Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Indiana State Tree, my favorite!

This is honestly my very most favoritest plant, it just happens to be a tree. I am wild about tree's anyway, but this one "tops" my list. Why? Easy to grow! Gets really big! Grows fast! Has a flower! Has the coolest leaf ever of any tree! It just has a cool name! (note that the exclamation points are supposed to make each point sound really Cool!)
liriodendron tulipifera- another big long word that means something to someone. In the real world this tree is called Tulip Tree! No wonder I love it, my second favorite plant is a bulb. The Tulip. I can be bought with pink starburst and tulips! Just for future reference.
The Tulip tree is also called, Tulip Magnolia, Tulip Poplar, Yellow Poplar, & Whitewood Tree. The large deciduous tree can easily reach 70 to 90 feet tall. Full grown tree's of 150 feet are common! How is that for a shade tree? The shape of this tree is ovate to pyramidal when young but they can get irregular when they get older. Adding to the charm. The trunks are massive when full grown, and can be branch less for decent distance up. This tree is bright green and has a flower in the spring. The flower has a pleasant scent, but isn't really anything special. Tulip Tree it gets its name from the tulip shaped leaves. Now that is really cool!
This tree likes moist, well drained soil. But tulip trees will do great in most soil types. It can grow fast if given the room to grow, plenty of water and has all the soil requirements it likes. But like most tree's it hates to be left in standing water. It likes slightly acidic soil, but that isn't required. This tree likes to be watered, and hates dry never watered area's. I wouldn't consider this an extremely drought tolerant tree. I would give it a Medium rating for drought. But like most tree's after it is established it does not need nearly as much water. Tulip tree will search for ground water, if you water deeply. And guess what, surface roots usually are not a problem. Bonus!

If you have a big spot, and you need some shade. I think you will really like the Tulip Tree.


Grow some herbs! You will love it. And most herbs are perennials! How can you go wrong?
Here are the Top Ten Culinary Herbs used in America-









Here are just a few "need to knows" about these top 10 herbs.
Basil (Ocimum basilicum)- There are dozens of types of basil to choose from. But bummer, this herb is an annual! If you start this indoors, do not transplant until you know there will be NO FROST. Pinch off the growing flower buds to prolong a plants life.
Dill (Anethum graveolens)- This herb is also considered an annual. But whenever I plant it, it always grows back. (just let it get big, it will re-seed itselfs) Many consider this a weed, so don't waist your money purchasing transplants. Buy the seeds. Honestly Dill does not do well being transplanting anyway. Dill grows fast, and some varieties can get 3 feet tall.
Chives (Allium scheonoprasum)- can you say that? This plant will need to be divided every 2 to 3 year to thrive. I give a delicate onion flavor often put over baked potatoes. This herb will transplant well and grow well from seed.
Mint (Mentha spp. & cultivars)- This is an INCREDIBLY vigorous herb. It comes in tons of different flavors, some with even a fruity flavor! My suggestion is to grow this in a pot, honestly this little monster will take over a flower bed quickly. If you cut back the plant after flowering it will stimulate more growth.
Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)- This herb is a woody, ever green shrub! It can cascade or be upright. It is extremely hardy, if you grow it in a pot you can bring it indoors for Rosemary all year. You can easily transplant Rosemary, grow from seed or from cuttings.
Oregano (Origanum)- Can you have Italian food without Oregano? This is a very dependable perennial. Bushing & spreading this plant could get up to 2 feet tall. Cut this Herb back to almost the ground in early summer to promote new healthy growth.
Sage (Salvia officinalis)- Use this herb dried for a much more mellow flavor, than if you use it fresh. This can be a evergreen in mild winters. I say only plant this herb from a transplant you purchase from the nursery.
Cilantro (Coriandrum sativum)- Cilantro leaves are best tasting when they are young. Cilantro does not transplant well, I say sew from seed. This herb will take a little shade, and grows best in cool weather.
Parsley (Petroselinum crispum)- You can grow parsley with either curly or flat leaves. Parsley is a Bi-Annual. If you plant from seed, I would soak the seeds overnight in warm water. Easier still, just purchase the transplants from the Nursery.
Thyme (Thyme spp.)- Lots of options with Thyme. This fun and full of flavor herb is very adaptable. Grown in the ground or in a pot, you will be pleased. Whether its the flavor or the flower you will love Thyme.
Whether all you plant is one herb, or you start an entire herb garden. I hope that you will get excited about the fun prospects herbs have. Not just in a herb garden, but in pots or intermingled with your flower beds. The possibilities are endless. And for those fighting Bambi in their gardens. It has been said that herbs make Bambi run. Hasn't worked for me, but I just may have very hungry deer! Go figure.
Happy Planting

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Old Fashioned Bleeding Heart

Dicentra spectabilis... That is one of those long names that no one really understands. But all of the "cool" gardening people like to say. Hey, it makes us feel cool. And this really is a Cool plant. This Shade loving perennial, is a must for you.This pretty flower loves the shade. Do not even consider it in the sun. It also loves a moderate amount of water. That is easy, because when this little beauty is blooming usually it is still raining. It blooms in early Spring to Late Spring. The blossoms are pink or white. Obviously it gets its name from the blossom.
Give this perennial a 10-10-10 mixture or time release in the spring. It is really incredibly easy to grow. But don't expect that it will bloom much longer than the spring. You may get foliage, but you wont get anything else in the heat of the summer. It just goes dormant, so watch that you don't dig it up. My Bleeding Hearts just continue to get bigger and bigger each year. And in their little spot in my garden, they are welcome to. If you dead head this plant, it will extend the life of the flowers.
The best way to propagate this plant is to divide it. Wait until it is well established, at least 3 years before you do. It will do some self sewing, but is really not invasive.

If you are trying to create a sweet English cottage looking garden, you cant go wrong with the Bleeding Heart...
Happy Planting

Echinacea, Cone Flower

What plant will do well in Full Hot Sun is drought tolerant, is purple & comes back every year? That four-part question is a common one at the Greenhouse. The Purple Cone Flower can answer yes to all three. I like the Cone Flower for several reasons. It has been very hardy in my yard. But there is something cool in my mind about growing Echinacea! Makes me feel earthy. Cone Flower is in the Daisy Family. It is a wild flower in the central United States. Great for any sunny garden, it is highly adaptable. That means it can be moved and bounce right back. Echinos is a Greek word, meaning hedgehog. I guess they named it that because the base of the plant is a little prickly. I have learned that it is the big black root that is used to make the pills & tea's that boost the immune system and fight infections. I think they make excellent cutting flowers, and they do attract butterflies and humming birds. Division or seed can achieve propagation. Obviously seed would be much easier. But the Cone Flower would love to be divided every 3 years.

Growing Guide- Cone Flower loves Sun, full Sun. It will tolerate a little shade. But if it has too much shade it will stay very small, yellow up and probley not make it through the winter. You may have to stake this plant. Those blossoms get big and top heavy after the plant has grown a few years. I use those small green bamboo sticks. They hide well, and the plant stands up very nice. This plant would never do well in standing water. The soil must drain. But it can stand much less frequent watering after the first or second year. My Cone Flower was small the first year, and then I moved it. It was small that next year because of the move, I am sure. But this last year it was huge. I loved every second of it. I use a time-release fertilizer in the spring. And if you keep Cone Flower dead headed, you will have regular prolonged blooming. One of the greatest things about this plant is it is long lived. It blooms and blooms. If you consider yourself a real "black thumb" try Echinacea when it is already started at the nursery. The only problem's that this plant has is with the starting out process. At the Greenhouse they have already tackled this problem for you. When you pick it up it will grow and be beautiful for years to come. Cone Flower comes in a variety of colors. So it can’t just be called Purple Cone Flower any longer! A White Variety is called Echinacea Purpurea 'White Swan'. But there are so many choices with Echinacea. Tall, Medium & Short. Purple, White and Pink.

Hope this gives you a reason to plant Echinacea. If not for the look of the plant, for your own well being. Hee hee
Happy Planting

Monday, April 27, 2009

Excuse my absence today....

I promise my post will be double amazing tomorrow.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Create your Beautiful Flower Pot

I love to teach this class. At the greenhouse, they call me a "Pot Head." Not the druggie kind. Duh. Actually this is the very reason I started loving gardening. I am going to show you a simple way to make the pot for your porch amazing!

First things first. Is your pot in the shade or in the sun? Obviously this is important. You can't put shade plants in the sun. Everyone should know that. But equally as important is you can't put full sun plants in the shade! Although I will admit that in central and southern Utah, sun can be brutal. And some plants that normally wouldn't take shade, will take a little in Utah.

Next, decide your color scheme. The guy I work for says that Mother Nature just throws out seeds and pays no regard to where they land. Obviously fields of wild flowers are beautiful. But here in the "Pot Head" world, things are a bit different. Pick your colors wisely. Last year I planted pink in all of my pots. Partly because my daughter was with me while I planted them, and she is a pink freak! I have never been a real pink girl. By July, I was already finding reasons not to go out and water my pots.

Once we have chosen shade/sun and colors, we are ready for action!
Fill your pot with "new" potting soil. Most nurseries, and even Wal-Mart will have something to purchase. I choose to support my local nursery. Fill your pot full to the top with dirt, then water it in. This is an important step. When you put water in the pot, the dirt sinks! Make sure that you water your pot well enough that water starts to drain from the bottom drainage holes. (You MUST have drainage holes unless you want an aquarium full of dead plants.) Finish filling and watering down until your dirt line is about an 1 1/2 to 2 inches from the top.

Shopping list for a regular 18 to 24-inch pot: (this will work for Hanging baskets as well)

dracina (spike)
asparagus fern
3 geraniums
1 ivy geranium
osteospurmum, coleus, angelonia or licorice vine

The above all work for Sun or Shade. But if in dense shade you could use a Tuberous Begonia in place of the Geranium, keeping the Ivy Geranium. Depending on color choices and shade vs. sun options I choose 4 to 6 of the following plants. On dialogue these plants are represented by a Purple Dot. This is your "color"

Some sort of Trailing Petunia, Supertunia or Wave (sun & shade, Not dense shade)
Biden's (sun)
Sunvatalia (sun)
Verbena (sun or shade)
Trailing Lobelia (sun as long as it isn't full sun, and shade)
Tapian (sun)
Tamarie (sun)
Euphorbia (Diamond Frost) (sun or shade)
Homestead (sun & is also a perennial)
Fan Flower (sun)
Fusia (only shade & hates wind)
Bacopa (shade)
Nemtia (shade)
Million Bells (shade)
Lantana (part sun or shade)

Some Proven winner vines that I love but either have no flower or insignificant flowering
Lamium (shade)
Sweet Potato Vines. Limey for Sun Black for Shade (I love these, wouldn't have a pot without)
English Ivy (shade)
Boston Ivy (both Ivy's come in variegated versions) (shade)

Then I add at least one 3 pack of vines (these ironically are mostly house plants)
These are your "Vines" represented on the dialogue as a light green/yellow dot.
Green Charlie (Sun)
Red Charlie (sun)
Yellow Charlie (sun)
Mary Jean Ivy (shade)
Archangel (my favorite) (sun or shade)
Wandering Jew (full sun)
Green Jew (sun or shade)
Bridal Vale (shade)
Creeping Jenny (sun or shade)

If you use the above recommendations, your pots could turn out like these below. We use the same plants and basic standard chart. Also if you feel like you have a big empty spot, fill it in with a simple vine or another color.

Now for taking care of the pots. If you put this much work into them, you might as well take good care of them. Here are some basic guidelines.

Keep evenly moist. Often in Utah that is daily watering. Pots in the sun will need more water than pots in the shade.

I apply a balanced fertilizer (10-10-10-)at least every two weeks. Fertilizer that completely dissolves in water is the easiest. (miracle grow, but I am not advertising) You can also use a time release fertilizer, but check the package for how often to use. Fertilizing is necessary because the nutrients are flushed through the soil through the constant watering.

Rotate Container
Your plant probably receives light more from one direction that the other, turn your pot frequently to avoid lopsided growth.

If you remove dead blossoms your plant will continue growing and giving more blossoms. If the dead flower remains, the plant is putting most of its energy into seeds rather than new blooms and foliage.

Trim Back
Some plants become "leggy" or get huge as the season progresses. You can trim back using sharp scissors or pruners. Cut the stem just above a leaf. You plant will be happier, and produce better foliage.

There are so many variations on pots. You need to find the plants that work for you. If you do or don't use this advise, I hope that it gets you excited to create a beautiful pot for you porch.
Happy Planting!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Rose of Sharon

This is the deal. You want this shrub! It is often overlooked because it gets such a late start. But hold onto your starburst, it's going to amaze you.Rose of Sharon is in the hibiscus syriacus family. (Althaea) What does all that mean? Nothing, except it makes me sound smart. Basically this shrub is a hibiscus! Just look at the flower blossom and you can tell. Like other types of hibiscus, Rose of Sharon's flowers bear a striking stamen (that tongue like thing in the center). Hibiscus plants look very tropical. I think many people assume that because of our Utah winters, Rose of Sharon wouldn't make it here. But don't be deceived! I have heard that some people make Rose of Sharon into a hedge. But it doesn't seem like a good idea to me. Because it is deciduous, it would only provide privacy from July to September. I have a Rose of Sharon "tree," and it has been through dorky deer, nasty winters and neglect. ("Tree" hibiscus really are just "shrub" hibiscus shaped into trees, but it does sound impressive, right?) If you want to try to make that "tree" Rose of Sharon, start the pruning process during its first two years in the ground. Rose of Sharon does great with pruning, so you can prune it to whatever shape you desire. Even Espalier. Look at the picture below. Isn't that wild? (The picture is of an apple tree, but you get the idea.)Growing Guide- This shrub wants sun. If it gets a moderate amount of shade it will look very spindly, yellow and either not bloom or bloom hardly at all. In the shade this shrub can get a fungal disease. The point: Don't put Rose of Sharon in the shade! After this shrub is established it is also fairly drought tolerant. It hates standing water, so your soil must drain well. It can tolerate slightly alkaline soil. (If you are concerned about that, comment me for information.) Honestly, you will love how easy this shrub is to grow. The only thing that bugs me about Rose of Sharon is when its blossoms drop. There are so many of them, they seem like litter. But I think the trade-off is well worth it. But watch out, Rose of Sharon can self sow--meaning that if the ground below it is fertile, the blossoms can grow little baby shrubs. Also, the flowers grow on "new wood." So do all of your pruning in the fall. It's biggest threats are aphids, but those are easily treated. I have also heard that Japanese beetles like Rose of Sharon, but I have not seen that myself. Nor have I heard it in Utah, yet. Once again, I use a simple time-release fertilizer on my Rose of Sharon once a month. Although one year I didn't do anything, and it did fine.
This is the color of my Rose of Sharon
One of the best things about Rose of Sharon is that it blooms for a very long time. It also has profuse blooming. You will be wowed at how many blooms will be on this shrub. It also blooms late into the fall. As other perennials, annuals, trees and shrubs are turning yellow and closing up for winter, Rose of Sharon will love the cool weather and continue to bloom. This shrub will attract butterflies and humming birds, which is a plus for me. In the spring, this shrub will be the last in your yard to get leaves. You will think it is dead! Don't give up on it. Mid-summer, Rose of Sharon will finally wake up ready for work, and stay later than the rest. Most Rose of Sharon bushes can get 8-10' tall and have a spread of 4-6'. Blossoms come in TONS of colors: white, red, lavender and light blue. Some even have double blooms. Most Rose of Sharon bushes have small, light green leaves.Have I talked you into it?

Cool Crop?

What is a cool crop? Should you plant one? The answers to these questions are simple. Yes! This is a fun and easy way to add muscle to your garden early. Everyone wants to plant just as soon as the spring sun shines, but the temperatures still say, no-no. Here are some vegetables that are crying out to you, plant me early...


Brussel Sprouts


Snow Peas





The list can go on. But these seem to be some of the most popular here in Utah. I have experience planting broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, onions, peas, and lettuce. I don't feel like I have the space for potatoes, I am not fond of beets, and I have just never tried brussel sprouts.

In the ground in my garden already, I have a row each of lettuce, peas and carrots. All of these I planted from seed. From the nursery, I purchased broccoli, cabbage and onion sets, and I also planted those. I think I may be a little late on a few of these plants. For instance, the peas should have gone in a little earlier.

Utah weather has been difficult this year. I am not necessarily referring to the snow. It is the overcast clouds that make it impossible for plants to germinate. If you noticed, last week while the snow was melting, steam was rising from the soil. The earth is warm.

Here are some simple instructions for starting your cool crop.

First you will need to get your soil worked well. Whether you do that with a shovel or a tiller, get the ground loose and easy to work. Hopefully you amended your soil last year when cleaned up the garden for the winter. If not, and if this is your first crop. I say go for it! Take you first step. It never hurts to learn. The only amending I would suggest is to clay soil. Clay is very hard on plants. I would say add some nutrimulch or utilite, so that your roots can grow.

If you are starting with seeds, you will need a furrow. Some people put one seed in each hole, but I do not have that kind of time, and not every seed will take hold. (Read the seed packet for germination rates, it may surprise you.) My dad taught me the long furrow way, and it works, so I am sticking to it. Next make a thin row of seeds in the furrow. Cover that over with dirt, and then add the mulch to the top of that. Simple! Seems silly to explain. If you have a very high rate of germination, just move along the row and "thin" the plants. This is especially helpful for carrots.

If you are starting with a plant, whether from the greenhouse or one you started yourself, (bravo! if you started it yourself) make sure the plant is hardened off. Dig your small holes in the pattern of your choice, then plant. Make sure to interrupt the root system. (also called scoring) If you do not, the roots will continue to grow in a circle and your vegetables will not grow very large. This is true of anything root-bound. Cover with dirt, tamp down softly and mulch! (Tamping insures that there is not excess air around the roots that will dry them out. But remember to only tamp gently.) Once again, simple.

Each of these different ways of planting your cool crop will require watering. For proper germination and growing, the soil will need to be warm and moist. But don't leave them in standing water. The seeds will rot and never germinate, or they will be very unhealthy.

If you have never grown a cool crop before, you may be asking yourself if it's really this easy. And yes, it really is. Here are a few extra steps you may want to take.

Some gardeners will put black plastic on the ground before they plant their cool crop, and then put it down after the plants are in the ground, making sure to cut holes where the plants will come through. This can surely give your plants a boost in this weather. The black plastic will heat the ground and add a little jump to whatever sun that does show up. It also inhibits weeds. That alone makes this step really worth it! I personally don't do this. Partly because I don't like plastic on the ground, especially in the heat of the summer, where it can heat the ground too much. Also, for me it is just another step, and I rarely have that much time.

I would really like to give a shout out to MULCH! This step is often forgotten, but is so important. Mulch will keep your plants moist and warm. And if you buy Nutrimulch, it will also fertilize. It breaks down and makes the soil good for this year and next. Most mulch can be purchased in bags or by the truckload. Don't forget your mulch.

Beware of the hard Utah frost! It happens and we all know it. Even with a cool crop, a hard Utah frost will kill them dead. If you hear of an oncoming frost, take these few steps. First, water. This is the "old farmer trick." Water all of your plants. Then carefully cover them with an old sheet. Never use plastic. If your plant is too tall for a sheet, put a tomato cage around it and pull an old pillow case over the cage. Remove the sheet the next morning, and they plants should be just fine.

I'm going to try something fun this year: worm casings! (Basically worm poop.) Yeah! Doesn't that sound horrible? I am totally excited. I found some people in West Mountain that actually sell worm casings. I am going to go over to purchase a big bucket full. I have heard that if you plant it in each hole, your plants will really take off.

I really hope that everyone will take this opportunity to get some cool crop planted this year. This week! I will spend a bit of time over the next few weeks going over the individual needs of each plant. If you have questions about any one plant in particular, please leave me a comment. If you have different experiences than I have had, please do share.
Happy planting!