Saturday, December 31, 2011

Perenial Self-Sowers

Perenial Self-Sowers...When I first saw the title on the magazine page, I didn't know what it meant, but a self sowing plant? What's wrong with that! We usually have to buy more plants if we want more, but one that supplies lots more for free? So, I read on, and on. Since then I have been checking more of them. These are a few of my favorites so far... You can add some more if you'd like.

Belamcanda chinensis

Known as the Blackberry Lily or Leopard Lily, it's truly unique in the garden.
The blooms look like lilies, but this plant is in the Iris family.
Consider the humble Blackberry Lily for your sunny to partly shaded borders. Too seldom seen in American gardens, it features the foliage of an Iris, the blooms of a Lily, and the fruit of a blackberry (sort of!). Long-blooming and very easy to grow, it is a fine addition to any planting, resembling nothing else around it yet very lovely in its own right.
The flowers arise in midsummer and continue well into fall in most areas. They are followed by plump seedpods that split open to reveal glossy, round black fruits, the "blackberries" of the common name. (Needless to say, do NOT eat them!) They're interesting and quite ornamental, adding another season to this perennial's beauty.
Give Belamcanda full sun to light shade in any well-drained soil, including rocky or clay ones. It will reach 2 to 3 feet high and up to about 18 inches wide. Zones 5-10.

Anchusa azurea 'Loddon Royalist'


Deep purple blue flowers in early summer. Bushy habit make this variety ideal for garden borders and mass plantings. Early blooming and extremely long blooming time for any perennialStriking and long-lasting flowers defiantly make a statement as a sunny border plant and does not need staking. The flowers are attractive to bees, too.
Zone 6-8
Common Rue
This herb is so good that it gave its name to the actress Rue McClanahan and a magical mixture of butter and flour used to make gumbo. Its clusters of pale yellow flowers  that bloom in mid summer are just a bonus. Common rue is a favorite of swallowtail-butterfly larvae, whcih is a giant plus. A giant minus is that the plant's sap, when combined with the sun's rays, can cause rashes and even blisters. Common rue's offspring are easy to identify by sight and smell.
Perennial Flax
Easily grown in average, medium, well-drained soils in full sun to part shade. Prefers light soils in full sun. Tends to root shallowly in heavy clay soils resulting in increased winter survival problems. Easily grown from seed (some plants may flower the first year). Freely self-seeds in optimum growing conditions. Cut some stems back by 1/2 mid-way through the bloom period to extend flowering. Tolerates heat, humidity and drought.

Perennial flax is a short-lived, tufted perennial which typically grows 1-2' tall. Features 5-petaled, sky blue flowers which open for only one day. A profuse bloomer for a period of up to 8 weeks in late spring. Flowers open early on sunny mornings, but petals usually drop by late afternoon. Thin, wiry stems with short, narrow, linear leaves (to 1" long) support profuse numbers of nodding flower buds. Fibrous stems appear delicate, but are extremely difficult to break and were once used in Europe to make linen and rope. The flax plants which are commercially grown today for making linen (from the stems) and linseed oil (from the seeds) are several varieties of annual flax, Linum usitatissimum.
Flax looks best when massed. Effective in rock gardens, border fronts, meadows, wild gardens or informal naturalized plantings. Also a colorful addition to an herb garden.

Cup Plant
This native perennial plant is about 4-10' tall and remains unbranched, except for the panicle of flowering stems near the apex. The central stem is thick, hairless, and four-sided. The large opposite leaves are up to 8" long and 5" across, which join together around the central stem to form a cup that can hold water, hence the name of the plant. These leaves are broadly lanceolate to cordate, coarsely toothed, and have a rough, sandpapery texture. The yellow composite flowers bloom during early to mid-summer for about 1-1½ months. Each sunflower-like composite flower is about 3-4" across, consisting of numerous yellow disk florets that are surrounded by 18-40 yellow or pale yellow ray florets. The root system consists of a central taproot, and abundant shallow rhizomes that help to spread the plant vegetatively, often forming substantial colonies.
The preference is full or partial sun, and moist loamy soil. This plant may drop some of its lower leaves in response to a drought. Sometimes, the leaves and buds of distressed plants turn brown, growth becomes stunted, and blossums abort in response to disease or drought. Another problem is that Cup Plant may topple over during a rainstorm with strong winds, particularly while it is blooming, or situated on a slope.

Mountain Bluet
Mountain bluet is an excellent choice for the border or rock garden. Blue flowers open from attractive buds in late spring to midsummer, then leave behind a mass of vigorous, silvery-green woolly foliage and woolly stems.
Grow in moist soil in sun or partial shade. Easy to divide in fall if it begins to crowd its neighbors. Self-seeds readily. May need staking.
Divide in the fall.

Chocolate Daisy
The "Chocolate Fragrance Award" goes to the Chocolate Scented Daisy (Berlandiera lyrata), a quarter-size, vibrant, yellow daisy with striking red striped undersides and chocolate-colored stamens.
A small plant with an airy habit, Chocolate Scented Daisy (sometimes called Chocolate Flower) makes a nice, informal edging plant, and is most impressive and most fragrant when planted in groups.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Mostly about Re potting...

This last weekend I re-potted all (expect for the ones that I don't have pots for) of my indoor plants. The lady at Watsons Greenhouse where I bought them told me to wait 30 days before putting them into their new pots so that I wouldn't send them into double shock. Whenever you buy a plant it will go into shock because it is in a  totally new environment (temperature, humidity, watering schedule, etc), so you don't want to do something else dramatic to the new arrival until it has acclimated to your house or garden. Transplanting into new pretty pots would cause additional stress to an already stressed out plant.

Well, its been about 30 days (actually more like 50) and now was the time for all good men to come to the aid of the party. I bought some potting mix. I happen to like miracle gro, but the nursery expert said that most of them are the same.

I cut down diapers (we have lots of those) to put into the bottom of the pots. (with the exception of the african violets because they like to drink the water from the roots) I read or heard somewhere that this will do two things: soak up the extra water that goes through the soil, holding it for when the plant needs more and it will keep excess water dripping through the pot and staining any wood the pots are set on.

 Then, after deadheading and removing the dead leaves, I added new dirt and moved the plants into their new pots. I tried not to disturb the root system so that they could cozy in and not spend lots of time growing the root system which can lead to the leaves looking less lively. 

This one seemed pretty rootbound, so I used a slightly larger pot and loosened up the roots.

And, viola, the task was complete. The plants didn't say much, but I could tell by their silence they were very glad I did it.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Mostly about new tools and boots...

On cold wintry days, shopping for next years tools is always fun. One problem I have in my garden is clay. It is everywhere and it is deep. It's under our house, so that standing water is hard to prevent, and it's in all of our flower beds. I have a pick ax, but it isn't the best tool if you have other plants to work around. So, this year I am going to try the CobraHead weeder/cultivator. Here is the sales pitch...

(The CobraHead weeder is such a good all-around garden tool that you’ll want in with you every time you walk into the yard or garden. The CobraHead's steel fingernail tip weeds, digs, edges, plants, furrows, de-thatches, transplants and harvests – all without changing tools. The CobraHead features an eco-friendly wood fiber reinforced plastic handle that is comfortable right or left handed. Made in Wisconsin, USA.)

Being as I have bought the "do-it-all" tool many times before and found that it didn't do it all, I am a bit skeptical. However, for $20 it isn't much of a splurge and maybe it really will be the wonder tool it's said to be.

cobrahead weeder/cultivator

Also, I got some Muck boots. I do some work for a sewer company and most of them had these boots. I didn't get the exact kind they did, but these are the "chore mid-cut" boots. They are padded or insulated, therefore comfortable and waterproof. We get a lot of rain around here, so waterproof is a must. I will be trying these out quite a bit and let you know if they are worth the extra money (appx. $90). It is a lot more than I would usually spend, but they came highly recommended and hopefully will last 5-10 years (unless the dogs find them)

watch out mud and rain, here I come!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Mostly about Winter Sowing...

About a week ago, both Catherine at aGardenerInProgress and Jenni at RainyDayGardener made posts about winter sowing. This got me thinking, am I the last one in the world to know about this?
Well if I was, I was going to try it out. So, I emailed my mom (Minnesota master gardener extraordinaire) to see if she had heard about it and had any help. (I also hoped I would find out I wasn't the last to hear of it). Of course I should have known, my mom not only knew about it and had been doing it, she had loads of info and even an article that was in the newspaper. (It's nice knowing famous people!)
Now I have never been very good at moderation (although I might be if I ever tried it). I just get an idea and run with it - and usually end up wishing I had gone slower. This might be the time it all pays off!
I am not sure if the proper etiquette at this point is to show what I did then what all of the experts say to do or vice versa. I'm going to flip a coin then post it that way. Heads experts then me; tails my fun then the expert way. Here goes...(in proxy, my wife will do it as I don't have any money) tails it is!

Right Ho! So after reading all of the good ideas from my mom and Cathrine, I read some more on a website called Great website with lots of good info. Then, I went to McLendon's this morning and bought a slew of seeds for the plants that were listed on wintersown website. I also purchased three types of potting soil, Black Gold, Miracle Gro, and the cheapest kind they carried. After a brief stop at Albertsons (no, I didn't ask where the tin pans with plastic lids were, I just walked around until I found them) I had everything I needed.

Back at the homestead, I assembled the necessary parts, got my little helper up on the counter, and went to work. Like Catherine states, this can get messy - especially if you have a 1 and 3/4 year old helping. I put down some paper towels, etc, but you may want even more. I started with the milk jugs for the taller plants like foxglove, delphinium, larkspur, and sun flowers. I cleaned the milk jugs with 9/1 deluded bleach, then rinsed them out; cut them in half leaving a small area for a hinge, sliced 1/2 cuts on bottom, filled with 3-4" of dirt, put seeds in, watered until water drained out of the bottom. Then I taped the bottles closed with duct tape and labeled them.
**as part of my desire to make this a perfect system, I labeled them with duct tape, permanent marker, and a piece of paper sealed with clear packaging tape. I will see which one fades the least.

Then it was on to the flats. I poked holes in the top and bottom of each of the containers, filled with dirt, watered the dirt until water came through the bottom, planted seeds, sprinkled a little more dirt, put on the lid and labeled with the patented three label system.
** Another small addition here is that I used three different types of dirt, Black Gold, Miracle Gro, and cheapest brand. I will then see which produces the best result. Experts have discussed the dirt issue for many years, but this may be the final conclusive test.

After that I planted them all in the kitchen garden where there should be plenty of sunshine (if we get any that is), no dogs, and not very much wind.

Here is the photographic evidence of all the steps...

Here's my happy helper.

Seeds and List for labels

9/1 bleach and water for cleaning the jugs

Milk jug cut in half with small area left in tact for hinge

Cartons filled with dirt and ready for planting

Lucy is planting the Larkspur

Tins with 1/2 slits in them
Dirt filled container

Lots of water until it drains through the bottom

Final product with lid on

Here they all are! Now nature and the good Lord will do the rest.

Now, if you made it through all of that, you probably want to know how it should be done. First, check out Catherine's blog post. She also has a link to a previous post with more how to's on it.
I asked Catherine a few questions and she emailed me back. Following is the email.
   "I learned about it [winter gardening] about 4 years ago and have had fun with it.  It helps fulfill my gardening needs when it's too cold to really garden (although we've had such a mild fall this year).  Anyway here is a link to the winter sowing website There is tons of information there, also on Garden web there is a winter sowers forum. You're supposed to use the seeds that require cold to help them germinate, but honestly I don't pay attention to that.  I just try whatever I have and 99% of the time I have at least some germination.  Some seeds take months to germinate while others do practically overnight.  I usually wait til spring to decide what I've given up on. I normally buy whatever cheap potting soil I find.  Some people are more picky, but I'm not.  The main thing is to remember to have drainage holes in the bottom of whatever you use to plant in so they seeds don't rot.  I do get some algae on the soil sometimes but it doesn't make a difference.  If you live somewhere where it gets windy just be sure to set a rock on top so they don't blow away.  Otherwise I just set them in a sunny spot and peak in every so often to check.  Let me know how yours goes, it's really worth the try.
  -   Catherine

Also, here is also the article that I mentioned earlier...

Winter Sowing
By Patty Citrowske – University of Minnesota Master Gardener
Winter is upon us, and most us look longingly outside in the snow at the remnants of last year’s gardens.  Already the seed catalogues have been arriving and many of us are making strategic plans for our best-ever garden of 2010. Flipping through the pages of the catalogues one might long for a certain variety of perennial that is elusive in the gardening centers, or that special vegetable that no one seems to have.
                Winter sowing is a practical, easy way to grow a wide variety of plants rather than buying started plants. It’s a way to start seedlings for just pennies while Mother Nature does the work.  Seeds are sown into miniature greenhouses that you make yourself from recyclables and are placed outside to await the warmer spring weather to germinate.
                Getting started is as easy as gathering supplies; most of which you have in your home already.  Pop bottles, plastic vegetable containers, milk jugs, and even take out containers with plastic tops will work for your mini-greenhouses.  Make sure to soak them with 1:9 bleach/water solution and air dry. Any inexpensive potting soil will work, although Dollar Store soil tends to be heavy and dense which does not allow for good root development.  For the rest of the project you will need a box cutter, duct tape, seeds, and a marker.
                To begin, place a piece of duct tape on the bottom of your container to label what is growing in your mini-greenhouse.  The writing won’t fade on the bottom. Using your utility knife, poke half inch slits on the bottom for drainage. If you are using pop bottles or milk jugs, this is the time to cut them in half leaving two inches of plastic in place for a hinge.  Next add 3 to 4 inches of soil and lightly tamp it down. Plant your seeds, making sure you follow package recommendations. Cover with more dirt if necessary. At this point you will need to gently water your mini-greenhouse, making sure the water drains from the bottom. You may add a marker inside as well if you want to.  To finish, tape the halves together with duct tape or snap your container shut.  Throw away the lids on the bottles and cut slits in the top of your containers if needed. You will need to add these holes for air transpiration.
                Your greenhouses are now ready for the great outdoors. Condensation will form inside the containers as you bring them into the cold, indicating there is plenty of moisture inside. Place them on the east, south, or west side of your home, on a table, deck, patio or even in the garden. It is important for the rain and snow to reach the containers, so avoid awnings and overhangs. We are going to let Mother Nature do what she does best. Most seeds need stratification, a pre-chilling process, necessary for germination. This freezing and thawing loosens the seed coat to allow the seedling to emerge.  
In spring when the seedlings emerge, you will need to increase the size of the transpiration holes to keep your plants from overheating. This also helps in the hardening off process. In mid-May you can remove the covers completely.  Watch your mini-greenhouses closely to make sure they are getting enough water and don’t dry out. Water gently because the seedlings are still tender. You can also place the containers in a shallow tray to absorb the water from the bottom. 
The seeds that are winter sown will sprout earlier and be ready to transplant sooner than the seed sown directly into the garden.  You will want to wait until the first two true leaves and a good root system are established before moving them to your garden.
Winter sowing is simple and fun. It will allow you to start seeds easily without all the fuss of lights, tables, containers and not to mention space for the germinating flats. The cold temperatures and fresh winter air prevent damp off that kills young seedlings. Planting in recycled and reused containers makes it economical. The rewards of growing your own seeds for pennies will last through out the growing season, and years to come. For more information on winter sowing ,visit

So, best of luck if you want to try this out!

Special thanks to all of the people who helped me out on this. 

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Ocean Shores Visit

This is a short video of the our weekend...I know most of them are "aren't my dogs and girls cute" type of pictures, but I hope you enjoy it.


All I want for Christmas is...

" my two front teeth." or so the song says. However, since I have my own two front teeth, my list is slightly adjusted.

All I want is the following:

   A short winter followed by a warm, early spring.
   The dogs to not dig up anything (especially my roses and garden)
   My daphne to start growing
   Lots and Lots of tomatoes
   Everything to grow better than before
   World Peace
But, in case none of that happens, I'll take whatever the good Lord sends.

Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Happy Holidays...

Happy holidays to all in the blogosphere!

We took a trip to Ocean Shores here in Washington. It is about a 2-3 hour drive, but is right on the coast (hence the name) and has nothing for anyone to do except to enjoy being together. I like being able to see my little girls when the wake up (I usually am at work when they get up) and be with them all day.
It is nice out here if you like remote locations with one or two shops and lots of cloudy rainy weather. There is a beach, but not one that the bathing bikinied beauties of the tropical locations would enjoy. Just people who like to try to stay warm, wearing 5 layers of clothing. Volleyball and beach parties are virtually non-existant. Suffice it to say that it is a perfect place to have a getaway from the daily speed of life and to remember what Christmas is all about.

Isaiah 9:6:
For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.

Luke 2:7-14
7And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.
8And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
9And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
10And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
11For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
12And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
13And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
14Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

Luke 2:29-34
29Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word:
30For mine eyes have seen thy salvation,
31Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people;
32A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.
33And Joseph and his mother marvelled at those things which were spoken of him.
34And Simeon blessed them, and said unto Mary his mother, Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against;

Auntie Susie, Lucy, & Antie Emily

So, enjoy your holidays. Both my family and I wish you a peaceful and blessed day.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Coping with One-of-each-itis...

I got my copy of Fine Gardening last week. It usually takes me a few days (or weeks) to get through it depending on work/gardening/dog walking/Lucy and Helen diaper changing/weather permitting schedules. I really enjoyed this edition.
I also found out that I have a disease (one-of each-itis). It is where you, and I quote, "pop into the nursery and a stunning new cultivar whispers, 'Psst! Take me home?' Immediately, you hear that little voice in you head saying, 'never buy just one of anything.' But there you stand, plant in hand, feeling the familiar symptoms of one-of-each-itis. You know that these impulsive splurges are precisely the reason your garden is a messy hodgepodge of cool plants. (this is where I differ from most of these sufferers. Mine is a nice messy hodgepodge of cool plants) But the temptation is too much. You buy it anyway."
The article goes on to recommend transplanting everything so that colors, textures, foliage, etc. match. I don't know if I will dig everything up come spring, but it nice to know that the next time someone asks why did I plant that there or alludes the the hodgepodgety of my garden, I can now blame it on something else!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

More weekend fun...

I know that this post title sounds familiar. I just get into a rut of it is fun and its a weekend, what could be a better name? I'll consult Roget and his wild, wordy thesaurus next week for a more capturing title.

Enough rambling...It was a quite enjoyable weekend. It started with a holiday party on Friday night with some friends, lobster bisque (made with fresh lobster), a light mango salad, butternut squash pasta, beef wellington, flour-less chocolate cake, '05 Domaine Serene Jerusalem Hill, and a small glass of 40 year port. Delicious would far short. Superb might get the faintest idea of these culinary delights. However, it would only make my mouth water in remembrance of what fun the taste buds had, so we'll move on to Saturday.

It was cold and pleasant out, so I checked our winter garden and everything is growing slowly. I didn't take pictures as you might call me an optimist claiming that they are growing. However, in my defense, a 1/4 in a week is still a 1/4 inch of growth a week. The dogs keep stepping on one side of the cold frame, so I made a make shift fence to keep them out. If this works, I'll make a nicer one next week. Then I sat with Lucy and dreamed of warmer spring days. Lady (our yellow lab) seemed to be doing the same.


Friday, December 16, 2011

Mostly About Orchids...

A little over a month ago, I went to Watson's Greenhouse and bought an orchid. We have tried orchids in the past, but with little success. Mostly this was due to over watering. However, this time I talked to the expert there and got lots of good advice (writing it all down for when I forgot) and after one month, we are still having success! The best part is that we don't do very much except enjoy. I have put all of the instructions on the bottom of this page so that if you want to try it out, you could have success also. 

Note. My marvelous master gardening mother (say that five times fast) said that orchids like lime. I'm not sure what they like about it or what it does, but I will let you know when I find out.

General Orchid Care
Even though there are many types of orchids, the care is somewhat similar

You would water orchids once a week in summer, or when your house is 80 degrees or above. We prefer the soaking method. You place the plant in water just enough to cover the bark and soak for 3-5 minutes and then drain it thoroughly. Water once every to or three weeks in winter or if your house is on the cooler side. The more moisture in the air the less you should have to water. The object when watering is t maintain moisture in the potting mix, they like to dry out about 80-90% between watering. 
My note: We have been watering about once a month. You can feel the plant is really light when it is time to water. This takes a little time to figure out, but another way to tell is to look through the plastic at the roots (ours is clear) and if the roots are looking dry, its time to water, but if not, then leave it alone.

Muted light, no direct hot sun. A little morning sun is okay as long as it does not get hot.

This is very important. Good air movement prevents water or mold from getting into leaf joints. To get good air movement, open a window or add small fan to your room, not aiming directly on your orchid but just to get air movement.

A temperature of about 55-60 degrees is the coolest you can have before the flowers will suffer. Hose temperatures are generally ideal. 65-80 in the day and 55-70 at night.
My note: We keep our house appx. 72 degrees. The orchid is next to the window so it fluctuates a little.

Fertilizing- when not in bloom
Fertilize with fertilizer (10-15-10). We recommend fertilizing once a month.
My note: The best way to fertilize is to add the fertilizer to the water you soak the orchid in when you water.

Orchids love to be crowded so there is no need to transplant them. It is good to wait until they split the plastic pots they are in, and then only go up one pot size. Don't use soil. There is an orchid potting mix that you can purchase at a garden center.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011


This morning I took the dogs for a walk and one of the most beautiful sunrises I have seen awaited. This is one time that the picture fell far short of reality. Part of it is that the camera can only capture so much of the sky, so you don't see the dark blue fading to light blue then to the oranges and yellows of the new day. Also, Mt. Rainer cast a shadow into the clouds, which I have never seen before. It was nice enough to call my neighbor who also takes pictures and we'll have to see who took the best. Here are a couple that I took. They are mostly the same thing, but I was very blessed. How can you not feel exhilarated and ready to go to work after the Lord puts on such a show?

After about 15 minutes, the glory was gone, but you can still see the looming shadow.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Reindeer, plants, and cold weather...

It was another cold dry weekend, so I checked up on our winter garden. Not much had changed, but the slow motion growing is happening. Still no sign of life from the carrots, but I believe. Someday, someday soon, there will be a leafy surprise breaching the surface of the dirt.

On to more exciting news, Donder and Blitzen have taken a week off (or are on strike for higher wages) and happened to be at the local Watsons Greenhouse. We heard the news, so we trotted along there as well. Lucy didn't know what to think, but after getting a candy cane was happy to be there. Blitzen came over to say hello, hoping we had some raisins, and after ascertaining there were no raisins to be had and formalities concluded, went to the back of the stall to think things over. Donder was having a long discussion with a soccer ball and wasn't to be disturbed. All in all it was lots of fun. Then, as we were already there, we bought a few more houseplants.

Helen (7 months) in front and Lucy (20 months) behind her. Lots of fun!



Lucy is picking out which poinsettia we should get

Another Calathea

The variegated tops of the leaves contrast well with the dark purple undersides

Just one more of Lucy

"never forget to look under the leaves for signs of plant disease"