31 December 2009

Spring Gardens Start in the Winter

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

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

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

Seed potato sources -

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

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

Potato seeds should be warmed to 45 or 50 degrees to encourage them to break dormancy. Cut the potatoes in to planting size and give them a week or two on sheets of newspaper or in a cardboard egg carton before planting.

The Gardening Guy of Tulsa says he plants pieces with 2 eyes, 12 inches apart in 8-inch deep holes. To each planting hole he adds one-half cup organic fertilizer, granite powder and dry kelp. Read his advice at http://bit.ly/6a5MJ3.

Another option is to dig a trench that you gradually fill and mound with soil. Keep weeds away with a mulch of newspaper or straw.

There is a Garden Web discussion on potato growing in OK at http://bit.ly/8nebMf.
and the ultimate work-free method is Ruth Stout’s video at http://bit.ly/7lJFK8.

Stout throws seeds on top of the ground and covers them with several inches of hay.

Fedco Co-op sells potatoes in a Moose Tubers online and print catalog 207-873-7333.

The chart at www.fedcoseeds.com/moose/varietychart.htm shows potato variety names, skin color, meat texture, scab resistance, etc.

Seeds to plant indoors in the winter - Viola, pansy and begonia seeds are planted in January.

In February, plant Feverfew, Lobelia, Impatiens, Petunia, Phlox, Poppies and Black Eyed Susan vines. Sow lettuce, cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower indoors mid-Feb and tomato seeds late February.

A few of the hundreds of seed suppliers for home gardeners -

Botanical Interests, www.botanicalinterests.com, 720-880-7293 Lots of information on seeds packets, free seed starting booklet with every purchase.

Chiltern Seeds, www.chilternseeds.co.uk, unique vegetable and flower seeds.

Dixondale Farms, www.dixondalefarms.com, 877-367-1015, onions and leeks.

Garden Medicinals, www.gardenmedicinals.com, and 434-964-9113.

Harris Seeds, www.harrisseeds.com, 800-514-4441.

Horizon Herbs, www.horizonherbs.com, 541-846-6704. Medicinals and herbs.

J. L. Hudson, www.JLHudsonSeeds.net, no telephone. Seed bank with hard-to-find seeds.

Johnny’s Seeds, www.johnnyseeds.com or 207-437-4301. Flower, vegetable, cover crop seeds, organic, pelleted seeds.

Le Jardin du Gourmet, www.ArtisticGardens.com, 800-659-1446, seeds in small 35-cent packets.

Native American Seed, www.seedsource.com, 800-728-4043, Oklahoma grasses, wildflowers, quail and dove, butterfly.

Prairie Moon Nursery, www.prairiemoon.com, 507-452-1362, seeds for wetland, prairie, savanna and woodland.

Renee’s Garden, www.reneesgarden.com, 888-880-7228, clear planting instructions, heirloom and new varieties, multi-packs and combo packs.

Seed Savers, www.seedsavers.org or 563-382-5990, Coop with heirloom seeds.
Large quantities - Wholesale seed suppliers will sell to parks, churches, schools, organizations and individuals.

Hazzard’s Wholesale Seed, www.hazzardsgreenhouse.com or wholesaleseeds@hazzardsgreenhouse.com. Vegetables, walk on plants, herbs and ornamental grasses.

HPS Horticultural owns Totally Tomato, Vermont Bean, Roots & Rhizomes and many other familiar companies, www.hpsseed.com.

Ivy Garth Seeds sends out a large catalog with a photo CD. Sales@ivygarth.com, www.ivygarth.com, 800-351-4025

Peaceful Valley Farm Supply, www.groworganic.com or 888-784-1722. Cover crop and bulk seeds.

Unique and new varieties are available only through Internet and mail order sources and the catalogs are rich with gardening tips.

30 December 2009

Exciting Time of Year

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

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

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

What a wonderful week for a gardener.

26 December 2009

Complete Guide to Container Gardening

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

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

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

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

The trend (?) of illustrating the layout of the plants as color dots to make it easier to replicate the photo is used in each suggested pot design.

They say it this way, "Each garden idea includes a recipe and an ingredients list that makes shopping and preparing a breeze. The easy-to-follow reference format explains every project in detail and in depth, including helpful hints and essential information on plants, growth, and potting options."

Yes, maybe. Here's one page so you get the idea.
"Three's a Charm" pot
Essentials: Container: 18-inch blue-purple glazed ceramic pot, Light: Sun, Water: When soil begins to feel dry.

Ingredients: A. Red Copperleaf (Acalypha wilkesiana), B. 6 pink petunia, C. 3 Sweet Potato (Blackie)

Notes: "As a fast growing plant, ornamental sweet potato can quickly take over and dominate a mixed planting. Group it with comparable growers or control its rambunctiousness by whacking it back from time to time."

Easy Threesies: "Solve the mystery of choosing plants for containers with this popular formula. Pick a thriller, an upright plant, for vertical structure. Ad a filler, a bushy plant, for balance. Mix in a spiller, a cascading plant, to edge the pot and anchor the grouping. Each plant type works with the others to create a balanced design, even when there's only one of each."

There are 125 of these container recipes, with photos, plans, tips , and shopping lists.

Also, there are tips you may not have read before. For example, when you want to fill the bottom of a large planter, use pine cones, plastic water bottles or plastic pots turned upside down instead of filling a huge pot with planting soil.

It's an attractive book, with lots of specific and solid information to back up that pretty face. $19.95 at the Wiley link above and $12 online.

24 December 2009

Mistletoe Isn't Just for Holiday Kisses

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

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

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

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

Ours is toxic so do not eat it.

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

Druids worshipped mistletoe that grew on oak trees.

They called it all-heal and considered it their most sacred plant for what they believed were its healing qualities. They saw it as a symbol of the return of the sun after the winter solstice since it has a golden color. A priest in a white robe climbed the tree to harvest the gold, shimmering plants.

Shakespeare called it the baleful Mistletoe because in a Scandinavian legend an arrow of mistletoe killed the god of peace, Baldur.

His life was restored and he was put in the care of Frigga, goddess of love or marriage, and everyone who walked under the mistletoe was supposed to kiss.

This myth that Balder had been resurrected, lead to the Vikings believing that mistletoe could raise the dead.

Mistletoe was also sacred to the Ainos of Japan, and some African tribes.

During the Middle Ages mistletoe was hung in ceilings to ward off evil spirits. In Europe mistletoe hung in doors and prevented witches from entering. In England and Wales, farmers fed mistletoe to the first calf of the New Year to bring good luck to the herd.

American mistletoe (Phorandendron serotinum or flavescens) grows in trees from the eastern coast of the United States to Oklahoma. Most of the mistletoe sold throughout the country is grown in Texas and OK. It was the state flower of OK from 1893 to 2004.

Thomas Nuttal named the plant. The translation of the Greek name, Phoradendron, is thief of the tree. Mistletoe is not a parasite, it is a partial parasite or hemiparasite; it roots in host trees and uses the tree’s nutrients to supplement its own photosynthesis.

There are actually 1300 species of mistletoe that grow around the world. Only two are native to the U.S. Twenty species are endangered.

Even though our association with mistletoe is romantic, the naming of the plant is much less so. Mistal means dung. Tan means twig. So, mistletoe means dung on a twig.

The high protein, sticky, seeds, attach to birds' beaks and feathers. When birds clean their beaks on tree branches, the seeds are planted. The seeds also stick to squirrel fur.

Dwarf mistletoe plants their progeny in a different way: The seeds explode, spraying 50-feet out onto surrounding trees.

The great purple hairstreak, the thicket hairstreak and the Johnson hairstreak butterflies court, mate, lay their eggs and raise their caterpillars on Mistletoe. The nectar feeds bees as well. (See http://tinyurl.com/yafsknh)

Kissing under mistletoe is a Greek tradition. During the holidays, some companies replace the poisonous berries with plastic ones. Whether you opt for plastic or the real thing, hang up some of this ancient herb and get a kiss.

23 December 2009

The African Queen rests in Key Largo Florida

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

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

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

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

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

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

In case you don't recall "African Queen" the 1951 movie, here's the synopsis -
An unlikely romance blossoms between Charlie Allnut, a gin-swilling river pilot played by Humphrey Bogart, and Catherine Hepburn's Rosie Slayer, a prim spinster sister of a missionary. The couple struggles against Germans, in a fight that culminates with the explosive-laden vessel destroying a warship.

This one is the real deal. It was used as a ferry for decades and is featured in a movie.

21 December 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

Check out this PDF for a complete description. The link is the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service site so it is safe to click on.

Early settlers considered the area to be a worthless swamp and for decades (1850 to 1920)they tried to drain it to make it "useful". The University of Florida's extension service site has an interesting history of that effort and its results here.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife site urges us to make outdoor memories over the holidays and this is one of the spots you can't be beat!

19 December 2009

What Sustains the Garden?

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

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

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

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

The other disagrees.

They pitch their tents and watch.

No gardener is ever seen.

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

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

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

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

What do you think and believe about what makes the garden survive.

Cactus Garden in Las Vegas NV

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

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

18 December 2009

Beautiful Succulent Photos

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

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

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

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

17 December 2009

The Brother Gardeners by Andrea Wulf

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

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

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

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

Collinson's curiosity about plants took him to Fairchild's garden and his enthusiasm grew. Collinson believed that while material possessions were pompous, plants strengthened his connection to God.

In correspondence with businessmen around the world, he always requested seeds and plant specimens. His request was rarely honored but eventually he gained a connection to John Bartram, a farmer and amateur botanist in America.

Over time, John Bartram collected seeds from the colonies and established a mail-order business selling American horticulture to Europe.

Collinson and Bartram were both Quakers, who were forbidden to attend college, so they read every book they could acquire. Collinson was the English contact for Benjamin Franklin's library in Philadelphia.

Philip Miller, in 1727, discovered that insects "are the Cupids of the garden" pollinating plants. Miller swapped cuttings and seeds with collectors around the world in order to restore the Physic Garden where herbs were grown for medical use.

Miller and Fairchild then formed the Society of Gardeners where amateur botanists gathered to try to identify and name boxes of plant specimens. Miller incorporated all of the specimens and plant names into Miller's Dictionary – the first plant reference. During the same period of history the first dictionary and Encyclopedia Britannica were published.

It was in 1735 that Miller printed the "Abridgement", a book that was small and affordable to all. A gardening craze bloomed from this availability of information for everyone from aristocrats to amateurs.

In the meantime, Swedish botanist Karl Linnaeus was counting flower stamens and pistils as a basis for plant identification. Linnaeus's system divided all flora into 23 groups based on the number of husbands (stamens) and wives (pistils) a flower has. Another group was for flowerless species such as moss.

In 1753 Linnaeus published Species Plantarum with 7,700 plants named and described. Linnaeus used language to describe plant parts and pollination that scandalized Victorians.

A feud between Miller and Linnaeus over who would dominate the naming of plants, bruised many friendships. Botanists were required to take sides and Linnaeus openly insulted plant explorers.

Later, Captain Cook's famous ship the Endeavor carried two botanists Daniel Solander and Sir Joseph Banks around the world, largely because Banks financed the 1768 voyage.

They returned home with 30,000 specimens.

Banks primary interest was in the financial value of plants and he convinced King George III to transform Kew into the botanical collection it became.

Banks weekly walks with King George cemented their relationship and as a result The Bounty was retrofitted to transport plants from the East Indies, Jamaica and Tahiti.

Physician, poet and botanist, Erasmus Darwin, Charles' grandfather, formulated the first theory of evolution in 1795, but it was Linnaeus who said humans were primates and named us Homo sapiens in 1763.

The book is The Brother Gardeners: Botany, Empire and the Birth of an Obsession, by Andrea Wulf (www.andreawulf.com), 354 pages, published by Knopf. $35 or $19 online.

15 December 2009

AHS New Encyclopedia of Gardening Techniques

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

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

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

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

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

Some of the illustrated topics are making a bat box, native plants, bulbs, pruning, pests of woody plants, heirloom roses, growing vines and wall plants, sowing seeds, hand pollinating, floating pond plants, how to make a wooden hanging basket, hardening off plants in an unheated cold frame, edging with paving and stones.

The section on leafy greens identifies selections, how to grow them, pictures of planting and harvesting, etc.

Stalks and shoots talks about asparagus, celery, rhubarb. Then there are beans, potatoes, etc.

Interested in fruit? Soft fruit, tree fruit? It's all covered from choosing a site to planting, pruning, training.

Lawns, of less interest to us rural dwellers, is also thoroughly covered. Learn about dethatching, fertilizing, lawns, water conservation, weeds and mowing through careful instruction and plenty of illustrations.

Pond construction and liners are described with all the news alternatives. Pond plants and how to grow them, as well as what to plant on the margins around the pond are described and illustrated. Heaters , repair and seasonal care round out the chapter.

Container gardening isn't just about spillers and thrillers in containers, but includes plants - trees, annuals, perennials, bulbs, vines, etc. Plus watering and fertilizing, stakes and support.

Then! Greenhouse gardening! Coldframes, unheated greenhouses, cool and warm greenhouses, hygiene, pests and diseases. Heating, watering, forcing bulbs, and more.

Next is propagation basics, methods, growing mediums, and methods for dozens of plants.

Collecting and storing seeds and sowing them in flats is only 5 pages - could have been much longer.

Roots, rhizomes, bulbs and tubers are covered briefly.

Stems and propagation by layering, taking stem cuttings, is covered well. Leaf cutting propagation follows.

I like the 2000 photos, illustrations and the non-glossy paper of this book. It is large enough (8.75 by 11.5) to lay flat when a page is opened. The type size is large enough and there is plenty of white space on the page to help with reading.

December's 20 degree nights look like this

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

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

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

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

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

12 December 2009

Grow Your Own Eat Your Own

Kyle Cathie publishing in the U.K. has released a new book by England's preeminent organic gardening adviser, Bob Flowerdew.
Flowerdew, a farmer's son, is a radio and tv organic gardening personality. He gardens on an acre in Norfolk and has a landscape service.
His other books include Going Organic: The Good Gardener's Guide to Getting It Right, Gourmet Gardener, Flowers, Fruits and Vegetables, The No-Work Garden, Organic Bible, Bob Flowerdew's Complete Fruit Book, Complete Book of Companion Gardening and The Organic Gardener - all since 1993.
Grow Your Own Eat Your Own got rave reviews in England but I always wonder how well English gardening advice translates to U.S. conditions, especially since he gardens on an acre along the North Sea.
One of the features of the book is that there are techniques illustrated that we don't commonly see in American books - and I love finding new ways to improve my success in food growing and preserving.
Flowerdew's focus in this book is storing and preserving, so he suggests that we select varieties for their storage life. He provides specific instructions on how to pick in order to preserve healthy food.
The photographs are toned down - artistic and beautiful without artificial flash. In the illustration for making leather, the pan and pot look like they are actually used. You'll love the picture of the herbs drying, clothes pinned to a line.
In the section on smoking, his invention, zucchini bacon is described with the instructions. "It really is nothing like bacon-but very good anyway," Flowerdew writes.
Jam, jelly and fruit butter methods are provided. Candying, pickling, cider, sorbet, wine and liquor - it's all here in a conversational tone that makes it all look possible.
So, your growing zone makes no difference in whether or not you or someone on your list needs this book. It's for all of us who love good food, fresh from the garden.
A 2006 Washington Post interviewer, Adrian Higgins, found Flowerdew and his surroundings to be surprising in person. (click on the link and read all about him - it's good)
"The first thing that strikes you about the garden at Harvey Lodge is that it is about as far from the archetype of the flowery, bowery English garden as you can get. Yes, rambling roses are woven onto fences, but the grapevines are out of control and everywhere, it seems, there are old car tires, sheets of plastic and bits of old carpet.
Flowerdew is a thrifty recycler, in keeping with his organic gardening persona; the tires, now planters, are but one example of this. In a greenhouse, you find yourself walking on a metal path that is actually a line of old radiators half buried in the mud. Flowerdew's potting bench is a former deep freeze, and he has rainwater and bath-water storage and transportation systems that would make the desert dwellers of "Dune" seem wasteful."
In an interview with the Times of London, Flowerdew said, "Every religion has paradise: gardens filled with butterflies, birds, and children eating fruit from the trees. I have a dream that this world can be made better bit by bit."
It's that lovely optimism that keeps us gardeners going, isn't it?
The book is $20 on Amazon. Used copies are under $10.

11 December 2009

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

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

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

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

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

From the press release - "J. C. Raulston was the most important and influential figure in American horticulture in the latter part of the twentieth century. His passion for promoting new plants for landscapes was unmatched. As a teacher at Texas A&M and at North Carolina State University, he gave generously of his time to students, profoundly influencing their lives, altering career paths and personal directions. He saw potential in both plants and students. Against many obstacles, he succeeded in establishing the North Carolina State University Arboretum that now bears his name. "Chlorophyll in His Veins" is an intimate biography, celebrating the life and accomplishments of one of the most-loved gardening personalities.
Price North Carolina residents:
N.C. tax 7.75% 1.94 $26.94
Plus shipping (media mail) $3.50 Total $30.44
Non-North Carolina residents:

Books will be available on Amazon & at bookstores mid-January 2010.

Jigsaw anyone?

How about a peaceful scene to put together? Just click on the link.
The record is under a minute. The average is 4 minutes. It took me 8 minutes. Let me know how you do.

10 December 2009

Birding Tour in New Mexico USA

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

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

They will make you wish you had gone along.

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

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

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

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

Spring flowering bulbs are on sale from online retailers. A bag of tulip, daffodil or hyacinth bulbs with a coupon for help with planting would be a welcome gift. (100 tulips $20 at www.touchofnature.com)

Seed Balls or Bombs can be made at home with powdered clay, compost and seeds. One of the many recipes: Combine 5-pints powdered clay, 5 pints compost or worm castings and 1-pint seeds. (Other recipes use kitty litter or Bentonite in place of clay, another one uses coffee grounds.) Add enough water to make thick mud. Roll into balls. Dry for several days. The seed bombs are tossed into ugly places where they will grow after a few inches of rain.

Pots painted by children and grandchildren can be sprayed with a protective coating.

For someone who enjoys starting plants, give them a kit: A double florescent light fixture with two 40-watt bulbs, one warm and one cool white. Add a light timer, a fan and a seed starting heat mat to increase success.

Italian Seed and Tool has a $100 tractor seat on wheels for gardeners who have difficulty moving around the garden or standing. Build raised beds with wide paths.

Anyone with an outdoor pond would like a PondShark or other hand-friendly tool from Radius (www.radiusgarden.com). Radius also has ergonomic rakes, telescoping-handle grabbers, etc.

Useful garden gear to consider: A label maker, a battery powered instant read thermometer, a battery operated drill with a bulb planting auger, a clip-on LED light, a washable basket for harvesting, personalized canning labels, new, sharp pruners or pruning knife, lighted magnifying glass, silica beads for drying flowers, or a garden journal from www.mackeybooks.com.

For bird watchers there are books, feeders and birdbath water warmers as well as seed balls from the store or home made with peanut butter and sunflower seeds.

Wingscapes (wingscapes.com) sells a bird camera and a plant camera. The BirdCam is a motion-activated weatherproof digital camera that takes photos and videos (with sound) of backyard birds. $160

The Timelapse PlantCam is a similar product that records at specified intervals and then stitches it all together as a video. $80

New books are always welcome.
American Horticultural Society New Encyclopedia of Gardening Techniques: The Indispensable Illustrated Practical Guide, Mitchell-Beazley/Octopus Books, 480-pages, Hardcover, $45 from AHS or $29 online.

Homegrown Vegetables, Fruits, and Herbs by PBS-Victory Garden guru Jim Wilson, Creative Homeowner, 2009, 192 pages, $17 at www.creativehomeowner.com or $11 online. Review at http://tiny.cc/uPCLB.

“The Brother Gardeners: Botany, Empire, and the Birth of an Obsession” by Andrea Wulf, (Knopf, $35 or $23 online) is an exploration of the history of botany and plants in America and England.

Many garden magazines closed their doors this year but several good ones are still around - Fine Gardening (finegardening.com), Organic Gardening (organicgardening.com), State by State Gardening (statebystategardening.com), or a magazine about the South with featured gardens, Garden and Gun Magazine (gardenandgun.com).

08 December 2009

What Gardeners Do In Winter

What do you do in the winter, Dear Gardeners?

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

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

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

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

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

In this week's issue Conrad talks about fruit bats, orioles, a gray hawk, a Barbados Cherry type plant called Nance, Tree Daisies, Devil's Claw, and the Pixoy Tree.

At the end of his post, here's what he says -
"Often during a walk in the woods I start thinking about something, develop all kinds of contorted theories, then in a moment of revelation simplify the whole matter by coming up with a streamlined insight, but then if I keep refining that insight, usually I come to the conclusion that, really, there's no reason to say or do anything about the whole issue to begin with.
It's one of those Yin/Yang things: So often, the perfect action is non-action; but non-action is so inharmonious with vigorously evolving reality that one senses its inappropriateness.
Again we are drawn to the golden Middle Path, which is never a compromise or averaging of extremes, but rather its own thing, invisible and unique, and maybe impossible to follow unerringly. In these essays, I struggle to follow the Middle Path with regard to talking about nature-rooted philosophy by employing the trick of directing you to parts of Nature saying things I'd like to express myself.
So, please consider last Wednesday night -- or rather early Thursday morning. I awoke and saw through my mosquito netting that it was so light outside that already I should have been out jogging. When I got outside, however, I realized that all that brilliance was moonlight. It was just 3 AM. I shook my head and laughed, realizing that after all these years I could still be fooled by underestimating just how bright a full-moon night can be.
I didn't begrudge the Moon for having tricked me into going outside. A thin, coagulated cloud-cover blanketing the whole sky was being driving hard toward the northeast, and a breeze even stirred here below. Moonlight intensity changed constantly, depending on how dense the cloud cover was between the Moon and me. The longer I watched it all, the more the erratic breezes and rapidly changing moonlight intensity seemed like a kind of all-embracing, arrhythmic throbbing, a wildness so vivid and uncontrolled that it was almost unnerving.
But, all this I experienced in the context of standing in a broad ocean of cricket chimes. That shimmering tintinnabulation was like a rooted OMMMMMMMM all around, a crystalline ommmmmmmm shattered into scintillating dust, dust that lay there evenly coating the world like dew singing of itself.
The cricket chimes were my steady platform for viewing and dealing with the shifting wind and Moon.
See? Really I've said nothing here, but I'm hoping that by saying nothing the Moon and Her crickets shall have said something worthwhile to you."

Jim Conrad's website is Backyard Nature at http://www.backyardnature.net/

06 December 2009

2009 Garden Writers Assn Awards

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Best Magazine
Organic Gardening Magazine - August 2008 published by Rodale.

Best Newspaper
Star Tribune - July 2008

Best Book
Stylish Sheds and Elegant Hideaways published by Clarkson Potter/Random House.

Best Electronic Media
Proven Beauty - Online Magazine created by Proven Winners.

Best Trade
"Trillium Symposium Press Kit" published by Mt. Cuba Center.

2009 Silver Awards of Achievement

Writing - Magazine
Jenny Andrews, Good Enough to Eat, Garden Design
Adrian Bloom, Living Rivers, Garden Design
Therese Ciesinski, Desert Bloom, Organic Gardening Magazine
Therese Ciesinski, Rain Check, Organic Gardening Magazine
Willi Evans Galloway, Long Lived Lettuce, Organic Gardening Magazine
Beth Huxta, The Dark Side of Lawns, Organic Gardening Magazine
Leesa Lawson, Mulch Madness, Green Prints

Writing - Newspaper
Kim Palmer, Homegrown Heats Up, Star Tribune
Virginia A. Smith Loosestrife Strife, Philadelphia Inquirer
Patricia A. Taylor, Rosing to the Occasion, Trenton Times
Wendy Tweten, Miss Snippy Patronizes the Plant Sales, Northwest Garden News
Irene Virag, Inspired by a Master of Miniatures, Newsday

Writing - Book
Linda Chalker-Scott, The Informed Gardener, University of Washington Press
Barbara & Pleasant & Deborah Martin, The Complete Compost Gardening Guide, Storey Publishing
Debra Prinzing, Stylish Sheds and Elegant Hideaways, Clarkson Potter/Random House

Writing - Technical Book
Brad Lancaster, Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands & Beyond, Vol. 2, Chelsea Green Publishing

Writing - Newsletter/Bulletin/Brochure
Niall Dunne, The Not-Quite-White Garden, WPA Bulletin

Writing - Electronic Media
Leesa Lawson, Garden Vigilantes A Prairie Home Companion website
Mary Lahr Schier, Dried Bean Philosophy, My Northern Garden blog

Photography - Magazine
Stacy Bass, A Gentleman’s Garden, Westport Magazine
Chelsea Stickel & Jon Whittle, Spanish Treasure, Garden Design

Photography - Book
William Wright, Stylish Sheds and Elegant Hideaways, Clarkson Potter/Random House

Photography - Cover
Roger Foley, The Colors of Nature, Monacelli Press

Photography - Portfolio
Roger Foley, Tropical Garden Photography Portfolio

Photography – Electronic Media
Rob Cardillo, www.RobCardillo.com

Illustration - Book
Gina Ingoglia, The Tree Book for Kids and Their Grown-Ups, Brooklyn Botanic Garden

Graphic Design - Magazine
Donna Reiss, Simple Geometry, Garden Design

Graphic Design - Book
Jessica Armstrong, The Veggie Gardener's Answer Book, Storey Publishing

Graphic Design - Cover
Gavin Robinson, Organic Gardening Magazine: Nov-Jan 2008

On-Air Talent - Radio
Fred Hoffman, KFBK Garden Show, KFBK - Sacramento

On-Air Talent - Television
Fred Hoffman, California Heartland, KVIE - Sacramento

Overall Product – Magazine: Under 100k
Hole’s Publishing, Enjoy Gardening

Overall Product – Magazine: Over 100k
Bonnier Corporation, Garden Design Magazine: May 2008

Overall Product – Newspaper
Star Tribune, Home & Garden

Overall Product - Book
Clarkson Potter/Random House, Stylish Sheds and Elegant Hideaways
Storey Publishing, Hardy Succulents

Overall Product – Technical Book
National Gardening Association, Nourishing Choices

Overall Product – Newsletter
Indianapolis Museum of Art, SEASONS

Overall Product - Electronic Media
Proven Winners, Proven Beauty – Online Magazine, www.provenbeauty.com/magazine

Trade - Newsletter
University of Florida, The Neighborhood Gardener: October 2008
Trade - Catalog
Novalis, The Greener Things in Life

Trade - Press Kit
Mt. Cuba Center, Trillium Symposium

Trade – Radio
UF Center for Landscape Conservation & Ecology, Gardening in a Minute

Trade – Kits or Special Projects
UF Center for Landscape Conservation & Ecology, Water Conservation Electronic Media Kit

Trade – Calendar
Brookside Gardens, Brookside Gardens 40th Anniversary Calendar 2009

05 December 2009

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

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

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

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

Reference Book of the Year
Winner: Scotland for Gardeners – The Guide to Scottish Gardens, Nurseries and Garden Centres 2009 by Kenneth Cox, published by Birlinn.
Finalists: New Trees: Recent Introductions to Cultivation by John Grimshaw, Ross Bayton & Hazel Wilks, published by Kew Publishing.
Pocket Guide to Rhododendron Species by J F McQuire and M L A Robinson, published by Kew Publishing.
The Plant Hunters by Carolyn Fry, published by Andre Deutsch.
The RHS Encyclopedia of Garden Design edited by Chris Young, published by DK Publishing.

Practical Book of the Year
Winner: Veg Patch: River Cottage Handbook Number 4 by Mark Diacono, published by Bloomsbury Publishing.
Finalists:Allotment Month by Month by Alan Buckingham, published by DK Publishing.Church Flowers by Judith Blacklock, published by The Flower Press.
RHS Wildlife Garden by Martyn Cox, published by DK Publishing.
The Family Kitchen Garden by Karen Liebreich, Jutta Wagner & Annette Wendland, published by Frances Lincoln.

Online Media Awards

Blog of the Year
Winner: Blogging from Blackpitts by James Alexander-Sinclair.
Finalists:Matthew Appleby’s Gardening Blog.
Richard Jones’ Wildlife Blog.
Jane Perrone on The Guardian Gardening Blog.
Transatlantic Plantsman by Graham Rice.
Veg Plotting by Michelle Chapman.

Website of the Year
Winner: Gardeners’ World.com, Editor Abbie Fereday
Finalists:BBC Chelsea Flower Show, Editor Camilla Phelps
Dig In from the BBC, Editor Camilla Phelps
GardenersclickHabitataid, Editor Nick Mann

New Talent, Young Gardener & Environmental Awards
Environmental Award
Winner: Toby Buckland for the Gardeners’ World Special – For Peat’s Sake.
Finalists: Graham Strong for his article The Recycled Kitchen Garden in Kitchen Garden magazine.
Sophie Todd, producer of the BBC2 TV programme Wild About Your Garden – Episode 3, Dundee.
John Walker for We Shop, Planet Drops in Organic Garden & Home.
Louise Zass-Bangham for Designing for the Inevitable, published in Garden Design Journal.

The Beauty of Winter

Twenty degrees.

Twenty last night.

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

Grasses look great.

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

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

Onamental Kale Pink Kamome

Ornamental Kale White Pigeon

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

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

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

03 December 2009

Ornamental Cabbage and Kale

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cabbages smell pungent when they cook because sulfur compounds are released when they are heated. Cooking them uncovered reduces the problem.

The three types of cabbage include the regular green heads commonly found in produce departments. The pointed types are grown in the south. Red cabbage (rubra) looks just like round -head cabbage but is purple.

Savoy cabbage (Sabauda) has crinkled, yellow-green leaves. Chinese cabbage (Brassica pekinesis) is also called napa pe-tsai or Peking cabbage. It is sweeter and milder than the round-headed types.

Bok choy (Brassica chinensis) is called white mustard cabbage or Chinese white.

Cabbage and its relatives are good sources of vitamin C and A, thiamin, riboflavin, potassium and fiber. They are low in calories, fat and cholesterol. Research indicates that cabbage family vegetables may contain anti-cancer agents.

The Chinese produced wine-pickled cabbage 2,000 years ago and German cooks fermented cabbage with salt by the 16th century. Sauerkraut means sour cabbage. Salt fermented cabbage keeps well and is high in vitamin C so it was taken on ships to prevent scurvy.

German immigrants brought sauerkraut to America and it is often served on hot dogs, Reuben sandwiches and made into sauerkraut cake.

Cabbage’s cousin kale, is an ancient vegetable from the Mediterranean with the same health benefits.

In Scotland, kitchen gardens were known as kaleyards and dinner was called kail. If you were too sick to eat you were off your kail.

In 1929, Howard Dorsett traveled to Asia on behalf of the United States Department of Agriculture. Among the 9,000 specimens he brought home were ornamental kale seeds which were available to home gardeners by 1936.

Garden centers sell ornamental cabbage and ornamental kale (Brassica oleracea). It is used to decorate salad bars and is planted as an ornamental addition to fall gardens to go with pansies and chrysanthemums.

Ornamental kale has colorful foliage and in catalogs and garden centers both are called flowering cabbage and kale. Their ornamental value comes from the pretty leaves and rosettes rather than from flowers.

Kale is genetically closer to the native or wild cabbage since it does not form a central head. Botanically, they are biennials producing leaves the first year and seed the second.

Cabbage and kale are not heat tolerant so pre-chilled seeds are started 10 weeks before first frost. Do not cover the seeds — they need light to germinate.

The most vivid colors come with temperatures below 50 degrees. They can remain beautiful down to five degrees.

Ornamental kale and cabbage plants do best in a moist, sunny location. When transplanting to the garden, the lowest leaves should be planted flush with the soil level.

They are safe to eat and use as garnishes.

Ornamental cabbage varieties include Color-up, Osaka, Pigeon, and Tokyo. Ornamental kale varieties include Chidori, Flamingo Plumes, Frizzy, Peacock and Sparrow.