Best Blue Ornamental Grasses for the Garden

by Karen on September 30, 2014

Grass Sea lyme Leymus arenariusBlue is a very valuable color in the garden both complementing and blending colors together. The glaucous blue foliage of grasses can add special shades of blue as well as create textural interest with long their linear leaves. Combine with a little silver foliage to heighten and enhance the blue and mix in some flowering plants with some rich, hot colors to add pizzazz. All of these grasses do best in full sun although two tolerate some shade. [click to read full post]


Plant Profile: European Ash (Fraxinus excelsior)

by Karen on September 29, 2014

fraxinus-excelsiorLike other members of the genus, European ash is not especially ornamental but is a large deciduous tree that does well in inhospitable places. Growing up to 80’ tall, it has pinnately compound leaves up to a foot long with oval leaflets four to six inches long. The leaves are medium green and do not change color in the fall before they drop. Some cultivars, however, have been produced that have yellow fall color. Small, inconspicuous greenish male and female flowers are produced on the same or different trees in spring before the leaves appear. Winged fruits (samaras) one to two inches long are produced in clusters by female flowers in the fall. These fruits can create a litter problem and lead to unwanted seedlings. The solution to the problem is not easy; trees may bear male flowers one year and female the next so selecting trees with only male-flowers may be difficult. Branches grow low to the ground and the light gray-brown bark of young trees becomes rigid and furrowed with maturity developing a diamond pattern. European ash can be used as a shade or lawn tree and is especially valuable for difficult places. Weeping ash is particularly appealing and was very popular in Victorian times.

Type: Deciduous tree

Outstanding Features: Tolerant of difficult sites

Form: Dense crown; often wider than tall

Growth Rate: Rapid

Bloom: Inconspicuous male and female flowers on the same or different trees in spring before the leaves appear; fruit winged and borne in clusters.

Size: 60-80’ H x 60-80+ W

Light: Full sun

Soil: Soil tolerant but prefers fertile, moist, well-drained soils

Hardiness: Zones 5-7

Care: Prune to shape when young

Pests and Diseases: Ash yellows, die-back, galls, and borers

Propagation: Seed

Outstanding Selection: F. excelsior ‘Pendula’ (weeping ash).

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Book Review: The Seasons of Arnold’s Apple Tree

by Karen on September 26, 2014

The Seasons of Arnolds Apple TreeApples are a favorite fruit of many children but do they know where they come from? Do they realize that apples grow on trees that bloom in spring? Probably not. And many young children only have a vague idea of the changes that occur in different seasons. This charming book, The Seasons of Arnold’s Apple Tree by Gail Gibbons introduces young readers to seasons by following an apple tree throughout a whole year with the help of Arnold, a young boy that has an apple tree as his very own secret place. [click to read full post]

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This trailing or climbing perennial is a native of Eurasia introduced into North America by 1739 and now found in all states except Alaska. It is classified as a noxious weed in many states and is on the list of the world’s ten worst weeds. Field bindweed prefers full sun with medium to dry conditions, and does well in both fertile and infertile soil. It likes disturbed areas and invades lawns, gardens, croplands, and waste areas. Field bindweed can entwine itself in other plants causing serious harm and reducing the productivity of cropland. [click to read full post]

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Plant Profile: Norway Maple (Acer plantanoides)

by Karen on September 24, 2014

Maple Norway acer_platanoides lvSome of us have fond memories of “helicopters” swirling down from maple trees, breaking them open and sticking them on our nose. If you share this memory you may have been in the company of a Norway maple. There are many cultivated maples but Norway maple is one of the most widely planted ones in urban areas of the United States because of it is easy to grow, and tolerant to drought, heat, and air pollution. This deciduous tree native to Europe and western Asia is medium sized and has a dense, symmetrical crown at maturity. The five-lobed leaves are dark green a until fall when they turn an unexciting yellow. Erect corymbs of small flowers appear in spring and are very attractive because of their yellow-green color and frilly fine texture. Not everyone, however, would fine them worth noting but if you like to do spring flower arrangements they can be used to great advantage. The fruits, known as samaras, are winged, and are green before turning tan in the fall. Unfortunately, the dense canopy and shallow, vigorous root system of Norway maple can interfere with growing turf and most other plants around the tree base. In addition, the roots create havoc on driveways and sidewalks. In some places like New Hampshire and Massachusetts where Norway maple has naturalized it has become invasive so has been banned. There are over twenty cultivars varying in leaf color and form. [click to read full post]

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How to Care for Bonsai: Fuchsia

by Karen on September 23, 2014

FuchsiaBonsaiGardenThe unique flowers of fuchsias are eye-catching for both their color and distinct teardrop-shape. Most species of Fuchsia are deciduous shrubs or small trees and come from the subtropical areas of South America, Central America, and New Zealand. The plants bloom profusely during the summer and are popular for hanging baskets but can be very attractive bonsai. The best species for bonsai are those with small leaves and flowers, such as F. magalanica, F. minutiflora, F. minimiflora, and F. microphylla, cultivars ‘Tom Thumb’ and ‘Lady Thumb’. F. magalanica is the hardiest and fastest growing of these and may be the best choice for some. Variegated species are generally less vigorous and are best avoided. The best styles for fuchsias are informal upright, semi-cascade, cascade, slanting, and root-over-rock, and in small to medium sizes.

Position: Fuchsias do best during the summer in a light but shaded location, indoors or outdoors. The plants are sensitive to frost so should not be moved outdoors in the spring until after the last frost and should be taken indoors before the first frost in the fall. During the winter plants should be placed in a window at temperatures between 48o and 53o F. Species with small flowers, however, can be kept at temperatures up to 64o F.

Water: Water generously in summer with tap water, sparingly in winter, being careful not to let the roots dry out. When temperatures are high in summer, plants appreciate misting.

Fertilizer: Feed with an organic bonsai fertilizer every two weeks from spring to fall. Do not feed in winter.

Transplanting: Repot every two years in the spring, pruning to roots at the same time.

Soil: Bonsai soil or mixture of loam, peat moss, and sand at a ratio of 1:1:1:, with the addition of 1 teaspoon of powdered organic fertilizer

Pruning: Pruning, even of large branches, can be done any time of year to shape the plant and branches should be shortened to one or two pairs of leaves as soon as they are 2-8” long. Weekly pinching in summer is beneficial to reduce leaf size and encouraging branching. Flowers appear on new growth so some new shoots should be left if flowers are desired.

Wiring: Even young branches are inflexible so wiring should be started early and carefully watched so that the wire does not damage the branch. Wiring, however, is usually not necessary because shaping can be done by judicious pruning.

Propagation: Cuttings in mid-spring

Comment: Aphids, whitefly, and greenfly can cause problems.

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Plant Profile; Monkey flower (Mimulus ringens)

by Karen on September 22, 2014

Mimulus ringens Monkey flower plantAlso called Allegheny monkey flower or square-stemmed monkey flower, this herbaceous perennial is native to North America where it grows in wet soils such as wet meadows, swamps, stream and pond borders, floodplains, and drainage ditches. Plants are erect with square, occasionally branching stems that bear opposite, clasping (sessile) leaves. The medium green leaves are lanceolate to oval, four to six inches long and one inch wide, with widely spaced teeth on the margins and pointed tips. The lilac-blue (occasionally pink or white) flowers are produced in the axils of the leaves on the upper half of the stem over a one and half month period from summer into fall. Each snapdragon-like flower is two lipped, an inch across, bears a yellow patch in its throat, and is thought to resemble to face of a monkey. Flowers are followed by a seed capsule with many seeds that are dispersed by wind or water. Monkey flower is an excellent choice for a bog garden, the wettest part of a rain garden, or any other consistently moist area. [click to read full post]

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Book Review: The Complete Flower Arranging Book

by Karen on September 19, 2014

The Complete Flower Arranging Book Susan CondorWhether you are a novice or experienced flower arranger, The Complete Flower Arranging Book by Susan Conder, Sue Phillips, and Pamela Westland, will add to your skills and increase your artistic sense. The book provides the basic techniques and principles of design to produce all kinds of flower arrangements from large formal ones to small casual ones as well as inspire creativity. Working with many different kinds of flowers, containers, and styles, the book presents a plethora of ideas that can be copied or used as a starting point for personal artistic expression. [click to read full post]

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Bacillus thuringiensisOne of the tools available to the organic farmer is Bacillus thuringiensis, commonly known as Bt.  It is a naturally occurring bacterium that produces a protein that is toxic to certain insect pests. When ingested the protein paralyzes the digestive system of the insect so the insect stops eating and starves to death in a few days.  Although Bt was discovered in 1911 it has only been commercially available since the 1950s and is considered environmentally friendly.  In recent years scientists have been using Bt for genetic engineering to produce crops that are resistance to chronic insect problems. [click to read full post]

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Plant Profile: Swamp Goldenrod (Solidago patula)

by Karen on September 17, 2014

solidago-patula-swamp goldenrodSwamp goldenrod, also known as rough leaf goldenrod, is a herbaceous perennial native to eastern United States where it grows in wet lands such as swamps, bogs, and shores of rivers and lakes. The erect stem is light green to purplish green, four angled, and unbranched beneath the inflorescence. Flowerheads are borne at the ends of the central stem in branched, loose, panicles from late summer to early fall. Each flowerhead consists of 5-12 golden yellow ray flowers surrounding 5-15 yellow disc flowers. The fruits that follow are small, dry achenes with tufts of hair for wind dispersal. Medium green leaves are up to twelve inches long at the base of the stem and decrease in size as they go upward. They are elliptical, alternate, rough textured and have toothed margins. Numerous insects including bees and moths feed on the nectar and pollen or foliage and flowers. The root system fibrous with rhizomes. Swamp goldenrod is an excellent choice for the wettest and middle zone of a rain garden. [click to read full post]

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