30 April 2011

Tagetes lucida is Mexican mint Marigold or hot-weather tarragon

My Mexican marigold was added to the herb bed 4 years ago and each year I hope it returns. It's location is not ideal and our weather isn't either. (It's also called Mexican mint marigold, sweet mace, Spanish tarragon)

This winter I bought seeds and started them in the garden shed and they produced a significant number of seedlings. Good germination rate and great survival rate.

So now I have about 30 plants to scatter around the various beds which should delight the butterflies and skippers late this summer.

According to Alchemy Works "The Aztecs used it in ceremonies related to the dead, but Huichol Indians traditionally combined this plant with Nicotiana rustica in a smoking mixture used when taking peyote or other hallucinogens in order to induce clearer and less frightening visions. This magick herb needs lots of sun, enjoys humid heat, and can be grown in pots and brought inside in the winter. It has a nice spicy smell."

I like it because the pollinators are all over it and because its leaves are a perfect tarragon substitute. Its other uses listed above are outside my experience.

The Food Network has a recipe for Mexican mint marigold pesto. The ingredients are 1/4 cup Mexican mint marigold leaves, 2 cloves garlic, 1-T Parmesan cheese, 2-T pecans, 1/4 cup stock, 2-T olive oil, salt and pepper.

Texas Food and Wine Gourmet suggests their recipe for Mexican mint marigold tartar sauce for friend catfish. I has 3-cups mayonnaise, a can of tomatoes, a cup of V-8, a cup of Chardonnay, 1-Tablespoon Mexican mint marigold and several other ingredients. Here's that link.

The (wonderful) herb company, Mountain Valley Growers says this about it

Mexican marigold from Mt. Valley Growers
"Hardy to at least 5 degrees, and very easy to grow, it is often suggested as a garden substitute for French Tarragon (Artemisia dracunculus sativa). Hence two of the common names often associated with Tagetes lucida---Winter Tarragon and Spanish Tarragon.

Recently we compared Spanish Tarragon with its counterpart French Tarragon. We discovered the 'dragon' (dracunculus translated) associated with French Tarragon was missing completely from our Marigold.


The first part of our comparison was easy and basic. We ate fresh leaves of both plants from the garden. What we discovered by doing this held true for the remaining paces we put these two herbs through.

Finding #1: French Tarragon numbs the tip of the tongue while Spanish Tarragon stimulates the sweet taste buds. We added both herbs fresh to rice and boiled. Spanish Tarragon gave the rice a pleasant slightly anise flavor. French Tarragon was too strong for the subtly flavored rice and left us asking for salt.

Try 2 Tablespoons freshly chopped Spanish Tarragon with one-half cup brown rice.
Finding #2: Since the acquisition of the bread machine, all herbs tested for flavor usually find their way into bread. We used a Basic white French bread with no added sugar.

As a member of the herb blend, Fines Herbes, French Tarragon has traditionally been added at the end of cooking so that the flavor will not cook away. This just did not prove to be true. As with the rice, we learned that French Tarragon holds up well to prolonged cooking.

But, unless you like pepper in your bread leave out the French Tarragon. And, since the Spanish Tarragon lost almost all of its flavor, we discovered here are two herbs better suited to foods other than bread.

Finding #3: We already knew French Tarragon was great with our vinegar based potato salad. So this next challenge was for Spanish Tarragon.

Finding #4: The bland flavor of potatoes is enhanced greatly by the addition of Tarragon. French Tarragon gives this potato salad a spicy kick, and Spanish Tarragon contributed more of a fruity taste. Both are good, but different. Try both! The amount of Spanish Tarragon should be increased to 3 Tablespoons.

The last test was a little different. We made brownies!

Finding #5: Spanish Tarragon adds a special taste to chocolate that is subtle yet very right. Try 3 Tablespoons freshly chopped Spanish Tarragon to a recipe using 4 ounces of unsweetened chocolate.

French Tarragon was lost to the overpowering chocolate and yet the brownies had an odd off taste. Again, we learned that French Tarragon is easily overpowered.

While Spanish Tarragon may not be as spicy as French Tarragon, it can be used in most recipes calling for Tarragon with more than satisfactory results. It is definitely easier to grow and provides much more per plant to work with."

Pick up a pack of seeds or a plant at your local farmer's market. It's a lovely addition to the perennial herb bed.

28 April 2011

Composting Inside and Out by Stephanie Davies - book giveaway

Enter to win a copy of  “Composting inside & Out: 14 Methods to Fit Your Lifestyle.”
Leave your name and e-mail address in the comments section or send an e-mail to MollyDay1@gmail.com. Two winners will be selected through a random number drawing

There are many ways each individual can make a difference in the health of our planet.

In honor of Earth Day, the U.S. Postal Service released a sheet of forever stamps with 16 suggestions. Each stamp has one idea including: Buy local produce and reuse bags, plant trees, insulate the home, maintain tire pressure and compost.

Composting may be one of the easier suggestions since the process is simply piling up yard waste and letting it decompose. Other waste that can be added to compost include fruit and vegetable trimmings, manure, coffee grounds and tea bags, newspaper and the contents of your personal shredder.

Stephanie Davies is a physical therapist with an avid interest in composting. Her website is called The Urban Worm Girl at http://urbanwormgirl.com and (773) 355-4804. At the site, Davies promotes her worm parties and worm composting equipment.

In her new book, “Composting Inside and Out: 14 Methods to Fit Your Lifestyle,” Davies points out the importance of composting. Across the globe, topsoil is being removed by wind, rain, erosion and poor farming practices that take from the earth without giving back.

Humus is the organic matter that gives soil the healthy qualities needed for plant health, and by extension, our health. Without humus in the soil, plants cannot grow and provide us with the food nutrition we need.

“The most nutrient rich stage of humus is active . . . In this initial stage, the nutrients are readily available for most plant roots to access. The soil microbes have transformed it, creating the perfect texture for water retention and drainage, airflow and plant root penetration and support. Because stable humus can hold approximately 80 percent of its weight in water, it has drought resistant properties. This significantly reduces its likelihood for erosion and natural disaster in addition to increasing its growing potential. Humus is no longer being broken down at the stable stage and has been estimated to last thousands of years in the soil.”

You can easily get started with this environmentally sustainable effort using one or more of Davies’ 14 methods.

Enclosed bins are the most common composting option. They are wooden boxes with one removable wall or three-sided wooden boxes.

Put the compost container close enough to the house that you can easily take waste out to it from the kitchen and close enough to a water source that you can water it.

Many gardeners direct compost by digging holes in the garden and burying compost directly into the ground. If necessary, a compost pile can easily be hidden with a trellis of blooming flowers.

Many cities compost food wastes from schools and restaurants. See http://bit.ly/gt4WTN for a story about one program.

Composting using worms in a container rather than microbes in a compost bin or tumbler has become quite popular because you get the environmental points without needing the piles and bins of yard waste.

Many worm compost bins live in kitchens and basements inside homes and apartments. (Our worm bins are outside in the spring, summer and fall and in the garage only during the coldest winter months.)

Worm composting tips are on Davies’ site http://urbanwormgirl.com and at Organic Living Corner http://bit.ly/gF1nTb.

Worms eat kitchen scraps such as banana peels, vegetable scraps, and coffee grounds, as well as their newspaper bedding. Their waste is a highly valued fertilizer called worm castings.

It's easy and will reward you and your garden.

Enter the drawing to win a copy of  "Composting Inside and Out" by leaving your name in the comments section or sending me an email MollyDay1@gmail.com.
Due to the intense storms, our internet connection is abysmal and pictures will not load. Hopefully it will get back to normal sooner than later.

25 April 2011

Waterford Press has reference cards you'll want to take out to the garden and on hikes

Waterford Press produces simplified reference guides that introduce novices to nature, science, travel and languages.

Their Pocket Naturalist Guides range from animal tracks to wildflowers for individual states in the U.S. and for countries outside the U.S.

They sent me a few to look at - "Invasive Weeds of North America", "Bugs and Slugs", and "Beetles". Now that I've looked at their site and the quality of their materials, there are about a dozen more that I want/need.

These 6-page guides fold into a handy pocket size that's easy to take along and the plastic coating is infintely practical for outdoor use. $5.95 apiece. Available from local vendors, Barnes and Noble and Amazon.

"Bugs and Slugs" has photos of bees, ants, beetles, butterflies, moths, flying insects, grasshoppers, cicadas, true bugs, spiders, household insects, and other invertebrates. Each photo is clear with descriptions and details.
"Beetles" is a 2011 release.

"Beetles: The living jewels of the bug world, this guide introduces novices to over 100 of the most common and fascinating North American species. Sorted by habitat, this easy-to-use reference guide is ideal for novices and experts and provides a simplified introduction to this vast order of 350,000 species."
These are really cool for students of nature - all ages!

23 April 2011

Use mixed native grasses instead of traditional lawns

One of the big water hogs in residential neighborhoods is the traditional lawn. Many movements have begun to reduce the use of horticultural chemicals that are causing problems in streams, causing distortions of wildlife physical maturity (frogs with extra legs, etc.), and causing the extinction of many butterflies.

The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower center is reporting new research on the success of mixed native grasses used to replace traditional lawns grasses. The mixed native grasses require less mowing and as a result reduce the use of fossil fuels and pollution.

They require less water since they are adapted to your climate.

This isn't a new idea. Here's a website called Less Lawn with an article from 2001!

The University of TX at Austin has completed the recent research and their report is here.
Their suggested seeds:
"From our on-going research here at the Wildflower Center, we have found that a mix of
Bouteloua dactyloides (buffalograss),
Bouteloua gracilis (blue grama) and
Hilaria belangeri (curly-mesquite)) needs less mowing, watering and weeding and simulates nature's shortgrass prairies.
Although different species, these grasses have almost identically shaped leaves and color and produce a great-looking, even-textured, dense lawn.
They are available from native seed suppliers such as Native American Seed and other seed suppliers.
For every 1000 square feet you will need 2lb of buffalograss, 1½ lb of bluegrama and at least 4 oz of curly mesquite. "

The Brooklyn Botanic Garden also has recommendations for replacing traditional lawns with Sedge and Buffalograsses.

Or, how about replacing part of the lawn with a wildflower meadow? All About Lawns has good ideas.

The Ecological Landscape Association has suggestions for Californians who would be willing to make an environmentally sustainable change.
For Florida gardeners, here's a link with suggestions.

Wherever you live and how ever  you garden, consider reducing the environmental burden of your traditional lawn space.

20 April 2011

Tomato growing tips from Lisa Merrell - Tomato Mans Daughter

Growing tomatoes is a passion in the U.S. Having the earliest, the biggest, and the sweetest is one of our competitive sports. Successful gardeners seem to have a secret they will not share and a bad year for tomatoes is an opportunity for listing the reasons such as temperature, rainfall, bugs, etc.

According to the experts, tomatoes need lots of light until the heat of the summer arrives, and then they need shade cloth to protect them from scalding. The Tomato Man’s Daughter, Lisa Merrell still uses her dad’s methods for growing (www.tomatomansdaughter.com).

Start by finding a place with 6 to 8 hours of sun. Then from July, until the end of the growing season, plan to cover the plants with shading fabric.

Tomatoes can be grown in large containers but many varieties’ root systems are large and require deep soil, so select a patio variety for best results. Consistent watering will help prevent splitting and blossom end rot.

Put mushroom compost or other compost plus a pound of composed manure and a tablespoon of Epsom salts into the planting hole before putting in the plant. If your tomatoes are already planted, scratch the Epsom salts and manure into the surrounding area of soil and water it in.

If you prefer to avoid animal manure, Merrell recommended this mixture: 1-Tablespoon blood meal, one-half cup bone meal, one-half cup greensand, 1-Tablespoon Epsom Salt, 1 whole banana, and 2-crushed calcium tablets.

Tomato plant stems should be buried deeper than they are growing in their original pots. All but the top leaves are removed and the bare stem is planted into a deep hole, leaving only the top leaves exposed. Some gardeners lay the leafless stem on its side in a trench instead of digging a deep hole. Either way, the advice is to bury the stem. Tomatoes develop roots all along the stem.

Plant tomatoes 3-feet apart so they have room to grow and have air circulation.

When the plants are 3-feet high, remove the leaves from the bottom of the stem to avoid the diseases that water splashing onto the leaves can cause. Also, remove leaves that look distressed or are turning yellow from age.

To prevent common problems such as cracking fruit, water regularly and deeply rather than only surface sprinkling. In weeks without rain, water twice a week with a soaker hose or the equivalent of one-to-two gallons of water per plant per week. A one-gallon plastic jug with a drip hole in the bottom can be put in place at planting time and filled twice weekly.

Fertilize twice a month with manure tea or alfalfa tea (made by soaking a handful of alfalfa pellets in 5 gallons of water) or apply a foliar spray made of a combination commercially available seaweed and fish emulsion (read labels for proper amounts) and a cup of dissolved Epson Salts per gallon.

Mulch tomatoes with alfalfa straw or hay.
Shake each plant gently twice a day after flowers appear to help set fruit.

Spray with Bordeaux before any signs of disease appear. (Now)
Use Bacillus Thuringiensis to control tomato hornworms and Pyrethrum for spider mites and aphids.

Blossom end rot, a water-soaked spot on the bottom of the tomato that turns black, is caused by extreme weather during a growth spurt. Foliar feeding with liquid calcium can correct the problem.

Merrell’s growing tips, sale dates and locations are on her website www.tomatomansdaughter.com, tomatomansdaughter@gmail.com, or you can call her at 918-446-7522.

A new nursery in Tulsa opened last month and has all the organic fertilizer ingredients Merrell suggests: Grogg’s Green Barn, Grogg@groggsgreenbarn.com, www.groggsgreenbarn.com, 10105 East 61st Street, and 918- 994-4222.

18 April 2011

Flowering Plants - A Pictorial Guide to the World's Flora

A fascinating new book with 288 pages and 700 illustrations, "Flowering Plants" is unique among floral references.
The book covers botanical information on over 100 flowering plant families.

Flowering Plants: A Pictorial Guide to the World's Flora is divided into the two flowering plant groups: the dicotyledons, or dicots, which typically have two leaves in the seed's embryo, and the monocotyledons, or monocots, which typically have one leaf in the seed's embryo.

Each entry is presented across two or more pages with color illustrations that show the plant's anatomy, with all parts labeled in Latin and English.
Some of the 100 plant families in the book include: Amaranthaceae (Amaranths, Celosias and Cockscombs), Apiaceae/Umbelliferae (Carrot family), Begoniaceae (Begonias), Boraginaceae (Borage and Forget Me Not family), Caryophyllaceae (Carnations) and Geraniaceae (Geraniums and Pelargoniams).

Now, on to what makes this paperback book so special.

Let's take the Boraginaceae because I love Borage but have difficulty growing it and want to learn more about it. The family ranges from large tropical trees to widely distributed herbs most of which have stiff hairs on bulbous bases. They grow widely in the Mediterranean and the warm parts of Asia, from sea level to 4,000 feet.

The corolla is usually tubular or trumpet shaped. Various parts of the plants are used as lumber, edible fruit, dye, edible herb, and ornamentals.

The second page of the family's description is comprised of illustrations.

The book is more for those of us who want to learn more science about plants rather than it being just a book of pretty photos of garden beds and pots. And, the botanical language will require a dictionary nearby to help me get the most out of the contents.

I'm looking forward to browsing the pages and understanding more about the world of plants that we grow and love to grow.

Firefly Books is the publisher, 2011. Here's their link.

17 April 2011

Mulches - which ones and why

Soil science was not my field of study in college so I defer to those who know what they are talking about. Lee Reich knows of what he speaks and he wrote about mulch for Fine Gardending Magazine in an article called "Use Mulch to Manage Your Soil Conditions".

Below are excerpts and here is the link to the entire column.

Mulch has many benefits

"The major reason gardeners use mulch is to snuff out weed seeds by shading them. This allows the roots of desirable plants to access soil, water, and nutrients without undue competition. Mulches free of viable weed seeds—such as leaves, good compost, and wood chips—are best. Weed seedlings that sprout in any organic mulch are easily done in if you periodically fluff up and flip over the mulch with a pitchfork.

The second reason to mulch your garden is to conserve water. Organic mulches soften the impact of raindrops so that water can effectively permeate the soil, and all mulches, organic or other­wise, limit evaporation of soil moisture.

The benefits of mulch do not end with water and weeds. As organic mulches decompose, they promote healthy soil, which, in turn, helps fend off disease.

Mulches also regulate soil temperature, acting as insulation to prevent the alternating freezes and thaws that can heave plants out of the ground. Such ground-insulating mulches are espe­cially useful in keeping the roots of newly planted trees and shrubs growing as long as possible into autumn, and keep the soil beneath evergreens unfrozen deeper and longer so that their roots can absorb moisture in winter.

You must consider the plants being grown when you choose your mulch. As organic mulches decompose, they release nutrients that will affect soil fertility. Every year, I blanket my vege­table garden with an inch or two of compost. This mulch is rich in nutrients, and its dark color helps warm the soil so that I can plant early. At the other extreme, in my wildflower garden, I mulch with wood chips. They smother weeds and because they decompose more slowly than compost, they keep the cone­flowers, yarrow, and liatris on the relatively lean diet they enjoy. A tidy blanket of dark brown buckwheat hulls looks good for a more-formal garden of delphiniums and roses, but it won’t provide the same amount of nutrients as compost, so I add some fertilizer to nourish my heavy feeders.

Black plastic mulch, though marginally functional, is unattractive and must be covered with some other mulch, usually wood or bark chips. Weeds will invade that layer anyway, and the mulch will slide off to reveal an ugly, black underbelly. Roots can suffer oxygen starvation beneath plastic mulch, and the soil can overheat in hot summers."

If you aren't mulching, now is the right time to begin!

Dr. Reich's book credits include "Landscaping With Fruit", "Weedless Gardening", "The Pruning Book", and "Uncommon Fruits for Every Garden." Here's a link to his site.which includes a northeast U.S. gardening blog.

15 April 2011

Comstock Seeds revived by Baker Creek Seeds

Today I spent some quality time sorting seed and plant catalogs. Two grocery bags full will be recycled one way or another and the rest will be saved (much too long but with good intentions).

In my system, the 2011 catalogs replace the older versions and if I didn't receive a new one, I keep the old ones of interest. The Comstock Seeds catalog stuck out as one I hadn't seen before.

A little Internet research reveals that Missouri's Baker Creek Seeds bought the 200 year old Comstock in June 2010 (Ferre & Co - Wethersfield CN Seed Gardens). And, so far the recent reviews are good. (The reviews from 2002 through the buyout are pretty bad overall since the business was languishing.)

Have you ordered from Comstock yet? Their blog is here and they are posting photos of their progress toward restoring the buildings.

At the store itself, Baker Creek owners have plans to restore the building to its 1820 glory with costumed clerks.

Mother Earth News has the story.
"Preserving the historic flavor of the seed company, Comstock, Ferre will serve as a real-life museum of seed business in the old days. And in a time when Connecticut is losing about 7,000 acres of land per year to development, Comstock, Ferre aspires to develop a farm educational center and garden on the 2 acres of land surrounding the store. Thus, the company hopes their presence and educational potential will help reverse this trend.

Comstock, Ferre offers traditional brands of heirloom garden seeds through their store and, now, through their website. In addition to selling the store’s namebrand heirloom garden seeds, they also offer Baker Creek heirloom seeds, which are open-pollinated, pure and natural, and non-GMO. We support the efforts of Comstock, Ferre and Baker’s Creek to preserve and spread heirloom seed varieties, which maintains genetic diversity for generations to come."

Jodi Torpey wrote on the Vegetable Gardener
"The catalog proves everything old is new again. Its pages are filled with beautiful colorized photos dating from the 1920s and the old-fashioned seed illustrations are from the company’s archived antique seed packets. The growing instructions, from the 1933 Comstock, Ferre & Co. catalog, add a lovely bit of horticultural history."

The online catalog is at http://comstockferre.com/shop/ or call to request a paper catalog 860-571-6590.

13 April 2011

Zone 7 gardens - choosing the best trees and shrubs

Oklahoma’s USDA Zone 7 gardens are not southern gardens like the ones in Georgia but they are not western Arizona gardens or northern gardens either. The USDA Zones were assigned to areas based on average minimum winter temperatures.

Perennial plants that are cold hardy to zone 7 are also cold hardy in zones 8 and 9 and many plant tags indicate a range of zones. But there are other considerations for successful selection, including heat, humidity, snow cover, hours of sun and soil.

Trees and shrubs, the perennial foundation of a garden, provide the central bones that flowers and grasses grow around.

Each variety of a shrub such as Crapemyrtle is chosen for its leaf or flower color, or for the beauty of its peeling bark. For example, Pocomoke grows 3-feet and Kiowa grows 30-feet tall.

Some research will help you select the right shrubs and trees.

Ashe Magnolia (Magnolia ashei) trees are hardy from zones 6 to 9 and grow 10 to 20 feet tall with 12-inch fragrant flowers and 24-inch long leaves. Shady, moist location.

Bell-Flowered or Taiwan Cherry (Prunus campanulata) tree has rose flowers followed by small red fruit for the birds. Its maximum height of 20-feet makes it an ideal tree for small gardens. Okame and Dream Catcher varieties are hardy in zones 5 to 8.

Flowering Crabapple (Malus) Mary Potter has white flower clusters that attract butterflies. Grows 10 feet tall and 20 feet wide. Prairiefire has pink flowers and tiny red fruit. Grows 20-feet tall and wide in full sun. Zones 4 to 8.
Aesculus includes both Buckeye and Chestnut. The small understory Red Buckeye (Aesculus pavia) can be grown either as a single shrub or as a screening hedge. The red, tube-shaped flowers attract hummingbirds. Grows 12-20 feet tall; needs afternoon shade.

Abelia x grandiflora: Kaleidoscope, Little Richard and Rose Creek grow 3 feet tall and wide. The leaves are lime green with white edges. Soft pink flowers. Container plants, hedge or foundation plants. Attract hummingbirds and butterflies. Zones 6 to 9; evergreen in Zone 7.

Witherod Viburnum (Viburnum cassinoides) is a round shrub with arching branches and dark green leaves that turn red in the fall. The new shoots are chocolate colored, the white flowers are 2-inches across. The fall berries are pink, blue and purple. Grows 6 feet tall and wide.

Mock Orange (Philadelphus), hardy in zones 5 to 9, is a deciduous shrub that likes some shade. Avalanche is multi-stemmed and grows 4-feet wide and tall with white, scented flowers. Good for foundation plantings, borders or low screening.

Needle Palm (Rhapidiophyllum hystrix) is noted for winter hardiness to zone 6, if it is planted in a protected spot out of the wind. It has a rounded shape with needlelike spines and dark green leaves. Each blade can grow to 3-feet across. Grows 6 feet tall and wide. Needs mulch in harsh winters.

Japanese aralia, Fatsia japonica, loves moist shade and will grow 6 to 8-feet tall with lobed leaves a foot wide. Good patio plant. Mulch roots in winter.

Smoketree, Cotinus coggygria 'Velvet Cloak' is a shrub that can be pruned into a tree form. The flowers are billowy and look like smoke. 10-feet tall with purple leaves.

More ideas

Books by Michael Dirr: “Dirr’s Trees and Shrubs for Warm Climates: An Illustrated Encyclopedia” and “Hardy Trees and Shrubs”. www.TimberPress.com

Online - Missouri Botanical Garden at http://www.mobot.org/ and Plants of Merit at www.plantsofmerit.org/index.cfm/fuseaction/plants.main/index.htm. St. Louis is Zone 6a and their recommended plants are good selections for northeast OK.

Oklahoma Gardener Magazine - http://statebystategardening.com/ and 888-265-3600

Oklahoma Proven Selections http://oklahomaproven.okstate.edu/ and http://www.oklahomagardening.okstate.edu/

What are your favorite trees and shrubs? Will you be adding any this spring?

11 April 2011

Spring plant sales - Herb Fest and Spring Fest

I love the festive way some people attend festivals. Check out those incredible boots. I want some.

Dogs everywhere at both festivals - all sizes. Some being carried but most on leashes.
 This vendor was very popular with slightly lower prices than some of the others.
 Here's someone who came prepared to buy buy buy,
 Newspaper pots with 6 veggie seedlings in each.

Glorious Bouganvilla - so tempting ...

The Tulsa Garden Center's SpringFest had more vendors but most were represented at both festivals.

Check out this sweetie

I bought another Baptesia from Wild Things - can't resist their plants.
 Hats and baskets from Africa "It takes them 5 days to make one" is the pitch.

10 April 2011

Alternatives to invasive plants

What's invasive and what is pleasingly spreading? Daffodils multiply like crazy but few gardeners complain about them. Tall Verbena (Verbena bonariensis) tries to take over my flower beds from year to year and has to be thinned annually.

Queen of the Prairie (Filipendula rubra) can be invasive when growing conditions are favorable. So can Vinca major Variegata in our shade beds.

The Bee Balm (Monarda didyma), I planted from a few seeds 10 years ago wants to be the queen of every place it is put. Oh, and then there's tall Phlox Paniculata spreading everywhere!

Have you ever planted something that tried to take over your garden either by spreading rhizomes, dropping too many seeds or just growing quickly?

Suzanne DeJohn posted native alternatives to these invasives at her site. Excerpts below.
Click over here to read the rest of the article.

Native, Noninvasive Ground Covers/Low-Growing Plants

Pussytoes (Antennaria dioica or A. planaginfolia), wild ginger (Asarum canadense), green-and-gold (aka goldenstar, Chrysogonum virginianum), running strawberry bush (Euonymus obovatus), wild strawberry (Fragaria virginiana), wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens), creeping juniper (Juniperus horizontalis), partridgeberry (Mitchella repens), Allegheny spurge (Pachysandra procumbens), creeping phlox (Phlox stolonifera), Solomon's seal (Polygonatum biflorum), creeping sedum (Sedum ternatum), and foamflower (Tiarella cordifolia).

Native, Noninvasive Shrubs
Sweetshrub (Calycanthus floridus), cinnamonbark (Clethra acuminata), Eastern wahoo (Euonymus atropurpureus), strawberry bush (Euonymus americanus), fothergilla (Fothergilla gardenii and F. major), hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia and H. arborescens), drooping leucothoe (Leucothoe fontanesiana), spicebush (Lindera benzoin), Virginia sweetspire (Itea virginica), mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia), mock orange (Philadelphus inodorus), ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius), flame azalea (Rhododendron calendulaceum), American Snowbell (Styrax americana), and many viburnums, including maple-leaf viburnum (Viburnum acerifolium), witherod viburnum (V. cassinoides), highbush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum), arrowwood viburnum (V. dentatum), and American cranberrybush viburnum (Viburnum trilobum).

Native, Noninvasive Trees
Serviceberry (Amelanchier arborea), paw paw (Asimina triloba), river birch (Betula nigra), Eastern redbud (Cercis canadensis), fringetree (Chionanthus virginicus), yellowwood (Cladrastis kentuckea), pagoda dogwood (Cornus alternifolia), American smoketree (Cotinus obovatus), persimmon (Diospyros virginiana), Carolina silverbell (Halesia carolina), umbrella tree (Magnolia tripetela), sourwood (Oxydendrum arboreumtupelo), tupelo (Nyssa sylvatica), and black haw (Viburnum prunifolium).

Native, Noninvasive Perennials
Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis), swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata), false indigo (Baptisia australis), lanceleaf coreopsis (Coreopsis lanceolata), purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea), joe-pye weed (Eupatorium fistulosum), wild geranium (Geranium maculatum), ox-eye sunflower (Heliopsis helianthoides), gayfeather (aka blazing star, Liatris spp.), cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis), and black-eyed susan (Rudbeckia hirta).

Native, Noninvasive Vines
Trumpet vine (Campsis radicans), American bittersweet (Celastrus scandens), virgin's bower (Clematis virginiana), Carolina jasmine (Gelsemium sempervirens), trumpet honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens), Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia), purple passionflower (Passiflora incarnata), and American wisteria (Wisteria frutescens).
DeJohn recommends checking with your state's Native Plant Society for more recommendations.
Arkansas Native Plant Socity: http://www.anps.org/
North Carolina Native Plant Society: http://www.ncwildflower.org/
Oklahoma Native Plant Society: http://www.usao.edu/%onps/
Missouri Native Plant Society http://www.missourinativeplantsociety.org/
New Mexico Native Plant Society http://npsnm.unm.edu/
Texas Native Plant Society http://npsot.org/
Virginia Native Plant Society: http://www.vnps.org/

Read her article for more common invasives to avoid. The website is Suzanne's Farm and Gardens in VT.

09 April 2011

Weeping Peach Tree

We were in Tulsa today and a friend pointed out an historic tree that has been growing in the same place for about 100 years.

It is growing with the protection of a stacked rock wall and its branches gracefully spill over the wall.

The flowers are double blooms.
Here's the house where the tree has lived for such a long time.
And, there is a creek next to the house with flowering trees.

So, we know that a weeping flowering fruit tree is a grafted tree and this one is surprisingly short. The reason is the condition of the trunk and the grafting location. The photo is enlarged so you can see this tree's survival tactics.

Plants are amazing.

07 April 2011

Lovage - Levisticum officinalis - is a useful herb and a beautiful plant for your garden

Lovage is a beautiful and useful foliage plant for any sunny or partly shady garden space in zones 4 to 8. A true perennial, it will return every spring for years. The roots are divided every few years, like rhubarb. It needs a dormant winter so it rarely succeeds in warm climates.

Used as a kitchen herb for hundreds of years, Levisticum officinalis is a key ingredient in Italian cooking. In the spring and early summer, the leaves taste like celery though in late summer they become bitter. And, like celery, Lovage adds a salty flavor to salad dressing and prepared dishes.

The stems are cut in April for candy. Boil the stems until tender, drain and dry. Lay them in a syrup made of equal parts sugar and water and leave it there for 3 days. Then re-heat it without boiling. Put the stems in a slightly warm oven until dry.

Candied Lovage stems
In Eastern Europe the chopped leaves are added to soups, particularly in Romania. English cooks put the leaves into potato cooking water in meat marinades.

The hollow stems are blanched and eaten like asparagus or candied for a dessert and used as cocktail straws. In Indian cooking, where it is called Kausuri Methi, the leaves are roasted before being used in curry dishes. Their research says that it lowers cholesterol and blood sugar, tones the skin and cures dandruff.

In other countries the leaves are dried and made in to tea used to aid digestion, ease stomach troubles and as a diuretic. Lovage tea is thought to be an antiseptic that can be used on wounds.

Historically, it was sent on sea voyages because the vitamin C content is high enough to prevent scurvy. Country inns put Lovage leaves into the shoes of travelers to ease their foot pain.

Of course, it was once used in love potions though the name actually comes from love ache, with ache being the name for parsley. Today, the essential oil of Lovage, angelic acid, is extracted for use by food, beverage, perfume and tobacco industries.

The root is thick and fleshy, like a parsnip. The plants grow up to 6-feet tall with dark green, aromatic, shiny leaves. In addition to being used fresh in the spring, the leaves are harvested in the fall for dried cooking herbs.
Our Lovage grew 6 feet tall last year
To freeze the leaves, blanch them in boiling water for a minute, and then put them directly into ice water to stop the cooking. Drain well and store in plastic bags. Mince it as you need it for casseroles, soups and stews.

The yellow flower clusters arrive mid-summer with their characteristic carrot family umbel appearance, similar to Queen Anne's Lace. In the garden Lovage is known to keep insects away.

When it goes to seed, the seeds are collected and dried to use in baked goods or ground as a cooking herb. They taste similar to celery seed. The seed heads are also dried and used in dried flower arrangements.

Lovage grows wild in Scotland, England, Asia and Europe. Its range in the U.S. includes CO, NM, MO, OH and PA (http://plants.usda.gov/java/profile?symbol=LEOF).

Lovage can be grown from root divisions (by dividing a mature plant) or from seeds planted in the early spring.

Levisticum officinale, seeds are available from swallowtailgardenseeds.com, ($2 for 150 seeds), and www.horizonherbs.com, ($3 for 100 seeds). Plants are available from thegrowers-exchange.com, $5 each.

When shopping for seeds and plants, take care to avoid buying Water Lovage, Oenanthe crocata L. since it is not edible.

Lovage prefers moist but well-drained soil and is one of the few herbs that can be successfully grown in part shade.

05 April 2011

Can you Identify these wildflowers?

We went for a walk at Greenleaf State Park yesterday morning and saw these wildflowers. Do you know what they are? The wind was gusting at 50 miles an hour so the images aren't my best, but give it a try.

Wildflower #1 leaf form

Wildflower #1 with flower bud

Wildflower #2

Wildflower #3 has a very light pink flower

Wildflower #4 has woody stems and this pretty red bud - not a redbud tree of course
the old road is a surreal sight
nice paths to walk
Woody Woodpecker was here

 If you can identify the flora, post to my blog or send an email to mollyday1@gmail.com. Thanks!

02 April 2011

Blooming Today April 3 2011

Lilac (Syringa)

Last winter's Paperwhite Narcissus planted into the beds

Snowflakes (Leucojum aestivum)
Great information about snowflakes at this link

Purple Iris - this one smells like grapes


Hyacinths with pink tulip

Love the curve of the lower petals on this tulip

What a great season - the garden is beautiful every day now.

01 April 2011


Growums sent me a sample container of their new product.
They have come up with a really clever packaging idea to encourage adults and children to garden together.
Growums put together a plastic cup containing 8 peat pellets for starting seeds,
4 packets of seeds and 4 plant tags with child-friendly pictures on them.

Each container has a theme. The one I received is "Taco Garden". Other gardens in a container are: Herb Garden, Pizza Garden, Ratatouille Garden, Salad Garden and Stir fry Garden.
The directions are to plant the seeds in the pellet and plant the sprouted seeds into a container or garden bed.

Click over to http://www.growums.com/ to see what's in each. Cute stuff.