Showing posts from August, 2011

Phytolacca americana L. – American Pokeweed

OK First, click on this link and listen to the ode written about a native weed. The birds plant it and I pull it up when I see it. If it isn't destroyed it will put down a root that grows to the center of the earth. Some gardeners love poke weed, grow it or at least leave it in place where the birds planted it. It's just too prolific for my taste.
Poke weed has many names: pokebush, polk salad (as in the song above), inkberry, etc. Benjamin Franklin used the juice of mature berries as ink for a quill pen and he called it Inkweed. Early American colonists used the crushed berries as a purple dye. Plus, they fermented the juice and used it to spike cheap wine. (See Wildflowers of the Escambia - fabulous site -
Locals like to harvest the young leaves in the spring, then boil them in two or three changes of water to remove the poisonous phytolaccatoxin and phytolaccigenin. The boiled leaves are called poke salad.
The birds, who love to eat the seeds and re…

Old favorites - Perennial Phlox and Obedient Plant

Obedient Plant, False Dragonhead, Physostegia virginiana is the flowering spikes on the right in the photo and
Phlox paniculataGarden phlox, Perennial phlox is on the left.
If you have grown Obedient Plant, you'll call it disobedient plant in great-weather years. In summers that are bad for gardening and gardeners (like this one) it comes up and blooms a bit but not as wonderfully as it will next year. Because if there is anything that keeps gardeners going, it is hope and trust about next year's gardening seasons.

Perennial Phlox, of course is a backbone of any large garden. It is reliable, spreads and blooms its head off, bringing butterflies and other pollinators by the dozens.

While we were gone on vacation, ours turned brown to the ground but I know that pruning them this winter will ensure their success again next year.

By the way, researchers say that the least disease prone Phlox varieties are: David, Windsor, Alpha, Blue Boy, Prime Minister, Orange Perfection, Star…

Reconsider Buxus, Box, Boxwood

The string of 117-degree days and drought took its toll on gardeners and gardens alike.

Driving around, you notice dead and dying shrubs that could not withstand the heat even if they were watered.

Whether you lost young plants with shallow roots or older shrubs that were vulnerable, removing them will provide an opportunity to choose something new.

Full shrubs make beautiful hedges and privacy barriers as well as provide a background for fountains, pots and statuary. Fall is the ideal time to plant new shrubs since they grow their roots in the cold months.
Hedges emphasize and decorate entrances, can be used to prevent people from cutting across the lawn, will hide an air conditioner and can outline a driveway. Choosing a slow-growing, low maintenance shrub such as boxwood means minimal maintenance.

In the family of boxwood, box or Buxus there are 110 sizes, shapes, leaf forms and colors to choose from. Plus the alkaloids in Buxus keep deer away. The varieties can be mixed to form gre…

Denver Botanic Gardens in late August

The daytime highs are in the upper 90s in the Denver area. At night, of course they get a sweet cool down but walking anywhere when it's above 80 degrees is less comfortable for us and then add the 6,000 feet change in altitude and you have the formula for a 1.5 hour tour instead of an all day experience.

Here are a few shots from that beautiful place, the Denver Botanic Gardens.

 The entrance is across from the free-parking garage.
 The 23 acres are dotted with theme gardens to wander.

Many of the plants in flower were the same as we grow in zone 7 Oklahoma but about a third are species that can't take the amount of moisture and humidity we have.

While some flowers were fading from the heat and the late-August season, the beauty of the gardens is remarkable.

We noticed how large the plants were and the number of flowers they had in a summer like this one. Other gardeners we met wondered what they use to fertilize!

Several basil varieties were in bloom in the herb garden along w…

High Impact Low Carbon Gardening by Alice Bowe

Timber Press published this book for new gardeners who have the desire  to bring their green consciousness into their gardening practices. The author, garden designer Alice Bowe, writes a garden column for The Times in the UK, writes for magazines and appears on British tv's Gardener's World. Her website has a bunch of intriguing links that I'll want to read - Check it out here

Chapter titles from the book reveal how complete and thorough it is
Improving your garden's ecological credentials
Managing essential resources: Water and compost
Picking materials for paths and paving
Covering ground with decks and lawns
Choosing materials for boundaries and structures
Basic principles of sustainable plant design
Preparing soil and planting
Selecting plants for challenging conditions
Substituting new alternatives for classic favorites
Gardening with wildlife in mind
Growing your own food and cut flowers
Maintaining the greener garden
Incorporating advanced features and ideas


The Power of Blue

Back in the 1980s a study was published saying something about why blue walls in home kitchens help people lose weight. So we painted our kitchen with a tint of blue. It was certainly a pretty color for a space where we spent so much time but it did not seem to help us with our weight.

Fast food restaurants love orange and yellow because it makes people eat faster. Blue is supposed to help diners calm down, eat more slowly, and feel full with smaller portions. A good tip for those restaurants that serve quarter-cup size servings of perfectly prepared dishes.

In college we studied color theory - the impact of color on mental health, etc. Sir Charles Lemieiux and Dr. Max Luscher were two names we knew back in the day. Now, there is information about how to make people buy from your website using specific colors.

How is this related to horticulture?
At the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) labs in Peoria, Ill., scientists are looking into using the healthy chemicals that turn flower…

Lycoris squamigera, Amaryllis belladona, Naked Ladies, Surprise Lily, Resurrection Lily, Hardy or Summer Amaryllis

The appearance of Naked Ladies is a bright spot in the garden at this time of year.

Two separate plants are sold as Naked Ladies: Lycoris squamigera and Amaryllis belladonna.

They are both great pass-along plants though most gardeners and plant retailers do not know the difference between them.

You will soon be able to discover which one of these plant cousins you have in the garden because Lycoris squamigera has leaves only in the spring and Amaryllis belladonna makes leaves immediately after flowering.

To further confuse the bulb buying public, these two plants share common names including: Surprise Lily, Resurrection Lily, and Hardy or Summer Amaryllis.

Though they are cousins, Amaryllis Belladonna is from Africa and Lycoris squamigera is from China. Amaryllis Belladonna will only survive in southern climates, USDA zones 7-9. Lycoris will do well in USDA zones 6 to 8 and in zones 4-5 with mulch. Amaryllis Belladonna is toxic to deer and rodents; Lycoris is not.

The plant genus Lycor…

Psoralea is Scurf Pea, Wild Alfalfa, Slimleaf Scurfpea, Prairie Turnip

In the course of reading "Where the Sky Began" I'm looking up dozens of tallgrass prairie plants on Google Advanced Image Search to see what they look like and whether or not they grow in NE OK.

Also called Wild Alfalfa, Scurf Pea, Slimleaf Scurfpea and Prairie Turnip,they are legumes that grow woodland and woodland edges. They are probably an imported pea family member with summertime alfalfa-like blooms on spikes.

Late summer the stems break and the plant blows - it is related to tumbleweed. We know that tumbleweed is not native to the U.S. either.

 Plains Indians made tea from the roots and burned the plant as a mosquito repellent. And, evidently Psoralea is medicinally important in many cultures.

World Wide Science dot org has a gateway to Oklahoma tallgrass prairie articles and information (here) but nothing on this specific plant.

Oklahoma Panhandle State University has a cool site with wildflower photos - full plant, leaves, flowers, etc. Here's their link to Psora…

Mediterranean Garden Society

Whether or not you live in a Mediterranean gardening zone, chances are that you already grow or are interested in growing typical plants of the area.

Oregon State University (here)
"You don't need to be Spanish, Italian or Greek to enjoy the beauty of Mediterranean gardening. Other parts of the world that also have mild, wet winters and hot, dry summers can take lessons from the many lovely gardens in this Old World region and its centuries, even millennia, of experience with these conditions. These gardens use plants that are able to store the moisture they need in the winter and survive – even thrive – through the summer without irrigation."

"Mediterranean gardening is different from xeriscaping, although they are both waterwise approaches. Xeriscaping is best suited for desert climates with only a few inches of total precipitation for the year. By contrast, Mediterranean gardens require wet winters when plants can store up moisture to see them through the summer…

Amaryllis belladonna, Lycoris squamigera, Surprise Lilies, Naked Ladies, Resurrection Lilies, in the late summer garden

In August in USDA zone 7, the African native, Amaryllis belladonna is indeed a surprise. An equally beautiful surprise lily for the north is the Resurrection Lily, Lycoris squamigera from Japan or China It is cold hardy to zone 5.
We are especially grateful for their lovely pink blossoms of Surprise Lilies this year and would have understood if they skipped blooming with the unbelievable heat and drought. But, here they are reliable and beautiful.

There is a 1943 article by Elizabeth Lawrence online here. She discusses the bulbs she and her mother were experimenting with in their N.C. gardens.
So if you decide you want pink beauties in your late summer garden, be sure to get the right one: Lycoris for north of zone 7 and Amaryllis for zone 7 and above.

Digger Wasps are not dangerous to humans and how to get rid of them

Before you buy boxes, bags and bottles of insect spray, learn more about digger wasps making nests in your yard.
The Honey Bee Lab says
"In most situations it is best not to eliminate ground-nesting bees and wasps since they are valuable in agricultural production by either pollinating many different plants or serving as useful predators in controlling harmful pests. However, when nests are located in areas such as yards, gardens, flower beds or playgrounds, control may be justified to prevent the chance of being stung."
From Iowa State Univ. "At least 3 different species of wasps construct nests in the ground in Iowa. These "digger wasps" include the cicada killer wasp, the largest wasp found in Iowa. Cicada killer wasps may be up to 2 inches long. They are black with yellow markings on the thorax and abdomen and they have rusty colored wings. The great golden digger wasp is slightly smaller. The abdomen is reddish-orange except at the tip which is black. A third…

Topricin works for me

I'm sure the Topricin people think I've forgotten them but really, I'm slow to recommend products.

The rep, Renee Hewitt, generously sent me a box of samples of their products in May. I distributed them to all my fellow yoga students, everyone in Muskogee Garden Club and others I thought could benefit from the creams.

Of course I don't have any feedback from them but went on to try the products myself.

Like most of you, I do a lot every day and much of it is physical and other than yoga, my body gets little slow down time.

I've used the Foot Therapy Cream and the Pain Relief and Healing Cream several times. Last week I put it to the test when I hurt like crazy. All I did was apply it before bed. I took no pain relieving pills. In the morning the pain was gone. Completely.

Your results may/will vary. But if you have gardener pain in hands and feet, I can tell you that it works for me.

The literature recommends Topricin for these conditions: Arthritis, carpal tunnel,…

Boltonia is Doll's Daisy, False Aster, False Chamomile, Clasping Doll's Daisy, Decurrent False Aster, Winged False Aster, Dwarf Bolton's Aster, Thousand Flowers, Snowbank, Nana, Jim Crocket, Pink Beauty, Starflower

Boltonia is a delightful flowering plant for casual garden settings. It can take some shade, needs minimal water, and blooms late summer to fall, shaking off humid nights like the native it is.

There are 8 species of this cold hardy perennial that can be started from seed. The seeds come up best if planted when temperatures are above 60, so they can be started indoors any time between fall and mid-February. The seedlings, raised over the winter, are planted out in the garden after frosts end.

All the varieties are easy to grow since they are from North America. The leaves and flowers are small on erect branches.The plants will form clumps that have to be divided every 2 or 3 years to keep them growing. If they are not divided, they can die out.

Boltonias make good cut flowers and attract butterflies to the garden. Many Boltonia species are endangered and need to be planted by more gardeners.
Boltonia asteroids, sometimes called False Aster or White Doll’s Daisy, is native to most of the U…

Mountain Mint is Agastache cana

Steve Owens at Bustani Plant Farm offered some trial plants to our friend Russell Studebaker.
Russell shared a few of the doubles with us. One of them was this gorgeous Mountain Mint that Steve identified for me as Agastache cana Bolero.
 Agastache varieties are native all over the U.S. and this one is not native to Oklahoma, of course.

Oklahoma's native Agastache is Agastachenepetoides yellow giant hyssop - a far cry from this beauty.

Swallowtail Gardens has the seeds of this Agastache and several others. If you go to their page, also look at the Apache Sunset. I saw that one at the Xeriscape Garden in Colorado Springs last year and it was stunning.
Despite the near total destruction of our gardens because of the drought and heat I'm planning for next year's garden. How about you?

Drought and Record Breaking Heat 2011

The fact that our average daily temperature for the year has risen 7 degrees to 89 does not reflect the reality of the 117 F daily record breaking heat with the record breaking night time lows of 85 F.
In addition we are are at least 10-inches below normal rainfall for the year.

Friends who live in the country report baby birds, rabbits and other animals who are succumbing to the heat and lack of food and water.

This sad view of one flower bed usually filled with nectar for butterflies is but one example of the consequences.
The Crocosmia tried to bloom but the tiny buds dried up in the scorching sun.
This Germander was watered last night and this morning it already in heat stress.
This Japanese Maple is in a flower bed that not only is watered regularly but has the air conditioning drip pipe nearby. Plants simply cannot keep up.
Here's another example. The Paw Paw tree is in the herb garden which is deep watered twice a week.

Even the Perilla can't plump up with the sprinklers sh…