Showing posts from June, 2011

How about a rain garden

Rain gardens are probably not what you think. They are not just holes in the ground that collect rainwater and they are not places where gardeners put water-loving, tropical plants. In addition, they are not mosquito havens.

Plants are made up of over 90% water and suffer when conditions prevent them from having the amount of water they need. Weather-wise, the amount of water our gardens receive from Mother Nature is a feast or famine situation. Northeast Oklahoma receives an annual average of 44-inches of moisture and almost always has a month or two of drought conditions each gardening year. Rain gardens take advantage of both extremes in an ecological manner.

A rain garden is designed to capture and hold the water that naturally pours off your roof and flows across your yard. Several inches of amended soil in the rain garden basin holds the water for three days while it percolates into the ground. As an added ecological benefit, rain gardens clean pollutants out of the water as it per…

Butterflies add to my garden's beauty

The first time I read the opinion that butterflies and other animals in the garden made it come to life, I was perplexed by the thought. My focus was on improving soil, learning plants' survival needs and reading every garden book I could get through.

Now that I have more experience, I agree with that author. Gardening is about so much more than plants.

This week we have enough butterflies during the heat of the day that it is worth while to chase them with the camera. There were a couple of giant swallowtails out there, too, but they are so shy and difficult to photograph.

1st photo is Hackberry Emperor (I think). They do hang around on trees to eat sap. The hook is for a hammock and probably has sap around it.
Check these photos
Do you agree?

2nd photo is a Black Swallowtail on Verbena

3rd photo is what I mostly get photos of when chasing butterflies: The flower they just left.

4th photo is a Fiery skipper on a zinnia volunteer.


Turban squash is curcurbita maxima

Winter squash loves getting a good start in summer's heat just at the time when the summer squash is blooming and spreading. How many of these we grow depends on how much room we have in the garden.

Summer squash, all the zucchini varieties and shapes included, is picked and eaten while the seeds are small and the skin is soft. In contrast, winter squash grows all summer and is harvested when the outer skin is hard and the seeds are pretty big.
Summer squash is curcurbita pepo including zucchini, marrow, courgette, yellow,  crookneck, etc. This year I planted Trombetta from Renee's Seeds. It climbs but I put it into the garlic bed to crawl.

The four kinds of winter squash are: curbita pepo such as spaghetti and acorn squashes, curcurbita moschata such as calabaza,and cushaw (the ones I have mostly grown), curcurbita mixta such as butternut and curcurbita maxima such as hubbard, turban and banana. There are pumpkin-types in all four species.

Every summer when I'm out in the s…

Summer reading for nature lovers

Enthusiastic gardeners and nature lovers enjoy writing and teaching. They produce hundreds of books and videos each year. When requesting review copies, I ask for the ones that I think will appeal to a wide audience.

This list reviews books and a DVD published between 2008 and 2011. They are about garlic, projects for grandparents, attracting pollinators, vines, disastrous bugs and organic solutions for plant problems.

The information includes the publication information plus the full price and the online booksellers’ price.

Armitage’s Vines and Climbers by Allan Armitage. Published 2010 by Timber Press ( and 800-327-5680) 205 pages. $30 to $20.

Whether you prefer woody vines and climbers or herbaceous (ones that die back to the ground in the winter), Armitage’s wisdom will guide you to choose the best selections for the space you want to cover.

“Attracting Native Pollinators: Protecting North America’s Bees and Butterflies” by Xerces Society authors Eric Mader, M…

Rice Paper Plant is Tetrapanax papyriferus

This large-leaf, gorgeous plant is cold hardy in our area. The leaves can reach up to 1-foot across.
Rice Paper Plant, also known as Aralia or Fatsia papyrifera, will grow from 8 to 15 feet tall. In fact, it is cold hardy in zones 6 through 10, wants to be watered and is happy in sun or half sun/shade. Its name comes from the stem pith being used to make rice paper.

In the warmer zones its inclination to sucker and move around the garden become a problem. I've been told that it will spread here in zone 7, but, I can tolerate that. The place it is planted is in a privacy screen bed about half way across our 3 acres.

Top Tropicals, a Florida plant vendor says that the leaves grow up to 3-feet across but the ones I've seen here do not. They are probably evergreen in FL, too, but not here.

I have not had the pleasure of seeing one in bloom but evidently the white flowers are in umbels.
The genus Tetrapanax is from woodlands in South China and Taiwan. My experience has been that pla…

Applause - Kudos - Thank You!

The tour was a big success yesterday and we have the homeowners and gardeners to thank. So, here they are!
Thank you, muchas gracias, arigatô, grazie, merci, danke, Wa'-do, Sas efharisto, Askwali, Dziekuje.

Thank you in 465 languages.

Muskogee Garden Tour this Weekend

Each of the five gardens you will see on Saturday’s garden tour is distinctly different from the others. The homeowners have expressed their artistic and design talents in their front, side and back yards.
Muskogee Garden Club 2011 Garden Tour Saturday from 10 to 5 Tickets $5.00 available at all 5 homes on the tour
The Richardsons, 215 South 13th ST The Whitakers, 415 North 16th ST The Murphys, 4100 South Robb AV Jimmy Ginn, 801 North 45th ST The Tidmores, 4711 Howard ST
The home of Jimmy Ginn is a showcase for his landscape and design company, Grounds Keeper of Oklahoma ( Ginn’s main office is in Tulsa but his work takes him all over the state. His design ideas made the best use of his house lot.

The driveway retaining wall has a green strip on top that is accented with perennial Zebra Grass (Miscanthus sinensis 'Zebrinus') and Maiden Grass (Miscanthus sinensis).

Shortly after buying the house six years ago, Ginn designed a unique stamped concrete …

Oklahoma Frontier Drugstore Museum and Apothecary Garden

 This is an educational and entertaining stop if you find yourself in the Guthrie area. The museum has artifacts from early medicine and the garden is planted with medicinals.

The museum and garden opened in 1992 and their collections seem to grow and improve each year.
 Here's a link to their online information.

Guthrie was the first capital of OK and the downtown historic buildings are worth seeing. The candy store has free wifi and terrific coffee for a break from the heat and walking around.

Somewhere in my online research I saw that Guthrie calls itself the bed and breakfast capitol of Oklahoma. Here's that link, in case you want to extend your stay.

Friends of the garden

I wish everyone could come spend some time in our yard right now. Not that it's reached any level of perfection, but it is definitely having a beautiful moment. So many things are blooming - from leeks and tomatoes to lilies and campion.

We had a bit of rain today and a visitor on the back porch.
Wildlife is having a field day, too. There are baby bunnies scampering out from under bushes, baby mice running out of the vermicompost bin, and baby birds poking their heads out of birdhouses.

Do you know what Leaf Footed Bugs are? They are a kind of stink bug, which you find out when you hand pick them off of the poppy seed heads and leek flowers.

Insect Identification dot org is a great resource for identifying bugs you find and I used it to decide what they were so I knew whether to leave them of send them all to heaven.
Robert Durgy, Dept. of Plant Science, University of Connecticut wrote:

"They are members of the Hemiptera, the true bug family, order Coreidae. Leaf-footed bugs get t…

Driving me buggy!

Mosquitoes, flies, gnats - all of them drive me buggy. The only product that seems to work for several hours of gardening is Deep Woods Off.

In my search for an alternative, I tried a new product that is DEET free called BugBand DEET free insect repellent. The band is infused with the repellent and you wear it on your ankle or wrist.

The BugBand is supposed to protect against mosquitoes, ticks and other insects and our yard would put any product to the test. I wore the bug band on my ankle and worked out in the shade beds on hands and knees cleaning out beds under trees.

The repellent is plant based (geranium oil), made in the U.S. and is safe for children and pets.

So here's my result - the days I wore the band and did usual gardening, the band worked pretty well. The day I wore it to work in the woods, I was not bitten on the leg that had the band but I was bitten on the other leg.

The next day I did not wear it at all and got 15 mosquito bites, indicating that the BugBand provi…

Easy Planters

A shaded path and a dark patio corner can both be brightened with a planter filled with ferns. And a self-watering planter makes the entire project simple all summer long.

Self-watering planters are basically two compatibly sized containers, with the smaller one set into the larger one. Plants absorb water as they need it through their roots from the reservoir below.

The container that holds the plants has holes in the bottom plus an overflow hole in the side. A piece of plastic pipe can be put into a central bottom hole to help water enter the plant container from the reservoir.

The planting container is filled with moistened soil and plants. Then water can be poured into the pipe to fill the reservoir.

Simple, do-it-yourself, self-watering planter plans are available at and or you can purchase them from vendors such as Lechuza at or EarthBox at

The Lechuza products include designer ceramic and m…

Lechuza self-watering planter

My 3 bin Lechuza planter arrived and I put it together myself without a problem. If you are the mechanically minded type, this will not seem like much of an achievement. My talents lean more toward taking things out of the oven than assembling objects, following a set of instructions. But! the instructions were easy to follow.

This is a gorgeous planter. Easy to assemble and plant. Lechuza has a wide assortment of indoor and outdoor planters to choose from. If you are interested, here's the link.

Begonias for shady spots

In our garden, by the umbrella topped table, under two shade trees, pots of begonias bloom and bloom and bloom all summer, requiring nothing but regular watering. Angel Wing Begonias have long, cane-like stems and leaves shaped like the wings of an angel. 
My plants spend the summer outside in pots and then come in for the winter where they grace the plant shelf in the dining area. As the stems elongate, I cut them back and put the cuttings into soil for next summer's pots.

Since I'm always concerned that I'll have enough pots under the trees, I always grow too many starts and friends and family get the extra plants.

Did you know? There are over 1,000 species, mostly in the genus Begonia and 10,000 cultivated begonias.  The major groups include the fibrous-rooted, rhizomatous and tuberous-rooted begonias. 

The American Begonia Society (ABS) was born in 1932 during the economic depression.

Begonia semperflorens or wax begonias are the ones I used to grow as hanging house plants…

Garden Tour in Muskogee June 18

Muskogee Garden Club Garden Tour of 5 gardens
June 18, 10 to 5

About Hair 603 S York,
Blossoms 3012 E Hancock BL
Stay Home Services 103 N 37 ST.
And at participating homes on the day of the tour

Information 918-683-2373 and 918-687-6124

In the Founders Place district of historic Muskogee, master gardener Anita Whitaker has been gradually improving and changing her environment to suit the growth of a large family. Her garden is one of 5 on the upcoming garden tour.

The front yard by the driveway features a rose bed with over 100 varieties and a children’s garden with stepping stones made for each grand and great grandchild. Behind the children’s bed is a playhouse that was put in place in 1980.

Behind the fence that contains the roses, there is a swimming pool with gardens on two sides. Those beds contain assorted shrubs and flowers such as azaleas, ferns, holly and milkweed for Monarch butterflies. A p…