30 November 2009

Zion National Park This Week

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

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

28 November 2009

End of November Vegetables

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

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

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

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

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

This was my first fall gardening attempt and I'm encouraged to try again next year.

26 November 2009

Gardener's Quiz

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

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

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

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

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

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

6. An invasive weed that looks like yellow and red threads is: A) Dodder. B) Kudzu. C) Red Creeper.

7. Plant tags and catalogs use Plant Hardiness Zones to describe annuals and perennials. Hardiness is: A) The thickness of the plant stem. B) The health of the seeds produced by the plant. C) The coldest temperatures the plant can survive.

8. 7-Up is the best cut flower preservative. A) True. B) False.

9. Store seeds in” A) Kitchen cabinet. B) Dark closet. C) Freezer. D) Refrigerator.

10. Perlite and vermiculite are: A) Sterile soil additives. B) Used in place of soil to start seeds. C) Herbicides. D) Pesticides.

11. To a gardener, a drill is: A) A hole in a fruit tree made by an insect. B) A hole made to plant a seed. C) A mark made on a fence post.

12. A woody herb that brings honey bees: A) Basil. B) Rosemary. C) Thyme.

13. A plant with prickly hairs, blue and pink flowers, is used to soothe skin and make soup: A) Rose. B) Cabbage. C) Borage. D) Petunia.

14. Butterflies need a lot of: A) Pollen. B) Seeds. C) Nectar. D) Dew.

15. Old farmers planted vegetables: A) When chickens began laying eggs in the spring. B) When weeds began to grow in the garden. C) When feed stores brought in seeds.

16. Salvia Azurea is a native plant with blue flowers in the fall. Azurea means: A) Native. B) Mint. C) Fall flowering. D) Blue.

17. Earthworms do not have teeth. What do they eat? A) Decaying roots and leaves. B) Soil. C) Soil organisms. D) Manure. E) All. F) None.

18. Sweet potato vines produce a vegetable we can eat: A) True. B) False.

19. The difference between a perennial and an annual: A) Vegetables are annuals. B) True annuals complete a life in less than a year. C) Perennial plants that are not cared for are annuals.

20. Plant spring blooming bulbs: A) The previous fall. B) Deep to protect them from freezing. C) As far away from trees and shrub roots as possible.

21. Most flowering shrubs should be pruned in the fall: A) True. B) False.

22. Witch Hazels bloom in the winter, Spice Bushes bloom in the spring, Lilies bloom in the summer, Monk’s Hoods bloom in the fall. A) True. B) False.

23. Moss in a lawn will prevent grass growth. Remove by: A) Fertilize with nitrogen. B) Remove by hand. C) Treat with iron such as liquid ferric sulfate. D) All. E) None.

24. Stunted growth, yellow leaves, and leaf burn can all be the result of oxygen starvation due to over watering” A) True. B) False.

25. Xeriscape gardens are common in: A) Hawaii. B) Georgia. C) Arizona. D) Michigan.


1 C

2 A

3 B

4 A

5 A

6 A

7 C

8 A

9 D

10 A and B

11 B

12 C

13 C

14 C

15 B

16 D

17 E

18 B

19 B

20 A

21 B

22 A

23 D

24 A

25 C

22 November 2009

On Sale, For Sale, Sale, Sale

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

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

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

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

It's time to order your seed potatoes for the Feb 14 planting! I used Ronninger's this year and found their customer service to be top notch.

Get ordering - many of the bulbs I shopped for yesterday were already sold out. And northern companies have suspended shipping until spring.

21 November 2009

New Non-Technology Idea for Saving the Planet

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

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

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

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

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

Others ideas will work, are much cheaper on a small-scale, but require significant investment and regulatory changes to scale up worldwide (see Steven Chu’s call for reflective cool roofs, and more on the idea of creating reflective crops). These researchers, however, argue that massive forestation in equatorial deserts provides the best, near-term route to complete control of greenhouse gas induced global warming, and would be cost-effective in comparison with carbon capture and storage (CCS) plans now receiving massive investment (see earlier post).

The scientists outlined their plan in a recent article in the Journal of Climatic Change. According to The Guardian (UK), the plan would involve planting fields of fast growing trees such as eucalyptus would cover the deserts of the Sahara and Australian outback, watered by seawater treated by a string of coastal desalination plants and channelled through a vast irrigation network. The new blanket of tree cover would bring its own weather system and rainfall, while soaking up carbon dioxide from the world’s atmosphere. The team's calculations suggest the forested deserts could draw down around 8bn tonnes of carbon a year, about the same as emitted from fossil fuels and deforestation today."

What do you think of this idea? Does it make sense to you? Would you support tax dollars being spent on such a hugs reforestation project?

20 November 2009

Route 66 Endangered by Progress Again

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

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

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

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

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

Today, Route 66 organizations operate in several states and followers of Route 66 Americana exist throughout the world. The road continues to offer travelers a slower trip than the modern highway and many of the views and vistas that made it famous.

Last month, the Mohave County Commissioners voted in favor of moving ahead with the project, despite overwhelming opposition from residents and national organizations, including 801 petition signatures representing the majority of stakeholder residents, dozens of letters, and 68 speeches given by residents who will be most affected by the project.

With Route 66’s status as an international destination and with its listing in the National Register of Historic Places, the citizens of Valle Vista and surrounding communities northeast of Kingman, Arizona, are trying to find a way to save Route 66 from construction by Sun West Biofuels, LLC.

The precedence that construction of a manufacturing plant would establish for additional heavy manufacturing along the highway is worrisome to residents. The 20-mile stretch of Route 66 that serves as the sole transportation route for these affected communities is very scenic, yet has not been designated as a “scenic route” in the most recent General Plan for Mohave County.

Members of the community have actively participated in letter writing and petition campaigns with the hope of influencing their Commissioners and Board of Supervisors, and are currently raising funds for legal counsel. Individuals are encouraged to write letters of opposition to the biodiesel plant location on historic Route 66 to the following officials:
Mohave County Board of Supervisors
Supervisor Gary Watson, District 1
700 W. Beale Street
Kingman, AZ 86401

Mohave County Board of Supervisors
Supervisor Tom Stockwell, District 2
1130 Hancock Road
Bullhead City, AZ 86442

Mohave County Board of Supervisors
Supervisor Buster D. Johnson, District 3
2001 College Drive, Suite 90
Lake Havasu City, AZ 86403

Debra Martin is an adult degree student at Prescott College in the field of Sustainable Community Design. She resides outside of Kingman, Arizona, off of Route 66.

19 November 2009

Sansevieria - A Plant for Every Location

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

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

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

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

Sanseveria or Sanseviera was named for Raimondo de Sangro, the prince of San Severo, Italy who lived 1710 to 1771. In its native Africa, Sansevieria trifasciata is said to be a favorite gourmet food of elephants. The medicinal uses include ulcers, parasites, earaches and toothaches (www.killerplants.com/plant-of-the-week/20051226.asp).

The International Sansevieria Society (www.sansevieria-international.org) website says there are 130 to 140 species and varieties, with 60 of those being Sansevieria trifasciata. Several other popular plants are Sansevieria hyacinthoides with the common name bowstring hemp. The plant family they belong to is agave (Agavaceae).

The species are divided into three categories: normal full size, medium size with wide leaves (Futura type) and dwarf bird’s-nest size (Hahnii type).

Tips for success with Sansevierias

- Provide well-drained soil. Pumice, lava or sand could be added to peat based potting soil. Bagged orchid soil also works well.
- Top the soil with small gravel or lava rock chips
- In the summer, water well and let the pot drain
- In the winter allow them to stay dry
- Minimum temperature is 10C or 50F
- Good light will produce a better looking plant. Dappled sunlight will keep the color pretty
- Plants spread by underground rhizomes or roots that will break a pot if left untended or planted in a shallow pot.

Half of the Snake Plants grown in Florida in 1930 were shipped to Europe. Now they are grown in Central America and the Caribbean Islands where production costs are lower.

The Cactus Mall (www.cactus-mall.com) provides links to several growers.
Take a look at some of the varieties at Stokes Tropicals (http://tiny.cc/ScE8k) -

Bantels Sensation - discovered by Gustav Bantel of St. Louis, MO and patented in 1948. Lime-green leaves marked with alternating white and dark green stripes.

Black Gold Extreme - Black-green tall, thin leaves with gold borders.

Futura – New variety with shorter, broader leaves, rosettes and, narrow yellow outer margin.

Twisted Sister has the characteristic yellow outer margin and striped leaves but instead of standing tall it twists.

The Hahnii varieties are called Bird’s Nest Sansievieria. Silver birdnest sansevieria has silver-green leaves and dark green margins. Sylvan Hahn patented silver Hahnii in 1953. Its growth habit is nearly identical to that of Hahnii’s vase-shaped rosette of leaves.

Black Star has the dark leaf and gold rim of Black Gold but compact growth.

Sansievieria cylindrica or African Spear, has a tall, stiff cylinder shaped leaves that look like spears and have sharp points that some gardeners snip off. The rosettes can grow up to 4 feet long by three-fourths of an inch wide.

African Spear comes from Angola, in Western Africa. An artist in Arkansas gave me a pup of her plant when I admired it. The mother plant was thriving at the back of the store, sitting on a dark staircase, growing in an old coffee pot filled with caked, dry dirt from the back yard.

Anyone can grow Sansievieria.

Oklahoma State University Extension in Muskogee is taking 25 names for a Fall 2010 Master Gardener series. Call 918-686-7200 to be added to the list.

18 November 2009

Late November for Gardeners

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

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

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

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

Pinetree Gardens fall bulb sale is on - here.

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

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

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

15 November 2009

Pandanus utilis - a Lily Called Screw Pine

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

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

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

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

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

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

Quoting from the Pandanus Primer -
"Sadly, many of the world's Pandanus are threatened in the wild. " ... "Pandanus is a remarkable genus of plants to which the modern world has not always been kind. It deserves better. So the next time you find yourself by Pandanus Lake, take a moment to appreciate the plants that lend their name to that lake. Pay your respects, make amends, or simply get to know these amazing plants."

The tree in my photos is at the Gaylord Resort in Grapevine Texas. My friend Anita and I drove to Dallas for a Master Gardener workshop at the Dallas Arboretum.

13 November 2009

Friday the 13th Good Luck or Not?

Are you superstitious about Friday the 13th? Do you plant or not plant? Prune or not prune your plants? Maybe it is time to make special days for gardeners on Friday the 13th. Fairy dances or flowers strewn or....

Many people consider Friday the 13th a lucky day so why do buildings avoid assigning a 13th floor number to the floor above 12? Isn't it kind of silly?

Corsinet offers several connections for your amusement.


There is a Norse myth about 12 gods having a dinner party at Valhalla, their heaven. In walked the uninvited 13 guest, the mischievous Loki. Once there, Loki arranged for Hoder, the blind god of darkness, to shoot Balder the Beautiful, the god of joy and gladness, with a mistletoe-tipped arrow. Balder died and the Earth got dark. The whole Earth mourned.

There is a Biblical reference to the unlucky number 13. Judas, the apostle who betrayed Jesus, was the 13th guest to the Last Supper.

A particularly bad Friday the 13 occurred in the middle ages. On a Friday the 13th in 1306, King Philip of France arrested the revered Knights Templar and began torturing them, marking the occasion as a day of evil.

In ancient Rome, witches reportedly gathered in groups of 12. The 13 was believed to be the devil.

Both Friday and the number 13 were once closely associated with capital punishment. In British tradition, Friday was the conventional day for public hangings, and there were supposedly 13 steps leading up to the noose.

It is traditionally believed that Eve tempted Adam with the apple on a Friday. Tradition also has it that the Flood in the Bible, the confusion at the Tower of Babel, and the death of Jesus Christ all took place on Friday.

Numerologists consider 12 a "complete" number. There are 12 months in a year, 12 signs of the zodiac, 12 gods of Olympus, 12 labors of Hercules, 12 tribes of Israel, and 12 apostles of Jesus. In exceeding 12 by 1, 13's association with bad luck has to do with just being a little beyond completeness.

FRIDAY THE 13 - how is fear of the number thirteen demonstrated?
More than 80 percent of high-rises lack a 13 floor.
Many airports skip the 13 gate.
Airplanes have no 13 aisle.
Hospitals and hotels regularly have no room number 13.
Italians omit the number 13 from their national lottery.
On streets in Florence, Italy, the house between number 12 and 14 is addressed as 12 and a half.
Many cities do not have a 13 Street or a 13 Avenue

In France, socialites known as the quatorziens (fourteeners) once made themselves available as 14 guests to keep a dinner party from an unlucky fate.

Many triskaidekaphobes, as those who fear the unlucky integer are known, point to the ill-fated mission to the moon, Apollo 13.

If you have 13 letters in your name, you will have the devil's luck . Jack the Ripper, Charles Manson, Jeffrey Dahmer, Theodore Bundy and Albert De Salvo all have 13 letters in their names.

Have we outlived the significance of unlucky 13? How Stuff Works says the Friday the 13th fear is called paraskevidekatriaphobia.

What can be done to reverse the potential negative and turn the day around?

The Farmer's Almanac says to keep your fingers crossed all day. Maybe more practical for gardeners is another of their suggestions - wear your clothes inside out all day. Or how about carry an acorn in your pocket all day? There's an easy one for gardeners.

12 November 2009

Tussie Mussie History and How-to

Aromatherapy as it is practiced today, includes herbal extracts and oils placed in amulets, light plugs, on light bulbs, etc. In earlier times, herbs were scattered on floors in the spring when homes were cleaned of winter waste. And, in the Middle Ages herbs were thought to ward off disease.

A Tussie Mussie, a circular arrangement of flowers and herbs was carried in Victorian times. The herbs and a central rose were sniffed to help people get through the unpleasant street smells. Herbs such as rosemary, thyme and rue were often used for their spicy aromas.

Sara Sherwood of Muskogee purchased the Tussie Mussie in the photo at the Savannah GA home of Juliette Gordon Low, the founder of the Girl Scouts. Low lived from 1860 to 1927.

In England, judges carried them into court and today, judges in the highest court carry them six times a year. In France, the Tussie-Mussie was placed in a small, metal, hand-held vase with ring chain, making it easy to carry.

Other uses for Tussie-Mussies included courtship. Suitors gave their intended a message by selecting specific flowers. Dictionaries of flower meanings were developed from material found in mythology, lore and religious symbolism. Ladies and gentlemen who received a Tussie-Mussie researched the meaning behind the gift in 400 flower-meaning dictionaries of the time.

For example, a red rose is I love you but a yellow rose says my love has decreased now that I know you better.

The custom of assigning meaning to plants probably dates to prehistoric cultures. Archeologists think flowers found in ancient graves were arranged to signify messages.

Today, most brides and bridesmaids carry a Tussie-Mussie when they walk down the aisle.

According to Worldwidewords.org the first recorded use of the word tusmose was about 1440, then it became tuzzy muzzy. In 1629, John Parkinson wrote about Tussie-Mussie as a nosegay for sight and scent.

In 1818 flower talk was included in the education of young women. Madame Charlotte de la Tour wrote Le Language des Fleurs or the Language of Flowers that women studied. Victorian Bazaar has a history and meaning of flowers link here.

From when Queen Victoria ascended the thrown in 1837, until the end of the century, Tussie-Mussies were considered essential accessories.

Even today, Tussie-Mussies are lovely gifts for hospital visits or to give to friends and family for any occasion.

To make a Tussie-Mussie, start by choosing a message you want to send or by looking around for what plants you have. The final bouquet is usually 6-inches across.

The central flower does not have to be a rose. The flowers used to fill in around the central flower could be lavender, rosemary, ivy, mint, baby's breath, etc.

The herb and leaves wrapped around the outside could include scented geranium, lamb's ears or other large soft leaves.

To assemble a Tussie-Mussie, remove the lower leaves from each stem and use string, rubber band or floral tape to hold the arrangement together. Wrap the bouquet stems in paper towel and cover with foil or floral tape. Place the arrangement in a paper doily with a hole in the center. Ribbons can be added.

The Internet site www.languageofflowers.com lists hundreds of flowers and the sentiment they intend.

Rosemary is remembrance, ivy is fidelity, parsley is festivity, rose is love, basil is best wishes, red geranium is comfort and health, hydrangea is devotion, sage is wisdom, pine is loyalty, globe amaranth is unfading love, veronica is fidelity, bellflower is gratitude, English daisy is innocence, thrift is sympathy, lemon is faithfulness, marjoram is happiness, thyme is courage, and zinnia says I miss you.

Add to the significance of your talking bouquet by including a note with the meaning of the flowers.

10 November 2009

November Sales, Powerful Pumpkins, Late Fall Gardening

November has many beauties - pansies, mums, salvias, sedum, monk's hood, the last of the summer flowers like marigolds and zinnias. Add to that the fall colors, the holly berries, and the terrific weather. Such a wonderful season.

November is also loaded with sales by plant and bulb companies large and small. Here are a few that have arrived in my email inbox.

Sunshine Farm and Garden 4 goldenseal plants for $25 including shipping
Annie's Annuals - gift certificate sale - 15% off
White Flower Farm - 50 pastel tulips for $39
Brent and Becky's Bulbs - 25% off bulbs - Erythronium, Fritillaria, Gladiolus, Hermodactylus, Hyacinthoides, Hyacinthus, Ipheion, Dutch Iris
Blooming Bulb - 60% off fall planted bulbs
Holland Bulb Farm 50 to 75% off fall bulbs
Tulip World online sale of tulips
Old House Gardens has a few items on sale - only until Nov 12th though.

I checked a few other sites for sales - who are you ordering from right now while the sales are hot?

Powerful pumpkins! Science Daily describes the benefit of eating winter squash.
"Carotenoids, the family of yellow to red pigments responsible for the striking orange hues of pumpkins and the familiar red color of vine-ripe tomatoes, play an important role in human health by acting as sources of provitamin A or as protective antioxidants."

And, eat your dark green veggies, too.
"Vegetables in the cabbage family (such as kale, cauliflower, and broccoli) have long been known as especially good sources of dietary carotenoids. Recently, broccoli has emerged as the stand-out member of the species, providing more carotenoids to American consumers than any of its cabbage-family relatives."

We grow broccoli, winter squash, kale, Romaine, and other greens. As a result of the garden constantly popping with them, we eat more than we normally would. It's that waste not upbringing of poor kids.

The winter squash came out over the weekend and the garlic went in. The broccoli was harvested today, blanched, and popped into the freezer. Bags of green beans went in the freezer today, too.

There is actually one daffodil blooming today. Mostly though, each time I spy a cluster of daffodils popping up, I dig them, divide them and plant them all over the back yard at the base of the trees. It will give me something to look forward to when winter weather arrives.

06 November 2009

Do You Grow Gingers?

The variegated one is Dr. Moy. Gingers R US has a photo of the flower though they were not in bloom last week at the Dallas Arboretum.

I know the white flowering variety below is cold hardy. If you are growing gingers outside how to you keep them going over the winter?

White ginger, has the most beautiful scented blooms.

05 November 2009

Which Plants to Protect from Upcoming Frost

So far, fall, 2009, has been frost-free and we still have time to get vulnerable plants pulled indoors. Houseplants that vacationed outside over the summer definitely want to be inside by now. Cacti and succulents that are not native have to be protected, too.

Not everything will fit into the house, garage, shed or small greenhouse and choices have to be made. Select only healthy plants to save. Diseased plants should be trashed, not composted.

Prepare plants by removing dead leaves and spraying them with insecticidal soap (a few drops of dishwashing detergent mixed into a gallon of room temperature water). Pots of herbs need to be well cleaned before bringing them into the kitchen.

Transplant garden plants into pots, using fresh potting soil. Dig around and down to get the main roots. Slide the shovel at an angle under the plant. Lift the root ball and place it into a pot that already has potting soil in the bottom. Water and add more soil if necessary. Rinse off the leaves.

Discard inexpensive annuals such as petunias, marigolds and zinnias. If they were grown in pots, the entire contents of the pot can be poured onto the compost. On the other hand, if your flowerbed could use extra soil, pour the pot onto the bed and shake the soil away from the roots. Then, put the green waste in the compost.

Patio, porch, and deck plants such as Boston ferns are a challenge to keep attractive unless they can be brought into the house near southern windows with filtered light. The fronds will probably dry out and drop but keep the plants moist and warm.

Geraniums can be saved. Prune the branches, place the potted plant in a west window and feed it. Geraniums can also be stored any place that will not freeze. Just prune them back and water from time to time.

Heat-loving plants such as citrus trees must be inside the house or garage. If they have to spend the winter in a garage, put them where they will receive 4 hours of sunlight and wrap the pot in bubble wrap or slip it into a Styrofoam ice chest. Mist the leaves on sunny days.

Tropical plants such as mandevilla, yellow bells and angel’s trumpet can be dug and stored with a little soil around the roots. After digging, prune the roots and stems, put the plant in a plastic bucket in the garage for winter dormancy.

Tropical hibiscus should have sunlight to survive the winter. Cut back both the roots and stems by one-third to make the plant a more manageable size. Water once a month.

Gardenias need 4-hours of bright light and 75-degree temperatures. Let the soil become dry on the top two inches before watering. Hold off on fertilizing until February.

Bougainvilleas can be pruned and dug up to put into pots to bring inside. They never want wet soil so water sparingly. If it will be stored in a sunny, unheated garage, put it into a plastic bag of Styrofoam peanuts as insulation. Leave the bag open at the top; close it only when temperatures dip below freezing.

You must bring tropical ginger, weeping fig (Ficus) and philodendron into the house in order for them to survive. Begonias can be brought inside in their pots.

Herbs can be used all winter. Rosemary, oregano, lemongrass, parsley, basil and many others will continue to thrive inside. Chive plants can be dug and potted to bring in.

Peppers are tropical perennials and if you can give them enough heat and light to discourage insects, you will have large plants that will give you an early harvest next spring.

Any unripe peppers on the plants will continue to mature if they have a south facing window or 40-watt florescent lights and a warm place to grow.

03 November 2009

Your Koi Pond in the Winter

How do you take care of your koi pond over the freezing months? At 43 degrees the fish stop eating and begin to hibernate, huddled close together.

Most people here leave their koi in the pond, stop feeding and partially cover the water with an insulating cover.

But, other pond owners are investing in small heaters to use from January through April. These are installed in the filter system with the thermostat set to 50-degrees.

Definitely, prune back the plants, clean the filters and turn off the pumps. Cut back on feeding and switch to wheat germ based food. Keep the biological filters running.

If your koi pond is more than 18-inches deep, the fish will stay below until the freeze passes. You can pour warm water on the ice to thaw enough to allow oxygen to get in.

Will you drain your pond and bring the fish inside? What are you experienced koi pond owners doing to keep your koi pond healthy during the winter months?

Water Gardening Magazine has online tips that may help, too.

01 November 2009

Sunday Night Tidbits

Here's the Sweetspire Henry Garnet on our driveway. The October-November color is spectacular this year - must be all the rain - Henry Garnet does like to be wet.
Spacing Toronto - Understanding the Urban Landscape, has a Worldwide Wednesday feature where they send readers to interesting sites.

One in the Oct. 21 edition is a blog called Urlesque that can be congratulated for a post on the World's Coolest Bus Stops. Check it out and you may join me in wondering why they can't all be this fun.

In our town, the public transportation officials can't figure out how to increase ridership. There are no identified bus stops. Not even the bland kind with just a simple sign. Can you imagine the impact on ridership with creative, artistic bus stops like these?

The Philippine Star online has a great October 31, column (in English) on Euphorbias by Kevin G. Belmonte. If you grow some of the 3,000 varieties, you'll be interested in his knowledgeable piece.
Kate Copsey's show, "America's Home Grown Veggies" on Internet Radio Sandy Springs is a hoot. Scroll down the page and look through the archives of shows and enjoy listening to any or all of them on your computer while you work. Click on the cheerleader megaphone to listen.
In 1933, three million men in the Civilian Conservation Corps planted trees, built parks and flood control projects. Monday at 9 there will be a program on tv about the CCC. Find out more at this PBS link.

Donna Dawson has been operating tours for plant lovers since 1998. In 2010 destinations include Ecuador in January, Thailand in February, India in March, China in April and Chelsea in May.
Here's the link but you have to at least consider taking me along if you get to go.
State-by-State Gardening, the magazine, now sends out a monthly email with gardening tips that I've found useful. The company publishes gardening magazines for Alabama, Arkansas, South and North Carolina, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Virginia.
The Cultural Landscape Foundation site is another rich resource for people who think. Look at this link called Shaping the American Landscape.
"Organized under the theme, Shaping the American Landscape, this year's program spotlights great places designed by seminal and regionally influential landscape figures, which are threatened with change. These estate gardens, public plazas, institutional grounds, park systems, and cemetery designs have influenced our country's collective landscape legacy. With this latest Landslide effort, these landscapes vividly come alive, with stories of those pioneering individuals who created them and those championing their survival today."
Check it out.