Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Winter Woes

My Weeping Cherry was beautiful in the spring of 2013.
It was a tough winter for my garden and every day that something leafs out and shows signs of life, I consider myself lucky. My Weeping Cherry that was beautiful last year and full of bees, has only a few flowers this year.

Lots of flowers and bees.

The spring of 2014 with few flowers and no bees.
I have walked the gardens and observed lots of winter cold damage. I never bury the canes of my climbing roses and this year I will need to cut them to the ground and start over. My Spireas have some new growth, but they will need to have a major pruning this year to clean out the dead. I have several Blue Atlas Cedars that are brown from the cold. It was a long cold winter and I can tell that I will have lots of gardening jobs ahead of me.

My Spirea with some new growth and lots of dead limbs.
What do you do when you have winter cold damage to your plants? The best thing you can do is remember that there was not much that you could have done to protect your plants from such extreme temperatures. The cold temperatures were more than many plants could take. Give your trees and shrubs time to grow, then you can see what needs to be done with each plant. Clean up, prune and cut back dead limbs as they leaf out or after flowering. I have given some shrubs and trees fertilizer to help with new growth. I figure that with many shrubs and trees, I will have limited flowers this year but it is more important to get that tree or shrub off to a good start for future growth.

My Leyland Cypress has lots of brown in it caused by the cold.

For those trees or shrubs that were damaged, do not be in a hurry to remove them from your garden. Fertilize them and wait to see if you get some new growth and be prepared to wait for several months for that growth. Then give the plant time to fill in. Prune or remove dead as needed. If your tree or shrub does not show growth after several months then consider it a winter loss. I plan to fertilize, water, wait and hope for the best!

Happy Gardening!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Recycling Pallets for the Garden

Pallets come in all size and shapes. Most are made from wood or plastic.
We have all seen pictures of old wood pallets being used in gardens. I have seen pallets turned into planters, benches, tool holders and composters, just to name a few. I will say that they are great to use, a wonderful way to recycle and save money. Building with pallets is very easy and it does not take a lot of skill. Just use your imagination and you can create many different items that can be used in and about the garden.
A compost bin made from two pallets.

The compost bin in the picture (above) was made from two pallets that held house siding on them. We had some work done on our house last fall and all of the cement board was delivered and stacked on the pallets. Each pallet was 8 feet long. I used one pallet for the back and I cut the slats of the second pallet into 3 pieces with 2 pieces being the sides and the larger piece as a removal front. I used deck screws to attach the sides to the back pallet. The front piece is hinged and allows me to open and close the composter. All I needed in tools was a saw to cut the pallet into three pieces and a battery operated drill with bit to screw everything together. The total project took about 30 minutes to complete. I added some stepping stones under my compost tumbler and a few hooks to hold gardening equipment. Now I have a place to hold all of that yard waste and a place to keep my gardening equipment organized.

Happy Gardening!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Virginia Bluebells

I was working in the garden when I spotted my Virginia Bluebells were breaking ground. Virginia Bluebells are one of my favorite perennial plants in the garden for spring bloom and after this winter, they are a welcome sight in the woodland garden. 

Virginia Bluebells (Mertensia virginica) grow in zones 3-9 and are native to the United States. They grow about 12-20 inches tall and will spread by self-sowing. The flowers start out in a pink color then slowly change to a beautiful blue. I have mine planted in the woodland garden where they are mixed in with ferns, Celandine Poppy, Hosta and daffodils.

They prefer a humus-rich soil that is well drained and is neutral to slightly acidic. Virginia Bluebells are "ephemerals" and will go dormant after spring blooming. When the bluebells are done blooming, the foliage will slowly turn yellow, drop and fan out on the ground. You do not need to clean up the leaves because the leaves will disappear quickly after they die back.

If you want to propagate your bluebells, you can let the plant drop it's seed in the garden or you can take divisions of the plant. When replanting divisions, cover the eyes with 2-3 inches of soil. Virginia Bluebells will slowly form a colony in your garden that will come back year after year.

Happy Gardening!

Monday, March 24, 2014

What Does It All Mean?


If you read gardening magazines or catalogs, you have probably seen words like heirloom, open pollinated and hybrid, just to name a few. You may have scratched your head and thought to yourself  "What does that mean?".
Here are a few of the words and what they mean to you, the gardener.

Heirloom - An heirloom is a variety of plant that has been in cultivation for more than 50 years. It is open pollinated (OP) by bees, birds and other insects and is passed down from generation to generation.

Open Pollinated or OP - A seed that produces offspring just like the parent plant. The plant is pollinated by bees, wind or insects. The plant produce seed that will come true year after year.

Cross Pollinated - Cross pollination is the transfer of pollen from one plant to a different plant of the same species. This process can be done by insects, humans, wind or birds.

Organic - Crops that are grown without the use of fertilizers or pesticides.

Genetic Modified Organism or GMO - A plant whose genetic material has been changed using genetic engineering techniques.

Hybrid - A hybrid is created when humans intentionally cross-pollinate two different varieties or species to produce an offspring containing the best traits of the two parent plants. Traits could be flavor, size, shape, color, disease resistance or more. This is not a GMO plant. Hybrid plants are not true to type or better said, don't save the seed because you will not get the plant you had before. If you see F1, it is a hybrid.

Self Pollination - These are plants that have perfect flowers. Self pollination is the transfer of pollen from the anther to the stigma of the same flower. They do not need help from bees, birds, insects or humans for pollination.

Annual - A plant that completes it's life cycle, starting from seed to seed in one growing season.

Perennial - A plant that lives from year to year.

Hope that this helps to explain those terms when picking your seed for your garden.

Happy Gardening!

Friday, March 14, 2014

Creative Recycled Garden Decor

This recycled item would be found on a vehicle.
I made my annual trek to the Indianapolis Flower and Patio Show this week. The gardens were beautiful and I really enjoyed seeing everything green, growing and blooming again. This year, I really liked some of the ways that the landscape companies that design the gardens got really creative and recycled many objects that would have found their way into landfills.

Take a look at each picture and try to figure out what was recycled. I will give you a few hints along the way.

This fountain is made from what?

This pendant light is a recycled item that would be found on top of a tank.

This recycled bar stool is made from something that once contained an alcoholic beverage.

Behind this outdoor television are panels made from what?

This pergola has a ceiling and two side walls made from what?

This outdoor fountain is made from what?
Did you figure out what some of the recycled items were? I hope you enjoyed seeing the pictures and now you can get creative in your garden.
Happy Gardening!


Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Growing Amaryllis for Indoor Winter Bloom

This pink and white amaryllis is now in bloom and it is stunning. The amaryllis to the left in the picture is still in bud and showing the red color that it will be when it blooms.

This time of year you are ready for flowers and getting outside in the garden again, however it is still winter, it's cold and the snow is still on the ground. What do you do? Why not grow an amaryllis and enjoy those big beautiful flowers inside.
Amaryllis are easy to grow. In my zone, they can be found in many stores and they are being sold for Christmas gift giving. You can buy them with the bulb, container and soil all in one package. You simple fill the container with soil, add the bulb, water and wait for the plant to bloom which is about 4 to 6 weeks.

Once your bulb blooms, now what do you do? You could throw it away or enjoy it another year.

If you want to keep your bulb for another year, here are some simple steps to follow:
  • As your flowers fade, remove them from the plant. When all the flowers are gone, cut the flower stalk where it emerges from the bulb. Do not remove the green leaves. 
  • You can place your potted bulb outside for the summer. Continue to fertilize and water regularly until late fall. You can fertilize using 10-10-10 or a liquid plant food. This is the time that the bulb is storing nutrients needed for the next growing cycle.
  • When late fall comes, stop watering the bulb and allow the leaves to dry out. Place the potted bulb inside and in a cool dark area of around 50 to 60 degrees for about 8 weeks. You can leave the bulb in the same container for storage. Periodically, check on the bulb, but do not water.
  • When you start to see new growth, add some additional new soil to the top of the container and fertilize. Make sure that you do not cover the top of the bulb with soil. Place your bulb in a sunny location in your house and start regular watering.
  • When the flower stalk starts to grow, you will need to rotate the container to keep the flower stalk tall and straight as it grows. Now just wait for the beautiful flowers to grow and bloom. 
Your amaryllis can grow in the same container for several years before you will need to move it to a larger container. When the bulb becomes tight in the container, it is time to plant it into a larger container.

Happy Gardening,


Friday, February 21, 2014

Decorating the Garden

This little boy statue is hidden next to a hydrangea and waiting to greet a garden visitor.
Garden decorations can come in all sizes, shapes, colors and price ranges. Some are made of stone, plastic, cement, metal and even resin. I like pieces that are made of cement, stone, steel or cast metal due to their durability in the garden over those that are made of plastic or resin. Most resin or plastic pieces are nice but will not hold up for many years. I have had several resin pieces damaged by falling limbs during storms and with many, the finish wears off from exposure to the elements. Once they have been damaged, they are difficult to repair.

When selecting garden decorations, select a few nice pieces that can be distributed out into the garden. Try to select pieces that fit the style of your garden. A Japanese lantern looks wonderful in a Japanese style garden but a decorative cast iron urn would look out of place in a Japanese garden.

 A beautiful small stone shell is placed in the front of a bed where it can be easily seen.
When placing garden decorations in the garden, try to tuck pieces away and out of sight by placing them near shrubs, trees and other plants to help block them from sight. As a garden visitor explores your garden, they will discover the pieces. Keeping a few pieces hidden from direct sight helps to eliminate a cluttered look. Always remember that when it comes to garden decorations, Less is More.

Garden decorations should draw visitors into and around the garden. They should help show off your garden and compliment it. I have been in a few gardens where they had garden decorations everywhere. The garden looked very cluttered and I found myself feeling overwhelmed, that I never saw the plants or the design of the garden.

Always add a few nice pieces as focal points in the garden. Normally these are larger pieces that can be easily seen and are placed in key spots in the garden to really show them off. As a focal point, they will tend to draw the garden visitor to that part of the garden.

This Japanese lantern is made of a heavy resin material.
When buying pieces, look for pieces that can add function to the garden like decorative planters, a birdbath or a beautiful bench. These items can be used as an art form and also serve a purpose. Here are some examples in the pictures.

This statuary looks beautiful in the garden but also serves as a planter.

This  planter is colorfully planted and looks great in a formal garden .

A full size stone angel stands in a garden as a beautiful focal point.

A gazing ball and resin stand are beautiful in the garden yet inexpensive to purchase.

  Here is a piece that functions as a bench and as a beautiful piece of garden art. 

This cast iron urn stands on a brick foundation. It is a very elegant focal point in a garden.

A little stone owl is cute in a woodland garden and will last a long time in the garden.

These two bronze birds stand in the pond water with the water lilies.

An old stone Japanese lantern provides light and is placed near the steps in a Japanese garden.

This piece of recycled garden art is made from old car parts. It adds a bit of whimsy to the wildflower garden.

A beautiful piece of statuary is placed in a mixed border of flowers and shrubs.

A birdbath has a nice decorative form yet functions for the birds and as a water feature for the garden.

This copper water feature now functions as a planter on the wall of a house.
Always remember when buying decorations for the garden, look for items that will last, add function and can accent or become a focal point. Do not clutter up your garden with lots of pieces.You want garden visitors to enjoy your garden, the plants that grow there and all your hard work that went into making your garden. Less is More and Less is Best!

Happy Gardening!