28 February 2012

Size Matters according to Chris McLaughlin author of Small-Space Gardening

Chris McLaughlin is the author of three books for idiots: "Heirloom Vegetables", "Composting" and the newest addition, "Small-Space Gardening". 

According to her website, A Suburban Farmer, McLaughlin lives in  northern California on 5- acres. This newest book covers all the topics you need to know/understand to succeed in small space gardening.

Some of the reasons size matters: The space fills up quickly, small gardens can be re-invented in a weekend, vegetables are grown in containers or raised beds, and it is easy to do the work required to keep it up.
New gardeners will appreciate McLaughlin’s approach. Defined for them: What is shade/sun in your garden and how to measure it so you can select the correct plants; microclimates and how they effect your garden; cold frames and hoops to extend the seasons; greenhouses; and, other basics.
The author suggests that we think of a small space garden as being like a room to decorate. The floor consists of paths, grass and low growing plants. The walls include arbors, shrubs tree trunks, and trellises. The ceiling is the tree canopy or vines overhead.
She spends quite a few pages helping the reader understand how important it is to consider color in a small space to avoid a cluttered look and provides plenty of plant suggestions and combinations to meet any preferences.
The discussion of containers ranges from half-barrels to hanging baskets and old dressers.

Then, to address the growing medium, McLaughlin teaches the ins and outs of potting soil and improving native soil.

Portable raised beds can be purchased or built – instructions included in the book.

Gardening on a balcony, roof, fire escape, slope, or in a strong wind? It’s covered.

Whether your small space is hot, shady, wet or dry, you can always plant in containers or raised beds.

Vertical gardening uses arbors, trellises and pergolas. Fruits, vegetables and flowers can all be grown on them or in hanging containers.

Lots of fruits and vegetables are available in dwarf form and those are all ideal for small spaces.

Would you like to add the ambiance of water to your small space garden? How about bird baths, a wall fountain, bubbling table bowl or a small in-ground pond?

Plenty of plant advice accompanies all this great design talk.

As with all the Idiot books, it is environmentally sane - printed on newsprint without color photos. "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Small-Space Gardening sells for $20 list price and is available online for $14.

Published by Alpha, 330-pages, idiotsguides.com.


27 February 2012

Geranium Pratense Striatum is Meadow Cranesbill, Mourning Widow, Crowfoot Cranesbill, Bassinets, Loving Andrews, Grace of God, etc.

In searching seed listings for something blue for the part-shade flower beds, I ran across Geranium pratense and ordered seeds of splish splash. They are native from Ireland to Japan and may or may not appreciate our zone 7 summer.

This blue beauty has so many names! Crowfoot Cranesbill, Bassinets, Loving Andrews, Grace of God, Mourning Widow and more. The seed fruit that forms after the flowers fade is shaped like a beak, leading to the common name Cranesbill.

Geranium pratens seedlings
According to the geranium website, Geranium Care, The Grace of God name comes from that clear blue flower color often associated with the Virgin Mary's veil. And, ‘Swearing a blue streak’, means to take God’s name in vain and is a common way of ‘policing up’, a curse word phrase."

In addition to being a pretty, 1.5 foot tall garden plant, the flowers are used as blue dye.

In our garden I hope they live up to their promise of providing nectar for bees.

First Nature in Wales has lovely photos of Meadow Cranesbill in the wild. Most online sources offer seed or bare-root one-year seedlings but one site says they have bulbs for sale. Hmmm. I think not.

The variety I bought is Splish Splash. Some have said that Splish Splash seeds don't always come up looking like the ones in the photo on the right but, rather, show up some blue, some white and none splishy or splashy.

Heronswood says they are perennial in zones 4-8. Take a look at the photos
on this blog, A Garden in Bethlehem PA - another recommendation for its lacy beauty in part shade.

True Geraniums are carefree perennials for use in borders and as a deciduous groundcover. They range in size from 4-inches to 2-feet tall. Can be sown in the fall or spring.

Easy care - Cut back after bloom for a smaller second bloom. Mulch in cold zones. Divide in the spring in zones 4 to 6 and in the fall farther south.

PS March 29 2012 - I'm planting them into the garden now. Can't wait to see them in bloom.
PS April 15 - Every single little plant is surviving so far.

25 February 2012

New beauties from Blooms of Bressingham

Verbena 'Seabrook's Lavender'

It's time for garden and plant lovers to become restless. In our part of the world, the grass/weeds/lawn are becoming green, the daffodils are blooming and some of the trees have buds.

So, we are impatient for real spring, when the threat of frost, freeze, ice and cold wind have passed.

Entertain yourself for a few minutes with these new selections from Blooms of Bressingham - they should show up in garden centers this spring.


Verbena 'Seabrook's Lavender' sprouts large flowers. A low-growing, spreading plant, its blooms put on a show from June until late September. Height is 3 inches, spread is 22 inches. A tender perennial discovered by UK gardening journalist and broadcaster Peter Seabrook in his garden.USDA Hardiness Zones 8 to10; AHS Heat Zones 12 to 1.

Coreopsis Sweet Marmalade
Coreopsis 'Sweet Marmalade' - I've written about this beauty before. The flowers open deep orange, then soften to apricot yellow. Flowers bloom June through September in full sun. A sport of Coreopsis 'Creme Brulee. USDA Hardiness Zones 5 to 9. Prefers well-drained soils.
 
Campanula poscharskyana 'Blue Rivulet' has star-shaped flowers. Perfect for a smaller garden and container combos. Height is 6 to 7 inches and width is 10 to 12 inches. USDA Hardiness Zones 5 to 9.  

Campanula Blue Rivulet
 
 
 
 
 
And! There's a not-to-be-ignored Helenium called Mardi Gras.
 
 
 
 


Helenium Mardi Gras
These all cheer me up. How about you?

22 February 2012

Garden writer and humorist Felder Rushing Speaking in Tulsa and Oklahoma City this weekend

Felder Rushing’s gardening talks are always delightful. Despite being in the U.S. Navy, and having a horticulturist position with U.S.D.A., in his talks he tells the audience to ignore the rules.

Now Rushing lives in England half the year and travels the U.S. doing speaking engagements the other half of the year. He has written 16 successful gardening books filled with his opinions about gardens, plants, bird feeding, water gardening and garden art. 

“Gestalt Gardener”, his call-in radio show, has been on air for 30-years. You can listen to several shows at http://mpbonline.org/gestaltgardener and podcasts are available for download.

 “Garden writers, experts, and books make gardening sound complicated,” said Rushing in a telephone interview. “OK has had some horrible weather – heat, blizzard, ice – and yet there are tough plants doing perfectly well at cemeteries and old home sites. Ride around. You’ll see 150 to 200 plants doing fine. Plant those in your yard.”

This weekend, Rushing’s talk on Sat. in Tulsa will be about Slow Gardening (www.slowgardening.net) and his talk on Sun. in Oklahoma City will be about Passalong Plants. Both are titles of books he has written.

Rushing’s education and experience help his readers and listeners enjoy gardening more.

“People are tired of horticulture and its blow-dried, perfect landscaping,” Rushing said. “I want to help gardeners discover what makes more sense.”

Rushing said that if you want to grow fruit, grow elderberries, Chickasaw plums, and figs instead of peaches and grapes because they are easier to grow and have no problems.

“I grow peppers instead of tomatoes,” said Rushing. “They are more nutritious than tomatoes and easier to grow in hot, humid weather. I grow culinary herbs in pots hooked up to a drip system that waters them three times a week for an hour at a time.”

He pointed out that vegetables do not have to be grown in rows; they can be grown in buckets or tucked between shrubs, perennials and herbs.

“Plant vegetables as though they were flowers,” said Rushing. “Then, when you get tired of them you can just eat them.”

Rushing has spent a lot of time in Oklahoma and said that most of the photos he will use in his presentations were taken in OK.

Rushing said, “Experts have long lists of what to do and not to do. I specialize in deconstructing those ideas. Horticulture is producing a product. Gardening is what you do for the love of it, for the lightening bugs and the birds. Find out what you love about the garden and do that.”

Just say no to grass is Rushing’s way of telling gardeners that they do not have to spend so much of their lives spraying, watering and mowing a lawn.

“Wall to wall grass is not in the Constitution,” Rushing said. “A throw rug of grass can be plenty. Put some paths in your yard and let stuff grow alongside the paths. That’s a garden, too. Choose plants with good shape and texture and you will have a gorgeous garden.”

Rushing's books include: “Slow Gardening: A No-Stress Philosophy for All Senses and All Seasons”, “Tough Plants for Georgia Gardens”, “Guide to South Carolina Vegetable Gardening” “Can’t Miss Container Gardening” and “Passalong Plants”.

He gives an encouraging talk that invites gardeners to enjoy their yard, garden, outdoor space, balcony, or deck. Hang homemade art, put flower colors in tight lines, or land a flock of plastic birds on the lawn. Do whatever minimizes the work and increases the joy.

Rushing’s free talks are about an hour. His books will be available for sale and autographs.
Garden writer and humorist Felder Rushing speaking

Free and open to the public
Tulsa Garden Center, Feb 25, 6:30 pm
2435 South Peoria Phone 918-746-5125


Oklahoma City Zoo, Feb 27, 2 pm
Information: www.OKHort.org or stoutgarden@cox.net

21 February 2012

Moles

Most years we plant enough Castor Beans around our property to keep the moles away. They can smell the roots of the plants and move on to the neighbors' property. Last summer's drought kept the Castor Beans from maturing and oh, my, do we have tunnels. When walking from the house to the back of the property to the burn pile, it's like walking on a big sponge, with feet sinking a few inches every step of the way.

Moles make tunnels underground where they live in order to seek and eat insects, including earthworms and grubs. They have long noses, webbed front feet, no ears, and are are gray to brown and 6-inches long.

You can tell you have moles because you'll have mini mountain ranges and soil volcanoes in the yard.

You can kill them with traps or baits. To use traps, tamp down the tunnel and watch to see where they return and put the traps in those spots.  Or, you can use Havahart cage/traps and relocate the moles to your neighbor's yard.

Castor oil or Mole-Med can be used to repel them. To make your own mix see http://www.greenviewfertilizer.com/articles/voles-moles/

My usual method is to keep a supply of Castor Bean seeds from last summer's crop and wherever I see a tunnel, I drop in a seed.
As a result we have 2-inch tall Castor Bean plants coming up in odd places but they are easy to mow down and the moles are long gone, having relocated to some other yard.

This year I'm going to try the Deadset Mole Trap because the problem is bigger than ever and the company sent me one to see how it works. Here's a link to the video showing how to set it. 

Even though this summer is predicted to be as awful as last year with drought and record high temperatures, I bought more Castor Bean seeds to plant. Gardeners are eternally optimistic, aren't you?

I'll let you know how the Sweeney's Deadset trap works.

19 February 2012

Seedlings and Transplants

Three week old Dianthus seedlings started outside in a cold frame. Cold hardy perennials do not need to be protected from cold during the seed starting process so don't waste the space you need for tender perennials, annuals, etc.

Borage seedlings - 10 days after seed planting

The roots of this seedling wrapped around the pot several times and have to be teased out before transplanting.

Seedling with broken stem goes into the compost pile - seedling stems are easy to break.

Broccoli seedlings were started in a clear plastic clam shell that originally held fresh strawberries. Then the seedlings are moved to individual cells or small pots where they can grow out until their roots fill the containter.

Broccoli seedling with ideal root distribution - ready for a larger pot.

The round leaf in the foreground is the seed leaf or cotyledon. The large leaves are  the true leaves.

2008 Lacinato Kale seeds started in a clear plastic fruit container, Jan 2012 and ready to move to larger containers.

Meadow Rue or Lavendar Mist is Thalictrum rochebrunianum/rochebruneanum - Ranunculaceae family

North  Creek Nurseries
Lavender Mist or Meadow Rue is a cold hardy (USDA zones 4 to 7) perennial that blooms in late spring. The reason they thrive only up to zone 7 is that they need a cold period to do well.

About the rochebrunianum/rochebruneanum dichotomy in the title - The seed company I purchased them from as well as the new 2012 Sunset Western Garden Book uses rochebrunianum. Rob's Plants say that GRIN, the federal plant taxonomy site, uses rochebruneanum. The only reason to care is that when ordering seeds you might need to know.

GRIN also says that this plant was discovered in Japan in 1878 and was named for a plant explorer, Alphonse Trémeau de Rochebrune (1834-1912).


They are called Meadow Rue because they do best at the edge of a woody area in dappled light. Since they are not fond of wind, heat and humidity, their ability to be glorious in northeast Oklahoma remains to be seen. Our wind, heat and humidity are legendary.

The reason I chose Thalictrum rochebrunianum/rochebruneanum seeds to plant this winter is that this one is said to be sturdier and is one of the few Thalictrums that does not need to be staked.

Smith College
Their leaf clump and tall flower stalks resemble Columbine which will be their companions and neighbors where I plan to plant them if I'm successful in the seed starting process. At maturity the flower stalks will be 4 to 6 FEET tall and the plant will become 1 or 2 feet wide.

According to U.C. Botanic Gardens, they contain no nectar to attract pollinators but rely on the wind to do the job. However, certain caterpillars (Buckeye?) will eat the foliage to the ground as they prepare to become butterflies.

So, wish me luck as I try another experiment in trying to cross over the USDA/GRIN barriers of heat tolerance, humidity allowances, etc. in the ongoing challenge of feeding butterflies.

17 February 2012

Plant Pathologist Phil Pratt provides tips for gardeners

When a plant starts to look diseased, gardeners head to the store in search of a diagnosis and cure.  The labels on the bottles explain what the bottle’s contents can treat, including black spots on leaves, shriveled stems, insect infestations and other problems that a sharp eye can diagnose.

Two years ago, Muskogee resident Phil Pratt retired, ending a 35-year career as an Oklahoma State University plant pathologist and County Extension Director. He agreed to provide a few basics that gardeners need to know before they buy anything to spray on their gardens.

According to Pratt, there are two kinds of plant problems: 1) Those caused by pathogenic organisms and 2) those not caused by pathogenic factors.

The pathogenic organisms that cause diseases include viruses, fungi, bacteria and nematodes. The plant problems not caused by non-pathogenic organisms, sometimes called abiotic, are caused by giving plants the incorrect fertilizer, water, light or temperature, poor planting site, and incorrect use of or exposure to herbicides.

“Most of the time when I made a residential visit to help a homeowner, 75% of the problems were abiotic, meaning not caused by disease or insects,” Pratt said. “When a plant pathologist attempts to diagnose a plant problem, one of the first things we do is eliminate the abiotic issues first.

A common mistake is overwatering.  Automatic water systems, ideal for lawns, can easily over-water landscape ornamentals such as azaleas and newly planted trees. Their roots stay too wet which can lead to fungal root rot, and the plant’s eventual death.

“Of the biological pathogens (viruses, fungi, bacteria and nematodes), 85% of our plant problems are caused by some type of fungi bacteria,” Pratt said. “Even though most gardeners think their shrubs have a virus, the reality is there are very few cases of viral disease in landscape and garden plants.

When virus diseases occur they are often carried to plants by insects such as leafhoppers and aphids. There are no chemical treatments for plants infected with viruses but the good news is that they are rarely the cause of our problems.

“One way to prevent plant diseases, especially foliar and fruit diseases, is to spray a good, broad-spectrum fungicide such as Chlorothalonil,” said Pratt. “Be sure to read the label to see the list of plants it is safe to use it on.”

Chlorothalonil is sold as Daconil 2787, Liquid Lawn Disease Control and Multi-Purpose Fungicide. It is used for diseases on lawns, shrubs, trees, fruit, vegetables and flowers.

“One of the best things to do is to use good sanitation methods such as removing dead branches, and keeping leaves out from under trees and shrubs, and removing dead plants from flower beds. It is also a good idea to use disease-resistant plant varieties when they are available and adapted to growing in your area,” Pratt said.

Pratt said that it is time to spray herbicides for cool season, broadleaf, weed- control in lawns.

“I am not opposed to the use of chemicals to control weeds and insects,” said Pratt. “Just don’t use them unless it is justified and needed.”

Pratt said to seed fescue lawns in March and re-seed in September where they have become thin.  When warm weather arrives, watch for problems such as dollar spot in Bermuda grass and brown patch in fescue. Spray lawns with the broad spectrum fungicide, Mancozeb, Dithane M45 or other fungicides labeled for use on Bermuda and fescue.

A problem homeowners can unwittingly cause is native Oak and Pine tree decline. Anything that alters the environment in which a tree is accustomed to growing such as building a flower bed around the trunk of an Oak tree is considered site disturbance.

14 February 2012

The New Sunset Western Garden Book - 2012 edition

The latest edition of Sunset Western Garden Book will replace my old one that I've thumbed so often that the bottom right page corner is curled upward. Do you have a garden book that you have so thoroughly used?

The last time this 80-year old, most-valuable resource was revised was in 2007 so it was definitely time for an update.  The thumb-able firm (not hardback) cover book is now 760+ pages covering 9,000 plant varieties.

In theory the Western Garden Book is a resource for North American gardeners from British Columbia and Alaska to Colorado and New Mexico and the specific microclimate zone maps are great for those areas. But, the information in the rest of the book is current and valuable to all gardeners. You just have to figure out your own microclimate.




It is easy to read and has all the data we are looking for when researching which seeds and plants to buy for this year's garden.

You'll find a plant description, hardiness zones, light and moisture requirements and mature plant size, along with a photo of one of the varieties detailed.

Since I have Dianthus seeds peeking out of seed starting mix in the cold frame, it was the first place I looked.

Here's what I found -
Dianthus - Pink - Caryophyllaceae - Perennials, Biennials and Annuals. Zones 1 to 24, light shade in hottest areas, regular water, attract butterflies.

The basic information is followed by a description of the genus (300 species and an extrememly large number of hybrids).

And, what I love about Dianthus as a ground cover "Most kinds form attractive evergreen mats or tufts of grasslike green, gray-green, blue-green, or gray-blue leaves." That is followed by a page of information about hybrids, perennials, Sweet William, carnations, etc. and there are 4 photos clarifying the differences among the selections.

Browsing the book I found  assorted outboxes such as, "The Dark Side of English Ivy", "Clinging Vines", "How to Grow Raspberries", and "Grow a Meadow".

Other surprises/delights: a page of bamboo varieties and their features, plants that attract beneficial insects, perennials for pots, silver foliage, how to stake and train plants, vegetable gardening, trees, succulents, and many other helpful sections.

Dianthus Fandango from HPS
There is a video introduction to the book's features on
YouTube here.

The list price is $35 and the online bookseller price is $20. (My review copy will be used to the point of practically worthless by the end of a single gardening season since I expect to use it and use it.)

After considerable Internet research I found very few sources for the book so be sure to use the 2012 edition ISBN when locating it. (The 2007 edition is the one that comes up on web searches.)

The New Sunset Western Garden Book: The Ultimate Gardening Guide, 2000 photos, plant finder, lots of extras.

When you find it, you'll want it on your shelf for ready reference.
 ISBN 978-0-376-03920-0. Published  by Oxmoor House.

12 February 2012

Pretty blue Borage, The Herb of Gladness (Borago officinalis), is in the Boraginaceae or Forget-Me-Not plant family

Borage is one of those rare plants that has it all. Although it has a history of being used in herbal remedies, today the pink and blue flowers are used to decorate everything from truffles to creamed soups and the leaves are widely used as a salad ingredient.

Its medicinal properties extend to the garden as well. Planting Borage with strawberries is supposed to improve the crop and planting Borage in any bed is said to strengthen the disease resistance of all the plants nearby.

Reference books about garden flowers do not usually include Borage, Borago officinalis, because it is considered an herb. It is one of 2,000 plants in the Boraginaceae or Forget-Me-Not plant family. Its relatives include Bugloss, Fiddleneck, Comfrey, Heliotrope and Lungwort.

Butterflies and bees are drawn to the flowers and Painted Lady butterfly caterpillars eat the leaves and nest in them before making a chrysalis. Painted Lady caterpillars also eat the leaves of thistles, mallows, peas, plantains, hollyhocks, and sunflowers.

There are many common names for Borage, including Bee Bread, Bee Plant, Burage, Cool Tankard, Langue de Boeuf, Ox-tongue, Star Flower, Gurkenkraut and Tailwort. It was probably originally from the area now known as Syria but it has naturalized around the world.

The 2-foot tall branching plant stems are hollow and soft rather than stocky so it can become rangy in appearance. Borage looks best in between plants with sturdy stalks, toward the middle of a flower bed or in a bed full of similar plants and herbs grown for the kitchen and for pollinators.

Organic gardeners often plant Borage between tomato plants because it is supposed to keep away the moths that are responsible for tomato horn worm caterpillars.

Container companions for Borage could be burgundy/purple basils, calendula, and chamomile – all easily started from seed. Any bed in an edible landscape would benefit from planting a pack of Borage seeds.

The entire plant is covered with tiny hairs, giving the 3-inch long bright green leaves a silver cast. The name Borage was given to it by Linnaeus when he established the plant genus Borago, which is Latin for hairy garment. Gardeners with sensitive skin should wear gloves when working around any Borage plant family members.

Borage flowers are often pink in the bud stage and right after opening. Then they turn bright blue with a black anther in the center adding to its dramatic appearance. The furry leaves make Borage unappealing to deer.

Though Borage tolerates poor soil it needs to be watered during weeks with no rain. It will bloom most in full sun but will tolerate afternoon shade.

Borage seeds need dark to come up so cover them with ¼ inch of soil when planting. They take 5 to 15 days to germinate at 70-degrees F. Keep the seeds moist but not wet and thin out the seedlings to at least one-foot apart. Fertilize once a month.

Since Borage does not like to be moved from a pot to the ground it is best to sow the seeds directly into prepared soil in a bed or in large growing containers. Sow a few seeds every month to ensure a steady supply of the edible flowers and leaves.

For a long time, Borage was called the herb of gladness because the leaves were used to make an herbal medicine to treat depression. In our gardens, it is more likely that the beauty of the cheerful flowers and the cucumber flavor of its leaves will make us glad we grew it.

Swallowtail Garden Seeds (www.swallowtailgardenseeds.com and 877-489-7333) has both white and blue flowering Borage seeds available.

10 February 2012

In the garden shed Feb 2012

Last fall before the first freeze I dug up a few little plants to bloom in the garden shed. This one blooming Mignonette fills the entire shed with its romance era sweet perfume.

 Another plant dug up for winter bloom is this Calendula that would bring a smile to any gardener's face in the middle of a string of 25 to 45 degree days. Calendulas are the happiest flowers.













When we remade a front sidewalk flower bed the Purple Heart had to go to make room for new Boxwood shrubs. So they are in pots, under lights, in the shed awaiting spring weather and their new homes.













The Shrimp Plant thrives and blooms in the garden shed every winter and goes outside to show its stuff every summer. It will be pruned and re-potted in a couple of months to get it ready for spring.

The Rosemary was a 4-inch pot last spring and it did so well that it earned a spot by the window.

The marjoram hangs out in the corner of 2 windows where it scents the air, gets snipped for recipes, blooms and sets seed.









Then, this sweet succulent began to bloom.

Each fall cuttings of my favorite trailing petunia get stuck into little pots to grow. As they get settled and grow, their tips are snipped and put into more pots so there will be a dozen or more for the garden next summer.
This one bloomed before the cuttings were taken. What a treat for the winter months.
I don't know how I made it through the winter before the garden shed was constructed a few years ago.

08 February 2012

Plants talk to others nearby, warning each other of danger

Here's a 2-minute BBC clip demonstrating how plants warn each other of nearby danger.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-16916474

Sorry about the advert that preceeds the good stuff but what a great way to wake up our
plant-loving minds!

07 February 2012

Links to news and useful information for gardeners

Do you subscribe to several blogs and newsletters? Do you actually read them all? I keep trying to cut back but for each one I send the dreaded unsubscribe message, there is another (or two) to which I subscribe.

Here are a few of the links I've loved this week in no particular order -

1) State by State Gardening (full disclosure - I write for them a couple of times a year)
Marilyn Stewart of Wild Things Nursery wrote about Blackfoot Daisy, Melampodium leucanthum.

Here's a link to the article about this plant. Stewart says,
Natives of Texas
"One amazing standout in my yard has been blackfoot daisy, which has thrived in heat and limited moisture and looked, well, as fresh as a daisy the entire summer. One attribute of this plant I appreciate is how white the abundant blooms always look; there is no fading to brown. Native to several western states, I have seen it growing on clay outcrops in fierce winds and sun. It doesn’t need much in the way of care, just not too much moisture."

2) The University of California Botany Photo of the Day
features a favorite plant for our zone 7 area, Castilleja coccinea, a member of the Orobanchaceae family. Here we call it Indian Paintbrush. link here
"Castilleja has somewhere in the neighbourhood of 160-200 species, and almost all of these are in western North America. Castilleja coccinea is one of the exceptions, as it is broadly distributed across eastern North America."

3) The Bugwood Blog ran an article about invasive bamboo that reminded me of the time we planted bamboo in a 2-inch thick concrete planter and it broke out.
Bamboo Garden Center
"Bamboos rarely produce fertile seed here, but they have still managed to become an invasive problem. The genus Phyllostachys, a running bamboo, has nine species that have been reported invasive at some time. " Check it out here.

4) The University of Wisconsin Yard and Garden News ran a piece about the new hardiness zones map put out by the U.S.D.A. My zone didn't change, did yours? Check here.


5) Missouri Environment and Garden's newsletter has information on cold frames you can easily construct. I have perennial seeds in mine now.  I love the idea of a hotbed but do not have the resources to have one.
The article is here.
"For many avid gardeners, the winter months are viewed as a dull, uninspiring period that must be endured in order to experience the joy of the growing season that follows. Although cold temperatures dramatically alter gardening activities, they do not necessarily have to end them. The use of plant growth structures such as cold frames and hotbeds can transform gardening into a year-around activity. "

Which blogs and garden newsletters are your faves?

05 February 2012

Plant these seeds now -New vegetable varieties for 2012

It's time to start spring and summer veggie seeds indoors. In case you're in need of inspiration, check out some of the new offerings available this year. Links below will take you to the company's site where you'll find more information.

A vegetable that qualifies as being pretty enough for a flower bed comes from Seed Savers Exchange. Five Color Silverbeet's foliage can be tucked into any cottage garden, herb bed or container. Not only are the leaves good in salads, the plants will shade young seedlings planted under and around them.

Thompson and Morgan seeds is introducing 2 new eggplant varieties for containers. Start eggplant seeds inside now so you'll have flowering plants ready to go when it's time.
Emerald Isle eggplant

They recommend planting the seed on moist, sterile seed starting mixture and topping the seeds with vermiculite.

Pinstripe eggplant
Keep the seed starting at 60-degrees F or 20 C until the plants are established in the seed starting containers. Then move them to 6-pack size containers and continue to grow at 50-degrees F or 10 C.




Loco Pepper
Also start their new Loco Pepper seeds now to have plants garden-ready in the spring. Use the same method as you'll use for the eggplant seeds. 

Loco is a compact, container, pepper plant with those gorgeous red and purple fruits that are such a hit late in the summer.


Jung Seed has the Black Olive pepper seeds. These ornamental peppers are edible, just really hot.



Burpee is introducing a new English pea they call Easy Peasy Pea. In their trials each pod had 10 peas and there were 2 pods on each node. AND they are self-supporting vines.


Harris Seed has Long Season Lutz Beets. They are huge, tender and sweet, according to Harris. The outside is rough on this slow-growing variety, but the compensation is that Lutz keeps longer.

Hometown Seeds offers Cheddar Cauliflower seeds that grow those orange heads that even kids will eat. Seeds will germinate at 55-70 degrees and you'll have cauliflower in 75 days.


Starting seeds now? What are you growing?

04 February 2012

Unique new nature books: Birds a spiritual field guide and Birds a spiritual journal

Montreal writer, Arin Murphy-Hiscock is the author of "Power Spellcraft for Life", "Wicca for Life", "The Way of the Green Witch", "The Way of the Hedge Witch", "Pagan Pregnancy", and now two new books, "Birds: a spiritual field guide 'Explore the Symbology and Significance of These Divine Winged Messengers'" and "Birds a spiritual journal 'Record the Symbology and Significance of These Divine Winged Messengers'".

The spiritual meaning of which birds you observe during your day probably never occurs to most of us to wonder about. Murphy-Hiscock has compiled 240-pages of thoughts, suggestions, fact and folklore about 75 North American bird species to use as a reference.

Here's an example - The book has sentences, I'm just jotting notes from the text to give a sense of it.

- Pelican, Species: Pelecanus erythrorhynchos
- Lives in central Canada, central and western U.S. and Mexico.
- Live by inland and coastal bodies of water
Physical description
- Interesting facts: Live in colonies and are social. Fish in groups, etc.
- Myths, folklore and cultural associations (this is where the author's knowledge shines)
- Hatchlings were thought to drink blood from their mother's breast, leading to the Christian use of pelicans ans a symbol of atonement and self-sacrifice. Can also stand as a symbol for Christ.
- Pelican was "representative of the fourth of the five stages of alchemy, an ancient science of transmutation of basic elements into gold and to discover the secret of eternal life"

Omens and divinatory meaning
"...reminds you of many things, among them the need to give selflessly to others. Have you been miserly lately? ...."
"...encourages you to examine your parenting style. Are you giving too much of yourself? ...."

then follows Associated energies, seasons, element and color.

"Birds a spiritual journal 'Record the Symbology and Significance of These Divine Winged Messengers'" is a journal in which you can write answers to 2-pages of self-examining questions each time you see a bird. Questions repeat throughout the journal's pages, such as
What kind of bird brought you a message/had a message for you today?
How were you feeling before the sighting?
Were your feelings or mood transformed once you had the encounter?

Murphy-Hiscock writes about self-transformation through a variety of approaches that are non-traditional but that work for millions of people. Her website is fascinating and her services are primarily writing and editing.

Both books ($15 and $20) were published Jan, 2012, by Adams Media

02 February 2012

New plant introductions for 2012


There will be lots of exciting plant varieties on the market this spring as breeders and growers have designed new improved plants in more colors with better disease resistance. Here are a few to look for and ask your favorite nursery about.
Coreopsis verticillata Sweet Marmalade is a new color of an old favorite garden flower. This one grows a foot tall and has apricot-orange flowers. Shorter than the ones we usually grow, Sweet Marmalade would be good for containers or the front of a border. Cut off the first flush of summer flowers and the plants will bloom again later in the season. Coreopsis verticillata is a drought resistant, thread-leafed variety that will spread slowly by underground rhizomes.
High Country Gardens
Petunia Suncatcher Pink Lemonade is one of a series of new Petunias that will be featured for hanging baskets and containers. Suncatcher petunias are mounding plants, make lots of flowers, love the sun and need less water. Available from High Country Gardens www.highcountrygardens.com.
Daisy-like Osteospermum Margarita Nano Yellow is one of the new Margarita Nano colors. Commonly called African daisies, they are easy to grow, heat tolerant, and need no deadheading or pinching. They are perennial in their native Africa but are grown as annual flowers here. In northern CA, the highways are densely planted with African Daisies where they bloom and spread all summer.
Rave Plant Center
Centaurea Black Sprite  is the latest purple-black flower to come on the market. The combination of gray-green leaves and spidery sunbursts of flower petals make them popular as cut flowers.  Centaureas are in the easy-to-grow Aster family and have common names such as Hardhead and Knapweed. From the Mediterranean, they grow best in borders or rock gardens where they can receive full sun and grow in relatively dry conditions. They grow up to 14-inches tall and 24-inches wide.

Nature Hills
Everybody loves Blanket Flowers. The flowers of the native variety have an orange-pink center with yellow tips on the petals. The new varieties, Commotion Moxie, Frenzy, and Tizzy,  have been bred to have many more petals, looking semi-double when they are in bloom. They grow up to 2 feet tall and wide, love the sun and are drought tolerant. These thrive in poor soil but do not like clay because it stays too wet. Do not fertilize.
Swallowtail Gardens
New Gaillardia or Blanket Flowers you can grow from seed include Arizona Apricot from Thompson and Morgan (www.tmseeds.com). Arizona Apricot grows only one-foot tall and the daisy flowers are 3-inches across. The plant has dark green leaves and the flowers have apricot centers and yellow petal tips. It takes two weeks for seed germination with temperatures from 65 to 85 degrees so they can be planted indoors at the end of March or outside in pots.
Every year there are new Verbena colors. A couple of years ago there were new ones called Tropical Breeze Purple and White, Lascar Red with Eye, Lanai Peach, Aztec Coral and Rapunzel Magenta. This year the introductions include Estrella Salmon Star and Seabrook’s Lavender which has clusters of lavender flowers with a dark eye. They will flower almost until the first frost. They grow 3-inches tall and spread two feet wide in full sun.
Astia from Renee's
Renee’s Garden Seeds (www.reneesgarden.com) is introducing a new container bush-zucchini called Astia.  The plants are compact and the zucchini grows close to the stem for easy picking. The seeds are started late spring in big pots of fertilized soil. It takes about 50 days from seed planting to harvest.
Each of us gardeners has our favorites that we plant every year; adding something new doubles the fun.
You can find more information about dozens of new introductions at www.GreenhouseGrower.com

01 February 2012

ONPS - OK Native Plant Society

The newsletter of the Oklahoma Native Plant Society, http://www.oknativeplants.org, is called "Gaillardia" and the Winter 2011 issue has some tidbits of interest.

Feb 4th is the annual Indoor Outing at Oklahoma City University -
On site registration at 8:30 and the day ends at 3. Cost $5
Speakers include: Bruce Hoagland, Al Sutherland, Karen Hickman and Pat Folley.
Information: Joe Roberts at 405-820-6851

Pat Folley, author of  "The Guide to Oklahoma Wildflowers", wrote an entertaining piece for Gaillardia about an adventure she had with a few friends. They traveled to Box, Oklahoma in search of wildflowers and the road sign that says "Edge of the Earth" and found it all. Here's my review of Folley's book.

Sheila Strawn, Managing Editor of the OK Native Plant Record has been working on that project for 10-years. You can access that publication, plus links to info on Color OK, OK Biological Survey, OK Invasive Plant Council, and OK Academy of Science. The BioSurvey link has plants, animals, an eagle camera, everything for the nature lover.