Sunday, March 29, 2009

Flowering Quince for Spring Beauty

"Crimson and Gold"

This spring, I added two new Flowering Quince to the garden. Flowering Quince or Chaenomeles are very beautiful when they flower in the spring. Chaenomeles are available in red, pink or white. This is a shrub that can grow in any reasonable garden soil. They prefer full sun, but can tolerate shade. The average size they grow to is 3-5 feet tall and around 3 feet wide and if you plant several together they make an ideal hedge. Flowering Quince has a medium growth rate. If you have a deer problem, this plant is deer resistant. Flowering Quince produce fruit in the fall that will attract birds. This is one plant that can be very beautiful if allowed to grow to full size. Very little pruning is needed accept light hand pruning to enhance the shape. Chaenomeles can be propagated by cuttings, layering of shoots or by removing rooted suckers. Flowering Quince can be a beautiful addition to any spring garden landscape.

"Toyo Nishiki"

Happy Gardening!
The Creative Gardener

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Garden Design Elements - Focal Points

One of my favorite parts of a garden are the "focal points". Focal points are garden objects that draw the eye and create a feature of attention in the garden. In an earlier blog on "Entry", I wrote on how entry shows where the garden or garden rooms begin or end. The focal points are those items that we discover as we enter the garden and journey through the garden. Focal points can be statuary, planted pots, a bench, urn, bird bath, fountain and much more. The key to focal points is not to over do it. You want people to notice your garden design, plants and your hard work - not the "stuff". Have you ever seen a garden that was full of garden statuary, gnomes, fairies, gazing balls, fountains, pink flamingos, and every type of wind driven plastic bird or bug that has ever been made? Your eye was drawn to all these objects at once that it became confusing and cluttered looking. You never saw the flowers, trees and shrubs that made up the garden. With focal points "less is more". Depending on the size of your garden, choose a few good garden objects, spread them out and place them in prime spots that compliment them in the garden. They don't have to always be in view. Hide a few things in and around the garden for the garden visitor to discover as they move throughout the garden. The little garden gnome peeking out from under a shrub is more interesting that just sitting in the middle of the lawn. Garden focal points should compliment your garden style. Pick items that belong in your garden both in time period and theme. A Japanese garden would look wrong with a sun dial but correct with a Japanese lantern. Always consider the size of a garden object based on the size of your garden to keep it in proportion. Consider color and color intensity also as a focal point in the garden.

The large neutral colored urn stands out in a colorful garden.

A statue of a fishing boy standing next to a garden pond.

A little girl statue standing admidst the flowers.

A ceramic ball compliments the flowers around it.

Three pots in different sizes in an intense color at an entrance.

The fairy pond sized in proportion to the landscape.

Focal points catch and hold our attention. They define a space and give it direction. Focal points can be simple and ordinary objects. Make focal points an important part of your garden or next garden design.

Happy Gardening!

The Creative Gardener

Friday, March 20, 2009

Propagation Technique - Layering

Layering is an easy way to start new plants for the garden from old plants. There are several forms of layering and this one is very simple. Simple layering means to bend a branch to the ground and pin it down. Where the branch touches the ground, roots will slowly form. Then you can remove the new plant from the parent plant and replant it into the garden. The easy part of this form of layering is that the offspring remains attached to the parent plant as it roots and grows. The parent plant looks after the new forming plant rather than you. Plants that respond to this technique are Spirea, Rambler Rose, Forsythia, Kerria, Caryopteris, Lilac and many more.Start by removing the leaves where the branch touches the soil and cut a notch or split with a knife below a node. A node is a point on the stem at which a leaf or bud is attached. You can use rooting hormone if you wish. Pin the healthy branch to be propagated to the ground. I use a piece of a wire coat hanger that I cut and bend into a pin and push it down into the ground to hold the branch to the ground. Where the branch is pinned, I cover it with soil. This process can take several seasons to a year for the roots to form on your new plant. You can use dormant wood early in spring or mature wood in late summer.

After the branch has rooted to the ground, cut and remove from the mother plant and replant it to it's new garden location. You might want to try this form of layering to add additional plants to your garden.
The Creative Gardener

Monday, March 16, 2009

Indiana Flower and Patio Show

Today I went for my annual visit to the Indiana Flower and Patio Show. Every year I attend and wish that my gardens could look like these. I hope you enjoy the pictures.

Happy Gardening!

The Creative Gardener

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Life Returns to the Garden

I guess it is time to start gardening again. The days and nights are starting to warm and the garden is starting to show signs of life. It's about time!

Happy gardening and have a great garden this year!
The Creative Gardener

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Wisteria - Pros and Cons

The first time that I saw a Wisteria, I knew that I wanted one for my garden. A neighbor, had a Wisteria tree and when it was in full bloom it was the most beautiful tree that I had ever seen. Wisterias are vines that can live a long time and because of how sturdy they can become they can be grown as a standard or tree form. Most gardeners grow them as a vine, but beware they do need a very STRONG structure to climb on. They are hardy, vigorous growers that can grow to about 25 feet and can live a very long life. This is a plant that requires a committed gardener because you will be doing lots of pruning to keep it in bounds. Wisteria prefers full sun and moderately fertile moist soil that does not dry out excessively. They will adapt to most soils, but prefer neutral to slightly acid. Do not fertilize this plant with nitrogen unless you want to spend lots of time pruning.

Wisteria flowers are pea like and very fragrant. They come in white, pink, lilac-blue, bluish-purple or purple depending on the variety. They bloom in spring and produce a flat seed pod. If you grow from seed, it will take 10 to 15 years for your plant to bloom. Cuttings will bloom much earlier. Young plants can be fertilized until they fill the alloted area you want them to grow in.
Once the plant matures do not fertilize unless growth and color are not good. If you stimulate vegetative growth you will limit your flowers. When you purchase a Wisteria, buy one with a single trunk or leader.

Grow Wisteria on a strong structure like a wood pergola, arbor or trellis. If you grow it on your house, keep it in bounds to prevent damage to your home. This is what it can do to a fence (see pictures).

If your Wisteria does not bloom it could be caused by the following:

  • Young plant - needs time to mature if it was grown from seed. Purchase grafted Wisteria vines instead.

  • Not enough sun.

  • Pruned incorrectly.

  • Flower buds could have been killed due to a severe winter.

  • Excessive nitrogen fertilizer.

To encourage blooming, try adding a superphosphate (0-20-0) in early spring and proper pruning during the year including root pruning in late fall. Wisteria does not transplant very well. Wisteria is a beautiful vine that can be outstanding in a garden setting. Just remember this plant will require more maintenance than most plants.

Happy Gardening!

The Creative Gardener

Friday, March 6, 2009

Secrets of Growing From Seed

Starting plants from seed can be a learning experience. I have a large garden and a small garden budget that doesn't always allow me to buy all the perennials and annuals that my heart desires. I started growing from seed because it was cheaper and a way to increase my plant population in the garden. When I first started growing from seed, I was sometimes disappointed to have some of my seedlings die for reasons unknown. Several years ago, I started doing volunteer work in a greenhouse and learned some secrets for success. Now I find that growing from seed can be very rewarding. Here are a few "secrets" for starting plants from seed inside your home.
  • It all begins with the growing medium. Spend the money and buy sterile seed starting mix. The mix is light weight and airy for your seedling to grow in. Some seed starting mixes come with fertilizer and wetting agents in the mix.
  • If you are using recycled pots or cell packs make sure they are clean and sanitized. First wash the pot in hot soapy water. Then rinse each pot in a bucket of water and bleach. Finally rinse in clean water and air dry.
  • I use a seedling heat mat for bottom heating. Your seeds will germinate faster and have stronger healthier roots. Use the correct temperature for that particular seed. Germination temperatures can be found on your seed packet.
  • Purchase fresh seed. You can test old seed (medium and large size) by adding some to a glass of water. If the seed sinks to the bottom it is good seed. If it floats, it will not germinate. Dry the viable seed and sow.
  • Provide good lighting either from a window or plant lights. I use a combination of both. Low light will give you tall weak plants.
  • Don't over water and provide good drainage. I do not use saucers.
  • Provide good air circulation around your plants.
  • Some seeds may require refrigeration, soaking or scarifying before planting. Read the planting instructions on your seed packet.

Shasta Daisy "Crazy Daisy" and "Brandywine" Tomatoes

I start my seeds in pots filled with seed starter mix. When the seedling produce their first true leaves (see picture), I then transplant each seedling to it's own separate pot or cell pack. I use a chop stick or a sharpened pencil to make the hole to transplant each seedling. After they are transplanted, I start the process of watering with fertilizer. Use 1/2 the strength recommended on the label. You can also transplant to a mix containing fertilizer. If you are growing tomatoes that have grown tall and thin, transplant them by placing that long stem deeper into the pot. Tomatoes will produce roots along their stems.

This tomato is now in the pot it will grow in till I place it into the garden.

Each of these plant have been transplanted to pots or cell packs and will continue to grow in these till they are moved to the garden. You can grade your seedling by size when using cell packs. That way the smaller seedling will get their fair share of light to grow by not being shaded by largers seedling. Once your plants are ready to go to the garden, make sure that you harden the plants off. Hardening off means to acclimate your plants to the outdoor tempertures. Your plants need to "Toughen Up". This process can take a week or more depending on where you live. Protect your seedlings from sudden outdoor temperature changes or you may have to start all over again. If you want to try your hand at plant propagation, I would suggest that you purchase the American Horticultural Society "Plant Propagation" book by Alan Toogood. This is the most used and worn out book in my gardening library.
Good luck on growing your seeds and happy gardening!

The Creative Gardener

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Bewitching Witch Hazel

Witch Hazel Flowers

Nothing marks the beginning of spring than the early blooming of Witch Hazel. In my zone 5 garden, the flowers are just beginning to show color. Their normal bloom time is February to March depending on the weather. If you have common Witch Hazel, the bloom time is October to November. Over the last two years, I have been planting many different varieties of shrubs to form the walls of my gardens. I look for shrubs that give interest all year round in the garden. That interest can be found in bark color, shape, texture, flowering and fall leaf color. Witch Hazel provides early and late flower color in the garden when other shrubs have not started or have ended. After a long winter, you really appreciate seeing those flowers form. Witch Hazel or Hamamelis can grow from 5 to 20 feet tall and 8 to 20 feet wide depending on the variety. It prefers moist, but well drained acid soils, but will tolerate clay. Witch Hazel will grow in sun to part shade. The flowers are very fragrant and can come in assorted colors. I have yellow and orange Witch Hazels in my garden. I have Hamamelis vernalis and Hamamelis x intermedia which provide early flowers. Then I have Hamamelis virginiana (a native) that provides flowers in October to November. You can also find one called "Diane" that is red. Witch Hazel does provide nice fall color. This is a plant that needs very little pruning to maintain. If you are looking for an easy plant to grow, maintain and that provides flowers and nice fall color, consider adding Witch Hazel to your garden.

Witch Hazel Fall Color
The Creative Gardener

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Garden Design Elements - Entry

The entry to your garden is a visitor's first impression of what lies beyond in your garden. It is your invitation to others to come inside and visit. There are lots of ways to create entry. When you look at the picture of the arbor, you find yourself wanting to go through the arch to see what lies beyond. If you didn't notice, there isn't a garden built there yet. But your eyes were drawn to that area. That is what "entry" is about, drawing your garden visitor into the garden and then farther throughout the garden. Most entry areas begin at the front of your home. As a visitor approaches your home, the first thing you want them to find is your front door. A sidewalk draws the visitor to the entry. The entry area is planted with shrubs, tree, flowers or containers of plants. You may even have a "Welcome" mat at the door.

The entry to your garden can start the same way with a gate, door, piers, arbor, or an opening between shrubs. It could also be an opening between two large planted containers or two matching garden beds. Entry can also start with a change in walkway material like brick to gravel. Make your entry area interesting and well defined. Can a garden have more than one entry? The answer would be "Yes". Depending on your landscape size you could have many entry areas. In some gardens, people develop "rooms". Rooms are areas of your landscape used for different activities. If you have a small area, you may only have a patio with seating for entertaining. The larger your landscape, you may start to divide it down into smaller areas for different activities such as flower and vegetable gardening, utility and storage areas, pools and recreational areas, entertaining areas, relaxing areas or theme gardening. These rooms can be enclosed by hedges, walls, fences, perennial and shrub gardens to give a feeling of enclosure. Outdoor rooms are just like the rooms inside your home, each serving a purpose. Entry is an important design element to your garden and it should reflect your home's architectural style. Remember that your garden entrance is the first impression of your garden and all of your hard work. Make that entry count!
The Creative Gardener

'Golden Shadows' Pagoda Dogwood

Years ago, I purchased a very small tree that was only 6 to 8 inches tall. It was a 'Golden Shadows' Pagoda Dogwood. It had beau...