30 April 2010

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29 April 2010

How About Some Take-It-Easy Gardening Ideas?

Whether you have a new home to landscape, an existing home to maintain, or if you rent, making your surroundings pleasing will provide hours of summer enjoyment.

For apartments, a large pot or two brimming with sun loving herbs and flowers make a big difference in how the entry looks and feels. A shady entry can be transformed with ferns in hanging pots or in tall planters.

Trees benefit both homeowners and renters. Most trees need some sun to thrive but, they can be planted in a pot on a sunny balcony or deck to provide shade and improve the view.

Woody shrubs are indispensible around a property line, across a deck, or under trees. In the summer, shrubs add softness and fullness. Placed carefully, they provide shade and a windscreen.

Perennial flowers, bulbs and annuals also play a role in easy gardening.

Easy care perennials come back year after year with little effort on the gardener's part. Hostas in the shade, Knock Out Roses for the sun, fall asters and dozens of other perennial, flowering plants will return for several years. To keep them easy care, though, avoid plants that need weekly pruning or staking to maintain their appeal.

It's hard to go wrong with sticking some durable bulbs in the ground. In this category, daylilies cannot be outdone. From spring to first frost, their leaves fill the garden and in the summer their flowers bloom day after day.

Annuals have their place, too. These are plants that last only one season. For the summer though, annual plants add herbs for the table, flowers for the butterflies, and color to spice up a solid green garden. Budget-wise gardeners look for annuals that drop seeds and return next spring.

Do more of what works.
If there are successful plants in your landscape, consider adding more of the same type. For example, if hibiscus, viburnum or lilac thrive in your neighborhood, plant six as a hedge.

Avoid work.
Certain trees and shrubs are messy. Magnolias drop flowers and leathery leaves that create problems near a pond, fountain or swimming pool. For lower maintenance, stick with small leaf plants and evergreens that shed very little.

Be water smart.
A little mulch goes a long way toward reducing the amount of water that potted plants need. In the summer months, put mulch on top of the soil in planter boxes, flower pots and flower beds. Since most herb and succulent gardens need the soil to be dry on the top, mulch those sparingly.

Soaker hoses are inexpensive and can reduce the chore of watering. Lay them down so they circle the bed, attach to the hose and let them run while you sip a glass of tea and read a book. Tuck a tuna fish size can under the hose and watch for it to fill. That's one inch and the right amount of water for most plants. A soaker hose and some mulch will cut both the work and the water bill.

If you have a sprinkler system for the lawn, place azaleas, mums and other moisture loving plants near the edge of the lawn. They will be kept happy with little effort on your part.

Install a pebble pool.
Mark out an area with a hose or a bag of flour, dig down four inches, stacking the removed soil to form a berm. Line the spot with plastic and fill it with small stones. Edge the pool with large flat stones. Put out a few pots or plant water loving plants in the ground around the pond. Add water as needed.

Place a chair or bench nearby so you can watch the birds, frogs and butterflies.

25 April 2010

There's a New Gal in Town - Hort Couture

Hort Couture sent out their trial plants this week and I am thrilled to be one of their trial gardens for Zone 7.

My box contained variegated sage called Sage la Crema, , Heirloom tomato Black Krim, Ready to Wear Paris Calibrachoa, and Hemigraphis Blackberry Waffle.

This is a new brand to me and these cute plant tags were in the pots.
You can take a look at their blog here.

I researched the plants on the Internet and all the comments from trial gardens were terrific and outstanding. I can't wait to get them growing.

24 April 2010

Another Earth Day Story about Organics- This One from Cuba

In today's issue of The Dirt from the American Association of Landscape Architects, the story is about Cuba.

The Future of Cuba's Urban Agriculture
Due to the collapse of aid from the Soviet Union and U.S. sanctions in the early 1990s, Cuba moved from a centrally-planned, fossil-fuel based agriculture system to a locally-organized organic urban one, writes Solutions journal. However, with lessening tensions and growing trade with the U.S., there are new concerns that Cuba’s model of self-sufficient green agricultural production will be scrapped.

Farmers and agronomists responded to economic isolation by localizing food production, which has now taken off across Cuba's urban areas. In fact, urban farms in vacant lots in the capital, Havana, and a network of producers across the country now provide 80 percent of the country with local, organic produce and helped turn Cuba into an unintentional leader of the green movement, says Solutions. CBS News adds that most urban farms where organic produce is grown are walking distance from residents.

So, Cubans are eating locally grown organic food grown within walking distance of their homes. Go figure. Then, read the rest of the story at this ASLA link.

22 April 2010

Earth Day - Today Is the 40th


Our veggie garden is 20 by 20 - on the left are the peas on a trellis, then leeks, wax bush beans, Dinosour kale, Cos and Romaine lettuce, broccoli and Brussels sprouts, broad beans on the far right and potato cages in the back.

Earth Day is celebrating its 40Th birthday today. Denis Hayes, national coordinator for the first Earth Day in 1970 is the international chair of Earth Day 2010. Hayes is chairman of the board of trustees of the American Solar Energy Society and president of the Bullitt Foundation.

Twenty million Americans participated in that original Earth Day celebration. Within three years Congress passed the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act.

Today, most schools and many towns acknowledge Earth Day through activities meant to remind us that caring for the earth’s resources is important.

Small conservation activities include recycling paper, glass, cooking oil, plastic containers and plastic bags. Groups can participate in tree planting projects or pick up aluminum cans along our streets and recycle them.

Easy everyday efforts make a difference. Turn off the water while you brush your teeth and turn off lights as you leave a room. With a little more thought you can combine errands to save fuel.

Another idea is to buy locally produced food whenever possible. It takes less fuel to transport food from regional producers to your table.

Locally grown chickens are available at Central Meat Market and local eggs, beef, pork, and lamb are sold at the Muskogee Farmer's Market. Fruits, herbs and vegetables are sold at several area farmers’ markets, plus Reasors, Arnolds and at seasonal stands that pop up in the summer.

Muskogee Wellness Committee has sponsored two gardening events to support and educate local residents in the art and science of growing a little of their own food in a home garden or in containers.

To promote gardening on a slightly larger scale, the Wellness Committee put on a community gardening event last year.

Community gardening can be summarized as healthier people growing healthier food in healthier neighborhoods.

Families who garden together have an exercise based activity that produces fresh fruits and vegetables to build their health, and increase their food security.

Community gardens strengthen community bonds, and create a positive, recreational space for neighbors to get together. Neighborhoods become safer and community gardens increase the value of homes in the immediate area.

Children learn about science, math and the environment from family and friends when they are engaged with others in a garden. They learn job skills and increase their community connections. Similar programs report that participating students improve their school attendance.

In Muskogee, on Tuesday, April 27 from 5:30 to 6:30 there will be a community garden meeting at the Parks and Recreation Dept. especially for people who live in the area of Spaulding Park.

The section of Spaulding Park where the old greenhouses stood is going to be developed into community garden plots for the use of the residents of the area. Paths and raised bed growing plots will be laid out before the planting begins.

The April 27 meeting will be held to discuss how the Spaulding Park Community Garden will operate, discuss the ground rules, and to find out how many might be interested in participating.

The plots will not be reserved only for those in the immediate area, but gardeners who live within a short distance are more likely to remain enthusiastic about weeding, watering and harvesting over the summer.

Doug Walton, Community Foods Coordinator with the Kerr Center for Sustainable Agriculture, and manager of Muskogee Farmer’s Market, will help facilitate the discussion. Walton has a wealth of information about community gardens around the state.

If you live in the Spaulding Park area and have an interest in the community garden effort, please call the Parks Department, 684-6302, and let them know you would like to attend the meeting.

Spaulding Park Community Garden Planning Meeting
Tuesday April 27, 5:30 to 6:30 p.m.
Parks and Recreation Dept., 837 East Okmulgee
Please call 684-6302 to let them know you are coming so there will be chairs and snacks for all.

21 April 2010

Old News Can be Worth Reading

The American Society of Landscape Designers sends out a monthly email called
The Dirt with links to stories of interest. Through a series of clicks I found a link to a Sept. 23, 2009 New York Times story that is perfect for the Earth Day thoughts we are all having.

In the Garden, by Ann Raver, "The Grass is Greener at Harvard"

Follow the link above to read the entire piece. Here are a few excerpts to help you think Earth Day thoughts.

There is an underground revolution spreading across Harvard University this fall. It’s occurring under the soil and involves fungi, bacteria, microbes and roots, which are now fed with compost and compost tea rather than pesticides and synthetic nitrogen.

Our goal is to be fully organic on the 80 acres that we maintain within the next two years, said Wayne Carbone, Harvard's manager of landscape services.

The lumps of soil showed how grass grew when treated with chemical fertilizers and how it looked when treated organically, she said. You could really see the root systems and how different they were.

The organically grown grass on campus is now green from the microbes that feed the soil, eliminating the use of synthetic nitrogen, the base of most commercial fertilizers. No herbicides or pesticides are used, either. Roots reach eight inches into soil that was once so compacted the trees planted in it were dying.

Soil tests show the presence not only of beneficial bacteria and fungi but also of the micro-organisms that feed on them, recycling nitrogen back into the soil.

And the 40-year-old orchards at Elmwood, which have been treated with compost tea, are recovering from leaf spot and apple scab, two ailments that had afflicted them.

Mr. Van Valkenburgh, who grew up putting DDT on the family’s vegetable plot, had seen how Mr. Fleisher's use of compost and teas had improved Battery Park City's 36-acre landscape, which thrives, despite heavy foot traffic, without the use of pesticides or synthetic fertilizers.

An organic approach requires a radical change in thinking.

This is not a product-based program, it's knowledge-based, Mr. Fleisher said...

When the project started, Mr. Fleisher said, the soil was so compacted, we could not dig past three inches.

But when Mr. Clyne stepped down on his spade this day, it went through the grass like the proverbial knife through butter. He made a core sample, a square of turf and soil as wide and deep as his spade, then lifted it gently and laid it on the grass. The soil was dark and crumbly; the roots were six to eight inches long.

Healthy soil is a mixture of sand, silt and clay particles held together by the gums and gels formed by bacteria as well as by fungi and plant roots. These micro-organisms, as well as insects and earthworms, create the spaces through which air and water can trickle.

Organic growing techniques are so simple that any homeowner can get the hang of them. But to do so, it’s necessary to learn some basic facts about the structure and biology of your particular soil. In an organic approach, one bag of chemicals does not fit all. And timing is key.

Without good drainage, water and air cannot be properly absorbed by plant roots.

There’s a give-and-take between fungi and plants, as the fungi consume carbohydrates exuded by plant roots and give back water, phosphorus and other minerals. Bacteria also consume carbohydrates. And they in turn are eaten by protozoa and other creatures that convert the bacteria’s protein into nitrogen, which feeds the plants.

Adding compost to soil gets that biological community cooking.

To help laypeople unravel the mysteries of the soil in their own yard, Harvard has posted a kind of mini-course on its Web site www.uos.harvard.edu/fmo/landscape/organiclandscaping. It includes simple directions for building a compost pile hot enough to eat weed seeds, building a compost tea brewer, and brewing teas particularly suited for grass, perennials or woody plants.

19 April 2010

Leeks, Leeks, Perpetual Leeks

Last summer I let one leek flower and go to seed.
Then, I laid the seed head on a bed, moving it every couple of weeks. Leeks grew over the winter from those seeds. The photo below was taken last November.

Today I did a third harvest and took out all but two that will go to seed for next year's crop.

We cleaned off the green tops and root bottoms after a couple of runs under the hose. The tops went to the compost pile. In the house the leeks were trimmed more and the trimmings went into the stock pot.
The perfect pieces from the bottom were sliced lengthwise about one-fourth inch wide. Those slivers were popped into a hot nonstick skillet with a little olive oil, herb salt and a whisper of sugar and cooked until soft.
Tonight they go under a pile of oven-roasted fresh asparagus.

18 April 2010

I'm In Love With A Radius Spade

Frankly, I have always skimmed over gardeners' complaints and raves about tools. I have a shot shovel, a circle hoe, a few trowels and a pair of hands, what else could I need?

Radius offered to send me a Pro-Lite Advanced Design Carbon Steel Digging Tool with Fiberglass Shaft - a spade - and I was cynical but willing.

Well, now I have the religious fervor of a recent convert - this weekend actually. I took it out to the vegetable garden to see what it could to that my shot shovel could not and it proved itself to be worthy of praise.


The ergonomic handle, besides being a fun color, is perfect for grabbing with both hands. The quality of the shovel's spade is the best I've ever used, though I've already admitted to being a bit of a tool novice.

I harvested lettuce with it as well as planting new seedlings where the lettuce came out. It's a dream to use.

Go figure. Tools to make a difference.
"The PRO Spade is a great digging and transplanting spade with a large sharpened stainless steel blade appreciated by consumers and professionals. Radius PRO Stainless tools feature a large "O" handle and extra-wide raised forward kick for reduced strain, better balance, and ease-of-use.
These tools also include a resin-encased steel core shaft that is virtually unbreakable."

Here's the Radius link.

17 April 2010

Free Saturdays and a Photo Contest at the Oklahoma Botanical Garden - Northwest of Tulsa

Pearl Garrison, Communications Director ath the Oklahoma Centennial Botanical Garden let me know that they are having free Saturdays and a photo contest that is open and free to everyone..

Here's the scoop - The OCBG website is here. You can find a map and hours at the site.

Photo Contest information -
One contest is on Facebook and the other is a judged competition.

Choose: Wildflowers, nature trail, the tree-covered Osage Hills, native grasses, persimmon grove, boulders with moss and lichen, new landscaping and everything else you can imagine in the natural setting of the Cross Timbers ancient forest and prairie.

The pictures must be taken at the Garden, which will be open from 10 am to 1 pm Saturdays beginning May 1.

There is no charge to enter the contests or to visit the Garden.

Instructions on how to enter the contests are at ocbg.org and on Facebook. The contests are for amateur photographers.

At 6 p.m. Tuesday April 20 Natalie Green, owner of Apertures Photo, will lead a one-hour class on how to take great outdoor pictures. The class is free for Garden members and students. The cost for others is $10.

Please contact the Garden at 918-289-0330 or pearl@botanicalgardentulsa.org if you plan to attend. Seating is limited.

14 April 2010

Gerald Klingaman Speaking in Muskogee Thursday at Muskogee Garden Club

Dr. Gerald Klingaman, retired extension horticulturist from the University of Arkansas, will be talking on Spring in an Ozark Garden at Muskogee Garden Club this morning. Klingaman said he would talk about native plants as well as non-natives that work well in our gardens.

Some Arkansas natives have a counterpart in China that look similar and grow in the same kind of habitat, Klingaman said. It is more interesting to have variety, so you can plant both.


Native plants include many we grow but do not think of as natives. Consider Oakleaf Hydrangea, Carolina allspice, Virginia creeper, beautyberry, witch hazel, Virginia sweetspire, azalea, Viburnum and sweet bay magnolia.

Several years ago Klingaman gave us a tour of the Botanical Garden of the Ozarks in Fayetteville while it was under construction. Now he is the operations director.

In addition to public speaking on plants and his work with the Botanical Garden of the Ozarks, Klingaman writes for Learn2Grow, an online horticulture site and writes a weekly Plant of the Week column for Arkansas newspapers and the Extension website Plus he contributes a monthly column for the Arkansas Gardener magazine.

In an article on Arkansas Blue Star (Amsonia hubrichtii), Klingaman called this native perennial one of his favorites.

The milky sap that makes Amsonia toxic to livestock makes it a plant that deer avoid. It belongs to the dogbane plant family, along with Vinca and Periwinkle.

Arkansas Blue Star is a perennial that grows up to 3-feet tall with 4-foot wide branching. The characteristic blue, star shaped flowers arrive in late spring. The seedpods are cigar shaped. Willowy leaves, one-eighth inch wide and 3-inches long, fill in the space after the flowers fade.

It grows well in a rock garden where its fall gold color will brighten up the bed. Provide part shade, well-drained soil, and lots of compost.

In an article for the University of Arkansas Extension Service, Klingaman said several native plants have endured in his gardens at home.

Many of us have planted hybrid Heuchera in our shade gardens but there is also a native version called Arkansas alumroot (Heuchera villosa var. Arkansan), which blooms with white flowers from August until winter dormancy.

Arkansas alumroot is a small plant found in the Ozark Mountains. In a garden it will grow to 18-inches tall and 2-feet wide. After becoming established it is drought tolerant and easy to grow.

Fringe tree (Chionanthus virginicus) is a small, spring blooming tree. Its other names include Old-man's beard and Grancy Gray-beard.

Old-man’s beard has snow white flowers in 6-inch long clusters. The multi-branched shrub or small tree grows about 6-inches a year to become 15 to 30 feet tall. They prefer well-drained soil that remains moist over the summer and bloom best in full sun.

Fragrant sumac (Rhus aromatica) is another Arkansas native that grows beautifully in our area. If you have oak trees on your property you will have plenty of acid soil to make fragrant sumac grow to its full size of 6 to 8 feet. It is also a good selection for stabilizing the soil on a hillside since it suckers from the root and will spread.


Hercules Club, prickly ash, or toothache tree (Zanthoxylum clava-herculis) likes moist soil and full sun. It grows slowly to 20 feet with thorns similar to black locust trees. The citrus scented leaves are a foot long and have a leathery texture. Yellow, spring flowers are followed by green berries that ripen to a rusty red.

The name toothache tree comes from an alkaloid it contains, xanthoxylin, which was used in early dentistry.

Mary Ann King of Pine Ridge Gardens in Arkansas sells many of these plants.


Klingaman is a very interesting speaker and this promises to be a treat for everyone who can attend.

13 April 2010

A Few Tulips - Spring 2010 - Blooming April 12 Because We Had No April Freeze

Tulips are mostly an annual thing here and maybe everywhere outside of Holland. Every year I say I'm not going to put in tulips because they don't come back, spread, make more, etc.

So when my friends who plan ahead get those great summer deals on fall planted bulbs, I decline to add my order to theirs.

It's the late season sales that I can't resist. When Touch of Nature and Brent and Becky's send those late fall sale emails, I'm thinking spring.

Last year I felt like I had finally arrived as a garden writer when Brent and Becky's sent me a box of complimentary bulbs (first and only). This year I felt like I had arrived as a gardener when these tulips from that box returned to grace the garden a second year.


These three photos are tulips I ordered from Touch of Nature's end of the year sale.







My friend Jan who orders in the summer gave me some of these (smarty pants thinks ahead). They won't return but what a glory!
This year is the best ever for tulips and their friends. No ice storm this year and no April 15th or Easter hard freeze. So what's our normal weather? Is it this year or those other awful years? I certainly don't know but we are enjoying and celebrating spring 2010 as the good tulip spring.

11 April 2010

Forellenschluss Romaine Lettuce from the Third Millenium BC - One of 75 Exciting Vegetables for Your Garden

Open pollinated Forellenschluss romaine lettuce has been called the Jackson Pollack of lettuces.

Fedco Seeds says this Austrian heirloom is also called Freckled or Trout Black.

"An absolutely gorgeous romaine with the delicate taste and texture of a butterhead, distinguished for its deep green leaves flecked with wine-red splotches." and "The best-tasting lettuce I've grown - can give a large heavy head as sweet as can be," praises Michael Goldman.

Also the best-tasting of the 50 lettuces in our 1998 trial. Very buttery tender leaves may be harvested at 4 to 6 inches for mesclun or allowed to grow full size for maximum ornamental benefit.

William Woys Weaver traced Forellenschluss back to 1793 when it was a dwarf variety of Spotted Aleppo developed in Germany. More upright and cup-shaped than Speckled Amish, with larger and darker splotches and better heat tolerance.



Forellenschlus romaine lettuce according to Horticulture Magazines' 2007 article -

Historically, lettuces of the ancient world were divided into two main camps: the cabbage-headed lettuces, which are of a round, relatively loose-leaved habit, and the cos or romaine lettuces, of a tighter, more conical, and elongated inclination.

Said to have originated on the Greek island of Cos (Kos), off the coast of Turkey, romaine lettuces were known to be under cultivation as early as 3000 BC. Despite a general belief that the cabbage-headed varieties of Lactuca sativa are physically closer to their wild Asian ancestors (L. scariola), some botanists credit the romaine type with being the oldest form of cultivated lettuce. A famous wall fragment of the third millennium BC portraying Min, Egyptian god of fertility and bounty, shows him in full phallic salute amid a field of stylized yet readily identifiable romaines.

This ancient variety was apparently brought into Italy by way of Turkey. A romaine variety is known to have been introduced into France in the 14 century, and by the early 17 century, romaine had found its way to England, where its current appellation was adopted, rooted in the French for Roman lettuce, laitue Romaine.

By 1623, a whole host of romaine varieties, from light and dark green to red striated, tipped, and spotted, were being described in Europe. Forellenschluss, whose name translates to speckled like a trout and is alternately called troutback lettuce, is an extremely handsome Austrian heirloom of the red-spotted type. It features bright medium green leaves dappled with lively burgundy splotches, looking for all the world like each head has been spattered with a good red wine.

These exceedingly attractive 8 to 12 inch heads are also notable for their delightfully smooth, buttery flavor and for the fact that they hold exceptionally well in the heat.

Lettuces are mainly cool weather creatures and fairly undemanding in terms of soil and fertilization. Being 98 percent water, they are sensitive beings when it comes to drying out, so do keep them evenly moist, particularly at the seedling stage.

In any case, direct sow or plant seedlings out after the danger of frost has passed; re-sow at monthly intervals throughout the summer. You should be harvesting these spectacularly speckled leaves in about 55 days from sowing.


Excerpted from "75 Exciting Vegetables for Your Garden", Gibbs Smith, 2005, by Jack Staub. This really cool book is available from Amazon and Barnes and Noble

Connors' Hort Students' Annual Plant Sale - Better than ever

Connors State College in Warner OK has an annual plant sale that showcases what the horticulture students have learned to do. Here's the list of what will be available April 15 and 16 from 10 to 6 only.

2010 CSC Plant Sale – Warner Campus Greenhouse


Full Sun Annuals PRICE
Sweet Potato Vines 2.50 per 4 pot
Dianthus 24.00 per flat 2.00 per 4 pk
Vinca (Periwinkle) 24.00 per flat 2.00 per 4 pk
New Guinea SunPatiens 3.25 per 3 pot
Gerbera Daisy 3.25 per 3 pot
Antigua Marigolds 24.00 per flat 4.00 per 6 pk
Little Hero Marigolds 14.40 per flat 1.20 per 4 pk
Lantana 3.00 per 4 pot
Zonal Geraniums 3.50 per 4 pot
Portulaca (Rose Moss) 24.00 per flat 2.00 per 4 pk
Gazania 14.40 per flat 1.20 per 4 pk
Dreamland Zinnia 14.40 per flat 2.40 per 6 pk

Hanging Baskets PRICE
Other Assorted Baskets 10.00
Asparagus Fern 12.00
True Boston Fern 12.00
Variegated Begonia 6.00
Winged Begonia 6.00
Ivy Geraniums 10.00

Vegetables (Tomato) price Size
Mr. Stripey 1.00 per 4pk Large
Jet Star 1.00 per 4pk Medium
Better Boy 1.00 per 4pk Extra-Large
Roma 1.00 per 4pk Small
Brandywine 1.00 per 4pk Large
Patio 1.00 per 4pk Medium
Juliet 1.00 per 4pk Small
Celebrity 1.00 per 4pk Large
Beefmaster 1.00 per 4pk Extra-Large
Whopper 1.00 per 4pk Extra-Large
Big Boy 1.00 per 4pk Extra-Large
Quick Pick 1.00 per 4pk Medium

Partial Sun Annuals
Callibrochia (Million Bells) 2.50 per 3 pot
Crossandra (Fire Cracker) 1.50 per 3 pot
Begonia 2.00 per 4pk 1.25 per 3 pot
Fox Tail Ferns 2.00 per 3 pot

Shade Annuals
Impatiens 24.00 per flat 2.00 per 4pk
New Guinea impatiens 2.00 per 3 pot
Torenia (Wishbone Flower) 3.00 per 3 pot

Full Sun Perennial
Prairie Fire Grass 4.00 per gal. pot
Rose of Sharon 4.00 per gal. pot
Azaleas 3.25 per gal. pot
Gallardia (Blanket Flower) 2.00 per 6 pot
Peony 8.00 per gal. pot
Crape Myrtle 4.00 per gal. pot
Day Lilies 4.00 per gal. pot
Clematis 8.00 per gal. pot
Garden Phlox 2.50 per gal. pot


Shade Perennial Price
Hosta 4.00 per gal. pot
Astilbe 4.00 per gal. pot

Vegetables (peppers) price
Colossal Pepper 1.00 per 4pk
Bell Boy 1.00 per 4pk
Sweet Banana Whopper 1.00 per 4pk
Parks Whopper 1.00 per 4pk
Big Bertha Bells 1.00 per 4pk
Hot Jalapeno 1.00 per 4pk

Vegetables Price
Burpless Cucumber 1.00 per 4 pot
Zuccini Spineless Beauty 1.00 per 4 pot
Enterprise Squ. Staightneck 1.00 per 4 pot

Support the students while getting a pretty good deal.

10 April 2010

Salvia Oxford Blue - Clary Sage

Salvias are a favorite of mine and I'm adding seed grown Oxford Blue to the beds this spring.

The seeds are from Chiltern in England and the plant is called Salvia hormium Oxford blue in the catalog.

Well, it's difficult to research this plant since it has several names going for it. Its family name is Labiatae/Lamiaceae or mint, of course.

One synonym is Salvia viridis. Other names include Clary sage Oxford blue. The Backyard Gardener calls it Oxford Blue Annual Clary Sage, pretty much covering all bases.

It is an annual that grows to 18-inches tall, though Clemson U. says it will be 2-feet tall by the end of the summer.

Just to throw a little science into the mix, Purdue's Hort Dept says
"clary, clear eye, eyebright, clarywort, and musoatel sage, the species is widely cultivated throughout the temperate regions of the world. Principal production centers include France, the USSR and Hungary. Reaching a height of 1 to 1.5 meters during flowering, the plant is characterized by broad-ovate, green, pubescent leaves, and the economically important lilac to blue-colored flowers. The name sclarea is Latin for clear or bright, in reference to the color of the flowers, and the name clear eye refers to the traditional use of the plant for clearing the eyes.

Fresh and dried leaves of clary sage have been used as flavoring agents in adulteration of wine, in substitution for hops, and in adulteration of digitalis. The flowers are used in herbal teas, sachets, potpourris, and beverages. The essential oil is used as a fragrance and fixative in the perfume industry. The concrete and absolute, often blended with lavender, jasmine, or other scents, are used in soaps, detergents, creams, powders, perfumes, and lotions (14.1-8). Clary sage is also grown as an ornamental.

As a medicinal plant, clary sage is known for the mucilaginous seeds used to clear the sight and reduce inflammation of the eye. The plant has reportedly been used for its antispasmodic, astringent, and carminative properties. Clary sage has been used in treatment of cancer. The plant displays lecithinic properties and the seed contains anti-Tn-specific agglutinins. Antispasmodic activity is probably attributable the presence of nerol."

Well, and, I hope the blue flowers are pretty to look at and loved by butterflies, skippers and their friends, since that's why I'm growing it.

Anyone out there experienced with this annual salvia?

08 April 2010

Bulbs, Corms, Tubers and Rhizomes

Bulbs, corms, tubers and rhizomes all have a place in a garden. They are a plant-them-now, enjoy-them- later proposition, unlike the established plants purchased at a garden center. Bulbs, tubers and corms are an energy storage unit that grows roots, leaves, stems and flowers months after they are planted.

A collection of hardy bulbs will give your flower beds, and areas under trees, flower s that will return for several years. Many bulbs will reproduce, giving you the bonus of more plants over the years.

Bulblets form at the base of the mother bulb on gladiolus and along the underground stem on some lilies. Other bulbs make bulbils, or tiny, new bulbs, up toward the top of the flower stems.

Tulips, hyacinth and daffodils grow and bloom from bulbs planted in the fall. Lilies grow from bulbs planted in the spring or the fall.

Tall, stately, Gladiolus grow from spring planted corms; crocus bloom in late winter snow from corms planted in the fall. Corms are actually stems. They multiply by producing small cormels around the base of the mature corm.

Single, double, bearded and water iris grow from rhizomes. So do canna lilies and lily-of-the-valley. Rhizomes are a stem structure whose main stem grows just below the soil surface.

Caladiums grow from tubers, or modified stems. Tuberous begonias and gloxinia develop tuberous stems at the surface of the soil. Dahlias, daylilies and sweet potato vines grow from tuberous roots.
Most gardeners call the whole lot of them bulbs.

To improve your luck with any of these flowers, start with a sunny location. When selecting a planting spot, remember that after the bulbs bloom, the stems must remain in place until they turn yellow. During that period, the leaves of the plant are absorbing energy to feed the bulb for the following year’s flowers.
As the bulb’s leaves are gathering energy for next year, they will stop being attractive so put them where other perennials or annuals will hide them.

Bulbs need a spot with good drainage. If you can situate them on a slope or have a mounded or raised garden bed, either one could give your bulbs a place where water drains away. Another solution is to plant them near trees and shrubs so the tree roots will take up any extra rainwater.


Choose bulbs based on their cold hardiness, bloom time and size. Hardy bulbs such as daffodils and hyacinths will come back next year no matter how cold the winter, so plant those unless you want to replant ever year.

Fall-planted-spring flowering bulbs are sometimes called Dutch bulbs in catalogs.
Summer flowering bulbs tend to be less cold hardy but some bloom longer. Summer bulbs include crinum, caladium, canna, crocosmia, elephant ears, ginger, gloriosa climbing lily, pineapple lily, Peruvian daffodil, tuberose, lycoris and dahlia.
Familiar fall blooming bulbs such as red spider lilies and fall crocus are cold hardy.

Small bulbs are called minor and include crocus, squill, chiondoxa, aconite, anemone and hyacinth. These tiny bulbs have sweet little flowers that provide a carpet under the larger flowers.

Most bulbs like soil pH of 6.0 to 6.9. Add horticultural lime if a soil test indicates the need. Fertilize bulbs at planting time at the bottom of the planting hole. Be sure to fertilize again when they are up and blooming. Some gardeners prefer to add a layer of compost rather than using chemical fertilizers.
You can snip off the flowers when they fade but leave the leaves in place until they fall over.

In addition to local stores, you can find bulbs online. Sources include: Bloomingbulb.com, Easytogrowbulbs.com, Brentandbeckysbulbs.com, Brecks.com, Colorblends.com, Johnscheepers.com, ScrheinersGardens.com, VanEngelen.com, Touchofnature.com and Oldhousegardenbulbs.com.

06 April 2010

It's a Mystery

Last spring I planted a pack of Fedco Seeds Beneficials Mix in the vegetable garden.
The package was said to contain: alyssum, bachelor button, borage, gem marigold, dill, fennel, Phacelia tanacetifolia or fiddleneck, caraway, parsley, golden marguerite, ajuga, basket of gold alyssum, and Rocky Mountain penstemon.

Indeed dill, parsley, basket of gold alyssum and a couple of others came up.
The entire planting took over a bushel basket sized area but brought the pollinators for our veggies and we were happy with that.

One took over and it's photo is here

Russell Studebaker, Sharon Owen and I exchanged a few emails and decided that it's Golden Marguerite or Anthemis tinctoria. In the spirit of trust and verify, I checked Cal Berkeley's plant site and here it is - Anthemis tinctoria.

The Missouri Plants website has lovely photos and information on it here. They say it is one of the chamomiles grown to make tea.

Plants for a Future says it is also used as a dye.

NEXT Anyone want to take a guess as to the identity of these two?

04 April 2010

Gator Grabber - Get One If You Have Leaves to Pick Up

This Gator Grabber is a cool new item from Radius Garden in Michigan. It has adjustable handles and big teeth, making it easy to use and efficient.

The Radius motto is "garden more hurt less" and it certainly applied in this situation. The oak tree drops its leaves now as the new leaves are emerging. It's either rake them and then bend over to scoop them up or.... ta da ... use the Gator Grabber.
It's no contest which is easier on the back.
All those leaves were taken to the shade garden to build up the soil over there. Not one was wasted.

01 April 2010

A Mystery Is Solved: How and Why Certain Plants Make it Big and Others Remain Obscure

Each spring there is an explosion of certain new plants in the garden centers of large home improvement stores. Why specific plants are selected for annual promotion may surprise you. If your guess is that the plants are chosen because they are the best available specimens for your garden, you have to guess again.

Tony Avent, co-owner of Plant Delights Nursery in Raleigh NC, spoke recently on the topic at the Flower Garden and Nature Society in Fayetteville AR.

Photo: left Russell Studebaker - garden writer for the Tulsa World, center - yours truly, right - Tony Avent


Plant Delights, considered one of the premier boutique mail order nurseries, has been providing unique plants since 1991. Their customers are collectors and plant hobbyists.

Avent is known for setting trends. His introductions include tropicals, hostas, Arisaema, Agapanthus, elephant ears, wild ginger, Baptesia, and agave. Avent finds plants, breeds new hybrids, and then grows them on acres of test gardens before they are offered to customers.

He said there are four levels of plant markets: 1) Mass market (big box stores), 2) mainstream (garden centers), 3) niche market (specialty nurseries) and 4) bio market (plants for collectors).

Mass-market sellers offer plants that are at their best in the spring. Avent said that approach is logical when you consider the fact that most gardeners spend their budget in the spring and plants that are at their best in October look like a pot of dirt in April.

In order to be economically feasible, plants sold in volume have to be easy to mass-produce from seed or from cuttings within 16 weeks.

Size matters. Large volume plants have to grow quickly into a sellable size that customers think are worth their price.

In order to qualify for mass release, a patented plant has to fit into a seven shelf high shipping rack. Plants that cannot be stacked in "7 rackers" cannot be sold cheaply.

Also, the value of greenhouse space is a factor. Plants that have to be grown in heat and light all winter cost more to produce and have to carry a higher price tag.

When hardiness zones are printed on the plant tag, each additional zone has the potential to double sales. For example, a plant that is said to be hardy in zones 7 to 9 will sell half as many as a plant that is said to be hardy in zones 6 to 9. Not all plant tags accurately reflect plants' cold and heat tolerance.

Large growers apply growth hormones to artificially dwarf plants so they are compact on the shelf. When you get them home and the growth inhibitor wears off, the plant will not behave the same. It’s not your gardening skills that make plants change their appearance.

Trends in plant popularity go in a 30-year cycle according to Avent. For example, invasive used to be considered desirable. Catalogs said a plant would naturalize well when it became established and gardeners wanted that feature.

Most new plants that show up in spring are either from a commercial or university plant breeding program, from back yard breeders, or, are random seedlings that a grower discovered in a bed.

A few plants are found in the wild by plant explorers, but they rarely become commercially viable. Many fail to thrive, so they are not an economical method of expanding the plant supply.

Avent said gardeners should go to garden centers and specialty nurseries to find the truly great plants. Some niche market plants such as variegated agave can also be found on eBay.

The catalog for Plant Delights Nursery is available in print (919-772-4794) and online at www.plantdelights.com. In addition to being an engaging and informative speaker, Avent invents clever names for his hybrids and writes entertaining plant descriptions.