30 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 America’s Food Traditions," by Gary Paul Nabhan, Chelsea Green Publishing, says that the common name cushaw comes from the Algonquin word coscushaw, used in 1580. At the time it was also called the Puritan squash. Another author said the original word for squash was askutasquash.

New York seed man Grant Thorburn called it green striped bell in his 1847 catalog. In 1883 W. Atlee Burpee Co. promoted the seeds as Tennessee sweet potato.

Since the plant resists squash vine borers, southern truck farmers relied on the fruits for fall plant sales. Sand Hill Preservation, D. Landreth Seed, South Carolina Foundation Seed Association and other seed preserving companies run out of the seeds every year.

The plants I grew from seed were distributed to a few local gardeners who planted them in their gardens this summer. Hopefully, they will save some of the seeds and pass them along.
Thomas Jefferson intentionally planted squash varieties close together to get natural hybrids. He wrote in 1790 about a potato-pumpkin named for its resemblance to the taste of sweet potatoes. It is assumed that slaves brought the seeds from Jamaica, West Indies. (See http://tinyurl.com/y8zp2se.)

The male flowers are stuffed and fried and the squash meat is used in both the light green immature stage and the mature light orange stage. At the light green stage the fruits are around 7 to 10 pounds and at the mature orange stage they weigh up to 25 pounds.
Much commercially canned pumpkin is actually Sweet Potato Squash and its close relatives. The plants grow well in any soil, are disease and insect resistant. Even the large fruit is not stringy like traditional pumpkins.

Photo - these two squash are about 15 pounds each - one is 15.35 pounds and the other is 14.95 pounds.

Tennessee ground sweet potato squash is heat and humidity tolerant. Growers from the deep south to Arizona and Mexico rely on growing it from year to year from saved seeds.

Traditionally, the meat is used for making a spicy butter and pumpkin pies. Louisiana Creole cooks just add syrup or sugar to use the cooked meat to bake into turnovers. Cajun cooks call the sweetened squash Juirdmon.

Juirdmon recipes vary but there are two at http://bit.ly/Bv2s6. The first one calls for 9 pounds of cushaw and the other one calls for a soccer ball sized squash.

Nutritional values for the squash are similar to other winter squash: Carotenes, minerals, Vitamins A, E and C. Without butter and sugar it is low calorie — 80 per cup.
There will be a few available at the Muskogee Farmers Market this weekend.

If you would like a copy of the recipes I have collected, send a request by e-mail to mollyday1@gmail.com.

28 September 2009

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 www.travelmath.com that will give you the right numbers. Muskogee is 35 degrees north.
2 - Then, go to http://www.monarchwatch.org/tagmig/peak.html and look for your latitude on the chart to find your peak migration period.
We had 90-sunny-degrees yesterday so the adults were out enjoying the sunshine, too.
If you want these beauties in your yard, check Monarch Watch to see if they travel through your area. If so, plant milkweeds or Asclepias. Any variety will bring them into your garden. And, each year, if you continue to plant more plants, you will get more and more.

26 September 2009

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.

25 September 2009

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.

24 September 2009

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 are two choices with an Amaryllis that is already growing: You can either cut back the plant to force a December to January flower or you can keep it as a houseplant over the winter and allow it to bloom naturally in April.

To force a winter bloom, cut back the tall leathery leaves, put the pot in a dark, 55-degree location, and withhold water. The leaves will turn yellow, as the bulb goes dormant.

After 6 weeks, refresh the top two inches with fresh potting soil and put the plant in 4 hours of sunlight or artificial fluorescent light.

Water thoroughly with warm water and allow to drain. Water again only when the soil is dry and then sparingly until you see rapid growth. Then give the plant a little houseplant food.

Bright light is essential. Keep turning once a week to grow straight stems.

When your bulbs start to flower, move them to a cooler location to preserve the flowers. (I use fluorescent bulbs from when growth first appears to when the flower buds appear. Then, I move them to an east-facing window.) If they are grown on a windowsill, prevent frostbite by moving them away from the glass on freezing nights.

It is a lot easier to allow them to go through their natural cycle, keeping them as architectural houseplants over the winter, increasing available light in the early spring, and enjoying the flowers just as our last days of frost arrive between late March and mid-April.

Whether you decide to have your Amaryllis bulbs flower in December or April, cut off the flower buds when the flowers fade. Otherwise, the plant goes into seed making mode and the bulb is weakened. Remove the flower stem when it dies back to the base.

Fertilize with diluted fertilizer while the leaves continue to grow and gather strength for the next year. Keep them in bright light and put the plant outside for the summer. Then next fall, stop watering the plants and tilt the pots on their sides so they do not retain rainwater.

The small bulbs that grow beside the large mother bulb will be identical clones.

Reasons Amaryllis fail to bloom include: insufficient light and fertilizer, foliage removed, overcrowded bulbs, bulb neck buried.

The Amaryllis grown by Dr. Hollingworth are large and healthy ones, obviously well loved by a hobby grower. Most are un-named though a few have the variety tags in the pot.

Friends of Honor Heights Park Association hopes to sell all 40 plants during their events at the Park on October 3 and 17. Any remaining plants will be sold at the Gift Shop between Thanksgiving Day and New Year’s Day. Plants are $5.00 each.

Potted amaryllis will be available at upcoming Friends events
October 3 Members-Only Party at the Park
October 17 Friends Park Clean-up Day
October 17 Worm Composting Workshop

Remaining plants available at the Honor Heights Park Gift Shop between Thanksgiving and New Years Day.

More Information Honorheightsfriends@gmail.com or Martha Stoodley 918.683.2373

After this column went to press, Dr. Jerry Gustafson from Tulsa told me about an Amaryllis that is a passalong plant in our area. This zone 7 hardy Amaryllis is called a Saint Joseph's lily. Gustafson said his friend had 20 to give away they had multiplied so well in her garden.

Easy to Grow Bulbs sells them for $20 each.
Developed by a watchmaker named Johnson in England in the late 1700s, this amaryllis cross is winter hardy in much of the country but still remarkably unknown. A brilliant red dynamo with a strong, spicy fragrance it is hard to find, but not difficult to grow outdoors in warm areas. The St. Joseph's lily blooms in late spring, usually with more than one flower stalk per bulb and 5 to 6 blooms per stalk. Mother bulbs will set smaller bulbs on the side to create a large patch over time, providing the option to divide and share.

An online Texas article calls them one tough bulb. Charla Anthony wrote the column for The Eagle and gives the history of St. Joseph's Lily.

Amaryllis at the National Arboretum

20 September 2009

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 Rant has 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 at the link. Her Favorite Perennials link has delightful photographs worth a click here.

Here's a bit from the espalier article "In the late 1600's, Fr. Legendre, a monk living in Hanonville France was incharge of his monastery's garden. His fruit trees were bedevilled by latefrosts that killed the fruiting buds. Noticing that the fruit trees plantedclosest to the monastery ... As wall space was limited, he began shearinghis trees, so as to provide room for all the varieties he wanted to grow."

Peter Hatch, the Director of Gardens and Grounds at Monticello, has spent over 30 years restoring the gardens. Sam Witt's interview with Hatch for the Charlotteville paper is here.

A quote to entice you to click on the link and read the whole, well-written piece,
"Peter Hatch is largely self-taught. His father was a Madison Avenue ad executive whom Hatch describes as "just the least physical man." A child of the '60s, Hatch, now 60 years old, rebelled against the world of his parents and turned to poetry. He calls his a downwardly mobile education: fancy boys’ school in Michigan, where he played ice hockey; good state university in Chapel Hill, where he studied English and developed a taste for poetry; and then, after a stint on the West Coast, community college, also in North Carolina. Hatch was living in Southern California when his college girlfriend dumped him for the fourth time, so he drove back across the country to interview for a job teaching English at a boarding school in Boston, only to be rejected there, too. But as Jefferson once wrote, and Hatch likes to say, the failure of one thing is repaired by the success of another: in this case, manure."


19 September 2009

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 lavender.purple.blue 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 color."

Better Homes and Gardens online calls the flowers "adorable" and I wonder if you think they are adorable.

It can be a perennial in zones 7 to 10. Grows to 10-inches tall though I have mine in a planter.
Easy, attracts butterflies.

Also from the U Wisconsin site

"Start Nierembergia from seed sown indoors 8-10 weeks before your date of average last frost. Barely cover the seed; it should germinate within 2-3 weeks at 70°F. Keep moist until emergence, then the plants can be kept on the dry side. Young plants grow very slowly, but grow more quickly once transplanted. Transplant outdoors 6-12 inches apart (after hardening off) just before last frost date in moist, organically rich, well-drained soil in full sun. Mulch to help retain moisture and keep the soil cool. Plants are drought tolerant once established. Stem cuttings can be taken in late summer to hold the plants over the winter.

There are only a few varieties commonly available:
Mont Blanc is a profuse bloomer with brilliant white flowers on plants only 6 inches high that spread to 12 inches wide. The small cup-shaped flowers face upwards. It was an All-America Selection winner in 1993, and reportedly has better heat tolerance than the species.

Purple Robe has blue-violet flowers. The plants are about 8 inches tall."

Augusta Blue Skies will only be available from Proven Winners dealers.

18 September 2009

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't you agree?

Brent and Becky's Bulbs is having a sale. Click on the link to see what's available for fall planting.

17 September 2009

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" www.andreawulf.com)

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 (www.provenwinners.com), a consortium of plant propagators, sends trial plants to garden writers from time to time. If you shop in garden centers, you have seen or bought their Diamond Frost Euphorbia, Fiber Optic Grass, Angelonia, Purple Fountain Grass, Super Bells, etc.

Garden writers get to try a small selection of the next year’s introductions and report back to the company how well they did in our planting zone.

We treat the new introductions as well (or as poorly) as the rest of our plants. If we are too busy, if it is blistering hot, or if the rains come day after day, the trial plants are tested along with the rest of our garden.

A few of them disappoint and most are successful. The 2010 plant introductions you can look for next year that thrived in my Muskogee garden follow.

Flirtation Orange Diascia had nonstop, sweet, small flowers that flourished at first and fainted during the hottest part of the summer. Now that temperatures have cooled, it is back in full bloom. Cold hardy to 10-F.

The two new potato vines with uniquely shaped leaves are Illusion Emerald Lace Ipomoea batatas (bright green) and Illusion Midnight Lace Ipomoea batatas (deep purple). They like to be moist, look terrific in containers, and are more compact in their growth habit than previous potato vines.

Snow Princess Lobularia was a real winner. It looks like Sweet Alyssum but since it is a sterile hybrid, it just keeps growing instead of making seeds and failing mid-season.

Spirit Cleome hassleriana Senorita Rosalita is thornless. If you usually grow Cleome or spider flower for it’s strikingly tall and large back of the border advantages, you will appreciate having a thornless variety available for next year. The flowers are lavender-pink and scentless.

Sugar Tip Hibiscus syriacus, a Rose of Sharon shrub I received in a quart pot last year, was slow to start last year and became a star this year. It has variegated cream-blue-green leaves and soft pink double flowers.

Award winning Blue Chiffon Hibiscus syriacus, Rose of Sharon, came this year in a one-quart pot and already flowered with blue, anemone-like blooms. If you like blue flowers and have a place for a flowering shrub, look for this one.

Two new Hydrangea arborescens varieties arrived last week.

Incrediball is a new mophead with 12-inch flower heads that emerge lime green, change to white, then to green. This new variety has stronger stems to prevent the flower heads from flopping.

Invincibelle Spirit is the first pink mophead Hydrangea. It blooms until frost from buds made on this year’s growth.

Butterfly Bush Miss Ruby has fuscia pink clusters of flowers on a compact shrub.

One of their new purple-blue flowers for 2010 includes Nierembergia Augusta Blue Skies Cupflower. Loves the heat. Not cold hardy here.

This week, I'll be posting more information and photos of these success stories so you can see what they look like.

15 September 2009

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, "When wheat is ripening properly, when the wind is blowing across the field, you can hear the beards of the wheat rubbing together. They sound like the pine needles in a forest. It is a sweet, whispering music that once you hear, you never forget."

Global famine with unbelievable numbers of deaths predicted in the 1960s, was prevented by Borlaug's team's dwarf wheat. The variety they hybridized is resistant to pests and diseases.

Texas A & M named their agricultural biotechnology center after him. He worked on a package of farming practices to forestall starvation in Africa that included seeds, agronomy, weed and insect control and installed test plots in 14 countries with food production problems.

In an interview with Reason, Borlaug said, that the food supply problem, as well as other development issues, in Africa is complicated by the lack of roads. He answered environmentalist's complaints by pointing out that it's easy to say don't develop poor people's prospects.

Borlaug said, "I should point out that I was originally trained as a forester. I worked for the U.S. Forest Service, and during one of my assignments I was reputed to be the most isolated member of the Forest Service, back in the middle fork of the Salmon River, the biggest primitive area in the southern 48 states. I like the back country, wildlife and all of that, but it's wrong to force poor people to live that way."

When being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize it was said,
More than any other single person of this age, he has helped provide bread for a hungry world. We have made this choice in the hope that providing bread will also give the world peace."

The New York Times reported that the day the award was announced, 56 year old Dr. Borlaug was working in a wheat field outside Mexico City when his wife, Margaret, drove up to tell him the news. "Someone’s pulling your leg," he replied, according to one of his biographers, Leon Hesser. Assured that it was true, he kept on working, saying he would celebrate later.
MITs Technolog Review "Norman Borlaug, the world's greatest farmer, and a distinguished agronomist, died at the weekend, aged 95. His was a long and productive life of heroic proportions. The honours humanity heaped on "Norm" included the Nobel Peace Prize, Congressional Gold Medal and the Presidential Medal of Freedom: a hat-trick shared only with Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, Mother Teresa and Elie Wiesel."

14 September 2009

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 in our little gardener circle who tried to grow them this year also got to learn about Colorado Potato Beetles. The buggers ate the leaves off of all our plants.

I happened to be out there one day and noticed the damage and went to war, hand killing all of them. Now, the plant is growing new leaves and flowers.

The harvesting information is interesting. You just remove all the leaves from the stems and use them as is on their own stems when making fall arrangements.

Bella Online has the best information about how to use the fruit
"Pumpkin-on-a-stick is one of the most spectacular fall florals you can imagine. They’re becoming a very popular cut flower stem for autumn arrangements. They embody the very essence of fall on a single stem. These look just like miniature pumpkins. Both the color and shape of these small fruits are just as exquisite."

So, I want to grow it again next year of course. Now that I know a little more about it, I want to see if I can do a better job with it and grow one of the bush-trees of Pumpkin on a Stick that the seed companies say is possible.

Anyone out there growing this and have tips for drying and using?

10 September 2009

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 disease-free foliage.

Aster azureus (Sky Blue Aster), Aster ericoides (Heath Aster), Aster drummondii (Drummond's Aster), Aster laevis (Smooth Aster), Aster lateriflorus (Calico Aster or Lady in Black), Aster oblongifolius (Aromatic Aster) and Aster praealtus (Miss Bessie Aster or Willow Leaf Aster)

Carex bicknellii (Copper-shouldered Oval Sedge), Carex cephalophora (Oval-headed Sedge), Carex comosa (Bristly Sedge), Carex cruscorvi (Crowfood Fox Sedge), Carex gray (Gray's Sedge), Carex intumescens (Shining Bur Sedge) and Carex plantaginea (Plantain Sedge)

Pycnanthemum pilosum (Hairy Mountain Mint), Pycnanthemum tenuifolium (Slender Mountain Mint), Pycnanthemum virginianum (Virginia Mountain Mint, Wild Basil, Prairie Hyssop)

Adaptable to sun, part shade, wet and dry soils. Easy to grow and attractive to pollinators. In the mint family but not invasive.

Rudbeckia maxima (Great Coneflower), Rudbeckia Missouriensis (Missouri Black-eyed Susan), Rudbeckia subtomentosa (Sweet Black-eyed Susan)

Schizachyrium scoparium (Little Bluestem, Broombeard, Wiregrass) - Clump forming grass that turns bronze pink in the fall. Do not fertilize.

Sorghastrum nutans (native Indian Grass, Woodgrass) - One of the most beautiful of the native forage grasses for home landscapes.

It is hard to go wrong with native asters and native grasses, Stewart said. Insects and pollinators have evolved along with these plants. We need pollinators to keep crops going and to feed birds, otherwise the birds will go away.

It matters what you plant.

Native plants need less water, require no pesticides, increase biodiversity, and replace lawn. When planted in their native habitat they will not become invasive.

Four hundred insects in the lepidoptera (butterfly and moth) family can feed on oak trees, Stewart said. Nothing can feed on golden rain trees.

Butterflies are specific feeders which mean that they can only eat and grow on plants their eggs were laid on. For example, the adult Monarch seeks out Milkweed to lay her eggs, when the caterpillar hatches it will eat the leaves. If transferred to a plant that is not in the Milkweed family, it will be unable to eat. Many moths and insects have a similar relationship with specific plants.

Stewart is bringing a few plants to sell. To order in advance visit www.wildthingsnursery.com, e-mail an order to wtnursery@yahoo.com, or call 405.382.8540.

Future Muskogee garden club programs:
Pearl Garrison, Oklahoma Centennial Botanical Garden, Oct. 15;
Doug Walton, Sustainable Gardening, Nov. 19;
Rodney King, Healthy Lawns, Jan. 21;
Skip West, Plants You Didn't Know Would Grow in Oklahoma, Feb. 18;
Matthew Weatherbee, Low Maintenance/High Impact Color, March 18;
Dr. Gerald Klingaman, Ozarks in the Spring, April 15.


Butterfly identification


Native plants


09 September 2009

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 fundraiser for Friends of Honor Heights Park Association.Workshop Fee: Members $15 and Non-members $25.
You can join Friends that day if you want to.
(501 c 3 tax deductible)

Information and Registration
918.683.2373or Honorheightsfriends@gmail.com

This photo is Martha sorting out the worm composting bins last winter inside the garage with a heater running. The castings became this year's fertilizer for the vegetable garden. It's simple to get started. Come learn how.

08 September 2009

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 it. Someone else grated it raw and made it into slaw. With the size of the fruit and the number of them in the harvest, we'll be trying it a dozen ways.

When we go to the health food store we always see flower pot type bowls of greens for cats. They are growing pretty close together and I've noticed the price (between $5 and $10 apiece) but didn't examine them closely.
So I got a packet of Renee's Gourmet Cat Greens and planted them the other day. There they are, up and healthy in a matter of 3 days. I soaked the seeds over night to give them a good germination start.
The package contains seeds of organic grains to make house bound kitties happy and healthy.
My plan is to pot them up and make them available at Honor Heights Park gift shop. I'm curious to see whether or not cat owners here are interested in them.

Feeling a little blue about the passing of summer and the shorter days but keeping busy planting and harvesting to prolong the fun as long as possible.
How about you? Are you glad to see the season end to give hands and back some much needed rest? Or are you still growing and planting?

07 September 2009

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 deliciosa—large leaf and small leaf
Philodendron crassinervium gigantea gloriosum
Pinellia tripartita Typhonium divaricatum venosum
Xanthosoma robusta

Need organic products? Arbico Organics is also having a sale - details here.

Sooner Plant Farm is having a fall sale. Good plants, great packing for mailorders.

No bulbs on sale yet though I checked several sites for offers. Let me know if you find a good sale out there. Send an email to mollyday1@gmail.com

06 September 2009

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 as beneficial insects because they eat so many harmful insects such as mosquitoes, gnats, ants termites and even butterflies, spiders and other dragonflies.
It's probably a Common Whitetail. Then, this photo makes me think it is a female Whitetail.

Do you have a lot of beneficial insects in your garden?

03 September 2009

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 offers both cut herbs and plants of parsley, dill, sage, basil and rosemary.

Herb vinegar instructor Susan Balogh said, If the herbs, bottles and tools are clean and dry, problems will be avoided.

Select the right vinegar. Rosemary, basil, sage and garlic combine with red vinegar. Oregano, salad burnet, tarragon, rose petals, lemon balm, and lemon verbena work well with cider, white wine and rice vinegars. '

With white vinegar use peppercorns, mustard seeds, rosemary, dill, and honey. Sweeten any of them with a few stevia leaves.

Tips for successful herb vinegar
Use glass gallon jars thoroughly cleaned in the dishwasher or with soap and hot water
Cut herbs in the early morning when the essential oils are the strongest
Use 1 cup fresh herbs for 2 cups vinegar
Use one-fourth cup dry herb with one cup vinegar.
Poke holes in whole garlic cloves and whole hot peppers before adding
Clean the herbs in a solution made of 3 parts water to1 part vinegar
Air dry or dry in a salad spinner
Any water in the containers or on the herbs will make a cloudy herb vinegar
Stuff the herbs in jars
If using fruit, always put it in first. Peaches make a cloudy product.
Crush or bruise the herbs as you put them into the steeping jars
Use vinegar with a minimum of 5% acidity.
Cover with vinegar to the top
Stir once a week

Avoid metal. Cover the jar with a plastic top or plastic wrap, tightly secured with a rubber band

For small home batches, use the bottles the vinegar came in. Pour out half the vinegar, poke clean, dry herbs into the bottle and refill the bottle-Taste after 3 weeks and if you like the flavor, they are ready to decant.

To decant, pour over a coffee filter lined strainer that is placed on top of a large pitcher. You may need some help lifting a gallon of vinegar over the strainer or someone to hold the handle of the strainer in place.

Do not lift gallon jars by the lid.
Do not fill decorative bottles to the top; leave room for the cork.

To decorate gift bottles, you can use corks and wine bottle toppers available at wine making stores. (Mecca at 33 and Peoria in Tulsa - 918.749.3509

To use recycled bottles, top the glass jar with plastic wrap to prevent contact with metal. Decorate: Use brown string to attach a green leaf that will dry in place. Or, glue dried flowers on a ribbon, tie tiny branches into bundles, wrap garlic cloves into raffia, collect crape myrtle seed pods and attach to a brown paper bag topper.

The recycled bottles in the photo have metal screw lids. A piece of plastic freezer bag is between the glass and the metal. The gourd leaf was put on fresh, tied with inexpensive brown twine and left to dry in place.

Want more information? Tulsa Herb Society, President Patsy Wynn, 918.496.8019, and Tulsa Garden Center.

IF YOU GO Carols and Crumpets will be held Saturday, December 5 from 8 to 3 p.m.
Tulsa Garden Center, 2435 South Peoria AV. Snowflake Café will be open from 11 to 2

02 September 2009

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 pink-rust flower stage.
The bed is mostly perennials with some annual zinnias, marigolds and salvias. Every plant is for the pollinators - skippers, bees, dragonflies and butterflies.

This end is Tithonia and zinnias - the sunny, hot side of the bed.