Showing posts from March, 2012

Nan Chase recommends that you "Eat Your Yard"

Asheville NC journalist, Nan Chase's book, "Eat Your Yard" has been out since 2010 so I'm a little late to the party in writing about it.

Since she lives in zone 7 - same as northeast Oklahoma's zone - I was especially interested in seeing her recommendations.

"The edible yard combines beauty and practicality: beautiful form in the garden with bounteous crops to eat fresh or preserve for year-round enjoyment," says Chase in the introduction.

She does not recommend ripping out the lawn to plant zucchini but suggests that we add some productive and beautiful trees, shrubs, vines, herbs and wildflowers that provide edibles for our tables and kitchens. Plus, there are recipes for the suggested plants so we can enjoy them out of season.

The first chapter, Favorite Fruits, covers apples with a German Pancake recipe, landscape highlights, edible highlights, where it grows best, how to grow it and hardiness zones.

I've had trouble finding a good apple variety fo…

Longue Vue house and Gardens - New Orleans, LA

Longue Vue House and Gardens in New Orleans, LA (, now a museum and public garden, was designed in 1935-42 as the home for Edgar Bloom Stern and Edith Rosenwald Sulzberger Stern. Both were important philanthropists: Edgar was a cotton broker, and banker and Edith was heiress to the Sears-Roebuck fortune.
  The gardens at Longue Vue, ten minutes from Bourbon ST and downtown New Orleans, provide visitors with an opportunity to tour 14 separate garden rooms including an Azalea Walk, Yellow Garden, Canal Garden, Walled Garden, Spanish Court, Wild Garden and Discovery Garden.
Two women were integral to the beauty of the estate you can see at Longue Vue: The 8-acre landscape and the 22,000 square-foot residential interior were designed by Ellen Biddle Shipman and the landscape plan was implemented with the help of Caroline Dormon.
Shipman (1869-1950), who designed 600 gardens, was known for creating pictures as an artist would, but using plants instead of paint. Unlike most …

Cold hardy Pineapple Lily is Eucomis - easy care in zones 7 to 10

There are only 11 species in the Eucomis plant family, related to asparagus and Crinum lilies. Eucomis is from hair of the head, a reference to the tufts of bracts top the plants.

Perfect for a sunny border or large container. No pest or disease problems! Check out the photos and comments at Plant Lust. Wow.

South African Pineapple Lilies, Eucomis, do well in our zone 7 weather? Steve Owens at
Bustani Plant Farm said his are in the ground for 14 years and going strong.

Steve says all 4 varieties he offers are hardy in his western Oklahoma gardens.   The Rainforest Garden says it prefers moist soil, "I can personally attest to its tolerance of both overly wet soil and drier soil as well. However, it performed exceptionally well in the soggy soil of my backyard the last two years, back when the rear of the garden was flooded. The foliage was much lusher and lengthier, and you can probably tell by the above photo that the flowers were much larger as well. They were so big that they …

Common Ninebark (Atlantic Ninebark) or Physocarpus opulifolius is a shrub that feeds butterflies and birds

Ninebark, Physocarpus, is a deciduous, American-native shrub in the Rose family that succeeds in difficult locations, including hillsides, moist thickets, river side bars, and thin-soil rocky areas with wet and dry conditions. It thrives in half shade or sun, too.
Native to central and eastern U.S., it is cold hardy from zone 2 to 8. At maturity, it will grow up to 5 or 8 feet tall and 4 to 6 feet wide and can work as part of a windbreak hedgerow.

Oklahoma BioSurvey points out that Ninebark can grow up to 10 feet tall. As for it's Latin names -
Physocarpus means bladder fruit; opulifolius refers to a similarity in appearance of ninebark and Viburnum opulus leaves, an imported European ornamental shrub.
The pink and white flowers show up from May to June depending on your zone and weather.
The flowers are top notch nectar and the red, winter fruit is loved by finches, wrens, thrushes, robins, sparrows and chickadees.

 We bought a bundle of bare root plants to use as hedge row for wil…

Grasses add beauty to gardens - Native, Prairie, and Tropical, Annual or Perennial

Grasses are the most important plants on the earth. They produce all the cereal grains that have fed man and animals throughout recorded history.
Of the 10,000 varieties, only a few dozen have become popular as garden plants in the U.S. In other countries, growing grasses as ornamental selections goes back a thousand years.
There are both perennial and annual grasses worth planting. The cold-hardy, perennial, ones form colonies that become larger from year to year. Native, annual, grasses usually produce enough seed that one planting will last several years.
Grasses are available as plants and plugs from garden centers and mail order nurseries and many are easy to grow from seed. Other than tropical grasses, most are cold hardy to zone 3.
In “The Guide to Oklahoma Wildflowers”, Patricia Folley describes native prairie grasses that can be grown in gardens.
Big bluestem, Andropogon gerardii, called the king of native grasses, grows 2 to 5 feet tall. It turns red-purple after the first frost…

Natural Companions by Ken Druse with photos and illustrations by Ellen Hoverkamp

Ken Druse has a knack for putting together best-selling books for gardeners and nature lovers. His latest book, "Natural Companions" is a beautifully written and illustrated example.

On his website, Druse said about his collaborator, photographer fine art photographer Ellen Hoverkamp,

"As an author, I thought it would be great to do a book with her. As a gardener, I realized that her images represented plants captured at perfect moments in time. As a communicator, I recognized the potential to create a novel and inspiring guide to share with gardeners and designers.
We got the opportunity to work together nearly three years ago, and now the fruit of our labor is about to come out. Natural Companions: The Garden Lover’s Guide to Plant Combinations is our book with over 200 scans and conventional photographs illustrating perfect plant pairings using diverse species that grow together culturally, look good aesthetically and bloom at the same time."

A few of  Hoverka…

Discovery Garden at Longue Vue House and Gardens in New Orleans, LA

We visited and toured the house and gardens at Longue Vue on our trip last week to New Orleans.  I'll be writing more about that later, but today I want to show you the cool Children's Discovery Garden they built in 1998 complete with a butterfly egg/chrysalis/hatching structure, bamboo tunnel, worm dig, herb maze, compost pile, and sundial.

This perfect height and size butterfly raising container is where the extra butterfly and moth eggs from the New Orleans Zoo get to grow up and be released for the wonder and education of children.
Here's a recently hatched moth.

I had to look twice to see that these are cute little caterpillar spades that the children use when planting seeds and seedlings. Adorable.

Everything in the Lucy C. Roussel  Discovery Garden is edible - herbs, flowers, veggies.

The paths are wide enough to allow for groups of children and there is whimsical artwork scattered throughout.
What's a garden without a scarecrow?

I did a little research on the gar…

Video from the Univ of Utah Extension Service - Invasives Warning

Gnome Management in the Garden - Professional presentation on a growing problem in gardens around the world with preventive and control methods. 4-minutes and worth watching to the end.

Have some messy places in your garden and yard for bees and wildlife to eat and live

On the blog Permanent Culture Now, Brigit Strawbridge reminds us to leave some messy places for wildlife and maybe even make some for them.

I've written about this before and you will recognize some of Strawbridge's key points - (full article and more links at the Permanent Culture Now above & Bridget's talk at the link under her photo).

* Although some of our main crops are wind pollinated, over three-quarters of our staple crop plants and most of our fruit and vegetables rely on animal pollination. Animal pollinators include birds, butterflies, moths and hoverflies, as well as lesser-known creatures such as wasps, flies, bats, beetles and even some species of ants. Bees, however, are without doubt our most important pollinators; being responsible for one third of all the food we eat and at least half of all the wild flowers on the planet. 

* The extent of the bee’s role within any permaculture system or plot cannot be understated – it is absolutely vital that we incor…

Arbor Day, Arbor Day Farm, Hazelnut Consortium

National Arbor Day is at the end of April but each state celebrates when it is time to plant trees in its climate zone. For example FL celebrates in Jan., GA in Feb., OK and TN in Mar., CO in Apr., and Alaska in May. Arbor Day’s history starts with the family that founded Morton’s Salt Company. J. Sterling Morton and his wife Caroline Joy French moved to Nebraska City, NE in 1854 where he became a newspaper editor. They quickly changed their treeless160-acres into an apple orchard with 1300 trees. Morton wrote about his successes in his paper, advising other settlers how to plant trees as wind breaks, fuel, shade and fruit.
J. Sterling Morton became a legislator and served as acting territorial governor, but his interest was in agriculture, horticulture and conservation. In 1872, at the age of 40, he introduced an Arbor Day or Tree Day resolution to the State Board of Agriculture and the rest is a legacy of the celebration of trees in the U.S. Morton became U.S. Secretary of Agricultu…

Art in Bloom - New Orleans Museum of Art - Life in Color from March 14-18, 2012

The New Orleans Museum of Art was buzzing with artists, florists and volunteers today as they set up and prepared for a huge annual event, Art In Bloom. The 75 exhibitors, including floral designers, garden clubs, and artists
were on every floor and in most galleries.
  Proceeds from Art in Bloom benefit the educational projects and exhibitions at NOMA and the community projects of the Garden Study Club, including the New Orleans Botanical Gardens, Beauregard-Keyes House, Lazarus House, and Longue Vue Gardens.

2012 Art in Bloom is co-chaired by Jenny Charpentier and Gwathmey Gomila.

Here's a link to more information. And, New Orleans online - "The colorful, fragrant event will kick off on the evening of Wednesday, March 14 with a Preview and Patron Party in the elegant marble lobby of NOMA. Starting at 6 p.m. you can enjoy culinary masterpieces by the finest area restaurants and caterers, participate in a silent auction of unique works of art by some of the regions' mo…

Herbs: The Complete Gardener's Guide to Herbs by Patrick Lima with photos by Turid Forsyth

The soft cover release of the 2001 "Herbs: The Complete Gardener's Guide" this month will make this highly respected book available to a new audience. Author Patrick Lima writes for ( and
so his advice will pertain to colder climates and shorter seasons than mine in zone 7 USA but the herb photos and descriptions are universal. All the plant sources are Canadian.

The chapters include: Getting to Know Herbs, Garden Pantry (perennial herbs), Summer Seasonings (annual and biennial herbs), On Thyme, Sage Advice, Going to Seed (flavoring with seeds), All About Alliums (onion family herbs), Salad Days, Tea Leaves, Garden Silverware (plants with silver leaves), Uncommon Scents (fragrance), Herbal Know-How (propagation, preservation, growing indoors).

So, you can see - it is thorough. Since it is a re-release it will not have any new her…

Centaurea is Mountain Bluet or Perennial Bachelor's Button


The photo is from our garden the first year these bloomed - 2010. Fortunately,  they have returned each year since and made us happy again and again.
There are hundreds (between 350 and 600) species in the plant's family, Asteraceae. Other plants in the genus include starthistle, knapweed and cornflowers.

Bluestone Perennials has Amethyst Dream though their photo looks more blue than mine.

Perennial Bachelor's Buttons are hardy in zones 3 to 9 and tolerate dry locations as long as they get the half day shade they need in our area.

Forest Farm says they are cold hardy to zone 5 and that butterflies love them.

Missouri Botanical Garden says they are cold hardy to zone 3 in full sun. "Avoid rich, fertile soils."

No diseases or insect problems in our garden, though Fine Gardening says: White mold, rust, downy and powdery mildew, thread blight, and Southern blight can occur.

Doug Green calls Mountain Bluet a foolproof plant and suggests that it is easy to grow from seed…

Decoding Garden Advice by Jeff Gillman and Meleah Maynard

You do not have to be an iconoclast to point out the fallacies of common wisdom. In their readable book, "Decoding Gardening Advice - The Science Behind the 100 Most Common Recommendations", Jeff Gillman and Meleah Maynard, have taken on the task of sorting out the wheat from the chaff.

Gillman is well-known for his truthiness. His previous books include "The Truth About Garden Remedies", "The Truth About Organic Gardening", and "How the Government Got In Your Backyard - The Truth About Environmental Policies".

Gillman is a tenured horticulture professor at the University of MN and his co-author, Meleah Maynard is a writer and master gardener.

This book takes on topics that are quite familiar to experienced gardeners and that are important for new gardeners. 

Topics include: Earthworms, organic and synthetic fertilizer, watering, insecticidal soap, corn gluten meal, mulch, hardening off seedlings, grow lights, phosphorus, plant division, prunin…

Cherokee County, Oklahoma - Ozark Mtn foothills

Cherokee County is not too far from where we live. Sunday, we visited friends there and took a drive to enjoy the sunny day and pleasant scenery. Below are some photos of what it looks like in the foothills of the Ozark Mountains, early March.
What is this beautiful native tree with gold/green bare stems and red new growth?

Native oak tree scrub

Cliffs, rivers, lakes - lots of beautiful scenery along Hwy 10 near Tahlequah

In the woods, wild rose brambles are covered with buds that will open in a month or so.
The sand bars along the water are open to the public.

If you get a chance to drive around Cherokee County, check out Cherokee Hills byways links here and here.

Prairie Dogs - maybe we need to think more about them - for starters, they probably are not weeds

Do you want the state government to come onto your property and kill animals you consider harmless?

Benjamin Vogt writes "In The Deep Middle":

The legislature of Nebraska in their infinite wisdom and control of all things,
"passing a bill--LB473--that will allow the government to go on to private land and poison prairie dogs, which are being classified as noxious weeds (don't ask, you know how government works). If pdogs on your land spread to adjacent land, then the government has the right to go poison your animals and then bill you later. Not only is private property being disregarded, but more importantly, so is the health of a keystone Great Plains species.
Prairie dogs once numbered 3-5 billion across the mixed and short grass prairies. One town in Texas was estimated to be 100 x 250 miles, or 16 million acres and 400 million pdogs. Meriwether Lewis called them barking squirrels."

"Prairie dogs are what biologists call a keystone species, much like …

Cherokee Nation Seed Bank, Pat Gwin and Mark Dunham

Mark Dunham, Natural Resources Specialist, and Pat Gwin, Director of the Cherokee Nation Natural Resources Department, began a seed exchange five years ago, with the thought of preserving the seeds that Cherokees historically grew in their gardens. “You grew a garden to stay alive in the winter,” Gwin said. “Spring, summer and fall there was plenty to eat in the wild but crops had to sustain families throughout the cold months. The primary crops they needed were flour corn for cornmeal (not sweet corn), long-storing winter squash and beans to dry.”

Dunham said, “All four varieties of the flour and ceremonial corn we have grow 14-feet tall. You have to bend the stalk down to pick the one or two ears of corn on top.”
The Minneapolis American Indian Center sent Gwin and Dunham exactly nine native tobacco seeds that they then grew at the Cherokee Nation Center in Tahlequah. Now they have a supply large enough to share.
Cherokee plant rescuers Tony and Karra Harris of Atlanta, recently donate…