Friday, December 29, 2006

Garden Success and Failure. I'm sure every gardener has her/his share of success and failure in the garden. We learn from our mistakes, right? mmmmm

I'm posting a few of my successes and a few of my failures. Any comments would be welcomed. Misery and joy love company!


Tuberose -Double Flowering Tuberose Polianthea Tuberosa. I bought a few bulbs early in 2004. I potted them and put them outside in May. They never flowered. I brought them in in fall and put them out again in May. No flowers. Last fall, I brought them in and let them dry back - treating them like the amaryllis. I re-potted them and put them out in spring. 2006 again no flowers. This year I put them in the garage to dry and overwinter. In spring, I'll plant a few in the ground and some in a pot. 2007 may be my last year for the Tuberose!

Sweet Pea - Ferry & Morse seeds. This may be partially a success story. I don't have a lot of full sun garden areas. I planted seeds in May in a spot next to our fence where they would get the most sun. But, I let them climb on the cleome for support which gave them more shade . I had only a few flowers. Next year I'll try some sort of trellis or plant them in the middle of the yard.

Seedbalz - Cosmos & Bachelor Button. There were no Bachelor Buttons. I think the few Cosmos that came up were seeded from last year's plants.

Impatiens cuttings. Each year I lose a few cuttings. This year I lost all of them. They start out fine, bloom & look great. Then they get tiny white spots and eventually the leaves curl up and the plant dies.

There were a few more failures - but let's not dwell on that. On to better things -


Coleus Cuttings. I had 8 flats to plant out in May (including some impatiens & begonias). Coleus have become my favorite annual. I used them in pots, in dry/part shade and to accent perennial color or form.

Canna (pictures posted October 16) - The original tubers were a gift. They grow easily and have a tropical impact on a long blank garage wall - and they multiply like rabbits!

Euonymus - Variegated Emerald Surprise (I think) - upright shrub. I conquered the dreaded scale. A few years ago the bushes were sparce and one of them bit the dust. I've been spraying regularly with water/baking soda soap solution and this summer they were full and healthy.

General Garden Design - I really like the way the garden looked this summer. But - the best garden is always next year's.


Monday, December 11, 2006

Christmas Holly. We call this Ali's Holly. I have a plant named for each one of the grandchildren. Ali was a wonderful Christmas present in 1997. And that year we transplanted a holly in her name. Every year around Thanksgiving Ali, and whoever else is around, decorate it for Christmas with red bows and gold garland.

It's become a family tradition. Sometimes - no, make that most times- the decorating is accompanied by complaining & grumbling. It's cold, it's windy, it thorny, you know what I mean. But, it's always satisfying when finished. -- especially after the first snow fall.

Happy Hollidays!

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Pointsettia. I bought a pointsettia from a co-worker's daughter's fund raiser. It's large & very nice. The bright red bracts are perfectly beautiful BUT I think it might have gotten a "chill" in either delivery or on the ride home. The bracts are beginning to look limp. I cut the bottom out of the green decorative foil for drainage. The soil feels neither too wet nor too dry. I tried to be very careful on the trip home because I know how little tolerance pointsettias have for cold. The next few days will tell.

I bought one from the same source last year. It was perfect and cheery for weeks. I put it outside in the shade this summer and fed it several times with fish emulsion solution. I brought it in in fall and put it in a room with natural light but not much artifical light. I forgot to trim it this summer so it's fairly large. The bracts are now turning red. If the new one doesn't survive the old one will take it's place

There is an excellent blog in the Allentown PA newspaper, The Morning Call - . An article on pointsettia has lots of information and tips. The blog is written by Penn State Master Gardeners at the Lehigh and Northampton County Cooperative Extension. There are always tips, information and links for gardeners.

Sunday, November 26, 2006


Grass. I use tall grass to anchor the garden and provide winter interest. I only have two - one is a zebra grass, the other is something else :-) . Both were gifts from a neighbor.

Two is enough for me. I love the look of them, especially in winter. But, the spring job of cutting them back before the fronds blow into the neighbors' yards and dividing them with a shovel and an axe make two the limit to the spring workload. Thank goodness I have a big strong partner who is good at digging and axing.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Christmas Cactus

Leaves of fall. We had absolutely beautiful weather on Saturday - 60+ degrees and sunshine. We spent the entire day outside - raking leaves and cleaning up the gardens. With this glorious weather outside it's hard to get in the groove of taking care of house plants (and cuttings). I seem to be doing OK - haven't killed anything yet.

The white Christmas cactus is blooming. It's in dire need of a trim. I have to remember to do that when it's finished blooming. It also needs to be repotted - I haven't done that for a number of years. I think I'll do a root pruning and put it in the same size pot with fresh potting soil. I really don't have space for a larger pot.

I never bought a Christnas cactus. I have two red ones that bloom later. They all came from cuttings from my aunt Betty's plants. She gave me the first one when I was 16. One red blooming cactus is getting woody so I'll try to remember to take a cutting after it blooms and start a new one.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Garden Volunteers

Each year I am amazed by plants that pop up in unexpected places thanks to the birds, squirrels or wind. A holly, some evergreens and a dogwood all appeared through nature's magic. This year I was surprised by some pretty pink snapdragons & a yellow mum. I don't have any pink snapdragons or yellow mums in my garden so these two were very welcome additions.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Cutting Disaster

Garden Help! Cutting Disaster. The impatiens cuttings are beginning to die off. If you can see it on the picture (click to enlarge) there are tiny white dots on the good-looking plant on the left. Eventually, I assume, it will get to look like the plant on the right. I plan to spray again today with the baking soda solution (see Oct. 16 post). The coleus cuttings don't seem to be affected. If anyone has any ideas, please let me know.

On a brighter note - the Halloween topiary arrangement was made at the monthly flower arranging class at Patti's Petals on Third Street in Bethlehem. The class is great fun and, despite my lack of talent, produces a really nice take-home arrangement.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

End of Season Color. Mum's are great this time of year. I've had trouble from time to time with their longevity. Here's another one that seems almost indistructible - Chrysanthemum koreamun 'single Apricot' Garden Mum. It grows in my garden under a dogwood tree. I pinch it back until about the end of May and prop it up with 20" vynl fencing but it still flops a bit and spreads more every year. I know I'll have some to give away next year. The daisy-like flowers are a great show.

My cousin, Dave, dropped by yesterday and agreed to take some of the canna rhizomes. There are plenty more for the asking. He's going to share some of his "perennial sunflowers". He said they get about 8' tall & are covered from bottom to top with yellow flowers in fall. I can't wait to see what they do in my garden.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Organic gardening and patience. Long ago I developed an iterest in gardening at my grandmother's side. Grammy was a widow with seven children. She never used chemicals because, even if she could find them back then, she wouldn't have had the money to buy them. Her garden was always beautiful. When she amended the soil with compost or coffee grounds, or tea leaves, she knew it would take a while to see a difference. No matter - that was just gardening.

With this wonderful memory I've tried to eliminate chemicals from the garden. I use a LOT of compost & mulch (which is free from the city of Bethlehem!) I still use some chemicals but I catch slugs with beer, put coffee grounds around some shrubs, spray bugs off with water, try to eliminate scale and fungus with a baking soda/soap solution (1 gal. water, 2 tbs. baking soda, little dish soap - insecticidal soap would be better but I never seem to get around to buying any).

In this day of instant gratification, it's hard to have the patience to wait for results. But it is well worth the effort. It took three years to eliminate the scale from the euonymous - I'm still working on the clay soil from the garage construction.

Doug Green has a wonderful web site to help eliminate chemicals as well as offer helpful gardening tips. Check it out and sign up for his newsletter.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Free Canna Rhizomes. This weekend I pulled all the cannas. They were great this summer (and complimented the yellow coneflower). I got the originals from a friend of my daughter last year. I was surprised at the size - more like large yams! Last year I planted them and ended the summer with quite a pile.

I kept them in a plastic container with peat moss in the garage all last winter. If I saw condensation on the top of the container I opened the cover for a while. I replanted them along the garage in May and they were gorgeous all summer.

When I dug them up this year the rhizomes had MULTIPLIED A LOT. I now have triple the amount that I need. As the picture shows the amount of rhizomes will never fit in the container. If anyone wants some free canna rhizomes, let me know!

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Intense Colors of Late Summer. As I begin to put the garden to bed in early fall by pulling up some spent annuals, taking cuttings, bringing plants in and emptying pots, I can't help but notice the brilliant colors of the flowers in bloom. The cool nights, sunny days & adequate rainfall seem to bring out deep colors. The marigolds, impatiens and clome as well as the mums and asters seem to glow.

October is almost as busy as May - trimming, rooting cuttings, potting, storing, organizing, mulching - even some weeding and watering. I try to do a little each day (some days it's VERY little). I have never had luck dividing plants in fall so I'll wait until spring to divide the liriope, daylillies and a few others. Eventually, I will have to spend an entire day in the garden as the changing weather gets ahead of me.

Then there are the Fall distractions. The Celtic Classic in Bethlehem was a blast - music and food everwhere. The athletic competitions were amazing especially the popular Caber Toss. The weekend weather was perfect for an outdoor party. Then there is a Breast Cancer walk, farm tours and wine tasting on Main Street. I'll have to keep moving.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Mum in the spotlight (digital cameras are really fun). This is a great plant (Clara Curtis). It's planted under a pussy willow tree - I know it's a bush but it's about 20 feet tall and limbed up. The soil is dry and full of roots but this mum is thriving. It think it could be grown anywhere.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Scented plants. The new sweet autumn clematis I planted last year is blooming. It has a pleasant light fragrance and delicate, twinkling flowers. It has a reputation for being invasive so I plan to cut it back a bit as the blooms fade. Hopefully, that will reduce the number of seedlings in the spring. I'll cut it back by at least 1/3 in the early spring since it blooms on new growth.

My favorite scented plant is sweet allysum - which reseeds every year and produces a heavenly sweet smell all summer in the sunshine. I pull out a lot of seedlings in the spring but I always have more than I planned. Since the plants tend to get leggy, I trim them two or three times a year with a grass sheers. By now they look leggy again but the aroma is worth it.

Another one of my favorites is the sweet shrub. It was given to me by a neighbor. He got it from a man who called it a strawberry bush. It's a rather ordinary looking bush. The flowers are not very showy - sort of brownish, spikey lumps - somewhat strawberry-like, I guess. It's not the prettiest bush nor is it the easiest to maintain. It needs to be trimmed once or twice a summer and sends out runners that need to be pulled up and cut off. Is it worth it? I think it is because I really enjoy the heavy aroma of the long spring bloom filling the garden.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Stonecrop Gardens. I had the pleasure to accompany Penn State Master Gardeners on a bus trip to Stonecrop Gardens in Cold Spring, NY on Saturday. It was a enjoyable trip with good company and lovely gardens.

The overall impression I came away with from Stonecrop was the feeling of having had an amazing walk in the woods on a beautiful day with many so plants to see in their natural settings. In fact, I was so enamored of the many plants that I didn't take a lot of pictures. The tour wound through garden paths and lanes, up and down rocks and through a forest.

The entry path winds over a boardwalk and up a wide grass lane past a lake and through the lake conservatory. On the way native plants - ferns, hostas, trees - fuel anticipation. At the potting shed alpine plants that I had never seen in person (Kabschia, Encrusted Saxifragas) are on display in raised stone beds. The plants beg to be touched - some are rock hard while others are velvety soft.

The English flower garden is a mixture of color coordinated perennials with a sprinkling of annuals. The varieties of dahlia and begonias were amazing in color and form.

The Rock Ledge was impressive with it's views and native plants. The setting is so natural I found it hard to believe that the ledge, water falls and lake were man made.

The stately Metasequoia Grove (Dawn Redwood, Metasequoia glyptostroboides) gave the impression of living cathederal.

Well, by now, you know that all you have to do is take a gardner to a garden on a beautiful day(or actually any day) to get a diatribe of adjectives.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Garden figures. It's fun to have little surprises in the garden - in my re-seeding garden, plants appear in spring in a different color from last year or in a different place. I love the cleome. My favorite is bright pink. They come in colors from purple through pink through white. I tried for several years to eliminate all but the pink & white. But the next year they would be all colors again. Now I just let them be and pull out the volunteers in the middle of the tomato plants.

The garden figures add more little surprises & whimsy here and there. The kids love them & we make up stories about them sometimes. I usually change them or move them around from year to year to keep it interesting.

The Japanese Lantern in the oriental garden is complemented by Golden Japanese Forest Grass and the Buddha hides in the Gold Thread Cypress. The Celtic Cross is cloaked in the Lady Slippers.

One of the kids favorites is the small leprechaun between the lavender & the sweet shrub in the scented garden. He seems ready to pounce on unsuspecting path walkers.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Peaceful evening. I spent late afternoon in the garden wandering around, popping some weeds, deadheading here and there. It was a calming reminder of why I like to garden. After a hectic week at work it's wonderful to take some time to slow down (and smell the roses? :-) I know a lot of people dread weeding but I find it very relaxing.

I've started a list of plants I need to divide and plants that will reseed that I need to give away next spring. Among them are coreopsis moonbeam, cleome, and evening primrose. I'll publish a full list when I get it completed. If you're in this area, leave a comment - there are many more plants I would like to share.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

End of August. I can't believe we're almost to Labor Day! Summer goes much too fast.

I've spent the last few days deadheading, weeding & trimming. I opened the path in my scented garden. (It was much more grown over than the picture shows.) It was overgrown with Sweet Allysum (which smells heavenly in the sunshine and re-seeds every year) and Lavender Grosso (another great scent). My Sweet Autumn Clematis is full of buds. I planted it last year so this is the first bloom for me. Ah - anticipation! I trimmed the nicotiana which is almost done for the year but re-seeds and will be back next year with a vengence. The pholx, David, looks a little battered after the rain but was great all summer.

I continue to plant cuttings of coleus and impatiens for next year. I'm keeping a log of how many I plant and how many make it to spring. Maybe this will help me figure out how to "work smarter". :-)

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Weeds. Since there hasn't been much rain, there aren't as many weeds - but the weeds do SURVIVE. The biggest problem in my garden is clover. The ground is dry so I have to use my favorite tool, a dandelion digger, all the time to get any roots. The little purplish clover are the worst. The roots go everywhere. Dandelion and the dreaded thistle sprout up here and there and will not come out without the digger. Crabgrass is a menace. It seems to appear overnight!

Every once in a while I get a fit and get the Ortho Brush-Be-Gone and spray. I try to be careful around the other plants but I managed to kill a scented geranium. It made me remember one of my favorite quotes, "I consider every plant healthy until I've killed it myself." Sir Peter Smithers, spy-turned-politician-turned-gardener.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Cuttings. I've started to take cuttings of the impatiens. It's time to start the cuttings from the coleus. I put the cuttings in water until they show some roots. They are then potted in small plastic pots in potting soil, a little peat moss and a little vermiculite. Last year I had a bit of trouble with spider mites so I plan to spray (2 tbs. baking soda & a little dish soap in a gallon of water) everything as I bring them in this year.

I love the coleus. They are bright spots wherever you put them - easy to grow - simple to take care of. (My gardening friend Myra turned me on to these delightful plants and shared a lot of varieties.)

Last year, after the spider mites were under control, I had 8 flats of cuttings to plant in the spring. It kept me very busy planting in May but was well worth the effort. I've included a few pictures - you judge.

I will probably bring in the amaryllis and other house plants this weekend (after spraying). They all seem to do better when not left outside too long as the nights turn cool.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Pink & Yellow. I'm happy with my fallen pot (an old milk can) this year - pink petunias & yellow marigolds. I got the idea for the color combination from my daughter.

One of my soaker hoses sprung a leak today and shot water ten feet in the air. I'll have to replace it as soon as I can because it's in a narrow garden on the long, blank side in full sun. The garden contains canna and yellow cone flowers. Since it is under the eaves it doesn't get much water even when it rains.

I fed the roses for the final time this year. After the spring blush, the bushes & climbers didn't put on much of a show this summer. Europena Everblooming Floribunda, Madame Isaac Pereire, Rose Eden (climber), Peace, Don Juan (climber) and a few others just seemed to inch along. I'll have to pay more attention next year.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Heat. With the heat index in the low 100's, there's not much being done in the garden. The pots need to be watered twice a day - maybe more, but that's all I can do. Here's my front porch pot planted with red New Guinea impatiens and pink fushia raised from last year's cuttings. The area is partially shaded so they don't wilt too much during the day.

The soaker hoses are turned on in different areas as needed. I love the soakers. They save a lot of time and effort. I usually put them away for the winter but I'm thinking of leaving them out this year. Has anyone tried this?

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Japanese Beetles. The last couple of weeks the Japanese beetles have been making lace out of my canna leaves. (I have a LOT of cannas.) I sprayed the leaves with a mixture of 2 tablespoons baking soda and a little dish soap in a gallon of water. I've had to spray twice so far but the beetles have gone somewhere else.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

The Lillies of Summer. These beautiful lillies (American Dream) grew to 7' 10" this summer. The fragrance was heavenly. The bulbs were purchased from Whiteflower Farm & worth every penny.

My name is Marie. I live in West Bethlehem in Pennsylvania. My hobby and therapy and sometimes passion is gardening. I have been gardening for 40 years. My inspiration comes from my grandmother, mother and aunt. I've learned a lot from them as well as from my gardening friends.

Over the years, my garden has developed into diverse themes in different areas. I have an English garden, a rose garden, a scented garden, an oriental garden and a woodland garden, a formal garden & some other un-named spaces too.

At present I am fighting weeds an Japanese beetles like everyone else.

I would like to hear about other area gardeners. Maybe we can start a garden club. In spring, I have A LOT of plants to divide & give away. I'll be posting some of the names of the plants to be divided next spring. Let me know if you're intersted.