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Showing posts from November, 2012

Less Fall and Winter Cleanup is Better - to a point

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The sunny days of late fall and early winter have homeowners and gardeners outside, armed with clippers and rakes, cleaning out planting beds, dumping flower pots and burning leaves.

These are time honored traditions that are being challenged because being a little less tidy helps wildlife and the environment. It is time to put down the tools and reconsider fall-winter cleanup.
Gardeners have always been advised that allowing leaves and fall plants to stay in the garden untouched will attract harmful insects, rodents and diseases. In some cases that is true but the other side of the story is that leaves, clippings and standing flower stalks help birds and beneficial insects make it through the cold months.
The same leaves, stems and twigs that we used to bag and dispose of can be transformed into habitat and soil amendment. Leaves can even stay on the lawn as winter mulch if they are first chopped with a lawn mower. Lawns that are mulched with chopped leaves and clippings need much less…

Thanksgiving Then and Now - It's about Being Grateful

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After the pilgrims arrived on Plymouth Rock in 1620, a drought year was followed by a good harvest. Guests were invited to share a meal where they could thank God for the squash, beans and corn that the Wampanoag Indians taught them to grow.

Chief Squanto spoke English so his help had saved the Pilgrims from starvation. The tribe also taught them plant-based medicine and how to identify poisonous plants.

On the day, General William Bradford’s men hunted wild duck and the Wampanoags brought deer. Without electricity or running water, four women cooked dinner for 150 guests at the three-day feast.

It is likely that the meal was spit-roasted meat, boiled fowl, lobster, fish, cornbread, sweetened stewed fruit and water. Bradford’s records include corn meal bread, fish, chestnuts, hickory nuts, onions, squash, beans, honey and maple syrup.

Since the Pilgrims came from England and Europe, Thanksgiving was partly based on English and European Harvest Home holidays. Ancient Romans celebrated…

Horsemint is Mentha longifolia

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Horsemint, Mentha longifolia, has 7 subspecies -
1. Mentha longifolia subsp. longifolia. Europe, northwest Africa.
2. Mentha longifolia subsp. capensis (Thunb.) Briq. Southern Africa.
3. Mentha longifolia subsp. grisella (Briq.) Briq. Southeastern Europe.
4. Mentha longifolia subsp. noeana (Briq.) Briq. Turkey east to Iran.
5. Mentha longifolia subsp. polyadena (Briq.) Briq. Southern Africa.
6. Mentha longifolia subsp. typhoides (Briq.) Harley. Northeast Africa, southwest Asia.
7. Mentha longifolia subsp. wissii (Launert) Codd. Southwestern Africa.

The British garden site Shoot provides a few more common names: Wild mint, Kruisement, Horsemint, and Buddleja mint.

It spreads by underground rhizomes, provides lots of bee and pollinator pollen as well as having culinary and medicinal uses.
"Found in most parts of the country and easy to harvest, wild mint is a popular traditional medicine. It is mainly used for respiratory ailments but many other uses have also been recorded. It is mostl…

Garden Centers Cater to Pooches and Kitties

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At our local Muskogee farmer's market Sharon Owen of Moonshadow Herb Farm sells a lot of grass for indoor cats and dog/cat treats that she bakes herself.

Given American's love for their pets, it is no wonder that now garden centers are planning to make room for pets. They want your pet to get pampered and for some garden centers, pet specific products make up 20%-50% of their sales and profits.

So what can you expect to see besides bird baths and feeders, flower pots and hanging baskets?

 Look for as much as half of your favorite garden center to become focused on pet food, boutique beds, food dishes, toys and treats. But they will be items not available at your local big box stores.

Pet costumes rang up $370 million this Halloween so no doubt you'll see those, too.
What about pet grooming at your favoriet garden center? Would you go for that? Drop off the dogs and wander through the plants, fertilizers, pots and fountains?

Here's another interesting combination: Merr…

Butterflies - names and photos of Oklahoma's own

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Butterflies have their favorite parts of the world though their native range changes from year to year based on weather patterns.

For example, as our weather has become record-breaking hot and dry, fewer native species hang around our area. They can't find enough food to raise their young.
Before this particular weather pattern began, we had hundreds of Monarch butterflies stopping by to eat nectar, puddle, rest, lay eggs and then move on south in Aug, Sept, and October. Now their appearance is unreliable and sparse. 
I read that last year when New Mexico had a drought plus the smoke from western fires, their native butterflies went to Texas for food and water. Smart little butterflies.

Butterflies of the World Foundation, based in OK posted a list of our OK native butterflies with photos at http://www.botwf.org/page316.html. Click on over to enjoy nature's beauty, identify a butterfly in your garden and to check out the beautiful photography.

Gypsum - Some Plants Love It!

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Northwestern Oklahoma and West Texas soil, like New Mexico’s Chihuahuan Desert, was formed 220 to 270 million years ago when the area was under water. These locations have islands of Gypsum, Dolomite and Shale deposits from when they were ocean floor.

Gypsum (hydrated calcium sulfate), is the primary ingredient in plaster of Paris and wallboard – a difficult, low-nutrient, environment for plant life. The seeds of most weeds and non-native plants cannot grow in it.

Among the native plants, there are a few called True Gypsophiles that grow only on gypsum outcrops and gypsum-rich soil. (For more scientific information about Gypsophiles, see http://tiny.cc/r4cmnw at Oberlin College.)

 Gypsum-loving plants include: Bougainvillea, Angel Trumpet, Bicolor Mustard, Fiddleleaf, Sandwort, Prickly Poppy, Blanket Flowers, Prairie Dropseed, and several native Daisies, Sunflowers and Asters.

In September, the Oklahoma Native Plant Society held its annual meeting at the University of Central Oklahoma’s…

Fairy Wrens Teach Unborn Chicks Secret Passwords

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Human parents talk and sing to their unborn babies to bond them to their voices. We play music to soothe them and cheer them when they hit a rough patch.

Discover Magazine reports that Fair Wrens teach their unborn chicks a thing or two, also.

"In Australia, a pair of superb fairy-wrens return to their nest with food for their newborn chick. As they arrive, the chick makes its begging call. It’s hard to see in the darkness of the domed nest, but the parents know that something isn’t right. Whatever’s in their nest, it’s not their chick. It doesn’t’ know the secret password. They abandon it, flying off to start a new nest and a new family somewhere else.

It was a good call. The bird in their nest was a Horsfields' bronze-cuckoo. These birds are “brood parasites” – they lay their eggs in those of other birds, passing on their parenting duties to some unwitting surrogates. The bronze-cuckoo egg looks very much like a fairy-wren egg, although it tends to hatch earlier. The cucko…

Feed beneficials and limit harmful insects over the winter

Your garden may look asleep or almost asleep but under the soil surface beneficial microbes, earthworms, helpful bacteria and fungi are still working on your behalf.

If you do not provide winter food for them, though, their numbers will be reduced by half and your soil in the spring will be half as healthy since harmful nematodes will multiply and chomp on your plants' roots.

George Driever, Oklahoma State University Extension Educator in Pottawatomie County wrote an easy to understand article explaining it all for OK Farm Bureau magazine (link here).

Driever points out the advantage of planting a cool season cover crop -
*Cover crops reduce weed populations by shading them out
*Cover crops store nutrients in their biomass that are later released and help reduce erosion
*Cover crops add organic matter that pull nitrogen from the air, that organic matter helps your soil hold moisture and increases the good microbes.
*The good microbes help release nutrients from the soil to your p…

Oso Easy Honey Bun Rose from Proven Winners

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My garden writer friend Russell Studebaker who is known as World Famous Horticulturist (he writes for the Tulsa World newspaper) passed on to me an Oso Easy Rose from his Proven Winners garden-writer bounty. No spraying. No pruning necessary. No deadheading to get a re-bloom! Matures at 2 or 3 feet tall and wide in full sun. Hardy from zones 4 to 9.   
Fertilize and prune to shapein early spring.   There are lots of other colors if Honey isn't your thing.
Click over to www.provenwinners.com to see the rest.

Container Garden from SouthernLiving Plants

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Southern Living Designer Series ready-made container gardens for fall are designed for southern gardens, where temperatures continue to be much warmer than in northern climates.

They sent me one of their 12-inch pots from the Southern Living® Plant Collection.
The pot contained these healthy plants:
1 Crimson Snapdragon
2 White Cool Wave™ Pansy
1 Trailing Rosemary
2 White Alyssum
1 Angelina Sedum The container was arranged like the one on the right and the pot is brown plastic with holes for a hanger wire. There are 14 and 16 inch sizes, too. In our area Southern Living plants are available in about 30 retail nurseries. You can find your local stores and online/mail order sources by clicking on their website link - http://southernlivingplants.com/where_to_buy Also on their site, you'll find tabs for Plant Finder and In The Garden - both are full of tips for gardeners on plant selection, garden design, color blending and the other things we need to know to make the most of our gard…

Maclura pomifera tree is Osage Orange, Orange wood, bois-d'arc, bodark, bowwood, hedge-apple, mockorange, live barbed wire

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Osage Orange trees are advertised in plant catalogs as small to mid-sized, meaning they become 30-to-50 feet tall, with a 40-foot wide crown at maturity.
It is said that in early American history, these thorny trees were planted along property lines as fences, keeping animals in and strangers out, and making prairie settlement possible. Osage Orange fence posts took root across the prairie and made thickets in ravines and farmsteads.
The many names that Maclura pomifera is known by include: Orange wood, bois-d'arc, bodark, bowwood, hedge-apple, mockorange, and live barbed wire.
The wood of this mulberry family member is not only strong enough to make hunting bows, it is the only tree that produces orange wood. The Lewis and Clark expedition noted finding it in St. Louis, MO in 1804. Early settlers used the root bark to make a yellow dye.
Native to Arkansas, Oklahoma and eastern Texas, Maclura pomifera are now found in zones 4 to 9, from New England to southern Colorado. Some have na…

Ranunculus asiaticus are Persian Buttercups

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Those wonderful cool weather flowering bulbs Ranunculus are in the plant family Ranunculaceaea. The other 600 members of the family include Lesser Celandine and Buttercups. 

Ranunculus asiaticus is a tuberous-rooted plant native to South-eastern Europe and Asia Minor, Turkey and North Africa, where they are known as Persian Buttercups.

I remember my mother planting them and I planted them years ago. You just don't see them very often any more. If you are interested in having something unique in your spring/summer flower bed, take a chance on a small order and see how they do in your climate. The flowers are like tiny peonies with paper thin petals and they can be cut and kept in a vase. The variety La Belle is grown specifically for the cut flower market. Summer Hill Seeds sells Ranunculus La Bell - 20 seeds $6.

 Look for the largest bulbs you can find to plant this fall/winter in zones 8 and above. Jumbo bulbs are the largest and will produce 30 flowers, Grade 1 will give yo…

Hot Lips Sage is Salvia microphylla Hot Lips

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This particular Salvia has been in our garden for four years. It never really took off like the one in the catalog, but it soldiers on, blooming spring, summer and fall - even past our first frosty nights. Said to be cold hardy in zones 8 to 10, Hot Lips does reasonably well in our zone 7 since it is protected by close neighbors - A climbing Euonymus on the east fence behind it and an exuberant Lantana on it's west side. In the heat of the summer the sparse flowers are mostly white.

Like all Salvias, the scent keeps most predators such as deer at a distance.
Plant Delights Nursery offers them in their online catalog at www.plantdelights.com. The catalog says it "was introduced by Richard Turner of California after the plant was shared with him by his maid, who brought it from her home in Mexico. The fast-growing, 30" tall x 6' wide clump is adorned with stunning bicolor flowers with red tips and white lips...attractive to hummingbirds. When the nights warm in s…

Historic Daffodils Historic Home

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Thomas Foreman Homedaffodil bulb planting, 1419 West Okmulgee, corner 15 ST
Saturday, November 3, 11 am
The Thomas-Foreman Historic Home is a jewel in Muskogee that only a handful of residents know about. Also known as the Grant Foreman House, the farm house was built at 1419 West Okmulgee in 1898 on a tract of prairie. It is on the National Register of Historic Places and contains the original furnishings of Indian Territory judge John R. Thomas, his daughter and son-in-law Grant and Carolyn Foreman. The Foremans were historians and prolific authors.

The Thomas-Foreman Home is a satellite museum of Muskogee’s Three Rivers Museum (www.3riversmuseum.com) with Sue Tolbert serving as executive director of both.
The board of Three Rivers Museum is currently working to restore the grounds of the home. The funds needed to remove dead trees and clean out fence-lines is currently being raised.
Contributors so far, include: The Kirschner Foundation, A More Beautiful Muskogee, Muskogee Parks and R…