Showing posts from December, 2008

Happy New Year 2009

Welcome to the new year 2009. Best wishes for 365 worthwhile days.

The Plant Trivia Timeline from The Huntington Botanical Garden Library in California will put your plant enthusiasms into perspective.

It was last updated in 2004 but that doesn't matter since the timeline begins 5 Billion years ago.

You will find dozens of facts that you never knew about the importance of plants for creating wealth and fame over the past 50,000 years or so.

The Plant Physiology site is a fabulous resource from a biology professor at Eastern Connecticut State University.
Plant physiology and biology. The course sections include lectures, reading suggestions, and laboratory activities on topics such as seed germination, pollination, osmosis, and plant respiration.

Thanks to the Librarians' Internet Index for both of these resources.

Knowledge is the key to everything. Keep growing your mind.

Friends of Honor Heights Park - One Day Left to Join in 2008

If you join today, you can take the contribution off your 2008 taxes! Such a deal, eh?

I know this photo wouldn't inspire most, but it is a real sign of the move toward a project that will mean a lot to residents and visitors to Honor Heights Park in Muskogee.

The building used to be the bath house for a swimming pool that is now filled in. The back wall will soon be all glass with a set of doors. That set of doors will eventually be the entrance into a fenced area of gardens and a butterfly house.

Click here to be directed to a form to join Friends of Honor Heights Park.
The cost is $25 for an individual Friend; $35 for a family of Friends.

The workmen said this is the "office" so they are putting in computer and telephone lines.
This is the view from the inside. The plywood is there until Dickman Glass installs the glass wall. I can't wait!

This is a smaller conference room between the larger classroom above and the office on the far side of the photo.

Joining, even at …

Too Cold to Be Outside?

It's freezing cold today and a good time to click around interesting sites about plants and the environment. Here are a few to get you started.

Inhabitat posted the 10-best green buildings of 2008 - click on their name to see these beauties: A church, a temple, a college building, public buildings. They were all constructed using unique, if not new, environmentally sensitive methods.

While searching for a book about weeds, I found a Cornell University link to
Core Historical Literature of Agriculture.

Reading on a computer screen is less desirable than actually holding a book in your hands, but when it comes to the title, "The feminine monarchie, or, The historie of bees: shewing their admirable nature, and properties, their generation, and colonies, their government, loyaltie, art, industrie, enemies, warres, magnanimitie, &c. : together with the right ordering of them from time to time: and th…

All the Dirt

Image free pollsDo you grow vegetables at home?most of the veggies we eat quite a few just one or two salad ingredients or potatoes would like to never . no interest

Chestnut Trees Return

A familiar Christmas song begins with Chestnuts roasting on an open fire, Jack Frost nipping at your nose and ends with Merry Christmas to you.

It is thought that Native Americans were eating chestnuts (Castenea sativa) long before Europeans brought their trees to the new world. Michael Dolan, chestnut grower in WA said entire civilizations were built around chestnut forests in Europe.

A fungal disease blight in 1904 destroyed four billion chestnut trees in the U.S. by 1940. If you buy chestnuts in a store now they probably came from Japan, China, Spain or Italy. The canned ones called marrons usually come from France. Dolan’s company, Burnt Ridge Nursery, sells Washington grown trees and nuts.

A cousin of oak and beech trees, North American native chestnuts were grown for their wood as well as the starchy nuts. The rot resistant wood was used as logs for cabins, furniture, fence posts and rails, telegraph poles and shake roofs.

Americans want chestnuts. In 2007, we imported 4,056 metric …

Feed Kitchen Scraps to a Bin of Composting Worms

We grow worms by feeding them our kitchen scraps, mostly fruit and vegetable peels. The result of the worms' digestive process is called worm castings or vermicompost.

It's become quite a big trend across the U.S. and around the world. Even the big box stores sell vermicompost in gallon jugs.

New Yorkers have their own vermicomposting blog, in India women entrepreneurs are supporting themselves with vermicompost ventures and an Internet search on the topic takes you everywhere!

One of the big pushes for vermicomposting at home is based in the reality that 30% of landfill could be fed to worm bins and the resulting organic fertilizer used to improve the land. reports that in their study, vermicomposting pig waste results in fewer problems with runoff, fewer pollutants and bigger vegetables when using the vermicompost as soil amendment. It's a double win.

Your reward for reading this far is a clever and funny You Tube animated video about a marvelous and magical com…

Merry Christmas

Afrikaans: Geseënde Kersfees
Afrikander: Een Plesierige Kerfees
African/ Eritrean/ Tigrinja: Rehus-Beal-Ledeats
Albanian:Gezur Krislinjden
Arabic: Milad Majid
Argentine: Feliz Navidad
Armenian: Shenoraavor Nor Dari yev Pari Gaghand
Azeri: Tezze Iliniz Yahsi Olsun
Bahasa Malaysia: Selamat Hari Natal
Basque: Zorionak eta Urte Berri On!
Bengali: Shuvo Naba Barsha
Bohemian: Vesele Vanoce
Bosnian: (BOSANSKI) Cestit Bozic i Sretna Nova godina
Brazilian: Feliz Natal
Breton: Nedeleg laouen na bloavezh mat
Bulgarian: Tchestita Koleda; Tchestito Rojdestvo Hristovo
Catalan: Bon Nadal i un Bon Any Nou!
Chile: Feliz Navidad
Chinese: (Cantonese) Gun Tso Sun Tan'Gung Haw Sun
Chinese: (Mandarin) Kung His Hsin Nien bing Chu Shen Tan
(Catonese) Gun Tso Sun Tan'Gung Haw Sun
Choctaw: Yukpa, Nitak Hollo Chito
Columbia: Feliz Navidad y Próspero Año Nuevo
Cornish: Nadelik looan na looan blethen noweth
Corsian: Pace e salute
Crazanian: Rot Yikji Dol La Roo
Cree: Mitho Makosi Kesikansi
Croatian: Sretan Bozic
Czech: Prejeme Vam V…

My Cold Stratification Seed Starting

If you have extensive experience with planting seeds outside in the fall or winter in order to give them that 30 to 90 days of cold, wet, even freezing condition they need, please weigh in. This is only my second attempt.

This week I used two half gallon milk containers.

Mark the 3-inch soil level so you know where to cut the top of the container. Leave the handle corner attached.

Soak the planting soil until the water runs out the holes you put in the bottom for drainage.
Some seeds would enjoy being planted on a layer of seed starting mix, but it is not necessary.

Plant the seeds at the depth indicated on the package. Usually large seeds need dark to germinate so they are planted one-half inch deep. Small seeds like many perennials, need light to emerge so they are put onto the surface of the soil.

Gently press the top of the soil or the seed so there is direct contact between soil and seed. Use a
spray bottle to moisten the seeds and the soil on top of them.

Prepare a marker for your plant…

Feed the Birdies and Give them Unfrozen Water

It is time to fill bird water sources and feeders with stuff to get our feathered friends through the coldest parts of the year.

The more kinds of food put out, the more types of birds you can attract and keep going.
Sunflower seed bring cardinals, blue jays, finches, woodpeckers and nuthatches.
Black sunflower or oil seeds are better food for birds.

Nyger seed feeds goldfinches. It is tiny, expensive seed. Get a special feeder with small holes on the sides and hang it near a window for easy viewing.

Safflower seed is for chickadees, titmice and downy woodpeckers. Squirrels, grackles, blue jays and starlings won't eat it so it saves you some money.

Millet is cheap eats for sparrows, juncos and mourning doves. Sprinkle it on the ground for them.

Beef suet is important for songbirds and woodpeckers to make it through the winter. Buy the cakes and hang them in trees. If you can find suet in another form, poke holes in a grapefruit skin and put strings through the holes. Stuff the half gr…

Sweet Nectar Nursery Helps Bring Hummingbirds to Gardens

Spring will be marked by the arrival of hummingbirds at the feeders and nature lovers will be buzzing about how many have arrived at whose house and when.
Susan Kirkbride of Sweet Nectar Nursery ( ) said that the sugar water we put in the feeders is the hummingbird's fast food. The nectar and insects they get from flowers is their Slow Food (

In a few weeks, gardeners will be ordering plants and seeds for spring 2009 so I contacted Kirkbride to find out what we could grow to attract more hummingbirds into our gardens and onto our porches when they arrive between late March and mid-April.

Kirkbride said she has been planting seeds every two weeks for the past three months to supply bird and butterfly gardeners through her Internet store.

I first started gardening for butterflies and hummingbirds fifteen years ago, Kirkbride said. Over the years I volunteered at several public butterfly and hummingbird gardens. About four years ago I started …

Meet Caesalpinia

Caesalpinia is a genus of over 70 evergreen trees found mostly in subtropical zone 9, on rocky mountain slopes, in scrub, in Brazil and Arizona.

On a heated seed mat in the shed one of 5 seeds has come up. My hope is that it will live to grace our garden next summer.

Gardino Nursery calls it a Dwarf Poinciana that is a diminutive version of a Royal Poinciana tree.

Royal Poinciana grows to 50-feet. Caesalpinia gilliesii is the Bird of Paradise shrub with yellow flowers.

The American Horticultural Society says pulcherrima is called Barbados Pride, giving another hint to its familiar growing territory.

AHS says it will survive brief spells of freezing 32-F. Gardino Nursery says it will be OK to the high 20s.

My friend, Sharon Owen who gave me the seeds says it grows next to her mother's house right here in Muskogee Oklahoma.

Click here to see some photos photos, Arizona Master Gardeners, and - glorious flowers.

In the Shed Today

With 22-F as the high temperature for the day, let's talk about gardening inside the shed.

But first, I want to tell you that the book sale is still happening at American Nurseryman. The website link is here.
Timber Press is also having a 30% off book sale here.

Now, on to growing things.
Can you see both the flowers on the tag and the flowers on the plant? Talk about truth in advertising. Erysimum Jenny Brook has a nickname, Wallflower.

Blooms of Bressingham sent me a tiny plant to see if it would grow in our zone. Click here to read all about her features, not the least of which is that she grows to 2-feet tall in poor soil and needs no deadheading. I could love this one.
Three stems are blooming at once in the shed. We heat it to about 60-F in the shed every evening but on the 17-degree nights it drops down into the 40s.

This is Ferry Morse pak choi. The little plants are doing decently in a south facing window. Also in the photo are the pots of the same seeds I planted a few days ag…

Keeping Your Hands in the Soil

Now that it is mid-December many gardeners have taken a welcome break from the demands of the soil. Not me. I am a member of a small group of people who keep on keeping on, with seeds and bulb shipments still arriving.
Dividing plants continues, too. Guests yesterday suggested that a field mouse could be the cause of the lettuce seedlings losing their heads. I started a new pan of lettuce seeds and will begin anew.

Yesterday, daffodils and tulips arrived from Brent and Becky's. An email came in from that seeds are in the mail with plant tags. This company offers 100 tags for $7.75 and free shipping - a deal that cannot be passed up.

Now that the seeds in the cold frames are coming up, I can't resist the temptation to try my luck with more. Most winter sowers use the clear plastic milk cartons with the tops partially removed. We have one of those now so I'll start that experiment today when I go out to plant bulbs in a 70-degree December day.

Click h…

Winter Care for Houseplants and Overwintered Perennials

Houseplants need humidity to be happy over the holidays even though they are mostly hibernating.

Many of the plants we bring inside to protect from freezing, go through a dormancy period because of shorter daylight hours. For example, Begonias, Philodendrons, Ficus and Norfolk pines are dormant in the winter; they prefer to stay dry.

Cut back on watering and fertilizer. Water when the pot’s soil is totally dry and use one-fourth the recommended strength fertilizer in that water.

The best method is soaking. Fill a dishpan or the kitchen sink with a few inches of water and soak the pots until the top of the soil is moist. Then, set the pots aside to drain. When water stops coming out of the bottom of the pot, return it to its saucer. Never allow houseplants to sit in a saucer containing water.

Exceptions include ferns and potted citrus which need consistently moist soil, even in the winter. Most houseplants appreciate being misted or dusted with a damp cloth to keep their leaves moistened.


Winter Solstice Labyrinth Walk

Sharon Owen, owner of Moonshadow Herb Farm in Muskogee OK, is offering labyrinth walks in December and New Year 2009.

Owen said, "Afternoon has been the best time for group walks & activities. However, a night walk & celebration would be great, too. Please contact me if you plan to participate and/or if you would like to schedule a private walk. Otherwise I will either be with family or busy working in the greenhouse ~ in which case I would be too dirty & busy for surprise visits!"

Winter Solstice (Yuletide/Midwinter) ~ Christmas Traditional dates: Dec. 21s (Sun.) and Dec. 20 23rd (Sat. to Tues.) and Dec. 25(Thurs.) Open: weekend of 20, 21 through Tues.

Dec. 23rd
Celebration of the return of light The birth of Jesus the Christ
Suggested Ceremonies & Activities: Blessings ~ Follow The Star Candle Walk ~ Drumming ~ Singing (new fire pit in pecan grove)

New Years Eve Day Traditional date: Dec. 31 (Mon.) and Jan. 1 (Tues.)Open the weekend: Dec. 29 and 30 Dedicated to…

Planning a 2009 Spring Garden to Attract Hummingbirds

Is your mailbox starting to be stuffed with catalogs yet? Ours is.

Plants, bulbs, seeds, tools, equipment, books - we all need it all if the wording on the catalogs is to be believed.

I love tropical and exotic plants that thrive the first year. Each year, though, as I learn more about sustainable gardening, planting for wildlife, and taking care to leave the earth a little better for my having been here, I put in more and more for nature.

Fewer chemicals go onto our slice of the Earth than they did 10 or 15 years ago. And, more U.S. native plants go into the ground.

This is last spring's bulb bed - 300 flowering bulbs created a spectacular view from our kitchen window.

I found a nursery in the state of Washington, near Portland Oregon, that is called Sweet Nectar Nursery, and contacted the owner, Susan Kirkenbride.

My question was, how can we attract more hummingbirds and butterflies to our gardens without hanging those sugar-water feeders? Here is a map of hummingbird arrival dates.


Mark Zampardo's New Book - A Landscaper's Guide to Perennial Flowers With English Spanish Glossary

Dr. Mark Zampardo has been teaching landscapers for 30-years and now has put his knowledge of perennial flowers into a paperback book for all of us to use.

Each of the 200 plants covered in the easy-to-carry volume is pictured in a garden, with a close up of the leaf, and a photo of the flowers so you can recognize them in the nursery. Also, he provides pronunciation for each plant.

Zampardo has a glossary in the front of the book. Each glossary word is defined and then translated into Spanish. In the back, each plant is listed by its common names and Latin name for reference.

An example of Zampardo's writing on one plant will illustrate.

Verbascum chaixii on page 200
Verbascum chaixii - two photos, one in a bed and one closeup of the flower cluster
(vur-BASS-kum key-IX-ee-eye; kee-ICKS-ee-eye)
Common name Nettle-leaved Mullein
Leaves Alternate, 6 inches long, gray-green, hairy, rounded teeth on the margin
Flowers White, purple stamens create an eye, 1 inch flowers on terminal racimes

Poinsettias - Our Seasonal Favorite

Pete Carson opened Carson Borovetz Nursery for his annual Poinsettia sales event. Native to Southern Mexico, Poinsettias, Euphorbia pulchenima, dominate holiday home and office décor to the tune of 80-million sold each year.

This year we are offering four sizes and most of the colors available, said Carson.

Shoppers will find over 2,000 plants in various sizes and colors at the nursery. Here is a rundown of the poinsettias choices this year at Carson Bororvetz.

Casual observers never notice the Poinsettia flowers because they are so tiny. The colorful leaves or bracts that bring seasonal cheerfulness into our winter environment are not actually flowers.

Carson pointed out that even before the bracts turn colors you could see what color they will be by looking at the petiole or leaf stem. All the plants have green leaves when they are growing in October. But the stem that connects the leaf to the main stems carries the eventual bract color. Look for red stems on red poinsettias.


Mary Gardens That Can Heal the Heart and Soul of Gardener and Visitors

Puttering in potted plants brings peace of mind, planting a bed of seeds reflects hope and nurturing bare ground into a bed of flowers inspires joy.

Healing gardens in the form of Japanese Zen gardens, Cloister gardens and Sensory gardens, contain plants, open spaces and art selected to calm visitors and benefit the environment.

While St. Francis of Assisi is commonly placed in gardens, St. Fiacre is actually the Patron Saint of Gardeners.

The Irish born St. Fiacre lived from 600-670 and devoted his life to tending a garden of medicinal plants. St. Fiacre’s culinary garden fed the poor and the herb garden cured the sick. A flower and herb garden occupied the expanse of property surrounding the monastery. This may have been the first healing garden on record.

Mary’s Gardens are the little gardens at churches, graveyards and homes that have a statue of the Virgin Mary at their center. At the website, volunteers published historical information about 300 plants and …

Keep Thinking Green - Buildings That Is

Operating buildings produces 43 percent of America's carbon emissions. It takes 50 years for the energy used to build a green building to be compensated for by the energy savings the building creates.
is the magazine of the National Trust for Historic Preservation

These were the words of Richard Moe, President of the National Trust for Historic Preservation at a recent speech. In the same speech, Moe released the Pocantico Proclamation on Sustainability and Preservation which was developed by preservationists, architects, green builders and energy experts.

Here are some highlights worth pondering from Lloyd Alter at

Principle #1: Promote a culture of reuse
In addition to building green, we have to make wiser use of what we’ve already built. One of the basic truths we acknowledge about climate change is that it is fundamentally the result of overconsumption of natural resources – namely carbon-intense resources such as oil and coal. The retention and reuse of…

Seed Sowing in the Winter

If this time of year gives you withdrawal symptoms, try winter sowing. Our set up in the shed has warm and cool fluorescent lighting to help with keeping plants alive.
I intend to try to grow chard and lettuce outside in the cold frames but we have already had night temperatures below freezing. Some years our freezing temperatures arrive in Feb. Not this year - much earlier freezing nights this year. Gardening enthusiasts as far north as Canada are sowing seeds in the winter so Zone 7 should be easy. Maybe. Here are a few online resources (I left out the links with unending popups, ads, or the need to "join for a small fee" to access the conversation or information.) Wet My Plants Robin's Nesting Place Wintersown The Garden Faerie Suite 101 Master Gardeners, Madison County, Indiana So! Share your winter seed sowing experiences. What's worked for you and what are you planting this winter?

The plastic wrapped foil pans have perennial seeds that need cold stratification. This pa…

US Winter Forecast 2008-09 from NOAA