They won’t quite be available for Christmas for that special gardener in your life, but this week Spring Meadows Nursery, who grows and supplies plants under the Proven Winners™ brand, is offering a sneak peak at new plants that will be available at garden centers and nurseries in the fall of 2012. Save your money, and enjoy this preview of awesome plants for next year’s gardens!
Thursday, December 1, 2011
You heard that right. The temperature outside as I type this is 30 degrees with frost on the ground, and yet I’m growing tomatoes and peppers, just planted the seeds yesterday. 2 red cherries and a jalapeno, to be exact. How exactly can I do this in the middle of winter, you ask?
I fired up the AeroGarden again after having good success earlier this year with leaf lettuce. I ordered the “Salsa Kit” from AeroGrow, and in a few weeks I should have some nice pepper and tomato plants coming along.
It’s really easy to use. You just order one of the many different kits (herbs, vegetables, flowers, etc.), and insert the pods into the holes on the AeroGarden, pour water into the basin, mix in some of the included plant food, and plug it in. I had mine up and running in 5 minutes. The AeroGarden will tell you when it needs more water or nutrients. This would make a great Christmas gift for that chef or cook on your list!
Monday, November 28, 2011
Much to my relief, most of the leaves are now off the trees and on the ground, which means the obligatory leaf raking/mowing/bagging will be done and over with much sooner than in previous years. I like to chop up the leaves with the mower, then spread the remnants back over the garden beds as a mulch. My acid-loving plants like my Rhododendron and Camellias sure do appreciate it.
With the deciduous shrubs nothing but bare stems and branches until spring, the evergreens come to the forefront. In particular, my weeping Norway spruce (Picea abies ‘Pendula’) and Nandina (Nandina domestica).
The spruce provides interesting architectural structure, with its branches cascading down from the trunk then curving back outward in different directions. The Nandina offers a splash of color in an otherwise drab winter environment, between the bronzy new foliage and bright red berries. Fortunately, the birds leave these berries alone, so they persist right on into spring. No matter the weather or the season, there’s always something to enjoy in the garden!
Wednesday, November 16, 2011
As I look out the kitchen window this morning, watching the leaves drop from my deciduous flowering shrubs, I’m startled to see where my impulsive plant-buying has led to a garden that looks rather jumbled and randomly planted rather than organized and planned out. For example, I have 3 panicle hydrangeas in the front of the garden bed that block the view of several dwarf fountain grasses and numerous young conifers. These hydrangeas are about 4-5 feet tall and wide, larger than I was anticipating when I bought them a few years ago.
Immediately behind the hydrangeas, I planted a Elderberry (Sambucus canadensis), Ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius), and to the left, a variegated Weigela that neighbors a Honysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens), which in turn sits next to a Witch alder (Fothergilla ‘Mt. Airy’). You get the picture. Consequently, I have some transplanting and moving to do next year, to get the garden in a more orderly appearance. My New Year resolution will be to have a plan in place BEFORE I go to the nursery, or to just resist buying so many plants to begin with, and focus instead on maintenance like getting a path in place around the edge of the garden, and weeding. As my mom is often reminding me, “There’s more to it than just the fun stuff.”
Monday, October 24, 2011
Much of this blog has been devoted to outdoor gardening…ornamental and edible. But as summer fades into fall (as it is here in central Virginia, where I live), and soon into winter, people want to continue enjoying plants in the off-season as well. Unfortunately, many people believe houseplants are tricky to keep alive, requiring constant watering or fertilizing. To the contrary, many houseplants prefer NOT to be pampered with such treatment. Good news, right? Below, I’ll show you some plants that thrive without meticulous care: they tolerate medium to low light, dry air, and low to moderate moisture.
My favorite: “ZZ Plant” (I won’t even try to pronounce the botanical name!). This one has nice texture provided by the thick, deep green, glossy leaves. Branches arch out in various directions. Tough as nails…I only water it maybe once a month and is perfectly happy with only filtered light through the blinds.
Golden Pothos: This trailing plant exhibits a wonderful yellow and green marbling on the foliage. It can be trimmed to stay compact, or allowed to trail over the edge of the pot. Like ZZ Plant, it tolerates low light but the variegation in the foliage is best under medium to bright indirect light. Prefers to dry out a bit between waterings.
Snake Plant: This well-known houseplant is just about indestructible, perfect for folks with a black thumb! Large, sword-like leaves stand tall, adding vertical interest. Snake plant does well with a good watering only once or twice a month (allow to dry between waterings) and low to medium light. There are dozens of varieties of this plant, some with yellow margins on the leaves, others with lighter green marbling on the foliage.
Friday, October 21, 2011
Wanted to post a quick update on the rooting hormone gel blocks I was trying out a few weeks ago, to root cuttings. I took cuttings from Gardenia, Weigelia, and Buddleia and stuck them in the gel, and placed the gel cups by a south-facing window which gets bright indirect sunlight. I kept the cuttings misted, and put some of them under a plastic container, to maintain humidity. The result? After 2 weeks of just kind of hanging in there, the cuttings failed. Only the gardenia cuttings still looked decent, and even on that one I see no signs of rooting. The packaging said “for houseplants” but I felt brave and wanted to see if I could get some more plants from my garden outside. No such luck. For now, I’ll stick to seedlings and let nature do the work for me.
Sunday, October 9, 2011
Great article here on the importance of rotating crops in vegetable beds (in-ground or raised), to avoid creating a monoculture that fosters disease and pests.
I have to admit to being guilty of not keeping up on rotating through crops when one group is finished. My “first love” is my ornamental garden…shrubs, perennials, vines, conifers, etc. and so that garden wins most of my attention and time. Trying to balance two jobs with the upkeep of the garden is difficult at times, and some chores end up slipping through the cracks. This year’s crops have been rather underwhelming, as I discussed in a previous post. As I am now finding out, it’s not enough to supplement garden soil with organic matter…the nutrients from manure and compost are quickly depleted by certain crops and need to be replenished by planting a different group of crops in that soil for the next season, and sowing cover crops (vetch, clover, buckwheat, etc.) between crops.
Thursday, October 6, 2011
So, I grabbed the EcoSmart Insect spray (non toxic, made entirely of natural plant-based oils) and let the little buggers have it. Time will tell if they back off and find something else to munch on (how about the weeds? Lots of those poking up out there!). They also get into my kale, so I sprayed there as well. I really hope to get a good harvest of winter vegetables this year, considering that peppers were the only success story from this summer. I'm getting the hint from nature that it's time to give some nutrients back to the soil, so I may be ordering a cover crop for the raised beds. I'd love to hear from someone who uses cover crops as I'm not overly familiar with them. Feel free to post a comment!
Wednesday, September 21, 2011
The weather has been pleasantly cool and cloudy this week, so I took advantage of it and got back out into the garden to do some much-overdue weeding and clean up. In the process of pulling dandelions and chickweed, I realized that some of the weeds I was about to uproot were actually stray seedlings of my Butterfly Bush, which I had let go to seed this year.
I will admit to being pretty excited about this discovery. I have had no luck in propagating several of my plants from cuttings, for whatever reason. But growing from seed seems to be working, as I also found Nandina (below) coming up as well, from seed I had cleaned and sown 2 years ago. I have so many butterfly bush seedlings coming up, I will probably pot a few up next spring and give to friends. A few I’ll keep and spread around the garden.
Then as I moved around to another section of the garden, I decided to pull up some landscape fabric I had put down back in the spring, when I had planned to put in gravel and stepping stones in the paths I had cleared. I never got around to finishing that project, so the fabric remained in place. As I pulled up the fabric, I found a nice carpet of moss had grown everywhere under it. This just might solve my dilemma of what to use for a pathway around the garden!
Friday, September 2, 2011
After several failed attempts at propagating cuttings of various shrubs in my garden the old fashioned way, I decided to try a new product I saw on the Territorial Seed Company™ website, called Gel2Root™. It looks like a package of clear pudding or jello. You puncture a small hole in the lid, and insert a softwood cutting down into it, and the gel inside acts as both water and fertilizer. Then place the gel w/ cutting in bright but indirect light and within a few weeks, supposedly you have a new plant growing.
I’m testing the gel with cuttings of gardenia, rosemary, witch alder, and wiegela. I’m probably pushing my luck with the wiegela and witch alder cuttings as those were almost semi-hardwood cuttings when I put them in, but I’m more into shrubs than perennials and thought I’d give it a try anyway.
Wednesday, August 31, 2011
After having to take out the tomato plants (squirrels stole or chewed the fruit), and discovering the hard way that our pepper plant is a hot one, I'll be renovating the raised beds next week and replacing those with some newcomers (kale and chard) as well as old veterans like romaine lettuce and spinach. It's already begun to feel like fall out there with temps only getting up to the upper 70s/low 80s with low humidity. Looking forward to harvesting more veggies over the winter!
Tuesday, August 16, 2011
This is big news in the horticulture world…a scientist at the University of Connecticut has developed a sterile, non-invasive Burning Bush.
Burning Bush (Euonymus alatus) is an extremely popular ornamental shrub among gardeners and landscapers for its intense red fall foliage and adaptability to varying soil and environmental conditions. It’s downside is that the copious amount of seeds produced means that when birds or wind or rain carry the seeds away, they sprout and form dense thickets of new Burning Bush that choke out native vegetation. Thus, Burning Bush is listed as invasive in several states. To have this new variety developed that does not produce seed means the door is open now to folks being able to continue to enjoy Burning Bush without worrying about it displacing native species.
Tuesday, August 9, 2011
Thursday, August 4, 2011
Found this terrific article on why even “organic” or “natural” bug/insect killer sprays still do great damage to our ecosystems.
It’s not as simple as just getting rid of the “bad” insects and protecting the “good” insects. ALL of them play a vital role in sustaining the ecosystems that keep our planet going. Those pesky bugs that feed on our plants are themselves preyed on by other insects, and when the “bad” bugs disappear from being sprayed, the good bugs that feed on them have nothing to eat, and are forced elsewhere. This sets off a chain reaction of sorts that has implications all the way up the food chain. Sure, you might be using an “organic” spray that contains only natural plant chemicals so it’s safe around kids and pets, and that’s great, but we should be learning to live with bugs. Some amount of chewed leaves is always going to happen to our plants, it’s just a matter of perspective. For example, the leaves on my Okra plant and a few other ornamental shrubs in my garden have quite a few holes and bites taken out of them, but knowing that I’m doing my part to save our bird, butterfly, and bee populations makes the little “messiness” worth it.
Sunday, July 17, 2011
My aunt and cousins just visited for a few days this week, and while they were here, we took pictures of my garden and some of the wildlife that call it home. My aunt is a major photo-geek, having taking photography courses and done her own photography for years. Somewhere along the line, I caught the fever and it carried over into my passion for gardening and wildlife.
Tuesday, July 12, 2011
As a gardener who advocates the use of plants native to the United States, I find myself at a crossroads as I ponder several shrubs that I cannot help but admire, even if they are non-native (and, in some books, listed as invasive), particularly if they attract wildlife just as native plants do. The two plants that come to mind are Vitex (aka Chaste Tree) and Nandina domestica.
Vitex is a large shrub or small tree (depending on how you want to prune it) with very palmate, cut leaves that resemble that of a Japanese maple. It has a broadly rounded, airy, delicate habit and looks quite sculptural when limbed up into a small tree rather than a shrub. The flowers of Vitex are purple spikes similar to that of salvia and Russian Sage. Vitex prefers moist, well drained soil but is very tolerant of dry, chalky soils as well. Cold hardy to zone 6. In northern areas, treat as a herbaceous perennial, like butterfly bush.
Nandina domestica is a medium to large evergreen shrub that makes an excellent hedge or privacy screen, as well as an accent plant. Nandina is best down for its colorful foliage and clusters of red berries that persist all year long. Nandina grows from woody canes that spread underground to form colonies by rhizomes. There are a plethora of cultivars and varieties in different shapes and sizes, many of them dwarf or compact in size, or developed for brighter fall color. In spring, Nandina sends up delicate clusters of small white flowers that become red berries in the fall. Birds don’t’ care much for the berries, so they remain on the plant year round. Nandina is a very easy care plant, tolerating moist and dry soils including drought, and is cold hardy to zone 6. To develop a fuller plant, stagger the heights of the canes when pruning.
Friday, July 8, 2011
Decided to try something new this year and picked up an Okra plant at a local plant sale back in May. As a big fan of hibiscus, I was drawn to the large, palmate leaves and hibiscus-like yellow flowers. Brought it home, put it in a pot, and after struggling a little bit initially, it has really taken off and I’ve already harvested one pod with many more on the way.
I’ve noticed that the leaves get powdery mildew quite easily, considering the often humid, sticky climate here in Virginia. I spray it with EcoSmart Garden Fungicide and that seems to keep it under control.
We are having one the best harvests of tomatoes we’ve had in years! The last few seasons, tomatoes either pooped out from constant drought, or the squirrels made off with the ones that actually made it. ‘Solar Fire’ tomato is doing the best so far, as a heat resistant variety. The large tomato in the picture above is from ‘Solar Fire’. Also growing ‘Better Bush’ and ‘Early Girl’. Better Bush hasn’t needed a cage because of its compact, sturdy habit and Early Girl is putting out a TON of fruits.
Sunday, June 26, 2011
Haven’t been able to post as many updates about the garden as I’d like, but been keeping busy with landscaping work and my part time job. The Butterfly bush, Agastache, Coneflower, and Panicle Hydrangeas are all coming into bloom now and the bees are hard at work collecting pollen. Summer squash, cucumbers, peppers, and tomatoes are all looking great! I’m excited to start having some delicious sandwiches and vegetable dinners! I noticed since putting in the bird feeders that the squirrels aren’t bothering with the veggies this year. Last summer, I found tomatoes scattered about all over the yard, and even caught a few of those furry pests red-handed as they climbed the trees with the fruits in their mouths.
Haven’t done much with the AeroGarden lately. The lettuce I was growing in there was not overly impressive…a bit lanky and lacking in substance. Going to try some herbs next…we use basil almost constantly for wraps.
That’s it for now, hope to have more to post in the coming weeks!
Wednesday, June 15, 2011
Not to brag or anything, but I’ve assembled quite a collection of photos of the garden on my Flickr account, and just as I thoroughly enjoy looking at all the pretty pictures in garden magazines like Better Homes and Gardens, and Southern Living, I thought I’d share mine for your enjoyment as well.
Tuesday, June 14, 2011
Ever thought about growing fruits and veggies for charity? You can! Next time you go to plant your vegetables for the spring and summer, set aside a patch of your garden for the Food Bank. Donate your harvests from that section of your garden, to help feed the less fortunate in your area. I’m proud to be doing it again this year, growing squash, tomatoes, and cucumbers, in raised beds that make it easier to grow more vegetables in less space.
Visit http://www.foodpantries.org/ to find a food bank near you!
Monday, June 6, 2011
After working on a few small planting projects around the yard (Pachysandra beneath the kitchen window, next to the walkway, and Caladiums and Hostas out front), I snapped a few more pictures of some of the shrubs and perennials starting to flower with the onset of the hot weather. Starting to see butterflies, a few hummingbirds, and bees coming out to sip nectar. Good to see the native flowers I planted paying off. I added milkweed, baptisia, coreopsis, and agastache this year to help out our insect friends whose populations have been falling dramatically due to overuse of pesticides, destruction of their natural habitats, and a number of other reasons. Hopefully by doing my part and encouraging others to help out as well by choosing native plants for their gardens, we can help restore our vital ecosystems and give our flying friends a chance at a comeback.
Sunday, May 29, 2011
Right on cue, my Endless Summer™ hydrangeas are blooming. One of them has turned all blue after initially blooming pink when first planted a few years ago. The other, which has been in it’s present spot under a large oak tree for 7+ years, has always flowered pink, purple, and blue on the same plant. Both are now about 4” high and 5” wide, and reliably flower year after year regardless of how harsh the winter was.
Wednesday, May 25, 2011
Sunday, May 22, 2011
Great article on the efforts being made to develop an American chestnut tree that is resistant to the blight that nearly wiped out the entire Am. chestnut population in the early 1900's.
Friday, May 20, 2011
Finally taking a break from bringing home plants to add to the garden, and getting started with the maintenance part. Weedy grass is slowly encroaching into the beds, so I will need to rent an edger and put some space between the grass and the garden. The garden also needs a good layer of fresh mulch. Last year I tried something different and put down cypress mulch, which I quickly realized just didn’t pack the same punch as natural dark brown hardwood. And then there are the paths that wind and twist between the different beds of shrubs and perennials. I can’t seem to make up my mind as to whether I want to go with small rocks/pebbles/gravel, or large stepping stones with Stepables™ planted between them, like creeping thyme or sedum.
This week I also started working on getting the garden beds edged, and pulling out grass that had started encroaching on the shrubs and perennials. Not the most fun or glamorous part of gardening, but it gives things a nice defined, clean look when the mulch is put down. Hope to have some more pics up soon!
Monday, May 16, 2011
Excellent info on attracting birds to your yard or garden with nectar-rich plants, water sources, and shrubs for shelter and nesting sites!
Thursday, May 5, 2011
Lately I’ve been on a “native plants” kick. My interest in sustainable agriculture and supporting local ecosystems and wildlife has led me down a number of fascinating paths, not the least of which has been gardening with native flowers, shrubs, and trees. Unfortunately, when most people think of “native” plants, they conjure up images of messy wildflower meadows and fields. However, all it really entails is using flowers that are native to your region and support the local wildlife (bees, birds, butterflies, etc.) Many of these native plants are drought tolerant, cold hardy, and bloom reliably throughout the spring, summer, and into the fall, and they can blend well with your existing plants.
Here are a number of excellent websites dealing with gardening with native plants:
Tuesday, May 3, 2011
Finally have some pictures from around the garden. After a slow start, the lettuce and spinach are coming along nicely, as are the tomatoes and peppers I planted a few days ago. This year I’m trying ‘Supersonic’, ‘Better Boy’, ‘Better Bush’, and ‘Solar Flare’ tomatoes. I’m going to have to put some kind of fencing around the raised beds, because last year I didn’t get a single tomato. Squirrels ran off with every last one!
I’m also growing a lot of herbs this year: Thyme, Lemon Balm, Mint, Pineapple sage, Catmint, Rosemary, and Basil. As you can see, I’ve amassed quite a collection here on the side porch. So far I’ve made some great teas from the thyme, lemon balm, and catmint…very refreshing after a long day of digging in the dirt.
Edibles aren’t the only things going on. Our old Rhododendron is blooming beautifully, with the best color I’ve seen on any Rhodo. Also brought home a Honeysuckle from a plant sale at the school where I went for horticulture:
Friday, April 29, 2011
Just about ready to start picking lettuce out of the AeroGarden! Put some more water and nutrients in a few days ago and now the lettuce is looking pretty close to being ready to pick. The seed pack that came with the AeroGarden said it was a mix of green leaf, red leaf, romaine, and butterhead but so far it just looks like green leaf to me. Ah well, not a big deal considering how fast and how well it’s growing.
Friday, April 22, 2011
Having graduated with a degree in horticulture and started my own landscaping business, I can’t help but notice misplaced trees and shrubs and incorrect pruning and mulching as I’m out running errands around town. Some are understandable, others inexcusable, particularly in a situation where the culprits are professional landscapers:
- The “Mulch Volcano” – I see this a lot in commercial settings, mostly in parking lots of shopping centers. Mulch is piled up in the shape of a volcano around the trees in the medians/islands, 3 or 4 times the amount than what is actually needed to retain moisture and smother weeds. That much mulch can lead to disease because the roots and bark are smothered and cannot get oxygen. Additionally, roots can begin to grow out of the trunk ABOVE the soil, where roots should not be growing.
- “Crape murder” – excessive and incorrect pruning of crape myrtles. I see so many crape myrtles being pruned too far down the trunks, chopping off much of the natural, sculptured canopy of the tree. Over time, this leads to knobby bulges below the cut and very leggy new shoots above the cut. Instead, crape myrtles should be pruned by only cutting back the longest shoots or any branches that are crossing each other. If people are having to cut the tree way back as described above, it’s probably the wrong plant for the space and a more compact, dwarf tree should be planted instead.
- Arborvitae and Leyland cypress planted in shade – Understandably people love these two shrubs because they provide an excellent privacy hedge and stay a lovely green color year round, and grow quickly. But people don’t often realize that conifers, the group of plants that Leylands and cypresses fall under, do not tolerate much shade. They really need a full blast of sun most of the day. Too much shade invites disease and poor, lanky growth.
- Azaleas sheared into a square hedge – technically this isn’t a “mistake”, per se, but it bothers me to no end because Azaleas have a nice natural growth habit and azaleas forced into a tight square shape just doesn’t look right to me.
Monday, April 18, 2011
The weather here in Virginia has been beautiful lately, so my girlfriend and I went for a stroll in Maymont park the other day. Maymont is a large, victorian era property overlooking the James River in Richmond, and is home to an extensive array of gardens and meadows shaded by giant, very old oaks and magnolias. While we walking (and as I was explaining each plant in detail, including the scientific latin names, as I’m in the habit of doing) I took a few pictures:
The last one is my favorite…the sun was coming in at just the right angle and really illuminated the trees and the grassy field. Unfortunately, I missed out on most of the cherries and magnolias. But dogwoods were smothered in white and pink blooms and redbuds still had a smattering of pink along their branches.
And here is a quick update on my AeroGarden lettuce. Not much longer and I’ll have salads in abundance! And this is only week 2 after planting the seeds in the pods, without having to manually water or fertilize!
Wednesday, April 13, 2011
Only one pod has not sprouted just yet...not bad at all! My lettuce plants outside in the raised beds are not faring so well. 4 of them turned yellow and withered, the others seem suspended in time, not deteriorating but not growing much either. Don't know what the problem is...I gave both beds a thorough turning and loosening of the soil and added manure to mix in. No big deal, if they don't work out, I'll have nice indoor lettuce, and will put some warm weather crops in the raised beds, like squash, cucumbers, and tomatoes.
Saturday, April 9, 2011
Thursday, April 7, 2011
|Thyme, Catmint, and Lemon Balm|