Showing posts from 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 …

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 diver…

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 pl…

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…

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 …

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 b…

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.

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!

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

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…

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?

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

Jim Conrad's newsletters are at
and they are each fascinating.

Sales everywhere!

There are dozens of sales going on now for plant lovers! Here are the ones in my email inbox.

Botanical Interests - free shipping and calendar with orders
Special link

Thompson & Morgan Seeds

Brent and Becky's Bulbs

Easy to Grow Bulbs

Touch of Nature

Tomato Fest seed sale

Burpee - gardening supplies sale

Johnny's Selected Seeds

Check out your favorite seed and supply vendors and let me know what good deals you find!

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 -

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 (Virgini…

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.

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…

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 network

Oklahoma birds and birding locations

Oklahoma Ornithological Society
dates and locations of bird count events

Oklahoma Winter Birds at OK Wildlife Department…

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 kitc…

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.
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 wi…

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.


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 tu…