Saturday, June 27, 2009

Hosta "Sports"

Hostas are native to Japan, China and Korea. They were first grown and imported into the United States in the late 1800's. Originally hostas were green. Because of hybridizing (seedlings) or mutations called "sports" we now have thousands of different cultivars of hostas. A "sport" is the mutation of a plant. These mutations or sports are discovered in the wild, public and private gardens, nurseries and maybe in your own garden. A sport is a genetic change in part of the plant producing a shoot different from the parent plant. In the picture above, this is what the hosta "Gold Standard" should look like.

This is "Gold Standard" with a mutation. The mutation is white, green and lime green.

If you find a sport in your hosta. Carefully divide the hosta and remove the sport. Plant the sport as a separate new plant. It is important that the sport plant is stable and that it continues to regrow looking the same year after year. If it is stable and really different, you may have a new cultivar for the hosta market and one that can be registered with the American Hosta Society. To learn more about hostas consider joining the American Hosta Society (see the link).

Now go check that garden for a sport!

Happy Gardening!

The Creative Gardener

Sunday, June 21, 2009

To Mulch or Not To Mulch?

Every year I spend lots of time installing mulch into gardens. It is hard dirty work but it does make a big difference in the appearance of a garden. There are two types of mulch, organic and inorganic. What is the difference? Organic mulch breaks down and helps to improve the soil such as pine needles, wood chips, pine bark, tree trimmings, grass clippings, compost and straw.
Inorganic mulch do not add nutrients to the soil and do not decompose quickly. Inorganic mulch would be stone, pebbles, gravel or recycled rubber tires. Consider using a weed barrier under inorganic mulch. It is easier to remove the mulch in the future if you decide you do not want it. Weed barrier is sold in different sizes, weights and years that it will last. Every type of mulch has it's place and use, but carefully consider the types of plants that you select and will be growing with the mulch. In my zone 5 area, I prefer hardwood mulch. It has good color and is complimentary to all colors of garden plants. It breaks down quickly, helps retain moisture in the soil and decreases weed growth (you will always have some weed growth in all mulches). I hear many people say they want a lush cottage garden. Remember that mulch decreases weed seed growth and it will also decrease flower seed growth. Most people think that mulch will prevent weed growth and pile it on far deeper than it should be. For gardens, 2 to 3 inches deep of organic mulch is sufficient. For all the good that mulch can do it also has it's problems. Many people mulch every year to get the color back that has faded from sunlight. They continue to apply until the wood mulch is way to deep. The wood mulch mats down and when it rains or the sprinkler system comes on the water runs off the mulch rather than soaking down to the roots of the plants. People with sprinkler systems often have many of the roots of their plants growing or exposed in the mulch and not down in the soil like they should be. Wood mulch can also become the home for rodents and insects that can damage stems, branches or trunks of your plants. It is also the perfect environment in the spring for many types of mushrooms and fungi. Many plants may not like living in the heat that can be generated by rock mulch and pulling weeds out of lava rock can be hard on the fingers. Learn about your plants and the area that you live in. I live in a flood plain area. I use rock mulch for pathways in the gardens and I do not use wood mulch in my gardens that are in the flood plain area where it can float off into the river. I also consider the expense of using wood mulch in my gardens and replacing it yearly. I prefer to use homemade compost because it is free and better for my environment of a flood plain. I also like ground cover plants instead of mulch. If you are going to use mulch - do your homework!
Happy Gardening!
The Creative Gardener

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Rosa 'The Fairy'

One rose that gives you lots of flowers is 'The Fairy'. 'The Fairy' rose was introduced in 1932 and is a dwarf Polyantha rose. It is one of the oldest ground cover roses with a height of 2 1/2 feet and spread up to 4 feet. It grows in zones 4-9 and like most roses prefers full sun but can tolerant some shade. 'The Fairy' resists black spot, mildew and rust making it easy to care for. It can be propagated by softwood cuttings, semi-hardwood cuttings, hardwood cuttings, grafting and budding. This rose does bloom on new wood (the new growth) and should be pruned early to promote new growth. The pink flowers bloom mid spring and continues to bloom off and on during the growing season. The flowers are double and have some fragrance. 'The Fairy' prefers a slightly acid soil, but I have seen this plant growing in many other types of soil pH and still blooming very well. If you want to add this rose to your collection, you may have to special order it. It can be hard to find in many nurseries. Give 'The Fairy' a try in your garden and I think you will be very pleased with it.
Happy Gardening!
The Creative Gardener
6-10-9 Robin update.
Over the weekend the baby Robins left the nest and started to fly. They still have their parents feeding them and they are doing very well.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Baby Robin Update 6-3-09

We need a BIGGER nest!

Heavenly Peonies

It's that time of year when the Peonies are in bloom and the garden smells wonderful from their fragrance. Peonies should be in every garden because their foliage, fragrance and beautiful blooms add so much to the garden. Peonies have been the subject for tapestry, wall paintings and poetry. They were named after the Greek physician Paeon, who used the plant for medical purposes. They are a herbaceous shrubby plant with thick roots and large compound glossy green leaves. They bloom in the spring and die down to the ground for winter. If you have tree peonies, they have branches and bark like trees and should not be cut down for the winter.

Peonies are easy to care for and need full sun. They prefer well drained moisture retentive soil rich with humus. The best time to plant Peonies is in the autumn. Plant with the "eyes" about 1 1/2 inches deep (facing up) in the soil and avoid damaging the eyes. Water well and add mulch for winter protection. Peonies can be propagated by seed or division. Peonies can be left undisturbed indefinitely or you can divide every 6 to 10 years. There are lots of different varieties of Peonies available for your garden. Extend the bloom time with a selection of early, mid-season and late blooming varieties. If you see ants on the flower buds of your Peonies, do not try to kill the ants with sprays. The ants will not harm your plants or flowers.

Happy Gardening!
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...