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Friday, April 30, 2010

A Perfect Pot of Pansies

The other day I took this photo of a pot my mom put together of pansies and violas. I'm not much of a potted plant person so most of my plants go in the ground but I thought this easy to put together arrangement of annuals was perfect. The larger pansies went in the center and were planted around with the smaller violas. What I like is how the large and small size flowers contrast. They have similar coloring which helps them blend and makes the cool colored flowers work together very well!

Do you have any interesting potting arrangements to share?

Reusable Plant Tags - A Product Review

Recently I was asked to take a look at some reusable plant tags from the Allsop Home & Garden company. The idea sounded pretty neat - plant tags that can be written on, washed off, and then reused. They would make great markers for herb gardens or vegetable gardens.

In the mail I received six plant tags and six stakes. The plant tags were pretty neat with little plant related logos, in my case the "Herbal" line. The other choice you have is called "Botanical." Each pack of six retails for $15.99.

The tags work pretty good so far. I used a gel pen to mark the tags then set three of them out in a few places to give them a trial. I'm curious to see if the rain will wash away the ink from the tags, they should get a good test this weekend since the forecast will shower us this weekend at some point.

The only problem I had was accidentally smudging one of the tags right after I marked it. The ink didn't even have time to dry before I flubbed it up. That's my fault not the product's.

The tags are attractive and small enough that they don't get in the way of the garden. They enable you to mark what each plant is without taking center stage. The rubber used on the tags is UV protected which should help them last through the season and makes them usable multiple times which will help to offset the price a little.

I think it's a good product but I really need to see how the weather effects the writing. After using it all that is needed is soap and water to clean it then it is ready to go for another plant.

I'll come back and edit this post after the weekend and let you know how the tags did through the rain.

Disclaimer: I received no money for this review but did receive the plant tags to trial. 

Thursday, April 29, 2010

A Look at the Backyard

Here's a quick look at the backyard from our side yard area. Of course the ugly but necessary heat/AC unit sits on the right so please ignore that now that I've pointed it out and drawn your attention to it. ;)  On the left is a rain garden with a river birch and ornamental grasses. Caryopteris will form a blue border of shrubs along in the fall along the grass path. A snowball viburnum is on the right and if you look past it you will see another viburnum (arrowwood) and a few irises to the right. I'm a sucker for viburnums and if you were to walk just a little farther past Mr. Snowball you would see a 'Burkwood' viburnum and a 'Shasta' viburnum. The snowball viburnum is the least favorite of the viburnums in my garden - it doesn't produce berries to sustain the birds because it's sterile.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Growing Japanese Maples from Seed

I don't think it would be false to say that Japanese maples are one of the most popular plants in the landscape today. With all the interesting leaf shapes and colors it's easy to see why people like them. I consider myself a fan of Japanese maples and have two young trees in our gardens (one near the side garden entry arbor and one beside the patio) but I wouldn't mind having more. That's one reason I was so excited to find over 200 seedlings sprouting up underneath the Japanese maple at my parents house this spring! I had never seen anything like it before underneath their tree but it didn't take long to figure out what happened.

How to Germinate Japanese Maple Seeds:

In order to get Japanese maples to germinate they like a period of cold called stratification. You can simulate stratification in a plastic bag filled with sand or peat in the refrigerator for a couple months after the seeds turn brown. The refrigerator simulates the cold temperatures of mother nature. This past winter was one of the coldest we have seen in a long time which is why I think so many little Japanese maples germinated. The seedlings were naturally stratified - at least the cold winter was good for something!

Today we spent some time transplanting some of the maples into pots. Each of the seedlings had grown two good leaves beyond the initial cotyledons before we transplanted them. In total we now have 60 Japanese maple seedlings comfortably resting underneath the shade. They will stay there until they are old enough to be planted in larger pots or in the landscape. This is just a fraction of the seedlings, we just ran out of soil to plant them! I can foresee another transplanting of 50-150 seedlings in our future. Now what are we going to do with 200+ Japanese maples?

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Thing About Box Store Bargains

I know you've done it before. You walk into your local box store and head straight for the bargain plant rack. You peak around at all the bargain plants they're trying to get rid of. You look over at the half dead shrubs, the pots that are so far gone that it's more of a pot of dirt than a potted plant. Then you come across what I can only describe as the "why is that plant here?" plant. It looks great, the foliage is lush and it looks healthy. There might be one or two damaged leaves but nothing else seems amiss. So why is that plant here?

The reason I think this happens is the difference between the box stores and the "plant area" and the nurseries. Nurseries know what they have and how to take care of it. Box stores tend to worry more about moving the merchandise and they don't always know about the plants. Now that isn't always true, many of the folks who have worked at the box stores know a thing or two about plants. It's just that far more of them don't than do and as a result it's why plants end up on the discount racks that probably shouldn't.

Sometimes the box stores just want shelf space for the next seasonal thing. That's fine by me because you can find really good deals on plants that have just bloomed and will re-bloom again next year. Like the four gallon pot azaleas I picked up for $1.50 each. They are destined to be planted on the hillside pathway along our slope (which I just realized I need to update you on its progress). They aren't the Encore™ azaleas and will only bloom in the spring but I'm planning ahead for next year. Besides they give me more planting material for cuttings! But the whole reason the azaleas were on the shelf for such a low price was because they wanted the space to put more seasonal plants - things that are blooming.

Other times the workers at the box store see plants past their prime blooms and stick them on the discount shelf without realizing that they will re-bloom this year. Like the $3 six-pack of Wave™ petunias I bought today. The regular price was almost $9. Wave™ petunias bloom prolifically (in most gardens - I've tried petunias for a couple years now but they never seen to amount to anything. "If at first you don't succeed" right?) and continue blooming all summer. All that was needed was a little trimming and the plants would put on showy blooms for the next customer coming by. Had these been at a nursery you can bet they wouldn't have been discounted.

It all has to do with the customer base. The box stores attract a wide variety of customers some who are knowledgeable, some who just like to dabble, and some who just like to plant the pretty stuff and hope it grows! It's the folks who buy the flowers in bloom who they are targeting. After all when you see gorgeous flowers in bloom enmass like you do at the store who wouldn't be tempted? We all have a bit of impulse buyer inside - hiding - waiting to be let out! Those who are knowledgeable or do diligent research before they buy get the advantage of knowing what makes a good deal on the discount racks.

The nurseries are catering to the gardener, the garden designer, the landscaper, and the person who wants to learn about the plants they are buying. That's the big advantage in a nursery - you have a plant expert on hand to help you with your decisions. That isn't always true but in more cases than not it is.

What should you look for in a discount plant to know you are getting a good deal?
Here are a few 6 tips to help:
  1. Avoid plants (especially shrubs and trees) with severe browning or damage. The odds are against you and they may contain disease. Last year I saw ornamental pear trees at the box store with the typical crook shaped branches that accompanies fire blight. I warned the clerk and they were removed very soon after.
  2. Examine the pot. A pot bound plant can be saved with a little root pruning but if you don't treat the problem by teasing out the roots or pruning you will end up with a plant that will continue to girdle. If you do purchase the pot bound plant makes sure it's very cheap.
  3. Determine if the plant is a one and done seasonal performer or if it will repeat bloom. I bought one of my best discount plants ever in an 'Oranges and Lemons' gaillardia. The blooms were gone but since it was a perennial I knew they would re-bloom with a little deadheading and TLC.
  4. Look for green leaves! If the flowers have faded and the leaves are all green you probably have a nice find for future blooms. 
  5. On corms or bulb plants be cautious. If they are seasonal like with tulips or daffodils and the leaves are brown you'll probably come away with a deal. Just plant the bulbs and hope for a show in the spring! I've seen caladiums frequently on the discount rack with leaf sprouts coming up. No doubt the foliage died but the plant didn't and it's trying to regrow the leaves.
  6. Annual Verbena
  7. Know what the plants are supposed to look like before you buy. The annual verbenas for $0.37 I bought are red (I think) but I do know what the form of the plant is like (mounding) and I know that they are easy to grow and maintain (and propagate). If you see a plant you might want look around on the "good plant" shelves and find a match to see if you really want it. Sometimes the match will be there and other times it won't but it doesn't hurt to look.
  8. Learn to walk away! That's hard when you see those cheap prices but if the plant is going to die no matter how much help you give it then you must walk away.

Buying plants on the discount shelf is always a gamble but you can definitely come out ahead if you proceed with a little caution and a little more knowledge.  That's why I love reading other blogs. Everyday I find some new plant I haven't grown yet and when I run across it in a nursery I remember a little about it. The best tip I can give on any subject is to seek out and learn all you can!

Monday, April 26, 2010

From the Vegetable Garden: Potato Mounds, Lettuce Leaves, and More

Here's an update from the vegetable garden! So far things are going pretty good. My tomato frost scare wasn't as bad as I originally thought and since I have some spares to plant I should come out fine. I saw a scary 39 degrees on the forecast for Tuesday night but I'm prepared with coverings. I'm also starting a few more plants inside from seed just in case. Here's how the rest of the garden is doing:

The Potatoes are Mounding

Mounding potatoes is a great technique for growing your potatoes with an easy harvest in mind. It does involve a little more work through out the season than just digging the potatoes in the ground.  As the potato plants grow taller I add more grass clippings or compost over the plant to make a larger root system for the tubers to grow. The big advantage of mounding the potatoes is that the potatoes lie underneath the mound and it's easy to remove the soil and get to the potatoes. A secondary advantage is that the straw or grass clippings decay and add to the nutrients in the soil and improve the ground underneath over the course of this year for next year's vegetables. The grass clippings have been harvested from my lawn which contains no herbicides or pesticides, which I feel is very important. The cool thing about grass clippings is that they contain up to 5% nitrogen to replenish the soil. The grass acts as a mulch and keeps the moisture down near the roots where it is needed.

Zucchini Seedlings

Zucchinis are both welcome and dreaded. Welcome when you have enough, dreaded when you have more than you can use, more than the neighbors can use, and more than your city or state could use! There are only so many zucchini dishes you can eat before you grow weary of it. Cucurbits could probably solve the problem of world hunger. Despite their prolific nature I'm excited to see these two seedlings. I highly recommend sequential plantings of summer squash and zucchini. If you only have one or two plants producing at one time you can manage them. Remember never let them grow too large! Pick when 4-6 inches long for the best flavor. When one plant begins blooming plant another one to try to avoid the squash vine borer - the squash and zucchini's number one enemy! It's really a toss up for me between the borer and the squash bug.

Let us have Lettuce!

And we did! We had a delicious salad last night made only of greens. Three types of lettuce, spinach, and chard mixed with some carrots (unfortunately most of these were not from our garden) and celery (also not grown in my garden).

The red Romaine lettuce had the most flavor.

The green romaine lettuce was good, just not as good as the red.

Little Tom Thumb was a cute little lettuce but took some cleaning as dirt from the rains was all over them. Also the birds have pecked at it for some reason making it's leaves rather holey. I wonder if the birds were doing us a favor and cleaning of some sort of bugs like aphids, I'll never now I suspect.

Lettuce Harvest Hint: Use pair of scissors to clip the lettuce leaves, take what you need and let the rest of the plant continue to grow!

Basil and Sugar Snap Peas

My dark purple basil is planted where the sugar snap peas are. Once the peas are done they'll be removed and the area will be planted with something else. Maybe more squash...or cucumbers...or cantaloupe...

I'll be sprinkling some more basil seed in various areas of the garden both near the vegetables and in the ornamental gardens. Sweet Italian and Thai basils are regulars but I'll also be planting a few others. You can never have enough fresh basil!

Strawberry Bed Gone Wild

I'm anticipating a nice strawberry crop this year. The strawberries have gone completely crazy and are filling the pathways next to the strawberry bed. That's what I get for letting the runners stay put last fall. Once the strawberries have been produced it will be time to fertilize the plants to encourage bushy green growth and more runners. I'm wondering if I need a new place to plant the strawberries - away from the garden. I think I'll be giving away strawberry plants before too long!

Where do you like to keep your strawberry plants, in the garden or in their own garden?

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Snakes in the Garden

Fortunately I'm not one to be squeamish with the natural side of the garden. The wasps usually don't bother me, nor do the spiders, and neither do the snakes. I know many people can't even stand the sight of snakes whether they are dangerous or not. It's probably the fear that they could be poisonous that scares people. There's an easy way to tell though - look at the head! If the head of the snake is pointy and more arrow shaped then avoid it because it's poisonous. If the snout is more rounded like in the case of my new friend here it's not poisonous.

This little snake is a juvenile black racer (I think, if I'm wrong let me know!).  It was found in my neighbor's mailbox garden while they were cleaning it up. I collected this little guy and placed him in my garden where he is more than welcome to eat his fill of moles, voles, mice and insects.  The natural pest control he offers is a very nice benefit! He's the first snake I've seen here since we bought our house although I've seen many other reptiles including two box turtles and skinks (blue tail).

What cool critters have you found in your garden lately?

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Rain, Rain, Rain!

Finally some rain! This weekend is bringing us some much needed rain, unfortunately it's in the form of thunderstorms. I guess that's better than nothing. The last few weeks have been much drier than a normal April. "April showers" is the well known cliche but it just hasn't seemed to work out that way. So far today we've received over an inch of badly needed rain with more in the forecast - perfect for watering trees, shrubs, and of course the vegetable garden!

This coming week should bring our first real harvests from the vegetable garden which will consist of the lettuce and other salad greens. The tomatoes have been planted but due to our frost pocket situation suffered a little damage early in the week. Fortunately most will recover fine. The potatoes look great and I've noticed that the zucchini seeds have germinated. It won't be long before the summer crops begin!

Here's what's on the agenda for this week:
  • Clean up more of the gardens from weeds.
  • Plant a few more plants I have sitting around in pots. 
  • Propagate a few more plants for the plant swap in May.
  • Plant seeds for summer blooming annuals including cosmos (a great annual!), sunflowers, zinnias, marigolds, and anything else I run across!
  • Tinker in the garden shed

Here's a look back at the week:

Sunday April 18

Monday April 19
  • The Fence Garden - Spring Update - A look at how the garden redesign of my mom's fence garden is coming along. It might even be a good idea for a Mother's Day present for your mom!

Wednesday April 21

Thursday April 22

Friday April 23

Friday, April 23, 2010

10 Secrets For Creating A Backyard Oasis For The Whole Family (Guest Post)

This time of year everyone is spending more time outside in the yard and the garden. Today Jay Chua of PorchSwingSets.com offers us some tips in creating that perfect backyard setting.

10 Secrets For Creating A Backyard Oasis For The Whole Family

Nothing brings the family out to play like a warm summer day. Outdoor fun is a surefire way to create lasting memories with the entire family. Encourage the whole gang to spend time together by creating the ideal area for relaxation just outside your patio door. Discover these secrets and invest in your family today.

1. Survey Your Surroundings

Start with an overview of your yard. Is there a patio or deck that provides an excellent base for living space? Note any mature trees and plantings and be aware of the light conditions in the area, shady, sunny or a mixture of both.
Consider how you can spruce up the existing features. A new coat of stain or a good scrub will bring a deck or patio back to its glory. Climbing vines hide unsightly views well and shrubs and trees can be easily trimmed to create clean, natural lines.

Ensure you have enough privacy in the yard. Create a living fence by planting quick growing hedges close together. Evergreens offer year round coverage and also act as a sound and wind barrier.

2. Personalize The Space For Each Person

Consider the lifestyle, hobbies and interests of every member of the family in your backyard design.

Bistro sets are a refreshing place to read the morning paper and sip your coffee. Set out casual patio furniture that's ideal for chess games or a round of cards and let imagination reign with a treehouse or clubhouse. Private nooks draw the reader in the family and there's room for two on a porch swing set inspired by the classic romances.

For the kid in all of us, a garden train set could be just the thing. With outdoor, weatherproof track installed around the landscape perimeter, the whole family will have hours of fun and excitement.

3. Create Less Work For Yourself

Design your gardens for low maintenance and you'll be free to relax instead of chained to the garden. Choose your plants wisely, including growth habits and light tolerance.

Mulch the garden well every year to retain moisture and control weeds better. Consider landscape fabric under paving stones and wood chip paths for an even stronger weed block. Plan well and fill your garden with flowers you will enjoy, not chores you may dread.

4. Take The Kitchen Outdoors

Grilling on the patio can involve the whole family. Keep the stifling heat out of your kitchen and install a BBQ. Choose from the wide variety of natural gas, propane and charcoal grills out there.

Outdoor fire pits bring the cozy feeling of a campfire home. Whether you install a wood burning fire pit or a gas patio fireplace, your whole family will look forward to gathering around it long past the sunset.

5. Garden For Function, Taste And Beauty

Appreciate the taste of fresh vegetables from your own backyard. Involve the kids and grow favorites like sugar snap peas, pumpkins and cherry tomatoes. Or grow something that all can appreciate inside the house as well. Cut flower gardens are full of cheer and flowers like daisies, cosmos and sunflowers are perfect.

6. Invest In Furniture To Last

Your yard will need quality, well designed outdoor furniture to provide the optimum atmosphere. Besides a solid patio set, additional pieces like a chaise lounge, hammock or glider bench present comfortable, attractive spots in the yard. A porch swing set invites you out of the smoldering sun or light summer rain for a relaxing moment or two.

Color and patterns play a big part. The entire look of your yard can be changed with a coat of paint or finish, as well as different cushions and pillows. Be sure to decorate with the colors of nature in mind.

7. Invite Conversations

Set up your patio furniture with interaction in mind. Conversations sets that include low tables and couches are perfect to stimulate a good discussion or create room for laughter and chatting. Add in a patio fire pit for an even cozier setting. Be sure to include enough seating for the whole family, plus any guests that are drawn to your oasis.

8. Set The Mood With Music

Wire the stereo to include some hidden outdoor speakers, allowing you to add the soothing sounds of tunes any time. Look for clever specialty speakers, where the unit is discreetly designed to resemble garden rocks. No one but you will ever need to know.

9. Add The Calming Effect Of Water

Water features like fountains, birdbaths and ponds are peaceful focal points, especially if your home is situated near noisy traffic. Block out the sounds of the world with the calming effect of water in the backyard.

10. Leave Room For Games

Don't forget to leave clear yard space available for family games like Frisbee, catch or bocce ball. Badminton is another popular sport that sets up easily in smaller spaces. Build a horse shoe pit to one side or install a hot tub to soothe aching muscles. Areas designated for group play are a must to complete your yard.

Give your whole family the ideal place to stay, play and hang out in this year. Your backyard oasis will be a magnet for every one of you, just beyond the patio door.

About The Author

Jay Chua is the Publisher of PorchSwingSets.com, but his heart is filled with a love for nature and the outdoors. He and his wife Deisy find plenty of time to enjoy the natural beauty in Vancouver, Canada. When he's resting from the garden, home from his travels and not designing backyard retreats, Jay enjoys slow, relaxing moments on wooden porch swings with his wife by his side. There is simply no better place to savor coffee and a good book. At PorchSwingSets.com you too can discover how swings and hammocks can be used to create your own backyard oasis.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Coral Red Honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens)

Coral Red honeysuckle or Lonicera sempervirens is the honeysuckle you want - I mean really want- not the other kind. You probably have honeysuckle somewhere near you right now. It's white, smells pretty good, and it may even be right behind you as you read this, don't look! It knows you are there, it's waiting to spread and take over everything when you aren't looking - or even when you are it really doesn't matter! You see that honeysuckle that fills the air with it's heady fragrance isn't from around here. It's an overseas immigrant (from Asia) who is naturalizing itself and pushing out it's American cousin Lonicera sempervirens. Don't encourage the foreign invader, instead plant the native honeysuckle! The only thing it lacks is the fragrance of the foreign flower. Hummingbirds love coral red honeysuckle, it looks great, it's very tame, and isn't hard to propagate if you want more.

Don't get me wrong, I like the scent of Lonicera japonica just as well as anyone but the problem is it just doesn't know any limits. It's kind of like another foreign vine you might be familiar with named kudzu - AKA "the vine that ate the south". You wouldn't plant kudzu would you?

Honeysuckle on My Arbor
Why should you plant Lonicera sempervirens?
It's a native to the United States
It's coral red flowers attracts and feeds hummingbirds.
Lush green foliage when not in bloom.
Doesn't become invasive.
Works well on fences, trellises, and arbors.

How can you propagate honeysuckle?
Greenwood cuttings taken in late spring and early summer after flower bloom are finished. For more on cuttings please read this post.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Plant Propagation: This Week's Cuttings

When the opportunity presents itself I take cuttings. Who am I kidding? I make the opportunity to take cuttings! When I successfully get a new plant to root it's like finding gold. OK, not really, but it really does save a few dollars. Think about it for a second, if a perennial at the store costs $6 but instead you propagate 3 from home you just added the value of $18 to your garden without spending money! Now think, what if you propagated 10-20 plants? (which is very easy to do from one or two plants) Now you can get inside my head (not always a wise thing to do) and see the financial side of my plant propagating addiction.

The benefit of propagating my own plants carries over into the garden design area too. When people talk about garden design one particular concept always stands out: repetition, repetition, repetition, repetition, echo...echo...echo. Short of spending thousands of dollars to repeat similar plant purchases I can root them at home. And again the money aspect pops in!

The other reason is insurance. Just consider plant propagation as a life insurance policy for the perennials. If you make a few copies of the original you have a backup in case one gets damaged by the cold weather, was planted in a bad spot, or gets devoured by deer (which has happened more than once to me!). I tend to plant my back-up plants in different areas of the yard which helps to increase the odds of survival. If one plant goes to plant heaven I just don't have to worry about finding a new one or spending any more money. It's funny how it all comes back to money!

Here are the cuttings I've taken so far this week:
  • 'Husker's Red' Penstemon 4
  • Salvia coccinea 'Texas sage' 3
  • River Birch (Betula nigra) 4
  • Kerria japonica 2
  • Hydrangea 2
  • Butterfly Bush 3
  • Solidago (Golden rod) 2
  • Heuchera 3 (this is an experiment to see how easily heucheras root from a leaf cutting with a little bit of the root crown attached. I tried this once last year and managed to root one heuchera but let it die due to negligence!)

I also potted up 7 'Walker's Low' Catmint rooted cuttings and 3 Monarda cuttings. It's a busy time of year but I love it!

Using Brackets for DIY Corners on Raised Beds

Bracket Holding the Corner of a Raised Bed
- From my Dad's Garden
Usually I screw deck screws through each of the boards to attach the corners of my raised beds but using brackets to hold them together does work better. With the screw in method I find after a while that the corners begin to rot, the screws begin to loosen, and the corner doesn't hold together. By using cheap and simple brackets available at any hardware store you can add a little life to those raised beds in the vegetable garden and keep the raised bed corners intact longer.  The corner brackets use multiple screws which help hold the wood together much better when pieces of the wood begin to rot.

While the hardware stores sell all kinds of brackets that are meant for construction they can easily be used to make your raised beds!

Look here for more information on raised beds, constructing raised beds, or designing raised beds.

Monday, April 19, 2010

A Spring Fence Garden Update

Last year for Mother's Day I redesigned a garden area for my mom. Their fence garden needed a little revamping and I'm really happy with the results. Here is what the area looked like before:

Here's how it looks now! In the above picture we set the border stones to give an edge for the garden.  The stone also helps make an easy spot for the weedeater to munch the grass for a clean looking edge. The already established trees in the top picture were gradually planted over the years to increase the amount of shade in the yard. Along the fence is a Jacquemonti birch, a Yoshino cherry, a purple leaf plum, and a Kwanzan cherry.

Here is a more detailed layout of the perennial plantings. Monarda is going wild in the middle. Watch out for monarda (or bee balm) it can easily spread and take over a spot if you let it. Lamb's ear is along the front border with a rudbeckia and a coneflower behind them for a middle layer. To the right is a 'Walker's Low' catmint that I made from cuttings and planted in her garden. One of these days I'm going to get myself a rainbarrel or two like what they have in the back of the garden. Dad rigged up a stair stepped set of concrete blocks to give the rain barrels a little lift to harness the forces of gravity for the good of the garden.

Through the trees we created a small walkway that leads back to a peaceful sitting area perfect for sipping lemonade in the shade on a hot summers day.

The bench was built a few years ago by my dad and myself for another present for mom. I think it was her birthday one year but it may have been another Mother's Day. If you can't tell I really like the whole do-it-yourself thing!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

How to Get More Plants for Your Money

As everyone does I like bargains - especially when it comes to plants. I'm always looking for plant sales at local nurseries and of course the big box stores. Sometimes I find deals on the discount racks then try to save the wayward plant. Often those plants are just neglected and need a little TLC and they become good as new but sometimes they are beyond my help. Most of the time though I can't count on discount rack having something I like and I have to resort to other measures to save a few dollars. Below you'll find a few rules that I use to help me reduce my gardening budget!

My One Plant Rule
My one plant rule to put it simply is that I never buy more than one of a kind of plant if I think I can root it easily. If there is a plant I like and it's at regular price it's OK to buy it as long as I limit myself one of that kind of plant. With that one plant I'll take cuttings and make several more plants from the original plant. Most perennials are very easily propagated like the salvia I mentioned last week and annuals like coleus can easily be propagated in water to make more of once they are mature enough.

Related Rules:

The Tomato Rule
Now I usually start my tomatoes from seed but if I did buy them from a store I would follow my one plant rule for tomatoes. If you take a stem of a tomato and place it in a jar of water it will root - very easily. Just leave one or two leaves at the top and remove all the rest and watch for roots to grow. It's a very easy way get a deal on tomatoes!

The Basil Rule
The basil rule is pretty much the same as the tomato rule. Basil roots very easily in water. Last fall I preserved basil over the winter that is still alive and sitting on our windowsill.  It's desperately wanting to be planted outside so in the next few days I'll see that it gets a home in the garden.

The Multiple Plants Per Pot Rule
I always look for the pots that have more than one plant. Often growers will sell plants like basil with three seeds initially planted in the pot to increase the success rate on their pots. Having three seeds in a pot is a little insurance against losing one or even two plants. Sometimes perennials and shrubs will have layered or are able to be divided.  In either case I look for pots I can get a two for one deal on (or more if possible)! Ornamental grasses are a prime example of a plant that can be divided into several more.

The Six Pack Rule
Annuals typically are cheap - cheap - cheap when found in six packs but sometimes stores will sell a single larger version of the same annual for a higher price. Not only is the plant more expensive but you one get one plant! Those little bitty six pack plants will easily grow to be the same size as the larger single one and may only take a week or two longer. It just makes more sense to buy small. 

The Already Rooted Plant Rule
I realize that this falls mostly under the first rule here with plant propagation but it is a slightly different variation. Sometimes you'll find plants that have a little bit of rooting already happening. I bought a lobelia the other day that had this nifty trait happening. The plant had two main stems and one of them had already sprouted some roots along the stem. This happens with many plants when the stem is shrouded in darkness from the surround foliage. The plant thinks those areas are under soil and sends out roots to gather more water. When a plant roots along the stem it's a perfect opportunity pick up an already rooted cutting! Just snip it and pot it up. It may need a little babying until it's roots are extensive enough to fend for themselves. Looking for this trait is also a great way to figure out plants that are easy to root.

I hope you enjoy these ways to save money in your garden. I know my gardening budget always does!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

A Late Weekend Gardening Update

I'm a little late in the weekend review post for this week. Mostly because of being so busy outdoors. Friday night was mowing night - I know most people make it into a movie night or something. Saturday morning was the Spring Hill Garden Club meeting and the rest of the day was spent doing non-gardening related but necessary errands. On another front I picket up tow azaleas in 3 gallon pots for $9 at a local nursery - it was discounted as a courtesy to our garden club (we met at the nursery) but even at regular prices was only $6! I'll share with you where they will go once I plant them.

In case you missed anything over the week and would like to catch up check out some of the posts below! (Also don't forget you can follow The Home Garden on Facebook!)
Sunday April 11

Monday April 12

Tuesday April 13

Wednesday April 14

Thursday April 15

Friday April 16

Saturday April 17

Friday, April 16, 2010

It's Easy Being Green

At least for these plants! This time of year it's simply amazing how lush and green all the plants are. Green happens to the be subject of the latest Gardening Gone Wild Photo Contest. This morning I went out and took a few pictures of the greenery around the garden that might be contest worthy. Here's a look at a few of the pictures I took.

Heuchera 'Dale's Strain' - This is a fun little green heuchera with little silver shading that dapples the leaves.

Hosta - It could be a 'Patriot' but my memory is fading as to which hosta went where in the corner shade garden.

The dappled foliage of the Japanese Dappled Willow (Salix integra).

The green flower of a Snowball viburnum - not yet mature.

The 'Shasta' Viburnum

And another picture of the 'Shasta' Viburnum. The still light green flowers make the perfect picture for this contest, what do you think?

Front Porch for The Garden Shed

Last weekend I put together a small front porch for my garden shed. You can take a closer look at it at the Greenhouse Shed page if you have a minute!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

April is for Blooms!

So you like blooms do you? Then April is the month for you here in Tennessee. There are so many blooms around I can't post all of them up here at once. You'll just have to come back and see them later! For now though I've picked some of the best of the blossoms for your enjoyment.

Viburnum x burkwoodii 

The 'Burkwood' Viburnum's flowers are much more known for their scent than their appearance - for good reason! Still the flowers are definitely worth noting.

Malus sargentii

The flowers of our Sargent Crabapple are blooming for the first time.

Tulips: 'Negrita' and 'Shirley'

I mentioned 'Shirley' earlier in the week but surely 'Negrita' is due some time in the spotlight!

The next two photos are my favorites for this post! I hope you can see why.

Prunus x yedoensis 'Yoshino' Cherry

The Yoshino Cherry is one of my favorite spring time bloomers. Sadly the blooms are about to fade for the year, but if they bloomed year round would they be as special?

Japanese Maple Acer palmatum

I like this photo of the Japanese maple for its simplicity. The Japanese are known for their beautiful gardens centered around the idea of simplicity. Could there be a more perfect plant than the Japanese maple for a simple garden? I've always felt that maple flowers tend to get overlooked for the more impressive displays of blooms, it's too bad but maybe better that way - it makes them more special to stop and take note.

There is more - lots more to share. I hope you'll stop by again and see what this spring brings!

And thanks again to Carol for hosting Garden Blogger's Bloom Day.

Garden Furniture

A few weeks ago I was asked to review a website of a commercial furniture manufacturer for garden furniture. I took a look around at The Oxford Garden website and from what I can tell they have some very nice furniture. The furniture has a classy yet casual look and whether you are looking for a nice bench to sit on in a quiet corner of your garden or for some interesting outdoor dining tables they may have what you are looking for. The prices are higher than I would like but they are manufactured here in the U.S. - specifically in Kentucky. (Keep in mind I am a cheapskate!)

Their most popular pieces are the Classic and Chadwick designs.  While I can't speak to the quality of the furniture (since I've not seen it in person) the style and appearance of the furniture is worth a look. You can find dealers of their furniture locally before you buy on their site to check out the quality yourself.

Disclaimer: I was not paid or given any products to write this post. This post is not intended as a recommendation for the above company but as information for the readers of The Home Garden.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

How To Propagate Salvia from Cuttings

Salvia is one of my favorite perennials to propagate and spring is the best time to do it from stem tip cuttings. Pretty soon our gardens will be filled with salvia blooms and you'll see why I like them so much. I'll post a picture at the bottom of this post if you're curious! The salvia in question for today's post is a cultivar of Salvia nemorosa called 'East Friesland'. The method of propagation I'll show you is one that should work on many salvias and probably quite a few other perennials as well.

How to Propagate/Root Salvia Cuttings:

First I locate an ideal stem for cutting. This particular stem has three nodes - one apical bud (at the stem tip), and two other nodes. I've done stem tip cuttings of salvia with only two nodes before so it will work but three will result in a larger plant a little bit faster. Once I've targeted the salvia stem tip I want I cut just below the bottom node. The nodes contain auxins which are naturally occurring growth hormones used to induce root or leaf growth.

Here's a look at the salvia cutting after I've separated it from the plant. Notice that there are several leaves that aren't necessary. I remove all the leaves except for two and pinch off the apical bud. That will encourage the auxins to work toward roots rather than making new foliage at the top. Once the salvia has rooted it will also encourage lateral branching for a nice bushy plant.

Here's how the cutting looks after leaf removal. Two leaves and two nodes with a little bit of stem in between.

The next step is to dip the cut end of the salvia cutting in rooting hormone then stick it in moist rooting medium. Then I'll wait for 10-14 days until rooting has occurred. Once I have roots I'll pot up my new salvia. It should bloom by the end of this summer (at least here in Tennessee other zones may have different results). I've had success using this method with many other plants - go ahead and give it a try!

It doesn't hurt the plant and makes it encourages it to become more full of foliage. Hopefully you can see why I want to make more salvia!