lace was published in 2007 by Timber Press. $30 at www.timberpress.com and $20 at online booksellers.

26 August 2008

Video of Exotic Garden in Australia

ABC's show, Gardening Australia, has video clips of not-to-be-missed garden interviews. Melbourne's Botanic Gardens is the site of the newest interview and tour.

Jeremy Prentice, Curator is interviewed on this one. Click and enjoy before the clip is taken off the website!

The title is Tropical Hothouse and the date is 23/08/2008.

Jeremy's blog about the Melbourne Glasshouse is called the Natural Ponderer.

He is the administrator of http://tropicaltalk.freeforums.org/
An International Network of Horticulturalists

And there is a link to a U. Conn. botanist's blog,
Burger's Onion blog is at http://burgersonion.blogspot.com/
Weird Botany and Horticulture

Then, there is The Mindful Gardener blog link on his site, written by an American horticulturist who is practicing Thich Nhat Hahn's mindfulness meditation while working at a large commercial nursery business.


The Late August Garden

The monarch butterfly caterpillars keep getting this big and disappearing. Are the birds eating them or are they making chrysalis and becoming adult butterflies?

Sharon Owen gave me some Spreen a few years ago and it's grandchildren came up in unlikely places this year. One plant came up through the weed prevention cloth in the bramble bed. This photo is the view at the back of the blackberry bed (on the right). On the left, is a hedge of Manhattan Euonymus (Euonymus kiautschovicus 'Manhattan' )along the chainlink fence.
Here is a closeup of the (Lambsquarters) Spreen.

One of the Google alerts I have is vermicompost as we are still learning about how to maximize the health and usefulness of our compost worm beds. Here's a link to an Australian site with 10-helpful-tips for vermicompost success. Mother Earth Worms 10 Best Tips

25 August 2008

Muskogee OK Learning Garden and Butterfly Sanctuary

Butterfly Love

Tourism proponents say Muskogee’s natural resources already are drawing tourists and will bring more with an addition to Honor Heights Park.

Matthew Weatherbee, a member of the Muskogee Parks and Recreation Board, recently presented plans for a butterfly garden and sanctuary to the Public Works Committee.

The garden is a highlight of a larger plan called Birds, Blooms and Butterflies, which has been under development for several years.

Weatherbee says the garden will fit in nicely with existing projects.

It’s a part of a trend in ecotourism; a lot of people are visiting natural attractions like lakes, rivers and gardens rather than amusement parks,” he said. “So, it fits in with Muskogee’s tourism plan.

Other cities have been responding to public interest, Weatherbee said, a fact revealed in research done by Muskogee Parks and Recreation.

We looked at other cities have similar facilities, like Wichita, Tulsa and Oklahoma City, he said.

These butterfly houses have a really big appeal, not only for kids, but for adults also. When you have something that attracts the entire family, then it has a bigger tourism impact.

Weatherbee said the garden also will expand the number of people visiting Honor Heights Park.

Honor Heights Park is Muskogee’s No. 1 tourism attraction right now, but much of that is two times a year; the Azalea Festival and the Garden of Lights, he said. With the butterfly sanctuary and teaching garden, we’ll be providing an attraction to extend that tourism spike from summer into fall. The teaching garden will be fenced in with educational aspects including information about each plant and how they attract butterflies. There will be hours of operation, staff and an admission fee.

Based on the research and planning done so far, Weatherbee is optimistic about the tourism public embracing the garden.

I expect that it will be so successful that it won’t be long before we’re expanding it, he said.

That will make it even more attractive and provide more reasons for the visitor to return.”
Treasure Ruttman, vice president of Tourism and Marketing at the Greater Muskogee Area Chamber of Commerce, said that ecotourism is an idea introduced by a consultant.

This started in 2004 when the city hired Seth Davidson; he was all about ecotourism, she said. He came and reminded us of all the wonderful resources we have. Out of that, ‘Birds, Blooms and Butterflies’ was developed as a tourism product. It has been ongoing ever since.

Ruttman said all the pieces are coming together. Bird-watching already is popular and growing, the flowers at Honor Heights already are a big tourism draw each year, and the butterfly garden will complete the concept.

We already have all three products; all we have to do is package and promote them,” she said. Ecotourism is successful because a large part of tourism is learning. More people are taking vacations not just for the enjoyment. They want to see, touch and feel their vacation.

23 August 2008

Create a Small Cactus Garden with Expert Step-by-Step Instructions

Debra Lee Baldwin wrote a step-by-step article for the Los Angeles Times this week. Baldwin's book, Designing with Succulents is world class.

click on the link to read the entire column


Choose a small accessory first - a doll, a car, a toy robot, etc.

Then, select a garden container that suits your theme.

Put gravel on the bottom and then fill with cactus planting mix.

Try out a few arrangements while the cacti are still in their pots.

Make holes in the soil and use tongs to handle the plants safely.

Top off with stones, rocks, glass beads, sand.

Dribble with water and put in bright light.

21 August 2008


Put down the rake, trowel and packet of seeds. Take a few minutes to consider the joys of nature and gardening in other people’s words.
Photo: from the side of the shed


When in these fresh mornings I go into my garden before anyone is awake, I go for the time being into perfect happiness. Celia Thaxter

Every garden is unique with a multitude of choices in soils, plants and themes. Finding your garden theme is as easy as seeing what brings a smile to your face.
Teresa Watkins

Oh, Adam was a gardener
And God who made him sees
That half a proper gardener’s
Work is done upon his knees
Rudyard Kipling

A perfect summer day is when the sun is shining, the breeze is blowing, the birds are singing, and the lawn mower is broken. James Dent

Cultivators of the earth are the most valuable citizens. They are the most vigorous, the most independent, the most virtuous, and they are tied to their country and wedded to its liberty and interests by the most lasting bands. Thomas Jefferson

I never saw a discontented tree. John Muir

All my hurts my garden spade can heal. Ralph Waldo Emerson

Gardeners, like plants, invariably grow from small beginnings. Geraldene Holt

Man's heart away from nature becomes hard. Standing Bear

Each one has his own most real thing. Mine is the garden. Louisa Y Kings

Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished. Lao Tzu

I love to think of nature as an unlimited broadcasting station, through which God speaks to us every hour, if we will only tune in. George Washington Carver

Some people seem to forget that a plant is very like a human being. It is much nicer, of course, and much prettier, and much pleasanter than a human being, but we are bound to admit the resemblance. Beverly Nichols

For in the true nature of things, if we rightly consider, every green tree is far more glorious than if it were made of gold and silver. Martin Luther

The bountitude of nature is both infinite and infectious…contact with garden beauty sets free the better impulses of human nature. E. H. Wilson

Connection with gardens, even small ones, even potted plants, can become windows to the inner life. The simple act of stopping and looking at the beauty around us can be prayer. Patricia R. Barrett

The most noteworthy thing about gardeners is that they are always optimistic, always enterprising, and never satisfied. They always look forward to doing something better than they have ever done before. Vita Sackville-West

An addiction to gardening is not all bad when you consider all the other choices in life. Cora Lea Bell

Each within his green inclosure is a creator, and no two shall reach the same conclusion. Louise Wilder

At the heart of gardening there is a belief in the miraculous. Mirabel

Take an acorn and a shovel and plant a tree. When you replant the forest, you mend the planet. Diana Beresford-Kroeger.

Gardening has compensations out of all proportion to its goals. It is creation in the pure sense. Phyllis McGinley

Keep a green tree in your heart and the singing bird will come. Chinese proverb

The size of a garden has very little to do with its merit. It is merely an accident relating to the circumstances of the owner. It is the size of his heart and brain and goodwill that will make his garden either delightful or dull. Gertrude Jekyll

The sun, with all those planets revolving around it and dependent upon it, can still ripen a bunch of grapes as if it had nothing else in the universe to do. Galileo

Perhaps no word of six letters concentrates so much human satisfaction as the word garden. Richard LeGallienne

Forsythia is pure joy. There is not an ounce, not a glimmer of sadness or even knowledge in forsythia. Pure undiluted, untouched joy. Ann Morrow Lindbergh

Flowers always make people better, happier and more helpful; they are sunshine, food and medicine to the soul. Luther Burbank

Those who labor in the earth are the chosen people of God, if ever he had a chosen people, whose breasts he has made his peculiar deposit for substantial and genuine virtue. It is the focus in which he keeps alive that sacred fire, which otherwise might escape from the face of the earth.
Thomas Jefferson

20 August 2008

Tomato Seed Saving Strategy Using Fermentation Method

Are you saving any seeds from this year's garden for next year? I collected a supply of the hard to find nicotiana seeds and will collect others as they mature.

Mostly, I deadhead flowers and herbs and leave the seed heads on the ground where I want them to come up next year.

Victory Seed's website has a set of instructions for saving tomato seeds. The instruction headline says, "We find that the fermentation method results in clean seeds with high germination rates."

Each of the 12-steps are illustrated with photos.

Victory Seed refers readers to a link to AVRDC, The World Vegetable Center. Their illustration shows someone stomping on a plastic bag full of tomato seeds. They recommend no more than two-days of fermentation on their illustrated page of instructions.

I asked Donna, the writer at Veggie My Love for her tomato seed saving secrets and she generously provided her method. Click on the link for the complete directions that I'm just summarizing below.

Seed Fermenting Method of Preserving Tomato Seeds for Next Year's Garden
First pick the best of your favorite tomatoes

Squeeze the seeds and their surrounding juices into a plastic or Styrofoam cup

Then add enough water to ensure that after sitting around for a few days the liquid will not have all evaporated...usually I add maybe a teaspoon or two.

Now either you need to cover this with one of those 'Favor Bags' like you see at weddings at craft stores...they are made out of Organza material, and they do a good job of keeping the fruit flies at bay.

Then simply let the mixture sit until a nice fungal mat forms on the top...this will look kind of mottled and goopy.
Now it is time for seed cleaning. Take your fermented mess and gently remove the fungal mat by tipping the cup and helping the mat slide off with the aid of a toothpick, pick any seeds that are stuck in the goop out and add back to the liquid in the cup.

Fill the cup with fresh water and swirl a bit, being careful not to slosh out the seeds. pour off the excess liquid, again being mindful of your seeds.

Any bad seed should float to the top of the water and be poured away. Repeat this process three or more times until you are left with just clean seeds.

Pour seeds out into one layer onto a clean paper plate or paper towel and leave in a dry spot for as long as it takes for them to be dry.

Loosening them from the plate or paper and giving them a stir is a good idea 1 or 2 days into their drying.

Make sure to label with the correct name and date and store out of the light in a cool dry place.

Donna at Veggie My Love, is a perfect example of what makes the Internet live up to its potential.

19 August 2008

How Would You Rate Your Summer '08?

We are on the path toward the end of Summer 2008. How would you say your garden choices turned out?

Our beds varied from better than ever to Oh, that didn't work very well.

Big hits here, in no particular order, were San Marzo Paste Tomatoes, Lemon Cucumbers, Peace Rose, White Crapemyrtle, Shasta Daisy, Kandy Corn, Shrimp Plant, Wave Petunia, lilies of all types, garlic, Passion vine (red and blue), iris, daylilies, Snow-on the Mountain (native Euphorbia), zinnias of all sizes, Nicotiana, bulbing fennel, Asters, Black-eyed Susan, Castor Bean, Hibiscus, lettuces, Mexican sunflower, Phlox (tall perennial), Ixia, Canna lily, Nepeta, herbs (basil, thyme, oregano, lemon balm, mint), etc.

What will you repeat next year and what will you leave out?

18 August 2008

Best Gardens to Visit

What are the best gardens to visit?

I don't have the time or energy to go to all the gardens I want to visit. Take a look at this list compiled by an Australian and tell me which gardens to add that you especially like.

• Atlanta Botanical Garden, Atlanta, Georgia http://www.atlantabotanicalgarden.org/home.do
• Botanic Gardens of Baltimore, Baltimore, Md.
• Cheyenne Botanical Garden, Cheyenne, Wyoming http://www.botanic.org/
• Conservatory of Flowers, Golden Gate Park, San Fran, CA
Fairchild Botanical Garden, Miami, FL http://www.fairchildgarden.org/
• Hoomaluhia Botanical Garden, Hawaii http://www.co.honolulu.hi.us/parks/hbg/hmbg.htm
• Huntington Botanical Gardens, San Marino, CA
• Kanapaha Botanical Gardens, Gainesville, FL http://www.kanapaha.org/
• L.A. Arboretum, Arcadia, Ca http://www.arboretum.org/
• Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, Richmond, Va. http://www.lewisginter.org/
• Longwood Gardens, Kennett Square, PA http://www.longwoodgardens.org/
• Lyon Arboretum, Hawaii http://www.hawaii.edu/lyonarboretum/
• Marie Selby Botanical Garden, Sarasota, FL http://www.selby.org/
• McMillan Greenhouse, University of North Carolina, Charlotte http://gardens.uncc.edu/
• Missouri Botanical Gardens, St. Louis, Missouri http://www.mobot.org/
• National Tropical Botanic Garden (5), http://ntbg.org/index.php
• Sarah P Duke Gardens, Durham, North Carolina http://www.hr.duke.edu/dukegardens/
• Sherman Gardens Corona del Mar, CA http://www.slgardens.org/default.asp
• United States Botanical Gardens, Washington, D.C. http://www.usbg.gov/
• Waimea Arboretum, Hawaii http://www.waimeavalley.org/map.html

Jeremy, who compliled the above list is a horticulturist at the Royal Botanical Garden and has blog at http://tnponderer.blogspot.com/

What would you add?

16 August 2008

Cucumber Purchases by Women Declared Illegal by Al-Qa'eda in Iraq

This barely qualifies as garden blog fodder, but our cucumber vines continue to produce so much fruit and we are sick of them. But this story made my eyes bug out.
According to an article sent to me by a friend, Al-Qa'eda has lost credibility for enforcing rules on the most mundane aspects of everyday life.

These rules include a ban on women buying suggestively-shaped vegetables.
Sheikh Hameed al-Hayyes told Reuters that they regarded the cucumber as male and tomato as female. Women were not allowed to buy cucumbers, only men.

So, does this get me out of harvesting, watering and caring for our cucumbers for the rest of the summer?

15 August 2008

Bittersweet Fall Approaching and Diane Beresford-Kroeger Offers Bioplans for Gardeners

It's only the middle of August but it seemed like the end of September today as I spent most of the day starting the garden cleanup that I usually do later in the year.

When the 105-degree days left, they were replaced by mid-80's and rain predicted. That's not August! That's September.

At any rate, zinnias, tithonia, cosmos and nicotiana were deadheaded, weeds were pulled, daylily leaves were removed, fallen leaves were taken off daisies that look promising for a fall re-bloom.

The approach of fall bittersweet, isn't it? Does approach of the end of the gardening season make you sad?

Scientist, Diana Beresford-Kroeger, was interviewed by the New York Times and the column is at this link.

Beresford-Kroeger has degrees in Botany and medical biochemistry.

She said in the article that trees are chemical factories with complex strategies to survive. Their flowers contain oils to repel mammals but have fragrance to attract pollinators. Wafer ash trees protect butterflies by making them taste bitter to birds.

Her bioplan preference is to tie together aboriginal healing, Western medicine and botany into a reforesting plan for cities and rural areas.

U. Michigan Press has her book, Arboretum America, A Philosophy of the Forest.

The blog, Recreating Eden, says that Beresford-Kroeger is a gardener on 160-acres, who likes to use her medical knowledge to come up with ways to cure cancer and other diseases through her garden.

The blog says, "Having studied classical botany, medical biochemistry, organic and radio nuclear chemistry, and experimental surgery, Diana believes that the cures for cancer and other ailments can be found in her garden located in Merrickville, Ontario. Among her prized plants are 150 year-old morello sour cherries, chocolate smelling peonies and rare breeds of trees and plants long thought lost to deforestation."

In her book, A Garden for Life:The Natural Approach to Designing, Planting, and Maintaining a North Temperate Garden, Beresford-Kroeger urges gardeners to consider nature.
"If you garden do not forget nature. This is what the Bioplan is all about. The Bioplan tells you how to bring nature back into any garden. And by this I mean, you will bring back birds, butterflies, dragonflies, all the native pollinators, frogs and their cousins the snakes, mammals, and the kingdom of beneficial insects. All of these creatures need water, food, and a safe place if they are to stay in your garden. The ideas of the Bioplan are simple, but they are not being used. A garden is not just for flowers, in my opinion. It should have more than that to satisfy the soul. It should have diversity. A Bioplan brings diversity into any garden. For me, the first time a giant swallowtail butterfly decided to stick around the perennial border in the garden, I felt I was getting somewhere as a gardener."

Wouldn't it be wonderful if all gardeners could unite with her plan and fulfill her dream that we could collectively provide a place for nature, not just lawns, buildings and mega-farms?

14 August 2008

Big Floppy Flowers of Tobacco Smell Sweet

Flowering tobacco, Nicotiana alata, has such a beautifully scented flower that it is often called jasmine tobacco. The old fashioned variety has the best scent but new hybrids are more compact.

Nicotiana is classified as an herbaceous perennial in the Solanaceae plant family. Its native home is Brazil and Argentina (zone 10 and 11) so it is a summer pleasure in any area with cold winters. Northeast Oklahoma is zone 7.

Each flower produces a seedpod and each plant makes thousands of seeds. It will re-seed itself for next year in the same location, if the conditions favor it and the seedlings are not pulled up during the early spring weeding.

The seedlings are susceptible to being nibbled on by chewing insects such as beetles and tobacco hornworms, but as the plants mature they are less likely to need protection.

Nicotiana comes from a family of plants with poisonous leaves, including potatoes, eggplant, tomatoes, etc., so restrain from eating flowering tobacco or the leaves of any of its relatives in the deadly nightshade gang.

Wild tobacco, Nicotiana rustica, is also known as Sacred Tobacco. Grown in Mexico and the U.S., rustica was and is used by some native peoples for ceremonial purposes. Now the plant is cultivated worldwide for its nicotine content. At one time the Nicotiana leaves were used to make a poison for arrows.

Sharon Owen, owner of Moonshadow Herb Farm, grows ceremonial tobacco for her clients.
Owen said she grows Huichol (N. langsdorfii), an annual that grows to 3 ft tall and has green-yellow flowers.

Huichol is very potent ceremonial and smoking tobacco, said Owen. Another variety I grow is Hopi (N. rustica). It has a very high nicotine content. Huichol is considered to be one of the first plants ever cultivated.

Owen also said that tobacco needs well-drained soil, even some sand. A heavy feeder, tobacco benefits from a good side dressing of manure.

I always have the 2 ceremonial tobaccos for spring sales, said Owen. I do not grow the ornamental kinds.

The new, ornamental Nicotiana varieties have been bred to be shorter with flowers that open during the day but they are not fragrant.

The flower scent is the main reason to grow the cottage garden varieties Nicotiana alata and Nicotiana Sylvestris. In Victorian times, N. Sylvestris was called woodland tobacco. It was planted along paths in gardens to provide a scented treat during evening walks, when ladies stayed out of the sun.

Their disadvantage is that they open at night and are so tall by the end of the summer that they fall over.

Other scented alata varieties have names such as Nicki Pink, Nicki Green, Nicki Lime etc. Look for intermediate hybrid names like Fragrant Cloud, Grandiflora and Sensation when shopping for seeds.

One unique variety, Nicotiana langsdorffii 'Variegata', has Chartreuse bell-shaped flowers with blue pollen that makes a beautiful contrast.

Nicotiana seeds are very small. They can be sown directly into the garden in spring or started in March indoors. They prefer 64-72-degrees to germinate within 2-weeks.

Last fall a gardener gave me a few seedpods of N. alata. They were so tiny that in March, I laid the sheet of paper towel containing the seeds on moist vermiculite and misted them every day until they were big enough to plant into pots. About 70-plants made it into gardens.

The Alata in the name means winged, referring to the winged petioles. Butterflies and moths love Nicotiana alata; small insects become attached to its sticky leaves. Tobacco hornworms Caterpillars enjoy eating Nicotiana leaves. Jean Nicot introduced the plant in France, so it was named for him.

-Baker Creek Seeds (http://rareseeds.com), Nicotiana alata seeds, Fragrant Delight and Scentsation Mix 100-seeds $2.25.
-Burpee Seeds, www.burpee.com, Nicotiana Marshmallow with rose, pink and white flowers. 30-seeds, $3.50. Nicki, mixed colors is 100 for $2.75.
-Native Seeds Search, (http://www.nativeseeds.org/v2/content.php?catID=1024), a site full of seed resources. Native Seeds free to Native Americans of the Southwest.
-Seed Savers (http://www.seedsavers.org), 250 night-scented Woodland Tobacco seeds $2.75.
-Swallowtail Garden, www.swallowtailgardenseed.com, Nicotiana x sanderae, 12 inch plant with lightly fragrant blooms in peach, rose, crimson, lime green, pink, purple, red, salmon-pink and white. 100 seeds, $2.25.
-Victory Seed, www.victoryseeds.com, 700 Nicotiana Sylvestris seeds for $3.00. Owen uses this as one of her sources.

I have collected several seedpods this month. If you would like free seeds, send an email to mollyday1@gmail.com and I'll share the bounty!

13 August 2008

Green Greener Greenest

Mirror mirror on the wall who is the greenest of them all?
picture from Project Gutenberg via wikimedia

Announcements are coming out of the big box stores letting consumers know how green they are. Here are a few of them. Want to pick the winner?

From the New York Times
... the nation’s biggest store chains are coming to see their immense, flat roofs as an untapped resource. In recent months, chains including Wal-Mart Stores, Kohl’s, Safeway and Whole Foods Market have installed solar panels on roofs of their stores to generate electricity on a large scale. One reason they are racing is to beat a Dec. 31 deadline to gain tax advantages for these projects.

In the coming months, 85 Kohl’s stores will get solar panels; 43 already have them.

Macy’s, which has solar panels atop 18 stores, plans to install them on another 40 by the end of this year.

Safeway is aiming to put panels atop 23 stores. And other chains, including Whole Foods Market, BJ’s Wholesale Club and REI, the purveyor of outdoor goods, are planning projects of their own.

Wal-Mart, the nation’s largest retailer, has 17 stores and distribution centers with solar panels in operation or in the testing phase. It plans to add them soon to five more stores.

Depending on location and weather, the solar panels generate 10 to 40 percent of the power a store needs.
If Wal-Mart eventually covered the roofs of all its Sam’s Club and Wal-Mart locations with solar panels, figures from the company show that the resulting solar acreage would roughly equal the size of Manhattan , an island of 23 square miles.

Booming demand in recent years has driven up the price of solar panels, and analysts say it costs far more to generate electricity from solar energy than from coal.

Coal generation costs about 6 cents for a kilowatt hour, which is enough electricity to run a hair dryer for an hour.

Most of the efforts so far are in California , New Jersey and Connecticut , states that offer generous incentives.

Corporate officials describe a federal tax credit for renewable energy, one that Congress has let expire and then renewed several times, as particularly important.

Retailers are fast becoming energy experts. They are experimenting with traditional solar panels, a new type of thin solar panel and ground-mounted tracking systems that move with the sun. They are also combining those systems with other rooftop technologies like skylights and solar water heaters.

In Germany , there are none of the concerns you find in the United States about whether support will be around next year, said Jenny Chase, an energy analyst in London .
Retailers in the United States tend to buy their own solar-power systems, at $4 million to $6 million for a store the size of a Wal-Mart, or enter into an agreement with a utility company that pays the up-front costs and then gives the store a break on power bills — an approach that appeals to big chains.

Retailers are also looking at other ways to extend their use of renewable energy by testing technologies like wind turbines and reflective white roofs, which keep buildings cooler in warm weather.

Bernard Sosnick, an analyst with Gilford Securities who has examined Wal-Mart’s plans, said the day might come when people can pull their electric cars up to a store and recharge them with power from the roof or even from wind turbines in the parking lot.
It’s not as over the horizon as it might seem,he said. Picture from an outing on Grand Lake
For consumers, a trip to Ikea, will get the job done according to Green Business Times. If the other states would join the first three and offer tax incentives, more and more businesses would invest in a greener future.

And, if you would like your very own talking mirror, there is one. The Magic Message Mirror from Thematics can be yours .

12 August 2008

New Plants Revealed in Detail

The Royal Horticulture Society has long carried the standard for serious gardeners.

There is some good news for the rest of us. One of the new blogs at the RHS site is dedicated to new plant finds.

The blog is called My Garden and is written by Graham Rice. So far, the new plants Rice presents information on include new roses, a red rudbekia, the best pansies, hot papaya echinacea, a rose scented begonia, and many more of interest.

Also, Rice provides links to his other informative articles that we might not have access to otherwise.

Well worth a click.

11 August 2008

Very Cool Links

This beauty is blooming in the mid-August rain

Here are some great links to click on. They aren't gardening related but are smart.

LED lighting for bicycles

World record bike jump

Phenomenal photos

Enjoy the views.

09 August 2008

Plants that Respond Well to Root Cutting Propagation

Aha! Using different search terms I found a Fine Gardening article that lists the plants best suited to root cutting propagation. Written by Hunter Stubbs, horticulturist, writer, landscaper, owner of BB Barns Landscape Company.

Stubbs' illustrated instructions will help even those of us who are novices succeed.

Click on the link above and choose printer friendly version.

These are the plants Stubbs recommended for root cutting propagation. I'm encouraged to try to propagate my Joe Pye Weed.

Woody Plants
Figs (Ficus carica) zones 6–9
Glory bowers (Clerodendrum spp. and cvs.) zones 7–11
Hydrangeas (Hydrangea paniculata and cvs.) zones 4–8
Lilacs (Syringa vulgaris cvs.) zones 4–8
Mock oranges (Philadelphus coronarius and cvs.) zones 4–9
Oregon grapehollies (Mahonia aquifolium and cvs.) zones 6–9
Pussy willow (Salix discolor) zones 4–8
Raspberry (Rubus biflorus) zones 6–9
Red- and yellow-twig dogwoods (Cornus stolonifera and cvs.) zones 3–8
Rose of Sharons (Hibiscus syriacus cvs.) zones 5–9
Roses, nongrafted types (Rosa spp. and cvs.) zones 2–11
Sumac (Rhus typhina) zones 3–8
Trumpet vine (Campsis radicans) zones 5–9
Weeping willow (Salix babylonica) zones 6–9

Barrenworts (Epimedium spp. and cvs.) zones 4–9
Bear’s breeches (Acanthus mollis) zones 7–11
Blue stars (Amsonia spp. and cvs.) zones 3–10
Cardoon (Cynara cardunculus) zones 7–10
Colewort (Crambe cordifolia) zones 6–9
Comfreys (Symphytum spp. and cvs.) zones 3–9
Garden phloxes (Phlox paniculata cvs.) zones 4–8
Hollyhocks (Alcea rosea cvs.) zones 3–9
Japanese anemones (Anemone X hybrida cvs.) zones 4–8
Japanese aster (Kalimeris pinnatifida) zones 5–9
Joe Pye weed (Eupatorium fistulosum) zones 3–8
Oriental poppies (Papaver orientale and cvs.) zones 3–9
Pasque flowers (Pulsatilla spp. and cvs.) zones 4–9
Sea hollies (Eryngium planum and cvs.) zones 5–9

Propagating Root Cuttings

The Avant Gardener reports the resurgence of propagation by root cuttings. This is a method I have not yet tried but will experiment with now that Thomas Powell reminded me about it.

What has been your experience with root cuttings? Have you tried it yet?
Powell says it is the easiest and most reliable method to increase your stock of woody and herbaceous perennials.

By the way, do you know what a herbaceous perennial is? Russell Studebaker, former horticulturist for Tulsa Parks and garden writer for the Tulsa World, clarified it for me over lunch one day.

Plants that come back the next year are perennials. (Annuals are plants that come up from seed, live to produce next year's seed and then die.)

Woody perennials leave their stems above ground over the winter. Herbaceous perennials leave no trace. They are the ones that make gardeners say, "Oh, look it came back!" and dance with glee the rest of the day.
Green stemmed perennials (as opposed to woody stemmed) are the herbaceous ones.

So you have a perennial that you love and you would like to make a few clones of it for next year either because you enjoy a challenge, would like to save money, or, both.

-Take 3-to-6-inch-root cuttings the thickness of a pencil near the stem or trunk, late fall to early winter. The end nearest the trunk is cut straight across. The other end is cut at an angle.
-Immediately plant cuttings horizontally, one-half inch deep in flats.
-Woody root cuttings must remain moist, cool and receive no more than 50% light in a shady spot.
-A planting mix that contains 50% worm castings in the planting mix is known to improve healthy roots and growth.
Not all plants are good candidates for root cutting propagation. Have you tried any of yours? Would you try this method with any of the plants you want to make more of?
LINKS ON MY SEARCH (many repeated the same info so the duplicates are left out)
Stem cutting propagation information from North Carolina State University, with tips and techniques for home gardeners.
Take cuttings from newer root growth. Make cuttings 1 to 4 inches long from roots that are 1/4 to 1/2 inch in diameter.
Cuttings should be taken during the dormant season. Cut straight through the end of the root closest to the stem. Cut the other end on a slant. This allows you to remember which end is the top (the straight cut) and which is the bottom (the diagonal cut).
Store cuttings from dormant roots for 3 weeks in moist rooting medium at 40 degrees F. Remove from storage and plant upright in the growing medium.
Keep moist and warm, in a bright location until growth and weather permit acclimatizing to the outdoors.
If root cuttings are taken during active growth, skip the storage period and place cuttings directly in the rooting medium. For smaller plants, take 1- to 2-inch sections.
Place cuttings horizontally a half inch below the surface of the rooting medium. These cuttings should be handled indoors or in a hotbed.
The fine roots of many perennials are used for propagation.
Root cuttings of some variegated plants will lose their variegation.

07 August 2008

Monarch Butterflies are Here

Monarch butterflies are finding the Asclepias we planted for them. There are a dozen tiny caterpillars, several mid-size ones and these fairly large ones.

To see Monarch adults, pupae, Monarch Watch has photos. Big Sur California has a

Monarch Walk every year. Their site is informative also.

Monarchs are the only butterfly to commute such long distances with the season change. They return to their winter roosts and sometimes even to the same tree. Individual butterflies make the round trip from the Great Lakes to Mexico once. the Monarchs we see the following fall are their great-grandchildren.

The stages they go through are egg, caterpillar, pupa/chrysalis and adult butterfly.

The eggs hatch in 5 to 10 days and the caterpillar eats the egg shell.

They eat milkweed and as they grow out of their skin/cuticle, they molt. They eat that skin and grow another cuticle. This happens 4-times.

After the 4th molt, the caterpillar creates a green chrysalis that hangs in shade under a leaf for 2-weeks. When the butterfly has developed, its chrysalis becomes clear, revealing the butterfly within. Its legs move down splitting the chrysalis. The legs harden.

There are photos of the process here.

The resulting butterfly weighs one gram. It will fly to Mexico for the winter.

The North America Butterfly Association site says that when weather is bad, butterflies hunker under leaves or between blades of grass and sleep.

Monarch Butterfly U.S.A. is one of the best designed and most informative sites I found. It answers the life cycle question that many ask, "How long do they live?"

The entire lifecycle lasts 6 to 8 weeks: Four days inside the egg, 2-weeks as a caterpillar, 10-days in the pupa/chrysalis, 2-6-weeks as an adult butterfly.

Monarch females lay around 700 eggs over a period of 2-to-4-weeks, one egg at a time. Monarch Lab at the University of Minnesota has this information and projectsfor teachers and schools.

Ilse Hoppenberg's videos on YouTube are extraordinary. Watch the caterpillar emerge from the egg, the caterpillar molt, become a pupa and then emerge as a butterfly. Outstanding!

Artists Jan and Marc Meng Live and Create Functional Beauty at Hungry Holler

Hungry Holler art center is a must see.

Jan Mohr Meng and her husband Marc garden and create art on 6-acres they bought between Grove and Pryor in 1992.

The work of both Jan and Marc are inspired by nature. Marc is known as the Zen Spoonmaster for the wooden spoons he carves and Jan is known for her gourd carving and painting.

The Mengs named their place, Hungry Holler and have put such a unique stamp on the place that Discover Oklahoma has recorded a show about them that is scheduled to run this Saturday at 6:30 p.m.

The gourds that Jan grows to paint are all hard shell gourds, Lagenaria siceraria.

Meng said that gourds are the planet's most giving natural product. They have been used in art and for utilitarian tools for thousands of years.

Jan's tips for growing bottle gourds
- Location: Plant seeds in sun near a source of water when the soil warms up to 70-degrees in spring. They like compost and a place to climb. You may want to plant them where you can enjoy their evening bloom.
- How to plant: Disturb the soil and plant the seeds, then rake them in.
- Water well and keep watering.
-Each vine has both male and female flowers. The female flowers have a tiny fruit behind the bloom.

“My best advice is don’t fuss about them. I have made rich beds for gourds and then the best ones come up as volunteers in my driveway," said Meng.

How to prepare gourds for art: When the gourds form, leave them on the vine until the vine freezes. Allow them to dry outdoors all winter. Before the vine gets too winter dessicated, cut the gourds from the main vine leaving a T where the gourd attached to the main vine. Tie a cord around the stem using the T for a stop. Using the cord hang gourds from trees or your patio, wherever you can watch the interesting process as it evolves, and let them dry. The green skin will turn black and fuzzy while the fruit dries. Around February or March when the moldy skin is hydrated from a spring rain, use an aluminum or copper pot scrubber and clean it off. It is a good idea to wear gloves and a mask to protect yourself from gourd dust. When clean, the gourd canvas is ready to paint.

Meng is featured in the 2006 book, edited by David Macfarlane, "Beyond the Basics: Gourd Art" published by Sterling (www.sterlingpublishing.com $12.95).

A gourd artist writes each chapter of this beautiful book. Meng wrote an introductory chapter, “The Gourd Story”, and a chapter on how to create a Giraffe Gourd Vessel.

Meng says, "Gourds can break your heart. In the year it takes to go from seed to canvas, a gourd is subject to many tragedies: too much water, too little water, bugs, fickle fate."

In her introduction, Meng gives detailed and illustrated directions for cleaning and preparing gourds to be used as artistic canvas.

The how-to chapter illustrates the steps to using a homegrown gourd to create a work of art. The chapter provides lists of materials and tools required.

With 20-years of experience, several awards and international acclaim, Meng remains a creative gardener and local artist. If you have an opportunity to stop by Hungry Holler on Highway 20 near Grand Lake, check out the gardens, cottage gallery and artists' studios.

Jan said, "When the gate's open, we're open. We can be hard to catch on spring and fall weekends because we're at art festivals. If someone's making a special trip from a distance, they may want to call or email us first."

You will know you are at the right place when you see the bicycles suspended from trees at the front entrance. This art is Marc's creation.

Meng said, "Gourds were the world's first Tupperware. Anything you need a container for, you can use a gourd. I never met a gourd I didn't love."

Watch the Discover Oklahoma episode or you can see Meng talking about gourds in a 3-minute video at http://www.sonarta.com/event/video/124.

To learn more about gourds and gourd art go to The American Gourd Society (americangourdsociety.org) where Susan Feller (susanfeller@msn.com) is listed as the Oklahoma Chapter contact. The organization's website has growing tips and more gourd art ideas with directions and illustrations.

At their Hungry Holler store, you can shop for Jan’s concrete leaves, carved and painted gourds, gourd night lights, Marc’s hand crafted spoons and pieces by other artists. The Mengs also co-wrote a book about Arizona history, "La Paz, County of Peace".

Jan and Marc sell their award winning art at cultural events around the country. Contact Meng at Hungry Holler, Eucha OK, 918.253.4554, hungry3@hotmail.com and hungryholler.com.

06 August 2008

Golden Plants, Wine Stomping and a Horticulture Show at the Fair

David Zlesek at the Univeristy of Minnesota sends out an email newsletter, Yard and Garden News that always informs.

Today's issue has a survey of gold leaf plants for the landscape.

Zlesek lists and describes the time-tested ones
- Golden-leaved spireas, barberries, ninebarks, cutleaf staghorn sumac, gold bridal wreath, Garden Glow dogwood, golden mock orange, golden elderberry and golden smoketree.

WINERY GRAPE STOMP Dee Selby (dee.selby@stonebluffcellars.com) at Stone Bluff Cellars in Haskell OK sent out an email about their grape stomp which will be held this Saturday.
The White Grape Harvest Party & Grape Stomp is Saturday, August 9th from 7 to 10 a.m. Cost is $15 per person, RSVP to 918 482 5655 is required.
In an email Dee said, "People who attend the grape stomp & harvest party get a buffet style breakfast, a visor or bandana, 10% off wine purchases, a chance to experience grape stomping, observe the wine-making process as it begins on the crush pad, and, of course, do a little low-key picking. It's actually a fun time for everyone – the picking is an optional activity that's designed to let our customers experience a vital part of the winery's annual cycle of activity."
We recently went to the winery for a Sunday lunch and a bottle of wine with out of town guests. The restaurant is casual and the club sandwiches were terrific.
Mary Flanders, President of the Chouteau OK Garden Club, is looking for qualified horticulture judges for an upcoming show.
The Choteau club is sponsoring a horticulture show during the Pryor Fair, September 5th at 9:30. If you know anyone or someone else who might know someone, please forward this information. Mary's phone number is 918-476-8963.
We are anticipating a cool down to the mid-90's and hope most of our garden can hold on until then. In the meantime we are watering and the cucumbers are bitter from the heat stress.

03 August 2008

Nature: Birds, Fruit and Baby Butterflies

Tithonia, Mexican Sunflower, is so popular with butterflies and hummingbirds I wish I had more success with starting them from seed.
Some years, not one seed germinates. This year there were 4 plants from a pack of seeds started indoors and babied.

The apples were harvested today - we think they are gala but we lost the tag years before it ever produced fruit.

Tonight while watering I discovered a few Monarch butterfly babies on the Asclepias in the front walk flower bed!

The photo isn't very good but it's the best the camera could do with flash.

More garden miracles to come, I'm sure.

02 August 2008

The Edamame is Ready to Harvest

The Edamame (Glycine max L.) is about ready to harvest. You may already know that Edamame is the proper name for a soy bean. We started growing them before you could easily buy them frozen in bags at the grocery store. None of our local stores sell them fresh.

The food guru Mark Bittman has an Edamame preparation video online at the New York Times.

We just grow 8 or 10 plants to have the pods as snacks. Preparation is simple: Boil in salted water and eat like a peanut, removing the bean from the pod.

The Blackberries are being hit hard by the heat and are dramatically slowing down production of ripe fruit. The flowering has stopped completely, although we have watered them to try to keep them going.

Amazingly, this Black Beauty lily reached 6-feet tall and is still blooming to the tune of a dozen flowers open every day. The weather has barely fazed it's rugged nature.

Anything happening where you are?

01 August 2008

Stay Cool Inside

Very little in the way of gardening can be done when it is 105 outside. Today we watered and checked on things but plants struggle to survive the kind of soil temperatures there will be over the next few days. Even some of the shade garden plants in moist soil are desiccating. Poor dears.

For a hot weekend, some quality time on the Internet or with a book will fill the gardener's time.

On the gardening side, check out Felder Rushing's website. Rushing's books include some titles you may have read, "Tough Plants for Southern Gardens", "Passalong Plants", "Gardening Southern Style" and others.

Rushing's website is http://www.felderrushing.net/.
Click on links that interest you but be sure to click on the Felderphotos link on the left side of the page for some entertaining shots of his yard, friends and places he has visited.

UBC BOTANICAL GARDEN at http://www.ubcbotanicalgarden.org/ offers a botany photo of the day. The link is on the right side of the home page. Click through some of the photos and subscribe to receive one of these beauties every day in your email inbox.

On the pure silly entertainment side of Internet fun, go to http://cakewrecks.blogspot.com/.
The blog owner asks readers to send photos of professional baker creations that flopped.

He says, "wreck...er, cake...in question MUST come from a "professional" bakery: your local grocery, deli, etc. If an individual made it, then it must have been paid for with actual money. No freebies! UPDATE: I'm lovin' all the e-mails, so keep it up, people! "

AMERICAN SOCIETY OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTS blog provides interesting pieces in their blog at http://www.asla.org/land/dirt/blog/.

CAMBIUM GARDENING http://www.cambiumgardening.com/ is an online bookseller that offers gardening and nature books at a discount.

Stay cool.