Showing posts from September, 2009

Tennessee Ground Sweet Potato Squash

A famous garden speaker tells her audiences to never accept pass along plants because they obviously grow rampantly and fill the garden quickly.

Although she does not say it, she could add that pass along seeds also have the potential to create havoc in one’s garden.Tennessee above ground sweet potato squash (Cucurbita argyrosperma, Cucurbita moschata, formerly C. mixta) is an heirloom vegetable that is being kept alive by gardeners, garden writers and seed saver exchanges.
I accepted a handful of seeds from Tulsa World garden writer Russell Studebaker who received them from a southern garden writer who was given five seeds by a Mississippi home gardener.
The vines, leaves, flowers and fruit are the largest ever seen by anyone who is growing them. The flowers are so large and so full of pollen that you can hear dozens of bees even when you are standing 3 feet away from the plants.
Other common names for this prolific grower include green striped bell, cushaw, and kershaw.
"Renewing …

End of September Monarchs

Monarch Watch in Kansas tracks the migration of Monarch butterflies as they relocate to Mexico for the winter months.

Tulsa World ran a column on Sunday about the fall butterfly watch and the Associated Press also ran a fall story about them. Here are the links - Associated Press story and
Tulsa World story about the local butterfly count.

Our milkweed plants are still loaded with caterpillars, rapidly growing long and fat. According to the chart at Monarch Watch, Muskogee OK is at its peak migration activity from September 24 to October 6. And, that is what my eyes tell me, too.
To find your peak Monarch migration period. 1- Go to Google or Dogpile and enter in quotes your town followed by the word latitude. For example "muskogee oklahoma latitude" and you will find a site such as that will give you the right numbers. Muskogee is 35 degrees north. 2 - Then, go to and look for your latitude on the chart to find you…

New Plants at Pine Ridge Gardens

Today a flyer came from Mary Ann King at Pine Ridge Gardens announcing new additions to her already stellar catalog of native plants. Photo of and details about Vernal Witchhazel from Ohio State University- just click The open house dates at Pine Ridge Gardens this fall are:
September 26 and 27, October 24 and 25, November 14 and 15.
Her new items include a few I'd love to have.
Willow leaf bluestar
Purple Smoke Baptesia
New Jersey Tea
Vernal Witch Hazel
American Holly
Mary Ann is one of the most knowledgeable native plant growers in the area. Order from her and she will make sure you are satisfied. Or, call her to ask questions about plants - 479.293.4359, in London Arkansas.

After the Storm

The southeastern US was battered by storms - the 4 to 8 inches of rain were bad enough but the 60-mile an hour winds were worse.
In the photo is a seedhead of the spreen which is 9 feet tall in the back yard. I have no idea when to harvest the amaranth seeds so I just enjoy them for now.
Are the green ones in the photo more mature than the pink-ish ones in the photo above? After the storm this is what the spreen.amaranth stalk looked like. Split. So the seed heads are harvested whether or not they are mature.All the tall plants are on their sides. This is the 8 foot tall Aster Tatarian. If you look closely you'll see a giant swallowtail butterfly on the annual Lady in Red Salvia. We were lucky to have only wind and rain. Farther to our southeast, homes and lives were lost. We sympathize with those towns and families but still feel a little sorry for ourselves that we lost plants. Moving toward fall includes lots of allergies into the bargain. Ah, season changes.

How to Grow Amaryllis (Hippeastrum)

Amaryllis bulbs are one of the most popular plants to grow indoors in the winter. Their flowers are spectacular trumpet-shaped single and double blooms in red, pink, white and combinations of those colors.

Friends of Honor Heights Park Association received a gift of 40 potted Amaryllis bulbs from the estate of geologist Dr. Dick Hollingworth. The Amaryllis which Hollingworth grew as a hobby, were donated through his local caregiver, Stay Home Services and his niece Wendy Gibbons.

Central and South America natives, Amaryllis (Hippeastrum) plants have to spend the winter inside in areas north of Florida. Bare bulbs purchased now are planted in clay or plastic pots with drainage holes.

The size of the pot has to allow only one-inch between the edge of the pot and the bulb to keep the bulb pot-bound. The top one-third of the bulb remains exposed above the soil.

Amaryllis from Colorblends
Dr. Hollingworth's plants are potted, growing, and ready to bring inside.

At this time of year, there ar…

Sunday Night Tidbits

The Oklahoma State University Botanical Gardens spans about 100 acres and contains more than a dozen gardens, including a Japanese tea garden and multiple studio gardens for a television show, Oklahoma Gardening. 2009 additions include a Native Splendor garden and The Painter’s Pallet. Oklahoma Developmental Disabilities Council provided a grant for anew sensory garden.

The gardens are open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday with an open house on the first and third Saturdays May through October from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. The gardens are west of the campus - Highway 51 between Sangre Road and Western Road.

For more infomation - 405.744.5404

Mountain Valley Growers sale is extended. Here's the link. Everything is organic. The ordering has a minimum of 6 or $19.50

Garden Ranthas an excellent post on what you need and do not need to make healthy compost.

Deborah Silver's Landscape design blog, Dirt Simple, covers espalier trees thoroughly a…

New Cup Flower - Nierembergia Augusta Blue Skies

Oh how I love blue and purple flowers. And, it turns out you do, too. Blue and purple flowers are the most popular in the nursery trade. Go figure. I would have guessed pinks and reds would win the popularity contest.

Nierembergia technical information from U Wisconsin's site
"...native to Argentina, is named for Juan Eusebio Nieremberg, a 17 century Spanish Jesuit theologian and naturalist. The taxonomy of this genus (in the potato family or Solanaceae) is rather confused, so the species for cupflower may be listed as caerulea, frutescens, hippomanica or scoparia. It grows neat, spreading mounds about 12-15 inches across. The fine textured foliage is produced on multiple stems, with stiff, linear leaves to one-half inch long. "

So, the lovely flower in the photo is Nierenbergia Augusta Blue Skies from Proven Winners.

Ball says, "According to an online survey of its fan club, Proven Winners found that purple is by far its end consumers' favorite…

Diascia or Twinspur

Diascia, from South Africa, has 70 relatives, including snapdragons. These are low growing and spreading plants that just need some sun to flower.

Most of the flowers are some shade of coral and about one-half inch across. The one you see in the photo is from Proven Winners - click on the link to see ten colors available. One of the newest colors is Flirtation Orange, pictured here.

Interestingly, Diascias are self-infertile and need pollen from another plant in order to make seeds. They are short-lived perennials hardy in zone 8.

One gardener said she is able to keep them through the winter simply by bringing them into an unheated garage for the winter.

Park Seed is offering the seeds of the All America Selections Coral Rose for sale.

Harris Seed has individual colors and a mixed pack.

Diascias bloom best in spring and fall in my garden. During the heat of the middle of summer they stopped blooming. When temperatures under 90 returned they bloomed again. Odd for an African plant, don…

Proven Winners that Are Just That Here in NE Oklahoma

When the first intentional plant breeding took place in 1716, Thomas Fairchild, who performed the pollination experiment with a feather, had to hide his activity from his fellows in the scientific community.

At that time, any scientist who claimed that he took an action that changed nature would have been shunned for contradicting the belief that only God could make a flower. When Fairchild presented his new plant to the Royal Society he presented it as a natural hybrid, created by the two plants being grown nearby each other. ("The Brother Gardeners"

Since that time, so many new hybrids have been invented and released into the marketplace and into our gardens that we have come to expect continuous improvement.

Making hybrid plants gives gardeners new colors, improved disease resistance, taller and shorter versions of old favorites, and stronger plants.

Proven Winners (, a consortium of plant propagators, sends trial plants to garden wr…

Founder of the Green Revolution - Norman Borlaug, Hunger Fighter

The death of Norman Borlaug at age 95 has brought renewed attention to his lifetime of accomplishments.

One biography of Borlaug, The Man Who Fed the World has a website with information about the man and his accomplishments as well as his no nonsense approach to his field of endeavor.

Born in 1914, raised on an Iowa farm, he studied plant pathology in the 1930s. By 1944 he was working for the Rockefeller Foundation in Mexico with a team to develop a strain of dwarf wheat to feed starving people.

Dr. Borlaug said the Mexican soils were depleted, the crops were ravaged by disease, yields were low and the farmers could not feed themselves.

He said to Mrs. Borlaug, "These places I've seen have clubbed my mind — they are so poor and depressing. I don’t know what we can do to help these people, but we've got to do something."

He invested years of work and privation with scant funds or equipment, using his training and farm experiences.

He told biographer Lennard Bickel, "W…

Pumpkin on a Stick

Solanum Integrifolium or Solanum aethiopicum L., is better known to dried flower arrangers as Pumpkin On A Stick. Its other names on garden information sites include Pumpkin Tree, Pumpkin Bush, Ornamental Eggplant, Hmong Eggplant (Laos and Vietnam ), Mock Tomato, Japanese Golden Eyes and Chinese Scarlet Eggplant.

Most of those names can't be found on the Internet, nor could I find any information about their being used as bitter ingredients in Vietnamese dishes. I did find a reference to them on an African site where they call them African Eggplant. (The Royal Museum for Central Africa)

Seeds of Change offers this information "This unusual plant is actually an ornamental eggplant. When the fruit turns orange, remove all the leaves and display as a fresh or dried bouquet of flowers. A Curiosity certain to keep your friends and neighbors guessing. Like eggplant, it grows easily from transplants. "

Cheerful information but does not cover anything about the fact that everyone i…

Wild Things!

Marilyn Stewart of Wild Things Nursery in Seminole is enthusiastic about the value of native plants for home and public gardens.

When I look at my garden and see a flower without an insect on it, I feel like I have failed, Stewart said. If you care about birds you have to plant the natives that support insects so birds can raise their young in your garden. Only finches can feed their babies with seeds.

Stewart is bringing both native plants and terrariums of Oklahoma native butterfly caterpillars to her talk in Muskogee on Sept. 17.

People have a prejudice against native plants, Stewart said. They think they are messy or look straggly. The truth is that you can do anything with natives that you can do with hybrids. The difference is that the natives will live through our weather and in our soils.

Easy to grow perennial native plants:
Amsonia hubrichtii - part shade - (Arkansas Amsonia), Amsonia illustris (Ozark Blue Star) and Amsonia tabernaemontan (Blue Star).
Blue flowers and …

On Saturday October 17 from 9 to 10:30 Vermicomposting Workshop in Muskogee sponsored by the Friends of Honor Heights Park Association

Kitchen waste takes up 30% of the landfill according to the experts. A compost pile and a worm composting bin or two would eliminate that burden on landfills.

Friends of Honor Heights Park is sponsoring a worm composting workshop
Saturday, October 17 from 9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.
in the Garden Education Room at Muskogee's Honor Heights Park

Learn how to improve your garden while helping the Earth.

Worm composting reduces landfill and provides non-chemical fertilizer for growing flowers, vegetables and herbs.

Participants should bring a plastic container 1 to 3 feet tall and 2 feet long to hold your worms, their food and shredded newspaper bedding.

We will drill holes in your container and provide enough red wriggler worms to start a home system.

In addition to materials on home vermicomposting, Bruce Edwards, Urban Harvest Director for the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma, will teach commercial worm composting.

Vermicomposting helps keep kitchen waste out of the landfills.

The workshop is a fundr…

This Year's Favorite Plants

Most gardeners play favorites. I know I do.

Do you have favorite plants?

Among the flowers I would have to list zinnias, phlox, lilies, daffodils, Joe Pye weed,Euphorbia marginata, Tatarian aster, hydrangeas, amaranth, Esperanza, daylilies, million bells, petunias, red milkweed, and, well, there are too many aren't there?

Among the herbs, all the basils, rosemary, thyme, monarda, chives, oregano, parsley, borage, fennel, dill, and what else?

Favorite vegetables to grow? Broccoli, cucumbers, lettuce, chard, kale, wax beans, green beans, snow peas, leeks, peppers, garlic and if I could master growing them I would say tomatoes.

This year one of my favorites is the Tennessee Sweet Potato Squash, also called Green-striped Cushaw. This is today's harvest and this isn't the only harvest we have had.

So far it has made its way into soup bowls with sour cream on top. Today, it was simply baked, then peeled and salted. Delicious both ways. Another grower said she made pumpkin bread out of…

Fall Gardening, Sales and Fall Tasks

A great email newsletter just arrived from the University of Minnesota. Called Yard and Garden, the email has tips for each month for that area. Yard cleanup is one of the fall suggestions and I made some headway on that today. It is amazing how much dead and half dead material is on the beds at this time of year.
But the weather is still good so it is pleasant to be out taking care of it.

Fall is for planting - Mountain Valley Growers plants are on sale in groups of 6. I've had good luck with their sale plants though not 100%.

Renee's Seeds is having a 30% off all seeds sale.

Jungle Paradise is having a going out of business sale....retirement sale.
Click on the link and then click on Plants for Sale.
Owner Jan Jost said in an email that they also have
Alocasias - macrorrhiza Borneo Giant
Amorphophallus albus bulbifer (a few) dunnii (aka odoratus) Titanum
Anthuriums guildingii hookeri clarinervium berriozabalense verrapazense vietchii
Monstera delici…

Odonatas - Dragonflies and Damselflies - Eat Mosquitoes

The daily rain brought a swarm of dragonflies to eat the mosquitoes that are moving in and making large families. My photos are of one of the ones that are swarming in our yard. I've looked at dozens of photos to identify the various types out there. The more closeup photos you look at the weirder they start to look. There is not much we gardeners can do to prevent the arrival of mosquitoes but we can make our gardens into habitats that welcome predators of the nasty little biters. Dave Ingram's site has wonderful photography of not only dragonflies but plants as well. The dragonfly site has photos of 35 dragonflies to help with identification. At Green Nature there are photos of several types of dragonflies - Patricia Michaels provides this information: Fossil records date the dragonfly back 300 million years.

There are approximately 450 different species in the United States.
Dragonflies have a life span of anywhere from about six months to several years. Dragonflies are known a…

Collect and Brew Herbs Now for Holiday Gifts

You could start a batch of herb vinegar this month, decant it into gift bottles and decorate them for holiday gifts.

Every Tuesday morning a group of Tulsa Herb Society members (herbalistas) gather to make crafts for Carols and Crumpets, talk about herbs and plan trips. The Herb Society's jams include: Pineapple sage, holiday cranberry, cranberry chutney, mango chutney, apricot surprise (with horseradish), hot pepper, lemon verbena, pear honey, peach blush (with cherries), 10-pepper, and apple butter.

Last week members brought in herbs from their gardens and demonstrated making herb vinegars. Their herb vinegars include: Hot and spicy, Italian, citrus, bouquet garni, cranberry-rosemary, strawberry-mint, raspberry-rose, Mediterrano, and lemon, lemon, lemon.

Cut herbs from your garden or visit Muskogee Farmer's Market. We can't predict what you will find, but on a recent visit the vendors had lemon grass, Thai and purple basil, pineapple sage, mint and others. Kim Walton offe…

One of the Flower Beds September First

Late Summer Flowers is the name of one of my favorite garden books. If you plant enough flowers for this season, it will become your favorite, too.

Just outside the livingroom door we have comfortable chairs where we have our first coffee in the morning. Then, late in the afternoon we return for something cold to sip and watch the activity. This is what we see from our little 10-foot deck.
Stepping across the "grass" (mowed weeds, er wildflowers and native grasses) this is the 7 to 8 foot tall flowering white Crape Myrtle Natchez, Tatarian Aster and a yellow flowering native that I bought from Wild Things Nursery. Marilyn Stewart is getting back to me on its name.
From the side or end of the bed, you can recognize Salvia Guaranitica Black and Blue, Purple Majesty Millet, and Tatarian in the foreground. In the center in front of the tall (giant) plants - French marigolds, Sedum Autumn Joy and Salvia Lady-In-Red.

A close up of Sedum Autumn Joy between the pale green stage and the …