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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

One Small Step

This afternoon the temperatures dropped enough for work outside to become "feasible." Not ideal in any sense of the word simply feasible. Add to that this cough, sinus drainage, and a mild case of pink eye and you would think I would just stay indoors and rest. Not so for this dedicated (or dumb) gardener!

My oldest daughter accompanied me outside this afternoon to plant a few plants that I haven't had the time to add to the garden until now. Yes this is another instance of the dedicated (or dumb) gardener planting plants in almost 90 degree heat but it had to be done eventually. It's one small step to reclaiming the garden from the June heatwave and the episodes of ailments that have been floating around our house.  The good thing about each of these three plantings is that their locations are all somewhat to completely protected.

The first to go in the ground was my variegated lacecap hydrangea ('Mariesii Variegata'). It's now in the garden next to the arbor. It's fairly protected which should suite it fine since on one side is our front porch and the other a young Japanese maple.

The next plant was an Alabama Sunset Coleus that I found for $0.50 last week. It's near the arbor too. When this growing season comes to a close I'll propagate a few and try to overwinter them in the garden shed.

'Sum and Substance' Hosta was the third plant I added to the garden today. I brought it home from the hosta garden tour a couple weeks ago. I'm playing with fire here since I have deer and hostas are on their favorites list but I had to add this large leaved beauty. It's foliage is a chartreuse green that should look very nice underneath the 'Forest Pansy' Redbud.

Adding plants in the summertime isn't always the best idea but it can be done as long as the plants are watered frequently. I definitely wouldn't advise transplanting plants during the summer since that is best left for fall when the temperatures are much more forgiving. I have a hole slew of plants that need moved but now is the time for list making and definitely not the time for transplanting.

A Note from Dave: Posting and commenting will most likely be more irregular than usual over the next several days. Our new addition will be here any time...!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

How to Choose a Greenhouse

Recently a representative of Hartley Botanic asked if I would be interested in hosting a guest post. Since I knew of the beautiful designs for the Hartley collection of greenhouses I suggested she put together a post about how to choose a greenhouse. And here it is!

Choosing the right greenhouse

You would think that a greenhouse is an easy purchase, and that all your really need is a green box with glass windows. Right?  Well you would actually be surprised how many options are available and how finding the right one can play a vital part in the growing process.

The questions you need to ask yourself are:
  • How much room can I provide for the greenhouse?
  • What am I most likely to grow? 
  • Where will I position it? 

Just like with many other things in life there are maintenance and running costs attached to owning a greenhouse. Running costs differ according to light transmission and the size and shape.

What are the choices?

Most greenhouse are octagonal or lean- to with a slanted roof. However you can find something a tailored to suit your needs, whether it is practicality or style. Listed below are a collection of greenhouses that are currently on the market, feel free to read and gain inspiration for your garden growing area.

Patio greenhouse
The Patio Glasshouse is ideal for a smaller garden and is designed to fit neatly onto your patio area, balcony or roof top garden. It is ideal for young, amateur gardeners that enjoy growing their own plant’s or even the eventual for urban growers. There are many designs available in this particular glasshouse and they can be tailored to suit your own taste. These greenhouses/glasshouses are usually made from aluminium and tough safety glass.

Cottage greenhouse
If you are tall and require more space this would be the greenhouse it's the most spacious of all green houses in its class. This greenhouse includes a centre-split sliding door which gives the option to stretch it from less than 8ft, to almost 25ft. The greenhouse looks traditional and it's not short on quality features such as high ridge openers to ensure effective ventilation.

Grow and Store
Are you looking for a storage space as well as a growing area? Well this greenhouse is definitely for you.  The Grow and store combines a traditional greenhouse with a modern store room to hold your essential gardening tools and equipment. The Grow and Store is available in any length, and a width of 8’2” (2489mm).  You will need a larger space for this type of greenhouse but it does give you that extra storage space.

The Traditional Plant House
Greenhouses tend to look the same and provide keen gardeners with the right environment for plants, fruit and vegetable. However, if you want something with more style and a less modernization the traditional plant house may just tick the right boxes. The greenhouse is assembled on a single skin brick wall, making it appear traditional and ornate.

Contemporary greenhouse
If you are looking for a contemporary greenhouse which fits the theme of a modernized garden then the Vista greenhouse is a good choice. The modern curved roof top enables a more compact growing area and will enable you to fit it into a garden small or large.
The Vista is uniquely manufactured from rolled BS aluminum and glazed with toughened safety glass.

It is worth spending a little time shopping around and researching the greenhouses available on the market. Some could save you more money than others and if you are new to the gardening world, you may only need a small area to start growing before you progress onto bigger and more adventurous challenges.

Editor's Note: Please note that Hartley Botanic does business in the U.S. as well as Europe and the greenhouse models above may not be available in all countries. But they are still very cool to look at!

Monday, June 28, 2010

The First Ripe Tomatoes!

I can proudly say that on today, June 28, 2010, I have found the first ripe tomatoes of the year!

The tomato on the left is a Viva Italia but I forget the name of the one on the right (I really need to label the tomatoes I plant in the garden, my memory just does do everything I want it to!) I spent a little time checking out my posts from last year to see how the tomato production compares to this year and found that we are ahead of last year by at least a week. The cherry tomatoes were producing this time last year but nothing else had yet. The advanced tomato ripening is probably due to the extremely hot June weather we've had. 

What's ripe in your vegetable garden?

Sunday, June 27, 2010


Neglected is possibly the worst word you could use to describe a garden. It happens for many different reasons but the result is the same: weeds growing unkempt and uncontrolled while plantings get covered. It is quite possibly the most frustrating thing a gardener has to deal with but deal with it he or she must...eventually.

As I write this post my head is throbbing from a sinus cold that began last Wednesday. But that's not all. Prior to my cold all three of the rest of us had to deal with it in sequence. It all started with our youngest and a small bout of pinkeye. Then my wife came home with something that we suspected was strep throat but tested negative. The youngest one again got the brunt of things with the sinus cold from my wife which then transferred over to my oldest daughter. I really thought I was out of the woods (I shouldn't count chickens...) but Wednesday it got me really good. We've been dealing with illnesses of one variety or another (who knows which?) since June 5th. Add to that the two weeks of morning swimming lessons for my oldest daughter with the unbearable and unseasonably hot weather and you have a recipe for garden disaster...neglect.

The garden I am most ashamed of is in the back in front of the shed. I really have some great plants in there like coneflowers, Russian sage, Shasta daisy, 'Shenandoah' switchgrass and crape myrtles...but you would never know it for all the crabgrass, Johnson Grass, a multitude of malevolent weeds. I did have a Saturday last weekend to get a few things done but I chose to expend my energy on the vegetable garden instead. It was a good choice since the garden needed maintenance and is now in decent shape...not perfect...not by any means...but decent. This week the yellow squash started producing and I harvested the first cucumber while the first ripe tomato is only a couple days away!

I'm not writing this to rant about the randomness of life to take you away from what you really would like to be doing. It's more to say for those of you who are also agonizing over not being able to get everything done you want to do in the garden that it's OK. A little neglect can be overcome. It's frustrating but garden neglect can be dealt with eventually.  It's not fun to spend a day outside in 95 degree heat (+ unbearable humidity) to weed the garden. The work will have to wait until the temperatures are cooler which hopefully will come next week. Compared to the temps we've been having the predicted 86 degrees will feel like fall. Until then we'll just have to grin and bear it. Now if you'll excuse me it's time for more sinus medication...ugh...

Friday, June 25, 2010

Variegated Hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla) 'Mariesii Variegata'

A couple years ago I propagated a variegated hydrangea from a beautiful hydrangea that was in my wife's aunt's garden. Hydrangeas are extremely easy to propagate and well worth the effort but unfortunately the spot I chose to plant it wasn't good enough. I had assumed that the location had morning sun and afternoon shade (which it did) but the just wasn't enough afternoon shade for it to survive. Sometimes even the morning sun here is too intense for plants that need those conditions.

It took me a while to get around to it but I finally ordered one from Santa Rosa Gardens. (Thanks to the Grumpy Gardener for his recommendation!) They were having a clearance sale on their plants and I picked up one 'Mariesii Variegata' for $2.99, that's a price that's hard to beat! (After looking back at their site it seems they are now sold out - apparently I bought mine in the nick of time!)

What makes the variegated hydrangea so special? It's a matter of personal taste I guess but for me it's the variegation combined with the lacecap flowers. I like all hydrangeas but when comparing the lacecaps to the mophead hydrangeas (which are also Hydrangea macrophylla) the lacecaps win out every time! The variegation adds an element of interest when the plant isn't in bloom. No matter what kind of hydrangea you like they are worthwhile to plant in the garden if you have the right place for that right plant!

Variegated Hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla) 'Mariesii Variegata':

Where to plant hydrangeas:

A location that gets morning sun and afternoon shade is ideal. In the south err on the side of more shade (a couple hours morning sun and the rest of the day shade.) Avoid afternoon sun at all costs! It likes zones 5-9. Find a location where it can receive good moisture.

How to Propagate Hydrangeas:

Stem tip cuttings, greenwood cuttings, and hardwood cuttings all root well.

A little bit of irony: Exactly two years today was when I wrote the post on taking cuttings from the variegated hydrangea!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Triscuits and Gardening

Maybe you've heard of this already or maybe you've seen it in the stores yourself but Triscuit is promoting the "home farming" movement. It's an interesting idea that backyard gardeners have been doing for many many years. Simply put home farming is growing your own food in the home garden. While gardening may be an all inclusive term to describe everything from ornamentals to vegetables home farming targets the edibles. As a society we've drifted away from the homegrown foods in favor of year round availability but that trend is changing as it should.
To encourage more people to participate in the backyard edible growing experience Triscuit has started incorporating basil and dill seeds into the boxes of the snack crackers. The regular Triscuits contain the basil while the reduced fat have the dill. They sent me two boxes of Triscuits so that I could try this out for myself.

Here's how they recommended starting the basil and dill seeds:

The seeds are contained in cardboard cards that need to soak for 2-4 hours.

After they are done soaking you peel the cards apart to reveal the seeds. They come apart very easily after the soaking. The soaking also begins to hydrate the seeds which will eventually trigger germination.

According the instructions the recommend planting the cards directly into 8" pots then cover them with 1/4" of soil. 

Triscuit also sent me a $20 gift card to purchase potting soil and these two nifty little pots. The glazing helps keep more moisture inside of the terracotta pots which tend to dry out quickly. The larger pot which holds the basil seeds is 8" and the smaller pot with the dill is 7".

I think it's a neat idea to ship food products with the seeds contained in the packaging. By sending seeds through their cracker boxes they are giving an opportunity for some of those who may have never considered planting seeds to give it a try. Herb seeds are easy to grow and once a newcomer to gardening has a little success they are addicted! Maybe next year Triscuit will consider heirloom tomatoes for their free seeds. I'll bet a Brandywine tomato and a Triscuit would make a great combination!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Wildflowers in the June Garden

Here are some pictures of what is blooming for today's Wildflower Wednesday post which is hosted by Gail at Clay and Limestone. This June has been unusual in that the temperature has been 10+ degrees warmer than it should be. In fact the weather report this morning said that we have had 16 days in the 90's which is much earlier than it should be. The reason I mention this is that one of my bloomers is blooming very early but I'll let you see that for yourself down below. Enjoy!

Verbena bonairensis and monarda

Coral Honeysuckle
It's planted on the Arbor.

Purple Coneflower

Purple Coneflower
In the self-sowing garden with a monarda (Bee Balm) in the background.

Coneflower 'White Swan'
There's a purple coneflower planted right beside it.

Golden Rod - Solidago
It's way to early for goldenrod isn't it?



Rudbeckia 'Cappuccino'

Monday, June 21, 2010

Revisiting the Japanese Dappled Willow Sculpture

At the request of a reader (xRay) on the original creatively pruned Japanese dappled willow post I thought I would show you how it looks now. It needs some touching up, especially around the base and a few more branches need to be thinned around the canopy but the overall form is in tact and filling in nicely above the window area. You can see how it frames the garden behind it that still has Asiatic lilies in bloom. The great thing about pruning dappled willows is that you really don't have to worry about how much you prune and if you do make a mistake you can always cut it back to the trunk or coppice it (pruning to the base of the plant) and start it again. It's the classic do-over in plant form!

Don't forget that willows root easily in water and you can make enough to try these kinds of projects yourself! You might consider weaving trunks together, making a topiary, or even a willow fence - the possibilities are endless. Well maybe not endless per say but you catch my drift!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

A Magnificent Monarch on Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca)

Just one really neat sight I saw this weekend was the monarch sipping nectar from the milkweed (Asclepias syriaca). Milkweed is the host plant for the monarch butterflies which serves a very important role in the life of the fluttering favorites of backyard butterflies. Milkweed contains a chemical called glycosides which get consumed by the monarch caterpillars (see more here on milkweed). When they grow up this chemical makes the butterflies poisonous to birds and other predators - essentially the milkweed plant becomes a natural defense mechanism.

This milkweed was not on the slope of my wild area but at my wife's parent's house on the outskirts of their woodland. Once the flowers turn into seed pods I'll collect them to plant in our natural areas and try to help these magnificent monarchs along!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

The Border Bed Outside of the Vegetable Garden

I've finally gotten around to one of the chores I've been meaning to do for two years! Amazing how that works isn't it? You intend to do a project in the garden then you get distracted with other projects and it becomes to late to accomplish. Today I finally mulched the west side of the planting bed outside of the vegetable garden. It doesn't look like much now but I've got a plan!  In previous years this area was filled with zinnias grown from seed. I never really worried much about the mulch even though it would have helped keep the weeds at bay which definitely enhances the look of the garden. Despite the weeds the zinnias always made the spot look good.  I have a few planted there but other plants will be finding their homes in the bed soon.

Because of the deer invasion I'm putting in some plants that the deer may not want to sample like Russian sage and Pineapple sage. The two aren't related so don't let the sage part fool you! Perovskia atriplicifolia has scented leaves that the deer should find unappetizing and the Salvia elegans has pineapple scented leaves that may or may not be attractive to deer. It blooms a bright red. From what I've seen deer never touch most salvias which makes pineapple sage worth trying. The boards you see in the picture will be the border of the garden. I ran out of time to get the border situated today. The grass along the fence is on the inside of the garden and will be on its way out very soon. Like I said it doesn't look like much now but we'll check back at the end of summer (or maybe sooner) and see how it's doing!

A look back at the week:

Monday June 14, 2010

Tuesday June 15, 2010
Wednesday June 16, 2010
  • Touring a Hosta Garden - a few pictures from the Hosta Garden of the president of the Middle Tennessee Hosta Society.
Thursday June 17, 2010
Friday June 18, 2010

Friday, June 18, 2010

Raised Bed Vegetable Garden Update

Yesterday evening we had storms. Heavy winds and rain knocked down sunflowers and pretty much every perennial planting over 2 feet tall that wasn't staked up. If it could catch the wind - it did. Unfortunately our Bradford pears remained in tact - I've been looking for an excuse to take them down, one of these days they will break...

Cilantro Bolting
This morning I went out to investigate the damage in the garden. Fortunately it isn't bad at all. The cilantro that I've been letting go to seed fell over but it was already well on its way before the winds whipped through. The tomatoes are really doing very well despite not being properly tied to their stakes and not being suckered enough (that's on today's agenda). Everything is lush and growing strong thanks to the rich soil in the raised beds. I used a combination of grass clippings, newspapers, and regular soil from the yard to fill these and the tomatoes couldn't be happier. I've also mulched exclusively with grass clippings this year which has done a great job at keeping the soil moist. It also adds some great organic matter to the raised beds as the grass clippings break down. (Unfortunately my bagger mower is having some difficulties right now and needs a doctor. It has a smoking problem, I'd rather not blow it up again!)

The tomatoes above are in two almost 10' long raised beds (they fit in where the corn and beans are in the old vegetable garden layout). I say almost since they were scrap pieces of lumber that I had laying around and didn't measure exactly what I had in mind. I have no problem with improvising when needed! The tomatoes below are Black Krim (I think). I may have switched tomatoes accidentally between two of my beds but I'm pretty sure these are Black Krim. I tell myself each year that I'm going to plant everything exactly right but I always end up getting something mixed up!

Here you can see where some of the tomatoes fell over in the night. The damage wasn't too bad just a few branches fell that need tied back up. Tomato stakes aren't the best way to stake up a tomato but they work in a pinch. They are probably the cheapest method though. My hillside is covered with sassafras saplings that I can harvest and fashion long and straight stakes from for use in the garden. It helps the trees by thinning out a few which reduces the competition for light and helps me in the garden - a win win situation!

The Romas seem to have developed their own style of natural pest prevention - spider webs.  Spiders are very welcome in my garden as are any other beneficial insects that happen along. I don't use pesticides other than insecticidal soap and that only when needed.

I was excited to see this little cucumber growing. It doesn't look like much more than a little midget pickle right now but it won't be long before we have some delicious cucumbers. Thankfully the deer invasion did not completely decimate the cucumber vines and I think the vines have a decent chance of regrowing to full cucumberhood.

My Weekend Vegetable Garden To-Do List:
  • Weed the encroaching grasses (Johnson Grass and Crabgrass) out of the pathways.
  • Tie up tomatoes
  • Mulch around the raised beds over the pathways.
  • Clear out two raised beds for planting more squash and beans. (formerly housed greens)
  • Check around the potatoes to see if I can harvest yet. (I did harvest one already I'll post on that later.)

 Saturday will be busy! (and hot)

Thursday, June 17, 2010

5 Annuals I Plant Every Year

In case you missed it I wrote a post on the 5 Annuals I Plant Every Year over at Complete Organizing Solutions. Hop on over and take a look. Then tell me what 5 annuals do you plant every year?

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Touring a Hosta Garden

One of the great benefits to being a part of a garden club is being able to see other gardens. This past weekend the Spring Hill Garden Club took a tour of a very cool garden based all around everyone's favorite shade plant: Hostas! We visited Cornelia's garden who is the president of the Middle Tennessee Hosta Society. Her garden is amazing. It's full of hostas, hydrangeas, and another unique specimen from Japan: rhodea. Other plants are interspersed for variety but the almost 700 varieties of hosta take center stage in every garden. Some are in pots and others in the ground in smaller garden areas surrounded by walking paths. There is no grass to be found in the main garden and growing grass would be a challenge with the amount of shade Cornelia's garden possesses, but her love of hostas makes it a perfect landscape for the garden. The pathways wind through her garden and offer a fantastic view of each individual garden area. Large leaf hostas like 'Sum and Substance' as well as many small miniatures in hypertufa containers like 'Gosan Gold Midget' can be found all around. With almost 700 varieties of hostas in her garden Cornelia says that she doesn't divide them and prefers for the hostas to grow on to their full size.

She also shared a ton of interesting knowledge about hostas with our group. One of the most fascinating pieces of wisdom was how to identify hostas. I can only begin to tell you how as it is highly complicated but to identify a hosta you need to see them in flower, be able to count the veins on the leaves, the shape and color of the leaves and a few other factors. Like I said it's highly complicated to trace a hosta back to its roots (so to speak).

She grows a number of hostas in pots including some of the large varieties. Cornelia recommended putting screening in the bottom of the pots to keep out voles and other damaging pests, then adding a layer of gravel for drainage, and lastly filling the pot with a soil level that rises above any glazing. She successfully keeps her pots outdoors year round with this method. (If you are in a zone colder than z.6 this may not work as well.)

The webmaster for the MTHS recommended to me to use large pine bark nuggets inside the planting holes when planting new hostas. The pine nuggets help to add drainage and provide slowly decomposing organic matter to the soil. Adding organic matter is often needed here in Tennessee due to our heavy clay soil.

Cornelia's garden will be a featured garden for visitors from the American Hosta Society National Convention which will be in Nashville in June of 2012. In preparation for that tour she is getting all her plants into the ground this year. Next year will be a year for fertilizing (she recommended a tomato fertilizer) and growing (not planting) with 2012 being the garden's showcase year. When it's time for the tour she doesn't want any plants to appear as though they were just planted. It will be one very beautiful tour!

For some more photos of her hosta garden please look below!


Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Garden Blooms of June (in Tennessee)

It's always fun to join in with Carol's Garden Blogger Bloom Day every 15th of the month but the early summer day are some of the best for blooms. Some of the spring blooms are hanging on despite the extreme heat (it's way to hot for June!) and the summer blooms are definitely getting into gear. Today I'll show you the blooms with mostly wider shots so you can see them in the actual gardens as opposed to close-ups or macros (although I may sneak in a few of those too!)

Blooms in the Self Sowing Garden

Monarda and Salvia farinacea
The self sowing garden is now into its second year and hasn't been fully reseeded this year by the gardener. A few seeds were added like sunflowers but most are returns from last year. Some are perennial like the coneflowers and monarda while the celosia and poppies return each year from seed. The celosia isn't blooming yet but the perennials are going strong! My motivation for creating a self sowing garden was to add a garden space that provided a border for that side of the house. It's fairly low maintenance since it just needs occasional weeding after it's been started. The important thing about the self sowing garden is to wait on mulching (if at all) until all the seeds have been germinated. You also have to let the plants eventually go to seed. In the fall I'll sprinkle more coneflower and rudbeckia seeds around to fill in the area. Each year will bring a slightly different look in the self sowing garden.

Perennials Blooming in the Self-Sowing Garden: Salvia farinacea, Monarda, Rudbeckia, Echinacea purpurea, St. John's Wort, Dianthus, 'Walker's Low' Catmint

Annuals Blooming in the Self-Sowing Garden: Poppies

Blooms in the Birdbath Garden

The birdbath garden holds quite few perennials but also a bit of shrubbery. The big bloomer this time of year is the butterfly bush but the coneflowers are here too and are putting on a good show. The catmint is also as prolific as ever!

One of my favorite perennials 'Oranges and Lemons' Gaillardia is flowering nicely. It's a little crowded in its current location. I'm going to have to consider another birdbath garden expansion in the future.

Perennials Blooming in the Birdbath Garden: Salvia, Gaillardia, Echinacea purpurea, Echinacea paradoxa, Butterfly Bush, 'Walker's Low' Catmint, Achillea millifolium.

Annuals Blooming in the Self-Sowing Garden: Petunias, Salvia 'Mystic Spires'

The rest of the photos are of individual plants that are blooming in various gardens.

The crape myrtle provides a privacy screen effect for the bathroom window. Crape myrtles grow fast and don't grow too large which makes them a good choice for planting this close to the house.

The coral honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens) is still pushing out blooms.

This coreopsis is a descendant of some 'Sunfire' coreopsis seed I collected. It's still retaining the red coloration on the petals.

'Crimson Pirate' Daylily

Can you say "ARRR!"

The garden beside the deck has more coreopsis blooming, this time it's a lance leaved variety. Pink achillea has now faded to near white. 

Gaillardias are just one of the best aren't they? Prolific bloomers and all colors look great. This one came as a seed raised offspring from my 'Oranges and Lemons'. It would have been nice for it to breed true but I have to admit this red one is pretty cool!

Thanks for visiting!