Showing posts from January, 2012

Waterwise Plants for Sustainable Gardens by Lauren & Scott Ogden

With the weather changes we all experienced last growing season, gardeners and plant lovers are wondering which way to go. Wait and see? Or assume this year will be better, back to normal or terrific. I'm holding back somewhat.

One of the gardening chores that never goes away is watering. What about planting more and more water-wise plants to have the same amount of beauty with a lower water bill and less work? And, if you're living in an area with water restrictions, water wise gardening will make a big difference.

Released in Aug, 2011, "Waterwise Plants for Sustainable Gardens", was recommended to me by Russell Studebaker, long-time garden writer for the Tulsa World.

The 200 plants covered in the book include trees, shrubs, perennials, ground covers, grasses and sedges, bulbs and their relatives, vines, annuals, biennials, succulents, cacti, palms and fiber plants.

Each plant has its own page with photo, growing preferences, attributes and best zones. In addition…

Planting for Bees - So many choices

Each year we try a few more plants that will feed the bees. Some work pretty well in our climate one year or another and others are less successful. Here's a composite list of possibilities with a few links at the end. What works for you?

Alfalfa - Medicago sativa 
Asters - any and all
Basil - when the plants flower the leaves lose some quality but the bees are happy
Black Eyed Susan - easy to grow and self-seeds
Borage - Borago officinalis - the bright blue flowers look great in any bed
Catmint - Nepeta
Clover - sweet white, yellow or red
Coltsfoot - Tussilago farfara
Coriander - Coriandrum sativum
Cornflower - Centaurea cyanus
Cucumber - the bees cover cucumber vines like crazy
Elderberry - Sambucus - when they flower you can hear the bees buzzing
Evening Primrose - Oenothera
Fennel - Foeniculum vulgare - good for butterfly caterpillars, too
Fireweed - Chamerion angustifolium
Gentian - Gentiana
Geranium incanum 
Goldenrod, perennial - the native varieties provide the most pollen but the hybrid…

Pollinators need you to grow these plants

It would be so easy for each of us to add one more pollinator-friendly plant in a pot or a plot.

"Attracting Native Pollinators" provides plant lists by region. The plants were selected to tolerate a wide range of soil land light conditions. Here's a link to the Xerces Society for more information.

First, their list of low cost ornamental plants for pollinator gardens:
Perennials: Catnip, coneflower, lavender, giant hyssop, oregano and Russian sage
Annuals: Borage, common sunflower, cosmos
Shrubs: Rugosa rose, pussy willow and false indigo

Pollinator plants by U.S. region -

Northeastern U.S.
Spring: Wild lupine, eastern waterleaf, cranesbill
Summer: Smooth penstemon, bergamot, giant hyssop, butterfly milkweed, Culver's root, Joe-Pye weed
Autumn: New England aster, New York aster, Canada goldenrod
Trees: American basswood, serviceberry, highbush blueberry

Southeastern U.S.
Spring: Spiderwort, Eastern smooth beardtongue, Manyflower beardtongue, spotted geranium
Summer: V…

Native pollinators - help them thrive!

Bees are responsible for the pollination of every third bite of food you take and sip of juice you drink. Other insects such as flies, moths, butterflies and beetles pollinate the rest. We help ourselves by providing nectar for bees and protecting them from harmful gardening practices.

Intuitively, we can assume that pesticides and other insect poisons used on and around plants will kill bees. But, in fact, herbicides and weed killers do just as much damage to North American native bees and bee colonies.
North America’s bees range in size from one-twelfth of an inch to one inch long. Some bees live in colonies; others live alone. Some bees live in hollow plant material and others dig tunnels in the ground to make nests.
Five of the seven families of bees are common in American gardens. Altogether, there are around 20,000 species of bees in the world; and, 4,000 of those species live in America.
Warm, dry climates such as CA are home to 2,000 species. But the rest of us have more than we…

Dig In Festival in Fayetteville and Weed Science Society in D.C.

Two upcoming events of interest -

Dig In! - Food & Farming Festival 2012 March 2 & 3, 2012
Real food. Real Farms. Real Local.
Global Campus, Fayetteville Square  |
Contact: Leigh Wilkerson, co-organizer: 479-856-2088 or

Fayetteville, AR— Dig In! Food & Farming Festival returns bigger andbetter on March 2 & 3, 2012 to celebrate local food, farms andgardens with films, classes, an information fair, seed-swap, tastings and more.

The documentary films at DigIn! are selected to uplift, empower and inspire viewers. Several will be screened for the first time in Arkansas. Filmsinclude: Queen of the Sun, Urban Roots, Seed Swap in the Ozarks, Food Fight,Greenhorns & more. Trailer previews are available at

Besides films, there will beclasses on organic gardening, cooking from the garden or farmers market, ediblelandscaping, season extension, food preservation, beekeeping, seed saving, andbackyard chick…

Chris Helzer is the Pairie Ecologist

Chris is an ecologist and program director for The Nature Conservancy.  He is responsible for the management and restoration of about 5,000 acres of Conservancy-owned land in central and eastern Nebraska.  He devotes time to developing, testing, and exporting techniques for prairie management and restoration.

His blog, The Prairie Ecologist, has almost 500 ecology interested followers. This week he wrote an impassioned piece about his love of the prairie and its inhabitants.

Here are a few excerpts -

Lately, I’ve been trying to figure out why I think prairie conservation is so important.

I can list off all kinds of logical and aesthetic reasons that prairies are important.  Prairies build soil, capture carbon, trap sediment, grow livestock, and support pollinators. 

Those are all very practical reasons to think prairies are important, but I don’t care deeply about prairies because they make soil and grow pretty flowers.

Which brings me to Dr. Seuss.

As I was mulling over why I cared …

Seeds you can start now without a heated greenhouse

Our weather is going through a strange phase. We have not actually had any winter - no snow, no rain, a few freezing nights but then back to 55 or 70 within a day or two. It bodes poorly for the water table but it has been nice to be outside without a coat, pulling weeds and transplanting volunteers.

I've been starting a few seeds all winter in the slightly heated and lighted shed I/we use to contain my hobby but we do not have a greenhouse.

Jan/Feb is a good time to start many seeds if your fingers are itchy to get going.

In a cold frame or in winter sowing containers such as gallon milk jugs start these seeds, leave them outside and cold until mid-Feb. Then, bring them inside to plant and grow for the spring.

Native/Flowers Asclepias tuberosa, Butterfly Weed Columbine, Aquilegia canadensis Gentian cinita, Greater Fringed Gentian Gentian andrewsi, Bottle Gentian
Wild flowers

Poppy and Larkspur seeds germinate at 50 degrees so they can be planted directly into the beds now.

Most …

Honeysuckles are Lonicera - Love them or hate them

Honeysuckle is one of those plants that gardeners either love or consider a weed to be fought against at all costs. Most of the time, the fight is against the Japanese or Asian species because it has made such a pest of itself throughout all the temperate gardening zones.
Japanese, Korean or Chinese honeysuckle, Lonicera japonica, is spread when birds eat the black seeds that form in the fall. Once it takes hold, it can spread widely (and wildly), choking out all the native plants and tripping hikers.
But there are over 200 species of honeysuckle and some of them are useful on fences, in wooded areas, on stream banks and slopes.
Coral honeysuckle, Lonicera sempervirens, has many common names, including: Evergreen Honeysuckle, Trumpet Honeysuckle, Woodbine, Scarlet Trumpet, Red Honeysuckle, and Red Woodbine.
This one is an American native, twining, vine that grows well in its native range, reaching from Ontario Canada, across the eastern U. S. and into Oklahoma and Texas. In shade, Trumpe…

Persicaria, Fleeceflower, Knotweed, Tovara = formerly Polygonum

In "Perennials for Every Purpose" (c 2000) Larry Hodgson tells readers that Persicaria used to be lumped in with all fleeceflowers, into the genus Polygonum. The family was broken up into Polygonum and Fallopia. Polygonum cuspidatum is now Fallopia japonica sold as an ornamental but potentially invasive.

Most gardening books leave it out all together. What stimulated my interest is that I have one that I picked up at a free plant exchange and hear very little about it. Last night I was browsing the
Roots and Rhizomes Catalog ("for the discriminating gardener") and there it was.

R & R says Persicaria is also called Tovara and Polygonum.

Their varieties and descriptions are -
Persicaria alata: creeping, trailing and can be invasive so plant in pots.

Persicaria amplexicaulis Firetail: bright red flowers above heart shaped green leaves. Fine Gardening has a piece about it here.

Persicaria filiformis Painters Palette: Leaves are green with zones of mahogany, splashe…

Plant Pathologist Phil Pratt shares information and knowledge

When a plant starts to look diseased, gardeners head to the store in search of a diagnosis and cure.The labels on the bottles explain what the bottle’s contents can treat, including black spots on leaves, shriveled stems, insect infestations and other problems that a sharp eye can diagnose.

Two years ago, Muskogee resident Phil Pratt retired, ending a 35-year career as an Oklahoma State University plant pathologist and County Extension Director. He agreed to provide a few basics that gardeners need to know before they buy anything to spray on their gardens.

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According to Pratt, there are two kinds of plant problems: 1) Those caused by pathogenic organisms and 2) those not caused by pathogenic factors.
The pathogenic organisms that cause diseases include viruses, fungi, bacteria and nematodes. The plant problems not caused by non-pathogenic organisms, sometimes called abiotic, are caused by…

Three Forks Harbor Trail - Muskogee Grand River

Last NovemberI wrote about the primitive trail at Three Forks Harbor in Muskogee that travels along the Grand River. This afternoon it was 65 and sunny so I set out to go farther up river than I have on previous walks. The trail has been cleared by Muskogee Running Club members and goes much farther than I have.

If you are interested in seeing a map of the McClellan Kerr area, I found one at the Wildlife Dept. site. Here's the link.

Along my two hour walk, I took a few snapshots to share. Enjoy.

The trail bed is soft under foot and two people wide.
Look carefully at this photo. On the right side of the trail there is a piece of orange tape.

There are several forks in the trail so keep an eye open for the orange tape as guidance about which way to walk.
One problem with the trail right now is that trucks and 4-wheelers still use it, making deep ruts. Walkers have to climb onto the bank and make their way among trees and brush.
But! Look at the views of the Grand River that are visible…

Mrs. Robb's Bonnet, Euphorbia amygdaloides robbiae, Wood Spurge

Mrs. Robb's Bonnet, Euphorbia amygdaloides robbiae, is a popular choice for part shade that will become drought tolerant after it becomes established. That means you have to water it at least the first year.

Mrs. Robb's Bonnet and other wood spurges are deer resistant because the characteristic Euphorbia milky sap is slightly poisonous. Some gardeners with sensitive skin have strong reactions to the sap.

 Loved for the chartreuse blooms in the spring, Mrs. Robb's Bonnet is a sibling of Euphorbia pulcherrimna, Poinsettia, another plant loved for its leaves rather than its tiny flowers.

Some references say Euphorbia amygdaloides is native of Asia and invasive. Others say it is a European native that grows slowly. Ah, the experts.

Hardy to 10 below zero F, zones 5 to 9. Great for rock gardens, pots, mass plantings in dappled shade.

A Euphorbia sport, Red Martin called Red Spurge, would perk up a bed! It's a cross between  Euphorbia amygdaloides andEuphorbia characias.


Shopping for spring starts now!

Seed and plant catalogs can help cure gardeners’ winter withdrawal symptoms. Many companies no longer produce a paper catalog so you have to shop online but the pictures will make you long for spring.

This year’s list includes some old standards for new gardeners, many heirloom seed companies and a selection of unique listings for experienced gardeners.

The companies that our parents ordered from include Burpee,, 800-888-1447, Parks Seeds,, 800-845-3369 and Henry Field’s,, 513-354-1494. Also try Hometown Seeds, 888-433-3106.

B and T World Seeds in France, offers gardeners a worldwide perspective. The Master List has 34,000 listings and the sub-lists have 700 specialist catalogs including eco roof garden seeds, Polish native plants, Shady Condition seed list, Terrarium seeds, Icelandic native seeds, 5,000 food plants, etc. Select Seeds specializes in antique plants for cottage gard…

Better Homes and Gardens - Four new books for plant lovers

Better Homes and Gardens gardening books have some of the most beautiful photos in the publishing world. Their photographers are many of the best in the business and it shows throughout all four of these books I received for review.

I must wonder out loud why books about organic gardening by experienced gardeners show worn tools, dirty boots, windblown hair and soiled workbenches while most others illustrate new boots, clean hands, bird houses without chewed openings and spotless glass.

My conclusion is that most books are offering us the unspoiled ideal, and for inspiration they can't be beat. These new BHG books, published by Wiley, will raise your gardening aspirations to new levels.

 "Orchid Gardening" is both gorgeous and instructional. The Gallery of Orchids from page 132 to 214 is separated by Alliance such as Cattleya, Cymbidium, Jewel, etc. and would be perfect to take to the store with you. Four orchid photos to a page with requirements and assets (e.g. long las…

Giant Reed, Arundo donax, threatens more than half of U.S.

Giant reed is encroaching on waterways, international border access roads, and creating dense cover for illegal activities. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has called for a plan to control it.
Giant Reed, Arundo donax, is native to India and Mediterranean countries including Italy, Greece, Egypt, and Algeria.

Introduced into the U.S. in the 1800s as an ornamental, its common names include  Spanish reed, wild cane, cana brava, and carrizo.

This bamboo-like member of the grass family, grows 30 ft. high with deep, tough, fibrous roots.

" Blue-green alternate leaves are elongated, 1-2 in. wide and 12 in. long. Long, dense, plumes of whorled stemmed flowers reaching to 36 in. long occur during August and September. Seeds are not viable. Reproduction is primarily through rhizomes that root and sprout readily. Giant reed becomes established in moist places, growing best in well drained soils with available abundant moisture. It tolerates a wide variety of conditions, inc…

2012 Garden Trends - Can you relate to these?

Experts make garden trend predictions and here's their list. Which ones can you relate to?

 One author says Gen X and Y want to protect the earth by planting more edibles, cultivating ugly spaces wherever they find them, seeking new ways to recycle, reuse, repurpose and reclaim while saving water and energy. Look for more chickens in the back yard, neighborhood gardening and cooperative efforts.

 2.Eco-scaping instead of landscaping.
Nature moves indoors, sustainable gardening practices become the norm, tranquil and simplified gardens calm the outside. Think butterfly-scaping.

3.Occupy Local farming, growers, producers. With the federal, state and local push toward locally sourced food, look for homegrown as the byword for fruit and vegetable stands popping up.
4.Mindful Consumption and mindfulness in general is the healthiest way to move forward from me to we. Stop, think, consider, contemplate, breathe.

5.Water is the new oil, said Steve Solomon several years ago,…