13 March 2018

Propagating House Plants with helpful links and photos

The Iowa State University Extension posted a good article on propagating house plants this week. Here is the link.

Air layering Ficus
They start the article with weeping fig, rubber tree and other Ficus family members. The recommended method is air layering which is a process of girdling a plant stem in order to encourage new roots along the stem at the point of injury.

The photo is from a Yugoslavian wikimedia post. Garden of Eaden says they propagate these plants by air layering: magnolia, hazel, cotinus, cornus, acer, beech, camellia, chaenomeles, daphne, ficus, forsythia, hamamelis, hornbeam, jasmine, philodendron, rhododendron, azalea, lilac and viburnum.

Next, the article covers dieffenbachia, Chinese evergreen and corn plant propagation by cane or stem cuttings.

University of Georgia
And, one that so many of us have done in our house gardening experiments, propagating African violets from a leaf. (Also my frequently-used method of propagating begonias.)

Cut a healthy leaf with an inch of stem attached. Plant it in sand, vermiculite, perlite, peat moss; moisten and firm. Cover with plastic and place in bright spot. Roots appear in a month.

Rooting Christmas cactus sections
Their next section: Mother-in-law tongue plants are so easy to propagate! I sliced one leaf into cuttings and put them into moist vermiculite and in a couple of months there were roots. Use rooting hormone to help ensure success. When you cut off that leaf, note the end that is closest to the plant's root - that's what will root for you.

Last, they cover how to make more Christmas cactus from section cuttings. It's important to let cacti callus before planting the pieces. Otherwise they rot in the moist perlite. Other gardeners have luck putting the pieces in water and waiting for roots.

The University of California at Davis compiled a Rooting Database with information from around the country. You can search by genus and cultivar. It is a great resource.

Have fun, take more cuttings, make more cuts, share more plants. Soon we'll be able to be outside and won't have any time for house plants. Several links in this article lead to information on propagating with soft wood cuttings from your favorite perennials in the summer.

08 March 2018

Downy Serviceberry native shrub is Amelanchier arborea

Downy Serviceberry
The Arkansas Native Plant Society sends a monthly email to subscribers who are interested in native plants. Downy Serviceberry was the topic of the Feb 28 2018 newsletter. At the link, look right and you'll see the sign-up box. I read 80% of them since I'm always on the lookout for an education on native plants for our area and ONPS doesn't have anything like this. 

With branching and suckers they reach 15 by 15 feet in part-shade. Fall color and scented flowers. Bird habitat.

"Downy serviceberry, a deciduous tree to large shrub (referred to as “tree” herein), tends to have several trunks of varying size and, when younger, may sprout nearby suckers. 
Mature trees in full sun have a thickly branched, rounded crown, while those in shadier understories tend to be tall with irregular branching. An average size large tree is 15 to 25 feet tall (state champion tree is 44 feet tall). 
Branches tend to diverge from the parent branch at a sharp upward angle. Spring twigs, green and covered with long white hairs, grow from previous year’s brown to purplish, glabrous stems. Older twigs are smooth with white lenticels scattered about the ash-gray slender branches. Younger portions of trunks are smooth with splotches of grays and whites on a light gray background. Older trunks are a dark gray with shallow fissures."

"Downy serviceberry is the most widespread species of the genus in North America, found throughout the eastern U.S. from Texas to Minnesota and thence east and south to the Atlantic and Gulf coasts. Common names include common serviceberry, sarvisberry, sarvis, shadbush and Juneberry.

Habitats of downy serviceberry include dry to mesic, well-drained ,upland woodlands and forests, in full to partial sun light. It is especially common on ridgetops and rocky slopes. It often occurs as an understory tree among various hardwoods and pine. Downy serviceberry readily hybridizes with other Amelanchier species where ranges overlap. 
Shad-Blow in Bloom Crosstimber Naturalist
Easy to grow but is not reliable under high stress conditions.  No serious disease problems; occasional insect problems.  Root suckers need to be removed to avoid a shrubby growth.  Rarely requires pruning.

This species is often sold in the nursery trade as Amelanchier canadensis which is in fact a separate species.  Many cultivars are available commercially.  

TN Nursery sells them 5 for $43. For free shipping enter the code FREESHIP

03 March 2018

Budget Wise Gardener by Kerry Ann Mendez

The Budget Wise Gardener has just been released by St.Lynn's Press in time for spring garden planning. It's a great little book that you will probably enjoy reading as much as I did. It's equally good for gift giving (think house warming, new gardener, birthdays, etc.). 

The author, Kerry Ann Mendez is well-known in the gardening and garden writer community. The book's recommendations come from luminaries such as Joe Lamp'l, Tovah Martin, Allan Armitage and Adrian Bloom.

Mendez gardens and consults in Maine so her plant recommendations are primarily for that part of the world (zone 5) and can, for the most part, do well in our zone 7 humid climate.

Oakleaf Hydrangea
As indicated by the title, the premise of this book is having a great garden that is easy on your budget. For example, when you are shopping for perennial plants, look for them early in the spring so you can buy the ones that the nursery grew over the winter and therefore have larger root systems.

Also, buy perennials in the larger container size and divide them before planting. Another other tip is to look for containers that have several smaller plants in them so you can take them apart at home.

Short-lived perennials should be purchased in small containers or started from seed. These include blackberry lily (3 years in my garden), flax, columbine and Iceland poppy.
Any time you are planting a favorite, include early, mid and late season varieties. We've done this with daffodils and have 3 months of flowers as a result. Other plants that offer that kind of variety: Allium, Astilbe, Daylily, Iris, Peony and Phlox.

Gravel Garden
Mendez has ideas on how to improve your soil, minimize water use, find inexpensive containers, design, plant selection, and color. In the plant selection arena she covers vines, annuals, ground covers, meadows, rock gardens, and living rugs.

You get hundreds of tips in this little volume. It is well-written, a pleasure to explore and downright helpful, which I don't say about many gardening books.

Kerry Ann Mendez is the owner of Perennially Yours and her gardens have been featured in garden and lifestyle magazines, newspapers, radio and television shows. Mendez’s other books include The Right-Size Flower Garden. Mendez gives over 25 workshops and webinars, and as many 70 talks a year. She is the founder of the annual Great Gardens and Landscaping Symposiums at the Equinox Resort in Vermont, and recently hosted 6 national webinars for Horticulture magazine. www.pyours.com. She resides in Kennebunk, Maine.

The book is $19.95 from the publisher and $16 at online vendors. 176 pages, 8 by 8 hardback.

25 February 2018

Vegetable Seed Planting Outside Now

Red Russian Kale
Today I planted a row of Red Russian Kale seeds in the ground.

Reminder: It's time to get all your cabbage and cool family seeds and plants started outside. That includes broccoli, cabbage, carrot, cauliflower, chard, kohlrabi, onion, leek, lettuce, peas, potatoes,parsnip, radish, spinach, turnip, asparagus crowns, etc.

Here's a link to the Oklahoma State University planting guide. Click over and have some fun in this glorious warm-ish late winter we are having.

Lacinato (Dinosaur) Kale
Our two favorite kales for garden and table are Red Russian and Dinosaur. They are both wonderful in salads and cooked.

After a two year break, vegetable plants are showing up again in our gardens; I only bought Red Russian seeds this year in order to re-enter the veggie growing bit gradually.

Cucumbers are a must, of course, but it's too early to start those seeds.

We'll buy a six pack of banana peppers and I'm undecided about tomatoes but there's plenty of time to think about those picky plants. Some things are easier to just buy from other gardeners who set up stands around town.

21 February 2018

Mulch - What, Why, When, How

Back Yard Boss has a great summary of what we need to know about mulch. Bark, rubber, leaves, glass, lava rock, red mulch - it's all covered in one single resource.

Here's the link https://www.backyardboss.net/what-is-mulch/

15 February 2018

Seeds from Italy Grow Italian 2018

Grow Italian is one of my favorite seed catalogs. The company is actually called Seeds from Italy but it doesn't matter. If you enjoy growing vegetables this is one resource that you will treasure. 

Seeds from Italy offers kitchen and garden gear, 500 varieties of heirloom Italian vegetables, flowers and herbs.

Started in 2001 by Bill McKay, Seeds from Italy was born because McKay couldn't find the Italian vegetable varieties he wanted to grow.

By luck, he happened upon Franchi Seeds, Italy's oldest family-owned seed company, which offers an extensive selection of traditional Italian varieties. Franchi didn't have an agent in the U.S., so Bill started importing the seeds and reselling them. 

In 2011, Bill sold the business to Dan Nagengast, a long-time market gardener in Lawrence, Kansas. In addition to growing vegetables and flowers for local markets, Dan was director of the Kansas Rural Center, a nonprofit that advocates for sustainable agriculture and family farms. The Lawrence Journal World wrote about Dan taking over the business and posted a video interview that you can watch here.

Dan is married to Lynn Byczynski, the founder of Growing for Market, a national periodical for market farmers, and the author of several farming and gardening books, including The Flower Farmer: An Organic Grower's Guide to Raising and Selling Cut Flowers. The couple's adult children, Will and Laurel, also work in the business. 

With all that said, the reason I buy from this company is because the packages of seed are large enough to share, the germination rate is the best I've found and the varieties are terrific.

For example, a pack of long, Italian, cucumbers (Lungo Verde Ortolani) is $3.50 for 150 seeds. The thin-skin Mideastern cucumber (Beth Alpha) is also 150 seeds for $3.50.

I bought their leek seeds one year and they were quite productive. Each year I left two plants to go to flower and those seeds gave us five years of leeks for the kitchen.

The vegetable names are in Italian and English, the online catalog is searchable and there is plenty of growing advice. Just go to http://www.growitalian.com/2018-catalog/ and browse around. It's a delightful experience. 

I always request a print catalog to savor with hot tea while deciding which repeat selections I'll get and what I'll add to my order to experiment with.

New this year, they are offering purple carrot, Marvel of Italy pea, trio of bush beans - go check them out.

09 February 2018

St. John's Wort with Ornamental Fruit

Hypericum inodorum
Hypearl Compact Red48" tall
Plant Delights Nursery posted on their blog recently about a new St. John's Wort with Ornamental Fruit, Hypericum inodorum Hypearl Compact Red. It is really beautiful! 

It's one of the hundreds of interesting selections in this year's catalog from plantsman Tony Avent and his crew at PD Nursery.

Tony said the hardiness range is 6a to 9b so we are just barely safe to plant it but with winter protection ... . 

Several years ago I received a garden writer sample plant of Hypericum Hypearls Renu from Blooms of Bressingham and it is thriving seven years later in part shade. 

Just in case you were planning to go looking for Blooms of Bressingham they now call themselves Must Have Perennials (wholesale) and rozanne and friends (retail).

Hypericum, St. John's Wort, in general, is considered a butterfly attracting plant and there are many varieties.

Common St. John's Wort, Hypericum calycinum, has a bad reputation for being quite invasive from Canada to Texas.

Hypearls Renu
At the Mt. Cuba Center in Delaware, they planted St. John's Wort in a dry rock garden setting and let it grow. It is very drought tolerant once established.

The species St. John’s wort (Hypericum spp.) is also recommended as a part-shade ground cover for our zone by Gardening Know How.

Plant Delights Nursery online catalog says, 
"Just exactly who is St. John, and why does he have worts? "Botanically speaking, 'wort' is an old English word meaning 'plant', not a skin disorder. Hypericum is a genus of perennial wildflowers that has been associated with John the Apostle for hundreds of years because it blooms on or around the Feast of St. John in midsummer.
In the Middle Ages, Europeans believed that hypericum possessed magic powers and would hang it around their houses for protection from witches and evil spirits. Prior to that, the Druids of pre-Christian Europe and the ancient Greeks also worshipped hypericum because its large yellow flowers symbolized the sun and its bounties. Even today, hypericum extract is a popular medicine to treat depression and other medical disorders, certainly the modern equivalent of being haunted by evil spirits, although that's not why we sell it.
We grow hypericum because it is a great landscape plant that attracts butterflies. It produces hundreds of yellow flowers during the summer months and it is extremely tough. Many hypericums are drought-tolerent, tolerate a wide range of soil types and grow well in full or part sun. When you are ready to buy hypericum for your perennial garden, we hope you'll check out our online offering of hypericum for sale. It is worth noting that some species are North Carolina native plants."

07 February 2018

Orchid Enthusiasts Meet Sat Feb 17

Here's a great opportunity to learn about Orchids from Cathy and Steve Marak. The Maraks are enthusiastic about orchids and give great presentations.

What Is It About Orchids?  At the February 17 meeting of Flower, Garden & Nature Society of Northwest Arkansas hear two orchid enthusiasts, Cathy and Steve Marak, as they talk about their collection of hundreds of orchids.  Both Cathy and Steve have held offices in the Orchid Society of the Ozarks (Steve is the current president.), and they are co-chairing the 8th Annual Orchids in the Garden Show and Sale.  That event will occur March 2, 3, & 4 this year.  

Meet Saturday, Feb. 17, in the Student Center of Northwest Technical Institute at 709 S. Old Missouri Road in Springdale at 9:30 a.m. for social time and the meeting at 10:00.  Membership is not required for first-time visitors.  Info:  479-466-8100 or 479-466-7265.

29 January 2018

Shrubs Prune and Rejuvenate

15-feet tall Burford Holly shrubs
This is an ideal time of year to prune shrubs either to reshape, clean up or completely rejuvenate them.

Rejuvenation or renovation pruning can mean taking shrubs completely to the ground or just above the ground. When done to healthy shrubs, they will quickly grow from the stump and via new stems.

The Burford Holly shrubs in front of our house began as one-gallon container size from Lowe's. They were precisely planted the same distance apart and allowed to grow there with minimal trimming for 16 years. Now they are 15-feet tall and 20-feet wide.

 Since they are evergreen, they are a great privacy screen from the dog walkers, bicycle walkers, cars and pedestrians. In addition, I can sit on the screened front porch in privacy. However, they've reached a point where they have to be rejuvenated: They are too big for their space, too tall to top prune and have almost leaves inside their woody structure.

Not all shrubs are amenable to this hard a cutting so pruning back by one-third or one-half is quite a bit safer. Shrubs that have lots of twigs and stems are likely candidates. These include Burford Holly, Dogwood and Viburnum. Junipers will not re-grow from that dead center; they must be removed and replaced.

Older shrubs that have not been pruned in several years become poorly shaped and have quite a bit of bare wood inside. Cutting them back hard, focusing on the older stems and branches for removal, makes the entire shrub younger with newer branching.

Alden Lane - January pruning
One way to go about the process is to remove one-third to one-half of the growth late-winter and then finish the pruning and shaping when new growth begins in the spring. We're removing a bit less than half of the green branching, all the dead and damaged branches and most of the crossing branches.

After removing dead, broken and diseased limbs, remove crossing branches. All cuts should be made just outside a swollen branch collar, leaf or leaf bud.

Avoid damaging the bark: Don't wiggle the pruning tool, use tools with sharp blades and use the right size pruner. Never leave a stub - see bottom center illustration on right.

One of the goals of pruning is to allow sun to filter into the center of the shrub so new growth can be forced away from the outer edges. On our mature shrubs there is as much as 3 or 4 feet of bare branch inside with a foot or two of green growth at the end of the branch.

Rose pruning El Paso Master Gardeners
Rose pruning is a different topic but the illustration is helpful to indicating what and where to make cuts when you are dramatically reducing the size of a shrub.

Pruning outside and inside, top and bottom, carefully selecting what to remove and precisely where. I always look for an outward facing branch or leaf node so the next growth faces outside the shrub and toward the light.

Pruning Flowering Shrubs - Rutgers University
It's so important to cut at the right place and at the correct angle. A bunch of wrong cuts will leave you with a shrub that will not re-grow. Here's another chart that illustrates the best practises.

Stand back and look at the shrub frequently during the process. Walk away, get a drink of water, come back and reassess what you are doing. I never just keep cutting. I step back, walk away, look at it from a distance and then resume the shaping process.

Heading back cuts branches at a bud. Thinning removes an entire branch at its origin, whether that's  the ground or a larger branch. No matter what you've been told in the past, it is no longer considered wise to dress the cut surfaces with anything - sealer, paint.

Now sunlight can go into the center of
our Burford Holly shrubs to encourage
new growth inside.
If you are pruning a spring flowering shrub, remember 'prune after bloom' is usually safe, though there are exceptions. Spring flowering shrubs bloom on last year's growth so pruning early removes the flowers.

Summer flowering shrubs bloom on new growth so they are pruned now before spring growth has begun.

Summer-flowering shrubs (prune before spring growth begins)
Botanical NameCommon Name
Abeliaglossy abelia
Buddleiabutterfly bush
CeanothusJersey tea
Hibiscusrose of Sharon
Hydrangea macropyllabigleaf hydrangea
HypericumSt. Johnswort
Rosa spp.rose
Spiraea x bumaldaWaterer spirea
Vitexchaste tree

23 January 2018

Beefsteak Begonia Propagate Stem Cuttings

Beefsteak Begonia
Every two years Beefsteak Begonias, Begonia erythrophylla, benefit from being pruned and propagated. This is a very easy plant to take care of and the worst you can do to it is to keep a water filled saucer under it. These plants enjoy being dry.

In two years, the stems become long and move out over the edge of the pot, making the plant's mass too large for most environments.

Ours live on the screened front porch in the summer which has a western exposure. In the cold months, they live under full spectrum lights in the living room. 
They flower their hears out in either location, adding delicate pink bouquets wherever they are growing.

My original, single, leaf came from a leaf I plucked from an office dweller's plant that was 4 feet across and hung 3 feet down on those long stems. I grew that plant in a clear plastic to go box on moist vermiculite.

The stem you'll prune is the leggy part that has dropped its leaves. Make 4 to 6 inch long cuttings, cutting stems just below a bud or leaf junction. Don't leave any stem below the bud.
Mini greenhouse
MO Botanical Garden
Remove any lower leaves, allowing the cutting a few leaves at the top that will be above the soil. Also remove any remaining flowers or flower buds.

Use a pencil to make a hole in a container filled with moistened and drained sterile potting mix. If you are using rooting hormone powder or liquid, put some in a container and dip the bottom of the cutting, shaking off any extra. Place the cutting into the pre-made hole. Several cuttings can be put into the same container, using this process. I've put as many as 6 in a re-purposed salad mix box. 

To keep the container and its contents moist, create a greenhouse by putting the entire project into a clear plastic bag. Fill the bag with air to keep the leaves away from the sides of the bag. 

Brad's Begonia World
For the longer stems, just cut them into two-inch sections. No leaves are needed for this method. Follow the illustration on the left, putting less that half of the rhizome into the moist soil.
Rhizomes are fleshy and will simply rot if they are planted too deep or kept too wet.

I'm off to propagate! Good gardening.

According to Emily Compost, "Beefsteak Begonia was first named in 1670 by Charles Plumier in Santo Domingo after his sponsor Michel Begon, but begonias have been found growing in moderate temperatures all over the world. I don't know from what indigenous country Beefsteak originated or got its common name but it is a meaty begonia, rare, thick and red underneath, and substantial enough to feed a plant lover's hunger for many years. Of all my plants, this dear begonia is the one to curl up with at night with a good book.
This is a begonia that Ashley Wilkes would have given to Melanie before he went off to war in "Gone with the Wind". Its stoic ability to survive and thrive despite all odds is unparalleled and thus it comes with a history of being a plant that has been successfully passed down through generations of families. Today we call it an old fashioned variety of begonia bearing memories of its unusual, shiny "lily pads" on grandmother's windowsill. Or we remember the parlor palm next to the long fronded fern near the window with "that pancake plant".