Sunday, July 27, 2014

Thinking Annuals

I think all gardeners have a favorite annual; maybe several favorites.  Some of the reasons:

There are those that have the garden discipline to only use annuals that make perfect pots, borders and arrangements.

A beautiful frilly annual poppy.
For those with lots of room, having a “cutting garden” of annuals planted in rows like vegetables gives a summer’s worth of bouquets.

Combining certain annual flowers with vegetables may help repel insects.

Adding bright annuals to a perennial bed keeps it flowering all summer.

Then, there are those of us who plant flowers that bring back good memories.  I like the old fashioned annuals I saw in my grandma’s gardens.  Planted from seed, they are inexpensive and provide a riot of colors. 

Annuals from seed are easy and probably the reason kids are allowed to help plant them.  Some of my favorites to grow from seed:

Every zinnia I've ever had is my favorite.
Zinnia is a hardy plant with almost every color except blue.  Short, tall, big, little, solid or variegated colors and different petal shapes.  Include white and green for serene and elegant.  The riot of colors are reds, gold, orange and all shades in between.

A few Cosmos in a bud vase is especially sweet.

Cosmos look dainty and are tough as nails.  The soft fern-like leaves fill in around other plants and the beautiful flat flowers keep coming all season.  Shades of pink, white and gold are the most popular.

Bachelor Buttons fronting an old stump
full of petunias.
Bachelor Button is another deceptively tough plant and perfect for those needing blue in the gardens.  It also comes in shades of pink and white.  They may self seed. 

These bright Four-O'Clocks add 
zing to my veggie garden.
Four-o’clock is a thick bushy plant in bright pinks, oranges, yellow, red and white.   As their name indicates, they provide a visual statement in the evening and on cloudy days.

Marigolds are like a scoop of sunshine.

Marigolds are so tough some folks consider them too common and overlook the benefits of being drought tolerant.  It isn’t bashful about standing it’s ground against weeds and is virtually disease and insect resistant.  Many folks believe they help keep insects off garden vegetables; at any rate it brightens up a garden, bed, or pot.   There are many new hybrids in shades of gold, maroon, white and yellow.  Tall, short, small or large flowered.

Cleomes are a good insect magnet.

Cleome is a tall feathery plant that keeps on giving since the flowers keep blooming on the top.  White, pink and wine colors.  Gather the seeds before they drop if you don’t want zillions of plants next spring.  They do pull easily.  I generally let some drop and throw seeds over beds hoping for a mix in with perennials.

All of these may be seeded in rows, used in pots, put in selected areas or scattered to form a dense bed.  With some searching, you can find plant sets  at nurseries.  The above seeds can be mixed to form a combo of size and color perfect for a spectacular attraction or to hide something. 

One of about two-hundred zillion colors of Nasturtiums
The annuals above (and most others) need full sun, moisture when getting established and then they are happy with a typical Illinois summer.  Keeping weeds pulled insures they have all the moisture, sun and nutrients available.  

Once they’ve seeded or you’ve harvested the seeds, pull annuals and compost.  Annuals are better not left in the ground over winter because they can harbor diseases and insects plus most are no longer attractive.

To harvest the seeds, pick when the flower is dry and lay on newspaper for a few days just to make sure the seeds are dry.  Then put in a paper envelop, label and store in a dry spot where it won’t freeze. 

The old fashioned fragrant Nicotiana
Enjoy a riot of annuals throughout summer and bring a little old fashioned love back into your gardens.

(I know I didn't include some of our favorites, but I had to stop at some point.  I agree there are so many to choose from and I didn't even get into annual vines.)

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Going for the Gold

Daylilies have their own personalities or genetic traits.  They're bred or hybridized for specific things that are important to the person hybridizing.  OK, that all sounds pretty simple but it's not.

Most hybridizers have thousands, sometimes hundreds of thousands, of plants they are cross pollinating to get something special and new.  A huge percentage of these plants are thrown away and never make it to registration.  And then there's a plant that has what might be termed:  It has it all.

I have a bed of daylilies with their registered names pertaining to family members.  It's fun and every time I work with that lily, I think of that person.  I bought a daylily "Mary Todd" for my sister-in-law, Mary Gibson.  It was from Oakes Daylilies for $6.  OK, we now have two great things about the lily, it's has the right name and it's cheap.  Be still my beating heart.

"Mary Todd" had a simple description:  "Six inch bright yellow blooms with ruffles and frills.  22 inch scapes.  Blooms mid to late season.  Semi-evergreen.   Stout Silver Medal honors."  It sounded nice but the daylily world is full of bright yellow blooms and my expectations were for a nice lily but nothing to write an article about.

"Mary Todd" was hybridized by Fay in 1967 so it wasn't even one of the new crazy varieties with loads of special things to get our attention.  It was big and yellow.  My plant is five years old and this is what has happened:

It consistently has loads - I mean LOADS - of perfectly shaped bright yellow gold lilies that always open early, stay open late and look perfect every lily.  Some lilies are divas on how they produce their flowers.  Some must have perfect weather, conditions, years and prayers.  "Mary Todd" is not a diva; she is in for the long haul.

An example of the many buds.
In five years, the plant has expanded and is always healthy.  The buds don't drop and it sends up numerous scapes.  At the top of each scape, the plant produces up to fifteen flowers.  This means a long period of flowers blooming and lighting up the bed.

The honor of being awarded the "Stout Silver Metal" means it was the "Best of Breed" for a given year and is the American Hemerocallis' highest honor.  "Mary Todd" deserves this honor.

This plant is excellent for lighting up a garden spot.  "Mary Todd" is pretty much care free except it may not bloom the year it's planted.  Any daylily I buy in the fall is planted in a shady bed just to get it in someplace before winter.  Then in the spring I dig and put it where I want - when I can see the spacing better as plants are coming up.  I accidentally left a bit of "Mary Todd" in the shade area when I moved her to the family bed.  She is now blooming her bright little show in spite of the shade and has even expanded.

Enjoy the photos - she is one of those daylilies that begs for a picture every day while in bloom.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Forget Me Nots

One of our group's rural gardens
I'd been around garden clubs in the past and never much cared for the hours spent sitting at tables with rules and not much gardening.  A friend and I were talking about that very thing while we were at a garden class and I decided to see if there were other gardeners who wanted to do garden things but not "meet" "vote" "have rules" and sit inside.  And there were!

Talking plants in an urban garden.
At first we loosely called ourselves "garden ladies" but that quickly changed to the "Forget Me Nots" when we spent the first time together talking about plants and having trouble remembering all the names.  Gardening and sense of humor seem to work well together.

Visiting a nursery for spring plants
Today, here's how we do this little group:  Each month one of us heads up what we do.  Aside from that, it's a loose plan.  Being able to roll with the weather and busy schedules is important.  To this end, if you can make it then good, if not we'll see you when you can.  If it rains, we'll either sit and talk gardening or cancel and move on to another time.  If someone gets their weeds pulled, has taken their shower and sends out an e-mail saying "have wine on the porch tonight; come if you can." that's OK, too.  

A rep from Rooftop Sedums sharing their product
while we visited on the back porch of one member.
All of us knows someone in the group, most of us didn't know everyone in the beginning.  We invite friends who might like that particular month's plan and if they want to keep coming we add them to the list and if not they're still welcome any time and anyway.  

It's the only group I meet with that "how you dress" isn't important.  And most times we include walking shoes, umbrellas, hats, cameras and food.  Did I mention:  food.  Some do the cooking and other times we stop at a restaurant.  Seems DQ is not out of the question after a day of garden fun.

Some heavy metal pickin' for yard creations.
We're still just getting started and finding what works.  We've gone to classes, had a formal presentation, gone metal pickin', visited individual gardens and commercial nurseries.  We're getting creative as we think of winter months and longer road trips.  

We car pool, laugh and have considered buses.  We share plants and yesterday some pulled garlic.  A lot of time is spent discussing what works for us and what hasn't.  We complain about weeds!  

My daylilies going crazy in the morning sun.
We are new gardeners and experienced gardeners.  We are hobbyists and Master Gardeners.  Some of us raise our own vegetables, others just flowers, some are into confers, annuals, perennials or just looking.  A few use their gardens (or have in the past) as a business.  Some are retired, others work outside the home and a few still have children at home.  We all have gardening passion.    

Wanted to share what we're doing in hopes you may also venture into gardening groups in a casual and fun way.    

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Dad's Best White

If you've often read my blog, you know I'm crazy about daylilies.  I've spared you recently by not writing non stop about them and today I'll bring them back.  Let me wax on . . .

"Dad's Best White" is a daylily you'll want to get if you want E.V.E.R.Y.T.H.I.N.G.

I ordered DBW from Oakes Daylilies and it was a grand total of $9 - that's a bargain.  It was hybridized by Viette and registered in 1984.

The six inch flowers are a light yellow/cream with a small green eye.  They shimmer with a pearlized finish.  They're large enough to make an impact.  The petals are thin which makes them look like they are floating on the plant.

The scapes are considered self-branching - meaning they will have many opportunities for flowers.  They are about 28 inches tall so planting near the front of your garden bed gives them ample viewing.

They are considered a single flower (meaning no frilly petals in the middle), a diurnal and a diploid for those of you who are into the specifics.   They bloom mid-season.

What makes this an outstanding daylily is it is covered with flowers for approximately 45 days consistently every year no matter what the conditions.

The flowers aren't damaged by average summer sun, wind or rain.  They open cleanly and close tightly making it easy to deadhead.

I have no other daylily that is as consistent and as fully flowered as this variety.

The light cream color is a perfect foil for other bright daylilies or perennials.  It pulls the bed together through it's neutral color.  This doesn't mean it isn't a show stopper because it's mass of flowers draws attention.

The clump increases in size and it can easily be divided over and over.

Try some white daylilies in your garden.  So easy to care for and so beautiful.  I bought this one to add to my family garden in memory of my dad, Ward Shenk.  Since the chances of finding a daylily named "ward" was slim, I settled for Dad's Best White and I've not regretted it once in the five years it's been in my garden.

Side note:  The difference in color between pictures has to do with several things:  Time of day, cloudy or sunny, the year and where I'm standing in relationship to the light.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Gardening for Scrap Metal

Metal Praying Mantis made with scrap iron
We have a new loosely formed garden group.  The rules are there can't be any rules except courtesy to whoever is initiating some fun thing to do.  And since we're all gardeners, courtesy is a way of life so there ya' go.

One of the group who (with her husband) owns the local metal scrap yard, invited us to a morning of scavenging or pickin' for garden objects.  When someone is pickin',  "garden object" is in the eye of the beholder and twice the fun.

We came prepared with heavy work shoes, gloves and old clothes.  It was a cool breezy day so insects weren't an issue.  It was perfect pickin' weather.

Honestly, if we'd had a crane and cutting torch we would have been dangerous.  In leu of those, we culled what we could carry.  In addition, a beautiful patch of wild flowers (perhaps "Purple Prairie Clover") was dug in hopes of transplanting. And our friend also brought each of us a start of Sedum "Neon".

So what did we find:

A heavy cast iron thing with a hollow center and flared on both ends.  About 3 ft. tall, it will become a table with the addition of millstone on top.

Various license plates and street signs to become roofs for bird houses.

Several old cast iron pieces from planters, pickers and hoes.

Bottle flower from rebar.
Rebar (a gardener can't too much rebar.)

Lots of pieces of things from who knows what that will be repurposed into signs and object of art.

What we might have got:

Large pieces of sheet metal that had beautiful unusual holes stamped in them - they would make fabulous trellis.

Metal wheels still attached to old farm equipment (the torch reason) could be a fence or art.

And then bins and stuff and such.

Yes, a day at the scrap yard is a day of gardening fun!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Who Me - Obsessive?

How to know if you might be a bit obsessive about gardening:

Baltimore Oriole 
You have more bird feeders than dinner plates.

You wash your garden knickknacks in the dishwasher.

You know who hybridized certain plants.

You can’t walk outside without bending to pull a weed.

Manicure means clipping your nails short.

You can spend as much time picking out a pair of garden clippers as most people spend picking out a good steak.

You’re a bee whisperer.

Daylily "Corryton Pink"
The first flower on your favorite plant makes you smile.

You’ve honestly thought about the dead plant grieving process.

You’ve moved a perennial more than twice.

You categorize garden friends in a special category.

You know the difference between beneficial and non-beneficial insects.

You forgive another gardener’s eccentricities because they’re gardeners.

A rainy day means the weeds pull out easier.

From the net - wish it was my garden!
You’re in awe of anyone who does bush sculpting or has topiary.

You stop your morning walk to stand a moment and enjoy someone’s gardens.

You describe where someone lives by the plants in their yard not house color.

You’ve been late to events because you walked outside and bent to pull just one weed.

You spend more on birdseed than your last meal out.

You consider what plants beneficial insects need at what stage in their life.

You’ve spent a considerable amount of time discussing the merits of certain sunscreens, insect repellants and fertilizers.

Socializing is talking gardening.

You gleefully forward a great article on gardening to a select few friends you KNOW will love it, too.

You consider the sky the backdrop for your garden.

You always reach for a specific set of clothes for gardening:  loose, offering sun protection and slightly stained.

Your garden hat is seldom pretty or becoming.

At a certain age, your hands, back, neck, or whatever doesn’t always work right because you have stooped, lifted and pulled in your garden for so many years.

You actually read plant labels.

You’ve researched a garden issue to the point of knowing more than most horticulture experts.

You’ve taken garden classes and you’ve given garden classes.

My gardening friend, Shelly, garden partying.  
You go to a garden party in comfortable shoes because you’re going to walk in the gardens.

A glass of iced tea or cup of coffee in the garden means you’ve learned how to bend over, pull a weed without spilling the drink.

You don’t take offense if another gardener reads a garden catalog while visiting.

You know the good, bad and ugly of every nursery within 200 miles. 

Each plant has a personality.

You have almost as many pictures of your plants as you do family.  If you have more you say it’s for research.

Tomato sauce - yum yum.
You know how to preserve food and use herbs.

You consider a gift from someone’s garden better than money.

You pretend summer time company isn’t about how your gardens look as a backdrop.

You don’t gossip about the shortcomings of another gardener’s mistakes, tasks not done or choices.

You have a rain gauge, outdoor thermometer, and most have a device that measures humidity, wind speed, and a host of weather data. 

You know as much about your favorite weatherman/woman as TMZ knows about celebrities.  You occasionally use his/her name in vain. 

Nasturtiums are good in salads.
You can recite how a certain plant has performed over the years related to the weather.

You’ve eaten a flower.  

Do any of the above make you an obsessive gardener?  Of course not, you’re just passionate!  Denial, it works for me.