31 August 2013

Black-eyed Susan Rudbeckia var sullivantii fulgida Goldsturm

This little gorgeous perennial Black-eyed Susan was sent to me from the grower to try it out.

Look for this specific one if you would like to have a mid-size perennial Rudbeckia that cheers up the garden, returns reliably year after year, and spreads very slowly to fill in a patch of ground.

This is such a polite little plant - no seeding around everywhere.
It's been in the ground three years and the 4-inch pot size plant has spread to make a 2-foot wide
plant with offsets. When the flowers fade they become practically black - gorgeous to my eye.
Do not pull off the flowers when cleaning up the plant, like you would a zinnia.
Entire stems came off in my hand when I did it that way.
Better to take a pair of clippers out and do it correctly.
'Goldsturm' was the 1999 Perennial Plant of the Year by The Perennial Plant Association.
It should be in full sun but ours is in part sun. Hardy in zones 4 to 9.
Seedaholic sells 75 seeds for $2.64 at http://www.seedaholic.com/rudbeckia-fulgida-var-sullivantii-goldsturm.html Sow the seeds indoors this winter, just covering with vermiculite.
Hardy Plants http://www.hardyplants.com/seeds/RSST-A1.html sells 50 Primed seeds for $2.35 and their growing tip include: Sow at 70F, if no germination in 3 weeks, move to refrigerator (28 to 39F) for 3 weeks, then back to 70F for germination in 1-3 weeks. This seed is primed for quicker germination, which should occur within 2 weeks.

29 August 2013

Agastache - Late Summer's Dusty Colors = You Can Grow That!

Scented leaves, gorgeous late-summer flowers and durable plants beloved by butterflies, bees and hummingbirds, make Agasataches a garden favorite. Most Agastaches are cold hardy to zone 6 so they will live at least a few years in our climate.

Common names for Agastache include: Hummingbird Mint, Anise Hyssop, Giant Hyssop, Sunset Hyssop, Lavender Mint, and Korean Mint.

Agastache aurnatiaca Coronado hyssop from  Plant Select

Agastaches, including A. rupestris, A. Foeniculum, and A. Aurantiaca, etc., can take the heat as well as an early frost and keep on going. They are drought tolerant so good drainage is important to their survival. They also love sun, even in our humid, zone 7, summertime climate.

Only one or two stems come up on each plant so a typical butterfly flower bed could hold several plants without crowding. The flower heads can be used in cut flower bouquets if they are harvested while they are no more than two-thirds open.

The scented leaves are 2 or 3 inches long and 1 or 2 inches wide and are hairy on the underside.

Agastache cana Sinning Sonoran Sunset from Sooner Plant Farm

Hyssop officinalis, the herb hyssop, Agastache foeniculum or giant blue hyssop, is in the same, mint, plant family but they are distant relations to the garden varieties.


Anise Hyssop, Agastache foeniculum is the native perennial plant that grows up to 3-feet tall with branching stems and 4-inch long leaves.


Anise Hyssop leaves smell like licorice and are used for flavoring candy, making tea, and medicinally for treating cold symptoms. More historic medicinal uses are at http://www.alchemy-works.com/agastache_foeniculum.html

Agastache aurantiaca Coronado Hyssop from White Flower Farm
Coronado Hyssop is a Mexican native. I took this photo at the Colorado Springs Utilities Xeriscape Demonstration Garden https://www.csu.org/wa/xeri/xeriscape.jsp
Agastache x Blue Fortune Anise Hyssop from Proven Winners

Like all plants with scented, fuzzy, leaves, rabbits and deer leave them alone. The USDA says Agastache Clayton ex Gronov, giant hyssop, is native across the entire continent (http://plants.usda.gov/core/profile?symbol=AGAST)

Agasatache or Hyssop is easy to grow from seed. Seeds that fall on the ground in late-summer will remain dormant until spring. Seeds can be collected now to plant indoors during the winter to provide seedlings to set out in the spring.

The flowers of all varieties feed bees, syrphid flies, skippers, butterflies and moths.

Agastache or Hyssop varieties include: Alabaster to 3-feet tall with white flowers, Honey Bee Blue a good selection for flower gardens, Honey Bee White an improved Alabaster white, and Licorice Blue and Licorice White that will grow 3 or 4-feet tall and are good in a cutting garden.

There is also one creeping variety, Agastache Mexicana that produces many stems and spreads from its root. Rose flowers on 1-foot tall spikes. Cold hardy only to zone 8.

Last spring, I planted a dozen seedlings along the west side of the vegetable garden fence expecting a continuation of the drought and record heat. With this summer’s return to normal rainfall a few of the seedlings drowned.

Agastache has very few problems though there will be a few insect holes and maybe a bit of mildew or rust if the weather is especially wet or they are planted near an overhead sprinkler.

To grow in containers be sure the drainage is good and there is plenty of air circulation.

Cold hardiness of the different varieties ranges from zones 5 or 6 to zone 10, depending on the one selected.

Sooner Plant Farm (www.soonerplantfarm.com) in Tahlequah offers 20 of the new hybrids, including: Sonoran Sunset, Heatwave, Coronado Red, Mexicana Red Fortune, Kudos Mandarin and Sangria.

Agastache x Blue Fortune Anise Hyssop is a Proven Winners selection that many nurseries carry. Oklahoma's native Agastache is Agastache nepetoides or yellow giant hyssop.

Mountain Mint, TX Hummingbird Mint or Mosquito Hyssop, Agastache cana Bolero, is cold hardy to zone 5. It has rose-pink flowers on 3-foot tall stems.

Seed sources: Jelitto (Germany) 15-Agastache varieties http://jelitto.com; Swallowtail Gardens www.swallowtailgardenseeds.com, 11-varieties; and, Plant World Seeds www.plant-world-seeds.com has 11 unusual varieties including Green Candles. 


24 August 2013

The Tule Tree - a natural monument in Oaxaca

The Tree of Tule (El Arbol del Tule) is in Oaxaca Mexico. A Montezuma cypress, Taxodium mucronatum or aheuhuete (Old man of the water) the Tule tree has the largest trunk in the world.

The water reference in its name refers to the fact that the area was swampland at one time.
In fact during periods of drought the townspeople have undertaken watering/irrigation projects to keep the tree alive and healthy.

The subterranean water that previously fed the Tule tree and the surrounding swamplands has been used by the population as an outcome of growth. Efforts are being made to protect the microbasins (http://www.nyu.edu/projects/julian/tule.html)

Our friend, Dr. Jerry Gustafson of Tulsa, OK, visited the tree with a group of friends and gave permission to share his personal photos from that trip.

The tree stands in a churchyard, dwarfing the church itself. At one time there was speculation that it was several trees that had grown together but DNA testing proved that it is one single tree.

Dr. Gustafson standing by the tree's trunk for perspective.

"The legendary Tule tree is located in the atrium of the Santa Maria de la Asuncion temple. Botanists have classified it as Taxodium mucionatum and believe it to be over 2,000 years old. It measures 135 feet in height, its perimeter is 139 feet (40 metres) in circumference and it is considered the biggest and oldest in the world."
Quite naturally and happily, there is a legend of the Tule Tree. You can read it at http://www.nyu.edu/projects/julian/legend.html
Have you visited the Tule Tree? I/we rarely have visited Mexico.

Dicots and Monocots

Monocots and dicots are the two major groups of flowering plants.
Jim Conrad's site, "Backyard Nature Home" explains the difference well.
MONOCOTS or Liliopsida include the grasses, wheat, barley, rice, corn - in fact a fourth of all flowering plants, one source says 199,350 species. Monocot seedlings usually have only one seed leaf or cotyledon when the seed sprouts. Their flowers have three petals or multiples of three petals.
DICOTS or Magnoliopsida
When you plant seeds of dicot plants, the first leaves to emerge will be 2 cotyledons or embryonic leaves. Dicots usually have four or five petaled flowers.
Monocotyledonae ("one cotyledon") and Dicotyledonae ("two cotyledons").
Didn't know this bit about the leaf veins "Leaf veins -- In monocots, there are usually a number of major leaf veins which run parallel the length of the leaf; in dicots, there are usually numerous auxillary veins which reticulate between the major ones. As with the number of floral parts, this character is not always reliable, as there are many monocots with reticulate venation, notably the aroids and Dioscoreales."
Thanks to UC Berkeley for the chart

Embryo with single cotyledon
Embryo with two cotyledons
Pollen with single furrow or pore
Pollen with three furrows or pores
Flower parts in multiples of three
Flower parts in multiples of four or five
Major leaf veins parallel
Major leaf veins reticulated
Stem vascular bundles scattered
Stem vascular bundles in a ring
Roots are adventitious
Roots develop from radicle
And this tidbit "Pines are conifers, and are neither monocots nor dicots. Only flowering plants are considered to be members of these two classes. This question is similar to asking whether a chicken is a monocot or a dicot; it is neither." Never thought to ask it about chickens, myself.
Princeton WordNet provided these examples of Dicots (ckick on any to be taken to the plant)
Acer | Achras | Acokanthera | Adenium | Aesculus | Aldrovanda | Allamanda | Alstonia | Amsonia | Anacardium | Anagallis | Anemopsis | Apocynum | Araujia | Ardisia | Argyreia | Aristolochia | Armeria | Artocarpus | Asarum | Asclepias | asterid dicot genus | Astronium | Banksia | Beaumontia | Bertholletia | Blighia | Boehmeria | Broussonetia | Bryonia | Buddleia | Bumelia | Buxus | Calocarpum | Calystegia | Cannabis | Cardiospermum | Carissa | Carya | caryophylloid dicot genus | Casuarina | Catharanthus | Cecropia | Celastrus | Celtis | Centaurium | Centunculus | Chionanthus | Chloranthus | Chrysophyllum | Citrullus | Clethra | Cliftonia | Colubrina | Combretum | Comptonia | Conocarpus | Conospermum | Convolvulus | Cordia | Cotinus | Cucumis | Cucurbita | Cuscuta | Cyclamen | Cynancum | Cyrilla | Daphne | Darlingtonia | Dichondra | dilleniid dicot genus | Dimocarpus | Dionaea | Diospyros | Dipteronia | Dirca | Dodonaea | Drosera | Drosophyllum | Ecballium | Elaeagnus | Embothrium | Empetrum | Eriogonum | Eucalyptus | Eugenia | Euonymus | Eustoma | Exacum | Fagopyrum | Feijoa | Ficus | Forestiera | Forsythia | Frasera | Fraxinus | Fuchsia | Gelsemium | Gentiana | Gentianella | Gentianopsis | Glaux | Goodenia | Grevillea | Grias | Guevina | Hakea | Halenia | Halesia | hamamelid dicot genus | Hamamelidanthum | Hamamelidoxylon | Hamamelites | Harpullia | Heliamphora | Helxine | Holarrhena | Hottonia | Houttuynia | Hoya | Humulus | Ilex | Ipomoea | Jacquinia | Jambos | Jasminum | Juglans | Knightia | Lagenaria | Lambertia | Laportea | Leitneria | Leucadendron | Ligustrum | Limonium | Litchi | Lobelia | Logania | Lomatia | Luffa | Lysimachia | Lythrum | Macadamia | Maclura | magnoliid dicot genus | Malosma | Mandevilla | Mangifera | Manilkara | Melicoccus | Menyanthes | Momordica | Monardella | Morus | Myrcia | Myrciaria | Myrica | Myriophyllum | Myrsine | Myrtus | Nepenthes | Nephelium | Nerium | Nopalea | Nyssa | Oenothera | Olea | Orites | Osmanthus | Pachysandra | Palaquium | Paliurus | Parietaria | Parthenocissus | Payena | Peperomia | Periploca | Persoonia | Phillyrea | Pilea | Pimenta | Piper | Pipturus | Pistacia | Planera | Plantago | Plumbago | Plumeria | Polygonum | Pomaderris | Pouteria | Primula | Protea | Psidium | Pterocarya | Punica | Rauvolfia | Rhamnus | Rheum | Rhizophora | Rhodosphaera | Rhus | ribbonwood tree | Roridula | rosid dicot genus | Rumex | Sabatia | Salvadora | Samolus | Sapindus | Sarcostemma | Sarracenia | Saururus | Schinus | Spondias | Stapelia | Staphylea | Stenocarpus | Stephanotis | Strophanthus | Styrax | Swertia | Symplocos | Syringa | Syzygium | Tabernaemontana | Telopea | Thevetia | Toxicodendron | Trachelospermum | Trapa | Trema | Ulmus | Urtica | Vinca | Vincetoxicum | Vitis | Xylomelum | Ziziphus
So there you have it!~


22 August 2013

Lantana camara

For those of us who love Lantana camara for its reliable summertime flowers that bring butterflies and skippers to our gardens, it will come as a bit of a surprise that the plant has many names and a bad reputation in some places.

There is a creeping Lantana which is L. montevidensis. White Flower Farm offers Lantana montevidensis Lavender Swirl that looks a lot like a creeping Verbena. Lantanas are related to Verbena and the trailing verbenas are also called Weeping or Trailing Lantana.

Lantana camara’s many names include:  Shrub Verbena, Big Sage, Red, Yellow and Wild Sage, Spanish Flag, West Indian Lantana, Lava, and Feston Rose.

Lantana Landmark Sunrise Rose 
Verbena and Lantana plants are easily confused; Alan Armitage said he had to use a plant lens to distinguish them. 

They are considered cold hardy only to zone 9 but ours have returned for 5 years, becoming larger every year.  The plants have no known disease or insect problems. They flower most when they are under-fertilized and under-watered. They are also deer-resistant.  If you crush and smell a leaf, you will understand why deer avoid the plants.

Most Americans grow Lantana camara as an ornamental but in other cultures it is grown as a medicinal plant. The black berries that follow the flowers are poisonous if eaten in large quantities.

In the U.S., pet and livestock owners are warned to keep animals away from the berries but in Surinam (Dutch Guiana) children eat the berries without harm.

Lantana leaves are used medicinally for itching skin, flu, cough, fever and other ailments. The roots are used in the treatment of other diseases. An extract of the leaves is anti-bacterial and used to cure ulcers and respiratory infections in Brazil.

In FL, CA, TX, HI and other growing areas without a winter freeze, Lantana camara is an invasive weed, coming up everywhere and becoming impossible to eradicate.  
Landmark Lantana Yellow

There are 100 cultivated varieties. Here are some to consider:

White flowers: Silver Mound, Clear White and Snowfall

Cream and gold flowers: Greg Grant

Pink to yellow flowers: Bronze and Lady Olivia

Pink yellow and ivory flowers: Patriot Honeylove is low growing and spreads to form a ground cover. Luscious Tropical Fruit grows 2-feet tall and is recommended for zone 9.

Lavender: Pink Lace is upright with lavender and pink flowers. Orchid is soft lavender that sprawls and cascades. Great for window boxes, containers and wall gardens.

Yellow, orange and pink flowers: Confetti and Patriot Rainbow

Landmark Lantana Gold
Gold flowers: Gold Mound and Patriot Moonshine. New Gold grows 15-inches tall, spreads, flowers all summer, and is cold hardy to zone 7

Multi-colors of yellow, red and pink: Irene and Spreading Sunset

Butter yellow flowers: Lemon Drop and Yellow (sprawling, spreading plants)

Orange, pink and coral flowers: Patriot Bouquet and Patriot Desert Sun

Crimson red: New Red is an upright variety with red-orange flowers. Bandana Cherry has fuscia red flowers and grows to 2-feet tall.

Orange and yellow flowers: Miss Huff is 6-feet tall.

Variegated leaves: Samantha is a spreading plant with lemon-lime leaves and bright yellow flowers.

Gold, deep orange and red flowers: Patriot Firewagon and Radiation. Radiation is low-growing.

At the Proven Winners website there are photos of 24 varieties and you can look at the color combinations to see which ones would work with your garden theme.

Lantanas are often grown as annuals and they are available at nurseries and garden centers in the spring. They can also be grown from 5-inch summer cuttings. Remove the flowers plus the lower leaves and plant them in moist perlite.

Plant seeds this winter after soaking them for 24-hours. Keep the soil temperature 75 degrees and seedlings will emerge in 40 to 60 days. Source: www.thompson-morgan.com.

20 August 2013

Perilla, Flowering Tobacco and Petunias

Some plantings are for the birds! This entire bed was planted by wind and birds. All I did this summer was weed out everything that wasn't Perilla, Flowering Tobacco and Petunias. BHG.com has the scoop on Nicotiana at http://www.bhg.com/gardening/plant-dictionary/annual/flowering-tobacco/
The bed is under a dead black walnut tree and the entire area was covered with newsprint and a few inches of hardwood mulch. Last spring when it became obvious that the tree had died, we moved all the hardwood mulch to the perennial bed behind. The newsprint had all been eaten by earthworms of course. That's what they do so well.

I've never seen Trailing Petunias re-seed like this. Have you had this experience?
Perilla is known for generously re-seeding itself. The original seeds were sent to me 5 years ago by my cousin in Germany where they are called Rotes Basilikum (red basil). Since then, they have returned each year but only a few plants.
Did you know that before Coleus became so popular, Perilla was the red/purple foliage plant of choice.
Hort.Purdue.edu explains it's culinary uses, "Perilla foliage "kkaennip namul" and seed oil are used in Korean cooking. Korean markets in the United States sometimes sell perilla. An Oriental grocery in Ames, Iowa, sold bundles of fresh leaves for $6.53/kg in August, 1991. Perilla was an important vegetable in ancient China, but use in modern times has declined there. In Japan, the foliage of "shiso" serves as a garnish. The foliage also provides a red (anthocyanin) food coloring; specialized red-leaved perilla varieties are used in the preparation of pickled plums. In addition to food coloring, perilla adds an antimicrobial substance to pickled foods. Perilla seeds are eaten in Japan and in parts of India. More at http://www.hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/proceedings1993/V2-322.html.

This year though, all those seeds of Petunia (red in front) Flowering Tobacco and Perilla that had been resting in the hardwood mulch came into their own and made an whole new gorgeous bed that the pollinators just cannot stay away from!

17 August 2013

Fall Planting Advice from Bountiful Gardens

Below is another terrific resource for planning your fall garden from Bountiful Gardens.

However! Please note that they are in Willits CA which is USDA zone 8B and their advice is based on their soil, temperatures, etc.

My garden is in Northeast Oklahoma zone 7 and while I often give advice for other zones I'm specific about it. I'll be starting peas, beans, lettuce, chard and kale soon but our soil temperature is still too high. I learned that by putting in seeds 2 weeks ago -they just sat there.

This is worth a read just for the reminders so we'll succeed with fall veggies.

Garden Tips For Now: Fall and winter gardening is easier than summer gardening in lots of ways--there are fewer weeds, fewer pests, no glut, and a slower pace that makes keeping up easier. Anything you grow is so appreciated when the days are cold. The hard part is knowing when to start those fall crops. In most places, most plants won't grow much in winter--they need to be fairly mature before cold weather, and will then hold for a long time.
Click here for seeds to plant now for fall and winter.
This gives a quick and easy selection of the most foolproof varieties (not every kind of cabbage or chard, just the ones that do best in fall), some guidance on to what to plant when, and info on how to determine your zone and first frost date.

Figuring it out: Spotlight on the easiest fall vegetables.pea dwarf grey sugar
Peas are often forgotten but so rewarding--even a small handful gives a fresh taste to fall salads and cooked dishes. Now there are 2 ways to plant and use them--a patch for producing pea pods and a patch to cut for shoots, which are expensive delicacies at the store but easy at home. We recommend the well-named snow peas for fall planting. There are two--Oregon Sugar Pod, for big pods on 3 to 4' plants, and Dwarf Grey Sugar for short vines with purple flowers and bite-size pods (shown right).

broccoli purple cropped 2Broccoli is many folk's favorite, and not hard to grow. Plant now for fall crops, and give them plenty of compost for fast growth. We like to plant a trio: DiCicco or Soltice for a fast crop, Piricicaba for winter sprouts and leaves in a poly tunnel, and Purple Sprouting for a crop in the spring before spring-sown vegetables are usable yet. (this works in zone 7 and above).

Kale takes awhile to size up, and will go all winter from a single sowing, so plant plenty now. It is hardy to zone 5 or 6 with no protection (depending on wind and moisture), and zone 4 with a bit of cover--hoophouse, coldframe, fleece, or even a snowbank. Kale and the salad green Mache, are the hardiest of all vegetables, and can take weather below zero. Easy to grow--just give it plenty of compost. Collards and Tronchuda Cabbage are also non-heading leaf crops. Planted now, they will go until the ground freezes solid.
cabbage copenhagen market 2
Cabbage needs a pretty long time to get up to size and then make a head, so we suggest that gardeners in most places plant the fastest-growing varieties now. Greyhound and Primo are perfect for fall crops that need to mature fast. Hardy and long-standing winter cabbages need more time; you could grow January King or a midseason like Copenhagen Market (shown right) if your first-frost date is in mid-November.

Green TatsoiPerhaps the perfect things to plant now for quick fall crops are Chinese Cabbage, Mizuna, Vitamin Green, and Tatsoi (shown left--and most hardy of all). They grow fast, love cool weather, and are extremely easy in the fall, when bolting is not a problem. Some are mild enough for salad, and all cook in 5 minutes or less. They are also extremely forgiving, so timing is not as crucial--plant from now all the way up to your frost date, especially if you can put up a simple row-cover or use fleece when temperatures go below 25 degrees at night. They are hardy all winter outdoors in zone 8.
lettuce hungarian pink
Lettuce is not as hardy but grows faster--so plant it every two weeks until a month before your frost date. In zones 8-10, winter varieties can survive in the open, or with a bit of cover if weather is very cold. Lettuce will die if the ground freezes. In zones 7-4 it can be grown in unheated coldframes and hoophouses. Add one layer of protection for each zone: so in zone 6 you would need fleece over lettuce inside a hoophouse, for example. It's more hardy cousin, Frisee, will grow one zone colder than Lettuce. For salads in very cold areas like zones 5 and below, it is easier to grow other, more hardy, greens for salad, like Minutina and Miner's Lettuce. You can find detailed instructions and pictures in Elliot Coleman's Book, The Four-Season Harvest.

Click here for The Winter Salad Collection--seeds for 7 salad greens (4 lettuces, 3 others) plus an info sheet

Click here for the Winter Vegetable Collection--seeds for 10 of the very hardiest winter crops--2 lettuces, 7 other greens, and a carrot. These are the vegetables featured in The Four Season Harvest.

Winter Grains: Simplicity Itself
You can grow enough wheat to make a loaf of bread a week for a year in a 15' X 20' space. Grains are grasses, which grow easily and don't require a lot of care. To learn about growing them in your back yard, we recommend Homegrown Whole Grains, a great book with interviews of home gardeners who've done it, recipes, and step by step instructions. Carol Cox, who managed our research garden for years, has written a very useful pamphlet on backyard grains as well.
Click here for Fall-Planted Grain Seed

Click here for our pamphlet on grain-growing (70 pp)

Cover Crops/ Compost Crops: Build Fertility---Suppress Weeds

ImageLeaving soil bare over the winter creates many problems: rains compact the soil, the rich surface layers wash away, leaving the garden in worse shape than it was in the fall. Nature fills empty space with weeds, which at least hold the soil, but make other problems. Many of us try to mulch the whole growing area every fall to prevent these problems, but where will all that mulch come from? Often the project gets put off because it is time-consuming, involves borrowing a truck, or is expensive.

Cover crops are an elegant solution to every one of those problems. They add free fertilizer, protect the soil all winter and leave it aerated and easy to plant in the spring. They prevent weeds from taking over the space. And, instead of having to haul in mulch, you grow a crop of mulch or compost material! The picture at left shows a hillside being restored with vetch. Vetch is a great way to start with compost cropping--it is super-easy to grow and super-easy to pull up in spring--the stems break off at ground level leaving the roots to enrich the soil. You can clear a 100sq ft bed in under five minutes.

There are many cover crops, to solve many specific problems. A good plan is to mix one legume and one winter grain--like triticale and peas. You can add a problem-solver for your particular area, (like mustard for fighting some soil pests) or a food crop like fodder radish. Or just use our Overwintering Compost Crop Mix, a well-balanced addition to most every garden.

If grassy-looking grain plants to 5 or 6 feet will not fit with your (or your neighbor's) landscaping plans, try our new Decorative Compost Crop Mix, which covers the ground to 2' in winter (Zones 6-10 ) and then blooms in spring.

Click here to see a chart to help you select cover crops for your situation.

Piet Oudolf - An interview with a garden genius

Here is a link to an online video of an interview with Piet Oudolf

When asked who is heroes are he responded, "plants". I don't think I'm influenced by any of these architects or plant landscapers. 

"Plants are my tools to create things that show my insides."

A garden is color first then structure. A landscape is structure first.

A favorite season is autumn of course, after summer. In spring there is an abundance of flowering trees and then you are relieved when it is done. Same with summer. I like it when that falls into decay and the flowers are dying down.

Finding new plants in a world where all the main nurseries grow what they like and what sells. In my hobby I discovered plants that stood out from the rest.

We have a lot of gardens at our house that are 1.5 hectares of trial gardens, experiments, trying out concepts. Gardens are a metaphor for paradise.

Gardens are 4 dimensional. When you build it, it starts. In 10 years it turns out. My garden designs are so dynamic, you can feel what I do every moment you are there.

Ten years ago architects would not speak to me. A tree in front of one of their buildings just got in the way.

My dream is that we don't build islands that separate us.


And, here's an interview he did with The Guardian in April 2013

15 August 2013

Mid-August in zone 7 - things to consider doing

August is a gardening month when there is either nothing to do but enjoy the garden or an endless list of tasks to accomplish before the leaves fall.

An early morning walk around the garden and yard with a pad and pencil can be very productive. Make of note of which trees and shrubs need to be thinned or pruned up, which perennials would benefit from being divided, where the bare spots are, which plants need to be removed, etc.

Also on that walk, note the bare spots in the turf and mulch, inspect plants for signs of insect damage, irrigation leaks, fence or deck work to be done, etc.

Look for plants such as Hostas that have centers dying and plants that have outgrown the amount of space thought they would need. Consider where pieces of those divided perennials might look good next year.

Take a pair of clippers on your walk and remove any dead or diseased twigs. Make a note of limbs or branches that should come out because they are crossing another branch.

This is a good time of year to take a soil sample to the Extension Office for testing so you know what nutrients and amendments to add this fall.

If you have wanted to add a new bed or extend an existing one, mark it off with a stream of flour so you can see what the area would look like completed. Then, cover the area with several layers of newsprint and some mulch or rocks to hold the paper in place. The same method can be used to help visualize a new path or patio.

Since fall is the best time to put in new shrubs and trees, those planting areas can be identified and marked using the same method. After the area is marked, try a sample dig around the newsprint to see how easily the ground can be worked. A month or two of moistened newspaper and mulch will make the job much easier as earthworms work their magic under that moist cover.

There are plenty of seeds on the annual flowers and herbs that can be harvested and saved for next spring, including Zinnias, Agastache, sunflowers, nicotiana, basil, parsley, coreopsis, etc.

As lily season comes to an end, the bulbs can be dug, divided and replanted. Your favorite lily bulbs can be divided into pieces that resemble garlic cloves. Plant each clove into a container of potting soil and keep it moist over the winter. In the summer there will be a small lily bulb ready to go into the ground in one of those bare spots.

Consider which plants you want more of. Many perennials can be easily propagated from fall cuttings and by layering.

Plants that have been blooming this month would benefit from all the faded flowers and less-than-perfect stems being removed. For example, if you hold a Catnip stem in hand and it has only leaves on the end, prune it back to the earliest green leaves, removing the entire bare stem.

Hanging baskets should be fertilized half-strength after pruning. While you are fertilizing, roses enjoy an August snack, too. Instead of chemicals, fish and kelp fertilizers as well as alfalfa meal are often recommended. Scratch them into the top 2-inches of the soil.

Trees are no longer actively growing and can be shaped; the lower limbs can be removed. Prune off all of the suckers and water sprouts that have shot up. Water sprouts look like branches but grow straight up from roots and branches.

Take photos of each bed, bare spot, or proposed planting site so you’ll have it on hand when doing your late-winter planning for spring.


13 August 2013

Recycle Food Waste - Become a Microbe Farmer!

At our Muskogee, OK, home, we recycle food in worm bins and a compost heap. My brother, Misch Lehrer, recycles Albuquerque's municipal food and municipal waste at Soilutions (Soilutions, Inc.
505-877-0220).  (The Soilutions recycling blog is at http://soilutions.blogspot.com/ with interesting articles posted.)

Here's how they are keeping food out of the landfill. "From Fork To Farm : Café's Food-Waste Composting Program Keeps Leftovers Out Of The Landfill".

"Soilutions picks up anything that has been alive," said Misch Lehrer, Soilutions manager. They accept food waste from many area businesses and organizations, such as Whole Foods Market Inc., the Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort &Spa, the University of New Mexico and Central New Mexico Community College, Lehrer said. Soilutions also accepts manure and straw from area farms, as well as dead and wilted flowers from local flower shops. Additionally, Soilutions harvests scraps from one-time events like the annual Pork ‘N Brew event in Rio Rancho.

"We're basically microbe farmers," Lehrer said. "We provide ideal microbe conditions. We give microbes food, water and air and they do the work." Lehrer said the compost's microbes double in number about every half hour. As they eat, they create carbon dioxide and heat.

According to Lehrer, the composting process takes quite a bit of time. "It takes a year to a year and a half for food waste to break down completely into organic compost," he said. "Food waste from the beginning of the pilot program is almost ready to help things grow this spring and summer."

We can all contribute to the solution of landfills by and global warming by using our food, yard, and garden scraps in ways that make good soil ammendments and mulch for our gardens and green spaces.

And, from Recycle New Mexico's site “Soilutions picks up anything that has been alive,” said Misch Lehrer, Soilutions manager.

They accept food waste from many area businesses and organizations, such as Whole Foods Market Inc., the Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort &Spa, the University of New Mexico and Central New Mexico Community College, Lehrer said. Soilutions also accepts manure and straw from area farms, as well as dead and wilted flowers from local flower shops. Additionally, Soilutions harvests scraps from one-time events like the annual Pork ‘N Brew event in Rio Rancho.

Join the fold! Don't pitch things that can be recycled into valuable soil ammendments.

Yale 360 reported on the final frontier of recycling - food waste. from Yale 360
by dave levitan at http://e360.yale.edu/feature/recyclings_final_frontier_the_composting_of_food_waste/2678/

As municipal food composting programs spread across North America and Europe, no city faces a more daunting task than New York. Its Department of Sanitation collects more than 10,000 tons of trash every day, and another 1,700 tons of recyclable materials. A large portion of that waste, though, may soon have a future other than the landfill: Food scraps and other “organics” have long been just a part of New York’s trash pile, but a pilot program in the city is aimed at rolling out collection of that material and composting it, a far more environmentally friendly method.

“It’s the next new thing in terms of municipal waste handling in the 21st century,” says Eric Goldstein, a senior attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) in New York. “Right now... there are over 150 communities throughout the United States that are collecting organics at curbside. It’s a national trend. It’s revolutionary.”

Many of those programs are still voluntary, and the bulk are in small cities and towns. But larger cities in North America — including San Francisco,
‘We spend over $85 million a year sending food waste to landfills,’ says a New York City official.
Seattle, San Antonio, Toronto, and Portland, Ore. — are moving rapidly ahead. And municipal composting efforts in many European countries are far advanced and steadily growing. In 2011, the 27 states in the European Union composted on average 15 percent of municipal waste, with Austria composting 34 percent, the Netherlands 28 percent, and countries like France, Spain, and Germany each composting about 18 percent.

In New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s State of the City address this past February, he called food waste the city’s “final recycling frontier,” which holds true for the rest of the United States, as well. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the country as a whole produced 250 million tons of municipal solid waste in 2011, and compostable materials — which include yard trimmings, paper and paperboard, as well as food waste — comprised the largest component of that at 56 percent.

The environmental benefits of recycling that material are significant. As it decomposes in landfills, food and other organic waste produces methane, a greenhouse gas 25 times more powerful than carbon dioxide. According to the EPA, landfills are the third-largest source of methane in the United States, behind industry and agriculture. Shipping waste long distances from cities to landfills produces even more greenhouse gas emissions. Composting, meanwhile, takes that waste and turns it into something usable: fertilizer. If cities like New York want to cut emissions, cut waste, and even cut costs, composting is a proven way to go about it.

The good news is that of the 87 million tons of “recovered” waste in the U.S. in 2011 — meaning waste that did not end up in a landfill — organic material accounted for the largest component. But most of that material was paper; food waste accounted for only 1.6 percent of the recovered total versus 14.5 percent of the generated total, the EPA says. The U.S. does a reasonably good job of keeping paper out of landfills thanks to recycling programs, but food almost universally still goes where it shouldn’t.
New York is trying to change that with its new program. So far, compost collection is being offered in one neighborhood of Staten Island, and city officials say that after only a few months participation rates are above 40 percent. Contamination rates — meaning, the presence of non-compostable material in the compost bin — are at 1 percent or below. In Manhattan, about 100 city schools are also participating, with a goal of spreading to 400 schools by the end of the year. Two high-rise apartment buildings are included as well, with more to follow this fall.

“We spend over $85 million a year sending food waste to landfills, so there’s a major cost,” said Ron Gonen, New York City’s deputy commissioner for recycling and sustainability, who heads up the composting program. He said so far the program is collecting at a pace on the order of “tens of thousands” of tons per year. “It’s growing every day,” said Gonen. “We’re going to continue to expand, in all five boroughs.” By 2014 the program will cover around 100,000 households.

Goldstein says that if New York demonstrates the economic and logistical viability of its program it could be a “bellwether” in the push to expand composting nationwide. But a few cities — in general, the green, progressive ones you might expect — have already taken the lead over the last decade. San Francisco — the second-densest large city in the U.S. after New York — is considered the frontrunner, thanks to legislation in 2002 that set a goal of diverting 75 percent of its waste from landfills by 2010 and achieving “zero waste” by 2020.

San Francisco’s composting program began with restaurants and other businesses, and in 2009 an ordinance made it mandatory for all residents to separate organic material for collection. Instead of two bins to set out on
In the European Union, 40 percent of waste is now composted or recycled.
the curb for trash and recyclables, there are now three. The green compost bins can include all food scraps, no matter how spoiled, along with vegetation from yards like leaves and flowers, and solid paper products including coffee cups, waxy paper, milk cartons, and related items. The city collected its millionth ton of organic waste for composting last fall. Overall, 78 percent of San Francisco’s waste is now diverted from landfills.

Seattle has a similar program, as does Portland; the latter went a step further and scaled back residential garbage pickup to only once every two weeks when the weekly compost pickup began.

Despite some early resistance and confusion — much of it related to every-other-week garbage collection — a survey in Portland found that 66 percent of residents rated the city’s recycling and composting program as “good” or “very good” after one year, with another 20 percent neutral on the issue. Along with the positive reception, there has been clear progress: In the 12-month period prior to the October 2011 start of the composting program, 94,100 tons of garbage were collected. In the following 12 months, that figure fell to 58,300 tons. Meanwhile, collections of compostable material rose from 30,600 tons to 85,400 tons, a figure that includes yard waste.

There were questions early on about vermin, but moving the scraps from the garbage can to the compost bin doesn’t change much, said Bruce Walker, Portland’s solid waste and recycling program manager. The organic material in Portland travels to one of two facilities that are 15 and 90 miles from downtown. Walker said regular garbage gets trucked much farther, about 140 miles from the city, so the environmental savings are compounded. The composting facilities produce fertilizers that are sold to farms, tree nurseries, and to the general public.

In Europe, the European Landfill Directive requires European Union member states to reduce “biodegradable municipal waste” sent to landfills
‘Ultimately, there’s going to be very little left in the traditional garbage can,’ says one official.
to 35 percent of 1995 amounts by 2016. In the EU, 40 percent of waste is now composted or recycled, with 23 percent incinerated and 37 percent landfilled. Norway, Sweden, the Netherlands, Denmark, Switzerland, Belgium, Austria, and Germany now send less than 3 percent of their waste to landfills. Copenhagen, one of the greenest cities in the world, stopped sending organic waste to landfills as far back as 1990.

Other European countries lag far behind, with Greece and eastern European nations such as Bulgaria, Lithuania, and Romania doing almost no composting. Still, some of the swiftest progress has come from some former eastern bloc countries like Estonia. The capital city of Talinn has been collecting biodegradable kitchen waste separately since 2007, part of the reason why landfill rates in Estonia have dropped from close to 100 percent 15 years ago to below 60 percent today. Europe is also much farther along than the U.S. in using anaerobic digestion, a process that takes organic waste and turns it into biogas, which can be used to generate electricity.

To Tackle Runoff, Cities Turn to Green Initiatives
Urban stormwater runoff is a serious problem, overloading sewage treatment plants and polluting waterways. Now, Dave Levitan reports, various U.S. cities are creating innovative green infrastructure — such as rain gardens and roadside plantings — that mimics the way nature collects and cleanses water.
In New York, the question of where to bring collected organic material is unresolved. The city has a request for proposals to build a new composting plant in or close to the city, but until then there aren’t nearby facilities that can handle large amounts. Goldstein, of the NRDC, said that one possibility is to site facilities outside the city or partner with farms in the Catskills — sending the material 75 miles or so is still a huge improvement on the current system, which involves exporting to landfills sometimes many states and hundreds of miles away.

“The city has been really slow in terms of going through this process,” said Christine Datz-Romero, co-founder and executive director of the Lower East Side Ecology Center, which has worked on composting in New York for two decades. “If we wanted a facility here in New York City we should have started that process a long time ago. For building a facility we’re talking years. I see that as the biggest stumbling block because right now we have very limited capacity.”

Should New York and numerous other U.S. cities and towns establish vibrant composting programs, the environmental benefits will be enormous, advocates say. “Ultimately, there’s going to be very little left in the traditional garbage can,” said Goldstein.