Roses – Of Course
How to grow roses
Peaches Ripening on Tree
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What You Missed
Darwin Tulips
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Roses, Corn & Peaches
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Under the Grape Arbor
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My Garden Journal
Jan. 28 - Filled the bird feeders and shoveled snow. Lots and lots of snow.
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Cut Flowers
Bird Feeders & Roses
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Heaven on Earth Rose
Chives, Sage & Roses
Corn & Peach Trees
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Day Lilies
Cut Zinnias
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Potted Snapdragons
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Archive for December, 2011

Herbs In The Garden

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Agastache - Anyse-hyssop

I grow at least 31 different herbs, but I don’t have an “herb garden”. Herbs are usually very hardy plants, that also happen to be edible, medicinal or aromatic…maybe even all three. Most of them are beautiful, foliage and flowers. They blend well with other, more ornamental, plants. So I enjoy mixing them in throughout all of my flower beds. I do keep the culinary herbs a little closer though, like right off the deck, close to the kitchen. I’ve had an “herb garden” before, and it can be very handy  to just run out and grab a handful of whatever you need. Now, though, I’ve scattered other perennials among them and they are still very handy.

Some herbs can get quite large and take up a lot of space, like the hyssop or the lemon balm, while others are small and compact, like the oregano and  thyme, and just kind of creep along among other plants.

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Lavendar

Sometimes it might seem like herbs are a little mysterious or maybe difficult to grow. Nothing could be further from the truth. Whether you plant seeds (which I do a lot) or plant seedlings, you will probably have great success. Some herbs are so easy to grow that you might wish you weren’t so successful. Any of the mints will spread like wildfire and need to either be grown only in containers or in restricted areas. I love mint, especially chocolate mint, but I’ve learned the hard way that it can easily become a weed that smells very good when you’re pulling great handfuls of it out of your flower beds.

If you have well drained soil, plenty of sun and a little moisture, you can grow just about any herb you’d like. Most of them don’t even need especially fertile soil. Mulching helps keep the weeds down and will eventually break down to enrich the soil. If you can control the weeds early on, then soon the mature, spreading plants will choke them out naturally. Most herbs are perennial, meaning they’ll come back year after year.

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Dill

Many of the culinary herbs do well with pinching back, or pruning, so using them is a plus. Never remove more than 1/3 of the plant at a time though. As you pinch them back, they will become fuller and more attractive.

Cooking with herbs is a lot of fun. Be experimental and try different combinations. Have  you ever had potato salad made with fresh thyme, oregano and chives? Delicious.

I  grow a lot of aromatic herbs too (See post: The Aromatic Garden http://wp.me/p1OXDF-8d) just because I love them.  See also Ezine Article: http://ezinearticles.com/?8-Great-Plants-For-an-Aromatic-Garden&id=6582569

Some of my favorite culinary herbs are:

  • Tarragon – slight licorice flavor – used for cooking, vinegars and teas
  • Salad Burnet – cucumber flavor – used in salads
  • Chives – mild onion flavor – used in cooking and as garnish
  • Oregano – used in cooking
  • Sage – used in cooking
  • Basil – used in cooking and condiments
  • Thyme – used in cooking
  • Marjoram – used in cooking
  • Parsley – used in cooking and as garnish
  • Lemon Thyme – used in cooking

Some of my favorite aromatic herbs are:

  • Scented Pelargoniums – Lemon/Rose, Rose, Coconut, Green Apple, Lemon/Lime
  • Agastache Anise Hyssop – hard to describe, heavenly scent
  • Lavender – everybody knows what Lavender smells like…right?
  • Mint – also used for culinary by some – Chocolate Mint, Spearmint, Peppermint, Pineapple Mint, etc.
  • Plectranthus – hard to describe smell that I love (kind of like antique wood)
  • Artemesia – nice, clean smell
  • Helichrysum – fresh, straw-like smell

This winter, when  you’re planning your garden for next spring, think about incorporating some herbs in with the perennials or even with the vegetables. A whole new world will be opened to  you.

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Spearmint

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Purple Sage

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Feverfew and roses

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Thyme

Plan Your Garden On Paper – Garden Planning Made Easy

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Raised garden beds in winter

During the winter months is a really good time to take stock of your yard to see what changes you might like to make. It doesn’t hurt to think big. If you have a plan, say for a patio to be built in a certain area, then you can begin to plant the right plants (the right height etc.) in the right place. We had to do that. We staked off where the deck would eventually go, and planted a row of peonies along that line. Behind the peonies we planted some tall shrub roses, and other things, but these plants had time to grow before the deck was built 2 years later.

If you have a bird’s eye view of your property, being able to see the house, yard, driveway, walkways, deck, patio etc., it is much easier to decide where you can have flower beds or fruit trees or raised beds for vegetables.

 

You can create the bird’s eye view with a simple drawing.

Using graph paper makes it a little easier and probably more accurate, but you don’t even have to do that. Try to get the

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Designing a Garden (Green is Planting Areas)

house, garage drive etc. somewhat in perspective. I used a poster board with graph line on it. You can determine how much each square represents, 6″, 1′, 5′ etc. It just depends on the size of our property. I do an outline in pencil but when I’m pretty sure of the measurements, colored pencils help to make it all a little clearer.

Winter is a great time to scour magazines and catalogs (and garden blogs) for ideas of what kinds of plants to use. It’s important to find out the needs of plants you like and want to use. Do they need full sun? Do they like to be dry or moist? How tall will they get and will they shade neighboring plants?  I make lists of the ones that appeal to me, learn as much about them as I can, then try to figure out where in the yard I can use them.

In the first sketch, I just block in areas for “flower bed” and don’t try to plan where every plant will go.  Later, when I’m sure of the size of the bed, then I can start planning what plants to put in and how to place them.

Tall plants such as shrubs or hollyhocks should be place at the back of a border. It’s important to pay attention to where the sun will cast a shadow in the summer (which is different from the winter) so that tall plants won’t shade plants that are sun lovers.

Medium plants should be planted in front of the taller plants with low growing plants placed in front of the medium ones.

Decide on a color scheme for your garden.

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Japanese Anemone and Limelight Hydrangea

Do you like warm, hot colors like yellow, red and orange? Then choose plants that will mix these colors throughout your garden. Maybe you like the cooler colors such as blue, pink, lavender and white. Another way to use color is to use complimentary colors, colors opposite each other on the color wheel, like yellow and purple, or blue and orange. Some like to use just one color, all blue or all red, even all white. A garden with a color scheme in mind is much more pleasing than a hodge-podge of color all jumbled up. Also, plant in groupings of color, instead of scrambled all together for a more effective look. But ultimately, it’s your garden, so you get to plant what you like, where you like.

Just one more thought on the subject…

Every plant doesn’t have to bloom. A garden with foliage in a variety of textures and shades of greens and other colors, is beautiful as is, even without flowers.

 

Finding a place for everything.

It’s good to list the things you’d really like to have in your yard. We did that when we bought our home 3 years ago. Even though our property is only 1/4 acre, our list was long. The property already had the house, a garage, a potting shed, a wide driveway and sidewalks around the property on 2 sides (it’s a corner lot). We wanted a deck, a large grape arbor, raised beds for growing vegetables, an asparagus bed, fruit trees and a berry patch. All of this plus as many flower beds as we could squeeze in.

Because we drew it all out, we were able to fit everything in. We had to move things around (on paper) to make it work, but we were able to settled on a plan. By doing that, we knew what plants we were in the market for, and we knew approximately where they would go.

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Grape vines on grape arbor with beebalm below.

We were able to have a 50′ x 10′ grape arbor (planted with 2 kiwi vines and 11 grape vines), a large deck (33′ x 16′), 4 raised beds (16′ x 4′ each) for vegetables, 20 assorted fruit trees placed throughout the yard, an asparagus bed (8′ x 5′), a berry patch with raspberries (20′ x 4′) and a berry patch with strawberries and blackberries (12′ x 6′). There are flower beds, large and small, tucked everywhere else. It wouldn’t have been possible to include all we wanted to have without a plan.

Have some fun this winter. Plan a garden.

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Pathway between deck and raised vegetable beds.

 

 

 

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Deck out back door, potted plum tree

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Autumn Star Peaches on Tree in September

A Reminder…Have You Ordered Your Gardening Catalogs?

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Tulips growing in the spring garden

I have received some comments that reminded me, (I can’t believe I had forgotten) of one of gardeners’ favorite winter pastimes.

Looking at gardening and seed catalogs and planning the next garden, or garden project, is a fun way to spend cold winter hours. It helps to get ideas for next spring, trying to find a new and better strain of this or that. It is certainly a favorite thing for me to do and by the time warmer weather finally gets here, our catalogs are pretty worn and tattered.

Where do you get these catalogs? Most garden and seed nurseries have online sites and offer free catalogs to be sent to your home. Order up some now and by the time the holidays are over, you may have a stack of catalogs to enjoy. Here is a partial list of possibilities for you.

As you go through these catalogs, not only will you become familiar with gardening terms, but you will learn about each plant that interest you. You’ll know if it is a perennial and if it will bloom all summer or just in the spring. You’ll find out how big it should get, so you will know where to use it in the garden.

These catalogs are a great source of knowledge that shouldn’t be overlooked. There are many, many other online nurseries out there, so check them out, find new ones.

Start making a list of the plants that appeal to you and in which catalogs you found them in. When you’ve planned your garden, then it’s easy to order the seeds or plants and have them delivered to your door in time for planting in the spring.

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Hardiness Zone Map Has Re-located

Just a note to let you know that the hardiness ZONE MAP page hasn’t been deleted. It has just been moved.

It is now located under the “Miscellaneous” tab at the top of the page.

7 Gift Ideas For The Gardener In Your Life

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Gifts For Gardeners

Okay, I realize that if you’re reading this post, then you probably are  the gardener, and if that’s the case, then when your family and friends ask you what you want for Christmas, maybe this list will give you some ideas of what to tell them.

Or better yet, give them the link to this post and let them check it out for themselves.

 

 

 

 

  • Deerskin gloves – I could not work in my garden without my deerskin gloves. I wrote about them in this post – http://wp.me/p1OXDF-7V   Rose thorns and raspberry thorns can NOT penetrate them. They stay soft and supple and can be washed off and layed out to dry and they will still be soft. They come in lined and unlined. I get the unlined because we don’t garden in the winter around here, and in the summer I want them to be as cool as possible. I buy them from an outdoor shop near us, but I’m sure they can be found online.
  • A Really Good Soil Test Kit –  You can even get an electronic one. Some of the simple ones will measure the moisture in the soil, but it is really helpful to be able to monitor the soil PH, (to find out if the soil is acid or alkaline), the light intensity, and the nitrogen, phosphorus and potash levels (NPK). Mine has three long prongs that you just insert into the soil and wait. Of course a soil test, done by your local county extension service, is more accurate, but to spot check areas of your yard and to get a quick reading, it is a wonderful little gadget to have. These are probably available at Lowe’s or Home Depot, as well as online. I ordered mine online, but I’ve had it for a while and I can’t remember where I got it. Sorry.
  • Good Quality Pruners – Our garden shed has so many gardening tools in it and a lot of those are pruners. I do have a few that I favor over the others but they all have their flaws. A really good pair of pruners will cost $50-$70, but they can make the work so much easier. Pruners are garden tools that most of us can agree is an absolute essential tool to have. Pruners are a gardener’s best friend. To find high quality pruners (and a whole lot of other things) check out this site:  http://www.gardentoolcompany.com   This is a gift that could last a lifetime. (Nope, I’m not on their payroll)
  • Bird Feeder – As a gardener, I’m not sure I could ever have too many bird feeders. Birds are an important part of our garden. Not only do we enjoy watching them, but they are so beneficial to the garden. Even though we have so many, they do get so weather worn over the years and it’s nice to get a new one here and there to replace the old, worn out ones. (Yes, there are a variety of  feeders for sale on this site)
  • Garden Markers – It is so helpful to be able to label plants as you plant them. A lot of gardeners are like me, and tend to forget a lot, (comes with age) even when I’m so sure I’ll remember. Other people have found it very helpful when they’re in my garden, to be able to easily see the name of a certain plant. It’s also helpful to add the planting date. There are many labels on the market, but most are more for looks instead of utility, and they usually cost way too much. Here is a site to get good, basic labels that are affordable and oh so useful. I’ve been buying labels from them for years and really like them (no, they’re not paying me either, to tell you about them).  Check out: http://everlastlabel.com
  • Gift Certificate to Local Garden Center  or an Online Site – It is impossible to know everything a gardener would like to have, but with a gift certificate they can either get that tool they’ve been drooling over or buy a special plant for the yard. That’s where most of our clematis have come from. When our grand kids give me a gift certificate, that is usually what I get. I love them and when they are so beautiful in bloom, I am reminded of the kids who gave them to me. They know which ones they gave to me, and check them out when they visit. The local nurseries are listed online and can be contacted or even Lowe’s or Home Depot have a lot to offer a gardener.
  • Gardening Books – There are so many good books on gardening, some very general in topic and some very specific. While a book covering many gardening topics is good for the beginning gardener, books covering specific interests of gardeners can be very interesting and helpful. For instance, I have a lot of books on perennials and there is something different to learn in each one. If you’re unsure what kind of gardening book might be appreciated, a gift certificate from the book store would surely be welcomed.

 

If you have other suggestions, let’s hear about them. Add to the wish list.

 

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House Plant Tips and Ideas

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House plants make a home

I can’t remember a time I didn’t have house plants, and not just during the winter when we’re overwintering tender patio plants. Beautiful plants make a home more cozy and inviting. If there’s enough room, small trees, such as ficus, are really nice. Some plants are beautiful but more difficult to care for and maintain, while others seem to take care of themselves.

Some plants like lots of light while others can tolerate very low light. Few house plants can take very much direct sunlight though. The water requirements of plants differ too, but house plants generally require a lot less water than plants growing outside. It is easy to over-water house plants, to kill them with kindness. The easiest, and most accurate, way to see if a plant needs watering is to stick a meter in for a short time and it will give you a reading. Another easy way us to stick the tip of your finger into the soil or potting mixture about an inch deep. Sometimes the surface may seem dry when there is really plenty of moisture available to the plant.

Plants can be placed on table tops, on plant stands, sitting on the floor and even hung from hooks in the ceiling or from brackets on the wall. They work great on window sills  and mantels, on kitchen and bathroom counters and on enclosed porches. So many possibilities, and so many plants to choose from.

It’s important to remember that containers need to have drainage holes, and with drainage holes come drainage. So protection is needed to protect furniture, floors, window sills etc. I like to use glass or plastic plant saucers and trays, that are big enough to hold the excess water that runs through from watering the plant. The glass and plastic doesn’t sweat and hold moisture that can be transferred to the surface it’s sitting on. I’ve learned the hard way that clay saucers can ruin furniture.

Some of my favorite house plants, and how to care for them: See Page: Container Gardening>50 Best House Plants: http://wp.me/P1OXDF-13K

Greenhouse Fantasy Time

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Greenhouse Dreamin'

It’s about this time every year that I long for a greenhouse. It isn’t only because our growing season is so short here in zone 6, I had wanted one even when I lived in zone 8, where I could almost garden year round.

A greenhouse can not only extend the growing season for plants, but it’s much easier to start seeds for the spring garden and manage cuttings and starts taken from mature plants. It would be so nice to be able to plant up my hanging baskets early and let them get a head start, so they would be beautiful by the time the weather is warm enough to put them out into the yard.

There’s something about the atmosphere in a greenhouse that I love, especially if there are some beautiful tropical plants and all sorts of new plants coming along. I’ve been in greenhouses during the winter that had tall tropicals in bloom, and hanging baskets full of beautiful plants, pots with tall, healthy tomato plants full of green tomatoes. I would love to be able to putter around in my own warm greenhouse during the cold winter days, looking out at the beautiful white snow. I love winter, with the snow and winter activities, but I sure do miss gardening during that time.

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Seedlings for the garden

So I look at pictures of greenhouses and dream. I walk around the yard trying to figure out where in the world we could possibly put the greenhouse of my dreams, a place that would get the right amount of winter light and enough winter protection, so that it wouldn’t cost an absolute fortune to heat it.

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My dream greenhouse...maybe a little too big?

It’s fun to dream though. I might as well dream big, right?

 

 

 

 

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Can they be real?

Garden Design Video

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Beside our future front gate

 

 

Check out this fun, quickie, garden design video…

Our Garden Gate
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Japanese Anemones
Delpiniums, Lilies, Centranthus
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Echenacea
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Cosmos on Picket Fence
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Roses, Roses, Roses
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Bamboo
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Agastache, Sedum & Phlox
Garden in back yard
Limelight Hydrangeas
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Grapes Ripening on Arbor
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Yarrow
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Echenacea &Day Lilies
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Garden Phlox
Agastache and Sedum
hyssop, sedum, phlox and rhubarb