31 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.

30 December 2008

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 the $25 level, includes an email update about park happenings, a party for members only, discounts on classes, and a great feeling that you are helping Muskogee improve Honor Heights Park.

28 December 2008

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 the sweet profit arising thereof. "

Written by Charles Butler in 1623, reading the scanned pages online is probably the closest we will ever come to discovering the 17 century scientist's thoughts about bees.

Many "new" plant introductions are those discovered in China and brought to the U.S. by plants-people. There are many micro-climates in China similar to those found here so these discoveries transfer easily to our gardens. Plant propagators win by providing American gardeners with exciting introductions every year.

The Flora of China is a website from China that introduces readers to the important comparison between theirs and ours.

A persistent leader in horticultural sustainability, Missouri Botanical Garden has received over 800,000 specimens from China, according to the site.

The site efloras is an online catalog of plants from around the world. This astounding resource includes plants of America, Madagascar, China, Chile and Nepal. Other links at the site include: Harvard University Herberia, Royal Botanic Gardens and California Academy of Sciences.

Inhabitot urges you to recycle holiday wrapping paper in a variety of ways - some you probably had not considered.

Let me know what you find out there that's a good read.

25 December 2008

All the Dirt

pollcode.com free polls
Do 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 tons of chestnuts in the shell from Europe: $10 million worth.

Michigan’s Department of Agriculture urges consumers to eat chestnuts to build the industry. The niche product is now grown on 200 Michigan farms.

One of the big culinary draws of chestnuts is that the gluten free flour is low fat and low calorie. Chestnut flour is the reason the tree is called the bread tree.

Dolan said he prefers them roasted crunchy on top of the stove in a medium-hot skillet. There is a cookbook on their website, burntridgenursery.com, with recipes.

Culinary uses include: Chestnut filling for cake, chestnuts and chocolate filled cream puffs, candied or soaked in liquor, and made into a mousse. Plus, chestnuts as a side dish, chestnut dressing, chestnut soup or stuffed into winter squash. See http://www.chestnutsonline.com/ for more recipes.

Dolan said, We have 70-tree-varieties at Burnt Ridge Nursery. You need a cross pollinator to get nuts and Skioka is a good pollinator with sweet, easy-to-peel nuts that are six times the size of the American native.

Dolan’s tips for growing chestnut trees in Oklahoma: They like full sun, will adapt to any type of soil, and do best on a well-drained site. All the varieties they sell are blight resistant. Plant chestnut trees where the prickly covering on the nuts will not cause a problem.

The Ozark native species is a Cinkapin shrub chestnut and it carries the blight, Dolan said. It is a dwarf with nuts the size of peas.

Most chestnuts grow three times as fast as an oak, said Dolan. The year they are transplanted they will grow a foot, the next two years they will grow at least 3-feet each year, then the next year they will bear.

Chestnut trees provide food for jays, squirrels, elk, wild turkey, some moths and butterflies. They reliably produce nuts every year. The nuts are safe from wildlife until they ripen because of their hard prickly shell that splits open to release mature nuts.

Dolan has been growing chestnuts organically for 29-years. They fertilize with composted chicken manure in the spring and water in droughts. No spraying is necessary.

Burnt Ridge Nursery in WA offers 22 varieties, some of which are crosses with the blight resistant Asian chestnuts. Seedling trees are $3.50 and grafted stock is $20 per tree. Dolan said American chestnut trees are $5 each. www.burntridgenursery.com and 360-985-2873.

The University of Idaho seedling program sells American Chestnut Superstock saplings Castanea dentata, 5 for $10 at http://seedlings.uidaho.com/ and 208-885-3888.

24 December 2008

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.

Extension.org 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 compost bin.

Click prepared to smile

There are lots of informative You Tube videos on the topic of vermicomposting whether you want to learn how to set up a bin, feed the worms or harvest the black gold castings.

When you are listing New Year's Resolutions, add a worm bin to your 2009 activities to show your love for the health of planet earth.

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 Vesele Vanoce a stastny Novy Rok
Danish: Glædelig Jul
Duri: Christmas-e- Shoma Mobarak
Dutch: V rolijk Kerstfeest en een Gelukkig Nieuwjaar! or Zalig Kerstfeast
English: Merry Christmas
Eskimo: (inupik) Jutdlime pivdluarit ukiortame pivdluaritlo!
Esperanto: Gajan Kristnaskon
Estonian: Rõõmsaid Jõulupühi
Ethiopian: (Amharic) Melkin Yelidet Beaal
Faeroese: Gledhilig jol og eydnurikt nyggjar!
Farsi: Cristmas-e-shoma mobarak bashad
Finnish: Hyvaa joulua
Flemish: Zalig Kerstfeest en Gelukkig nieuw jaar
French: Joyeux Noel
Frisian: Noflike Krystdagen en in protte Lok en Seine yn it Nije Jier!
Galician: Bo Nada
Gaelic: Nollaig chridheil agus Bliadhna mhath ùr!
German: Fröhliche Weihnachten
Greek: Kala Christouyenna!
Haiti: (Creole) Jwaye Nowel or to Jesus Edo Bri'cho o Rish D'Shato Brichto
Hausa: Barka da Kirsimatikuma Barka da Sabuwar Shekara!
Hawaiian: Mele Kalikimaka
Hebrew: Mo'adim Lesimkha. Chena tova
Hindi: Shub Naya Baras (good New Year not Merry
Hausa: Barka da Kirsimatikuma Barka da Sabuwar Shekara!
Hawaian: Mele Kalikimaka ame Hauoli Makahiki Hou!
Hungarian: Kellemes Karacsonyi unnepeket
Icelandic: Gledileg Jol
Indonesian: Selamat Hari Natal
Iraqi: Idah Saidan Wa Sanah Jadidah
Irish: Nollaig Shona Dhuit, or Nodlaig mhaith chugnat
Iroquois: Ojenyunyat Sungwiyadeson honungradon
nagwutut. Ojenyunyat osrasay.
Italian: Buone Feste Natalizie
Japanese: Shinnen omedeto. Kurisumasu Omedeto
Jiberish: Mithag Crithagsigathmithags
Korean: Sung Tan Chuk Ha
Lao: souksan van Christmas
Latin: Natale hilare et Annum Faustum!
Latvian: Prieci'gus Ziemsve'tkus un Laimi'gu Jauno Gadu!
Lausitzian:Wjesole hody a strowe
Lithuanian: Linksmu Kaledu
Low Saxon: Heughliche Winachten un 'n moi Nijaar
Macedonian: Sreken Bozhik
Maltese: IL-Milied It-tajjeb
Manx: Nollick ghennal as blein vie noa
Maori: Meri Kirihimete
Marathi: Shub Naya Varsh (good New Year not Merry Christmas)
Navajo: Merry Keshmish
Norwegian: God Jul, or Gledelig Jul
Occitan: Pulit nadal e bona annado
Papiamento: Bon Pasco
Papua New Guinea: Bikpela hamamas blong dispela Krismas na Nupela yia i go long yu
Pennsylvania German: En frehlicher Grischtdaag un en hallich Nei Yaahr!
Peru: Feliz Navidad y un Venturoso Año Nuevo
Philipines: Maligayang Pasko!
Polish: Wesolych Swiat Bozego Narodzenia or Boze Narodzenie
Portuguese: Feliz Natal
Pushto: Christmas Aao Ne-way Kaal Mo Mobarak Sha
Rapa-Nui (Easter Island): Mata-Ki-Te-Rangi. Te-Pito-O-Te-Henua
Rhetian: Bellas festas da nadal e bun onn
Romanche: (sursilvan dialect): Legreivlas fiastas da Nadal e bien niev onn!
Rumanian: Sarbatori vesele or Craciun fericit
Russian: Pozdrevlyayu s prazdnikom Rozhdestva is Novim Godom
Sami: Buorrit Juovllat
Samoan: La Maunia Le Kilisimasi Ma Le Tausaga Fou
Sardinian: Bonu nadale e prosperu annu nou
Serbian: Hristos se rodi
Slovakian: Sretan Bozic or Vesele vianoce
Sami: Buorrit Juovllat
Samoan: La Maunia Le Kilisimasi Ma Le Tausaga Fou
Scots Gaelic: Nollaig chridheil huibh
Serbian: Hristos se rodi.
Singhalese: Subha nath thalak Vewa. Subha Aluth Awrudhak Vewa
Slovak: Vesele Vianoce. A stastlivy Novy Rok
Slovene: Vesele Bozicne Praznike Srecno Novo Leto or Vesel Bozic in srecno Novo leto
Spanish: Feliz Navidad
Swedish: God Jul and (Och) Ett Gott Nytt År
Tagalog: Maligayang Pasko. Masaganang Bagong Taon
Tamil: (Tamizh) Nathar Puthu Varuda Valthukkal (good New Year not Merry Christmas)
Trukeese: (Micronesian) Neekiriisimas annim oo iyer seefe feyiyeech!
Thai: Sawadee Pee Mai or souksan wan Christmas
Turkish: Noeliniz Ve Yeni Yiliniz Kutlu Olsun
Ukrainian: Srozhdestvom Kristovym or Z RIZDVOM HRYSTOVYM
Urdu: Naya Saal Mubarak Ho (good New Year not Merry Christmas)
Vietnamese: Chuc Mung Giang Sinh
Welsh: Nadolig Llawen Yoruba: E ku odun, e ku iye'dun!

Heartfelt wishes for a joyful holiday.

21 December 2008

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 planter, if you want to know what you have coming up. I usually put the date planted, the seed provider and sometimes the number of seeds as a germination check.

Then, tape the container closed. Leave the top off the carton and put it outside. Moisture should be able to enter the top and drain out the bottom.

Of course, this is only for those of us who cannot stand being away from our gardening activities no matter how busy the season is.

19 December 2008

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 grapefruit skin with suet, peanuts, and chopped apple. Hang in in the trees.

Thanks to bird watching enthusiast, Tom Wilberding for sending the photos from his recent birding trip in Colorado.

18 December 2008

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 (www.sweetnectarnursery.com ) 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 (www.slowfood.com).

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 the business to sell off the extra plants I had grown for a couple of the gardens where I was volunteering.

Sweet Nectar Nursery offers 225 hummingbird and butterfly friendly perennials, 14 groundcovers and a dozen vine varieties grown from cuttings and seed in Kirkbride's greenhouse, under lights in her home and in a one-third acre bed.

She said the most unusual plant she grows is stinging nettle, the host plant of the Red Admiral and Painted Lady butterflies. Other unique plants in her catalog include firecracker vine, Erythrina (Cherokee Bean), and six varieties of milkweed.

The earliest flowers that will bring hummingbirds are flowering quince, flowering currant, Aquilegia Canadensis (red Columbine), and red buckeye.

If you can attract the hummingbirds to your garden with something red, they will stay and check out all of your flowers, red or otherwise, to see which are good nectar sources, Kirkbride said. You can help attract hummingbirds to your yard in the spring by putting out red or orange surveyors tape or ribbons.

Perennials loved by hummingbirds include:
- Agastache - Tutti Frutti, Heather Queen, Apricot Sprite and rupestris.
-Bee Balm variety Monarda Jacob Cline
-Canna lily
-Cuphea David Verity
- Salvia (Guaranitica 'Black and Blue', greggii Autumn Sage, coccinea 'Coral Nymph' & 'Lady in red', elegans - Pineapple Sage, and subrotunda.).

If your garden stays moist or wet, grow Lobelia cardinalis and Lobelia speciosa (it’s more hardy), Mimulus cardinalis and Jewelweed

Vines loved by hummingbirds: Campsis radicans (Trumpet Creeper), Cypress Vine, Cardinal Climber and Lonicera sempervirens (Coral Honeysuckle)

Shrubs and Trees that attract hummingbirds: Red Buckeye, flowering Quince and Flowering currant.

Annuals you can start indoors early: Salvia coccinea Lady in Red or a similar red colored cultivar, Snapdragons, Flowering Tobacco (Nicotiana), Cleome. Zinnias and Marigold are useful, because they attract the small insects that hummingbirds eat.

Kirkbride said that she provides water for her backyard birds.

I have a half barrel filled with water and water plants, Kirkbride said. Birds need the plants to land on. Hummingbirds prefer moving water such as the spray from a fountain.

They also will hang out where there is a Leaf-Mister mounted ten-feet above ground according to the Hummingbird Society's web page (hummingbirdsociety.org). Birdbaths.com has Leaf Misters, $29 with free shipping.

For more information about how to get started on your spring butterfly and hummingbird garden, contact Susan Kirkbride, Sweet Nectar Nursery, 18121 NE 128th Avenue, Battle Ground, WA 98604 - Tel. 360.624.4901.

16 December 2008

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 Delange.org photos, Arizona Master Gardeners, and RareFlora.com - glorious flowers.

15 December 2008

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 ago. Great germination rate.

Have I mentioned the neighbors who keep getting more cats and dogs? Here is one of their latest acquisitions sleeping in an empty pot on our back porch.

14 December 2008

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 http://www.hardyplants.com/ 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 here to see Cordeledawg's blog at Dave's Garden. Scroll down to see the milk cartons lined up outside and his lists of wintersown seeds.

11 December 2008

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.

Lucky bamboo is not bamboo; it is a Dracaena. Another popular Dracaeana is Corn Plant. They need light but no sun, prefer filtered, not tap, water and cannot tolerate their roots sitting in water.

To keep your houseplants green, provide supplemental light. One 40-watt cool bulb plus one 40-watt warm bulb in a shop light is recommended.

Deciduous plants that drop their leaves in the winter can skip water entirely over their dormant period. But if a houseplant starts dropping its leaves it can be a sign of over watering or dramatic temperature changes.

If African Violets are watered with cold water in the winter their leaves will get white spots. Begonias enter winter dormancy and need little water.

Protect plants from cold windowsills, cold air coming into the garage or near doors.

Blowing heat from the furnace can cause plants to dry out. Heated homes have ten to twenty percent humidity and plants are accustomed to forty percent. Brown leaf tips or insect problems can be a sign of being too dry.

White cottony, fluffy masses on houseplants are a sign of mealy bugs. They will move from plant to plant so as soon as you see yellowing leaves, move that plant away from the others. Dip a cotton swab or q-tip in alcohol and touch the places where you see the mealy bugs. Let the alcohol do its job, then rinse the plant.

If houseplants have a spider web appearance and the leaves are changing color, it probably has spider mites. Wash off the plant gently in the kitchen sink or shower. Mites thrive in dry winter homes and on plants that are not receiving enough water.

If the rinsing is ineffective and the spider webs return, use Safer soap spray or other products safe for home use.

Your Amaryllis or Hippeastrum wants to be watered thoroughly once. Then, water again when growth starts. When the flower bud is visible, keep the soil moist and fertilize once a month. They need 12-hours of bright light.

Houseplant care is covered in Oklahoma State University Fact Sheet HLA-6411-4, available at http://pods.dasnr.okstate.edu/docushare/dsweb/Get/Document-3231/F-6411web.pdf if you need more information.

10 December 2008

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 PEACE & RENEWAL Ceremony: Blessings ~ Burning Bowl labyrinth walk - labyrinth dance

Twelfth Night Old Twelfth Night Traditional date(s): Jan. 5 and or Jan 17
Open the weekends Jan. 3 and 4 and or Jan. 10 and 11
Fire pit food and drink with drumming and singing, then off to the labyrinth and pear tree.
Wassailing the pear tree next to the prairie labyrinth is the main focus, then song and merriment through the labyrinth. Wassailing usually began with food, drink, family and friends and then out to the orchard, etc.

Sharon Owen 918 687-6765 (home) & email: moonshads@aol.com

09 December 2008

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.

Kirkenbride knows her stuff. She has been a hummingbird gardener for 15 years and that's what she grows and sells at Sweet Nectar. Click here to visit her online.

Hummingbirds are wired in their brains to look for cup shaped flowers in any color of red. Their best nectar sources are in those flowers.

The Hummingbird Society says

Hummingbirds weigh 2 to 20 grams, feed on nectar, insects and tiny spiders. They have long and slender beaks and extensible tongues. Their feet are tiny and designed for perching.

But why red flowers?

Insects compete with hummingbirds for nectar. Insects can see many colors but not at the red end of the color spectrum. To insects reds appear to be black. Hummingbirds can see the full spectrum and have their pick of the red flowers for nectar.

Why tubular flowers?

The hummingbird's tongue can extend a distance roughly equal to its beak length so it can reach where most insects cannot. Downward-hanging blossoms with no "landing" platform such as honeysuckle, are also less attractive to insects, leaving that nectar for hummingbirds.

Hummingbirds also need a source of water for bathing. Shallow, moving water is one preference. A leaf mister mounted 10-feet high is another.

Mints they like: Hyssop, Bee Balm and Salvias.

For all things Salvia check out the website of an English Salvia enthusiast at Robin's Salvias.

Mallows they like: Turk's Cap, Flowering Maple (Abutilon pictus), Hollyhock (as Alcea rosea) Hardy Hibiscus, Rose of Sharon.

Penstemmons: All

At https://mywebspace.wisc.edu/mjrock/web/nectarnews9.pdf

the author reviews his 2006 hummingbird garden, describing his successes and not-so-much.

One of his hummingbird hits was a Salvia Guaraniticia, Blue Brazilian Sage. Fortunately, seeds are available from Select Seeds.

If you want to share your hummingbird enthusiasm, HUMNET is at http://www.museum.lsu.edu/~Remsen/HUMNETintro.html with an email conversation, archives and advice.

Click over to Hummingbirds.net operated by Lanny Chambers in a St. Louis suburb. Lots of information on his site, too.

These are great resources put together with a lot of love for hummingbirds. Click around and think spring.

07 December 2008

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
Bloom Time Early summer
Size/Shape 3 feet tall, 18-24 inches wide
Special Requirements Groups, perennial border
Hardiness Zone 5-8
Other Notes Southern Charm is a hybrid with pink flowers (illustrated)

And an example from the Glossary
winterburn - leaves turning brown or dying because the winter wind dries them too much
helada - hojas que se hacen cafes o mueren debido a que el viento del invierno las reseca

Brilliant, isn't it? Put together an easy to use handbook for just about anyone who wants to put together a bedding area or find the perfect addition to an existing garden.

AmericanNursery.com is the publisher. 214 pp. Color. $25.
Zampardo is Emeritus Horticulture Faculty Member at College of Lake County. In addition to being an instructor at Grayslake IL, he has taught plant identification at Chicago Botanic Garden and the Morton Arboretum. His articles have been published in Fine Gardening (taunton.com), Weedpatch, American Nurseryman Magazine,

He also co-authored a plant database, UIPLANTS at http://woodyplants.nres.uiuc.edu/.
U S Forest Service Tree Database at http://www.treesearch.fs.fed.us/pubs/10976 links to he UI Plants database.

Plus he gardens.

Check out the 75% sale at the American Nurseryman site while you are there.

04 December 2008

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.

Carson will have white, pink, red, Monet, maroon, Winter Rose and Marble.

I have three or four reds this year, Carson said. People have their own preferences and I try to have something for everyone.

Marble has pink centers with white fringe. New growth is pale green in the center with cream outer edges.

Maroon has large burgundy bracts.

Monet is a watercolor mix of dusty pinks and creams.

Winter Rose is double dark red bloom with curved or curled bracts.


Pixie is a 4.5-inch pot miniature with 6 to 8 blooms. Ideal for tabletop, bedside, desks.

Six and one-half-inch pots have 2 plants per container and there will be 12-blooms. This size is the most popular for home coffee tables and in churches.

Eight-inch pots contain 3-plants, planted close together to create a taller display. This height is often used around a fireplace when it is not burning.

Hanging baskets are 10-inches in diameter and will have 20-blooms.

In the middle of August when most gardeners are sipping iced tea, Carson received four thousand Poinsettia plant cuttings. When they arrived their root ball was about as big around as a ballpoint pen.

All Poinsettias are hybrids grown from cuttings, Carson said. Each variety has different growing characteristics that I’ve learned over the past 25-years.

For example, a cloudy spell will impact when the bracts become colorful. August and September heat, an October hard freeze and insect migrations, all have to be worked around. Carson keeps both growing houses controlled with fans and heaters to keep the Poinsettias at their required 75-degree daytime and 64-degree nighttime temperatures.

Carson said he has learned from experience how many of each color to grow and which size pots Muskogee area holiday shoppers need.

By the way, Poinsettias are not poisonous. A few individuals have an allergic rash after touching the sap inside the stems of all Euphorbias.

Carson Borovetz Nursery
3020 North Street between South Country Club and York Streets
Monday November 24 through December 24
Monday to Saturday 9 to 6
Sunday noon to 6
918.682.4404 and 348-1270 cell
- Temperature is critical to long lasting color. Keep away from television, stove, fireplace, furnace ducts, cold windowsills and doors that are frequently opened.
- Night temperature of 60-degrees F is ideal
- Water twice a week and drain the saucer after every watering.

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 http://www.mgardens.org/, volunteers published historical information about 300 plants and described their horticultural requirements and Christian, spiritual significance.

The site lists plants by their type: Annual, perennial, etc. Examples of hardy and half-hardy perennials for our area:

Monk's Hood; Aconitum napellus, Mary's Slipper
Naming: Slipper-like, deep blue flowers in showy spires, Aug-Oct. Grown from seed and root division in moist, rich soil. Plants grow 4-feet tall in full sun; blooms last longer in light shade.

Honeysuckle, Our Lady’s Fingers
Naming: Clusters of finger-like buds. Grow from cuttings in moist soil in sun to light shade. Blooms June-July. Caprifolium and Asian variety Lonicera japonica, become invasive. Look for Coral Honeysuckle, Lonicera sempervirens.

Periwinkle, Vinca minor, Virgin Flower
Associated with Our Lady through the blueness of its flowers; it is in bloom in some areas at the end of March for the feast of the Annunciation.

Goat's Rue; Galega officinalis, Wild Holy Hay
One of the forage Holy Hay plants reputed by legend to have burst into bloom in the manger when the new-born Christ Child was laid on it by Mary. Bushy plants bearing tall spires of purplish blue or white pea shaped flowers. Grow from seed in full sun in common garden soil.

Meadow Rue; Thalictrum dipterocarpum and T. rochebrunianum, Our Lady's Rue
Naming: Association with sorrow and mourning. Grows 6-feet tall in dappled shade to full sun. Grow from seed or plant division in well-drained soil. Lavender mist blooms in July.

Cuckoo-Pint; Arum italicum, Our Lady's Smock
Naming: Smock shaped leaves. Plant seeds or roots in moist dappled shade

False Solomon's Seal; Smilacina racemosa, Our Lady’s Signet
Naming: Signet-like scar left on top of rootstock by each year's shoots after they wither. Arching stems of creamy white flowers followed by clusters of ruby-like berries. Grow from seed and root starts in moist shade.

Spiderwort; Tradescantia virginiana, Our Lady's Tears
Naming: Named for Our Lady after introduction to England from America in the 17th
Century. Spring-blooming, triangular violet-blue blossoms in half sun or full sun. Grow from seed and division.

Sweet Violet; Viola odorata, Our Lady's Modesty
Naming: The modest manner refers to the tiny flowers partially hidden among leaves.
Grow in sun from seed and root division in sandy soil. Blooms in spring.

Love-in-a-Mist; Nigella damascena, Our Lady in the Shade
Naming: Dense, finely divided, needle like foliage surrounding the white or blue flowers, symbolizing Our Lady overshadowed by the Holy Spirit. Easily grown from seed in any soil in sun. Sow seeds in spring for June bloom and again in June for September bloom.

Catchfly; Silene armeria, Mary's Rose
Naming: One of several red flowers associated with Mary, the Mystical Rose of Heaven. Bright pink flowers on plants grown from seed in sandy soil in full sun. Start seeds indoors for spring bloom and in garden in June for fall bloom

Check out the website for articles about garden design, as well as plants’ spiritual meaning. Plant lists are at www.mgardens.org/OLG-SBG-1.html.

The Alabama Cooperative Extension Service also has an informative link at http://www.aces.edu/urban/faithgardens/.

03 December 2008

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 Treehugger.com

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 older buildings is an effective tool for the responsible, sustainable stewardship of our environmental resources – including those that have already been expended.
Principle #2: Reinvest at a Community Scale
Instead of building more and more highways and strip malls and subdivisions, we ought to be reinvesting in the communities we already have. LEED Neighborhood Development has an entire section, Green Infrastructure and Buildings, that focuses on this. LEED ND,
encourages preservation and reuse of older buildings instead of demolition.

Principle #3: Value the Lessons of Heritage Buildings and Communities
It is often alleged that historic buildings are energy hogs but in fact, some older buildings are as energy-efficient as many recently built.

Principle #4: Make Use of the Economic Advantages of Reuse, Reinvestment and Retrofits
Dollar for dollar, rehabilitation creates more jobs than new construction. One study found that one million dollars invested in the rehabilitation of an existing building creates 9-13 more jobs than the same million invested in new construction. As Van Jones says, The main piece of technology in the green economy is a caulk gun.

Principle #5: Re-imagine Historic Preservation Policies and Practices as They Relate to Sustainability
In its early years, preservation focused on keeping buildings from being torn down. Now we understand that just saving them is not enough. We also have to do our best to improve their energy efficiency and ensure that their impact on the environment is not harmful.

Principle #6: Take Immediate and Decisive Action
It’s not enough to talk about how historic preservation can inform green building, or how green building practices can be integrated with preservation practices. We must roll up our sleeves and put these principles into practice.

How is this related to gardening?
If you have not read the book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kinsolver, check it out from the library, buy it online, or get the CD and listen to it while you drive around Christmas shopping.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Use up what you have. Do without. Grow food at home and buy from the locals: Better, fresher, closer to home.
Kingsolver's website is here. And, here is the AnimalVegetableMiracle site.
Learn how to pitch in to create a sustainable future for generations of humans, animals and plants that will come after us.

Locally, here is an old postcard of one of the buildings in our town, the Manhattan Building.

A tip of the trowel to Jerry Gustafson, Tulsa Master Gardener for sending me the article.

And, here is a link to some of the fine historic homes in our town.
Historic Homes of Muskogee OK

02 December 2008

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.)
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 particular type of seed also required a mixture of 5 ingredients for ideal planting medium.