28 December 2013

Hoar Frost this week

Our yard was covered with Hoar Frost, frozen dew, or white frost, this week and the photo opportunity was irresistible.

It is basically explained as moist air and fog in our case, hitting freezing temperatures.

If you want an interesting video explanation, the Weather Channel has one at http://www.weather.com/video/what-is-hoar-frost-32366

One helpful weather person defined other types of frost for us.

Rime frost looks like icing around the edges of petals and leaves and only occurs when the temperatures are very low.

Fern frost is what we see on windows in really cold weather - I saw this a lot as a child growing up in Ohio.

Homelandscapes author Cathy Bell writes about winter life at Old Faithful in Yellowstone National Park, 2013-2014. 

Here's one paragraph from her post about Hoar Frost (click on the link to read the rest).
"Surface hoar is a kind of frost that forms when humid air comes into contact with very cold snow on the ground. It tends to form on cold, clear nights with little wind. Why? The lack of cloud cover means that there’s no insulating atmospheric blanket to slow heat loss, so snow on the ground gets very cold very fast. (Trees and shrubs provide a similar blanketing effect, so surface hoar is much less common in forests, say, than in open areas.) If you have air with high moisture content, the molecules of water vapor that bump into the cold snow surface can suddenly have so much heat sucked out of them that they freeze in place—without ever going through the liquid phase."

26 December 2013

Gardening for the Birds

Birds bring many benefits to the garden and the gardener including the pleasures of hearing their songs, enjoying their colors and watching nest-making activities. When the landscape includes plants that give the birds food, shelter and nesting sites, more types of birds will visit and take up residence.

The backbone of a bird-friendly yard is native plants, especially the ones that produce flowers in the summer and berries for winter food. Sustainable garden practices are also essential, so learning to establish a chemical-free ecosystem is part of the process.

It helps to think like a bird. As you look around your landscape make sure there is food, water and shrubbery for hiding from predators. In addition a small pond will attract birds, frogs, toads, butterflies and dragonflies.

Many birds are attracted to specific plants. For example, Cedar waxwings look for the berries of eastern red cedar. But in general many trees are great for birds including fir, alder, holly, juniper, mulberry, bayberry, spruce, pine, oak, as well as sumac, rose, blackberry and hemlock.

You can add nesting boxes and bird houses or just provide the right trees and shrubs where birds can nest and raise their young. Nesting birds prefer fir, hackberry, dogwood, hawthorn, holly, juniper, spruce, pine, oak, roses, blackberries, elderberries and hemlock.

Many annual and perennial native plants provide nectar and food for birds. Bluebirds eat pokeweed berries. Other bird-feeding wildflowers to consider include Joe-Pye weed, goldenrod, boneset, asters, black-eyed Susan, yarrow, sunflowers, etc.

If you have a corner you can spare, string a wire across a patch of the garden. When birds rest on the wire they will plant a little hedgerow of their favorite plants for you.

George Adams’ new book, “Gardening for the Birds: How to Create a Bird-Friendly Backyard” has over 400-pages of tips, plant lists, regional gardening help, bird directory and a plant directory.  It is available from Timber Press (www.timberpress.com).

For each plant in the 100 page Plant Directory, Adams has a photo of the plant, which birds are attracted to it, growing information and alternative species with the same benefits. For example, in the description of Serviceberries, Amalanchier, Adams says that their fruits are eaten by 42 native bird species, including red-headed woodpecker, American robin, hermit thrush, etc.

Three Amelanchier species are described in detail: Pacific, downy and Allegheny serviceberry.  The first two are small trees that grow to 20-feet and tend to form thickets; the third grows to 40-feet with a round crown.

Part Four of the book is a 130-page Bird Directory.  Adams provides information about several birds, their native range, habitat, breeding behavior, nesting and feeding needs.

For example, one bird described is a wood thrush. Adams says they are the best known North American spotted brown thrush and the only one that nests in parks and gardens. Their song is flutelike. Thrush favor a habitat of shrubby undergrowth and sapling growth.

The wood thrush migrates from March to May, spending winters in southern TX and FL. They breed from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico. The male arrives first, courtship follows and then the pair eats together.

Their nesting behavior includes the building of a nest 5 to 15 feet above ground level. They build their nest out of leaves, moss and roots. Females lay 3 or 4 pale blue or blue-green eggs that incubate for 2 weeks. The parents feed the nestlings berries, caterpillars and small insects.

A wood thrush will scratch around the roots of shrubs, eating insects that comprise 60% of its diet.

The author, George Adams is a birdwatcher, landscape designer, wildlife artist and photographer. The book shows off all his talents.


24 December 2013

Flying Reindeer and Elves

The U.S. Forest Service website explains how we got flying reindeer and elves - it's is thanks to a special mushroom that grows under evergreen trees in Europe and Asia.

Santa Claus - the origin

"In the “old world”, the psychoactive fly agaric mushroom (Amanita muscaria) has been closely associated with northern European and Asiatic shamans and their rituals. Researchers have documented its use or presumed use by numerous cultures throughout Europe and Asia. In Siberia, its use predates the crossing of the Bering Straits into North America."

The fly agaric is a favorite food of reindeer - you'll recognize it!
Drink that reindeer urine for a special holiday treat!~

When fly agaric mushroom fell out of popularity, it was replaced by the liberty cap mushroom.
"During the Pleistocene, the use of fly agaric entered Alaska, spread out across North America, and eventually south into Mesoamerica. However, the use of the fly agaric mushroom fell by the wayside in the “new world” due to the availability of liberty cap mushrooms (Psilocybe spp.). Liberty caps became the preferred psychoactive fungi as they were more easily tolerated and produced more intense experiences."

19 December 2013

A Worm Hotel for your Red Wigglers

Worm composting is an easy way for home gardeners to transform food scraps into an organic fertilizer and soil conditioner.

There are several ways to set up a small system using a single or several inexpensive plastic bins. The single bin project can be a family activity done with children. More complex projects require more tools and supervision.

Since red worms (red wrigglers) live in the top 6-inches of soil, a shallow container like a kitty litter box makes a good starter setup. The lid is essential and has to either fit loosely or have holes in it so air will circulate. A simple bin for under a tree outdoors could be made of a trash can with holes drilled in top, bottom and sides.

The worm hotel built by Jon Stoodley is made of several plastic tubs with holes cut out of the centers.

“I prefer the stacked-bins because as we add more food and paper at the top, the castings fall to the bottom, keeping the worm activity and the castings separated,” said Stoodley. “With this method, the castings in the bottom bin dry out and can be easily scooped out to be directly added to the garden.”

Stoodley built the worm hotel using treated 2 by 4 lumber for the base, solid plastic bins, 3/8 inch threaded rod, nuts and large fender washers.

Here’s how Stoodley made the bin in the photo.

Make a footing with 2 by 4s. 
Drill 4 holes in the foot and attach one bin and secure it with the rods, washers, and nuts.

Cut the center out of the rest of the bins so castings will flow to the bottom. Add bins, turning them 180-degrees from the one below, attaching with nuts and washers as you build up.

Stoodley said, “By turning the bins 180 degrees each time, you are giving yourself access to the castings from the sides.”

 To make the worm’s bed, put damp cardboard and newspaper strips on the bottom of a single pan worm bin and on a few levels in a worm hotel. Add a small amount of kitchen scraps cut into pieces and buried in the paper.

 Red wiggler worms are available from bait shops and garden centers. Also, we share worms with anyone local who is setting up a new bin. Contact me at mollyday1@gmail.com if you want some.

Put the worms on the paper and turn a light on the surface so the worms burrow down into their new bedding. They eat the most when temperatures range from 55 to 77 F but they live in cold and hot climates by burrowing down and staying close to each other in a dormant state.

Twice a week add more damp paper strips and food waste. Putting in too much will pack the bedding and eliminate air from the bin. Each pound of worms eats a half-pound of food per day.

Harvest the compost by changing the bedding every 4 to 6 months. Push the contents of the bin to one side and put, torn strips of moist newspaper on the empty side. Add food to that side and stop putting food on the old side. The worms will move over and you can take out the finished castings.

The bins can be dumped out. Shine a light on the surface of the contents and the worms will burrow so you can safely remove the top layer.

“The worms are so efficient at eating every little bit of food and paper on all levels that it is unbelievable,” Stoodley said.

16 December 2013

December in the Shed - what's growing

Bakers' racks hold lots of plants
We heat the shed a bit and run lights to keep things going all winter. Here are snaps from this week. Double-click to view larger size.

Houseplants - begonia, coleus, mother-in-law
Hollyhock plants growing for the Garden Club sale
Activity by the windows includes re-potting
Castor Bean seedlings

Kale seedlings under lights

Rosemary cuttings, rooted and growing well

Dahlberg Daisy seedlings

Aphids of course

14 December 2013

Europe's Rivers being Cleaned Up!

Danube River in Germany
Wikimedia Commons
The Danube River as it flows through Kelheim, Germany.
In Europe, there is plenty of good news about the clean-up of rivers and restoring them to their natural state by removing dams and levees, and restoring floodplains. Hooray for wildlife!
Here are some highlights
"From the industrial cities of Britain to the forests of Sweden, from the plains of Spain to the shores of the Black Sea, Europe is restoring its rivers to their natural glory. The most densely populated continent on earth is finding space for nature to return along its river banks. 

The restoration is not perfect. River floodplains cannot be fully restored when they contain cities, and hydroelectric dams are still needed. But
Europe’s fluvial highways are becoming the test bed for conservation biologist Edward O. Wilson’s dream that the 21st century should be "the era of restoration in ecology."
ABOUT THE AUTHOR Fred Pearce, Yale Environment 360 writer,
 serves as environmental consultant
for New Scientist magazine
and author of numerous books.
* Britain  has promised to restore some 1,500 kilometers of rivers.
* One of Spain’s largest rivers, the Duero, is being cleared of dams and other man-made obstacles.
* On France’s longest river, the Loire, where two decades ago activists from all over Europe successfully battled to prevent construction of the Serre de la Fare dam near Le Puy, engineers are now tearing down existing dams, such as the Maisons-Rouges. Denmark’s largest river, the Skjern, is getting back some of the marshlands at its mouth, after meanders were reinstated and artificial banks lowered to allow seasonal flooding of arable fields that have now been returned to grass meadows.
* The Danube, which runs west to east, from Germany’s Black Forest to its delta on the Black Sea, is the most international river in the world, with a catchment that includes 19 countries. The river has been cut off from 80 percent of its floodplain. But today much of the floodplain is slated for restoration.
* Austria and Germany have been removing levees to restore the floodplain of another tributary, the Inn River, at the foot of the Alps. And downstream, Ukraine has taken down levees on two of the largest islands of the Danube delta, Ermakov and Tataru, allowing spring flooding and the return of birdlife and the introduction of free-roaming cattle.
* Northern Sweden may appear unpopulated and largely untouched by humans. But, in fact, foresters there straightened and cleared vegetation on huge numbers of rivers between the 1850s and 1970s, so their logs could be floated downstream to ports.   Now those Swedish rivers are being restored.
* One of the last free-flowing stretches of the upper Danube, between Vienna and Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia, is managed by a new Austrian national park where wardens are restoring lost side channels of the river, as well as riverine forests. "We want to end the fortification of the Danube," said Carl Manzano of the Donau-Auen park authority. "We are taking away concrete and rip-rap so the river can recreate its natural bank. 50,000 cubic meters of stone structures have come down. Kingfishers are returning, and wild bees and birds like the little ring plover."
There are many challenges and nothing will take us back to the future - but what good news for the earth - click over to the full story to read the rest. 

12 December 2013

Feverfew is Wild Quinine

Feverfew, or Wild Quinine, is as carefree as other members of the Aster-Daisy family, making it a  sweet addition to a sunny, herb or cottage flower garden. Also called American feverfew, it is a native perennial found in prairies, and rocky woods. The name Feverfew comes from the Latin febrifugus which means putting fever to flight.

Feverfew leaf

Tanacetum parthenium, Feverfew, was originally found in southern Europe. The.different varieties vary from 1 to 3 feet tall with flowers from late spring through late summer.

Because of the coarse texture and scented leaves, wildlife such as rabbits and deer rarely eat the plants. They are also free of significant disease and insect problems. Many gardeners have planted feverfew to shelter toads that in turn eat garden pests such as snails and slugs.

When shopping for plants and seeds, carefully watch the names because they are easily confused by nurseries. This plant’s names include Parthenium integrifolium, Matricaria parthenium, Chrysanthemum parthenium and Tanacetum parthenium

Adding to the confusion, Tanacetum vulgare is Tansy and Tanacetum ptarmiciflorum is Dusty Miller or Silver Lace Bush. Those are both are attractive plants but they are not Feverfew.

Feverfew is easy to grow in full sun and is tolerant of most soils including clay or dry, rocky, ground. Crafters grow Wild Quinine for dried flower arrangements and the fresh flowers are used as filler in cut flower bouquets.

The virtues of Feverfew plantings include the fact that their roots improve soil fertility and filter groundwater.

The seeds can be sown indoors 8-weeks before the last frost in zones 4 to 8. Here in zone 7 that would be around mid-February so add the seeds to your winter order if you plan to put them out in the spring.

Although the seeds require a period of damp and cold to get started, Feverfew is easy to germinate and grow. For best results, plant the seeds in containers and put the containers outside wither they will stay moist and cold for 4 weeks. Then bring them in to a 65-degree room where the seedlings will start growing. Plant them outside after they have two sets of true leaves and all frost danger has passed.

To grow them outside from seed, plant seeds in a prepared bed after mid-April. Press the seeds into fine soil where they will sprout in 2 weeks. Thin the seedlings to 6-inches apart when they have 3 sets of leaves. Most varieties grow best the second year after they are established in your garden.
Feverfew has a long history of being used medicinally. It was used by the Romans to treat malaria and during WWI and WWII, it was used to treat malaria when the supply of Cinchona bark (quinine) was low due to the Allies being cut off from the Netherlands and the Philippines.

Quinine gives tonic water and bitter lemon their distinctive flavor. At bars, the soda gun that dispenses tonic water has a” Q” on the button.

Feverfew is widely recognized as a treatment for headaches, particularly migraines. Native Americans used the leaves, roots and flowers to help a variety of ailments including insect bites, swelling, and rheumatism. Feverfew tincture is used for blood detoxification.

For many years, Wild Quinine has been sold as Echinacea purpurea because of their similar medicinal benefits.
American Feverfew seed sources - Easy Wildflowers (www.easywildflowers.com), Park Seed (www.parkseed.com) and Swallowtail Garden Seeds, www.swallowtailgardenseeds.com).
Other garden-worthy varieties
Tanacetum Crown White (www.harrisseed.com) has pompoms of white cutting flowers.
T. Parthenium Gold Ball (
www.paseseeds.com) has clusters of double gold cutting flowers.
T. Parthenium Snow Ball (www.thompson-morgan.com) has single white cutting flower clusters.
T. Parthenium Tetra White Wonder (
www.selectseeds.com) blooms the first year, with double flowers.


09 December 2013

Metaphalangium albounilineatum is Daddy longlegs, Daddy-Long-Legs, Harvest-Spiders, Shepherd Spiders and Grandfather Graybeards

Every winter we have a few fun creatures living in the garden shed along with our plants. There are always Daddy Long Legs. Last week I was out there transplanting seedlings and it crawled up onto the shelf where I was working, wandered around the plants and then discovered me. Yikes! Quick turnaround and back down into the pots on the floor.

These gentle creatures have no venom or poison with which to stun their prey (or us).
They are not spiders (arachnid). And, they do not spin webs.
They are Opilliones (or Opiliones) which means aphid sucker meaning they are perfect guests in a garden shed where aphids abound. Here's a National Geographic video of a Daddy Long Legs ingesting an aphid and winning a fight with a large beetle.
Their food consists of aphids, beetles, caterpillars, ants, earthworms, flies, mites, small slugs, snails and spiders according to Galveston County Master Gardeners. "The name Harvestmen comes from their being seen in late summer and fall at harvest time. Other common names include harvest-spiders, shepherd spiders (because of the way males guard females during egg-laying) and the Native Americans call them grandfather graybeard, meaning "Feet of Hairs.""
Other fun facts: they have 2 eyes, their legs are 7 jointed, they emit a foul odor when threatened, they are mostly introverts that travel alone, they live in organic matter over the winter, they clean every leg after eating, and are generally beneficial.
They are eaten by large spiders and birds.
The Burke Museum points out that Daddy Long Legs is a misnomer and we should all call them Harvestmen to keep things clear.
According to the UCR Spiders Site, "The creatures most correctly called daddy-longlegs are in their own separate Order which is Opiliones. Common names for this Order are 1) daddy-longlegs, 2) harvestmen and 3) opilionids.
They are characterized by having one basic body segment which shows segmentation on the posterior portion, at most 2 eyes and all 8 legs attach to the pill-like body segment.
They are usually found under logs and rocks, prefer moist habitat although they can be found in the desert, often have long flexible legs (in the temperate Northern hemisphere but there are also short-legged daddy-longlegs) and they do not produce silk so therefore they are never found in webs unless they are being eaten by spiders. Because they are found under logs and other stuff which people most often are not turning over, most folks don't run into daddy-longlegs very often."
Actually, that last bit about not seeing them very often isn't at all true for us. They crawl the outside walls of the house regularly in the summer/fall and live quite happily in the heated garden shed all winter.

08 December 2013

Flowering Maple is Abutilon

Abutilon is an exotic hibiscus relative that is container grown as a houseplant. Plant Delights has a wonderful and tempting variety of  seven selections that I'd love to grow.

Their flowers resemble Mallow because they are related.
Abutilon Canary Bird has buttery yellow flowers. Fool's Gold looks like it has a weird orangey flower color. Orange Hot Lava is much prettier to me, more like rainbow sherbet. Abutilon megapotamicum flowers are a rosy-pink with a cream colored skirt.
Abutilon megapotamicum 'Ines' has predominantly cream flowers with a pink cap. Pink Charm is two-tone pink and Voodoo has deep red flowers.
Tony Avent's catalog at Plant Delights says they are hardy from zones 7b to 10b and we are in zone 7a. The one in the photo was in Anne Pinc's Tulsa garden and it was a spectacular specimen but I suspect she could grow anything.
I recently ordered seeds from Outside Pride and can recommend their seeds as germinating like crazy. Also, when I called to ask questions the answers were sensible and I was treated respectfully.
1,000 Abutilon Bellvue Mix seeds $5. They provide growing tips at the link above.
Burpee Seeds sells the seeds to be grown as annuals. Their color mix is called Summer Sherbet Mixed Abutilon. $6 for 20 seeds at the link.
Garden Harvest Supply calls them Chinese Lanterns. Their Red Tiger variety is an unusual yellow with red veins. They also call them Chinese Bellflowers.
Since the seeds do well being winter-sown this would be a good time to decide which ones you want. The plants will have to be protected from freezing weather.
Seedman offers seeds for Bellvue Mix, Bella Mix and Giant Hybrids - at varying prices from $2 to $3.
So, whether you want to start them from seed or purchase plants, they will be a gorgeous addition to your flower beds.

05 December 2013

Carols and Crumpets Tulsa Garden Center Dec 7 2013 from 8 to 3

Patsy  Wynn at Tulsa Garden Center
The Tulsa Herb Society’s annual Carols and Crumpets on Saturday is an event that hundreds of holiday shoppers eagerly anticipate every year. The club makes a variety of home and garden crafts and has invited lots of vendors to bring their hand-crafted items to the holiday sale. 
The fun atmosphere they create is guaranteed to stir up your holiday spirit. 
Carols and Crumpets 2435 Peoria AV
free admission and free parking
Snowflake Café 11-2

Information: http://tulsaherb.com

Co-chair of Carols and Crumpets, Patsy Wynn, said that her love for the event and appreciation for all the vendors keeps her working hard on it year after year.

Hand made note card
“We’re such a close group,” said Wynn. “I’ve been a member 19 years. When I found Tulsa Herb Society, I was looking for a group that did things with nature, greenery, and herbs. Since the first time I came, I fell in love with the Garden Center mansion and have made lots of new friends.” 

Twenty-eight vendors from four states will be on hand at Carols and Crumpets, selling Vintage linens, greeting cards, ornaments, chocolates, confections, jams, home and garden decor, spices, herbs, jewelry, paintings, custom made pens, chalk ware, Santa’s, pottery garden signs, hypertufa puddlers, plant markers, paper Mache snowmen, silver Christmas trees, live wreaths, baskets, pottery, metal sculpture, herb pots, dolls, live plants, and containers. 

Crocus-filled Crocus Crackers
  The Herb Society members’ crafts include their signature chutney, herb vinegars and jellies, candy cane sleighs, twig snowflakes and reindeer, bay leaf trees, forced bulbs in antique creamers, Christmas pillows, crocus crackers, wreaths, diorama Boxes, flower fairies, bath crystals, moth repellent bags and lavender fire starters.

In addition, the Society has a Greenery Booth where freshly cut greens are available for holiday decorating.

The Herb Society’s 3-ring, 244-page, cookbook, “It’s About Thyme” costs $20. Members’ favorite recipes include: Rosemary Squares, Apple-Pear Salad, Vermicelli Salad, Cucumbers and Cilantro, and, Fennel Seed Ceremonial Cookies.

The Snowflake Café in the Garden Center basement will be open for lunch from 11 to 2. The cost is $7 which includes crustless quiche, soup, salad, bread, dessert and iced tea.

“We started offering lunch so people can stay and shop as long as they want,” Wynn said.
Wynn said that a percentage of sales at Carols and Crumpets is contributed to the Garden Center and provides plants for the Linnaeus Garden.

The Herb Society grows every week, according to Wynn, because they have such a good variety of activities to offer.

  “Herb Society members get together every Tuesday to work on crafts and kitchen projects,” Wynn said. “Also, on Tuesdays there is an herb study group that meets to talk about gardening, how use herbs in the kitchen and to exchange seeds.”

At their regular meeting, the second Tuesday of the month, they have an educational presentation or program

Wynn said, “We want the public to know about handmade crafts, gardening and all the ways herbs can be used. I’ve been involved in Carols and Crumpets forever because I love doing it – watching it come together and seeing the public enjoy it so much.”

A basket full of Herb Society products
Be sure to visit the raffle table to check out the wool feather tree with beaded birds and a hand appliqued skirt you could win.

Recipe from the cookbook

Fennel Seed Ceremonial Cookies
Combine 1 cup low-fat Bisquick, ¼ cup butter-flavor shortening, 1-Tablespoon sugar, 1-teaspoon vanilla, 1-teaspoon fennel seeds, 2-Tablespoons boiling water. Mix thoroughly until the dough forms around fork and cleans bowl. For each cookie, drop 1-Tablespoon dough onto ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 375 for 12-minutes. Remove from pan with spatula and roll in confectioners’ sugar, cool on waxed paper and store in airtight container. 4 dozen  

02 December 2013

Plant Trials - 2013 winners for your garden

University and public gardens around the U.S. participate in plant trials, growing new varieties and testing their strengths and qualities in the local weather and soil.

The winners are the plants to look for in catalogs and garden centers in the spring - they have been through it all and come out on top.

The results lists are terrific resources for bringing new plants into an existing garden or building an entire garden from scratch.

The national database, Plant Trials http://www.planttrials.org lists many participating gardens, but all trial gardens and results are not there, only the ones that agree to share their information..

Oklahoma State University has trial gardens but their data is not on the national site. Their crop trials page is at http://www.croptrials.okstate.edu.

OSU's ornamental field trial winners were reported by Greenhouse Growers
The 2013 top performers were
Angelonia ‘Serenita Raspberry’, Celosia ‘Fresh Look Orange’, Crossandra ‘Orange Marmalade’, Echinacea ‘Cheyenne Spirit’, Gazania ‘LoGro Bronze’, Plectranthus ‘Sedona Color Blaze’ (coleus), Tagetes erecta ‘Mum Lemon’ (marigold)
Zinnia ‘Lilac Rose’, Zinnia ‘UpTown Grape’

The University of TN in Knoxville reported these as their most successful trial plantsAngelonia ‘AngelMist Spreading Dark Purple’Begonia ‘Fire Balls’Capsicum ‘NuMex Twilight’Dahlia ‘XXL Hidalgo’Echinacea ‘Cheyenne Spirit’Euphorbia ‘Star Dust Super Flash’
Ipomoea ‘Bright Ideas Rusty Red’
Lysimachia ‘Goldilocks’
Pennisetum ‘Fireworks’ (Graceful Grasses)

Petunia ‘Shock Wave Denim’

Dallas Arboretum plant trials has its own website at http://www.dallasplanttrials.org
Their 2013 winners were
Ageratum ‘Artist Blue’
Aloe humilis ‘Hedgehog’
Begonia ‘Ikon Bronze’
Chrysocephalum ‘Silver Leaf Yellow’
Lantana Santana Series
Lobularia ‘White Knight’
Lobularia ‘White Stream’
Nicotiana ‘Only The Lonely’
Portulaca Cupcake Series (purslane)
Scaevola ‘Blue Fan’
Scaevola ‘Romeo’

Kansas State University calls their trials program Prairie Star http://www.prairiestarflowers.org and they have links to annual and perennial winners. You can look through their lists by genus or by common name.

Ohio State University's Best of the Best 2013 are shown at http://ohiofloriculture.osu.edu/news/osus-best-best-2013 and include

Begonia 'Surefire Red' (Proven Winners)
Begonia 'Surefire Rose' (Proven Winners)
Caladium 'Royal Flush' (Bates Sons & Daughters)
Caladium 'Tapestry' (Bates Sons & Daughters)

Catharanthus 'Titan Blush' (PanAmerican Seed)
Pelargonium 'Sarita Dark Red' (Dummen)
Pennisetum 'Graceful Grasses Fireworks' (Proven Winners)
Petunia 'Supertunia Vista Bubblegum' (Proven Winners)
Solenostemon 'Kong Jr. Scarlet' (Ball Ingenuity)

Begonia boliviensis ‘Bossa Nova Orange’ (Floranova)
Begonia boliviensis ‘Bossa Nova Red’ (Floranova)
Begonia boliviensis ‘Breezy Pink’ (Ball Ingenuity)
Calibrachoa ‘Superbells Pomegranate Punch’ (Proven Winners)
Catharanthus (vinca) ‘Cora® Apricot Improved’ (Syngenta Flowers)
Coreopsis ‘Baby Bang Daybreak’ (Skagit Gardens)
Dahlia ‘XXL Hidalgo’ (Dummen)
Euphorbia ‘Star Dust Super Flash’ (Dummen)
Gomphrena ‘Forest Pink’ (Proven Winners)
Impatiens, New Guinea ‘Sun Harmony Violet’ (Danziger Flower Farm)
Impatiens, New Guinea ‘SuperSonic® Hot Pink’ (Syngenta Flowers)
Ipomoea ‘Black Margarete and Purple Heart NC’ (Dummen)
Lantana ‘Chapel Hill Pink Huff’ (Dummen)
Lantana ‘Little Lucky Pot of Gold’ (Ball FloraPlant)
Lantana ‘Prisma White Lime’ (Danziger Flower Farm)
Mandevilla ‘Rio Pink’ (Syngenta Flowers)
Multi-species Kwik Kombos™ Mix ‘Night in Pompeii™’ (Syngenta Flowers)
Multi-species Kwik Kombos™ Mix ‘Sanguna® Salute’ (Syngenta Flowers)
Pelargonium ‘Boldly® Hot Pink’ (Proven Winners)
Pelargonium ‘Salsarita Hot Pink 60’ (Dummen)
Pentas ‘Starcluster™ Lavender’ (Syngenta Flowers)
Pentas ‘Starcluster™ Red’ (Syngenta Flowers)
Petunia ‘Potunia Plus Yellow’ (Dummen)
Petunia ‘Queen Bee’ (Dummen)
Petunia ‘Supertunia White Improved’ (Proven Winners)
Petunia ‘Surfinia® Baby Deep Purple’ (Suntory)
Petunia ‘Surprise Marine’ (Dummen)
Petunia ‘Tidal Wave® Silver’ (PanAmerican Seed)
Scaecola ‘Bombay® White’ (Syngenta Flowers)
Solenostemon (coleus) ‘Mighty Mosaic’ (PanAmerican Seed)
Solenostemon (coleus) ‘Redhead’ (Ball FloraPlant)
Verbena ‘Veralena Pure Lavender’ (Danziger Flower Farm)
Zinnia ‘Zahara Fire’ (PanAmerican Seed)

If your weather doesn't resemble that of the states above, it is easy to find trial garden results from your area, just using your favorite search engine.

Inside time over the winter gives us a chance to dream about how these winners would make our gardens look fabulous.




30 November 2013

Daylily Kindly Light

Daylilies or Hemerocallis come in so many heights, colors, and flower forms that only a public garden could have a significant number of them in a collection.

Even though yellow is not a flower color I aspire to have more of in our garden, this Kindly Light Daylily is one that is so lovely, it is hard to resist.

Old House Gardens catalog describes it as "decidedly different" and the first spider Daylily.

The roots are $7.50 each at http://www.oldhousegardens.com/display.aspx?cat=daylily&page=2

Daylily Diary has a gorgeous photo at http://daylilydiary.com/day_kindlylight.htm

The American Hemerocallis Society's website says it blooms mid-season and grows to 2.5 feet tall.

Click over to their site at http://www.daylilies.org to learn more about these wonderful plants.  If you click on search all, you arrive at a link with 76,000 daylilies to browse.

You will find that Daylilies can become the backbone of a flower garden because they are so easy to grow,  bloom for weeks, and return year after year without much work on the part of the gardener.

Plus they come in all colors, single, double, tall and short. Short Daylilies are 12 to 24 inches high and there are several to choose from. Tall ones are 4 to 6 feet tall. Yes, 6 feet tall. Bloomingfields Farm Daylilies in Connecticuit has them separated by height so you can design an entire bed in layers. Click over to http://www.bloomingfieldsfarm.com/short-tall.html. They also have a link for the ones to use as groundcover, at the roadside, long blooming, season of bloom, heirlooms, new introductions and Top Ten.

Another great Daylily site is Riverbend Daylily Garden at http://www.daylily.ws/ near Xenia Ohio. You will see Daylilies on their site that you've never seen before.

Add a few Daylilies to the flower gardens, you'll be glad you did.

28 November 2013

Apple Trees are the All-American Fruit

Apples have a reputation for representing harmony. Just consider how common the sayings “in apple-pie order” and “don’t upset the apple cart” have become since they were popularized in 1796. And, the expression “As American as apple pie” means that something is approved of or normal.
Most of us think of freshly picked apples eaten out of hand, made into pies, cakes and tarts, juice, apple butter and sauce. Some varieties are better for each of those uses. 
Seventh generation orchardist and apple grower, Tom Burford, has spent his life among apples and apple trees in VA, where apples have been cultivated since the 1700s.
Tom Burford at Albermarle
In his new book, “Apples of North America” Burford says, “For 50 years I painfully watched the disappearance of the apple culture and the emergence of so-called beautiful apples, a source of malnourishment that even posed a consumption risk from chemical contamination.”
In response to the reduction of apple varieties available, the North American Fruit Explorers started teaching classes about lesser-known apple varieties and grafting. In the process they searched for and restored flavorful apples to gardens and markets.
OK State University Fact Sheet HLA 6210 (http://bit.ly/1iEEZ7d) recommends only the varieties Burford considers flavorless including Gala, Fuji, Red and Golden Delicious.

From page 17 through page 209 of “Apples of North America”, almost 200 apple varieties are illustrated and described in detail, beginning with American Beauty and ending with York. One variety per page, the fruit’s original and other names are listed so you can shop for the trees or fruit. Each one’s history, tree and fruit description, disease resistance, pest vulnerability, season of ripening, uses and storage quality is provided.
Part two of the book is an orchard primer with tips for location, layout, planting site preparation, variety selection, rootstock, nursery stock, and how to taste an apple. The next section on planting and cultural management will give you the tips you need to succeed with pruning, watering, feeding, care for mature trees, rejuvenating neglected trees, diseases and pests.
He suggests that you plant summer-fruiting varieties such as Early Harvest and Pristine for applesauce. If your goal is winter storage plant winter-ripening varieties. If you are concerned about frost, plant late-blooming varieties that can be planted at the bottom of a hill where cold accumulates.
One popular apple in our area is Arkansas Black which is listed as having excellent storage life, and as being good for dessert, pie, frying, apple butter and cider. It is susceptible to apple scab and fireblight but less susceptible to codling moth damage. It is pollinated with Ben Davis, Winter Banana, Yates, Grimes Golden, Red or Golden Delicious and crabapples.
Cannon Pearmain trees were planted at Tomas Jefferson’s summer home. Its other names include Alpain, Anderson, and Cannon. Pearmain is resistant to major diseases and the fruit stores well.
Goldrush was developed at Purdue University. The fruit ripens in the fall, is very resistant to apple scab and stores well.
One of our 2013 apple trees
Hoople’s Antique Gold is a russet apple that mutated from a Golden Delicious apple. It has intense flavor, resists diseases, ripens in the fall, and stores well.
To control tree size and to understand the care your apple trees will require, purchase the correct rootstock.

For example Malling 27 and 9 are susceptible to fireblight and suckering. Geneva 30 resists fireblight and collar rot but it will snap in high winds unless staked. Rootstock Malling-Merton 111 is reliable and resistant to apple aphids.
Burford ‘s favorite apple is the last one he ate. Reading his “Apples of North America: 192 Exceptional Varieties for Gardeners, Growers, and Cooks” will make you want to plant trees. Available from Timber Press at www.timberpress.com.


26 November 2013

Buying and preserving your Christmas tree

XMas tree farms in OK
Thanksgiving weekend is a popular time to buy and put up a Christmas tree while the family is together. Scotch Pine and Virginia Pine are two of the most popular varieties for our area.

The Oklahoma Christmas Tree Association has a handy map of Christmas tree farms in the state. 

Here are links for surrounding states that have associations
Arkansas www.arktreegrowers.com
Illinois www.ilchristmastrees.com
Indiana www.indianachristmastree.com
Iowa www.iowachristmastrees.com
Kentucky www.kychristmastrees.com
Louisiana www.southernchristmastrees.org
Mississippi www.southernchristmastrees.org
Tennessee www.tennesseechristmastrees.org
Texas www.texaschristmastrees.com

Tips from the experts Selection of a Fresh Tree
The basic rule of thumb when purchasing a Christmas tree is to buy a fresh tree and keep it fresh.
There are two simple tests for freshness. First, check the condition of the needles. If bent gently, the needle from a fresh tree should bend rather than break. This test is not necessary at "Choose & Cut" Farms. The second test for freshness is to lift the tree a few inches off the ground and then drop it on the stump end. If outside green needles fall off in abundance, the tree may not be fresh. Pine trees shed the inner needles. This is a normal process and not the sign of an old and dry tree. At "Choose & Cut" Farms the dry brown needles will be shaken out when your tree is cut.
Care of a Fresh Tree
If you purchase your tree from a "Choose & Cut" Farm, place your tree in a bucket of water or your tree stand when you arrive home.
If you purchase your tree from a retail lot or allow the cut end to dry, simply make a fresh, straight cut across the trunk about an inch up from the original cut, and immediately place in a bucket of water or your tree stand. This opens the tree stem so it can take up water.
Don’t ever let the container dry out or a seal will form and a new cut will be necessary. Fresh trees are thirsty. They may drink from one pint to a gallon or more of water per day. so please water daily.
A few decisions should be made before going out to buy a Christmas tree. Decide where you are going to place the tree in the home. Be sure to choose a location away from heat sources, such as a fireplace or radiator. Also, decide on the size (height and width) of the tree you want.  Whether you cut it yourself or purchase from a lot, keep the tree well-watered and be safe with children, pets, etc.