30 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 for our weather. Chase recommends that you buy a variety that is availble in your area and on sale and take your chances. Honestly, that's as good a way as mine, which included extensive research, expensive mail order trees followed by failure to thrive.

Each fruit is covered with the same thoroughness and recipes for other fruit trees, including cherries, crabapples, quince, etc.

Nuts and Berries includes hazelnuts, walnuts, pecans and others. Each has the same info as for fruits - growing, ornamental value, edible benefits, recipes.

Ditto with Herbs and Vines (grapes, lavender, rosemary, etc.)

Hot Country is for those readers who live in zones above ours - kumquats, pomegranates - the stuff we grew in California. The one fruit in that chapter that we can grow in zone 7 is figs - LOVE figs hot off the shrubs!

Last is Wildflowers: Pawpaw, Yucca, Persimmon and their kind.

Then, at the back, Chase gives more help on preserving the harvest she just knows we will have.

In all, Chase presents growing suggestions and lots of recipes for 35-selections. Add one a year to see how each one thrives in your yard and garden. Whatever we grow in our gardens we will enjoy a thousand times more than anything we can buy. I know that from experience.

29 March 2012

Longue Vue house and Gardens - New Orleans, LA

Longue Vue House and Gardens in New Orleans, LA (www.longuevue.com), 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 garden designers, Shipman was an experienced gardener who knew plants.  

Called “The Dean of Women Landscape Architects”, Shipman felt that the garden was the most essential part of a house. After her garden was installed, the Sterns decided to remove the original house and replace it with a house that provided better views of the landscape. (More details at http://tinyurl.com/d78al4)

Dormon (1888-1971) specialized in, and wrote books about, native plants which she grew at her family home, now the Caroline Dormon Nature Preserve.  As the first female employee of the U.S. Forestry Service, she is credited with single-handedly establishing the 600,000 acre Kisatchie National Forest, the only National Forest in Louisiana.

Amy Graham
Director of Horticulture
Longue Vue’s Head Gardener, Amy Graham said, “Mrs. Stern opened the gardens to the public in 1968, then in 1980 the house was open to the public. Over the years, various gardeners deviated from Shipman’s original designs. After Hurricane Katrina, Garden Conservancy and Heritage Landscapes (www.gardenconservancy.org) funded and produced a ten-year Landscape Renewal Plan to restore the landscape while honoring the original Shipman plans.” 

In 2006, hundreds of volunteers including staff from The Garden Conservancy volunteered at Longue Vue, assisting in clearing debris, which took 6 months. . (Before and after pictures and more information at http://tinyurl.com/87x6hnd)
Today, Graham has 2-full-time and 3part-time gardeners. The day we visited, dozens of volunteers from the Hillel Community were raking paths to prepare the grounds for events.

Graham said that in the Iris Walk, 60% of the plants were destroyed in Hurricane Katrina. The New Orleans Iris Society donated the labor and over 800 iris plants.  The collection now stands at over 2,600 which provides a breathtaking display each spring.

The Wild Garden is filled with native plants from Dormon’s extensive collection and were taken from her own garden. Plants include dogwood, viburnum, witch hazel, wild azalea and assorted perennial shrubs and flowers. Three paths lead into the food-filled Walled Garden.
The Discovery Garden is a one-half acre addition to the original design. Inspired by the Sterns’ commitment to education, it has butterfly, herb and vegetable gardens where many hands-on children’s programs are held.
The Canal Garden, lined with potted plants, was inspired by the Quinto do Cabo near Lisbon, Portugal. 
The Spanish Court has been re-designed a few times, changing from a lawn in the 1920s to a Camellia allee designed by Shipman in the 1930s, remade into a Loggia in the 1950s, then remade into the Spanish Court by William Platt in the1960s. It has a reflecting pool with arching fountains.
A tour of the house and gardens should be on your to do list if you are in the New Orleans area. They are both well worth your time.

27 March 2012

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.

Bustani Plant Farm - Oakhurst Pineapple Lily

Steve says all 4 varieties he offers are hardy in his western Oklahoma gardens. 
Giant Eucomis - Bustani Plant Farm

Other growers in our zone agree. Plant Delights catalog says,
"Since we began growing eucomis (pineapple lilies) in the early 1980s, we have found them to be easy, reliable, and fun garden perennials. We continue to evaluate most of the 10 Eucomis species from South Africa along with new hybrids from breeders around the world for their uniqueness and garden worthiness. The first plant we introduced was a selection we named Eucomis 'Sparkling Burgundy'. We hope you enjoy our ever-increasing eucomis offerings, many of which were bred for the cut flower market. "

Bustani Plant Farm - Eucomis
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 really rambled over the ground like snakes rather than stand up like they do normally"

Don't miss out on planting this one in your garden or on your patio.

24 March 2012

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.
USDA Plants Profile
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 wildlife and because its complex root structure will help prevent erosion on our hill - a constant problem.
The common name, ninebark comes from its peeling cinnamon colored brown bark. Though the bark only shows after the leaves drop, the contrast with the red berries is quite a sight.

Ninebark has no known disease or insect problems, is drought tolerant and does fine in clay soil.

The rain has stopped so we'll get them in the ground today.

22 March 2012

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. Self-seeds. Full sun to part-shade.

Sideoats grama, Bouteloua curtipendula, grows up to 5-feet tall with tiny green and orange flowers. Full sun to light shade.

Buffalo grass, Buchloe dactyloides, from the shortgrass prairie, forms 1-to-6-inches tall mats, making it a popular warm-season, no-mow lawn.

Switchgrass, Panicum virgatum, is considered one of the most important of the tall grasses. Its green, pink, and orange panicles are up to a foot long, on top of 5-foot tall clumps. Switchgrass is the primary food source of skipper caterpillars and is being researched as a biofuel.

Dallas Blues Panicum virgatum has powder blue leaves, mauve blooms and maroon seedheads.

Red Switch Grass, Rostrahlbusch, “best of the reds”, has red leaves in fall and pink-red seedheads.

Shenandoah Red Switchgrass has red-tipped green leaves that turn dark red in mid-summer followed by pink plumes in the fall.

Little bluestem, Schizachyrium scoparium, grows 40-inches tall on dry sites. The flowering spikes are green and yellow from late summer to fall.

Indian grass, Sorghastrum nutans, is the official OK state grass. It is a major grass of the tall grass prairie and grows across the state. In the fall its blue-green stems sport plumes of flowers.

Feather Reed Grass, Calamagrostis x acutiflora Karl Foerster, tolerates standing water, drought, wind and acidic soil. The variety, Northwind, has blue leaves and summertime flowers that are used in dried arrangements. It is easy to grow in sun or part-shade in moist, sandy, or clay soil. Does not re-seed. 2001 Perennial Plant of the Year.

Native grass seeds are important for finches, juncos, Eastern towhees and dozens of other birds.

Stock Seed Farm, http://stockseed.com, sells seed for 50 prairie and turf grasses.

Native American Seed, http://www.seedsource.com, has 40 native grasses.

Sand Hill Preservation, www.sandhillpreservation.com, has several grain varieties including Sorghum, Broom corns, Teff, and Amaranths. Amaranth is planted in the spring, used like spinach all season, and left to make seed for the winter. The seeds can be harvested and eaten or popped. If they are not harvested they will feed the birds all winter. Watching the birds swinging on tall amaranth branches is a delightful winter scene.

Millet has become popular for home gardens. Johnny’s Selected Seeds, www.johnnyseeds.com, offers hybrid pearl, Purple Majesty, and Lime Light Spray millet. Their catalog includes a chart to help you order the right amount of seed.

There are dozens of easy-care, cold hardy and drought tolerant grasses to try in your garden.

21 March 2012

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  Hoverkamp's must-see illustrations in the book can be seen at Ellen's dropbox site.

The book is gorgeous enough to give as a gift or keep on your coffee table.

The chapters are: Seasons, Families, Form Follows Function, Spirit of Place, and Themes.

I can't easily summarize the topics in "Seasons" because they are Ken Druse being the knowledgeable gardener and garden writer that he is.

In "Families" he talks about plant families, names, hybrids, specific plants such as roses.

"Form Follows Function" covers vines, succulents, silver plants, conifers, ferns, large-leafed plants, leaf shapes, etc.

"Color", as you could easily guess, describes plants for each gardener's preferred palette.

"Spirit of Place" is about design - woodland, grassland, meadow, watery gardens, Mediterranean, tropical, rock gardens, etc.

"Themes" include scented gardens, hummingbird garden, edible flowers, a garden room, medicinal herb garden, cottage, etc.

Each garden discussion includes a photo with a plant identification chart so you can plant what you enjoyed seeing on the page. And, in the Appendix there is a list of the plants with their Latin names for easy reference.

"Natural Companions: The Garden Lover's Guide to Plant Combinations" is 256-pages, published by Stewart, Tabori & Chang, a trade imprint of Abrams, March 2012. ISBN: 978-1-58479-90-1-6 , $40

20 March 2012

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.
Robin Moth - (Cecropia Moth) - Hyalophora cecropia

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 garden's namesake, Lucy C. Roussel (Lucy Cocchiarra August 21, 1909–March 16, 2002). She was the wife of Louis J Roussel, Jr. who made his fortune in the petroleum and banking industries.

He gave significant donations to Republican candidates and his legacy includes the Louis J. Roussel Performance Hall at Loyola University, the Louis J. Roussel, Jr. Laser Planetarium and MegaDome Cinema is named in his honor.

17 March 2012

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

Dick & Bridget Strawbridge
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).

Mason Bee Sabka.org
* 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 incorporate provisions for their continued survival within our designs. This is not difficult as bees’ requirements are very basic. They need: habitat suitable for nesting, mating and hibernating – and nectar & pollen rich flowers to forage upon.

Digger Bee - UC Agriculture - lots more info here
*Most species of bumblebee like to nest beneath the ground. Nothing suits these bees better than a disused nest or tunnel made by mice or other rodents but unfortunately these are not as plentiful as they used to be. This is because our small mammal population is in decline. Small mammal decline has, in turn, been caused by the decline in hedgerows. So, by planting a native hedgerow, not only will you be providing yourself and other creatures with a plentiful supply of edible and medicinal plants, but you will also be creating ideal habitat for small mammals and, ultimately, for bumblebee nests. Hedgerows (and woodland edges) also serve another purpose for bumblebees when, in the mating season, males of different species can be found patrolling up and down the length of the hedgerows or tree lines waiting for newly hatched queen bees to mate with.

*One single Red Mason solitary bee (Osmia rufa) is capable of doing the same amount of work as 120 honeybees…. so it’s well worth considering ways to attract them to your plot.
Habitat piles, rotten wood, compost heaps, south facing muddy banks and long grass are all great for solitary bees, but you can also create purpose built nests or ‘bee hotels’ for them. To do this, you can use bundles of hollow plant stems such as bamboo or cow parsley…or drill holes, 2 – 8mm in diameter into logs or fence posts. Place these in south facing positions and the bees will love them.

* there are a few basic things to bear in mind to make your plot bee friendly:
  1. Make sure you have pollen and nectar rich pants flowering in succession throughout the year. It’s no use providing acres of sunflowers if there is nothing for bees to forage upon for the rest of the year.
  2. Plant flowers in clumps rather than as single stems.
  3. Avoid double or multi-headed cultivars.
  4. Don’t use pesticides
  5. Plant in sunny positions wherever possible
  6. Bees especially like flowers in the blue/purple/lilac colour spectrum as well as pink, yellow, and white. Apart from the odd flower such as the Field Poppy bees are not interested in red flowers.
  7. If you want to provide bees with caviar and champagne, plant Viper’s bugloss and Borage!

15 March 2012

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 Agriculture in 1893.

The purpose of Arbor Day is to encourage tree planting and prizes have always been awarded to communities and organizations that plant the most trees. That first year, over a million trees were planted in Nebraska alone.

It was Morton’s oldest son, Joy, who founded Morton Salt Co. The Morton family’s Nebraska home became Arbor Lodge and was eventually donated to the state. The lodge and the family land are now a state historical park. Joy Morton’s former estate in Chicago, IL, is now known as Morton Arboretum.

Sorting chestnut seeds to plant and ship
Today the million-member Arbor Day Foundation (www.arborday.org) is probably best known for giving 10-free trees with each $15 annual membership. The millions of trees shipped each year from the Arbor Farm apple house are grown on tree farms in Michigan and TN.

The Foundation was formed in 1972 by John Roseneau who revitalized national tree-planting efforts, creating Tree City USA, Conservation Trees, Trees for America, Tree Line USA, Rain Forest Rescue, Arbor Farm, and the National Poster Contest.

The Arbor Farm and Lied Lodge are destinations for hundreds of thousands of Nebraska City visitors annually.

Outdoor music room at Arbor Farm
Arbor Day Farm and Tree Adventure (www.arbordayfarm.org) is a nature classroom with several playscapes, historic barn, pick-your-own apple orchards, greenhouse and growing house, nature trails, indoor forest, and tractor rides.

When we visited, there were 150 school children onsite, learning about botany and conservation, having lunch and picking apples. Our tour guide was Heather Austin, Curriculum Coordinator and Educational Tour Coordinator.

A former teacher, Austin said her family moved to NE from FL and found Arbor Day Farm while working as a volunteer for her children’s school trips. Eventually she was offered a job there.

Heather Austin
“It is fun to work for a company that has a holiday and a parade,” said Austin.

Visitors to Arbor Farm can stay at the Foundation’s nearby Lied Lodge (www.liedlodge.org) which was designed to serve as a resource for Arbor Day Foundation members, conservation-related organizations, teachers, and forestry professionals.

Another Arbor Day project is finding the “soybean of the future” through its experimentation with growing hazelnut trees. The Hybrid Hazelnut Consortium is made up of Oregon State University, Rutgers University, University of Nebraska and the Arbor Foundation. They are looking for participants to grow the new disease resistant cultivars in Oregon, Washington, the Midwest and eastern U.S. Interested growers can request information through their website.

The Orchard Manager said they give away 20,000 trees to Tree Adventure visitors, they ship 8-million trees a year to members, as gifts, trees purchased for business give-aways and trees donated to parks and conservation groups.

14 March 2012

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' most gifted artists, as well as view the event's exhibits. Artist Elise Allen's "Spring Fling" painting will be on auction at the Preview and Patron party.

On Thursday, March 15, there will be a series of lectures and demonstrations at the museum and an elegant luncheon at the Pavilion of the Two Sisters in City Park. From 9:30-10:15 a.m. Patrick Dunne, author of the book The Epicurean Collector and the proprietor of Lucullus antique stores in New Orleans and Breaux Bridge, will speak in NOMA's Stern Auditorium. Then, from 10:45 a.m. to noon, prepare to be charmed by Houston local and master floral designer Johnathan Andrew Sage with his beautiful arrangements. He will focus on bringing the garden inside to the table.

The luncheon will feature a fashion show put on by Saks Fifth Avenue and lunch will be catered at the beautiful Pavilion of the Two Sisters just across the traffic circle from the museum. Both the lectures and luncheon are available for a combined price."

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 www.Canadiangardening.com (http://www.facebook.com/Larkwhistle and http://torontogardens.blogspot.com/2009/07/garden-daytrips-larkwhistle-bruce.html)
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 herb hybrids since 2001 but most of us grow mostly non-hybridized varieties.

With all that said, the narrative of this book is beautifully written, easy to read, low on jargon that make gardener's eyes glaze over, provides preferred varieties, and will make you want to grow more herbs than you do now. Seed starting and propagating information is sprinkled throughout, associated with the plants' description and photos - very useful. - plus a 15-page, illustrated chapter.

17-pages of herby recipes from penne to lemonade.

Herbs: The Complete Gardener's Guide

Published by Firefly Books. List price $25 and the 2001 edition is $14 at online booksellers.

It is 220-pages, 8.5 by 11, so there is plenty of space for comprehensive information.
Patrick Lima's other books include: "The Natural Food Garden", "Harrowsmith Perennial Garden", and "Organic Home Garden".

The photographer, Turid Forsyth has many notable books to his credit including: "Tropical Plants of Costa Rica", "The Harrowsmith Salad Garden", "In a Desert Garden", etc.

12 March 2012

Centaurea is Mountain Bluet or Perennial Bachelor's Button

Centaurea Amythest Dream
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. Check it out at http://www.doug-greens-perennials.com/mountain-bluet/

Urban Gardener has seeds!

I wonder why it isn't in more gardens. Consider adding it to yours.

10 March 2012

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, pruning, fruit trees, companion planting, yard waste disposal, Borax, chemical safety on lawns, etc.

It is true that we gardeners hear a LOT of advice about what we are supposed to do and it is also true that it is not always applicable to our situations. I have a few pet peeves but this is about Gillman and Maynard's wisdom, not my irritations and disappointments with experts.

Here's how the book is laid out:
"In This Chapter" has 3 headings
Good Advice, Advice That's Debatable and Advice That's Just Wrong,
then under each heading there are lists of garden wisdom for each category.

Good advice in Chapter 1: Add organic material, keep the worms happy, get a soil test, etc.
Debatable advice in that chapter: Change the soil in planters every season, always fertilize in the spring, add soil bacteria when planting beans, etc.
Wrong advice for this chapter: Use balanced fertilizer, apply compost tea, add pine needles to make soil more acidic, etc.

Each of the 8 chapters is structured like that.

I think that if every gardener could get a copy of this book it would save them a considerable amount of grief, frustration, failure, wasted effort and money for more classes and books. Gillman knows his stuff and I assume Maynard should get credit for making it so readable. Congratulations to them both.

Decoding Garden Advice, 224 pages, paperback.
Timber Press, $17 list and $10 at online booksellers.

09 March 2012

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.

06 March 2012

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.
Desert USA
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 the bison were--that is, such a large number of other species depend on their existence that without them whole vast ranges of the ecosystem simply vanish."
"If we poison prairie dogs, we poison the health of the land we depend upon, and we erode our very own culture."
and from a letter to the editor of the Journal Star
"It seems to me, in view of all the concerted efforts of our state’s elective officers to enact a set of morals for every Nebraskan to live by -- especially relative to marriage and reproduction -- they could take a lesson from prairie dogs, rather than passing a law requiring the poisoning of entire colonies at the whim of an unhappy neighbor.

For the record, prairie dogs are strictly heterosexual, don’t engage in divorce, don’t practice birth control or chose abortion, and otherwise behave better toward their neighbors than do many citizens of our state. Adult males remain with their family living group while the young are being raised, often acting as lookouts to warn of possible danger.

Prairie dogs are highly tolerant of uninvited guests that may not speak prairie dog, such as burrowing owls, and never threaten to send them back to their ancestral Mexico or elsewhere.
In view of all these Christian-like attributes, I would think our senators would aspire to place the industrious and peace-loving prairie dog on our state flag -- as a symbol of what we all should emulate, rather than conspire to facilitate killing as many as possible."

Paul A. Johnsgard, Lincoln

If this interests or concerns you, visit Vogt's blog at the link above or the Prairie Dog Coalition site here.

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.
Jewel Gourds
“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.”

Pat Gwin

The potatoes they grew for winter food were actually wild potatoes, Apios Americana or Ground Nuts. Ground nuts are a vine in the pea family, related to soybeans. The tiny tubers that grow along the roots are the ground nuts (they are not peanuts). The tubers are peeled and often boiled or roasted.
Collecting seeds to grow, in order to create the seed bank, was a matter of contacting fellow Cherokee gardeners around the country.
Carl Barnes in Turpin OK is known for his heritage corn and he contributed the original seed Gwin and Dunham grew. The ears of his Cherokee Long Ear Small Popcorn have shiny kernels of red, blue, orange, white and yellow.

Prairie Willow, Salix Humulus

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 donated plants used by Cherokees for medicine, food, weapons and hunting. They are now in the Cherokee Nation garden that Gwin and Dunham are developing.

Each year since the seed exchange began, the Cherokee Nation Natural Resources Department has distributed over 7,000 packs of seeds to Cherokees and to educational institutions and programs.

Although the seeds are free to Cherokee gardeners and educational programs, everyone who receives seeds is asked to contribute seeds back to the seed bank if they have a successful crop.

Several plant varieties will be available upon request for the 2012 growing season but not beans and squash. Last year’s extreme weather prevented a good enough seed crop from being grown.

 “The heat and drought really cut our inventory and prevented us from replenishing our seed bank with certain varieties,” said Dunham. “Fortunately, some seeds were sent to us from other Cherokees, allowing us to still be able to have seeds to give away.”

Dunham said they have jewel gourd seeds this year, though.  Jewel Gourds mature at 2-3 inches in diameter and were probably worn ornamentally by Cherokees.  An advantage to growing jewel gourds is that the plants are relatively small compared to basket gourd plants.

Mark Dunham

“You see designs sometimes that show people wearing jewel gourds on old eastern woodlands pottery,” Dunham said.
For more information about the seed exchange, go to the Natural Resources Department webpage at www.cherokee.org, or email mark-dunham@cherokee.org.
Cherokees and educational institutions may request two seed varieties. Include your name, a copy of your Cherokee Nation citizenship card (blue card) or program name, mailing address, and if requesting tobacco seeds, proof that you are over 18.
Seeds available:
Corn (Cherokee White Eagle, Cherokee Colored/Yellow/White Flour)
Popcorn (Red, Bronze, Colored, Green)
Gourds (Basket, Dipper, Jewel, Jewelry and Buffalo)
Native Tobacco (Nicotiana rustica)
If you do not qualify to get seeds from the Cherokee nation, go to http://www.nativeseeds.org.

A stand of native River Cane, Arundinaria gigantea, at the Cherokee Nation garden in Tahlequah