Showing posts from January, 2011

for the love of leeks

We grow leeks in our veggie garden, partly because I cook with them and partly because they are beautiful.
All winter, no matter how many freezing nights and ice storms, there they are: tall, blue leaves and a lovely white, sweet onion under the ground. In the spring the flower heads begin to form and by the summer, a huge blue globe tops the leaves. That flower goes to seed.
Garden goddess, Barbara Damrosch, wrote a piece about leeks for the Washington Post that was published Jan 26th. Here's a link to it. Some highlights -
* Until the 1990s all leeks were open-pollinated (OP) varieties, not proprietary F1 hybrids with corporate ownership. New methods have made hybridizing them possible, so now many seed catalogues offer both. Their descriptions make interesting reading. The new hybrids are promoted as vigorous, high-yielding, disease-resistant, upright, straight and - above all - uniform, since uniformity is what commercial growers, packers and marketers demand. OP varieties are d…

Dream Gardens

Better Homes and Gardens published this new dream book through Wiley last month. I'm calling it a dream book because the gardens illustrated in this 288-page paper back are ones we mere gardeners can only dream of.
These are gorgeous homes, fabulous decks and patios, in woodland and city settings.
The  chapters include color, country and cottage gardens, shady areas, formally pruned looks, tropical settings, front and back yards, and Asian-themed.
Some plants are identified, features are defined so you can understand what you are looking at and there are plenty of tips on how to recreate the looks on your property.
You will be impressed by the variety of gardens presented. This is a book filled with inspiration.
Wiley lists "Better Homes & Gardens Dream Gardens Across America" at $19.95  and it is $12 at online booksellers.

Bryan Reynolds' Butterfly Love plus a gorgeous new book "Butterflies: Decoding their Signs and Symbols"

If you go

Friends of Honor Heights Park Association
Annual meeting Feb 5, 10 a.m. Honor Heights Park Garden Education Room
Free and open to the public
Guest speaker: Bryan Reynolds, Butterfly photographer
Information, www.friends or Matthew Weatherbee 682-9276

Bryan Reynolds developed a passion for nature while on his family’s farm in northwestern Wisconsin. When he retired from the Air Force, he pursued a career in nature and wildlife photography.

Many of his 20,000 images have been published in books, post cards, calendars and magazines such as Outdoor Photographer, Nature Photographer, Mother Earth News, Discover, Highlights for Children, and with the National Geographic Society. View his photographs at

Reynolds is also the Founder, President and Executive Director of a non-profit, The Butterflies of the World Foundation (, whose mission is to improve public awareness of the conservation of butterflie…

Transplanting tiny seedlings

The one-inch cells of Moon Carrot seedlings are ready to move into larger quarters.
 First step, for me, is filling pots with potting soil and getting it watered so the roots go into moistened soil.  Then, I use 2 plastic knives to lift the entire cell of seedlings out the their first home.

 Next, I carefully tease out the tiny, fragile plants, handling them by the plant stem.

These had long, tangled roots that had to be gently separated by removing the original soil.

 A hole is made in the new soil, the seedling is held by a leaf and placed into the prepared pot.

The roots on some of the seedlings require a taller pot in order to not be wadded up at planting time.

Another method you can use, is simply to cut the heads off all but one seedling in each cell and transplant the entire cell into a new pot.

I put a few drops of fish emulsion or Daniels plant food into each gallon of room temperature water.

Each transplant is watered in and then drained.

Then, the pots of damp babies are put out …

Rock gardens of interest to you?

The Scottish Rock Garden Society has enhanced their online presence  - take a look at it here.

Ian Young's Bulb Log is online in printable pdf form now - click 
His photos and plant talk will help cure your wintertime blues.

The International Rock Gardener, April 2010 issue is ready to read is here.

And, the North American Rock Garden Society's page is here.

Rich winter reading. Enjoy.

Teucriums - there is one for your garden

One thing that can be said about the world of plants: We will never learn or grow them all. Teucrium is an example of a genus that is rarely seen, yet deserves to be in more gardens.

There are hundreds of Teucriums that originate from the poor, rocky soils of Spain and the Mediterranean. They are long lived, broadleaf evergreen perennials that tolerate extreme heat in zones 5 to 9. Members of the mint family, Lamiaceae, they are related to lavender and salvia. All are rabbit and deer resistant.

Most varieties range in height from 4-inches to 14-inches, making them ideal for a flowerbed border. At one time they were called a poor man’s boxwood because they resemble boxwood and grow more quickly to full height.

Teucrium remains short and easy to control with pruning so it is used to for the edges of knot and herb gardens.

Teucriums like sun and unfertilized, well-drained soil. In USDA zone 5 and north, they need winter protection in order to prevent die back.

One of the best known va…

Asclepias seed pods - worth it for the monarch butterflies

Is there anything prettier than a milkweed seed pod? They are a mess to work with but worth it for the Monarch butterflies they bring into the garden every fall.
Jerry Gustafson, retired physician, is a plant friend with whom I have spent about an hour over the course of a 3 year friendship. We mostly send emails and he occasionally sends things in the mail such as seeds he collected or garden-related information he ran across that he thought I would like.
Last summer, he sent me three swamp milkweed seed pods that he had collected while on vacation in WI. Today, I cleaned and planted them. What a mess. But! Now they are planted, watered and safely stored in the cold frames to stratify/scarify/etceterafy.

JAN 29th Free gardening workshop in Muskogee

City Wide Gardening Seminar organized by Ray Stanley
January 29, 2011 – 9:00 am to 11:00 am
Location: Muskogee First Assembly, 3100 Gulick, Muskogee

The Seminar Objective will be to inform young people of the benefits of raising their own vegetables and older gardeners with some new ideas on topics of seed varieties, composting, patio and small space and raised bed gardening, insect and weed control. OSU Extension has provided fact sheets. This is a non-profit seminar and is being sponsored by Muskogee First Assembly, local businesses, and garden seed companies. First Assembly will provide the meeting room.

In Oklahoma, according to USDA Reports, only fifteen percent of adults eat the daily-recommended five servings of fruits and vegetables and twenty-five percent of the children in our state, go to bed hungry at some time during each month. We will have additional seminars throughout the spring.

Our goal is to get families in our city to grow their own vegetables.


Winter bird care

There are about 50 birds that nest in cavities and will use a birdhouse. Almost any size birdhouse will attract starlings and sparrows but if you want bluebirds, wrens and chickadees, you have to provide a birdhouse that they can utilize.

For example, a chickadee house has a 4-by-4-inch floor, is 8-to-10-inches high, and, has an entrance hole one and one-eighth inch wide. The entrance hole should be 6-to-8-inches above the floor. Hang a chickadee house 4-to-15-feet above the ground.

For bluebirds, the house floor is 5-by-5-inches, the height is 8-to-12-inches, and the entrance hole is one and one-half inches. Bluebird houses are hung 4-to-6-feet above the ground. See for more birdhouse size tips.

Russell Studebaker, former Tulsa Audubon Society president and long time bird feeder, said, “Bluebirds nest in open field areas, near pastures or large patches of grass.”

“The key to successful small bird occupancy of bird house is the hole diameter. If the hole is…

An idea whose time has come

Sling Couture has created a comfortable face mask that is bound to be popular among gardeners. They have other products and I'll talk about them a little below. The masks come in a wide range of colors for men and women. In the photo above I'm holding the women's mask so you can see how nicely designed the inside of it is. At the top, a metal band is sewn in between the layers of fabric to shape to your face. It feels soft and protective enough to use outside.
Notice on the right side that the two straps are sewn in right next to each other. The straps created a problem for me. They were too short and one of them snapped and broke the first time I put it on.
Here is the men's mask. Note that the two straps are over an inch apart, making it easier to put over and under your ears. It also has the same great fabric, with a metal band that easily bends to fit the nose. In addition, it has that grey foam nose protection piece. The straps are longer than the women's versio…


I can't speak for anyone else, but my preference is for the expression of truth based on the experience of the speaker. So, today while researching Mignonette, I came across a blog called Rob's Plants.
Rob's Plants is a page that I've stumbled on in the past and have always enjoyed his perspective. Here's what Rob said about Mignonette, "Grown for its scent more than its flowers. And I'm not a fragrance gardener - my nose doesn't have the heightened sensitivity required to really appreciate the garden perfumes. The flowers aren't worth the trouble, so I doubt I'll be growing it again. But heck, you gotta try all plants at least once (I have a ways to go!)" My interest in Mignonette stems from reading a 1927 book, "Garden Flowers" by Robert McCurdy. My mother-in-law loaned it to me from her bookshelf of historic books. The way flower descriptions were written in the romantic era captivates my imagination.

McCurdy said, "Sweet …

Sunday night snow

The snow on the skylight in the shed doesn't seem to bother the lettuce seedlings.
The view out the shed window
Bird tracks.
I poured hot water into the bird bath to make sure our feathered friends have defrosted water. About a half inch of snow here in Muskogee but the roads are icy so all schools are closed tomorrow.
Provide fresh water for our feathered friends out there in the freezing cold.

Links to garden information - hundreds of them

My Garden: A Garden Through the Seasons is a site maintained by a gardener in Wales. It looks like the site has not been updated since 2007.


One of the services on the site is a gigantic page full of useful links that you must see

The links I clicked through to are still alive. Take a look.

How to read a seed packet

Seed catalogs are pouring into mailboxes and seed racks are showing up in garden centers. We are already mentally growing next spring’s garden – dreaming, planning, considering, and then finally selecting.

Many seed companies do a terrific job of providing useful tips, but sometimes seeds arrive with nothing but the name of the plant on the package.

Rose Marie Nichols McGee, owner of Nichols Garden Nursery (
grows the seeds, cooks with the vegetables grown from them, selects the best varieties, and writes the catalog and seed packets based on her first hand knowledge.

McGee said that in addition to the description of the plant, look for a variety of information that you need to have in order to grow the best plants.

Planting depth: Seeds are covered to their own depth. Tiny, dust-like seeds are not covered; they are just pressed into pre-moistened seed starting soil. Thin, flat seeds such as lettuce and peppers are planted on the surface of ruffle…

New hybrid Salvia Wendy's Wish contributes to Make a Wish Foundation

I rarely post the many new plant introductions that come into my email but I'm a total sucker for this new annual Salvia with hot pink flowers.

And this one is unique for another reason.
The SMGrowers site explains how special it is.

The plant appeared as spontaneous garden hybrid beneath a plant of Salvia mexicana Lolly in the Victoria, Australia garden of Salvia enthusiast Wendy Smith. It is Ms. Smith's wish that part of the proceeds from this plant go to the Make-A-Wish Foundation so the name Wendy's Wish is particularly fitting.

Proven Winners says Wendy's Wish
Attracts butterflies and hummingbirds, is deer resistant, heat tolerant and low maintenance.

Its cold hardiness is to zone 9 (we're zone 7). Planthaven says its mature size is 40-inches by 40-inches but Proven Winners says 24-36 by 24-36. I'll be looking for it this spring.

For fellow plant geeks, it is a Salvia buchananii, from Mexico. Wikipedia says
"Seed from a garden plant in Mexico City was…


Messing around on a winter day, I discovered a couple of quote resources with which you can amuse yourself for a while.

Try Wikiquote here


The Quote Garden here

...written by someone clever who uses a pen name, Terri Guillemet - though guillemets are quote marks so the name is a spoof. The related blog is here.

There are dozens of quotes about gardening and gardeners and the love of the natural world to re-invigorate your spirit.

Seed catalogs and packets redux - tips from garden writers

After running my Dec 30th column on helpful, useful, informative seed catalogs and seed packets, I posted the query to the garden writers' forum, asking garden writers for their recommendations.
Here are responses from the pros to help guide your selection, dear readers - with links to the writers' information and seed companies.

Dee Nash of Red Dirt Ramblings said

The Botanical Interests catalog is free. They aren't sending out any more 2010 ones, but here's a link to their virtual catalog. I also thought of Southern Exposure Seed Exchange. I love their catalog too. Of course, Renee's is wonderful. Nan Sterman, garden designer, blogger at  Plant Soup and author of Water Wise Plants for the Southwest said
Renee's Garden has the best seed packets, hands-down. Each packet is like a little book of information that answers every question before you know to ask it. How to plant, how to care, how to eat. And the illustrations are beautiful! Linda Schaffner said

I ditt…