Saturday, March 28, 2009


Mariposa, Freckles, Mama Mia, Velvet Lime (free), Rustic Orange

I ordered coleus on March 13 from Rosy Dawn Gardens. They arrived March 25.

They arrived neatly packed in cardboard tubes in a USPS mail box. The plants, roots and all, were about 5 or 6 inches - large healthy plants. The shipment included a free plant.
The little rootballs were wrapped in cellophane and taped shut. When I unwrapped them, the rootballs were moist. It was one of the best packaging from an online nursery that I’ve received.

To me it felt like Christmas morning. I am an admitted coleac. You can search this blog by typing “coleus” in the search box to see how I’ve used them in the garden. And how many times I’ve written about them. It’s a little embarrassing.

As with a lot of addicts, I had a pusher. My friend Myra started the addiction with her large collection of coleus. She extolled the virtues of this plant – easy to propagate, easy to grow, gorgeous colors. She gave me a few cuttings and a few plants.

And, the rest is history as they say.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Wicked Weed

Here’s another one I pursue. I don’t know the name so I hope someone can identify it. If you know its name (or even its alias), please leave a comment.

It looks like yellow rocket (Barbara vulgaris) – winter cress.
But the flowers are white not yellow as in the description. “. . .bright yellow flowers clustered at the tips of the uppermost branches can be observed around fence posts or other structures. . .” (See page 15 in Weed Management in Turf.) The mature height is about 6 inches.

Those pretty little flowers will grow into not so pretty seed stalks. If you come anywhere near them they will violently shoot tiny seeds in all directions.
Pulling them out after they have seeds is almost useless. They live to grow again

Gotta get them before they go to seed!


Saturday, March 21, 2009


This week I attended the Master Gardener talk “Herbs to Use and Grow”. The presentation was part of Penn State Extension’s “Spring Garden Series” in Lehigh and Northampton County.

The class was super. It included information for growing herbs in full sun, some shade or full shade. Easy to grow herbs and their uses as well as herbal tea, herbal vinegar and household cleaner recipes completed the talk.

A bonus tip:
I have always had trouble drying parsley. I think the temperature in my oven doesn’t stay low enough. The dried parsley ends up brownish and loses some of its flavor.
Here’s the tip. Spread the cut parsley leaves on a tray and put it in the trunk of your car. The heat is supposed to be a perfect drying oven for parsley. I don’t know how long it takes but I plan to give it a try.

The Master Gardener “Spring Garden Series” continues through April. Sessions are filling up fast in both Lehigh and Northampton Counties. If you’re interested, call the Lehigh County Extension office 610-391-9840. Future talks include: “Starting Your Vegetable Garden,” “Rain Gardens,” “Small Space Gardening.”

(The above picture has nothing to do with herbs. I have had these crocuses in my garden for many years. They are 5 or 6 inches tall with large purple flowers. They are the prettiest of all my crocuses. I don’t know the variety. If anyone has an idea what they might be, please let me know.)

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Wild Garlic War

(Allium vineale)

The Wild Garlic War has gone on for years. Every spring I prowl the garden like a maniacal secret agent. With my weeder in hand, I’m ready to pounce on any wild garlic covertly hidden in the lilac roots or brazenly positioned in the middle of the lawn.

Wild garlic is a clever, sneaky and sinister plant. In the plot to procreate, it produces bulblets attached to the main bulb. These tiny bulblets (near the tip of the weeder in photo - click to enlarge) slide off when you pull the plant. They stay in the soil. Each one will grow another plant. Getting the entire plant is a thrill better than … well never mind.

Wild garlic will also flower and produce seeds. I am proud to say I have never let one flower in my garden.

Spring, when the soil is soft, is the only time it’s possible to pull them out. Once the ground gets a little dry and hard the stubborn bulbs will hold tight to the soil. Often the main plant will break off at soil level.

I can’t say I’m winning the war. But, I have managed to keep the population under control.

So, I’m off again today to stalk the evil plant. I wonder if I need a disguise?

(Information on wild garlic and other weeds in Penn State's College of Agriculture Publication, "Weed Management in Turf Grass.")


Saturday, March 14, 2009

Flower Show Plants

Every year I come home with a few plants from the vendors at the Philadelphia Flower Show. It’s a tradition.
This year I brought home 2 fuchsia plants and 6 tuberose bulbs. I was very frugal. Some years I had to leave the show because I couldn’t carry any more plants.

Fuchsia - ‘Swingtime’ and ‘Lena’

Philadelphia Flower Show is the only place I have found 3 inch pots of fuchsia. Local nurseries sell huge hanging baskets full of monster plants. I need small plants. (There’s that need word again.)
I’ll transplant them into 4 inch pots when they get a little bigger. (At least 2 weeks before I put them outside). The 4 inch pots will fit in the wrought iron pot hangers on the shepherd’s hook at the entrance to our deck.

Right now I have these little plants under lights. I’ll feed them every two weeks. Pinch back every second set of leaves. I’ve already taken two cuttings to root. The rooted cuttings will be planted in other porch pot planters.

Flower World USA details fuchsia care.

‘Hawaiian Double Pearl’ Tuberose

We all know how much I need Tuberose. I’ll plant the six bulbs in pots at the end of March. The pots will move to our sunny deck when the nights are reliably at least 60 degrees.
Hopefully, at the end of summer heavenly aroma will surround us.

I received a free bottle of “Hawaiian Flower Magic” (9-18-9) fertilizer and two free bulbs with the tuberoses. I don’t know what the free bulbs are. It will be fun to plant them and see what happens.

Old House Gardens has information on growing Tuberoses.

So, plants are growing, cuttings are rooting, seeds are planted and I'm a happy gardener again.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Philadelphia Flower Show

Bella Italia

As usual for me, the most interesting exhibits were off the main theme gardens.

Temple University Ambler’s “Green Renaissance – The Revival of Sustainable Living”. According to student Denise Wood the main goal is to “help homeowners implement the ideas . . . how to start a home garden, eat locally, use native trees, conserve water.”

The three parterre Italian garden included:

- Xeriscape – (foreground in photo) plants that require little water, recycled porous paving materials – emerald sentinel red cedar, yarrow, sage, silver foliaged plants

- Kitchen Garden (in background in photo) - cool season vegetables, lettuce, leafy herbs and sweet peas.

- Orchard – high bush blueberries, serviceberry, trees and ornamental grasses.

Each garden had its own water feature. Copper aqueducts to harvest rainwater skirted the top of the exhibit (top of photo). It was a spectacular achievement in sustainability, creatively displayed.

According to Dr. Baldev Lambda, Associate Professor of Landscape Architecture the students set out to “educate visitors on so many levels that ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’ can be presented aesthetically and artistically.”

Philadelphia’s W.B. Saul High School of Agricultural Sciences ”South Philly Courtyard Garden” included container plants and use of vertical space with climbing plants. The small garden inside the fence was filled with herbs, vegetables and flowers. The garden illustrated first-rate use of a small space with South Philly’s “Little Italy” nostalgia.

PECO (Philadelphia Electric) drew some attention from the crowd with a model of the 45,000 square foot green roof headquarters in Philadelphia.

PA Parks and Forests foundation encouraged viewers to “bring home the natives.”

Philadelphia Water Department’s “Trivoli, South Philadelphia Style” displayed porous paths, a rain garden and some classy rain barrels.

It was good to see large organizations turn out creative environmentally friendly displays.
Every year I’m amazed at the scale of this show. The time and money spent to produce acres of displays inside the Convention Center is just mind boggling. But, what a great way to spend a spring-like day.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

American Gardens

Restoring American Gardens: An Encyclopedia of Heirloom Ornamental Plants, 1640-1940 by Denise Wiles Adams (copyright 2004)

I seem to be stuck in garden history mode. I’m reading through the 419 pages of this fascinating encyclopedia. It’s full of wonderful photos and drawings of plants and old gardens. Remarkable facts and stories of gardening in America fill the pages.
1851 Joseph Breck recommended double digging.

Watson 1859 and Robert Copeland 1867 suggested making compost for the garden and each had his own recipe.

1891 Liberty H Bailey wrote about the renewed interest of native plants. “The interest in native plants has never been so great as now. . .”

1893 “Ornamental Gardening for America”, Elias Long recommended wavy line edges for gardens instead of straight lines and mixing hardy perennials or annuals with woody plants.

These comments could have been written yesterday. Pretty sharp those ancient gardeners.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Victorian Garden

The Victorian Garden, Allison Kyle Leopold (copyright 1995)

This book is more than a list of interesting facts. It includes a sense of Victorian lifestyle. The progression through 19th century gardening is readable, well illustrated. I tried to pick a few highlights to share.

Bedding out

Early 19th century Victorians’ “bedding out” displayed bright colors and elaborate shapes. Imagine a large oval filled with scarlet geraniums next to a large crescent filled with golden coleus.

The well-to-do used combinations of beds. The square, rectangle, round and oval shapes evolved into intricate geometrical designs. Many Victorian ladies planned, planted and pulled a few weeds but never touched a shovel or a hoe. They were much too delicate for manual labor.

(Photo: A modern example of bedding out at Longwood Gardens along the Flower Garden Walk.)

Great attention was paid to the bed’s surroundings of grass or gravel and the color combinations. Arguments ensued regarding the best plant and color combinations. Bedding plants included low growing annuals with long bloom season in bright colors.

Cottage Garden Revival

Passion for gardening exploded in the last quarter of the 19th century spurred by growing middle class and the development of seed and plant catalogues.

Almost all gardens included a few scented flowers such as lily of the valley, phlox, sweet William, sweet pea, columbine, hyacinth, rose. Soft colors such as pink, white, blue were preferred after mid-century. A well-kept garden was a testament to the gardeners taste, intelligence and refinement.

Specialty gardens came into favor.

Perennial boarders contained an abundance of plants arranged low, medium, tall - front to back. Coral bells, phlox, hollyhock, cleome, stock gillyflower, hyacinth, tulips, asters, monarda, delphinium, penstemon are a few of the plants that overflowed the beds.

Perennial gardeners today face the same problems planning a succession of blooms for color all season and selecting pleasant color combinations.

Rose gardens (Rosariums) arose in every shape from a single specimen bed to central circular bed with pie shaped beds extending from center.

(Photo: Old rambler rose ‘Blaze’)

Pathways of grass, gravel or patterned brick were installed to view the roses. Old roses and the newly hybridized roses fed the rose fever. Some popular bushes were gallica, damask, alba, centifolia, China, rosa rugosa, hybrid perpetuals and more.

The Shakespeare Garden found a niche in late Victorian gardens and included willow from The Merchant of Venice; primrose, rosemary, saffron from The Winter’s Tale; musk roses, pansies “love-in-idleness”, oxlips and violets in A Midsummer Night’s Dream; hawthorn bush in Henry VI, Part III.

This book was a fun read on a snowy day – providing a feeling of romance and sense of connection with gardeners through the years.