Showing posts from 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!

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 th…

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 skun…

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 m…

Divide perennial flowers late summer and early fall

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 replan…

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…

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 gar…


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 stren…

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. 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…

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 att…

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

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…

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

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!

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.

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 …

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 w…

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.

Here's my August 2011 article about all things Naked Lady.

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, Yell…

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.

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.

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.

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 …