30 March 2016

Solomon's Seal is Polygonatum

Solomon's Seal emerging Mar 2016
Variegated Solomon's Seal is emerging in our back woodland garden this week. A few leaves have unfurled but mostly they look like the photo on the right.

Cold hardy in zones 3 through 8, gardeners in most of the US can grow them successfully.

Our first little clump came from a plant sale at the Tulsa Perennial Society's annual event. 

This year's mild weather has caused the size of the clump to double! I'm over the moon thrilled, of course.

Fine Gardening Magazine comments that they are "well suited to woodlands, naturalized areas, shady borders, and rock gardens". Ours are thriving under large deciduous trees where the hammocks hang in the summertime.

We grow it for its beauty but foragers and herbalists grow it for it's health benefits.
Our Solomon's Seal April 2015

Cortesia Herbal Products has a couple of interesting photos along with plant lore.
"Solomon's Seal (polygonatum biflorummultiflorum, odoratum, etc.) is a medicinal herb that has diverse health restorative properties. It can be used as a herbal tincture, salve, tea or supplement. As an alternative remedy, it may offer relief, healing or mending to sports injuries and other conditions related to tendons, joints, ligaments, bones, bruises, connecting tissues, cartilage, etc. It also soothes and repairs gastrointestinal inflammation and injuries. It is effective for feminine issues, such as menstrual cramps, PMS, bleeding, and the like. Additionally, it is known to lower blood pressure and relieve dry coughs.
Solomon's Seal has a rich history that goes back many thousands of years. Herbalists and healers, both in Europe and North America and the Far East, have written about its diverse effects on numerous conditions. In 2010, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (Natural Resources Conservation Service) identified Solomon's Seal as a Culturally Significant Plant, noting its medicinal and restorative value among North American Tribal (Original Nation) peoples. It is our understanding that the National Institutes of Health is presently researching the benefits of Solomon's Seal for heart health."

28 March 2016

Soil and Health Library Online for YOU

Free, downloadable, e-books about radical agriculture,
natural hygiene/natural curse and self-sufficiency. 

The library’s topic areas connect agricultural methods to the health and
lifespan of animals and humans. 

The four areas in the The Free Digitalized Library are

*Radical Agriculture. * The nutritional quality of food determines the
health of animals and humans. Food quality is primarily determined by soil
fertility. This section includes key books that began the organic farming and gardening movement. 

*The Restoration and Maintenance of Health.*Ccollections on healing  disease and building/maintains health

 Several parallel approaches include natural hygiene/nature cure, iridiagnosis and naturopathy.

*Achieving Personal Sovereignty.* Physical, mental, and spiritual health
are linked to lifestyle. 

*Achieving Spiritual Freedom.

*Clippings and Miscellaneous.* Patrons have sent information and URLs with information and viewpoints. 

*Discussion Group**. *Yahoo-hosted e-mail forum a wide ranging discussion about how agricultural and gardening methods change the nutritional qualities of food, about the resulting health of the animals and humans that eat those foods, about the best ways to homestead, to grow your own food. This group is gently moderated by Steve Solomon.

I edited this but give 100% credit to Lawrence London who posted it on a conversation site I follow. 

24 March 2016

Yarrow for Every Garden!

Yarrow (Achillea or Achillia) comes in many colors and heights so there is something for everyone and every garden style. Cottage gardens are usually planted with the bright yellow and citrus colors; and, tidy and tightly planned gardens usually feature swaths of red and pink Yarrow.

Some recent colors that will stimulate your imagination include: Pineapple Mango, Peachy Seduction, Pink Grapefruit, Pomegranate, Queen Elizabeth, Cerise Queen, Wexer River Sandstone, Fire King, Lilac Beauty, Altgold and Summer Gold.
Seeds can be purchased in mixed packets of summer pastels, bright colors, all yellows, creams, etc.

All Yarrows love heat and will bloom for several months. Another one of their endearing qualities is that they prefer to be on the dry side so you can leave for summer vacation without worry. And, they are perennial, returning year after year, with minimal care.

Soil and fertilizer preferences are minimal. Lean soil and no fertilizer are best. Yarrows are also deer, rabbit, drought and dry soil tolerant.

Yarrow seeds are tiny so they are sown on top of the soil and kept moist until they emerge. It is time to buy seeds now since the soil temperature they prefer for germination varies from 40 to 68. Current soil temperature is 50-degrees F. (www.mesonet.org)

Not all Yarrow varieties are equal and it is a good idea to know what you are buying. Some spread by underground rhizome and take over a flower bed and others drop lots of seeds as their method of spreading. Many varieties are ideal as cut and dried flowers and there is even one that forms a low-growing ground cover. 
A. tomentosa groundcover 

The ones that are right for your garden depend on whether you need filler between existing perennial plants, an accent color or an entire new planting for a flower bed.

Achilles was the Greek hero of the Trojan War in Homer’s Iliad. The plant's names of staunch weed and Woundwort come from its early medicinal use for blood clotting but dozens of plants were named woundwort over the years.

The name Old Man’s Pepper, came from when dried Yarrow leaves were used as a as snuff. The spiritual properties assigned to Yarrow came from a belief that an ounce of Yarrow under the pillow of a single man or woman would bring a night-time vision of their intended spouse.

Less romantically, Yarrow tea is now used to treat colds and flu and has found its way into herbal cosmetics.

Yarrow is a member of the Asteracaea plant family of substantial and hardy plants for our zone 7 area. Others in that family are asters, daisies, mums and sunflowers.

Here are some tips on how to choose Yarrow varieties.

The native and somewhat invasive variety, Achillea millefolium grows 3-feet tall. The less-troublesome hybrid varieties to look for include Hoffnug (light yellow), Fanal and The Beacon (bright rose-pink), Liclac beauty (lavender-pink), Lachssenheit and Salmon Beauty (coral), Paprika and Trracotta (salmon-pink).

Achillea tomentosa or Wooly Yarrow makes a flat, spreading mat to 1.5 feet tall at the most. The leaves are fernlike or hairy. The flowers are a flat cluster of gold on 10-inch tall stems.

Achillea 'Anblo' Anthea (Achillea clypeolata x A. 'Moonshine') has flowers in a creamy light yellow from May to August.  This variety in particular is widely used in landscaping where the look of a fern would be desired but not practical.
Pure white Achillea, Boule de Neige matures at 2-feet tall. Perry’s White grows 3-ft. tall with large, double, white flower heads. The Pearl has button-like, double white flower heads.

Achillia Forncett Candy has pink flowers on 3-ft. tall plants.

Wet roots, too much fertilizer and too little sun are the only things to watch out for with Achillea.

21 March 2016

Beautiful Brassica

Flowers of Dynosaur Kale 
I've never met a Brassica I didn't like and that includes kale, chard, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Chinese cabbage, broccolini, kohlrabi, turnip, rutabaga, etc.

If you look up Brassica food plots you may be surprised to know that people plant plots of it to attract deer they can shoot. Being mostly vegetarians, we are appalled.

In fact, I think that Brassica is pretty enough to put into flower beds among perennial shrubs and other wonderful additions to the garden.

One of our favorites, Dino Kale has been grown in Italy since the 1700s and was a favorite in Thomas Jefferson's garden. Since it is a heirloom plant, you never have to worry about GMOs, hybridization and seeds not coming true when you harvest your own seeds.

Our winter was so mild that several kale plants remained productive. With this warm spell, I expect them to do some rapid spring growth and then I'll harvest the seeds and replant our tiny veg garden with summertime stuff like peppers.

It's not too late to put in some seeds. 60-days to harvest means you better get on it though before the heat arrives.

Now that's you've seen one plant from top to bottom, pick up a pack of seeds, plant them in pots and put them all over the garden wherever the bunnies won't get them.

We had to put chicken wire around our veg bed because the baby bunnies assumed that the seedlings were for their healthy diet.

Eat the small leaves in salads or rollups. We put them in a quiche last week. Tonight I'm making a kale-artichoke heart baked dip with yogurt and Asiago cheese.

No matter how much of it we harvest, blanch and freeze we run out long before we lost interest in eating more!

18 March 2016

Cocktails in Your Garden - C. L. Fornai


Whether you enjoy a cocktail, a cup of tea, or a meditation time viewing a green space,  C. L. Fornai's newest book, "The Cocktail Hour Garden: Creating Evening Landscapes for Relaxation and Entertaining" will support your goals.

To make your "green hour" special for you and your guests, Fornai suggests attracting night life such as night blooming plants, sensory-pleasing textures, pollinator attracting flowers and scented plants to please the humans.

Fornai's Recipe for Success includes these elements: Identify places in your yard that you enjoy; Set up seating areas for one, two and more; Add a floor of hard surface for feet and furnishings; Be sure the entertaining space is close enough to the house for carrying trays; Eliminate undesirable plants; Add garden elements that would make the space special.

It's still early spring and there is plenty of time to do all those things before summer nights practically drag us outside for a late in the day rest to appreciate the work that's been accomplished.

Chapter Two: Fragrance - you can already smell the lavender, rosemary, night blooming tobacco and other beauties. Fornai says ACTEAE simplex 'Brunette' is the best for night time perfume. (formerly known as Cimicifuga 'Brunette'. Gorgeous in a woodland setting, it's usually happiest in climates cooler than ours but would succeed in a micro climate. And, vines: Honeysuckle, jasmine, moon flower. And, Lilies ... well the list goes on and on doesn't it? What a joy scented flowers are.
Remember scented shrubs such as Gardenia, Daphne, Clove Currant, etc.

Chapter Three: Illumination - light reflects off of the moonflowers' surface as they open before your eyes at dusk. And, there are dozens of ways to add artificial lighting through electric, solar and battery-operated features. Plus, fir pits.
Grasses that move gently in the breeze add an element of light to surroundings and glow under artificial lighting.
Chapter Four: Sunset: After-Twilight Plants and Lighting- think silver and grey and shades of blue
Chapter Five: Planting for Butterflies - On every gardener's mind right now! Asters, Sedums, Coreopsis, Calendula, Joe Pye Weed, and others keep the butterflies coming back for more.
Chapter Six: Attracting the Birds - We love to watch the birds interplay in the grass, among the plants and busily setting up the birdhouses for their families. Grow some sheltering shrubs where you can enjoy watching the action.
Chapter Seven: Conversation with Earth, Air, Fire, Water and Sky - Use rocks, water,berms, wind chimes, and visual focal points to pull your green space together

Chapter Eight: The Green Hour Vegetable Garden: cocktail hour grazing - Pant Malabar spinach, cucumbers, vining beans and flowers where they can climb up a piece of fencing, tuck kale between flowers, grow cherry tomatoes for picking while they are warm,
Chapter Nine: Herbs, Flowers and Other Beverage Ingredients - Put herbs in shipping crates, grow tasty and scented herbs for snacking and beverage ingredients, make teas from the leaves of several flowers and vegetables, add berries from the garden as garnish.

This is such a lovely and delicious book. What a wonderful housewarming gift it would be. 170 page hardback in an easy to carry size. Lots of photos and recipes.$20, 2016, St. Lynne's Press.

15 March 2016

Flowering Quince is Chaenomeles

Back in 2010 when I planted some Proven Winners Flowering Quince the plants were in 4-inch pots so I had to use the company's photos.

Here's a link to that post so you can see how many colors are available.

Now our shrubs have matured into eye-popping spring beauty in our garden. Add these shrubs to your garden!

They bloom around daffodil and iris blooming time so get contrasting colors to make the outside brighter on otherwise overcast and rainy, spring days.

Here's a link to the PW site for these shrubs.

Our summer heat is dreadful and these plants will be protected by the shade of nearby trees once they leaf out.

12 March 2016

Outstanding American Gardens is an outstanding book

Outstanding American Gardens a Celebration 25 Years of the Garden Conservancy was edited by Page Dickey with photography by
Marion Brenner, published by ABRAMS 2015. $50 in the US and $30 at online booksellers.

This book is a divine combination of coffee table book and travel planner. Each garden that is featured will entice armchair travelers to get up and out of their chairs and onto the internet to plan a visit to one or more of these destination gardens.

The Garden Conservancy began in 1988 as a way to preserve important American gardens so they would not return to nature due to lack of care.

The Conservancy has restored and saved more than 80 gardens since that time. The book showcases eight of the gardens their volunteers worked on, plus 43 more private gardens that the Conservancy opened to the public as part of their Open Days Program.

A book of six tickets to Open Days is $21 for members and $35 for non-members. Tickets and/or a copy of the Directory of Open Days gardens ($26) can be ordered online at this link.  Membership is $50 for individuals and $75 for families. There are member-only tours, events, discounts, and programs, which would be great if you lived near the gardens' locations.

About the book -
The book begins with feature articles about the Conservancy's project gardens: Ruth Bancroft's in CA, Rocky Hills in NY, Japanese Stroll Garden in NY, Chase Garden in WA, Hollister House in CT, Gardens of Alcatraz in CA, Pearl Fryar Topiary Garden in SC, and Peckerwood Garden in TX.

The remainder of the 275-pages is organized by US region: Mid-Atlantic, Northeast, South, Midwest, West and West Coast. The photography is spectacular and will give gardeners in each geographical region dozens of ideas for landscaping, garden bed planning and dreaming.

I found myself saying, "Oh, I want to do that this year." and you will, too. Whether you mean I want to visit that garden or try to recreate that look and feel in my own garden, you'll enjoy absorbing the details on every page.

10 March 2016


One of the many delights of spring is seeing Jack-In-the-Pulpit plants popping up and showing off their strange beauty. They are perennial plants that bloom in undisturbed woodland areas so you might see them if you go walking in April. 

Their Jack-in-the-Pulpit name comes from a time when a preacher in a pulpit was called a Jack. The pulpit is the shape of the spathe that resembles an old fashioned elevated pulpit with a hood over it.

This plant has a flower but it is not the obvious pulpit-shaped leaf. The tiny flowers are down at the bottom of that tube.

The Latin family name for Jack and his close relatives is Arisaema and one of them is native to our region. They thrive in moist, acidic soil where hard wood trees grow. When the flowers mature, woodland animals usually eat them before they can fall onto the ground and create more plants.

Arisaema triphyllum has a bright green and purple striped pulpit. One of the common names for it is Indian Turnip. The part of the plant referred to as the turnip is an enlargement (a corm actually) at the base of the stem that used to be eaten. Uncooked corms contain tiny calcium oxalate crystals that give the eater a painful stinging sensation in their mouth. If the corm is cooked, the crystals are destroyed.

The triphyllum in its name refers to Jack’s three-lobed leaves on a single stem. There are usually one or two stems with one three-lobed leaf on each stem.

The many other common names include wild, swamp, dragon and meadow turnip, and, bog onion, brown dragon, devil’s ear, and priest’s pintle. 

The entire plant is 1 to 2 feet tall from the soil to the long slender tip on the top of the plant.

The hood or spathe is a trap for pollinating insects. Male plants have a tiny hole in the bottom that attracts insects entering at the top. They are drawn to the light coming from that tiny hole as well as the plant’s pollen. After collecting the pollen the pollinators can exit through that hole.

Female Jack-in-the-Pulpit plants lack that escape so when an insect enters to retrieve the pollen it rarely gets out. After pollination the tiny flowers produce fruits that are loved by caterpillars and birds.

Our Jack-in-the-Pulpit came from Pine Ridge Gardens
The plant in the photo is in the woods behind our house. It was purchased as a tuber and planted in moist soil. Plant Delights Nursery (www.plantdelights.com) and Prairie Nursery (www.prairienursery.com), offer the plants by mail-order.

You can also start plants from seed in a cold frame this fall. Vermont Wildflower Farm www.vermontwildflowerfarm.com sells seeds. They take five years from seed to flower.

Once you have a successful plant, watch for the flower to fade and the green berries to form.  Harvest the berries before they fall to the ground and are eaten. When summer arrives the entire plant disappears until the next spring.

Most other varieties on the market come from China, the Himalayas and Nepal. Several types are cold hardy in USDA zones 4 to 9. Muskogee is zone 7.

The Jack-in-the Pulpit from Japan, Arisaema sikokianum, is the most exotic in appearance. Plant Delights Nursery gives its common name as Circumcised Japanese Jack-in-the-Pulpit. The pulpit is purple-black on the outside and bright white inside with a large white spadix.

Jack-in-the-Pulpit grows where you would find ferns and Hostas and they thrive in similar shady, well-drained, moist soil. Once they are planted, do not disturb the roots, keep them moist the first year and provide water during periods of drought.

Jack-in-the-Pulpit has no known insect or disease problems.

06 March 2016

Daffodils in Many Shapes and Colors

We have collected and planted thousands of daffodils on our place over the years. They are sequenced with early, mid-season, late and last.

Here's a bit of what's blooming now

The American Daffodil Society  2016 World Convention will be in

St. Louis
April 7-9 Free admission

Here's a link to the Convention details.

02 March 2016

Spring Cleaning - Tree Removal

While I hesitate to clean out beds at this time of year because so much wildlife depends on leaf litter for food and protection, we did have half a dozen junk trees removed.

Many things we planted when we knew little about OK gardening have either died or had to be removed. The four poplar (cotton-less cottonwood) trees were too close to the neighbor's fence and had grown into the power lines.

Plus, the poplar trees we planted on the opposite side of the yard toppled over in a strong wind. The neighbor's large workshop is just on the other side of that fence and we were afraid that the wrong wind would crush his building.

This elm tree was here when we moved in almost 20 years ago. It is shaded by nearby large trees so was failing, dropping large chunks of wood and the branches were peeling off. We have lopped off lower branches but then this winter the entire top of the thing broke off.

We were lucky that our son, Jason, had plenty of experience with tree trimming and removal from when he lived on a working farm in Germany for a few years.

Watching him climb up, check the ladder, practice making the cuts before even turning on the saw was like watching artistry in action.

The other tree he took out for us was a Bradford (male) pear. The birds planted it a few years ago and it grew like a weed.

By the time Jason took it on, it had to land perfectly in order to not crush valuable shrubs that were thriving around its trunk. It was amazing. He eyeballed it, calculated the trunk cuts and landed it exactly where it had to fall.

What you see on the right side of the picture of the Bradford pear trunk is a gate post. The house is directly west of the top of the tree. The plant on the left is a 6 year old witch hazel shrub.

Unbelievably close quarters and a perfectly executed job.

I asked him if he would want to do tree work for income - absolutely no way was his response. Oh, well.