Wednesday, August 29, 2007


What you don’t know may hurt you.

Euphorbia marginata. Many years ago my grandmother gave me a plant and Snow-on-the-Mountain seeds came along. Every year since then, I’ve had them in the garden. It is a lovely memory of my grandmother’s garden. Each summer the white bush-shaped annual creates a striking counterpoint in my garden.

The other day I decided to find out more about them. I started with Dave’s Garden website and found this information:

"Danger: All parts of plant are poisonous if ingested. Handling plant may cause skin irritation or allergic reaction."

Horror stories abound on the internet – from emergency room treatment to neighbors who are less than happy when seedlings pop up in their garden.
For myself, I’m not about to give them up. But, I’m much more careful with the milky sap and I certainly don’t plan to eat any of them.

Saturday, August 25, 2007


“What’s your favorite tomato?”

Penn State Master Gardener Coordinator Sue Drabic posed this question in her August 20 blog and got some interesting answers.

I grow one tomato plant each year – usually a beefsteak. This year’s selection was sold as “The World’s Largest Tomato”. Who could resist? I don’t have any information on this tomato but I know it’s a long time to harvest. We got our first ripe tomato last week. The taste is good, the texture is meaty and one slice will cover a slice of bread. But it’s a long time to wait for a ripe tomato. I would like to find a large tomato with a shorter time to harvest.

I found some good tomato information - everything from varieties to recipes - at the University of Illinois Extension site - Should help me make a selection for next year.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Rain On The Garden

It has been a hot dry summer in Pennsylvania, but after three days of a good soaking rain, the gardens and lawns have come alive. The colors are brighter and the greens are greener.

I can’t get out to work in the garden but the plants are sure lovin’ it. About the only job to do outside these days is to empty the trays under the potted plants as they fill with water. The potted plants will need a shot of fertilizer after all that rain washes through the soil. As the rain ends, there will be plenty to do in the garden. I can almost hear the weeds growing.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Garden Maintenance

It’s been a busy week in the garden. I’ve started taking cuttings from the coleus, impatiens and fuchsia for next year. I sprayed the amaryllis and brought them in to dry for the dormant period. (see February 24, 2007 post.) The poinsettia was trimmed, sprayed and also brought in. I finished mulching; dead headed cone flowers, hosta, astilbe, liatris and annuals that needed it; potted some plants for friends. I trimmed the overgrown alyssum, pussy willow and roses. Weeded and watered. I spent a lot of time enjoying the garden.

Last year red/white impatiens made a nice bright spot beneath the red bud tree. This spring I planted some orange variegated coleus and salmon impatiens and the spot is even brighter.

I plant annuals in this spot to hide the daffodil leaves after they bloom. It’s fun to change annuals and see the difference it makes. It depends somewhat on the color of the cuttings I’ve grown over the winter.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007


Many years ago a nursery woman told me, “Potted plants seldom recover from drowning.” She was trying to make a point. I took her seriously and was careful not to over-water house plants. I found that under-watering (a little) may stress a plant and it may drop a few leaves but would usually bounce back when watered properly.

But, this summer has been so hot and dry that I kept water in the hanging fuschia plant saucer continuously and drowned it. Here’s the result. A lesson re-learned.

Information on proper watering

Saturday, August 11, 2007


I like the look of tall Cannas along our blank garage wall. I’ve tried other plants. The hollyhocks developed rust and leaves turned yellow. Crocosmia is a gorgeous plant but not really tall enough - the same with lupine.

The cannas need to be dug up and stored for the winter (see 10-15-06 post) and then replanted in the spring. They need to be stored in peat moss over the winter in a cool place making sure they don’t freeze. That’s a bit of a chore. I’m willing to do the work - at least until I find a tall perennial to replace them.

Next year I’m going to plant early - about May 1. Even though the last frost date is May 15 in zone 6, it takes about 2 weeks for the sprouts to appear. If we get a late frost, I’ll cover the sprouts overnight. I think I can get away with it since it's a warm, sheltered spot.

There is good canna care information at Old House Gardens and some great varieties for sale.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Roses and Compost Tea

My roses usually look a little sad at this time of year. I’ve used fungicides; kept the bushes picked, plucked and pruned; cleaned up all the leaves that fell on the ground; deadheaded; watered; fertilized; and generally fussed over the roses. By the middle of summer the roses still resembled green sticks.

This year I used a fungicide once in spring and watered during the dry summer. I used a systemic fertilizer my usual 3 times this year and generally ignored them. Except -- I used compost tea every two weeks. (see July 7 post) There is no way to prove that the compost tea made a difference but the bushes look healthier than ever. There is very little blackspot and some nice little blooms.

Now if I could only conquer the Japanese beetles.

Saturday, August 04, 2007


In the corner of our side garden, we have some variety of juniper which is probably about 40 years old. It is overgrown and a bit of an eyesore. We have been going to replace it for years, but that never happens. So, I decided to try my hand at topiary.

With a hand hedge trimmer, I attempted to make a spiral shape – not very exciting or artistic – but at least it’s now within bounds.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Tiger Lily

This one pops in the back of the garden. The plant is tall plant (3-4 ft.) and truly carefree. I cut off the tops when they finish blooming and that’s about it. Lilium lancifolium I believe. It was a gift from a neighbor – an old plant that grows in a few neighborhood yards. One day I’ll have to make a list of all the plants I received from gardening friends and neighbors.

More information at