Showing posts from 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 a…

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 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…

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 releas…

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…

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 (

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 compos…

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 t…

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…

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.

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…

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.

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…

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.

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.

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 s…

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.

 If you can identify the flora, post to my blog or send an email to Thanks!

Blooming Today April 3 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 to see what's in each. Cute stuff.