Phlowers – Catmint ( Nepeta)

I love my Catmint plant.  I’ve featured it as my Flower of the Day in the past blog posts, but right now it is glorious and deserves another look.

The best way I can describe the lavender-blue flowers of my plant is to say they are a cafeteria for buzzy pollinators. The whole plant is vibrating with bees and hoverflies collecting the pollen and nectar.

Catmint is part of Cee’s Flower of the Day.

Plant & Phlutters – The Fennel Cafeteria

The fennel survived the winter and is a cloud of softest, hazy foliage in the Square Foot Garden. I was admiring it when I spotted a contrasting strand of something black on the foliage.

Could it be? Yes! A swallowtail caterpillar snacking on the fronds. Not only one caterpillar was in the midst of the cloud of fennel, but over half a dozen. I’ve never noticed swallowtail caterpillars so early in the season. I am hoping that the density of the fennel will protect the caterpillars from predators.

 

Plants – FOTD and Mother’s Day Basket

I found this Senecio rowleyanus/String of Pearls succulent, also known as String of Beads and the Rosary Plant, at a local garden shop this year. Nestled among trays of annuals, this odd looking plant immediately drew my eye. String of Pearl plants are easy to grow, as are most succulents. A hands-off approach is usually best for succulents, with infrequent watering and good drainage a must. More information on growing String of Pearls can be found on Gardening 101.

The succulent is a perfect fit for this bright parrot planter. The planter has held several plants, but none so well suited to it as the String of Pearls and its cascade of bright green beads. I also love the flower the plant produces, a small white orb with brilliant stamens. The String of Pearls blossom is my Flower of the Day.

I also wanted to say a grateful thank you to my son for the lovely New Guinea hanging basket he gave me for Mother’s Day.

Plants – Flower of the Day and Invasive Plants

My flower of the day, part of Cee’s FOTD challenge, is this gorgeous yellow iris blooming in my garden. I love my iris plants. I also grow a deep purple and pink iris in my gardens.

Iris plants spread at a good rate, but they rarely become invasive, and are easy to dig out and share with friends when they take over too much room.

A plant I’m having trouble with this year is yarrow. I have this nice clump near the air conditioner. I appreciate its tenacity in this inhospitable dry soil. The plant spreads a bit each year, but for the most part is easy to control.

The flip side of this story is the yarrow sown last year via a pack of mixed wildflowers. These yarrow plants are not cooperative. They have returned and spread like a noxious weed. I am having a terrible time pulling the long tap roots out of the rich soil in the back yard plot. Yarrow is  a medicinal herb for muscle aches, but I certainly don’t need this much medicine, and if I keep yanking it up, it’s going to give me a backache. The moral of the tale: read the back of mixed wildflower packets and don’t plant any that contain yarrow.

I love my Rudbeckia Daisies,  but they also spread and can take over any plot they are in. Each year I end up pulling plants out of the beds and also seedlings out of the lawn. Still, I wouldn’t eradicate the Rudbecka altogether; I love the tall yellow stems of daisies they produce in mid-summer.

Plants – Leggy Tomato Seedlings? No Problem!

A few weeks ago I planted four tomato seeds in each of fourteen Solo party cups. Most sprouted and I’ve already snipped away the extras leaving only two sprouts to continue growing. Snipping makes more sense than pulling the tiny plantlets up. There’s no chance of disturbing the remaining roots if you snip the sprout off near the soil.

Today I will choose the sturdiest plant in each cup and snip off the other. I also will add more soil to the cup, topping off near the rim. Did you know that tomato plants develop more roots along the stem if you plant them deep or add more soil?

Here’s a great article in the Spruce with good tips on growing excellent tomatoes:
Growing Strong Tomatoes

Plants – Forced Tulip Update

An update on the forced tulip bulbs: the gathering of bulbs bloomed in shades of red, pink and yellow; they bring joy into the house as they herald Spring.

The bulbs grew well in water, but those in sunlight are greener than the bunch on the kitchen table

Next year I plan to grow another package of forced bulbs in water, and when they begin to bloom transfer them to vases.

I found after blooming it was very easy to take the entire plant out of  water and place in a new receptacle. You are only limited by your imagination on how many unique places you can find to place these flowering bulbs.

The forced bulbs in potting soil grew best in a deep pot. The bulbs planted in shallow soil did very poorly, as the above photo demonstrates.

Will I force tulip bulbs in the bottom of my refrigerator again? Oh Yes!

You can read more on how to force Spring-blooming bulbs here: Bargains in the Clearance Aisle.

Plants – Quick Grow!

I’m a firm believer in nicking and soaking large seeds for twenty-four hours to facilitate quicker sprouting. This year a few of my moonflower seeds, prepped by the nick/soak method, began growing while they were still soaking.

While the seeds were still in the water a small sprig of green emerged from the nicked area of the seed coat. Within a few days of soaking, the entire seed burst and a shoot emerged and began to grow.

The labels in the pot are the same makeshift markers I used last year: old window blinds snapped off into small pieces and labeled with a Sharpie marker.

Tomato seedlings are also growing fast. Today, every small hair on the stem and leaves was shiny in the brilliant sunshine. Did you know the hair on plants is called trichomes? It amused me to read that trichomes on plants are just as diverse as human hair.

“Trichomes can run the gamut in structure, appearance, and texture. Some trichomes are frail, some coarse; some are branched like tree limbs, others star-shaped; some are long and straight, others are short and curly.” Indiana Public Media

Plants – Update/Pussy Willow Catkins

The pussy willow branches, placed in water and displayed on my mantel, thrived for weeks. The lengths below the water line rooted, and the catkins grew and developed fuzzy yellow pollen. The catkins had a life of their own, dropping from the branches onto the floor, becoming toys for my cat to play with in the middle of the night.

Today I potted one branch up to plant as a tree in the backyard.

The tips are already growing leaves, and I have high hopes I won’t have to buy branches next year to force indoors, but will have a supply of my own to use.

Plants – Bargains in the Clearance Aisle

Christmas Red Tulips/Longwood Gardens Conservatory-Friday Foto Friends

What is that oddball bag lying beside my carrots in the vegetable bin of my refrigerator?

What looks like small onions or shallots is really a bag of Spring-Flowering bulbs, leftovers from my Autumn plantings.

While you’re looking for Christmas trees and poinsettias in big box stores or garden nurseries, take a moment to check if there are any leftover Autumn bulbs on clearance. Often a business will slash prices of out of season plants to the point of almost giving them away. I mimic frosty cold by storing unplanted bulbs as the Gardening-Know-How site suggests:

The highest chilling temperature is around 40 degrees F. (4 C.), so chilling bulbs in the refrigerator is ideal. Just be sure not to store them near any fruit, as the released ethylene gas reduces bloom. Store the bulbs in the refrigerator in a ventilated mesh bag.
~ Gardening Know How/How to Chill Flowering Bulbs

The article has many fine tips on how to select, chill and plant the bulbs in Spring. I have about three months to come up with good ideas for forcing these beauties. The bright flowers and colors will certainly be an antidote for the doleful greys of late-winter skies.

The glorious red tulips are part of Cee’s Flower of the Day.

Goodbye November!

Plants – Mexican Bush Sage

An easy-to-grow, drought-tolerant plant also known as velvet sage, Mexican bush sage (Salvia leucantha) produces showy, bright purple and white flowers above attractive, grayish-green foliage from late summer to the first frost. Gardeners in frost-free climates often enjoy blooms throughout the winter. Perennial in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 7 through 11, Mexican sage is a shrubby, sprawling plant that reaches 3 to 4 feet tall. Plant Mexican bush sage in the garden after all danger of frost has passed in early spring

                                                                     ~ The Bump

This beautiful velvety purple flower is blooming in my garden now and part of Cee’s Flower of the Day.

Plants & Perspective – Cuttings

In August I took about three dozen cuttings of plants I liked. Oh my! They all took to rooting in water and soil and I soon had them growing under lights in the basement. My success surprised me even though I have rooted cuttings for years. The small plants quickly became another demand of my time.

Where are the plants now? You might cringe and ask ‘why,’ when I tell you they are in the compost heap. I am getting wiser. I am cutting back on things that tie up my time and energy. Do I really need to carry over so many plants? I live in an area with many garden nurseries. My flowering perennials grow larger every year. I don’t really need as many plants as I did in the past.

I’ve decided I must cut away successful endeavors that might kill me. Sounds funny, but those of you with too many projects going on know exactly what I mean. Growing older for me means less really does give me more…and by that I mean TIME. By the way, I also have a glorious compost heap to use next year. Hooray!

Perspective & Plant – Do What You Do and Do It Well

“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

In February 2016, I posted about these amazing anthurium hanging baskets I photographed in the Longwood Gardens Conservatory. When I visited the gift shop on my way out, I found single plants for sale at an amazing price and took one home with me. I’ve grown the anthurium in a terracotta pot as a floor plant since then, and although it has done well, it has never wanted to stand upright. After propping it up for years, I decided to let it do what it seemed to be destined to do well and planted it in a hanging basket.

““Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.” ~ Dr. Seuss

The anthurium always looked interesting in its floor pot, but as a hanging basket plant it is unique and will never look common. A good lesson for me to follow too: Always be who I am, and not what others think I should be!

““Remember always that you not only have the right to be an individual, you have an obligation to be one.” ~ Eleanor Roosevelt

Plants & Problem-Solving – Yellow Mushrooms in Potting Soil

One of my African Violets has been showing signs of blight. I transplanted it several months ago to a larger pot, but now realize I didn’t do enough to prepare its long neck of a stem for the move. According to The Bump/How to Transplant African Violets with Long Necks, I should have removed some of the outer brown tissue from the stem before burying it in the potting soil.

Added to the long neck syndrome and dying leaves was the growth of yellow mushrooms in the soil. Mushroom Appreciation has a very informative article on yellow mushrooms in potting soil. The problem is quite common and won’t hurt your plant, but the mushrooms are toxic and if you have pets or small children you should replace the soil or toss the plant.

“Leucocoprinus birnbaumii (also known as Lepiota lutea) is quite common in potted plants and greenhouses. This species is considered inedible, although the exact toxicity is unknown. So don’t eat them, no matter how candy-like they appear!” ~ Mushroom Appreciation

Since my plant was failing to thrive I opted to discard it. I will watch for mushrooms in my remaining houseplants and scrape the top layer of soil away if the problem recurs.

Plants – Propagating Coleus

I hope to save many coleus this year as both plants and seeds. To do this I will leave the majority of the plants in pots outdoors to flower and develop seeds, but for the ones I especially admire, I will take cuttings while rapid growth is taking place.

I like to come up with names for the coleus that are unique. Pink is a color I desire in a coleus so the leaf on the left is especially fine to me with that large pink splotch in the center. I also like the scalloped edges in two tones of green. I think I will call this one: The Scalloped Rose.

The coleus in the center is so unique I am astounded. The center of the leaf is an ecru/pinkish/white color and it is edged with brilliant lime green. The ruffled appearance of the plant makes me think of a Victorian cravat and Jane Austen books. Aha! The perfect choice of name: Lymed Cravat. For those of you who read Jane Austen perhaps you will notice my play on the word lime as the town of Lyme in ‘Persausion.’

I haven’t come up with a name for the third yet, but I’m thinking…any ideas? Many thanks to Candice, you can read her reply in the comment section. The name of the third is now ‘Wildfire.’ Thanks so much Candice…it’s a perfect choice. Candice is a WordPress Blogger. You can read her posts on: This Made Me Smile Today.

Plants – Herbal Teas

I’ve lost count of how many years I’ve grown the herb lemon balm. I use it mainly for tea. The butterflies and bees love it for the delicious nectar in its tiny white flowers. I have near two dozen plants growing in several gardens surrounding my home. Why do I grow so many? Well they self-seed, make excellent tea, are linked to longevity, will grow where other plants would succumb to bad conditions, new sprouts are easily transplanted to a new location, and most important, I find the plants pretty.

The batch above is growing strong around my Square Foot Garden boundaries. In some areas it has inter-mingled with spearmint that has also run rampant and multiplied from one plant.

These two herbs, steeped in just-boiled water make a lovely, invigorating, yet calming tea. If you find these plants in a garden nursery and have room to grow them, give them a try.

Plant – Chives

It’s a day of heavy rain here in the Northeast. Before the drops came down too hard I snuck outside with my camera and quickly took a photograph of my prettiest blooming garden plant: a beautiful bunch of lavender pompom blooms topping my chives. I enjoy using fresh herbs in my daily cooking, and chives add a bit of pizazz to many dishes. This week I used a few of them in homemade cream of potato soup. It was delicious, and the chives added some pretty color to the rather bland appearance of the soup.

Chives are easy to grow. Even the potted herbs you find in grocery stores will grow all season if you plant them early enough. My bunch of chives returns without fail every year, bigger and better and with more blossoms.

I’ve read you can pick and dry these blossoms. I think I will give it a try. Updates will follow. 🙂 Chives fit perfectly into my gardening lifestyle.

Plant – Cinnamon Fern Fiddleheads

Cinnamon Ferns (Osmunda cinnamomea) have unfurled during the warmth of the last few weeks. I love walking along woodland paths bordered by these feathery green plants. The fronds appear stately as they hold their spiky ‘cinnamon’ spores high; a scepter covered with the possibility of new life.

Quite often I will find Cinnamon Ferns and Skunk Cabbage growing in the same area.

“The Osmundastrum cinnamomeum fern forms huge clonal colonies in swampy areas. These ferns form massive rootstocks with densely matted, wiry roots. This root mass is an excellent substrate for many epiphytal plants. They are often harvested as osmunda fiber and used horticulturally, especially in propagating and growing orchids. Cinnamon Ferns do not actually produce cinnamon; they are named for the color of the fertile fronds.”
~ Wikipedia

Cinnamon ferns are called fiddleheads in the beginning stages of their unfurling. Here are a few photos of the stages of their growth.

Chefs can create gourmet dishes out of fiddleheads. I’m not sure which variety of fern they use, but think it must be a well-remembered dining experience by anyone who tries this culinary treat.

Quote – The Lily of the Valley

I love this beautiful old hymn. Yesterday, I was reminded of this description of Jesus, and the Bible verse it was based on, when I noticed the first flowers blooming in a nearby patch of naturalized Lily of the Valley. Years ago, I first noticed sprigs of it that had taken hold after someone dumped their garden clippings at the edge of the woods. Those small sprigs have multiplied over the years into a large swathe of plants. As is so often the case, persistence wins the day, and the Lily of the Valley has thrived.

The hymn was written in 1881 by Charles W. Fry

“I’ve found a friend in Jesus, He’s everything to me,
He’s the fairest of ten thousand to my soul;
The Lily of the Valley, in Him alone I see
All I need to cleanse and make me fully whole.
In sorrow He’s my comfort, in trouble He’s my stay;
He tells me every care on Him to roll. Refrain:
He’s the Lily of the Valley, the Bright and Morning Star,
He’s the fairest of ten thousand to my soul.”
~ Charles W. Fry 1881

“I am the rose of Sharon, and the lily of the valleys.”
~ Song of Solomon 2:1

This Bluegrass rendition of the hymn is by The Cluster Pickers.

Plant – Violets

I love violets in the Springtime, not only do they add color, they are gently fragrant and a scent I seek out at this time of the year. Violets self-seed and will pop up in unexpected places, like this one under my hydrangea bush. I have violets everywhere, offspring of the dozen or so I transplanted from the creek bed years ago.

“Do you think amethysts can be the souls of good violets?”
― L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

Violets are one of those wonderful garden plants that will grow in between the cracks of stones and in other tight places. They are also perfect for arranging in miniature bouquets.

“Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it.” ~ Mark Twain

Plants & Projects – Throwback Thursday – Spider Plant Revisited

Two years ago, April of 2015, I shared a project involving a yard sale bird feeder frame and a spider plant. I love to find wiry, strange contraptions at yard sales and turn them into plant containers. This one is still growing strong. The photo above shows the growth the spider babies have made in two years. Spiders are great plants and easy to propagate. I thought this was a good post to revisit for Throwback Thursday since yard sales are beginning again with the warmer weather. The photo below shows the plant when it was just starting out.

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