Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Need Help Picking Trees?

This website helps gardeners select trees for USDA zones 2-7. A co-operative work between btween Univ. of Fla., Rutgers Univ. and USDA Forest Service.

There's a ton of info on this site about trees and soils, etc etc. And pictures! Let's hear it for pictures!

There's also a link for trees suitable for Zones 8-11. Up here in Canada, we call these indoor plants.

Growing Good Kids Excellence in Children's Lit Award

Here are 5 books that just won Growing Good Kid's Literary Awards. Note these are gardening books and the award is given by the American Horticultural Society.

**Earth Mother by Ellen Jackson (Walker Books for Young Readers)
**Leaf Man by Lois Ehlert (Harcourt Children’s Books)
**Miss Ladybird’s Wildflowers by Kathi Appelt HarperCollins)
**Our Apple Tree by Görel Kristina Näslund (Roaring Brook Press)
**The Tree Farmer by Chuck Leavell and Nicholas Cravotta (VSP Books)

The “Growing Good Kids” book award program was developed jointly by the National Junior Master Gardener (JMG) program of Texas Cooperative Extension, part of the Texas A & M University System; and the American Horticultural Society (AHS), a non-profit educational organization based in Alexandria, Virginia. The award program debuted last year with a list of 40 “Classic” children’s gardening and nature books published in the last century.

Check 'em out.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Banana tree growing well - thank you for asking

hardy banana musa basjoo
Yes, this is a hardy banana tree - Musa basjoo - growing in the front garden. The darn thing got a tad too big for the sunporch last spring so I tossed it outside this summer (after frost) to see what would become of it.

It has survived quite nicely with only two waterings this summer in a miserable soil that is somewhere between terrible and ungrowable. I mulched it with wood chips and told it to do its own thing out there.

So it has. It has even produced a few pups at the base.

But I'm not likely to propagate it this fall as I have enough to do - I'm going to let 'er go and do its own thing.

This banana tree is supposedly rated as a zone 4-5 so (in theory anyway) it is hardy in my garden (more or less 9 years out of 10 with a margin of error of 50%)

In short. Maybe.

We'll see next spring if it comes back.

If it does, it won't have bananas or if it does, you can't eat them because they're small and fibrous.

So why am I growing it. (the official answer)


And that's enough of a reason to grow anything in the garden.

But if I were being honest - I'd say because I want to and because nobody else around here has one. (insert big sound of gardener laughing at himself).

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Garden Blogging Pioneers

If you have any thoughts about garden blogging or have been doing it for some time - this is a fascinating insight into the folks that have been garden blogging for the longest time (over 4 years).

If you're close to this or even want to see how the early adopter pioneers of this writing genre got started, then do go to Kathy Purdy's website and check out the conversation. I also note that Kathy's blog is about cold weather gardening and has a bunch of other blogging resources mentioned. A great resource!

This article series won't help you become a better gardener but it will give you some insight into how those of us who write about gardening issues deal with the technology as we pursue both our love of the garden and our insatiable need to share that love.

This gets a great Doug #1-rating.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Country Livin'

This is the blog of two of my best friends. Now, these folks live somewhere back of the great beyond. In fact, civilization stops about a mile up the road when the power grid and telephone lines end. (I kid you not about this)

This place is so far out - you can't get there from here.

But they live there anyway - escapees from the great city beyond the clean air. And they're super friends and super people.

Telling stories about living where they do.

There used to be more of us to hang out there but the other person was picked up by mosquitoes one spring and was never heard from again.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

This isn't soil - it's concrete

I started (finally) digging the garden and nursery beds for next year. The picture shows what kind of "soil" I have in this area - a mix of gravel and clay commonly referred to as concrete in most building projects. This clay layer is sitting on top of a layer of hard packed gravel so I think I've disovered a building site or area where gravel was put while waiting to fill the septic system or ??? and then filled over with clay.

My back was fine after this exercise but my shovel developed a crack from prying the soil apart. I kid you not - it wasn't digging, it was prying to get these chunks apart. I whacked them into smaller bits and added 4 cu.ft of compressed peatmoss to this 8-foot section of garden. It looks like a ton of compost and compost tea is going to have to be used here to get this soil going properly.

This was to be the home of some new cuttings and woody plants I want to overwinter in a small nursery bed but I don't know. I think I 'll keep on digging and get a few more dug and see if I can find something resembling soil rather than building material.

And I'll leave this bed alone for the winter - to give winter frosts a chance to break up the clods and next spring I'll work in compost and a touch of sand to permanently loosen it up. I'll get this soil right yet given that it is the base for a really good garden.

And I'll smile about all this work in another 5 years when I look back on it.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Coneflower in the Sunrise

This is another of the wonderful light in the morning shots. There's a few things that will get in the way of this series. I'm enjoying sleeping in too much now that cooler temperatures have returned. Many of the bigger perennials are finishing off and because I moved the garden this spring, there are a lot of plants that will hold off blooming until next year. I do have one Kirengeshoma that has been teasing me with its fat buds for several weeks now but after that, I think I'll be on second flush roses and some other things I've already done.

What this garden needs is more variety and I'm working on that. Got a few more perennials today from Darwin and I'm looking forward to seeing how they grow. One of the delights in this business is being able to trial new plants and see how and if they grow in my garden.

In any case, this Echinacea or Coneflower has been blooming for well over a month now and is impressing me all to heck. The yellow colour in the morning is amazing - from early light it simply shines. And later in the day, the yellow deepens and becomes rather translucent.

I'd recommend this plant for your garden without reservation. It is available through most good garden centers. Look for Echinacea 'Sunrise'.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Funny and Sad at the same time

OK -so I read this before my coffee hit bottom this morning and I confess it struck me as kinda funny. Seems we need a legal conference on the right to garden - garden public policy as it were.

The objective of the conference is, "Drake University's Agricultural Law Center will host a two-day conference to examine how public policy can be used to promote opportunities for individuals and communities to garden."

What does it say about our society when we need to have a law school or public policy promoting gardening.

My gawd people.

I can understand how we might need some public policy to get communities to create public gardens.

But it speaks volumes to the society we live in that we need a public policy to promote our own ability to garden in our own space. That somebody would want to "unpromote" our ability to do this.

Given the restrictions in some housing areas on what you can and can't do with your garden (no native gardens instead of lawns etc) maybe we need a "law" telling us we can garden. Great law! Great attitude!

How absolutely sad.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

More light in the garden

perennial hibiscus
Light comes into our garden and gives us a pattern in the smallest ways. I confess I often find these moments of light when I'm looking at flowers through the camera lens. (I sometimes think I've spent way too many years writing about flowers instead of just living with them.)

But in any case, the light on this hibiscus was quite magical and the digital camera almost captured it.

It got the light - but it missed the magic.

So the main question is - how do we capture the magic in the light if not by camera?

Friday, August 18, 2006

Cottage Garden Plant Combination

cottage garden combination
You know you really do have to take the bull by the horns (or is that shooting the bull?) and go bold or go home every now and then.

This dwarf hollyhock (the purple "thing" - I can't tell you its name or I'd have to kill you) is paired up (quite accidentally) with a yellow glad.

Now the glad came in a mix and there were only 2 yellow (the majority were white - so much for a mix)

The Hollyhock is a new introduction I have on trial - and I knew it was purple - I just didn't know it was that bright! purple.

So when the hollyhock met the glad last week, I knew I had to take a picture.

And that's how plant combinations sometimes happen in the cottage garden design - serendipity or as my grandfather would have said - "by chance or by gawd".

Both for good and for bad and I wouldn't have it any other way.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Only Canadians will "get" this

This is non-gardening stuff but hilarious Rick Mercer segments

And if you have to ask who Rick Mercer is ...

There's several segments up there.

Here's to our national igloo!

p.s. who ever said that this had to be all about gardening anyway?

Any flower this big has to be fun

perennial hibiscus
Any flower this big has to be a fun thing in the garden. I don't say you can take this kind of blowsy flower seriously because it's a big, gangly plant with ginormous blooms. But it's a blast to see it unfold these blooms in the early morning and wonder at how nature could have ever put together something so preposterous as to be called a Hibiscus.

And the fun thing is that this is perfectly hardy into USDA zone 4. If you've not grown them before, here's how to grow 'em.

Just be aware that every time you see a flower like this, you'll put a grin on your face because you won't believe you grew it outdoors.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Eat Your War Paint

OK - given my mom was born in Scotland, I feel some kindred spirit for all those celtic warriors taking on the Romans. And now - here's a BBC report on the woad plant - (that's the one that makes an excellent blue dye). Turns out it also has potent anti-cancer properties similar to broccoli and other cole crops.

But the good news is that it has 20 times more glucobrassicin (the active ingredient) than broccoli.

So I guess that means we can paint our faces blue and get some anti-cancer treatment at the same time.

Darn, those auld canny Scots were smart folk!

Monday, August 14, 2006

Pets in the Garden - Free Ebook

One of the delights in this garden writing business is meeting other gardeners and other writers. One of the people I have a great respect for in this industry is Pat Stone, the editor of Green Prints Magazine

Pat and I have put together an ebook that features some of the articles from Green Prints and some articles I wrote. We've called it Pets and Plants because the stories are about... well... Pets and Plants.

Pat's stories from are wonderful stories from his magazine about the human side of gardening - and specifically Pets in the garden. In fact, Green Prints is a magazine that focusses on the human stories in gardening and is one magazine I read from cover to cover every time it appears in my mailbox. My stories are more how-to types.

It is free and it is yours to download.

And after you read it - I'm sure you'll want to get your own subscription to the magazine.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Borrowed views in the garden

One of the things that garden designers talk about all the time is "borrowed view" in the garden. You "borrow" your neighbour's backyard - you borrow the garden flowers behind your property, you build a fence with small openings to tempt the eye to follow between the spaces to the "borrowed view" next door.

You make your own space larger by "borrowing" the view outside your own garden - outside your own property.

This is my borrowed view last night. (insert big grin here)

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Ant Control ? Need Your Help

OK - here's the deal. I got a note from a friend telling me to use aspertame (nutrasweet etc) because it was a terrific ant poison. When I researched it on the net, I found tons of info but all coming from the same single source. Writers and blog posters picked up the information from a single posting and then copied it - as truth - and we have a wall of information based on this single report.

I'd like you to try using aspertame in powdered form on your ant problems - both fire ant and household ant.

Apparently, making sure the powder is barely wet helps with fire ants but household ants will take it dry. I suspect you'd have to experiment to figure all this out. You might have to mix it with something to get it soluble but not seeping away and then put it on some tin foil to keep it in a liquid form.

Please do not send me a webpage with this information - I've seen most of them already - some 90 pages deep into google.

Please don't send me a note saying you "heard" about it somewhere.

Please DO send me the results of your own experiments. I'll post your results here.

Let's see if we can make a group practical experiment. Or not.

If you have a blog - let me invite you -to invite your readers to do their own experiments and pass the info along.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Muir Wood

California Redwood
Last week I took a trip to California and found myself in Muir Wood. This is one of the last virgin stands of redwood left standing and I confess I was well and truly awed by the immensity of these trees.

We're not only talking immense tree structures, we're also talking about massive energy systems and extensive root spread.

Naturally, I took a rather good look at the trees - and I want to make a few points.

1) The pathway between the trees is paved with asphalt - in my mind a disconnect between the trees, what they stand for and the society that paves a nature walk. This paving is second only to the "nature trail" on the east coast outer islands that is wide enough to drive a car on - and at times of the day this is done. Drive a car on a nature trail! Pave a forest! What mentality is this?

2)Every tree within reach (there is a small rail fence) has scuffed bark. It is not enough for people to see these trees, they must touch them (understandable). Thousands of hands every day touch each tree - the bark is shredded everywhere it can be reached.

3) Signs are everywhere saying "stay on the path!". People everywhere are ignoring the signs and jumping over the rail fence - mostly to take a picture.

4) The energy systems in these trees is slow, old and deep. Very impressive and something I had never felt before.

5) I weep for this destroyed ecology. I'm sure these forest giants made great pencils. And I can only wonder at how a society can be so ruthless and uncaring that it would leave only a small dot - a tip of a pencil - of these plants.

6) We deserve whatever nature visits upon us.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

I come home to this

tomato hornworm
I spent last week in California doing some photography and touring - I came home to this critter (tomato hornworm) and darn near no remaining tomato foliage. Ah well, it was a good trip and I'm home safely. What's a few tomatoes anyway?

Having said that - I stomped over 20 of them last night and this morning. No fuss, no muss, no chemicals - just pick 'em off the vines (they feel like smooth leather) and stomp them. If you're a bit squeamish, I note you can wear gloves, cover them with a bit of soil before you stomp or drown them in a bucket of water. All quicker, cheaper and more environmentally friendly than nuking with some chemical.

And I'm sure that after I get another cup of coffee into me, I'll be able to find more out there. Oh joy!