Archive for March, 2012
See this mornings post for the “before” pictures of these flower beds.
Underneath all of that old, dead debris from the winter, green life is pushing its way up. It’s amazing how much growth has taken place. It won’t be long before everything is getting big and setting buds for spring and summer blooms.
I cleared the asparagus bed and was amazed to see asparagus spears already appearing. It must be this mild season we’re having. Bad timing for us since we’re about to leave on vacation, I guess I can get someone to harvest the spears for me so they will keep coming. Since this is the fourth year on the plants, maybe we can get a few weeks of cuttings when we return home.
The peonies are coming up and the roses and many other perennials are leafing out. The apricot, peach and aprium trees are in bloom. Even though I have only a few hyacinths, they are in full bloom, as are the daffodils.
I lost a lot of tulip blooms to the deer last year and so this year I’m trying to protect them with some mesh. I noticed today that they have chomped down the tulips in the front flower bed that I hadn’t covered, but the covered ones are still looking good.
Once I’ve finished with all this not-so-fun clean up, then maybe I’ll get to sit back and enjoy watching the garden come to life.
This is an unusual spring for two reasons. First of all, because I was away all last fall and winter, I wasn’t able to clean out the flower beds and prepare them for winter. This means more work this spring. Second, thankfully, we had a very mild winter and the spring seems to be early and mild.
So the weather is bidding me to come into the garden and clean up the mess I should have cleaned up last fall. It’s amazing that everything can appear to be so dead, but as I pull away the piled up leaves and debris, there is already life stirring underneath.
These are “before” pictures of a small portion of our garden. I will post more pictures later on to show progress and to show all the growth taking place “down under”.
Loquat trees not only produce fruit, but they are attractive trees in the garden. They may only reach 20′-25′ and they are evergreen. They have large, dark, glossy leaves with very fragrant flowers and deep yellow fruit. The fruit is sweet to tart, but very seedy. The seeds sprout easily and so the plant can spread by self-seeding, in the right conditions.
The Loquat is from China and Japan and has been cultivated for over 1,000 years. It is now in cultivation all over the
world. The trees will grow as far north as zone 7 but will not bear fruit unless it’s grown in zone 8 or higher.
If you live in the right zone to grow Loquat, they are a nice medium sized, ornamental tree you might like to try.
I think ALL PLACES look better with plants.
This includes patios and decks. Plants create a more welcoming atmosphere along with adding beauty and interest. Sometimes it’s hard to find potted plants or the deck or patio. You can do bedding plants, but if you want something larger, you almost need a shrub or a tree.
There are a lot of plants sold as houseplants that would do very well outside, in the right conditions. Unless you live in the tropics, most of them would have to come in for the winter, but then your house is beautiful all winter. See http://wp.me/p1OXDF-Bo Of course, you don’t have to have as many as we do…I just kind of get carried away.
There are plants that can get tall, and some are medium sized, so you’re not limited to the size of bedding plants or worrying that in a couple of years the shrub or tree is going to be way to big for your area.
Check out these 50 house plants to consider http://wp.me/P1OXDF-13K . Learn a little bit about the ones that appeal to you and then, head to Lowe’s or your local garden center and check out the varieties available there. As you check the information tags on each one, you’ll know if it needs shade or can tolerate some sunshine. You’ll know if it needs to be kept moist or can tolerate drying out between waterings.
Some of these plants are long lived and can be a good investment, both for your home or for your outside living areas.
Before the “real” gardening season gets underway, I wanted to take time to posts some pictures of some of the most amazing orchids we saw for sale in a garden center in California in February.
I like orchids, but I’ve only seen them grown seriously once. Most people may grow one potted orchid, trying to keep it alive and blooming as long as possible. When I lived in zone 8, I visited the greenhouse of an orchid grower. He had some beautiful plants, very healthy. See http://wp.me/P1OXDF-1cd.
I have never seen the variety that was available for sale when we were in southern Ca. The colors were unbelievable and the plants were so large and healthy. And, they were much less expensive than the ones I see for sale here in zone 6.
It made me want to try to have at least one.
There are basically two types of Clematis, ones that flower in early spring and those that flower beginning in summer and bloom ALL summer long. They are pruned differently, so it’s good to know which you have (and if you don’t have any Clematis growing, you are definitely missing something wonderful), so you’ll know when and how much to prune. See (http://wp.me/P1OXDF-Ps).
The ones that bloom in early spring don’t need any pruning. If you need to prune to control the size or shape, at least wait until after it finishes blooming.
The ones that bloom all summer long (and fall too) need to be pruned back to about 12″ to 18″ from the ground. This will help the plant grow more vigorously and to have way more blooms. This needs to be done while the plant is still dormant, before it buds out in the spring. The stems and leaves will be all dead and crispy, so pruning will be easy.
If you don’t get around to pruning, no problem. It won’t hurt the plant, and you won’t get as many blooms, but the plant will be okay.
Clematis are so great. If you’ve got something for them to climb on (they like sunshine but also like for their roots to be in the shade), whether its a post, trellis, fence or a bush or tree, plant at least one. I really like the Reiman, it’s a steady bloomer, but there are so many good ones out there. See http://wp.me/p1OXDF-fF
When you buy a Clematis, it’s best to get a potted one that is already at least 18″ long. If you get the really small ones, they can take a little while getting established. Soon, the garden centers will have plenty to choose from. Check em’ out.
I finally made it to the garden center to select the seeds for our raised bed vegetable garden. We have 3 beds that measure 16’x4′. One is located in the back yard by the peach trees, and two are in the side yard, on the other side of the driveway.
We usually grow the peas and lettuce in the side yard beds but this year I’m moving them to the raised bed in the back yard, mainly for convenience sake. It’s easier to dash out the back door and pick peas and lettuce, it’s much closer to my kitchen. The corn and tomatoes will go out in the beds in the side yard.
As you can see from the picture, I have quite a variety that I plan on growing this year. All have done well before, and I really look forward to having them much closer to the kitchen.
Almost all of the ones in the picture need to be planted soon and I’ll be trying to get them all planted today (March 16). We are in zone 6, so the time for planting early veggies in your zone may vary. Check the seed packet for that info.
The beans, squash and cucumber will go in later, when the soil warms up a little. I’m planting two kinds of peas, regular English peas and Sugar Snap Peas. Also, I’m planting 3 kinds of lettuce, for variety.
I did get a few packets of flower seeds, but I save so many seeds from my annuals each year that I don’t really need to buy many of those.
The timing is perfect for planting tomorrow because it’s suppose to rain over the weekend, which will water the seeds in really well and give them a good start. Also, I’ll be soaking the peas seeds overnight to give them a little head start.
If you want a really good selection of seeds, now’s the time to get to the garden center and make your selections.
Even though Hydrangeas are old plants, found in the gardens of our grandparents, they are getting more and more popular in the gardens of today.
If you’re in the process of designing your garden, or needing a plant to fill in an empty spot, have a look at the beautiful, flowering shrubs, Hydrangeas. They are easy to grow, long lived and gorgeous.
All Hydrangeas are not the same. The one most people think of when “hydrangeas” are mentioned, are the mopheads or Hydrangea macrophylla. These have huge clusters of blooms that are formed into a large, tight cluster and are usually pink or blue. These are the ones that can have their color changed by changing the PH of the soil. They can even be lavender and all three colors can be on one bush at the same time.
Then there are the “lacecap” Hydrangeas, which have a tight cluster of blooms with loose clusters of blooms circling them. There are Oakleaf Hydrangeas with white blooms, whose large leaves are in the shape of oak leaves. The blossoms on these have a much looser form. The foliage is as much of an asset in the garden as the blooms.
There are Hydrangeas with cone shaped flower clusters and these are Hydrangea paniculatas. One of my favorite Hydrangeas is Limelight, and it is a paniculata. The blooms are chartreuse (pale, lime yellow-green) and as the temperatures cool in the fall, the blossoms turn pink and then burgundy. All hydrangeas can be easily cut and dried for arrangements, but these are really special because the color they are when you cut them is the color they will stay.
Hydrangeas require little care. They like soil enriched with good compost but can tolerate sandy soil, medium moisture and partial shade. They do need some sunshine or they either won’t bloom, or won’t have the prolific number of blooms they are known for. Some varieties even thrive in full sunshine. In hotter climates they can require more water.
They don’t need pruning, except to remove spent blossoms. They bloom from mid-summer through fall. Fertilizers that are high in nitrogen can cause the plants to have vigorous foliage growth with few blooms. Since Hydrangeas bloom on old wood, pruning isn’t recommended. If pruning is needed to control the size of the plant, do the pruning immediately after blooming.
They grow in zones 5-9. They can be anywhere from 3′ to 6′ tall. Do some research and see which ones appeal to you and which ones will fit into your garden. You won’t be disappointed.
It’s about time for the Pansies, Crocus, Hyacinth, Tulips and Forsythia, to name a few, to start showing their faces all over the place. The days are warming up and even though the nights are still chilly, and there is still the real threat of more hard frost before the middle of May, it’s hard not to get spring fever when the daytime temperatures are in the mid 60’s.
As I survey our “end of winter” garden/yard, it’s hard to believe it can ever recover. All it takes though, is a couple of flowers to start showing up and the winter blues evaporate and the excitement and hope of spring take over.
Some of the really early birds, like rhubarb, have already popped up and started unfolding, but it is the spring flowers that create the excitement and joy of spring.
I’ve been missing gardening…can you tell?
There are several thing that every well dressed gardener needs: comfortable cloths, garden shoes (to protect your feet and your other shoes), garden gloves and a cute hat. Actually the hat doesn’t have to be cute, but it should at least keep the sun off your face and neck.
Until it gets warm enough, I just wear jeans or cords and a long sleeve shirt with a sweater or windbreaker, but as soon as it’s warm enough, I go right into my scrubs (those cute uniforms worn by nurses). If it’s still a little chilly, I just wear a tee-shirt underneath. If you haven’t discovered scrubs yet, then you’re in for a nice surprise. Not only are they comfortable (like working in your pajamas) but they are loaded with pockets. Gardeners need pockets. I keep all sorts of things in my pockets while I’m gardening, saves a lot of trips to the shed.
I know garden clogs aren’t gorgeous, but all I have to do is keep a thick pair of socks on and my feet are protected. They wash off easily and are easy to slip off when I have to run into the house for a minute. Boots work really well too, but take more effort to get on and off and don’t clean up as easily.
Gloves in the garden are a MUST. Not only do they keep your hands from getting ripped and torn and stuck by thorns, they
keep your hands a lot cleaner and prevent callouses (sort of). There are different grades of gloves, depending on the gardening jobs. Deer skin for thorns (see post http://wp.me/p1OXDF-7V ), regular leather gloves for most tough jobs, soft gloves with rubbery texture for planting and getting muddy. Oh…gloves while gardening keep your fingernails looking oh, so much better.
Hats. Don’t you just love seeing gardeners with floppy straw hats on? Men and women. The thing about straw hats is that they not only protect you from the sun, but they also let air blow through to cool you on a hot day.
That being said, sometimes I just wear a baseball cap. At least it’s some protection.
Last fall I wrote a post about a product I’d heard about called “Blend” (see post http://wp.me/p1OXDF-BE ) and all it could do to improve the qualities of soil. The company that produces it is located in Arizona and since we were down there for a wedding reception, we took time to tour their facility and learn a little more about them.
It was an amazing place, much larger than I had imagined. I learned that Blend is only one of many products they produce to improve and condition the soil and to feed plants.
There are mixtures that stimulate the root growth (for stronger, healthier plants) and products that improve the uptake of nutrients (macro and micro). There are pesticides made with Thyme oil. Plants need such a variety of nutrients and most soils don’t provide all that plants need. Most fertilizers provide the basic Nitrogen, Phosphate and Potash (the numbers on the fertilizer containers) but not the many other nutrients required by plants.
They were generous and kind enough to give me some samples to bring home to try on our garden. I am so excited to be able to use them, since I’ve heard such good things about them. At this time they only sell wholesale and their products are used all over the world, even China. (Isn’t it nice to know that China actually buys something from us?)
Hopefully, they can be persuaded to retail some of their magic plant serum to some of us here in the U.S.
I will be posting pictures of plants grown with (and even some grown without) the different additives. It will be interesting to see how it does in our garden.
If you’ve been going through the seed catalogs (like I have), or visited the seed racks at the stores (now fully stocked) trying to decide what your going to include in your garden this year, then you’re aware of the huge choices available to us.
Take vegetables for instance, once you decide which vegetables you want to grow, then you have to decide which variety. Say you want to grow green beans. The first choice that comes to mind for green beans is whether you want them to run (climb something) or to be bush beans (so you don’t have to provide something for them to climb on).
The key is to do some homework, whether in the catalogs, gardening magazines and books or on the internet, learn as much as you can about the things you want to grow. Whether is vegetables, herbs or flowers, the information on the back of the seed packets will make a lot more sense if you know what you’re looking for. By the way, there is a lot of information on the seed packets so don’t ignore it. See post: http://wp.me/p1OXDF-1xE
Some things grow great from seeds and some will grow from seeds but take way too much time (like Asparagus). Some things won’t grow from seeds (like Tarragon). Tomatoes will grow from seeds, but our growing season is so short that we have to set out seedlings in order to get tomatoes before the cold weather returns in the fall. Most gardener set out seedlings for tomatoes anyway, because everyone wants to get fresh, homegrown tomatoes as early as possible.
This is the best time to stock up on seeds, while the racks are well stocked (both garden centers and mail order seed stores). Before you know it, the racks will be almost bare and your choices will get more and more limited.
It’s time for us to plant the peas, lettuce and spinach, so I’ll be checking out the racks this week and making the crucial decisions…which English peas, and what kinds of lettuce to grow. So many choices….so little space.
I have to admit that I’ve not grown too many succulents. Ive had the Hen and Chicks and the Kalanchoe, but not much else. Lately though, I’ve been noticing them more and more in other people’s gardens and in the garden centers. I had no idea that there was such a huge variety of these beautiful plants.
They are not only beautiful but very easy to grow, if the conditions are right. When we were in the San Diego Botanical Garden I fell in love with these figures that had been created using succulents. How do people even dream up things like this, much less figure out a way to do it?
One of the garden centers we visited in California had such a huge selection of succulents to choose from, I would have like to have had one of each.
When our garden centers get up and running this spring, I intend to check them out to see what wonderful little treasures I can find. I will be finding ways to use them in our garden from now on.
Not all color in the garden has to come from flowers. Whether you like bright, vivid colors or more subdued pastels, you can have color throughout the garden with painted furniture and with garden ornaments.
In my garden I have leaned toward the softer hues of purple, pinks, blues and white. For my flowers, I still prefer those colors, but after a few trips to Mexico, in certain areas of the garden I have ventured out into the brighter shades of the same colors.
You might like the warmer (or hotter) colors of reds, yellows and oranges. Whatever colors appeal to you, there are ways to get
them into your garden. Check out the things that I found for sale at a plant nursery in California. There were sun faces, lizards and frogs etc. to hang and birdbaths and colorful pots as well as all sorts of garden figures. Now, beautifl pots come in ALL colors.
I like to tuck figures in among the plants and most of them, you really have to be looking hard to even see them. It’s fun for the grand-kids to have something to look for. See post: http://wp.me/p1OXDF-4L
There are plenty of garden ornaments that you can make and it is really easy to slap a coat of paint on some yard furniture.
Have fun in your garden and make it a relaxing fun place to be.
I’d written about dates from a previous trip, but I hadn’t yet tasted fresh dates. The ones we saw were all dangling from trees. See post: http://wp.me/p1OXDF-1wf
On our recent trip we sampled fresh dates in Arizona and in California (both delicious) and now I’m trying to figure out a way to grow dates here in zone 6. The trees are beautiful (as you can see) and one tree would produce almost enough dates to keep me happy for a year. I’m not sure they would produce well in a greenhouse, but that seems to be my only alternative.
We learned so much about dates, for instance, they like it hot, hot, hot but also need lots and lots of water. That’s why they grow in the oasis. The giant, premium dates are called Medjools and the smaller, round ones are Deglets. There is a long, thin one called Barhee, which I loved. It is drier and chewier than the others and it has a nutty flavor. Dates are very nutritious and full of anti-oxidants.
I took some to my daughter today and even though she doesn’t like dates, she tried them and loved them. See her blog at: http://greenardelle.blogspot.com/
If you can’t get down to Arizona or southern California, you might like to order some fresh from the grower, and no, I don’t get a kickback 🙁
The great place we stopped at can be found online at: http://www.browndategarden.com/ They also grow grapefruit and oranges. We got some of their Temple oranges that were amazing. The people there were so friendly and helpful. We will definitely look them up again when we’re in California.
If you’ve never tried fresh dates, then you don’t know what you’re missing.
When we were in Arizona recently, I discovered a wonderful plant with beautiful flowers and a heavenly scent. They were growing in a pot on the front porch and they perfumed the whole area. The blooms remind me of larkspur a little. The plants were called Stock or Matthiola and it is an annual.
I intend to not only have them in pots on the deck, but growing in the flower beds all around the deck and grape arbor. I love plants that smell so good that they make the whole yard smell great too.
Depending on your climate, these plants can be grown from seeds or bought as seedlings at the local nursery. If the climate is milder, they can be sown directly into the garden, otherwise, they can be started indoors and set out as seedlings. I think I’m going to try to direct sow and also pick up some at the nursery. It’ll be fun to see which ones do the best. Since these plants prefer cooler temperatures, they should be planted early. They need full sun but can tolerate light shade.
These plants are sensitive to too much moisture, so make sure they have well drained soil. Adding plenty of compost will keep them well fed to produce lots of flowers.
Stock varieties can be 12 to 36 inches tall, so check the label to see which ones your getting so you’ll know where to use them in the garden. The taller ones will work in the middle or back of the garden while the shorter ones need to be out front.
If you pinch the seedlings back, the plants will be fuller and also produce more blooms. These make good cut flowers, so plant plenty.
Okay, I really wasn’t expecting to find such a huge selections of plants available in February…not even in California. I’ve never seen such a variety of plants offered and the prices were pretty good too.
I sure did get the fever. Even though I’ve almost maxed out our small quarter acre yard, in my mind I was rearranging all of our flower beds to try to accommodate some of the gorgeous plants we saw, some I’d never even thought about growing before. It’s probably a good thing we had so far to travel and our car was so overloaded (citrus, dates and yet more pots), or I might have been tempted to buy plants that might not be suitable for our climate. But it was fun dreaming.
I did get some really good ideas for potted plants. In these photos you’ll see what an unusual combination of plants have been used.
I doubt that seeing the photos will have the same effect that walking through the nurseries and seeing the plants had on me, but maybe you’ll be tempted to get out to your local nurseries to see what’s being offered this season, maybe try something new. Just be careful to read the plants requirements carefully to make sure it will thrive in your garden.
We just returned from a long vacation down to Arizona, Mexico and southern California. It seemed more like May down there than February. We visited some gorgeous gardens (photos to follow) and enjoyed our time away from the snow, ice and freezing weather.
It was nice to get home though and we were pleasantly surprised to find that our winter is milder than usual and we actually have hope of an early spring and summer. After being around all of the beautiful flowers and ripening fruit, it’s hard not to get overly impatient to get to work in our own garden.
Yet, here in zone 6, about all we can do is a little cleaning up and work on planning our raised vegetable beds. We are going to switch things up some this year. We learn a little more about our yard every year and try to improve our garden. Learning from our mistakes is one of the best lessons of gardening.