31 August 2012

Plant Lily scale bulbils and basal plate roots

Yesterday I described what lily bulb scales are and how to make more lilies with just the scales.
When the scales form tiny bulbs in damp vermiculite or seed starting mix, it is time to plant them.
Fill a tray with sterile planting soil. Be sure the container has drainage holes.
 I planted the lily scales in two trays of moistened potting soil. Each rooted basal plate was given its own small pot. At the end, I had several scales left so I stuck one in each of the pots, too.
 The planting trays were topped with clear plastic lids and moved into a place where they would get filtered light but not direct sunlight.
We'll find out together how this adventure ends!

30 August 2012

Lily bulb scales make new bulbs - with patience and time

 Lily scales in a plastic bag with dampened vermiculite and seed starting mix.
Pinch the opening, blow into the bag and seal with a twist tie.
Keep away from sunlight.
 After 3 weeks, dump out the bag contents and sort it out, removing the scales and spoiled bits from the starting mixture.
 After removing all the outer scales, I put the central basal plate into the bag to see what would happen and they rooted.
 Here's a typical lily scale with a bulbil growing off the basal plate end.
I tucked a few slices of daffodil bulb into the bag to see what they would do and they all turned to mush.
About 25% of the lily scales were mushy on their growing tips.
About 25% of the lily scales did not grow a bulbil.

Multiply lilies and other bulbs with scaling, dividing, and cutting

Plants multiply by making seed, spreading their roots, adding rhizomes and multiplying bulbs. One way to tell if a lily or daffodil needs to be divided is that it has fewer flowers or seems to be healthy only around the outer edges of a clump.

Lilies are very good at making copies of themselves. Toward the end of the flowering season there are tiny lily seeds all along the stem and when the bulbs are dug up, there will be more bulbs under-ground than were originally planted. In addition, between the bulb in the ground and the surface of the soil, stem bulblets will be growing along the underground stem.

Now that lilies have bloomed and faded, we can dig up the bulbs and divide them to share or to re-plant. There are a few common methods you can use.

After digging, remove the roots of the bulb, being careful to not cut into the basal plate. The basal plate looks like the bottom of an onion and bulb scales are like layers of an onion.

Any bulbils and bulblets in the soil or attached to the plant stem can be planted directly into the ground or into planting trays and pots. They will probably take a year or two to build up enough size to bloom. They can also be collected and put into baggies in the refrigerator for a month before planting into pots and then kept protected over the winter.

Bulbs, bulbils, bulblets, and scales can be treated for fungus and disease before they are rooted or planted. Methods include spraying or dusting with fungicide, dusting with powdered sulphur or dipping in a one percent Clorox solution.

Lily scales can be separated from the main bulb. This method, called scaling or twin scaling, is very easy and popular among lily enthusiasts.

You can just dig down to the parent bulb, remove a pair of outer scales and put them into a baggie with damp Vermiculite until you see small bulblets have formed (2 to 12 weeks). Open the bag to keep the moisture at a minimum and the bulblets will continue to grow. Then plant them into trays or pots of soil.

Scales can also be pushed into a tray of half sand and half peat moss or seed starting mix, with the top sticking out. Moisten the tray bed and put it into a plastic bag or use a clear lid if the tray came with one. Keep them at 65 degrees until the bulblets form and then plant. Keep these tender plants inside until spring.

When digging daffodils that have stopped blooming, gardeners find offsets or small bulbs attached to the sides of the original central bulb. Offsets have a pointed growing tip and a root end and look like a miniature of the parent bulb.

To divide daffodil bulbs that do not bloom as much as they once did, dig them out of the ground and separate them. Separate each from the basal plate. They can be replanted as is or the large bulbs can be divided further.

To make more daffodil bulbs out of the ones you have, remove the outer skin and any stem from the top. Dunk the bulbs in Clorox solution or wipe with Clorox wipes. Then, with sharp knife that has been sterilized in bleach, cut the bulb into 4 quarters and dust with fungicide.

Put the pieces into slightly damp sand or perlite. Within a few months they will develop little bulbs. Plant the bulbs in pots or flats and then outside in spring. The same method works with hyacinth bulbs.

29 August 2012

Skunk determined to live under our screened porch

So, we had a lovely little screened in porch with cedar panels put onto a 10 by 10 deck off the livingroom back door.
Here's how Charles constructed the step between soil and porch. 
We could tell that a furry friend was interested in nesting under the porch, so Jon dug down below the foundation level and put in another $50 piece of cedar to keep the animals out.

I added a bunch of decent size stones and they dug under and around those. So, Jon's next step was bricks anchored with stakes, making it impossible for any animal we knew of to get underneath.
This morning I was sitting on the deck with my first cup of coffee and my iPod listening to frogs, crickets and internet radio. I heard stones clunking against wood and quietly looked down in time to see a black and white fuzzy backside digging and slithering under the porch.

Now what? Any suggestions?

Update Aug 30 - Last night Jon set a live trap with a banana. This morning we have a baby possum in the live trap but no skunk. The baby possum will be relocated to a nearby creek.


28 August 2012

Rethinking vegetarianism

Some scientists think that global climate change will lead all of us to eating more vegetables. Of course we know that a change in that direction would be good for the health of the world. An excess of animal protein has led to so many health problems over the decades since meat became so affordable.

 If nothing changes 99% of us will get 5% animal protein in our daily diets instead of the 20% we now eat.

The Stockholm International Water Institute proposes that the lack of rain/snow/ice on our planet that is currently leading to extensive droughts and much higher animal feed costs, will, in the end make semi-vegetarians out of most of the population.

Their report for World Water Week is at this link

Water security is key to food security for the world's population. Of the 7 billion people on the earth, one billion are starving. By 2050 the world population will be 9 billion assuming population growth continues at its current pace. " ... each person requires 50 to 100 times more water to produce the food they eat than they use in their home." pg 13

30 to 50% of the food that is produced is wasted somewhere between field and fork.

Food production in line with current dietary trends is 20% animal product and a reduction to 5% is in our future due to water issues around the world.

"The analysis showed that there will not be enough water available on current croplands to produce food for the expected population in 2050 if we follow current trends and changes towards diets common in Western
nations (3,000 kcal produced per capita, including 20 per cent of calories produced coming from animal proteins). There will, however, be just enough water, if the proportion of animal based foods is limited to 5 per cent of total calories and considerable regional water deficits can be met by a well organised and reliable system of food trade." pg 14

"Water, as put by Kalpanatai Salunkhe, a rural development worker in India, “is the divide between poverty and prosperity”. But using that water has a cost. “More rice, at the price of a river,” as succinctly articulated by acclaimed Indian author Arundhati Roy in The God of Small Things (1997)."

"For example, in South Asia most of the irrigated area depends on privately owned and managed wells. Some estimates put the number of privately owned wells in India at around 25 million, providing 70 per cent of all irrigation water (Shah, 2009). In Bangladesh 5.1 million of the 6.2 million irrigated hectares are under privately owned wells and 86 per cent of the area is served by privately owned pumps (BBS, 2010).

The situation is similar in Southeast Asia. In Indonesia the number of privately owned motor pumps used in irrigation increased from 1.17 million to 2.17 million just between 1998 and 2002 (Government of Indonesia cited in Shah 2009). In Vietnam the number of privately owned irrigation pumps quintupled during the 1990s to 800,000 (Barker and Molle, 2004). In Thailand there were 3 million privately owned irrigation pumps in the year 2000, up from 500,000 in 1985 (Molle et al., 2003). While recent data are scarce, it is likely that the trend observed in the 1990s has continued. Trends are similar in Africa ..." pg 20

"We face daunting agricultural water management challenges as demand increases and rural poverty and general food insecurity persist. There will be no single solution, but by thinking differently, we can craft case-specific solutions that are appropriate for given locations and points in time." pg 23

"There are numerous gender issues in agriculture water management, many of which relate to the existing inequality between women and men in agriculture. Women’s lack of ownership and weaker tenure of land, in comparison to men, impacts their ability to make decisions about water use on the land. Lack of ownership of land can also bar women from participating in water user associations, which can result in poor technical outcomes in water management (World Bank et al, 2009)." pg 28

"What is required is essentially a comprehensive assessment of the cultural perceptions of food and habits and their impact on natural resources. In rich and affluent societies, people are living in a “culture of abundance” (Stuart, 2009) and in “comfort zones” (Eliasson, 2010). With an abundance of food, consumers are accustomed to choose from shelves burgeoning with subsidised food items, accessible around the clock. This makes it easier and less costly to waste and overeat, and provides less incentive to cut down on waste and to enjoy a sustainable diet. Few realise that the price on the tag of the items in the shop is only part of the real price. Another part is paid by taxes (to cover subsidies), and the environmental costs are left invisible to the consumer." pg 37

"The market for farmland and water will become an increasingly large part of the global political economy and the global food and energy markets. Current and future ‘land deals’ can potentially contribute to an increase in agricultural production and help grow more food, cash-crops and biofuels. The question is: who is going to benefit from this ‘green revolution’?

Asymmetric power relations between regions, countries, and economic sectors are expected to play a role in determining the benefits and costs that land and water deals will bring for the different parties. Regulations are crucial to ensure that all parties gain a fair deal and that the land and water resources are used efficiently.

Through the adoption of international and regional principles and delegation of powers to regional institutions, it is possible to better protect the customary rights of local populations, decrease the negative impacts of the deals on the environment and endorse basin-wide integrated land and water management.

This would promote fairer terms of trade between the countries and corporations investing in land and the host countries and local populations. It would also help ensure that those investments enhance regional and national food security in Africa, Southeast Asia, Latin America and globally." pg 49

26 August 2012

Divide perennial flowers late summer and early fall

Petunias under Dark Towers Penstemon
Plan to divide your favorite spring blooming perennial flower.

Before a plant takes over its allotted space and before it falls over from outgrowing its core, take a look at where you could transplant pieces of it where the root cuttings would thrive.

At this time of year - after booms have faded in late summer and early fall - you can prune back the entire plant before digging, dividing, and transplanting.

After pruning, use a shovel, fork or trowel to cut all the way around the plant's root ball.

If the plant is woody and large, digging down far enough may require digging out a trench where you can get enough leverage to lift the roots without too much damage. Outside the drip line is the place to start. The outermost tip of the leaves where rain drips off is the drip line.

Perennials make roots in the winter and stems in the spring and summer so dividing and transplanting now will give them ample opportunity to become established before winter dormancy arrives.

Plan to replant the same day or at least the same week. In between digging and transplanting, keep the roots damp with newsprint or compost.

Prepare the new planting spots by adding compost, peat, coir, worm castings, or other soil conditioners such as one-third potting soil.

Use a shovel, knife or pruning shears to cut the plant into at least 4 or 5 clumps. Rinse the dirt off the roots so you can see where to make the logical cuts. Look for crowns, offshoots, offsets, and other natural dividing places.

Plant the best bits. Clean out anything dead or funky looking. Put the healthiest looking roots into the soil and the rest onto your compost pile.

Make the new planting holes large enough to hold the roots rather than sticking the cutting in any old place you can tuck it. Expect each cutting to become as large as the entire plant you just dug up and leave that much space for it.

Well prepared and amended planting soil will make your transplants grow into healthy perennials. No fertilizer needed right now.

For a complete list of what to divide when, go to this Fine Gardening article 
Text and demonstration videos: Janet Macunovich, Photos: Steven Nikkila and
What to divide when and how: Todd Meier

In my photo is my well-loved Penstemon Dark Towers which I divide late summer or fall.

Deer and bunny resistant, reliable flowers attract butterflies, medium growth rate (not aggressive), average to dry soil is fine, American native, sun or part sun, can be used as cut flower.

According to Gerald Klingaman, Dark Towers Penstemon is superior to Husker Red (perennial plant of 1996) because it is stronger and needs no staking. Read all about Dark Towers in Klingaman's article for the Univ of Arkansas Extension here.

23 August 2012

Smoke tree, smoke bush, Coninus

Sumac has a close relative that has become a very popular specimen for garden beds and lawns.

Smoke tree and American Smoke bush (Cotinus coggygria and Cotinus obovatus) are native to the U.S., specifically from TN to TX, USDA zones 4 to 9. In the wild, American smoke tree grows naturally into a large shrub.

Smoke trees lose their leaves in the winter but in the spring their new growth and fluffy clusters of flowers attract admirers. Those fluffy clusters resemble smoke, giving the plant its common name. The plants have no insect or disease problems.

Smoke tree or Smoke bush grows relatively slowly to a height of 10 or 15 feet and 10 feet wide. It is known to be drought tolerant but looks its best if watered during periods of drought. Do not keep the soil wet.

They can be massed together as a hedge or planted individually in a lawn or in a border of mixed perennials. Since they are native to this area, they tolerate clay, dry and rocky soils as well as moderately fertile soil in part shade.

When growing Smoke trees, gardeners can treat them like crape myrtles in that they can be allowed to grow into a multi-stemmed shrub or grown as a low branching tree with a central trunk.

They can be cut back in late winter like any shrub. The result is lush growth in the spring, keeping the plant to 6 or 8 feet. The flowers are all cut off with this method but the dense branching and leaves make a good screen. Once you start cutting Smoke trees in the winter, it has to be done every year or two in order to prevent weak branches.

American Smoke trees can be grown from softwood cuttings taken in the summer, from seeds, and by layering.

Smoke tree is an excellent substitute for Japanese maple trees where a small, colorful tree is desired. There are several varieties with different color combinations.

Daydream Smoke tree grows to 10 feet tall and is known for its plentiful flowers that create the appearance of having lots of smoke.

Golden Spirit smoke tree, Cotinus coggygria Ancot, has gold-green leaves that become lime green, then orange and red. Ancot grows 10 feet tall and 6 feet wide in zones 5 to 8. The bright green leaves hold their color best with afternoon shade.

Grace smoke tree has burgundy-purple leaf veins and stems spring through summer and then turns orange in the fall. Grace grows up to 30 feet tall and wide in zones 5 to 8.

Nordine smoke tree has burgundy-bronze leaves in the summer and red-orange leaves in the fall. It grows 15 feet tall and wide and prefers the colder areas of zones 5 to 8.

Norcutt’s Variety smoke tree has wine colored leaves that become red-orange in the fall. Maximum size is 15 by 15 feet.

Pink Champagne smoke tree has green leaves with a pink-ish edge. The fall color is red and orange. Pink Champagne is slightly smaller at 10 feet by 10 feet. The flowers are also pink. Zones 5 to 8.

Royal Purple smoke tree has red and purple on its leaves with scarlet fall color. It matures at 15 feet tall and 12 feet wide.

Velvet Cloak smoke tree has purple-red leaves during the summer and bright red color in the fall. It will become 12 by 12 feet when it is mature.

Smoke bush Young Lady is a new variety that grows only 8 feet tall with an abundance of cream-pink flowers.

Smoke bushes are available from local nurseries, Sooner Plant Farm in Tahlequah (www.soonerplantfarm.com) and Hill Country Natives in TX (http://hillcountrynatives.net).

21 August 2012

Perilla frutescens var crispa is a purple annual herb for flower beds

Perilla frutescens var crispa is one of the prettiest members of the mint family, and, like most of its relatives, it can be used as an edible in addition to adding practical beauty in a flower, herb or vegetable bed.

Perilla's many names include: Red Shiso, sesame leaves, beefsteak leaf, purple mint, gee so, zi su, aka jiso, aka shiso, oba, dulketip, kkaennip namul, tulkkae, rau tia to and Shiso Purple Cress.

My seeds came from Kitazawa Seed Company.

If you eat in Japanese restaurants you may have seen the little pink flowers, ear shiso, as a garnish on your plate. The flowers are also used as a condiment, preserved as a spice and added to a traditional dip.

When you see umeshiso on the menu, whether pickled, in a paste or as juice, they used Red Perilla. Shiso vinegar is simply Shiso leaves steeped in rice wine vinegar.

When the flowers begin to form seed pods, they are used as a garnish, added to dipping sauces, and for pickling salted plums. The sprouts are also used as a garnish.

You will find Shiso pesto recipes at http://norecipes.com.

The plants in my photos are grandchildren of the ones I planted originally. I've seen Perilla form a beautiful purple clump in a friends' garden where the ground was never worked in the spring. My plants come up outside the beds because I work the beds every year, disturbing the seeds that scattered themselves the previous fall. When the weather warms in late spring, here come the volunteers from the previous year - all outside the edge of the beds. They willingly tolerate careful transplanting into a nearby bed.

Another Asian seed source, Evergreen Seed, says the seeds have a dormant period and that germination can be difficult. I didn't notice that with the seeds I grew - could have been my lucky year.

2BSeeds online has a great price (100 seeds for $2.25). I've never ordered from them so I can't attest to the germination rate like I can for Kitazawa's seeds.
Red Perilla Shi So - red stems and leaves
My go-to reference for all things germination is the out-of-print Thompson-Morgan reference, available on the Tom Clothier Garden Walk site.

The seeds need light to germinate so leave them uncovered at 70-degrees and keep them slightly moist but not wet. They take a week or two to come up so start them about a month before you can plant them out.

Here's a fascinating tidbit from the Tom Clothier site - 
"As you might expect, the percentage of any seeds to germinate is maximum at the optimal temperature for that species.  As the temperature declines or advances from the optimal temperature, two things happen at the same time. While the percentage of seeds to germinate decreases, the number of days to germination increases.  That is the fundamental relationship between germination and temperature."

Do you grow Shiso.Perilla?

19 August 2012


Comfrey used to be grown as a medicinal plant. Its pink and blue hanging flowers look like the ones we see on Spanish bluebells. But unlike bluebells, Comfrey grows into a 2-3-foot tall plant with a deep taproot and flowers both spring and fall.

The ideal place to plant it is as a centerpiece for an herb bed or toward the back of a perennial bed where its large leaves will provide a backdrop for summer flowering plants. Comfrey can grow in full sun or part shade with well-drained soil.

There is more than one variety. True Comfrey, Symphytum officinale, is the old fashioned one that was used medicinally for sprains, burns and bruises as well as for ulcers and lung problems. Its medicinal names included knitbone, bruisewort, wonder plant and boneset. Roman and Greek medicine used Comfrey to stop bleeding; medieval herbalists used it to ease arthritis.

The word Comfrey is derived from a Latin word for unite, referring to its use as a bone knitter and the Latin con firma, meaning with strength. It is believed these are references to the plant's ability to heal bones.

Comfrey is no longer recommended for internal use.
True Comfrey is native to England and is grown throughout Europe and Asia. One hybrid, Russian, Quaker Comfrey or Bocking, Symphytum x uplandicum, arrived in Canada in 1954 where it was promoted as an animal food and forage crop (http://tinyurl.com/9uyst35). At one time, Prickly Comfrey was grown as forage by the USDA.

Comfrey plants have no disease or insect problems and bees love the flowers.

Both varieties produce lots of seed that will grow in place if the conditions are right, meaning they can become invasive if they are incorrectly planted in well-fertilized soil.

As the flowers fade, cut back the stems before seed sets if you prefer to have only one or a few plants. Organic gardeners who compost, grow Comfrey to add to their compost pile where the leaves and stems add valuable nutrients pulled from deep in the ground where the taproot grows.

Organic Gardening magazine recommends planting Comfrey around the compost bin where they can benefit from each other. The plants can live up to 20-years with deep taproots.

Gardeners also plant Comfrey as food for rabbits, chickens, pigs and sheep . It is also recommended as a companion plant for fruit trees since it brings pollinators.

“Herbs: The Complete Gardeners Guide” (Patrick Lima, Firefly Books, 2001) recommends making the leaves into a potash-rich manure tea that can be sprayed directly onto plants or used to water.

To plant the seeds, cover lightly with soil and keep them warm and moist. Cool temperatures can help them germinate so there is a benefit to planting them before winter. It can take Comfrey seeds a month or more to sprout so planting them in containers is probably best so you can keep track of them.

If you don't want the plants to spread, cut them back when they make flowers, and mulch the crowns with the leaves.  This will keep the seed from dropping, and will improve the soil as well as contribute to the formation of large, healthy plants.  

Horizon Herbs (horizonherbs.com) sells True Comfrey seeds 10 for $4 and roots for $5 each, plus shipping. Herb Roots (www.herb-roots.com) sells the roots for $4 each.

Companion Plants (www.companionplants.com) has Yellow Comfrey plants, Symphytum grandiflorum, for zones 5-9. In part-shade they form a ground cover with nodding, cream-yellow flowers. $5 per plant.

Avant Gardens (avantgardens.com) offers variegated Comfrey for dry shade, called Hidcote’s Variegated. The plant grows a foot tall, blue and pink nodding flowers with yellow-green leaves. Zones 5-8. $11 per plant.

14 August 2012

2 liter bottle self-watering planters

With fall approaching, I'm looking at the garden with an eye to with an eye to which plants go into the shed for the winter. A simple self-watering container can be made out of 2-liter plastic bottles.

The Internet is full of methods and I'll post a few with links for the author's details. Which one would work best?

Exhibit A is from Instructibles dot com the author uses an old t-shirt for wicking material and paints the top half to protect roots from hot sunlight.

The Urban Organic Gardener posted his method on YouTube with video instructions. He used newsprint instead of fabric for wicking.

Astrosynergy dot com has clear step-by-step instructions with photos for every step.

It-diy.com also has a video that clearly shows how make a self-watering container. No wicking device. A small hole on the bottom to prevent overwatering and a straw inserted to water through with a funnel. Very cool ideas.

GreenRoofGrowers blogspot has a simple diagram (shown here) to provide the basics. Bob Hyland the Greenscaper provides details at his flikr site. Here's that link, too.

His updates to that post were written on Inside Urban Green dot com, here.

What do you think?

13 August 2012

Summersweet or Clethra Vanilla Spice is Clethra alnifolia - new improved varieties still bloomsin the shade

Proven Winners offers several Summersweet varieties and each one is more appealing than the other.

They are varieties of an American native plant, deer resistant shrubs, loved by butterflies and hummingbirds!

No serious insect or disease problems. Prefer consistently moist soil that is not allowed to dry out. Enjoys up to full shade and will bloom there.

Clethras can be massed around your house foundation where you can enjoy their summertime flowers and sweet scent. They enjoy moist feet so water gardens, stream banks and generally damp places in your yard are a good location.

Let them naturalize in a cottage garden where they can spread out. If you've heard about the native Clethra's legginess and tendency to sucker with age, Ohio State University's Horticulture Department points out that these hybrids have revolutionized Clethras and designed ideal garden plants that remain dense and compact. Read their entire assessment here.

Here's the rundown on their various attributes -

Sugartina Crystalina is a dwarf with white flowers in late summer. In the fall, the leaves are yellow. Developed in North Carolina, it is a great choice for our same zone 7 gardens.
Cold hardy to zone 4 and thrives up to heat zone 9.

Proven Winners - Vanilla Spice
Vanilla Spice has extra large flowers. on 3 to 4 foot tall shrubs that
spread 3 or 4 feet wide.

They bloom on new wood in the summer, so they are pruned late-winter.

Plant in moist, but not wet, soil in part-shade to sun. (Anything that grows in zone 4 full sun will become crispy in NE OK full sun so give it some afternnon protection here.)

Clethra alnifolia 'Ruby Spice' was chosen as a Plant of Merit by Missouri Botanical Garden and given 5 stars by its readers, professional landscapers, who also call it Sweet pepper Bush.

They recommend Clethra because it can be made into a flowering hedge that will grow in clay, wet soil, or dense shade. Also used as erosion control, in rain gardens and will naturalize. Read: low maintenance.

MOBOT says, ‘Ruby Spice’ is a summersweet cultivar that is most noted for its fragrant rose-pink flowers that bloom in late summer. It was discovered in 1992 as a sport of C. alnifolia ‘Pink Spire’. It is a densely-branched, rounded, suckering, deciduous shrub that typically grows 4-6’ (less frequently to 8’) tall and features narrow, cylindrical, bottlebrush-like, terminal panicles (racemes to 6” long) of extremely fragrant rose pink flowers that bloom on the current year’s growth for approximately 4-6 weeks in July and August. Serrate, obovate, dark green leaves (to 4” long) turn a variable but generally attractive yellow/golden brown in fall. Flowers give way to dark brown seed capsules that may persist well into winter. Flowers are very attractive to butterflies and bees. Summersweets are somewhat unique among late summer-flowering shrubs because of their ability to bloom in shady locations.

I have just the spot for some of these new beauties!

12 August 2012

Holistic Agriculture Library - articles, books and links available for the reading

The Holistic Agriculture Library link here lists dozens of references on topics such as soil health, fertility, crop quality, and William Albrecht's articles in Let's Live magazine.

Steve Solomon, founder of Territorial Seeds, who wrote my favorite veg gardening book of all time, Gardening When It Counts, set up the library at http://www.soilandhealth.org/index.html.

For some of the materials a one time $10 donation to the library is requested though you can still get the book free by submitting your email address.

Here's the email I received when requesting a link to the book I wanted to read, "9,600 Miles Through The U.S.A. in a Station Wagon".

Authorisation Sent!
An email containing a link to your requested item has already been sent to your email address.
There is a message for YOU below, from Soil and Health Library:

March, 2010

Dear Non-Contributing User,
From 1997 when the Soil And Health Library started until January, 2005, nearly all costs were paid by Steve Solomon. After seven plus years of financing the library he began to feel some resentment over this. About that same time he also realized that the library's content was not increasing as rapidly as it once had been. His negative emotions were burdening the library's progress.
So he requested Advice about this matter. And was given this answer: "ask those using your library to contribute a small amount; a once in a lifetime membership fee." So we are doing just that.
While processing your last copy request the membership database could not find your e-dress, and so you are getting this letter. But your copy request has not been denied. The Soil and Health Library is a free public library because there are many people who are so financially challenged that a ten euro donation is beyond them.
Your use of this library is being subsidized by the contributions of others. If you are able to contribute, and feel that the resources contained on this website are worth a small contribution, rest assured that your donation is greatly appreciated and that you are participating on the ongoing continuation and growth of the library as a worldwide resource for all.
This library now collects more in membership fees than its operating costs. This enables the library to source further out of print books and texts of value which will be added in due course.
Please join this library and help it grow even faster. To join now, click the little PayPal button below, where you may join through paypal or via a major credit card.. If you can not use either of these methods, please send funds in your local cash (though 10 euros is preferable) by post to:
Justin Crawford
Soil and Health Library
PO Box 1010
Mona Vale
NSW 2103
If you send cash, be sure to enclose your name, email address and postal details so I can acknowledge receipt and enter your details into the membership database.
I am here to serve you,
Justin Crawford

Then the email read
The URL for your copy of 9,600 Miles Through The U.S.A. in a Station Wagon is as follows:
A copy of the item you requested has been made especially for you. To obtain it click the link above.
This link will work for only one month from today and then your copy will be removed from our server.
According to Australian library rules you are not allowed to request a copy of the same book more than once.
Please note that this link is for personal use only and may not be distributed.

So, the materials are free for the asking and I'll donate the $10 for future use of the library.

A searchable online database of 5,000 plants and their characteristics

Greenhouse Grower has put an online database of new varieties on their webpage - and it is searchable.

Go to http://www.greenhousegrower.com/varieties

On the left side of that page there is a list of 14 of the most popular genera. Click through some of those. The links will take you to articles and features. The focus is on commercial growing but the information is the most up to date you'll find pulled together in a single page.

So far there are 5,000 annual, perennial, shrub and tree varieties in the database. If you are looking for a different genus than those most popular 14, or want to search based on flower color or another of 15 plant characteristic, such as size, click Advanced Search or use the advanced search keyword searchbox.

Some of the links I clicked on were stubs that listed more links to check out. That's where I found the information I was looking for.

Have fun!

11 August 2012

Cutest Birdbath Ever

LaPorte Avenue Nursery in Ft. Collins, CO, specializes in alpine and rock garden plants.
We visited once in July 2007 and the owners, Karen and Kirk treated us so well that we still remember their kindness and how generous they were with their time and information.

The birdbath on LaPorte's property is simply the cutest one I've ever seen and if I knew how to buy one I would.

Co-owners Karen Lehrer and Kirk Fieseler
LaPorte Avenue Nursery - inside the greenhouse
Hens and chicks propagation

Current 2012 catalog for LaPorte Avenue

09 August 2012

Time to Order Fall Planted Bulbs!

The Naked Ladies (Amaryllis belladonna) are blooming this week and no matter what the weather is today, Naked Ladies blooming means it is time to get going on planning for a beautiful spring. Pots, window boxes and flower beds loaded with crocus, daffodils, tulips, hyacinths, iris, snowdrops and other early bloomers, begin now with ordering bulbs and preparing soil.

Purchase carefully. The tulips I ordered last year were full of mold and most of them did not bloom. The Leucojums (snowflakes) were so dry they did not even bother to come up. Whether you purchase your bulbs and corms from stores, by mail, or email, buy from well-known providers. The hassle of getting a refund or replacement wastes a lot of time.

Try to find out when your local stores will have fall planted bulbs available and go as soon as you can. Select the largest, healthiest looking bulbs in the boxes. 

Choose a location that will receive 4 hours or more of sun in the spring. The ground under the end of the branches of trees that lose their leaves is an excellent location. In order to bloom year after year, bulbs need to be in well-drained soil and the roots of trees and shrubs take up any extra rainwater, preventing bulb rot.

 To prepare a planting area for fall-planted bulbs, remove the weeds and dig down 10 to 18 inches and add compost, leaf mold or peat moss as you replace the soil.

Like all root crops, flower bulbs need phosphorous to grow well. The phosphorous does not travel from where it is placed so it has to be added where the bulbs are planted, 6 to 8 inches deep. Bone meal, compost and superphosphate are all sources of the mineral. If the soil has not been improved over the years, add some fertilizer such as 10-10-10, 5-10-5, or bulb fertilizer.

Spring-flowering scilla, puschkinia, muscari, fritillaria, grape hyacinth, tulips, daffodils and iris are reliable. Other popular bulbs such as allium, camassia, and eremurus are happier in the Pacific Northwest and England than in our NE OK zone 7.

To plant bulbs in pots, use a container that is deep enough for the bulbs to have healthy leaf growth that does not fall over from being planted too close to the surface. Planting bulbs in layers is quite popular. Put a few inches of soil in the bottom of a well-cleaned pot, add a layer of daffodil and tulip bulbs, add 2-inches of soil, and top it with crocus and hyacinth bulbs. Top with 5-inches of soil and water regularly.

The first fun in planning for spring flowering bulbs comes from perusing the catalogs and imagining how pretty those shrubs will be with little bulbs coming up around their skirts. When shopping for bulbs consider whether you enjoy a blast of color (reds, purples and yellows combined) or a more quiet view (whites and blues combined) or a theme (red, white and blue). Tulips and daffodils have been hybridized so now you can get them from 6-inches tall to 18-inches tall. They can be planted short, medium tall in a traditional arrangement or all tall with pansies underneath. What you choose is up to your imagination and style.

Mail order nurseries offer collections that arrive with planting instructions, fertilizing tips, watering needs, etc.

Garden Watchdog (http://davesgarden.com/products/gwd) is an online source of information about mail order nurseries. The nurseries pay to participate and the rankings are a result of input from readers.

Check out a few sources such as: Old House Gardens (www.oldhousegardens.com), Touch of Nature (www.touchofnature.com) Easy to Grow Bulbs (www.easytogrowbulbs.com), Bluestone Perennials (www.bluestoneperennials.com), White Flower Farm (www.whiteflowerfarm.com) and Brent and Becky’s Bulbs (https://store.brentandbeckysbulbs.com)

07 August 2012

Do you know your gardening myths?

Taking the myths out of gardening is a big topic in the garden writing world. Dozens of articles, books and blog entries have been written about them. Here's a sampling -

Renegade Gardener's site is one of the places you can find out what we've believed about gardening that is false, untrue, inaccurate, an old wives' tale, a myth.

In a tab called Myth of the Week, Don Engebretson covers the topics:
Organic fruits and vegetables are not sprayed with chemicals
Trees and shrubs should be fertilized when planted
Plants are pre-programmed to grow to a certain size and height
Add gravel to containers before planting
Your home compost pile can spontaneously combust
Rototill your vegetable beds annually
Add lime to your soil

Fine Gardening's John Fech writes about Nine Myths that include:
Fertilize stressed plants
Use varnish, tar or paint, to cover recent tree prunings
Organic pesticides are less toxic
Newly planted trees have to be staked
Drought tolerant plants need no watering

Washington State University's Linda Chalker-Scott has her science-tested favorites, including:
They myth that bone meal is necessary to bulb and root health
Seaweed as the overall right fertilizer choice
Disinfecting pruning tools
Corn gluten's effectiveness as a weed suppressant

Here's a YouTube video of Chalker-Scott on Growing a Greener World

Colorado State University extension service debunks myths on their site, including:
Daytime watering burns plants
Gypsum breaks up heavy clay soils

National Geographic's Green Living page breaks down the myths about compost

At Down the Plot, other myths get exposed, such as:
Manure mixed with sawdust depletes soil nitrogen
Raised beds are better than open beds
Square foot gardening is better than traditional gardening

Tampa Bay Online snips more myths, including:
Take the flower buds off plants before planting in the soil
Use eggshells to prevent slug damage

Tony Avant weighs in on myth busting in a NY Times article His truths:
Never add sand to clay soil, thinking it will help
Beneficial microbes know the difference between organics and chemicals
The best planting medium is 40% native soil and 60% compost

The Laptop Gardener's site says these are myths
The soil under oaks, cedars and pines is acidic.
It doesn’t pay to use leftover seeds from flowers and vegetables
Mushrooms and toadstools sprouting in the lawn mean that the soil is deficient.

You know what I take from this? Most of us are working way too hard! Once you get rid of the restrictions and myths we worry about, we are back to compost, manure, disease resistant plant varieties, plain water, building soil health and the basics.

06 August 2012

Naked Ladies in my garden are Surprise Lily, Magic Lily, Resurrection Lily,

Easy to grow in USDA zones 6 to 10, our Surprise Lilies are always a treat to see at this time of year.
Some people think they are difficult to use in the landscape because they are leafless when they bloom but I love the Zen of their baldness!

Their lily-like leaves come up in early spring, forming a flowerless clump.

05 August 2012

Montana's American Prairie Reserve

The American Prairie Reserve will be a 5,000 square mile sanctuary for bison, elk , bighorn sheep and wolves when Sean Gerrity's dreams come true. The 500,000 acre preserve is adjacent to 3 million acres of public land that is currently leased for grazing.

So far, Gerrity has succeeded in putting 250 bison on 60,000 acres.
His list of contributors and supporters is impressive.

A transcript of his interview with Yale Environment 360 is available at this link.

One funny comment Gerrity made - when 360 science writer Hillary Rosner asked him if he were concerned about the land and animals and global warming, he said that 5,800 to 3,800 years ago there was a hot period during which the area was even hotter than global climate change is predicted to make the world and the animals were stronger than now.

Right now, there is a campground on the site where you can stay for ten bucks but plans include a large luxurious resort. According to American Prairie Reserve's Facebook page, Yellowstone Safari Company is running a trip September 24-28 but I couldn't find it on their page.

Gerrity is a Green Blogger on Huffington Post. Here's his Feb. post. He told the
Montana Sporting Journal that he grew up in Montana and attended college there before moving on to make his fortune and moving home again to help preserve the area.

Gerrity was honored by National Geographic for his decades of preservation effort and American Prairie Reserve was featured in National Geographic's American Serengeti, an hour-long film featured on the National Geographic Channel.

If this is a topic that interests you, also check out Refuge Watch.

04 August 2012

A couple of upsides of this horrible drought

The mosquito and Japanese beetle populations are practically nonexistent this year due to the seriousness of the drought and record breaking temperatures. There is too little moisture in the soil or plants to provide suitable environments for them.

The other news is that the Gulf of Mexico is healthier because of our drought. Normally, excess amounts of nutrients flow into the Gulf from up north and there is no flow so the Gulf is getting a reprieve. The entire story is at Discovery News.

Here's what the map looks like as of a couple of days ago. It represents, pretty much what our entire area is going to look like if we don't get rain. The wildfire smoke dominates time outdoors.

03 August 2012

Myriad Botanical Gardens - Children Welcome!

There are several places where children can play at Myriad Botanical Gardens, including the seasonal splash pad/ice rink, the plazas, duck feeding pondsand meadows. But probably the most popular places are the Children's Garden and the Children's Fountain.

The garden and fountain attract dozens of families daily.

Children's Fountain

The arbor entrance to the Children's Garden is where the fun begins.

The Family Classroom offers workshops such as how to make a Fairy Home, Solar Cooking and a Scavenger Hunt.

Storytime in the garden happens on Wed and Fro at 10.

The soft-surface play areas are open daily from 9 - 6.

The demonstration veggie garden includes educational information on composting, child-height raised beds and places to sit and admire the gardens.

 The 6-acre Children's Garden also has a hedge maze, story tree, a climbing play area for toddlers and berm and rock climbing. The living pool is a peaceful place to watch water.

02 August 2012

Myriad Botanical Gardens and Crystal Bridge Tropical Conservatory

An oasis in the middle of Oklahoma City, the newly refurbished Myriad Gardens and Tropical Conservatory is a delight for families, plant enthusiasts and athletes. The 17-acre property is beautifully landscaped with separate garden spaces, water features, activities for children, walking paths and well-maintained sports fields.

  In addition to gardens, ponds, fountains and relaxing vistas, the park offers 13 locations for event rental, outdoor classes for children, story time, duck feeding, remote control sailboat rentals, outdoor movies, Thursday night cocktails, bocce ball, corn toss, and a sculpture show.

The $14 million renovations are almost complete, including new entry plazas, event lawn, event pavilion, off-leash dog park, children’s playground, outdoor library and garden. At the end of the summer, the splash pool will become an ice rink.

The outdoor area that includes the Grand Event Lawn is a 28,000 square-foot lawn that seats over 2,000 and the Band shell. The Water Stage has outdoor seating for Shakespeare in the Park and other presentations.

Meinders Garden, funded by the Meinders family, is an Oklahoma Ozarks space, with native plants, and a stream that travels to the Myriad Gardens Lake. Stones from the Ozark Mountains have been made into a fountain.

Stephanie Royse
Stephanie Royse, director of marketing and communications, pointed out the Red Earth Invitational Sculpture Exhibits on the grounds and inside the Conservatory. 
For tropical plant enthusiasts, the 224-foot long Crystal Bridges Tropical Conservatory will be the best part of a trip to the park since it holds over two thousand plants from all over the globe.  The Conservatory is divided into three sections: Wet Tropical Rainforest, Island Tropical and Dry Tropical Desert Savanna.

The Wet Tropical Area is where the indoor waterfalls and 100-foot long stream create enough humidity to sustain plants from South and Central America, central Africa, Southeast Asia and the South Pacific Islands. The waterfall cascades down 35-feet with a staircase where visitors can see all the plants that thrive along it.

Kenton Peters
Our guide, Education Coordinator Kenton Peters, said that they keep Zebra Long wing butterflies in the Conservatory since they thrive in the 90-degree summertime heat and humidity of the Wet Tropical Area, enjoying the flowers’ pollen, and fluttering through the plantings.

Peters, who has worked at the Conservatory since 1993, is a plant enthusiast who takes pride in their unique and extensive collection.

“I love the plants, the variety, and the chance to share it with visitors, said Peters. “We protect some endangered species and have many that mean something to collectors and specialty plant clubs.”

Entering the Tropical Conservatory, visitors walk into a paradise of Bougainvillea, orchids, palms, tropical fruits, begonias, gingers, bromeliads and euphorbias. On the ground floor the plants climb 20-feet up toward the acrylic ceiling. Also look for the cycads that are distinctive because of their seed cones that resemble pinecones.

To enjoy the gardens from above, climb the waterfall stairs that take visitors to the Skywalk. Plants to watch for in the Wet Tropical Area include Spider Orchids, Rose Cactus and Epiphytes (plants that live in the air rather than in soil).

As you walk across the Conservatory on the Skywalk, imagine planting the orchids that grow from near the top of the 20-foot tall palms, and pruning the spent fronds from those palms. 

In the Dry Tropical Desert Savanna, at the other end of the Conservatory, you will see Hoya, Allemande, Agave, Aluadia and euphorbias.

The renovation to Myriad Botanical Gardens is a result of Devon Energy executive chairman Larry Nichols foresight and dedication to the project; he will be honored at the Orchids in October luncheon.
Myriad Botanical Garden – 17-acre park and children’s garden are free and open 6 a.m. to 11.
Crystal Bridge Tropical Conservatory is open daily. Fee $4 to $7.
301West Reno, Oklahoma City
http://www.myriadgardens.organd 405-297-3665
Free movies under the stars Wed nights.
Orchids in October benefit: Oct 18. Information 405-297-3974