Showing posts from 2009

Spring Gardens Start in the Winter

Experienced gardeners know that there is still time to plant spring flowering bulbs and garlic. A local garlic grower said that the best crops of garlic he gets are the ones he plants after Christmas.

Maybe your schedule is too busy this week to pot up garlic cloves or plunge tulip bulbs into the ground but you have time to do a little shopping.

This is the time to order potato seeds to plant around Valentine’s Day. Potatoes can be successfully planted in the ground, in soil filled coffee bags, under loose hay or in buckets. This is good news for those of us with shallow soil.

Seed potato sources -

Ronniger Potato Farm in Colorado,, 877-204-8704, Ronniger has organic, fingerlings, certified, low carbohydrate, early, mid and late potato varieties. Their catalog tells you which ones are best for storing, potato chips, mashed or fried.

Local stores will have seed potatoes for sale at planting time. Avoid old seeds with hairy, branched sprouts.

Potato see…

Exciting Time of Year

Ah, the seed catalogs are coming in by the basketful and I love this time of year because of them.

There are no limitations to my gardening energy, no 100 degree days with 98% humidity to sap my strength, no drought to crisp the leaves of beloved seedlings and no torrential rains to flood away all the nutrients.

Just freezing weather outisde and a vivid imagination to make the vegetable garden loaded with produce, the flower beds blaze with color and active with butterflies and skippers, and the herbs spicy with summer sun scents.

What a wonderful week for a gardener.

Complete Guide to Container Gardening

Can a beautiful and inspiring book make a gardener think of spring? I think so because I've been looking at a review copy of Complete Guide to Container Gardening, sent to me by Ashley Newton, Associate Publicist, at Wiley. This is a book I requested because frankly, my container gardening skills could use some improvement. Either I put too many uncoordinated plants in my containers or I fail to water them regularly enough, or, they are one plant in a pot - totally boring.

Wiley says it is "A simple, lavishly illustrated guide to container gardens of all shapes and sizes."

The book is an 8.5 by 11-inch paperback that is full of color photos of successful container gardening themes - whites, pinks, succulents, etc.

And, there are tips on planting containers of all shapes and sizes, including one of those towers of pots stacked on top of each other to create a tall cascade of flowing flowers when they take off and bloom.

The trend (?) of illustrating the layout of the plants a…

Merry Christmas


Mistletoe Isn't Just for Holiday Kisses

As you look at the mistletoe hanging in local trees, do you ever wonder what it is and why it grows in trees?
Traditionally, a few stems of the plant are tied with a red ribbon and hung where friends, family and even a few strangers will get a kiss. No holiday party should be without it.

European mistletoe, Viscum album, is not toxic and was used to treat a wide variety of physical and emotional symptoms.

Today, European mistletoe extracts are used in the treatment of cancer and HIV/Aids.

American mistletoe is Phoradendron with clusters of white-pink berries that mostly hang on deciduous trees.

Ours is toxic so do not eat it.

There are many myths and mysteries about mistletoe. References contradict each other but here are a few of the concepts.

Druids worshipped mistletoe that grew on oak trees.

They called it all-heal and considered it their most sacred plant for what they believed were its healing qualities. They saw it as a symbol of the return of the sun after the winter solstice sin…

The African Queen rests in Key Largo Florida

On an early morning walk we came across the African Queen along the waterway, between the yachts and tourist haulers. It's not a gardening topic, but also not to be missed!

The gentleman who told us her history, Jimmy Hendricks, said his family owns the boat.

They have a link on their Princess glass bottom tour boat site here.

It was built in 1912, and was used from 1912 to 1968. Then it came to America.

Hendricks said that England would like to take the steam boat home and restore it.

In 1996, the New York Times (link here) ran an article about the African Queen arriving in Connecticut.
In that article Hendricks is quoted as saying that people did not recognize it when he first began showing the vessel in Key Largo because it was too clean and too well maintained.

In case you don't recall "African Queen" the 1951 movie, here's the synopsis -
An unlikely romance blossoms between Charlie Allnut, a gin-swilling river pilot played by Humphrey Bogart, and Catherine Hepburn&#…

Tropical Hammock - Hugh Taylor Birch State Park - Ft. Lauderdale FL

We had an opportunity to visit a coastal tropical hammock in Ft. Lauderdale Florida this month. The location is a donated strip of land called Hugh Taylor Birch State Park - here's a link with information about visiting.

Tropical hardwood hammocks, or closed hardwood canopies, are found throughout the southern half of Florida. These rare, threatened, botanical areas exhibit plants that are mostly native to the West Indies.

Originally they were a source of medicinal plants and food for native people and those who were shipwrecked on the Florida shores.

Other terms you'll see used to describe this type of preserve, include: Coastal berm, sinkhole, shell mound, hammock forest, etc.

Over 150 shrub and tree species have been identified in Florida's hammocks, including spleenwort, wild cinnamon, wild coffee, red stopper, mahogany mistletoe, thatch palm, pigeon plum, sea grape and dozens of others. They were named for their accepted purpose so thei original uses are easy to decipher…

What Sustains the Garden?

The Economist has an article of interest, "Of Gods and Gardens" from the winter issue of the magazine, Intelligent Life. Here's a link to the column.

The centerpiece of the article is a 1944 essay by John Wisdom.

The parable: Two people return to their long neglected garden and find a few of the old plants are surprisingly vigorous among the weeds.

One says to the other, It must be that a gardener has been coming and doing something about these weeds.

The other disagrees.

They pitch their tents and watch.

No gardener is ever seen.

The believer wonders if there is an invisible gardener, so they patrol with bloodhounds but the bloodhounds never give a cry.

The believer insists that the gardener is invisible, has no scent and gives no sound.

The sceptic doesn't agree, and asks how an invisible, intangible, elusive gardener differs from an imaginary gardener, or even no gardener at all.

So, is it Mother Nature? And, who is she?

What do you think and believe about what makes …

Cactus Garden in Las Vegas NV

Fifteen minutes from the Las Vegas Strip, there is a Cactus Garden all dressed up for the holidays.
We visited a few weeks ago while in Las Vegas visiting family. Details are: Ethel M Chocolate Factory and Botanical Cactus Gardens, 2 Cactus Garden Drive,Henderson, NV 89014,702.435.2655. Admission is free and it is a hoot to see cacti dressed up with strings of lights and blow up Christmas icons.

If you find yourself in Las Vegas before Jan first, make a detour day or night for this unique attraction.

Beautiful Succulent Photos

Panayoti Kelaidis is the Curator of Plant Collections at Denver's renowned Botanic Garden. He also designed the Rock Alpine Garden.

Kelaidis is a plantsman who studies and lectures worldwide on rock garden plants.

His books include
Flourish: A Visionary Garden in the American West
High and Dry: Gardening with Cold-Hardy Dryland Plants
Rocky Mountain Traveler - a Guide to Locating Rocky Mountain Wildflowers
Colorado Traveler Guidebook: Wildflowers

If you have any interest at all in succulents, take a look at his photos at his Picassa album

The Brother Gardeners by Andrea Wulf

History is fascinating when an author is able to write like historian Andrea Wulf. Wulf's book, The Brother Gardeners, describes the original botanists, their friendships and feuds, from 1716 to 1770.

Great Britain became the center of the horticultural world during the colonial period by importing plants and seeds from wherever her ships traveled around the world.

In 1716 nurseryman Thomas Fairchild discovered the process by which plants make seed. Fairchild used a feather to pollinate a flower in his Hoxton potting shed. (The Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden in Florida is named for the plant explorer and botanist David Fairchild (1869-1954), a descendent of Thomas.)

One of the brother gardeners, Peter Collinson was a cloth merchant and amateur botanist in London. Many British merchants were getting rich on recently opened markets in the American colonies, the West Indies and East Indies.

Collinson's curiosity about plants took him to Fairchild's garden and his enthusias…

AHS New Encyclopedia of Gardening Techniques

The American Horticultural Society has a new release called the New Encyclopedia of Gardening Techniques. It's $35 on the AHS site, $29.50 for members. $26 on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

This volume is one of a kind in its emphasis on techniques rather than plants. And it is perfect for a new homeowner, new gardener or an experienced plant lover who loves to collect illustrated reference materials so they do things right the first time (That would be me).

At almost 500 pages, you can count on finding something you will need, want and enjoy.

Here are the section titles in Chapter One: Hardiness and heat, Know your yard, Microclimates, Gardening with the environment, Garden design, Know your soil, Digging techniques, Amending the soil, Mulching, Making compost, Leafmold, Pests diseases and other problems, Weed control.

The other chapters are Wildlife gardening, Growing ornamentals, Growing Vegetables and herbs, Growing fruit, Lawns, Water gardening, Container gardening, Greenhouse…

December's 20 degree nights look like this

We must be breaking all kinds of records for cold weather this year. Zone 7 Decembers may have an inch of snow that melts the next day but rarely do we have night after night below freezing.

So, here's our back acre as of yesterday. The little fenced area is the rabbit proof veggie garden. The railroad tie raised bed holds 200 heads of garlic in the winter. They are up and green, protected by the raised bed and an occasional 50 degree sunny day.

Inside the shed, an oil filled heater with the dial on the star setting, keeps the temperature above freezing. Jon has florescent lighting on 12 hour timers that keep everything happy.

I couldn't find large seed starting mats but we now have a commercial sized heat mat thanks to Matthew Weatherbee.

This is where we hang out in January and February, planting seeds.

Grow Your Own Eat Your Own

Kyle Cathie publishing in the U.K. has released a new book by England's preeminent organic gardening adviser, Bob Flowerdew. Flowerdew, a farmer's son, is a radio and tv organic gardening personality. He gardens on an acre in Norfolk and has a landscape service. His other books include Going Organic: The Good Gardener's Guide to Getting It Right, Gourmet Gardener, Flowers, Fruits and Vegetables, The No-Work Garden, Organic Bible, Bob Flowerdew's Complete Fruit Book, Complete Book of Companion Gardening and The Organic Gardener - all since 1993. Grow Your Own Eat Your Own got rave reviews in England but I always wonder how well English gardening advice translates to U.S. conditions, especially since he gardens on an acre along the North Sea. One of the features of the book is that there are techniques illustrated that we don't commonly see in American books - and I love finding new ways to improve my success in food growing and preserving. Flowerdew's focus in …

Chlorophyll In His Veins: J. C. Raulston. Horticultural Ambassador - new book tells life story of important horticulturist

Best selling author Bobby J. Ward wrote a new biography of plantsman J.C. Raulston that will be released in January 2010.

In its second printing, the book is published by BJW Books and available in Raleigh book stores as well as at Plant Delights Nursery in Raleigh. If you would like to purchase a copy, contacting the author is the best bet.

Bobby J Ward
$25.00 Plus shipping (media mail) 3.50 Total $28.50
To pay by check (Make checks payable to: Bobby J. Ward), send to:
Bobby J. Ward 930 Wimbleton Dr. Raleigh, NC 27609
PayPal purchases and further information at

Chlorophyll in His Veins: J. C. Raulston. Horticultural Ambassador

From the press release - "J. C. Raulston was the most important and influential figure in American horticulture in the latter part of the twentieth century. His passion for promoting new plants for landscapes was unmatched. As a teacher at Texas A&M and at North Carolina State University, he gave generously …

Birding Tour in New Mexico USA

Our friend Tom Wilberding lives in Boulder CO. He is both a birding hobbyist and an excellent photographer.

He gave his permission to share a couple of photos from his recent 5-day bird tour in New Mexico.

They will make you wish you had gone along.

How About a Radius Pond Shark for Someone on Your Gift List? Home Made Seed Bombs Anyone? An Encyclopedia of Gardening Techniques?

Gardeners appreciate plants but there are also gadgets, gifts you can buy, make, or put together with a little creativity.

Everyone who loves plants would appreciate a gardening workshop, trade show or a garden tour. There is a free native garden tour of the California Bay Area in April at The April historic garden tour in Virginia is around $25 at Tulsa Garden Center’s late-May tour is in Chelsea ($3300 Tickets to the Oklahoma City Home and Garden Show January 15-17 are under $10 at

Whether you shop at local suppliers, mail order or online, there are flowers, herbs, vegetables and woody stemmed plants for every budget. Stringer Nursery in Tulsa has 2010 seeds that could be put into a package with seed starting soil, and pots.

Spring flowering bulbs are on sale from online retailers. A bag of tulip, daffodil or hyacinth bulbs with a coupon for help with planting woul…

What Gardeners Do In Winter

What do you do in the winter, Dear Gardeners?

I putter in the shed for an hour on most days, transplanting seedlings that have outgrown their pots, chasing aphids, cleaning, pruning......but it isn't gardening.

Well, it's too wet and cold to garden outside though I have some perennials and lots of bulbs to put in the ground as soon as the sun shines again.

The next batch of seed starting will have to wait until after all the holiday travel is over and there is time to baby the seeds every day.

I do believe this is the time of year that we can get ourselves over committed, at least in our imagination. Seed catalogs are arriving and this year everyone is having some kind of a special deal to help us out. Are you ordering?

What are you reading? I subscribe to Jim Conrad's Naturalist Newsletter which is "Issued from Hacienda Chichén beside the Maya ruin of ChichénItzá in the central Yucatán, Mexico".

In this week's issue Conrad talks about fruit bats, orioles, a gray …

2009 Garden Writers Assn Awards

Not all garden writers belong to the Garden Writers Association. Only current members can win one of their writing awards. Here are the 2009 winners.
There are also winners in photography, commercial publications, etc.
I'm posting them so you can add a few of these excellent articles or books to your winter reading list. Enjoy!

Best Magazine Writing
Therese Ciesinski for "Rain Check" published by Organic Gardening Magazine.

Best Newspaper Writing
Kim Palmer for "Homegrown Heats Up" published by Star Tribune.

Best Book Writing
Linda Chalker-Scott for The Informed Gardener published by University of Washington Press.

Best Photography
William Wright for the book Stylish Sheds and Elegant Hideaways published by Clarkson Potter/Random House.

Best Illustration
Gina Ingoglia for The Tree Book for Kids and Their Grown-ups published by Brooklyn Botanic Garden.

Best Graphic Design
Jessica Armstrong for The Veggie Gardener's Answer Book published by Storey Publishing.


Garden Writing Awards in Britain - The Garden Media Guild Awards 2009

Britain has a type of Oscars for garden writing and it's interesting to note that I've heard of very few of the winner. I'm posting them tonight so you can know about resources that aren't written about much in the U.S.

Not only are there books on the list that will pique your interest, but blogs as well. There are more winners than are listed here, so if you would like to see the rest, click on this link

Inspirational Book of the Year
Winner: The Flowering of Aberglasney by Graham Rankin, published by Aberglasney Enterprises.
Finalists:Grow Your Own Drugs by James Wong, published by Collins.Hugh Johnson in The Garden by Hugh Johnson, published by Mitchell Beazley.
Spirit: Garden Inspiration by Dan Pearson, published by Fuel Publishing.
The Organic Garden Green and Easy by Allan Shepherd, published by Collins.

Reference Book of the Year
Winner: Scotland for Gardeners – The Guide to Scottish Gardens, Nurseries and Garden Centres 2009 by Kenneth Cox, published by Birlinn.

The Beauty of Winter

Twenty degrees.

Twenty last night.

Even the broccoli looks shocked. Believe it or not the Romaine lettuce is still standing proud.

Grasses look great.

This year I started ornamental cabbage and kale from seed. Even though I was busy with late summer harvest, canning, etc. the plants went in the ground and did very well. They are even gorgeous tucked among the other stuff that needs to be cleaned out.

These are photos from the Dallas Arboretum Trial Gardens taken 2 weeks ago.

Onamental Kale Pink Kamome

Ornamental Kale White Pigeon

Check out the U Wisconsin growers' link on these beauties.

Harris Seed has a collectionavailable. 50 seeds each of Nagoya Red, Nagoya White, and Pigeon Pink for $5.90.

I'll be a volunteer cleaner-upper at the Snowflake Cafe, Carols and Crumpets, Tulsa Garden Center today. The craft fair runs from 8 to 3. I'll be downstairs from 11 to 2.

Ornamental Cabbage and Kale

Four percent of the cabbage grown in the world is grown in the United States on 82,000 acres across the country.

Texas, Florida and New York provide the winter supply. China provides 38 percent worldwide.

The slang word for head in French is caboche and is believed to be the origin of the word cabbage. The French also use mon petit chou as an endearment meaning my little cabbage.

Cabbage originated in Western Europe where it was originally used for treating headaches, gout and intestinal disorders. Cabbage juice was used as an anti-toxin and many people drink it today for its health benefits. Thomas Jefferson grew 22 varieties at Monticello.

In the United States, cabbage is used for coleslaw, packaged salad mix, sauerkraut, egg rolls, soup flavoring, corned beef and cabbage and the fresh produce market.

Cabbage, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower and kale belong to the same plant family Cruciferae or mustard, in the genus Brassica.

Cabbages smell pungent when they cook because sulfu…

Zion National Park This Week

We had the pleasure of spending a day a Zion National Park in Utah this week. Photos say more than I possibly could. And, here is a link for more.

We walked the 3 mile trail in the first photo while our friends climbed up the face of the mountain and back. We had time for coffee while they were pursuing physical fitness.

Snow Canyon State Park and Red Cliffs Desert Reserve in Ivins Utah

We spent a week in Ivins Utah. Here are a few photos of one place we walked.

End of November Vegetables

One of the warmest Novembers on record gave us late fall harvest in the vegetable garden.

We planted twice as many broccoli starts this fall because the 7 springtime plants were not enough. Fourteen gave us enough to eat raw, cook and give some away - just about the right amount.

Fortunately, the dill is still growing. Swallowtail caterpillars moved to this dill when the fennel gave it up one cold night. It got cold enough that the winter squash leaves turned brown-gray. Now the fennel has new growth at the soil level where it is protected by a raised bed.

The snow pea vines are well-named for their ability to thrive in the fall temperatures. Usually, our spring is short and we get one big harvest.

The green beans did exceptionally well, considering my shabby treatment of them this fall. I planted too many radish seeds among them and failed to go back and thin the radishes. The green beans suffered from lack of air circulation and sunshine for a while. But! As soon as I remedied that, t…

Gardener's Quiz

You may not want to be outside gardening this weekend so here is a fun quiz to work on alone or with family and friends.

1. The difference between fruits and vegetables: A) Fruit is sweet and vegetables are bland. B) Fruit grows on trees and vegetables grow in the ground. C) Fruits develops from flowers and vegetables do not.

2. During a period of rainy weather, outdoor plant leaves can get a cluster of brown spots near the leaf stem caused by: A) Rain splashing soil onto the leaf causing a bacterial infection. B) Insect invasion. C) Too much water.

3. When this blooms, it is time to prune roses: A) Azalea. B) Forsythia. C) Rose of Sharon. D) Snowball Bush.

4. Hypertufa is A) A planting pot made of peat moss, concrete and perlite B) A spring flowering bulb C) A plant disease

5. Skunk Cabbage or Symplocarpus foetidus has evergreen leaves and green, bell-shaped flowers. Foetidus means offensive, stinking odor. A) True. B) False.

6. An invasive weed that looks like yellow and red threads is: A…

On Sale, For Sale, Sale, Sale

In addition to the fabulous plant sales available from mailorder sources in late November - Brent and Becky's, Touch of Nature, Colorblends, White Flower Farm, Wayside Gardens, Easy to Grow, Gardensoyvey, Sooner Plant Farm, Annie's, Bluestone Perennials and others, there are local plant sales in our area. Does your area have anything similar?

Pete Carson at Carson Borovetz Nursery in Muskogee OK has developed an enviable expertise at growing poinsettias and he re-opens his nursery to sell them during the holidays.

Connors State College Horticulture Dept. students raise Poinsettias as a fund raiser.

2009 Poinsettia Sale Connors State College Greenhouse, Warner Campus
December 1,4, 8, 11, from 10:00 to 4.
$8.00 each Colors: Prestige Traditional Red, Shimmer Surprise, and Marble Star
For more information or to place orders or to make arrangements for a plant pick up time call Debby Golden at the Agriculture Office 918.463.6265

It's time to order your seed potatoes for the Feb 14 pl…

New Non-Technology Idea for Saving the Planet

The Dirt is an online publication of the American Society of Landscape Architects.

The ideas in the blog entry below are not without controvery, but they are different from most. You can click on the link above to read the entire column. Here are some excerpts -

New Geoengineering Idea: Turning Deserts into Forests
11/20/2009 by asladirt

"Leonard Ornstein, a cell biologist at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, and Igor Aleinov and David Rind, two climate modellers at NASA, argue that foresting the Australian outback and Saharan Desert would solve climate change.

While numerous geoengineering schemes have been proposed to mitigate the adverse effects of greenhouse gas (GHG) build-up, many of the more ambitious ideas, including ocean-based aerosol sprayers, space mirrors, C02 air scrubbers, or artificial C02-capturing trees, have been examined and labeled cost-prohibitive or dangerous (see earlier post).

Others ideas will work, are much cheaper on a small-scale, but requi…

Route 66 Endangered by Progress Again

The Cultural Landscape Foundation alerted readers to yet another threat to Route 66. You can follow the link to the entire article but here are some excerpts - If this part of the natural world is something you care passionately about, there is contact information at the end for your emails and letters.

Route 66 Threatened by Proposed Biodiesel Facility
By Debra Martin
Published November 11, 2009

Running more than 2,000 miles, between Chicago and Los Angeles, historic Route 66 attracts tourists and car enthusiasts from all over the world.

....Today, in a rush to make Mohave County, Arizona the renewable energy capital of the United States, the local government has put several green economy projects on the fast track, including the construction of a biodiesel facility on a pristine stretch of historic Route 66.

....Called The Mother Road in John Steinbeck's book The Grapes of Wrath, Route 66 became a lifeline to a perceived better life.

Today, Route 66 organizations operate in several …

Sansevieria - A Plant for Every Location

Sansevieria is a wonderfully tolerant plant. You see them in hospitals, hotels, shopping malls, banks and homes.

Sansevieria trifasciata, known as Mother-In-Law Tongue or snake plant may be the most common one. It is recommended as an indoor air purifier, since it converts carbon dioxide to oxygen at night.

Sansevierias will put up with most conditions including low light, lack of water and lack of repotting. They will not survive soggy soil or temperatures much below 65-F.

And, they propagate easily. One leaf can be cut horizontally into 3-inch pieces and stuck into damp sand where they will grow into plants. Just notice which way the leaf was growing and put its edge right side up into the rooting mix.

Sanseveria or Sanseviera was named for Raimondo de Sangro, the prince of San Severo, Italy who lived 1710 to 1771. In its native Africa, Sansevieria trifasciata is said to be a favorite gourmet food of elephants. The medicinal uses include ulcers, parasites, earaches and toothaches (www…

Late November for Gardeners

Zone 7 has officially hit winter - it was 40-F at 7:30 tonight.

The tropical plants are tucked away, most of the seeds and cuttings have been gathered. Of course there are still some flowers and vegetables hanging on and the garlic is coming up.

I got caught up in enthusiasm and ordered 5 varieties of fingerling potatoes from Ronniger Potato Farm. For years, I missed the window to order and get them here in time for our Feb 14 planting. But this year for some reason I hit the mark.

Veseys Seed has their new catalog online. Click here to take a look.

Pinetree Gardens fall bulb sale is on - here.

Touch of Nature's bulb sale is on - 100 tulips for $20 etc.

Tulsa Master Gardeners website has published its November to-do list. You can find it here.

So, what are you doing to prevent horticulture withdrawal? I'm poking around in the shed, reading seed catalogs and puttering.

Pandanus utilis - a Lily Called Screw Pine

A Screw Pine is not a pine at all.
The common screw pine or Pandanus utilis (and lemurs) are native to Madagascar. They are actually monocots, related to palms, orchids and grass.

Iowa State University also says that each flower results in a drupe - a seed surrounded by flesh like an olive or a cherry.

Tropical Plants Online in Ft. Lauderdale FL, sells the plants and suggests that they be used as specimen plants since they grow so large - 25 feet tall.

Rare Seed Source sells the seeds. The plant is hardy in zone 9 - down to 26 degrees-F and can grow in full sun or light shade. Needs sandy soil for fast draining.

I wouldn't use someone else's photos so you must click over to this blog - Exploring The World's Tree Species tree blog. A couple of the Screw Pine photos are spectacular.

The tree's roots grow above the soil line.
Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden in Florida has a Pandanus Primer page devoted to Screw Pines.

Quoting from the Pandanus Primer -
"Sadly, many of the…