Showing posts from March, 2011

Take your garden to new heights with vines

Vines and climbers can change a garden scene in a matter of weeks if the gardener puts the right plant in the right place. Added summer privacy, shade, color, fragrance and beautification are just some of the reasons to select a vine for your garden. In addition, many vines provide fruit or vegetables as well as attracting birds and butterflies.

The good news about climbers is that they are vigorous; since they usually have good air circulation where they grow, they rarely contract diseases. And for gardeners with a small space, the vertical growth can add considerable beauty without using much ground space.

There are a few key considerations for making the best choice.

Shade or sun – A plant that needs full sun will suffer in the shade and will not bloom very well. A shade loving plant such as a climbing hydrangea will be burned by the sun no matter how much water it receives.

Annual or perennial – Some beautiful vines and climbers have to be planted every year from seed. But, summer…

Hops is a bine not a vine

It's the time of year to remove the final remains of many vines that grew into the shrubs and onto fences last year to make room for this year's growth.

Some climbing plants like the Euonymus and climbing hydrangea can be left without pruning right now, but the other perennials such as grapes and hops need attention.

Last year I allowed morning glories to climb up to the top of crape myrtle trees where we could enjoy their jewel tone colors where we have our morning coffee in the summer. Now they have to be pulled down and the seedlings thinned for this year.

The hops vine, it turns out isn't truly a vine. It's a bine. Vines use tendrils, hairs, suckers and the like to hold onto their supports. Bines use stems and hairs to hang on. By spring, the plant is completely dead to the ground so the woody remains are pretty easy to pull out of the support fence.

However beautifully and reliably hops covers chain link fence for me every summer, it, like many vines/bines will suc…

False Aloe is Manfreda virginica (L.) Salisb. ex Rose

One of False Aloe's names is Rattlesnake Master. Sounds ominous, doesn't it? False Aloe or Polianthes virginica is a perennial for dry, rocky areas. The nondescript flowers are green on six-foot stalks and supposedly have an Easter lily fragrance. 2BNtheWild has photos. And check out the photos at the Vanderbilt site.

The USDA plant profile (here) says that its plant family is Agavaceae (Century-plant family),
the Genus is Manfreda Salisb. – tuberose and the species, Manfreda virginica (L) Salisb. ex Rose  – false aloe, is the only one in the species with a native range that includes Oklahoma. The others are from Texas.
The roots were used in a variety of medicines back in Henrietta Herbal's day, 1898. Dropsy, snakebite, worms and diarrhea were some of its applications.
They are supposed to grow in partly shady areas with average to rocky soil in zones 4-9 so I started seeds for the rocky spots at the back of the wooded area where the rains have washed away most of the soil …

Gnomes Deluxe Edition just out

Gnomes used to be very popular garden decorations and they are still used in European cultures. A 2,000 year old Swedish gnome is the oldest one known. Scientific testing proved that it was made of a hardwood that no longer grows.

The new “Gnomes Deluxe Collector’s Edition” explores this and all manner of gnome history, fact and fiction. It is written with humor and beautifully illustrated and even includes two pages of North America and European maps that indicate the areas where gnomes live.

Just so you’ll know when you see one, a male gnome wears a red cap with a peak on top. He has a full beard. His clothing includes a blue smock, brown-green pants and either felt boots or wooden shoes. Rosy red cheeks, grey eyes, laugh lines and a turned up nose complete the picture.

Female gnomes wear gray or a khaki skirt and blouse, and a green pointed cap. Most of them are plump figured and have blond hair.

Gnomes all wear the same distinctive clothing so that birds do not mistake them for …
Every day another daffodil variety opens in our garden. These are some of today's.

Drayton Hall - near Charleston S.C.

Drayton Hall, 9 miles northwest of downtown Charleston on River Road, was one of the highlights of our recent road trip.  It is the oldest surviving example of Georgian Palladian archicture in the U.S.
The privy building seated 7. Think about it. There still is no indoor plumbing and the house was occupied into the 21st century. The last family member dropped extension cords from the nearby visitors building to run her refrigerator.
 The well was a more recent addition that came after the rice fields had long gone.
The circles were a 3-tiered horse and buggy zone. There are no gardens to visit ... yet  because the Trust is taking its time to study and reconstruct the grounds to be historically accurate and the money to do large scale projects is being raised.
from the website - Through the centuries, both the house and landscape have evolved, and while the house has remained substantially intact, the landscape has been transformed by hurricanes, earthquakes, wars, neglect, and changes in …

Packaging that helps the environment

Two companies, Pepsi and Seventh Generation are using new packaging to avoid fossil fuel packaging.

Pepsi bottles introduced Tuesday are made from 100 percent plant material and will be tested next year. This story was in the online Christian Science Monitor - excerpts here and the full article is at this CSMonitor link.

The bottle is made from switch grass, pine bark, corn husks and other materials. Ultimately, Pepsi plans to also use orange peels, oat hulls, potato scraps and other leftovers from its food business. The new Pepsi bottles are scheduled to begin appearing in 2012.
PepsiCo Inc. unveiled a new bottle Tuesday made entirely of plant material that it says bests the technology of competitor Coca-Cola and reduces bottles' carbon footprint.

Ultimately, Pepsi plans to also use orange peels, oat hulls, potato scraps and other leftovers from its food business.

"This is the beginning of the end of petroleum-based plastics," said Allen Hershkowitz, a senior scientist …

Rue for Giant Swallowtails

Common Rue, Ruta graveolens, is not grown in our area very often because its native environment is warmer and it can be fussy about surviving an unusually cold winter.

Rue gets special treatment in our garden is because it is the only plant we grow that is used by Giant Swallowtail butterflies to raise their caterpillars. Rue’s poisonous leaves make the caterpillars taste bitter to predators so they are left alone.
The expression, you will rue the day came from the plant’s less desirable characteristic of causing rashes and blisters on some people. Families with young children and gardeners with sensitive skin should avoid all parts of Rue plants.

Greek, Mediterranean and Chinese cooking use Rue as a culinary herb. It provides the bitter flavor in grappa con ruta and in Ethiopia it is added to coffee. The Chinese add it to mung bean soup.

Historically, Rue was used as a medicinal herb. It was taken daily in small doses to prevent sorrowful events such as assassinations. It was called…

Want to become a gardening wizard? Derek Fell can tell you how

Derek Fell needs little introduction to readers of garden books - he has authored more than sixty books and garden calendars, including 550 Home Landscaping Ideas (Simon & Schuster), The Encyclopedia of Garden Design (Firefly Books), The Complete Garden Planning Manual (Friedman), Garden Accents (Henry Holt) and Home Landscaping (Simon & Schuster).

His recent book, published Dec. 2010, "I'll Make You a Gardening Wizard Overnight" is a 300-page 6" by 9" paperback. It makes a big promise in its title since it would take several days to even read it!

With that said, Fell certainly is an experienced gardener and garden writer. His home, Cedaridge Farms, is where he has lived and gardened for decades.

Fell has a website for his design business, a website for his garden photo sales and a line of outdoor furniture.

Here's a link to an interview where he talks about his farm and his furniture.

Now, about the book. There are 19 chapters with topics from gar…

Wild Basil in the Yucatan

Jim Conrad's Naturalist Newsletter from the Hacienda Chichén beside the Maya ruin of Chichén Itzá in the central Yucatán, Mexico is always interesting. His knowledge of flora and fauna is over my skill level many times but he always writes something fascinating.

In the issue dated March 13, 2011, Conrad describes finding wild basil in the forest. Text and photos are Conrad's.


About a month ago I was deep in the forest when along a shadowy trail I noticed what appeared to be a two- ft-tall (60cm) member of the Mint Family -- a darkish herb with two leaves arising at each node (opposite leaves) and with square stems. Pinching a leaf to see if it smelled, I wasn't prepared for the intensity of the minty fragrance that exploded around me. The odor was like very strong, sweetish Annis. The plant wasn't flowering yet, however, so I couldn't identify it.

Now it's flowering, as you can see at

Actually, those it…

Hazzard wholesale seeds shipping sale

Hazzard Seeds is primarily a resource for growers but I buy from them anyway. Joyce Hazzard has helped me out a few times. Here's a link to shopping their site

For a limited time Hazzards is offering $1.00 standard shipping on all seed orders. You do not need a special coupon - just select the special rate in the drop down menu at the checkout.
Also, orders over $80 will receive a 5% discount by using coupon code EZSAVE at the checkout. Please do not forget to click the redeem coupon button after entering the code.

I'm shopping for pennisetum seeds and their seeds include a bunch of them. And, the price is right.

P1720 Pennisetum alopecuroides 100 seeds $7.43 Grass

P1720V Pennisetum alopecuroides 1,000 seeds $52.80 Grass

P4976 Pennisetum alopecuroides viridescens 250 seeds $16.45 Grass

P4976V Pennisetum alopecuroides viridescens 1,000 seeds $61.60 Grass

P8390 Pennisetum macrourum White Lancer 100 seeds $9.19 Grass

P8390V Pennisetum ma…

Proven Winners

Dr. Rick Schoellhorn, director of new products for Proven Winners provided a window to the world of how plants come to us, the buying public. Schoellhorn was one of the four speakers at the Proven Winners Indoor Garden Extravaganza in Atlanta last week.

Proven Winners, he said, screens and grows 15,000 plants each year in order to find three that they can introduce to the country’s garden centers. Four hundred plant breeding companies and individuals submit plant possibilities for them to consider.

“One of the reasons plants discovered or bred in Japan do so well in the American Southeast is that Japan is even hotter and more humid,” said Schoellhorn.

For example, Raspberry Blast Supertunia was bred in Japan for its heat and humidity tolerance.

“Growers and home gardeners want two different things,” Schoellhorn said. “Growers want compact balls of generic items and gardeners want plants that perform so well that they are surprised.”

He said the only way gardeners can get the things th…

Under the leaves and stems

Cleaning out the flower beds brings so many surprises. Oh! that perennial has moved everywhere. I forgot what that plant is - I think it's something I still want there. More bulbs - goodie.

Here are a few things I re-discovered -
This tall phlox is definitely a cottage garden type plant that we allow to thrive because of its ability to bring hundreds of butterflies day after day in the heat of the summer.
Catnip Walker's Low is such a reliable plant for the front of the large bed where it grows. The leaves are wonderfully scented. When the flowers open, small pollinators hover thickly, especially bees.
Above is a photo of that front bed, from last summer, with Walker's Low in lavendar-blue.

Creeping phlox is reliable for a hot dry place near the street. And, look at it trying to bloom already. What a trooper.

What's coming up where you garden?

Larkspur seedling volunteer

Even before the crocus and daffodils bloom, larkspur volunteer seedlings emerge, sprinkled out and around every bed where they grew last year. The flower colors are unpredictable, on each plant, and even on one stem, ranging from white to pink to pale lavender/blue. One year I saved only the seeds from the deep purple-blue stems but the next year, the colors from those seeds were unpredictable. They are all beautiful though so who cares? The challenge is to get them started in your beds once or twice so there are plenty of seeds on the ground come fall. Larkspur seeds need two weeks of 35 degrees prior to planting and Larkspur prefers the cool, moist summers, much farther north than our hot and humid summer months. In our zone 7 area, the seeds are planted no later than Thanksgiving weekend. Germination takes two or three weeks and the seedlings grow under winter's snow, ice and fallen leaves.

As greedy as I am for the plants to produce seed, I still cut some stems for vases in th…
Professional nature photographer Bryan Reynolds speaking in Muskogee

Saturday March 5, 2011 1:00 p.m
Friends of Honor Heights Park annual membership meeting
Garden Education Room, Honor Heights Park (next to the Gift Shop)
Information Connie Stout 918-682-6783, and

“Butterflies – Here Today Gone Tomorrow” is the title of Bryan Reynolds presentation this Saturday at Honor Heights Park.

“Everyone hears about the environmental threats to polar bears and manatees, but those animals do not live in our back yards,” Reynolds said. “Butterflies and moths are in our yards most months of the year and their conservation deserves attention.”

Reynolds grew up on a farm in Wisconsin and once when he visited his grandparents in MO, his aunt was making an insect display. He developed a passion for nature photography after he received his first camera and read “The Nature Photographer’s Complete Guide to Field Techniques”. He retired after 20 years in…