18 December 2014

Holiday Wreaths Add a Welcoming Touch

This is the time of year when homes, stores and entire city blocks are decorated with snowflakes, stars, bells, garlands, poinsettia plants, evergreen trees, wreaths, and blooming Christmas cactus.

Holiday wreaths, garlands and decorative boughs can be made of ordinary materials such as felt cutouts, ribbon and tree branches or precious items such as the diamond and ruby studded Christmas wreath that sold for over $4 million last Christmas.

The circular shape of the Christmas wreath has the same significance as wedding bands, with the circle representing eternity or the unending circle of life. Evergreen tree branches, most often used to make wreaths symbolize growth and everlasting life.

Jerry Clouse, owner of Twin Pines evergreen farm in Muskogee said, “We grow the French Scotch Pine and the Belgian Scotch Pine trees. They are called Legend Trees because the central stem signifies God and the second stalk is Jesus. Then the branches coming up are the five branches of heaven.”

Clouse who has been growing trees on his land on West Smith Ferry RD for seven years said the types of trees he grows are easier for allergy and asthma sufferers to have in the house.

“Every tree we have is available for $35 and an armful or two of branches to make wreaths is $5,” said Clouse.

Scotch, Belgian or Scots pine, Pinus Sylvestris, has a wide native range from the Iberian peninsula and Scotland to the Far East and from Scandinavia to Asia minor.

A wreath at the front door is a symbol of welcome, a wreath with 5 candles is a symbol of the weeks of Advent that lead to Christmas. One Advent wreath candle is lit every week and the central one is lit on Christmas.

A simple, traditional, wreath can be made of evergreen twigs attached into a circular shape held together with wire or ties. Pinecones and a bow can be attached or glued on to complete the traditional look.

Other ideas include making a wreath from little foil covered boxes usually used to decorate a tree. Hot glue the tiny packages to a wire or grapevine form and finish the wreath with a red, green or gold bow.

Wreath forms can be made from a wire coat hanger, with the curved part that usually goes over the clothes pole being used as the wreath hanger. Glue or attach Christmas ornaments, painted pine cones and winter berries to the wire, and make a bow large enough to cover the hanger.

To use fresh boughs, a double wire or circular foam form works to hold the weight. Attach a small cluster of boughs together with florist wire then attach the cluster to the frame. Wire decorations such as Christmas tree balls, bells, cinnamon sticks, berries, etc. between each cluster of pine twigs as you work your way around the form. Add a bow and hang it where you can enjoy the scent.

Wreath bows are often made with wire-edged holiday ribbon so they are easier to shape for the top or the bottom of the wreath but there are many creative options.
Some ideas for greenery from around the garden or yard, consider Barberry, Boxwood, Fern, Hemlock, Holly, Juniper Magnolia, Laurel, Oregon Grape Holly, Rhododendron, Spruce, Cedar, and Pine.

Non-traditional but equally pretty choices include Ferns, Viburnum, Heavenly Bamboo, Euonymous ivy, etc. Prune the branches evenly and take only a little from each side. If children or pets will have access to the wreath, know what you are cutting and make sure it is non-toxic (see http://hort.li/1D0G).

After the greenery, berries and pine cones are cleaned and dry, they can be lightly sprayed with glycerin-water solution or hairspray to preserve them and reduce air pollution (see http://hort.li/1D0F.

Twin Pines fresh-cut Christmas trees and boughs for wreaths
Jerry Clouse, owner
1201 West Smith Ferry RD, near highway 64

14 December 2014

Columbine - Aquilegia - Perennial Seeds Winter Planting - You Can Grow That!

December is a great time to finish planting the seeds, perennials and bulbs that will make spring glorious in our gardens! 

You know that it's time to plant biennials, poppies, larkspur and other early spring flowers for the first bee and butterfly nectar in the neighborhood. But don't forget about the other shade garden favorites such as Columbine, also known as Granny's Bonnet.

Columbine has a reputation for thriving in shade. In the early spring they enjoy the direct sun that falls on them under trees but they will not thrive in full-sun, hot, dry conditions. Plant them where you normally water or where you have added plenty of organic material such as leaves and mulch.

A local gardening friend send me a baggie of seeds from her Columbine plants and it's time to get them going so the plants will be ready to plant  in early spring.

Cold hardy in zones 4 to 8, perennial Aquilegias have a reputation for being easy to start from seed. 

Seeds are planted on top of moist planting soil indoors at temperatures between 68-70. Some experts recommend 2 or 3 months of cold and others say it isn't needed

Columbine seedling Whiteoak Nursery
Germination is in 2 to 3 weeks inside and 30-90 days if planted outside. 

When the seedlings have at least 2 sets of leaves they are transplanted into little individual containers. Then, after they are hardened off outdoors, they are planted a foot apart.

The seedlings are delicate and should be kept out of strong sun, kept moist but not soggy. 

To plant them outdoors now, plant seeds on the surface of flats of moistened, sterile soil. Cover the flat with glass or clear plastic to protect the seeds from birds, drying wind, hard rain, etc.

There are many Columbine varieties to choose among, mostly in shades of red and blue though the AZ/NM native is pale yellow.

Aquilegia canadensis Eastern Red Columbine

Aquilegia x caerula Sunshine yellow

Aquilegia McKana's Giant - 30-inches tall

Bulk seeds Aquilegia Coerulea Mixed colors  1,000 seeds $5
Coeurulea is Rocky Mountain Columbine, Colorado's state plant

posted from Bloggeroid

13 December 2014

Late December garden

It was sunny and 64 today so the veggies garden yielded up it's salads for this week.

It all afternoon but the beds are now weeded, watered, and seeded with a few beets and more greens.

The greens seeds came from Seeds of Italy last spring so they should still be viable.

If it's this beautiful again tomorrow, I'll do a few of the tasks that I went out to do today before I was beguiled by the vegetables.

posted from Bloggeroid

10 December 2014

Sowing hollyhock seeds - biennials

Since hollyhock are biennial sow the seeds in the winter . . . now . . . in order to have flowers next summer.

This time I'm planting some in milk cartons with sterile soil.

After watering, the containers will go outside for a couple of months.

When they are thoroughly chilled...maybe late Feb. ..we will bring them into the shed to grow a few sets of leaves.

After that, they get individuals pots until time to plant out.

Last year at the Daffodil Day plant sale we sold every single one that we grew! Hopefully, the seed starting will be successful enough to offer them again next March at Daffodil Day.

posted from Bloggeroid

04 December 2014

Rock Gardening - great winter project

Steve Marak
Steve Marak’s opening comment in his talk about rock gardens was, “Rock gardening is not a pot full of rocks, even though that would live no matter what.” 

Marak recently spoke about rock gardening at the Flower, Garden and Nature Society of NW Arkansas, a club he helped found. 

Alpine gardening, which is a garden filled with plants that grow in Alpine mountain regions, includes a) crevice or deep excavation, and b)rock face or dry-stacked gardens.

A rock garden is usually filled with small and low-to-the-ground plants that bloom all at once with flowers that are large relative to the size of the plant clump.

In order to grow rock garden plants in our high-rainfall area we must try to replicate their native environment by bringing in a large quantity of mixed-sized rocks. The most efficient way to create a rock garden is with a load of scree piled on a slope.

Marak said, “Scree’s mixture of rock sizes provides sharp drainage to oxygenate the water, shelter rock garden plants’ deep and sometimes trailing roots and hold heat to protect roots from changing soil temperatures. The rocks are fundamental not just ornamental.”

The rock garden you build needs no fertilizer, no soil, and, can be completely filled with native plants. The rocks are easy to collect into a pile and builder’s sand (not play sand) is the ideal filler.  

To start a new garden, pile the scree 3 or 4 feet high with a slope on one side for drainage and to display the planting arrangement. Landscape border stones can be stacked at the high side to hold the scree pile in place.

“Native plants are what I recommend,” said Marak. “They are easy and adapted. Literally there are thousands of plants that could work.”

The plants will have to be watered to settle them in, and until they become established, plus the summers when there is a drought.  Otherwise the plants will do well without supplemental water.

“I recommend native plants for local rock gardens,” Marak said. “They are easy to find at local garden centers.”
The plants he suggests include: Poppies, dwarf conifers, succulents, cacti, sedums (King’s Crown), Bird’s Foot Violet, Goat’s Rue, Purple Prairie Clover, Thyme, small Asters, Verbena, Penstemon, perennial Candy Tuft (Iberis Sempervirens), Claytonia, moss Campion, Missouri Evening Primrose, Senecio, and daylilies.

Containers can be planted and placed along the outer border of your rock garden. Sedum plants could be planted into hypertufa containers (www.hypertufa.net).

Marak said, “Hellstrips – those areas between the sidewalk and the street where nothing else will grow – can be ideal locations for rock gardens.”

Seed starting
Salvia seeds – Fill a berry box with potting soil that drains well and wet it. When the soil is drained, place the seeds on top of the moist soil and mist them to make the stick or settle. Put the container outside for the winter, cover with plastic wrap and water from the bottom when needed.  Transplant the seedlings into individual containers when they have 4 leaves.
Penstemon seeds have a germination-inhibitor coating so cold and dry alternated with moisture is replicated outdoors over the winter.  Add perlite, vermiculite or builders sand to potting mix. Moisten, surface sow the seeds and moisten the top with a sprayer. Cover the container with clear plastic or glass. Place outside and water from the bottom as needed.

Plant ideas and seed starting
Alpines www.alpinegardensociety.net/
Canada  www.onrockgarden.com/
North America NARGS www.nargs.org
Oklahoma natives  www.oknativeplants.org/
Scottish Rock Garden Society www.srgc.net
Tulsa Cacti and Succulent Society http://hort.li/1CQ0, jwkeeth@gmail.com and 918.321.3133

Seeds and plants
Alpine Seeds www.alpine-seeds.com
Easy Wildflowers http://easywildflowers.com
High Country www.highcountrygardens.com
Jelitto Seed http://jelitto.com
Native American Seed www.seedsource.com/
Outside Pride www.outsidepride.com
Swallowtail www.swallowtailgardenseeds.com/

02 December 2014

2014 Master List of Plant Resources - Friends of the Garden - Barbara Clark

Barbara Clark has updated her thoroughly researched list of Internet sites of interest to plant lovers.

Here's the link - http://friendsofthegarden.org/internet-plant-site

Click and scroll through the list and bookmark it for one of these upcoming cold days. What a gift Barbara Clark and Friends of the Garden gives us each year.