29 April 2009

Crazy In Love With Our Garden

We are simply crazy about our garden and take photos almost every day of one thing or another.

This is the inside of the herb bed looking out with the yellow iris on the left and the Mexican sage on the right. Right bottom is mother of Thyme (Moonshadow Herb Farm). Outside the fence left is white iris, crazy daisy (thank you Susie Lawrence for the starts) pink iris, burgundy iris and top right is Dame's Rocket. The small tree is an Oklahoma native peach.

This is a shot from the side yard. The fruit trees and vegetable garden are behind the camera.
The bed on the right is a shade bed where tulips and daffodils have completed their fun and other plants are just starting. In the center bed is lavender (Thank you Sharon Owen), native peach trees, pinks (Thank you Lora Weatherbee), clovers, lilies, etc.

You might want to check out "The Ultimate Gardener: The Best Experts' Advice for Cultivating a Magnificent Garden with Photos and Stories", a new book from Health Communications, Inc.

The 250 page paperback is loaded with photos. What's fascinating about the approach is that every chapter is written by a different author. Charlie Nardozzi, National Gardening Association is the editor.

Authors include: Christine Collier, poet Sally Clark, Cookie Curci, actress Juliana Harris, retired teacher and painter Veronica Cullinan Lake, and freelance writer Felice Prager. All of the listed authors have one of the Chicken Soup titles in their summary, and you would be correct to assume that this book comes out of that same publishing group.

More of a book for gardeners than horticulturists, the first person stories about gardening, family, nature and plant lore will appeal to you when you want to read charming vignettes rather than look up a plant's Latin name and cultivation requirements.

There's great advice here, too, though it is in story form. Topics that will appeal include attracting butterflies and hummingbirds, how to design a landscape, how to plan a small garden, growing hardy organic vegetables and gardening with pets in the yard.

Health Communications Inc. is at this link where you can purchase "Ultimate Gardener" for $14.95. It's $8 on Amazon and Barnes and Noble online.

28 April 2009

The New Leak Proof Tomato

A new tomato has been bred to prevent soggy bread when your sandwich includes a slice or two. ABC News considers it a revolution. Most people who left a comment on the story consider it a move toward less flavorful food.

But really, no one reported on the flavor yet.

The new tomato went on sale at Tesco's in London. They are being grown in the Mediterranean for European customers. Next they will be grown in Mexico for U.S. consumers.

Here is a link to the ABC article and here is a bit about the invention: "The growers at Nunhems, part of the giant conglomerate Bayer AG, say that standard tomatoes lose 8 percent of their weight after slicing and a further 12 percent seeps into the bread only an hour later. With the new variety and its much denser structure, less than 1 percent of the moisture is lost when the tomato is sliced and only 3 percent of the juice soaks the bread 12 hours after the sandwich is made."

The Daily Mail also ran a news story about the tomato revolution. It's here.

Does this appeal to you? How much do you think it varies from a Roma variety which is pretty meaty and dry when you slice it. Would it be better for salsa than the varieties now available?

If you taste one, report back on the flavor.

Frogs and Toads Have Their Own Day 4-28

Garden Rant posted the picture above with a link to the site.

PBS did a program on Nature about them. Click here to see the episode.

Wiki How has a list of tips for attracting frogs to your garden.

Suite 101 also has ideas on frog pond gardening here.

Stuart Robinson posted these benefits of frogs in the garden on his Australian blog,
Gardening Tips and Ideas (also posted on Garden Rant)

What are the benefits of frogs in the garden?
Frogs are bug and critter devourers
Mosquito larvae, sowbugs and caterpillars are delicacies for frogs.
They forage on the outer foliage of some plants when they are in some state of decay
The downside of encouraging frogs is that they are common food for snakes

How to encourage frogs into your garden
The more moist your garden is the more chance frogs will start to inhabit your yard
A pond that encourages garden frogs is one that is not too deep, offers some plant life for protection and food, rocks for sunning on and still places to breed.

We don't have a frog pond yet, but now I think we'll have to look into it.

27 April 2009

Back Home

We left early Thursday for a long weekend in Seattle and returned this morning to a completely new garden. At this time of year it is amazing how the trees fill out in a matter of days.
The Sweetspire was bare stems on Thursday and now is completely filled out with leaves.
The lettuce was shivering and now is ready for harvest.
We have hummingbirds in the coral honeysuckle, the salvias and every other red flowering plant in our gardens.

This time of year is the best.
Well, except for the pressure to plant, the nightly aches and other gardening complaints.

26 April 2009

What A Difference A Month Makes

The view from the kitchen last month was sweetly filled with daffodils. The piles of brush are from the most recent ice storm a couple of months before. The hyacinths and grape hyacinths bloomed and faded until next year.

The view from the kitchen now is past the bloom of most of the tulips. Now it is full of later spring flowers and the ground is greening.

Here's a closer snap of the last of the yellow tulips and their friendly neighbors Siberian Squill or Persian blue Siberica.

For another point of view, gardeners in the northwest consider these blue beauties a nuisance. I suspect their temperate, moist weather helps the bulbs multiply like crazy without any harsh winter freezes to keep them in check.
Bluebells are the bane of my existence says Kym Pokorny at the Oregonian in Portland.

I read lots of garden blogs but rarely comment when they complain about invasive this and that. Bermuda grass in the flower beds is about all I'll complain about.
What's invasive where you garden?

25 April 2009

The Mailbox Art at Honor Heights Park

Koi by Joshua Blundell, 17

Duck Family by Don Jones

Van Gogh by Jim Eaton

Butterfly Garden by Barbara Downs

The White Garden by Wren Stratton
Spring Flowers by Ruth Box

23 April 2009

Earth Day Is an Opportunity for Each Person to Make One Change to Help Mother Earth

April 22 was Earth Day and around the country attention is being focused on the protection of and respect for the Earth. Three new organic gardening books are out for 2009 to help guide us in improving our gardening habits.

The All-New Illustrated Guide to Gardening, written by Fern Marshall Bradley and Trevor Cole, is an all in one reference book that could be given as a wedding or housewarming gift. With almost 600-pages, it has a directory of 700 annual, bi-annual, perennial plants, 2500 photographs, and 800 step-by-step how-to illustrations. The focus is on organic gardening with non-toxic fertilizer, disease and pest control solutions.

The book begins with a chapter on planning and ends with taking care of your garden. In between, the chapters include: Lawns, fruits, vegetables, water gardens and bulbs. Iris, peony, daylily, hosta, dahlias, roses, and others, each receive an entire chapter to themselves.

The advice in the book is practical. For example in the planning chapter, the authors advise you to think about how you want the garden to look in the future and start small, gradually implementing your improvement plan.

The 200 pages of charts cover topics ranging from lawn disease to selecting plants for a water garden. There are several types of plant reference pages. For example, the section on shrubs for specific locations lists suitable choices for wet and dry soil, those with interesting winter bark, shrubs for sun, shade, etc. Plus, there is a 50-page chart of shrubs and vines that provides descriptions, uses, light and soil needs, varieties, etc.

Every chapter has illustrated, useful tips. Whether you want to know how to plant, prune, divide, seed, propagate, espalier, or attract birds and butterflies, it is covered.

The All-New Illustrated Guide to Gardening, by Fern Marshall Bradley and Trevor Cole, Published by Reader's Digest. $35 at www.rd.com and $25 at online booksellers.

Nellie Neal, a radio personality in Mississippi, wrote Organic Gardening Down South. Neal's approach is to help people who want to enjoy their gardens rather than be owned by them.

Starting with the types of soil, Neal covers tools, compost, how to dig a new bed, and container gardening. The explanations are easy to understand. For example, “Roots can be compared to the Push Me Pull You in the tales of Dr. Doolittle. Roots push into soil, but the tiny root hairs that cover them actually pull.”

The chapter called Family Ties explains plant groups and how they grow and the one titled The Woody Trio provides guidance on trees, shrubs and roses. Bugs, berries, bulbs, butterflies, seed starting, pruning, water conservation and a monthly to-do guide fill 138-black-and-white pages.

Organic Gardening Down South by Nellie Neal, available on her website www.GardenMama.com, and $15.95 postage paid through the publisher at www.mackeybooks.com.

Ann Whitman and Suzanne DeJohn, editors for the National Gardening Association, wrote the new Organic Gardening for Dummies. A 340-page black and white guide to organic gardening basics, Dummies starts with the fundamentals, goes through soils and fertilizers, pest management and disease control.

The pages from 181 to 331 are the planting how-to chapters. Using the Dummies series checklist and target format, the authors give great tips. For example, there is a chart of how many plants you would need to fill a bed that measures 100-square feet. Under “Fertilizing Follies” the authors say most trees will grow perfectly well without any added fertilizer. In a section called “Dung Ho!” they have a chart of the fertilizing capability of various manures.

Organic Gardening for Dummies is a good bet for beginning gardeners. Published by Wiley, 2009. $20 list and $12 online.

Whether you choose rain barrels, compost bins, recycling, reducing chemical use or some other Earth Day action – it all makes a difference if each person does one.

Fiskars Rainbarrel kit includes the drain spout hookups.

What will your one small change be?

22 April 2009

Saturday May 2 Food and Wine Event

Saturday May 2 will be a fun day at Honor Heights Park.

Friends of Honor Heights Park is hosting its first Food and Wine Event before the annual Banner Auction. Tickets to the Food and Wine festivities are $20 per person. The food and wine are being donated by members so the proceeds from ticket sales can be put into the account.

Friends of Honor Heights Park Food &Wine Event is 5:30 to 7:00
Banner Auction begins at 7:00

The sign is at Blossom's Garden Center, 3012 East Hancock, one of the locations for buying tickets in advance. Muskogee Parks and Recreation Department, 837 East Okmulgee, also has tickets. Tickets will be available at the door.

Friends of Honor Heights Park was formed to raise money to construct this new feature for the park - a Teaching Garden and Butterfly House.

Banner Auction Information - Joel Everett 918.684.6302
Food and Wine Event information - Frank Medearis 918.683.4387

20 April 2009

In the Shade

Whether you call it Phlox divaricata, Woodland Phlox, Wild Blue Phlox or Wild Sweet William this lovely plant comes back in April with tiny blue flowers waving in the wind under the deciduous trees. It will reliably cheer you with a month of bloom.

Trilliums are also reliable Oklahoma shade garden plants that are a wonder of early spring.

These are Trilliums in my shade bed. Click here to see the Trillium FloraPix online library of images from around the world. It is breathtaking to see these fragile beauties. We need to plant them in our gardens because they need our help to save them from extinction.
The bulldozers, you know, build the world's economy but take the habitat of Trillium and other fragile friends of the Earth.

19 April 2009

Tips for Smart Garden Center Selections

Kerry Meyer of Proven Winners has some tips for selecting plants in garden centers. You probably have thought about these criteria, but it's a good set of reminders as we all go to the garden centers.

Select plants for the amount of sun available where you plan to plant.
Consider whether you want shrubs, perennials or annuals
Decide how many plants you will need to fill the space
Look at the underside of the leaves
Plants that have dry, discolored or spotted leaves are not ideal
Curling or crispy leaves means stress, disease or insect damage
Discolored leaves mean poor nutrition
White fuzzy fungus or rust spots are signs of disease
Look for bugs and webs on the stems and leaves
Check the roots by slipping the plant out of the pot - they should be white and healthy looking
Select a plant with the most branches and buds but the fewest blooms
Cut off the flowers when you get the plant home
If you get a plant home and it turns out to be undesirable, return it to the place you bought it

Meyers' bio says she lives on 10 acres in central Missouri so her weather is a bit slower to warm than ours in zone 7 but the advice is still good.

18 April 2009

Carole Reese's Sex Talk

Google's Blogger is still malfunctioning with the image posting feature so this will be another day without wonderful photos to enjoy.

I drove to the April meeting of the Flower, Garden and Nature Society of Northwest Arkansas this morning to hear Carol Reese speak on “Sex and the Single Stamen: The sometimes bizarre but entertaining sex life of the garden”.

Reese is an Ornamental Horticultural Specialist at the University of Tennessee Extension Service so she gardens in zone 7 too.

Her talk was billed as entertaining and informative and it lived up to its billing.

Reese writes for the Jackson Sun. Here are links to 2 of her past columns:

Shopping for great plants is as much or more fun than gardening

You can have bright colorful foliage glowing in a shady garden This article is
about the Heuchera varieties that can withstand our humid heat. Reese said these worked for her: 'Citronelle', 'Caramel,' 'Bronze Wave,' 'Pistache,' 'Frosted Violet,' 'Southern
Comfort' and 'Georgia Peach.'

I'll write more about Reese's great talk but if you have an opportunity to hear her, take it.

And, look for those heat tolerant Heucheras when you shop next time.

17 April 2009

Great Possibilities for Boggy Spots

Blogger still will not allow photos to be posted, so we shall have another words only post. Sorry about that. So many pretty things to show at this time of year, too.

I was asked this week about plants for boggy places. The situation is a pond that leaks, leaving the area wet 12-months a year. The owners have no intention of re-constructing the pond. They already have pussy willows and willow trees.

What would look wonderful and can take wet feet?

One of the perennial flowers I love is Texas Red Star Hibiscus, Hibiscus coccineus. It enjoys swampy places, grows 4 feet tall and spreads to 3 feet wide. Click here to see a photo of the flower. (Mine bloomed the first year from seed.)

Virginia Sweetspire, Itea virginica, is a great shrub for wet places. Grows 4 feet wide and tall, has fragrant white flowers in the spring and gorgeous fall color. Over time, it will sucker to cover yards of ground. In the winter the red stems are an asset. Click here to see a photo.

Hardy water canna, Thalia dealbata, is a possible choice for the water's edge. Grows over 6 feet tall. The leaves look like canna lily leaves and the flowers are blue. Click here to learn more.

Little quaking grass, Briza minor could be planted with seeds to stabilize the soil. Plants Database has information on this Oklahoma native. Click here for photos and data. Seedman has several varieties of Briza to choose from.

Other of my choices would be: Joe Pye Weed, Sweet Flag, Monarda Bee Balm, Ferns (many choices), Swamp sunflower Helianthus angustifolium. I've started all these from seed successfully.

Trees for wet spots: Bald Cypress and Black Gum, Swamp white oak Quercus bicolor, Sweet bay Magnolia virginiana

Shrubs for wet places: Possumhaw Viburnum Viburnum nudum, Red chokeberry Aronia arbutifolia, Redtwig dogwood Cornus stolonifera, Spicebush Lindera benzoin

Readers? Other suggestions? Seeds? Plant sources?

New Art In the Park - Mailboxes for Horticultural Information

Public art has proven itself to be one of the best economic investments a community can make. Nonprofit arts organizations generate $166 Billion in economic activity across the country (Atlantic Monthly Feb 2009).

The contribution of art includes tourism, of course. But, equally important, it gives citizens a new way to see their town and it helps pull the community together around beauty.

Muskogee Parks and Recreation ordered cedar covered mailboxes to hold brochures for Honor Heights Park and local artists painted them. Six are completed and installed.

Susie Lawrence of Braggs and Olivia Walton, 16, of Muskogee will paint two more. Lawrence is a member of Muskogee Arts Council and Walton is a local artist. Walton painted the guitar at the Hwy 69 Visitors Center and has painted many banners for the Azalea Festival.

Joshua Blundell, 17, a Warner High School student, said he liked painting the mailbox that will be placed at the Kirschner koi pond.

Since it was for the koi pond, I decided to make it look like you were under water with the fish swimming around,”Blundell said.

Blundell has painted props for his church and entered 4-H contests at school. He also entered a drawing of a cowboy in an art contest at the Oklahoma City National Cowboy Hall of Fame and competed in a Cherokee Nation art contest.

The work of Don Jones, 65, of Porter, is familiar to Muskogee residents. Jones painted the mural at Arrowhead Mall as well as the pictures of P.J. Hoopes Sr. and Jack Jr. that hang out front on the second floor of Hoopes Hardware on Main ST.

I have painted Azalea Festival banners for years, Jones said. I was thinking of the swan paddle boats and the ducks when I painted ducks on the mailbox.

The Van Gogh themed mailbox in the Rose Garden was painted by Jim Eaton, based on a painting the Eatons have at their home.

I paint banners for Symphony in the Park and I have painted banners for the Azalea Festival since it began, Eaton said. This was fun and I hope people enjoy it.

Barbara Downs, 70, of Muskogee, painted a mailbox with butterflies, which is in one of the butterfly gardens.

Downs said she has painted all her life. Up until a few years ago she sold her art at craft shows and at Fin and Feather.

Downs said. The mailbox was fun to do. I haven't been painting for a few years and it was good to get back into it.

Ruth Box painted the brightly colored orange-pink mailbox by the waterfall, 86, of Muskogee.

Box said, “I wanted it to be something you would see. It is pink-orange – colorful enough to show in the park when the flowers are in bloom.”

Long-time artist, Wren Stratton, painted the mailbox at the White Garden entrance.

Everyone we asked to paint one of the mailboxes was excited to do it, Stratton said. We can’t wait to see them.

Friends of Honor Heights Park will help design and write information that will be laminated and placed in the boxes.

Muskogee Parks and Recreation director Mark Wilkerson said, I think they are a fun and unique way of distributing park and garden information to our visitors.

To protect the artists’ work, Jon Stoodley reinforced the posts and applied three coats of Spar marine varnish with a compressor-powered spray gun.

Muskogee Convention and Tourism director, Treasure McKenzie stepped up with funding for the mailboxes and printing costs, making the project a team effort for the benefit of citizens and visitors alike.

These new additions to the park are an excellent way to show visitors we care, McKenzie said.

(I would love to have the photos to go with this great story of public volunteerism. But, alas, I have attempted to upload photos to Blogger several times a day for the past few days and it is broken. Hopefully Google will fix it soon. You can click on the Phoenix story link to see 3 of the 6. Thanks to our great Features editor, Leilani Ott!!)

15 April 2009

Tax Day '09 Was Spent Gardening!

Last year our friend Dave was going to come visit and he was dying to have arugula salads so I planted a patch.

Well, he didn't get to come and I just let it grow. Here are this year's flowers from that original planting.

I've even used arugula flowers in a vase and they lasted for a week as cut stems.

Gourmet Sleuth says it is also called rocket, roquette, rugula and rucola. They also say it is an aphrodisiac.

Russell Studebaker, garden writer for the Tulsa World, gave us this sweet Columbine for the shade garden. He said it is a cross between two native varieties.

It's quite tall and hopefully it will scatter its seeds generously.

Last year when we had our Muskogee Garden Club plant swap, Karen Coker brought Iron Maiden Penstemon and I planted a few in different spots to see where they would prefer to be.
I think they all returned. The leaves are gorgeous and the plants should grow into magnificent specimens.
Penstemons are gradually moving into many areas of our garden. Here's a website dedicated to them, called Home of the Beardtongue.

The 50 Caladiums we started in pots over the winter are all in the ground as of this afternoon.

They should be quite a pretty upgrade for the area where we are in the hammocks in the evening. Of course I can't recall the variety since we bought them in December but they are one of the whites.

14 April 2009

NOAA Says It Is Now Spring, Who Uses LED Grow Lights?

OK, Now it's spring.

If you go to NOAA's National Weather Service site at http://www.nws.noaa.gov/
you can enter your local zip code and get the weather for the week ahead. (Top left hand side of the page "Local Forecast by City, St) and use your zip code.

For the week ahead we have daytime temperatures up to 60s and 70s and night time lows in the 40s and 50s. Ah, now the real planting can begin.

We can pull out the tropicals for the front and back porches, clean out the places they have been stored and take a deep breath.

Here it will be raining off and on all week with sun interspersed but who cares?

Do You LED?
I was in the bank today and the teller asked me about the LED grow lights you can purchase from an online vendor, HID Hut. Have you heard about them or used them?

He said that he and his dad grew herbs indoors all winter using the HID Hut LED grow light and that they were dark green the entire time. No burning of the leaves either.

Here's the link for HID Hut grow lights. The site says the advantages are that they will last 7 years or more, do not burn plants, use 30% the electricity and work with normal light sockets.

Own any? Use them? What's your experience with LED grow lights?

11 April 2009


Happy Saturday.
If you are like me, you are headed outside for the day. So many wonderful activities are pulling us out. The farmer's markets are opening, herb and plant festivals are being held, and, our gardens need us!

For locals:
The Connors State College Horticulture Department will host a spring Plant Sale
Tuesday and Thursday April 14, 16, 21, 23
10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.
contact: Debby Golden at goldend@connorsstate.edu

For everyone: J. L. Hudson Seedsman sent out his spring catalog addendum.
You can email me at mollyday1@gmail.com and I'll send it to you in a MS Word Document
or just go to his site and check it out.
The company is a public access seed saving site that is dedicated to preserving seeds and species. The prices are good and my experience with germination has been above average.

Friends of Honor Heights Park is hosting a food and wine fundraising event during the Banner Auction. Tickets are $20.
Mark your calendar for Saturday May 2 from 5:30 to 7 and plan to join the fun.

I love Black-eyed Susan vines but they don't like our August to October humidity.

10 April 2009

Baskets and Bedding Plants, Oh My

Gardeners who walk into the greenhouses and growing house at Carson Borovetz Nursery in Muskogee are greeted with the scent of blooming flowers and the sight of rows and rows of bedding plants.

The blooming flats of petunias come in bright colors of hot pink, red and white stripe, purple and white, yellow, white, lavender, and others. Petunias love heat and need at least 6 hours of sun a day to achieve their best flowering. They tolerate average garden soil as long as it drains well. If they are to be planted in heavy clay, dig in some compost before planting.

While you are digging up the bed put in some fertilizer such as the composted Earth Smart chicken manure available at Carson Borovetz. Pete Carson told me he brought in ten-tons of composted manure in 40-pound bags to meet this year’s demand.

Carson also is offering Osmocote this year in hand-filled bags (2-pounds $5). This slow-release chemical fertilizer will keep your flowers blooming for three months.

I’m offering the Osmocote this way for two reasons, Carson said. It saves the customer money and also helps the environment by not sending more plastic containers to the landfill.

If you buy one of the hanging baskets of Wave Petunias to cascade with color all summer, water and fertilize often.

We made 600 hanging baskets this year, Carson said. We have six colors of Wave Petunia, large ferns, Begonias, Purslane, geraniums (Pelargonium), and others. And, everything in hanging baskets is also available in 4-inch pots ready to be planted.

Dwarf Dahlias make another good choice for a sunny location. Either enjoy them as annuals or the dig up the tubers after the first frost, store them over the winter and replant them next spring.

Tomato and pepper growers will be happy to know that Carson grew 11 tomato varieties and 5 pepper varieties this year. The plants are 3 for $1.20.

Tickseed (Coreopsis lanceolata Asteraceae) can take prolonged moist soil and some drought. Bright yellow flowers bloom 2-feet tall in full sun and part shade.

Candytuft would be a great low growing companion plant (Iberis semperviren). White flowers bloom on an 8-inch tall mound in full sun.

Strawflowers (Helichrysum bracteatum) are the most widely grown everlasting variety and Carson has the yellow ones this year. Gardeners cut the flowers just as they open, then hang them upside down by a string in a well-ventilated, cool place until they are completely dry.

When you go to the nursery, you will find an entire table full of bedding Salvia in red, white, bicolor red and white (looks like a peppermint candy), purple and lilac. They grow 8 to 15 inches tall, like sun and part shade.

Also look for the Purslane and Moss Rose (Portulaca oleracea and Portulaca grandiflora) in pots and hanging baskets. Grow in sandy soil that drains well. Great for pots.

All the plants in the Portulaca family are edible. The leaves are rich in iron and omega-3 fatty acids. Chinese medicine used these plants as antibacterial and fever reducing remedies. The juice of Moss Rose leaves is used to treat insect bites, burns and eczema.

Other plants to look for: Annual and perennial pinks, sweet potato vine, Black-eyed Susan vine, Asparagus ferns, Heliotrope and much more.

Carson’s new employee, Susan Billingmeier loves being around the plants and the customers.

Billingmeier said, My grandmother, Oma Irving, was in the Muskogee Garden Club and her gardens were often in the Muskogee paper. She got me started with my love of flowers.

Carson said his goal is to grow a decent start for people so they can have a beautiful garden full of the best and most affordable plants.

Carson Borovetz Nursery is at 3020 North Street, between York Street and Country Club Road in Muskogee OK. Hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday to Saturday and noon to 6 p.m. Sunday Pete Carson: 918-682-4404

09 April 2009

No More Freezes Wahoo! Stuff and Stories of Early April

Lots to talk about when the spring weather is like this - sunny, cloudy, rain, hail, hot, cold, windy, still - all in one day.

Hey look at this eggplant!
A few of us pre-ordered vegetable starts from Blossoms and I picked mine up yesterday. Healthy, rooty, ginormous.

The light this afternoon made the greens bed look electrified. It had rained, hailed and then the sun came out. Look at that yellow light.

The Angelique Tulips are opening. What a beauty. Touch of Nature was my source.

Before the rain I had a chance to mow part of the 2.75 acres we live on. This is the view out the back door, off the office.

Having fun in your garden?

The April issue of ATTRA News has a particularly interesting column about the over-reliance on fossil-fuel in gardens and on farms.

They ask the question, "What would really happen if farmers and gardeners went a year without fertilizing?"

What do you think?

They emphasize that compost, cover crop, green manure and crop rotation bring better results.
I'm afraid to stop fertilizing. What are you doing, fertilizer-wise?

08 April 2009

Lots of Spring Gardening Today

It was 85 today after 2 nights of freezing weather. Must be spring. The neighborhood dogs met at the bottom of the road to talk about such matters. And, no doubt compared notes about where the bones are buried.

Virginia Bluebells (Mertensia virginica) are ringing in two of the three places they were planted. It appears that the third set chose to remain silent henceforth and forever more.
Anyway, I love these wonderful flowers of our spring garden.
Some people call them Virginia Cowslip, or Oysterleaf or Roanoke Bells.

More lettuce seedlings went into the ground today and we are getting braver about putting plants into the ground in the hope that no more freezing weather will come.

I untied the climbing hydrangea today and started to train it up a tree. We bought it last year during the Hydrangea Festival in Memphis. Gardens OyVey is a great source for all things Hydrangea.

Also, our friend Jerry Gustafson started Hydrangeas by rooting them and he gave me a couple to plant. They are alive and starting to form leaf buds.

Some insect is eating the heads off of our new tree saplings. It makes a clean cut at an angle across the entire tiny trunk. Arghhh. Have any idea what it might be?

05 April 2009

But I Digress

Today we took a much needed break from the joys of the gardens.

Here's what's growing -
The iris are blooming along with the late tulips and daffodils.
The snow peas recovered from the last freeze and are now six inches up the trellis.
The garlic has grown well above the thick layer of pine straw we loaded on it last fall.
The snow ball viburnum has little snow balls forming - they are the size of a dime now.
We picked enough lettuce and chard tonight for a salad or two this week.
The fruit is forming on the peach, nectarine and plum trees.

AND, tonight the temperature is going to be 34 and tomorrow the prediction is 24.

Now, I'll digress to one of the other joys of spring - the birth of baby animals all around us.

Oyana Wilson, president of Muskogee Garden Club, raises race horses and in the past 3 days, three babies were born. Here are the two day and three day old foals.

This is Oyana with Carney and her foal, who didn't have a name as of yesterday.
This is Final Comment

This is Chocolate

So, even when Mother Nature puts a couple of freezing nights on our hard work in the garden, threatening what we have worked to achieve, something equally wonderful is going on.

04 April 2009

A Really Good Writer Who Loves Her Dirt

Gerri Hirshey wrote a lovely piece about her father, gardening, and the importance of good soil.

The column, "When It Came to Dirt, Dad Knew Best: Feed It, Then Brace for Bounty" gives readers a window to her love for her dad translating into her love for the soil.

Here is the link to the article in the Long Island edition of the NY Times, April 3, 2009.

Let me know if you read it and share my enthusiasm for the beauty of her heartfelt writing.

03 April 2009

Blossoms at Blossom's

Muskogee area gardeners know it must be spring because Blossoms Garden Center is open for the season.

Owners Lora Durkee and Matthew Weatherbee said they have more plants than ever before.

We have the coolest coleus called Electric Lime, Matthew said. We have geraniums in red, pink, white and coral, Endless Summer and Blushing Bride Hydrangeas, six different lavender varieties, plus 20 colors of Million Bells.

Million Bells (Calibrachoa hybrid), members of the potato family that look like tiny petunias, bloom all summer. Blossoms has stocked an amazing array of colors in 4.5 inch pots including: Dark blue, tangerine, red, gold with red eye, dreamsicle, hot pink, apricot punch, etc.

Also, if you missed out last year, they have 100 cold hardy banana trees (Musa basjoo Japanese Fiber Banana). This plant takes Oklahoma winters in stride and returns the following summer in a larger clump that grows even taller than the year before. As it matures, it will top out at 15 feet tall. (It will die back to the ground if it is not protected.)

A small collection of hardy and tropical succulents is at the back of the main greenhouse. There are only six plants of each variety. Examples include: Hardy Duncecap (Orostachys iwarenge) with lavender gray rosettes will survive to 5 degrees below. Pumila Kalanchoe is frost sensitive and prefers part shade. Also called Flower Dust Plant, it has dusty rose flowers in the spring.

Not to be missed for this year’s salvia collection is Hot Lips (Salvia microphylla Hot Lips). Red flowers attract butterflies and hummingbirds and it is drought tolerant after established. Grows 2.5 feet tall and up to 4-feet wide. It is supposed to be a perennial in our zone 7 but since it native to Mexico it may be an annual here.

Part shade is considered three to six hours of sunlight a day. For those areas around trees and buildings, consider planting perennials such as Heuchera with hostas, Jet Black Wonder elephant ears and ferns.

Also called Alum Root and Coral Bells, Heuchera is a very popular foliage plant with tall spires of small flowers.

Blossoms has six varieties this year. Palace Purple Heuchera (1991 Plant of the Year) has deep purple leaves that fade to bronze in the heat of the summer. Stormy Seas, considered the best variety for mass plantings, has ruffled maroon-purple leaves. Lemon Chiffon is new this year with yellow spring leaves, chartreuse leaves in summer, and small, light coral pink colored flowers.

Look for annual blanket flowers in the Torch series. Gaillardia pulchella Torch series was Flower of the Year in 2008. Deer do not like them. Pulchella has drought tolerance, mildew resistance and some cold hardiness. Make 2-foot-wide mounds. Annual blanket flowers like full sun, a little water and reward gardeners with butterflies and hummingbirds.

Speaking of butterflies, plant lots of Pentas and lantanas to bring them to your gardens. Add some sweet potato vine, Shasta Daisies, Cardinal Flowers and Big Red Judy sun Coleus and you will have a colorful bed.

Our prices this year are the same as last year or lower, Lora said. The giant hanging ferns are less expensive. We over wintered 100 and that's all we will have this year in that size.

Every patio pot and hanging planter gets a scoop of slow release Osmocote fertilizer before it goes out the door. Customers can also purchase Miracle Grow and Osmocote at the store.

Potting soil is available in three sizes and three brands, including Miracle Grow.

They have flats of many of your favorites and can order what you need to fill beds with Osteospermum, Wave Petunias, Asters, Lobelia, Verbena and others.

02 April 2009

Spring Flinging

Honor Heights Park is blooming like crazy. This is the view of the arboretum as you drive in on the second 48 Street entrance - down by the tennis courts. I think most visitors miss seeing the arboretum since it is off the main loop.
But here are the azaleas on the main loop. Are they gorgeous or what?
The cold nights predicted for the next several days will slow down their peak bloom but the tulips are wonderful, too.
Today there were 8 men working on the rose garden paths, getting ready for summer.

OklaTravelNet has an overview of what most people do not know about our state: It is beautiful. Unfortunately, most people think of the footage from Grapes of Wrath and other movies about the panhandle and drought.
One of the other things to do this weekend, is travel to Whispering Vines Vineyard (click here for more information) to prune grape vines. Participation is free. You show up, have a little breakfast and they give you a class on pruning and growing grape vines from starts. Then, you prune for a couple of hours and they give you lunch and a bottle of wine to take home.
What could be better than that? Oh, and you take home as many cuttings as you want from which ever grape variety you want to grow.
Whispering Vines Vineyards & Winery7374 West 51st St, Tulsa,

01 April 2009

Fritillaria ID Help Needed

Do you know Fritillaria? Is this beauty Fritillaria crassifolia?

This one I ordered from Touch of Nature; it is Fritillaria Meleagris.

I've searched the Internet and American Horticultural Society Encyclopedia of Plants
with no answer.
Any ideas?