31 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.

Gardening is good therapy
 “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 generations of gardeners.

 “There are 50 kids involved at our garden who really get into the fresh food,” Johnson said.

Jon Stoodley talked about the new Muskogee County Master Gardener’s Park on Chandler Rd.

 “The beds in that garden are available for use by the community to grow their own herbs, vegetables or flowers,” said Stoodley. “The plots have soil in them now, water is provided by the Parks and Recreation Department and they are ready to plant. Just call Parks and Rec to sign up.”

Long-time Muskogee Garden Club member Anita Whitaker took the Master Gardener classes twice, once in the 1980s and again in 2003.

“When I did the Master Gardener program in 1980 I learned so much about all kinds of plant varieties, crops, trees, diseases and insects,” said Whitaker. “I recommend the program if you really want to learn about horticulture but it is challenging and you have to study.”
Muskogee County Master Gardener class participants at Muskogee Garden Club meeting
Garden club president Oyana Wilson, along with Master Gardeners Leah Cawvey and Whitaker have staffed an information table at the Farmer’s Market for ten or 15 years. 

Whitaker said, “We made so many new plant friends who wanted to improve their gardens and skills. When we did not know an answer we took the question home, did research and called the gardener with the help they needed.”
  William Maxey, another member of the 2013 class, has a 210-acre ranch in Porum. Maxey said he wants to help Porum-area people and will do his volunteer work there.

“On my ranch I’m applying all that I learned,” Maxey said. “All the programs were well organized and informative. The presentations were great and I learned something about everything agricultural and horticultural, including tree-pruning, raising vegetables and plant identification.”

In addition to the ten classes, Master Gardeners are asked to complete 50-hours of volunteer work in their community.
Mandy Blocker
Mandy Blocker, who organizes the program, said she has been pleasantly surprised at the Muskogee response to the gardening classes.

“In the year I have been in Muskogee the desire for gardening information on how manage to start a garden has kept me busy,” said Blocker. “The best advice is to spend $10 to get an OSU Extension soil test before applying any fertilizers.”

In the short time since their May graduation, the class participants have weeded the flower beds at Eastar Hospital, planted and tended the beds at Honor Heights Park Papilion, answered questions at their Farmer’s Market table and worked with Muskogee AIM to clear out weeds at the Post Office.

Their next projects include working with Muskogee Garden Club plant 400 daffodils at the Thomas-Foreman Historic Home on Nov. 9 and planting 100 daffodils along the fence at their new community garden on Chandler Rd. http://allthedirtongardening.blogspot.com/2013/09/cold-hardy-zones-heat-zones-and-climate.html

Muskogee Garden Club
 Nov 21 9:30 to 11
Kiwanis Senior Center
119 Spaulding Blvd
Speaker: David McGee
Topic: “Growing Bonsai, Dahlias and Other Treats”
Information Oyana Wilson, 918-683-5380 and

Muskogee Garden Club on Facebook

2014 Master Gardener classes
Begins January, 2014
Ten Thursdays from 1 to 5
Information: Mandy Blocker, OSU Extension 918-686-7200

29 October 2013

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.

Daffodil Brackenhurst
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 thing. Some visitors chose to go straight to the Thomas-Foreman Home for the tour and tea. That is $5. Either way, it was a good time on a rainy spring day.

At the 2014 tour we are adding a Gardcn Club member plant sale. It will be small but we hope it will give visitors something to take home to add to their Zone 7 gardens.

Bulb Planting Depths

Old House Gardens is having a tulip bulb sale that isn't listed on their website but here is the link from their newsletter

Click over to the American Daffodil Society page for all things daffy. Here's a direct link to their How-To page.

26 October 2013

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.
Shallots with onion

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

Park Seed
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 plant them in cell trays now inside, you can raise them into shallot babies to plant out in the garden next spring.

Shallot seeds germinate best at 68-70 F and are planted at a depth 4 times the size of the seed. The sliver of grass-like monocot will show itself in a week or two.

When there are 2 true leaves, transplant them fairly close together for single shallots and farther apart for clusters. Their roots are shallow so keep an eye on the moisture level at the top 3 inches of soil.

Plant the seeds outdoors in the spring in the north and outdoors in the fall in the southern U.S.
The plants are frost-hardy and the leaves can be trimmed to be used as chives.

Whether you are planting onions or shallots, find a sunny place with good drainage. They prefer pH between 6.2 and 6.8. All of these Alliums show their readiness for harvest by turning their leaves yellow and all are dried in a breezy spot to preserve them for several months of use.

I've always grown leeks from seed and they have been consistently successful. The first year I started them in containers and then transplanted the tiny-grass-like babies into the garden. After that, they produced their own seed and all I did was shade a seedhead onto prepared soil and the result was plenty of leeks for our use.

Garlic-thyme tofu with arugula
on a bed of rice with mushroom saute.
From our garden & in our kitchen.

Sources for seeds and sets:
SandHill Preservation www.sandhillpreservation.com
Thompson and Morgan www.thompson-morgan.com
Woo's Worms and Gardens www.woofish.com
Peaceful Valley http://www.groworganic.com/
Burpee www.burpee.com
Dixondale www.dixondalefarms.com
Kitchen Garden Seeds www.kitchengardenseeds.com
Johnny's www.johnnyseeds.com
Holland Bulb Farms www.hollandbulbfarms.com

Here's a YouTube video on how to plant shallot seeds - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ys6QJQKusUU

The best advice on planting shallot seeds is from Heirloom Organics
"Choose a weed-free, well-drained location. Raised beds are ideal. Shallots are good for intercropping with other garden plants, especially early-maturing spring greens. Do not plant where other onion family crops have been grown in the past 3 years.

Direct seed ½ inch deep, ½ to 1 inch apart, in rows 10 to 18 inches apart, 2 to 4 weeks before average last frost. This rate will usually produce a single bulb from each plant. To produce clusters of bulbs, increase spacings to 6 to 8 inches.

Plant sets in fall or early- to mid-spring. Break bulbs into individual cloves and plant about 1 inch deep so that tops are just covered, 6 inches apart, rows 12" apart. You can cut large cloves into smaller pieces as long as head has some root on it. Mulch to reduce soil heaving and protect plants.

Shallots have shallow root systems and need consistent moisture and good weed control. (Be careful. Grass and shallot seedlings can be difficult to distinguish.) Water weekly if weather is dry, and mulch to retain moisture and suppress weeds. "

23 October 2013

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 sharp knife to make clumps to replant into prepared holes with soil amendment.

Beebalm or Monarda clumps can be dug, cut into sections and replanted for next summer’s butterflies.

Daylily, Hemerocallis, clumps can be easily separated in the fall. Insert a shovel blade or two pitchforks into the ground 6-inches from the root ball. Then, wiggle the tool back and forth to get a clump of root. The shoots tend to do better if a few are planted in the same planting- hole.

Bearded iris can be divided and replanted from late summer to late-fall. Dig them up and separate the corms. Discard the green tops and the rootless mother corm in the middle of the clump then apply liquid or powder fungicide. Plant each corm in compost-amended soil, with the top showing.

Coreopsis, Tickseed, should be divided every fall to keep the plants healthy and blooming. Soak the roots to separate, discard any weak center parts and plant the divisions a few feet from each other.

Geranium or Cranesbill is root divided every 2 to 4 years to keep the clumps of roots healthy.

Hostas can be divided to fill in the bed, too. Three year old plants are dug, and then the roots are soaked to remove the soil. Gently wiggle the individual eyes out of the clump and replant in loose, moist soil. One easy method to rejuvenate large Hostas is to remove a wedge from the plant. Replant the wedge and the existing plant will fill in the bare spot by spring.

Lambs-ear, Stachys byzantine, should be divided every 2 or 3 years to prevent rotting. After digging, remove the center weak parts and replant the outer pieces.

Peony roots are divided into separate eyes in September. A clump of 3 to 5 eyes is planted no more than one-inch deep. It can take two years for the new plants to bloom.

Phlox should be divided every two years to keep it blooming. Prune the plants to no more than 8-inches tall and dig a group of roots, shaking off the soil. Use a sharp shovel to cut the clump into quarters. Replant in a sunny bed.

Purple cone-flower, Echinacea, Rudbeckia, is divided every 4-years.The roots are dug, divided and replanted as above.

Red-hot-poker, Kniphofia, does not have to be divided but can be in the fall to increase the plants in number. The new plants will need 2 or 3 years to re-bloom.

Yarrow, Achillea, will die in the center if the clumps are not divided every couple years. The spreading roots are cut into divisions and replanted.

For illustrated, specific directions see http://bit.ly/1ap1tSo.

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 http://jelitto.com/index.php?lang=0&cl=search&searchparam=Eupatorium

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 http://www.ksre.ksu.edu/ksherbs/farming_a_few_acres.htm.

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

On , Wild Flowers of Pittsburgh, Eupatorium fistulosum was featured Aug, 2011.

"This magnificent plant, with its domes of dusty-rose flowers on towering stems, is common in damp fields and roadsides everywhere; these plants grew in a moist depression in Schenley Park, side by side with their close cousins the Spotted Joe-Pye-Weeds (E. maculatum). Enlightened gardeners who have space for a few eight-foot towers in their perennial beds are beginning to discover and make use of this plant, which can now be seen in some of Pittsburgh’s most tasteful gardens.

The taxonomy of the Joe-Pye-Weeds seems to be in an awful mess. Alphonso Wood’s Class-Book of Botany seems to be closest to the modern botanists’ classification of this species, so we use Wood’s description here:

Dedicated to Eupator, king of Pontus, who first used the plant in medicine. (Mithridates VI Eupator (132-63): king of Pontus (120-63), enemy of Rome in first century BCE.)
Flowers all tubular; involucre imbricate, oblong; style much exserted (protruded stamens), deeply cleft; anthers included; receptacle naked, flat ; pappus simple, scabrous; achenia 5-angled.—Perennial herbs, with opposite or verticillate leaves. Heads corymbose. Flowers of the cyanic series, that is, white, blue, red, ., never yellow.

* Leaves verticillate (whorled). Flowers purple.

E. fistulosum Barratt. (E. purpureum Willd. in part. E. incarnatum Linn., in part. E. purpureum, v. angustifolium T. & G.) Trumpet-weed.Stem fistulous, glabrous, glaucous-purple, striate or fluted; leaves in about 12 whorls of 6s, largest in the middle of the stem, rather finely glandular-serrate; midvein and veinlets livid purple; corymb globose, with whorled peduncles.—Thickets, U. S. and Can., very abundant in the Western States! Height 6-10 ft., hollow its whole length. Leaves, including the 1″ petiole, 8 by 2″. Corymb often 1 ft. diam. Flowers purple. The glaucous hue and suffused redness of this majestic plant are most conspicuous in flowering-time. It does not appear to possess the acrid properties of E. maculatum.

20 October 2013

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.  http://www.talimenascenicdrive.com/

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.

Only tents and camping trailers allowed
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.
The name comes from the Frisco Railroad that ran between the towns of Talihina and Mena. The town of Talihina was named by the local Choctaws Native Americans meaning “iron road.” When Oklahoma became a state in 1906, they combined the Choctaw phrases for “red people” to form the word Oklahoma.

In 2005 it was made a (the first) National Scenic Byway by the America's Byway Program. The entire drive goes through the Ouachita National Forest along the highest peaks of the Winding Stair Mountains.

Many of the trees along the way are old growth forest since they have no commercial value and have been left in place.
Where scenic pull-outs were not provided I jumped out of the car or took a photo through the windshield. Other than up hill truck lanes, the roads are two lane.

The visitor's center is at the Hwy 271 intersection where you would turn to take the entire Talimena Scenic Byway drive.

The 13% grades are typical of the drive through the mountains.
The driver has to stay alert. Fortunately, while there were hundreds of motocycles on the road traveling in groups, there were very few other autos.

 Oh, and as this Trip Advisor reviewer said, be sure to have a full tank of gas, water and snacks. The entire drive is non-commercial, no restaurants, no restrooms, no food.

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.

17 October 2013

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.

Entire gardens can be made of Hostas
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 are edible so they are safe to plant where pets and children play. In Japanese cuisine early spring leaves (urui) are steamed and served with Miso dressing.

The American Hosta Association (www.americanhostasociety.org) has chapters all over the U.S. including Tulsa’s Hosta Connection which meets the fourth Tuesday of the month from March to November.  Their monthly speakers focus on Hostas and their companion plants. 

At the October meeting, Dr. Gerald Klingaman, Director of Operations at the Botanical garden of the Ozarks will speak on shade gardening. Klingaman is a retired extension agent and educator from the University of Arkansas who is a well- known speaker and writer.  His articles can be found at www.arhomeandgarden.org/plant_week.htm and www.learn2grow.com.


Club president, Carol Puckett said, “I love growing Hostas because they brighten up the shade areas of my garden and they are very forgiving plants.  Recently when dividing plants, I accidentally lopped off a leaf and when I put the leaf in a pot, a plant grew from it! Some of my favorite Hostas are Great Expectations, Stained Glass, Paradigm, Cathedral Windows, First Frost, Guacamole and Liberty”

Puckett said, “Although they do have beautiful flowers, Hostas are grown for their foliage.  Hosta lovers get excited by the new cultivars that come out each year and drive for miles to get them. The Hosta Connection has potting parties to divide these new found treasures and then we sell them in September.”

Club member Ronald Jeffris grows his collection of 80 Hostas in containers. Jeffris said he started growing his plants in15 or 20-inch pots because the soil at his house did not provide the right conditions. Even in August during the drought his plants thrived.

 “My best or favorite Hostas include Sum and Substance both for its color and sheer of size 4-5 feet, said Jeffris: Guacamole grows quite fast and can be divided often to share. The shiny leaves go from chartreuse to gold, and the fragrant flowers and scapes are huge. The pots also seem to offer protection against slugs and other pests, although this year, the rabbits have decided that a few of them are rather tasty.”

Kathy Supernaw also grows her 125 Hostas in pots.

“The unique thing I do with mine is group them together by theme.  Some of my groupings are Bon Appetite, Jurassic Park (dinosaurs, t-Rex), Friends and Family, Royalty, Hollywood, Glory Days, Let there be Light, Tis the Season, Cure the Blues (blue Hostas), Angels in My Garden, and a few more. The Bon Appetite group includes Avocado, Guacamole, Orange Marmalade, Key Lime Pie, Mojito, Blueberry Muffins, etc.

The October 14 meeting is an opportunity to hear a knowledgeable speaker and get answers to your shade garden questions.

If you go

Hosta Connection
October 22 at 7:00
Speaker Gerald Klingaman
“Shade Gardening”
Tulsa Garden Center
2435 South Peoria
Plant sale by Colebrook Nursery
Free and open to the public
Information: Carol Puckett 918-355-4281 or osu295@cox.net

16 October 2013

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 http://www.gardentrappings.com/diy-drying-osage-oranges-or-hedge-apples

The long sharp thorns on the stems have made the trees a natural barrier shrub and they were widely used as fence rows before early ranchers could afford fencing.

To make a hedge row, take summer branch buttings or root cuttings, dip them in rooting hormone and plant in moist sand. Keep them in a greenhouse or cold frame while they root.

Jeanie Parker in the The Post Gazette reported that Jeff Goodwin, a Massachusetts high school biology teacher, planted Osage orange trees with his students. He let the fruit rot and picked out the seeds. Then, he put the seeds in the freezer for three months to simulate winter. He planted the seeds in his school's greenhouse, and most of the seeds grew.

In 1866 The Osage County (Burlingame Kansas) Chronicle ran a story about how to grow an Osage Orange Hedge.  Here are the tips:

First. Sprouting the seed, soak the seed in soft water six or eight days, standing where it will keep warm, changing the water often to prevent fermentation, say every two days, then drain off the water and mix the seed in an equal quantity of sand earth, and let it remain in a warm place, kept moist and stirred once a day until the seed begins to sprout, then sow immediately.

Plant the seed about good corn planting time, in good mellow, rich, sandy soil. If not sufficiently sandy to keep from baking make it so by mixing in sand. Sow in drills proper distance apart for convenient tending with horse or hoe, as you wish. Put seed in drill at least one inch apart, and one to one and a half inches deep, according to soil and weather.

Keep them in a cellar or bury in the ground below frost, having tied them in bundles of about 100 plants, putting fine sand or earth on them sufficient to prevent them from either heating or drying.
If not dug until spring, protect them thro' the winter by throwing a light furrow to them on both sides, or cover with straw. Before digging, cut off the tops quite to the ground. Dig with either spade or plow (if you have not a tree digger) leaving the root six to eighty inches long.

We have been frequently asked why the seed may not be sown on the line where the hedge is to stand. Our answer is trouble of weeding and caring for the young plants the first season in such an extended position, would be greater than the labor of transplanting. Besides, it would be almost impossible to avoid gaps and irregular distances between the plants. Again the soil is not likely to be so favorable for the growth of the young plants throughout the entire length of the field as may be had in the garden or elsewhere. Finally, we have never seen a good hedge fence started from from the seed in the hedge row, and we have never known of Osage Orange failing to make a good fence when treated according to our instructions in planting hedge and trimming.

The HedgeApple site, http://hedgeapple.com/ has more information on all things Bodark.
Planting Hedge Trees - Old Timers told our friend Clark Knapp that they started Hedge Rows by dumping the Hedgeapples in a barrel, letting them sit over the winter allowing them to freeze and thaw until spring when they were soft. They then mashed them, added water and poured the slurry into a plowed furrow and cover about a inch or two. They kept the hedgeapples moist during the winter by drilling holes and letting about 2 inches of water stand in the bottom (if all the fruit is left submerged for extended length of time, they will not sprout). Mr Knapp is only 86 years old, and claims he is a few days away from being an Old Timer himself. I assume this method would be a good technique if one would want the hedge row to act as a fence. Mr. Knapp knows his business. Picture at right was taken on his farm. I tried this planting technique last spring and it works (over 300 seedlings in a 8 ft hedgerow). 

This the results of an experiment using Mr. Knapp's explanation of how the hedge rows were planted in the late 1800's and early 1900's.
  • hedgeapples in the fall after they have fallen.
  • Placed them in a container that allowed water to collect in the bottom inch but not any higher. This keeps them damp but does not kill the seeds above the water line.
  • Left out through the winter allowing it to freeze and let the rain water to come in.
  • In early spring I mashed the remaining slurry and planted in a 8 foot shadow trench in my garden.

15 October 2013

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 http://www.ringhaddy-daffodils.com/acatalog/2013.html

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?

13 October 2013

White Snakeroot is Ageratina altissima

Native range White Snakeroot

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 leaves, stems or roots, OK? The toxin is called tremetol and true to its name, will cause tremors and death if eaten in large enough quantity. Pioneers cattle died from eating them.

With that said, "American Indians used a tea made from the roots to help diarrhea, painful urination, fevers, and kidney stones. The plant was also burned and the smoke used to revive unconscious patients."

The plants flop over late summer/early fall from their height of 5 to 6 feet tall.

Cold hardy from zones 4 to 8, they are worth giving up a corner of a flower bed just to watch all the insect activity on sunny afternoons. They resemble Joe Pye Weed because they are related - related to Asters in general.


Another interesting tidbit - it killed Abraham Lincoln's mother. "A week would pass before Nancy Hanks Lincoln, mother of Abraham Lincoln, succumbed to an illness that had plagued Midwestern frontier families in the 19th century. Records show that more than half of the deaths in Dubois County, Indiana, during this time could be attributed to one plant, Eupatorium rugosum or white snakeroot. She died October 5, 1818, at the age of 34. Abraham (shown below with his mother) was only nine years old." http://www.britannica.com/blogs/2009/10/dont-drink-the-milk-white-snakeroot-a-guide-to-poison-gardens-a-weekly-blog-series/

 It reproduces by seed and by underground rhizome. Prairie Moon sells the seeds - 500 for $2. If you decide to start seeds, just press them into the soil rather than covering them.

Purdue Univ. says it doesn't do well on the prairie because it prefers some shade. Hmmm. Ours is in full sun and thriving. But it IS in a flower bed where it is watered regularly.

Since it survives via a large taproot, I'll just cut it down this winter and let it come back for next summer's entertainment.


10 October 2013

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 botanical gardens. Sands started with the City 23–years ago as a plant propagator, after receiving a bachelor’s degree in horticulture in her native IL. After a stint as an intern in Honolulu, she decided to stay.

The five gardens are supported by city funds and the fund-raising activities of the Friends of Honolulu Botanical Gardens (friendsofhonolulubotanicalgardens.com). The native butterfly garden is fully supported and maintained by the Butterfly Society of Hawaii (butterflysocietyofhawaii.org).

Sands said, “It is un-green to import butterflies. The Society puts in native host plants in an open habitat and there are always plenty of butterflies, skippers and moths to charm visitors.”

“The oldest part of the garden was leased to Russian botanist William Hillebrand by Queen Kalama in 1853,” said Sands. “During their 20-years on the property, the Hillebrands planted hundreds of the existing trees.”

A gas lamp still stands in an open lawn area called the Main Terrace, where the Hillebrands’ home stood. Captain Thomas and Mary Foster were the next owners and Mary added to the gardens before bequeathing 5.5 acres to the County to be used as a public garden in 1930.

“Mary was a Buddhist and a passionate gardener,” said Sands “Two of her gardeners were botanists, Joseph Rock and Dr. Harold Lyon.” (Read more about Mary at http://bit.ly/19NkKN2)

Dr. Lyon was the director when the gardens opened to the public in 1931. He introduced another 10,000 tree and plant varieties, including his orchid collection, making Foster a living museum of rare and endangered plants.

Today, the garden is 14-acres of exotic and tropical plants in a variety of gardens including: Palm, Economic, Butterfly, Orchid, Heliconias and Gingers, Herbs, Preshistoric Glen and a glass conservatory.

“Foster has palms from every part of the world in its collection,” said Sands. “We have Dwarf Date, Fishtail, Fan, and Coco-de-Mer or Double-Coconut.”

Inline image 1Sands explained that the 50-pound fruit of the Double Coconut is the largest seed in the world. Because of their shape it is said that exhausted sailors thought the floating seeds were mermaids.

“We purchase Double-Coconut pollen from Singapore,” said Sands. “It is sent to us overnight air and we hand pollinate the flowers. It takes 2-years from pollination to seed formation.”

Foster has a Cycad collection that is visited by collectors from all over the world.

“Cycads have a fanatic following,” Sands said. “They are prehistoric conifers and although they outlived the dinosaurs, now they are becoming extinct and need protection. Cycads are terribly mean plants with toxins in every part of the plant.”

For garden enthusiasts, there are not enough hours in a single day to visit and appreciate all of the unique plants of Foster Botanical Garden.

 The Economic Garden contains useful plants such as spices, dye plants, medicinal plants, and the poisonous plant used to murder Jane Stanford, co-founder of Stanford University, while she was visiting Honolulu.

08 October 2013

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!


  • Ideal for snipping stems, slicing open burlap bags, sawing rope, cutting wire and a variety of other garden tasks
  • Sharp, precision-ground blade edges offer clean cuts
  • Stainless-steel blades stay sharp longer and resist rust
  • DuraFrame™ handle provides excellent durability
  • Nonslip Softgrip® handle improves grip and reduces hand fatigue for comfortable extended use
  • Safety lock keeps blades closed for safe storage and transportation
  • Bonus sheath includes belt clip for easy access and portability
  • Symmetrical design offers easy right- or left-handed use
  • Lifetime warranty

06 October 2013

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 that are called 'midnight' or 'all purple' available from Mountain Valley Growers - a reliable source for me. There is also a dwarf variety called Salvia leucantha 'Santa Barbara'.
They are all water wise plants, requiring little moisture over the course of the summer. Here's more information from my 2011 blog entry.

03 October 2013

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.

Fiskars has the right tools for the job!
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 safe from freeze.

Prepare clean containers by filling them with sterile potting soil to half an inch below the rim. Use small pots or yogurt containers with drainage holes; large pots hold too much moisture.

Soft stemmed plants such as begonias and succulents will root well in a pot of damp vermiculite or perlite. Softwood cuttings are rooted in peat moss, sand and perlite.

Moisten the rooting medium (soil, perlite, sand) and let it drain until damp. Sterilize the cutting tool and working surface with alcohol or diluted bleach, if needed.

Work with a healthy stem from the mother plant. Soft-stemmed plants such as chrysanthemums root more quickly than woody stemmed ones such as boxwood. Newer growth is easier to start no matter which plants you select.

Take a 4 to 6 inch cutting from the stem tip just below a leaf node. (A node is where the leaf stems attach to the stem.) Remove flowers, buds and all the leaves except the top two. If the top leaves are large, they can be cut in half to preserve the plant’s energy.

Check the depth of the rooting container against the length of your cutting. The cutting is inserted into the soil deep enough so that the only part of the stem above the soil is holding the leaves. Cut the stem so it fits the container but be sure there are at least two leaf nodes in the soil.

Clear plastic produce containers (berries, salad, etc.) with lids attached are useful for short pieces and leaf propagation but keep the leaves away from the plastic.

Rooting products cannot be re-used, so put a little of it into a separate container. Moisten the stem and dip it into dry or liquid rooting hormone, then tap the stem to remove any excess.

Insert the cutting into a hole made with a pencil, and firm the soil. Put the pot onto newspaper to continue to drain off excess moisture.

You can cover the containers with plastic wrap or a clear plastic bag to prevent the cuttings from drying out but lift the plastic daily to prevent disease. Keep un-rooted cuttings in a warm place, away from direct light. When new growth emerges at the top, roots have formed below.

The roots of your new plants will emerge from the former leaf nodes on the bottom and sides of the cuttings. Soil has to be checked daily to ensure correct moisture level – moist not wet.

Transplant the rooted starts into small pots and move them into bright light. Keep the plants compact by pinching back new growth. As the roots continue to grow, the plants can be moved to larger pots.

Read more at http://bit.ly/19B6Y05 and http://bit.ly/PZyRg.

01 October 2013

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?