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Friday, February 29, 2008

The Definition of Blotany

If you read my title you may have noticed an unusual looking word. The study of blotany is not something restricted to any one area. Many regions around the world have studied this craft.

You may never have heard of Blotany but it bears some resemblance to other words you may be familiar with. Blotany looks very similar to the word Botany which is the study of plants and plant related subjects. You will also notice that Blotany's first three letters are the same as the word blog. So if you analyze the two meanings together you might come up with the study of plant related blogs. To be more specific: garden blogs and the world of Blotanical! Blotanical is a website dedicated to garden blogs and those who are interested in gardening. It has a directory of blogs you can surf through by region. You don't have to be a blogger to use this resource. You can skim the recent posts or search for a specific subject. There are blogs from around the world that have all sorts of fantastic plants and gardening ideas. Eventually everyone will be able to vote on posts that you really like. Right now that is restricted to only the blog authors but Blotanical is just a young sapling and its features are still growing. Stop by and check it out! Just make sure you come back to read here. I appreciate all the readers and commentators that have stopped by since I started this blog in October. Thanks for making this fun!

Also I was added to the lists at The Best Blogs in Tennessee! It's a directory of blogs in the state of Tennessee that have all sorts of subject areas. I might be the first gardening blog there. Check it out when you get the chance!

This site won a 'Best Blog in Tennessee' award!

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Thursday, February 28, 2008

A Flower in the Garage (Prunus cerasifera)

The blooms of spring are venturing forth from their winter slumber. Of course this particular bloom along with 28 of his buddies are resting in my garage currently awaiting the moment when their rooted feet touch the soil of our yard. What do you think they are?

If you guessed purple leaf plum (Prunus cerasifera) you would be correct! As for why there are 29 little saplings in my garage...that may need some explaining! If you've been following my blog for a bit you know I am a bit of a propagation "nut." Which to me is a good thing! This is a bug that I share apparently with others like Melanie at Old Country Gardens (She has a very nice blog go stop by and say "hi" sometime!) This basically means I can't resist the opportunity to help make a new plant. The story of these 29 wayfaring plums began last fall when there were two plum trees that needed pruning in my parent's yard. They had some crossing branches that would have eventually worn the bark down to the cambium layer. It was definitely time to prune them. Once the bark is worn away the rest of the branch is most likely a goner. Instead of just throwing out all the branches I collected them, clipped them to the appropriate size and propagated them. In this case I left most of them about 8 inches long. I just did the same old technique for propagating cuttings I usually do. I did 29 of them because I wasn't sure how many would root. Well to my surprise I think they all did! Some of them like the one in the picture are even blooming in that storage unit for everything we call a garage.

Now what do I do with 29 purple leaf plums? I definitely don't want that many in my yard. A couple sure but they can sprout saplings very quickly from their fruit. I'll probably put a few up on the slope and maybe one on our border. I might use 4-5 at most. The rest I may take to a plant exchange or give to friends and neighbors who may want them. I've potted up five of them so far and the rest are still in their propagation medium. Some people use them for hedges since they are fast growing and sucker freely, but I prefer to view them as an ornamental tree. They sure do have pretty flowers in the spring or at least in my garage!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

A Little Bit of Snow

A little taste of winter falls in Tennessee. It's pretty while it lasts, too bad there's not enough to coat the grass.

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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

A Surprise Lurking Beneath the Ivy

When I was out and about in the yard with my daughter on Monday I made a small discovery. It was lurking beneath the overgrown ivy topiary in a planter we have had for several years. From time to time we have planted different things in the planter. Once we had ornamental grasses and another time we had bulbs. I think we even grew lettuce in it once! What I found yesterday hearkens back to the day when we had bulbs planted in it. If you look beneath the ivy in the picture above you can see on the right one kind of bulb plant and on the left another. What I'm not sure of is what we planted! I suspect crocuses (which are corms not bulbs) on the right and a daffodil on the left but I can't be sure. It's possible the daffodil could be a tulip.

Here are some close-up shots of the plants in question. The possible crocuses look to be about 4 or more plants ready to be divided. We'll see for sure if and when they bloom. It's possible they won't bloom since their exposure to light was extremely limited before I clipped the ivy.

Here you can see the green growth from the other bulb plant. Is it a tulip or a daffodil?

What do you think crocuses and a daffodil or tulip and crocuses?

What Plant(s) Are You Looking Forward to Planting in 2008?

What plant or plants are you looking forward to planting this year? Do you have something new or is there something you planted last year that did really well and you want to try again?

Our planting season last spring was almost entirely a bust due to our need to rehab our house. The carpets needed replaced, everything needed painted, and we put in hardwood floors. It was a former foreclosure house that we bought for a good value. We spent March, April and the beginning of May working on the house and consequently the yard only received enough attention to get a mowing. Even the mowing didn't happen for a while since we needed to get a riding lawnmower. This year I'm looking forward to planting quite a few things.

One of the first things I'll get into the ground this year will be a nice Yoshino Cherry tree. To me they are the perfect ornamental tree. They're smaller in stature than many trees but have a great form and wonderful flowers in the spring. I've got the perfect place for it in the front yard. I also want to get two more maples to frame an area in the backyard. Red maples or sugar maples would be my preference.

I'm also looking forward to planting the Catmint and Salvia. Since it will be our first year with our raised beds I'm eagerly anticipating those veggies. I have four red-twig dogwoods that have been successfully propagated from cuttings that I want to get into the ground. I may need to wait until fall when they are larger, but since they grow relatively quickly they may do fine.

You can call me crazy if you want but I'm also looking forward to finding those mid-summer discount plants that the big-box stores try to get rid of that only need a minimal amount of maintenance to restore. Let's see, how many more viburnums can I get for my yard...

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Monday, February 25, 2008

My Herb Garden Layout

Herb Garden Layout

I've been debating on exactly what kind of herb garden to implement and after making up some rough sketches of various ideas on paper I decided to throw this basic design together. It has a somewhat formal look yet should be relatively easy to maintain.

I was considering trying to do a knot herb garden but that just looked like more work than I wanted to do, at least at this time. My second thought was a parterre herb garden layout but again to keep it looking as it should regular pruning is a necessity. I also considered a random arrangement to allow it to look fairly natural. The design above is sort of a hybrid of all three with a formal look that won't need real high maintenance pruning.

How The Herb Garden Layout is Designed:

The stepping stones (1) divide the 8 foot bed into four sections. Each section will have similar plantings except for the outer edge. The centerpiece of this herb garden will be the rosemary (2) (which is a perennial) and should grow quite large over time with the occasional clipping for kitchen use. Outside of the main rosemary four other plants will help create an evergreen mass. Next to the rosemary and the stepping stones a purple leaf basil (3) will add some color. In between the purple leaf basil another basil variety will be planted. Possibly a large leaf Italian basil (4). On the outside edge other herbs like thyme, parsley, mint (only in pots), and cilantro (5). I may add other herbs to fit into the open spaces. Mother of Thyme would probably do well in between the stepping stones.

One day I may try the knot herb garden. Maybe when my garden helpers are old enough to be out working!

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Companion Planting and Raised Beds (A Growing Challenge Post)

I've been planning my raised bed garden for a while now and now I've come to another phase. Figuring out how to plant the garden. I'm planning on using a technique called companion planting. Carol at May Dreams Gardens mentioned this a couple weeks ago although she called it Three Sisters gardening. It's concept is pretty simple, plant plants that go well together. By planting these plants you can better manage pests and encourage your plants to thrive with a symbiotic relationship to each other. Some plants can repel or attract pests and some fix nutrients in the soil. It's definitely worth a try! Since I've never used this technique before I thought I'd look up how to do it and find any resources that would help.

What I am going to do is think about companion planting in respect to my raised bed garden. By using their chart I will try to organize what I plan to plant this year in my vegetable garden.

The first vegetable I usually think about in the garden is the tomato. According to the chart onions, marigolds, parsley, and cucumbers will go well together. I was planning on incorporating some marigolds in the garden but if cucumbers go well with the tomatoes I can mix them. That should save some space since the cucumbers will generally be much lower than the tomatoes. The cucumbers should serve as a green mulch and help retain water around the plants.

For the lettuce we can plant it with cucumber or radishes. We'll probably go with the lettuce and radish combination.

Beans have three entries on the chart. One for beans in general, one for bush beans , and one for pole beans. One interesting thing about beans is they fix nitrogen into the soil. This in turn allows other veggies to absorb the nitrogen in the soil and encourages green growth. We may mix a green bean plant into each of the four larger beds.

The peppers are not listed on the chart so I'll just treat them as tomatoes and plant them in similar conditions.

It looks like squash can be planted with the marigolds but has the potato listed as an incompatible plant. I may try to plant the squash in and around the tomatoes like the cucumbers.

The cabbage is good around herbs and onions. That covers most of the list except for the pumpkins and watermelon. I'll probably plant them by themselves in one of the smaller beds where they will cascade out of the beds.

As with many gardening ideas you have to try them to see if they work for you. Companion planting is something I've been interested in for a long time and I'm excited to see how it goes. It should make going organic easier since the plants are working together to prevent pests, prevent disease, and grow strong.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Name That Plant!

Can you identify this plant? We shot this shrub in California in June of 2005 . It was at the entrance of an airplane museum at Edward's Air Force Base.

My Spring Challenge (Clearing the Weeds and Planting a Slope)

Here is a picture of our new territory that I didn't quite know I had until a couple weeks ago. It is covered in a variety of weeds including notable family favorites like ragweed, goldenrod and Queen Anne's lace. Now if it were just the latter two weeds I would be OK with the area as a natural wild field area, but I declared war on the ragweed a long time ago.

I have a step by step idea for this area of the yard. I want to create paths and small to medium size circles of weeds that I can manage as I go. Each of these areas will eventually become a planting spot for perennials or ground covers. This will also let me map out where I want to place beds and give me a gradual feel for the area. Rest assured I will take out any ragweed that dares to stand in my way! Later I want to put a small bench/seating area so you can look down on the rest of our backyard. I will need to do much of this before spring gets into swing since it is all dead right now. Once spring gets going the weeds will start growing which will make clearing them all the more difficult. I'm also considering planting some evergreens on the top edge of the area. I've always liked spruces because of their shape and color.
Above you can see the mass of weeds that entangles this slope. In the background are two of our neighbors houses. It would be nice to provide them with something other than ragweed as a late summer and autumn display. For many of the plants I may go native but I like too many other plants to stick just to natives. Some ornamental goldenrod would be good, since it looks great and thrives in our area. Perhaps some Joe-Pye Weed, Rudbeckia, and loads of ornamental grasses. Nancy Ondra on her blog Gardening Gone Wild showed a picture of one area of her meadow garden that was filled with ornamental grasses. The second to last image is one I'd like to emulate in my yard. My area is a slope so it naturally will be different but there is such a great variety of textures in that image, who wouldn't want to emulate it?

Friday, February 22, 2008

What is Your Gardening Niche?

Over the course of the years gardeners learn many things through experimenting, reading, and talking to other gardeners. There are many different ideas and concepts to use in your garden and eventually you develop a little niche. Dictionary.com defines an ecological niche as " the position or function of an organism in a community of plants and animals." Your gardening niche is that small area of the gardening world that you are more passionately devoted to than any other area of gardening.

You may have one or two of these areas and they may change over the years. It might be something small like one particular plant you just can't do without. Or it might be a broad category that you love like vegetable gardening in all of it's many varieties. It could be flowers or water features, pergolas or wildlife gardening. It could be anything. Your niche is your primary interest, the thing that gets you excited about gardening.

So my question today is: What is your gardening niche?

There are so many things I'm interested in right now from seeds to patios (yep we're planning one of them, I'll save it for a later post) but it's pretty easy for me to single out the one thing that I could call my niche. It would have to be propagating plants. I'm still learning a lot about propagation and every experiment is a new learning experience for me. I just enjoy taking the cuttings and watching for roots to develop. The idea that you can encourage something to grow into a brand new plant from a small piece of another plant fascinates me. This past summer and fall whenever I drove around somewhere and saw a plant that interested me I said to myself "I wonder if I could get a cutting of that!" I've done cuttings mostly but I have dabbled with some layering. I'm hoping to try air layering of a Japanese maple this spring.

Now it's your turn! Tell us what your gardening niche is. You can do it on your blog if you have one, if not just post here!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Thinking of Snow

Since it doesn't appear likely that we'll experience much snow this year in Tennessee I'm importing some pictures of snow to look at. My brother in Flagstaff, Arizona took these pictures of their recent snowfall. They've had several significant snowfalls this year. It would be nice to have just one of them here!

They had 6 inches of snow among the pines.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

8 Benefits of Gardening in Raised Beds

Why should you consider raised bed gardening for your vegetables?

It's a good question. The alternative is to put the garden in the ground which people have done for centuries with success. Why change a good thing? For the small home garden raised beds are a much better option. Below you will find several advantages for using raised beds.

Here are 8 reasons why you should consider gardening in raised beds:

1. You control the soil. You get to start off with a great soil mix from the beginning. Often the ground in our yards and gardens is less than ideal for planting vegetables. Building a raised bed lets you control that factor.

2. Added height can be important to many gardeners for several reasons. The plants are closer to you which means they are easier to plant, maintain, and most importantly harvest! Older gardeners who may not be able to bend very well and handicapped gardeners can still garden with raised beds because of the extra height.

3. You avoid soil compaction. The more you walk on the dirt the more compacted it becomes. Gardens in raised beds are not usually walked on and they do not become compacted. This allows the roots to get the oxygen and moisture they need.

4. You can plant more plants in a smaller space! Because your soil is better than the average soil you have a higher nutrient content in the soil. You can put more plants closer together and the plants will have all the nutrients they need to thrive. This results in more veggies for your dining enjoyment.

5. There are very few weeds in a raised bed garden. At least this is true initially, later the weeds may come but they are easier to remove since the soil is in such great shape!

6. Your growing season is longer because the raised beds warm up faster.

7. They have better drainage than most other soils. Better drainage could be a slight disadvantage since you will have to water more frequently during dry spells.

8. Probably the best reason for a raised bed is if you have a troublesome site where you can't dig. Many areas of Tennessee are almost solid rock so you can see where a raised bed might come in handy. If you can't dig down build up! Raised beds are your best bet for a plentiful crop of vegetables.

If you are looking for some things to think about when you're designing your raised bed garden look here!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

My Vegetable Garden Layout Part 2 (Raised Beds)

It may seem like I'm jumping ahead a bit but here is a picture of our first raised bed. I'll be putting together a step by step post on it later. There is still one more bed to build and both of them need to be prepared for planting. As you can see the small bed is actually a little higher than the other two. This allows for some slightly deeper roots and because I thought it looked good! I didn't use any corner posts even though that would have made it more sturdy. This was simpler. If I need to I'll reinforce the joints later with some 1"x8" wood. The best wood to use is either cedar or redwood but those can be expensive. I used pine. Why? It's cheaper. I don't think it will last more than a couple years and by then my plans may have changed for these beds. I didn't use pressure treated lumber as I don't trust the chemical process well enough to chance putting strange chemicals into our veggies. I still need to get the bed into it's final position but that will have to wait until the second bed is made.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Herb Seeds for 2008 (A Growing Challenge Post)

The herb garden will be a new experience for me. In the past I have used pots for the herbs, this year I'll see what I can do with the in-ground Herb Garden I have planned (Herb Garden Layout). Most of the plants will be from seed but not all! Here is what we decided on for the herb garden:

This is one of our staple herbs that we use very often. We picked several kinds including Dark Opal Purple (the name says it all, it's purple!), Sweet Basil, and Bush Spicy Globe. I'm curious about the last one as it is supposed to grow into a nice little ball shape. It should make an interestingly shaped plant for the herb garden.


The package calls it common thyme, but common or not everyone always could use a little more thyme.


We love cilantro in guacamole and Mexican flavored dishes. It should go well with the peppers I have planned for the vegetable garden! One interesting note: the seeds are the spice called coriander.

I'll have to plant some potatoes in the garden to go with the chives. Chives go well with many things like chicken, burgers, and even eggs.

This one is called Mediterranean oregano. The oregano should see a good deal of use.


I haven't tried parsley but I thought we would give it a try.


We bought a packet of broad leaf sage seed to add to the mix.

We have two types to try. One is the traditional Lavender augustifolia and the other is called Lavender Lady. Lavender Lady is said to flower in the first year. The plants are smaller than typical lavender at about 8-10 inches.


The rosemary we have will come from cuttings off of a
giant plant my mother has and one that I was given at Christmas time. It's amazing how easy rosemary is to root! You can layer it or just cut it off and let it root in water.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

My Vegetable Garden Layout (Raised Beds)

Here is a small diagram of my intended raised bed vegetable garden layout. It will have 4 larger beds. Two of them will be 6 feet long and the other two will be 8 feet long. Each of these will connect to each other through the middle bed that is 4' x 4' square. Having several beds should allow me to rotate the vegetables from year to year. A center 4'x4' bed will be for starting perennials. The dimensions are subject to change but I'll try to stick close to the plan. Each bed will be made of 2"x8" or 2"x10" lumber and fastened together with deck screws. The walkway in the middle will be at least three feet in width to allow for easy walking and wheelbarrow access. Extra beds could be added later.

Yesterday I put together one 4'x4' raised bed with one 6' raised bed. Hopefully I'll get another chance to work on it soon, my cordless drill kept running out of power. It's a good drill usually but the battery pack has seen better days!

Edit: For 2009 I decided to redesign the vegetable garden. Here's the new vegetable garden layout.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Tinkering and Puttering

Yesterday the weather was great so I went outside to tinker and putter around. Tinkering and puttering is just when you look for little things to do that don't take a lot of time but you need or want to get done. Here's what I did:

I trimmed the ornamental grasses down. They were looking pretty ragged and since they never had any flower stalks appear they were lacking any great winter interest. I clipped them down to about 4-5 inches tall. Now they're ready to go for spring.

I clipped a few of the salvias' dead growth off. The old growth wasn't doing much good in sheltering the base of the plant and off it went! I did the same with the enchinacea.

I pruned off a side shoot of an Achillea and since it had roots I potted it up. Then I put it in the garage green house for it to grow on until spring.

I transplanted my red-twig dogwoods (Cornus stolinifera) into soil! It was exciting to see the roots on all four of the cuttings. 100% success on the dogwoods after almost giving up on them!

I also transplanted five purple leaf plums (Prunus cerasifera) into pots. I pruned up a couple purple leaf plums in my parents yard in the fall and decided to try to root a few. I wasn't sure how easy they would be to root and took as many small branches as I could. It probably numbered around 35. The five I checked all had good root systems going which makes me wonder how many of the others are rooted. Maybe I can take them to a plant exchange or give a few away!

I also planted four small pots of lavender. It was called Lavender Lady which is said to flower in the first year from seed. We'll see if I can get them going!

Friday, February 15, 2008

Tennessee Garden Bloggers are Growing!

What else would you expect with garden blogs but to be growing? Two newcomers are on the scene for Tennessee growing the total to five (that I know about). Gail at Clay and Limestone and Craig at Harvistry. Both blogs appear to have unique content that is worth a look!

Gail's title refers to the content of most soil in Tennessee. Clay and limestone make up a good portion of our land so the best thing is to amend, make raised beds, or go native!

Craig is documenting his back patio gardening and is a professional landscape designer.

Go drop in and welcome these new garden bloggers to the neighborhood!

Plant Propagation Continues

Even though I've been fairly quiet recently about my plant propagation efforts I'm still working on several things.  Many of my cuttings I do indoors and keep away from the cold winter weather.  Very soon I'll go and take cuttings from the evergreens but for now here's what I've rooted recently.

Confirmed rooted:
Japanese Dappled Willows (Salix integra) - I need to get these willows into some pots.  I used the water method.
Carolina Jasmine (Gelsemium sempervirens)- I took  a couple cuttings from what i think is a Carolina jasmine.  It's border line hardy here in TN as it is a zone 7-9 plant but should survive alright if we provide a good microclimate for it.  The aerial roots make rooting in a glass of water very easy!
Azalea - I manage to get two of our azaleas to root.  I don't remember how long it took but it may have been between 8-10 weeks before any substantial roots appeared.  Three other cuttings still haven't rooted but are still alive.
Crape Myrtle - Three more crape myrtles are rooted and potted.  I have some ideas for these myrtles near one side of our property.

In progress:
Yoshino Cherry (Prunus x yedoensis) - I've tried to propagate Yoshino Cherries before without success.  This time I took 8 cuttings and placed them in a sand pot indoors in our bathroom.  Hopefully the humidity will keep them from drying out.  After three weeks all are still alive and look promising but I won't check them until I am sure they have rooted.  Impatience is the enemy of the plant propagator!
Kwanzan Cherries (Prunus serrulata) - I only took 5 cuttings of the pink flowering Kwanzan Cherry.  Both the Yoshino Cherry and Kwanzan Cherry tree cuttings came from my parent's yard.  Our Yoshino took some deer damage this fall and I didn't want to tempt fate by taking cuttings. 
Purple Leaf Plum (Prunus cerasifera)- These were extremely easy to propagate last winter and I thought I would make another batch this year.  Unfortunately I let the plums I rooted last year go since I didn't have a place for them.  I have some ideas for these!
Red Twig Dogwoods (Cornus stolonifera) - I only have two red twig dogwoods going this fall. One of them is in the front garden which I just shoved a cutting in the dirt and the other is in the house in a container of sand.  Unfortunately the dogwood I took cuttings from last year suffered some severe die back this summer and I really couldn't take many cuttings from it.  All the other Red Twig Dogwoods around our house are too small to get any more than the two cuttings I made.  Next year I should be able to make quite a few.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Flower Seeds: My 2008 Picks

Since our yard was rather devoid of color and life this past season with the possible exceptions of the verbenas, mums, and asters I am making a strident attempt to improve the year round color situation. Our house was at one time a rental house that was not cared for very well inside or out. As you can imagine the yard didn't have much to work with. For me this is the year to brighten things up. Perennials and annuals will have new homes in our landscape. So who's coming to live in our garden? Here are some of the new seeds for our yard.

My 2008 Flowering Plants from Seed Picks

Planning for a Summer Wedding Landscape

This summer there will be another wedding in the family. My wife's brother will be getting married to his longtime girlfriend on July 12th. What does this have to do with gardening? The ceremony is going to be help at my in-laws house in their backyard and I will need to help plan the landscaping for the area surrounding the ceremony. There is a lot of work ahead! The colors they have in mind are green, yellow, and white. After the wedding the plants will need to be easily adaptable to the surrounding landscape. We are in the initial stages of planning right now and I'm thinking about what kinds of vegetation to plant. I'm considering various shrubs, perennials, and ornamental grasses. Later we'll think about annuals for the instant color. Everything that flowers will need to be a repeat bloomer or flower in mid-July.

We are also contemplating a hardscaped area that will eventually become a small patio. The ceremony will take place on the stone patio that will be positioned beneath the three big trees in the picture below. The plan for the hardscape will be to add soil to the area then lay the stone on top of the soil and plant ground cover in between the cracks of the stones. I don't want to dig around the tree roots for two reasons. One I could hurt the tree and two the tree could hurt me, or at least my back! By laying the stone on the soil we will allow for drainage for the trees and won't disturb any roots and it will save me some aches and pains.

We may use some pots and planters here and there but most of the plants will need to go into the ground. The ground in this area of Tennessee is very full of rocks and clay and digging down may not be the best option. Berms may be necessary.

Do you have any suggestions for shrubs and perennials? Good foliage color and good timing for blooming is important. I'll think about the annuals later! (July 12th is the target date and the colors are green, yellow, and white.)

Giving Valentine's Day Flowers that Last

Here are the flowers I gave my wife for Valentine's Day. I like to give flowers that you can plant in the garden when they are done blooming. It seems wasteful to just buy a bouquet and let them fade away. Once the weather is warm enough I'll but them outside where we can enjoy them next spring.

Here are the two pink carnations for our little girls. When I bought them the flower lady told me in a slightly condescending way that carnations are for appreciation. I had no idea that individual flowers had specific meanings. I don't think my 2 1/2 year old and almost 3 months old care about any silly meanings. All they know is that mommy and daddy got them a pretty flower, and that's probably all that matters!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Scientific Names and Their Origins: Sinensis

I've been curious lately about the scientific names of plants and their origins. How are they put together? What do they mean?

What's in a Name?

One name I see frequently is sinenis. Camellia sinensis and Miscanthus sinensis are two plants that use sinensis in their name but there are many others. Camellia sinensis is the plant that makes tea. Green tea is harvested from the fresh green leaves while black tea is made from the fermented leaves. Miscanthus sinensis is an ornamental grass that is very popular here in the United States. There are variegated varieties like 'Zebrinus' (one we have) and many others. What do these two plants have in common aside from the last part of their name? They are very dissimilar plants but what they do have in common is their origin. Camellia sinensis and Miscanthus sinensis are both natives of Asia and more specifically of China. Sinensis is from Latin and essentially means from China. The first part of the word 'sin' comes from Sinae which according to Wikipedia was the Greek and Roman name for the people who inhabited an area of China just south of what was once called the Seres region. The Latin prefix 'sin' has been traditionally used to refer to China. It's a good bet that if a plant has the last name of sinensis it's from China!

Getting Organized

Over the next several days I'll be doing some minor changes to the site (emphasis on minor!) to help get better organized. I'll just be making some posts that will house links to related posts to make things easier to find information. When I starting this blog I didn't give a whole lot of thought on how to do things, I just wrote what I thought about. That's not going to change but I can look back now and see some definite patterns in my posting. Those patterns can be better grouped into subject areas and that's what I'll be doing. So please bear with me while I spruce up the place a bit!

The Herb Garden

Here are some links to posts on my herb garden. It includes a basic layout.

My Herb Garden Layout
Planning the Herb Garden
Herb Seeds for 2008

Some posts on Herbs.

Layering Rosemary
Follow Up:Rosemary

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Joining the Growing Challenge

Melinda over at Elements in Time has issued a challenge to bloggers to grow one more thing than they did last year and talk about it each week! I'd probably talk about it anyway but this seemed like a good idea to see what others are doing in their gardens. Go over and check out what it's all about!

Plant Propagation: The Basics of Cuttings

One of the most interesting and rewarding parts of gardening is making new plants. Whether from seed, cuttings, or division it is exciting to watch new plants grow into your landscape. For me I really enjoy taking cuttings. If you have never done a cutting before you should try it. It's not difficult if you accept ahead of time that you will have some failures, but you will also have some successes. It all depends on the type of plant from which the cutting was taken. Plants that sucker naturally tend to be easier to reproduce through cuttings than others.

Here are some advantages to taking cuttings:

1. They become established easier and faster than plants from seed.
2. You are assured of getting the same plant each time. When you plant from seed you may or may not get the same plant from seed. It depends on what plant cross-pollinated with the plant the seeds were taken from.
3. You can make more plants from cuttings than you can from division. A single branch of a shrub could become 4 or more plants. With divisions you may get several good plants with one operation but then you need to wait until they grow back to make more. Of course some plants take to division better than cuttings.

Basic Procedures for Taking Cuttings

1. Have your rooting medium ready. Sand, vermiculite, and peat work well in various mixtures. I mostly use sand but mixing it into a 50/50 mix of sand and peat works too. I will be moving away from peat and moving to coconut fiber in the future for environmental reasons. Some plants will root fine if just stuck into soil (i.e. forsythia, willow) but plants that may be sensitive to disease or tricky to root should be rooted in a sterile rooting mix.

2. Have clean and sharp pruners ready for the cuts. Clean pruners are very important since you can transport diseases to your new cuttings from other plants. You want your cuttings to began life with every possible advantage so clean your tools with a diluted bleach solution.

3. Take the cuttings. As a general guideline cut with at least three nodes on the stem. This can vary but the nodes are where growth hormones reside and having several nodes may work better for some plants than just one. Depending on the time of year you will probably want to do a different cut. Greenwood cuttings work well in the spring and early summer, semi-ripe cuttings in the mid-to-late summer, and hardwood cuttings in the fall or winter. Those are very general guidelines. If you can bring your cuttings indoors almost any of these will work. You will need to protect your cuttings from the elements until they are hardy enough to withstand life in the great outdoors. Some plants will do well with internodal cuttings, which are the cuts you make between the nodes and others will only sprout roots from the node itself. Leave some small leaves on the end if there are any to help the plant to continue to make food for itself. If the leaves are large cut them in half or more to reduce moisture loss.

4. Apply rooting hormone to the cutting. Dip the cutting in a fungicidal solution and sprinkle a little rooting hormone over the base of the cutting. Knock off any extra hormone. Make sure that the cutting has a little hormone all the way up to the nodes.

5. Stick the cuttings. Place the cutting in your moist rooting medium. Make sure you place the container in a sheltered location with a little indirect light. Keep the cuttings moist but not soggy. The use of a dibber or pencil to make a hole will prevent the rooting hormone from being knocked off the cutting.

6. Wait. It takes time. Some plants will take as little as a few days or weeks to root while other may take months. Monitor your cuttings as the try to root. As long as it isn't rotting there is hope. Toss out any rotting or molding cuttings before they contaminate the others then apply a fungicide to help those that remain. When the plants begin to sprout new foliar growth they have probably already rooted. Check the roots and pot them up into a pot with a soilless potting mix and let them grow until they are large enough to be planted in your landscape.

These are just general guidelines that I have followed while learning how to propagate plants. I've had pretty good success doing things this way but it it may not work for every plant. My advice is to try it and see if it works. You learn something new even in failure! If you have a question about propagating a plant and want to ask me about it drop me an email at TheHomeGarden@gmail.com. I can't guarantee I know the answer but I may be able to point you in the right direction!

If you want and excellent source on propagating plants get the book from the American Horticultural Society called Plant Propagation: The Fully Illustrated Plant-by-Plant Manual of Practical Techniques by Alan Toogood. For me it is the Bible of Propagating plants! It's very easy to understand and shows specific methods for each plant.

And for a list of 10 easy to propagate plants check out this post!

Monday, February 11, 2008

Vegetable Seeds for 2008

On Saturday I purchased most of the vegetable seeds that we plan on growing for this season. We are dividing seeds with my parents since neither of us need all the seeds this year. The raised beds still need to be assembled but the wood is in the garage just waiting to be used. We also bought some herb and flower seeds but I'll talk about them another time. So without further ado...here are our 2008 Vegetable picks!

We love tomatoes and wanted to have a good variety. We decided to try an heirloom tomato which is why we picked Brandywine. We still need to get some Roma tomato seed.
Beefmaster hybrid
Big Boy Hybrid

Supersweet 100
: one inch cherry type tomatoes


All Season Romaine Mix

German Giant: a crimson red globe shaped radish that is 1 1/2 inches around.

We wanted some peppers this year that had some color as well as some for seasoning salsa. We use the peppers on pizza, omelets, and salads.
Big Dipper hybrid: produces 4 1/2" x 4 1/2" four lobed green peppers.

Cardinal hybrid: produces 3" x 3" purple fruits that turn to red later in the season.
Long Thin Cayenne pepper: a 5" long hot pepper.


Poinsett 76: 8 1/2" long by 2 1/2" in diameter. Gotta have cucumbers for salad and cucumbers and onions!

Dixie Hybrid: for fried squash!

Jack O' Lantern: we saved some seed from our pumpkin last year but we wanted to be sure we ended up with a good pumpkin for carving.

Crimson Sweet: who doesn't love a good watermelon?

We like green onions for salads and garnishes which is why we chose the Evergreen Long White Bunching Onions. We also like red onions grilled in olive oil so we bought Red Burgundy Onions.

We are not quite done yet, we still need to pick up some Roma tomato and cabbage seed.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Vegetable Gardening with Raised Beds

Here is a a list of posts that discuss using raised beds for gardening.

Designing a Raised Bed Vegetable Garden: 11 Things to Think About

Companion Planting Vegetable Garden Layout

The Benefits of Gardening in Raised Beds

My Vegetable Garden Layout

My Vegetable Garden Layout Part 2

New Raised Bed Vegetable Garden Layout

Building My Raised Beds

Propagating Plants for Your Landscape

Here is a list of topics about propagating plants for your home landscape. The first three posts have some important information on propagating plants while the individual plant posts offer information about propagating the plant in question as well as my own experiences with them. Enjoy!

Propagating Plants: The Basics of Cuttings

What in the World are Plant Patents?

10 Easy Plants to Propagate for Your Home Garden

Shrubs and Trees Perennials and Annuals
Birch Tree (Betula nigra) from cuttings

Caryopteris (Blue Mist Shrub)

Crape Myrtle Propagation by Cuttings

Red Twig Dogwood

Beautyberry from Cuttings

Dwarf English Laurel

Pyracanthus Augustifolia

Japanese Dappled Willow (Salix integra) Cuttings Water Method

Butterfly Bush Cuttings Making Progress

Adventures on a Warm Winter Day
(Progress report on Butterfly Bush Cuttings)

Holly Cuttings

Hydrangeas: Variegated (macrophylla), Update

Hydrangeas: Oak Leaf (Hydrangea quercifolia)
Hydrangeas: More on Oak Leaf Hydrangea

Burning Bush (Euonymous alata)

Purple Leaf Plum Propagation

Densiformis Yew

Leyland Cypress

Viburnum Cuttings

Viburnum, Arrowwood (Viburnum dentatum)

Russian Sage Cuttings (Plant Propagation Update)

Coleus Cuttings

5 Days 4 Catmints (Nepeta faassinii)

Propagating Perennials: Russian Sage, Salvia, and Coneflower

Asiatic Lily Propagation

Artemsia 'Powis Castle'

Persian Shield (Strobinlanthus dyerianus)

Basil Propagation

Plant Propagation for Home Gardens

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Signs of Spring

Yesterday in a walk around the yard we discovered some signs of the spring to come. Daffodils are sprouting up all over, the verbena is greening up and some sedum sprouts are peaking from their winter slumber. Maybe it's early, but the temperatures have felt like spring. Historically our worst winter weather tends to happen in February and March but maybe we'll get through uneventfully. I just hope that the early warm weather doesn't cause a false spring then a late freeze like last year. I don't know if the plants that are recovering from that event will survive a second round.

To the left you can see one of our daffodil's saying "Is it Spring yet?"

Below is one of our 'Homestead Purple' verbenas starting to green-up.

See them sedums sproutin'!

More daffodils!

Friday, February 8, 2008

One Big Tree

I like this picture for both the tree and for the sky in the background. This is a tulip poplar tree (Liriodendron tulipifera) located in our newly discovered territory. It's a large tree and suffered some branch die back because of the drought of last summer. The branches were knocked down recently in one of our storms. The tulip poplar is Tennessee's state tree and is easily identified by the tulip shaped leaves and it's yellow-orange flowers. According to the Tennessee Government website the tulip poplar was adopted in 1947 and was chosen because it grows from one end of the state to the other. The other reason given was because the early settlers of Tennessee used the tulip poplar to build their homes, barns and other buildings. A pretty important tree in the founding of our state!

What is your state tree and how did your state decide on it?

Red Twig Dogwood Propagation (Cornus stolonifera)

This week I was excited to find that something I had given up for lost actually worked. I took some cuttings of a Red Twig Dogwood (Cornus stolonifera) back in the fall. After I prepared the cuttings they sat for several weeks without anything happening. Just after I transplanted my butterfly bush cuttings (Adventures on a Warm Winter Day!) I thought I would try to bring in a few more cuttings from outside and the dogwoods were the main candidates. I had been keeping them in the garage near a window so I figured that bringing them inside into the warmth might hasten the rooting process.

I re-stuck the dogwoods into the same pot I used for the rooted butterfly bush cuttings then brought them inside. My hope for the little dogwoods turned out to be well founded. Two of them are leafing out and two others have roots but no leaves yet. It's it can be a good sign that roots have appeared when propagated plants have started to leaf out.

Red twig dogwoods or red-osier dogwoods are great for winter color. I have a plan in mind for our front porch planting bed using dwarf cherry laurels and red twig dogwoods to give our drab winter landscape a little color interest.

Here's how I rooted the red twig dogwood cuttings:
  • I selected 5 cuttings with at least 3 nodes each. I made the bottom cut of each stem just below a node.
  • Dabbed each of the cut ends of the red twig dogwoods with rooting hormone.
  • Placed them in sand and watered gently.
  • I kept the medium moist but not soggy and waited until leaves on at least one of the cuttings began to form then checked for roots.
For More on Plant Propagation:
Plant Propagation: The Basics
10 Easy Plants to Propagate for Your Home Garden

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Nature's Water Features

Scenes from nature often can offer inspiration and ideas for people to imitate. Here are some of nature's water features.

Dodging a Bullet

After the storms last night it feels like we dodged the proverbial bullet. Storms blasted through Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi, Kentucky, and several other states bringing rain, lightning, hail, and tornadoes. It was not a restful evening by any means but we prepared for it. We used our closet under the stairs for a safety spot and stocked it with a few important things like a blanket, a change of clothes, some water, a cell phone, and our important records. Did we overreact? Probably not. According to the news broadcast this morning over sixty tractor trailers toppled on the interstates. Twenty four people in our state were killed. Five people were killed in Sumner county. Sumner county isn't near us but homes were flattened in Williamson County which is. Tennesseans all over the state were affected and West Tennessee received much of the damage last night. Union University in Jackson, TN lost several dorms and was very fortunate to escape with no fatalities. One of my wife's cousins attends Union and was in her dorm when it was decimated. She was able to take shelter in an internal bathroom and aside from being distraught she was fine.

We were on the outer edge of the storms. The tornado producing cells came earlier in the evening and went north of us. We were watching the weather at two in the morning and lost a little sleep but nothing else. I can look out our window and see no damage in our yard and think of all those people affected last night. We are very lucky to have dodged this bullet.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Here's a Pickle For You

I'm in a bit of a pickle. Sorry if you thought I was handing out pickles with my post title. In this case the pickle refers to a dilemma or situation. It's not a bad situation by any means. Something I suspected since we moved into our house was confirmed to me yesterday.

While outside doing some winter sowing I thought I'd walk around a bit. I went to the back property line and walked up a little to see if I could finally find the post that marks our corner. I've been looking for it for several months now. I couldn't find it so in a moment of spontaneity I trudged up the hill to my neighbor's house. I've only spoken to him once before although we have waved at each other coming and going. He's from Ireland and out of the country frequently and travels for his business so we don't see him too often. I rang his doorbell and asked about our property line. I should have done this much sooner but I'm a bit of an introvert and going up to talk to people spontaneously is not really in my nature. We walked along the line and I discovered that what I thought I owned was smaller than what I actually owned. Not a bad problem! The only difficulty is that this area is a steep slope with many, many weeds. In my estimation this are could be almost 1/5 of our yard. It's a big area.

What do I do with it now? I have a few ideas but what would you do with a steep slope covered with weeds? Ground covers? Landscaping a slope economically could be a challenge.

Monday, February 4, 2008

If I had a Million Dollars...

"If I had a million dollars..."

This is the main chorus line in a very humorous song by the Bare Naked Ladies but doesn't everyone think this every now and then?

So with a gardening slant...

If I had a million dollars I'd build a modest house of four bedrooms and put it on as much acreage as I could afford and still have money leftover for everything else on my list. Twenty to thirty acres would do. It would have a long, long driveway with red and sugar maples lining the sides of it creating some spectacular fall color (and a bunch of leaves for the compost bin).

Outside of the maples the ground would be left mostly natural either with fields of wildflowers and grass or surrounding forest which ever it happened to be. Behind the house would be fields or forest left mostly natural. Through the fields there would be pathways that would form a rough sort of maze with points of interest along the way. Little gardens in the rough just waiting to pop out and grab your attention. Places to sit and contemplate nature would be placed along the way. Somewhere on the property there would be a natural stream like the one I grew up around perfect for wildlife to visit. Birches and other water loving trees would create a shade grove around that creek.

Near the house there would be a large vegetable garden that could host every sort of vegetable I could imagine and then some. Some for canning, some for eating and some for giving away. There would be a heated greenhouse for my many cutting experiments and seed starting. I would also have the ultimate garden shed, it would be powered, heated and have running water. I would go solar also. I'd have the shed and the house powered to run off the sun!

What would you do if you had a million dollars for your garden?

I could probably think of more but I'll stop now and tell you this, "if I had a million dollars...

I'd be rich!"

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Staring into the Blue Mist

I've been perusing many catalogs over the past several days trying to figure out what seeds to get. I finally wrote down the vegetables the other day but while looking at the plethora of pictures in the catalogs I found a perennial shrub that intrigues me. I've seen it before but the catalogs' pictures make the Blue Mist Shrub come alive. Its blue blooms would make an awesome addition to our yard. I could easily see it in sweeping masses along our backyard slope. Its blooms flush out in the mid to late summer. Caryopteris has several varieties like 'Longwood Blue' or 'Dark Knight' (Caryopteris x clandonesis). I wonder what Batman would think to have a flowering shrub named after him?

It would make a great border plant for one of our existing planting beds or lining a pathway to one of my future garden zones. Edit: See an update on the Caryopteris row!


Photo from Wayside Gardens