agave-dichondra combinationHere is a unique combination that has a Southwest look but does well in the Southeast. These two plants love heat and sun, and laugh at drought. Together they produce a combination that is as subtle as it is beguiling. The two tone green leaves of the agave are edged with white teeth that echo the silvery white leaves of dichondra ‘Silver Falls’. Contrast is provided by the fluffy texture of ‘Silver Falls’ that surround the smooth but spiny-edged leaves of agave ‘Splendida’. If you look at the duo quickly you might think you are looking at an agave nestled in an attractive stream of river rocks, but no, the river rocks are actually the leaves of ‘Silver Falls’. Both plants prefer full sun, tolerate light shade and must have excellent drainage. [click to read full post]

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Acer capillipesThis small tree is native to Japan where it grows in the mountains along stream banks. The leaves unfurl red in the spring and change to mid green before changing to orange and red during fall coloration. They have three to five pointed lobes, are four to seven inches long, and are borne on red stems. Small greenish white male and female flowers are produced in separate pendulous racemes 2.5-4 inches long in late spring. The fruits are light pink and winged. The bark is smooth and has vertical, chalky-white stripes running the length of the trunk. The most heat tolerant of the snakebarks, this species is suitable for a small garden where it can provide shade and its bark enjoyed. [click to read full post]

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Chitinase for the Garden

by Karen on June 30, 2015

worm castingsHave you heard of chitinase? It is a naturally occurring substance that has potential for preventing or reversing disease in plants. You may be using chitinase right now to fight plant diseases and not even know it. As research on chitinase continues another organic pesticide may be developed that will aid the gardener in preventing or controlling fungal infections as well as insect attacks. [click to read full post]

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AcanthusEndemic to the highlands of Ethiopia, where it grows in dry forest margins, open hillsides, and along streams and river banks, this herbaceous perennial is rarely seen and is quite different from its more common cousin, Acanthus mollis. Stiff silvery green leaves grow on purplish black stems and are three inches wide. They have ruffled edges, spike-like teeth, and prominent silver veins. In late summer to autumn clusters of vermilion red flowers are produced in terminal racemes. The flowers are attractive but the plant could be used for its foliage alone. Where winters are cold, Acanthus sennii can be grown in a container and brought indoors in the winter [click to read full post]

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Rain Gardens Sustainable Landscaping for a Beautiful Yard and a Healthy WorldWith increasing problems of water quality and risings water costs, rain gardens offer a solution to both problems while also providing a useful habitat for wild life of all kind. Based on this premise, authors Lynn Steiner and Robert Domm have written a comprehensive guide covering all phases of incorporating a rain garden into the landscape. They combine their experience in the fields of hydrology and horticulture to provide simple, inexpensive ideas and advice that use native flowers, shrubs, and trees to improve water quality and enhance the environment. [click to read full post]

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Cocklebur is an annual native to Europe and Asia but now found throughout the United States. The plants like rich, fertile soil with at least half day of sun and are common weeds in gardens, fields, nurseries, crop land, and roadsides. The seeds and seedlings are poisonous to livestock and can even cause death but the toxicity of the plants decreases quickly after the first true leaves appear. Although mature plants are not toxic they are distasteful to animals and not eaten. [click to read full post]

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Plant Profile: Korean Fir (Abies koreana)

by Karen on June 24, 2015

Abies_koreanaA cool weather evergreen tree, this native of South Korea is ideal for a small garden. It grows in temperate forests with high rain and snow fall and high humidity in summer. Its glossy dark green needles are 1-1½ inch long and have two silver-white lines on the underside. Insignificant deep red male strobili and purple to pink female strobili are borne on the same tree and are followed by purple-blue cones up 2-3.5 inches long. The cones are upright, cylindrical and have clear resin wax-like drippings down the sides. They turn rich dark brown as they mature and disintegrate. Trees need protection from strong winds and air pollution. [click to read full post]

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Ajugas for the Garden

by Karen on June 23, 2015

Ajuga genevensisAjugas, also known as bugleweeds, native to Europe, Asia, and Africa, are low growing, creeing or clump forming members of the mint family, Lamiaceae. Although there are about forty species of ajugas, only three are commonly grown in the US where they are used primarily as ground covers because of their attractive leaves. Evergreen in mild climates, the leaves show considerable variation in color and texture depending on the variety. The small two-lipped flowers are produced in lat spring to early summer on three to five inch long spikes and may be white, pink, and violet blue. Ajugas do best in average to rich, well-drained soil and partial shade but tolerate full sun. Plants may be propagated by cuttings in spring or summer, or division anytime during the growing season. Aphids and can be problems and crown rot can wipe out an entire planting. Crown rot can be reduced by division every two to three years, planting in well ventilated areas with good drainage, application of fungicide, and removal of fallen leaves in autumn. [click to read full post]

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acacia_dealbata flowersThis evergreen tree is native to Australia and Tasmania where it grows in disturbed areas with full sun and either dry or moist soil. It is widely grown as an ornamental and does especially well in coastal areas of California from San Francisco south. The small yellow flowers are very fragrant and produced in globose clusters that are borne in large racemes in winter and early spring. The silvery pinnately compound leaves are five inches long and made up of about sixty leaflets. The stems are silvery gray and the twigs bear fine hairs. The roots fix nitrogen and the leaves may be allelopathic and so inhibit the growth of some other plants when they fall. Plants establish quickly but resent being transplanted. When stems are cut or killed by frost resprouting occurs.. Flowers are good for the vase. [click to read full post]

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Book Review: From Seed to Plant

by Karen on June 19, 2015

From Seed to PlantAs gardeners we all appreciate that many plants produce seeds that later grow into new plants. Young children, on the other hand, may have no idea where plants come from and the whole concept of a life cycle is probably foreign to them. Gail Gibbons’ book, From Seed to Plant, introduces these ideas on an elementary level, providing enough detail for the curious child while keeping the text simple. [click to read full post]

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