|April 1, 2005 10:04 - Shade, slugs and a Mickey Mouse plant
In this week's edition of Nancy Brachey's Q&A column her readers ask for advice on what to plant in shady areas of their gardens. Her first choice is azaleas but these are followed by a long list of plants that will thrive in shade and provide color at different times of the year. Another reader who has planted some peonies in shade is advised to move them without delay, preferably this weekend.
The perennial problem of slugs is raised by a third reader who wants to know whether sweet gum balls act as a deterrent. To find the answer, read more..
Linda Kumar writing in the New Straits Times can always be relied upon to come up with some unusual and exotic plants for you to try. This week's selection are what she describes as four rather weird and wonderful plants. "Great if you buy just an individual pot for a balcony corner. Also, their names are just rather fantastic! Zebra plant, Brazilian Plume Flower, Crown Flower and, get this, Mickey Mouse plant!" Read more..
Do you want some "throw pillows" in your garden? This is how popular gardener P. Allen Smith describes large containers stuffed with plants which he regards as movable “mini-landscapes". He has just published P Allen Smith's Container Gardens. Smith’s “cookbook” of 60 foolproof container gardens — each of which meet one of his “12 Principles of Design” including abundance, whimsy, and texture — can be copied or used as a springboard for improvisation using his sense of scale — proportion and color.
April 4, 2005 09:59 - Discover your MET score and learn some new words
Question: Can I avoid the drudgery of going to the gym and still get my exercise? Answer: Yes, if you go outside and work in your garden. As any gardener knows many gardening tasks such as digging, rakeing and sawing involve quite a degree of effort. Even the less energetic tasks such as weeding and planting require some effort. But how does this compare with a workout in the gym? To find out you need to know your MET score. Researchers at Stanford, University of South Carolina and University of Minnesota have measured more than 500 activities and rated them according to their MET score. Read more..
When you see a headline like "Brushing up on some gardening vocabulary" you expect to find a list of words such as "annuals, biennials and perennials", and some of these are included in this piece. But before you dismiss this out of hand as something for beginners only, try these for size: Phytormediation, Pharmacopoeia, Officinalis and Tetraploids. Read more..
"Part of the joy of gardening is textural — reaching your hand into the soil to create space for a transplanted annual or vegetable seedling, creating a home for the plant in the soil. And soil will get your hands dirty, which is why most gardeners wear gloves" says Maine gardener, Tom Atwell. "The choice of gardening gloves is highly personal. And cost is not a factor." If you are thinking about buying a new pair of gardening gloves, read this piece to discover how the professionals make their choice. Read more..
April 5, 2005 09:51 - Garden gnomes and dangling opalescent turbans
Garden gnomes are in the news again. Police in Lyon reported recently that about 100 garden gnomes were "liberated" from front gardens in the French city and placed in a park next to a motorway. "They were all standing there with their faces to the motorway, watching the traffic speed past," a police statement said.
It is not known who took the diminutive figures, but when an arrest is made, they will need a good criminal lawyer.
"Owners can pick up their abducted gnomes from a police department office," the statement said.
No-one has claimed responsibility, but a "Garden Gnome Liberation Front" has been causing a nuisance for years in France with its pranks.
"My greatest pleasure in gardening comes from building interesting plant combinations to weave a three-dimensional tapestry of forms, textures and colors" says Karen Hopson. "In combining plants, I strive for a good mix of evergreen and deciduous plants for year-round interest. Fresh new foliage in spring, lush leaves in summer, vibrant fall colors and evergreen plants in winter form the backdrop for a wide array of flowers." To learn about her ideas which include globe-shaped lavender fireworks and dangling opalescent turbans, read more..
Here's another great offer from Brecks - 51 plants for $17.99. This is their long-lasting Cut-Flower Collection. Comprising 24 mixed dutch iris, 12 chincherinchee and 15 poppy anemone hollandia, these are their all-time favourite plants for cut-flower arrangements. Well worth a look.
April 7, 2005 09:51 - Lawn Care Essentials and the color is Black
Ever since the Christmas holiday we have been bombarded with advice and information about new plants that are available for the coming season. Just in case you have still not made up your mind, Martha Van Artsdalen brings you her selection of the "Totally unique," "Biggest, Most Fragrant Blooms Ever," "Over-the-Top Beauty;" " The Biggest Berries Yet!" and "Never-Before-Seen Colors."
It seems that Black is the in color. There is Darkness Visible, the world's first black Delphinium, Black Magic Viola and Black Elephant Ears. In the vegetable department you can try Orange Cauliflower or Purple Dragon Carrot with its "intense" purple exterior and bright yellow core. Fairy Tale is a miniature eggplant with a lavender skin and white stripes. For lots more ideas including dinner-plate size dahlias, double Oriental lilies and dwarf cannas, read more..
On a more prosaic level here's a reminder on what you need to do to keep your lawn in perfect shape. It can be summed up in just four words: Fertilize, Water, Mow and Thatch. To find out more have a look at Lawn Care Essentials.
April 11, 2005 10:05 - Container gardening and vegetable growing for beginners
Container gardening is the topic of the day. First comes Billy Fountain with his assertion that placing rocks or stones in the bottom of a pot to improve drainage is an old wives' tale and that this practice is actually harmful. He explains that a water film will build up where the soil and stones meet and can cause root rot to develop. Having got that off his chest, he makes some interesting suggestions for plant combinations. Read more..
Next is Jean Parietti who describes how "You can take container gardening from spring and summer through fall and winter with careful planning and a good mix of colorful plants." Her emphasis is on a combination of foliage plants that can provide year round interest with a variety of shapes and colors. "One of the benefits of creating foliage containers is right away your container looks full and it’s finished. You don’t have to wait," said Kathryn Bamford, owner of Bamford & Bamford Pottery, which features a collection of unique pots and specialty plants. There is a lot of good information in this article ranging from ideas on choosing containers for your porch, deck or garden to selecting the plants themselves. Read more..
Finally Annie Calovich whose "potpourri of neighborly advice, seasonal reminders, gardening events" covers crabgrass, bulb care and messy crabapples but not containers. Her piece opens: "Plant -- Broccoli, collards, chard, lettuce, cabbage, cauliflower, potatoes, radishes, onions, peas, spinach, turnips and beets" which gives me an opportunity to mention that there is a new section on my site dealing with vegetable growing for beginners. The introduction is "How to grow Vegetables" followed by "Growing Tomatoes". More to come.
April 14, 2005 10:13 - Of sinking Shire horses and encouraging weeds
No rototillers allowed, it's muscle power only at the new heritage garden at the Matthews Farm Museum. The Master Gardeners of the Blue Ridge began work on a heritage garden at the museum on Sunday. Sandy Troth of the master gardeners says the group adopted the farm museum's garden as its project for 2005. The gardeners will plant, maintain and harvest the plot.
As well as gaining some publicity for the project, last Sunday's event was also aimed at collecting memories from local residents of how they used to garden in years gone by. As well as learning that yellow-belly beans used to be grown as a cash crop in the area when they were known as "Boston Baked Beans", they were also told that there never used to be any problems with deer or groundhogs. "People ate deer and groundhogs back then." Read more..
Hugh Saunders is someone else who uses traditional methods on his large plot of ground. He was using his two Shire draft horses, Bob and Ben, to plow the plot when a sinkhole opened up beneath his horses, swallowing them and the plow.
"Gardeners, Just Stop Being so Fussy and Let the Weeds Grow Back" is the headline to this piece about steps you can take (or rather not take) to encourage wildlife in your garden. This is in fact a Welsh initiative backed by the Reverend Huw John Hughes, who runs the Pili Palas, on Anglesey, Wales' premier butterfly house. He said gardeners should allow weedy and wild areas to grow because these are an important food source for butterflies. "We've got lots of pretty gardens, but butterflies don't like that. People who like gardens should have a wild corner in their garden. You should have some wildflowers there, and there is no need to go to the garden centre, just buy a packet of seeds and then scatter them." Read more..
April 16, 2005 09:49 - Garden Gnomes are in the news again
If you find an intruder trying to break into your house, what do you use to defend yourself? Why, a garden gnome, of course! That is just what grandmother Jean Collop of Wadebridge, Cornwall in southwest England chose when she was woken early on Tuesday morning by the sound of an intruder on the roof of her home.
"I grabbed the first thing that came to hand — one of my garden gnomes — and hurled it at him, and hit him," she recalled. "He lay there and I began to scream. I went back into the kitchen and found a rolling pin in case he came down. I didn't want to break another gnome."
A neighbor called the police who arrived shortly afterwards and the man was arrested. For me the most touching aspect of this story is Jean Collop's choice of a rolling pin as a backup weapon because of concern for her gnomes.
Gnome kidnapping is a continuing hobby for some it seems. "The Redland Mobile Village at Thorneside has an increased collection of garden gnomes, all keen to find their way to their true homes" reports Linda Muller. "Three boxes of abducted gnomes (and a teddy bear and chicken) were anonymously delivered to the village on Wednesday night. Village Manager Liela Norris said she received a call on Wednesday afternoon from a young man who said he was "embarrassed" to find a collection of abducted gnomes in the back of his car which had been borrowed by friends." Read more..
On a more sinister note these gnomes were busted for drugs by the police in Northern Australia. "The Territory's sniffer dogs have had their greatest success - they've helped uncover $200,000 worth of cannabis and a drug house" reports Alice Burton. "Scent and Monte detected drugs stashed in garden gnomes and other ornaments at Alice Springs airport. The find led to police raiding a house in Karama, Darwin." Read more
April 18, 2005 10:32 - Organic gardening and the deer training season
If you are one of those people who are familiar with the term "organic gardening" but are not quite sure exactly what it means, then Don Janssen may be able to help. Mind you his opening is not too encouraging: "There are as many views on what organic gardening means as there are people. Some interpret it to mean old-fashioned, some believe it involves the use of homemade concoctions, others believe it means completely chemical-free gardening." But then he explains: "The basic meaning of organic gardening is that it relies on cultural practices and natural products rather than the use of synthetic or petroleum-based fertilizers and pesticides. Crop rotation, cultural weed control and integrated pest management for insect and disease control are emphasized and implemented." Read more..
It's still too early to start planting in Indiana advises Rosa Salter Rodriguez so you should spend your time planning your deer control methods instead. Her next paragraph describes the "Wireless Deer Fence" so you might be forgiven for thinking that this was just a plug for the latest deer control remedy. But read on and you will find that this article contains quite an extensive review of the different methods that have been tried over the years and an admission that this is a continuing problem for which no-one has yet found a complete answer. Read more..
April 20, 2005 16:01 - More vegetable growing tips and an interesting comparison
Did you see this press release? Here's the headline: "Combining the worlds of nutrition, gardening, and advanced materials, Start Gardening, Inc. and Dr. Ro Lifestyle, Inc. are happy to announce a joint-venture aimed at reducing the use of salt and fat by increasing the use of healthier herbs to flavor foods. The Dr. Ro Garden Pad can be grown right over the lawn or in a container and provides fresh, healthy herbs all season."
A noble cause I'm sure but when you visit Start Gardening's site you will find details of their "Garden Pad" which turns out to be a "a mat of compressed organic matter that allows you to create a garden in minutes". Talk about laid-back gardening! No digging, no soil testing and no stress because you "know that it will turn out beautiful and bountiful". The "Garden Pad" measures 20"x10" and is full of holes into which you can pop your seeds. Just add water and sit back and wait for your harvest. No mention of the salt and fat reducing herbs but maybe they are listed on the other site which I did not have time to investigate. And what does all this cost? Just $17.95 each.
By chance another site I found today is offering garden plots measuring 20-by-60 feet and the fee is $12. An interesting comparison, don't you think?
Last week I mentioned that I had been adding some more information on vegetable growing on my site. Three more sections are now finished: Growing cucumbers and squashes in your garden, Growing legume vegetables - All about beans and peas and How to grow the cole crops - broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower and cabbage. Do take a look when you have a minute.
April 21, 2005 12:50 - More on shade and container vegetables
Here's another of those stories to encourage people whose gardens have few sunny areas and to teach them that shade is not always bad. When Marianne Price took up gardening in earnest in the late 1990s, she thought of the shade at her Broomall home as "almost a curse." Only the front lawn was sunny. The rest of the yard was in shade, thanks to mature trees and a wooded area at the rear of the property, which is just over an acre.
The trees are still there, but in the past couple of years Price has changed her mind about the shade they cast. "Now, I absolutely love it, and I wouldn't have it any other way," she said of the garden, where she is gradually introducing sweeps of hellebores and other shade bloomers such as epimediums, trilliums, Solomon's seal, native violets and wood poppies, along with ferns and wild ginger -- many of which are more resistant to deer than the hosta she tried initially. Read more..
Back to the vegetable theme, but this time using containers. "The snap peas are eight inches tall, the carrots are up and ready to be thinned, and I've been eating fresh salad greens for several weeks now" reports Terry Kramer. "Despite the wet winter, when the ground is next to impossible to till, fresh spring vegetables can be had because of container gardening.
In my case, a half dozen halved wine barrels located against the south side of the house were filled with potting soil and planted in February. The best part about growing vegetables this way, besides having fresh produce early, is there is no weeding, tilling or stooping to harvest. It is easy, clean gardening that produces fantastic results." Read more..
April 22, 2005 10:15 - Garden Ramblings and Earth Day
In the April issue of my monthly newsletter Garden Ramblings I mentioned two topics both of which are in the news today. One was the problems caused by rising gas prices which is reflected in a report from Modesto CA that gardening contractors are having a hard time. Gas prices have risen by a third in the last three months but contractors cannot afford to raise their prices because of intense competition in the industry. Towards the end of the article one man interviewed said that "he did purchase a diesel mower, but currently diesel fuel costs more than regular gasoline". Perhaps he should have a look at Path to Freedom which describes itself as an "Urban Homesteading Diary - Providing pathways for living a self-sufficient lifestyle in an urban setting". Here you will find full instrucions on how to produce biodiesel from used vegetable oil.
The second topic was visiting other gardens where you can enjoy the fruits of someone else's labour and compare their results with your own. With the new season well underway, now may be a good time to get out and take a look at some of the many thousands of gardens open to the public. Gardenvisit.com has details of gardens and tours throughout America and around the world. If you are ready for a long trip here is a fascinating description of the Peradeniya Royal Botanical Garden in Sri Lanka. Walk down the Double Coconut Avenue, inspect the Giant Java Willow Tree and view over 400 species of orchids under one roof. Read more..
To coincide with Earth Day Toronto residents are being asked to "Go natural. Reduce pesticides." A public education campaign is being launched this weekend to provide residents with the tips they need to grow beautiful lawns and gardens without using pesticides. There is a PDF booklet full of helpful tips that you can download for free. Read more..
April 25, 2005 10:15 - How to be a successful gardener in a few words
If you want a short, sharp lesson in how to be a successful gardener, listen to Master Gardener Jean York from Port St. Lucie. When you are thinking about what to plant where in your garden, her advice is short and to the point: "right plant, right place, right soil and right light". Asked to reveal her gardening secrets her reply is equally brief: "Enriched soil with compost, mulch, regular irrigation, TLC and dead head often". To find out her approach to pruning, fertilizing and pest control, read more..
In my post on Earth Day I mentioned the campaign in Toronto to "Go natural - Reduce pesticides" and this is the approach favored by organic gardeners who try to avoid the use of chemical fertilizers and pest controls altogether. Often you will find recipes for homemade remedies to deal with slugs, bugs and other pests. These are not always a good idea according to Darrell Blackwelder who is an agricultural agent in North Carolina. In fact he puts it rather more strongly than this. "Homemade remedies just won't do. Most of the homemade potions are actually more dangerous than the pesticides." Read more..
April 26, 2005 10:24 - Unhelpful hints and the Queen's Day Celebration
When an article is followed by a disclaimer in these terms, "The Connecticut Post and its management cannot be held responsible for the puns in this column; they are the sole responsibility of Charles Walsh", you know you must be letting yourself in for an agonising read. Instead of the usual helpful advice here are a series of hints and tips that will either make you laugh or cry, but even more likely to groan ever loader with each succeeding paragraph. You have been warned! Read more..
Here's something different from Breck's the bulb people:
"We Dutch are very proud of our queen. Her Majesty, Beatrix Wilhelmina Armgard of Orange-Nassau acceded to the throne in 1980 to become Queen of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Queen Beatrix, like her ancestors before her, belongs to the royal House of Orange which explains why orange is the most important colour of Holland.
If you visit Amsterdam on the 30th of April, you will discover the entire city decked out in orange in honour of the Queen's birthday. Music is everywhere as people dressed in orange take to the streets to celebrate with food, drink and dance. And of course nowhere are there more magnificent hues of royal orange than in the many city gardens!
In honour of Her Majesty, we at Breck's would like to present our Orange Beauty Garden. Now's your chance, as a Preferred Customer, to obtain this wonderful collection of cherished Dutch blooms in the most royal of colours!"
Take a look at their Queens Day Celebration offer.
April 28, 2005 09:13 - A Zen garden and half price seeds
When you hear the term "Zen Garden" the picture conjured up is of a dry landscape with rocks surrounded by carefully raked gravel which invites you to withdraw from the noise of the world outside and to enter into silent meditation. Some say that zen priests adopted the dry landscape style in the eleventh century as an aid to create a deeper understanding of the zen concepts, but others hold that the Japanese Zen Garden is a myth. They claim that it is a late 20th Century western creation that has nothing to do with the Japanese Garden Tradition and that the dry garden style is not unique to zen temples but can be found associated with many other buildings. Read more..
If you are dreaming of a rich vegetable harvest this year, now is the time to make those last minute seed purchases so that you can start planting as soon as the soil conditions are right. To see what you could be harvesting in just a few month's time, look at this picture. It's from those master seedsmen Thompson & Morgan who have just announced an end of season sale where they are cutting all their vegetable seed prices in half.
"Get sowing before it's too late and take advantage of our End of Season Sale, with an amazing 50% off all vegetable seed! Take this opportunity to get out in the garden and add some home grown vegetables to your kitchen this summer and fall!"