Friday, September 28, 2012

Memphis Botanic Garden Plant Sale & Symposium

Made in the shade!
This is a great weekend to head over to Memphis Botanic Garden and add to your plant collection.  Lots of plants, great lectures and displays of temporary gardens to give you ideas, and knowledgeable Master Gardeners at your service to answer questions.  I scored a 'Tangerine Beauty' cross vine, a 'Plum Pudding' heuchera, some Leopard plants (Farfugium japonicum 'Aureomaculatum') and several ferns.  Now I'm off to plant!

Here are some photos of some of the garden displays.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Herb Garden?

I pretty much love my house.  The inside is all organized to cater to my varying wants and needs.  My husband says the only thing in the house that's his is the couch!  And don't get me wrong, I love my little back garden and I'm really pleased with how we re-landscaped the front of the house.

There's just one thing:  herbs.  They need sun.  I don't have enough sun in the front or in the back to grow herbs. And I need them.  I HATE paying $2.50 for a little box of pitiful basil.  And since I cook a lot, I use a lot of fresh herbs.  I tried growing them in the garden at my son's house, but it's just not convenient (I'm so spoiled!)  So I had the idea of removing some plants along my driveway and putting in an herb garden.  I watched the sun yesterday and - total shade - my house gets in the way.  So I went to the other side of the house, the south side:

The driveway that you see belongs to my neighbor and good friend, Dotsie.  I checked with her and she's ok with removing some plants and grass and putting in a small herb garden, and maybe some tomatoes?  Her only request was to keep the gardenias there in the middle as they love this location.

As I said, this is a southern exposure and gets full sun.  Starting on the right side, there are two hollies, the gardenia, something I don't know, a dogwood, and what looks like a laurel.  I plan to keep the front holly, remove the next one, keep the gardenia, and remove the mystery shrub.  I may keep the laurel as it helps hide that access door to my crawlspace.  The big question:  should I remove the dogwood?  It was a volunteer, according to Dotsie, and it's really too close to the house, but it's so pretty.  And I don't think it would shade the sun-loving plants too much.  So what to do?

The resulting bed will be roughly 8 feet deep by 12 feet wide.  I'm open to suggestions regarding design and herb selection!  Please let me know what you think, either by commenting here or on Facebook.

Monday, September 24, 2012

I Felt the Earth Move...

Read about this photo here
We know, intellectually, that the earth moves in relation to the sun, both daily and seasonally.  That's why we have day and night and summer and winter, right?  But knowing and seeing are two different things.  Be sure to click the link under the photo and read about how this image was compiled and what it means.

And this is so cool:

This is an Analemma
There's an entire website devoted to analemmae (is that the plural?)  Here's their explanation:

Have you ever seen this figure-8 on a globe and wondered what it is? It is simply this: if you could record the position of the sun in the sky at the same time every day, let’s say sometime around noon and subtracting one hour if you are observing daylight saving time, you would notice that the sun takes a rather strange path. You might notice that at certain times throughout the year the sun's position not only varies higher and lower (North and South) as you would expect with the change of the seasons, but also slightly east and west. This figure-8 path that the sun makes in the sky is called the analemma. ... Why does the sun take this strange path? There are two reasons and they are completely independent from each other.

1. The Earth is tilted on its axis 23.5° in relation to the plane of its orbit around the sun.

2. The Earth does not orbit the sun in a circle, but in an ellipse.

It is simply the sum of these two effects that causes the analemma.

So if our tomatoes don't do well, can we blame it on an analemma?  

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Warning: This is NOT Garden Related

But it is Hugh Jackman related, and that's just as good.  Will Christmas never come?  Be still my beating heart.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Watering Lawns & Beds in Autumn

Not my house!

Several of my neighbors still have their irrigation systems on their summer watering schedule.  For some of them, this means every morning.  Now that temperatures have changed, should the irrigation timing change as well?  In a word, yes.

We're accustomed to thinking of spring as a transition time.  We gradually move our houseplants outdoors and we give our seedlings a little more time in the sun each day in order to "harden them off."  We increase our watering as the temperatures rise.

Autumn is a transition time as well.  As the temperatures get consistently lower and we, thankfully, have more rain, our plants need for supplemental water lessens.  In addition, we need to prepare the plants for winter by doing a fall "hardening off."  We want to discourage new growth that may be damaged by sudden drops in temperature.  Do this by watering sparingly in the early autumn.  This provides the plants with another cue to go dormant.

In our part of the South, we continue to get an adequate amount of rainfall in the winter and we don't experience many hard freezes.   The rainfall usually provides the watering we need and most of us even turn off and winterize our irrigation systems.  Depending on the rainfall this winter, you may want to take advantage of a warm(er) winter day to get your hoses out and give everything a good deep drink of water.  And if a hard freeze is forecast, a good watering beforehand will protect the roots of your plants.

I've turned off my irrigation timer.  I send it through a manual cycle if we go for a week without rain.  In a few weeks, I'll get it winterized for the season.  And I guess I'd better start thinking about bringing my houseplants indoors.  Dang!  They're so much easier to water when they're outside!

A summer outside does wonders!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Surprise! Lilies!

Surprise lilies
What a nice rain we had early this week.  After such a hot, dry summer, it was a welcome change.  I walked out to my little garden this morning and - surprise!  I have no idea where these red spider lilies (Lycoris radiata) came from, but I was thrilled.  Here's a close-up:

Surprise lilies are also called "magic lilies," "Resurrection lilies.," and "naked (or nekkid) ladies."  They grow from bulbs, but I didn't plant them and I don't remember them in the garden before.  According to one source, "Lycoris radiata doesn't always flower every year...we feel the flowering is probably controlled by aliens who like to torment Earth-bound gardeners."  

Lycoris is divided into two groups.  Lycoris radiata, like mine, flower in the fall, then produce leaves that will hang around until spring.  Lycoris squamigera also flowers in the fall, but their leaves don't appear until spring.  

Lycoris squamigera
And for those of us who have the problem:  they're deer-resistant!

The next several weeks are prime planting time.  I've ordered my tulips, but won't plant them until late November.  But I'm going to take a look at my garden and fill in with some of my favorites, the three H's:  hostas, hydrangeas, and heucheras.  For variety, I'll tuck in other kinds of woodland plants.  (I've got mostly shade here.)  I'm excited about my garden again since I made some major changes earlier this year.

Isn't this a gorgeous heuchera?  It's call Frosted Violet

This cool weather energizes me.  I actually saw my breath when I took Eli for his walk this morning!  What about you?  What are your fall plans?

Monday, September 17, 2012

Monarchs and Milkweed

Monarch on milkweed

Most of you know I'm an avid needleworker in my "spare" time.  I signed up yesterday for an online class and found this wonderful post on the instructor's blog.  I guess gardening and needlework are common passions for others as well.  Thanks to Susan for her permission to link to this post.  You'll note that photography must be one of her talents along with stitching and growing!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Letter from Dianne 9/14/12

Thank you for the seeds, Suzanne. I was especially interested in the Corno di Toro Rosso pepper. I looked it up and what a great pepper to stuff. I will definitely plant some in my garden next year, and really everything will be tried in my garden. I've just got to figure out where to put the squash!!

I had planned on trying another pepper, Shishito. I still need to order the seeds, but don't want to think about seed ordering right now. I saw a recipe (I think in the paper) for these. They are supposed to be addictive, and the most popular way to fix them is a quick hot stir fry with some sea salt. You can use sesame seed oil or olive oil, and most pictures show them slightly blackened or singed. I like the idea of different varieties of peppers. And I just found this recipe that looks great using the Shishito. Maybe I can get my husband to like eggplant. I have one eggplant this year and have been getting a lot of them. The recipe below really tickled me because I even have the blossoms. There are some garlic chives that come up along the side of the house every year and bloom like crazy. The blossoms look just like the ones in the recipe.

Sweet Spicy Eggplant & Shishito

Note:  Suzanne also gave me seeds for Aunt Ada's Italian Pole Beans and for Long of Naples Squash!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Rhodes College Southern Literary Garden

I love themed gardens.  Most of us are familiar with Butterfly Gardens, where the plants are chosen for their attraction to butterflies.

Another example popular in the South is the Biblical Garden, filled with plants mentioned in the Bible.

Kew Gardens, Kew, England
You can plan a garden around any theme you want.  Here's a teaching garden for different grades to learn about plants.  Check out the cute Alphabet Garden!

Alphabet Garden
The same rules apply to theme gardens as to regular gardens, the main one being make sure all of your plants share the same growing conditions.  Say you have a cat-themed garden.  You wouldn't want to put Hosta 'Kitty Cat' in the middle of a group of cattails!

Here in Memphis at Rhodes College we can visit a Southern Literary Garden.  According to the brochure published by the school, "The plants in this garden are mentioned in poetry and prose by distinguished Southern literary figures."

Daylilies in the Southern Literary Garden

What are your favorite theme gardens?  What kind of theme garden would you like to have?

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

September 11

From today's Writer's Almanac:

On this date in 1941, ground was broken for the Pentagon Building in Arlington, Virginia. In July of that year, Brigadier General and engineer Brehon B. Somervell had summoned two of his subordinates and told them to draw up plans for an office building to house 40,000 War Department workers; it should be four stories tall, he told them, and cover 4 million square feet. He gave them their assignment on Thursday afternoon, and said he wanted the plans on his desk by Monday. They delivered, and construction began two months later. Sixteen months later, the Pentagon was complete.
Sixty years to the day after the groundbreaking, on September 11, 2001, a passenger jet piloted by terrorist hijackers crashed into the Pentagon, killing all aboard the jet and more than a hundred people inside the building itself. The jet crashed into a wing that was being remodeled, so many of the offices were unoccupied; otherwise, the death toll would have been much higher.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Saving and Sharing Seeds

It's that time of year.  Maybe you're gathering seeds from your own plants or maybe you've already begun ordering seeds?  But you want to share with others (and encourage others to share with you!) 

Dianne recently shared some seeds from her garden with me and gave them to me in cute little envelopes that she said she bought at Michael's some years ago.  Where are those little envelopes now?  Boo hoo.

Not to fear, the trusty Internet is here!  I found a couple of YouTube videos showing how to make envelopes, one with orgami paper:

And one with PostIt Notes!

There are myriad (I love that word) pdf templates available - just use the search term "origami seed packets" in your search engine.

Did you make it to the Germantown Festival?  If not, you were one of about ten people who didn't!  What gorgeous weather we had!  Lots of folks dropped by our booth to learn about the Master Gardener program and all the things we do.  We were so sorry to have to tell everyone that the 2013 class has already filled up!  We advised them to mark their calendars for July 2013 and check our website for the 2014 applications. 

You shoulda been there!

One darling young girl spent about half an hour with us.  She was only seventeen, but was an avid gardener.  We have a Junior Master Gardener program, but she's too old.  The regular Master Gardener program is geared toward older folks (you wouldn't believe how many people said, "I'm looking forward to doing this when I retire...")  Wouldn't it be great to have a program geared toward the 18-30 crowd?

Friday, September 7, 2012

Moles, Voles, or ???

My yard - can you see the holes?

Help.  I have something ruining my lawn, just in one place!  My first thought was moles, so I did some research.  Seems moles and voles are very close, but with significant differences.  Moles are carnivorous, while voles are vegetarian (moles=meat, voles=veggies.)  They both leave well-defined runways just under the surface of the ground where they burrow.  But moles can also go deeper and when they do, they leave a mound of earth that they've excavated from the ground.

Therein lies the problem.  There are numerous little holes in my yard, but no mounds and no runways.  So what am I dealing with?

Here's a photo of an actual hole in the adjacent flower bed:

And here's the mulch that apparently floated out during last night's storm:

Any ideas about what my pest is and what I can do about it?

Be sure to visit the Master Gardener booth at the Germantown Festival this weekend!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Garden Ideas from a Smart Home

We went to Chicago recently and spent an afternoon at the Museum of Science and Industry.  One of the exhibits we saw was called Smart Home.

This is a house built on the grounds of the museum, along with gardens, to highlight five eco-principles identified by the house's architect, Michelle Kaufmann:

  1. Smart design
  2. Material Efficiency
  3. Energy Efficiency
  4. Water Efficiency
  5. Healthy Environment
You can read more about these principles and see more images of the house here.  Believe me, it was fantastic.  It made me want to build one!

But, of course, I was very interested in the gardening techniques they used.  Here's an excerpt from the exhibit's Resource Guide along with some of the photos I took:

From the ground up to the roof, Smart Home’s landscape design demonstrates an eco-friendly aes- thetic with systems that sustain and replenish the environment: green roofs, ipĂȘ decking, rain barrels, bioswales, porous paving and rain gardens. Prairie, dune and oak savannah plantings recall our region’s past and working gardens present food production. the landscape is carefully designed and managed to conserve and protect natural resources.
  • Native plants have extensive root systems, are well- adapted to our climate, and attract beneficial insects.
  • Green roofs reduce energy costs; decrease the urban heat island effect by cooling air temperature and slow stormwater run-off.

    Green roof, with skylights

  • Permeable pavements, rain gardens and bioswales ease water run-off into surrounding streams and lakes and enable slow, healthy seepage into the soil.

    Permeable pavement
  • Rain barrels harvest rainwater to irrigate plants, so we use less drinking-quality water.
  • Fresh vegetables and herbs are available during three seasons. Plants are designed in ground patterns.
  • Organic mulch minimizes weed invasion, converts moisture, reduces soil temperature fluctuations, protects root systems and keeps vegetables clean.
  • Yard and garden waste is composted and added to the garden as a rich soil conditioner.
  • Space is maximized via trellises, vertical walls and a planted trough table, staking tomatoes, container gardening, and mixing fast-maturing crops with slower growers.
Tower Garden 
Staked tomatoes

More containers

Long shot of containers
  • Raised beds demonstrate options for bringing in healthy soil when urban land is contaminated. they also improve drainage, maximize space by eliminating walkways between rows, avoid compaction and aid gardeners with physical disabilities.
  • Two hives house more than 60,000 bees at the height of the summer. bees help pollinate the plants and provide honey, a natural sweetener. 
I didn't take pictures of the raised bed garden or the hives (darn it!) but take a look at this sedum wall and sedum boxes!

Sedum wall

Sedum box
The sedum boxes were fairly tall and flanked a doorway, which I thought was a very cool idea.

Sedum boxes flanking a doorway

Here's a long shot of the sedum wall so you can see it in context.

Long shot of sedum wall
I encourage you to check the links above for better pictures :) and more information and ideas.

One other thing, technology-wise, that was in the house that I really, really want:  they had an electronic message board that (they said) you could post on from your smartphone!  It was custom-made, but I have looked and looked on the internet for something like it and have not been successful.  Wouldn't that be a great idea for some of you tech geniuses out there?  Let me know!!!