Showing posts from October, 2008

Not This Week, But Winter Is Coming

Cinthia Milner wrote The Dirt: Do Not Disturb, for the Asheville, NC, Mountain Xpress. In the column, Milner explores the relationship between plants in winter dormancy and the pleasures of our own chances for rest in the winter. Milner says that by Nov 1, she has the bulbs planted and her garden mulched for the winter.
Click to read "The Dirt: Do Not Disturb"; it is a lovely piece of writing.

Here's the little frog that came in with the plants this week. Yes, it is time to bring the houseplants in, clean them up, repot a few and find the saucers we put away last spring.

Common wisdom dictates spraying plants with insecticidal soap before bringing them in for the winter but usually I check them over under bright light and simply rinse them off. A few spiders hitchhike indoors but they don't live very long once they are inside.

PLANT SENSE could be just the help we need for next season's garden planning.
Have you heard about this new gizmo for gardeners? Plant Sense d…

New-To-Me Seed Companies

This succulent is solid green in the summer. After the freeze, it turned a lovely pink.

A fellow gardener and a garden writer recommended two seed companies.
1. Chiltern Seeds in England at
2. Pinetree Garden Seeds at

Here's what I ordered from Chiltern
Calendula officinalis 'Dandy' Price: 1.60
Salvia horminum 'Oxford Blue' Price: 1.78
Corydalis lutea Price: 1.95
Calendula officinalis 'Art Shades' Price: 1.52
Cabbage 'Flower of Spring' (Heirloom open-pollinated pointed heart variety)Price: 1.43
Bean, Climbing French (or Pole) 'Hunter' (flat pods) Price: 2.23
Lettuce Mixed Varieties Price: 1.90

From Pinetree Garden Seeds I ordered
MAMMOTH RED CLOVER 1 1/2 LBS Price: $5.95
ALMA PAPRIKA PEPPER (70 days) Price: $1.30
PIMENTO PEPPER (75 days) Price: $0.75
CREGO MIX ASTER Price: $0.75

The gardener who told me about…

Before the First Hard Freeze

Before last night's hard freeze (26-degrees F) I took a photo of one of the pumpkins we tried to save by draping the vines with sheets.

My cousin sent the seeds from Germany for this one because it's one they use to make their pumpkin soup. This teardrop shaped variety is more meaty and less watery than the variety we grow for Jack-O-Lanterns in the U.S.

Stringer Nursery in Tulsa had the seeds last week but I didn't notice the brand name. If you see the seeds let me know what variety they are.

When we were in Germany Kurbis soup was being served in the restaurants but we ate it at family and friends' homes.

While searching the Internet for the variety of the seeds, I found a food blog entry about the soup.
Click here to read more about the yummy cream of squash soup we love so much at the Matters of Taste blog.

The butterfly bed by the front gate was gorgeous until last night. This is a sunset photo, just 8-hours before most of them turned black and began their long winter…

Trilliums Blooming in New Zealand

Here in Oklahoma we had to cover our tender vegetables before coming in for the night. We have half a dozen soup pumpkins, several peppers and tomatoes that will still produce after the two night frost passes.

At the other end of the planet, in New Zealand, it is spring. Dave Toole posted blooming Trilliums that he grew from seed in his garden.

Dozens of Trillium photos are posted along with the Trillium discussion board

The Trillium discussion list is manged from the Netherlands.

The picture gallery is here The publisher of Fine Gardening, Taunton Press, has a good article about Trilliums online at Aren't they wonderful?

Outdoor Pavilion by Smith and Hawken

If you were thinking of buying a gift for a garden lover, this is something wonderful to consider.

Not a plant to take care of. Not fruit trees that need spraying and harvesting. Not a tool to use.

But a place to be, a place to enjoy the fruits of your labor. A place to read a book, stare at the sky, whatever.

Specs: This modular pavilion is produced with 4 mm wire, powder-coated to endure outdoor conditions. The crisscross design of the trellises is great for climbing vines. Pavilion price is $2,021. (Furniture not included.)

Kit includes 13 Wide/Tall Trellises and 6 Narrow/Tall Trellises
Crafted from durable 4mm wire, powder-coated to withstand weathering
Each piece features a slightly distressed finish
Classic criss-cross design supports climbing vines without detracting from your garden's beauty
Available in Black and Matte Grey
Dimensions: (Wide/Tall 21” W x 84” H Narrow/Tall 10.5” W x 84” H)
Materials: Powder-coated wire

Smith and Hawken outdoor furniture link.

Durable Trees to Plant Now

Many, if not most, residential property values are improved with the planting of trees.
Fall is the ideal time to put new trees and shrubs into home landscapes and public spaces.

Carri Abner, former Arborist with Muskogee Parks and Recreation Department said that Muskogee residents should know how lucky they are to be able to plant such a wide variety of trees and shrubs.

Without information, we tend to plant fast growing trees such as poplar, silver maple and Bradford pear. Nothing wrong with them in terms of their beauty. It's just that they are short-lived, split in storms and their branches tend to break on a regular basis.

Durable trees - a term I learned from the USDA, U S Arboretum site, are a better, long-term investment.

Here are some trees that are good choices for our area.

Oak (Burr, Shumard, Swamp White, Water, Sawtooth) – Medium growth rate to 40-75-feet tall.

Birch (Heritage River, Dura-heat) 40 feet tall – good for wet locations. Heritage grows fast.

Cypress (Ariz…

Children Love Being In Your Garden

The Ontario Oregon paper, the Argus Observer, has a great column about children in your garden. The writer, Tammy Jones, has been (admirably) working with the Junior Master Gardener program. Greening Up Your Thumb: Garden With Your Children

Here are some of Jones' observations:
Children are very interested in going out and playing in the dirt.
They want to know what you are doing and why.
Children especially love worms, or they especially hate them. So, let them know about worms.
Tell them what they do for the soil and how much they are needed in the garden. A really cool fact about worms is they have four hearts. Let your children know this and other facts about the lowly worm.
Children love bugs of all kinds. Even girls want to know about them and want to hold and look at them.
Jones went on to say, "This week, our program planted a tree at the Payette Primary School to teach children how to plant a tree and what kinds of tree shapes interest them. "
So, dear readers, I'…

Soil Students Learn Old Fashioned Methods of Field Testing Soil Quality

Everything old is new again.

If the Internet and the news are to be believed, many Americans are growing their own vegetables, baking their own bread and eating at home.

Part of the impetus is to save money while savoring great eats. Part of it is the food scares - grow your own salad greens to avoid e-coli. Also, with jobs becoming more scarce, there simply is more time to do things at home.

My relatively new interest in all things dirt has led me to looking for information everywhere. When we were in California a few months ago, hubby's step-mother generously allowed me to take his grandfather's soil science text book from the family library. In it, the author teaches soon-to-be-growers how to assess their own soils.

I love reading the old textbooks and cookbooks. They give me snapshots into our grandparents' and great-grandparents' lives. I wonder if the back-to the-earth movement of the 1960s and 1970s will return.

In today's issue of Science Daily, there is a story…

George Ball's Blog

In a 1996 edition of his Burpee Home Gardener publication, George Ball wrote about an idea for a Garden Party. His premise is that since there are more gardeners than either Republicans or Democrats, gardeners should come together to change things as their own party.

Ball says gardeners are too busy to attend political rallies. We are not busy playing golf, we are digging potatoes and dividing perennials.

"You don’t hear them braying on talk radio or read their soil-smudged vituperative letters to the editor. Gardeners are still the Silent Majority."

He lists the strengths of gardeners: Down to earth, planning, love of nature .... . . .

So, nation of gardeners, click hereto read Ball's pithy commentary. While your are at the blog be sure to click on the little link at the top of the page, Beeway. Great photos of flowers and bees.

Another click of interest on the blog is Heronswood Top 20. It is their best sellers with links to learn more about each.

In case y…

Planting Trees for Future Generations

City, country and suburban dwellers benefit from the trees surrounding them on the street, in parks and back yards. They provide cover for the birds we enjoy hearing, give us shade on a hot day, and remind us of the wonders of nature's annual regeneration in spring.

Today's Writer's Almanac includes a poem, Planting a Sequoia, from The Gods of Winter by Dana Gioia.The author describes working in the orchard to plant a tree in the wind and rain.

In Sicily, their father planted trees to commemorate life's bookends: Births and Deaths. In this poem, they wrapped a lock of hair and a part of an infant's birth cord into the planting to memorialize a son for immortality.

This morning's Internet research has been all about trees for a Thursday column on the topic.

Muskogee is one of many recipients of the generosity of Apache Oil Foundation's'effort to plant a million trees in storm devasted areas, especially Texas, Oklahoma and Louisiana.

Thursday's column will…

Seeds of Change On-line Discussions Provide Help for Gardeners

I suppose everyone knows about the great resources at Dave's Garden, Garden Guides and Garden Web.

Do you use any of the online gardening conversations to socialize, find advice, exchange plants or seeds, and to learn from other gardeners?

If so, which online gardening community do you plug into when you have a question or seeds to share?

Seeds of Change has several Forums where gardeners exchange ideas and information.

Click on the one for seed saving to read about how to do it for a variety of plants.

For example, at the thread on amaranth you will discover that amaranth pollinates by wind rather than by insect action.
Amaranth seed can be planted directly into sunny soil between April 15 and June 15. To save the seed, bag the heads with row-cover fabric taped to the stem.

The Cockscomb Amaranth Celosia in the photo is the grandchild of seed I planted three years ago. It self-seeds around the yard and is one of the stars of the September and October garden beds.

There is also a Seeds …

Bulbs for Christmas Bloom

When shopping for bulbs, bigger is better. Try to show up at the store the same week the bulbs arrive and dig through those boxes and pick out the biggest and blemish free of the lot.

I ordered 50-Scilly White Narcisus for forcing indoors on the windowsill in the kitchen. Look at the size bulb I received from Touch of Nature. That's a 6-inch kitchen ruler holding TWO bulbs. Scilly white can also be planted outside to bloom in early early spring, late winter. It is scented but not as heavily as Paperwhite which offends some people.

Daffseek says about Scilly White: Usually three to twenty flowers to a stout stem, sweet scented and very short cupped. Perianth segments rounded and often somewhat crinkled.
Dwarf - Year Reg: 1865
Fertility: Both Seed and Pollen
ADS Historics List

WEB ONLY - This link will take you to a fall bulb sale from a great supplier. You won't find the offer on their website so you'll have to use this link.

We'll Bounce Back/Economic Stimulus Sampler from Ol…

Globe Amaranth for Butterflies, Potpourri and Dried Flower Arrangments

Globe Amaranth is another one of those plants that goes by several different names including Gomphrena globosa, flower of immortality, and everlasting bachelor button.

Whatever it is called, growing this little plant is a busy or lazy gardener’s dream.

The plants were originally from Guatamala, Brazil and Panama so they are heat and humidity tolerant. They are easy to grow in our area from seed and they will bloom until the first freeze.

The old fashioned varieties were peach and pink “flowering” plants that grew 2-feet tall. The pretty colored gomphrena buttons we think of as flowers are not actually flowers. They are bracts. Just as what we think of as the bloom on a poinsettia is actually a bract or a collection of colored leaves surrounding a tiny flower.

New varieties and colors include 4-to-6-inch dwarf plants to border the front edge of a bed or to fill the space around a tall, potted plant.

Seeds can be started as early as January in a greenhouse or on a south facing windowsi…

Lovejoy's Trowel and Error

Trowel and Error is a 2003 book that I got through an online bookswap, Paperback Swap. Sharon Lovejoy compiled 700 quick tips in an attractively laid out format that makes it fun to read. Her illustrations are delightful.

Lovejoy's website has information about her other books, including Roots, Shoots, Buckets and Boots. (Note: Some of the links on the site do not work anymore and the newsletters link goes only to 2005.)

Here are a few of the 700 tips in this great little volume.

Trap gypsy moths with sticky backed shelf paper folded inside out taped to a tree. Replace after rain or when full of insects and eggs.

Moles are actually beneficial to have in the garden because they eat grubs. Use the soil they throw in your potted plants.

Buy rolls of inexpensive wrapping paper and coat it with canola oil. Spread on beds and cover with mulch. Make planting holes wherever you want.

Activate the compost pile with nitrogen found in rabbit food or kitty litter if you are short of fresh grass cli…

Protect Pot Planted Spring Flowering Bulbs

The daffodil orders will be delivered soon and we will be planting them in beds and pots. Brent Heath of Brent and Becky's Bulbsconducted some experiments on how to maximize bulb health over the winter. Heath found that container planted bulbs need the consistently cold temperatures that they can usually get in the ground.

Keep potted bulbs cold but not frozen hard. You can use bubble wrap, recycled Styrofoam ice chests or a thick mulch of pine needles, bark chips or newspaper to keep the temperature even. In late February uncover the pots, water and expose them to full sun.

Clemson Extension has a great fact sheet about bulbs and varieties here.

Northern gardeners are advised to keep their potted bulbs in a garage or basement to prevent a killing freeze. The Master Gardeners of Frederik County PA have good advice for zone 5 readers.

Wherever you live, plant spring flowering bulbs to ensure spring flowers that will pull you out of the winter blues.

Musa basjoo Japanese Fiber Banana - Hardy to 20-degrees Below Zero

It may look like a fragile plant, but Musa basjoo Japanese Fiber Banana is cold hardy to 20-degrees below zero. Musa is the most popular banana tree for landscapes as cold as zone 5 in Kansas and Pennsylvania.

In our zone 7, gardeners plant them in gardens permanently close to a building or fence and mulch them in the winter. By the end of the following summer they can grow to 15-feet tall.

Matthew Weatherbee, owner of Blossoms Garden Center in Muskogee, grows them at home and sells them at the nursery.

They really do survive the winter when planted in the ground, Weatherbee said. They will freeze down but come back from the roots bigger than the year before. They also multiply and one tree becomes a clump of trees. This is a great plant!

Park Seed is offering the plants this fall. Transplant mail order plants into larger pots and keep them inside for the winter while their roots expand.

If you have one outside in the ground, the roots will live even when temperatures dip to 20-below zero,…

Stop Deadheading to Save Seeds

Many gardeners have developed the great habit of walking through the garden, deadheading flowers - removing spent flowers before they go to seed.

Now that October is here, it's time to allow a few flowers to make seeds. If every flower is allowed to make seed, flowering will stop. If just a few are left on the plant, it will continue to flower.

Will you be trying to save any seeds this year? Flowers, herbs, vegetables?

Here's what I do - Collect the flower seeds when the seed head is crispy dry. In our zone 7 several flowers are ready to make seed. I've been collecting them and putting each kind in its own tea can, with the name of the flower written on a sticky note attached to the top. Tea cans are not air tight so the seeds will dry in there. They can be moved to an airtight container when they are thoroughly dried.

I'm casual about the gathering, in that all the zinnia varieties go in one can, all the marigold varieties go in one can but you may want to be more carefu…

Papayas in Muskogee

This summer our local nursery, Blossoms, got a shipment of tropical plants from Florida. We picked up a papaya, thinking it would make a fun addition to a hot spot. Not only is it 8-feet tall, it is making fruit.

There are at least a dozen papayas. Will they ripen before the first hard frost? Who knows. In the meantime, it is entertainment for the garden staff (me and hubby).
Can you see it? Between the two plants is the veggie garden's resident toad. S/he bounces around from leaf cover to basil cover when I'm weeding out there.
Eat those buggies, little toad friend.

October's Flowers and Vegetables

This flower bed is bursting with fall color

In another spot, marigolds peek through Weigela.

Our little vegetable garden continues to work hard.

Every day it produces something that winds up on the table.

Now the former cucumber trellises are covered with gourd vines.

The tomatoes and eggplant became tonight's stir fry. Lettuce seedlings went into the open spots yesterday, in time to take advantage of the October rain.

A package of seeds arrived today. I'm going to try to grow lettuce in cold frames.
Have you had any success with that kind of project? What works? Any advice?

Peachy Flowers and Fall Bugs

Peach is a just right color for fall. It blends in so well with the bright gold marigolds, shiny yellow bells, red salvias and umber sedum blooms.
Photo: Apricot Blush Zinnia

Photo: Dahlia from Old House Gardens

Can you tell I rely on zinnias to fill the late summer beds and keep them looking exciting until frost?

Photo: And then there are the fall bugs to deal with. The search is on. They aren't red milkweed beetles.

Ah, they are milkweed leaf beetles. Thanks to the Texas Entomology site Texas Ento dot net we now know that their formal name is Labidomera clivicollis.

The Bug Guide calls them Swamp Milkweed Leaf Beetles.

Iowa State's site says that there are actually 457 separate insects that eat milkweed. The author notes that the bugs aren't a problem unless one is trying to raise milkweed as a crop.

Well, but I'm raising milkweed to make Monarch waystations

.... so, do I drop those bugs into soapy water or let them eat, lay eggs in the soil and come back in bigger numbe…

October's Changing of the Guard in the Garden - Planting Seeds

Time to plant fall greenery.
We have just the right weather for putting in a few vegetables to boost the healthy components of winter's dinner table.

Chard, kale, lettuce, broccoli raab, mustard, Pak Choi and spinach can be planted in a sunny spot now and still have time to produce baby greens for salads or stir fry.

Chard, raab and kale can be used to make fresh rolls filled with cooked, seasoned rice.

Raab, rapini or broccoli di rapa, is easy to grow. The new leaves flavor salads and sandwiches, the larger leaves and pseudo broccoli heads can be steamed.

Kale has a dozen varieties. 'Lacinato' is cold tolerant and light frost sweetens its leaves.

Pak Choi is added Asian soup, steamed with garlic and olive oil or chopped into salad.

Spinach lovers don't have to be told about its many uses from vegetarian lasagna to wraps.

Prepare and amend a sunny bed. Use leftover veggie seeds from your spring garden or buy a few packs of the ones you know your family will eat.

I just ordered…

Caring for Queen Mums

Chrysanthemums are the queens of the fall flowers whether they are in pots, baskets, or cut flower arrangements. Because they are so easy to grow and breed, chrysanthemum varieties have multiplied.

Faribault Growers ( divides their mail order plants into 3-categories: Garden Decorative, Football and Novelties. Novelties are spiders, cushion, and Matchstick. Footballs have 4 to 7-inch blooms. Garden Decorative mums are the ones we find in local stores as plants.

Diana Hartman, president of the Oklahoma City Chrysanthemum Society said, “The plants you can get at home improvement stores are freeze hardy in Oklahoma.”

Lanna King of King’s Mums said, “Heat and rain are not a problem for chrysanthemums as long as you plant them in well-drained beds.”

Tips for your potted mums – Put drainage holes in any pot wrapping paper. Give them a sunny location and moderate water.

When the flowers fade, cut off the dead pieces, put the plant in a bright spot like the garage, and wate…

UNM Yard and Garden Newsletter

An excellent issue of Yard and Garden Newsletter is available at this link.

Have you ever cut open a grapefruit and found a germinating seed inside? I have and mused that it was odd and wondered how it happened.

In the October University of Minnesota Extension newsletter, David Zlesak explains that process.

"The phenomena of seeds germinating while still in the fruit on the parent plant is called vivipary. Some specific varieties of plants are more prone to it than others and atypical environmental conditions can also trigger it. It is common to find germinating seeds within grapefruits or oranges because of storage temperatures atypical from what would be found in nature. Generally, viviparous germination is negative because seedlings soon find themselves with limited resources and die."

Who knew?