Archive | June, 2012

angel’s trumpet – datura

29 Jun

This is a tropical plant but can be grown from seed in this zone. (For some reason, I’ve not been successful growing it from seed, but luckily I have a friend who starts a few for me every year.) The flowers are impressive — about 10″ long and 4″ across. They open facing up but after a day or two turn downward, making them look more like bells than trumpets. If you grow them, be sure to remove the seed pods as they form and dry, otherwise you’re bound to have volunteers that are almost guaranteed to come up where you least want them. The flower needs a lot of space because it grows to the size of a small bush. Be cautioned that both the flowers and seeds are poisonous, so they shouldn’t be grown around kids or dogs who are likely to eat them. The seed pods are larger than golf balls with very sharp, thorn-like projections, so it’s difficult to see how they could seem appetizing, but we’ve all known kids and dogs who’ll eat anything.

garden phlox

28 Jun

I think of this as ‘summer phlox’ to differentiate it from moss phlox, which is a creeping plant that blooms very early in the spring. I think I acquired this when I was helping to clean out flower beds around an old log cabin in a local park. Phlox had sent out volunteers all over the paths and lawns, and those were being pulled out and tossed, so I brought a couple of the discards home with me. I don’t know why I thought it was a good idea to put it in this bed bordering the front walkway.  There are no other similar plants there. I probably just stashed it here “temporarily” to keep it alive.  Every year I think I’m going to transplant it to a more logical spot but that gets lost in all the other jobs there are in early spring and by the time it blooms it’s too late. (The forecast calls for 109 degrees today–not ideal for transplanting.) Phlox are notorious for dispersing seeds everywhere, but I haven’t had that problem–probably because I dead head the flowers as they fade, before they have a chance to reseed everywhere. This is a great, old-fashioned perennial and I really should move it to one of the perennial beds.  Maybe next year.

shasta daisy

26 Jun

Shastas are chrysanthemums bred to flower in the summer instead of the fall. The only problem I’ve noticed with them is that some varieties produce very thin stems that are easily beaten down by heavy storms or winds. The varieties with the plainest leaves tend to produce the thickest stems that are very rain and wind resistant. The varieties with heavily serrated leaves tend to have thin stems that don’t stand up well to storms. (I don’t actually know if this is true because I haven’t tried all the varieties, but it’s been my experience.)
New plants can be propagated by cutting fresh stems and placing them in water or soil (I usually dip the stem in rooting hormone first) and keeping the soil moist. Actually, that works for many plants with “hairy” stems. The hairs are rootlets that can develop into full root systems.

first tomato

22 Jun

It’s always exciting to see the first ripening tomato of the year; the trick is to get it ripe enough to pick before the squirrels get it. I’ve tried several type of supports for tomato plants. Cages are probably the easiest but they’re not very attractive. The plastic coils attached to a stake work pretty well and they’re a bit more attractive to look at. As the hot weather sets in, the trick will be to get enough water to the plants to keep them producing. I found these gadgets at Gardeners Supply, but I’m sure you can get them lots of places. They’re plastic cones with holes in them, threaded to fit soda bottles. Cut the bottom off the soda bottle and insert the cones into the soil. When you fill the bottle, water goes straight to the roots of the plant where it’s needed most.
I really like the idea of sustainable gardening–minimal use of chemicals and artificial watering as well as using one year’s crop to furnish plants for the next year. Most of the tomatoes are grown from cuttings of last year’s crop, kept alive over the winter in the sun room, except the two heritage varieties–Brandywine and Mr. Stripey–grown using seeds from last year’s crop.




green beans

22 Jun

It’s time to start harvesting green beans. That will be an almost daily activity for a while, as the beans continue to form for weeks. I can already taste one of my favorite lunches–salad nicoise. This is my first year for pole beans; usually I plant the bush type.  I’ve chosen the Blue Lake variety, which has long been my favorite of the bush-type beans. Any that I miss in my daily harvesting will get too tough to eat but they can be saved to provide seeds for next year’s crop, and the birds will enjoy the ones that are too high up for me to reach. I’m using poles because I hoped they would allow me to grow more plants in less space. If you’re considering growing pole beans, especially if you have little ones around, consider putting the poles at a slant and tying them together at the top.  Kids love to get inside the ‘teepee’ and “help” by picking the low-hanging beans.


22 Jun

Most herbs produce pretty, though small, flowers and are so attractive they almost belong in a flower bed rather than with the veggies. Sure, sweet basil is great in cooking but its bright green leaves and little white flowers are also very nice to look at. Purple basil is not, as far as I know, any good for cooking. Its main purpose is to add a bright decorative punch to the garden, and it does that very well. The chives bloomed as usual early this spring, with purple pom-pom-like flowers. They’re blooming again, white this time. I don’t recall that ever happening before. I don’t consider mint an herb so much as a nuisance because it spreads so rapidly. I didn’t plant this but I suspect it got here mixed in with the roots of the blue columbine, which was a gift from a friend’s garden.
The only thing yet to bloom is the Greek oregano, which normally doesn’t flower until late summer/early fall.  However, it already has flower buds so it looks as though that, like everything else, will be early this year.I’ve always thought I’d like an herb garden and have grown a variety of herbs with mixed success. However, I’ve cleared out a large bed that became unmanageable, transferring the flowers to two small beds. The area gets sun most of the day, so maybe it’s time to try again next year.



lemon balm

20 Jun

Not very impressive as flowers go, lemon balm is grown for the strong lemon smell that occurs when a leaf is torn. I have this planted all around the gazebo and usually manage to nick a few leaves when I mow the lawn, releasing a great lemon smell into the air. Be warned that lemon balm is an aggressive grower and, once planted, will tend to pop up everywhere. The plants also can grow so tall that they flop over, choking out whatever is planted next to them. To control their spread, I usually cut back the plants around the gazebo to about 12″ every month or so during the summer.

blue salvia

20 Jun

This salvia comes back year after year, unlike its bright red cousin which, although technically a tender perennial, only grows for one season–at least in this zone. Salvia is part of the sage family, but the leaves certainly don’t smell like sage and I doubt it can be used in cooking. This one is being crowded out by the variegated euonymous on one side the the obedient plant on the other. Although the books say the plant doesn’t like to be transplanted, I might have to take the risk and move it to another bed with other blue salvias if I don’t want to lose it.

‘kwanso’ lily

20 Jun

This variety shares many of the characteristics of other day lilies (see ‘day lilies’ posted 6/8/12) and belongs to the same family (hemerocallis) but the flowers are a bit more intricate, with 3 layers of petals, and each flower lasts for several days instead of just one. A single plant can produce 12 or more stems, with multiple buds on each stem, so the bloom time for kwanso is a somewhat extended versus standard day lilies. The bright orange color makes them visible from far away, but you really need to see them up close to appreciate the details.

yellow lily

18 Jun

I don’t remember ever planting a yellow lily. I have white and some that are very bright reddish orange, and I would suspect cross pollination except that this one is much,much larger than the others. I’ve been watching it for days waiting for it to open, but this apparently is as much as it does. I guess in gardening, as in painting, cooking, etc., the surprises are almost good as the stuff you plan.