Locust Thornless honey Gleditsia triacanthos inermis leavesThis deciduous tree is native to parts of central United States where it often occupies bottomlands. The leaves are pinnately or bipinnately compound and the leaflets are small and so that raking is rarely necessary. The glossy bright green leaves appear late in the spring and turn bright yellow in the autumn before their early fall. The light shade of the canopy combined with the late appearance and early disappearance of the leaves facilitates the growing of grass beneath the tree. In late spring to early summer spikes of greenish yellow inconspicuous fragrant flowers are produced followed by large twisted brown to purple pods that can be a considerable litter problem. The short main trunk is gray-brown and develops plate-like patches separated by furrows. It is attractive especially in winter but may bear thorns that can be a hazard. Thornless Honey Locust is tolerant of drought, short term flooding, salt, compaction, and pollution so can be used in difficult sites including urban area such as parking lots and medium strips. Unfortunately, it is susceptible to a considerable number of pests and disease so should not be planted in mass. [click to read full post]

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MiniFarmingThe concept of self sufficiency in a small space is very appealing as more and more horror stories circulate regarding the use of hormones, antibiotics and pesticides in commercially produced food. Brett Markham’s book, MiniFarming, offers an overview of how to produce food on small lots so that you can enjoy healthier, tastier meals for less money, and in fact, make money by selling extra produce. Drawing from several methods of intensive agriculture such as Biodynamic, Grow Biointensive, French Intensive, and Square Foot, Markham develops an approach that can satisfy the goal of people looking for either increased production or self-sufficiency with minimal effort. [click to read full post]

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goldenrod-japanese anemone combinationJust when the garden looks like it is winding down in autumn goldenrod and Japanese anemone come into bloom adding bright color with their winning combination of gold and pink. The texture and vivid yellow of the goldenrod flowers is echoed by the showy yellow stamens in the center of the anemone. The effect is heightened by the contrast between the smooth petals of the anemone and the soft fuzzy texture of the goldenrod. This combination may be a bit difficult to pull off in hot climates because although the golden rood wants full sun, the leaves of the anemone may burn. Both plants need well-drained soil, although the goldenrod tolerates more dryness. [click to read full post]

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Salvia leucantha Mx Bush SageThis bushy herbaceous perennial is a native of Mexico and Central America and is grown in the United States either as a perennial in warm climates or as an annual in colder areas. It quickly grows into an upright mound of foliage composed of gray-green velvety leaves accompanied by gracefully arched flowering stems in late summer until frost. The flowers are rose-purple or rose-purple and white, and are attractive to hummingbirds and butterflies. They provide a welcome touch of contrasting color to the fall garden and are good as cut flowers. Mexican bush sage is good in borders, mass plantings, and containers. [click to read full post]

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PENTAX ImageA relative of the popular rubber plant, this native of the Middle East and Mediterranean regions is significantly different because it loses its leaves in winter. Fig trees have been cultivated since ancient times where they grow into sizeable shrubs or trees and yield a highly-valued fruit that develops in the fall and ripens the following summer. The large three-lobed leaves can be a problem when creating a bonsai but this can be overcome be keeping the bonsai in the same pot for an extended period of time, or encouraging the production of small leaves by vigorous pruning throughout the year. Older plants may have long dropping branches. Although the branches are fairly thick, all styles of bonsai are possible if training is started while the plants are young. [click to read full post]

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Plant Profile: Sassafras (Sassafras albidum)

by Karen on August 25, 2014

Sasafras fall colorA deciduous shrub or tree, sassafras is native to eastern North America from Canada to Florida westward to Kansas and Texas where it is found in woods and thickets. It is probably best known for root beer made from the bark of its root but both bark and leaves are very aromatic and have been used in the past by Native Americans and British colonists for their medicinal qualities. Although trees can reach up to eighty feet sassafras can become shrubby if suckers are not removed. The leaves are bright green above, blue green below, and turn yellow, orange, red, or purple in the fall. They measure up to six inches long and four inches wide and may be oval or have two or three lobes. Clusters, of yellowish-green inconspicuous male and female flowers are produced on separate trees in spring. In autumn female flowers are followed by deep blue egg-shaped berries a half inch long that reveal attractive red pedicels when they fall off or are eaten by birds. The trees are broadly columnar with zigzag flexible branching. The red-brown bark is deeply furrowed and ridged. Difficult to propagate and establish, sassafras is hard to find in nurseries but makes a fine shade tree with outstanding autumn coloration. [click to read full post]

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Book Review: The Reasons for Seasons

by Karen on August 22, 2014

The Reasons for SeasonsThe change of seasons has special meaning to gardeners and is a difficult concept for young children. Gail Gibbons’ book, The Reasons for Seasons, attempts to simplify the basic principles and show the consequences of seasonal changes on people, plants and animals. Focusing on how the position of the Earth in relation to the sun causes seasons, the author also explains why the Southern Hemisphere has winter when the Northern Hemisphere has summer. [click to read full post]

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Beneficial Insects: Yellow Jackets

by Karen on August 21, 2014

Wasp Yellow JacketIf you have ever been chased and stung by a yellow jacket you must be surprised that the title of this post suggests that they are good insects. The truth is that yellow jackets prey on other insects many of which are garden pests, so in some way they can be considered beneficial. They also chew on sweet ripe fruit such as strawberries, blueberries and melons so can be considered a garden pest. Either way, knowing the characteristics of these fearsome insects make life easier for the gardener. [click to read full post]

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Angelica-gigasThis tall biennial or perennial is a native of Asia where it inhabits forests and grasslands. It’s statuesque habit gives it a strong sculptural presence in the garden . The large dark green leaves are coarse and deeply divided. The erect stem is reddish purple, branched, and bears large umbels up to eight inches across of small reddish purple flowers in late summer. The flowers are attractive to bees and butterflies and the seeds that follow in the fall are attractive to birds. If the flowers are removed before the seeds are set the plant is might appear for 2-3 more years. If the flowers are not removed the plant may self seed. Use in the back of a border to give height and late season color, or cut and enjoy in a vase for up to two weeks. [click to read full post]

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Six Spring Bulbs for a Pink-Themed Garden

by Karen on August 19, 2014

muscari pinksunriseWhen the cherry trees begin to bloom in the spring with their pink cotton candy colored flowers the garden is bathed in soft light that seems to go perfectly with the new light green foliage that begins to cover the limbs of shrubs and trees. Pink brings a calming effect and a dreamy romantic quality to the garden, perfect for spring. Why not fill the garden with pink blooming spring bulbs to enjoy until summer rolls in with its bright colored annuals and perennials? [click to read full post]

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