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Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Viburnums in Early Spring

By far my most favorite shrub is the viburnum. I'm working on collecting as many as I can, either through propagation or buying them, to fill in areas around our gardens. If you don't have a viburnum in your garden you really should plant at least one or two. Some are fragrant, some are evergreen, and they are great for wildlife. The berries never last long when they appear in the late summer and early fall.

In the spring time the scent of our Burkwood viburnum 'Mohawk' (Viburnum x burkwoodii 'Mohawk') fills the air. With the perfect weather conditions the one flowering shrub will add its fragrance to the whole backyard.

It's not fragrant but the 'Shasta' viburnum (Viburnum plicatum f. tomentosum 'Shasta') gets gorgeous blooms each spring. The green leaves look great through out the growing season and develop a nice burgundy color in the fall.  

Here are the flower buds for the 'Shasta' viburnum soon to be in bloom. 

The Arrowwood viburnum (Viburnum dentatum 'Morton') is later to emerge and only has leaf buds showing at this point - so no pictures today! Eventually you'll also get to see the Snowball viburnum in bloom. It's not blooming yet but soon though! It's a pretty good time of year, don't you think?

For more on Viburnums and how to propagate them check out these posts:

If you don't already own this book and would like to learn much more about all the different kinds of viburnums available I highly recommend Micheal Dirr's book Viburnums: Flowering Shrubs for Every Seasonit's a must have for your garden library if you like viburnums!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Spring Plant Propagation: Agastache and Salvia

My addiction to plant propagation has reemerged from it's winter slumber. It's Spring which means it is time to get many kinds of cuttings ready for growing. It's still early and many of the plants I'd like to propagate still don't have adequate foliage but agastache, catmint, and salvia are ready to root! In my garden I planted two Agastache foeniculum 'Golden Jubilee' plants in the fall. Agastache is also known as hummingbird mint and has the square stems of other members of the mint family. If you are ever in need of an easy plant to propagate that almost never fails look for a member of the mint family!

I took several two to three node cuttings dipped them in rooting hormone and placed them in wet sand.  I also added several cuttings of 'Walker's Low' Catmint (a favorite plant of mine!) to the same container. It always amazes me how little space it takes to propagate so many plants.

In addition to the agastache I also took cuttings of salvia 'Caradonna'. 'Caradonna' is a beautiful purple flowering salvia with dark purple stems. I was able to fit 20 into this small cleaned out mushroom container. 

And here's an update for you. I mentioned a while back about the easy way to propagate 'Husker's Red' penstemon and here is the result:

I have quite a few 'Husker's Red' penstemon growing all over the gardens. By making a few more extra plants I can insure that I'll have it around. 'Husker's Red' will also propagate by cuttings.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

A Yoshino Cherry Tree in Full Bloom!

I know that you know that I like Yoshino Cherry trees. I thought I would highlight the Yoshino cherry tree that is flowering in our front yard so that you can enjoy its blooms too! Here's why the Yoshino makes a great garden tree: they grow relatively fast, they look great when in bloom and when covered in leaves, and I've noticed very few pest problems (the deer rubbed it once). Here are a few more good reasons to plant a Yoshino cherry in your garden:

Are you ready to plant one yet?

Monday, March 28, 2011

How to Propagate Montauk Daisy

Last fall I bought a 'Montauk' daisy (Nipponanthemum nipponicum) from the discount rack. The daisy looked extremely green for the time of year but I thought the plant had potential. The stems were young, almost like the plant hadn't been out of the greenhouse for very long. Because of that fact I thought why not try to make more just in case it doesn't make it through our winter? The stems were ideal for stem tip cuttings which normally I would do in the spring and summer. Fall isn't the best time to do greenwood stem cuttings since they will not have enough time to harden off before the killing winter cold. In order to keep the Montauk daisy cuttings alive I had to keep them indoors. I took 5 cuttings in the fall and the other day - after a whole winter indoors - I was able to put the rooted Montauk daisy cuttings outside in a pot under a cover of plastic.  I'll  move them soon to the garden shed where the daytime temperatures are regularly up in the 70's to help boost their growth!


How to Propagate a Montauk Daisy

  • In the spring or summer take stem tip cuttings with about 3 nodes. 
  • Dip the cut end in rooting hormone
  • Stick the cutting in moist sand, sand and peat, or another propagating medium.
  • Keep the cuttings moist until rooting at or around 70 degrees.
  • I didn't cover the cuttings but if you have problems with the soil medium drying out a plastic bag propped up can help maintain the humidity!

My cuttings rooted a couple months ago but needed to be kept indoors where the temperatures were constant. 5 out of 5 cuttings rooted so this is yet another easy plant to propagate!

What are you looking forward to rooting this year?

Soggy, Wet Days are Good for Something!

The days have once again become cold and wet. The beautiful spring like days we had in early March have been replaced (temporarily) with winter like cold and drizzle - ugh. It's definitely disappointing for the gardener but spring is right around the corner. I can't wait to see the sun but the wet and soggy days are ideal for one thing - planting seeds of cool weather vegetables! I planted several cool season vegetables yesterday that hopefully we'll be enjoying this spring on our dinner plates.

Cool Season Vegetables I Planted this Weekend:

  • Beets ('Tall Top early Wonder'
  • Radish ('German Giant' and 'Sparkler')
  • Pak Choi ('Green Fortune' from Renee's Seeds)
  • Arugula
  • Carrot ('Cosmic Purple')

My lettuce and spinach are already started in the circular raised bed.

While outdoors I scatter sowed some California poppies and Columbine. We'll see what happens!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Some Self Sowers! (Seed Sowing Saturday)

I really like plants that decide to take the work away from the gardener and sow their own seeds! Of course even the best plant that self sows could technically become a weed if planted in the wrong place, but since most are easily moved I really don't mind.  Today's Seed Sowing Saturday post is all about the self sowing plants coming up in my garden.

These rubeckia seedlings can be very prolific! As they take over the birdbath garden I'll thin them and move them to new homes.

Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) is also a prolific self-sower for my garden. In my opinion - you can never have enough coneflowers! My daughter and I moved 5-6 coneflowers to our front garden this week to help fill out a newer garden area.

Poppies are another very cool self sowing plant. You can spread them around a little by collecting the seed after they form their nifty little seed capsules. This year promises to be a big one for the poppies in our self sowing garden!

My golden ragwort is a good self sower too.  Gail from Clay and Limestone gave us the ragwort! It has some beautiful golden flowers in the late spring.

Hollyhocks are easy self sowers. This one germinated last year a little too close to the front sidewalk. After it blooms I'll remove it out since hollyhock is a biennial.

Now I need your help. Can you identify this seedling? I forgot what I planted in the self sowing garden!

Any ideas?

I think (Freda) Cameron hit the nail on the head with her ID of my seedling - larkspur!

To join in on Seed Sowing Saturday just link back to this post and tell us about your seed sowing experiences over the past week. Be sure to leave a link below so we can come over and visit your post! Oh, and a Tweet or a Facebook mention/like is always a good thing! Happy Seed Sowing!

Don't forget to go visit this week's seed sowers!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Prunus persica 'Bonfire' - Ornamental Dwarf Peach

I've mentioned before that I'm a huge fan for the genus Prunus so you won't be flabbergasted when I tell you that I like this little ornamental dwarf peach called 'Bonfire' (Prunus persica). I bought it last year for my wife who wanted a peach tree. Unfortunately at the time I didn't realize that it was merely ornamental and not necessarily a fruiting peach tree. It had fruit on it when I purchased it but they never amounted to anything. Despite the my failure in finding a fruit tree with edible fruit I really like this little prunus. It's a dwarf and doesn't get much larger than 8 feet tall (the height differs according to what you read). The emerging purple foliage blends beautifully with the pink colored flowers.

'Bonfire' is just one of several members of the Prunus genus that really like. I may have four Yoshino cherry trees (I say may since one small one has yet to bloom and I have doubts about it's origins), a couple of Prunus cerasifera, I mentioned the Okame cherry the other day, and I even have what I think is a peach tree that emerged from one of my planting beds. Yes, I experiment so much I can't remember everything I do! I suspect I popped that little peach pit in a bed just to see what, if anything, would happen. I love it when something cool, like a free plant, happens!

The flowers on this peach are spectacular. Our tree is small now but can you imagine how a 'Bonfire' would look partnered with the white flowers of my Yoshino cherry trees? I'll have to show you the pictures of my Yoshino cherries soon, they are beautiful this year!

The dark foliage is very cool too.  Perhaps underplanting it with a silvery color plant like 'Powis Castle' artemisia would make for a nice combination.

Now I just have to find an awesome peach tree cultivar that needs no spraying, has no disease problems, the deer won't eat, and produces copious amounts of delectable fruit. I'm not asking for too much am I?

A Daffodil Photo Op

I planted these daffodils late last fall. I found them after they went on sale in December and planted them soon after. They are just now blooming while all the other daffodils are fading which is pretty neat!

Daffodils Backlit by Sunshine

I may plant a few late daffodils each year to achieve the same effect!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Japanese Maples from Seed Update!

Have you been wondering for months what ever became of Dave's Japanese maple seedlings? I bet you have...er well maybe not but I'll show you even if you weren't wondering all winter about my Japanese maple seedlings!  In case you are wondering how to grow Japanese maples from seed the big secret is stratification. Stratification is where you expose a seed to cold temperatures in order to break the natural dormancy of the seed. Many plants require a certain amount of cold time in order to trigger germination and Japanese maples are one of them. This is one reason why so many gardeners stores their seeds in the refrigerator. Aside from keeping the seeds fresh the refrigeration also exposes them to cold temperatures so that when the gardener is ready to plant so are the seeds. But enough of my horticultural ramblings, now on for the Japanese maples seedlings!

Nearly all of the Japanese maples that I stored in the garden shed have come alive with new foliage. I was concerned with the winter cold  - that it might have been too much for them, but thankfully my fears were unfounded. These little maples all came from the seed dropped by a Japanese maple in my parent's yard. Germination last year was incredible. Over 140 Japanese maples germinated. Unfortunately the summer took its toll and not all came through to fall but those that did are on their way to becoming some awesome little trees. I'm hoping that this year the seed germination results will be similar since our winter temperatures were comparable to the Winter of 2009-2010.

What variety are they? I'm glad you asked! I'm about 95% positive they are 'Bloodgood' seedlings which is a very common Japanese maple and can be easily grown from seed. These trees could one day become landscape plants or even serve as grafting root stock for other varieties of Japanese maple. 

Have you ever gotten Japanese maple seedlings from your trees?

Monday, March 21, 2011

Greenland Gardener Raised Beds

I've always been a big fan of raised bed gardening. There are significant advantages to gardening in raised beds which is why when Greenland Gardener offered to send me one of their raised bed kits to test out I said "yes please!" My vegetable garden is almost completely made of raised beds built from non-pressure treated lumber which only lasts about 2 seasons before it completely disintegrates. Are there better ways of building a raised bed? Let's see how the Greenland Gardener raised bed kit stacks up.

First you should know that I have not tested the raised bed for growing anything yet. It's really too early to plant it according to their kit (which offers up a neat planting plan for a salsa garden and another regular garden) but I can tell you about the installation and compare that to building my own raised beds. First the Greenland gardener raised beds are made from composite lumber which will last decades. That's an obvious advantage to the home built ones in my backyard. The composite lumber is made from recycled plastic bags which is another plus for it's environmentally friendly origins.

The kit I tested came with 7 - 42" boards and 6 joint pieces. Each joint piece was routed to fit together with the routed ends of the composite lumber. The idea is to make these beds as easy as possible for the consumer to put together - that's another plus. Anything to encourage a new gardener and help them be successful is good to me! But this is also where the kit had some issues. When putting the pieces together I found that some of the routers grooves were routed backwards. The lumber can only fit together in one way and it just didn't fit together smoothly. It required several different adjustments by moving the boards from location to location. At one point I had to get out the old hammer to "gently convince" the boards that they really do fit that way."Yes boards, I insist" I said.

Also a level surface is a must since some of the routered joints fit loosely and others very tightly - if the surface is level it's not an issue.

The instructions for putting the beds together are so simple that I'm confident that anyone could easily assemble them. No tools or cutting is needed to put together the raised beds so even those with deficient carpentry skills can build these raised beds.

My Junior Gardener Assistant!

Overall I think the concept is great. Greenland Gardener designed a raised bed that will last, is easy to assemble, and should function perfectly well. My only misgiving with the product is the corners and the misrouted grooves. It's possible that the beds I received with the rough joints were an anomaly. I really like the seed planting concept that Greenland gardener kit has, but I'll save that post for later - when the weather is safe for planting!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

It's Spring!

So the calendar says it's spring..

Front Yard and Garden

and I agree!

Front yard and garden with Arbor

I hope that wherever you are spring weather finds you soon!

Patio Peach Tree Flowers in Bloom

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Mid March Seedling Update! (Seed Sowing Saturday)

I thought with this Seed Sowing Saturday post I would update you on how my seeds are coming more so than talk about new seeds. In fact I can sum up the new stuff in with simple sentence: I sowed 'Rudbeckia Cappuccino', 'Starlight' Coneflower, and Penstemon. There, that was easy! I've been busily getting the garden ready outdoors this week and haven't spent as much time with the seed sowing as I should. I have many more seeds I want to get planted so I had better get my act together!

Now for the grande seed sowing update:

Sowed in the vegetable Garden: Lettuce, Spinach, Red Onions, Red Potatoes, Yukon Gold Potatoes, Sugar snap peas, and asparagus! OK I'll admit it, the asparagus wasn't from seed.
Still to Plant Outside ASAP: Bok Choy, cabbage, carrots, beets, and radishes.
Indoors: Lots of tomatoes! Including Black Krim, Brandywine, Orange Sungold, Chianti Rose, 'Woodle Orange', and Cherokee Purple.
Still needs planted indoors: Peppers, Basil, Dill

Direct Sow after last Frost Date: Cucumbers, Melons including 'Tigger', 'Old Time Tennessee', 'Jenny Lind', and regular old cantaloupe. Also Bush Beans, Pole Beans, Purple Hull Peas

So there's my seed sowing update list. I may have left something out - I usually forget something! Hopefully this weekend I'll get the remaining direct sow vegetable planted.

And to show you some progress here are some pictures of my tomato seedlings!

The tomatoes in the foam containers are doing great. The stevia hasn't germinated yet but it may need more time. Each tray has 8 out of nine tomato plants germinating.

Some of the first tomatoes I planted are putting out their true leaves. One month from now and I should be able to plant these guys outside! Soon I may transplant them into larger size pots in my garden shed to make more room for seeds indoors.

How are your seeds doing?

To join in on Seed Sowing Saturday just link back to this post and tell us about your seed sowing experiences over the past week. Be sure to leave a link below so we can come over and visit your post! Don't forget a Tweet or a Facebook mention/like is always a good thing! Happy Seed Sowing!

Don't forget to visit these seed sowers!
  • Sarah at Green Love Grass
  • Thursday, March 17, 2011

    Ten Cans of Gardening

    Every now and then it's fun to go back and look up the statistics from The Home Garden to see what people are looking for and eventually wind up here. Sometimes the search terms are funny but hopefully the results lead the searcher to great info. So here are ten search terms that showed up that all began with the word: Can. And my responses!

    1. Can I divide a heavenly bamboo? Yes you can! I'm trying not to sound like Bob the Builder here but heavenly bamboo spreads very easily by rhizomes just under the surface of the soil. By digging up the area around the sprout in question you can find the root system and snip it off to make more plants. It's an easy way to propagate Nandina domestica. This probably won't work as well for the new cultivars of Nandina since they seem to be much more tame the the old fashioned Heavenly Bamboo.  
    2. Can I divide my variegated liriope? Again, yes you can! Liriope dived very easily like daylilies. Just dig up the clump, wash off the roots so you can clearly see the root system, then gently pull them apart. More often than not I skip the clean off the roots part.
    3. Can I paint a raised vegetable garden bed? Maybe. If the paint is low VOC and you stick to the outside areas. Many paints contain toxic chemicals that could leach into the soil. It's better to be safe than sorry and find a food safe preservative to coat the wood or got with a naturally rot resistant wood like cedar or redwood. Butcher block preservatives should work fine. 
    4. Can you grow 'Homestead Purple' verbena from a clipping and will it take root? Most definitely! I propagate 'Homestead Purple' verbena every year because you never know how well it will come back after a cold winter. It's a good idea to make copies of your plants in various garden microclimates to insure you don't have to repurchase the plant. Verbena will root easily with internodal or nodal stem cuttings. Rooting hormone isn't necessary but will speed up the process!
    5. Can I plant a Bradford pear tree in Illinois? Yes, but why would you want to? Pick an alternative like the Service berry if it works in your zone or find a better behaved pear try like the Cleveland. Avoid the Bradford!
    6. Can I plant my dappled willow in March? Yes! Err... maybe it depends where you are. Here in Tennessee is a yes but in other places you may not be able to dig in the frozen ground. In most cases your dappled willow will be fine if planted in March.
    7. Can I prune my crepe myrtle in spring? Yes! Prune your crape myrtle now so that you don't cut off the new blooms when they form. Crape myrtles haven't emerged from dormancy yet (at least here) and typically do so later than other trees. They bloom on new wood so if you prune now you'll be sure to have blooms this summer. Just don't perform crape murder!
    8. Can I put arborvitaes in a pot? Yes but you'll need to move them one day. Pick a large enough pot that the arborvitae will have plenty of room for roots. Also be sure to keep it well watered as pots dry out fast. And do remember to put holes in the pot!
    9. Can I start shallot seeds inside? Yes I started shallots from seed and need to start the hardening off process outdoors this week.
    10. Can Japanese willows root in water? Definitely! It's easy and fun to watch the roots grow. You can skip this step by rooting them directly in soil and keeping them watered. They are beautiful plants and it's easy to make more willows!

    I hope you enjoyed these ten cans. Now I just need to find and open a can of worms - for the vegetable garden beds of course!

    A Little Green for St. Patrick's Day!

    Since today is St. Patrick's Day and tradition dictates that we do all things green and as Irish as possible here are a few things green from my garden!

    We have green in the vegetable garden in the form of sugar snap peas, spinach, and lettuce! Other things haven't come up yet for a visit like the asparagus (which I just planted) and the potatoes. Time and the warm weather coming will give our plantings a growth spurt.

    I've mulched lightly around the sugar snap peas with grass clippings for an organic fertilizer (approximate NPK: 4-1-2) and for increased water retention in the soil. 

    Little 'Tom Thumb' lettuce is coming up! When it's time to harvest the lettuce these little lettuces will be somewhere between 3-4 inches in diameter. It's a cute little lettuce that kids should love. If you need ideas for a vegetable that will encourage your kids to garden 'Tom Thumb' is a good choice. They can sprinkle it (scatter sow) and watch it grow!

    Here comes the spinach! It's growing it's first new sets of leaves since the cotyledons (that's a fancy name for the first leaves the seed sprouts to collect energy).

    More lettuce seedlings are coming along. These should be one of my favorite lettuces Rouge D'Hiver. It's a red romaine lettuce with a delicious taste. I know, we said today is for green right? Well the seedlings are green - for now!

    How about some extremely green grass! How does this happen so easily and without fertilizers? Through good mowing practices, overseeding in the fall, and allowing the grass clippings to break down where they land. In the fall I overseeded with fescue and rye. The rye grass is an annual and will die off in the heat of summer and supply the soil with more nutrients! Of course it also makes holes in the soil where its root system burrow which has an aeration effect the soil over time. The aeration makes the soil easier for the fescue to grow roots which should enable it to get more water from deeper in the soil! Exciting? Well, I think so!


    Maybe watching the green grass grow isn't your thing but you have to admit watching things green up and come alive is pretty cool.

    And why not take a look at some green in the blue garden shed? We'll start with one of my favorite viburnums a 'Mohawk' Burkwood (Viburnum x burkwoodii). It's a fragrant viburnum that is fairly easy to propagate in the late spring and early summer from greenwood cuttings. It's actually a hybrid of the Korean Spice viburnum (Viburnum carlesii) and Viburnum utile.  I have two in my garden shed that I propagated last year and they are looking fantastic! Follow the link for a picture of our Burkwood Viburnum from last April which I'm hoping will be much more showy this year!

    And or some variegated greenery here are some variegated dogwoods! These came from my Tatarian dogwood 'Elegantissima' (Cornus alba). Shrub dogwoods are extremely easy to propagate in the fall. Just take hardwood cuttings from the red stems and stick them in soil in a pot! It just couldn't be much easier.

    So there's a bit O' green from St. Patrick's day! Now no pinching - I'm wearing green!