31 October 2010

Sunday Night Tidbits

New links you need to know about

The University of Texas at Austin announced a new site, Landscape for Life.

From the press release
A new Web site developed by the United States Botanic Garden and the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center at The University of Texas at Austin brings homeowners comprehensive, accessible advice on creating nature-friendly, sustainable landscapes at home, no matter where they live.
The new site at Landscape for Life provides a layman's explanation and practical approaches to greening gardens and home landscape based on the principles outlined in the Sustainable Sites Initiative. .. . It offers detailed descriptions of sustainable practices which can be put in place in any home landscape and explains the potential benefits these practices can provide.

Okra flower - late October

The History of Herbs at the Herb Gardening Guru dot com
was written by a former Tulsa resident and member of the Tulsa Herb Society. On the left side of the page there are links to gardening with herbs to help you succeed.

Plucked from the Web, a retired librarian's gleanings
is a great way to end the work part of your Internet time with some off-topic browsing. Refreshment for the mind!

30 October 2010

Amaranth and Spreen for the wildlife

The first Amaranth I grew from seed was Love Lies Bleeding ornamental. And, I've written about Amaranth before, because if you grow a few varieties, you are providing nectar for adult butterflies, seeds for fall migrating birds, and a feast for your eyes.

This other October beauty, Chenopodium gigantum, is commonly called Magenta Spreen, Purple Goosefoot, Tree Spinach and Giant Lambsquarters.

Can you beat the pink and green colors of Magenta Spreen for their cheerfulness when paired on the same leaf?

Hopi Red Dye, Amaranth, Spreen, Chinese Spinach, call them what you will, I love these plants that many gardeners consider weeds.

Here are two varieties growing together in the nectar bed. The Globe Amaranth or Gomphrena, on the left in pink and the Cockscomb seedlings in hot red on the right. The leaf colors are stunningn the fall.

Then, let's talk about fall leaf colors on the Spreen.

These leaves are on the same variety but in different beds with varying fertility and water.

Sharon Owen gave me my first seeds of these that I grow for fall bird food. The leaves can be used in salad and cooked as a pot green. Seeds of Change recommends cutting them down before they go to seed to prevent an invasion.

The seeds are also eaten as a protein grain, added to breads, for a vegetarian diet. At our house, they all go to the birds. If you eat Quinoa or other gluten free grains, you'll be interested to know that they are in this same plant family, Amaranthus.

The petiole (leaf stem) is bright pink and the stem is striped pink and green.
Then, there is the height. In part shade they tend to fall over from the sheer weight of the seed heads. If grown in full sun though, they tower over me by several feet.
If you would enjoy having more birds and butterflies in your garden, plant any Amaranth!

27 October 2010

Fiskars Shrub Rake - you probably need one for leaves, shrubs, etc.

Fiskars is so clever. They know how I let vines crawl up into everything. The rake they think is specifically and well designed to be a Shrub Rake for leaf removal is actually a vine removal rake.

  • What they say is also true
    * dig debris from tight spaces
    * light + narrow head that fits into small spaces
    * tapered 1/2 inch tines
    * 8 inch wide rake head
    * flexible and durable resin tines
    * teardrop-shaped shaft = sure grip
    * long handle improves posture and reduces back strain
    * lifetime warranty

And, as a certified short person having a light weight, narrow, long handle, rake is a huge selling point. I can't reach the middle of many of my flower beds so have to wait until conditions are perfect for walking on the soil.

You're saying I should put gardener's paths throughout those big beds - (I know. I read the book.) - but I can't help myself. If the beds aren't jammed with blooming or about-to-bloom plants I have a little panic attack and put something in.

This Helpful Hanna (my shrub rake's name) is under $20 at online retailers.

Thanks Fiskars.

26 October 2010

Salvia in Red

Savlia is one of the stars of our October garden. When so many other plants are becoming brown stalks, the salvias really shine.

Every year I think I should figure out which seeds my friend Ronn started for me 5 years ago. But, when I look in the seed catalogs I can't figure out exactly what to get. Then, by the time the heat of the summer has worn me out too much to care, here they come. Back for another performance.

I've added a few Perennial Salvias each year - at least they were intended to be perennial. A couple of the woody ones come back each year. As soon as the weather cools for good, I'll be taking cuttings of the pineapple sage for next year. I don't want to spend a fall without it.

Mountain Valley Growers is my favorite source for January purchases of sages and salvias.

I love the scent of the leaves. The red flowers are spectacular butterfly attractions.

24 October 2010

Gardening with Conifers by Adrian Bloom

Adrian Bloom's latest book, Gardening With Conifers, has readable text and hundreds of beautiful photos. Firefly Books is the publisher.

This is a beautiful, oversize, softback book that provides guidance for planting coniferous trees and shrubs available to North American gardeners.

The photographs illustrate individual plants and show conifers used in a variety of environments, from small gardens to estates.

The directory covers more than 600 conifers -
•Size and growth rates
•Site and soil preferences
•Planting, maintenance and propagation
•Pruning, pests and diseases
•Dwarf conifers and ground covers
•Conifers in containers, and more

Adrian Bloom has 35 years of experience planting and maintaining a six-acre garden that includes 500 varieties of conifers. He designed many smaller gardens and has photographed collections in North America, Japan, New Zealand and Australia. He is an international television presenter and regularly appears on The Victory Garden, on WGBH Boston.

Adrian Bloom is Managing Director of Blooms Nurseries ltd, the Bloom family business,and honorary President of Blooms of Bressingham. He and his brother Rob developed the Blooms nursery business from 1962, creating the Blooms of Bressingham brand in 1985. Adrian has travelled widely promoting Blooms perennials in many countries.He was involved in putting up the Blooms Chelsea exhibition for 35 years. He has created the 6 acre garden, Foggy Bottom, that includes 500 varieties of conifers. He is also author of several books. For some years he presented for national television in both the UK and USA. He has designed many smaller gardens and has photographed collections in North America, Japan, New Zealand and Australia.

21 October 2010

Bruce Edwards - Urban Harvest Oklahoma City

Fighting Hunger … Feeding Hope is the slogan of the Oklahoma City Regional Food Bank - www.regionalfoodbank.org. The program distributed 36.5 million pounds of food during Fiscal Year 2009, through 450 agencies in 54 Central and Western Oklahoma counties.

In addition to distributing donated and purchased food, the facility has a 3.5 acre working farm. Bruce Edwards, director of Urban Harvest, is the man behind the gardens. With one, half-time, employee and dedicated volunteers, the farm grows fruit, vegetables, and herbs for families.

Edwards' job description barely covers the tasks and responsibilities to which he applies his creativity and energy.

The program offers basic sustainable gardening classes to the public. Last spring a few hundred people attended and many grew their first gardens. Edwards taught raised bed gardening, organic pest control, container gardening, composting and worm composting. The classes are offered on a sliding scale of $5 to $25 and are free for those with low or fixed incomes.

We encourage class participants to take out part of their lawn and put in plants that they can grow to feed themselves good food, said Edwards.

Of equal importance is the fact that the garden produces food that is distributed primarily to programs that feed children. Crops included peppers, okra, tomatoes, strawberries, cucumbers, squash, other seasonal vegetables and herbs.

The orchard has peach, pear and plum trees so far, Edwards said. We are putting a fence around the orchard to protect the trees from beavers and fencing provides a trellis to grow black berries and blueberries.

The current 28-foot by 48-foot hoop house is being converted to grow strawberries in 7-foot tall, vertical Hydrostacker pots. The fruit from the 2,520 plants will be distributed to children through programs such as Boys and Girls Clubs next spring.

Edwards wants to use a new 12 by 20 foot hoop house to show back yard gardeners that they can extend the length of their harvest by growing vegetables earlier in the spring and later in the fall. It will be inexpensively constructed with PVC pipe, cattle panels and 6-mil plastic.

Edwards believes in composting everything possible to keep the soil healthy and productive.

Donated baked goods are removed from their packaging by volunteers and then added to the compost pile.

The Food Bank receives fresh produce which sometimes arrives spoiled, damaged or out of date, said Edwards. This year we composted 280,000 pounds of food waste.

In the composting teaching area, volunteers called Red Dirt Soil Builders, learn to compost. After training, they volunteer 50 hours of work in exchange for free compost.

We keep costs to a minimum, Edwards said. The wood we used for the worm barn was all salvage. A machine separates the contents of the worm bins. The castings are applied to the gardens and offered for sale.

The worm barn

In the greenhouse, Edwards raises seedlings from February to April, for 42 community gardens which he supports with training, fertilizer, equipment and seeds.

Edwards gives talks about his unique tilapia raising and Aquaponics system. One-inch tilapia are raised in a tank for a few months, and then moved to a larger tank to mature into a sellable size of 1.5 lbs in about 9-12 months time.

Tilapia in the tank

Water pumped through the fish tanks is filtered and sent into vegetable growing areas. In 4-to-6 week intervals, 850 units of lettuce or other greens can be harvested each year.

A low-cost, low-tech Aquaponic system has Tilapia on the bottom with water pumped to the top bed, then to a middle bed where Edwards grows micro-greens and herbs in coir and worm castings.

In the demonstration community garden, Food Bank employees grow food which they use or donate. Cover crops go in next.

Edwards is passionate about every aspect of growing and providing nutritious food to children and families.

Harry the rabbit's job is to eat and produce food for the worm barn.

18 October 2010

Treats from the vegetable garden

Mid-October planting adventures -
We are cooking greens a couple times a week, having finally discovered the ones we consistently enjoy growing and eating. And, the sweet peppers are still producing like crazy. I stopped harvesting the broad beans to get seeds for an early spring crop but they are going strong. The lettuce is 3-inches tall so we should have salads in the next week or so.

Last February, we planted potato seeds in cages we made of rabbit/chicken wire. It was an experiment to see if patio dwellers could have home grown potatoes.

In my potato-eagerness, I ordered way too many types and ended up with half left to plant. So, we turned to the raised bed behind us and tried the Ruth Stout method. The potato seeds were placed on the ground and covered with 8-inches of wheat straw.

The cage method produced decently, but the raised bed, no dig method resulted in pounds and pounds of potatoes to harvest.

Over the summer the bed was planted with tomatoes and squash, neither of which did worth a darn.

Today when we put in 200 garlic "seeds" we harvested another 3.5 pounds of potatoes from the bits that were left behind over the summer.

Every year I say I'll never again bother planting squash and tomatoes - the Farmer's Market vendors do so well with them. Maybe I'll remember that vow next spring.

And a tip about the Salton digital scale in the photo. I use it weekly when baking and the battery life is about a month. Not very environmentally responsible for a fairly expensive scale.

16 October 2010

A gift of beauty from Southern Living Plants

Southern Living Plants Collection just made a generous donation to the Tulsa Linnaeus Teaching Garden.

I've written before about the mission of the Linnaeus Garden - providing information to local gardeners, former gardeners, potential gardeners and want-to-be gardeners.

As with most teaching gardens, the Linnaeus is a nonprofit that relies on corporate donations, volunteers and contributions.

Southern Living donated to the Linnaeus Teaching Garden in 2008 when they were first getting started. In 2010 they donated 23 of hardy annuals, perennials, shrubs, and trees.

Director of Horticulture, Barry Fugatt said that the contribution made a huge impact.

Plants included: Purple Diamond Loropetalum, Blush Pink Nandina, Jubilation Gardenia, and Early Bird Crapemyrtles.

Living Plant Collection: Plant Development Services Inc. and Southern Living magazine joined forces in spring 2008. Southern Living Plant Collection are selected to perform especially well in Southern gardens.

A tip of the trowel to Southern Living for their generosity. We love love love the Linnaeus Garden and hope to have a teaching garden in Muskogee in a couple of years. Maybe they will contribute to our garden when we are ready.

For more information about the Collection, visit southernlivingplants.com.

Garden Pests

Just take your eyes off the plants for a few days and something will move in. I don't know what these are but there are hundreds of them on the potted lime tree. My best guess is scale. Can anyone corroborate my guess?
This is Euonymus scale.

I'm going to prune back the shrub, destroy the trimmings and spray. I love this chain link fence climber. It hides the heat pump from view.

Even though these caterpillars destroy the plants they eat, they are allowed to grow as fat as they can before the winter comes. Butterflies have free range here.
Then, there are the garden pests that roam freely from our neighbors' yards.

14 October 2010

How about taking out the lawn?

The current garden design trend is to reduce the amount of lawn we water, fertilize and mow.

The concerns include fertilizer runoff, fuel for and pollution from power mowers and lawn's lack of environmental contribution.

Designers recommend removing the lawn and replacing it in one fell swoop. A more natural approach would be a gradual change, over time.

Ten years ago, Tina and Stanley Logan of Tulsa, had a front and back yard with vegetable and perennial beds plus lawns in the front and back.

One day while shopping, Stanley Logan was browsing through a garden design magazine and discovered do-it-yourself cement bowls that are made by digging a hole in the ground and pouring in cement.

Then he wanted a piece of my garden so he could put in his designs, Tina said. He installed an arrangement of cement balls and gravel and then added some black bamboo.

The Logans said that they would never have the garden they have today without each others’ total support. Every change is discussed and Stanley's next idea was a Japanese gravel garden.

When the leaves fell, the gravel garden lost some of its soothing quality, said Tina. Then the bamboo began to send out runners everywhere. I had to hack away pieces of it so the meter reader could do his job.

As the landscape progressed, more lawn was removed, to be replaced with paths and plants.

If Stanley could redo our yard, he would want everything in straight lines, Tina said. As it is now, we have lots of curving walks and bed lines.

The Logan's front and back yard have become a wonderland of elevated planters planted with succulents, reed grass in a hollowed out log, a fountain that comes out of a wall, a fountain that bubbles from a concrete tower and assorted garden art.

They visit gardens and garden centers on their travels around the country. On each trip, they continue to get ideas for improving their home.

Tina said that a visit to the home of cement artists on the west coast led to a 'cement epiphany'. Cement columns replaced the vegetable garden.

Throughout the process, the Logans were choosing plants.

Tina said, Our greatest influence is our huge desire to see other people’s gardens. We learn from seeing.

Today, their front and back gardens are full of agave, a grandmother's iris, yucca rostrata, Moses in a Basket, vertical yaupon, hardy banana trees, parasol trees, coleus, elephant ears, salvia, and succulents.

I think lawn and non-lawn are like a little black dress and jewelry, Logan said. Without the black dress jewelry is just jewelry. It’s the same with lawn and plants. We grow very few flowers.

They have built a series of decks and rooms with fountains, pergolas, fences, walls, and pools that make their garden the highlight of garden tours and garden parties.

The most recent project was a deck that the Logans invested three seasons in designing and building. It has a back wall, white couch and white curtains.

Tina and Stanley design separate planting areas to suit their individual taste. And they help each other with construction and plant selection.

The cool plants we want are available in Austin, Tina said. I don’t buy plants out of catalogs. I want to see them and touch them before I bring them into the garden.

They shop at Barton Springs Nursery (bartonspringsnursery.net), and The Great Outdoors Nursery (gonursery.com) in Austin TX; and, Sunshine Garden Center and Waters Edge in Lawrence KS.

Tina said, We go on tours and visit designers' gardens and bring ideas home. You have to see fabulous gardens to have one.

Their homework has paid off. The front, side, back - all of it is completely fabulous.

11 October 2010

Cathedral State Park

I'm reading "Blue Highways" and it reminded me of a recent trip we took along a 2-lane highway through the hills of West Virginia.

One of our stops for a stroll was at Cathedral State Park - a National Natural Landmark since 1965. It is a beautiful place for a break during a road trip.

Cathedral is a landmark because it is 133 acres of ancient hemlock forest. Majestic trees, ferns, mosses and wildflowers complete the view.
If you have an opportunity to visit, you'll want to review some information about what plants to look for while you are there. Our stop was serendipity and I wish I had known more. One of the plant surveys that has been conducted is online here.

The entire road is a delight to travel. And, across the street from the park entrance is a restaurant with really good home made pie.

Highway 50 is two lane most of the way and you can count on being behind a pick up truck traveling just as the driver did in 1950. That is to say, at about 45 miles an hour. Sit back and enjoy the scenery.

09 October 2010

Prepare succulents for upcoming weather

Yucca Do Nursery is a leading expert on all things succulent. They sent out an email to subscribers providing tips on preparing dry-loving plants for winter.

The tips: Good air circulation keeps the plant dry. Don't fertilize. Avoid watering too much. Watch for bugs and treat with a combination of horticultural oil, Pyrethrin, and Spinosad.

The recipe they recommend is this - One gallon of water + 1 ounce horticultural oil + 2 ounces Spinosad + 1 ounce Pyrethrin.

Repot agave and cacti in the fall unless you can (and want to) provide bottom heat.

Here's a link to the full article if you want more details.

The photos are from the yard of Tina Logan in Tulsa OK.

07 October 2010

Veronica Speedwell - Plant seeds and divide plants now

There are over 250 perennial Veronica Speedwells, growing from swamps to rocky European hills.

They are strong plants with spikes of small flowers in white, rose, pink, light blue or purple-blue. All the Veronica colors appeal to butterflies and hummingbirds.

According to tradition, St. Veronica wiped the face of Christ after the crucifixion and an imprint of his face was left on the cloth. The Veronica plant was named for St. Veronica because the flowers resemble the imprint of a face.

Species vary by their water preference but all prefer average, well-drained soil.

Most succeed in zones 4 to 9. They bloom best with at least 6-hours of sun a day.

Perennial Veronica plants are divided in the fall and Veronica seeds are planted outside in the fall. Do not cover the seeds – they need light to sprout. Veronicas are in the figwort family and one, Veronica filiformis, Creeping Speedwell, is considered to be a weed.

The most popular Veronicas are the upright selections with tall spikes of flowers for arrangements. The low growers can be used between stepping stones or in rock gardens.

The letter V is substituted for the word Veronica in this list of possibilities for your garden.

Veronica chamaedrys, Germander Speedwell, is a light-blue flowering ground cover. At one time it was grown as an herb used for blood cleansing.

V. fruticans, Rock Speedwell forms a branching, mat that can be walked on. Deep blue flowers with dark red eyes.

V. grandis holophylla grows 2-feet tall, with glossy leaves, and stalks of deep blue flower clusters. Blue Charm and Lavender Charm are the same plant. Icicle has white spikes.

V. gentianoides, Gentian Speedwell, grows in dense mats in moist soil. Light blue flowers.

Veronica hybrids bloom midsummer on upright bushy plants, about a foot tall. Crater Lake hugs the ground and has 10-inch tall bright blue flower spikes.

V. incana, Silver Speedwell, has silver-white, mat-forming leaf clumps and deep blue flowers on 10-inch stems. Pavane, Muneut and Red Fox are pink-red. Romilley Purple is deep violet and Saraband is deep blue. All are low water plants.

V. liwanensis, Turkish Speedwell, forms a dense mat of leaves and blue flowers, similar to creeping thyme.

V. longifolia subsessilis has clumps of 2-foot tall stems with blue flowers. Evaline has pale purple-red flower spikes and purple leaves in fall.

Veronica Speedwell Evaline or Eveline

V. pectinata, Blue Wooly Speedwell, has creeping stems and round leaves that form a mat. Deep blue flowers on 6-inch tall spikes.

V. prostrate or rupestris, Harebell Speedwell, has 8-inch tall clusters of light blue flowers. Heavenly Blue is the lowest growing, Alba has white flowers, Mrs. Holt is pink, Trehane has gold leaves with bright blue flowers.

V. repens has shiny leaves on 1.5 inch high, prostrate stems that look like moss. The flowers are lavender to white. Will take a little shade and grows quickly into a ground cover for bulbs.

V. saturejoides used in rock gardens, has creeping roots, dark blue flowers in compact spikes.

V. spicata, Spiked Speedwell, resembles longifolia subsessilis but with shorter flowers. Spicata flower spikes can be 2-feet tall.

The award winning Sunny Border Blue flowers are7-inch stalks of dark violet-blue. One miniature, Nana, grows 6-inches tall with violet flowers.

V. subsessilis grows 2-feet tall with deep blue flowers.

With 250 sizes and colors to choose from, you can find a few easy-to-grow Veronica varieties to plant this fall for next summer’s flower bed.

Wet soil can be a problem but no insects bug Veronica. Skip the fertilizer. To extend the bloom period, remove the faded flower stalks.

Companion plants for Veronica Speedwell include others that prefer well-drained soil: Daylily, pinks, yarrow, coneflower, coreopsis and summer phlox.
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PS May 2012 - these are from the seeds I planted Oct 2012.

06 October 2010

Butterfly House at the Tulsa Fair

There is a vending area with caterpillars to take home in cute containers, complete with caterpillar food. The tropical butterflies are huge, beautiful and fearless pacifists.
Inside the house, the butterflies were glad to land on hands - butterflies love perspiration.

Look at them on the netting!

The advertising says 5,000 butterflies in the house. I didn't count but the children found plenty to amuse themselves with. I'm going to meet with the owner after the fair ends. He has ideas for our Muskogee butterfly exhibit.
The owner, Dave Bohlken (white shirt seated).
The wonder in this child's face is what we are looking forward to at ours.