30 September 2008

Grow Food Not Lawns

Ft. Collins Colorado has a new promoter of the national effort to convert lawns into vegetable and herb gardens. Grow Food Not Lawns is a nonprofit that was formed by Bob Jones to teach members of the community to grow their own food in their own yards.

Steve Solomon wrote Gardening When It Counts Growing Food In Hard Times a couple of years ago in anticipation of just such a time as the country seems to be facing in the year ahead. Solomon's online resource of free information is called Soil and Health. Here's a link.

Bob Jones and his cohorts are actually teaching citizens in local communities - how to compost, how to grow organically.

The Loveland CO paper, Reporter Herald, reported the story. Click to read. Jones has a Google group - Click here for more information.

Tip of the trowel to Jones.

29 September 2008

Gardener Writes About Her Oklahoma Gardening

The flower is a scented gladiolus, ABYSSINIAN GLAD
from Old House Gardens. If you don't have any yet. Click on over there and check them out. - 10 for $6.25 - I wish I had ordered the 50 for $27. They really light up the September border!

Dee Nash from the Oklahoma City area is getting started in the garden writing biz. She is an experienced gardener (over 25 years) and writer but new to combining them at the Examiner.

Please click on this link
and take a look at what Nash is up to on her western Oklahoma 7.5 acres.

Balloon Flowers or Chinese Bellflower

This lovely Balloon Flower, or Platycodon grandiflorus, is reputed to be easy to grow from seed. Have you tried it yet?

The seeds can be planted on the ground, uncovered, in the spring for a summer full of flowers. They don't like to be transplanted so plant the seeds in a partly shady place where you want the plants. If they like the spot, they will become a perennial and greet you next spring and will grow up to 2-feet tall.

Mine stopped blooming during the 100-degree days and is perking up again as fall temperatures return.

Removing the faded flowers will make them bloom more.

Leave the dead looking plant in place over the winter so you don't forget where it is in the spring. Cultivating around it can damage the crown roots.

Swallowtail Garden Seeds offers a pack with 100 seeds of pink, white and blue.

MOBOT says " 'Komachi' can be purchased as seed and may self-seed in the garden in optimum growing conditions."

What's your experience been with Platycodon grandiflorus or balloon flowers?

28 September 2008

Mums the Word

Diana Hartman is the president of the Oklahoma City Chrysanthemum Society. We had a good visit this Saturday and she explained how mums are grown for show blooms.

Hartman takes cuttings from March to June, roots the cuttings in her greenhouse, then trains each of them onto a bamboo stake.

She removes all of the leaves and buds (called disbudding) below the one show bloom so the plant can reserve its energy to produce one, large, perfect flower.

The National Chrysanthemum Society at www.mums.org is a resource for all things mum.

Clicking on the mums.org map shows that there are very few chapters - none in MO, KS, AR, NM, etc.

Hartman and her chrysanthemum buddies are the only chapter in our area. They started their chapter 5-years ago.

In an email conversation, the largest U.S. mum specialty grower, King's Mums told me that they are going out of business. Hartman said that when they close, it will be the end of an era since members usually bought their plants from the California supplier.

This is an opportunity for someone who is ready to start or expand a nursery business. Can you imagine fall without mums?

An Internet search for unique mums to grow yielded few choices -

Search parkseedplants.com and Shasta Daisies are the only choice.

Thompson and Morgan has a 15-plant special that combines 5-each of Reflexed, Incurved and Patio for 20 Euro. Well, plus shipping from Europe.

Faribault bought Mums of Minnesota and offers a good selection of garden decorative, football and novelty varieties.

If you enjoy mums, you might want to order some of your favorite varieties and keep them going in your greenhouse and garden.

Do you know of a good supplier? Please let us know. This research has made me anxious to buy a few.

25 September 2008

Fall Flowers - Caryopteris Sunshine Blue

The Autumn Equinox began September 22, at 10:44 in the morning. In poetry, this time of year is called the crowning time for our gardens. Only the daffodil season is better according to the poets.

Fall Equinox is noted for having exactly 12-hours of daylight and 12-of night at the equator. Therefore, in many myths, it is a time of balance.

It is a time for rituals of protection and reflection. The Greek goddess Persephone even returned to live with her husband Hades.

Everywhere you look in the fall flower garden, there are brightly colored blooms.

Summer annuals are tall and crowned with flowers. Zinnias, castor beans, 4-O-Clocks, coleus, petunia, alyssum, cosmos and marigolds are at their peak bloom time.

Perennials such as Canna lilies, phlox, and Sedum Autumn Joy are covered with butterfly nectar flowers. Dahlias have huge buds about to burst open, asters and salvias are sprinkling bright spots of lavender, pink, red and purple in all the flowerbeds.

Goldenrod, Joe Pye Weed, Eupatorium, Passion vine, and others will keep blooming until Halloween.

In the herb garden, the basils and sages are blooming. Even though the oregano and thyme’s flowers have passed, they have spread to carpet all the ground around them.

The milkweed pods are bursting and remind us to continue collecting seeds for next spring’s garden.

Collect the mature seeds of blackberry lily, zinnia, Mexican sunflower, and seed heads of your other annual favorites. Once they are completely dry, store them in marked envelopes. Put the envelopes into a storage container in a dark, cool place. If you have any of those little moisture-removing, silica jel packets that come in medicine bottles and many other products, put one in the container.

Other seeds to collect in a month or so: Purple hyacinth bean vine, Snow-on-the Mountain, annual salvia, marigold – whatever you have that you like. The germination rate might be lower than fresh seeds from the store but you can’t beat the price!

The fall flowering shrubs are showing off now, adding to the colorful celebration that should last until the first hard frost. Gardens have lots of purple, white and pink from Crapemyrtle, Beautyberry bush, Butterfly bushes, Chaste tree, Rose of Sharon, and the Blue Mist shrubs.

For striking fall beauty, Caryopteris Sunshine Blue is a standout.

The lime green leaves and blue, scented flowers combine to attract even the casual garden visitor. The flowers attract honeybees, butterflies and skippers. Because of its scented leaves and flowers, deer are not attracted to this shrub.

Its botanical name is Caryopteris incana 'Jason' PPAF. Its common names include Bluebeard, Autumn Blue Spirea and California Lilac.

Caryopteris is a member of the Lamiaceae plant family along with other scented garden favorites such as Catmint, Lavender, Thyme, Sage, Monarda, Oregano, etc.

All the 6 species in the genus Caryopteris are medium-sized woody shrubs with aromatic foliage and usually blue flowers. They were originally from the Himalayas and East Asia.

The Caryopteris Genus includes Bluebeard, Blue Mist Spiraea, Bluebeard Dark Knight, and First Choice. They all have blue flowers, but the leaves range from silver to dark green. In stores and catalogs, they are all called Blue Mist Shrub.

An earlier yellow-green leaf Caryopteris, Worcester Blue, is also beautiful, but is said to be less vigorous over time.

The leaves of Sunshine Blue emerge gold-green in the spring and persist on the 2-to-3-foot tall shrubby plant all summer.

Planting it in full sun near deep green shrubs such as boxwood provides a complementary contrast for the brightness of Sunshine Blue. (I put mine in south facing, part shade and they did not flower and thrive until they were moved into bright light with plenty of water.)

They must be watered during drought periods and cannot have their roots standing in water over the winter. Well-drained soil will protect the roots.

Prune in the early spring, to shape and remove broken or dead branches. Flowers grow on new growth so stems can be cut back to less than 2-feet to stimulate a fresh growth spurt and heavier flowering.

Fertilize in early spring with shrub fertilizer according to package directions.

Hardy in USDA zones 5 to 8. Northeast Oklahoma is zone 7.

Caryopteris Sunshine Blue was bred by an English plantsman, Peter Champion. Caryopteris is named from the Greek karyon (a nut) and pteron (a wing) referring to its winged fruits.

Mail order sources include Bluestone Perennials (http://www.bluestoneperennials.com/ and 800-852-5243) and Sooner Plant Farm (http://www.soonerplantfarm.com/ and 918.453.0771).

23 September 2008

Fall is the Right Time to Divide Perennials

Fine Gardening Magazine's Janet Macunovich has a terrific column on dividing perennials today.
(Read about Macunovich here and here. Don't miss that second link - It's how to access her articles online for $25 at practical gardening institute dot com. )

At the Fine Gardening link, Macunovich provides plant division tips with photos of the process plus videos.

The basics she covers include: Divide healthy plants in cool weather, starting at the drip line; keep the diggings cool and moist while you amend the soil; use the healthiest parts as transplants, and, spread them widely enough to establish their own root system

Scroll down the page for other helpful videos including how to divide plants with taproots, running roots, woody roots, etc.

Keep scrolling to find a list of what to divide when and how.
It's everything you need to know in order to rejuvenate older plants. When making divisions for your gardens put a few into pots to give as holiday gifts

Click here to read all about it.

.Photo: Sage at Moonshadow Herb Farm

22 September 2008

Fall Equinox in the Garden

It's here - the Fall Equinox ushers in day and night in equal measure.

The breezy, 85-degree day today was the ideal setting for dividing perennials, planting bulbs and cleaning up beds.

I thought we would be buying a bunch of plants to make the back bed look better next summer.

After reading Roy Diblick's book, I had a plan of attack. Many of the plants we already have were crying out to be moved and, or. divided, so now the bed is filling up with perennials we know will thrive there. I'm using Diblick's design ideas to hopefully have a prettier display next year.

Vaseline came out with a new set of products called Vaseline® Clinical Therapy™ that work well for after-the-garden hands, legs and arms. They seem to know that we gardeners actually work like farmers and need extra strength skin care.

(Most mornings, I put the lavender scented regular Vaseline in the plastic box on my feet before my socks and then my waterproof gardening shoes. You can't beat their products for basic skin care.)

The company sent samples to garden writers to try. They are nicely scented products that worked well for me. There are free coupons and free sample offers on their website (click on the blue Vaseline) above. Unscented Clinical Therapy products are also available if you prefer, and they work just as well.
At Amazon you can purchase the products or just read all the rave reviews.

The Associated Press article about lady bugs is now posted onto the website of the
Christian Science Monitor . Can you think of a better way to have fun teaching environmental preservation to kids than to take them lady bug hunting?

The Lost Ladybug Project is looking for people to help by photographing and reporting ladybug sightings.

20 September 2008

Eye-Popping New Daffodils from New Zealand's John Hunter

I subscribe to the daffodil conversation from the American Daffodil Society. John Hunter, a daffodil breeder with almost 60 years of experience, recently bred and grew these two beauties.
These are two of the photos he sent to the list and they are posted here with his permission.
John Hunter's contact via email is jahunter@xtra.co.nz
and by mail is
John Hunter Daffodils Patons RoadRD 1, Richmond Nelson New Zealand
In a Suite 101 column Hunter recommended these daffodils:
Bandit 2W-YYO
Florence Joy 2W-W
Centrefold 3W-YYR
Dream Maker 3W-WWO Raised by Spud Brogden
Freya 2W-YY
Sunchild 2W-WY
Gold Imp 2Y-O Intermediate
Pearl Drift 11aW-W Raised by Colin Crotty
Kiwi Magic 4W-W
Baldock 4Y-P Raised by Max Hamilton
Sea Dream 3W-W
Little Jewel 3W-P
Jamore 2Y-R
Helen O'More Raised by the late J.A. O'More
Polar Sky 2W-WWP
Sulphur Monarch 1Y-Y
Polar Glow 2W-PPW
White Sapphire 2W-W
Polar Venture 2W-W
Polar Flame 3W-OO
Pink Topaz 1W-P
Polar Morn 3W-YWW
Polar Convention 3W-W
Absolute 2W-YYP
Elfin Moon 2W-W Intermediate
Elfin Dell 2W-P Intermediate
The ADS website has a directory where you can look up each variety to see what its bloom looks like. Click here to start searching Daffseek.

18 September 2008

Muskogee Garden Club 2008-09 Year started today.

The purpose of the club is to provide an opportunity to meet new friends who are interested in plants and gardening. Speakers come to each meeting to teach, inspire and inform us about some aspect of making our natural environment more beautiful.

This year’s topics include America In Bloom, public horticulture at the Tulsa Zoo, shade gardening, seed starting, new trends in landscapes, curing plant diseases and Muskogee beautification projects.

The schedule of meetings below is an invitation for anyone interested in coming. Most of the meetings are held at the Kiwanis Senior Center at 119 Spaulding Blvd. in Muskogee.

Members serve as hostesses for each meeting so coffee and cake can be served at 9:30 a.m. This year, the business meeting will begin at 9:45 a.m. in order to give speakers time for their presentations. Meetings end by 11.

Muskogee Garden Club uses money wisely. All the money earned through annual membership dues, garden tour profits and the sale of garden gloves, is reinvested into the community.

If you drive down Chandler Road near the Okmulgee Avenue split, you will see one of the garden club’s projects. Members invested $1,000 in plants and amendments and the members donated a few hours of sweat equity to make the accessibility garden beautiful.

A thousand tulips are purchased and planted by club members every January on downtown Broadway St. Members also have planted pansies and summer flowers in the beds for the past few years.

The club awards annual scholarships to local college students majoring in horticulture. Trees are planted in the Muskogee Honor Heights Park Arboretum in memory of garden club members.

On June 13, 2009, the club will hold its garden tour in the Country Club area of Muskogee.

The public is invited to attend all meetings. Membership dues are $20 a year.

• Today, Cindi Cope — “America In Bloom.” Cope is the Chair of Fayetteville, Ark., America in Bloom. On the board of Northwest Arkansas Botanical Garden of the Ozarks, chair of the City of Fayetteville Tree and Landscape Committee.

• Oct. 16 — Jay Ross, “Who Knew, Plants at the Zoo.” Ross is horticulturist for the Tulsa Zoo and Living Museum, vice president of Association of Zoological Horticulture Inc.

• Nov. 20 — Russell Studebaker, “Beyond Hostas - Other Sociably Accepted Shade Perennials.” It is a one-hour slide program. Studebaker is a professional horticulturist, freelance garden writer, speaker, garden book author and garden columnist for the Tulsa World newspaper.

• Dec. 13 — 11 a.m., Christmas luncheon at Golden Corral

Jan. 15 — Martha Stoodley, “Start With Seeds - A Hands-on Introduction to Seed Starting.” Stoodley is Master Gardener, garden writer and former president Muskogee Garden Club.

• Feb. 19 — Michael L. Hazen, “Hot Trends in the Landscape: What’s New for 2009 Gardens.” Hazen is vice president, marketing, Berry Family of Nurseries. Berry family is the owner of Zelenka Nurseries, Tri-B Nursery, Park Hill Plants and Trees Judkins Nursery wholesale nurseries plus retail Sanders Nursery in Broken Arrow and Inola.

• March 19 — Matthew Weatherbee, “Top Five Solutions for the Top Five Garden Problems.” Weatherbee is a plant enthusiast and owner Blossoms garden center, 3012 E. Hancock. Information: 351-8384.

• April 16 — Mark Wilkerson, “Current and Planned Projects.” Wilkerson is director Muskogee Parks and Recreation.

• May 21 — 6 p.m., picnic and membership drive, Honor Heights Park.

17 September 2008

Any Ladybugs In Your Garden?

The Lost Ladybug Project is trying to find ladybugs.

Do you have any?

Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists and cooperators are seeking the public's help in surveying for once-common ladybug species that are now hard to find.

Researchers with ARS, Cornell University at Ithaca, N.Y., and South Dakota State University (SDSU) in Brookings want people to photograph every ladybug possible, and to send the photos to Cornell so researchers can inventory the insects. In particular, the scientists are looking for rare species, such as the nine-spotted, two-spotted and transverse lady beetles.

These beetles were common 20 years ago, but have become harder to find in the past few decades. There are more than 400 ladybug species native to North America, but some have become extremely rare, displaced perhaps by development, pesticides, non-native species and other factors.

Entomologist Louis Hesler at the ARS North Central Agricultural Research Laboratory in Brookings is particularly interested in the nine-spotted, two-spotted and transverse ladybugs because the farm community in South Dakota where he works has depended on these predatory beetles for years to eat insect pests that eat farm crops.

Urban gardeners are interested in ladybugs because they protect garden crops as well. Ladybugs also protect North American forests.

In a survey this past summer, Hesler and colleague Mike Catangui, an entomologist at SDSU in Brookings, found 1,000 ladybugs, but only about 10 each of the three rare species. Hesler and Catangui are co-principal investigators in the SDSU part of the "Lost Ladybug Project."

The project has two facets: the research component, which Hesler, Catangui, and other scientists in New York State are participating in, and the citizen science component.

As part of the citizen science part of the project, researchers are encouraging participation from students who are interested in entomology, agriculture or science.

Those wishing to participate can visit
ARS Scientists and Cooperators Surveying for Rare Ladybugs
at the Agricultural Research Service at this link.

Galveston Gardeners and Hurricane Ike

We are hosting a Galveston evacuee from Hurricane Ike so we have been compulsively watching for updated photos on the Internet.

Here is a link to the best collection of photos we have found so far. They were all taken and submitted by Houston Chronicle readers.

16 September 2008

Farming and Country Life - Lonely Farmers Hook-up

The cool weather has virtually stopped the tomato production in its tracks. I'm leaving the plants in place in case an Indian Summer arrives in a few weeks with a return to 90-degrees.

The basil flowers have been covered with honey bees and butterflies for months. Now the small migrating birds are taking the seeds. If you live far from Muskogee Oklahoma and find basil seedlings in your flower beds, you will know whom to blame - the birds.

Know any lonely farmers who want to meet a new sweetheart? Want to vacation on a farm? Looking for farm fresh products?

The website, Farming and Country Life has help for all that. And more.

The Farm Art click takes you to a list of facilities in England with art classes, restaurants and studios.

Europe's link invites you to vacation on a European farm. Want something that costs a bit less than a week near Paris? Click on farm jobs worldwide. You could sign up on line through an email and eventually arrange to take the family on a trip to help with the harvest.

Prefer the U.S. for a working vacation? Try Liberty Hill Farm in Vermont.

It would be a change of pace for city dwellers who want to have a vacation that gets them up and moving in a serene spot of the earth.

12 September 2008

Proven Beauty - A New On-Line Magazine from Proven Winners

Very new, fresh, and clever - check out Proven Beauty, an online magazine from Proven Winners.

Proven Winners introduces and promotes new plant varieties - mostly flowers and shrubs as far as I can tell. You probably have seen the Proven Winner tag on plants in good nurseries.

P. Allen Smith has an article, of course. The features include butterfly gardening, watering, drought tolerant plants, the difference between annuals/perennials, plant features, fertilizing, and more.

Click on the link if you would like to see the future of gardening magazines.

I have a tip for you.
On the left side of the main page there is a drop down menu. Click on it and then
click on Effects, the last item on the menu.
Set the zoom setting at 60 percent so you can read the pages without so much scrolling. You'll see what I mean when you get there.

There is a reader survey to complete if you want to share your point of view about this new publishing medium.

Thanks to Acres Online from Ball Publishing for the tip about Proven Beauty.

11 September 2008

Earthworms are the Culprits in the Spread of Ragweed Says the Weed Science Society of America

Here's an interesting tidbit you may have missed.
The Weed Science Society of America released this report.

Weed scientists discovered that “underground gardening” by earthworms is contributing to the spread of giant ragweed, a plant that causes sneezes and sniffles and is one of the nation’s most irritating weeds.

Earthworms help ragweed thrive by systematically collecting and burying its seeds in their burrows, said weed ecologist Dr. Emilie Regnier of Ohio State University.

In fact, we’ve found that more than two-thirds of all giant ragweed seedlings emerge from earthworm burrows.

The study focused on Lumbricus terrestris worms – commonly known as nightcrawlers.

Until now, nightcrawlers have had a stellar reputation among growers since their burrows promote water filtration and their eating habits help make nutrients more available to crops. The worms feed on plant litter they collect from the soil surface and store inside their narrow, underground homes. As the litter softens and decays, it improves the availability of nutrients in the soil. Now, though, it appears there is also a dark side to the earthworm’s work.

Our study shows that nightcrawlers are some of nature’s most effective weed farmers, Regnier said. They actively forage for weed seeds, pull them into their burrows and then ‘plant’ them under up to several inches of soil.

In fact, researchers found that worms collected and buried more than two-thirds of the seeds dispersed by a stand of giant ragweed. Each burrow examined in the study contained an average of 127 ragweed seeds, or 450 seeds per square foot.

While nightcrawlers collect seeds from other plants as well, giant ragweed is definitely on their preferred list.

We found the worms collect and bury 10 types of seeds in the same size range, Regnier said. But they have three special favorites – giant ragweed, bur cucumber (Sicyos angulatus) and sunflower (Helianthus annuus).

The link to the story came to me on the
National Gardening Association's blog.

Wildflower Workshops in Idabel

Native plants are part of Oklahoma’s heritage and many organizations, such as the Oklahoma Native Plant Society, work to preserve them for future generations.

Learning about Oklahoma’s native environment and planting natives in our gardens are two ways individuals can participate in preservation. Using native woodland gardens, wetland areas, native trees, grasses and flowers, reduce the amount of work you have to do to keep your surroundings beautiful.

Native plants are easier to grow and maintain than the imports from Europe and Asia because they adapt more easily to our weather extremes and soils. After they are established they require fewer chemicals and water.

These plants support the wildlife native to our area since they are already evolved to live in their shelter. In every area, as more development occurs, natural habitat decreases. The preservation and new planting of natives allows Oklahoma butterflies, birds and other species to survive.

The Oklahoma Native Plant Society is holding its 31st Annual Wildflower Workshop on September 26 and 27 at the Museum of the Red River in Idabel.

The Museum of the Red River has a collection of the world’s finest southeast archeological and historic materials, modern Southwest ceramics, contemporary Amazonian Kuna needlework and pre-Columbian ceramics from Mexico.

Ken and Marilyn Stewart of Wild Things Nursery, Seminole OK will be there Friday offering native plants for sale. Vendors will also include the local wood turners association and a gem and mineral club. Oklahoma Native Plant Society will also have a booth. There will be plant t-shirts and books for sale.

ONPS has arranged a full day of workshops and a plant sale on Friday plus interesting field trips on Saturday.

Friday speakers and Topics

Dennis Wilson, Topic - “Ecologies of McCurtain County”
Wilson is an instructor at Southeastern Oklahoma State University and Research specialist at Oklahoma State University Field and Research Service.
Berlin Heck - Topic – “Oklahoma Champion Trees of McCurtain County”
Heck is an avid birder, Retired Director of the Little River national Wildlife Refuge. Heck was formerly with National Wildlife Refuges at Great Meadows NWR, Concord, MA. Member of OK Ornithological Society.
Heck will describe the different environments that exist in McCurtain County which are vastly different than some of the other parts of Oklahoma. The Red Slough is a wetland and birding paradise and the pine forests of southeastern Oklahoma are unique.
Quintus Herron - Topic “A Vision of Nature”
Dean of McCurtain County Foresters and president of Herron Industries, the largest private tree growing company in the country. Quintus and Mary Herron received the OK Governor’s Award for building the Museum of the Red River, providing a $50,000 grant to the McCurtain County Community fund and contributions to the Oklahoma Forest Heritage Center in Beaver’s Bend State Park.

Lynn Michaels - Topic - “Those Darn Composites: How to Identify members of the sunflower family”.
Michaels is currently working on a degree in environmental conservation at Rogers State University and is Regional Director of Oklahoma Native Plant Society.
Bruce Hoagland - Topic - "Wildflowers of Mccurtain County" An overview of native plants.
Hoagland is Director of the Oklahoma Natural Heritage Inventory and Department of Geography, University of Oklahoma.
Dinner speaker Michelle Finch-Walker, topic “Oklahoma’s Forestry History”
Walker is Communications Specialist, Oklahoma Forestry Service, former director of the Oklahoma Forest Heritage Center and serves as fire information officer on Rocky Mountain Incident Management Team.
Saturday 7:30 a.m. Field trip to Quintus Herron Nature Center and Tiak Southern Coastal Plain Natural Area.

If you go
31st Annual Wildflower Workshop
Museum of the Red River Idabel OK

Sept 26 Speakers 8 a.m. through dinner
Sept 27 Field trips 7:30 a.m. through lunch
Registration form usao.edu/~onps/events.html

Registration $12
Lunch $8, Dinner $12
Field trip $21 includes transportation and lunch

Mail registration by Sept 15 to Lynn Michael, 9843 E 500 Rd, Claremore OK 74019-1361.
Information 918-381-0219 and 918-744-8001

09 September 2008

Gardening in Cooler Weather Today

Small invasive native trees got the chop today: Bradford pears, mulberry and their kin. If we don't get them while their trunks are only a couple of inches in diameter, it becomes a significant task to get them out.

Here is a useful information source:
The Gardening Launch Pad is a site that is loaded with links of interest to surfers around the country.

Their link for native plants is here. At the link, you'll find native plant societies, wildlife gardening, and plant information of all stripes.

In the garden today:
This is a milkweed tiger moth caterpillar
that was on a sweet smelling flowering vine. The Monarch butterfly caterpillars were also on the vine and subsequently made chrysalis on the fence near the vine. The vine might be Sand Vine which is growing and blooming all over our area right now.
If you drive with the windows open, the sweet, honeysuckle-like scent floats into the car.

The moth itself in rather ordinary looking. But the caterpillar - what a sight!

08 September 2008

Is Gardening a Zen Experience?

According to Zen Buddhist author Geri Larkin it is.
...an excerpt from Larkin's book, Plant Seed, Pull Weed
Seeds and seedlings grow into forests step by step.
In this growing they have the capacity to support societies where every single person is honored. All you and I need to do is start planting the seeds.
This is a small doing.
One simple act followed by the next simple act, resting when we need to rest, admiring what we need to admire.
Seeds to gardens, gardens to forests, forests to seeds to gardens, in an exquisite dance.

Is any part of gardening Zen-like? I asked myself this question as I went outside this morning. Just asking the question made the experience more ethereal and helped me focus on the present moment.

Attending to the task in front of me instead of doing it while thinking about something else, made the time much more pleasant. So, about 50-daffodil bulbs, 5 asters, 10 Azure Sage were planted, zinnia seeds were collected, ocimum basilicum Purpurascens (purple basil) seeds were planted, and gardens beds were watered, all in a sweet, quiet mode.

Give it a try.

The Larkin quote above is from a blog called, Explore the Spirit.
Here's another quote from Larkin's book at that same blog on 5/15/08.
In our gardens there will be constant weeds.
In our heads there will be weeds, as well.
Okay again.
We pull them once, twice, ten thousand times -- because we can.
Because we must.
Get out there and get dirty, my friend.
Nothing matters more.
May you be fearless.
May you make your life breathtakingly beautiful through your acts of generosity and compassion.
May these same acts make the world a cleaner and safer place for the children of our children.
Small acts writ large change history.

"Plant Seed, Pull Weed: Nurturing the Garden of Your Life"
by Jeri Larkin and
"Gardening At the Dragon's Gate: At Work in the Wild and Cultivated World"
by Wendy Johnson are the two newest books connecting Buddhism and gardening.
Johnson's book has its own website. Click here

Have you read either of these or another gardening-as-Zen-practice book? What do you think about connecting spirituality with gardening?

07 September 2008

The Joys of Gardening and Nature

Generally speaking, I am a beginning gardener. 35 years ago I planted a packet of flowers, 30 years ago I planted vegetables and a few six packs of flowers. 20 years ago I planted tomatoes and flowers in my back yard to make it pretty for a visit from my mother.

Then, when I took the Master Gardener classes five years ago, I began a gardener's education. I wish I had known decades ago how wonderful gardening could be.

Yesterday, reading the blogs and gardening columns, I found one written by an experienced gardener who said he had no luck growing eggplant. Even though I have to do battle with black beetles, I actually can grow too much eggplant.

Maybe I've learned something.
Or, maybe our soil and weather is better for eggplant than the gardener who wrote that article.

I have been complaining about raising dozens of Monarch butterfly caterpillars that don't seem to make chrysalis. This week, we have found 5 of them on the chain link fencing.

Monarch butterflies' life cycle fascinates me.

Monarch Pupa

This 4th generation is the one that flies to Mexico.
This butterfly just emerged from that chrysalis and is letting its wings dry so it can fly.

04 September 2008

Missouri Botanical Garden - A Plant Lover's Dream

A vacation destination for families and plant lovers.
For anyone who enjoys public gardens, the Missouri Botanical Garden is one of the ultimate experiences available close to home. It is considered one of the top three botanical gardens in the world.

Botanic gardens focus on teaching about the pleasure of plants, nature, landscape and horticulture as an art form.

Henry Shaw built the original Shaw’s Garden in 1859 after years of studying European architecture and landscape design.

Shaw immigrated to St. Louis in 1819 to further his business interests. Retired and wealthy by the age of 40, he turned his energies toward building public gardens on his 760-acre estate he called Tower Grove.

Today’s visitors to Shaw’s Garden, now called MOBOT, can see the original botanical library and museum and walk through the Linnaean House. Before Shaw died he arranged for the gardens to go into a public trust and his mausoleum to be built on the grounds.

The garden rooms visitors walk through each have a theme. As the seasons change MOBOT offers classes, events and festivals.

In the fall, the Japanese Festival and the Scented Garden are highlights. In winter, camellias bloom in the Linnaean House and in February there is an orchid show.

The Japanese Garden, Seiwa-En is a fourteen-acre strolling garden and the Margaret Grigg Nanjing Friendship Garden is a scholar's garden. It is filled with traditional plants such as pines, bamboo, willows, plum trees, forsythia, hibiscus, bonsai and cymbidium orchids.

The Kemper Center for Home Gardening, on 8.5 acres contains 23-residential scale gardens and an information center where classes are offered.

In 1960 the geodesic Climatron was built to display 1500 tropical plants. The structure, inspired by R. Buckminster Fuller is filled with palms, passionflowers, carnivores, water gardens, orchids and sea life from the Amazon. The temperature is kept at a humid 70 to 85-degrees to mimic their native habitat.

Other gardens include: Carver Garden, Victorian Garden, Children's Garden, Family Vegetable Garden, Fruit Garden, Ottoman Garden, Kemper Missouri Native Shade Garden, Gladney Rose Garden, Strassenfest German Garden, Blanke Boxwood Garden, Shoenberg Temperate House and Aquatic Gardens.

Dr. Peter Raven, director since 1971, built MOBOT into an institution that includes the original Shaw Garden (MOBOT.org), the Sophia Sachs Butterfly House (butterflyhouse.org), the Shaw Nature Reserve (shawnature.org), Missouri Botanical Garden Press (mbgpress.info), Earth Ways Center (earthwayscenter.org), Tropicos (tropicos.org), Center for Plant Conservation (centerforplantconservation.org) and Botanicus (botanicus.org) a free, Web-based encyclopedia of historic botanical literature.

Raven’s passion for conservation has led to MOBOT staff in Costa Rica, Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia, Tanzania, Congo, Madagascar, and Vietnam. There are sustainability and horticultural preservation programs in 40 different countries.

Raven believes that it will take a generation of children learning about nature, being out-of-doors, and becoming inspired, to keep the planet healthy through conservation science – the jobs and careers of the future.

Born in Shanghai, Raven collected beetles and grew caterpillars into butterflies by the age of 6. In Catholic school, in San Francisco, he ran track, learned Latin and collected rare plants. A Ph.D. in plant biology prepared him for writing 20 books and 500-scientific papers.

In his 35 years at MOBOT the garden staff grew from 85 to 350 and the volunteers grew to over 1200. (There are almost 200 volunteers at the butterfly house alone.) MOBOT has 35,000 members with a budget of $22-million. The $20-million research center now has 122,000-volumes and a graduate student program.

MOBOT’s horticultural plastic recycling project accepts garden plastic such as pots and flats, granulates them onsite and has them formed into plastic landscape timbers.

MOBOT scientists identify 200 new plant species every year from plants that arrive daily, wrapped in newspapers written in the languages of their home countries.

The Kemper Center website has to be one of the most visited horticultural sites on the Internet.

Plants of Merit (mobot.org/gardeninghelp/plantfinder/Merit.asp) and Plant Finder (mobot.org/gardeninghelp/plantfinder/Alpha.asp) are renowned resources for gardeners around the world. Several blogs for home gardeners are available at
www.mobot.org/gardeninghelp/hilight.asp and the botany site is mbg.net.

No matter which of the gardens you prefer to visit, MOBOT is a worthwhile St. Louis area vacation destination.

02 September 2008

Gustav's Gift of Rain

Inches and inches of rain will keep you out of the garden, thanks to Gustav. I'm going to make eggplant caviar. If you have a little time to surf the Internet, here are some sites I like.

The Dutchess Dirt newsletter from Cornell University is loaded with information you can use. Read this month's and sign up for future issues if you like it.

Have you stopped by Dee's Oklahoma blog, Red Dirt Ramblings? Great writing, full of heart, from a garden writer near Oklahoma City.

The EPA's Hurricane Gustav website is here.
NASA's Gustav site is here.

Lari Ann Garner's article on what goes on under your plant's visible parts is here.

Mrs. Greenhands garden blog is here. Check it out, you'll be entertained and charmed.

01 September 2008

Peek-a-Boo at the St. Louis Zoo

While visiting the St. Louis Zoo to see the Monsanto Insectarium we walked through the zoo to see some of the large animals. Have you visited a zoo lately? Where? How was the experience?

Mountain Valley Growers is having their annual fall sale. I had good luck with most of the plants I bought from their sale last year.

Southern Bulb has Oxblood Lilies on sale for $7 each. Is this a good price?

Thinking of fall gardening? Tulsa Master Gardeners email newsletter today came out today with a link to the OSU Fall Gardening fact sheet.

I tried to start seeds for a fall garden about a month ago, then we had that hot spell so nothing germinated. What will you be planting for your fall garden?