30 June 2013

Plants do math - so say the scientists

Excerpts below. Full story at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-22991838

Plants have a built-in capacity to do maths, which helps them regulate food reserves at night, research suggests.

UK scientists say they were "amazed" to find an example of such a sophisticated arithmetic calculation in biology.

Mathematical models show that the amount of starch consumed overnight is calculated by division in a process involving leaf chemicals, a John Innes Centre team reports in e-Life journal.

Birds may use similar methods to preserve fat levels during migration.


The scientists studied the plant Arabidopsis, which is regarded as a model plant for experiments.

Overnight, when the plant cannot use energy from sunlight to convert carbon dioxide into sugars and starch, it must regulate its starch reserves to ensure they last until dawn.

Experiments by scientists at the John Innes Centre, Norwich, show that to adjust its starch consumption so precisely, the plant must be performing a mathematical calculation - arithmetic division.

"They're actually doing maths in a simple, chemical way - that's amazing, it astonished us as scientists to see that," study leader Prof Alison Smith told BBC News.

The scientists used mathematical modelling to investigate how a division calculation can be carried out inside a plant.

During the night, mechanisms inside the leaf measure the size of the starch store. Information about time comes from an internal clock, similar to the human body clock.

"This is the first concrete example in biology of such a sophisticated arithmetic calculation," said mathematical modeller Prof Martin Howard, of the John Innes Centre.

Commenting on the research, Dr Richard Buggs of Queen Mary, University of London, said: "This is not evidence for plant intelligence. It simply suggests that plants have a mechanism designed to automatically regulate how fast they burn carbohydrates at night. Plants don't do maths voluntarily and with a purpose in mind like we do."

29 June 2013

July 8 FREE "An Evening with Patricia Lanza"

The Tulsa Herb Society is hosting
Patricia Lanza - the queen of lasagne gardening
July 8th
Tulsa Garden Center
2435 S. Peoria Ave

The Tulsa Herb Society is thrilled to host An Evening with Patricia Lanza, July 8th from 7:00 pm – 8:30 pm at the Tulsa Garden Center.  Your invitation to this free event includes an evening of garden exploration; where enjoyment meets functionality.  Join THS as they welcome this knowledgeable gardener to Tulsa.

Originally from Crossville, Tennessee Patricia remembers what it was like to keep a garden from watching her grandparents’ garden in rocky, clay soil. She remembers how they rented a mule to plow in the spring then raked out the rows by hand. How they planted, watered and hoed weeds all summer. She also remembers the taste of fresh vegetables right from the garden: red, juicy tomatoes, tender green beans and corn, indeed lots of corn picked by the apron full every day.

Patricia began gardening just like her Tennessee grandparents, however by the time she was a grandmother she needed to garden a different way. She dealt with the same gardening conditions, rocky hardpan. It was there and then she discovered what she calls Lasagna Gardening; a method of creating good soil without digging, tilling or weeding. It’s what keeps her in the garden today as she gardens near her original home where the soil is rock and clay.   

Patricia’s books and lectures have taken her on the road where she travels and promotes the ease of gardening simply. Her newest book, My Garden Doctor was published in 2009.  It is a reprint of a book published in 1914 with a new forward and epilogue. Her other books include: Create Wonderful Gardens, Lasagna Gardening, Lasagna Gardening for Small Spaces, Lasagna Gardening with Herbs, My Grandmother's Aprons, and My Garden Doctor 
As a gardener and garden communicator, Patricia shares her knowledge as a writer, book author and public speaker with over twenty years’ experience.

27 June 2013

Missouri Wildflowers Nursery grows seed and plants for your gardens

Gardeners love plants and appreciate being outdoors.  Whether you prefer cottage gardens, a themed garden or plants in tidy rows, we all enjoy being in nature to watch wildlife and to relax.

To the extent that we enjoy having wildlife around, we also realize the importance of including native wildflowers in our plantings.

 Merv Wallace who has owned Missouri Wildflowers Nursery since 1984 has developed a passion and a purpose in his work. Wallace said he wished people understood the important connection between native plants and all wildlife.

“Doug Tallamy’s book “Bringing Nature Home” changed my way of thinking,” Wallace said. “Native plants allow so many things we enjoy to have a place; they depend on them.”

In the introduction to that book, Tallamy said that gardeners can (and should) create small slices of native ecosystem in their gardens to help prevent more animal species from falling behind and eventually moving into extinction. “… for our own good and certainly for the good of other species, we must do better. Native plants will play a disproportionately large role in our success,” said Tallamy.

Wallace is playing his part. His nursery not only grows native plants from seed, they grow native plants to harvest for seed, as well as collect seeds from prairies.

“We contract with the Conservation Department to harvest specific areas of wild growing plants from the prairie,” said Wallace. “In exchange we donate back a percentage of the seeds we collect and they replant them, extending the prairie range.”

This week, Wallace was collecting seed from an acre of Lanceleaf Coreopsis they planted on a local grower’s land. They also have a seed-exchange agreement with him.

“All the seeds and plants we offer through our catalog and the nursery are genetically from MO,” said Wallace.

MO Wildflowers’ 33-page print catalog has 14-pages of plant photos, and with each plant photo there are from 1 to 4 stars.

“The rating system of stars tells you how much the neighbors will appreciate it being in your front yard,” said Wallace. “Four stars means the plant is tidy, compact, and looks good most of the seasons. With the one-star plants you have to be more creative to have them in front. “

Some of their most popular seeds include Butterfly Weed (Asclepias or Milkweed), Indian Paint Brush (Castilleja coccinea), Cardinal Flowers (Lobelia cardinalis) and Coneflowers (Echinacea pallid, E. paradoxa, E. purpurea, and E. similata).

Wallace recommends that gardeners use seeds for large areas and use plants for small areas and to tuck into existing beds. 
MO Wildflowers Nursery
open daily
9814 Pleasant Hill Rd
Jefferson City, MO 65109
To order seeds and plants or to request a catalog
“When using plants, you can control where they go and with mulch you can control the weeds,” Wallace said. “If you put down seeds, you have to be prepared to control the weeds that grow in between the seedlings.”
To plant a large area with wildflowers: Select a site and get the soil tested. Next, kill all the existing vegetation by covering the area with black plastic for 2-months in late summer or spray twice with herbicide. Either burn the dead surface or mow and rake it. Sow the wildflower seeds between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. In the spring mow to a 3-inch height. (See www.mowildflowers.net for more details.)
 “Most wildflowers grow in sun or part-sun,” said Wallace. “We have to sell forest wildflowers like Celandine Poppy, Wild Ginger and Bloodroot in containers because the seeds do not store well.”
In addition to individual packets of seed, MO Wildflowers offers mixes for large planting: 1. Deep Soil; 2. Shallow Soil; and, 3.Slope. They also have native grasses, sedges, vines, trees and shrubs.
We humans need wildlife to thrive; and wildlife needs us to support their ecosystem by what we plant and grow.

26 June 2013

Vinca or Periwinkle is invasive whatever you call it

Vinca minor and Periwinkle now have to exit our garden as we eliminate invasive plants in favor of native plants. 

They are invasive but for a change not from Asian countries, but this time from southern Switzerland southward around much of the Mediterranean basin, from Portugal to Turkey, and across much of north Africa according to www.invasivespecies.IN.gov .
Vinca minor

They were introduced as a medicinal herb and as an ornamental ground cover.

Planting alternatives, will depend on where you live. At the IN. gov site they recommend
Dwarf Crested Iris (Iris cristata)
Palm Sedge (Carex muskingumensis)Wild Ginger (Asarum canadense)
Creeping Phlox (Phlox subulata)
But! As you and I both know, those desirables are much more difficult to become established and provide ground cover and weed prevention.

25 June 2013

Succulents Simplified by Debra Lee Baldwin

Debra Lee Baldwin, the acknowledged leader in the popularity of succulents, has a new book out -

"Succulents Simplified: Growing, Designing, and Crafting with 100 Easy-Care Varieties"  published by Timber Press.

Like her other books, this one is filled with gorgeous photographs of succulents.

Baldwin gardens on half an acre in southern CA foothills so her ability to grow succulents and cacti is part and parcel of the perfect weather they have there for them (temps range from 32 to 110). The chapter on replacing a lawn with succulents makes complete sense in warm climates.

From the beginning of the book, Baldwin explains why she loves succulents: Low maintenance, easy to propagate, and non-invasive. She recommends growing them in containers so they can easily be moved with changes in the weather. "Low Water Plants for Lazy Gardeners" is a chapter I can relate to and the resilient Jade Plant is one of the examples of these.

You can expect to learn about many many new succulents while learning tidbits about old friends such as Aloe.

Baldwin also loves cacti (which I do not) so there are many beautiful ones described and illustrated.  How to propagate succulents is clearly described and illustrated and I can attest to her methods working effectively. There's nothing like a series of containers with the same and/or similar succulents arranged in the garden, on a patio, under trees, etc.

Debra is the Queen of Succulents

How to pot up, dig up and clean up your succulents is covered, too. Then, how to design and create mixed-succulent containers that look as great as any container of perennials or annuals.There are lots of projects that can easily be done for your home or to be given as gifts.

Pages 173-259 make up a reference for easy-care succulents with more photos and growing tips.

Whether you are new to these lovely plants or already grow some, this soft-cover gem is worth a look.

23 June 2013

Invasive Species New website of interest

Bugwood Blog announced that
"The North American Invasive Species Network (NAISN) has launched a new informational website (www.naisn.org), which provides a wide variety of invasive species management and research resources, links to a multitude of potential partner organizations, and access to streamlined data-sharing platforms for users throughout the USA, Canada, and Mexico.
 NAISN website development and design was undertaken by three of the eight NAISN member hubs: the Center for Invasive Species Management, Montana State University; the Center for Invasive Species and Ecosystem Health, University of Georgia; and the Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants, University of Florida.
Because invasive species cross governmental jurisdictional boundaries, NAISN aims to unify and connect existing regional invasive species management and prevention efforts into a single network to improve communication, collaboration, and overall coordination in North America. Its overall goal is to enhance multi-jurisdictional responses to biological invasions across the continent. NAISN membership is targeted toward regional university centers and institutes, government institutions, non-profit organizations, research labs, and/or other groups and individuals with invasive species interests and qualifications that are valuable to the mission of NAISN. 

In addition to serving as a North American focal point for invasive species management, policy, outreach, and research information, the NAISN website also (1) showcases the NAISN organization and the services it offers; (2) provides direct links to the Global Invasive Species Information Network (GISIN) and the Early Detection and Distribution Mapping System (EDDMapS) database systems—platforms for viewing existing and uploading new invasive species data; and (3) provides a compendium of North American invasive species organizations.
We encourage you to visit www.naisn.org, share your work and data, and consider joining NAISN as a member."
Click over and look at the invasive species - photos, descriptions, http://www.naisn.org/species.html. I recognized many from my garden pest list. Bet you will, too.

20 June 2013

Marilyn Stewart of Wild Things Nursery and her Native Plant and Butterflies

If you have been contemplating helping nature by putting more native plants in your garden, you are not alone. Planting natives is one part of a cultural shift toward living a greener lifestyle with a smaller carbon footprint. Gardeners hope to leave the world a better place and are teaching the next generation that planet earth is precious.

By the purest and purist’s definition, native plants grew here before the European settlers arrived. In contrast, plants brought into the area from other places and hybrid plants are non-natives. Naturalized plants are those that were brought into the region as non-natives but they escaped the cultivated area and thrive as weeds.

Wherever they originated, natives are often low-maintenance plants that grow well without much assistance after they become established.

Wild Things Nursery (www.wildthingsnursery.com) in Seminole grows and sells OK native plants. Owners Marilyn and Ken Stewart converted their acreage to a butterfly, moth and pollinator sanctuary. It is filled with native plants where they collect caterpillars (to protect them from birds) and raise them in screened containers. 

Stewart said their mission is to produce plants that are beneficial to wildlife with an emphasis on plants that support butterflies, moths and other pollinators.

A long-time native plant enthusiast, Marilyn Stewart said, “I hesitate to tell people that native plants are no-care plants because they think they can just stick them in the ground and they will thrive. It is not that simple.”

She said native and naturalized plants will thrive if they are placed in the correct location with the conditions they need. For example, an OK native cactus will die in wet clay soil.

One of the benefits of using native plants is attracting wildlife such as songbirds that only nest where they can find insects to feed their young.

Generally speaking, plants that have evolved and adapted to the climate, moisture and geography of an area will be lower maintenance, require less water, demand little or no fertilizer and are rarely attacked by insect and disease problems.

An exception is Crapemyrtle shrubs originally from China. They do well here but Stewart said that not one species of OK wildlife can utilize the plant for raising their young.

Since we live a state with more climate and weather variations than any other state, gardeners can widen their plant search into neighboring states such as TX, AR, MO, and KS.

Gardens need specific as well as general pollinators so flowers, herbs, fruits and vegetables will produce food and seed.  For example, native ground-nesting bees pollinate blueberries and strawberries and squash bees pollinate squash; they need undisturbed ground and 3 seasons of pollen in to thrive. Native plants do the best job of providing pollen because they have the most usable nectar.

So, what are some plants and practices that can take your garden to the next step of being welcoming to wildlife and contributing to the overall health of the earth?

The first step is to reduce harm by eliminating pesticide use. Next, implement a few ecosystem-friendly practices including: mow less often, allow a part of the yard to grow wild, change to a no-till vegetable garden, leave a few dead tree limbs on the ground, and plant a wide range of flowering native plants with different bloom times to ensure a three-season food supply.

When starting to add native plants, think in terms diverse plant communities.  Native plants for OK landscapes include cacti, ferns, annuals, perennials, grasses, shrubs, trees and vines. The complete list is at http://1.usa.gov/10fRIHD and there are photos at www.oknativeplants.org.

Stewart is an excellent resource for information about native plants as well as butterflies and other pollinator insects.

19 June 2013

Is it a grasshopper or a katydid?

Grasshopper antennae A-Z Animals

Do you know the difference between a katydid and a grasshopper? I didn't until I read Bug Squad..
Katydid nymph Project Noah
Also called a long-horned grasshopper, Katydids have long, threadlike antennae while grasshopper antennae are rarely much longer than the head. Bug Squad says grasshopper antennae are not longer than their heads so that's an easy way to ID them.

They are both from the family Tettigoniidae which has 6400 species.

When katydids rub their wings together it sounds like they are saying Katy did or Katy didn't.

Katydid's hearing mechanism is on their front feet.Who knew?

I had no idea how to tell them apart. Thanks Bug Squad and Kathy Keatley Garvey at UC Davis Department of Entomology.

17 June 2013

Sedum Frosty Morn is cold hardy Sedum erythrostictum

Sedum Frosty Morn
Sedum Frosty Morn was discovered in Japan. Plantsman Barry Yinger gave some to Tony Advent of Plant Delights Nursery in the 1990's. They max out at 2-feet tall and the photo is ours blooming at the rock border of the hot and sunny herb bed. It's been in bloom for a month so far. MO Botanical Gardens says the flowers turn pink in the fall - way cool. Here's their link to more info http://www.missouribotanicalgarden.org/gardens-gardening/your-garden/plant-finder/plant-details/kc/t600/sedum-erythrostictum-frosty-morn.aspx

Cold hardy zones 3 to 9, full sun, don't keep the roots wet and don't over fertilize.

16 June 2013

OK Invasive Plants Conference July 9 near OKC

Priscilla Crawford, Conservation Specialist with the Oklahoma Biological Survey said that their conference is coming up in July - here's the scoop for pre-registration.
In case you aren't aware of what OK Dirty Dozen is, I put it at the end of Crawford's post.

The Oklahoma Invasive Plant Council's Annual meeting will be held
Tuesday, July 9, 2013,
Arcadia Conservation Education Area
From OKC - North on 1-35, exit 138D,
2 mi E on Memorial Rd, 3/4 mi N on Midwest Blvd.

Pre-registration and abstracts for oral and poster presentations are due July 1st. Please note: Pre-registration will allow us to more accurately estimate for catered lunches!

Topics to be presented are:

Feral hogs and their relationship with invasive plants
Tinker Air Force Base: Invasive Plants
The Horticulture Industry: Issues with invasive plants
Oklahoma's Dirty Dozen
Prescribed Burn Associations in Oklahoma: Update
Voucher Specimens Needed for Accurate Records of Invasive Plants
Plus More!!!!

Read the announcement at: http://eepurl.com/ALbPz

OkIPC Website: http://ok-invasive-plant-council.org/ 

Japanese Honeysuckle

The Dirty Dozen

In the early 1900’s, Yellow Bluestem (Bothriochloa ischaemum) was introduced from Southern Europe and Asia for livestock forage and erosion control. Today, this exotic grass is prevalent throughout the state, altering soil conditions and microorganisms as well as suppressing important native grasses with the end result of decreasing the diversity of native animal communities
Over the past 60 years Field Brome (Bromus arvensis) has been outcompeting desirable vegetation for water and soil nutrients, inevitably decreasing biodiversity in native ecosystems. Field brome was originally introduced from Eurasia for the purpose of erosion control and use as a cover crop. This species is now scattered throughout Oklahoma, with the exception of the northeast corner.
Cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum) is not only spreading across Oklahoma, but all of North America as well. It was originally introduced when used as a transport packing material from the Mediterranean region of Europe. This aggressive species is notorious for forming monocultures and completely displacing native species as well as decreasing crop production.
Musk/Nodding Thistle (Carduus nutans) was accidentally introduced, possibly through ballast water or as seed contaminant in the late 1800’s. It is mainly found in the north half of the state, east of Woodward, and scattered throughout south central and extreme southeast Oklahoma. Musk/nodding is a listed noxious weed in Oklahoma, due to the its ability to crowd out native vegetation and forage for livestock and wildlife.
Eastern Redcedar (Juniperus virginiana) has become a common evergreen woody species found across the state. Even though this species is native to parts of Oklahoma, fire suppression and planting, as shelterbelts and to screen visability, has allowed Eastern Redcedar to dominate habitats where it should not be found. Dense stands of cedar force out native grass and woody species, decreasing biodiversity and increasing fuel loads which increase the risk of wildfire.
In 1899, Sericea lespedeza (Lespedeza cuneata), a native to China and Japan, was planted for erosion control and as an additional food source for Bobwhite Quail. It has now spread throughout the state, except the panhandle, proven to not be a good food source for Bobwhite Quail, and is rapidly outcompeting and displacing native herbaceous and woody species, destroying habitat quality for wildlife and forage production for livestock.
The Chinese Privet (Ligustrum sinense) was brought from China as an ornamental shrub, but was discovered to form dense thickets, shading out native species of the understory. This exotic plant can now be found in the eastern third of Oklahoma and scattered in the southwest part of the state.
Japanese Honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica) was imported for deer browse, erosion control, and as an ornamental in the early 1800’s. Today, this evergreen vine from Japan inhabits the eastern half of the state as well as Jackson, Caddo, Comanche, Grady, and Ellis counties, overtaking native herbaceous and woody vegetation
In the 1870’s the prickly Russian Thistle (Salsola tragus) was accidentally introduced from Eurasia as a seed contaminant in flax seed. This species becomes the tumbleweed that clog fence lines and host leafhopper species which carry Curly Top virus in multiple crop species. It is now found in the western half of the state and panhandle, as well as Bryan and Muskogee counties.
Johnsongrass (Sorghum halepense) was popularized as livestock forage and for hay production, but under certain conditions it can actually become toxic to livestock. It was introduced from the Mediterranean region around the 1830’s, and has now spread across the entire state of Oklahoma. It invades all stages of rangeland succession, reducing biodiversity and habitats for many species of wildlife.
Saltcedar (Tamarix spp.) is an eastern Asian shrub that was brought in as an ornamental and for erosion control. Originally introduced in 1823, Saltcedar has now spread statewide altering streamflow and overtaking many food producing pants for wildlife as well as other native wetland and floodplain plants that wildlife depend on for habitat.
Siberian elm (Ulmus pumila) is native to China, Siberia, and Turkestan but was brought to America in the 1860’s as a replacement for the American Elm after the breakout of Dutch Elm disease. It is now found to alter wildlife habitat and impact native floodplain vegetation water usage. Today, Siberian Elm can be found in Woods, Woodward, Alfalfa, Cleveland, and Mayes counties.

Gallery of Some of the Invasive Species
Troubling Oklahoma Today!

Aquatic Species
Alternanthera philoxeroides, Alligator weed
Hydrilla verticillata, Hydrilla
Myriophyllum aquaticum, Parrot's feather
Myriophyllum spicatum, Eurasian watermilfoil
Potamogeton crispus, Curlyleaf pondweed
Riparian and Wetland Species
Lythrum salicaria, Purple loosestrife
Perilla frutescens, Beefsteak plant
Saccharum ravennae, Revennagrass
Tamarix species, Salt cedar, tamarisk
Terrestrials Species
Albizia julibrissin, Mimosa, silk tree
Bothriochloa bladhii, Caucasian bluestem
Bromus japonicus, Japanese brome
Bromus racemosus, Meadow brome
Cirsium arvense, Canadian thistle
Cirsium vulgare, Bull thistle
Conium maculatum, Poison hemlock
Convolvulus arvensis, Field bindweed
Kochia scoparia, Mexican fireweed
Microstegium vimineum, Nepalese browntop
Potentilla recta, Sulfur cinquefoil
Pueraria montana, Kudzu
Rosa multiflora, Multiflora rose
Verbascum thapsus, Common mullein

15 June 2013

Vanderbilt's online Tree ID

If your yard is anything like ours, trees pop up willy nilly and about half the time we aren't sure

whether to pull them up, move them or leave them where the birds planted them.

Vanderbilt University's tree ID site couldn't be any easier to use for trees common to TN and similar climates.

Check it out at

For Native & Naturalized Plants of the Carolinas and Georgia and similar climates, go to this link
at Name that Plant.

In or near Minnesota? Check out Key Plants appearing in the Field Guides to Native Plant Communities of Minnesota: Forests and Woodlands.

Northeastern Shrub and Short Tree Identification online book is at http://www.esf.edu/ivm/PDFs/ShrubID%20preview.pdf

Trees of Texas: Tree Identification 101 is at http://www.isatexas.com/images/pdf_files/TreeID/Key_to_Texas_Tree_Species_TFS.pdf

The Huachuca Audubon Society has a tree key for AZ and NM at

You get the idea - there is a tree ID website for each of us!

13 June 2013

St. Joseph's Lily is Hippeastrum johnsonii

St. Joseph’s Lilies have been blooming around town since late May. They are one of the few Amaryllis that are cold hardy enough to be grown outside in our area. Other names include Hardy Amaryllis and Johnson’s Amaryllis

Hippeastrum Johnsonii is named for the plant breeder, watchmaker Arthur Johnson of Lancashire, UK, who created the first St. Joseph’s Lily in 1799. The parent plants were Hippeastrum reginae (from Peru) and Hippeastrum vittatum (from Brazil). Many other Lilies have been introduced but this one remains a favorite for gardeners who enjoy heritage plants with.

Johnson shared his new lily with the Liverpool Botanic Garden shortly before his greenhouses were destroyed and his original bulbs lost.

Its cold hardy zones are from 6 to 12 (we are zone 7) so it is often grown as a potted plant by gardeners farther north. Outside it wants sun to part-shade and like all bulbs, needs well-drained soil.

The flowers are red, bell-shaped with a white stripe. The throat of each flower is green. Each 1-2 foot tall stalk typically has four flowers, sometimes six. When grown indoors (forced with artificial light and heat) the stalks can grow very tall. Outside, in full sun the stalks will be closer to 8-inches tall.

After the flowers fade, seed pods form. The pods can be collected and the fresh seed planted directly into pots. Stored seeds will be less viable with slower and lower germination rates.

The leaves are strap-like, resembling other lilies. In areas where there is no hard freeze, the plants are evergreen all year. In full-sunlight the leaves take on a copper tone.

Howard Garrett, The Dirt Doctor (www.dirtdoctor.com), calls them the tulip of the south. They give us the bright red color we crave on cloudy spring days but do not require the prolonged cold weather that Holland-grown tulips need in order to bloom.

St. Joseph Lilies were offered in the US by 1853 but today few companies carry them. They have become pass-along plants, so while they are blooming, this is a good time to stop and ask for a bulb or two wherever you see them growing.

St. Joseph’s Lily bulbs are available from Bayou City Heirloom Bulbs in TX (http://bayoucityheirloombulbs.com). Owner Patty Allen said, “These bulbs were rescued from old homesteads. They are not from tissue culture.”

Another source, Brent and Becky’s Bulbs (https://store.brentandbeckysbulbs.com) says they will form clumps after the first two years in the ground.

Around town, there are several large clumps visible in older home gardens. The bulbs that were given to us by a gardening friend came from a 40-foot-long row that had expanded over 20-years.

Bulbs are divided after flowering in the spring or in the fall. Plant the bulbs in loosened, amended soil with the bulb neck above ground level. When deciding where to plant the bulbs, give them plenty of room. The leaves can grow to 30-inches long and 1.5 inches wide.

Plant Delights Nursery (www.plantdelights.com) offers alternatives. 1) Hippeastrum 'Charisma' (Charisma Hardy Hippeastrum) which is a solid red that resembles a red daylily; and, 2) Hippeastrum 'Voodoo' (Naughty Lady Amaryllis) closely resembles St. Joseph’s Lily but without the bright white stripe. They also have survived below zero temperatures at their zone 7 garden.

St. Joseph’s Lilies and all Hippeastrums are members of the Amaryllidaceae or onion family, making them deer and rabbit resistant.

In “Heirloom Gardening in the South” by Dr. Bill Welsh and Greg Grant, Grant said, "Without a doubt, Johnson's hybrid is the finest Amaryllis for garden culture in the South. The combination of the brilliant red flowers, spicy fragrance, and it’s unbelievable toughness makes it a bulb without equal".

11 June 2013

Oklahoma - beautiful natural tour from Vogt's The Deep Middle

Tour Oklahoma through the eyes of Benjamin Vogt, a U. Nebraska English lecturer with a deep respect for nature, a find hand with a sentence, an extraordinary camera eye, and, well everything he touches. Click over to his blog to see the photos and description of our Oklahoma landscape at http://bit.ly/11TolVq. You can't miss his love for our state.

from the University of Nebraska at Lincoln
For the last five years, Benjamin Vogt has been writing the garden blog "The Deep Middle."

The project started as a way for the English lecturer to simply record the evolution of his garden. However, the blog — an infusion of gardening tips and selections from Vogt's published work — has bloomed into a medium that allows the writer and naturalist to connect with gardeners and writers around the world.

The blog, http://deepmiddle.blogspot.com/, has helped establish friendships with garden aficionados from Vietnam, South Africa, France, England, Greece and Mexico. In addition to his traditional gardener following, Vogt has also had visits from best-selling authors.

“My work as a professor and writer is intertwined with having a gardening blog since I’m most interested in creative nonfiction and ecological issues — how writing about our lives actually gives us our lives and our world,” Vogt said. “I’d say it’s my main way to test environmental ideas and share my writing.”

Vogt began planting and developing his garden in July 2007. The main part of the garden is roughly 1,500 square feet at its southeast corner, with additional foundation beds along the back of his house.

Last summer, Vogt’s garden was part of a tour, and many of the 500 visitors asked if he offered coaching services. A week later, he started Monarch Gardens, a garden consulting business.

“I’ll walk their landscape and we’ll discuss what native plants might work well,” he said. “I also do nursery visits, provide plant research, deliver plants and suggest organic methods. Gardening is so easy. Honest.”

“I hope both the blog and Monarch Gardens encourage people to think about adding native plants to their landscapes,” he said. “Each suburban garden bed is now pretty much a wildlife refuge. Just one New England aster and swamp milkweed make a large difference and you’ll see it almost instantly.”

Vogt said he also hopes people will garden for kids because there’s so much for developing minds to see, touch, hear and experience.

“I’d love to have a part in creating a children’s prairie garden, even posting nature-y poems in the space,” he said.

Vogt’s next memoirs are on Oklahoma Territory, Mennonites, the Cheyenne and prairie ecosystems. His blog shares anecdotes about his research trips and family homesteading stories.

“I try to mix up posts about my garden, pictures, research and my own poetry and nonfiction,” he said. “It’s a Benjamin potpourri, and oddly, people of all stripes keep visiting.”

As Vogt researches plants, he’s come to favor natives because when they’re properly sited, they bring in more wildlife and are easier to care for.

“Gardening didn’t germinate until I had a house of my own,” he said. “I spend only a few days working on the garden each year and that’s it. No one believes me. Not even my mother.”

— Mekita Rivas, University Communications
More details at: http://go.unl.edu/vogt

09 June 2013

Conservation, sustainability, National Wildlife Federation, Scotts

Donna at Garden Walk Garden Talk gave me food for thought and you'll be thinking after you read her smart post at http://gardenwalkgardentalk.com/2013/06/06/the-ruckus-accomplished-what/#comment-21829

Donna's perspective is from a professional viewpoint. The topic is the flap between NWF and Scotts
potential, though failed partnering for conservation.

A Year in the Garden - time lapse video

A must see video.
An LA CA family produced a time-lapse video of one year in their garden.

Click over to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ApOtv2bPElw

Brad Hiebert said in the comments, "I want to encourage people to try. We didn't know how to do it when we started, but it is experince that is so rewarding!"

and  "The first year we could have bought the food cheaper because of the cost spent building. But, there is more to the equation
We ate a lot more vegetables than we would have because we grew way more than we would have bought.
No salmonella here
We got to spend family time outside
I get to teach my child where food comes from and see here snow peas and tomatoes off the vine
Home grown tomatoes taste better than anything bought
Never underestimate the therapeutic value of digging in the dirt."

08 June 2013

For the love of wildlife - Carole Sevilla Brown

There is no doubt that Carole Sevilla Brown is a voice for wildlife on her blog and in her life.
If her name is new to you, do not hesitate, click over to her blog now http://nativeplantwildlifegarden.com/

This is Brown's entry "The Ultimate Guide to Butterfly Gardening" which is a thorough report (136 entries/resources) of how to accomplish all of your butterfly dreams

Monarch chrysalis on our fence
 Post after post, Brown impresses us with her love of nature and her smarts.

Her free, occasional, newsletter is Wren Song. You can sign up on her blog to receive it by email.

06 June 2013

Spiderwort, Tradescantia, for moist shade

Each flower lasts but a single day but we love Spiderworts anyway. They bloom for several weeks with each plant producing waves of new triangle-shaped flowers.

Tuck them near the trunks of trees and shrubs or between perennials in a flower bed where they can get a little sun and they will multiply from one year to the next. Being near the roots of larger plants not only gives them cover from too much sun, but the larger plants absorb extra moisture so the Spiderworts have moist but well-drained soil to grow in.

Spiderworts can grow in full sunlight to full shade and will move to suit themselves. As nearby shrubs increase in size, Spiderwort plants will pop up in other places.

Some gardeners plant Spiderworts in containers to prevent the plants from spreading too much throughout their gardens. It is also very easy to pull up and thin out the tiny plants during early spring garden cleanup in order to control their inclination to naturalize.

If you want to try them in full sun, be sure to water them regularly to prevent scorching. Half a day of sun seems to work the best in our area.

Each little flower is a perfect three-petaled jewel-tone color spot son top of a stem that can be 6 to 36-inches tall. The stems are soft and the leaves resemble lily leaves, giving them their other common name, Spider Lily. They are cold hardy from USDA zones 4 through 11, are drought and wet tolerant, deer resistant, easy to grow and tolerate black walnut trees.

The most common Spiderwort is the American native Tradescantia virginiana. Woodland spiderwort, Tradescantia ernestaniana, Ernest's spiderwort or Red Cloud is native to OK, AL, AR, and MO. It is less aggressive than Ohio spiderwort. Plants and seeds are available from Easy Wildflowers in MO (http://www.easywildflowers.com). Tharp’s Spiderwort, Tradescantia tharpii, is native from TX to KS.

Plant Woodland Spiderwort with other native woodland wildflowers like Columbine, Green Dragon, American Spikenard, Jack-in-the-pulpit, Goat's Beard, Wild Ginger, Wild Geranium, Virginia Bluebells, Woodland Phlox, Jacob's Ladder, ferns and other shade flowers.

When the flowers fade, cut the plants all the way down. New growth will appear and a second bloom season will come when the weather cools in the fall. Divide the clumps early in the fall or when the leaves emerge in the spring. If they go to seed and seedlings come up near the parent plants, they can be lifted and planted elsewhere.

The flowers attract butterflies from May to July and the seed heads attract gold finches. At the end of the bloom season the fading stems and leaves turn yellow so Spiderworts are usually planted in a natural area or where summer blooming flowers can hide them. Spider Lilies self-clean so they do not have to be deadheaded.

In addition to the natives, there are over 60 Tradescantia species.

Tradescantia pallida, commonly called Purple Queen, Purple Heart and Purple Spiderwort is primarily grown for its deep purple leaves since the tiny tri-corner pink blooms can barely be seen in a flower bed.

Tradescantia fluminensis, commonly called Creeping Christian or Wandering Jew is hardy in zones 7-9 and is often grown as a houseplant. A close relative, Tradescantia pallida purpurea, commonly called Purple Wandering Jew is also a great shade plant to grow as annuals under trees.

Tradescantia andersoniana Osprey is named for the bird of the same name. It has white flowers with blue stamen filaments (available from www.forestfarm.com). Other white flowering varieties include Bilberry Ice, Snowcap, Iris Prichard and Innocence (see http://www.marysplantfarm.com).

Spiderwort plants are not only edible and medicinal; they are also used by scientists to detect radiation fallout (http://bit.ly/dNX8DH).

04 June 2013

Eradicate Invasive Plants by Teri Dunn Chace

We only have a few acres but it's enough to have dozens of plants show up each spring that make us ask ourselves whether they are friend or foe.

The birds plant some things we want to keep but many others are unknown or unwelcome. Here's an incredible online resource with lists and 20 links to sites that will help identify uninvited guests http://www.namethatplant.net/aliens.shtml

Some known plants are just plain pests to us because they are too much of a wild thing. Millions of elm trees and several square miles of wild daisies, henbit, thistle, Wandering Jew, wild garlic - oh, the list goes on.

"How to Eradicate Invasive Plants" by Teri Chace should be on the shelf of libraries, master gardener offices and in gardeners homes - it will go a long way toward speeding up the decision making process every spring.

Online booksellers offer it for $14. From the publisher, Timber Press, it is $25.

The author's bio from the Timber Press website -"Teri Dunn Chace is a writer and editor with more than 30 consumer titles in publication, including The Anxious Gardener's Book of Answers. She's also written and edited extensively for Horticulture, North American Gardener, Backyard Living, and Birds & Blooms. She has been managing editor for a variety of gardening titles, among them Gardening Basics for Dummies, The New England Gardener's Resource Guide, The Texas Gardener's Resource Guide, Lewis Hill's celebrated Pruning Made Easy and his Lawn & Gardener's Owner's Manual, and The Weather-Resilient Garden. Raised in California and educated at Bard College in New York, Teri has gardened in a variety of climate zones and soil types, from inner-city Portland, Oregon, to coastal Massachusetts. She now lives in a small upstate New York village with snowy winters and glorious summers."

Not all the plants Chace identifies as weeds are considered problems by us because we have enough space to tolerate their presence and we actually value their contribution. One example is Hawthorn which we grow for winter bird food. Another is a patch of Staghorn Sumac that we have hidden behind shrubs because insects and birds love them.

With that said, Chace provides photos, descriptions, chemical and non-chemical eradication methods.

03 June 2013

Mason Jar Bird Feeder

Perky Pet sent me a Mason Jar bird feeder to try in our back yard. I keep trying to photograph birds on it and seed in it, but every time I look it is empty again. They must love it. And the weather is perfect for gardening so my head is down most of the day.

So, here's a photo of a male cardinal snacking on the last of the seed in the bottom of the seed tray.
It may be the best I can do!

02 June 2013

Lovage, Levisticum officinalis, Black Lovage, Smyrnium Olusatrum

Lovage officinalis
 Lovage, Levisticum officinalis is blooming this week in the veg garden. I wrote about it in April, 2011 and here's a link to that article.

It's supposed to be hardy in zones 4 to 8 though I suspect that ours are coming up from seed rather than last year's root.

When the J. L. Hudson Seedsman supplement arrived last week, I noticed a Black Lovage offering that made me curious. Also called Horse Parsley, Tanya at Lovely Greens says Black Lovage, Smyrnium Olusatrum, was brought to the UK by the Romans and now is considered a weed by many. She steamed them and ate the stems with butter and salt. Pronounced them delicious.

Arthur Lee Jacobson posted about Black Lovage, Smyrnium Olussatrum, in April 2006, giving it mixed reviews.

Two recipe sources for using Lovage - Cooks and The Guardian.
Lovage officinalis

Since Lovage officinalis does well here, I'm considering adding the Black variety. Anyone growing either or both of them?

01 June 2013

Succeed with Wildflowers

Every year we purchase and grow from seed more and more native plants for our gardens. They require so much less care and live so much longer than many hybrid plants.

Why does anyone plant wildflowers anyway? We love their carefree appearance, their low need for fertilizer, water and bug/disease sprays. That's not to say they are completely without effort since we want our garden to please our eyes as well as the critters who live out there.

The MO Wildflowers Nursery (http://www.mowildflowers.net/catalog) has a page of tips for success with wildflowers. Here are their tips with my brief commentary following each.

Start with plants not seeds
- quicker fill
Think about design
- even wildflower beds need a border to look pleasing
- use a variety of plants for continuous bloom, texture and color complementarity
Mulch beds soon after planting
- control weeds with mulch or ground cover
Amend the soil in shady flower beds
- forest dwelling plants have a few inches of natural organic material in nature
Amending soil in sunny flower beds isn't necessary
- sun loving wildflowers thrive in topsoil
Fertilizer and lime?
- get a soil test
Watering wildflower gardens
- water at planting time, then again when inspection says the soil is dry
- leave the seeds for wildlife or prune to please yourself
Keep the weeds out
- remain vigilant
Encourage shade-loving wildflowers to reproduce
- remove tree leaves by the end of Feb. to allow wildflower seeds to germinate in place
Clean beds annually
- at the end of February