Showing posts from July, 2014

Plant Fennel Seeds in Containers - grow your own transplants - up in 5 days

Planting seeds directly into our garden is a waste of time because we live on a steep enough hill that they just wash away during watering and before germinating. So, planting in sterile potting mix and controlling their environment until they emerge works best.

Here's how I planted the Fennel seeds that arrived a few days ago

Most garden seeds do not need direct sunlight to germinate. Fennel seeds that require dark to germinate not only need to be covered with a bit of soil but also benefit from being out of drying direct sunlight. These two trays of seeds are inside the shed where their water and light needs can be closely monitored.

After seedlings emerge they are brought outside to a table that is in 6 hours of sun.
The potting mix we used is from Lowe's - about $6 a bag. It is a bark-based mix and we add perlite and vermiculite for container growing.

Seed saving - collect, clean and store for next year's garden

Gardeners who save seeds from their favorite flowers, herbs and vegetables from year to year are ensuring that their garden will please them. The seeds we choose to save are our favorite variety from the best plants, which means that they will be an improvement on the ones purchased
Of course, money is saved by collecting your own seeds particularly if you usually purchase specialty seeds by mail order and add in the shipping costs.
Over years of saving only the best, the seeds available for the next season’s garden will produce top quality heirloom plants that are acclimated to your weather, water availability and climate, plus GMO-free. Save the seeds of plants with the qualities you prefer: Color, disease resistance, when they bear flowers or fruit, insect protection, size, length of storage in vase or basement, texture and yield.
Annuals are the easiest to save. Snip and save the seed heads of zinnias, cosmos, marigolds, petunias, columbine, dill, parsley, lettuce, kale, chard, l…

A fresh slant on native vs invaders

The push for native plants, bees, animals, and, well, closed borders in general is just part of the times we live in. Immigrants bad. Indigenous good.

Emma Marris, author ofRambunctious Garden: Saving Nature in a Post-Wild World. attended a conference in Montana at the North American Congress for Conservation Biology.

It's an enlightening read - quick, too. Follow this link to the article Marris wrote for National Geographic.

"As scientists have sounded the alarm about these pests, the public has gotten the message. Citizen groups rip out non-native plants. Native gardens have become increasingly popular, both as ways to celebrate the unique flora of each region and as tiny hot spots of diversity. Native trees provide food for native bugs, which feed native birds. Food chains developed over thousands of years of co-evolution unfold in our backyards. We're even going native in the kitchen, with fine restaurants increasingly focused around locally hunted, foraged, and …

Fennel - start seeds July-August

Of all the herbs we can grow in our gardens, Fennel has as many valuable uses as its close cousins, parsley, carrot, coriander and dill. They are all members of the Apiaceae plant family, native to southern Europe but naturalized throughout the world.

Fennel is the characteristic sweet flavor that dominates sausage and Italian pasta sauces. It is a nutritious addition to salads, and is a must-have for butterfly and pollinator gardeners.

The bulbs are cooked with other root vegetables such as carrots, onions and garlic for a hot side dish and baked with pasta for an entrée. The stalks are added to stock to make broths.

Fennel contains Vitamin C, potassium, manganese, copper, phosphorus, folate, calcium, and iron plus the phytonutrients, flavonoids, antioxidants, anti-inflammatory, and liver protection (

Fennel seeds are used in Indian, Middle Eastern, and Asian cooking. In Chinese Five Spice it is called anise. In ancient China it was used as a treatment for snake …

Crystal Bridges Museum - grounds, architecture and art

Crystal Bridges Museum in Bentonville Arkansas has miles of gorgeous trails, carefully planted with natives. My 2012 tour and visit with the Scott Eccleston, Director of Trails and Grounds is here

Admission to the gardens, 3.5 miles of trails, parking and the art museum is free. Guided tours are available. There is a coffee bar and a restaurant as well as a gift shop.

We returned recently to see how the museum and grounds looked. Plants have matured quite a bit and the museum is spectacular.

Here's a photo essay

Here's a link to the Crystal Bridges Plant Guide

Black Beauty Lily visited by Silver Spotted Skipper

Black Beauty Lily is one of the most beautiful lilies in our garden. Called indestructible by Old House Garden Bulbs, it can take full sun or part shade, most soil types and is cold hardy in zones 5 to 8. 
The stalks are 6 to 8 feet tall in our garden and have to be staked if they are in too much shade. The faded flowers are snipped off to prevent seed set. Then, when the stems start to turn yellow they are cut off.
Each bulb will make bulb offsets that can be dug and moved to create large swaths of plants. Black Beauty is an Orienpet variety. Orienpets are a cross between Oriental lilies and Trumpet and Aurelian hybrids. There are more to enjoy at the Lily Garden site.
 Though his real claim to fame is the Stargazer Lily, Lily breeder Leslie Woodruff is credited with bringing Black Beauty into the world of flower lovers.
Woodruff lived a life of dedication to crossbreeding begonias and lilies and lived in a "ramshackle home and greenhouse." Read more about him at this link.

Brunnera Macrophylla, Viper's Bugloss, Alkanet, Sea Heart

Brunnera is a clump forming perennial for parts of the garden where moist shade prevents other ground
covers from thriving. Not only is it low-maintenance, but it has long-lasting sprays of flowers, is rabbit
and deer resistant.

The most common name used for these plants is bugloss, from two Greek words: ox and tongue
because the rough leaves looked and felt like ox tongues to the person who named it. The new hybrids
look more like silver and green or cream and green hearts than ox tongues, but still have lovely clusters
of flowers.

The old medicinal variety, Echium vulgare or Viper’s Bugloss, is sometimes found in seed catalogs listed
as Blueweed (see Richter’s Herbs To see several other Echium varieties, look no
further than Annie’s Annuals at

Another common variety, Lycopsis arvenis, is called Small Bugloss. It has waxy, toothed leaves and its
flowers are wheel shaped.

Historically, Viper's Bugloss was used to expel poisons and venom, and…

White-lined sphinx moth is Hyles lineata

Thanks to Focus on Nature, it was easy to confirm the identification of this beauty hanging out on the tool bin in the garden shed.

Sphinx moths and hawk moths are members of the Sphingidae family. They are strong flying insects with rapid wingbeats, making them difficult to photograph. The adults feed on flowers at dusk or at night.

Their larvae or caterpillars are the hornworms that live on the leaves of tomatoes and tobacco, making them unpopular with gardeners and farmers.

We don't grow tomatoes but have ornamental tobacco that we grow just for moths - it has white flowers that open at night and bring them in.

The caterpillars will also eat the leaves of Four O'Clock, Apple, Evening Primrose, Elm, Grapes, Purslane and a few other plants.

Uniquely, they pupate in the ground and if  you garden a lot like we do, you've seen them. I usually toss them out to the birds for them to feed their babies.

The native range of this beautiful moth is from South America to Canada. It …

Perennial Sweet Pea Vine is Lathyrus Latifolius

Perennial Sweet Peas are much more successful in our zone 7 gardens than the English Sweet Peas that prefer cooler, moist weather. The English varieties are well suited to zones north of us and on the west coast of the U.S.

Easily started from seed, Perennial Sweet Peas return from the root plus re-seed. The seeds need to be scarified but our winter freezing weather takes care of that. The ones climbing the fence in full shade are almost finished for the season but the ones in part-shade are still loaded with flowers and there is no end in sight.
Phagat's article about them is titled "Invasive Perennial Sweet Pea" but in our low-care acreage, they are very well behaved.  
There are 150 Lathyrus species - annuals, herbaceous and evergreen perennials from Africa and South America. Generally, they prefer fertile, humus-rich, well-drained soil in full sun or dappled shade.
If you want to start some from purchased seed in the early spring, soak the seed or nick it to help them …

Drink the Harvest - Eat Your Yard - delicious advice from Nan K. Chase

Exploring new plants and gardens is just part of the thrill when you approach gardening the way Nan Chase does.
Chase is the author of the book “Eat Your Yard” and her new book “Drink the Harvest” is out this month. 
Chase is a dynamic speaker who knows how to simplify her concepts, making it seem possible to grow plenty of fruits and vegetables to satisfy family and friends.
One of her websites,, is filled with ideas about what to plant and how to use what you grow. The book, “Drink the Harvest” is a well-illustrated how-to manual for those are just beginning or are experienced in putting food up.
Chase and her co-author DeNeice C. Guest are enthusiastic about juicing garden produce because it is much easier to can than jam or pie filling, useful for making beverages, and makes use of bumper crops and less attractive produce.
Their favorite juicing fruits are apples, crab apples, lemons, oranges, grapefruit, peaches, pears, bramble berries, currants, grapes…

17 kids build a salad table

We were happy to have the Muskogee YVC group here for their end of the year party. It was a great year for the blackberries and grapes so the event began with blackberry and grape eating. This year's project was constructing a salad table and this year's lunch was make your own pizza.

The photos will tell you everything!

Blooming today - Blue Chiffon, Whopper, Coconut Lime, Andrella

Blue flowers in the summer garden are such standouts, especially when they can take part shade and blend in easily with the rest of the shrub border. Blue Chiffon Rose of Sharon blooms and blooms every year among other shrubs. This one faces east and is shaded against the brutal western sun by a taller shrub of Mock Orange.

These Whopper begonias were introduced in 2012 and really make a splash in containers. They are one of the few annuals added in our landscape this year.

Coconut Line Echinacaea is a double-flower white cone flower that has proven itself over the 5-years it has been in our garden. It has never bloomed profusely but returns every year with a dozen or more flowers that pop out in its corner of the bed.

This is my first year planting seeds of Aster Andrella and they will get another chance next year since every one I put in is sturdy and blooming.

They were planted in an area that has never been cultivated before so I'm especially pleased to see how strong they ar…

Fall Gardens Start NOW in zone 7

July marks the beginning of the fall vegetable gardening season in our zone 7. Whether you are a beginning gardener or an expert, there are many foods you can grow at home starting now that will be ready to harvest by fall. The cooler nights of fall provide the right conditions for the plants to mature before frost.
Some vegetables will be more successful if the seeds are container-started in part-shade this month and transplanted out into the garden when the soil is cooler. These include cool-season vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, Chinese cabbage, leaf lettuce, Brussels sprouts and cabbage.
After a month in containers, the plants should be well-rooted and ready to be hardened-off by giving them more and more sunlight over a period of 3 to 6 days.
Lettuce seeds will not germinate in temperatures over 70-degrees F. In order to start lettuce for a fall harvest the seeds are planted in seed starting mix and kept cool until they emerge. Then the seedlings are grown into small plant…

Baptisia australis - start seeds of Blue False Indigo - Seedlings a month later

Our native perennial, Baptisia australis is a mainstay in the perennial beds. Both of our plants are the blue variety. I've seen the white flowering one and preferred the blue. They are native to prairies and savannas from TX and OK to the east coast of the US.

The flowers have faded and the seed pods are on! Every year I plant the seeds to no avail. This year I harvested the seeds again and will try once again.

Ball Horticulture says, "Seed propagation is the most economical propagation method, though tissue culture and tip cuttings are possible."

There are all kinds of tricks recommended on various garden sites: Scarification, freeze and thaw the container, soak the seeds in Clorox solution, peroxide application, and hot water soak. Then there is the sandpaper-hot water method.

It's gratifying, I suppose that everyone else has a tough time starting these seeds, not just me. 

Clemson says to plant fresh seeds 1/4 inch deep and expect germination in 2 weeks.

So, this year…