31 December 2011

The New American Landscape - Leading Voices on the Future of Sustainable Gardening

Thomas Christoper edited an enlightening book filled with New Year's Resolutions for gardeners.

"The New American Landscape: Leading Voices on the Future of Sustainable Gardening" is a new release from Timber Press - just in time to help us plan next year's garden with the world in mind, not just our own landscapes.

The authors:

John Greenlee and Neil Diboll on the new American meadow garden.

Rick Darke on balancing natives and exotics in the garden.

Doug Tallamy on landscapes that welcome wildlife.

Eric Toensmeier on the sustainable edible garden.

David Wolfe on gardening sustainably with a changing climate.

Christopher opens the introduction with the observation that gardeners' intention is to enrich the earth. but we tend to nurture that desire by the use of fossil fuels. We tend lawns and nurse plants from outside our planting zone, neglecting the plants from our own area.

Sustainability "is to meet the present needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet theirs." We, as gardeners must learn to use plants, methods, technologies and materials, that cause no harm to the earth.

Seems like a good philosophy to apply to all plant and materials purchases in the upcoming year. Less irrigation, less mowing, less fertilizer, less herbicide, fewer exotic species that can become invasive, and more native plants that require little care.

David Deardorff & Kathryn Wadsworth teach insect and disease prevention in chapter 1
Thomas Christopher, explains SITES, Sustainable Sites Initiative in chapter 2
John Greenlee and Neil Diboll explains alternatives to lawns in chapter 3
Rick Darke helps us choose native plants in chapter 4
Eric Toensmeier examines edible, diverse and useful plants in chapter 5
David W. Wolfe explains gardener's issues with climate change in chapter 6
Thomas Christopher will help you reduce your water bill in chapter 7
Edmund C Snodgrass and Linda McIntyre show the way to green roofs in chapter 8
Douglas W. Tallamy shows the value of food plants for all species in chapter 9
Elain R. Ingham illuminates soil and the soil web in chapter 10
Toby Hemenway pulls it all together in chapter 11

You'll have your mind opened and learn ways to make gardening easier and more sustainable.
"The New American Landscape - Leading Voices on the Future of Sustainable Gardening", 256 pages, hardback, Timber Press, 2011, $35 list and $23 from online booksellers.

29 December 2011

Wildflowers of OK and Wildflower Wonders of the World

Even though spring officially begins in March, wildflowers can appear before that. Many of the early ones appear with the first warms days, hugging the ground and creating a field of color that lasts only a few short days. Others wait until the sun warms the soil completely.

For 30-years Patricia Folley has been wandering Oklahoma back roads, observing, recording and collecting wildflowers. Her new book, “The Guide to Oklahoma Wildflowers” is the first of its kind, with detailed descriptions and photographs she took.

The plants collected on her travels reside in the Oklahoma Herbarium collection and are listed in the “Flora of Oklahoma” project.

Oklahoma is unique among the 50-states. It has Rocky Mountain foothills, hardwood forests, rivers and streams, low mountains, sand dunes, cypress swamps, swaths of rangeland, pastureland, and more than ten ecoregions.

There are tallgrass, mixed-grass, and shortgrass prairies in the state, and elevations ranging from 300-to-5,000 feet. That diversity creates the enormous variety of wildflower species available to hikers.

Folley’s book includes two-hundred of Oklahoma’s most common wildflower species that are seen along roadsides and in parks. There are photos of live plants for each entry, with its bloom time, colors, size, habitat, geographic location, common name, botanical name, and plant family.

With this 238-page paperback in hand as you walk through your own property, go for walks, hikes or running, you will be able to identify what you are observing along the way.

Start at the beginning, where Folley explains each type of plant. For example grass family (pages 18-23), lily family (pages 35-42), or legume family (pages 91 to 115). Each plant family is generally described and the individual plant photos and detailed descriptions are grouped.

Folley is a herbarium assistant at the University of Oklahoma’s Bebb Herbarium, a member of the Flora of Oklahoma editorial board, and coauthor of the evolving Bio Survey online project (http://www.biosurvey.ou.edu). A two-time former president of the Oklahoma Native Plant Society, she writes a monthly nature column for the Norman Transcript and is a technical editor for the Oklahoma Native Plant Record.

“The Guide to Oklahoma Wildflowers” by Patricia Folley, published 2012, by University of Iowa Press, www.uiowapress.org, $40 list price and $24 at online booksellers.

If your wildflower searching takes you outside Oklahoma and indeed outside the United States, you will want to have a copy of, “Wildflower Wonders: The 50 Best Wildflower Sites in the World” by Bob Gibbons.

Gibbons is well-known for his wildflower photographs from around the world and you can see wildflowers from five continents in this one volume. As a tour guide he traveled to over 20 countries, including Ireland, Turkey, South Africa, Iran and Australia, to take photos of the best spots.

Wildflower hotspots in the U.S. include Olympic National Park and Mount Rainier in Washington, Klamath-Siskiyou in Oregon, Crested Butte and San Juan Mountains in Colorado, and, Carrizo Plain National Monument, Tehachapi Range, Anza-Borrego State Park in California.

From Europe’s mountains to Africa’s grassland, the account of each wildflower destination is complete with descriptions of travel to the area with location, reasons to go, when to go, protection status, and a page of site description.

The first site of wildflowers in the spring cheers us. Maybe it is time to travel the world to see them. At the back of the book Gibbons provides Useful Contacts for each country, additional sites to visit, and a list of botanical tour operators.

“Wildflower Wonders: The 50 Best Wildflower Sites in the World” by Bob Gibbons was published 2011, by Princeton University Press, www.press.princeton.edu. 8.5 by 10-inch hardback, 192-pages, 200-color photos. $28 list price and $18 at online booksellers.

27 December 2011

Understanding Garden Design

I'm fascinated by garden design concepts but do not actually understand them. The first class I took 25 years ago helped me get the basic plant the tall things in the back bit, but most tips in the general gardening books seem outside my reach.

"Understanding Garden Design" was written by a former interior designer, Vanessa Gardner Nagel, APLD who took a different approach than other authors.

Nagle's approach starts at the beginning: establishing the reasons for designing at all instead of plopping plants in the ground willy-nilly. (my note: Many gardeners stick shrubs here and there without an eye to what that soon-to- be 6-by-10-foot viburnum will add to the landscape.)

"Planning precedes design. It is the time to prepare for design..." The chapter discusses what to consider, including your budget and sustainability. Allow 6-weeks of planning before gathering tools.

The next chapter helps you assess and document the site: Challenges, existing perennial plantings, home style, slope, microclimates, utilities, and neighbors.

Components, chapter 3 asks your family to list its requirements and desires: needs and wants. Rain garden, vegetable patch, fruit arbors, cistern, playground, pond, pets, meditation space, entertaining, greenhouse,laundry etc.

Vanessa Gardner Nagel's blog - link here
Next comes a chapter on how to prioritize what you discovered in the first 3 chapters.

Then, "Design 101" in chapter 5. Basic design includes color, line, shape, form, space, proportion, mass, focal point, repetition and rhythm, movement, sequence, texture, variety, contrast, balance and unity. (This is my weakest link and why I tend to have more of a cottage garden than a landscaped space. I'll re-read this before spring planning/planting begins!)

Finishes and Furnishings make up chapter 6 - furniture and accessories - the things we buy on impulse while traveling and shopping but probably should not.

Watering methods, conservation and irrigation budget make up chapter 7. Yes, we would all love to have a waterfall, in-ground sprinkler systems, pools, ponds, etc. But, there are alternatives.

Then the place where most of us begin: "Plants: A Structural Perspective". By following the first 7 chapters, your plant selection will be easier. Tall and upright or short and large around will fit into the plan you made.

Garden Lighting, chapter 9, addresses safety and security as well as ambience. Grazing, Silhoueting, Thrown shadow, Sparkle treatment, Underwater lighting, etc.

Chapter 10, "The Final Design" helps you stand back and review your design before the contractors arrive or your family begins the construction projects.

"Construction: Working with Contractors" will be valuable if you plan to hire out the projects in your plan. How to screen, bid, review bids and read the contract is followed by site prep, excavation, underground work, hardscape, etc. Chapter 11 will save you headaches.

Art in the garden, chapter 12, will teach restraint as you consider table placement, garden party settings, and maintenance. Less is more in most gardens.

"Understanding Garden Design: The Complete Handbook for Aspiring Designers" (and homeowners!)
236 pages, 8 by 10 hardcover,
List price $35 and $19 at online booksellers. Published 2010 by Timber Press

26 December 2011

Library of American Landscape History

If you have room in your inbox for a landscaping history e-newsletter, I can recommend one from the Library of American Landscape History.

Articles in the Dec. 2011 issue include:

- new publications
Fletcher Steele’s "Design in the Little Garden"
Bob Grese’s "The Native Landscape Reader"
Christopher Vernon’s "Graceland: A Design History"

Each of these volumes explores a different aspect of landscape studies—from garden design to environmental design to consideration of the cemetery as a reflection of American cultural history.

- LALH and Hott Productions of Florentine Films (the Ken Burns company) wrapped production on two inaugural documentary films in our highly anticipated North America by Design series.

- Will Garden of Revelations Meet Watery Apocalypse?
When a band of German religious dissenters arrived in east central Ohio in 1817, they chose a fertile plain in a bend of the Tuscarawas River on which to build a communal society. They laid out a village, called Zoar—after a biblical town near the Dead Sea—in a rectangular grid. In the central block they designed a garden symbolizing the city of New Jerusalem as described in the Book of Revelation. In the center a tall conifer (currently a Norway spruce) represented Jesus, encircled by twelve juniper trees—the apostles. Straight paths divided the garden into beds planted with vegetables and flowers. Although the communal society disbanded in the late nineteenth century, many villagers remained, periodically reviving the garden. Read the rest of this article online at the link.

- UMass Campus Pond in Peril, Horse Barn Saved

In 1893, Massachusetts Agricultural College, acting on a plan commissioned from Frederick Law Olmsted nearly three decades earlier, created a placid pond at the heart of the campus by damming a brook that flowed through an adjacent ravine. The pond reflected a classic Olmstedian use of topography to spatially define the campus and retain its local, pastoral character—despite the fact that campus officials of the 1860s had shelved most of the Olmsted plan. Read the rest online.

- Campaign Aims to Restore Steele Monastery Garden

A year ago Polly Chatfield of Cambridge, Massachusetts, contacted LALH to ask about the potential significance of a courtyard garden designed by Fletcher Steele. The enclosed garden adjoins the guest house at a monastery occupied by the Brothers of the Society of St. John the Evangelist, an Episcopal order, for seventy-five years. The information from LALH confirmed Chatfield’s sense that the garden deserved a historic landscape preservation approach as the order set out to refurbish it, along with a larger garden at the stately stone monastery designed by Ralph Adams Cram. More online.

Click and read this month's issue - subscribe if you like it.
Here's the link again http://lalh.org/new_december2011.html#1

24 December 2011

The Heirloom Life Gardener by Jere & Emilee Gettle

The authors of  "The Heirloom Life Gardener",  Jere and Emilee Gettle, are lifelong gardeners and the co-founders of the Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company.
`The Heirloom Life Gardner' is designed to help you/me/all vegetable lovers grow organic food.

Baker Creek specializes in heirloom seeds so the emphasis is on those old fashioned varieties.

Topics include collecting and saving seeds, how to garden, soil development, mulching, disease control, pest management and kitchen tips for your harvest.

As with their catalog, the book is beautifully illustrated.

The Baker Creek catalog is positively gorgeous. If you are not on their mailing list, here's the link to get one. They sell 2 million seed packs a year!

The Gettle's interview with NPR is at this link. You can read it or listen to it online.

The growing guide is 129 pages of the book's 240-pages. It includes help for growing plants from amaranth to watermelon. Reading through it will help you decide which seeds to order from their catalog of 1400 plus offerings.

$30 list and $18 at online book sellers. Hardcover: 240 pages. Publisher: Hyperion (October 4, 2011)

22 December 2011

Wise Men Brought Myrrh - The Burseraceae plant family

According to tradition, the Three Wise Men or Magi brought gold, frankincense and myrrh to the Christ child.  Gold is a symbol of divinity, the smoke of burning frankincense carried prayers to heaven, and myrrh was used as a holy ointment.

Myrrh and frankincense are the sap of small shrubs that grow in the Middle East and Africa. They do not actually burn, but smolder when heated.

Frankincense, Boswellia sacra, is harvested by cutting into the tree bark and allowing the sap to flow out. The sap was burned to create a pleasant smell during religious services so it became associated with holiness. Today, Catholic priests bless the congregation with the smoke from a Thurible, swinging from a chain.

Myrrh’s native habitat is Arabia. Its Latin name is Balsamodendron Myrrha or Commiphora myrrha, also known as Gum Myrrh Tree. Both Frankincense and Myrrh are members of the Burseraceae plant family.

Gum Myrrh trees grow to 9-feet tall with knotted branches that end in sharp spines. Ducts in the bark and tissue break down and form cavities that fill with the gold-colored, gummy secretion. As it hardens, myrrh gum becomes red-brown chunks.

Institute for Traditional Medicine LINK to more info
Burseraceae trees grow in arid, tropical locations. Frankincense prefers limestone soil and Myrrh prefers basaltic soil and salty wind. 2000 years ago, Rome and Greece imported 3,000 tons a year.

Herodotus (5th century BC) wrote, "Arabia is the only country which produces frankincense, myrrh, cassia and cinnamon...the trees bearing the frankincense are guarded by winged serpents of small size and various colors."

In the first century BC, Diodorus Siculus wrote, "all of Arabia exudes a most delicate fragrance; even the seamen passing by Arabia can smell the strong fragrance that gives health and vigor."

Today, even though only a few tons are produced each year, the beach sand near the original ports still smell like Frankincense.

Throughout the ages, Myrrh has been widely used medicinally both for humans and animals.

Myrrh’s spicy scent made it popular in oils and incense. Its cultural uses include embalming and fumigation, as well as burning it to purify and protect. The Egyptians used it to mummify their dead.
 I use these - not a promo
As a medicine, Myrrh was a terrific gift. It acts as an antimicrobial, disinfectant and antiseptic. It is an astringent that reduces discharge, a carminative that eases colic and griping pain, an expectorant to treat respiratory ailments, and an overall tonic that stimulates the stomach, restores gastric juices and invigorates internal organs. Health food stores sell myrrh gum capsules.

Myrrh is often combined with other herbs to make healing tinctures. For example, combined with thyme, it is used to relieve throat infections. You will find it in mouth wash, toothpaste and other dental preparations.

Other products that are widely available combine Goldenseal, Frankincense and Myrrh for skin care in soaps and creams, especially for skin problems such as excema.

Botanically, there are over 100 Myrrh varieties. Today the most popular Turkish gum is harvested primarily from Commiphora myrrha.

Balm of Gilead is harvested from Commiphora gileadensis. Bdellium, Commiphora Africana is used as a fixative in incense.

Middle Eastern Commiphora myrrha was used to treat cancer, leprosy and syphilis in the Greco-Roman world. Traditional Chinese medicine prescribed Myrrh for heart, liver, spleen, blood cleansing, arthritis, and many other ailments. It has long been used as a cleansing solution for wounds and bruises.

To grow a Commiphora shrub, you would have to create a sandy soil planting bed in full sun. Water the plant for a few minutes every other week.

U.S. sources include Out of Africa www.out-of-africa-plants.com, Jurassic Garden www.cycadpalm.com, Rare Plant Research http://rareplantresearch.com, and Arid Lands Greenhouse www.Aridlands.com.

Search for Burseraceae family at these sites.

18 December 2011

Boxwood Blight in eastern U.S.

The Connecticuit Agricultural Station reports that they received boxwood samples with signs of blight in Ocotber. They sent the samples to the USDA APHIS PPQ, and box blight was the confirmed diagnosis.

From the list of effected boxwoods, it looks like all boxwoods have a chance of getting blight. The list includes japonica, microphylla, sempervirens and sincica.

Here's a link to the Conn Ag Station report.

Initial Symptoms - dark lesions on leaves followed by defoliation. Then, dark cankers appear on the stems.
Tsubo-en Zen-garden diary

A fungicide spray is recommended for prevention, not cure. Recommended fungicides include chlorothalonil and mancozeb.

Take a look at the photos on the link to the original article and then go check your boxwoods.

Also, go to Piet M Patings blog (link below box blight photo on left) where he talks about blight in his Zen garden. This is a gorgeous and inspiring website.

You will find a lot of good information about box at that link!

17 December 2011

Encyclopedia of Trees and Shrubs - horticulture professor Michael Dirr hits another home run

First let us praise Timber Press for being wise when printing this 970-page reference for all of us who love to learn about landscape plants.

Anyone looking for gift ideas for gardeners can just go to the Timber Press site and pick something - almost anything. By the way, though it retails for $80, it is only $50 at online book sellers.

Next, we will praise Michael Dirr for his incredible talents - photography, personal commentary, diligent research, academic skill tempered with down-to-earth experience and love of woody plants.

You might expect such a doorstopper-sized reference to be unreadable, but you would be wrong. Throughout the entries Dirr's voice is heard praising and criticizing the habits of plants.

Some reviewers say it is for serious plant people, but I'd suggest that it will make plant book readers out of casual gardeners.

3,500 photographs taken by Dirr.
3,700 species and cultivars described.

I'll pick out a few Dirr-isms from the book for your edutainment

on Aucuba japonica "Considered old-fashioned, dated, tired, and dinosauristic, but the infusion of new cultivars has brought the species a rejuvenated lease on landscape life."

on Deutzia scabra "Essentially a dinosaur in modern landscapes but very much a part of older gardens"

on Fontanesia philliraeoides "Rare and 'Jurasic' shrub with nail-like durability. I remember seeing in my travels a pristine planting near Clinton, Oklahoma, where the wind never stopped blowing."

on Forestiera acuminata "What is it? Who cares. Why is it here?"

on Microbiota decussata "The species had the plant world on its toes as the next great needle evergreen groundcover. Plants in the Dirr garden and Georgia campus succumbed to heavy soils, humidity and heat."

This is a book you could sit down and read, just flipping from photo to photo, looking for new ideas for your garden. Or, it could be read as some of us read cookbooks or the dictionary ... for the pure pleasure and relaxation we derive from the activity.

Either way, take a look at it the next time you are in a book store.

15 December 2011

How to prune trees and shrubs

At a recent Muskogee Garden Club meeting, Master Gardener, Oyana Wilson said that the primary reasons to prune trees and shrubs include: Improve health, open branches to allow sun and air to move through the plant, increase fruit and flower size, and to keep the plant the shape and size that is best for its location.

Wilson said that gardeners should have an objective in mind before grabbing the tools. It is always a good idea to remove dead, diseased and broken branches as well as crossing or rubbing branches. A young tree or shrub is pruned to shape the plant’s future growth and an older plant is trimmed to rejuvenate it.

The best rule is to prune spring flowering shrubs and vines as soon as flowers fade and before May. 

Prune summer and fall flowering shrubs and vines in early spring prior to new growth.  There are exceptions, but the least desirable time to prune is immediately after new growth develops in spring. 

It is risky to prune in late summer or fall because pruning encourages new growth and tender growth can be damaged by an early frost.

Trees and shrubs should be examined annually.  Broadleaf evergreens, such as boxwood, cherry laurel, holly, photinia and nadina, should be pruned just before new growth in spring. 

Prune evergreen shrubs to control their growth and to shape them.

Hedges should be shaped with a rounded or slightly pointed top with sides tapering to form a wide base.  Try to make each cut just above an outward facing bud.  Never prune more than one-third of a plant’s branches or vines in any year. 

Overgrown shrubs can be gradually thinned from the center, removing the oldest branches first.

Renovating an old shrub can be done all at once, cutting entire shrub to within one-foot of the ground, or over a period of 3 years. 

To gradually thin a shrub, cut a few older stems down to the ground, leaving room for younger, thinner branches to mature.

When pruning trees, avoid cutting off the entire top. This method causes the tree to put out a large amount of weak, new, growth that may not be able to withstand winter storms.

Slower growing trees are structurally stronger and more resistant to storm damage.  Examples include: Bur Oak, Honeylocust, Shumard Oak, Hackberry, Kentucky Coffeetree, and Caddo Maple.  Fast growing trees damage easily, including: Silver Maple, Bradford Pear, Cottonwood, River Birch, Willow and Sycamore.

The correct way to cut a tree limb is called a three-step cut. The first cut is made on the bottom of the branch or limb, about one-fourth of the way through and 12-inches out from the final cut. The second cut is made all the way through the branch, from the top, a few inches farther out than the first cut, leaving a stub. Removing the stub is the final cut. This cut is made just outside of the branch collar. Go to the USDA Forest Service site for more information and pictures at http://tinyurl.com/77yhwsk.

Wilson said, “The best tools for pruning may be our own thumbnails. They are ideal for pinching out the tips of plants to control size, increase branching and blooms, and to prune suckers from tomato plants.” 

“Use hand pruners or shears for cuts up to one-half-inch thick,” Wilson said.  “Anvil shears will often crush part of the stem. If kept sharp, bypass pruners or shears do not do any crushing damage.  Loppers are for pruning branches from one-half to one and one-half inches in diameter,” said Wilson.

Whether you are pruning trees or shrubs, well-maintained and sharpened tools will make the job safer and easier.

14 December 2011

Hydroponics and healthy plant roots

A reader asked about the plants grown in the Chia Gourmet Herb Garden as seen in thisYouTube video ad.

The question is do the plants' roots in the commercial have enough room to be healthy?

The way the growing sponge works is that it wicks the roots with water drawn from the sponge. Basically, the herbs are grown hydroponically, i.e., in a water world.

Growing seeds in sponges in a hydroponic setting is common. Click here to see an eHow video by Yolanda Vanveen on growing tomatoes in a similar way.

The water has to be kept fresh and fertilized since the plants can't reach out into the soil for nutrients. And, the plants still have their usual sunlight and temperature requirements.

Any more tips on hydroponics and growing seeds in sponges for a fellow reader?

13 December 2011

Traditional Mayan Paper Wasp Recipe - yes, recipe

Jim Conrad reported in today's edition of his Backyard Nature Naturalist Newsletter, that he saw a paper wasp nest attacked by red-headed soldier ants.

Then, he provided a link to the Yucatan Times with a story, recipe and photos - how to prepare and eat paper wasp nests.

Interested? Curious? Here are the links

Yucatan Times article with paper wasp nest recipe
The recipe comes with a warning that the wasps will sting you several times!

Backyard Nature http://www.backyardnature.net/

Jim Conrad's newsletters are at http://www.backyardnature.net/n/
and they are each fascinating.

10 December 2011

Ninebark - Physocarpus opulifolius - beautiful leaves, bark & flowers

Our Zone 7 is just about the southern limit for Ninebark since it doesn't like a lot of heat and humidity. Some need cool, wet feet. A few can take more heat and adapt.

According to Missouri Botanical Garden (the common species is native to Missouri)
"Easily grown in average, dry to medium moisture, well-drained soils in full sun to part shade. Best foliage color occurs in full sun. Tolerates a wide range of soil conditions. Prune as needed immediately after bloom. Plants may be cut close to the ground in winter to rejuvenate."

As a matter of fact Physocarpus opulifolius (L.) Maxim., orth. cons. or, common ninebark is native to more than half of the U.S. according to the USDA's site.

The native will grow into a 5 foot tall, suckering, thicket that thrives along riverbanks.

But it's the hybrids that most gardeners are looking for. They have the characteristic peeling bark but add dramatic leaf color and stop-the-clock flowers.

Here are some of the special ones -

Physocarpus opulifolius 'Center Glow'

from Monrovia
"A mounded, vase-shaped, ninebark cultivar that typically matures to 6-8’ tall and as wide, and is most noted for its attractive foliage.

Maple-like leaves (to 4” long) emerge greenish-gold in spring but age to burgundy, with leaves showing both colors as they mature.
Foliage is nicely complemented by small pinkish-white, five-petaled flowers that bloom in dense, flat, rounded, spiraea-like clusters (corymbs) in late spring.
Plants in this genus exhibit exfoliating bark on mature branches. The bark peels in strips to reveal several layers of reddish to light brown inner bark, hence the common name. This interesting bark provides winter interest but is usually hidden by the foliage during the growing season."

Sooner Plant Farm sells it mail order when it is available.

Ninebark's famous peeling bark - Purdue Univ.

Physocarpus opulifolius var intermedus 'Dart's Gold'

Phagat says (Don't you love Phagat? Follow the link if it's new to you.)

"Three-lobed leaves emerge golden in March & age to lime-green or chartreuse in summer, then back to yellow & bronzed red in autumn before leaf-fall reveals the upright twiggy structure with vertically-cracking exfoliating orange-brown bark on the oldest twigs.

In June & July, the arching branches produce two-inch terminal pompoms of tiny white flowers with pink shimmer. These turn into red seeds about September, which are like another flowering, so that 'Dart's Gold' has multiple phases of beauty."

Forest Farm
Physocarpus opullifolius Nugget - Gold Ivd NinebarkThe west coast nursery, Forest Farm offers Nugget. It also needs regular water.

Physocarpus opulifolius 'Monlo' Diabolo® purple-leaf ninebark 
The leaves emerge deep purple, which is beautiful in spring. The color fades to green or purple-green in hot, humid climates.  The patent owner, Monrovia says Monlo diabolo likes the west coast's moist acidic soil.

MOBOT also recommends 'Seward' Summer Wine and 'Mindia' Coppertina

Proven Winners - details here
They say about Summer Wine, "Easily grown in average, dry to medium moisture, well-drained soil in full sun to part shade. Best in full sun in the northern part or its growing range, but appreciates some afternoon shade in the St. Louis area. Tolerates a wide range of soil conditions. Prune as needed immediately after bloom.

Coppertina "Easily grown in average, slightly acidic, dry to medium moisture, well-drained soil in full sun to part shade. Best in full sun in the northern part of its growing range, but appreciates some afternoon shade in the St. Louis area. Tolerates a wide range of soil conditions. Prune as needed immediately after bloom and no later than mid- August."

Digging Dog Nursery has Coppertina.

Fine Gardening says Summer Wine is a tough, drought tolerant, beautiful shrub and they also mention that it doesn't do well south of zone 7.

An image search for Ninebark flowers will illustrate why they are so popular across the country! Do you grow any of the Ninebark varieties? Where do you live? Which ones thrive where you are?

08 December 2011

Hardwood cuttings taken in winter make next year's perennials

Making more plants from cuttings provides duplicates of your favorite garden specimens and hours of indoor gardening fun. Watching plants take root and grow is rewarding.

Hardwood cuttings are taken from trees and shrubs during early winter months and can be grown outside or in a cold frame.

Winter hardwood cuttings are not taken from the tips since they are to be grown outside and tip growth is easily damaged. Tip cuttings can be grown inside with heat where the conditions simulate early spring.

Some of the many plants that are good candidates for winter hardwood cuttings include: Barberry, Boxwood, Callicarpa (Beauty Berry), Campsis (Trumpet Vine), Caryopteris, Chaenomeles (Flowering Quince), Cotoneaster, Crataegus (Hawthorn), Cytisus, Deutzia, Forsythia, Fothergilla, Hedera (Ivy), Hibiscus syriacus (Rose-of-Sharon), Hydrangea, Ilex (American and Japanese Holly), Kerria, Lagerstroemia (Crapemyrtle), Ligustrum (Privet), Lonicera (Honeysuckle), Osmanthus (Holly), Parthenocissus (Virginia Creeper), Philadelphus (Mock Orange), Roses, Rubus (Blackberries), Skimmia, Spirea, Staphylea (Bladdernut), Syringa (Lilac), Taxus (Yew), Viburnum, Vitis (Grape), Weigela, and Wisteria.

If your goal is to plant a large area, trees that easily root from ¼ to ½ inch thick cuttings include willow, dogwood, and poplar. Information at USDA link http://tinyurl.com/7tgkeqw.

A 4-to-6-inch long stem cutting is made early in the morning, where this year’s growth meets last year’s growth. If time does not allow cleaning and planting the cuttings immediately, put them into a plastic bag with a moist paper towel and store them in the refrigerator.

Horizontal shoots will not produce as nice a plant as vertical, terminal shoots. Shoots closest to the roots of the parent plant will root best and healthy plants produce the most successful cuttings. Roots will grow only on the earth end of the cutting so mark cuttings with a pen so you will know which end is up.

Prepare the planting containers. Fill a large pan or several small growing pots with peat moss and perlite or coarse sand. Water and drain several times. When the planting medium is saturated and drained, make planting holes with a pencil.

Remove all but the top 3 leaves from each cutting. The top cutting is made at an angle. The bottom cut is made just below a leaf bud or node.

Without cutting into wood, make a wound in the stem by cutting or scraping away a small strip of the outer bark, exposing the green cambium layer beneath. Roots develop along the wound.

Dip the base of the cutting into rooting hormone/auxins for a few seconds.

Plant the hormone treated portion of stem in the prepared pots. Firm the soil around the cutting with the top of the cutting visible. If the cuttings blacken, remove and start again.

Cuttings taken from cold hardy plants will remain dormant outside all winter. Remember to keep the soil damp but well drained. Slow growing plants will take longer to produce roots and rapidly growing plants such as grapes and forsythia will show roots fairly quickly. 

When plants have the same amount of above-ground and below-ground growth, they are ready to be moved into containers. They are tender and should be checked a couple of times a week, if not daily. Slow growing cuttings will be ready to plant in the ground next fall.

Bundles of cuttings can be hormone dipped, placed in a shallow box and surrounded with sand. Keep the container about 45-degrees. Over the winter the cuttings will form a callus where roots will form when they are planted in a shady spot next spring.

Turning hardwood cuttings into landscape plants is a fairly easy and low cost hobby.

05 December 2011

Propagate Umbrella Palm = Cyperus involucratus

Each summer a tub of Cyperus sits by our back door where we can enjoy it coming and going. The fountain base that the pots sit in holds enough water to keep the plants happy and sometimes birds find it refreshing, too.

In our zone 7, it will not survive the winter outside. And, during the summer it likes a little afternoon shade.

Each fall, I cut off the fronds and trim them to the circumference of a small peach. After a few weeks in water, they sprout shoots and roots and are ready to plant.

And, yes, this plant is called Cyperis alternifolius and Cyperus involucratus due to a professional disagreement among botanists, according to one author.

Propagate umbrella palm (Cyperus alternifolius).

According to Dr. T. Ombrello - UCC Biology Department Umbrella sedge is native to Madagascar, Mauritius, and Reunion Island but has naturalized in South America and the West Indies.

"Besides propagation by seed, the Umbrella plant has an unusual means of vegetative reproduction. The plant’s stems are relatively weak and tend to crimp and bend over when subjected to even the slightest pressure. This results in the stem apex and leaves being submerged in water, or at least contacting the moist marsh soil. Soon after, the bent stem sends out roots and shoots from beneath its leaves, establishing a new plant. This can be easily duplicated at home by cutting a whole stem from the plant, removing the leaf tips and lower stem to make it more manageable, and placing what remains upside down in a glass of water."
The original frond does not look good but notice the new shoot on the left and the root on the right.

At John & Jacq's Garden, they have photos of rooting the fronds in moist soil. Here's that link.

Roots grew out from between the leaves in several places. These will be planted right side up - in the direction they were originally growing.

02 December 2011

Birds to Watch in Oklahoma

Now that you have a few bird feeders up and filled, there are several resources that will help identify just what you are seeing.

For families, observing and charting birds is an educational and fun activity during the winter.

The only book I know of that is dedicated to Oklahoma birds is Lone Pine's Compact Guide to Oklahoma Birds by Scott Seltman, Gregory Kennedy, Krista Kagume and Ted Cable.

The publisher, Lone Pine, has bird books for Canada and most U.S. states.
Here's their link.

On the Internet there are several places to find bird identification help.

Bill Horn's Birds of Oklahoma

The Oklahoma version of Birdzilla.com network

Oklahoma birds and birding locations

Oklahoma Ornithological Society
dates and locations of bird count events

Oklahoma Winter Birds at OK Wildlife Department

Oklahoma Birds and Butterflies

There may be others. Let us know what you use to identify birds in your yard.

01 December 2011

Make Birdseed Feeders - Illustrated Step-by-Step

Make bird feeders for bird lovers and for your own back yard. We used sonbird feed from Lowe's because it has nuts and dried fruit as well as canary feed all in the same bag and was on sale.

The classic cake mixing directions are to mix the dry ingredients in one bowl
 to ensure good combining. This is the flour and plain gelatin.

This is the flour and plain gelatin.

Then the wet ingredients are combined in another container.
I put a few drops of olive oil in the measuring cup and used my fingers to
coat the cup so the Karo syrup wouldn't stick to the
sides or bottom of the glass. Then, the cold water went in.
When the wet and dry ingredients were combined
it was more watery than I expected.
Also, it had to be beaten to get the lumps out.

Next the bird seed. We used 2.5 measuring cups to get the flour mix saturated with seeds.
I had read that if you skimp in the seed, there will be chunks of flour/gelatin mixture that the birds don't like.

 I put a piece of waxed paper on a kitchen towel and spooned a fourth of the mix onto the paper. I had a can of fruit and a rolling pin handy, but the easies way to flatten the goo was simply to fold over the paper or put a second sheet of waxed paper on top.

When the cutter is put into the flattened blob of birdseed mix, they should be about the same depth.  I found that if you are pressing decorative berries into the mix, do it while the cutter is still on. After the cutter is removed, pressing the decorations in will smash the shape of the seed hanger.
Then, remove the cutter and make a hole in the center with a straw.

Here's a wax paper lined cookie sheet filled with hangers.

After 2 days of drying, the hangers are ready for ribbons and hanging for the birds.

Gifts for Bird Watchers

Birds help reduce the population of unwanted insects so gardeners encourage birds to take up residence.  Making wild-bird feeders is an ideal indoor project for your garden and to give as gifts.

Hang homemade bird feeders under the eaves or on tree limbs where family members can enjoy observing which birds show up.


Backyard Landscape Garden Shop
Cut off the top and hollow out a gourd, or winter squash.  Remove enough of the inside to make a bowl. Use a hammer and nail to make holes on each side where you will thread a string for hanging. Stretch the string across the opening, leaving a long piece on both sides to knot into a hanger. Large grapefruit and melon skins can also be used.

Make suet to fill the feeder. Melt ½ cup lard or bacon grease and ½ cup crunchy peanut butter in a saucepan. Stir in 1-cup oatmeal, ½ cup flour, ¼ cup sugar, 1-cup cornmeal and ¾ cup birdseed.

Pour into the hollow fruit or vegetable and chill in the refrigerator. Hang at the end of a tree branch where squirrels will be challenged to go.


This is a fun project to do with children. Cut the dough with cookie cutters and decorate with dried flowers and colorful ribbon.

Mix ¾ cup flour, and 1-package plain gelatin powder. Combine 3-Tablespoons corn syrup and ½ cup cold water. Pour the wet into the dry and beat. Stir in 2.5 cups of bird seed a little at a time, until the mixture is thick enough to work. Dried fruit or nuts can be added.

Put the mixture between 2 sheets of wax paper and flatten to the thickness of the cutter (cookie cutters, or empty tuna can). Remove the excess from the outside of the cutter, collect it on a fresh sheet of wax paper, and reuse it.

Songbird Garden
Poke a hole in each feeder with a drinking straw. Let them dry for two days. When dry, put a long piece of string, fishing twine, or colorful ribbon through the hole. Tie a bow to decorate and a knot at the top to make a hanger.

Gelatin feeders melt in the rain so hang them under the eaves or in another protected place. Or, cut a piece of cardboard or Styrofoam, poke a hole in the center, push the string through the hole and tape the two ends of the string together below the feeder roof. Tie the string ends into a loop to use as hanger.


Yard Envy
These can be put on window sills and in tray feeders for bird watching.

Grease muffin pan and preheat oven to 400-F.

Combine 2/3 cup flour, 1 1/3 cups whole grain flour (wheat, buckwheat, etc.), 2-teaspoons baking powder, 1-cup raw sunflower seeds, ½ cup chopped raisins, ½ cup chopped dried cherries, ½ cup chopped peanuts, ¼ cup chopped dried apricots, ½ cup chopped apple, 6-slices cooked and crumbled bacon.

In another bowl combine 1 beaten egg, 2-Tablespoons corn syrup, 1-cup milk, 3-teaspoons melted butter.

Combine all. Fill muffin cups 2/3 full. Bake 25 minutes.


In a pot on the stove, warm 2-cups suet. Add 1-cup breadcrumbs, 2-cups raisins, 2-cups oatmeal, and 1-cup water-moistened dog kibble. Mix well and put into cupcake pan. Put a straw in the center and chill until firm. Remove the straw and put a long ribbon or string in the hole and hang by tying the two ends together.

Tie with a ribbon, wrap in colorful plastic wrap to give to bird watchers on your holiday list.
The four illustrations are from online vendors. The links will take you to their stores - in case you don't have time to bake and stir but would like to give these to your bird loving friends and family.

29 November 2011

Moldy Tulip Bulbs

Moldy tulip bulbs are a big disappointment when you are hoping to fill a bed or some pots.

It is not that unusual for their skins to have a bit of penicillin mold but these are beyond that tad bit stage.

Mold penetrating tulip bulb

Mold on emerging tulip bulb growth

So, what to do? The plant references say to throw them out and buy new ones but I already spent $22 for 50 of these white tulip beauties.

First, they got a soak in 1% bleach solution in the kitchen sink in the hope that the bleach would stop the mold from continuing to grow without killing the life force in the bulb itself.
After a good slosh around, I wiped them off to see how much damage was beneath the blue and black.

 This tulip bulb is soft to the touch and there is little chance it will thrive in the soil.
This basal root on these have been ruined by mold.
The final step I took to try to salvage part of them  was to spray them thoroughly with fungicide.

 They are all planted in the garden now though some of them will probably not do well. In particular, the ones that the mold turned black and softened.

I hope you don't accidentally get moldy bulbs but if you do, try these methods and go ahead and plant them.