Wednesday, June 27, 2012

A Little Bit of Earth

L packed her planter box

Twice a year my granddaughters E L K get to plant their own little garden in a garden box.  In the fall they do pansies that winter over and do great in the spring.  

The droopy African Marigolds are fine now

When they come in the summer they get to choose their own plants. They get to learn about proper planting and watering (at least that's the general idea). 

K likes to supervise, doesn't like dirt on her hands.

We've had quite an assortment over the last few years - tomatoes, zucchini, lots of pinks and reds.  I send them pictures to update them on the progress of their gardens.  

E went with a minimalist look with lots of textures.
L's African Marigold is fine now, just needed water and good soil.
K is quite proud of all 'her' work.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Childhood Rite of Passage

 Lemonade stands seem to be a rite of passage for children.  My granddaughters E and L have been planning one for a few months now.  They finally had their chance last Saturday.  Youngest sister K also joined in and they had a ball.  Many thanks go out to good neighbors and friends who generously tipped the little business owners.  They made up their own jingles and were great hawkers, even persuading the mail carrier to have a nice drink of 'ice-cold lemonade with real lemons'.


Monday, June 18, 2012

A Few of My Favorite Things

I brought our daughter and granddaughters (E.L.K.) back to Albuquerque to get out of some of the Arizona heat for a few weeks.  Very understanding SiL (son-in-law) is great about letting us have them for a long time and will join us for a few days in July.  So I took some pictures of some of my favorite plants to share with you for inspiration while I am busy adjusting to the chaos.

Whirling Butterflies
This is gaura also known as apple-blossom grass or my favorite name whirling butterfliesThis is a perennial, which means it will come back year after year, and comes in several colors now.  White, light pink through dark pink.  It blooms continually spring through late summer.  Its light and airy which allows other plants to be put in around it.  In this picture I have some purple drumstick allium coming up through the gaura.   Once established it handles our dry hot weather really well.

Check the variety you are interested in to find out how tall it grows.  Whirling butterflies will often reseed itself and it's best to move it when small since it later develops a tap root which makes transplanting difficult.  Don't cut it down in the fall but let it winter over all messy and scraggly - this will protect the crown.  Clean it up in the spring and it will be ready to grow again.

Coral Bells

One plant variety that gives a cottage feel to the garden is heuchera also known as coral bells.  There are lots of varieties and they are mainly planted for the leaf colors and shapes.  I have some in my garden that came from my Mom's garden in Utah.  They are slow growers but can be divided and are also perennials.  I like the little flower stalks with their bell-like flowers and so do hummingbirds. 
Some of the varieties have really cool foliage and the blooms are rather boring.  Always read the label to see what you are getting.  Although mainly a shade to partial shade plant there are plenty of types that do well in the sun.  I have a number of them in my sunniest beds.  They like to be mulched well in the winter time and sometimes have to be replanted in the spring because they have a tendency to grow up out of the soil. 
Autumn Joy Sedum

This is an easy plant to have around:  Autumn Joy SedumTechnically it's not a sedum according to the botanists, but we call it that anywayAutumn Joy has a fun shape and is perennial also.  Pinch it back from late spring until July 24 and it will gladly give you tons of blooms in the fall. The blooms start out looking like broccoli and then become dusty-red darkening into a bronze in the fall.  I leave the heads on all winter and the birds enjoy picking them in the winter.  There are a lot of sedums to choose from and they can all be propagated by cutting off a stem with several leaves and sticking it in the ground - easy peasy.  In fact, one year my Mom had tons of them growing in her compost pile where she had tossed away some cuttings earlier in the year!

Chocolate Flower
Here's a fun addition to a desert garden:  Chocolate Flower (berlandiera).  Yep it really does smell like Hershey's chocolate bars - especially in the morning.  It's very xeric when established and if you collect the seeds or let them go you can multiply the fun.  It dies away almost completely in the winter but comes back reliably in the spring.  Beneficial insects love this plant and we want to encourage them in the garden.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Little Green Blobs

 My little green portulaca blobs
are starting to produce blooms.
The fun thing about that is that they
will reseed again and provide some softening of the gravel and hardscape areas.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

It's Alive!!


Once upon a time  (before May 19) we had a huge Photinia thing outside our dining room window.  

Then I pruned (did a hatchet job) on it and this is what was left.

It may not look like a lot of change -
but it's alive!

They didn't lose their leaves and new ones
are starting to appear.

Now I can smuggly say that the hard pruning
was successful.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

A Pinch To Grow On

Autumn Joy - before
If you have fall-blooming plants (sedum, chrysanthemums, aster) you need to pinch them back until July 24 so that they will get nice and bushy and give lots of blooms.

Here's a before and after of an Autumn Joy Sedum.  It might be hard to tell, but what I'm shooting for is a fuller and bushier plant.  Everywhere that I pinch off something it will put out multiple shoots which will lead to more blooms in the fall.
Autumn Joy - after

Just pinch off a bit of the growth that is getting 'leggy' and it will come back better than before.  I'm only talking about a couple of inches - nothing drastic.  Then in another 2 weeks pinch it back again.  About July 24 (here in the Mountain West) it's time to let them grow!  Your diligence in pinching back will result in lots more fall blooms.
Aster - before

This aster is a late summer to early fall bloomer and I like to get lots of blossoms.  I just take my garden shears and cut off about 2-3 inches every couple of weeks.  It gets fuller every time.
Aster - after

If you can see past the glare you'll see that the aster is now shorter.  You can see the support ring that was barely visible in the before picture.

Here's one of the chrysanthemums that I started earlier this spring as a stub.  It's getting really bushy and thinks that it will be ready to bloom soon.  So I was cruel and cut off or pinched off the buds so that it will wait and give me that 'really fully covered with blossoms' look that I want.

Look closely and you'll see the little rebel buds that I was talking about.  I'm watching closely and pinching off before they even show color.

I usually toss the trimmings at the back of the garden to let them become free compost.
 Show Off Time


Here are some beautiful dahlias that I rescued from Lowe's discounted plants.  I deadheaded them and gave them a lovely home in a partly shady area.  A little root stimulator and they look terrific.  3 dahlias for $4.50!
Happy in their new home!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Hanging Plants

Planted About 10 Days Ago
Hanging plants can add a lot of interest to a garden.  However, they are a lot of work - water and fertilizer.  Here are some ideas that may help.

Check every day to see if they need watering.  During really hot and windy times that can be more than once a day.  I just lift them a little from the bottom and if they feel heavy then they still are moist enough.  Sometimes I use a moisture meter (found at hardware stores in garden area) and stick it in a couple of inches to see if they are too dry.   Don't forget to deadhead regularly to keep them blooming.

Potting mix that already has moisture control crystals in it is a huge help or add your own.  These do not disintegrate over time.  They absorb water and gradually release it as the soil dries.  Read the directions and don't get too heavy-handed with it.  It really does expand and can make a mess when it gets wet.  

One problem with hanging plants it that they only get sun from  one direction.  Here's a handy way to help rotate them without killing yourself.  Use dog chain swivel connectors!  Then swivel your pots around every few days and they will grow more evenly.  Just remember to swivel 'righty-tighty' or you'll undo the hook holding the plant hanger to the patio roof.  Yes, that is the voice of experience speaking.
 Another cool way to add height to your garden is to try one of these new plant stand stakes.  At least they are new to me.  Just push it firmly into the ground and add your pot to the cage on top.  

When watering hanging plants (or container plants) water until it drips out the bottom.  Then you know that you have water all the way down to the roots.  If you can put another plant underneath and it will benefit from the overflow. 

This colander planter drips onto the container plant on the table below.  It's an old colander that I had, spray-painted and added the chains.  I put a coconut fiber liner in it to hold the soil.

Hanging plants and container plants need regular fertilizing.  Either a liquid like 'Miracle-gro' or long lasting granules will work.  But you do need to use them more often than if they were in the ground.

Portulaca in Full Day Sunshine
For me it's always an experiment to see what will work in different areas.  I really like portulaca for hot, windy places.  They are really tough and just a little water will totally revive them.     


Monday, June 4, 2012

Sometimes - Pesticides

 Sorry, these pictures are icky but you need to know.

Spider Mites
Sometimes, no matter how hard we try, we need to resort to pesticides.  I like to stay as organic as possible in my garden, but hand-picking bugs just isn't my thing.   I don't mind sharing some with birds and bugs however there is a limit.  (Note:  all pictures are generic but I got them from
Scale Bugs
Earlier this spring in Albuquerque we had an infestation of moths.  Now that wasn't too awful - but remember that then they lay eggs - the damage occurs when the things hatch out and are hungry.  I've had hole and leaf damage on plants that were never bothered before.  Often with just a little trimming and time the plants will recover.  Sometimes more active measures are needed.
Colorado Potato Beetle
Japanese Beetle


Some of the best and safest helps are insecticidal soap, BT, diatomaceous earth and pyrethum.  Here's a run down on each:

Insecticidal Soap
  • most effective on soft-bodied insects:  aphids, white-flys, spider mites
  • also gets rid of boxelder bugs and Japanese beetles
  • ladybugs and pollinating bees are not very susceptible so they are pretty safe
  • Squash Bug
  • applications only last for about 4 days 
BT  - bacillus thuringiensis
  • a naturally occurring bacterial disease of insects
  • commonly used against caterpillars
  • safe for non-target species
  • degrades in sunlight so only lasts a few days
  • essentially non-toxic
Diatomaceous Earth
  • fossilized remains of marine phyto-plankton
  • works on all hard-shelled bugs (kinda dries them up)
  • has to stay dry to work 
  • also works on spiders and scorpions, ants and roaches
  • so non-toxic that its even allowable as 'organic'
  • try not to breathe it in
  • extracted from flowers in the chrysanthemum family (African daisy)
  • one of the safest pesticides world wide
  • considered organic
  • helps flush insects from their hidey holes so they can get the full effect
  • causes some insects to leave the area
  • degrades in sunlight
  • often combined with insecticidal soap or neem oil
  • use with care as this can also hurt beneficial bugs

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Succulent Gardens

Succulent gardens seem to be a trend this season.  I've had one for a couple of years and decided to try another with different types of plants.   Succulents are otherworldly to me.  They always look like something from Star Trek (and actually they have been used as plants from other planets on sci-fi  shows).  I went to Lowe's and got a variety of different succulents. Some came as 4-packs and others were singles.  I already had a nice shallow dish type planter that worked great.  First I added about an inch of gravel and then the soil mix.  Succulents are great because they don't need much water - in fact they'll tell you when they need watering.  Just watch the 'leaves' and if they don't look plump then water!  Make sure that the container drains well, standing water will cause them to rot.
Sedum Planter
Before I show the finished garden I wanted to show you what I've had going for a few years now.  This garden pot is full of different varieties of sedum.  They also have the same growing conditions as the succulents.  These are perennials and winter over pretty well if I remember to water occasionally.  As you can see I still have a bare spot that needs to be filled in with another chartreuse plant. 
  There are lots of different kinds of sedum and they have really fun names:   stonecrop, dragon's blood, love-restorer, baby burro's tail, and chocolate ball.  

Here's my new succulent garden!  It's in  what used to be the seat of a vintage chair that I got for $20 (top of my budget).  It originally had a real seat and it was in sad shape so I talked the price down from nearly $30. I took the bottom off and used zip ties to attach a wire basket to the rim and put the shallow dish planter inside it.  I added a few rocks for visual appeal.  These succulents are rather tender and will need to be brought inside during the winter, sadly this might be a death sentence for them but I'll face that later.