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Posts Tagged ‘gardner’

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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A Cottage Garden May Be Just Right For You…But Don’t Plan a Cottage Garden

If you like a lot of different kinds of plants…

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Asian Lilies, Delphiniums and Hollyhocks

If you like a lot of flowers blooming…

If you don’t want to worry about strict, formal lines and forms…

If you want your garden to feel natural, like it all happened on its own…

If you like using vintage pieces in your garden…

If you like the idea of plants seeding themselves or multiplying on their own…

If you want a garden that make you want to just hang out and relax in…

Maybe a Cottage Garden is just for you.

A cottage garden is loosely planned, and heavily planted. I think that most gardeners are a lot like me when it comes to plants. It seems that I’m a plant-aholic. I can’t seem to ever have too many. Even when I’m sure that I’ve maxed out the space available, I can always squeeze in one more specimen I’ve found.

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2011 - perennial bed beside deck

Plants that bloom, smell good and re-seed or spread will eventually find a way into my garden. The great thing about having such a variety of plants is that most of them bloom, but not at the same time. So I have something blooming somewhere all during the growing season. If you have all the same plants then the blooms are all done with at the same time.

I did lay out a plan of the yard but only loosely designated a certain area for “flower bed” or “berry patch”. I paid attention to the height of the plants, so they would all fit together nicely, and to the sun and water requirements. It’s also a good idea to pay attention to the bloom time but I didn’t really do that, and most of the time I was lucky. The blooms for any season, spring through fall, are spread around the whole yard pretty evenly.

If you follow the planting guides on most seed packets or plant instructions, your garden will look good eventually. While the plants are growing and reaching their full potential, there can be a lot of empty space to fill. It can either be filled with annuals for a year or two…or three, or with mulch. I like to plant things much closer than the instructions say because I like a very full garden. If the plants get a little crowded, it’s okay. If they ever get too crowded, I divide and move some or share with friends.

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Loosestrife and roses by garden gate

I like blooms. I love having flowers in the house, so I plant plenty so that I can cut plenty to use and to share. Try some of the cottage garden favorites like hollyhocks, foxglove, phlox, daisies, roses (of course), peonies or lilies.

It doesn’t take a lot of room to have a cottage garden either. A tiny plot by the back door will do. How about a 3′ border down the side of your lawn? I’d rather have the 3′ lawn and the rest in flowers, but that’s just me.

Mix in some vegetable plants along the way. Tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, basil, squash and many other beautiful vegetable plants will fit right into a cottage garden.

Formal gardens are pretty but they don’t draw me in and make me feel as happy as I feel when I’m in my (slightly messy) cottage garden.

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Agastache, Sedum, Phlox, Roses and Rhubarb

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Phlox, Echinacea or purple coneflower by birdbath










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Clematis Are Blooming

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Early Clematis in bloom on iron gate of grape arbor

One of the earliest signs that Spring is really here, is the early Clematis bursting with blooms. I have a lot of Clematis and unfortunately I bought most of them before I understood the different blooming/pruning patterns completely.

After a season of the quick, early bloomers and then a season of the last all summer and into fall bloomers, well I thought I’d really made some poor choices of some of my Clematis. But, now when the early ones are blooming so beautifully, when most other plants are just setting buds for blooms, I’m thinking the early ones do have their advantages. After a long winter (and this one wasn’t all that bad) it’s so nice to again see some color in the garden…the earlier the better,

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Growing Lots of Veggies in Small Spaces – It’s Time To Build Your Raised Beds

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Raised vegetable bed ready for planting

Since our yard is less than 1/4 acre, and there were so many things we really wanted in the yard, we didn’t have a lot of space to grow vegetables…and we really wanted to grow vegetables. So, we tried the raised bed method and it has been a great success.

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Raised vegetable bed with tomatoes and corn

The raised beds not only grow vegetables in abundance, but they look neater in the yard and make it easier to take care of the plants.

You will be amazed at the variety of vegetables that can be grown in raised beds. Last year we even tried corn. We did the ‘3 sisters’ thing of growing green beans to climb the stalks and the squash to grow all underneath.  We’ve also grown lots and lots of sugar snap peas and English peas, Swiss chard, lettuce, beets, okra, rutabagas, cucumbers, collards, turnips, spinach, bok choy, carrots, kale, tomatoes, yellow squash, zucchini.

Stepping outside to pick fresh vegetables for dinner is so much more fun than running to the grocery store.

We only have three raised beds which measure 16′ by 4′ and they don’t take up a lot of our yard space. If you’re interested in learning how to build your own raised beds (yes, there is a right way and a wrong way), Click Here!

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Raised Bed Vegetable Garden and grapes growing on the fence behind it.

Since spring and summer come late here, we have to wait till mid-May to plant a lot of things, but our peas, lettuce and Swiss chard are all coming up now. Many of the cool weather veggies will finish early in the summer and can then be planted again in the late summer or early fall for a later crop.


It won’t be long before I can say goodby to the produce isle at the supermarket.


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Gardening Perks


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Yellow lilies in front yard

An unexpected thing I enjoy about our garden is getting to talk to so many people as they pass by, some strolling, some on bikes and many in cars. We live on a corner just off Main Street in our little town of about 40,000 and so it feels like we live in Mayberry, with so many friendly people. Anyway, one day a man walking his dog stopped to talk and was telling me how much he appreciated me putting the names by the plants so passersby could know what they were. I told him I hadn’t thought about the people passing by, I was just trying to remember the names of plants and what was planted where.

I moved out here to the West almost 3 years ago and even though I’d gardened for such a long time in the south (zones 7 & 8), there were so many plants out here (zone 5b/6a and elevation ca.5000′) that I’d never heard of and didn’t recognize. Really, there were very few of the ones I was use to growing that would grow out here. So if you think you have to know a lot to be a gardener, then I’m living proof that you don’t. I started reading a lot, I now have 154 gardening books (I just counted out of curiosity), almost all second hand. I like to be able to look up anything I need to know about. I do use the internet a lot but I get a lot of help from books.

Back to the names on the plants…I use metal wire stakes with a metal plate to write on. They work great for helping me to remember the plant name and to mark the spot where it’s planted so in the spring when I’m looking for places to put new plants I’ll know that place is reserved for something that will be coming up soon.

When I have spaces to fill I like to plant annuals that have plenty of blooms to use and share, like Cosmos and Zinnias, which can grow quite tall if they’re happy. Last year I had a profusion of blooms along the sidewalk outside the picket fence on the South side  of our yard (our house faces West) and large areas covered in blooms inside the fence.I try to get everyone to come and cut bouquets from the zinnias and cosmos because it encourages more blooms and it makes people happy.

One afternoon as I was sitting on a little stool weeding by the front sidewalk a little girl, about 8 years old, came riding by on her bike and stopped to talk. She gave me one of my favorite compliments when she said, “Your yard looks like a flower forest.”

How could I not like that?

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Cosmos by sidewalk on south side of house

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Lavender and daisies in front yard by grape vines.

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We Are Growing Bamboo in Our Garden – Are We Crazy?

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Using bamboo in the landscape

My husband and I both love bamboo, it is so tropical looking and beautiful. Last year we started talking about bamboo and the idea of trying to grow it in our climate. I didn’t think that we could because of our harsh winters. With some research though, I was happy to see that there are some kinds of bamboo that will grow here.

I don’t claim to be an expert on bamboo, but I have done some research on it and I’m just sharing with you some of the things that I’ve found out about it. Besides being beautiful, bamboo is really amazing. It is fast growing, yet easy to control if you understand how it grows (more on that later), is an unusual plant that can provide a privacy screen or a focal point in your landscape.

Since bamboo is a grass, it needs high nitrogen fertilizers, just like you lawn. It needs sunshine and a constant supply of moisture. It shouldn’t be allowed to dry out but it can’t grow in standing water either. The soil should be well drained and rich in organic matter. Mulching helps to keep the moisture in and the weeds down so there will be not competition for the roots.

Not all bamboo is alike, it comes in a variety of colors and growth patterns. It can grow 6′ tall, 15′ or 25′. Some can get 70′ feet tall in the right environment, but in the home garden, most will probably be less tall than their maximum height.

There are basically two kinds of bamboo, clumping and running. The beautiful, exotic bamboo shown here, are all running types of bamboo. The clumping bamboo won’t get big and gorgeous like these, it has a shrubby, weedy look to me.

Bamboo has a bad reputation for being very invasive and aggressive. It takes a few years to get established but when it does, it can be very fast growing (up, as well as out). As I understand it, the plant only sends up shoots for a couple of months in the spring. After that time, no more shoots will come up till the next spring. When the shoots come up outside the area you want the bamboo to grow, just let them get a few inches to a foot tall and then just kick them over. They are very tender during this time and easily removed. What’s more, another shoot won’t come up in that spot. Also, all bamboo are edible and so the shoots that are kicked over can be eaten (especially good in oriental cooking).

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Beautiful gray bamboo in bamboo forest in China

You can also keep the area mowed (or use a weed eater) to keep the shoots from growing.

A barrier can be put down around the area as well. Since bamboo roots are pretty shallow, only going to about 12″-15″, a 2′ barrier would prevent the spread of the roots and shoots. Remember, this is a plant, not a monster that can’t be controlled.

We found a great place to get our bamboo, with very reasonable prices and a wide choices of plants. We actually went there ourselves and toured the extensive bamboo gardens. I fell in love with bamboo and I can’t wait to have ours growing tall and magnificent in our garden.

The bamboo nursery we found is called Steve Ray’s Bamboo Garden and is in Alabama.

It is found online at:

The types of bamboo we picked out for our garden are all hardy in our zone. Click on the “Zone Map” button above to see the temperatures for your zone. We chose Phyllostachys aureosulcata – Yellow Groove Bamboo with is hardy to -10′; P. humilis – which is hardy to 0′ and p. nigra “Henon” – Giant Gray Bamboo, hardy to 0′. This one the stalks can get 4″ thick. Can’t wait to see that.

Just thought you might like to consider something new for your garden and landscape.

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Unusual joints in bamboo stalks.


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Bamboo, an unusual and beautiful landscape plant

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Where to start? – How To Plan a Garden, How To Plant a Garden – How To Be a Gardener

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Back yard in 2009, before garden planted, arbor and deck built

I’m trying to decide whether to began at the end or the beginning. Maybe I’ll just jump back and forth.

I mentioned in “About Us” that in 2009 we’d bought a very old home in the Rocky Mountains (zone 5b-6a) and had taken up most of our lawn. I didn’t mention that we also took down four huge trees and many large, old shrubs. You can imagine what a mess our yard looked. But…we had a plan.

Here is a picture of our yard when we began laying it out. The big crater is where a large stump was ground out and where the Queen Elizabeth roses now stand beside the deck. You can see 2 of the 5 little peach trees planted early that spring. The small one on the end is stunted because deer ate the top out of it when it first put on leaves.

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Peach trees, Queen Elizabeth roses, hyacinth bean tower

I think the neighbors were a little worried about the nut jobs that had moved in next door. It did look pretty bad but we did put up a privacy fence to protect their eyes. Of course the picket fence in the front yard didn’t hide very much and the front yard looked this bad too.





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Limelight Hydrangeas and Japanese Anemone – How To Grow Perennials, When to Plant & How To Use In Landscape Gardens

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Dogwood, Japanese Anemonies, Limelight Hydrangeas, Lamium and Sweet Woodruff by front porch.

When we bought our house a couple of years ago there was a small varigated Dogwood Tree beside the front porch with Sweet Woodruff and Lamium growing thickly under it. Late in the summer some pretty foliage started coming up. It only grew to be about a foot high and since I didn’t know what it was I just let it grow there. Since the foliage was so pretty and was coming up in little sprigs all through the Lamium I decided to move some of it around the yard. Most of these sprigs soon looked dead and I regretted moving them.

Since the Lamium is a low grower I planted Limelight Hydrangeas in front of the Dogwood. In September the little plant I didn’t recognize began to bloom and were beautiful. Well the next year those little plants, which I finally identified as Japanese Anemonies, grew huge and practically covered up the Hydrangeas.

The ones I had moved the year before had been just playing possum and they began to grow too. Now I’ve moved sprigs all over the garden. It’s a beautiful plant and still tries to outgrow the Hydrangeas but I’ve decided it’s survival of the fittest because I don’t want to move either of them. That next year too there were pink ones where there had just been white ones the first year. By the way, there is a Hydrangea behind that mass of white blooms.

I’ve since learned that they can be considered invasive but they are such a hardy plant and so pretty and best of all bloom in the fall when

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Perennial garden in back yard

almost everything else is finished up. I hope they invade my whole garden. Maybe I’d better be careful what I wish for.

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Herbs I’ve Grown and Loved


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Growing favorite herbs in the herb garden for cooking

I started growing herbs when my Aunt Pearl, who lives in Georgia and is also a gardener, gave me a large pot planted with herbs. I’ve been growing them ever since. I like to mix them in among other perennials, although I have had beds with just herbs in them. Herbs are so easy to grow and since you need to keep pinching them back to make the plant fuller and to prevent blooming, you have plenty to use in cooking and you’ll have plenty to share, since it really is good for the plant to get pinched back. In most cases it would be hard to use that much of any herb. When I prune them back I put the clippings I’m not going to use in a basket on my kitchen counter. The smell is wonderful.

Put the ones you are planning on using in a glass with water in the fridge and they will stay fresh until  you need them. When using fresh herbs in recipes you’ll need to use a larger amount (about 2-3 times as much) because measurements are usually for dried herbs, which have much less volume. Fresh herbs make such a difference in foods. For example, potato salad is a whole different dish when prepared with fresh oregano, thyme, parsley and chives. The flavors are so fresh and wonderful.

Some can be grown from seeds and some can’t. Some can be dried and used, some frozen. If you’re interested in planting herbs, now is a good time for planting the hardy ones. Depending on where you live, Rosemary is iffy, and basil surely can’t take the cold but most others are pretty hardy. I’ll talk more about herbs later, but for now you really should consider herbs for your garden. You’ll fall in love.

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How To Start a Garden

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2011 - Agastache, Sedum, Phlox and Rhubarb

This question comes up a lot and I think the best place to start a garden is not with a shovel and dirt but with pencil and paper.

Gardening is a growing interest and a lot of people, even though they want to garden, just don’t know how to get started. Even a small bed can produce a great amount of flowers or vegetables.
Here is a link to an article I’d written that might be of some help. Check it out.

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2009 - Newly planted Agastache and sedum


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2011 - Deck with potted plum tree and flowers.


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Beautiful Beets In The Garden

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Beets from the garden, pickled and put away.

Okay, back to the seed catalogs.

As you plan your vegetable garden, don’t overlook beets. They are so easy to grow and you can eat the tops as well as the roots.Beets are full of potassium, calcium, folic acid and antioxidants…in case you actually need a reason to eat beets.

The tops are wonderful steamed with a little garlic and tossed with some balsamic vinegar. I think the roots are best pickled, but some people like them cooked with a little butter and salt. There are so many good recipes using beets. Find some here:

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New Discovery For the Garden…Rubber Garden Hoses

This is a re-post from last September. I’m re-posting it because before we know it, it will be time to get out in the garden. Sometimes we have to replace garden hoses because of winter damage. Before you rush out to buy yet another vinyl garden hose…

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Rubber garden hoses in the garden path

I just discovered something last spring that I wish I’d known before.

I realize that everybody but me may already be aware of this, but for the ones like me, who weren’t, I want to talk about rubber garden hoses. Not vinyl, rubber.  A world of difference in the two.

In our front and side yard we have a sprinkler system that pretty much takes care of everything. Well, we have one in the back yard too but it doesn’t work well with the way the yard is planted, so I water by hand with a hose and nozzle. I was so tired of fighting those stiff garden hoses, which were always getting tangled.

We use one of those attachments on the faucet that lets you attach 4 hoses at a time and then each hose goes to a different area of the yard.This Spring when one of our hoses split and needed replacing, I went to Lowe’s and was looking at all the hoses. The one that split had a lifetime guarantee so I just got my money back. As I was looking at the hoses trying to decide whether to get the same kind again or not,  I spotted a small display of rubber hoses, one black and one a clay red. Since it cost about the same as the one I was replacing and this one also had a guarantee, I decided to try one.

All I can say is “Where have you been all my life?” Watering is such a pleasure…well, it always was, because I enjoy just studying the plants and flowers, but to use a hose that doesn’t fight you is wonderful. The rubber hose is so flexible and limp and easy to manage. I’ve used it all Spring and Summer with no problems. If I have a problem I’ll let you know, but so far I really love it and wish I could afford to replace all of my garden hoses right now. Gradually I will though.

So when you have to replace one of your garden hoses you might give a rubber hose a try.

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Gardening Thought For The Day…

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Garden with no boundaries


The only limit to your garden is at the boundaries of your imagination.

-Thomas D. Church

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Flowers, herbs and fruit growing along the garden path










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Bamboo of Las Vegas

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Beautiful Bamboo and Bromeliads in Las Vegas


After seeing the gorgeous bamboo growing at the Bellagio in Las Vegas, I’m getting so excited for spring to get here to see if the bamboo we planted in our garden is going to survive our winters (we live in zone 6) and come up like it’s supposed to.

We planted 4 large clumps (3 different kind) and they are the hardiest of the non-clumping bamboo, so we have our fingers crossed that one day the bamboo growing in our yard will look as magnificent as what we’re seeing here in Las Vegas.They look like they could be the same species as the ones we’ve planted. (See post

I talked before about the 4 large clumps we brought back (in our SUV) all the way from Alabama. The nursery we bought from  is found online at:  I don’t think we’ll give up though, if it happens to not come up. We did get it planted a little late in the season and we would try again, maybe planting it earlier to give the roots more time to become established before the winter cold set in.

You see, we love bamboo, and we’re determined to have some in our garden. I’m sure these photos explain the allure.

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Bamboo in Las Vegas

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Las Vegas bamboo in the Bellagio Atrium









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Bamboo and oranges growing in Las Vegas at the Bellagio


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Bamboo in the atrium of the Bellagio in Las Vegas










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Picture It…Vines Blooming All Through The Garden

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Clematis in bloom

Okay, I’m hooked on Clematis. They have such beautiful flowers and they bloom for such a long time. I have them all over the yard and I look forward to them maturing and adding so much color to my garden.

There are so many different vines that have beautiful blossoms though, like Wisteria, Trumpet Vine, Bougainvillea,  Star Jasmine, Morning Glory, Climbing Hydrangea, and Honeysuckle, just to name a few. No matter what climate you live in, you can have beautiful, flowering vines.Vines can grow on fences, on porch posts and railings, on arbors, against the side of the house or garage, over a pergola or even up into the trees and tall shrubs. Since vines use different methods of climbing, it’s important to know how they grow, to know what they can grow on.

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Star Jasmine


  • Twiners  –  As they grow, their stems wrap around whatever they are climbing on. Good examples of twiners are Wisteria, Clematis and Morning Glory. Twiners can grow on fences, lattices, post and in trees.
  • Tendrils – These vines have little threadlike tendrils that curl around the support. Sweet Peas climb by tendrils. They can grow on chain link fencing, netting and into trees and tall shrubs.
  • Rootlets– To hold fast to their support, these vines have little pads of roots that attach to whatever it is climbing. They can climb on bricks, masonry, tree trunks, rocks and wooden post. Climbing Hydrangea is a vine that uses rootlets to support it’s great weight as it climbs.
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Wisteria Blossoms

Some flowering vines are delicate and light (such as Clematis) while others can get very heavy (Climbing Hydrangea for instance), and grow to be very large. By doing a little research, it will be easy to put just the right bloomers in just the right place in your garden. Just between you and me…you can’t go wrong with Clematis though. Some stay small while others can grow 20′ or more. Once you have one blooming in your garden, you’ll be trying to make room for more…and more.

Get out those catalogs (you did order yours, didn’t you?) and have a look at the variety of beautiful, flowering vines for your garden. Check out post for info on ordering gardening/plant catalogs.


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Honeysuckle vine

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Morning Glory vine and flowers

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Trumpet vine










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Front Yard Landscape – Garden Design

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Near our front gate

I never thought I wanted to live on a corner lot, not enough privacy, too much traffic etc. I changed my mind after we bought our house. We bought it in the dead of winter, lots of snow on the ground, and honestly, I loved the house so much I didn’t even pay much attention to the yard.

When the snow began to melt, and we started planning our garden, I realized…Oh no!!..we live on a corner!  Since we live in a small town, the traffic isn’t a problem. The privacy issue is okay, because on our corner lot, we have quite a bit of distance between us and our nearest neighbors.

The corner lot does give you a very large “front yard” to make a first impression with. That’s what a front yard is for others seeing your home and yard for the first time. It is their first impression of what lies beyond, whether in the house or in the back yard. Making the front yard as pleasing and inviting as possible is important.

If you step across the street from your property and have a look at your front yard and entrance area, as if you’d never seen it before, what do you think your first impression would be?

  • Is it balanced?
  • Are the size of the plants in scale with the house?
  • Do the trees and shrubs compliment the home or hide it?
  • Do the plants look healthy and well cared for?
  • Is the lawn cut and manicured?
  • If there is color (flowers or foliage), does it work with the colors in the house?
  • Are the beds tidy and weed free?
  • Is the front door easy to find and get to?
  • On the whole, is it inviting?

Being winter makes it harder to assess some of the points, but you can still get an idea of balance, etc. For instance, If you have a very large, and tall home but you only have a little row of pansies in front of the house, the proportion is all wrong. On the other hand, if you have a smaller, or lower roofed home, giant towering trees and overgrown shrubs will overwhelm it, in the scale of things.

We were lucky, in that we did have some mature trees in the front yard. We have an old and beautiful crab-apple tree and an old black walnut tree. There were 4 other very large trash trees in the side and back yard that kind of swamped the house, which we had taken out to allow a lot more sunlight in. The last one to go was taken out this fall. See

The trees and shrubs should frame the view of the home, to compliment it and not detract from it. Is it easy to find your

P10100031 300x243 Front Yard Landscape   Garden Design

Dogwood and flower bed beside front porch

front door, and get to it without any obstacles? Can you find a way to enhance your front door area? Color helps a lot, whether in flower beds near the door or in planters. Stay with the style of your home. If you have a formal setting, use formal beds and planters. If your home is traditional or even more of a cottage, then have some fun with multiple plants and color combinations.

Planters near the front door have a softening, welcoming effect. If you don’t have enough sunlight in the area to grow flowering plants, then plants with beautiful foliage, such as philodendron Selloum or Asparagus Fern, work well too. For more ideas, see plant list at

Whether you have lawn in your front yard, or shrub and flower beds, everything should be kept tidy and neat. We worked on landscaping our front yard our first summer here, and the second summer we concentrated on the back yard. While we were so busy with the back yard, the front yard got neglected. And it showed! I just hadn’t taken the time to even look at the front much that summer…until one day. I couldn’t believe the weed crop I had, the pruning that needed to be done and plants that weren’t doing all that great because of neglect.

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Potted tree and fern by front door, flower beds in proportion to this Florida home.

We had to drop all work in the back yard until the front was presentable again. I really couldn’t believe how in a few short weeks it could have gotten away from me so badly. Now, at least once a week, I will take a slow stroll around the front (and side front) yard to see what needs to be done and make sure it all gets done. (Here’s a tip – Using mulch not only helps to retain moisture in the soil but stops weeds from growing.)

Even though the back yard is where we live and where we spend most of our time, most people won’t see the back yard but everyone passing by on the street or sidewalk can see our front yard.




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Finding Room To Grow Vegetables

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Rhubarb, chives and bell peppers growing in flower bed. Corn in raised beds with squash and pole beans. Peach trees beyond.

Would you really like to grow vegetables but you just don’t have the space?

Guess what? You can grow a lot of vegetables in a very small amount of space. They don’t even all have to be in the same area. You can tuck vegetable plants in among your flowers or shrubs. Just make sure it is a place that will get lots of sunshine. Most vegetables can be grown in a space as small as a square foot. Some, like lettuce, can be grown in a narrow strip 6″ wide. Vegetables that take more than just a few plants, such as beans and peas, can be grown in a little larger areas. Even then, you’d be amazed at how many peas and beans a 2′ x 6′ bed can produce. Vegetables such as squash can be planted in a 1′ x 1′ square, if they can be allowed to spread out a bit.



Vegetables suggestions for small spaces:

Cucumber – bush or pole type, which can be grown vertically if given support

Beans – bush or pole type, which can be grown vertically if given support

English peas – can be grown in rows and kept very vertical with support

Lettuce – can be grown in narrow strips or small square areas (Romain grows sort of vertical while Bibb grows low)

Kale – grows well among other plants or in a row

Swiss Chard – can be grown tucked into flower beds, in small square areas or in rows.

Spinach – very beautiful foliage that can be grown with herbs or flowers

Cilantro – does well grown in flower beds

Beets – beautiful leaves with red veining and you can eat tops and roots

Basil – beautiful plant that fits in well with flowers or shrubs

Parsley – beautiful foliage that works great in flower beds or with shrubs

Summer squash – beautiful plant, large leaves can take up lots of room

Peppers – bell peppers or hot peppers, very ornamental plants that look great in flower beds

Eggplant – beautiful plant that will look great mixed in with the herbs or flowers

Radishes – low growing and very easy to grow, (let the kids help)

Tomatoes – can be grown vertically with support and can fit into a relatively small space

Green onions – always useful to have on hand and they don’t take up much room

Also see Page: Container Gardening > Grow Vegetables in Pots :

How do you find the room in your yard for a few more plants? Walk around your yard, paying attention to empty areas that might be 1′ x 1′ or how about a 3″ – 6″  strip that you could put in a row of lettuce, radishes or green onions, which are very ornamental with beautiful foliage. If you’re planting lettuce, don’t plant it all at once. Stagger planting every couple of weeks to prolong your harvest time. Also, one way to harvest lettuce, don’t pull up the whole plant, just cut outer leaves off each plant

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Tomatoes and Petunias share a bed

and the plant will continue to grow and produce.

What about along a sidewalk or pathway? If you can squeeze a plant in here and there, you will be amazed at how much food can be produced. Is it possible to extend an existing flower bed out 6 – 12″ to plant some low growing plants like lettuce or beets?

Do you have lawn growing right up to a fence? How about clearing a 2′ – 3′ strip along the fence and planting vegetables. The fence would provide a convenient support for the taller vegetables, such as tomatoes or beans and cucumbers, at the back of the garden and then you could plant many different kinds of vegetables in front of those.

No yard? No problem. You can grow quite  a lot of vegetables in containers, whether on a patio or deck, along the sunny side of your house or just out your back door.

Don’t plant and forget. Make sure the plants don’t have to compete with weeds for nutrients or moisture. Be sure to keep your vegetables picked so that they will continue to produce. If you’re going to be away when they are producing, ask a neighbor to pick for you to keep them in production.

As you assess your yard and garden,  decide on what you want to grow and where in your yard would be the best place to grow it. Now is the time to make all those gardening plans so when the warm weather comes, you will be all ready to get stated.

Get creative and have fun!

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Flowers For Cutting – Vases of Flowers Everywhere

P10100033 300x249 Flowers For Cutting   Vases of Flowers Everywhere

Cut flowers from garden to be used in arrangements


Isn’t it too bad that cut flowers are so expensive?

Wouldn’t it be nice to have vases of color all over the house?

Well, actually, you can. If you have a few packets of seeds, and a little plot of ground that gets plenty of sunshine, then you can grow  your own flowers for cutting.

This winter, when you’re looking through all those catalogs (see post “Have You Ordered Your Gardening Catalogs?  and planning your garden, be sure to carve out a space for your cutting garden. I use my whole garden as a cutting garden, but some gardeners like to have a patch set aside just for cutting.

Clear the ground of grass and weeds. Dig and turn the soil to a depth of at least 8 inches. If  your soil doesn’t drain well or isn’t fertile enough, add some composted manure (available in bags at Lowe’s: and mix in well. Level out the top of the soil and plant the seeds. You can plant in rows, with the taller plants at the back so they won’t shade the shorter plants, or you can plant in squares or groupings of each kind of flower. To plant annuals, I put the seeds down and sprinkle more soil on top. Tamp down the soil with a hoe to make sure the seeds make good contact with the soil. Keep the area moist (not wet) until the seeds germinate and have a couple of leaves.  Then water deeply every 3-4 days. As the plants mature and the roots go deeper, water deeply weekly. Soon you’ll have plenty of flowers to cut for your own use and to share with family and friends. Most annuals improve with cutting because it encourages more blooms.

Some of the flowers listed below are perennials (plants that come up year after year), and can be planted from seeds but many are planted as seedlings, which give them a head start in the garden. Some of the flowers listed below are from bulbs that will come up year after year.

Some Of My Favorite Cutting Flowers

P1010006 300x252 Flowers For Cutting   Vases of Flowers Everywhere

Cut flowers from the yard, annuals and perennials

  •  Zinnias
  • Cosmos
  • Centranthus (Jupiter’s Beard)
  • Companula (Canterbury Bells)
  • Bachelor Buttons (Corn Flower)
  • Scabiosa (Pin Cushion Flower)
  • Marigolds
  • Nicotiana (Flowering Tobacco)
  • Salvia
  • Rudbekia (Black-eyed Susan)
  • Agastache
  • Dahlias
  • Gaillardia
  • Gypsophilia (Babies’ Breath)
  • Coreopsis
  • Sunflower
  • Cleome
  • Asters
  • Japanese Anemones
  • Snapdragon
  • Bee Balm
  • Lilies
  • Larkspur
  • Liatris
  • Phlox
  • Tulips
  • Iris
  • Daffodils
  • Peonies
  • Delphiniums
  • Foxgloves
  • Lavender
  • Echinacea (Purple Cone Flower)
  • Roses (a shrub, but great for cut flowers)
  • Hydrangeas (a shrub, but great for cut flowers)


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For more information and pictures of these blooming plants check out these posts:


P1010053 256x300 Flowers For Cutting   Vases of Flowers Everywhere

Peonies, roses, Jupiter's Beard and irises (with black Iris)















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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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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.

DSC01616 150x150 Herbs In The Garden


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 just because I love them.  See also Ezine Article:

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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Purple Sage








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Feverfew and roses

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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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