30 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 gardens would be disappointing without any Morning Glory, Moonflower or Hyacinth Bean vines.

Some gardeners prefer perennial vines such as Wisteria, Coral Honeysuckle and Passionflower because they are planted once and last several years.

Rate of growth – If you need a quickly growing vine to hide an eyesore such as a wood pile, there are perennial vines like Hops that grow 20 feet in one season and annual vines such as gourds and winter squash that will cover almost anything in sight over the course of a summer.

Climbing method is important because if you aren’t planting the vine on a pile of garden waste that it can climb, you will have to provide structure. Also, strong vines such as Boston Ivy can cause damage to a brick or wood wall.

Grapes on wires and arbor
 Grape and Passionflower vines have to be attached to their support wires by the grower until their stem tendrils grow to hold them in place.

Vines with leaf tendrils such as peas and Cup-and-Saucer vine just need a supporting structure nearby, such as bird netting or a chain link fence.

Lacking tendrils, tropical Mandevilla will twine its stems around the support structure.

Clinging vines climb using tendrils with adhesive tips to attach to surfaces. Some, like Wintercreeper, have small aerial rootlets on the stems that they use to cling to crevices or structures.

Potato vines can scramble over empty ground, cascade over the sides of a large pot or be trained to climb a pergola. Silver Lace Vine is a twining vine that will grow up to 35-feet in one season.

Hops vine planted on the south side of an old tool shed

Other considerations: Bougainvillea and roses have thorns; Wisteria, Hops and Crossvine produce suckers that have to be thinned every year. Climbing Hydrangeas take three years to become beautiful specimens.

Feathery Cypress Vine is ideal for a less-than-sturdy growing surface that you want to cover for the summer. There are 400 varieties of ivy to choose from if the available climbing surface is durable enough to carry their weight.

Wintercreeper is evergreen and comes in dozens of combinations of green and beige/white. A Clematis vine will grow on a stump, providing a month of flowers. Sun-loving Plumbago gives a season of light blue flowers.

Edibles always make a good choice when you just want a summertime annual covering. Gourds, cucumbers, melons, peas, pole beans, pumpkins and Scarlet Runner Beans are all beautiful.

Scented flowers add a lot to a summer landscape, including pollinating insects. Possibilities include: Jasmine, Moonflower, Honeysuckle, Sweet pea, Wisteria, Five-leaf akebia, roses and Silver Vine.

Purple Hyacinth Bean Vines planted at the base of a temporary support structure
Take your garden design to new heights by including vines this year.

27 March 2011

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.

Hops - new growth emerging thisweek
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 sucker all over the place. If you want to train it you must be vigilant in the spring. One author said to eat the early vine prunings like asparagus. We haven't tried that yet.

And, did you know that humulus is a member of the canabaceae family?

Also, since hops is used as a calming herb, it is sometimes used to help people come down from alcohol abuse. Check out Paghat for more lore.

26 March 2011

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 over the years. Sphinx moths provide pollination. Oh, and, no insect or disease problems are known.

The seeds I started in cells are ready to be re potted. Some are getting a small pot of their own and others I'm putting into a pot in small groups of seedlings since they seem to do better.

Perennials always get off to a slow start from seed so I'll have to wait until next spring, at the earliest, to experience the intoxicating scent of the flowers. Can't wait!

23 March 2011

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 food. As they move around, they step carefully to prevent leaving footprints.

Gnomes are smaller than humans but they can run, jump and move better than humans.

In the same way as animals, gnomes sense the world through smell, including types of trees, herbs, water, metals plus human and animal activity. Through their extrasensory perception, gnomes can sense which animals have been nearby, the weather, and natural disasters that are about to occur.

The garden gnomes most of us know about live in old gardens. But there are also Woodland, Dune, House, Farm and Siberian gnomes. Besides gardens, they make their homes in rabbit holes, and under tree roots. Farm gnomes sometimes live under haystacks. All types of gnomes prefer simply constructed homes with necessities such as a boot room, a water well, stove, and furniture.

Marriage becomes a consideration when the male gnome is about 100 years old. All gnome couples have twins.

When the twins turn 13, the father teaches the boys all about mushrooms, how to run and escape, how to whistle, and how to work in the trades such as woodwork and painting.

Girl gnomes learn cooking, spinning and the other home arts such as beeswax candle making. The men and boys make ceramics that are decorated by the girls and women. They also do glassblowing, metal work, carpentry, basket making and cloth making.

Gnomes speak their own language and have little to do with other beings such as elves, goblins, nymphs and fairies. Meddlesome trolls cause problems for most animals and humans but have no power over gnomes.

Gnome medicine is primarily naturopathic. Illnesses and injuries are remedied with herbs, vinegar and sorcery. These treatments must be effective since they live 400 years, even though they smoke a pipe and use mildly alcoholic beverages. They keep track of their age through the growth of an acorn planted on the day of their birth.

Many animals rely on gnomes to provide first aid. They remove ticks, cure cows of puncture wounds, save rabbits from traps, and repair broken limbs. Acupuncture is one of the common techniques used for healing.

Originally published in 1976, “Gnomes” was on the New York Times best seller list for a year. The new version is extensively illustrated with original art. The book is 8 by 12-inches with 224 pages, plus eight prints in a back pocket that are meant to be framed.

“Gnomes Deluxe Collector’s Edition” written by Wil Huygen with art by Rien Poortvliet, was published by Abrams, 2011. $30 from the publisher or $20 online.

21 March 2011

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 landscape styles. Furthermore, while a house is inert, a landscape is alive. New plants grow. Older plants die off. Fortunately, just as the main house is guided by a preservation philosophy to ensure that the layers of time and change are kept intact, so are the grounds. On the river-front lawn is the 18th-century ha-ha, the ditch that provided a nearly invisible barrier that kept large animals in grazing areas without disrupting the sweeping view. On the land-front lawn is the Victorian garden mound. A camellia planted about 1920 by Richmond Bowens, the descendant of seven generations of African Americans at Drayton Hall, survives as a key element of the gardens. This preservation approach to the landscape makes Drayton Hall exemplary among historic sites in the nation. According to Southern landscape historian Suzanne Turner, Drayton Hall has "the most significant, undisturbed historic landscape in America."

Visitors to the site today can explore various parts of the landscape through the River Walk along the Ashley River and the Marsh Walk along the salt-river marsh and the remains of 18th-century rice fields. A major initiative, The Heritage Landscape Project, seeks to tell a broader and deeper story of the people and place over time by taking advantage of these landscape assets. This project is made possible in great part thanks to a generous endowment established by Gail and Parker Gilbert of New York and Charleston.

Current Research - As part of Drayton Hall's 2006 Wood Family Fellowship, Carter Hudgins has begun to work with 18th- and 19th-century maps of the Drayton Hall property to understand the use and development of the surrounding landscape. The findings to date reveal an intricate arrangement of gardens, ditches, drains, and boundaries that reflect the manners in which John and Charles Drayton designed the site so that it operated as an interrelated whole, combining aesthetics with agriculture, water management, and plantation operations. Of special interest as evidence of this are several outbuildings, ditches, and water features not described in written records. In accordance with the Landscape Master Plan, we'll conduct future archaeological investigations at these sites to determine when and how they were used.

Well worth a visit when you are in that area!

20 March 2011

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 with the Natural Resources Defense Council and director of its waste management project. "When you have a company of this size making a commitment to a plant-based plastic, the market is going to respond."

There are other plant-based plastics available or in development, but Herskowitz said these are not environmentally preferred because they typically use plants grown solely for that purpose rather than using the estimated 2 billion tons of agricultural waste produced each year. And these alternative plastics cannot be recycled.

PET plastic is a go-to material for packaging because it's lightweight and shatter-resistant, its safety is well-researched and it doesn't affect flavors. It is not biodegradable or compostable but it is recyclable.

A completely plant-based PET could change the industry standard for plastic packaging. PET is used in beverage bottles, food pouches, coatings and other common products.

Traditional PET plastic is made using fossil fuels, including petroleum, a limited resource that's rising in price. By using plant material instead, companies reduce their environmental impact.


Seventh Generation is now packaging their liquid detergent in a cardboard bottle! The $`3 to $15 bottle contains super concentrated detergent that washes 66 loads of laundry.

Consumerist.com says, "On the outside, the new bottle looks as though it's made from the kind of cardboard used to make egg cartons — except it's smooth and flat. Inside, there's a plastic pouch that holds the detergent. Overall, the bottle — which still has a twist-off plastic lid — uses 66% less plastic than conventional laundry bottles. When empty, the bottle can be ripped in half and recycled with newspapers. The plastic bag is recyclable in many cities, too."

17 March 2011

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.
Giant Swallowtail in our garden last summer
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 the Herb of Grace when its leaves were added to holy water to bless sinners and keep them safe.

In Shakespeare’s garden, Rue was a sign of joy. In England it was called the judge’s plant because it was suspended over judges’ heads or on their desks to protect them from jail fever.

Rue has been used by and against witches, according to Michael Drayton. Aristotle said that the Greeks used Rue as an antidote to indigestion that bewitched them. A bundle of Rue was used as a witch finder.

Michelangelo, da Vinci and other Italian artists ate rue to sharpen their creativity and eyesight during prolonged working periods. The bitter taste was said to awaken their senses.

In World War Two, rutin, an extract of Rue, was used to treat high blood pressure and Rutin tea is still available. Rutin is also found in watercress, capers and orange peel. Crushed Rue leaves are used to cure skin problems such as cysts.

Rue is a member of the citrus plant family so it is its citrus oil that causes skin rashes. The same is true of orange, lemon, kumquat and lime oils. Rue’s cintronella scent repels dogs and cats.

As a garden plant Rue is a beautiful asset. The leaves are blue-grey and the flower clusters are bright yellow. It is suitable for a sunny, dry, xeriscape bed where it would receive regular but minimal water.

Giant Swallowtail caterpillar on Rue
Ruta graveolens has become naturalized and grows in the wild in many states, including TX, NC, AL, and CA.

Rue grows reliably from fresh seed so buy seeds marked for this year. The seeds can be planted directly into the flower bed in the fall or after the last frost. Usually the seeds are sown indoors over the winter and small plants are put out after the last spring frost.

I’ve also had some success taking cuttings in the fall and rooting them over the winter.

The plant is a great blue border plant that will grow to about 3-feet tall with woody stems. Prune the growing tips back after the summer flowers fade, to keep it bushy and full.

The Giant Swallowtail butterfly lays eggs on trees and herbs in the citrus or Rutaceae family including Navel orange, Rue, and Meyer's lemon.
Giant Swallowtail lays a single egg at a time.
The female Giant Swallowtail lays single eggs on the top of young leaves.
Here you can see the single egg laid on top of the leaf.
These butterflies have a wingspan of 4 to 6-inches. Their upper-side is dark with a yellow chevron and the wing’s under-side is yellow.

The caterpillar is called an Orange Dog by the citrus industry.

Plant source: www.mountainvalleygrowers.com; seed source: http://www.seedaholic.com/.

15 March 2011

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 garden tool selection, soil, free garden supplies, watering, pests and diseases, selling your extra garden produce, garden designs, growing fruit, container gardening, children's gardens, gardening myths, and recommended reading.

Some of the interesting items: How to make shady areas have more light (prune some branches), focused gardens such as no dig, square foot, lasagna and edible landscaping.

Vertical gardens: an explanation of how to accomplish gardening when you have little space plus plant selections (pole beans, cucumbers, peas, squash, climbing spinach, gourds, etc.).

Compost, free fertilizer: How to make a bin, compost tea, etc.

Insects: beneficial insects, pests, insecticides and disease control.

Vegetable variety recommendations run from page 94 to 165.

The next chapters include storing methods, growing to sell, herbs, fruit, and other helpful information.

The book is published by Lipenwald Inc. and is available from www.gcspecials.com for $14.95

14 March 2011

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 http://www.backyardnature.net/n/11/110313oc.jpg

Actually, those items looking like green flowers are nothing but calyxes, the white corollas having not emerged yet, or already fallen off. A close-up of some of the curiously "hooded" calyxes is shown at http://www.backyardnature.net/n/11/110313oe.jpg

It's strange about the corollas -- that on the hundreds of plants examined, only rarely were corollas seen emerging from their calyxes, though they did litter the ground below the plants. If a corolla was in place when the plant was slightly jolted, the corolla fell off. I've seldom seen such loosely attached corollas. I did find one still in place, though, its four violet-filamented stamens tipped with tan anthers, and a violet, fork-tipped style, as seen at http://www.backyardnature.net/n/11/110313od.jpg

That picture also shows better the remarkable "cap" atop a calyx in its lower, left corner.

Locally this plant is well known by the Maya, who mostly use the Spanish name for it, Albahaca de Monte, which means "Forest Basil." English speakers are bound call it "Wild Basil." It's OCIMUM CAMPECHIANUM, which means that it belongs to the same genus as Garden Basil, Ocimum basilicum, so our forest species is real basil and a real Mint Family member. Now that I think about it, its odor really is like very strong basil, with an herby undertaste.

Having the name, I could look up the plant on the Internet. Click here to read the rest
of this newsletter and previous ones. They are all fascinating.

12 March 2011

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 http://www.hazzardsgreenhouse.com/

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 macrourum White Lancer 1,000 seeds $85.80 Grass

P3198 Pennisetum macrouruna Tail Feathers 250 seeds $10.95 Grass

P3198V Pennisetum macrouruna Tail Feathers 1,000 seeds $41.75 Grass

P6549 Pennisetum orientale Tall Tails 100 seeds $9.85 Grass

P6549V Pennisetum orientale Tall Tails 1,000 seeds $86.90 Grass

P1721 Pennisetum setaceum (ruepelii) 250 seeds $9.85 Grass

P1721V Pennisetum setaceum (ruepelii) 1,000 seeds $36.17 Grass

P8096 Pennisetum villosum Cream Falls 250 seeds $6.55 Grass

P8096V Pennisetum villosum Cream Falls 1,000 seeds $21.95 Grass

P6337 Pennisetum villosum Feathertop 250 seeds $7.65 Grass

P6337V Pennisetum villosum Feathertop 1,000 seeds $26.40 Grass

10 March 2011

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 they want in their local garden center is to go to the garden center in the fall and tell them what they want to grow the next spring.

Proven Winners grows 95% of their plants from tissue culture and the plants are grown clonally. They prefer sterile plants, those that do not produce seed, because they do not have to be pruned as often to maintain their appearance over the summer and they flower more.

“Vista Bubblegum petunia is the best petunia choice for the southeast,” Schoellhorn said. “That plant went through two years of testing before it was introduced. It had to succeed in MI, NH, FL, CA and Germany.”

After a plant is selected, the tissue culture is grown into liners. Three growers provide rooted liners full of plant plugs to 8,000 growers.

Schoellhorn came to Proven Winners from previous career as an agricultural sciences professor and garden center owner. He lives in Gainesville, FL but his work keeps him on the move, travelling the world.

“The plants I’m working on now are for your 2012-13 gardens,” Schoellhorn said. “At the trial gardens in Gainesville, we grow everything on silver, plastic mulch over the winter so we can observe the plants’ tolerance to heat and cold.”

Schoellhorn said he is particularly interested in plants that can survive the hot nights and high heat of southern gardens. Most plants selected for and grown in the rest of the U.S. are dead by mid-summer.

“Annuals will look their best longer and keep blooming if they are fertilized regularly,” Schoelhorn said. “Liquid fertilizer is good for patio pots and greenhouse use. Slow release granules are good to apply to the soil”

Spray- on fertilizer needs to sit on the plants’ leaves 6-hours in order to be absorbed. If it rains or overhead watering is used, the fertilizer is washed into a nearby creek.

Slow release fertilizer works when moisture and soil microbes break it down and make the nutrients available to the plants. During periods of high heat, plants need more fertilizer, so use slow release twice each summer.

Good plants for the southeast include Goldilocks Rocks Bidens, Aubrieta, Alligator Tears Color Blaze Coleus, Blue Mohawk juncus or rush for aquatic gardens, Vertigo Pennisetum purpureum, Heliotrope Simply Sensational, Leucanthemum Daisy May, Gold Dust Mecardonia and Superbells Blackberry Punch .

“Try to get Superbells/Supertunias in the fall,” Schoellhorn said. “Plant them in pots and overwinter them inside. (They can tolerate 20 degrees.) Put them out in the spring and they’ll pop out.”

For our area he recommended a graceful, Mahogany-red fountain grass, Vertigo Pennisetum purpureum or Pearl Millet, that grows to 5-feet tall in one season.

09 March 2011

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 -
Perennial tall garden phlox
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.
Nepeta Walker's Low
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.

Trailing phlox
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?

05 March 2011

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?
Larkspur seedlings
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 the house - the flowers last about a week. They grow about 3 feet tall before they start going to seed.

Texas A & M photo (link)
Due to genetic testing, Larkspur is no longer classified as a Delphinium but is now Consolida. I wonder if they give a thought to it as they blow in the gentle late spring and early summer breezes.

I have never seen Larkspur seedlings in any garden center, have you? Maybe the wholesale greenhouses sell the liner trays to flower growers.

In the northern U.S., the plants can be bothered with blight and mildew but ours bloom so early that they have always been disease and problem free in our yard. See the Maryland Extension Service Fact Sheet for commercial growers tips. They recommend Consolida orientalis for commercial growers.

Seed sources
Rocket Larkspur - American Meadows
Giant Imperial, Choice,Consolida ajacis  etc. 1,000 seeds $2 - Swallowtail Garden
Tall Larkspur - Prairie Moon (catalog still calls them Delphinium)
Sublime Formula Mix plus individual colors - Johnny's Seeds
French Florist, Earl Grey, and more - Renee's Garden 

Include these beauties in your seed order so you can plant them this fall!

03 March 2011

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, honorheightsfriends@gmail.com and www.friendsofhhp.com

“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 the Air Force and returned to nature photography as a career.

He and his wife live in Lexington, OK but travel on photography expeditions and to give butterfly talks. His images have been published in books, post cards, calendars and magazines such as Outdoor Photographer, Nature Photographer, Mother Earth News, Discover, Highlights for Children, Birds and Blooms, and with the National Geographic Society (www.bryanreynoldsphoto.com).

His presentation on Saturday will be a photographic journey into the world of butterflies, especially Oklahoma’s.

“Oklahoma butterflies and moths are stunningly beautiful,” Reynolds said. “We have so many of the best, including the smallest in the world.”

Reynolds said he would talk about metamorphosis, what butterflies eat, mud -puddling, courting, butterfly eggs, mating and food plants. Each part of his talk will be illustrated by his own photographs.

“Most people don’t realize that brushfoot butterflies have six legs because they look like they have four,” Reynolds said. “The front two legs are very short and hairy. That’s why they are called brushfoots.”

When butterflies look like each other it is called mimicry. For example, black and eastern swallowtail butterflies mimic the pipevine swallowtail because the pipevine swallowtail is distasteful or poisonous to predators. Viceroy butterflies mimic Monarchs for the same reason.

“I will also talk about what it is like to do this work,” Reynolds said. “Kids love seeing the dangers of being a nature photographer.”

Butterflies of the World Foundation (www.botw.org) is a nonprofit founded by Bryan and Laura Reynolds with Dr. Raymond Moranz, a natural resource ecologist. They want to improve the conservation of butterfly habitat through education.

Their Foundation’s website is a rich resource of photos and information about Oklahoma butterflies. For examples, Reynolds’ photos of the male and female Diana Fritillary illustrate the dramatic difference between their appearances.

Reynolds will talk about how each of us can help with butterfly conservation. Some tips include: Plant shade trees, avoid using chemicals in gardens, plant butterfly nectar sources, and plant butterfly larval food plants. He recommends Wild Things Nursery for information and plants (www.wildthingsnursery.com, 405-382-8540 and wtnursery@yahoo.com)

“Oak leaves are eaten by nine butterfly caterpillars,” Reynolds said. “Butterfly and moth caterpillars are hard to find, but looking for their food plants can make it easier.”

If you would like to see a residential garden that was turned into a butterfly sanctuary, go to http://bit.ly/dNxcBe to see photos of Marilyn Stewart’s gardens.

Tips for designing a butterfly garden include: Put your butterfly garden in a sunny location, provide both caterpillar and adult food, put in shelter plants such as shrubs, tall perennials and annuals. Also, supply a water source, rocks for sunbathing, and a dish or saucer of wet sand, for puddling.

Friends of Honor Heights Park is a nonprofit that was formed to support the continuous improvement of the Park through fund raising, nature education and related activities. The event on Sat. is free and open to the public. Currently, the organization is raising money to build a butterfly sanctuary and teaching garden at the Park.