Sunday, August 31, 2008

Watering the Garden

This year I’m trying to get through the summer without watering my garden. I’m trying to conserve water and save money.

Of course, the potted plants need to be watered. I watered some of the annuals when they drooped. New perennials need water until they are established. But, I’m talking about hours of soaker hose watering of the entire perennial garden.

I’m talking about what will live in my climate without extra water.

Fortunately, we’ve had a year with adequate rain, until now. After a few weeks of no rain, heat, and humidity the soil has turned concreteous. Mulch, free from Bethlehem’s Compost Center, is indispensable. I am amazed at what is surviving (make that looking pretty good) without any extra water.

Some of the perennials have slowed blooming but are still very alive. The purple cone flowers look a little tired.

Roses are struggling but blooming. The Japanese anemone, asters and mums have set buds.

The ground cover lemon thyme and creeping jenny do not seem to have a problem.

The mum ‘Clara Curtis’ doesn’t seem to mind being dry at all. In fact, ‘Clara Curtis’ continues to bloom and bloom.

As I said, this has been a year with adequate rain. And I woke up this morning to a little less than half an inch of rain in the rain gauge. I’m not saying I will never turn the soakers on but I’ve learned that I can do with a lot less watering than I thought. We’ll see how brave I am during a drought.

I’m thinking about a rain barrel. Raising vegetables is another story.

What’s your strategy for watering?

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

House Plants

It’s time to bring in the houseplants for the winter. They seem to adjust better to indoor temperature and humidity if I bring them in when the nights are warm and before the heat is turned on.

The other day I rinsed the Christmas Cacti and the Amaryllis with water then sprayed them with insecticidal soap.

I put the three Christmas cactus in a window in a room that is cool in winter and gets very little artificial light. I probably won’t do anything more, except water. I may give them a weak fish emulsion water once in a while.

The four amaryllis were put in the same cool room but out of the sun under a table. I will let them dry and rest for the winter. I’ll start giving them a little water about 3 months before I want them to bloom. When I see a little green shoot appear in the pot, I’ll move them to a sunny window and water regularly. Then I’ll wait for the spectacular bloom.

I have a few more plants to bring in this week.
Here is the picture of the lily I thought was a tuberose. I'll plant the bulbs in the garden next spring.

I plan to buy tuberose from Old House Gardens
I am determined to have a blooming tuberose.


Friday, August 22, 2008



Does this look like a tuberose to you?

In 2004, I purchased tuberose bulbs from Meilingers and Van Dyck's on line. This is what I got. This is what I've been nurturing for 4 years.

Doesn't look like a tuberose to me. What do you think?


Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Creating a Flower Garden

I’ve always thought a best reward for growing your own flower garden is creating a satisfying design. Creating is the key word here - something truly unique and your own. I think that’s why gardeners stroll through the garden with a cup of coffee, place a bench in a shady spot or stare at plants.
I’m not a garden designer but I design my own garden. I’ve visited many gardens and I recognize the uniqueness and beauty in each gardener’s design.

One effect that I like, I stumbled on by accident. Black-eyed Susan is a showy plant that spreads and re-seeds. It takes almost no care. It seems to thrive in any soil. The birds, butterflies, and bees love it. It blooms all summer in a bright, happy yellow.

As I filled in the garden over the years, it was easy to divide and move some of the Black-eyed Susan to bare areas.

I’ve come to love to walk through the garden to be greeted by the flowers around almost every corner – a unifying theme all its own.

What designs have you come to love you your garden?

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Return on Investment (ROI)

Years ago, when I was naive enough to think I could understand business planning and investments, I read a lot about Return on Investment (ROI).

This morning I picked beans from the potted pole bean plants. This is about the 5th or 6th picking. Not bad for the price of 4 bean seeds. (Of course I've not factored in costs of soil, water, fish emulsion fertilizer or labor.)

To me this is a great ROI - especially since the labor is free.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008


Well here it is! The first buds on my 4 year old Double Flowering Tuberose (Polianthea tuberosa). (see posts December 29, 2006 and February 2, 2008.)

I’ve been trying to get a bloom for 4 years. Every year I’m tempted to add them to the compost pile. What did I do differently this year?

On advice from Doug Green at , “the deal with this plant is that is LOVES warmth. If you try to grow it cold (like early in the season) it is not going to be a happy camper. It is Mexican. Think warmth. Think long season of warmth because it is essentially an Agave plant. Think mature bulbs that may take several seasons of growing under great conditions until they reach blooming size (many inexpensive seed companies sell the tiny babies rather than established blooming size).”

The last few years I put the pot out on the deck in the middle of May. This year I didn’t put the pot outside until June. I kept it in the house in my sunniest spot until the nights were warm.

I purchased a 4 fl. oz bottle of Hawaiian Flower Magic (9-18-9) from Roberta's, Inc. at the Philadelphia Flower Show. The woman selling the fertilizer practically guaranteed it would get the tuberose to bloom (8 drops to a quart of water). I watered every time with the fertilizer mix. I filled a spray bottle with the fertilizer mix and sprayed the leaves often. I never let the pot dry completely.

I’m not sure if the bulbs were simply mature enough to bloom this year or if my adjustments in care allowed the buds to form. Whatever the reason, I’m delighted to see buds.

I’ll bring the tuberose into the house towards the end of August when the nights begin to cool. When it finishes blooming, I’ll put it in a cool place and discontinue watering for the winter. I’ll add a little soil in February and begin to water sparingly until I see some growth. They will need to be divided some day. Hopefully, next year there will be more blooms.

I’ll be sure to post a picture when the buds open. If you’ve had success with tuberose, please let me know.

More information on tuberose bulbs at Easy to Grow Bulbs and GardenWeb Forum

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Watering Container Plants

Drip-it Pro Waterer (see May 11, 2008 post) was designed for house plants. I tried it with my vegetable container plants this summer. I have one in a pot of pole beans and one in a pot of cucumbers.

I filled the water containers about once a week. The 8” water bottle holds about 4 cups of water. It is simple to fill and use. The T-shaped “wick” sometimes fell out as I put the pronged cap on. But, they were easy to put back in place.

I still had to water once or twice a day in the summer heat. The water bottle may have helped keep the pots from completely drying out.

I think they will work for my large house plants while I’m on a 2-week vacation this winter.

Gardener’s Supply “2-Week Plant Sitters”,default,pd.html

Wednesday, August 06, 2008


We had a visitor near our back door the other day. A katydid, most likely Microcentrum rhombifolium according to Karen Bernhard, Entomologist at Lehigh County Extension.

I never saw a katydid and I thought it was rather pretty. The kids thought it looked like a leaf. They were right on. The leaf appearance is a clever camouflage for these insects.

The katydid is a destructive insect with chewing mouth parts. It is also a tasty meal for birds, bats and frogs.

Some interesting katydid facts here and here You can listen to its “song” here

Saturday, August 02, 2008

July Garden

I’ll be at Musikfest most of this week doing garden maintenance and just having fun. Since I won’t have much time in my garden, I thought I would it would be fun to compare a section of my garden over the last 3 years.

First, let me explain. I have a new camera this year. The 2008 pictures are not as good as 2006 or 2007. But I’ll keep practicing. The biggest problem with this camera – there is no view finder. Taking pictures outdoors with only a LCD screen is difficult (like aiming a gun when you can't see the target.) All I can see on the screen is a reflection of myself. Great for putting on lipstick but not taking pictures. OK, enough excuses.

This is the way the cottage garden looked in 2006 before our tall pussy willow fell in a storm on Memorial Day weekend 2007. That dramatically changed the garden from shade to sun. Actually, much better for a cottage garden.

In the second set of photos, you can see the pussy willow in the center of the picture (left photo 2007). The right photo (2008) shows the pussy willow has about doubled in size this year. The new growth is coming out of the near side of the stump.

The pink mum (Chrysanthemum ‘Clara Curtis’) blooms almost all summer front and center on both pictures. Yellow Cosmos in the left 2007 photo will be replaced with pink tones (Burpee Sensation Mix) in 2008. I planted the seeds in May and they are now forming buds.

Snapdragons, cleome, snow on the mountain, coleus, sweet alyssum all have returned this year.
As the pussy willow continues to grow, it will again change the light in this garden. I’ll have all winter to decide if I want to do something differently next year.