Paying Attention to the Foliage in the Garden

by Admin 9. November 2012 08:11

Leaves contrasting in size, shape and colorBy: Eliza Osborn

Sometimes, we focus so much on the flowers in our garden, we forget to notice the foliage. The variety of shapes, sizes and colors that leaves come in, is amazing. If you plan it right, you can have a very beautiful and colorful garden using plants that have no, or insignificant, blooms.

The foliage has always been important as a backdrop for the flowers. Can you picture a garden with just stems and flowers and no leaves? Leaves have always played an important part in the design of the garden, but I’m just saying that they don’t have to be just in the background.
By placing plants with contrasting leaves, whether is size, texture or color, near each other, it creates interest. In some shady gardens, it is really hard to get light and color in with blossoms, but some plants, such as coleus, can add color to the shady garden, and by using the light colored coleus, can add light to a darkened area. Coleus do bloom, but the blooms are incidental and usually pinched off to help the plant.

Thanks and Happy Planting!

Rhubarb – A Beautiful, Edible Plant

by Admin 27. August 2012 11:05
By: Eliza Osborn

Rhubarb is a beautiful vigorous plant that comes up faithfully every spring and gets bigger and bigger each year. It will send up a huge stalk with a not very pretty bloom on it but you shouldn’t let Rhubarb bloom. Cut back the blossom stalks to the ground to keep the plant vigorous and producing. Also, the leaves contain high levels of oxalic acid and are considered toxic. So when you cut the stalk to eat be sure to cut the leaf off immediately since the poison will travel into the stalk once cut. Actually the leaves can be simmered in hot water to make an insecticide.

The stalks are delicious in pies and you can dip the raw stalks in sugar and eat like celery. This is really good and kids love it. It is high in Vitamin C and Calcium.

Rhubarb is one of the most carefree plants to grow. It does best where the winter temperature goes below 40′ and the summer highs average around 75-80. Don’t harvest any stalks the first year and only a few the second year. But after that you can harvest up to 1/2 the plant. Stop harvesting though when the stalks become thinner because it means the roots are getting weaker.

Since we really enjoy more tropical settings than we are able to have where we live, it’s fun to use some plants that look tropical, like the rhubarb with its big, leathery leaves. We are even trying to grow some palm trees, but I think that is pretty optimistic of us. Maybe some of them will make it though, if we can have a few milder winters until they can get established.

Thanks and happy planting!

Sparing Tomatoes

by Admin 24. August 2012 08:16

By: Eliza Osborn

Cherry TomatoesIsn’t one of the greatest things about summer having fresh, delicious tomatoes right out of your own garden? Well, here in the “Klondike” of the Rocky Mountains, we don’t get tomatoes till the very end of the summer and this year with our cold, wet spring we didn’t get them until September. We’d had a few cherry tomatoes get ripe but the big, slicing tomatoes took a very long time. That means, at least for us, there will probably be a freeze long before all of our tomatoes have ripened. That can be very frustrating. Fortunately there are some things you can do to keep from losing a lot of green tomatoes.

There are 3 tricks that I’ve heard of to save tomatoes, 2 of which we’ve tried and had success. The other we just recently learned of and are looking forward to trying this year.

If you have green tomatoes late into the season and you’re pretty sure they won’t have time to ripen before the cold hits them, you can bend the stalks over at the ground and it will trigger the tomatoes to go ahead and ripen. Green Tomatoes

Or if you have green tomatoes on the vine and freezing weather is imminent, you can carefully pull up the vines and hang them upside down in a protected area, like a garage. The tomatoes will ripen and won’t be wasted.

We’ve just heard of a way to save the plant for a head start in the spring. Cut the vines back and carefully lift the root ball. Place it in a container of sand and put it in a protected area that doesn’t freeze and doesn’t get too warm. Keep it moist but not wet. In the spring, when the ground has warmed up enough,just set it out in your garden. As I said, we haven’t tried this yet but will this fall. If anyone has tried this last trick we’d like to hear how it worked out for you.

If you live, like we do, where the growing season is so short you’ll do just about anything to extend your harvest.

Save Those Lemon Seeds

by Admin 9. August 2012 05:52

By: Eliza Osborn                                              

Lemon TreeWhen you eat an orange or tangerine or even a kumquat the seeds are a nuisance. But they can become beautiful plants.

The seeds are easy to germinate by just poking them about 1/2″ into potting mix in a pot and keeping them moist. After they sprout, just water every 4-6 days. They make beautiful house plants and as the little “tree” grows you can move it into larger pots. In the warmer seasons they will be happy on the deck or patio or even in the ground if you live in Zone 8 or higher. If you’re growing them inside they’ll need to be by a sunny window or at the very least, by some bright light bulbs.

Emerging from the ground, the sprouted seed quickly presents a stand of shiny, green, fragrant leaves a surprisingly sturdy, stem with every intention of becoming the hardwood trunk of an evergreen tree. Yet these seedlings can be pruned so that they remain at whatever sizes you want. Try several seedlings started in a larger pot to make a fuller planting.

Since citruses readily cross their species lines, (which have already been manually crossed and recrossed), the fruits are varied and many. So don’t plant a tangerine seed expecting to get tangerines. Maybe these should be called surprise plants. If all the conditions are right and the plant is happy and grows to maturity, then it will be fun to see what kind of fruit it will produce.  Happy Planting!

 

 

Bees Sleep Around, Not Always In The Hive

by Admin 25. June 2012 05:51

Bee Sleeping On Iceberg RoseBy: Eliza Osborn

Last fall I wrote a post about finding so many bumble bees sleeping on my Zinnias in the garden. I would check on them for a few hours, sometimes till 11:00 A.M. before they would wake up and take off.

I only saw bumble bees and only on the Zinnias, not on any of the many other kinds of flowers nearby.

This week I’ve been finding honey bees (at least that’s what they looked like) sleeping in the roses. Even though the Zinnias aren’t blooming yet, I’ve not seen any bumble bees sleeping in the roses.

In my opinion, honey bees must have the better taste.

Thanks and happy planting!

The Grapes Are Coming

by Admin 20. June 2012 05:20

Grape vines reaching the top of the arborBy: Eliza Osborn

This year we hope that the grape vines will cover the top of the grape arbor so that the arbor area will be shadier and cooler near our garden. Even though the vines made it to the top last year, it will take a lot of leaves to shade our arbor, which is 50′x10′. There are 10 grape vines, one at each post, except for the Kiwi vines at the two post on one end.

Even more than the shade to look forward to though, are the many, many grapes which are growing. We got some last year, but nothing like what's coming this year. All of the grapes are seedless, table grapes, some white and some pink or red.

Besides eating plenty and sharing a lot (we have a large family), we will dry some. They make the best raisins.

Ah, so much to look forward to. I love summer.

Thanks and happy planting!

Many Plants Re-seed And That Can Be A Good Thing

by Admin 14. June 2012 06:13

The Snapdragons in these pots are volunteers from last years plants.By: Eliza Osborn

Since I’d never grown Snapdragons before last summer, I had no idea what a wonderful plant it is. Not only is it pretty, and the kids like to make the dragon’s mouth open, but it re-seeds freely. This year I planted lots and lots and next year I hope to have them filling in everywhere.

I did learn that there are taller varieties that grow to 3′ – 4′, and that would determine where they should go in the garden. I have some of both in my garden.

The other plants that I know re-seed, at least here in zone 6, are Hollyhocks, Cosmos, Bachelor Buttons, and sometimes Zinnias. I’m sure there are others, those are just the ones I know of.

Thanks and happy planting!

No, I Didn’t Build The Peas’ Support Too High

by Admin 7. June 2012 04:42

Sugar Snap Pea Vines Reach 6 ftBy: Eliza Osborn

Last year I thought I’d built an adequate support for the Green Peas and the Sugar Snap Peas in the garden. After all, it was about 4′ high.

I was so wrong. I just put bamboo in the corners of the raised beds and then strung jute for the peas to climb on. The whole thing collapsed from the weight of the vines and peas. I spent all season trying to prop it back up and not very successfully. Picking the peas was made difficult because we had to hold up the heavy vines to get to the pods. I’m sure we missed a lot of peas last year.

This year I decided to get more creative. I built a scaffolding out of the bamboo poles (we have lots of bamboo, bought in bundles at a thrift store) and then strung twine back and forth. I made it about 6′ tall. I got a lot of comments about how tall it was and was convinced that I had gone overboard a little.

Not so. This week the vines reached the top rung, at least the Sugar Snap Peas have and the English Peas aren’t far behind. I am so glad now that I made it so tall. The vines are loaded with pods already and lots of blooms still coming. Looks like a good year for peas.

Thanks and happy planting!

Getting Rid Of Aphids On Roses

by Admin 31. May 2012 05:29

Hundreds of buds on the Queen Elizabeth rose bushesBy: Eliza Osborn

I've done things this past 2 weeks that I never, ever, thought I'd do. Actually it had never even occurred to me to do before.

Since we’ve been having such a beautiful, warm (sort of) and dry spring, I thought that we would escape the plague of the aphids that we suffered through last spring. Not so. Well, they aren’t nearly as bad as they were last year, but they are bad enough, and besides, I have a lot more roses to worry about this year.

My usual tried and true method for combating aphids is to spray them with a mixture of Ivory liquid in water, wait 10-15 minutes and hose them off really well to wash away the soap and the dead aphids.

This year the roses are maturing and setting hundreds of buds. As I worked in the garden I began to notice that some of the buds looked like they were wrapped in brown velvet. Since I was very busy and didn’t really have time to stop and mix my aphid-killer potion, then wait to rinse them off, and I didn’t want the little buggers sucking juice from the rose buds for another day or so, I just reached up (with gloves on) and started squishing the aphids. That was gross and I couldn’t believe I was doing it, but, hey, it really worked…except that the leather gloves I was wearing made it hard to do and I wound up actually pulling off some of the buds.

So, the next step was (you guessed it) to remove the gloves. I did hesitate, for about 3 seconds, and then I reasoned that I could go and scrub my hands and the aphids would be gone in a fraction of the time it would take to do the civilized method.

After doing this a few times, I realized that some were falling off (only to crawl back up later) and I needed to catch them some way. So, since the aphids were always concentrated on the bud and about an inch down the stem, I found that I could grasp lower on the stem with my left hand, keeping the bud over my palm and use my right hand to smash the aphids.  I was surprised to find how many dropped off as soon as I took the stem in my left hand. It must be an instinct for their survival, which explains why there are a bazzillion of them.

Now, not only do I have to kill the ones on the bud and stem but also the ones that drop into my palm.

I know that it’s Yucky! I know that it’s Disgusting! But it works. I go on patrol each day to see if any new colonies have been established. I’ve pretty much obliterated them at this point.

The things we will do for our roses.

I was surprised that when I revealed my revolting aphid-control method to other gardeners, I found that they’d been doing it for years.

Who knew?

Thanks and happy planting!

Cheap Gardening – Beautiful Flowers Don’t Have To Cost A Fortune

by Admin 3. May 2012 03:49

Cosmos grown from seed.By: Eliza Osborn

When we bought our house 2 years ago, we removed almost all of the lawn, leaving only the parking strip in the front and a small patch of lawn on each side of the front walkway. That left a lot of empty space to fill. Even allowing for the future deck, grape arbor, raised vegetable beds, fruit trees and garden paths, there were still a lot of empty flower beds.

Since plants cost so much, especially perennials and shrubs, we had to figure out the least expensive ways to get the plants we wanted.

We planted some of our perennials from seeds, like Purple Cone Flower (Echinacea), Foxglove (Digitalis), Canterbury Bells (Campanula) and Delphiniums. It takes longer to get mature plants and blooms, but you sure get a lot of plants for your money. All of these did really well and come back each year.

Most of our flower beds are filled with roses and perennials, the majority of which were bought this time of year (Sep. & Oct.) when they had been marked down 50-75% because it’s near the end of the growing season and merchants want to get rid of them.

Some of the ones we bought looked pretty sad after a long, hot summer in a pot, but because they were perennials, it didn’t matter. I knew that if we got them in the ground and took good care of them that next Spring they would come back out and be beautiful.

So check out the garden centers and nurseries, don’t forget to check grocery stores that carry plants. Online nurseries also have some great deals because they are also trying to get rid of their stock before winter. It doesn’t matter if the plant is a little ratty looking, as long as it’s alive. This only applies to perennials, not annuals, which will die at the end of the season anyway.

A good source of free plants is from friends who have mature plants that need dividing. This is such a good source of plants because if a plant needs to be divided then you know that it grows well in your area.

Taking cuttings from plants and rooting, then potting them, is another good source of free plants.

Have an idea of the size of the space you’re trying to fill and read the plant labels to see if it’s a good fit. Perennials look good in groups of 3, 5 or 7 plants.

Use markers with the plants’ names and stick them in the ground where you plant them, because when they die down in the winter it might be hard to remember what you planted and where.

Not doing that is why I have some mystery plants in my garden that I hope to learn the name of one day.

Until your shrubs and perennials mature and reach their full size you’ll have room to plant annual seeds such as Zinnias, Cosmos, Bachelor Buttons and Marigolds. I’ve used these to fill in the spaces and they make great cutting flowers. Save the seeds from these and you’ll never have to buy seeds again.

You can have such a wonderful yard and not spend much money, just track down those bargains, don’t be afraid to plant seeds and make some good gardening friends who like to share.

Thank you and happy planting!