30 April 2012

Agastache rupestris Apache Sunset and Sunset Hyssop

I saw Agastache Apache Sunset in bloom at a Colorado Springs Xeriscape demonstration garden. And, while it is a little more dusty-colored than the one in this promotional photo, it is eye-stoppingly beautiful when it blooms.

Native to the US. Attracts bees and butterflies, deters deer because the entire plant smells like licorice. Silver leaves; no need to describe the fall-blooming flowers!

Like all mints, the stems are square.

Cold hardy as a perennial in zones 5 to 9 and drought tolerant even in full sun and mountain climates.

Seeds available from Swallowtail Gardens
Germination takes 2 or 3 weeks so start the seeds now, transplant them in another month, flowers will come late summer and until first hard frost.

Space seedlings 18-inches apart. If your winter temperatures go lower than 20 below zero, be sure to mulch the plants' roots after the first freeze.

Makes great cut flowers for inside the house, too.

29 April 2012

Organic gardening in arid, mountainous regions

The elevation of your growing zone impacts not only the length of your growing season but the amount of rainfall and oxygen your garden has to work with.

A recent trip to an Arkansas garden proved the point. We are the same horticultural zone but they are 1300 ft elevation and we are 300 feet. They are in the hills and we are in the foothills. Their season begins later, their soil is different and their rainfall is greater.

Colorado (and other) gardeners can be in one of a few cold hardiness zones and also have unique microclimates from each other due to creeks, mountains, soil type, etc. One thing all arid area gardeners have in common is lack of or very little rainfall.

The publisher and editor of Colorado Gardener magazine, Jane Shellenberger, has a new book out to help Colorado gardeners succeed. Shellenberger points out that "permaculture, working with nature and using its patterns as models to design functional ecosystems, offers a solution for turning this situation (the damaging effects of large agriculture) around...."

The premise of this lovely book about sustainable gardening is that you, as individuals can contribute to improving the ecosystem.

How? By growing a chemical-free garden of fruit, nuts, vegetables and herbs in soil that you are building.

The book starts with a discussion of the variations of conditions across the west and other areas of the world with similar conditions.

Chapter 3 helps understand soil and how to build it. "Western soils are typically lean, with very little organic material compared to more humid woodland climates where lots of native deciduous trees and shrubs grow." The connection between healthy soil and soil bacteria, earthworms, organic matter, compost, manure, and green manure, are presented. Soil nutrients are next, followed by pollinators.

Chapter 6 is how to create a vegetable garden, Chapter 7 is how to extend the growing season, Chapter 8 beneficial insects, Chapter 9 covers all the undesirables: weeds, wildlife and destructive insects.

Water is the crucial topic of Chapter 10. The remaining 60 pages are "What to Grow". Not just names of plants but days to maturity, which varieties succeed in the arid mountains, nutritional importance, and how to succeed with hints, tips and guidance based on Shellenberger's experience.

Shellenberger covers all the basic information a new gardener needs. The depth of her knowledge and her discussion of the complexity of the issues and importance of gardening at home sets the book apart from most others. You will find a good read on organic gardening, agricultural history, weather and geology.

If you garden in an arid climate, this is the book for you. $25 from Fulcrum Publishing and $17 at online booksellers.

Other resources for Colorado gardeners are readily available online at Colorado Gardening.

26 April 2012

Lendonwood Gardens - Spectacular plants for zone 7

Lendonwood Gardens
 Oregon Grape, Mahonia aquifolium Berberidaceae
Lendonwood Gardens
Chinese Variegated Dogwood, Cornus Kousa 'Wolf Eyes'
Lendonwood Gardens
Bloodgood Japanese Maple, Acer palmatum var. atropurpureum 'Bloodgood'

Lendonwood Gardens
Flag Iris, Paleyellow iris, Iris pseudacorus
Lendonwood Gardens

Lendonwood Gardens - Scenes and Garden Rooms

Lendonwood Gardens
Inside the grow house
Lendonwood Gardens
Koi Pond and Tea House
Lendonwood Gardens
Japanese Garden
Lendonwood Gardens
Angel of Hope

Lendonwood Gardens
American Backyard Garden

25 April 2012

Garden Sage - Salvia officinalis 'Tricolor'

Now in its 4th year! The tricolor sage pulled through another winter in zone 7.

Tried and true. Low maintenance. Great butterfly attracting plant when in flower.
Avoid wet soil.
Use as a decorative and great scented garden plant and harvest for the kitchen.

Tricolor is a beautiful addition to the herb bed, along the rock walkway.

Betsy Clebsch, author of  "New Book of Salvias", said it is one of the early medicinals discovered in 1753 by Carl Linnaeus. Give it good drainage and full sun. The leaves vary widely from white cream, grey cream to rose.

She also said, "I find this plant indispensable."

More info - Monrovia plants
Plants available from Mountain Valley Growers

Start from seed if you like. When your plants are large enough you can propagate Salvia officinalis by taking cuttings and by layering.

Edible Garden Cookbook from Sunset

As much about growing, harvesting and preserving, the new "Sunset Edible Garden Cookbook: Fresh, healthy cooking from the garden", is a lovely addition to an almost empty category of books.

I have an old fresh produce book from Burpee and a couple of newer veggie books from Renees Garden Seeds, but not many books like this one have been published for U.S. gardeners.

Let's review what's in the book for one vegetable as an example of what they've included.

Peppers is a 10-page chapter. Opposite the full page color photo is Why Grow Them, When to Harvest, How to Keep, Basic Ways to Cook, Preserving the Harvest, Some of our favorite varieties.

After that page, you are on to recipes and more tips and photos. For peppers the recipes include Roasted green chile and tomatillo salsa, Fennel pepper slaw, Creen chili grits, two full page photos, Grilled chicken kebabs with romesco sauce and "Good for You" on the nutritional value of peppers.

Each chapter in this 300-page book covers one type of produce, from artichokes and garlic to radishes and tomatoes. Herbs and fruit are covered, also. Herb vinegars, herbal beverages, veggie-herb burgers, fruit pies, tarts and jams.

A delicious addition to the bookshelf of a gardener, beginner or experienced cook.
Oversized paperback. $30 list price and $20 at online vendors.

Lendonwood Gardens - How to Grow Rhododendrons

Some of the Rhododendrons at Lendonwood Gardens in Grove have already bloomed but
many are still in flower as are a hundred other shrubs, trees and perennials.

Dr. Len Miller
Last week, Lendonwood’s founder Len Miller led a tour during which he pointed out many of the best plants and a few that are difficult to grow here.

The plants Miller highlighted on the tour included:
Japanese Birch (hard to grow),
Japanese Maple (fast growing and makes lots of seedlings),
Dawn Redwood (fast growing),
Variegated elm (full sun, beautiful leaves),
Bloodgood Maple (red seed pods),
Styrax Japonica (white flowers),
Weeping Katsura Magnifica
(heart-shaped leaves on weeping branches),
Japanese Variegated Dogwood (tough to grow),
Rising Sun Redbud (will be available from Greenleaf Nursery this fall),
Cherokee Sunset Dogwood (variegated leaves and pink flowers), and
Cornus Kousa Wolf Eyes (The best dogwood with white rimmed leaves and white flowers).

A walk through Lendonwood Gardens includes touring many garden rooms: Display Garden, Oriental, Japanese, English Terrace, American Backyard, Angel of Hope and Azalea.

Cindy Reynolds - Lead volunteer, head gardener
 In the American Backyard Garden there are dozens of Knock Out and Double Knock Out Roses. Miller said, “We wanted to show gardeners that they could grow beautiful gardens without irrigation, pesticides, fertilizers or chemicals of any kind.”

Lendonwood boasts the country’s largest collection of false cypress, 500 daylily varieties, 125 hosta varieties, 75-Japanese Maple species, 25-dogwood species,

The 300-varieties of Rhododendrons in Lendonwood are members of the Heath plant family, closely related to Azaleas. They come in a wide range of colors and
want the same shady spot and acidic soil.

Miller is the past president of the American Rhododendron Society (Ozarks Rhododendron
Society http://www.ozarkars.com). He said that to grow rhododendrons in OK, all
their native growing conditions have to be met, including acid soil (pH of 5.5

Larry Ahrens, Dr. Len Miller, Dr. Gerald Klingaman
to 6.5), moisture, drainage and protection from wind and hot sun.
"Their natural growing location is on the northern slope of a
mountain," Miller said. "They have to be well protected in Oklahoma in order to be successful. They grow well here tucked under trees where they receive a maximum of 2-hours of morning sun and no afternoon sun, ever.”

"Go out at 4:00 in the afternoon on a summer day to make sure the locationreceives no direct sun between 3 and 7," Miller said.

The soil has to be kept moist all year and plants should be well mulched with pine bark mulch, not peat moss.

Water rhododendrons when they are flowering, after flowering, during dry periods and late fall before the first freeze. Long, dry spells will require a soaker hose to get the moisture 8-inches deep.

Miller said, "I add sulphur at the rate of 1-pound per 100-square feet to acidify it. A cup of sulphur sprinkled on the ground (not dug in) around each plant will do it.
Miller said that rhododendrons have fibrous surface roots that are damaged by any digging around them. All of the plants' roots are in the top 6 to 8-inches of soil.

To plant a new shrub, dig a hole 5-feet wide and 8-inches deep. Mix 6-cubic feet of pine mulch with the soil removed from the planting hole. Fill the hole and pile the pine-bark soil to make a raised planting area.

Remove the plant from the pot and cut the root ball in half. Spread the roots, butterfly fashion. Plant the shrub above the soil level on 3 to 4-inches of pine-soil. It is a good idea to score and tease out the roots before planting.

If You Go
Lendonwood Gardens1308 West 13th Street (Har-Ber Road), Grove
Open every day from dusk to dawn. Adults $5 donation.
Information www.lendonwood.com and 918-786-2938 or 918-786-8375

22 April 2012

April gardening tips

Skip West, Master Gardener for Cohlmias in Tulsa gave his monthly presentation of gardening tips.

Azaleas - prune 3 weeks after bloom, in mid-April. Never fertilize after Aug 1.

Try carpet and drift rose varieties as low-care ground cover.

When you buy annuals, do not fertilize for a month after planting. They come loaded with fertilizer already.

Cottonseed hulls are the best all around mulch. Pecan shells are the best for Azaleas.

Prune honeysuckle, forsythia and everything else that has already bloomed.

Divide perennials now if they are 5 years old. Remove the dead wood from crape myrtles. Plant periwinkles in mid-May - they are the best performer in full sun. Also in mid-May plant caladiums, lantanas, zinnias, okra and squash

Read plant labels but remember that full sun in Michigan is not full sun in Oklahoma.

Tent caterpillars, web worms and bag worms will become active soon. Pull them off the trees.

Skip West

In May, prune climbing roses 2 weeks after bloom is complete,
divide daylilies, prune creeping phlox, plant sweet potatoes, basil and elephant ears.

Use SledgeHammer on nut sedge.
If you pull it out like a weed, you are actually aiding its propagation.

When planting sweet potato vine, plant 3 black to 1 lime green since
the lime green tries to take over the pot.

Prune coleus and sweet potato vines as needed and
put the cuttings right into the ground where they will root.

20 April 2012

Perennial Veronica incana or Spiked Woolly Speedwell

 Cold hardy in zones 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, Veronica Woolly Silver Speedwell is blooming around the edges of part shade spots in our garden. I planted them from seed in the winter of 2010, put out the tiny plants in 2011 and then the drought hit with record heat. The plants that survived to bloom this year are the ones that were in part shade ever since they were planted.

While I would love to have had 30 plants survive, I'm glad I tucked them all around the beds to see where they would thrive. Now these plants have been through it all and should spread nicely into their predicted 24-inch width. Gorgeous blue blossoms.

Veronicas come with white, pink, blue, lavender and purple flowers. Some are ground huggers and others are 3-feet tall. Look for
Veronica austriaca, Veronica gentianoides, Veronica incana, Veronica longifolia and Veronica spicata. They all bloom with racemes of densely packed blue-shaded flowers except for those few white and pink

ones in the mix.


Veronicas are easy-care plants. The silver leaf varieties are drought tolerant.

They are free of insect and disease problems.

Just keep them watered but keep their feet out of standing water! They thrive at the front of the border where they can dry out.

9.12.12 update - Despite record heat and drought the plants continue to hang in there. I didn't get around to deadheading - cutting off the spent flowers in time for the plants to get a second bloom. When it's 110 F (43C) we don't do much other than drag hoses (to the tune of a monthly $380 water bill) and drink tea. Now that the temperatures are cooling to the 90s (32C) and I am watering again, the plants still look decent. I'm snapping off the seedheads and putting into the flower beds so maybe I'll get some volunteer plants next spring.

19 April 2012

Rain Barrels - Selection, Installation, Size

Water is essential for life and with summertime heat and drought are on our minds, you may be thinking of ways to preserve your garden without huge water bills.

An old-fashioned method of harvesting water has come back into style with commercially available rain barrels.
Years ago, families put a recycled barrel at one corner of the house where the rain ran off the roof and was collected.
Rainwater that is collected and used to raise seedlings and water gardens benefits the ground as well as plants since rainwater is naturally soft and free of chemicals.

A rainwater collection method can be a recycled barrel that costs a few dollars or a well-engineered system that costs a thousand.
Aqua Barrel
Home improvement stores, catalogs and online vendors offer them in metal and plastic, or, any large container can be recycled into one.
The simplest method is the old fashioned one of putting a barrel under your rain gutter downspouts. Other easy methods are to use a rain-chain to divert the water or to connect a water barrel to a downspout by removing the bottom portion of the downspout.
Look at the options available in home improvement and garden centers to see what is in your price range and is realistic for you to set up.
Online vendors include:
Great American Rain Barrel Co. http://www.greatamericanrainbarrel.com/
Gardeners Supply Co. http://www.gardeners.com/

Fiskars www2.fiskars.com

Choosing the right rain barrel size will depend on what you intend to do with the water, how big a footprint your landscaping can hide and how much rain you hope to capture.

To raise seedlings, an average sized rain barrel is big enough; for a large garden install a 1,500 gallon one. (A 1,000 square-foot roof gets 625 gallons of water from a 1-inch rainfall.)

There are many attractive rain barrels on the market but most of them would never be considered a lawn ornament. Look around the landscape and choose a place where it can be hidden from view with shrubs or a decorative fence.

Rain barrels should be kept covered to keep leaves and insects out. They also benefit from a filter to prevent silt – something as simple as a funnel with mesh at the bottom and covered with gravel.
If you prefer to use a few rain barrels connected together with PVC pipe or a length of hose, a pump will be needed to move the water from all the containers.
Some rain barrels, such as the Fiskars models, come with a downpipe diverter kit that fits into the downspout, or one can be purchased from a hardware store or easily made.

Your installed rain barrel should be placed on a secure surface, such as concrete pavers. Plan well since a barrel filled with rainwater will weigh a substantial amount since water weighs 8 pounds per gallon.

Another planning consideration is to put the rain barrel high enough on a platform of some kind so you can get a watering can under the spigot and have enough gravity to make the water flow.
Fiskars rain barrel
If there is a deluge of rain that would make the barrel overflow and cause a mud problem, remove water to holding containers or just open the spigot.
In any location that receives a hard freeze in the winter, disconnect the downspout from the rain barrel and either turn the barrel upside down or store it in a shed.

There are dozens of rain barrel vendors. Some have unique designs and others sell pipes, tubing and everything else you could need to set up a system.
Happy Earth Day

17 April 2012

Plant hardiness zones - US, Canada, Europe, Australia, India, China, Russia, Japan

I'm in plant hardiness zone 7 - where are you?
Worldwide cold hardiness zones

European cold hardiness zones -
France Germany Spain Italy Slovenia 
More countries at the Pacific Bulb Society website
- follow this link

15 April 2012

Sages, Salvias and their many variations

Mountain Valley Growers
California Sunset Salvia is one of the pink flowering sages for sunny, dry spots. And, it's one I don't have yet though it is on the wish list for sure. unlike many sages, this one maxes out at 2 feet tall. It's cold hardy in zones 7 to 11, which means a mild winter here since we are just zone 7. 

To play it safe I usually take cuttings of all my zone 7 hardy sages in the fall so the next spring when I'm plant shopping I don't have to replace those and can add to my collection.

Mountain Valley Growers has 32 sage varieties - whose photo this is - It is a company I've had good luck with in the past. They sell this one $4.95 for a 3-inch pot, plus shipping of course.

Plant Delights offers the same salvia for $12.00 though I looked throughout their webpage and can't get any information on the size of the pot or plant they are offering. My assumption is that it must be larger than Mountain Valley's.

Their catalog says, "We picked up this Salvia greggii hybrid in California under the incorrect name of Salvia macellaria. It turned out to be a splendid Salvia greggii hybrid (probably Salvia x jamensis) that forms a 3' tall x 4' wide, woody-stemmed, deer-resistant, hummingbird acclaimed clump, topped in spring and again in fall with a superb show of flower spikes of an unusual peachy-orange (RHS 31B) that just tops the foliage."

Dyson's Nursery in England offers 60 Salvia varieties! Great photos at their link.

Many Salvia greggii are sun loving and others not so much. Mine bloom the best when they get afternoon shade, especially since it had to endure those 117 degree days we had last summer.

Since our winter was so mild for 2011/12, the Pineapple Sage (Salvia elegans) is already blooming its head off and all 3 cuttings I planted last year are up and blooming - in mid-April in zone 7!

The culinary sage didn't even bother to die back this year. Part of its success, I suspect is that it is protected by a huge mass of Mother of Thyme (Creeping Thyme or Thymus serpyllum) stems and leaves.

By the way, Mother of Thyme is an incredibly durable ground cover in our NE OK garden. I got a couple of 4-inch pots from Moonshadow Herb Farm four years ago and if you added up all the places I have transplanted clumps it would easily be 100 square feet. And, you can walk on it.

The other Salvias that have surprised me for the 3rd or 4th year - The Hot Lips (Salvia microphylla (grahamii) Hot Lips and the Variegated Sage are both thriving.

Hot Lips is grown for its red and white flowers and nice scent rather than for the kitchen.

The Variegated Sage (Salvia officinalis 'Icterina' (Golden variegated sage, Common sage, Culinary sage) has a narrow zones 7-8 hardiness range and grows  s l o w l y.

Black and Blue (Salvia guaranitica, Anise sage) isn't showing itself yet though it always the latest to bloom. I hope it survived the transplant. It is one of the ones I would replace if it failed to thrive.

Do you grow Salvia for butterflies and hummingbirds or for bouquets and kitchen?

14 April 2012

Iris germanica is Bearded Iris

In our garden, several bearded iris colors are showing off their springtime beauty.

This cold-hardy perennial takes little maintenance, usually multiplies over the years, and, if you mix the varieties, you'll have a month of flowers.
The flower itself has three upright petals or standards and three hanging petals or falls. The beard is the fuzzy line in the middle of the fall.
There are sizes for all parts of the garden: Miniature dwarfs are 8 inches tall or smaller, standard dwarf is 8 to 15 inches tall, intermediate is16 to 27 inches, miniature tall 16 to 25 inches with small flowers, border is 16 to 27 inches, and tall ones are 28 to 38 inches.

The best time to plant or divide and renew is after they are finished blooming, July through September, though I've been guilty of moving them when I have time rather than waiting. For example, this spring, while I can see the colors displayed and how I want to re-mix them, I wait until the flowers fade, and move them.

By the way, they bloom once the single rhizome you planted becomes a cluster of 3. When transplanting, carefully, discard the center one that bloomed this year and replant the 2 side rhizomes into prepared soil.

Plant at least three rhizomes of the same color, 8 to 10 inches apart, pointing the fan of leaves away from the center. The underground offsets develop from the original rhizome, making a fan of leaves and flower stalks that will bloom next year or the year after.

Iris rhizomes can rot if they are too wet, so sun and good drainage are essential for success.

Annual fertilizer application of bone meal or 5-10-10 is usually recommended. You can just toss fertilizer on them if you water it in thoroughly, but the best advice is to gently scrape the ground around the rhizomes and put it on the soil and water it in.

If your iris disappoint with limited flowers, they may be in too much shade. Giving them too much nitrogen fertilizer will make lots of pretty leaves but few flowers. They will also stop flowering if they need to be divided.

If you find bacterial soft rot dig up the rhizomes, cut off the rot, destroy the diseased parts and replant the remaining rhizome. I would dust with fungicide before replanting.
Rot at the base of the leaf is crown rot fungus. One symptom is red-brown seeds. Trim the leaves to allow more sun and air flow to hit the rhizomes. Destroy the diseased parts.
Streaked, spotted brown leaf spots are bacterial leaf spot. See the Univ. of MN site for more specifics but the basics are: Remove the infected leaves, provide more sun and air circulation.
Fungal leaf spots are rust-colored and more confined. Cut and destroy the leaves and spray plants with fungicide.
Mosaic is a viral disease transmitted by aphids. Remove and destroy infected plants.
If there are small notches on the leaves, there are iris borers present. Apply an insecticide after removing infested leaves. Repeat insecticide application according to product instructions, until the plants recover.

The American Iris Society has several interesting links if you would like to learn more online at

Region 18 of the American Iris Society, in a St. Louis suburb, has quite a bit of information at http://www.region18.com.

While at Longue Vue last month, I saw beds of Louisiana Iris for the first time. If you grow those, here's the Louisiana Iris society web page with tips on success with them.

11 April 2012

Spring Planting in U.S. Zone 7 - It's Here!

Spring weather this year is perfect for getting an early start on a gorgeous summer garden. Seeds and seedlings can be planted now. Many seedlings are available at garden centers and produce stands and with the farmer’s markets opening, we can purchase even more varieties.

Seeds can be safely started outside. I prefer to start them in containers to prevent them from washing away but many gardeners just plant directly into prepared beds.

Seed packets provide the basic information you need about seed planting depth and thinning distances. Temperature requirements of seeds to germinate: Alyssum 70, Asclepias 75, Aster 70, Basil 60-70, Broccoli 70, Catnip 60, Celosia 70, Cleome 70, Coleus 65, Cosmos 70, Cucumber 85, Dianthus 70, Eggplant 70, Geranium 70, Larkspur 55, Lettuce 70, Marigold 70, Melon 85, Pansy 65, Phlox 65, Poppy 55, Squash 85, Thyme 55, Tithonia 70, Tomato 80, Verbena 75, Watermelon 85 and Zinnia 70.

It is too late to plant Larkspur, Pansy, Phlox and Coleus from seed unless you can keep them cool. It is not quite warm enough to start tomato, pepper and cucumber seeds unless you give them artificial heat or use a cold frame.

There is a website with germination requirements listed for just about everything a person would want to plant. Go to http://tomclothier.hort.net and search the categories of Perennial, Annual/biennial, Penstemon, and Tree/Shrub, plus articles about soil temperature, soil less mixes to make at home, damping off virus, seed viability, etc.

The instructions on seed packs are generic and consider areas of the country that do not have our heat and humidity. A full-sun flower or vegetable bed in Detroit, Denver and Seattle does not resemble the conditions of a full-sun bed in Memphis, Muskogee or Dallas.

We shade our tomatoes in August and plant our Dianthus where it receives afternoon protection. The Extension office of each state in the U.S. has developed lists of garden plants for the local weather and conditions.

All states’ fact sheets are provided at the USDA’s site http://www.ers.usda.gov/statefacts where you can click on any state.

The OK vegetable variety and timing fact sheets are at http://tinyurl.com/7t9eqkh and http://tinyurl.com/7jj5xeq (Good for us, though it is slightly slanted to warmer than Muskogee’s Stillwater-weather)

We have the green light to plant corn, peppers, and summer squash, according to Andy Qualls’ newsletter. Qualls says to wait to plant watermelon and cantaloupe or start seeds in containers.

Qualls also said, “For those that planted tomatoes last year and didn’t get any, don’t be discouraged, you probably didn’t do anything wrong. If you planted late April or early May, the temperatures went from too cool to over 95 degrees. Tomatoes will not set fruit when daytime temperatures get over 95 which was all of May, June, July, August and part of September last year. If you kept them alive you got good tomatoes in September and October. I covered several of my plants with frost blanket and had tomatoes until after Thanksgiving.

Soil testing is worth the $10 whether for gardens or pastures, hay or other crops. With fertilizer prices where they are it may be the difference in a failed crop or bumper crop or may save hundreds or thousands of dollars depending on what you are growing.”

To receive Andy’s email newsletter from the Muskogee County Conservation District, send an email to Andrew.Qualls@ok.nacdnet.net and ask to be added.

The Conservation District’s plant sale is May 1 at the district office, 3001 Azalea Park DR. (Hwy 69 and Shawnee Bypass). Qualls grows most of the plants at his farm. This year’s list includes new varieties of Thornless Blackberry, seedless grape, blueberries and ornamentals.

All the photos are from our garden.

10 April 2012

Year-Round Vegetable Gardener - Grow food 365 days a year by Niki Jabbour

Niki Jabbour's blog "The Year-Round Vegetable Gardener" is a reflection of her new book of the same title. She also writes for the plant marketing company, Proven Winners and has a Canadian gardening radio show. Judging by her blog entries, Jabbour is an avid gardener and speaker.

If you live in a cold climate, this is a book you will want to pick up. Don't worry about its ease of use. Although she lives in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Jabbour provides temperatures and measurements in both English and U.S. units.

If you would like to grow vegetables in every season, Jabbour provides quite a lot of practical help.
Chapter 1 describes the three growing seasons in detail: cool, warm and cold. Then day length, length of growing seasons, and the use of grow lights. Comparisons of different weight row cover fabric, home made cloches, raised bed planters, etc.
Chapter 2 is about intensive planting, continuous crops, soil amendments (natural minerals), succession planting and interplanting
Chapter 3 explains growing in winter by protecting plants with cold frames, hoop tunnels, cloches, unheated greenhouses, polytunnels and hot caps
Chapter 4 covers design: Site selection, planning, crop rotation, winter sun, microclimates, plant rotation, perpetual vegetables.

Part 2 is crop selections with an A-Z of vegetables and herbs to grow from page 96 to page 225. Each vegetable or herb has a page or two of its own with planting, growing and harvesting information. For example, the advantages of asparagus crowns vs seeds.

In order to grow in cold weather, you will need instructions for building a cold frame and the appendix provides that.

The photography is beautiful, the information useful and well presented for a new gardener's understanding. The author tells us which her favorite varieties are and gives a schedule for planting seeds.

256 pages, 8" by 11" paperback, $19.95 from Storey Publishing

07 April 2012

American Native Trumpet Creeper is Campsis radicans, Bignonia radicans, Tecoma radicans

Campsis radicans can be invasive but it is a gorgeously flowering vine.

Native to most of the U.S. and parts of Canada, Trumpet Creeper can be a friend or foe depending on where it is planted.

If you need a vine to cover an ugly building or fence, this is a reliable grower that is far less invasive and problematic than Wisteria.

In a humorous column about Trumpet Creeper, retired horticulturist Gerald Klingaman says he has been afraid of vines since childhood.

"I’m afraid of vines. I like the idea of vines in the garden, the beauty of vines and the utility of vines, but they scare me. Whenever I hear a gardener ask how to care for wisteria, I shutter in apprehension of things to come, when the rampant vine will crawl through the window and strangle the hapless homeowners as they sleep."

Trumpet Creeper vines grow to 35-feet long and its roots go as deep as 20-feet. They colonize an area so be sure you put it someplace where its assertive habit of climbing over everything will be welcome. The suckering, layering growth habit make it terrific for erosion control but have also lead to it being called Hellvine and Devils Shoestring.

As you can see in the photos, the flowers are beautiful, waxy trumpets that are attractive to hummingbirds. When the flowers fade, they are replaced with 5-inch long pods.

Found frequently in the forests of the east and southeast, Trumpet Creeper climbs trees, using aerial rootlets, like English Ivy. Its roots can damage what it uses to hold onto, including brick, wood, stone, etc. Planting it near concrete, a driveway or a frequently mowed area will help control it.

Or, you can do what we did, and plant it in a huge pot

with a trellis installed.