Saturday, December 13, 2008

Another Garden Year

Spring, summer, fall, and winter



2008 is almost at an end. It’s been a good year in the garden. I’ll be away until the end of January so I will take a break from blogging. I’ll miss fellow bloggers and friends. Hopefully, I’ll come back with renewed energy.

I look forward to next year’s garden. I hope we will all meet back here at the end of January. Talk to you then.

Have a loving holiday season and a new year filled with joy.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Winter Gardener

The Fragrant Year by Helen Van Pelt Wilson and Leonie Bell

Some books give you that warm, fuzzy feeling. This is one of them.

Published in 1967 as collaboration between internationally known writer, lecturer and gardener Helen Van Pelt Wilson and expert plant illustrator Leonie Bell, The Fragrant Year is full of information for a scented garden.

The romantic style created a pause from holiday stress for me. Wilson writes with a love of plants evident in her poetic pen.

Chapter 15, “Autumn Aromas”, begins –

“Summer slips so gently into autumn, and the warm lush scents of plants in full leaf change so imperceptibly to the crisp dry smell of those soon to fall, that until the one low branch on the great sugar maple above the rock ledge turns significantly to gold we are hardly aware of the slow passing of another year.”

After reading through the somewhat long list of plant fragrance classifications, I suspect my unsophisticated nose would not be able to make the distinctions. I’ll have to take the authors’ word on the nuances of fragrance.

The information is precise. The authors lived and gardened in zone 6. Varieties of plants sorted by season and listed by botanical name fill the book.

The longest chapter “Just Roses” contains rose history as well as a discussion of varieties, their growth habits and scent.

In the section “The Bourbons":
“By the end of the nineteenth century, ’Mme. Isaac Pereire’ had become a favorite. Considered one of the most fragrant of all roses it provided pounds of petals for the potpourris then so popular. . . . Bushes grow to 6 feet and some canes reach higher; bending them down discourages bloom.”

(Photo: In my garden - Bourbon Rose, Madame Isaac Pereire, 1881)

The book provides transportation to an earlier time. Whether read from beginning to end, taken in small doses or browsed by areas of interest, it is a lovely guide to building a scented garden.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Christmas Cactus

The orange tinted cactus (Schlumbergera truncata) is actually a Thanksgiving cactus. A gift from a friend two years ago, this orange/red flowered plant is the second to bloom each year.

My 3-cactus collection spends the summer on our deck out of direct sun. I bring them in at the end of summer. They spend most of the year in a cool, unused (no artificial light) room in a sunny, south-facing window.

Since they are out of sight I sometimes forget to water, but they don’t seem to mind - as long as I get there before they totally expire. I fertilize every other week in the summer. They may get a weak fish emulsion fertilizer a few times in the winter. Did I mention that I sometimes forget about them?

The white cactus (Zygocactus) bloomed in early November.

The red Christmas Cactus (Schlumbergera bridgesii) has set buds and will be in full bloom by Christmas.

I bring each plant into the dining room as they start to bloom. The three plants provide 2 or 3 months of flowers during the winter.
Of all the house plants, the Christmas Cactus must be the easiest flowering house plant to grow.

More information from Clemson University Extension.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Euonymus Shrubs

The leaves of Euonymus fortunei ‘Emerald Surprise’ (on the left in the picture) turn slightly pink in winter. The winter pink color was the one of the reasons I bought them.

I planted three bushes in spring 2000. Leaves with a green center and creamy white edges create a showy shrub but it’s not without problems.

Scale destroyed one of the shrubs and threatened the others. The tiny white, armored invaders can suck the life out of them in one season. University of Minnesota “IPM of Midwest Landscapes” has some excellently gross pictures and information.

I control the scale using a spray of 1 gallon water, 2 tablespoons baking soda and an little dish soap. I’ll spray several times in spring. I usually get the bush dripping wet. Then, I repeat the spraying during the summer.

I also prune back hard in spring. The growing season will produce about two feet of growth so I try to get them really short. Virginia Cooperative Extension pruning schedule includes times to prune shrubs in our area.

Euonymus fortunei ‘Moonshadow’ (to the right in picture) with its creamy white center and green edge doesn’t have the same problems in my garden. It is low growing, doesn’t need much pruning and has never been bothered by scale. It never turns pink in winter but it’s a lot more care free. It’s amazing what a difference a variety makes.