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Monday, March 31, 2008

Yesterday in the Garden

Yesterday was a day of many minor accomplishments. The sky was overcast but no rain came down while I worked out in the yard. I managed to attack several nagging chores that needed done. While I work I always try to look around and take some mental notes of things that need done and what's happening in the garden. Here's what I did along with some of my observations of the day.

  • I planted about 10-12 Japanese Dappled Willow cuttings that I had started last fall. Salix integra is noted for its dappled foliage that has some reddish tints toward the tips of the leaves. It is a shrub and will max out at around 8-10 feet tall. These plants grow fast and will hopefully make a nice deciduous privacy screen for the spring through autumn months. They are extremely easy to propagate like most willows.
  • I staked out our green weeping willow so it wouldn't lean too far to one side. It has leafed out pretty good so far.
  • I planted a red maple toward the back of our property. Maples are one of my favorite trees. Acer rubrum will have some nice fall color and provide some good summer shade!
  • I observed the Red Sunset maple we planted last spring is already starting to produce samaras. Samaras are the little winged seeds the flutter to the ground like little helicopters and make new maples to enjoy.
  • I stopped by the compost bin to turn it and found what appeared to be a cabbage growing out of the pile. I picked it up and put it in one of the garden beds that I filled Saturday to see what may come of it.
  • Oh, I forgot to mention that I finally filled the garden beds on Saturday! I can check that off my to-do list. I'll show some pictures later!
  • I cleared a bunch of weeds from beds. I think I pulled enough of them that I can stay ahead of them. The corner bed with my Heuchera is getting overtaken by wild strawberry so I need to intervene soon!
  • I noticed that my 'Purple Homestead' Verbena is about to bloom. That's very early, but with it's proximity to paved surfaces it is probably getting some good heat to keep it warm over-night. That's why gravel can make a good mulch, it will retain the heat of the sun and release it at night.
  • I noticed that a spirea I propagated last year that I thought was dead is in fact alive! That was a nice find.
  • My 'Stella de Oro' daylilies are growing fast. I divided one clump into 13 smaller clumps in the fall. We should have some nice color this year!
  • Some liriope (monkey grass) I divided last week is thriving. A huge clump was left by the previous owners that I divided into 30 plants. It is now serving as an edging to a bed of daylilies.
  • My Russian sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia) is leafing out. I can't wait to take some cuttings off of them. I'm hoping that their fragrant leaves will be a deterrent to bunnies and deer when I plant it around my garden.
  • I discovered that my yellow leather work gloves will stain my fingers yellow.
  • The Yoshino Cherry I planted a few weeks ago will actually have some blooms this year. The buds are very close to breaking. This is one of my favorite flowering trees so you can be sure it will make an appearance on this blog!
  • I put in some daylily divisions in the rain garden. I know I should probably have waited a couple weeks but they wanted to be planted so badly I couldn't resist. These daylilies are an orange-yellow kind that I picked up from my mother-in-law's house. They were already sprouting last weekend at their house. They should be fine.
  • I noticed that my Euonymous fortunei cuttings are showing new growth. wasn't sure that they would make it through the winter.
  • I transplanted my 8 butterfly bush cuttings into one large pot to grow for a couple more weeks indoors. One of them had actually flowered! I'll be able to move them outside after the last frost date which is usually around mid-April.
  • The War of the Weeds is not over. I sighted some ragweed invaders that will need squashing.
  • My viburnums are beginning to show some foliage. They were some discount plants I found last fall for about $1-$2 each. One is a 'Shasta' and the other two are snow ball types.
  • My Arbor Day forsythias are showing some good green growth but no flowers. They were too small last fall to have developed any buds. I'll do some pruning on them this year to encourage some good branching.
  • The Bradford Pears have lost most of their blossoms by now. That reminds me, I still need to do my "Why You Shouldn't Plant A Bradford Pear Tree But Some People Do Anyway" post. Catchy title don't you think?
  • My little redbud trees (Cercis canadensis) are starting to make leaves. They probably won't flower this year, but I'm just happy they made it through the winter. Their root systems were rather small when I planted them.
  • The Campanella 'Canterbury Bells', Bells of Ireland, and 'Grandpa Ott's' Morning Glory have all sprouted. Grandpa is growing fast!
  • I noticed that this list is getting very long...
  • My other seeds in the garage are doing well. I should have plenty of tomatoes this year.
  • Even though I did this last Thursday I did finally fix my deck rail. It will probably break again since some serious work needs done on our deck, but a temporary patch will help us get by for now.
  • I noticed that spell checkers can't decipher botanical names. Something needs to be done about that.

Well that should do for now for my list of things I did or noticed yesterday. I'm sure I forgot something but it can wait. My next door neighbor came by to ask me about building raised beds for their garden. After I built mine his neighbors on the other side of him built two raised beds. It seems that gardening is contagious! It just reaffirms to me how great raised beds are for vegetable gardening.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

The Garden Primer by Barbara Damrosch

The other day I was contacted by the folks at Workman Publishing. They had a new book that they wanted someone to look at so I said I'd be happy to check it out. The book is The Garden Primer: Second Edition by Barbara Damrosch. Some of you may be familiar with the original version of this gardening manual that was produced about 20 years ago. This version has been updated to include newer and better information about organic and sustainable gardening.

I found a wealth of knowledge inside this book that beginning gardeners will find invaluable. More advanced gardeners will still find it a useful resource that will help fill those gaps of forgotten information.

The first few chapters discuss a variety of gardening practices and techniques, about what plants need to thrive, tools for the garden and how to select various plants. This is where Barbara fills in the gardening gaps and gives you really useful information. She talks about plant diseases and how to deal with them, procedures like double digging garden beds, types of weeds and even how to compost for your garden. There are also chapters that discuss the various plant types giving many examples of annuals, perennials, vegetables, herbs, fruits, ground covers, and several more! In all over 370 different plants are discussed. To me those sections are fantastic. I can open the book up to vegetables and find all I need to know about tomatoes or anything else that I intend to plant in my garden. What gardener wouldn't like to learn more about the individual varieties of plants they grow in their garden? Each plant description tells how to grow it the best way possible and in some cases she shares her personal experience with that plant. The vegetable section is very specific. For each vegetable she covers the appropriate site for growing, how to plant it, some tips for the plant while it's growing, information on pests, harvesting, and the varieties of the plant.In the vegetable section she includes a small garden layout of 20' x 24' and a larger one of 40' x 60'. The other plant sections also contain useful garden plans.

The Garden Primer packs in significant gardening information to create a veritable tome of garden knowledge. This is one of those books that you pick up and learn something new each time you read it. Barbara writes in a very conversational way, sharing stories of her personal experiences and philosophies of gardening. It seems that she draws you into the conversation in such a casual and friendly manner that it doesn't feel like some scientific horticulturalist speaking in technical jargon, but rather a friendly neighbor sharing her experiences.

The one thing that I felt The Garden Primer lacked was color photographs. The pencil drawings in the book are very well done but one of the most important aspects of gardening, in my opinion, is color. To see the flowers and vegetables listed in a color format would have been extremely helpful, especially for planning purposes. I think you lose a little detail without the color photographs.

It would be impossible for one book to have all the gardening information in the world, but the Garden Primer would be a good first place to look. The Garden Primer is great informational read and an asset for any gardener's library!

Saturday, March 29, 2008

A Great Site for Wildflowers

While searching for a picture to confirm the identity of my mysterious sedum I found a great wildflower website written by another Tennessean! It's called East Tennessee Wildflowers. The site is full of pictures and information and even has lesson plans for teachers who want to add a wildflower element to their classrooms. Kris, the author and photographer, is a teacher and a science outreach instructor for The American Museum of Science and Energy. I highly recommend taking a look around her site if you are interested in wildflowers!

I think I can confirm the identity of the sedum now as a Widow's Cross or Sedum pulchellum. Thank you Gail (Clay and Limestone) for your input!

In other Tennessee blog news Tina at In the Garden has moved from her previous address. I've updated the link on this site, stop by and say hi when you get the chance!

The Birds!

Like something out of an Alfred Hitchcock movie they came. Our house and community were surrounded. Hundreds or thousands, I could not possibly count them all. These small black birds flew in mass formations like blackened thunderclouds about to burst.

(Use the player to hear the actual birds. It's a little soft so you may have to turn your volume up.)

They landed in search of food, feasting on whatever they could find. These birds did not appear picky.

The flock lighted in the trees scouring the surrounding hillside for any possible form of nourishment.

They moved from tree to tree as a great black wave. One could only watch as they flew praying that they would fly away to another place far from here. One thing is for sure...

I'm glad I didn't wash my car!

Friday, March 28, 2008

Have you Seen this Plant?

I found this plant on a limestone outcropping near the Yellow Corydalis and the False Garlic. It appears to be a type of succulent. The stems and larger leaves have a red tint around the edges while the smaller leaves are more narrow and green. I suspect it is a wild stonecrop of some sort but I don't know for sure. Anyone out there have any guesses as to what kind of plant this might be?

In other events of the day:

  • I bought a tree! A red maple tree for the back yard.
  • The tomatoes are coming up like crazy, 24 at last count.
  • I think I may have raised a redbud from seed. I stratified it over the winter and one small seedling is rising from the flat.
  • Agastache foeniculum (Hyssop) seedlings are coming up.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Thoughts While Pruning the Lawn

I was pruning the lawn on Tuesday night (aka mowing) and as usual I spent that time contemplating my yard and garden. It's a nice time to relax and observe places in your yard that you may not go to frequently for various reasons. Think about it, when you are riding around on your lawnmower you end up seeing almost every possible vantage point of your yard. You see the lawn for all its wonderful weeds and wildflowers (the two are sometimes synonymous). You see around your garden beds, whether they are they vegetable or flowering. You observe the work that needs done in those beds and have time to consider you massive to-do list. You tour around the trees and watch the birds flit about. If you don't need a riding mower you may even see more, that is if your not huffing and puffing due to the strenuous exercise. It is good exercise, I promise!

I use two mowers, one a riding mower and the other a push mower. I usually start with the push mower and depending on what I need to do I do one of two things. I either leave the bagger attachment to the mower or I don't. I hope you weren't looking for some monumental groundbreaking mowing strategy! Still, there is a little strategy involved. When I want to collect the grass clippings I attach the bagger, when I don't need clippings I leave the bagger off and let the mower mulch. Shocking logic right? Now what do I do with the clippings? The easy answer is to add them to the compost bin. It's a great way build up that compost quickly. Another possible answer would be to put them as a base layer in my semi-lasagna garden beds. I did this for my raised bed vegetable garden over the last two mowings and filled about 2 inches of each bed with clippings. Before the clippings I put thick layers of newspaper down over the existing grass and then covered it with the grass clippings. They will have time over the next several days to dry out and begin to smother the original grass beneath the beds. I hope to fill them with actual soil this weekend. I'll layer more newspapers over the grass clippings and cover that with dirt. The term lasagna garden seems a bit off for this since I am only doing a few layers (newspaper, grass clippings, newspaper compost, and topsoil), perhaps another name like a pizza garden would be better, or a stromboli/calzone? Mmmm, I think I must be hungry.

The other thing I do with the clippings is cover barren spots in my turf. I figure that these spots aren't covered with luscious green growing grass because the soil just isn't very good. By adding grass clippings as humus they decompose which improves the soil and maybe, just maybe something will grow. It worked well for me last year. I large swath of grassless area in the front yard is now completely covered as a result of the cover of clippings and a fall overseeding of fescue. Our soil in that area is pretty much clay and any organic material that enters it will improve it!

While pruning the grass I attempted to scout the slope of our yard. I began going up the hill with the push mower. I left the bag detached since I did not want to collect weed seeds. I found that the weeds fell fairly easily despite the difficulties with the slope. It is very steep for someone with a little push mower. Once I had carved out a small path and could see the land better I realized that I could get the riding lawnmower up the hill and turn around. Toward the middle of this area the grade of the slope lessens enough to make turning around safe. I only cut a small amount down from the hill since I had the rest of my yard to do, but this scouting encourages me that this territory will not be unassailable.

While looking at my yard from every possible vantage point I realized that I need to go back over my to-do list. Sadly many of those things have remained unfinished, but since spring and better weather are here it's time to get going again in the garden!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Tennessee Wildflowers Blooming (False Garlic)

Here is another little Tennessee wildflower I found over the weekend. It was located very close to the Yellow Corydalis and was thriving in that same environment. This particular wildflower is called False Garlic (Northoscordum bivalve). Here in the first picture you can see a blossom just starting to come out.

This little flower grows from 4 to 12 inches tall and comes from a coated bulb. It is very prevalent in Middle Tennessee and ranges from southeast Virginia to Kansas and further south.

False garlic can be found in open woodlands, in fields and around limestone outcroppings. If you look in the background of the picture you can see the limestone outcropping where I found this plant.

Wildflowers of Tennessee by Jack B. Carman

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

What in the World are Plant Patents?

If you are like me I didn't know the answer to that question a couple years ago. It's a strange concept when you stop to think about it. How can you claim sole proprietorship for something that is alive? It seems strange but when you consider it more it can begin to make sense.

First of all what exactly is a plant patent? When you go to the nursery to purchase your plant or view it online you should see two letters and a number near the plant name. The "PP" you see stands for plant patent and the number is the patent number that the plant is listed under. You may have never noticed it or just thought that was some kind of store coding. The plant patent protects the plant from vegetative (asexual) reproduction for a period of twenty years. This includes cuttings, layering, tissue cultures, corms, rhizomes, bulbs, grafting, budding, runners, and everyones favorite nucellar embryos. I have no clue what that last one was, I'll have to look it up! Simply put: you can legally reproduce any patented (or non-patented) plant from seed since the plant will not be 100% like the original plant.

What's the point to a plant patent? The patent is important in couple ways. At first glance you might think that it is a purely selfish way for a grower to monopolize the market on a particular variety. While it's true that these growers might gain a profit from those patented plants, it's not a bad thing. Suppose a grower releases a new plant one year without a patent, the following year another grower takes that same plant and markets it everywhere which would hurt the original grower. The original grower could be left nearly empty handed after spending years of work trying to foster a new plant. Now if the original grower had a patent on that plant he would maintain sales rights for it for 20 years. This insures that he/she has time to produce the plant in sufficient quantities to make a profit, or can sell the right to another party. The patent aids the grower in establishing the variety which helps the grower to be successful. The patents encourage the creation of new varieties throughout the horticultural world.

I won't list all of the guidelines here for plant patents, you can look them up at the site below, but it must be capable of stable asexual reproduction. Which means it's offspring must be just like the mother plant. It also cannot have been sold for more than one year before an application is submitted to the patent office.

So what does this mean for the ordinary, average, everyday, run of the mill home gardener? It means that the horticultural industry is being protected by the government and that new varieties of plants will continue to be produced. It also means that if a plant has a patent on it you shouldn't reproduce it. Most likely if you took cuttings of something with a patent on it and did not attempt to sell it no one would notice. If you do ever intend to sell something that has a patent on it make sure you get the patent holder's permission but if it has been 20 years or more it is fair game for all interested parties. Here's an example in my garden I have two types of Russian sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia). One is 'Longin' Russian Sage which does not have a patent and the other is 'Little Spire' which does. I haven't really noticed a difference in the two varieties, but someone with a better trained eye than I have must have. I can take cuttings from the Longin Russian Sage at any time but not the Little Spire (PP11643). For it I'll have to wait until 2018 to make cuttings since the patent was granted in 1998. The good news is that Russian sage seeds very readily and for me that will be good enough! Who knows a new hybrid might be found in my own garden. There are places you can go look up the patents like Patent Genius or just go to the U.S. Patent Database. All you need is the patent number, the patent holder, inventor, or the date to find what you seek.

I hope this post has been informative and easy to read. It's a complicated subject and I didn't even get into the trademark issues. I'll save that one for another time. As always please leave a comment if you have something to add or if you have a question!

For more information:
United States Patent and Trademark Office

For Posts on Plant Propagation:
How to Propagate Plants for Your Landscape

Monday, March 24, 2008

Tennessee Wildflowers Blooming (Yellow Corydalis)

On Saturday we went up to visit the in-laws for Easter. The day was cool but sunny with a little wind and with the right amount of layering was quite pleasant. It was one of those spring days that almost, just almost felt like spring. It still had the cool sentiments of our Tennessee winters. After visiting for a little while and having lunch, I went exploring the woods in the back. They have about 6 acres of land around their house, most of which is natural woodlands. I don't get back there often enough but each time I do I try to find something new to look at. Saturday was a good day for that! I was fortunate to find this little flower, and I mean little! The flowers are probably less than half an inch in length.

I didn't know what it was at first, but I found it interesting and took several pictures. I even collected two of them to bring into my garden. I took care to leave plenty of them there since I did not want to significantly disturb the natural habitat. The two I collected were in the mowing area of the yard so by collecting them I may have been saving them from the blades of the mower.

After we arrived home last evening I took out our Wildflowers of Tennessee book by Jack B. Carman and identified it as a Yellow Corydalis (Corydalis flavula). I was fascinated by the crested flowers and the feathery, almost fern like leaves. According to Jack Carman the Yellow Corydalis is an annual that appears in much of Tennessee and the northeastern U.S. in moist locations. They grow anywhere between four and twelve inches tall. Here's another interesting tidbit of information thanks to Mr. Carman: the genus name (Corydalis) comes from Greek and means crested lark. A very appropriate name to describe the flowers of this little wildflower.

The corydalis I found was thriving in the yard and back in the woods. It is probably one of those flowers that uses the shelter of the forest in the hot summer months and takes advantage of the the winter and early spring sun that streams in from the deciduous forest. Since it is an annual I hope to gather seed from the two transplants I collected. If not it will be worth appreciating even for a short time. In the picture below you can see a corydalis resting beneath a rocky outcropping.

I had a couple other discoveries that I'll share with you soon. One of which I still need to identify!

Saturday, March 22, 2008

You know it's spring when...

While the calendar says it is spring there are some other indicators of the season. I'll name a few and you are welcome to add or comment on what you think some other signs of spring are!

You know it's spring when...
  • the smell of grass clippings from a recent mowing wafts through your yard on the wind.
  • the smell of onions wafts with the grass clippings!
  • the seed catalogs have slowed or stopped coming altogether.
  • the weather changes from hot to cold to hot to cold and back again, often in one day.
  • the seeds start sprouting up everywhere, usually where you don't want them!
  • the henbit is blooming, so is the chickweed, the dandelions, etc...
  • the big box home improvement stores start selling their plant merchandise, oh wait they started that in February!

Can you think of anything else? I'll add some of them to this list as you suggest them!

I'll be taking tomorrow off from blogging for Easter. I hope everyone has a great Easter Holiday! I saw this post yesterday on a blog called The Village Voice that I thought might be appropriate for tomorrow: 'Legend of the Dogwood.' Stuart at Gardening Tips'N'Ideas has another good post for Easter: Jesus: The Ultimate Gardener.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Seed Starting Status Update #2

The seeds are sprouting pretty good so far. I need to get some pictures taken of them but haven't had the time this week to do much. I have inspected them daily waiting eagerly for the next little green baby plant to say "hello!" I was getting a little bit of damping off but I took care of it with an organic insecticidal soup with a fungicidal element to it. It worked so well that the plants that were showing the signs of the damping off fungus are now doing fine.

Here's the short list of what is rising from the dirt!

  • Blue Fescue (at least 10 and possibly more since I didn't check all the pots in the the second flat)
  • Catmint 'Blue carpet' (22 so far)
  • Dianthus 'Arctic Fire' (a bunch of them from the American Horticultral Society's Seed exchange)
  • Verbena (3)
  • Salvia Splendens 'Flare' (at least 10 so far)
  • Rudbeckia
  • Crape Myrtles (2 from my wife's grandmother's trees)

The tomatoes and peppers are planted but haven't sprouted yet, maybe they will sometime this weekend!

A Morning Walk Around the Yard

Periodically I like to walk around the yard to see what there is to see. I was out around 7:30 this morning and took these pictures of the yard. The plants are really showing their eagerness for the spring season.

I don't think many people consider maple trees for their flowers but maybe we should all take a closer look. The bright red flowers of this red maple (Acer rubrum) certainly are very interesting to admire and appreciate. Hopefully later in the season this little tree (the first we planted in our new yard in 2007) will be covered with little samaras ready to sprout new little maple trees! A samara is the winged seed maple trees produce.

Here is a green weeping willow I planted near the back of our yard. I took the stake out the other day and it started leaning so I may put the stake back in for extra support. I don't like staking trees at all but sometimes it's necessary. This little willow is starting to show some green. I know willows are problematic but they are beautiful trees!

That sneaky henbit again!

Here is some 'Homestead' purple verbena. This one is an offshoot from the original one I bought. I wasn't sure if it would make it through the winter but it is doing good so far!

This flowering crabapple isn't flowering yet but it is growing some good foliage. This is an Arbor Day tree that I planted last spring. It's doing great but it needs branches! Right now it is just a stick with leaves, maybe this will be the year for branching out.

Here is one of the two Bradford pears in our yard with an eastern red cedar tree. The cedar tree is the edge of out lot. Beneath the Bradford I planted irises that are growing fast. We should have some blooms before too long.

The other Bradford pear is up by the mailbox. The builder of our subdivision planted two of them in every yard. Of course some people in our neighborhood put in more which is a mistake to me, but if they would like half a tree the Bradford is a good choice. It will split in two in a strong storm. I'll be doing a post soon on my opinion of the Bradford pear, I bet you can guess what I'll say! I do enjoy it's appearance and it looks great with daffodils planted beneath it.

Happy Spring!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

10 Easy Plants to Propagate for Your Home Garden

Here is a list of 10 plants that are very easy to propagate for your garden that I have found to be extremely easy to root. There are many plants that could be on this list but I decided to stick with some that I have done and know for a fact that their root development is very reliable.

Here is my list of 10 easy plants to propagate!

  1. Euonymous fortunei - this plant will grow to be about 4 feet tall and wide. It grows roots extremely easily and will self layer if you let it!
  2. Red Twig Dogwood - Cuttings and layering work very well. So far my record has been 4 for 4 on red twig dogwood cuttings! The other day I made 11 more cuttings, hopefully those will work just as well.
  3. Euonymous alata - I did this as an experiment and probably won't make anymore since it is becoming an invasive plant in Tennessee. It is a very attractive bush in the fall with it's fiery red foliage. That's why people call it a Burning Bush.
  4. Russian sage - Greenwood stems work great for cuttings. They root readily in just water and even faster with rooting hormone applied to the stem. I plan to take many cuttings of Russian sage this year. They are a great plant for the landscape since they are drought hardy and look fantastic. They can also be rooted from hardwood cuttings.
  5. Verbenas - Verbena tends to sprawl and create roots along its stem. These roots are easily coaxed to become new plants. Putting the rooted stems in water works well, but using rooting hormone should speed up the process. I used the water method for mine and they worked fine. Edit: Verbenas will work in water like I wrote but root faster in a rooting medium like sand, sand/peat, or peat/perlite.
  6. Chrysanthemums - When a small branch broke off after I bought one last fall I put it in a pot and it grew. I kept it moist and in a shady location while it was rooting. Chrysanthemums work very well from cuttings! (Asters will do the same thing.)
  7. Willows - Willows will root if you just stick them in the ground, but a glass of water or a pot work well also. They have high levels of auxins (a rooting hormone) that helps to create the roots. If you have extra cuttings cut them into 1 inch pieces and soak them for 24 hours in warm water. Then you will have a natural rooting compound to use for other plants!
  8. Purple Leaf Plums - I didn't realize it when I started them but they root very easily. If you have to prune your trees and would like some more give your hardwood stem cuttings a try!
  9. Rosemary - Layering will work well with rosemary as does just putting them in a glass of water. Be sure to put them in a well drained potting mix as soon as it begins to grow roots.
  10. Hydrangeas - Greenwood cuttings from hydrangeas root very easily. I use rooting hormone for hydrangeas. Here's a tip: protect them when they are small, the rabbits liked mine! (This doesn't include Oak Leaf Hydrangeas although they can be rooted from cuttings.)

These 10 plants are just some that you could try in your garden. There are many other candidates that would work just as well. Annuals tend to grow very easily from cuttings so give coleus a try if you want a great place to start! One thing you should check out before you make cuttings is if the variety you want to take the cutting from has a plant patent. Many plants are protected from vegetative propagation (cuttings) by their patents for a period if time to give the patent holder a chance to market the plant. I'll be writing a post about plant patents later in the week so don't forget to check back if you're interested in plant propagation!

I Highly recommend this book by the American Horticultural Society on Plant Propagation. If you are interested in learning more on plant propagation this book is a great place to start! That is an affiliate link which if you use helps to keep great gardening content on Growing The Home Garden!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Making More Red Twig Dogwoods (Cornus stolinifera)

I took a few more red twig dogwood (Cornus stolonifera) cuttings yesterday. One of them did not even need rooting. You can see the mass of roots on the bottom of this little guy. The base of this stem was touching the ground which stimulated root growth. When this happens it is simple task to clip the branch with the roots to separate it from the mother plant and make a new self sustaining plant. This technique is called layering. In this case it was done naturally but you can do it easily yourself. Just cut a small slit into a low hanging branch of the stem and place the section of stem beneath the soil. The stem stays connected to the other plant while roots are being formed which gives the stem plenty of nutrients for growing.

Layering is a very safe way to propagate plants since it is usually successful. The only disadvantage is that you can't make quite as many as you could if you made cuttings.

Since this dogwood had plenty of roots I just placed it in a pot for the next couple weeks. I could have put it right into the garden but its new home wasn't ready yet!

Red twig dogwoods (Cornus stolonifera) are very easily raised from stem cuttings. Here is a picture of the 11 stem cuttings I took yesterday. Each cutting has at least two nodes (nodes are the growth points which can create leaves and roots).

Since some are longer than others I'll observe which one's root quicker and use that as a guideline for future cuttings.

I placed them in sand after putting some rooting hormone on them and in a couple weeks there should be some good root growth happening. Later in the week I'll show you the previous red twig dogwood cuttings I've made. They are doing very well! I may be able to plant them in the ground this spring.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Using Rock and Gravel In the Garden

One of the more interesting materials to use in the garden is stone. It comes in all sorts of shapes, sizes, and forms from small landscape gravel to river stones and large stone pavers. Its uses in the garden are nearly endless. Gravel can be used for patios, pathways, and for mulch. Medium and larger stones can be used for edging or planters. Benches, fire pits, patios, and raised beds can all be made from stone of various sizes. Here are some examples of stone in the landscape.

In the following two pictures you can see the use of gravel as a pathway and as a mulch. When stones are used as a mulch they can collect heat during the day and release it at night which may enable you to cheat your Heat Zone a little, maybe even as much as one zone. In these two pictures I came up with the idea to highlight the yucca plants in mini-beds using the natural sandstone from the area. By segregating them into their own nifty little nooks they are blending well with the pathway and create a small point of interest. I think it's the 'Adam's Needle' Yucca.

In the background of this picture you can see where some paver stones were used to make walking along the pathway a little easier. A few more paver stones could be used to enhance usability.

Stone can be used to create great raised beds. If you have a lot of natural stone lying around, like my wife's parents do, you could easily make a raised bed vegetable garden. This photo was taken this winter when nothing is growing, but during the spring and summer months it is full of plants! With stone you can make your raised bed in any shape you want. There's granddaddy and grandma in the garden!

The next few pictures were sent to me by Skeeter. She lives in Georgia and has some great examples of stone in the landscape.

Here in this photo you can see a hosta bed framed by a stone edging and surrounded by a patio gravel material. The hostas soften the effect of the stone and add color to the area. If you have a shady area hostas are a must!

They originally began with just the concrete patio but expanded it through pavers and gravel to create this fantastic patio area. A fire pit made from retaining wall blocks is in the foreground just perfect for an evening outdoors. What I like in this picture is the stepping stones embedded into the pea gravel. They lead your eyes down another pathway and add a contrasting color against the gravel.

Here is another perspective of the patio area. Skeeter used an old milk jug for a little bit of whimsy around the patio.

What patio would be complete without the grill!

Here is another use of stone as an edging material around the caladiums.

Here is one more look at Skeeter's patio area! Her use of varying types of stone created a perfect patio oasis for her family!

The first three pictures were taken at my wife's parent's house and the rest of them were taken by Skeeter in Georgia. Thank you Skeeter for letting me use them for this post!

Monday, March 17, 2008

St. Patrick's Day: Anything Green

To celebrate St. Patrick's Day here is my Anything Green Post! You are welcome to join in and post anything that is green and growing in your gardens in the month of March!

Here's the tour of what's green in my gardens.

The daffodils in my yard are still green while most of the other daffodils I have seen in our area are blooming. I planted them late in the fall which is probably why they haven't emerged. I'm hoping that they will bloom when the Bradford pears do. The blend of yellow and white blossoms would make a nice combination.

Here is a sedum emerging from it's roots for the year.

These are daylilies (Hemerocallis) that I divided last fall. There was one huge clump that I separated into thirteen new plants. Some even sent up new blooms before fall ended. I suspect that it's a 'Stella De Oro' but I don't know for sure since it was here when we bought the house.

The mums are sending up new growth all over the garden. I'll keep them trimmed to encourage them to grow bushy and full for fall.

This plant is not in the yard yet but it will be soon. Right now this Asparagus fern is waiting in my garage to be moved outside when the warmer weather appears. This particular fern has come back from the brink of death many times. It's probably 7-8 years old but it may be older still. You just can't keep a good plant down!

The lovely green clumps of fescue in my yard. It's getting better, really it is! The gaps are slowly disappearing. Over-seeding in the fall works wonders!

Oh and I can't forget the obligatory green weed picture.
This lush lime green chickweed loves our yard.

There's a little bit O' green from my garden, what green do you have in yours?

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Name that Plant!

This plant is probably easily identifiable. In fact it's a good bet that if you live in the south you have it in your yard, your neighbors yard, your school, your bank and pretty much everywhere you could think to put it! I saw rows of this at the home improvement store today which prompted me to make this post. Take a guess at it or if you know what it is then tell me what you think of it. I'll withhold my opinion on it until later!

A Companion Planting Vegetable Garden Layout

Yesterday I put together a small vegetable layout plan for my raised bed garden. It's just one of many possibilities for companion planting and it only deals with a small number of plants. This plan features tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, and marigolds in a 4 foot by 8 foot bed. All of these plants are listed in various companion planting guides as being compatible with each other. The cucumber will serve as a green mulch, which reduces water loss and helps to protect the soil. The onions will do well in the smaller spaces and the marigolds will help to repel unwanted insects and pests. I may substitute squash in place of the cucumbers. You could also replace the tomatoes with peppers.

A Few Good Tomato Companion Plants:

Asparagus, Onions, Basil, Marigold, Nasturtium, Beans, Celery, Carrots, Cucumber, Peas, and Parsley.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Garden Blogger's Bloom Day: Buds and Blooms in March

Welcome to Garden Blogger's Bloom Day at the Home Garden. Be sure to go visit Carol at May Dreams Gardens to tour some of the other blooms and blogs!

I will never advocate planting a Bradford pear
but in the right light
it just might look alright!

Buds beginning to break from their winter slumber.
(this is one of my better pictures!)

The tree will soon be bursting with blooms.
(Bradford pears look nice but can't stand up to stormy weather)

Beneath the Bradford are the daffodils about to bloom.

I hope that they will open soon.

Here is some of our heather blooming still.

Look a little closer you may see a creature,
the first of his kind that I can feature.

This little bee is the first I've seen,
the picture is fuzzy but isn't that how a bee should be?

And now what you've been waiting for,
something of which I am so proud.

Flowering weeds that know no bounds!


For a good weed identification guide go to