Plant – Flowering Tobacco (Nicotiana sylvestris)

Last year, when my flowering tobacco set seeds, I picked the pods and shook hundreds of seeds into the back border of my front garden.

Although the seeds were just tiny specks, they wintered over great and hundreds came up in my garden. I didn’t thin the sprouts, I let them battle it out and only the fittest survived.

Because they were not started early indoors they are just beginning to flower now, which suits me fine, other annuals have bloomed and died and it’s nice to have the flowering tobacco coming into bloom in late summer.

These plants don’t need any special care. In New Jersey they grow up to 48 inches tall. The large leaves stay low to the earth, while the flower spike climbs and is eventually covered in a spray of fragrant tubular white flowers. Another plus is my plants don’t seem to be bothered by many insects pests.

The flower perfume is strongest in the evening. The flower stalk is strong and rarely needs staking. The plant grows best in full sun, but mine do well in part shade. I recommend these for a nighttime garden or the back of a border. The white flowers reflect the moonlight and fill the air with amazing scent.

Plant Tips – Love Lies Bleeding/Growing, Harvesting & Crafting

Amaranthus caudatus, Love-Lies-Bleeding, is an old-fashioned flower garden plant once again being offered as seed through catalogs and garden stores. I grow it for its oddball characteristics, long, droopy flower stalks covered with blossoms that range in color from pink to deep crimson. I think the amaranthus is a perfect choice for this week’s Cee’s Oddball Challenge.

My Love-Lies-Bleeding plants have grown to near four foot tall. During the last torrential rainstorm, the largest fell over and kissed the ground; precautionary staking would have been a good idea. I have mixed feelings about staking ornamental garden plants, an ugly support is an awkward eyesore and inevitably robs the plant of its natural flow of growth. I tend to stake a plant after-the-fact of leaning or falling over.

My husband remarked that the flower stalks reminded him of hair. I agreed and told him I would cut a few and use them to make an Autumn display. I am planning ahead even now on how I can create a pumpkin/gourd person or scarecrow and use these flowers as the hair. What fun!

I cut the blossoms from the plant that fell and hung them in a dark closet to dry. I laid the stem against the clothes rack in the same way the plant curved outdoors. This will give me dried locks of hair with a more natural spread, rather than if I hung them straight and upside-down.

One drawback I’ve found is the leaves are attractive to insects as food. What a surprise to learn as I wrote this post that most varieties of Amaranthus are edible for humans too. I’m afraid the insects haven’t left me many unscathed leaves to sample in recipes.

No worries…I pressed the lacy leaves between book pages. In artwork, they make terrific stencils for a random pattern, something I find hard to accomplish…I tend to be rather orderly and that’s a no-no in creative art.

Growing amaranthus is easy, they can be started early indoors, or sown directly in the soil after the danger of frost. My current crop was direct-sown and seems hardier than those I’ve sown indoors. At the end of summer, I will collect the seeds (there will be hundreds) and set some aside to dry and package up for next year. I will also give them a season of chilling in the refrigerator. In late October, early November, I will sprinkle some of the seeds directly into the garden beds and hope for volunteers next year. I’m really pleased with this flower in my garden. If you have a chance and the room give it a try.

Love Lies Bleeding (Amaranthus caudatus)
Height 3 – 4 feet (in my NJ garden)
My plants get about 6-8 hours of full sun every day. No special care needed. I don’t use non-organic pesticides so I put up with the lacework of insects on my leaves.
Here’s a terrific article on growing amaranthus: The Spruce-Growing an Edible Armaranth Harvest.

Plant Tips – Bountiful Herb Harvest

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Autumn has arrived, winter approaches, I have been purchasing potted herbs to grow on my windowsill through the colder months. I will still take cuttings for rooting from my outdoor herbs, but they will not reach harvest size until Spring of 2015. In the meantime, when I need fresh herbs through the winter, I will “pinch” them from my lovely windowsill garden. Another plus in growing herbs indoors is the scent they “whisper” into the air when you run your hands over them…heavenly!

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Photo collage courtesy of Picmonkey.com

Our area of the country experienced a very cool summer, but my herbs didn’t seem to mind and have thrived. I don’t want to waste the bounty of my gardens so over the next few days I will be harvesting everything I have room to store. I will hang aromatic herbs such as lavender, catnip, and a portion of my mints, in dark closets to dry. Those I use in cooking I will freeze in ice cube trays.

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Step 1

Soak herbs in a bowl of water for a few minutes. Remove the herbs from the water, check for debris, refill and repeat process at least three times.  There is no need for scrubbing or agitation, the water floats the dirt away leaving the essential oils intact. (Organic potted herbs grown inside do not need to be washed.)

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Step 2

There is no need to dry sprigs when they are finished soaking. Break leaves away from the stem, place inside empty ice cube trays, add water and freeze.

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Step 3

Remove frozen cubes from tray.

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Step 4

Place inside a labeled zip-lock freezer bag and store in the freezer. Your “fresh” herbs are now available anytime you are ready to cook a good meal.  The cubes are terrific for making soups and stocks. I also freeze onion, scallions, peppers and other produce for quick stocks.

Plant Tips – Growing Squash Upright

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I find squash and zucchini blossoms beautiful. Even better is the fact that a delicious vegetable will grow after the blossom falls away from the plant. Squash plants take up a large amount of room in the garden. Since I grow my vegetables in the Square Foot Gardening method I don’t want to give up many squares to one plant. I was happy this year to find some good information on Pinterest that led me to good articles on how to grow squash upright. Here are a few of my finds:

Growing Winter Squash and Pumpkins

Growing Squash

Square Foot Gardening Squash Tips

Happy Gardening!

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Plants & Praise – Poppies/Winter Sown and Naturalized

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I love poppies of all kinds. Over the course of several years, I have faithfully sown the seeds in the spring only to have the heavy rains of April and May beat the small seedlings into sodden destruction. Finally, a year or two ago, I found a way to beat the rain; winter Sowing works for growing poppies. What is Winter Sowing? To winter sow a seed you cut a gallon milk carton, or other large plastic bottle, in half, punch some drainage holes in the bottom, fill with an inch or two of seed starting soil, sow a few seeds, close, duct tape and put in a sunny spot in your garden…oh and of course I forgot the most important part…you do this smack in the middle of the coldest months of the year.

Winter sowing is perfect for growing poppies. I have many new plants spread throughout my gardens, thriving and growing at the present time. I also have quite a few naturalized plants from poppies I grew last year, courtesy, once again, of winter sowing.

Here is a site that will tell you more about winter sowing: Winter Sowing

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I love the blue-green tones of poppy foliage. I also love the anticipation I feel when a bud is about to POP!

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An added bonus for me are the beautiful seedpods.

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Hello Gorgeous!

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I love this portrait I unknowingly captured of a little hover fly collecting nectar from the pink poppy. His or her face is visible, the delicacy of the wings highlighted and transparent against the bloom of the flower. God’s creations continuously amaze me. I must remember to thank him every day for the beauty all around me, the obvious glories that I see, and also the wonderful hidden things I often don’t notice.

Plant Tips – Nasturiums/Salad Flower

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My nasturiums are coming into bloom this week. I have these beauties planted in my Square Foot Garden. You might wonder why these flowers are planted in a vegetable garden. The answer is that all parts of the plant are edible.  Here is a good link on how to use nasturium flowers, leaves and seeds in your salads and other dishes. Happy Dining!

Wikihow’s Tips On Using Nasturiums In A Salad

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Plant Tips – Avoiding Unnecessary Chemicals in the Garden – Part I

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Yes, I’ll admit the scene is a little odd, but I am putting into practice my philosophy on gardening: use natural remedies before resorting to chemicals. All of us know of the dangers of chemicals in the environment. We all carry around residual bits of the poison in our bodies. An effective way to kill weeds that sprout in sidewalk and driveway cracks is to douse them with boiling water. If they are especially tough add a touch of salt. The weeds instantly wilt, dry up, become brown, and are gone in a day or two. Easy! All you need to do is put the kettle on!

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Plant Tips – Watering Roses

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Roses are a very thirsty bush. For the best blooms and growth they should drink at least several gallons of water a week. The hotter your climate, the more water a rose needs. Check out this terrific article from the Santa Clarita Valley Rose Society: Water and Roses

Another problem can crop up if watering is done improperly: black spot disease. The best way to prevent black spot disease is to keep the foliage dry. The question then becomes: “How best to water?”

I have found the answer to be watering with a slow-release container. You can make one of these easily with an empty gallon milk carton or a kitty litter container. Drill or punch a hole in one corner. Fill the container as quickly as possible with water from a hose. Put your finger over the hole on the bottom and place the carton beside your rose.( It helps to loosen the dirt around the rose with a trowel.) The water slowly trickles out of the carton, and sinks into the dirt without running out too quickly and away from the rose bush.

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This might not look pretty, but it works amazingly well. Try it out for yourself.

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Pinterest and Plant Tips – Pennies and Tomatoes

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I love “Old Wives Tales” and “Do it Yourself Remedies” that work! I found this tip on the Pinterest Boards and promptly pinned it to my Garden Tips board.

Find out how to use pennies minted before 1982 to fight tomato blight: Fighting Tomato Blight With Pennies

I’ve set aside quite a few to have on hand to use when the need arises.

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Plant Tips – September Cuttings

It seems I am just a bit late with almost everything this season, but Autumn is coming on like gangbusters, and the cooler temperatures seem to be earlier than usual too. This week our nighttime temperatures will dip into the forties. I’ve been taking cuttings of plants I want to save. The plants in the photograph above are: fuchsias and two types of dragon-wing begonias. I used honey as a rooting boost. You can read how to do this at my earlier post: How-to Root Plants with Honey.

The cuttings have been in a lightweight potting soil for a few days now, and they all seem to be thriving under the lights in my basement. Today I will take a snip or two of anything left in the gardens that I have yet to save.

Plants, Plant Tips and Perspective – Growing Poppies

Here is a picture of me standing alongside one of my Square Foot Gardens admiring my Bread Seed Poppies. I stand about 5’4″ tall. The poppies are a bit hard to see, they are white and blending into the background. Here is a closer look.

I have written the word poppies in blue right under their petals.

The flowers are gorgeous, and the seedpods are pretty grand too.

I wonder how many hundreds of thousands of seeds I will reap when they are dry.

Plant Tip: Don’t let anyone tell you poppies don’t do well if they are started early and transplanted. I sowed these through the winter in milk jugs, a process known as Winter Sowing. The resulting poppy plants are over four and a half feet tall. I would say my transplanted poppies are thriving. These bread seed poppies are joined by other smaller varieties throughout my garden. All are doing well.

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Moral of the Story: There are some tried and true ways of doing things in the garden, but always be open to new ideas too.