29 September 2013

Kales and Chards - the best fall planted crops for zone 7

In our area, zone 7 Northeast Oklahoma USA it is still 80 during the sunny days, though in the 50s and 60s at night. The butterflies, skippers, wasps and bees are in their most productive season here - and so are gardeners who love fall and early winter greens from the garden.

Kale, chard, beets and other leafy greens can still be planted and harvested before our first hard freeze. And, with a decent mulch around the roots, salads and sandwich greens often last until January. We've served them at a New Year's Day open house in the past.
Red Russian, Siberian, Lacinato, Blue Curled have all worked well for me in the past - see http://www.seedsavers.org/onlinestore/?search=kale&ext=F
For chards, check out Seeds of Italy's assortment at http://www.growitalian.com/categories/Vegetables/Chard/ - they give you lots of seeds per pack!
Of course, as they say in the investing world, past performance bears no relevance to future performance. For us, that means, Mother Nature can twist and turn at her whim.
Here are some ideas for you if you haven't already planted -
Renee's sale on 2013 seed packets has been extended - Here's a link to that http://www.reneesgarden.com/sale13.htm From the sale list you could still plant lettuce, beets, rapini, chard, peas, radish, mustard, arugula, greens, kale, etc. Also order poppy seeds to plant in November here, etc.
If you like to try broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower, those plants are available in produce markets and garden centers now and would be your best bet. Be sure to put a row cover on them to protect them from flying invasions from destructive insects such as cabbage moths looking for a place to lay eggs.
Also, while you are considering seeds, remember that corn salad, mache, will produce tiny heads in the snow, making lovely individual salad heads for winter meals. Even with a casual planting you'll have half a dozen salads with 2 heads per person for a salad meal when you are missing fresh greens in the dead of winter. http://www.johnnyseeds.com/c-473-corn-saladmache.aspx
And, Botanical Interests reminds us to seed heavily since germination can be spotty - that's my experience, also. http://www.botanicalinterests.com/products/view/3046/Mache-Corn-Salad-Organic-HEIRLOOM-Seeds
Also - how to grow mache
Heirloom Seeds on mache as a gourmet green
http://www.heirloomseeds.com/lettuce.htm#6022 – MACHE (CORN SALAD) (Valerianella locusta) – 45-50 days – Gourmet salad green, having a very unique, piquant flavor! An old delicious favorite, regaining popularity!
PKT. - 200 seeds - $1.25
Seed Library also!
Last spring I saved seeds from the faded green bean plants, dried and replanted them and we're now eating the fresh beans from that planting, so remember to save seeds from your fading fall garden!

26 September 2013

New Plants for 2014

The 2013 garden year is ending and the new plants for 2014 are being announced by plant propagators and growers. There are some real beauties in all categories – here is a sampling.

Sweet Spot Decorator Roses are compact new varieties that mature at only 16 to 24-inches tall and wide. They are cold hardy to zone 5, bloom all summer, and have been bred for disease resistance and drought tolerance. Four colors will be released in 2014:  Sweet Spot Yellow, Ruby, Peach and Calypso. You can get a sneak peek at www.tesselaar.com/plants/sweet-spot-roses/.

SuperCal the All Weather Petunia is being introduced by Sakata. SuperCal petunias come in 11 colors for trailing in baskets or upright for flower beds. This new hybrid survives heat and light frost, as well as heavy rain. The plant breeder Sakata Seeds set up www.supercalpetunia.com where you can see it in pots and flower beds.

Double Take Geraniums, new from Selecta, have double flowers in red, pink, scarlet, white and pink+white which is a pink variety with a red center. The plants mature at 1-foot tall and wide.

Itsaul Plants in Georgia

Coreopsis BroadStreet-Itsaul Plants Cruzin' Series
introduced four new plants that will grow well here. Euphorbia Shorty matures at 18-inch-tall mound with blue-green foliage and red growing tips. The flowers are yellow. Cold hardy to zone 5, prefers full-sun to afternoon shade in well-drained soil or rock gardens.

is a magenta-red coneflower that blooms from mid-summer to mid-fall. Easy-care, reliable coneflowers grow to 2-feet tall, at least a foot wide and are perennial in zones 4-9. Gardeners think most often of purple coneflowers, but other colors include: Raspberry Tart, Double Scoop Orangeberry, Tangerine Dream, etc., all with the same preference for sun and heat.

The new Coreopsis Cruzin’ Series includes plant names such as Main Street (deep rose flowers), Broad Street (red), Sunset Strip (yellow and orange), Electric Avenue (cream), and Route 66 (yellow with a red center). They are cold hardy to zone 5, bloom all summer in the sun, and mature at 2-feet tall and wide.

Stokesia Colorwheel, or Stokes Aster, is a perennial aster for zones 5 to 9. It is compact, growing only 18 inches tall and wide. Asters fill the gap in our late summer gardens after the summertime flowers fade. In full-sun the flowers on Colorwheel bloom white and fade to lavender, in continuous bloom. They appreciate regular garden watering and well-drained soil.  Stokesia Purple Parasol has deeper purple flowers.

Hiemalis or Rieger Begonias are tender perennials for shady places in the garden. They are only cold-hardy in zones 13-14 and heat tolerant in heat zones 12-1, maturing over the season at around 1-foot tall and wide. Their parent plants are South American tuberous begonias so they have double flowers in white, yellow, red, orange or pink.  Their leaves are glossy, dark to medium green. They prefer moist soil with regular fertilizer. Amstel Begonia colors include names like Batik (orange), Clara (white), Dark Britt (orange), Julie (yellow-rose), Netja Dark (pink), Polly (rose-white) and Veronica (cherry red).

The Verbena Lanai series won Best in Class at garden trials for their ability to bloom through drought, humidity, heat and light frost. The flowers are fragrant and self-cleaning so there is no need to snip off the faded blossoms. They are used as groundcover and in containers to add color wherever you want butterflies and skippers to come. Their scented leaves make them deer resistant. Color choices range from red to white with several multi-colored ones in the Twister series, including Twister Pink, Vintage Rose, Purple, Red and Candy Cane. Sygenta Flowers was the plant breeder of these hybrids so you can see them all at www.syngentaflowers.com.

24 September 2013

Divide Asiatic Lilies in the fall

This is a really good time to divide Asiatic Lily bulbs, both to increase flowering next summer and to spread them throughout your garden!

There is very little work to it and simply dividing and watering in this fall will result in more beauty for next summer.

Now that the leaves have yellowed, you can still see where they are. Grab a shovel and a bucket to hold the bulbs and go out there. Start in one section of the garden where the plants are still standing, working your way through the beds over a series of days if necessary.

Put the shovel in the ground a few inches out from the main stem so you get the bulbils still attached when you lift the dirt. Then, cut off the stem an inch above the soil.
Dump your dig onto newspaper and separate the mother bulb from the children. Do not compost any stems with fungus on them. Here's a how-to video from Ken at www.lilyflowerstore.com https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GOLBduaaurg

You can replant all the children or only the largest ones. Last year I put the large ones in the ground in fresh soil and potted the little ones. Some grew into viable bulbs to plant out the ones that did not thrive went into bare spots to fend for themselves.

I also did what is called scaling lily bulbs. Here's how that's done - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-b7Oz9PWca8 from Nottingham Trent University. It worked REALLY well.

22 September 2013

Stonecrop or Sedum Pure Joy!

Sedum Autumn Joy is one of my garden favorites. The flowers at this time of year are pink and they will deepen to a rusty magenta color before the first hard freeze.

Skippers, butterflies and other pollinators love sedum flowers - there isn't much pollen around when these are blooming. When the seeds follow the flowers, watch the birds come to snack.

The photo is of the new Sedum Pure Joy named for the pink flowers.

The leaves and stems are blue-green, and the plant has a mounding form that reaches 10 inches tall and spreads 20 inches across. Plant each quart container 15 to 20 inches apart.

I've been dividing and multiplying my Autumn Joy for a decade and it has a prime place in more than one bed. Sedums are also good for driveways, foundation, path, and rock garden beds. Cold hardy in zones 3 to 9; heat and road salt tolerant, too.
 According to Wayside Gardens, Brent Horvath of Intrinsic Perennials is responsible for this new introduction. Intrinsic Perennials is located in IL and while we cannot order from them (wholesale only) their blooming and budding list is well worth a click over to http://www.intrinsicperennialgardens.com/sitefiles/wp-content/uploads/IPGWeeklyBloomList.pdf

19 September 2013

Cold Hardy zones, Heat Zones and Climate Zones

Selecting the right plants and plant varieties for our gardens makes the difference between planting whatever looks good and building a garden that gives beauty and satisfaction for years with little trouble to the gardener.

Most plant tags and plant catalogs provide the USDA cold hardiness zones, along with standard information such as the ideal sun or shade location, mature plant height and width, and some cultural tips such as water needs. They are provided in order to help gardeners be successful with their plant selections and gardening success.

The USDA cold hardiness zone map, at http://1.usa.gov/znDthG, is widely used by growers and gardeners to decide whether a plant will survive a normal winter outside. The ten zones are based on average annual minimum winter temperatures. Each zone represents 10-degrees difference from the next zone up or down the scale. The zone number refers only to an average winter temperature range.

If you have been gardening for a few years, you have no doubt planted a few items that failed to thrive or even make it through the summer. In addition to the cold hardiness zones, there are other helpful reference points for plant selection, including the American Horticultural Society heat zones and Sunset climate zones.

In our climate, heat tolerance can be an important factor when selecting plants. Too much heat can be just as destructive as too much cold and some plant growers have started adding heat zone information to their tags and displays.

The American Horticultural Society’s heat zone map is at http://bit.ly/YXjKo0. Researchers used data from 7,831 weather stations in plotting the map to make it as accurate as possible.

There are 12 Heat Zones that indicate the average number of heat days over 86-degrees F or 30-degrees Celsius. It has been determined that 86 degrees is when plants begin to suffer damage to their cells. Zone 1 has no heat days and Zone 12 has 210 or more heat days. Oklahoma is entirely in heat zone 8, with 90 to 120 days above 86-degrees.

The full-color Heat Zone maps are available for $10 from http://bit.ly/15N8EFB and (800) 777-7931 ext. 133, or gardenshop@ahs.org.

The American Horticultural Society’s 1100-page reference, “A-Z Encyclopedia of Garden Plants”, provides specific growing information and plant details. Plus, each plant description includes the Heat Zone range, the hottest zone in which the plant will grow, and the minimum amount of heat necessary for the plant to produce flowers and fruit. The 2002 edition of the book is about $10 at online book sellers.

Sunset Magazine has its own way of defining their 45-Climate Zones. The reason Sunset has so many distinct Climate Zones is that their system takes into consideration snow, rain, wind, air movement patterns, latitude, elevation, days between last and first frost, and wind patterns.

The “Sunset National Garden Book” is a solid reference of over 650 pages in a paperback, black and white print format. Published in 1997, this book sells for a penny at online booksellers.

Each plant description states the Climate Zones in which the plant can be expected to thrive, assuming that the gardener provides the necessary culture (location, water, etc.).

For example, Zone 35 includes the Ouachita Mountains, Northern Oklahoma and Arkansas, Southern Kansas to North-Central Kentucky and Southern Ohio. The Central Plains zone map is at http://bit.ly/c34Nw3.

Zone 35 climate is a combination of how much air comes from the Gulf of Mexico, the region’s latitude, and how much arctic air comes through during the winter. Those combine to produce a climate with hot humid summers and winters with arctic masses arriving every few years.

We cannot control the weather but we can plan and plant for it.

17 September 2013

Snow on the Mountain, native Euphorbia marginata

Snow-On-The-Mountain, Euphorbia marginata is an American annual that is native across most of the U.S and Canada. The variegated leaves and attraction for pollinators make it a must have in our native gardens.
The plants make a conspicuous show, rising to 3-4 feet tall in our flower beds by this time of year.  Our first plants came in with a load of composted soil we purchased from a local supplier. When they first started emerging, I paged through page after page in the seedling books and concluded that it was okra - pink stems, etc. As with all Euphorbias the sap in the stems can cause skin rash or burn so be careful until you know whether or not you are sensitive. North Carolina State University reminds us that it is not to be eaten since it is poisonous. At Robb's Plants, they call it Summer Icicle - lovely name. And, at Sunny Gardens, they say one of its names is Ghost Plant. The plants are fairly nondescript until early fall when the inflorescences/bracts appear and the leaf colors brighten. You can use Snow-On-The-Mountain as a long lasting cut flower by cutting the end and searing it or dipped it in boiling water.  They are said to prefer full sun and ours come up at the sunny edges of a couple of our part-shade flower beds. The seeds are easy to start and keep going in poor soil with little water and no fertilizer. If you love Euphorbias check out the International Euphorbia Society at www.euphorbia-international.org and PBI - The Euphorbia Planetary Biodiversity Inventory project at

14 September 2013

Powerhouse Plants: 510 Top Performers for Multi-Season Beauty by Graham Rice

Power House Plants by Graham Rice has its own website at http://powerhouseplants.com which is always such a cool marketing and public relations concept.

It is unlikely that there is a powerhouse plant out there that Rice isn't familiar with. He's one of the plant geniuses who commands my full attention. Rice writes a blog called the Transatlantic Gardener, lives in the U.K. and the U.S. and is a prolific writer.

The pages from 27 to 370 are filled with plants, plants and nothing but plants. Each plant is named, categorized, features described, photographs provided, cold hardy zones, size at maturity, how to use them, varieties available, and tips for care.

Plants include: Trees, deciduous shrubs, perennial flowers, tender perennials, ferns, annual flowers, vines, evergreen shrubs, well, something from every category of plants!  If Rice says these plants will be good choices, they no doubt will.

Whether you are starting out with your garden hobby or in the continuous improvement phase of garden development, check out this book of Powerhouse Plants to learn more about what you have or what you'll want to add.

Rice's blog for the Royal Horticulture Society is at http://mygarden.rhs.org.uk/blogs/graham_rice.

Powerhouse Plants is a 9 by 7 paperback, 284 pages, published by Timber Press. The list price is $25 and online it is selling for from $12 to $18.

12 September 2013

Daffodil Time!

Daffodil planting season is here and it is time to shop the stores or place your mail order for daffodil bulbs to plant in October and November.

The American Daffodil Society website (www.daffodilusa.org) has tips for successful bulb selection.

1) Order early - This is not a marketing gimmick. Early orders generally get the pick of the crop. Your chances are better of getting exactly what you order with no surprises.

2) Read the Fine Print - Check the guarantee. Terms vary widely. Will they replace or refund in case of problems. Are the bulbs guaranteed true to name?

3) Compare Prices - Prices are not the same. Our opinion is that you do get what you pay for. Cheap bulbs are generally cheap for a reason. Smaller bulbs generally give smaller and fewer flowers. If it seems too good to be true, it may well be!

4) Be Aware - Some general bulb merchants routinely change bulb names and some may even substitute varieties without your knowledge. We can't control it and we certainly don't encourage such practices. Ask other gardeners on Web forums about their experiences with specific suppliers.

5) Visit a Daffodil Show this Spring - Your local or regional spring daffodil show is a perfect place to view many different types of daffodils. You can easily find out which varieties do well in your part of the world.

Muskogee’s Daffodil Day at the Thomas-Foreman Historic Home (www.thomas-foremanhistorichome.com), 1419 West Okmulgee, will be March 29, 2014.  The event will include a tour of the home and a tea presented by Muskogee Garden Club members.

Last year Muskogee Garden Club members planted 1,000 historic daffodils from Old House Gardens (www.oldhousegardens.com). This October, they are adding more bulbs to the beds on the Okmulgee ST side. On the advice of Jason Delaney, the Bulb Supervisor at MO Botanical Garden, more large-cup, early varieties from ColorBlends (www.colorblends.com) will be planted.

Delaney recommended Brackenhurst daffodils because they have “stems of steel” and can withstand our strong spring winds. The other two, strong, perennial, early blooming varieties he suggested are Ceylon and Pimpernel. Pimpernel’s orange center can become almost red some years, according to Delaney.

Daffodil growing tips from the ADS

-          Plant bulbs in soil prepared to 12-inches deep in a well-drained, sunny place. Hillsides and raised beds are best. DRAINAGE is the key.

-          Plant with the top (pointed end) at least two times as deep as the bulb is high, (top of 2" bulb is 4" deep), and plant even deeper in sandy soil.

-          Top-dress with 5-10-10 when the leaf-tips emerge. As they flower, top-dress with 0-10-10 or 0-0-50.


-          Daffodils need lots of water while growing. Water immediately after planting and keep them moist until the rains come. Continue watering for three weeks or so after blooming time; then stop watering.


-          Leave daffodils in the ground for 3 to 5 years, and then move them to a new location. 

-          Never cut the foliage until it begins to yellow.


This week Timber Press (www.timberpress.com) released a new book about them, “Daffodil: The remarkable story of the world’s most popular spring flower” by Noel Kingsbury with photographs by Jo Whitworth. List price $27.50.

The book has fun facts about daffodils, their history, and photographs of hundreds of varieties.

Kingsbury is British so the text is Europe and Britain-centric though it does not distract from the key information provided.

Kingsbury recommends bulbs from Elise and Richard Havens (www.mitschdaffodils.com), Brent and Becky Heath (https://store.brentandbeckysbulbs.com), as well as hybrids identified as being developed Robert Spotts, and Harold Kooopowitz.

Whether they are miniature or tall, yellow or white, daffodils bring spring cheer.

09 September 2013

Daffodils - a new book from Kingsbury and Whitworth

Daffodil: The Remarkable Story of the World's Most Popular Spring Flower will be released by Timber Press this month.

Daffodils are simply the best spring flower for durability. No mammals eat the bulbs. That's a big deal if you have squirrels eating the minor bulbs and deer eating the tulips and daylilies.

Also, if they are planted where the drainage is good, they require little care other than a light fertilizing when they in bloom.

It's been a decade since Daffodils had their own book and this one is terrific. The author and photographer are British so it has a European leaning text. For example, the featured gardens are outside the U.S.

With that said, here's what there is to love: History, science, botany, yummy photos, explanation of the divisions, how daffodils moved across Britain, the U.S., New Zealand and Australia, shows and judging,

One chapter, "Cornwall: Centre of the Daffodil Universe"  points out that Cornwall was the centre of the history and culture of daffodils. The photos alone make me want to book a trip to see the farms in bloom.

This is a charming, informative and beautiful book!

07 September 2013

Musser Forests in PA - source for trees and native plants

Musser Forests begins fall shipping on Sept 15th and it continues to Nov 30. This is the BEST time of year to plant trees and shrubs so their winter root growth has an entire season to help them become established.


Here's a link to the Musser catalog and website http://www.musserforests.com/

Known for their bare root trees and native plants, Musser has been in business for 85 years.

On the left side of the site's main page, there are links: Plant Index, Plant by Use and Plant by Variety.

The Plant by Use link goes to this menu (below) which is incredibly thorough and helpful to any gardener or landscaper whether or not you want to purchase trees to be shipped!

Accent Plant Acidic Soil
Attracts Butterflies Attracts Hummingbirds
Background Plant or Against Fence or Wall Balled & Burlapped
Books Christmas Trees-Cut Trees
Cold Temperatures Cut or Dried Flower Arrangement
Deciduous Flowering Shrub Deciduous Screens
Deer Resistant Disease Resistant
Drought and Heat Tolerant Dry, Windy, Rocky Conditions
Evergreen Flowering Shrubs Evergreen Hedges
Evergreen Screens Fall Color
Fast Growing Fern
Fertilizer Flowering Trees
Food for Songbirds and Gold Finches Foundation Planting
Fruit Trees and Shrubs Gift Certificate
Grasses or Sedges Ground Covers
Highway and Park Planting Hostas
Individually Wrapped Seedlings Landscape Ornamental
Lightly Wooded Areas Low or No Maintenance
Mass Plantings or Groupings Native Plants
Noise Barrier Non Invasive
Nut Trees Ornamental Trees or Shrubs
Perennials Planting Aide
Plants Plants for Birds and Wild Turkeys
Plants for Green Roof Plants for Naturalizing
Potted Stock Rabbit Resistant
Repellents Rockery or Japanese Gardens
Salt Spray-Highway Salt Shade Tolerant
Shade Trees Slopes or Stoney Ledges, Rocks and Walls
Slow Growing Snail & Slug Resistant
Special Offers Specimen
Spring-Summer Color Street Trees and Utility Lines
Suitable for Container Planting Tools
Trees and Shrubs for Acidic Soil Trees and Shrubs for Bonsai
Trees and Shrubs for Limited Space Trees and Shrubs for Poor Soil
Trees and Shrubs for Shade Trees and Shrubs for Soil Erosion
Trees and Shrubs for Wet Areas Trees and Shrubs for Wildlife
Trees for Christmas Tree Production Trees for Timber Use
Walkways or Terrace Margins Wet Tolerant
Wilderness or Meadow Plant Wildlife Habitat
Winter Color Winter Interest
Woodland Edge or Border