31 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, the Ogdens say which other low-water plants will be good neighbors.

Example of one page:
Prairie Skullcap, Scutellaria resinosa
grows 8-inches tall and up to a foot wide
Native of the Great Plains, gray-green leaves, small purple flowers.
Short lived but will self-sow.
Combine with cacti, yucca, agave and others.
Related perennials: Suctellaria wrightii, Violet Cloud for zones 6-9 and Suctellaria suffrutescens for zones 7-9 is longer lived, has rose red or cream flowers and is good for roof gardens.

This is a handy volume to have on your desk when making your seed order this winter. I know I am going to have it in hand and use it to help make my final decisions with the catalogs in front of me.

Water is a resource; so are your time and energy. Conserve them all at the same time by selecting ornamental plants for their ability to use less resources!

Drought tolerant selections are covered for all the U.S.D.A. horticultural zones. "Waterwise Plants" is a 240 page paperback; $25 from Timber Press and $17 at online vendors.

Lawn Reform Coalition has a site that will help you find ways to get rid of watering, fertilizing and mowing your "lawn", reducing water usage and work even more. More sustainable ideas. Some of the same plants from "Waterwise" are featured suggestions.

29 January 2012

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 hybrids are appreciated
Hawthorn tree - Crataegus
Hyssop - Anise hyssop - Agastache foeniculum
Joe Pye Weed - Eupatorium
Lambs Ears - Stachys byzantina 
Lavender - Lavandula
Leadplant - Amorpha Canescens
Mallow - Malva alcea
Mexican Sunflower - Tithonia rotundifolia - this easy to grow plant towers in the back of the beds
Milkweed - Asclepias - plant lots of it!
Mint - Mentha
Melissa - Lemon balm - this is a wonderful plant for tea
Monarda - Bee Balm - perennial and easy to grow from seed
Mustard - Brassica arvenisi 
Oregano - Oregano vulgare
Phacelia, Tansy - Phacelia tanacetifolia - this was not very successful for me but I love it
Phlox - adult butterflies can't resist phlox
Poppy - Papaver - reseeds beautifully
Pot Marigold - Calendula - so pretty and edible
Sedum Autumn Joy - Sedum spectabile - fall flowers for migrating insects
Sunflower - Helianthus
Thyme - When the thyme is flowering you can actually hear the buzzing
Valerian - Valeriana - comes back for years

Internet resources - more suggestions than you can possibly grow!
Melissa Garden - A Honeybee Sanctuary
Ohio State University fact sheet 
Pollinator.org where you can put in your zip code and get a planting list. The link for our area.
Plant list for the Northeast U.S.
Urban Bee Gardens - California resource

Bees, Wasps and other Beneficials just posted this to their Facebook page

28 January 2012

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: Virginia mountainmint, Summer farewell, Dense blazing star, Spotted beebalm, blanketflower, Joe-Pye weed
Fall: Sneezeweed, Pine barren goldenrod, giant ironweed
Trees: Southern magnolia, sourwood, Carolina rose, Smallflower blueberry

Midwestern U.S.
Spring: Smooth penstemon, wild lupine, Eastern waterleaf, spotted geranium
Summer: Wild bergamot, purple giant hyssop, butterfly milkweed, purple prairie clover, purple coneflower, prairie blazing star
Fall: New England aster, showy goldenrod, Riddell's goldenrod
Trees: Lead plant, prairie rose, pussy willow, American basswood

Great Plains and Prairie
Spring: White wild indigo, prairie spiderwort, Largeflowered beardtongue
Summer: Bergamot, blazing star, showy milkweed, purple prairie clover, narrowleaf coneflower, compassplant
Fall: Smooth blue aster, white heath aster, showy goldenrod, zigzag goldenrod
Trees: Prairie rose, serviceberry, lead plant, chokecherry, pussy willow

CA and Southwest
Spring: CA poppy, lacy phacelia, silvery lupine
Summer: Showy milkweed, yellow beeplant, Firecracker penstemon, wild buckwheat
Fall: Vinegarweed, Nevada goldenrod, Eaton's aster, Hayfield tarweed
Trees: Mule-fat, Chamise, Mexican locust, Rabbitbrush, Redbud

Pacific Northwest/British Columbia
Spring: Lupine, Arrowleaf balsamroot, CA poppy, blanketflower
Summer: Venus penstemon, Blue MT. prairie clover, showy milkweed, wild buckwheat
Fall: Canada goldenrod, Western mountain aster, Maximilian's sunflower
Trees: Golden currant, oceanspray, Oregon grape

In the book, there is a 40-page illustrated section of recommended pollinator plants plus 8 pages of charts of bloom time, color and other garden planning help.

The book's source list is not helpful to us home gardeners since we won't meet a $300 minimum wholesale order. But, there are plenty of other seed and plant sellers for us to use.

26 January 2012

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 realize. One researcher identified 200 species living in rural IL. Over 100 species thrive in New York City, with 50 species living in a single community garden.

Bumble bees are usually round, yellow and black, with hair on their abdomens. Metallic sweat bees are a bright metallic green color. Carpenter bees are usually black with a shiny abdomen. Their strong mandibles dig into wood where they make nests.

There are 1,400 species of North American Mining Bees that come out of their ground nests in early spring. They are black and will sting when threatened. Sadly, the Internet is full of helpful hints on how to destroy them and their nests.

Honey bees are gold to black or dark brown with striped abdomens. These European natives are smaller than bumble bees. They use a hind leg to collect nectar from flowers to make honey.

Just as we learn the names of plants and how to improve our soil, pollinators and bees are fascinating and worth learning more about.

The Xerces Society (www.xerces.org) is a 40-year old conservation movement that focuses on invertebrates, including, bees, beetles, butterflies, moths, aquatic insects (caddisflies), and crustaceans (pill bugs, crabs, crayfish, and lobsters).

Their new book, “Attracting Native Pollinators: Protecting North America’s Bees and Butterflies”, was coauthored by four Xerces Society staff members: Eric Mader, Matthew Shepherd, Mace Vaughan, Scott Black with help from Gretchen LeBuhn.

LeBuhn is from The Great Sunflower Project, www.greatsunflower.org, the world’s largest citizen science project focused on pollinator conservation.

Both of these organizations urge us to plant more pollinator-friendly flowers, create habitat, and reduce the amount of harm we do to them.

For example, if each of us planted a few more pollinator friendly flowers, spent less money on insect and weed killing, and encouraged public entities to do the same, we could make a difference.

The 380-page, “Attracting Native Pollinators” is divided into four sections:

1)       Pollinators and Pollination explains the value of pollinators, their natural history and habitat needs.

2)       Taking Action explains how to help pollinators by creating nest sites and foraging areas. It includes tips for golf courses, farms, urban parks, and gardeners.

3)       Bees of North America has profiles and photos of thirty commonly found native bees.

4)       Creating a Pollinator-Friendly Landscape shows how gardens, parks, and farms, can be enhanced to support pollinators. There are sample planting designs and fifty pages of illustrated plant lists.

Published by Story Publishing in 2011, the book is 384 pages of photos and fascinating information. $30 at Xerces Society, www.xerces.org and $17 at online vendors.

25 January 2012

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  |   www.diginfestival.com
Contact: Leigh Wilkerson, co-organizer: 479-856-2088 or wilkerson.leigh@gmail.com

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 www.diginfestival.com.

Besides films, there will beclasses on organic gardening, cooking from the garden or farmers market, ediblelandscaping, season extension, food preservation, beekeeping, seed saving, andbackyard chickens. The Fayetteville Community Garden Coalition will hold theirannual seed-swap at Dig In! for thefirst time—it is free to all. More special features are being planned forattendees.

The first Dig In! in 2011 drew 150 attendees to watch documentary filmsthroughout the day and evening. With the addition this year of classes, theinformation fair, a seed-swap, tastings and more, Dig In! 2012 is going to be better than ever.

Location: UA Global Campus on theFayetteville Square - Friday evening March 2, 20012 through Saturday evening March 3rd. Supporter-passes start at $30. Tickets to individual events at the door. The seed-swap, information fair, and other selected offerings will be free.



The May 10 event is being organized by the National Research Council, the operating arm of the National Academy of Sciences, and will be held at George Washington University in Washington, D.C.

Several WSSA members will deliver presentations or participate in panel discussions. Among them is David Shaw, former president of WSSA and immediate past chairman of its Herbicide Resistance Education Committee. He will address best management practices that can combat herbicide resistance.

"A significant contributing factor in the evolution of resistance is the repeated use of a single herbicide mode of action," Shaw says. "To counter this dangerous trend, we need to move to integrated weed management programs that incorporate a variety of other control methods. Doing so can help us preserve crop yields, herbicide effectiveness and the sustainability of vital agricultural production systems."

22 January 2012

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.

Prairie Works Sustainable Landscaping and Ecological 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 so much about prairies, the story of “Horton Hears a Who” popped into my head.

Dr. Seuss’s intended moral to the story (repeated many times) is “A person’s a person, no matter how small.”

I think the biggest thing that drives me to devote my career (and a fair amount of my free time) to prairie conservation is that I have developed a personal connection to the species that live in grasslands. Not only do I know those species exist, I can also identify with them and what they’re doing to survive. By becoming familiar with them, I became fond of them.

When I was in graduate school, I studied grassland nesting birds.  I got to know those bird species well, including where they lived, how they survived there, and what motivated and threatened them.  I saw prairies through their eyes, and that made me want to help make those prairies as hospitable to birds as I could.  Eventually, I began learning about prairie plants and insects as well.  I was fascinated to find that their stories were equally or more interesting than those of birds.  Each species had their own unique set of life strategies that allowed them to survive and interact with the world around them.

As the number of species I’ve gotten to know has increased, so has my commitment to prairie conservation. Maintaining the resilience and vigor of prairie communities has grown from something that seemed like a good idea into a personal mission. Now I’m working to protect things I love, not just species I’d read about or knew about only in the abstract.

Why does all this matter? It matters because we need to recruit as many people to the cause of prairie conservation as we can. Excluding a tiny minority of prairie enthusiasts, when the general public thinks about nature and conservation they look right past prairies to the mountains, lakes, and forests beyond – even when prairies are in their own backyard. After all, what’s to care about in prairies? It’s just grass.

If we’re going to fix that, we’ll need to do more than describe how prairies can help sequester carbon, filter water run-off, or support pollinator populations. We’ll need to introduce people to the camouflaged looper inchworm that disguises itself with pieces of the flowers it eats – and to the regal fritillary caterpillar which, after hatching from its egg in the fall, sets out on a hike that will end by either finding a violet to feed on or starving to death. They’ll need to become acquainted with sensitive briar, the sprawling thorny plant with pink koosh ball flowers whose leaves fold up when you touch them. And who wouldn’t love to meet the bobolink – a little bird that looks like a blackbird after a lobotomy and flies in circles sounding like R2D2 from Star Wars?

Still reading? Click over and read the rest. It is a privilege to read writings that come from the heart.
What's your passion?

21 January 2012

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.

Fringed Gentian seeds - Prairie Moon Nursery

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 trees, including KY Coffee Tree, Lily of Valley Tree
  Magnolia Virginiana, Sweet Bay, & Sycamore are started
  outside in protected containers.

Houseplant seeds to start indoors Jan/Feb include Lily of the Nile, Asparagus fern, Calceolaria - pocketbook plant, and Smithiantha - Temple Bells.

Culinary plants: Start celery and chive seeds inside.

Perennials to start inside now include yarrow, hollyhock, alyssum, basket of gold, marguerite, rock cress, campanula, cornflower, globe thistle, fleabane, blanket flower, rose mallow, hosta, gloxinia, Maltese Cross, Nepeta, balloon flower, soapwort, lambs ears, and speedwell.

Dame's Rocket, Swallowtail Garden seeds
Ornamentals to start inside now include snapdragon, Dianthus/pinks, Dame's Rocket, petunia, lobelia, salvia, ageratum, chrysanthemum, coleus, impatiens, limonium, statice, stock, monkey flower, four o'clock, cupflower, and gloriosa daisy.

Wintersown is the go-to site for tips on sowing seeds during the winter months.  Don't waste any time getting started. You'll enjoy the process and most of the time the results will impress.

19 January 2012

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, in our yard
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, Trumpet honeysuckle thrives in woods and along stream banks, but it becomes a garden plant in full sun. The blue-green leaves and red-orange flowers contribute dramatic beauty from late spring through fall.

Flowering vines add height and background to small gardens. Honeysuckle is favored by gardeners who want to provide nectar for insects, food for wildlife and shelter for nesting birds. In our yard, a Coral Honeysuckle vine is home to a nest of Thrashers every year.

American native plants are not as aggressive as the Asian imports, but require semi-annual pruning to keep them contained. Coral Honeysuckle prefers moist, well-drained soil and can be used to cover a shed, a rock pile or a trellis. Its flowers attract butterflies and hummingbirds.

Honeysuckles can become infected with aphids or bacteria that harm their appearance but do not kill the plant. Putting them in a place where they receive adequate sun and air circulation will reduce the number of problems.

There are hybrids of Coral Honeysuckle. Tellmann honeysuckle, Lonicera x tellmanniana, also called Redgold honeysuckle, grows 12 to 16-feet in zones 6 to 8, and prefers part shade. The flowers are glowing yellow-orange.

Hall’s Honeysuckle, Lonicera japonica Halliana, is a Japanese honeysuckle hybrid that grows into a 30-foot tall twining vine with white-yellow flowers and black berries.

The shrub variety, Lonicera xylosteum, European fly honeysuckle, has long arching branches, grey-green leaves and white-yellow flowers. The berries are dark red. European fly honeysuckle shrub will grow 10-feet tall and wide but there are more compact hybrids available. All tolerate road salt, drought, and other urban insults. Emerald Mound or Nana grows 3-feet tall and gets the best recommendations for parking areas, sidewalk strips and other tough planting spots.

Tatarian honeysuckle, Lonicera tatarica, is a shrub variety with 2-inch long, blue-green leaves.  The flowers are white to pink and the berries are red.  The species is considered invasive but there are less aggressive, aphid-resistant varieties. The variety Arnold Red has red flowers, Freedom has white-tinged pink flowers and Honey Rose has rose-red flowers.

A hybrid of European fly honeysuckle and Tatarian honeysuckle, Clavey’s Dwarf, is a carefree, mid-size hedge plant that becomes 6-feet tall and wide.

Monrovia offers Berries Jubilee Woodbine Honeysuckle, Lonicera periclymenum Monul, that has European parents. It is also a vigorous grower. The new leaf growth is purple-red and the flowers are yellow-white with a pink tinge (www.monrovia.com). Look for Belgica, Graham Thomas, Honey Baby and Serotina.

All honeysuckles are in the plant species periclymenum. The name came from the Greek herbalist's term for surround, to describe its twining habit. The berries can be used for decorating and the vines are used in wreath making.

18 January 2012

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.

Roots & Rhizomes Persicaria Painters Palette
Persicaria filiformis Painters Palette: Leaves are green with zones of mahogany, splashes of ivory.

This is the one a garden club member plunked on the freebie table with the comment, "I just want that thing out of my garden."

I love my Painters Palette Persicaria! I've moved it several times and yet it thrives. It has other names, too. Persicaria filiformis, Tovara virginiana, Polygonum virginanum, Painter's Palette fleeceflower.

Hodgson recommends Fleeceflowers/Knotweeds for containers, ground cover, rock garden, woodland garden, wet areas, etc.

Cold hardiness zones 3 to 9. No pests or diseases.

He also recommends Darjeeling Red, Superba, Dimity, Persicaria bisorta snakeweed (dnese clumps red leaves in fall.

Plant with hostas since they have similar light and moisture needs. In Minnesota Persicaria virginiana is called Jumpseed. Photos and info at the link.

Digging Dog nursery has several Persicarias including: Dimity, Persicaria amplexicaulis Alba, Atrosanguinea, Golden Arrow, Inverleith, Orange field, Rosea, Summer Dance, Taurus and Superba.

Seeds are available (and on sale) from B and T World Seeds of Persicaria affinis, Persicaria bistorta, Persicaria capitata, Persicaria emodi, Persicaria virginiana, Persicaria virginiana Painters Pallette, Persicaria viscosa, Persicaria vivipara, Persicaria weyrichii and Polygonum persicaria.

16 January 2012

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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Farmer Fred Rant

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 giving plants the incorrect fertilizer, water, light or temperature, poor planting site, and incorrect use of or exposure to herbicides.
“Most of the time when I made a residential visit to help a homeowner, 75% of the problems were abiotic, meaning not caused by disease or insects,” Pratt said. “When a plant pathologist attempts to diagnose a plant problem, one of the first things we do is eliminate the abiotic issues first.
Georgia Lawngrowers
A common mistake is over watering.  Automatic water systems, ideal for lawns, can easily over-water landscape ornamentals such as azaleas and newly planted trees. Their roots stay too wet which can lead to fungal root rot, and the plant’s eventual death.
“Of the biological pathogens (viruses, fungi, bacteria and nematodes), 85% of our plant problems are caused by some type of fungi bacteria,” Pratt said.

“Even though most gardeners think their shrubs have a virus, the reality is there are very few cases of viral disease in landscape and garden plants."
Iowa State
When virus diseases occur they are often carried to plants by insects such as leaf hoppers and aphids. There are no chemical treatments for plants infected with viruses but the good news is that they are rarely the cause of our problems.
“One way to prevent plant diseases, especially foliar and fruit diseases, is to spray a good, broad-spectrum fungicide such as Chlorothalonil,” said Pratt. “Be sure to read the label to see the list of plants it is safe to use it on.”
Chlorothalonil is sold as Daconil 2787, Liquid Lawn Disease Control and Multi-Purpose Fungicide. It is used for diseases on lawns, shrubs, trees, fruit, vegetables and flowers.
“One of the best things to do is to use good sanitation methods such as removing dead branches, and keeping leaves out from under trees and shrubs, and removing dead plants from flower beds. It is also a good idea to use disease-resistant plant varieties when they are available and adapted to growing in your area,” Pratt said.
Pratt said that it is time to spray herbicides for cool season, broad leaf, weed- control in lawns.

“I am not opposed to the use of chemicals to control weeds and insects,” said Pratt. “Just don’t use them unless it is justified and needed.”
U Mass
Pratt said to seed fescue lawns in March and re-seed in September where they have become thin.  When warm weather arrives, watch for problems such as dollar spot in Bermuda grass and brown patch in fescue. Spray lawns with the broad spectrum fungicide, Mancozeb, Dithane M45 or other fungicides labeled for use on Bermuda and fescue.
A problem homeowners can unwittingly cause is native Oak and Pine tree decline. Anything that alters the environment in which a tree is accustomed to growing such as building a flower bed around the trunk of an Oak tree is considered site disturbance.

15 January 2012

Three Forks Harbor Trail - Muskogee Grand River

Last November  I 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 from many spots along the way.

 I saw a few birds today but since we have had so many freezes, most plants are dormant right now.
 Here's another challenging place that the trucks
have made but you'll turn left on the trail at this
point anyway.

Beavers are about to send this tree into the river.

One last shot. Hope to see you on the trail some day.

Can't wait to see it in the spring. The native plants and migrating birds will bring the area to life.

14 January 2012

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.

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

There is an International Euphorbia Society. A link to their site is here. Look on the links - tips for harvesting and cultivating seeds as well as taking cuttings.

Several nurseries offer the plants, but so far, I've found only one source for seeds, a German company, Rare Plants.

I'll keep looking for seeds since I'd like to have a couple of flats of plants for the dry shade around the Osage Orange trees in the back.

12 January 2012

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, www.burpee.com, 800-888-1447, Parks Seeds, www.parkseed.com, 800-845-3369 and Henry Field’s, www.henryfields.com, 513-354-1494. Also try Hometown Seeds http://hometownseeds.com, 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. http://b-and-t-world-seeds.com
Select Seeds specializes in antique plants for cottage gardens. www.selectseeds.com,800-684-0395   
Heirloom seeds are the specialty of the nonprofit Seed Savers Exchange, www. Seedsavers.org, 563-382-5990. You can just order seeds or join the seed bank and get seeds from other members around the country. 
Fedco Cooperative specializes in untreated cold-hardy varieties of tubers, seeds, and trees. www.fedcoseeds.com, 207-873-7333.
For small amounts of heirloom seed try The Sample Seed Shop. http://sampleseeds.com, 716-871-1137. Seed packs are $1.50 and shipping is $3.50 for up to 20 packs. 
Artistic Gardens specializes in 35-cent seed packets and sells a 50 sample herb seed collection $20, www.artisticgardens.com, 802-748-1446.
If you love beautifully designed and informative seed packs Renee Seeds and Botanical Interests are good choices. http://reneesgarden.com and www.botanicalinterests.com.
For a gorgeously illustrated catalog, get one from Baker Creek Heirloom Seed, http://rareseeds.com, 417-924-8917. Johnny’s has pelleted seeds at www.johnnyseeds.com, 877-564-6697.
High Mowing Seeds sells only organic seeds at www.highmowingseeds.com, 802-472-6174.
Sky Fire Garden sells easy-to-grow heirloom seeds for $2 a pack. www.skyfiregardenseeds.com/
For a kitchen garden check out Cook’s Garden seeds, www.cooksgarden.com and 800-457-9703, and, Seeds of Italy known for its generous packets of delicious offerings from Franchi, www.growitalian.com, 785-748-0959.
Sand Hill Preservation
Sand Hill Preservation Center has heirloom poultry and organic heirloom seeds, www.sandhillpreservation.com, 563- 246-2299.
Richters Herbs in Canada has every herb you could want and many you have never heard of. Vegetable and flower seed, too. www.richters.com
Seeds of Change is one of the largest sellers of organic seed. www.seedsofchange.com, 888-762-7333.
Bountiful Gardens, a project of Ecology Action, offers open-pollinated and untreated seeds. www.bountifulgardens.org, 707-459-6410.
Territorial Seed is the former company of gardening guru Steve Solomon. Beneficial insects, cover crop seed, plants, etc. www.territorialseed.com and 800-626-0866.
Unique international seeds are available from a public seed bank, The Ethnobotanical Catalog of Seeds, www.JLHudsonSeeds.net. Newsprint catalog.
e'pecies tropical seeds
Lou Thomas, a seed supplier in Belize, Central America offers tropical plant seeds such as ginger, palms, passionflower, tropical vegetables, jewelry seed, etc. www.especies-seeds.com or http://tinyurl.com/6tqxf2m.  
Request vegetable (cute drawings) and flower catalogs from Chiltern Seeds, www.chilternseeds.co.uk and Thompson and Morgan, www.tmseeds.com, for British varieties.
Native Seeds, Southwest Endangered Aridlands Resource Clearing House, is a non-profit that conserves and distributes agricultural seeds and their wild relatives from the American Southwest and northwest Mexico. www.nativeseed.org,
The nonprofit Ozark Seed Bank receives and offers donated seed from members including Chinese medicinals. www.onegarden.org, 417-679-1003.
Everwilde Farms
The Landis Valley Museum in PA grows, preserves and sells German settler seed varieties. www.landisvalleymuseum.org 717-569-0401.
Conserving Arkansas Agricultural Heritage, CAAH, sponsors seed swaps. Their seeds are not sold, but are given to gardeners who agree to return seed to the seed bank. http://arkansasagro.wordpress.com.
Oklahoma-grown plants: Bustani Plant Farm in Stillwater www.bustaniplantfarm.com, 405-372-3379 has a print catalog and is open a few days a year. Sooner Plant Farm in Tahlequah, http://www.soonerplantfarm.com, 918-453-0771.
Native plants: Pine Ridge Gardens, www.pineridgegardens.com,501-293-4359 and Wild Things Nursery, www.wildthingsnursery.com.
Plant Delights catalog
Cool and unique plants: Plant Delights www.plantdelights.com, 919-772-4794
Enjoy the hunt!

10 January 2012

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 lasting bloom). The bulk of the book is all the stuff you need to know to succeed with orchids: Selecting, potting, soil, fertilizer, trouble shooting, fertilizing, dividing.

"Herb Gardening" Most of us need to grow more herbs, whether we tuck them between perennial plants, dedicate an entire bed to them or put them in a shrub row. Their benefit to the natural environment cannot be disputed and most are low-care plants.

My garden does not even resemble the ones in the book. With 3-acres and no hired help it cannot. And, most of our beds have herbs in them for at least one season. However, I learned several new things in this 200-page paperback.

Topics include: Controlling opportunistic plants that can become weedy, cook's garden, how to harvest and preserve herbs, architectural plantings, and, my favorite, how to propagate herbs.

Another unique topic is herbal entertaining by season - maximizing your herbs for decorative tablescapes.


 "Water Gardening" is a topic I cannot learn enough about. Would you like to have a container or in-ground water garden? A dry creek, flowing stream, bog garden or fountain? This volume will help you get it done this spring.

There are illustrated planting plans and plant suggestions along with construction tips, how to partner with nature, attract butterflies and birds, as well as other wildlife. (I want more frogs.)

On the pragmatic side: Water garden care in all seasons, problems and solutions, pest control, site considerations and how to build several sizes of fountains.

Overall a good reference.

 "Gardening Made Simple" would make a perfect wedding shower or house warming gift because it has a little bit of everything a new gardener needs to know. The sections are short, understandable and informative.

Painting with flower colors, how plants are sold, choosing and using tools, pruning basics, improving soil, mowing, reliable perennials - every topic a new gardener needs.

For the second year in the house: Planting shrubs, trees, hedges, climbers and support.

The vegetable garden: Selecting varieties. Fruit trees and vines. Seed germination indoors and in the planting beds. Seed balls - how to make and plant. Which mulch to use where. Watering.

Anyone looking for a gardening reference that communicates without lecturing, will appreciate this one. Instructional photos, lots of quick tips, and those gorgeous photos.

09 January 2012

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, including high salinity, and can flourish in many soil types. It occurs on upland sites as scattered dense clumps along roadsides and forest margins. It forms dense thickets that choke riversides and stream channels, crowd out native plants, interfere with flood control, and reduce habitat for wildlife. Giant reed ignites easily and can create intense fires. Due to its rapid growth rate and vegetative reproduction, it is able to quickly invade new areas and form pure stands and, once established, can out-compete and completely suppress native vegetation."

IAPMS - Invasive Plant Atlas of the Mid-South
This vegetation threatening our watersheds also has stems and leaves containing several toxic or unpalatable chemicals, which can discourage native insects and other grazers from helping to reduce its numbers. It is, however, a good candidate for biological control methods. The eurytomid wasp has been tested in a small area of release and found to be a specific enemy to the giant reed, and unlikely to harm native plants.

Other plants commonly called Giant Reed are also invasive.
For example, the Illinois wildflower called Giant Reed is Phragmites australis. Its native range includes North America, Eurasia, Africa, and Australia. In optimal wetland conditions it can choke out other plant species.
If you find Arundo donax growing on your property, eradicate it.

07 January 2012

2012 Garden Trends - Can you relate to these?

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

1. Urban-Knights.
 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, and wise as Solomon he was/is. 2012 resolutions: Water-wise gardening, green roofs, rainwater capture, protecting the water supply, coping with drought and native low maintenance planting practices.

6. In Living Color includes the new color of the year, Tangerine Tango. Not so new, since lime green and orange have already returned all around us, but look for more in plant containers, garden furnishings and interior decor.

7. Inner Gardening is not quite as zen as mindfulness, perhaps, but does include oxygenating with houseplants, plus seeking out nature to surround all activities outdoors and in. How about a growing green wall?

8. Techno-Gardening with online garden magazines, motion activated sprinkler repellents, battery operated moisture meters, bird cams, Burpee Garden Coach, Veg Nag, iVeggie Garden app, and solar pods to extend the productive growing season.

 9. Seedlings grow from tiny seeds and new gardeners grow from teaching the next generation the wonder of growing from seed. We are committed to growing new gardeners through community gardens, classes and nonprofits.

This list of 2012 trends brought to you by Garden Media Group.