31 December 2015

New Annuals for 2016 Gardens

Whether you are looking for new annuals for the sun or shade, containers or beds, there is something unique for next spring.

Proven Winners has come out with ten new pink flowering annuals that you can mix or match to renew an existing bed and make a container garden.

Proven Winners
Garden Bells mini-petunias have been popular container plants for several years. They never have to be deadheaded and can take the heat.  Their Latin name is Calibrachoa and the new colors include Garden Rose and Holy Moly (yellow and pink stripes).

Magentamen is a new, deep rose, Gerbera Daisy bedding plant that matures at 12-20 inches tall.

They are also introducing a new Rocapulco Wisteria Impatiens with double flowers for shade or part shade. The flowers are white and purple – ideal to brighten an area under perennials.  Also for the shade the new sweet potato vine, Sweet Caroline Sweetheart Lime, is bright green but grows only 14-inches.

Have you heard of Pansiolas? They are sweet violas for part sun and come in Anytime Iris (blue and yellow) as well as Anytime Plum Good (deep purple with a bright yellow eye).
Pansiolas from Proven Winners

Supertunias never need pruning or deadheading and they have new colors, too. Supertunia Latte (Silver white with brown to purple veins), Daybreak Charm (sunny yellow centers with watermelon pink edges) and Honey (mixed sunset shades of orange and yellow).

Check out some of the newest heat-loving annuals that will help keep the garden looking good.

Cleome’s new colors include Senorita Blanca (all white) and Cleome Senorita Mi Amor, a new clear pink Cleome hybrid that will brighten up the back of the flower bed.

Another favorite of summer sun, Dahlias, now come in Dahlightful Georgia Peach (20-in. tall, double apricot flowers ), Mystic Illusion (18-in. tall, single yellow flower with dark green leaves ), 

Dahlightful Lively Lavender ( 2-3 ft. tall, double lavender flowers ), and Dahlightful Sultry Scarlet (20-in. tall, double coral-scarlet flowers).

There are lots of new choices for those of us who enjoy growing from seed.

Dianthus Jolt Pink blooms the same year the seeds are planted. The flowers are hot pink and this selection won the All America Selections (http://all-americaselections.org/) award, “Best of the Trials”.

Salvia Summer Jewel
AAS Winners
AAS winner, Summer Jewel Lavender Salvia, joins its sisters Red, White and Pink, as regional winners for the Heartland.  This Salvia coccinea grows 18-inches tall in full sun, needs no deadheading and average water.

The new ruffled dwarf (12-in.) Petunia Espresso Frappe Rose has pink flowers with dark centers.  Sow seeds indoors and transplant mid-April for a summer full of flowering.

Sanvitallia Million Suns is a bright yellow creeping (15-in. tall) Zinnia that provide bright color until the first freeze arrives. Full to part sun.

A new Ammi (Queen Anne’s Lace), Dara, has 3-inch flowers in shades of purple, pink and lavender.  

For the back of a border or a cottage garden, Dara matures at 3-4 feet tall in sun.

Double Click Cranberries Cosmos
Seeds from Johnny's Seeds
Butterflies love Cosmos and you will love Double Click Cranberries Cosmos.

The flowers are double and semi-double on the same 3-4 ft. tall strong stems.

Find something new! It’s easy.

27 December 2015

Sansevieria is Mother-in-Law's Tongue and Snake Plant

The Sansevieria Cylindrica pup we were given in 2009 has been happily growing into an adult.
Sansevieria Cylindrica
Flower bud
For the past few weeks it has been on a trek to full bloom. The bud appeared around Thanksgiving and we've been watching its progress as it formed a flower bud, bloomed and then grew a few feet tall.

Sansevieria Cylindrica is the typical shades-of-green but instead of the thin sharp edged leaves, it has round leaves, making some call it an inelegant oddball.

But, no matter. We love Sansevieria because it is so easy to get along with. Low water needs. Low light preferences. What could be a better interior decoration for dull winter rooms?
Sansevieria Cylindrica
Flower stalk

I'll admit that it isn't all peaches and cream like an African Violet with soft, fuzzy leaves and pretty flowers but for us minimalists, the structural form suits us just fine.

We've agreed that it is time to give it a larger pot now. And, in this photo from France I see how to help it stand upright with a layer of gravel on top of the soil.

23 December 2015

Use Honey Fence to Prevent Intruders

Honey fences have been used to keep elephants out of small, home gardens in Kenya. Maybe they would work in residences to keep out intruders?

We've heard of pollinator pathways and many of us have tried to contribute toward creating a path of pollen and nectar for butterflies and bees.

The honey fences were invented by Lucy King, a zoologist. Elephants are terrified by the sound of bees and so are most humans who do not garden.

King's honey fence is a line of hives that are suspended from a wire. When an elephant touches the wire, attempting to enter an area, the bees are disturbed and swarm.

Now, an entire town is surrounded by honey fences and they sell the resulting honey, called Elephant Friendly Honey.

Click over to the Elephants and Bees site to find out more.

This story, written by Nicola Twilley, came to me via Edible Geography, a fascinating blog.

20 December 2015

Double Flowering Gardenia Cold Hardy to Zone 7

When I wrote about our cold hardy Gardenias in 2013, I was pretty excited. The fact that they are now in their third winter makes me even more excited! We cover the shrubs completely with pine need straw for the winter and they emerge bright green in the spring.

I bought the shrubs from a local grower and didn't write down the specific information you might need in order to find them.

The website New Plants and Flowers sent out the information we need for any future purchases. Here's a link to the nursery, J. Berry.

Gardenia jasminoides ‘Celestial Star’ is a 2016 introduction of J. Berry Nursery in Grand Saline, Texas (US). It is bred by Jim Berry who founded the company in 2006 together with Jonathan Berry. The scent of ‘Celestial Star’ is ‘remarkable’. The two describe the new Gardenia as a shrub that has striking double flowers. Heavy bloom set in spring with a follow-up show in the fall. No pruning should be required in the production period. Is has a fast growth rate and intermediate height; 4’ tall by 4’ wide. Zones 7 to 9.
J. Berry Nursery supplies ‘Celestial Star’ PPAF as liners and in 1- and 3-gallon containers.

19 December 2015

Apply Winter Mulch Now

Marginally cold-hardy plants
can be completely covered
with loose mulch materials.
There are a few factors to consider when setting up your favorite plants to survive the coming winter weather. 

One important factor is whether the plants can handle the winter weather in your area’s USDA cold hardiness zone. In Oklahoma, for example, there are three cold hardiness zones. The southeast part of the state is zone 7b, the panhandle and Miami are zone 6a, but, Tulsa is 7a and Bartlesville is 6b.

There are also microclimates on your property. For example, the south side of the house is warm enough to protect a wider range of perennials than the north side. Containers on a west-facing porch are more sheltered than containers out in the middle of a bed.

For the most part, plants that are native to your USDA growing zone (www.plants.usda.gov/) will do better no matter how harsh the winter is. But, as we have seen, drought with record cold temperatures can change everything.

Applying winter mulch will help hedge your bets, preventing wind damage, soil heaving from freeze and thaw, or drought drying of roots. In addition, the plants we love that are not quite cold hardy in our zone benefit from receiving an extra level of care.

Newly planted perennials such as trees and shrubs must be protected for the winter if you want them to perform at their best next spring.

Do not fertilize or prune once freezing weather has arrived. The new growth you stimulate will make the entire plant vulnerable to cold, dry, weather. Weak and diseased plants should be removed on sunny days that allow working outside.

Evergreens suffer the most during a winter drought. If there is no rain for a few weeks, water the plants in your garden that retain their color in winter. This is especially true of young evergreens.
When your area has had a killing frost (4 hours of 32-degrees F), it is time to apply mulch around perennials you want to thrive next year, including those in containers.

Mulch should be applied 6 to 8 inches away from trunks and ground-hugging stems. The volcano shaped mulch you often see hugging tree trunks can become home to insects, mice and other creatures that eat bark during the winter.

Mulches can be made of pine needles, tree bark, compost, cotton seed hulls, cotton burr, straw, sawdust, pecan shells, or grass clippings. These are called organic mulch. Non-organic or synthetic mulch materials, such as shredded rubber, can be used although they do not add anything to improving the soil over time.

Large mulch particles such as tree bark and pecan shells allow rain to enter the soil. Sawdust, grass clippings, cotton seed hulls and compost insulate the ground better but rain cannot sink down as well.
Two inches of fine compost is plenty while 5 inches of straw is necessary to provide the same freeze protection.

Do not use leaves unless they were shredded in the mower or previously composted. Never use leaves or stems from diseased plants in your compost or as mulch.

Organic mulches break down over the winter, improving the soil, increasing its ability to hold moisture, and supporting beneficial insects next growing season.

Roses benefit from being winter-mulched with a pile of loose material stacked taller than the graft. For example if the graft is 6 inches above the soil line, the mulch should be 8 inches tall.

Marginally cold-hardy plants in our area, such as gardenias, camellias, rhododendrons, canna lily and calla lily benefit from being completely covered by loose mulch. In the photo our gardenias are covered with pine straw.

In Oklahoma it is recommended that you remove mulch around the first of March. 
See OSU HLA-6404 for more details.

15 December 2015

Create Nesting Areas for Birds and Wildlife

From the website, Choose Natives, this lovely and instructive article helped remind me to continue to increase the amount of habitat and nesting that we provide in our garden.

Many, though not all, are native or considered to be native in Oklahoma. So, I did a little research on each recommended plant and provided a link to more information. You'll see the plant name in italics - those are my links for your edification.

Here's the post
Derek Stoner, Project Coordinator for the Delaware Nature Society, helped restore the 860-acre Middle Run Natural Area by “intensive habitat management”, including planting 12,000 trees and shrubs.  His lecture, ‘Native Plants for Nesting Birds: Connecting Flora and Fauna’, given to a group of enthusiasts at theMillersville Native Plant Conference in Pennsylvania, focused on his observations.
Here are Derek’s landscaping recommendations for attracting birds:
  • Plant shrubs in clusters (“habitat circles”) that will create the dense cover that birds desire for nest protection.
  • Locate clusters of bird-favored plants close to existing patches of habitat to allow for easier travel by birds.
  • Plant taller shrub species in close proximity to low-growing bushes to create a layered effect that will host multiple bird species.
  • Encourage “suckering” or basal shoots, as these tightly packed stems create ideal nesting pockets for birds.
  • Dense clusters of stems are best for many birds to nest within, but some species need a more open branch structure to build their nests upon.
The shrubs and trees described below are found naturally growing in the Mid-Atlantic region and are Stoner’s top picks for attracting nesting birds.  Plants were chosen for their appealing growth habit; their berry or fruit production, also noted, is an added bonus for birds.  Just for fun, additional information is included on the number of Lepidoptera (butterfly and moth) caterpillar species each plant hosts (courtesy of Doug Tallamy’s research).
Here are Derek’s top 12 plants for nesting birds.(Note:  I added links to resources that will  help you learn about their native/ability to thrive in zone 7)

Arrowwood viburnum (Viburnum dentatum). Photo credit: H.C. Williams/flickr/CC.
1. Arrowwood viburnum (Viburnum dentatum).  Arrowwood is an attractive, dense, easily grown multi-stemmed shrub.  Soil, moisture and light adaptable, it can quickly reach 6 to 8 feet.  Arrowwood spreads by suckering.  The blue-black berries it produces are high in fat making them valuable to fall migrants.  Numerous species of birds nest in this shrub including gray catbirds, towhees, mockingbirds, brown thrashers and cardinals.  Viburnum species are also larval host plants for over 100 native butterfly and moth caterpillars.

Black chokeberry (Photinia melanocarpa). Photo credit: Kent McFarland/flickr/CC.

2. Chokeberries (Photinia spp.)Black chokeberry (P. melanocarpa) and red chokeberry (P. pyrifolia) are underused multi-season shrubs with excellent fall color.  They prefer moist, acidic soils Both species can form large colonies and are best used in mass groupings or for a living hedge.  They can also be planted for soil stabilization.  Full sun is best for strong fruiting.  In winter, birds eat the berries after more desirable fruit have been exhausted.  Photinia species support five native Lepidoptera larvae.

Beautyberry (Callicarpa americana). Photo courtesy Sue Dingwell.

3. American beautyberry (Callicarpa americana).  This pretty shrub prefers moist soils and part sun.  It most often grows from 3 to 5 feet high and as wide with some shrubs peaking at about 12 feet.  American beautyberry has long graceful arching branches and densely clustered fruit in late summer into fall.  The small bright magenta berries are consumed by many types of birds.

Common winterberry (Ilex verticillata). Photo credit: Chesapeake Conservation Landscaping Council/flickr/

4. Common winterberry (Ilex verticillata).  The attractive winterberry has an upright form, usually 6 to 10 feet in height.  A deciduous holly, it spreads by suckers to form large clumps.  Winterberry grows in moist and dry conditions, preferring acidic soils and full to part sun.  Like most plants of the holly family, it is dioecious (having separate male and female reproductive parts on separate plants).  The female plant’s bright red berries adorn naked stems in winter, making winterberry desirable for landscaping.  The berries also provide late-season fruits for birds.  Ilex are larval hosts to more than 30 species of Lepidoptera.

Possumhaw (Ilex decidua). Photo credit: Jerome Collins/flickr/CC 
5. Possumhaw (Ilex decidua).  A small understory tree or shrub, possumhaw can grow to 30 feet tall.  It can usually be found in floodplain forests, swamps and other moist areas.  Its intertwining branches are covered with tiny red berries in winter and are enjoyed by a whole host of wildlife.  This Ilex is also dioecious, so male and female plants are needed to set fruit. 

Inkberry (Ilex glabra). Photo credit: Elsa Spezia/flickr/CC.

6. Inkberry (Ilex glabra).  This acid-loving evergreen shrub is denser when young, growing more open as it matures.  Reaching anywhere from 4 to 12 feet in height, the species are generally dioecious (separate male and female plants) or monoecious (producing male and female reproductive structures on the same plant but on separate flowers).  Birds frequent inkberry for nesting, cover and for sleeping.  The flowers are attractive to pollinators and the black berries are a source of late-winter food for birds.

Highbush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum). Photo credit: Matt Tillett/flickr/CC.

7. Highbush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum).  This Vaccinium is a multi-stemmed understory shrub with upright, spreading branches and spectacular fall color.  It can reach 6 to 12 feet high and wide.  Highbush blueberry’s preference is for moist, very acidic (pH 4.5 to 5.5), well-drained soil high in organic matter.  Birds find this shrub appealing for nesting and for the delicious berries they produce in summer.  In addition to supporting numerous birds and mammals, Vacciniums are the host plants to nearly 300 Lepidoptera species, helping them to earn the title of ‘high wildlife value’ plants.

Common elderberry (Sambucus canadensis). Photo credit: Kent McFarland/flickr/CC.

8. Elderberry (Sambucus spp.).  Common elderberry (S. Canadensis) is a large shrub with arching stems, usually found in riparian areas but is adaptable to drier soils.  It prefers full to part sun.  Common elderberry grows to 12 feet tall and wide and continues to sucker, providing good nesting habitat.  Clusters upon clusters of dark purple fruit are enjoyed by a wide variety of birds and mammals.  Red elderberry (S. racemosa), in comparison, produces red berries, needs more moisture and prefers shady sites.  It grows from 10 to 20 feet tall.  Both species grow well in circumneutral soil (pH 6.8 – 7.2) and are short-lived.  Elderberry is the host plant to over 40 Lepidoptera species.  Sawfly caterpillars also enjoy the tender leaves and are a source of protein for baby birds.

Common or downy serviceberry (Amelanchier arborea). Photo credit: Dan Mullen/flickr/CC.

9. Serviceberry (Amelanchier spp.).  Common or downy serviceberry (A. arborea) can grow to the height of 15 to 25 feet.  It prefers moist, well-drained acidic soil but is adaptable to pH.  Full sun to part shade is best.  Canadian or shadblow serviceberry (A. canadensis) grows from 6 to 20 feet tall, has a shrubby, suckering habit, and wants more sun, moisture and acidity than A. arborea.  Both the common and Canadian serviceberries, with their multi-branching habit, are excellent shrubs or small trees for nest sites and their berries ripen when nesting occurs, giving birds a convenient food source.  Amelanchier species support over 100 Lepidoptera larvae. 

Eastern redcedar (Juniperus virginiana). Photo credit: Sandy Richard/flickr/CC.

10. Eastern redcedar (Juniperus virginiana).  Eastern redcedar is actually a juniper, not a cedar.  A pioneer species found growing in open areas in full sun, this classic evergreen tree is usually 30 to 40 feet tall but can reach 60 to 90 feet.  Drought hardy when established and adaptable to pH, redcedar prefers circumneutral soil (pH 6.8 – 7.2).  Trees can be either dioecious or monoecious.  Eastern redcedar provides excellent year-round cover, food, nesting sites and nest-building material for birds.  It’s also the larval host plant for over 40 Lepidoptera species.

Salix nigra
Black willow (Salix nigra). Photo credit: Suzanne Cadwell/flickr/CC.

11. Black willow (Salix nigra).  Black willow is a rapid growing tree, maturing to 10 to 60 feet tall.  It likes wet feet and naturally grows along streams.  This willow prefers full to part sun, is adaptable to soil pH and has a dense, fibrous root system perfect for controlling erosion.  The under-rated ‘witches broom’ branching habit invites numerous bird species to build their nests.  Birds also make use of willow catkins and the soft downy fibers of seeds in constructing these nests.  This tree is dioecious.  Salix species host well over 400 species of Lepidoptera, making it a valuable plant for all wildlife.  Black willow is short-lived, averaging about 65 years, but is an important environmental tree worthy of planting.

Sycamore (Platanus occidentalis). Photo credit: TexasEagle/flickr/CC.

12. American sycamore (Platanus occidentalis).  Sycamore is a large open-crowned tree with enormous leaves and striking bright, mottled branches.  It is found stream-side but can be grown in less moist sites.  It tops out at 75 to 100 feet and 60 to 70 feet in width.  Hummingbirds commonly build their nests near water in sycamores.  Yellow-throated vireos, Baltimore orioles, robins and other species of birds will all nest simultaneously in this lovely tree.  The American sycamore also hosts over 40 species of Lepidoptera.
 There are many additional wildlife-friendly native shrubs and trees that nurture birds and other animals.  As always, choose plant species that grow naturally in your area and prefer your growing conditions to reduce chemical inputs and resources, and to help keep our wild places healthy.
Many thanks to:

12 December 2015

RHS Plant Ratings and Plant Preservation Efforts

The Royal Horticultural Society revised its plant ratings a few years ago to add hundreds of new plants and to reflect the changes in climate. Here's the entry from their May 1, 2014 release of the new book, "RHS Plant Finder 2014, the 28th edition of the gardener’s guide to UK cultivated plants, is now available. 
RHS Hardiness Ratings

Compiled and published annually by the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS), the world’s foremost gardening charity, RHS Plant Finder 2014 lists more than 70,000 plants, together with details for more than 570 suppliers, making it the most comprehensive directory of plants available to buy from UK and Irish nurseries.

RHS Plant Finder 2014 contains over 3,800 new plant entries, including Clematis ‘Prince George’ named to celebrate the birth of the royal baby."

At the 5th Annual Botanic Gardens Conference in 2012, The Queen's Botanist, Professor Stephen Blackmore, addressed the group. This YouTube of his talk is well worth 30-minutes to hear. Red Lists were new to me.

The RHS 10.30.15 press release addresses their new eco-conscious approach to renewing an interest in gardening. 

"RHS to Meet the Challenge of Climate Change and Help Gardeners be More Eco-Friendly"

The five-year plan of action focuses on ensuring that the UK’s 27 million gardeners have the tools they will need to address the new horticultural and societal challenges they will face in the future.
Key areas will include:
• Improving the detection, identification and management of garden pests and diseases by using a three-pronged approach involving surveillance, field research and laboratory techniques
• Promoting environmentally sound gardening practices and exploring how plants and gardens can support health and wellbeing
• Working with UK gardeners to share the latest intelligence on garden plants and harness their on-the-ground knowledge to guide and support RHS research
And, in this post, the Queen's Gardener addresses "Humanity's Future"
Speaking ahead of the lecture, Professor Blackmore said: “It’s often said that nature can take care of itself, but that’s no longer true if we want to live in a world that can support us.
“We can’t simply ask the government to fix the global environment, they couldn’t do it. The planet can be safeguarded only by each of us changing our behaviour in positive ways that will make a difference to the quality of life in the future.”
The changes Professor Blackmore is proposing are just as applicable to large gardens as to urban windowboxes, for they involve gardeners seeing themselves as part of a bigger picture in which the choice of plants they grow has an effect multiplied millions of times across the world.
In practical terms, this would mean gardeners:
• actively choosing plants that will support the widest diversity of other species, including pollinators and other garden wildlife;
• making urban landscapes much greener by planting garden and street trees to absorb pollutants, reduce excess temperatures and improve the quality of the built environment;
• not paving over front gardens, instead ensuring that there is an area of green as well as a parking space;
• gaining health benefits for themselves and their families through gardening;
• joining forces with and support their local parks, gardens and gardening societies, if they don’t have a garden of their own.
Professor Blackmore added: “The more you can grow in your individual patch, garden or windowbox, the more you can help planet Earth. For me the key insight is that it was the cumulative actions of 7 billion people that created the environmental challenges we face today, and it will be the individual actions of those same people that will get us out of the position we’re currently in.”
The urgency is clear, if we, collectively, want to help reverse the trends of environmental destruction.


09 December 2015

Horticulture Conference Jan 8 and 9 Tulsa

The agenda and registration information is at this link -

The Horticulture Industries Show and Conference is right around the corner! It’s packed with educational sessions, networking with professionals and the opportunity to participate in round table discussions. 
You will find growers, educators and researchers who will share the latest information on vegetables, fruit, Christmas trees, farmers’ market crops, public gardening issues and learn a few secrets of success from masters in your field. This is a vital time for the horticulture industry and those interest in horticulture to come together for a brighter and more profitable future!

Conference pre-registration is December 22, and the hotel reservation deadline is December 29.

Please feel free to contact me via email or by phone for any questions you may have regarding the conference.
We look forward to seeing you in 2016!

Donna Dollins
HLA Logo

Phone: 405-744-6460

07 December 2015

Caterpillar Rescue Update

In the Nov 24 All the Dirt on Gardening entry I showed the butterfly box where we put a tiny swallowtail caterpillar rescued before the first hard freeze.

These photos show its progress toward butterfly adulthood -
It grew to about 8 times the size it was on Nov 24 

An grew fatter, too.

Yesterday I watched as the caterpillar wriggled toward the next stage 
and this morning when I checked it had completed the process to chrysalis.

06 December 2015

Argentina, Soy Beans and You

SiloBags - ever heard of them? Me, either. Until this past Saturday morning that is. 

On the Oklahoma State University Ag Department tv program, SunUp, one discussion topic was the taxing political trouble in Argentina.

From AgWeb on the topic of a soy price rally, ""You hear the old cliché, 'Buy the rumor, sell the fact,' and in this case in Argentina it was, 'Sell the rumor in anticipation of the market going down,' and it did,” says Jerry Gulke, president of the Gulke Group."

This link will take you to the SunUp YouTube channel.

The reason taxes in Argentina matter is because when the government imposed 25% export taxes on their soy beans, the farmers bought SiloBags and stockpiled them in protest instead of selling them.

From the photos on the company's website, I can only assume that they are selling worldwide. The product list: Dry grain baggers in 6 foot, 9 foot, 10 foot and 12 foot diameters, Capacity in excess of 400ton/hour, Direct loading models from delivery trucks available, Tractor driven or self propelled models available, Rice Baggers, Baggers with grain crushers fitted (6 foot machine is perfect for intensive animal production).

In Feb., Bloomberg Business wrote, "In Argentina, where soybeans help drive the economy, a battle over export taxes has farmers defending their fields at night amid accusations that they’re hoarding crops to undermine the government.
At issue is the growing use of silo bags, sausage-shaped sacks 12 feet (3.7 meters) in diameter and 200 feet long that can hold 12,000 bushels of grain or oilseeds for three years. Some farmers say they only use the bags to store crops until they can get them to market, while others see them as type of savings account. The government asserts the farmers are stashing crops to avoid paying a controversial 35 percent export tax that supports a third of government spending.
The verbal sparring, which comes as President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner faces October elections, has grown more virulent over the last few months. Now, according to the farmers, it’s escalated into overnight attacks that culminate in silo bags being slit open."
The numbers: "The government estimates that farmers are hoarding 18 percent of last season’s record soybean crop of 53.4 million metric tons, or about $3.7 billion worth of oilseeds.
Cabinet Chief Jorge Capitanich said Jan. 15 farmers are undercutting state financing by hoarding. In the first seven weeks of the year, they sold $1.8 billion of grains for export, the lowest for the period since 2007. In 2014, they sold $24.1 billion of grains and oilseed to boost central bank reserves."

While researching that interesting story, I found an article from Purdue University discussing the wide use of SiloBags in Indiana.

"Since steel (metal) bins or other permanent structures like silos cannot be erected on short notice, the silo bag, also referred to as a grain bag or a harvest grain bag, will be one of the alternatives that farmers will most likely consider. While silo bags have been used for decades for storing silage in the Midwest, and commonly used since the early 90’s in Argentina and since the early 2000’s in Australia for storing commodities such as corn, wheat, soybeans and sunflower seeds, they have only been used in the U.S for storing commodity grain during the last few years."

You can go to the links provided above to learn more about SiloBags or just do an Internet search for them. I think you'll be as surprised as I am how widely used they are around the world. Who knew?

03 December 2015

Native Beautyberry Shrubs are Callicarpa americana

American Beautyberry shrub is a native, American shrub in the Verbena plant family. Their native range is primarily in USDA growing zones 7 to 9. Since they do best in such a narrow range, they have not become a widely promoted or planted shrub.

Beautyberries are naturalized in moist woodlands from southern Maryland to NC and from OK to Mexico.  When they are planted in colder areas, such as St. Louis, they die to the ground in the winter.

American Beautyberry flowers in June
There are over a thousand other plants in the Verbenaceae family including all the verbenas, vervains, and lantanas.

American Beautyberry takes its time growing into the mature size of 3 to 6 feet tall and wide, or more.  The summertime flowers are small, pink-white, clusters that pollinators are drawn to. After the flowers fade the loose-stemmed shrub has arching stems of mid-green leaves that provide a backdrop for summer flowers. 

In the fall, all of those clusters of pollinated flowers become clusters of glossy, rose-purple berries (fruit).  Since the branch form is weeping, similar to Forsythia, the berries are displayed in the most appealing way to show off their shocking color.

Their cascading branching also makes them ideal candidates for a raised planter, bonsai and cut branches for indoor use. They also do well under pine trees that have been limbed up enough to allow for sun and they make good plantings along open fences.

American Beautyberry seeds October
They are not vulnerable to any diseases. If the shrubs are against a solid wall or are planted so close together in a mixed shrub border that air cannot circulate, scale can become a short-term problem.

The only warning about Beautyberry shrubs is that they are native plants and as such they are loved by wildlife, including deer.

There will be pollinators in the spring, including bees. In the summer, birds will be in and around them. The berries are favored by birds such mockingbird, robin, bobwhite, brown thrashers, catbird and towhee, as well as armadillo, possum, and raccoon.

American Beautyberry, Callicarpa americana, is easy to transplant into a wide variety of soil types. In their native habitat they thrive in moist wooded areas, can tolerate soil that is seasonally wet and dry, clay, sandy, acid, rich, and calcareous (calcium from rocks and shells).

Like most woodland plants, they will have the biggest display of flowers and fruit if they receive several hours of sun each day but do not require full sun to thrive.  Ours are planted with native peach trees that protect them from the southern sun during the hottest part of the summer.

Try to purchase Callicarpa americana specifically. Lactea is a hybrid of the American native that has white flowers and white berries.

The Chinese varieties, including Callicarpa japonica, Callicarpa bodinieri and Callicarpa dichotoma can become aggressive, crowding out other plants in the shrub row. The Chinese varieties are available with white, lavender and purple fruit. The common names for the Chinese shrubs include Virginia and Profusion.

The soil provides all the fertility Beautyberries need to thrive and fertilizing will make them leggy.

Prune mature Beautyberry shrubs in late winter in order to maintain a compact form. They can be entirely cut back to 6-12 inches off the ground.

Remove dead or dying branches but resist the temptation to shape or prune during the growing season because the pruned stems will sprout new, weak, growth.

You can propagate Beautyberry in order to have more plants for your garden and to give away. Simply take cuttings in the spring and plant them in containers.

Callicarpa’s name comes from two Greek words: kallos (beauty) and karpos (fruit).

One mail order source for the shrubs is NativNurseries, www.nativnurseries.com.