Monday, May 31, 2010

Macro Monday #2 - Tree Peony

Though the tree peonies (Paeonia suffruticosa) are done for the season - blooming, anyway - they still put on a show for a little while longer, as this seed head shows.  Just another example of wabi-sabi...

Want to see what it looked like about a week before that photo was taken?

Barely recognizable, isn't it?

For more Macro Monday photos, visit Lisa's Chaos.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Bad Rose Mommy

Roses are like children.  You yell at them when you shouldn't. You ignore them when they want your attention.  You forget to give them lunch money. But they forgive you and love you anyway.  They continue to bring you joy beyond measure and so it is with my roses.

I knew from the beginning that this would be a good year for the roses.  They got an early start, just like every other thing in the garden this year, since spring came about three weeks before it usually does. There were flower buds forming before they barely had enough leaves to support themselves.

So I let them do their thing.  I went about other gardening business, both inside and out, and I didn't give the roses much notice.  Time passed and then they started to bloom.  Well, that got my attention now, didn't it?

As I walked over to admire a bloom, I said to myself, "Ooooooh!  Ahhhhhh!" and I took a sniff at it. "Mmmmmmm..."  And it was then that I saw that all was not right in Eden.  The leaves had multiple holes in them.  Nearly all the leaves, especially toward the bottom of the plants.  If I hadn't known better, I'd have thought the Japanese Beetles had come early, too.

But that wasn't it. After some investigation and seeing little tiny worms crawling on the underneath sides and even one big enough that it would have made good fish bait, I realized every single one of my roses was under attack by sawfly larvae. There are a couple different species that attack rose leaves and mine were a light green with only faint white markings.  There may be another insect in cahoots with the sawflies, too.

I'd let it go on far too long, but I got out the Bayer 3-in-1 Insect, Disease and Mite Control*, mixed it up and gave the roses a spray.  I don't like to use anything, but dire circumstances call for drastic measures.

So how did the roses repay me for my negligence?

'Hot Cocoa'

'Hot Cocoa'

Pink mini

'Morning Magic'

'Morning Magic'

Unknown mini

'About Face'

'Ebb Tide'

(the color isn't accurate on this - it's actually a dark plum - see next photo)

'Ebb Tide'

'Golden Celebration' with 'Crown Princess Margareta' in the background. Both of these have a bit of Black Spot as well - my first experience with that.

'Crown Princess Margareta'

See? Just like kids.  I've been forgiven.

* Contains Merit insecticide, which is toxic to bees and should be applied when bees are not active.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

A Peek Into My Refrigerator

The last time I shared my refrigerator, I fooled everyone into thinking it was organized, clean and neat. But I knew I was going to be taking a picture, so of course I straightened it up.  I'd do the same with my house if I knew you were coming. (Be sure to call!)

This time, I want to show you the cutest little things I found in the grocery store when I was at Jenna's house last weekend.  I've said before that it doesn't take much to make me smile and these did it.

It's the onion and the tomato.  They are airtight keepers for when you don't use the whole onion or sliced tomato.

The strawberries make me smile, too. :-)

Friday, May 28, 2010

Compost Tea and Me

I'll admit it, I didn't know a lot about compost tea until recently.  I wasn't even sure how it was made.  I guessed it was a watery form of compost and I already used compost in my garden, so I wasn't all that curious about it.

Then I noticed a lot of talk about it on Twitter.  People raved.  I felt a little out of the loop, so I asked some questions of the person who seemed to know a lot about it.  Annie, whose Twitter name is @GreenSoil, is the owner of Authentic Haven Brand, the family-owned company that packages and distributes Natural Brewed Soil Conditioner Tea.  I would say they make the tea, too, but the cows and horses do that.

Compost tea is made by adding water to compost - in this case, aged manure - and letting it steep for a few days.  Then you use it to water your plants or as a foliar spray.  In the soil, the plant benefits from the extra nutrients.  As a spray, it helps prevent some fungal diseases. Either way, it's a good thing.

Annie sent me some samples of both their cattle and horse manure teas.  A few days ago, I mixed some up and I'm using it to water my houseplants.

When I opened the package, the faint aroma took me back to when I was a little girl and I used to play in my grandma and grandpa's barn.  They raised a few cattle for beef and the kitties were always hanging out in the barn, so just smelling that tea reminded me of those days.

You might think the smell would be offensive, but it isn't!  I've got the bucket of tea I mixed up sitting beside the back door and I really can't smell anything, although the kitties are cautiously checking it out. :-)

The benefits of compost tea are undisputed, so I don't have to wait to see if this tea does good things for my plants.  I know it will.  I'm planning to use it mainly on my house plants because our gardens are so big, it would take truckloads of compost tea bags to use it on all of them.  I'll use it once a month, year 'round.

If you are interested in trying it for yourself, I now have Annie's Compost Tea in my Open Sky store.  I only carry products there that I believe in, and Authentic Haven Brand is one of them!

The product or merchandise being reviewed in this blog post was the sole compensation for testing and reviewing the product. All opinions expressed here are mine, with no suggestions whatsoever by the manufacturer or distributor. If I like it, I'll say so. If I don't, I'll say that, too.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Gardens of Beth Karp - Cincinnati, OH

As I mentioned before, while attending the GWA Region III meeting in Cincinnati last month, we toured a couple of private gardens.  I shared that of Bill Lee and Hurst Sloniker and now the gardens of Beth Karp.

Just as we drove up to Beth's home, it began to sprinkle a bit and by the time we left, it had picked up some. There was just enough time to make our way around her beautiful property, admire her landscaping abilities, and snap a few photos.

We entered the back gardens through this gate...

Enormous raised beds greeted us to the right.

Beth (in the center) was on hand to answer questions and provide commentary as we toured.
Mom and I both were loving the Primulas...

...including these doubles (looks like triples to me!).

More Primulas along a woodland path.

Well-groomed knot garden.

In spite of how aloof or angry Ginger looks in this photo, she was a charming, affectionate kitty whose ears are permanently laid back like this due to her being part Scottish Fold.  She enjoyed the attention I was more than happy to give her.

Inside the attached conservatory room, lives a beautiful peach-colored Clivia.

This meandering path took us by a beautiful water feature...

Toward the back of the property was a potting shed with several beds of hostas and ferns.

Ostrich Ferns (Matteuccia struthiopteris)

I really WANT some Lily-of-the-Valley like this striped one! (Convallaria majalis 'Albostriata')

I want some of this, too, whatever it is.  We were told, but I didn't write it down, and I don't remember. We saw a solid green variety, too. Does anyone know what it is?

 The final garden area was "The White Garden" inside a courtyard.

These white tulips were fabulous...

...and HUGE!

As the rain picked up, we left Beth's garden to meet at the Cincinnati Flower Show at Symmes Township Park in Loveland for lunch. More about the show later!

Amazon Lily Finally Earns Its Keep

Some things defy logic. I've always been told that plants have an innate desire to reproduce. The way some do this is by flowering and producing seed. Now most of the time, I couldn't care less whether they produce seed, especially if it's a tropical that I'm growing in the house, but I DO want those flowers!

Tropical plants tend to have unusual and extraordinarily beautiful flowers.  That's what first drew me to Amazon Lilies when I saw a package of bulbs for sale in Walmart in Bradenton, Florida on a vacation trip there. White and big and just lovely.

I bought the package of three bulbs and when I got home, I planted them in a pot, watered them, and waited.  Soon, dark green leaves began to emerge from the soil and I was amazed at how large they were.  They kept putting out those verdant, shiny leaves and I waited for the day when I'd see their beautiful white blooms.

I waited.

And waited.

And waited some more.

Lots of beautiful foliage, but no flowers.  In the meantime, I was on one of my many visits to the Foellinger-Freimann Botanical Conservatory in Ft. Wayne, IN, and while strolling through the rainforest, came across some gorgeous white blooms.  It took me a little bit to figure out which of the plants they were coming from, then I realized it was the Amazon Lilies.

Wow...these were much more stunning than I'd remembered when I purchased my bulbs five years ago.  That's right. FIVE years ago.  No flowers in all that time.  I couldn't figure out how I could have such a healthy plant, yet it wouldn't bloom.  Just seeing those blooms in person frustrated me all the more.  I wanted some of my own!

I came home and decided I was tired of looking at my wonderful foliage plant and put it into one of the spare bedrooms.  It was winter, and that room wasn't heated as much as the rest of the house.  The temperature was probably somewhere around 60 degrees.

When this spring came, I brought the lily out again and pretty much ignored it.  Then one day last week, as I was doing my watering, I noticed spears with buds on the ends peeking out of the foliage!

They're in full bloom now and I'm doing the happy dance.

Apparently, there are others that have problems getting these to bloom, according to Dave's Garden. There are some plants that need a period of cold, or need cold nights to bloom. That's my first guess as to why, after all this time, mine decided to bloom. Yet, the ones at the conservatory don't have this. Or maybe they needed to reach a certain size before blooming, although they were good-sized when I planted them and had five years of growth.  For whatever reason, I'm happy to see that something worked.

Amazon Lily
Eucharis grandiflora

Zone 10 - 11
Full shade

Monday, May 24, 2010

Macro Monday #1 - Aquilegia 'McKana's Giant'

I don't know where I've been all this time, but I just this morning discovered Macro Monday.  The brainchild of Lisa, of Lisa's Chaos, participants choose a macro photo and post it to share. Since I'm a lover of macro photography, as regular readers of Our Little Acre well know, I'm excited to start taking part in this sharing of the intricate details of our world!

For my very first Macro Monday post, I've chosen a photo I took last week of my yellow Columbine (Aquilegia ' McKana's Giant').  It's one of the largest Columbines I have, both in height and in size of the blooms.  I love the pure, clear, pale color it has.

For more Macro Monday photos, visit Lisa's Chaos.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

'Jethro Tull' Is Not Who You Think

Those of us that grew up in the '60s and '70s remember the flutey goodness of Jethro Tull that blared from our AM radios. So when I found a quirky little Coreopsis in my garden center a few years ago, I had to smile and of course, had to buy it.  No, I didn't buy it for its name (although I sort of liked that, too), but for its hollow petals.

I grew 'Zamfir' before that, and while it's similar - one of 'Jethro Tull's parents and enough alike that I could be happy with either one - it didn't grow well for me, and eventually died.  'Jethro Tull' has done much better and looks like it's having a stellar year for me in 2010.

Coreopsis 'Jethro Tull'

Petals that look like this are called 'quilled.'  Quill pens, used in centuries past, are made from bird feathers and are hollow, which is how quilled petals got their name.  Several flowers have these characteristic petals, including Cosmos 'Seashells', several Dahlias, Echinacea, Chrysanthemums, and Osteospermum.  Mums and Osteos take it a step further with some having spoons on the end of their quills.

So.  About this 'Jethro Tull.'  Was it named for the legendary rock band? There was a star of a different kind that lived long before, also named Jethro Tull (1674-1741). He was an agriculturist and inventor of several products that changed the way growers did things.  He improved the seed drill and invented the horse-drawn hoe.  He modified the plow, and his changes can still be seen in the plows used today.

A cursory search for confirmation that the Coreopsis was named for farmer Jethro and not rock band Jethro, turned up nothing.  So I decided to get on the phone and call Itsaul Plants, LLC, the hybridizer that introduced it. 'Jethro Tull' gets its name from the former - the farmer.

And now you know.

Coreopsis grandiflora 'Jethro Tull'

Zone 4-9
Full sun
18-24" tall

Photo of Jethro Tull band from Wikimedia Commons.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Ups-A-Daisy® Makes Light Work of Big Pots

You know how sometimes you come across a product that is so simply ingenious that you say to yourself, "Now why didn't I think of that?"  That's exactly what I did the first time I saw the Ups-A-Daisy® plant pot inserts.

I have several large containers that I plant each spring and by the time I fill them with potting mix, they are  too heavy to move by myself and I've used way more potting mix than the plants in them really need.

Ups-A-Daisy® container inserts solve both of these problems.

Let's take a container I planted a couple of weeks ago as an example.  This one measures 20" across the top and is 20" high.  It can take an entire large bag of potting mix to fill this thing.

But by putting the right size Ups-A-Daisy® insert into the pot, I can cut potting mix usage in half.  For this pot, I chose the 14" size.

This is for containers that measure 18-20" in diameter. It fits about halfway down into the pot, leaving room for enough planting mix for plants to spread their roots as they grow.

See those holes in the insert? They serve two purposes.  The first is for drainage and the two larger ones are for your fingers to hold the insert as you place it into the pot.  These are especially important when it comes time to take the insert out of the pot, when you change your container plantings. A flat disc placed into a container is very hard to remove without these, especially after having heavy planting mix and plants sitting on top of it for awhile.

So now, with the Ups-A-Daisy® in place, I planted my container.

I've said before that I'm no garden designer and that includes putting plants together in containers.  But I was quite pleased with the combination I came up with for this large planter this year.  Following the "thriller, filler, spiller" recipe, I used:

  • Cleome 'Senorita Rosalita' by Proven Winners®.  This Cleome comes in a vibrant shade of lavender and what sets it apart from other Cleomes is that it won't self-seed (the seed is sterile) and it's thornless. I also love the way the color is gradient, going from a light shade to a deep one.

  • I added an Elephant's Ear - Colocasia esculenta 'Illustris' - for even more drama.  This is by Proven Winners® also.

  • Alternathera 'Red Threads' - This is a favorite of mine in many locations. I love the texture of the foliage as well as the deep purpley-red color, which complements the dark color of the Colocasia

    I would have preferred to plant a larger size of these in my pot, but they'll grow quickly to bridge the space between the tall Cleome and Colocasia.


  • Supertunia® Petunia 'Pretty Much Picasso™' by Proven Winners® - From the second I saw this online last year, I loved it.  When I needed a spiller for my container, I knew the color would go nicely with the Cleome, so I bought three of them.  They're a Supertunia®, so these will take off and provide plenty of color cascading down the sides of my container.

All together now...

Ups-A-Daisy® container inserts come in nine different sizes from 10" to 18" in diameter, which will work in pots sized from 12" to 24" in diameter (tapered design).  It's a favorite of Joe Gardener/Joe Lamp'l (Growing a Greener World), Shawna Coronado (Gardening Nude), Garden World Report's Shirley Bovshow, and now mine!

You can read more about Ups-A-Daisy container inserts and order them on their website.

The product or merchandise being reviewed in this blog post was the sole compensation for testing and reviewing the product. All opinions expressed here are mine, with no suggestions whatsoever by the manufacturer or distributor. If I like it, I'll say so. If I don't, I'll say that, too.

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