Showing posts from October, 2013

Growing Gardeners - garden clubs and master gardener programs

Northeast OK area residents who want to find out how to sow seeds, grow plants and treat garden problems can turn to Muskogee Garden Club and the Oklahoma State University Master Gardening classes for help.

Members of the 2013 Muskogee County Master Gardener program spoke at the October Garden Club meeting about their classes, projects and plans. Community gardens are at the top of their list for helping neighborhood families have access to healthy food as well as engaging the next generation of gardeners.
Cindi Baker said she shares a community garden plot with her father whose family raised vegetables on land near the fairgrounds.
“Community gardens are a way to have a shared activity with multiple generations in every age range,” Baker said. “Muskogee is a state-leader in promoting community gardens.”
Cedric Johnson grew up helping his family grow cotton on their Creek Nation allotments and now grows vegetables at his property near Ruby Park. He also enjoys involving future generation…

Daffodil planting time in Zone 7 USA

In zone 7 USA it is time to put spring blooming flower bulbs into the ground. This year I ordered some sale daffodils from
Cherry Creeek Daffodils for our own garden, but did a large order (750 bulbs) from Colorblends for a few nonprofit organizations.

We are adding several hundred daffodils to public spaces for the March 29, 2014 Daffodil Day in Muskogee at the
Thomas-Foreman Home and at a new city garden.

 Last year was our first year trying out the event and it was a stormy, windy day but we had 50 visitors and since no one could be outside we thought that was pretty good. Muskogee Garden Club had planted 1,000 daffodil bulbs and this planting will bring the total to 1,500.

Next year we are doing the same event: for $10 Start at the
Three Rivers Museum and tour it if you want to, park there and take a trolley ride to the Thomas-Foreman Home, enjoy the daffodils, tour the home and enjoy a tea provided by Muskogee Garden Club members.

Everyone who attended last year loved the whole…

Fall planting onions, garlic, shallots, leeks

Garlic, onions and shallots are planted in late-fall here. Sometimes as late as New Year's Day with pretty good results, depending on how early the first freeze arrives.

If yours isn't in the ground yet, there is still time. Our garlic seeds are in but the onions still remain.

We are in zone 7 so short season varieties are the best choices for us. It's based on sunlight hours: short day, 10 to 12 hours; intermediate day, 12 to 14 hours; and long day, 14 to 16 hours.

Dixondale Farms catalog just arrived yesterday in the same mail as the shallot seeds from a new vendor I'm trying. Dixondale has a good, online reference for planting at

Shallots can be confusing: You can purchase small shallots now and plant them over the winter to harvest in the spring. Or, you can plant seeds now that will become those small shallots. If you plant the seeds in the ground they will become kitchen/table food next year. If you p…

Divide your spring-blooming perennials now

Fall is a great time to rejuvenate the garden by dividing spring-blooming perennials. The plants will be healthier and bloom more next spring plus you get the added benefit of having more plants to fill in the bare spots.
Healthy plants grow new roots and shoot every spring and summer. If they are not divided, they compete for sun, airflow, nutrients and room in the ground.
Perennial roots grow during the winter months and ideally, all the replanting will be completed a month before the ground freezes.
Water the soil the night before. After digging, the roots can be soaked in a tub of water to remove the soil. Sometimes even soaking is not enough and the roots have to be pruned in order to separate the clump into planting-size pieces. Use a sharp, clean tool to make the cuts. Tool blades can be dipped in 10-percent chlorine bleach solution or white vinegar to kill any fungus on the blades.
Fast- growing plants such as False Spirea, Astilbe, separate easily. Cut through the roots with a sh…

Joe Pye Weed is Eupatorium purpureum or Eutrochium fistulosum or angustifolium

Most botanists put Joe-Pye-Weeds in the genus Eutrochium but most of us know it as Eupatorium.I've never seen plants for sale locally, but the seeds are fairly easy to start. And, once started, the plants last for years.
Plant them for the pollinators and for the sheer joy of their tall stemmed-beauty. Swallowtail Gardens sells both pink and white varieties - 50 seeds for $3.

Jelitto Seeds is their source and Jelitto offers many more varieties at

If Jelitto is new to you, be brave and order from them. They are the provider of seeds to many perennial growers including Pine Ridge Gardens.

Kansas State Extension Service has a great online reference called "Farming a Few Acres of Herbs: An Herb Growers Handbook" at

On The Deep Middle blog they agree, even in August in a drought, Joe Pye continues to feed our eyes and the pollinators.


Muskogee to Talihina: A beautiful fall drive

Within an hour and a half from our house just south of Muskogee, there is a fall leaf-peeping drive called Talimena Scenic Byway.

The drive through the hills spans 54.0-miles (86.9 km) through Oklahoma State Highway 1 (SH-1) and Arkansas Highway 88 (Hwy 88) from Talihina, Oklahoma, to Mena, Arkansas.

I did not take the drive but went down as far as Talihina to see if the fall color had arrived. Other than the Staghorn Sumac, the trees are just beginning to respond to the shorter daylight hours.

My route from Muskogee: 64 south to 266/2, east onto 31, south on 82, east on 270, southwest on 271. The highways were empty and I was able to capture some of the scenes between Muskogee and Talihina to encourage you to make this drive.

The route opened in 1969 and formed a stretch of  Oklahoma State Highway 1, the number 1 assigned due to the scenery. It was dedicated on June 7, 1970 by Lucy Baines Johnson-Nugent, president Lyndon Johnson's daughter.

Chinese Empress Tree is Pawlownia

A friend gave us one of his Chinese Empress Tree, Pawlownia trees. They can be invasive pests or kept as pets, depending on your willingness to watch for seedlings.

The first year I put it in too much shade and it just sat there. After being moved to a sunny spot it started to show its potential to grow into a remarkable plant.

Hostas and Shade Gardening

Hostas or Plantain Lilies are originally from Asia and Russia. Since their introduction into western gardens, hundreds of hybrids have become available. They have proven their worth in shade gardens with roots that are cold-hardy to 40-below zero in zones 3-9, and in heat zones 9 to 2 (we are heat zone 8).
Plantain Lilies come in all sizes and leaf shapes from tiny rock garden varieties to the 4-foot tall Sum and Substance. Hosta leaves range in color from spring green to deep gray in solid and variegated selections. The tubular flowers are white, pink or lavender.
In Northern U.S. states, Hostas can be planted in morning sun, farther south they are placed in fertile soil under dappled shade. The Chinese varieties bloom best in full sun. Hostas tolerate drought but thrive with regular water.
Snails and slugs eat Hosta leaves. Sprinkle crushed eggshells or put wire mesh around the base of the plants to reduce the damage. Nothing will deter deer.
Hosta shoots, flowers, leaves and petioles…

Bodark or Monkey Balls - Osage Orange fruit

With cooler temperatures and fewer hours of daylight, the Osage Orange trees are dropping their fruit. As the fruit rots, squirrels eat the seeds, insects come to eat the fruit and the birds eat the insects.  Though they are called many names,  hedge apples, bowwood, bois d'arc (bow wood) bodark, geelhout, mock orange, horse apple, naranjo chino, wild orange and yellow-wood, the Latin name is Maclura pomifera. This mulberry family member was named after William Maclure, an American geologist.
The fruit is widely sold at farmer and craft markets for use as a fall decoration on the front porch. Others put them in the pantry, behind furniture and around the outside of their house foundation for their use as a natural extermination method. The active chemical is a fungicide, tetrahydroxystilbene.

Here's how to dry them to use inside against spiders

The long sharp thorns on the stems have made the trees a na…

3-minute video for daffodil lovers

Northern Ireland has a long line of world-renowned daffodil growers and Nial Watson is one. Here's a video that daffodil fans will swoon over.

Watson gives a simple, clear explanation of the sometimes confusing daffodil divisions.

To browse Watson's daffodils, go to the online catalog of Ringhaddy at

At this time of year, I swoon over all daffodils and plant another 100 or 200. Each spring I attest to having plenty and needing no more. You, too?

White Snakeroot is Ageratina altissima

White Snakeroot, Ageratina altissima
 gets planted in our garden every year (though not by us!) and I leave one plant for the pollinators to enjoy - they swarm it every sunny hour of the day.

 Its other names include Tall Boneset, Thoroughwort and White Sanicle. All Snakeroots are Ageratinas and altissima means very tall or tallest.

Izel plants says their sometimes called Eupatorium rugosum name is incorrect, "The common name "snakeroot" is a reference to the early belief that the roots where a cure for snakebite. In fact all parts of the plant are highly toxic and can be fatal to animals and humans if ingested in large quantities. It was later discovered that these toxins are passed on to humans through cow's milk, causing "milk sickness". Fortunately, grazers avoid this plant and only forage on it as a last resort. Ageratina altissima was previously classified as Eupatorium rugosum."

They definitely are poisonous so don't snack on the leav…

Foster Botanical Garden, Honolulu Hawaii

Foster Botanic Gardens  Guided tours Mon to Sat at 1
$5 adult admission  Free concerts and events
Information at…

In the middle of Honolulu, Foster Botanical Garden is an oasis from the traffic and tourist destinations. The grounds are available for strolling, botanical tours, picnics, weddings, and enjoying a remarkable collection of plants.
If you go, plan to spend a couple of hours in the garden, followed by a visit to nearby Chinatown and the Kuan Yin Temple next door.
There are 24-registered “Exceptional Trees” in the garden, some standing over 10-stories tall. They include: Baobab Tree, Cabbage Palm, Cannonball Tree, Earpod Tree and Wiliiwili Trees. The Caribbean Royal Tree is over 150-feet tall.
Among the treasured historic trees at Foster, it is noteworthy that they have a Bo Tree that was grown from a cutting of the Bodhi Tree that Buddha sat under to gain enlightenment.
Our tour guide, Joshlyn Sand, is the horticulturist for all five City of Honolulu bota…

Cool tool - Fiskars Garden Multi-Snip

You can't do better than a tool like this with a lifetime warranty! It has a those comfortable Fiskars Softgrip handle with stainless-steel, precision-ground blades. Deadheading, taking cuttings, light pruning, opening bags, cutting twine - it's all there in a handy pocket pouch ready to use. The blade is as sharp as a razor so you can use it to make fine cuttings and remove leaves. Get this: It even includes a notch for quick and easy wire cutting without damaging the blades. There's a safety lock to keep the blades closed. All this for about $20. We love it! Check it out at FeaturesIdeal for snipping stems, slicing open burlap bags, sawing rope, cutting wire and a variety of other garden tasksSharp, precision-ground blade edges offer clean cutsStainless-steel blades stay sharp longer and resist rustDuraFrame™ handle provides excellent durabilityNonslip Softgrip® handle improves grip and reduces han…

Mexican Bush Sage is Salvia leucantha

Mexican Sage is one of those incredible plants that returns each year in our zone 7 even though it is not supposed to (it's cold hardy to zone 8 but shhh it doesn't know). And, we are grateful. It isn't much of a show-off plant here as it is in other climates but the hummingbirds love it just the same. It's actually native to Central America as well as Mexico. Some call it Velvet Sage because the leaves are velvety to touch. Easy to grow, easy to propagate and easy to root divide, it is a total winner! The white flowers emerge from the lavender calyx. Hummingbirds seek it out as a food source.  Mexican Bush Sage grows 3-5 feet by 3-4 feet, tall and wide in full sun. Afternoon shade is provided here. Hardy in Sunset Zones 12-24, H1, H2.It is advised that you cut it back to the ground in the fall. After pruning, mulch it against heaving freezes (hardy to 15-degrees). Pot those cuttings to make more plants! There is also a variety with both purple calyx and flower th…

Take fall cuttings to multiply your favorite plants

Taking cuttings from favorite plants now will extend the season of fun in the garden, giving you a project during the cold months.
Easy-to-root perennials include: clematis armandii, coreopsis, salvia, geranium, coleus, begonia, Mandeville, rosemary, sage, Joseph’s coat, sweet potato, figs, etc.
Cuttings both replace and increase the plants in your garden. For example, even though Pineapple sage and Mexican sage both return every year, the plants I grow from fall cuttings expand the amount of hummingbird nectar available next spring and fall.
Generally speaking, true annuals, started from seed, will not overwinter from cuttings, including zinnias, lettuce, and marigold.

The number of cuttings you should start is based on the amount of windowsill space or lighting you have available. Most of us can make room for a dozen pots or rig up something outside. One veteran gardener puts a single light bulb inside a container made of old windows, creating a heated cold frame that keeps his starts s…

Can you help identify this mystery plant?

Several of these were planted by birds or the wind and the little flowers are loved by tiny insects and pollinators. The stems smell sort of like turpentine, not dissimilar from some salvias though these have round not square stems.

The plants are watered so they have grown to 4-feet tall in our back garden. Any ideas?