Friday, May 19, 2017

Succession Planning

Spring tulip, columbine & spirea
Once spring has sprung, the pages of what's flowering whizzes by in never ending speed.

It's gone from tulips and daffodils to iris and peonies in the wink of an eye.  It's affirmation all gardens need succession planning.

In the corporate world, it's a plan on how and who will replace upper management personnel when they leave.  In the garden, it means planting perennials to have something blooming during every phase of the spring/summer/fall seasons.

Seldom does the beginner gardener consider succession planning and instead buys for only pretty.  Agreed, pretty is very important but if that pretty only lasts a few weeks of every year, the garden can have some disappointing times. 
Summer Hydrangea, lilies and beebalm

Another factor is the succession of blooming plants must be planted when they're not blooming and when we're not thinking about them.  Spring flowering bulbs is a good example where they must be planted in the fall.

In a smaller example of this, my daylilies represent flowers that bloom extra early, early, midseason and late.  Granted it's powerful to have every daylily blooming at the same time but that show will only last about a month.  Having plants from all four bloom periods extends the bloom time from late April to frost. 
Spring peonies and lilacs.

Read the little tags on nursery plants you're considering for the garden.  They will almost always tell the bloom time.  If in doubt ask the employees.  

Fall is perhaps the hardest time to find a lot of bloomers.  Especially hard for a gardener because these fall blooming perennials take up a lot of garden space all spring/summer being simply green.  

Placing perennials with different bloom times together in beds keeps an area from being entirely "blah" when that one plant isn't in bloom.
Annual Nasturtiums bloom until frost.

If you don't enjoy flowers, the color of the foliage during the different months can help do a similar bed change.  Spring is often the time when some plant leaves are lime green which may soften to medium green as the summer progresses.  A stunning example of fall leaf color is how a Burning Bush turns bright red in the fall.
When all else fails, Hosta leaves work!

Using brightly flowered annuals tucked around perennials will help keep the beds bright until frost.  It requires more time and money but it can worth it for a quick fix or for fuller color.

And finally, if you like to bring cut flowers into the house, having a continuous spring, summer and fall of abundant blooms makes it possible.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Dirt, Mold, Moss and Algae on Vinyl?

Last summer was the worst for vinyl siding (and some other surfaces.)  Have you noticed the many homes where the siding is covered with this green or black coating?  

Our home's painted surfaces didn't have much but the vinyl shutters were covered and required so much work to clean.  Last year, the only thing that took it off my shutters was straight bleach and lots of work.  This is hard on the body and yard and impossible for large surfaces like siding.

Scotts Outdoor Cleaner Plus Oxiclean.

It claims it doesn't hurt plants or other surfaces.

It will kill a moss garden so don't spray on that.

It sells in concentrate for you to mix and apply to large surfaces.  It comes in ready to use spray bottle for small areas.  And in a container that attaches to your hose or power washer for large surfaces.

(Remember to start with the LEAST pressure if you're using a power washer.  You don't need the added problem of cracked and broken siding, screens, windows, trim and etc. from too hard of a blast.  The use of a power washer with this product is not for hard hitting water but to reach all areas.)

It says it's available at Ace Hardware and Walmart (among others.)

For the record, if nothing is done, the green/black will spread - not go away.  It's not only unsightly but it can eventually cause problems and damage to other surfaces.  For some it causes health issues.   Winter/cold does not kill it.  Even if you kill the active growth, the stain will remain unless you use a product to remove.

I know people have installed vinyl siding so as not to have to mess with the expense and labor painted surfaces require.  In this case, it appears that plan wasn't foolproof.  In addition, vinyl lawn furniture, shutters, statuary, pool surrounds and all are falling victim.    

I haven't tried this product but if your home is covered in this unsightly mess, it might be worth a try.  There are other products that say they do the same thing and there are contractors that will do the cleaning for you.  If you do yourself, read directions, take health and home precautions.  If you hire others, make sure you both know how it will affect your plants.  Let me know how it goes.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Black-Capped Chickadee Fun

Here are some fun facts from a birding on-line site.  Pretty smart little bird considering the size of their brain.

  • The Black-Capped Chickadee hides seeds and other food items to eat later. Each item is placed in a different spot and the chickadee can remember thousands of hiding places.
  • Every autumn Black-capped Chickadees allow brain neurons containing old information to die, replacing them with new neurons so they can adapt to changes in their social flocks and environment even with their tiny brains.
  • Chickadee calls are complex and language-like, communicating information on identity and recognition of other flocks as well as predator alarms and contact calls. The more dee notes in a chickadee-dee-deecall, the higher the threat level.
  • Winter flocks with chickadees serving as the nucleus contain mated chickadee pairs and nonbreeders, but generally not the offspring of the adult pairs within that flock. Other species that associate with chickadee flocks include nuthatches, woodpeckers, kinglets, creepers, warblers and vireos.
  • Most birds that associate with chickadee flocks respond to chickadee alarm calls, even when their own species doesn’t have a similar alarm call.
  • There is a dominance hierarchy within flocks. Some birds are “winter floaters” that don’t belong to a single flock—these individuals may have a different rank within each flock they spend time in.
  • Even when temperatures are far below zero, chickadees virtually always sleep in their own individual cavities. In rotten wood, they can excavate nesting and roosting holes entirely on their own.
  • Because small songbirds migrating through an unfamiliar area often associate with chickadee flocks, watching and listening for chickadee flocks during spring and fall can often alert birders to the presence of interesting migrants.
  • The oldest known wild Black-capped Chickadee was a male and at least 11 years, 6 months old when it was recaptured and rereleased during banding operations in Minnesota in 2011. It had been banded in the same state in 2002.
There's a little side information to this:  do not cut down all old trees unless they cause a safety issue.  There are many birds that need dead branches and logs for homes.  Culling out all but "perfect" trees will diminish your birding opportunities and inhibit their chances of survival as natural habitat is harder to find.  

I feed un-hulled sunflower seeds in the winter and always have Black-Capped Chickadees plus we have an old wooded area.  They are perky little songbirds just waiting to entertain you.     

Right Here - Right Now

Iris "Red Zinger" is like velvet and sparkles
and welcomes spring.  Iris can be picked (it will have a
short stem if you don't want to destroy future blooms.)
and put in a bud vase.  
This little pink iris has been blooming for
several weeks, spreads and has a vanilla fragrance.
Don't know the name but it's always welcome
as the first iris to bloom in my gardens.
So easy to enjoy and so sweet.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Recycling - It's a Garden Thing

This rescued hosta I call Big Blue.
As customs are certain to do, articles regarding recycling abound in every publication as if it's something new.  Current generations always think they just discovered the very essence of everything - I know my generation did, too.  In that vein, the new/old idea is then given a new label and the media is awash with wonderful ideas.

Recycling has always been incorporated into gardening as surely as kissing is to lovers.  Garden recycling was simply called by different names or even more simply "just done".

Seed saving is an excellent example of recycling.  Originally it was done as about the only way to make sure a variety of plant ended up in the gardens of the world.  Because so many people migrated to the new world, they brought the necessary seeds to start their food and to a lesser extent, their flowers. The old tale of Johnny Appleseed was based upon need and fact.

This old fashioned fragrant climbing petunia
was from seed from a neighbor.
The current seed savers enterprise is based on a desire to make sure old or vintage plants aren't lost during phases in the plant industry where something goes out of favor.  Only to have another generation wish it could be found again.  Or only to recognize the old variety had qualities that we wish we could incorporate today.

As an example, think of the old juicy and flavorful tomatoes vs. today's tomato that was developed only because it shipped well and stayed red in the grocery.

One of the best ways to recycle plants is to share plant starts or seeds with others.  Gardeners do this because most of us realize the joy of giving something special to someone who will treasure it as much as we have in our own garden.  In older generations, it was done to help another family have variety enough to make meals healthy.

Daylily "Chloe" was from my daughter's
My gardens are filled with the beauty from some other gardener who either by the fun of sharing or by the necessity of sharing allowed me to have a plant.

If you want to see determination on the face of a gardener, watch them "save" a plant from destruction.  Due to a new landscaping idea, new building construction or from the simply clueless, most of us have rushed in with shovels to grab some old beauties from annihilation. 

I often credit in these articles plants my daughter and I rescued from a parsonage in Galesburg, where the new vicar decided to bulldoze the entire English garden to make a dog run.  After we did the mandatory "what is he thinking" noises, we took out three pickup loads of mostly old varieties of plants.  This was "by the necessity" type of recycling.

Gardeners will also be able to tell you exactly who gave them a plant or the entire story related to their recycled gems.  It's one of the best parts of gardening - working around this or that plant and it brings a memory of that person or situation.  Working in the garden is like living in a diary or photo album.  This the what is called "fun sharing" recycling.

Annuals are perfect for seed saving.
The necessity of saving plants from extinction, the necessity of saving plants for feeding your family in a new world or simply the joy of sharing plants with another gardener is recycling.  Dang it's fun to be trendy in a recycled kind of way.