29 November 2012

Less Fall and Winter Cleanup is Better - to a point

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 fertilizer and water to maintain them.

Pull all the weeds in the garden so they do not drop more seeds for rapid spring growth. If you plan to expand a growing area, put 10 sheets of newsprint down on the new garden space and pile it with those weeds and clippings.

Tomato and pepper plants should be removed completely. If they were healthy before the killing frost, put them into the compost. If they had blight or an insect infestation, put them in the trash so the problems do not get recycled back onto the garden in the spring.

Iris corms have to be cleaned off so they can absorb sun over the winter and bloom next spring. In general, fall planted bulbs benefit from chopped leaf mulch but early bulbs such as crocus and snowdrops are better off without mulch. I have noticed that whole leaves left on daffodil bulbs are like a wet washcloth on the bulb growth when it tries to emerge early spring. Under the winter-wet leaves the daffodil greenery is pale and yellow. 

Also keep mulch of any kind at least 6-inches away from tree trunks. Chewing insects, mice and voles enjoy living where they eat.

Vegetables to leave in the garden over the winter months include: Arugula, kale, chard, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, radishes, broad beans and other cool weather crops.  Wire worms and slugs are actually reduced by their presence but, do remove any plants that had significant numbers of flea beetles, or diseases like black spot, rust or powdery mildew.

Plants that need dry soil should be cleared of leaves and debris, such as sedums, creeping thyme, Artemisia, lavender and Lamb’s ears.

Prune any diseased, damaged or dead stems but healthy stems will sprout new growth where they are pruned, creating a potential problem. Wait to prune until the dead of winter.

Flower heads, seed pods, stalks and other untidy looking parts of the winter garden are food and shelter to lady beetles, butterflies, spiders and other beneficial insects. You can watch the birds over the winter as they scratch under leaf piles to find seeds and bugs to keep them going.

Doug Tallamy, author of “Bringing Nature Home” said, “96% of our birds raise their young on insects. No insects, no baby birds. No baby birds, no big birds.”

A small brush pile with leaves and flower stalks will help lizards, bees, frogs, toads, rabbits, and box turtles make it through the ice and snow. Any additional leaves and small twigs can be piled in an out of the way corner to make mulch for next summer.

22 November 2012

Thanksgiving Then and Now - It's about Being Grateful

  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 Ceres in October, Greeks honored Demeter, goddess of the harvest, the Chinese festival is around August 15 and Jewish communities celebrate Sukkoth fall harvest festival.

After the Civil War battle of Gettysburg, in 1863, the editor of Godey’s Ladies Book convinced President Lincoln to declare a national day of Thanksgiving to establish a common tradition in a divided country.

Thanksgiving was declared an American holiday in 1941 and after WWII the poultry industry’s marketing teams turned turkey into a symbol of America’s abundance. Turkey is such a consistent symbol that the day is commonly referred to as Turkey Day and vegetarians eat a non-meat meal of Tofurkey, turkey flavored tofu.

The symbols of Thanksgiving focus on spending time with community, family and friends, and being grateful. Today, many families add other Thanksgiving traditions such as football, skiing, church attendance, a walk in the woods, a movie or Christmas shopping.

  Decorations for Thanksgiving include fall leaves, berries, gourds, pumpkins and cornstalks. Early European-Americans decorated with wicker scarecrows filled with fall harvested fruits. Corn husk dolls were used to represent the Harvest Spirit in Celtic Lughnasadh.

Colorful corn has been a popular decoration across cultures. Native Americans revered the Corn God that taught them to grow the crop and the tradition was passed on at the first Thanksgiving.

Cranberries, harvested in the fall, were originally called crane berries for the pink blossoms and drooping stalks. Pumpkins and squash were originally stewed over the fire with maple syrup. Today winter squash and pumpkins are used as ravioli filling, soup base and for pastries. Gluten-free stuffing made with quinoa, cranberries and vegetables is on the table with bread stuffing and wild rice.

Cornucopias overflowing with fruit, nuts, flowers, ribbons, and decorations date from 400 B.C. The word cornucopia means horn of plenty from two Latin words cornu (horn) and copia (plenty). Now they are made with crescent roll dough.

Thanksgiving is an opportunity to gather with friends, family and community, whether we are returning to a former home or developing deeper roots in our current home. Immigrants to America incorporate their traditional crops and decorations into the holiday, bringing a feeling of home to their new environment. 

On America’s east, west and southern coasts, seafood is served; in Alaska whale meat is the traditional meat centerpiece; and Irish immigrants serve beef.

Side dishes are regional, too: in Baltimore it’s sauerkraut, in the south greens, Italian-Americans serve lasagna, Mexican-Americans add mole, Ashkenazi Jews serve noodle kugel and in LA oyster pie is traditional. Vegetarians serve their stuffing in a baked squash, the Chinese serve moon cakes.

Whatever your traditions were in the past and however you spend the day, the heart of Thanksgiving is to be grateful.

20 November 2012

Horsemint is Mentha longifolia

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 mostly the leaves that are used, usually to make a tea that is drunk for coughs, colds, stomach cramps, asthma, flatulence, indigestion and headaches. Externally, wild mint has been used to treat wounds and swollen glands. In her book Traditional healing herbs, Margaret Roberts mentions the different uses of Mentha longifolia and M. aquatica, which are delicious in salads and vegetable dishes. She also mentions that M. longifolia subsp. capensis, with its strong smell rubbed onto the body and bedding, is used to keep mosquitoes away. "

Horizon Herbs calls the plant Arabian Mint and U.C. Berkeley calls it plain old Horsemint.
To make it even more interesting, Hooks Green Herbs at Stone, Staffordshire, as well as many other garden sites, say it is a native of Europe and has spread throughout the world from there. They call it Silver Mint in their catalog.

An article in Pub Med, the online health resource says, "Calcium channel blocking activity of Mentha longifolia L. explains its medicinal use in diarrhoea and gut spasm."

At eFloras.org, Mentha longifolia is listed as a native plant in China, Pakistan and Missouri USA.

U.C. Berkeley BioSciences
To add to the name and origin interest, Mountain Valley Growers calls it Habek Mint! They say it is garden - hardy in US zones 5 to 11 and remind gardeners to plant it only in containers to keep those rhizomes from moving in too aggressively.

Companion Plants recommends it for Biblical gardens and says it is hardy in zones 3 to 9.

The oil extracted from Mentha longifolia is sold online as Spearmint Oil.

Other than tea for upset tummies, asthma help, fever reducer, an essential ingredient in couscous, a lovely addition to cut flower arrangements, Mentha longifolia is used to empty beehives. The Vagabond Adventures says, "It is traditionally used to rob bee hives. The wild mint is mixed with grass and set alight. Its smoke stupefies the bees, giving you (hopefully!) sting free honey."

I don't have any Mentha longifolia in my garden. Anyone out there have rhizomes to share or trade?

If you have an abundance of it in your garden, here are helpful recipes for couscous and mojitos from Kirsten at Autostraddle.com www.autostraddle.com/get-baked-and-toasted-get-out-of-your-gardening-predicamint-141671/.

19 November 2012

Garden Centers Cater to Pooches and Kitties

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: Merrifield Garden Center in Gainesville has bird supplies and a wine store.

Teske in Bettendorf, Iowa has soil, plants, pet foods, tools, pet pictures, and animals to take home.

What do you think? Good idea or do you prefer your garden center to be purely plants and the products that support your garden?

18 November 2012

Butterflies - names and photos of Oklahoma's own

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.

15 November 2012

Gypsum - Some Plants Love It!

Gypsum outcroppings
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 Selman Living Lab in the Cimarron Gypsum Hills (www.uco.edu/cms/sll/). Dr. Gloria Caddell, Biology Department Chair, guided the 40-attendees on an all-day walk through the hills, identifying plants in sand, soil and rocks.

The plants on the 135-acre Selman Living Laboratory include: Bluestem, Indian grass, switch grass, grama grasses, buffalo grass, sand sage, sand plum, sumacs, hackberries, elms, cottonwood, chittamwood, willow, prickly pear, small cacti, various mosses, ferns, liverworts, and a large variety of flowering annuals and perennials. Wetland plants on the site include cattails, rushes, sedges, water cress and various algae. Photos of each plant on the site are at http://www.uco.edu/cms/sll/species.asp.

Many of our common rock garden plants are Gypsophiles and one of the best known is baby’s breath. Gypsophila paniculata is tall and the creeping variety is Gypsophila repens. Gypsum-loving plants thrive in alkaline or sweet soil.

The native territory for the 100-Gypsophila includes dry, stony, slopes, dry stone walls and sandy steppes. Gypsophilas can be annual, semi-evergreen perennial, woody, mat forming or cushions.
 Rosy Veil, or Gypsophila Rosenscleier, tolerates winter moisture better than most of the other varieties. Each plant forms an 18-inch mound that can mature at 20-inches tall. It is a semi-evergreen perennial in zones 4 to 9 and has double, pale-pink flowers in the summer.
Gypsophila elegans is annual baby’s breath with tall branching stems and dozens of star-shaped flowers. Bright rose has rose-pink flowers, Bristol Fairy has double white flowers, and Carminea has deep pink flowers. 
Start annual Gypsophila seeds in the ground in the spring; winter-plant perennial varieties in a 60-degree environment or in a cold frame in spring. Seed-starting materials for Gypsophila contain sand, gravel or crushed stone and the plants require sunny, well-drained locations.

Home gardening expert Walter Reeves (www.walterreeves.com) recommends the addition of gypsum to soften clay soil. Reeves says that if your seedlings have a hard time coming up through crusty soil, apply 5 pounds of gypsum per 100 square feet for 3 years.

 Gypsum adds calcium to the soil, encouraging root growth and fruit production though not all experts agree about its value since most soils have enough calcium. Even Reeves points out that adding several inches of compost is more likely to create growth improvement than the addition of Gypsum.

You can join the Oklahoma Native Plant Society ($15) to find out about future events. The ONPS membership form, current newsletter, and meeting information can be found at www.oknativeplants.org. Their next Indoor-Outing will be held Feb. 2 at the Tulsa Garden Center, 2435 S Peoria Av.

OSU Fact Sheet HLA-6410 at http://goo.gl/K3EF6, recommends Baby’s Breath for OK gardens.

Gypsophila seeds are easy to find at Harris Seeds (harrisseeds.com), Thompson & Morgan (tmseeds.com), and Burpee Seeds (burpee.com). Gypsophila diseases include crown rot from wet soil.

13 November 2012

Fairy Wrens Teach Unborn Chicks Secret Passwords

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.

Fairy Wren father with 2 chicks
"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 cuckoo chick then ejects its foster siblings from the nest, so it can monopolise its foster parents’ attention.

Dr Diane Colombelli-Negrel
But fairy-wrens have a way of telling their chicks apart from cuckoos.  Dr. Diane Colombelli-Negrel from Flinders University in Australia has shown that mothers sing a special tune to their eggs before they’ve hatched. This “incubation call” contains a special note that acts like a familial password. The embryonic chicks learn it, and when they hatch, they incorporate it into their begging calls.

Horsfield’s bronze-cuckoos lay their eggs too late in the breeding cycle for their chicks to pick up the same notes. They can’t learn the password in time, and their identities can be rumbled.

This is one of many incredible adaptations in the long-running battle between birds and their brood parasite. As these evolutionary arms races continue, the parasites typically become ever better mimics, and the hosts typically become ever more discerning parents."

Read the rest at http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/notrocketscience/2012/11/08/fairy-wrens-teach-secret-passwords-to-their-unborn-chicks-to-tell-them-apart-from-cuckoo-impostors/

The original research is available only to subscribers of  Current Biology".

12 November 2012

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 plants' roots.

There are 3 types of cover crops: 1) grasses, 2) legumes and 3) brassicas
*Brassicas grow fastest and can be killed by a hard freeze, though last night's 24 degrees did not kill my kale, it did burn my Asian mustard plants. Brassicas capture nitrogen and feed it to the soil.
*Legumes make a lot of leaves and stems (my snow peas are thriving, the red beans froze).
Legumes have a symbiotic relationship with Rhizobium, a bacteria that forms nodules on plant roots, converting nitrogen in the air to compounds your plants need.
*Grasses other than rye should already have been planted. Ryegrass is cold tolerant though will freeze and the roots will help the soil. Other cereals include oats, barley, winter wheat.
Among the Ryegrasses, Driever says that Elbon Rye is the best for OK.

Fact Sheet HLA-6436 is at this link where you can get more information on healthy soils, organic fertilizer analysis, cover crops, etc.

Oso Easy Honey Bun Rose from Proven Winners

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.  
Oso Easy Honey Bun - Proven Winners
There are lots of other colors if Honey isn't your thing.
Click over to www.provenwinners.com to see the rest.

10 November 2012

Container Garden from SouthernLiving Plants

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 -
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 gardening dollars.

08 November 2012

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

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 naturalized rural areas in the Pacific Northwest (http://plants.usda.gov).

In their native range, small Osage Orange groves were found in bottom land where the soil was called bodark swamp, a common name for bois-d'arc. Usually they were in prairie, growing with oak, ash and mulberry.  The largest specimens grew close to the Red River. A 200-year old Osage Orange tree, 60 feet tall and 90 feet wide is in the National Register of Big Trees (www.americanforests.org).


In the spring, small green flowers are pollinated by wind and insects and the result is large green 4 to 6 inch fruit that is used in crafts and as insect repellent. Homeowners surround their home foundation with the fruit to repel insects.

Osage Orange fall fruit
This time of year, the ground under Osage Orange trees is littered with those brain-looking fruits. When they fall and bruise a milky juice comes out, blackening a spot. One writer said that being around an Osage Orange tree in the autumn is like experiencing falling broccoli.

When the fruit breaks open, livestock, birds and wild animals such as squirrels eat the fruit and spread the seed. Scientists say that 11,000 years ago the large fruit was eaten by mammoths, mastadons, giant sloths and glyptodonts.

Osage Orange does not produce useful wood for timber, pulp or utility poles but despite its shortcomings it has been planted more than any other tree species in North America (www.na.fs.fed.us).

The wood, bark and roots contain valuable extracts for food processing, fungicide, pesticides and dye-making. The heartwood is decay resistant, disease resistant and immune to termites. The branches were used by the Osage Indians to make clubs and bows. Today millions of Osage Orange fence posts are sold every year; and slices of the wood are used as garden step stones that take decades to disintegrate.

The trees add valuable shade and texture to the landscape with yellow fall color. Osage Orange trees are still planted all over the country and pruned as hedges. The branches that grow in full sun have thick, 1-inch long sharp thorns.   Twigs in the shaded areas of the tree are thorn-less but the shade will eventually kill them.

Maclura pomifera grow and look their best in moist gardens and near creeks and ditches but can tolerate a year of drought since at maturity their roots spread 15-feet out and 8-feet deep. They are also resistant to deer, heat, road salt and air pollution over their normal 75-year lifespan.


Male, mostly thorn-less and fruitless varieties include Witchita and Whiteshield. All varieties are cold hardy to zone 5. One source is Forest Farm (www.forestfarm.com).

06 November 2012

Ranunculus asiaticus are Persian Buttercups

10 for $4.77 at Tulip World dot com

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.

Plant Ranunculus with toes DOWN
4-6 inches apart
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 you 20 flowers and on down the list.
  Like most bulbs, Ranuculus bulbs are planted in full sun with well-drained soil.

In USDA zones 8 to 11, Ranunculus are planted in the fall and  bloom in the spring. The roots will survive soil temperatures of 10F. If you have a surprisingly cold season, mulch will protect them.

For our zone 7, plant Ranunculus bulbs in early spring, just before the last frost and they will bloom in June after all your spring blooming bulbs have faded. They are also good candidates for planting in containers.

Ranunculus need at least 4-6 weeks of cool (evening 40-50° & daytime 60-75°) weather to sprout. If it is too warm, they will stay dormant. If it is too cold they can freeze. Plan on them taking 6-8 weeks to sprout.  www.hollandbulbfarms.com

Touch of Nature http://www.touchofnature.com/fallcatalog/ranunculus.htm offers 25 "topsize" bulbs for $21 and 50 bulbs for $37.

Ranuculus Tecolote jumbo bulbs are 2 for $10 at http://www.littlebitofnature.com/Ranunculus_bulbs.html

Of course, there's always the Amazon possibility -
everything is for sale there including Ranunculus.

Don't confuse the wonderful spring/summer Ranunculus with their weedy cousins! Ranunculus bulbosus is a perennial Buttercup known as St. Anthony's turnip. Ranuculus repens is the weed, creeping buttercup.


04 November 2012

Hot Lips Sage is Salvia microphylla Hot Lips

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.

Salvia microphylla Sage Hot Lips
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 summer, the new flowers are all red with an occasional solid white one. As fall approaches, the flowers again will be bicolored red and white."
Phagat.com says it was developed at the San Francisco Arboretum. Their take on the story of origin is, "Richard Turner, editor of Pacific Horticulture Magazine, threw a house warming party, for which his Mexican maid Alta-Gracia provided flowers from her personal garden, including a certain salvia from Oaxaca, Mexico, which none of Alta-Gracia's boss's horticultural buddies had ever seen before. Overlooking for the moment the abominable cliche of rich honkies with their Latina servants, we may count it lucky her name is reported at all, even without last name."
Phagat recommends a hard prune in late winter in temperate areas such as Washington state.
You can propagate Hot Lips like other woody Salvias, by taking cuttings and layering. I have had luck taking cuttings of Salvia Elegans, Pineapple Sage (http://www.mountainvalleygrowers.com/salelegans.htm), to make more plants.
Layering is so easy though, maybe I'll do that this year.


01 November 2012

Historic Daffodils Historic Home

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 Recreation, Mark Bonney, Anita Whitaker, Jon Stoodley and Joel Cousins. Tolbert said that additional tax-deductible contributions would help with the planting phase.

Dozens of towns and cities across the U.S. celebrate a Daffodil Day event in the early spring.

Muskogee Garden Club contributed $500 for daffodil bulbs and soil amendments to plant the grounds in anticipation of a spring 2013 Daffodil Day weekend. Plans for Daffodil Day 2013 at the Thomas-Foreman Home include a tea and membership drive.

Sue Tolbert, Tim Doerner and Karen Coker review original garden design
The landscape professional involved with the project is Tim Doerner and the project lead for the museum board is Karen Coker. They are working with Tolbert to restore the landscape and design an irrigation system.

 1,000 daffodils planted and mulched in 5-ft deep beds

7 volunteers planted all thousand bulbs - Oyana Wilson, Tim Doerner,
Jon Stoodley, Martha Stoodley, Larry Hoffman,
Carole Cole, Nancy Gassaway, Karen Coker

Historic daffodils were ordered from Old House Garden Bulbs for the project. Owner Scott Kunst offered the heirloom bulbs at a discount to help out.

The heirloom daffodils available from Old House Gardens (www.oldhousegardens.com) appeared in bulb catalogs going back to the early 1900s but were discovered as early as the 1600s, proving their durability in American gardens.

Sweetness daffodil was discovered in 1939 and was one of the first flowers given the Wister Award by the American Daffodil Society. Called the best daffodil for southern climates, Sweetness has a thick, weather-resistant cup and petals as well as the spring fragrance we think of as pure, daffodil scent. Sweetness has all yellow flowers on top of a 16-inch stem.

Red Devon was discovered in 1943 and received awards in 1950, 1968, 1977, and 1985. It also received the Royal Horticultural Society Award of Garden Merit in 1993.Red Devon has a large, orange, ruffled cup and yellow petals that give the spring garden a joyful jolt. It is named for the historic “red” cattle of Devonshire. It grows to 2-feet tall.

Mrs. Backhouse, discovered in 1921, was the original pink daffodil. Mrs. Backhouse is actually ivory and apricot, and was named the 2005 Heirloom Bulb of the Year. This daffodil is 18 inches tall.

Thalia, an all-white daffodil discovered in 1916, is known as a strong and dependable grower. Each 16-inch tall stem has 2 or 3 nodding flowers with ivory petals that swoop back from the central cup. Thalia is the oldest all-white daffodil related to the wild Narcissus triandrus.

There are dozens more heritage daffodils at Old House Gardens, as well as fall-planted crocus, hyacinths, lilies, tulips, gladiolus, freesia, oxbloods etc.

The community is invited to dig in to help with the daffodil bulb planting on Nov. 3 at 11 a.m... Bring your own trowel or shovel.

If you would like to contribute to the grounds improvement or want to volunteer at the Thomas-Foreman Home, contact executive director Sue Tolbert at Three Rivers Museum (www.3riversmuseum.com), 918-686-6624.