30 June 2015

Hydrangea Happiness from Proven Winners

Proven Winners is introducing their new

Invincibelle Spirit II Smooth  Hydrangea arborescens and I would love to have that hedge in the photo, wouldn't you?

PW calls this one an overachiever because it blooms and re-blooms - just what we need our Hydrangeas to do!

I confess to a deep love affair with Annabelle the original Hydrangea discovered in 1910 in Anna Illinois. Her huge white snowball blossom clusters are durable for drying and the plant itself is trouble tree.

Invincibelle Spirit is a hybrid of  native Annabelle, durable and reliable but with pink flowers. It's cold hardy to zone 3 and happy up to zone 9. It is said to enjoy full sun but I think in our zone 7 heat, a bit of afternoon shade would no doubt work well, too.

The pink flowers start out dark buds that open to hot pink clusters, fading to soft pink as the flowers age. Then, wonder of beauties, they become green.

No deadheading, heat tolerant, care-free, Invincible Spirit matures between 3 and 4 feet tall and wide. If you decide to go with a hedge of them, plant the centers 4 to 6 feet apart, leaving plenty of room for expansion and air circulation.

As for pruning, the flowers bloom on new wood, so prune after bloom applies to this Hydrangea, like most others. This is a deciduous shrub that you would prune in late-winter. Invincible is easy for most gardeners since it adapts to a wide range of soil types, though it prefers moist and well-draining spots.

This is a pink hybrid and the pH of your soil will not influence the color of the flowers.
On another note -
Since its introduction in 2010, $1 from each plant sold is donated to The Breast Cancer Research Foundation®(BCRF). Sales of the plant and corresponding Pink Day fundraises hosted at garden centers across North America have raised over $730,000 – 73% of the way to our million dollar goal! Based on BCRF’s system of quantifying dollars in action, this represents approximately 14,600 hours of research. That’s one powerful hydrangea!

28 June 2015

Butterfly Nursery Plants

Not everyone can stomach watching caterpillars eat their garden plants. For many of us it is one of the thrills of summertime garden walks. Nectar plants provide food for adult butterflies and we have plenty of those. Host plants are where the butterflies raise their babies. The eggs must hatch on plants that the caterpillars can eat and adults only lay eggs on those plants.

Here are some of the plants we grow just so they can be eaten by caterpillars - can you identify the butterflies that use them for host plants?
Dutchman's Pipevine

Passionflower vines




Balloon milkweed

Swamp milkweed



24 June 2015

Rooftop Food Farming in St. Louis MO

Rooftop garden Children's Hospital
St. Louis MO
Urban Harvest in St. Louis MO is building a demonstration garden for city dwellers who want to grow some of their own food. And, it's a food roof farm. 

The idea is to connect citizens of the city with organic food at their fingertips. Rally Saint Louis is funding the initial project along with crowdsourcing.

The first project will be on the 10,000 square-foot roof of a two story building at 14th and Convention Plaza a block from the City Museum. There will also be event and education spaces on the roof.

Another community gardening group in St. Louis grows their food on the deck of an underused parking garage.

What do you think? Could this work in your town?

  • Increase access to healthy food
  • Engage urban schools and families 
  • Inspire citizens to grown their own food
  • Provide food shares to people in need
  • Create a productive green space
  • Reduce building energy costs
  • Increase life span of the roof
  • Create jobs
Thanks to Jerry Gustafson for telling me about the project and providing the links.

21 June 2015

Coconut Lime Echinacea purpurea Coneflower

This time of year white flowers are the bright lights of the garden. We love the reds, yellows and purples but the white ones add the cheerful contrast we need.

Coneflowers come in a wide array of colors now. And, while I love my purple coneflowers and the yellow ones, too, these Coconut Lime Echinacea steal my heart every year when they come back. I think this is our plants' fourth year popping up and flowering. It is reliable to say the least.

They are supposed to want full sun but in our area some protection from the afternoon sun is gratefully accepted by most plants.

Also the usual instructions suggest dry soil but we live on a rock shelf so we usually have to water our flower beds. This year we have not since the record rainfall is keeping things going quite well so far.

Like other Echinaceas, these are deer resistant. They are now part of the Southern Living Plant Collection so look for them there if you decide to find them for your garden.

18 June 2015

Eudora Welty Garden Restored and worth a visit

The Welty garden in Jackson MS has been restored to its original design and is open to the public. 
We stopped there to walk through the famous garden rooms and down the Woodland Garden path to the rebuilt summer retreat.

The Tudor Revival house built in 1925 became the home of 16-year-old Eudora, her parents, Christian and Chestina, and her two brothers, Edward and Walter.  Eudora lived in the home off and on throughout her lifetime, gardening with her mother while she was alive, taking over the management of the three-fourths-acre and then being unable to maintain it.

The Eudora Wely Foundation (http://eudorawelty.org) operates the house though it is owned by the Mississippi Department of Archives and History.

The gardens at the house, “my mother’s garden,” were designed and created in 1925 by Chestina. 

Susan Halsom, author of “One Writer’s Garden: Eudora Welty’s Homeplace”, restored the landscape. Halsom guides a group 15 gardening volunteers “The Cereus Weeders”, who arrive every Wed. morning to work together for a few hours.

The Welty’s considered gardening an art form equal to writing and photography.

Eudora said, “I think that people have lost the working garden. We used to get down on our hands and knees. The absolute contact between hand and the earth, the intimacy of it, that is the instinct of a gardener. People like to classify, categorize, and that takes away from creativity. I think the artist – in every sense of the word – learns from what’s individual; that’s where the wonder expresses itself.”

Chestina’s design was ahead of gardens of the time. Once you walk past the 20-foot tall flowering gardenia shrub and the side porch, there is a garden room made up of a central lawn surrounded by Camellias and perennials on all sides.

Each garden room has an entrance, an arbor, or a narrow path to guide visitors’ eyes and feet, with one area flowing to and from another.

The rose garden on the other side of an arbor and garden seat was Chestina’s favorite. Here the women grew roses but also propagated plants for the next year’s garden, had cold frames for overwintering seedlings and made compost.

The gardens were designed so that there would be something in flower every season (Jackson MS is USDA zone 8). Camellias and pansies bloom in winter, hollyhocks and snapdragons in spring, zinnias and salvia in summer and mums and asters in fall. Roses are planted everywhere.

Each of the gardens is old-fashioned and comfortable. There are no hard to find hybrids, tropical plants, trendy colors or other plants an experienced gardener would not recognize. Plant tags help jog your memory as you walk through from front to back.

When we visited in May the Camellia Room of 30 varieties, was not flowering. In flower were: German Iris, Columbine, daylilies, Sweet Williams, pink Mrs. R. M. Finch roses, jasmine, Four-O’clocks, Asiatic lilies and larkspur.

The Woodland Garden has a dirt and rock path lined with bamboo Argentea, ferns, sweetshrub (Calycanthus floridus), and other perennials.

In the 75-years she lived at the house, Eudora made notes about the plants, birds, trees and light for her writing and photographs.

A few famous quotes –

“Gardening is akin to writing stories. No experience could have taught me more about grief or flowers, about achieving survival by going, your fingers in the ground, and the limit of physical exhaustion.” 

 “All serious daring starts from within.” 

“Gardening is not intellectual, you must get out and do it.”

“People are mostly layers of violence and tenderness wrapped like bulbs, and it is difficult to say what makes them onions or hyacinths.”

17 June 2015

Plums and fruit woes

Between the rains and before hurricane Bill arrives tonight we went out to pick up the plums. Two-thirds of them went into the compost this year. It has been so wet that the fruit is molding ON the tree.

So far we've canned 8 pints and put a few quarts of pieces into the freezer. So many of them are damaged - rotted from the stem before they ripen, etc.

I used a 40% sugar syrup for the canning liquid (5 water to 3 sugar) so they will be a real treat - a dessert substitute this winter.

After making the syrup, I added the fork-pricked plums to the syrup and let them sit for 30-minutes off the burner. Then, reheated them to put into sterilized jars, wipe, cap and water bath for 20 minutes.

I expect hurricane Bill to knock more out of the top of the tree so when the ground can be walked on I'll do another batch with the leftover syrup.

It's too wet to get vegetables but fruit? We have some.

15 June 2015

Garlic Scapes - Why to Cut and How to Use

Garlic Scapes
Garlic scapes are the flower stalks and flower buds of hardnect garlic. If they are not trimmed off before they flower two things happen: 1) the plants' energy goes to producing flowers, inhibiting the growth size of the garlic heads underground; and, 2) the pollinators enjoy the pollen of the garlic flowers and tiny garlic plants come up everywhere in your flower beds the next year.

How do I know? because more than half of the scapes in the red colander are from flower beds.

They must be picked young if you want to use them. They dry up and become tough/stringy and horrible to use in pesto.

Here's what I did with ours. I used scissors to cut them into pieces that would easily fit into the food processor and turned it on. Then, I added enough olive oil to make a slurry. After that came lemon juice, salt and 2 cups of walnuts.

The result was a creamy spread or aoili. Yesterday we took some to Marcia Owen's house where she served an authentic Lebanese lunch feast. The garlic scape concoction was perfect with goat cheese balls (Labneh in olive oil) and whole wheat pocket pita from Bagatelle Bakery in Wichita Kansas. Marcia buys them someplace in Tulsa.

This is where waste not want not meets good eats!

12 June 2015

White Cemetery Iris

White Cemetery Iris
Fellow traveler on the gardening path, Russell Studebaker, shared some of his White Cemetery Iris corms with us this week. He said they have to be thinned periodically and we were lucky enough to have visited when they were still available.

TX A & M Extension has a couple of entries about these heirloom bulbs. ..." first used in North Africa as a decoration on gravesites, from there to Spain, and finally to the New World. It's a species cross that is unable to make seeds on its own, but spreads by being passed from hand to hand. You will often see it blooming where once a house stood, and it's able to survive unaided in pastures along the roadside, often half-buried in tall grasses and other wild flowers. The flash of blue-tinged white blooms give the plant's location away in the spring."

"Iris should be planted with the tops of the rhizomes almost out on the surface of the ground. They do not need coddling with extra water and fertilizer once established. This iris is an excellent choice for dry slopes or for using in a 'dry' or xeric landscape setting. Their spiky foliage makes a good contrast to low growing lantana, lavender, rosemary or other mounding plants.
An often-repeated gardeners' tale about White Cemetery iris is that they "take over" patches of purple iris until very quickly the purple blooms are gone for good. Even though this should not happen if iris don't set seed, there are plenty of people who swear they have seen individual plants which began with purple flowers, then with purple and white, until finally only white remained."

And, from Wikipedia, "a species of iris which was planted on graves in Muslim regions and grows in
many countries throughout the Middle East and northern Africa. It was later introduced to Spain, and then other European countries.
 It is a natural hybrid.  
I. albicans has been cultivated since ancient times and may be the oldest iris in cultivation. Collected by Lange in 1860, it has been in cultivation since at least 1400 BC. Originating from Yemen and Saudi Arabia, it appears in a wall painting of the Botanical Garden of Tuthmosis III in the Temple of Amun at Karnak in ancient Thebes dated around 1426 BC.
I. albicans is included in the Tasmanian Fire Service's list of low flammability plants, indicating that it is suitable for growing within a building protection zone."
Texas Heritage Bulbs offers them for sale. "White to off-white flowers stand on 16 to 20 inch stems above broad grey-green sword like leaves.  They freely multiply by spreading rhizomes and look great surrounding the trunks of oaks trees.  Three rhizomes per pack are shipped in the fall."

The Bulb Hunter, also in TX, posted a sweet story from one of his customers about the Cemetery Iris.

The Old City Cemetery in Sandersville GA says that the significance of the White Iris is that the name originally meant "the frailness of life." 

09 June 2015

Asian Plants Identical to Appalachian Plants

Duke University published in the Duke Today newsletter disclosed the results of a study that indicates that half of the plants in the Appalachian US have their closest DNA relatives in eastern Asia.
So, does this change the conversation about native plants? Does it make the argument against Asian plants weaker? You have to read this one.
Here's the link http://today.duke.edu/2015/05/easternforests
Below is the article - 
Plant hunters traveling between North America and Asia in the 1800s noticed a bizarre pattern: collections they brought back from China and Japan were strikingly similar in their leaves, flowers and fruits to plants from southern Appalachia. A new analysis of DNA studies shows that over half of all the trees and shrubs in the southern Appalachians can trace their ancestry to relatives a half a world away in Asia.
Most of the rest likely arose within North America, the researchers say.
“Our southern Appalachian tree species split from their closest relatives in eastern Asia at many different times over the last 65 million years,” said lead author Paul Manos, a biology professor at Duke University. “It didn’t happen all at once.”
The temperate forests of the southern Appalachians that stretch southwest to northeast from Georgia to Virginia are home to more tree species than anywhere else in North America. Species range from spruces, firs, birches, oaks and maples to magnolias, hickories, hollies and hemlocks.
Fossil evidence suggests that similar forests were once widespread throughout the Northern Hemisphere, when Asia, Europe and North America were still joined in the supercontinent called Laurasia.
But when the climate of Laurasia began to cool, only the forest remnants in what are now China, Japan, Appalachia and small parts of Europe survived the periods of climate change and glaciation that followed, leaving nothing but fossils in the thousands of miles in between.
Manos and Duke doctoral student José Meireles combed the scientific literature to reconstruct how the biodiversity of U.S. eastern forests arose.
By combining results from molecular studies of more than 250 species of trees and shrubs in the southern Appalachians, the researchers were able to pinpoint when and where each species and its closest cousin went their separate ways.
Overall, the results suggest that half of the trees and shrubs in eastern North America can trace their relatives to eastern Asia.
Alternate Leaf  Dogwood
Pagoda Dogwood
The alternate-leaved dogwood, for example, split from its closest relatives in eastern Asia some 22 million years ago. That was about when much of Laurasia’s deciduous forests started to die out, after which the continents were only intermittently connected by land bridges -- shallow parts of the ocean floor that were exposed when ice age glaciers tied up vast amounts of ocean water and sea levels were lower.
A quarter of the tree species we see in the southern Appalachians today likely arose within eastern North America, such as hawthorns and oaks. Most of the rest arose in western North America and eastern Mexico and relatively few in Europe, the researchers say.
“There are tons of connections to eastern Asia,” Manos said.
The results appear online in the American Journal of Botany. This research was supported in part by the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center (National Science Foundation Grant No. #EF-0905606).
CITATION:  "Biogeographic Analysis of the Woody Plants of the Southern Appalachians: Implications for the Origins of a Regional Flora," P. Manos and J. E. Meireles. American Journal of Botany, May 2015. DOI: 10.3732/ajb.1400530

06 June 2015

Our Garden June 1

one of the perennial beds
Here's a pictorial of our garden this week - just a few shots so you can see what we're growing in USDA Zone 7 Northeast Oklahoma - feel free to click on images to see a larger view.

Pinks, Dianthus or mineature carnations

Pink Oxalis crassipes

Moon Carrot, Sesli gummiferum

American Elderberry,
Sambucus canadensis
 Our preference for tall, dramatic plants is balanced by the need to have flowers on the ground under them.

Plus, you will see in our gardens, a strong preference for flowers that feed pollinators and birds.
Clematis jackmanii

Mexican Hat, Ratbida columnifera
Upright Prairie Coneflower

Yarrow, Achillea paprika
 For example, the Elderberry shrubs, Mexican Hat, Moon Carrot, Verbena and Yarrow in these pics.

The only places we use insecticidal soap and fungicide is on the food crops. In particular the broccolini, the grape vines and the fruit trees need to be protected from fungal infections when our wind comes from the TX gulf direction.

The brassica plants - broccoli, kale, etc. get tiny beetle holes in them when they are very tiny and the bugs are too small to hand pick.

Argentinian vervain, Verbena bonariensis

04 June 2015

Hawthorn Trees for Beauty and Beast

Hawthorn trees, Crataegus, are named for the thorns that occur along their stems. Their other names include thornapple, May-tree, whitethorn and hawberry. The plant family is large so there are native varieties in North America, Europe and Asia. 

In the spring, bees and other pollinators swarm the sweet-smelling flower clusters. In the late fall and early winter, after the leaves fall, the trees are covered with fruit that looks like tiny red berries. Soon after the fruit arrives the songbirds arrive to clean off the entire tree in a day or two.

Not only do Hawthorn trees provide nectar for bees and berries for birds, the leaves are eaten by the caterpillars of a variety of moths and many butterflies such as the brush-footed.

The berries, sometimes called haws or mayhaws, are used to make jelly and wine.  In some Asian cultures the berries are used medicinally.

Historically, Hawthorn species have been used as street trees and as ornamental trees for small gardens. In the 18th Century hawthorn saplings were used to establish field boundaries.  The wood of the Hawthorn is so hard that it was used for axe and shovel handles.

Today, hawthorns are popular with wildlife gardeners and new cultivars have been developed with showy pink or red flowers. Since they are native trees they are frequently listed as plants for low-water usage gardening.

There are 200 named Hawthorn species. They can be used as a hedge or as a specimen. Most varieties produce suckers than cannot easily be dug to make new trees. Planting them by seed is also challenging since the seeds take up to 18-months to germinate.

Here are some varieties to consider adding to your garden or wildlife landscape –

Crataegus laevigata or English hawthorn, Paul’s Scarlet, has double, dark pink flowers.

Crataegus mordenensis cultivars are compact, round and almost thornless. The flowers are white to pink and the fruit is a red-pink sphere. Snowbird has double white flowers.

Crataegus nitida, or Glossy hawthorn, is a dense, essentially thornless, tree with leaves that turn orange and red in the fall. The flowers are in clusters and the fruit is a dull red color. They are native from Ohio to Arkansas.

Several varieties are native to Oklahoma, including Barberry hawthorn, Kansas hawthorn, Cockspur hawthorn, Parsley hawthorn, Downy hawthorn, Frosted hawthorn, Dotted hawthorn, Reverchon hawthorn, Littlehip hawthorn, and Green hawthorn.

Barberry hawthorn, Crataegus berberifolia, grows to 20-feet tall. The white flowers have pink or yellow stamens.

Kansas hawthorn, Crataegus coccinioides or redhaw tree, matures at 15-feet tall and has many thorns (good for a wildlife hedge). The flowers are white and the stamens are red-pink.

Downy hawthorn, Crataegus mollis, is a 20-foot tall tree that is nearly thornless and often used as an ornamental tree. Common to the moist soil along streams, it grows into the largest of the native varieties. It is prized for its ornamental flowers, colorful fall leaves and scarlet fruit.

Littlehip hawthorn, Crataegus spathulata, is easy to recognize because its leaves are shaped like the bowl of a spoon. The flowers and fruit are small. This tree is native to TX. AL and FL indicating that it can take more heat than some other varieties.

Other cultivated varieties include Cockspur hawthorn that has curved thorns, lots of flowers, and long-lasting red fruit. One variety of this tree, inermis, is thornless and drought resistant.

Crataegus lavallei Carrierei is thorny but has red fall color, an abundance of white flowers and orange-red fruit in the fall that resemble crab-apples.

Crataegus viridis Winter King matures at 40-feet tall with few thorns, white flowers, red autumn leaves and red fruit in the winter.

Consider a hawthorn for your next tree purchase.

03 June 2015

Master Gardeners visit

A group of Bartlesville Master Gardeners came to Muskogee today to visit the Papilion at Honor Heights Park and our garden. We love visitors in our garden, especially those who enjoy plants as much as we do.

02 June 2015

Trees damaged

The recent storms caused tree damage everywhere in our area.

At our house the clean-up has bee going on for days and there is much more to do. Once we pole saw and drag limbs to the compost and burn piles, we'll hire someone to come in and do the big stuff. It will be weeks before the ground is dry enough for trucks.

How did your yard fare?
posted from Bloggeroid