30 May 2013

Goji Berry, Lycium Sweet Lifeberry

Grow a healthy snack in your yard or garden - Goji berries are easy!

Goji berries, Lycium barbarum, are all the rage among healthy eaters and gardeners alike. Their new popular name is based on the original Chinese name, Gou Qi Zi. Previous popularized names include Chinese Wolfberry, Matrimony Vine, Chinese Boxthorn, Red Medlar and The Duke of Argyll's Tea Tree.
The plants were introduced into England’s gardening culture in the 1600s and the shrubs have become naturalized around the country in hedgerows.
Spring Meadow Nursery (springmeadownursery.com/plant/55060) and Proven Winners (provenwinners.com/vitaminberries) are teaming up to make Goji berries equally popular with home gardeners in the US.
While Goji berries are said to have many nutritional benefits their commercial value to US agriculture is somewhat limited because they have to be harvested by hand and spoil quickly. As a result, Goji berries available to US consumers are primarily grown in China and sold as dried fruit.
The plants are easy to grow, are insect and disease free, and are suited to our climate so they could be a good selection for an edible landscape. Birds, deer, and other animals enjoy the abundant, sweet fruit, so it has to be protected with nets and/or fencing.
The health claims for Goji berry fruit make it one of the Super Fruits. The leaves, roots, bark, seeds and the fruit itself have been used medicinally by the Chinese for a thousand years. The nutritional analysis indicates that they are 13 percent protein, contain 11 essential and 22 trace dietary minerals, 18 amino acids, antioxidants, more iron than spinach, more vitamin C than oranges, and more beta-carotene than carrots.
There are dozens of stories about the health benefits of Goji berries, also called Wolfberries. Explorers reported entire Chinese villages free of illness and Master Li Chen Yuen was said to live to the age of 256 because of daily Goji berry snacking.
The plants are cold hardy to USDA zone 5 and AHS heat zone 9. They enjoy full sun but can take some shade. They start out growing like vines that have to be bundled and staked or allowed to sprawl on the ground. Within a few years, the canes grow into a shrub, maturing at 6 to 10 feet tall.  In China, commercial growers use a 6-foot-tall stake and space the plants about 5 feet apart.
Goji berries thrive in well-drained soil, can tolerate drought after the first two years of becoming established, and can take soil pH up to 7.5 to 8. They cannot tolerate standing water or wet clay soil.
No pruning is required but late-winter or early-spring pruning of the horizontal branches will encourage branching and new growth. They can be grown on a trellis or pruned into a tree-shape by selecting a main cane to serve as a trunk.
The white to light-purple trumpet flowers bloom from early summer to fall. The plants are self-fertile and wind-pollinated so there is no need to have more than one.
The annual 2-pounds of fruit ripens at about ¾ of an inch long and with a deep red-orange color. Ripe fruit is soft so hand picking is essential. One gardener recommended laying down a sheet and gently shaking the plant to release the fruit.
Once the fruit is harvested is has to be served or frozen right away. Recipes include smoothies, chocolate coating, dried for later use, etc.
Do water but do not fertilize during the first year. The second spring add fertilizer such as rose food. A 2-3-inch mulch of tree bark is recommended to prevent weeds in the summer and soil heaving over the winter.
Goji berry plants can be grown in containers, gradually moving a small plant into larger containers until it matures into one the size of a half-barrel.


29 May 2013

Southern Plant Conference, Aug 5 in Atlanta

The Southern Nursery Association is holding a Southern Plant Conference on
August 5 (8 am to 5pm)  in Atlanta at the Georgia International Conference Center across from Hartsfield Airport.

Here's the registration form with details. There's an early registration discount.

Tony Avent of Plant Delight's Nursery posted
"The new SNA Southern Plant Conference, sandwiched between the trade show and other educational sessions, will be held on August 5 at the Georgia International Conference Center across from Hartsfield Airport in Atlanta. The incredible speaker list includes: Allen Armitage, Paul Capiello, Steve Castorani, Rick Crowder, Mike Dirr, John Elsley, Joseph Hillenmeyer, John Hoffman, Richard Olsen, Tom Ranney, James Owen Reich, Ted Stephens, Brian Upchurch, Takay Uki Kobayashi of Japan, and yours truly."

Sounds incredible!

28 May 2013

Dragon Arum blooming today!

Years ago when the end-of-season-sale-box from Brent and Becky's bulbs arrived, Dragon Arums made it into the box instead of the Arum Italicum I thought I bought.

Actually, what I must have wanted was these outrageous Dragon Arums. Of the original 6 bulbs, two are thriving but this one blooms reliably year after year and gives us a reason to go out to the shade bed every day, twice a day, to watch its progress.

Here's the column I wrote about Arums last year when we were enthralled with the flowering event-

These photos are this morning's views.

27 May 2013

Ants vs swarming termites

It's time for termite swarms to seek out new places to make homes. If you see them in the house, or think you see them in the house, catch a few to look at closely, take to a local extension service or a local exterminator. They can look like flying ants. 
Flying ant vs swarming termite

Called swarmers, the winged kings and queens fly away from an underground nest during the day to find places to form new colonies.

The North Carolina extension service has a good explanation of what to look for and what to do.

Iowa State University extension explains how to select a termite control company here.

Evidently their wings break off and the king and queen dig a chamber into a woodwork crevice or some soft soil, then they crawl in, seal the opening and mate. They live underground or inside the woodwork laying eggs and raising their 500 per year offspring.

I aw a bunch of the swarmers last week so keep an eye out for them; spring is their time to come around to make new problems.

Online Reference for Invasive Plants

The weather has been perfect for the thriving of invasive plants this spring.
If you are looking for a way to quickly identify a new visitor, click over to the Invasive Plant Atlas of the United States at http://www.invasiveplantatlas.org/.

"Invasive alien plants threaten native species and habitats by competing for critical and often limited resources like sunlight, water, nutrients, soil and space. They succeed through vigorous growth, prolific reproductive capabilities and by causing changes that favor their growth and spread. Invasive plant species displace and alter native plant communities, impede forest regeneration and natural succession, change soil chemistry, alter hydrologic conditions, alter fire regimes, cause genetic changes in native plant relatives through hybridization and some serve as agents for the transmission of harmful plant pathogens.

The Invasive Plant Atlas of the United States is a collaborative project between the National Park Service, the University of Georgia Center for Invasive Species and Ecosystem Health, the Invasive Plant Atlas of New England and the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. The purpose of the Atlas is to assist users with identification, early detection, prevention, and management of invasive plants. The focus is on non-native invasive plant species impacting natural areas, excluding agricultural and other heavily developed and managed lands. Four main components are species information, images, distribution maps, and early detection reporting procedures. The Invasive Plant Atlas is one step in the effort to combat invasive species, preserve our natural landscapes and the native plants, animals, and other creatures that inhabit them."

Vines http://invasiveplantatlas.org/vines.html

Grasses http://www.invasiveplantatlas.org/grass.html

Shrubs http://www.invasiveplantatlas.org/shrubs.html


The drought years were ideal for eradicating these foreign interlopers but with the mild temperatures and regular rainfall, they are back with a vengeance!

25 May 2013

Staghorn Sumac as a Specimen Tree

Rhus typhina, Staghorn Sumac is a wild thing in our area though we encourage it because of its benefits to wildlife.

Its practical uses include growing stands as windbreaks but I recently saw it used as a specimen tree on each side of a home near St. Louis, MO.

They were both large specimens that were sort of Zen-art looking things with fat trunks. They were the only plants on each side of the building.

There are cultivated varieties such as Shredleaf (Rhus tphina Dissecta), Laceleaf and Cutleaf (Rhus typhina Laciniata) but these both looked like they had been allowed to grow in place for 50-years.

What Tree Is It?
What do  you think? Do you grow it for the birds like
we do or think it is a splendid landscape tree/shrub?


23 May 2013

The Importance of Organic Practices - Jeff Lowenfels Explains

On the day Jeff Lowenfels and I spoke about his two books, the weather service had predicted 4-inches of snow and a 24-degree night. That day was last Friday, May 17 and his home town is Anchorage Alaska, USDA zone 5.

Lowenfels is a practicing natural resources (oil and gas, environmental law) lawyer who has developed a career explaining soil science to judges and juries. Lowenfels worked to develop Alaska's natural gas, as president and CEO of Yukon Pacific Corp., which sought to build a gas pipeline from the North Slope to Valdez (http://bit.ly/10KAkVZ).

Christine Moua sells organic produce
at the Muskogee Farmer's Market
Wednesdays and Saturdays
Because of his professional and personal interest in plants and soil science, Lowenfels has dug deep into his topic during a 30-year stint as a garden columnist and gardener. His respect for plants and no-till, organic, chemical-free gardening has only increased over the years.

“I used to say the last frost is over when the birch tree leaves reach the size of a squirrel’s ear and today those leaves are still closed because we are getting our latest freeze and snow on record,” Lowenfels said. “Plants know things that we have not given them credit for knowing. And more, new, science is being discovered every week.”

His 2010 book, “Teaming with Microbes: The Organic Gardener’s Guide to the Soil Food Web” taught gardeners the importance of understanding how soil and plants work together to provide plants the nutrition they need.

“How plants feed themselves is basic information for all gardeners,” Lowenfels said. “It is a book about the science behind organic gardening and how plants attract to themselves the 17-nutrients they need.”

The new publication, “Teaming with Nutrients: The Organic Gardener’s Guide to Optimizing Plant Nutrition” focuses on the cellular biology and chemistry of plant life.

“Just read it" is Lowenfels advice in the Introduction to "Teaming with Nutrients" and I second that.

Any gardener who has thought about how plants actually eat the food we presume we are providing, will want to make time to read and think about "Teaming with Nutrients."

Not to ruin the ending for you, but here's a spoiler alert: We don't provide their food. Just as they have done for millions of years, plants can and do feed themselves. However, we gardeners can interfere with their ability to feed themselves by causing problems for them. Understanding their complexities is like gaining a deeper understanding of the people we want to know - we can give them more of what they need and avoid the practices that can do them harm.

Topics include: Plant cell parts, the basic chemistry involved in plant nutrients, the botany of nutrient-usage by plant tissues/organs, the 17-essential elements (macronutrients and micronutrients), how water moves through the soil and into the plant stems and leaves, nutrient movement within plants, how to apply the science you just learned to your gardening practices, and, recommended fertilizer recipes.

As a non-science major, I found the book challenging to read. As a gardener who is fascinated by the wonder of plants, I found the challenge worth my effort. If you, like me, are not a scientist and are not up-to-date on the latest cellular biology discoveries, you will thank Lowenfels many times for the useful 5-page Glossary in the back.

Your awe of plants and the lives they lead will increase if you "just read it" and you'll never garden the same old way again.

Both books are available from Timber Press (www.timberpress.com), local book stores, and online retailers. Prices vary from $25 list to $12 discounted.

You can read Lowenfels’ garden columns online at the Anchorage Daily News http://www.adn.com/jeff-lowenfels. The word snow appears in many of his column titles.
Here's a 2006 article about Lowenfels in the Wall Street Journal.
His Soil Food Web lecture is on YouTube here.

22 May 2013

Comfort in the Storm

We were not in the tornado path but definitely in the thunderstorms-that-rumble-all-night path.

When you are dog tired from lack of sleep and can't be outside because rain is dumping and lightening is popping and you need comfort, transplanting tiny seedlings in the garden shed can help calm the mind.

Agastache, Survivor parsley, and Asiatic lily seedlings were untangled from their starter cells and moved into individual pots.
Garden-writer booty (free trial plants) and recent native plant purchases were un-potted, roots untangled and re-potted into fresh soil to wait out the soggy soil draining.
Black skies outside while full-spectrum florescent lights blaze inside.

20 May 2013

Harperella endangered in OK

The Spring 2013 issue of Biosurvey news from the Oklahoma Biological Survey announced that federally endangered Harperella is now also endangered in OK.

US Forest Service
"Harperella is an aquatic, primarily annual herb. The inflorescence is an umbel of small white flowers quite similar to other members of the carrot family. The most distinguishing character of the plant is its unusual leaf form. Leaves are reduced to a hollow, septate central stalk, or "rachis leaf"—an adaptation to a semi-aquatic habitat. Harperella blooms from May through October. Population sizes may vary dramatically from year to year in response to water levels. The Oklahoma population was found along a river in the southeastern part of the state and included two stands of approximately 500 plants."

The link in the first line above will take you to the original article.

19 May 2013

Garden Tour today - Tulsa Audubon Society

It was a warm and windy day for a garden tour in Tulsa. My volunteer work consisted of sitting chatting with a lovely woman, Diane Fell, chatting with garden visitors and shopping for native plants.
Diane Fell
Mary Ann King, owner of Pine Ridge Gardens was the vendor at the garden where I spent the day. She brought dozens and dozens of native plants from her Arkansas nursery for us to choose from.

Tulsa Audubon Society's annual tour is a great opportunity to visit gardens and learn from other people who love plants and nature in general.

It's hard to imagine a better way to spend a beautiful day or $5 than to traipse through gardens seeing what creative ways plants, hardscape and garden ornaments can be combined for the pleasure of everyone lucky enough to visit.

Mary Ann King
Here's a link to Pine Ridge Gardens catalog - Mary Ann is one of the most knowledgeable native plant growers in the area.

Jack in the Pulpit is Arisaema triphyllum for your shade garden

Jack in the Pulpit looks way too exotic to be cold hardy in USDA zones 4 to 9 but it is!

Give it dappled shade, moist, peat-moss enhanced soil and a place it can grow undisturbed.

Native to the Midwest and East regions of North America they grow to 1-3 feet tall and 1 foot wide, with 2-large, green leaves comprised of 2 leaflets each.

A member of the Araceae, Arum, plant family, my little guy is planted in the same area with other Arums though Jack is one-of-a-kind in our garden so far. From what I've read, we would have to plant several to get male/female sex-change, pollination, seedheads, etc.

Its many other names includ Indian Turnip, Indian Almond, Pepper Turnip, Marsh Pepper, Bog Onion, Priest's Pentle, Wood Pulpit, Little Pulpit, Cuckoo Flower, Starchwort, Memory Root, Devil's Ear, Dragonroot, and Brown Dragon according to Phagat's Garden.

Wildwood Web says that the cylindar that we think of as the flower is not the flower
"Jack-in the-pulpits are surely one of the oddest flowering plants in Wildwood. What most people think of as the flower is really an inflorescence, a cluster of flowers. However, the actual flowers in the cluster are hidden away inside the "flower" that we admire. Few people have actually seen the flowers. Instead we see a spongy, cylindrical structure, the "Jack," inside a leaf-like structure that is rolled into a deep cup with an overhanging roof, the "pulpit." The whole ensemble does somewhat resemble a diminutive minister in an old-fashioned high-church pulpit. Botanists call the minister a spadix, while his pulpit is the spathe. In the case of Jack-in-the-pulpits, neither of these is a flower, or part of a flower. Instead, the true flowers are tiny and located at the very base of the spadix inside the spathe."
Wildflowers of the Southeastern US says:
"Historical Lore: Calcium oxalate crystals present in the entire plant will cause a powerful burning sensation if eaten raw. Properly drying or cooking removes this effect and the Native Americans used the root as a vegetable. There is one account stating that the Meskwaki Indians would put finely chopped root into meat they would leave for their enemies to find, principally the Sioux. The meat was flavorful and would be consumed, but, in a few hours these enemies would be in so much pain they would die! It is reported that they also used it diagnostically by dropping a seed in a cup of water and if the seed went around four times clockwise the patient would recover and if less the patient would die.  Medical Uses: Despite its possible irritating effects there are several accounts of Native Americans using a preparation of the root on sore eyes. It was also used for cold symptoms and as a tonic. Externally it has been used for various skin infections and against pain and swelling.
WarningNo part of the fresh plant should be taken internally. "

So a warning from the Veterinary Medicine Library - don't let your cattle, goats, sheep or swine graze on these poisonous but uniquely beautiful plants, berries, roots.

The red seedheads resemble that other Arum we love, Lords and Ladies.

Plants! Endlessly interesting and mysterious. What a wonderful hobby.

17 May 2013

Wildflowers of the United States

Wildflowers are blooming everywhere even though the earliest ones are long gone.
Evening Primrose Pink

Here's a handy site to bookmark -

Wildflowers of the United States

and the link is http://uswildflowers.com/

Don't miss browsing around the site in general, by state and/or the additional links provided.

16 May 2013

Perenials for our zone 7 gardens from Anne Pinc

After a lifetime of growing plants for her customers, Anne Pinc knows what succeeds in our area. There will be only two more chances to buy from Pinc at the Cherry Street Farmer’s Market in Tulsa (http://www.cherrystreetfarmersmarket.com) since she stops selling at the end of May.

The Cherry St. Farmer’s Market is open Saturdays from 7 to 11 a.m. on 15th St. near Peoria St., and it is so popular that many people plan to arrive well before the opening hour.

Here are some of the many plants to look for that she grows and recommends for area gardens –

Pinc grows several varieties of the ever-popular Clematis vine. Clematis is generally reliable in our area, climbing fences, trellises and shrubs and blooming with white, purple, red or pink single flowers. They thrive with 5-hours of daily sun, neutral soil that has plenty of compost added and weekly watering.

Shade loving Hostas range in size from miniature to quite large and have colors from deep green to bright yellow-green. They are herbaceous perennials that die back to the ground during cold months and return in late spring to decorate areas under trees. Hostas form large clumps that can grow to 6-feet across in zones 3 to 8. They flower but many gardeners remove the flowers since they are insignificant.

Pinc offers several Hosta varieties including Elvis Lives, Dancing Queen and Lemon Delight.

Hosta Elvis Lives is blue with wavy leaf edges. The clumps can grow 5-feet wide. The flowers are lavender, hummingbird attractors. Dancing Queen has unique, large yellow leaves and purple flowers. Dancing Queen grows 18-inches tall and 3-feet wide. Lemon Delight is a small, rapidly growing, variegated variety. The leaf-centers are dark green and the edges are yellow. Lemon Delight has purple flowers on 12-inch stems.

Flowering Maple, Albutilon Fairy Coral Red, is also called Chinese bell flower. It is not a maple but acquired that common name because of its maple-shaped leaves. All Albutilons are popular food plants for butterfly caterpillars. The plants like half-sun and mature at 2.5 feet tall. The gorgeous mallow-type flowers are sunset colors of orange and pink. They are cold-hardy to zone 7 so might have to be protected in an unusually cold winter.

Campanula is another plant that is commonly called Bellflower. Campanula is grown for its long-lasting, blue, cut flowers for vases. They prefer well-drained soil and full sun to part-shade.

Pinc also grows miniature Solomon’s Seal, Polygonatum humile, for shade and for fairy gardens. It forms a colony over the years, with tiny white flowers close to the ground in contrast to full-size Solomon’s Seal which grows up to 2-feet tall with the flowers hidden under the leaves. 

Amsonia Blue Ice or Blue Star thrives in full or part sun in zones 5 to 9. Amsonias bloom in May and June with pale blue flowers. In the fall their leaves turn gold and add beauty to the fall garden. It is a wildflower native that thrives on moist or dry soil, sun or part shade, and is deer proof. Bluestar grows 1.5 feet tall and wide and can be planted in masses in rock gardens or woodlands.

Lead Plant, Amorpha canescens, is another great, woody, native plant for our gardens. It grows 2 to 3 feet tall, with silver-leaves and purple flowers. Like most silver-leafed plants, Lead Plant can withstand a long drought; its roots grow as much as 15-feet into the soil. Give it full sun and average soil and it will thrive, attracting bees, moths and butterflies.

If you visit the Cherry St. Farmer’s Market this weekend, stop by Pinc’s Collector’s Garden and ask about perennial plants for your garden. Information: annepinc@cox.net.

15 May 2013

Turquoise Tails sedum is Sedum sediforme

What a thrill to see Turquoise Tails sedum named as the first sedum in the Plant Select® program. This hard-working plant plays a huge part in our garden!

Turquoise Tails sedum was pioneered by Kelly Grummons, and Scott and Lauren Ogden, though I have zero memory as to how it first came to live in our yard.

Used as an edging for  Hosta bed

It is an heirloom, native to the Mediterranean.  It has spiky, turquoise-blue succulent leaves and in May-June it has small yellow flowers.

The compact mounds create an accent for water-smart gardens. I use it as an edging plant for yards and yards of flower beds.

This wonderful, work-horse of a succulent is winter hardy to zone 5a (-15 to -20° F).  It survives with very little care once established, is drought tolerant as well as deer/bunny resistant.

"New Plants and Flowers" says, "The first sedum in the US Plant Select program, Turquoise Tails is featured in the latest newsletter of this cooperative initiative administered by Denver Botanic Gardens and Colorado State University in concert with horticulturists and nurseries throughout the Rocky Mountain region and beyond. “Several years ago, Kelly Grummons and Lauren Springer Ogden approached us with the suggestion to promote this tough, old-world Sedum sediforme. After successful trials and evaluations, we’re pleased to announce this turquoise-blue succulent is now available through member nurseries and growers”, can be read in the newsletter.
Expected to become one of the more popular species."

Mid-May flowers

Turquoise Tails Blue Sedum (Sedum sediforme)
Height: 4-6”
Width: 8-12”
Blooms: June-July (that must be in Denver because ours is already in bloom or at least budding)
Sun: Full sun
Water: Dry to xeric
Hardiness: USDA zones 5a-10
Culture: Sandy soil, loam, clay

09 May 2013

Veronica is for every garden no matter which varieties appeal to you

There are 250 Veronica varieties including annuals, perennials, shrubs and sub-shrubs. Some grow in water and others grow on rocky hills but most grow in gardens with a minimum of care.

The rock garden Veronicas do well in poor, well-drained soil in full sun and border Veronicas grow best in moderately fertile sunny locations.

The primary problem gardeners have with Veronicas is that soggy soil makes them vulnerable to root rot, leaf scale and mildew.  Take care that they receive plenty of sun and are not over or under watered.

Veronica Waterperry Blue 5/13
Veronica peduncularis is a mat-forming, low-growing, group of ground covers, ideal for stepping stones and growing over the edge of rock or brick planters. A 4-inch nursery pot will spread by rhizomes into a 1-foot square area in the first year. It is one of the plants recently called “step-able” because it can take some foot traffic.

Two water-wise walkable groundcovers are 2-inch tall Veronica liwanensis, Turkish Speedwell, that makes a purple-flowering lawn and 2-inch Veronica oltensis, or Thyme-leaf Speedwell, which has tiny green leaves and hundreds of blue flowers

Some of the popular Veronica pedunclaris include: Georgia Blue also called Oxford Blue and Waterperry Blue. They have glossy, purple-tinged leaves about 1/2-inch long and periwinkle blue flowers. Waterperry is considered to be a more stable plant with better flowers. They are cold hardy in USDA zones 6 to 8 and do best in heat zones 8 to 6.

Georgia Blue grows 9-inches tall with flowers that are used for bouquets. Both varieties will naturalize into clumps.

Veronica spicata is sometimes called Spike Speedwell. These also form a mat of plants but grow one-to-two-feet tall with white, blue, pink, violet or purple flower spikes.

Veronica spicata Sunny Border Blue forms clumps of 18-inch tall plants with toothed, dark-green leaves. The spikes of mid-blue flowers last for several weeks.  They are cold hardy in zones 3 to 8 and do best in heat zones 8 to 1.

V. spicata Icicle has spikes of white flowers on a one-foot tall plant, Noah Williams has variegated leaves and white flowers, and Red Fox (Rotfuchs) is a compact plant with dark pink flowers in mid to late summer. Red Fox is grown as a cutting flower.

Royal Candles is another recommended V. spicata (Spiked Veronica) variety that has 12-inch spikes of blue flowers on 10-inch tall plants. This one is sometimes called Glory Royal Candles.

Veronica austriaca teucrium is a mat-forming variety with silver-gray-green leaves and stems on plants that can grow to 3-feet tall. The 4 to 6 inch spikes of blue flowers last for weeks over the summer. Crater Lake Blue has early summer gentian-blue flowers on a 1-foot tall plant, Kapitan grows 16-inches wide and Shirley Blue has 4-inch tall pikes of blue flowers from late spring to early summer.

Veronica prostrata or Prostrate Speedwell is another mat-forming variety but this one has branched stems with ½ inch leaves on six to 10-inch tall plants that form 16-inch wide clumps. The flower spikes are only 1 to 2 inches tall.

Prostrate Speedwell Dick's Wine is a ground cover that grows to about 10 inches tall with wine-rose flowers that cover the leaves. Heavenly Blue matures at 3-inches tall with blue flowers. Lodden Blue is 8-inches tall with blue flowers. Trehane has yellow-green leaves and blue flowers.

Veronica seeds can be started indoors in the winter or plants can be purchased in the perennials section of a garden center for spring planting. Their flowers attract butterflies and hummingbirds.

Space the plants a foot or two apart in soil that has been loosened. Top with 2-inches of mulch to prevent weeds and retain moisture. Divide every few years.

08 May 2013

Perky-Pet Hummingbird Feeder

What else can you say about a hummingbird feeder? Within 20-minutes of hanging it, they were there eating.

Perky-Pet hummingbird feeder does not come with a hangar so I just fed some kitchen string through the hole on the top. The model in the photo is a little over $20.

I did not purchase commercial food but found an easy method online.
In a pot combine 1 part sugar to 4 parts water (1 cups water + 4/2 cup sugar) and boil it for 2 minutes to get out the chlorine. Let it cool and fill.

The amount you see in the feeder is about the entire amount so it holds quite a bit. The tag on it says it holds 16 ounces.

The glass is thick and the plastic feeder stands are sturdy. It has what the company calls a built-in funnel that did make it foolproof to fill, though I used a plastic kitchen funnel to be sure I didn't pour it all over the place.

The company sent it to me to try out and review and I give it a thumbs up.

06 May 2013

Pericallis - formerly Senecio or Cineraria from Senetti/Costa Farms

Here's a really cute plant for containers in part shade! It is one of the Pericallis hybrids that I saw at a garden show in Tulsa. Its description makes if seem like it is a miracle plant.

The original group of Senetti® is the most popular group. The varieties in this category all have  large blooms, 2.5 inch to 3 inch flower size on 2ft tall and wide plants. Senetti’s are very tolerant to changing weather conditions and hence they make ideal patio plants.

Each Senetti plant can have as many as 200 blooms in a 10 – 12 inch pot at its maturity and are safe to place outside once night frosts have passed. Once blooming is nearly over you can cut the plant to remove all the dead flowers. Re-blooming will occur in 3 – 4 weeks. For best results replant into fresh pot and media.

I was blown away when I saw it - have you grown it?

Violet Bicolor

05 May 2013

Iocharoma cyaneum

Iochromas are related to Angel's Trumpets (Brugmansia) but have smaller leaves and clusters of lovely tubular flowers. 

Iochroma Countess is a new hybrid with pink flowers, Royal Blue has medium-blue flower clusters, Sky King has pale blue flowers, Frosty Plum, Plum Beauty and Purple Bells have purple flowers.

They are cold hardy to zone 7 (mid-20s F) but most people in zone 7 grow these little semi-tropical (Ecuador & Argentina) shrubs in a container that can be moved to a protected place in the depth of winter. They mature at 6 to 10 feet tall.
Iochroma Purple Bells

Remove the spent flowers to keep it blooming for a longer period of time and to maintaine its appearance.

The USDA says tomato hornworms can be a problem and their detailed study of the plant is available online at http://naldc.nal.usda.gov/download/3207/PDF

One plant source is Katurz Greenhouses(http://www.kartuz.com)

There is a YouTube video on how to propagate them from cuttings at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8TynE8zuLb4

Trade Winds Fruit has the seeds at http://www.tradewindsfruit.com/violet_churcu.htm and there
 is a discussion of seed germination at http://forums.gardenweb.com/forums/load/brug/msg1116151611415.html

I hope you'll enjoy growing Iocharoma whether you start them from seed or cuttings or purchase a ready to bloom plant.

04 May 2013

Arborvitae fern is Selaginella braunii

Arborvitae ferns are ideal part-shade or full-shade plants in USDA zones 6 to 9. They are dependable perennials with positively gorgeous evergreen-tree-like foliage.

Plant Delights Nursery says, "Sold under a number of incorrect names, Selaginella braunii (fern cousin) is one of the easiest spikemosses to grow in the woodland garden. The dark green, lacy, semi-evergreen fronds of arborvitae fern rise to 18" tall from a slowly creeping rhizome. In 3 years you could expect a 2' wide mass. A grouping of Selaginella braunii in a woodland setting is indeed a textural garden highlight!"

Native to China, these beauties are called ferns but are Lycopods.

Plant of the Week said, "-- a descendant of spore-producing plants that date back unchanged into the Permian (~320 mya or so). Tree-like relatives of this plant group produced the great coal forests of the Carboniferous. (This plant is sometimes known as a spike moss, but it is not a moss, either.) Selaginella braunii is a clumping species with dark green, leathery frond-like leaves. The plants will reach from 6-12 inches (15-30 cm) in height. They are of easy culture which makes them good container subjects, as well as a great groundcover in USDA zones 6-9."

They do not flower but do produce leafy cones that are rarely noticed.

To be successful with them provide organic, rich soil, full shade to part shade with regular water. To improve the soil, add pine bark and peat moss to your garden soil.

Ideal for our southern summers, they love humidity. In the woodland garden, space the clumps 2-feet apart where they will slowly spread.

Arborvitae ferns can be grown in terrariums, in windowboxes, as groundcover under trees or in a greenhouse.

Fertilize in the early summer. Cut back on water if you grow them in containers so they don't rot. Never allow them to completely dry out. The Virginia Native Plant Society points out two club-moss natives that are similar to Arborvitae ferns, if you prefer to go the native route. Club mosses: Running Cedar

02 May 2013

Bottlebrush Buckeye, Aesculus parviflora for shade, woods

Bottlebrush Buckeye, Aesculus parviflora, is a shrub that gardeners remember once they see it in bloom. It has large leaves on a 6-foot tall and wide woody plant. The 1-foot long white flower panicles stand up straight like huge candles. The tiny, individual flowers on the panicles are tubular with red anthers and pink filaments.

And, best of all it is a native that thrives in part to full shade. In fact, the leaves scorch in full southern sun, making it perfect for under trees.

Typical of chestnuts, the leaves are large, dark green, and palmate with 5 to 7 leaflets.

The plants are difficult to find in stores and even more difficult to start from seed. We found ours at the Fayetteville farmer’s market. The seller said he grows them by layering lower branches until they make roots. The suckers can also be removed from a friend’s plant, potted for a year, and then planted into the garden.

Natural Landscapes Nursery
Bottlebrush Buckeye resists most bugs and diseases, tolerates soil with pH from 5.5 to 7.5, and can grow in clay soil. They are cold hardy in Zones 4 to 8.

The fall color of the leaves is yellow and brown with green splashes. The first freeze will make the leaves fall. The seed pods containing (poisonous) nuts that follow the flowers are similar to the ones found on buckeye trees (horsechestnut, Aesculus hippocastanum) and resemble small brown pears.

The fall color of this plant is featured on the cover of Dirr’s “Manual of Woody Landscape Plants”. Dirr’s appreciation is expressed in the text, “Excellent plant for massing, clumping or placing in shrub borders...even if it didn’t flower it would be a superb shrub for foliage effect”. Under the Flowers heading he continues, “In my mind, it is one of the handsomest of all native southeastern flowering shrubs.”

When deciding where to plant Bottlebrush Buckeye shrubs, remember that they start out growing slowly but mature to 6-feet wide and then start suckering or sending out shoots at a distance from the parent plant.

Specimens have been reported to grow 12-feet tall and 20-feet across. Use them to fill a large, sloping corner shaded by a fence or place them in a woodland garden under deciduous trees. They also make a good choice for underneath power lines since they stay low enough to avoid problems.

  Bottlebrush Buckeye needs to be watered the first summer and during any periods of drought. Fertilize it in the late fall. No pruning is required except for any shaping the gardener wants to do. It is a good idea to keep the shrubs mulched with something acidic and organic such as pine needles or shredded tree bark.

Missouri Botanical Garden’s list of plants for OK provides growing advice, too. They say that Bottlebrush Buckeye is highly recommended if you are willing to follow the planting and maintenance rules.

“This Buckeye requires moist organic soils that also drain well. It needs to be protected from drying southwest summer winds. It requires shade on summer afternoons; planting under a large shade tree is ideal. It should be watered thoroughly during periods of summer heat & drought. This is not a “plant it and forget it” shrub. Give it what it needs, however, and you will be rewarded with a true garden “aristocrat.” The early summer blooms are spectacular. The fall color is a rich, butter yellow.”

There is a later blooming variety called Aesculus parviflora var serotina or Rogers. If you plant one native and one hybrid, the bloom season would last quite a bit longer. Bottlebrush Buckeye Rogers is an even larger plant with 30-inch flower stems.