Saturday, February 18, 2017

Sunday, February 12, 2017

A Fond Good-Bye

Today I bid a fond Good-Bye to my Galva News "For the Love of Gardening" column.  I had been contemplating resigning my highly paid and notoriously famous authorship for some time.  (For those that take everything literally, the paid/famous part was humor.)

I'd been contemplating the resignation but always seemed to have one more column to write.  It wasn't that there was a problem with the Galva News or Editor, Doug Boock.  On the contrary, I respect both and my working relationship and personal friendship with Doug has stayed strong. I'd written thousands of articles both here and in various publications and love to share enthusiasm for all things gardening and an occasional "opinion piece".  I had simply lost my excitement for the project. 

To me, writing and the inspiration for a topic must come from an overwhelming excitement about the topic.  I can almost always find excitement regarding gardening; maybe not in newsprint at this time.  It was time to bid a fond Good-Bye.

When I found Doug was going to resign as Editor of the Galva News, I felt it was a good time to make the change.  It wasn't a result of his leaving or being adverse to his replacement.  It was all about a good break time.  I do wish his replacement the best and I'm sure we'll all enjoy the Galva News under his leadership as we have under so many others.  I continue to maintain The Galva News is the best little weekly paper in the Midwest - maybe the world!! 

I look forward to only writing "gardening" in this Blog format at the relaxed pace it allows.  Thanks for your readership in the Galva News and comments of encouragement through the years.           

Friday, February 10, 2017

Tie it With a Bow

This beautiful Nicotiana "Lime Green" is from Annie's Annuals and she referred to it as a plant that ties her garden together.  It got me thinking about what's been successful in my gardens for tying it all together.

First off, what do we mean by "tying it all together"?  It's flowers tucked here and there (strategically of course) that help a garden to:

  • Flow from one color, kind or size to another.
  • Using one such plant, it can make different things look like they belong together.
  • It can give different beds of different things a connection.
  • It can brighten or soften other plants.

One of the cheapest and easiest flowers for this is the annual marigold.  Super hardy and blooms continually until frost.  Thanks to hybridizing, they are not only gold, they're in yellow, combos with deep red and even white.  Sized from a few inches to a couple of feet tall.  They transplant easily and once established don't take a lot of watering.  To keep them looking their best, I water when it's really dry and deadhead.  I keep an old pair of kitchen shears in my garden apron and snip off old blooms while walking around.

I like the green Nicotiana and the very old fashioned fragrant white.  I've used the pinks but they don't seem to get a bushy as I like.

For extremely dry areas, Rose Moss is an excellent low sprawling plant.  Once established it goes until frost and sometimes overwinters or self seeds.  They come in mixed bright or single colors.

If your area is shaded, the hardy hosta comes in so many sizes and patterns, it's impossible to run out of ideas.  The leaves can form a dense background pulling other plants into a single picture.  The good thing about most hosta, they can be easily divided allowing you to use the same look to unify the entire bed or shaded yard.

Another great shade tie plant is Impatiens.  It does need moisture when it gets dry but what a great burst of color all summer.

Make sure you don't use something invasive for the purpose of tying things together.  Some beautiful ground covers and grasses can easily take over and kill out other plants.

The trick with using one plant to tie in an entire area is making sure the "tie plant" is compatible to all the plants in the bed.  It won't work if the tie plant is for full sun and the bed is mostly shade.  Same with water and nutrient needs.  Most succulents and hosta aren't friends in the same bed.

You don't even need to pack your beds with tie plants.  Simply by planting the same plant somewhere in every bed can work.  The eye will recognize that plant and the mind will consider it pleasingly familiar.

Using annuals as tie plants allows a change of theme every year.  If you raise annuals from seed, it can be inexpensive.  

As you dream your February garden dreams, consider a plant you L.O.V.E. and make it a tie plant.  


Friday, February 3, 2017

Go Red

Hemerocallis " Chicago Apache"
Today is the official GO RED day focusing on the prevention of heart disease in women.  I'm wearing red on this blog:

Hemerocallis "Bryan Paul"
Hemerocallis "Case of the Reds"

Hemerocallis "Carmine Monarch" 
Hemerocallis "Chicago Ruby"
Hemerocallis "Crimson Pirate"
Hemerocallis "Crimson Shadows"
Hemerocallis "Ed Murray"
Hemerocallis "Feast of the Mau Mau"
Hemerocallis "Flaming Sword"
Hemerocallis "Fly Catcher"

Hemerocallis "Hoosier Hopes"
Hemerocallis "Klehm's Red Ribbons"
Hemerocallis "Night Embers"
Hemerocallis "Oriental Ruby"

Hemerocallis "Over There"

Hemerocallis "Red Volunteer"

Hemerocallis "Rosie Meyer"
Hemerocallis "Superlative"
All of these daylilies are beautiful and red.  They are all different in some way - shade of color, markings, size and personality.  Just like women!  

Know the warning signs of heart attack - some are a bit different for women.  Go to the ER or call 911 if you think you might be suffering from a heart attack.  Better a needless trip than going too late to help.  

Saturday, January 28, 2017

W. Atlee Burpee Company

Washington Atlee Burpee (1858-1915) started young in his interest in poultry breeding and other farm animals, included collies and finally seeds.  There is much lore surrounding the sixteen year old developing expert in genetics (see but one thing certain, he was to become a highly intelligent business man.

By the 1880s, the W. Atlee Burpee Company was supplying seed as well as livestock.  His guarantee of satisfaction for one year from date of purchase and the beauty of his catalogs contributed to success.

Typically he used immigrant watercolorists from Germantown, PA to paint the pictures of the plants you could grow from his seeds.

A problem that still exists today, Burpee found the seeds he brought from Europe had poor germination and were susceptible to diseases because the United States is mostly further south than European countries.  Enter hybridization or selective breeding for desirable characteristics.  (Burpee created the first hybrid vegetables.)

From his large world-famous plant development facility, their experiments produced the best European vegetables and flowers that had been improved and adapted to American growing conditions.  By the 1890s, Burpee was the largest seed company in the world. 

The early catalogs (Burpee’s Farm Annual) had mostly farm crops including the supplement covering animals and tools.

Luther Burbank, brilliant eccentric wizard of multiple plant crosses, was a cousin.  After Burbank’s death, Burpee acquired the rights to his seeds, experimental work and breeding records.

After W.A. Burpee’s death, his son, David became head of the firm.  Burpee was the innovator of the “War Garden” in WWI and the “Victory Garden” in WWII.   Both credited with bringing seeds and family gardens to America.

Hybridization was emphasized at Burpee bringing an entirely new dimension to horticulture.  (Burpee’s Big Boy tomato, Crenshaw Melon and the Red and Gold Marigold are some of the first.)  

Flowers were David Burpee’s great love and his favorite was the marigold.  The story of his hybridization of marigolds is a long and exciting tale.  Add to that the innovations and experiments of ongoing importance and the list of Burpee introductions fills pages.  Their ability to withstand the changes brought on by wars, isolation, disease and theft has proved valuable.

It was David Burpee who officially enlisted the support of Senator Everett Dirksen of Illinois in the movement to name the marigold the national flower.  Burpee's marketing methods are lessons for any business to learn.

There are reams of historical documentation on the breeding work done by the Burpee company.  Still more on the shelves of today’s stores with the best of their seeds.

W. Atlee and David Burpee were both civic minded and used their business to help Americans feed their families with the best seeds available.  We should be grateful for those innovations as we plant our seeds and harvest our produce.

By the 1970s, Burpee was regularly introducing new varieties from outside programs as well as their own.  In 1970, David Burpee sold his company to General Food.  In 1979, the company was acquired by ITT.  The Company merged with the George J. Ball, Inc. company in 1991. 

The Smithsonian Gardens (in its Archives of American Gardens) has the business records (including seed catalogs) of W. Atlee Burpee & Co.

As with most old seed company catalogs and displays, Burpee’s are very collectable. There are loads of other information out there especially about their own introductions.

Friday, January 27, 2017

D. M. Ferry & Co.

Dexter M. Ferry (1833-1907) was a businessman from Detroit, Michigan who founded D. M. Ferry & Co., at one time the largest seed company in the world.

How many of you have heard of Mr. Ferry or his seeds?  Had I not been looking at pictures of old seed catalogs I’m not sure I would have bothered to dig a little deeper.

I'm glad I did because Ferry is the kind of rags to riches story or better yet, work and succeed story we’ve come to identify as American.

His father died when he was three and at 16 (along with going to school in the winter) he began working at his Uncle’s farm for $10 a month.  At 18, he secured a position as an errand boy at a stationery firm.  He advanced to salesman and then bookkeeper. 

At 23, he became a junior partner at a seed growing company.  When Ferry became full owner, it became D. M. Ferry & Co.  He introduced several innovations in the seed-vending business:  Sold only fresh seeds which increased germination rates and established a reputation for quality.  He was among the first to sell seeds in small packets.

The company survived and even prospered after a warehouse fire taking out one million dollars of their stores.  In the early 1900s, the company was doing over two million dollars in sales.

They grew their own seeds on extensive land holdings.  The operation included greenhouses, hybridization operations, large barns for horses and farming equipment, houses for employees, packaging and distribution buildings and more.

In addition, he shared his business acumen with many companies and philanthropic organizations.  A tale of hard work, intelligence and success.

Ferry merged his company with C.C. Morse & Co. in 1930 and it became the Ferry-Morse Company.  It became the largest seed distribution company in the world.  In 1981, it became part of France’s Groupe Limagrain, the largest seed producer in the world.  In 2005, Groupe Limagrain sold Ferry-Morse to Jiffy International (a Norwegian Company) and still sells seeds.

Memorabilia from D. M. Ferry & Co. is highly prized and collectable.  In addition, there are many historical collections available for viewing.