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Jan. 28 - Filled the bird feeders and shoveled snow. Lots and lots of snow.
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Circumcising the Peach Trees – The Importance Of Thinning Fruit

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Autumn Star Peaches on Tree in September

Even though it’s really hard to remove little baby fruit from fruit trees, it can be a very important step. Not only do you get much better fruit but the tree is better able to bear the fruit while it grows and ripens.

When our peach trees became laden with fruit we had to remove quiet a bit of it. Since this is just their third summer we were worried about such an abundant crop. We learned that removing the fruit is called ‘circumcising’ the tree. Well all 5 of our trees got circumcised. Apparently we weren’t thorough enough because just as the fruit on our Red Haven ripened the trunk of the tree split right down the middle all the way to the ground. I ran out with baskets and was going to pick the fruit and then take out the tree.

“Slow down”, my husband said, “let’s just think about this a minute.” So I stand there tapping my foot impatiently, knowing I’d have to do something with all those peaches right away. He headed for the garage saying we were going to pull the tree back up and strap it together.

Ha! I thought he was delusional. This was a young tree but it was already big, at least 12′. I tried to budge one side of it and I might as well have tried to lift our deck. But back he comes with pulleys and come-alongs and bungee cords and ropes and boards and a drill? Then he reaches down and smooth as can be he lifts one side up and braces it then pulls the other side up and braces it. He straps them together tightly and supports those heavy limbs. Then he gets out the drill and drills two holes through that poor tree. He used bolts and nuts and things and bolts the trunk together in two places. Poor tree had surgery with no anesthesia. I thought that by the next morning all the leaves would be wilting and the fruit would began to drop.

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Bolts in split peach tree with little hollyhock plants coming up everywhere

Except for the support straps still in the branches, you’d never know anything had happened to that tree. The fruit stayed on and ripened and was delicious. Now the tree will grow around those bolts and it’ll be impossible to tell what once happened. Isn’t that amazing?

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Early Elberta Peaches getting ripe...finally.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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by Eliza Osborn

When To Plant Spring Bulbs

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Tulips growing in the spring garden

After a long, cold winter it is so wonderful to see plants coming up and flowers beginning to bloom, all because you thought to plant bulbs in the fall. Spring flowers from bulbs are so easy to grow and if they are happy ( that is –  getting everything they need) they will just get better and better each year. So it’s important to plant the right bulbs for your climate. Just do a little research before you get started, so that you’ll know what does best in your area. Get creative and have fun as you plan where to plant the bulbs. In designing your garden, you can think about the colors you’re going to use, like the hot colors of red, yellow and orange or maybe you’d like the cool colors of pinks, purples, lavenders, blues and whites.

When you’ve decided what flowers you want to grow and what color scheme you like, then you’ll need to decide where to plant, and how many plants to fill the area you have. After all that has been figured out it will be time to think about when to plant the bulbs.

The when depends on which hardiness zone you live in. If you don’t know that, click on the “Zone Map” button at the top of the page. It will bring up a map, which you just click on your area to enlarge the map. The bulbs need to be planted 3-4 weeks before it gets cold enough to freeze the ground. The trick is to get them into the ground so that they will have time for their roots to begin to grow before the ground

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Tulips which lasted such a long time. It was worth the wait.

freezes.

The problem is that you don’t want to plant them too early because if they have too much time before the ground freezes they’ll have time to send up shoots, which take energy away from the bulb. The bulbs will need all the energy they can get for next spring, when they begin to grow.

So get out the crystal ball and figure out when would be the best time to plant for your area. I think it’s almost that time here in zone 5/6.

 

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The Fight That Turned Into Flowerbeds – guest post by Tiffany Sowby of Happy Most of the Time blog

My very first job, when I was 15 years old, was planting seeds at a local nursery. To me, it was just a part-time job that provided a little teenage spending money. Eight years later, I found myself married to a landscaper, living in a brand new home, with a brand new landscape to design.

It isn’t because I have a fantastic memory that I remember one of our very first fights as a newly married couple. It probably has more to do with the fact that my husband reminds me of it all of these years later. He doesn’t remind me to be unkind, nor to remind me that I was the one in the wrong. Instead, he reminds me because it is something we laugh at almost fifteen years later.

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The Happy Couple, a Landscaper and a Garden Designer

We laugh at the memory of the ‘discussion’ we had over how to landscape a four foot wide flower bed stretching out along a 50 foot driveway. My husband, a LANDSCAPER, and me a new bride, who had six months experience planting seeds along a conveyor belt, and a few weed pulling sessions in her youth. To say we had very different views about the design is an understatement. I suggested a patch of grass would be nice.  My husband, putting aside all newly-wed sensitivity, laughed out loud at my suggestion, (I think that is when the ‘argument’ started) and instead suggested trees, shrubs and perennials.

I have thanked my husband for his wisdom ever since.

After my husband planted four beautiful towering oaks, and placed a few Spireas, Potentillas, and Barberry shrubs here and there, in a peace agreement of sorts, my husband left the rest of the design to me. I spent hours perusing greenhouses of a nearby nursery and became acquainted with Stella D’oro Day Lilies,  Echinacea, and what became my favorite, Black-Eyed Susans (Rudbeckia).

Within a year and a half our landscaped areas increased and I had three more good sized flowerbeds to take care of. Again after some careful placement of trees and shrubs by my husband, I was left to the flowers.

This round of landscaping, I fell in love with Forget-Me-Nots, Jupiter’s Beard and Woodruff. (And quickly learned to never again plant the ever-seeding Mexican Primroses.)

I’ll never forget that early summer day, just four years after our first fight as a married couple, when a city official knocked on my door and declared my yard as the recipient of the city’s ‘Yard of the Month’ award!

My husband is not often found sending me beautiful bouquets of flowers, but instead he has taught me an appreciation and love of flowers that last far longer than some store-bought flowers in a vase. I am a lucky woman.

And what a lucky man my husband is. He has beautiful flower beds AND a wife that can admit she is wrong.
 

 

How To Grow Roses, Roses and More Roses

 

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Growing roses - more than you can imagine

When I drew up the plans for our little yard, about 1/4 acre, I knew we wanted to put in about 20 fruit trees and three 16’x4′ raised beds for vegetables. We were planning on putting a 50’x10′ grape arbor and a 32’x16′ deck. That didn’t leave much room for an asparagus bed, a raspberry bed and a blackberry/strawberry bed much less all the perennials I wanted to put in. But I love roses and thought I could squeeze at least 5 or 6 in. I chose Queen Elizabeth’s for their robustness and their great height since I was trying to create ‘rooms’ in the back yard. I also put in a couple of Medallion because I love the color. Two New Dawn went in because I planned to have an arbor over one of the gates and I wanted one to grow along the picket fence. (More about that mistake later.)

One day when we were having lunch at a little place I looked across the street and couldn’t believe my eyes. I’d never seen so many roses in one place before. They were covering the side of a two story building. The corner lot had a wide parking strip and it was completely full of huge rose bushes. After lunch we walked over to have a look. What we’d thought was an empty office

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A private rose garden near us with about 500 rose bushes.

building was actually someone’s home. Obviously a bigger rose nut than me. A lady came out and said we could go into the back yard for a look around. It was unbelievable. In this 1/3 acre there were 500 of the healthiest roses in full bloom. Magical, just magical. It really changed my perspective. I realized I just wasn’t planting mine close enough. I now have 108 but I think I may be done. I love the ones I have but I probably wouldn’t turn one down if it really wanted to come home with me.

I wish there was enough space to share all of my pictures of this place. Every week during the summer we’d go for Garden Talks in the Park where really good gardeners would teach and answer questions. The “Rose Man” spoke one night and I was so impressed with him. He wasn’t even speaking on roses but on organic gardening and it came out that he was the one who lives there.

So I learned to not be limited by space. There’s always room for one more.

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Some very tall roses in this spectacular rose garden near us.

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The Most Beautiful Roses in the rose garden

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by Eliza Osborn

10 Ways to Kill a Plant

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Clematis climbing post on deck.

 

All gardeners don’t have green thumbs.

Here are some tricks to keep any gardener’s thumbs from turning green.

 

 

 

  1. Plant plants in the wrong place. This is very effective but may take a little longer so if you’re in a hurry, refer to the rest of the list.
  2. Don’t water it. Now some of you live where you get frequent enough rain that you don’t need to water, at least not EVERY day like me, but plants need their moisture, some more than others. So ignore that plant and soon you’ll have a crispy little brown specimen.  Ask me how I know.
  3. Let the weeds choke it out. Now as I’ve said, we do have bindweed here but there are plenty of accommodating plants that can do the job for you.
  4. Don’t feed it…all its life. It’s in the ground it’s on it’s own. Let it find it’s own food. Right? Hope you’ve got great soil. Actually, this way could take a while too, so be patient.
  5. Don’t remove the plant label on the stem. That is a very good way to strangle the plant as it gets bigger and bigger. Plastic doesn’t ‘give’ all that much.
  6. Spray herbicides nearby. This is really effective on a windy day. Even on a calm day there will probably be drift and the poor plant may not die but will just look dead for the rest of it’s life.
  7. Let the dog (or cat or kids or grand-kids) wee on it. It may take more than one application, so again, be patient.
  8. Water it too much. I’ve often heard that this is the major cause of death for houseplants but it can happen outside too, especially if the soil doesn’t drain well, such as soil with high clay content.
  9. Overfeed it. Nitrogen is powerful stuff and can burn ’em alive. I found this out putting way too fresh chicken manure on my tender young garden. What a sad sight that garden was.
  10. Let the kids back over it on their bicycles. Even better, and much quicker, just back over it with your car.

Try any, or all of these tried and true tricks and you’ll never be accused of having a green thumb.

 

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by Eliza Osborn

How To Grow Tulips and Daffodils In Your Landscape Garden

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Growing Darwin Tulips

Last year for my birthday (August) I wanted and got tulip and daffodil bulbs. I knew I wouldn’t get to enjoy them for a long time but I’d never planted bulbs before and I wanted to try it. I had so much fun visiting the garden sites and picking out just the right colors and heights. I wanted to mass them in four separate beds, two in the front and two in the back yard. So I waited for the bulbs to arrive and began to prepare the beds. I learned that you can plant them one at a time with one of those tools that look like a can with a handle on the end but since I was planting so many (300 tulips and 50 daffodils) I decided to dig the bed out and then I could place them just right.

Our spring was very late this year, actually we almost didn’t have one. It was almost like winter went right into summer since we got our last snow on Memorial day. But the bulbs were growing and soon leaf tips popped up out of the ground. It was so exciting watching them grow and since they are Darwins they got pretty big before they began to set their buds. I put the one little stand of daffodils outside the picket fence in the front and half the tulips in the back and half in the side yard where I could see them from my kitchen window.

They were covered with huge buds and I couldn’t wait for them to open. I was feeling pretty lucky since there is a herd of deer that lives near us and are notorious foragers in late spring, especially  after such a severe winter. The deer eat the leaves as soon as they break the ground and keep them mowed down pretty well after that. Most of my friends had lost most of their tulips already but here were my big giant buds ready to open. Every morning I would check to see if they’d opened yet.

Then it happened to MY tulips. All of the leaves and stems were intact but there weren’t any buds left. I ran to check the ones in the back yard and since the back yard is surrounded by a 6′ privacy fence I guess they decided to pass on those. One of my friends who had lost all of hers early on had a gorgeous stand of tulips. After cropping hers a few times they left them alone to grow.

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Tulips which lasted such a long time. It was worth the wait.

But on the bright side, the plants didn’t have to produce blooms this year and so I theorize that next year the show should

be spectacular.

As most of you probably know, I didn’t, that deer won’t touch daffodils and you’re supposed to inter-plant them. Who knew.

Anyway, here are some pictures of my surviving tulips. They were so beautiful for such a long time so Happy Birthday to me.

By the way, it’s about time to put more bulbs in. I’m hooked on these beauties.

 

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A birthday present worth waiting 8 months for.

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by Eliza Osborn

Have You Ever Heard of Bindweed?

Some people call it wild morning glory but I think I read somewhere that it isn’t really a morning glory, though the little white flowers do resemble it.

I’d spent most of my life in the south, Alabama, Georgia, Florida and Tennessee, and I’d always gardened but I’d never come across bindweed. Till now. The west is eat up with the delicate looking little vine that can choke out a good sized plant if left alone for a few days. The roots travel great distances and even though they pull up easily, don’t be fooled. They are just breaking off down deep and getting ready to send up a 100 more shoots.

I’ve heard two theories. One says that while you’re pulling on the bind weed someone in China is pulling the other end. The other theory is that the center of the earth is a giant bindweed root and all bindweed the world over springs from it. Sounds plausible to me.

I’ve scrupulously battled it the two years I’ve been here because I was told that if you can keep it out for three years the roots will die and you won’t have the problem anymore. Yet just recently I heard that the seeds can live for many years and all those little white blooms in your neighbors yard are reseeding your yard freely.

But I can’t give up. I’ve got vulnerable plants to think about. Just yesterday I found a plant that had been overtaken by bindweed (and I thought I was being so careful) because it had been hidden between larger plants and I’d not been paying enough attention. That stuff is FAST.

So if you’ve never heard of bindweed count yourself lucky. If you’d like to try some I’d be happy to share. Actually I did see a little picket fence where it was being grown like a clematis. I don’t know if they just didn’t know any better or if they’ve just given up.

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by Eliza Osborn

What’s It Called?

From time to time I’ll be posting pictures of plants in my yard that I don’t have a clue as to what they’re called.

Before I moved out here I’d gardened in Florida and Tennessee and knew about a few plants, especially my favorites, Natchez crape myrtles, Plumbago, Oleander, Angel Trumpet, Plumeria, Sentolina, and Hibiscus. But when I came out here I realized there were a LOT of plants I’d never heard of nor seen. When I started putting in the perennial beds I’d get starts and cuttings from friends and sometimes they didn’t know what they were called. I found some seeds I’d gathered a few years earlier in Tennessee and planted those even though I don’t know what they are, just that the plant was pretty. They look like miniature hollyhocks with light lavender blossoms. I’m a seed gatherer and it’s hard to identify plants this way sometimes but it makes life interesting.

Anyway, I’ll be asking for help with my mystery plants.

Maybe you have some mystery plants you’d like to post pictures of and we’ll see if we can stump the real gardeners out there.

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by Eliza Osborn

Our Garden Gate
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