Posts Tagged ‘Books and Magazines’

Tip – If you own a red oak or a white oak tree, and it needs any pruning make sure the work is done no later than the first of April.  Pruning oak trees when they are no longer dormant invites the lethal disease called “oak wilt”.

Real spring may still be weeks away, but the garden centers and home centers are already stocking their shelves with tools and products for the yard warriors I call yardeners .  We will soon have to face that long shelf with twenty different boxes of grass seed, with no clues about how to make the right choice. Even more confusing are those stacks of bags with fertilizer, insecticide, herbicide, or fertilizer combined with insecticide.  What should be fertilized in the spring?  How do I know whether I have grubs? Yard care can be a confusing challenge.

Spring may bring the tulips, daffodils, and robins, but it also is a time figure out what we need to do out there in our yard and then when to do it.  Yardeners need information just as gardeners do, but gardeners have more resources to help them.  Gardening books abound for gardeners but don’t really work very well for us yardeners.  Those books tend to give us more information than we feel we need.

I’ve spent some serious hours surfing the Internet looking for information for yardeners dealing with lawn care and yard care.  There are forums or discussion groups for gardeners, but I could find none for yardeners.  I’ve looked at over 80 gardening related blogs and they are all for serious gardeners.  Google of course is the source of most information on the Internet, but when I ask about controlling grubs I get 200,000 files.  Even sorting through the first ten files in Google is confusing to many of us.  Often there is conflicting information from one source to another.

In the end, and research confirms this, we yardeners get most of our yard care information from staff at the garden center or from friends and neighbors.  These sources can sometimes be unreliable and seldom complete, but that’s where most of us go when we have a question.

In all modesty  the best source of information is my very own website www.yardener.com.  Check it out.


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If you read a lot of gardening books and magazines you’re probably familiar with the term mixed border. If not, don’t despair, it’s simply a term used to describe an elongated plot of land filled with flowering plants mixed with shrubs, possibly grasses and maybe small trees.

The issue of Fine Gardening magazine published several years ago featured the article Design a Border with Strong Plant Shapes by Sydney Eddison, that I think does a nice job explaining the visual impact of combining these plants and how one might begin go about putting together a mixed border.

The interspersing of shrubs and grasses among the flowers adds more than texture and color. Shrubs come in a variety of interesting shapes – cones, globes, mounds, spikes and fountains that add substance, depth and structure to the garden.

A before photo of the author’s garden depicts a sea of daylilies in full bloom. Though the area is awash with color, the garden lacks definition. And what will that space look like a month later when the lilies have bloomed out?

The after photos show a far more interesting scene, a garden packed with glorious blooming flowers framed with fountains of grasses, mounds and pillars of purple foliaged shrubs and a variety of interesting shaped evergreens. The added contrast of these strong shapes and lines turned a pretty garden into a fabulous garden that will carry the landscape through the four seasons

As I looked over the plant list Sydney Eddison provided I realized that, as is often the case, some of the recommended varieties will not work in many Michigan landscapes.

The gorgeous thread leaf Japanese Maple that thrives in Eddison’s Long Island, New York full sun border, that provides a large and graceful mound of mahogany colored foliage, could not handle that kind of exposure here in Michigan. And even if it could, it’s far too large for most yards. Flower lovers tight on space are not about to give up large chunks of plantable land to a tree, no matter how lovely it is.

But all is not lost. With a little detective work it’s not hard to come up with substitutes, downsized shrubs that are hardy and offer a stunning array of shapes, textures and colors for use in mixed borders.

For instance, let’s just take a look at some possibilities for globe and mound shaped shrubs.

When we think of globes, Arborvitaes quickly come to mind. But common varieties burgeon to 5 to 6 feet in but a few years. However, Thuja occidentalis ‘Danica is a true dwarf Arb that grows to only ten to fifteen-inches in height. ‘Golden Glove’, with its soft yellow foliage will stay within the 2 to 3-foot range and is hardy to a frigid zone 3.

Boxwoods are another classic choice for evergreen globes and they are on the list of deer resistant shrubs. Buxus ‘Green Velvet’ at 2 to 3-feet in height won’t require shearing to keep it from overtaking the garden.

Repetition of shape and color provide continuity that helps tie the mixed border together. And there are many deciduous shrubs that will not only repeat the globe or mound shapes, while adding season long color and interesting texture as well. The deer resistant Barberry ‘Rose Glow” with its lovely rose and pink mottled foliage that matures to a deep purple, is a colorful choice that might be used like book ends to anchor at the ends of the border. If you prefer green go with the 3 to 4-foot ‘Lime Glow’ Barberry. Burgundy colored Barberry ‘Crimson Pigmy’ will only rise to 18 to 24-inches. At the rear of the border repeat that globe shape and color with deep purple-leafed Weigela ‘Wine and Roses’. As a bonus, this stunner will produce oodles of intense rosy-pink flowers in June and flower sporadically on current season’s growth. At maturity ‘Wine and Roses’ will reach 4 to 5-feet in height, but it can be easily pruned to reduce its size after the initial blooming. And those prunings make fabulous foliage fillers for your cut flower arrangements. If you’ve a passion for purple, repeat that shape and yummy color in the front of the border with the low growing Weigela ‘Midnight Wine’.

Shrub roses also fall into the roundy moundy category. Conard-Pyle’s brilliant red ‘Kockout’ will flower non-stop from June through frost and make a stunning companion to those burgundy leafed plants.  The dainty pink polyanthus ‘Fairy’ rose is another possibility.

If bright lights turn you on, the glowing golden thread like foliage of Chamaecyparis ‘Sungold’ at a mature height of about 3-feet will give the garden a year-around shot of color. Bright yellow C. ‘Vintage Gold’ that holds to a height of 18 to 30 inches is another little treasure that will color up a full sun or part-sun border.

If you think of Spireas only in terms of the brilliant yellow harbingers of spring, get thee to a good garden center. ‘Dakota Goldcharm’ is a 12 to 15-inch dwarf gold leaf with bronze tips and pink flowers. ‘Pink Parasol’, topping out at 3-feet combines blue green leaves with big fluffy pink umbrella-like blossoms. Than there’s the vivid red 3-foot Spiraea ‘Neon Flash’. Keep these pretties dead headed and they too should re-bloom sporadically through out the summer.

When planning your new scheme, be sure to leave room for the vertical shapes in the form of grasses and shrubs.

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It’s been almost 30 years since gardening guru Mel Bartholomew first published his best-selling book “Square Foot Gardening.” But he hasn’t been sitting on his laurels. In 2005 he came out with the “All New Square Foot Gardening” (Cool Springs Press, $19.95), and last year he published his companion book “All New Square Foot Gardening Cookbook” (Cools Springs Press, $19.95). His 135 fresh-from-the-garden recipes are quick, easy to prepare and look to be quite tasty. Included in each section are tips on harvesting and storing the fresh produce you grow.

Using Bartholomew’s raised-bed intensive method of gardening, gardeners can harvest hundreds of pounds vegetables in a minimum of space, laboring only 10-15 minutes a week, once the garden bed or beds have been set up and planted.

To see the creative ways other gardeners have integrated square-foot gardens into their landscapes, go to www.squarefootgardening.com.

The biggest change in Bartholomew’s method is the use of a custom-blended soil mix made up of Canadian sphagnum peat moss, a variety of commercial bagged composts and vermiculite.

Bartholomew stresses that when purchasing compost, buy several different brands and mix them together. He combines manure-based composts, reed sedge or Michigan peat composts along with composts made from yard waste and worm castings. Homemade compost is also on the list.

According to Bartholomew, mixing all these formulas together assures the square-foot soil mix is enriched with soil microbes, lots of humic acid and natural fertilizer containing all the macro and micro elements plants need. Using this mix, he says, meets all plants need for nutrients so there is no need to fertilize.

Of great value in the “Square Foot” gardening book are the formulas for deciphering how many bags of the stuff to buy. Those on a tight budget can look for money-saving options on the Web site.

Square-foot gardening is not just for growing veggies. Herbs and flowers flourish in them, too. I want to put a flower border along both sides of my front walk but I don’t have a lot of time to care for them, so I’m going to use the square-foot gardening method and build long, narrow 2- by 12-foot gardening boxes that will flank each side of the walk.

You may think it’s a little early to plan the garden, but many garden centers put potting soils and amendments on sale early in the season to entice folks to into their stores, so now is the time to get started.

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Back in the ’70s when I was first getting interested in gardening, I read a book titled “The Findhorn Garden” by the Findhorn Community (Perennial). It was an extraordinary tale of 10 people living for three or four years in a very remote and barren part of Scotland, mostly rocks and sand.

They started a vegetable garden and (stay with me here) they were able to communicate with the garden plants through spirits they called devas. Being able to learn what each plant needed, they grew incredibly large and very tasty vegetables every year — plants so large that no scientist who visited them could explain the phenomenon. After 30 years, I am not ready to disbelieve the Findhorn Garden story as weird and implausible as it sounds.

Because in the last 25 years scientists have confirmed that plants of the same species are able to communicate with each other. In one research project the researchers were able to take note when the first gypsy moth larva landed on a mature oak tree in a grove of other oaks. By analyzing the chemistry of the first oak tree’s leaves they were able to determine that within a very short period of time the tree had a bitter tannin to all of its leaves, making it an unattractive lunch for gypsy moth larvae. What was astounding was that all the other oak trees in the grove changed the chemistry of their leaves making all of the trees unappetizing to the attacking pest.

It took a few years for the scientists to determine just how the trees in the rest of grove got the word that the gypsy moth larvae were in town. Those trees did not communicate through their roots. They released a special gas or pheromone to warn their neighbors of the danger. Since then there have been studies to confirm similar behavior among walnut trees and willow trees. The assumption is that all species of trees can communicate with each other in this fashion.

Another shocker: trees have been found to communicate not only for defense, but also to time their blooming. In fact, blooming at the same time can also be a defense mechanism, as the destructive pest insects will not have enough time to eat too many flowers, as it would happen if trees bloomed one after another.

It gets better: Some varieties of corn defend themselves against the root worm by emitting a pheromone that attracts microscopic beneficial nematode worms that kill the root worms.

Finally, it has been proven that plants that are in stress of any kind release some kind of gas and that gas is how the pest insects find the weakest plants.

I assume we have just touched the surface of all the biological magic that occurs in and among plants in our home landscape. Read “The Findhorn Garden.” It’s a perfect read for a snowy winter day.

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Nothing staves off the winter blues like a stack of seed catalogs. Here’s a peek at my pile.

D. Landreth Seed Company: (800) 654-2407, www.landrethseeds.com. Their commemorative 2010 catalog is an historical treasure that took five years to assemble. Included is a unique African-American heritage seed collection of heirloom vegetables carried by enslaved people from Africa and the Caribbean that became staples of the African-American family. The illustrations throughout, along with the gardening history and advice, came from the collection of antique Landreth catalogs. This one is a collector’s item as well as a current catalog.

Burpee: (800) 888-1447, www.burpee.com. Find seeds and transplants of flowers, herbs and veggies, and my favorite tomato, the Burpee “Fourth of July.” They have 30 new varieties to tempt me.

Cook’s Garden: (800) 457-9703, www.cooksgarden.com. Find seeds and plants for gourmet gardeners, and yummy recipes, too.


Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds: (417) 924-8917, www.rareseeds.com. Check out the seeds of hundreds of heirloom veggies and flowers in a full-color publication that looks more like a magazine than a catalog. Order today, they run out early.

Nichols Garden Nursery: (800) 422-3985, www.nicholsgardennursery.com. Nichols is celebrating 60 years of seeds and plants for herbs, veggies and flowers. It offers a fascinating treasure hunt for the unusual.

Johnny’s Selected Seeds : (877) 564-6697, www.johnnyseeds.com. Find cold-tolerant vegetables, flowers and herbs that are flavorful, disease-resistant and good producers. A favorite of market gardeners and home growers. Good growing information.

Thompson & Morgan: (800)274-7333; www.thompson-morgan.com. Their world-famous 200-page seed catalog features hundreds of full-color photos, making it a great reference if you’re into flower power.

Peaceful Valley Organics: (888) 784-1722, www.groworganic.com. A huge assortment of heirloom and organic seeds including Seeds of Change, Renee’s Garden Seeds and bio-dynamically grown herb seeds from Turtle Tree Seeds. Good selection of fruit and nut trees and shrubs.

Pinetree Garden Seeds: (207) 926-3400, www.superseeds.com. Enjoy great prices for those who don’t need scads of seeds and want to start simple.

Seed Savers Exchange: (563) 382-5990, www.seedsavers.org. Enjoy an extensive collection of heirloom seeds, books and gifts. Check out the Web site for information about membership and benefits of joining the Seed Savers Exchange, the largest nongovernment seed bank in the United States.

All these catalogs are available online, and most Web sites include additional items that become available after the catalogs go to press.

Many seed houses publish online newsletters that provide growing tips, alerts of seasonal sales and special events.

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Winter is the perfect time to start an indoor garden. And for inspiration and tips on how to choose and use the right plants, check out Julia Hofley’s houseplant article in the January/February edition of Fine Gardening magazine, www.finegardening.com, now on sale at newsstands.

Hofley, a confessed houseplant-a-holic, spent almost a decade overseeing a large tropical greenhouse stuffed with houseplants during her tenure as the greenhouse manager at Goldner Walsh Nursery in Pontiac.

Julia Hofley never saw a houseplant she didn’t love and started combining, or as she calls it “layering,” plants together in single pots when she ran out of room to house her large collection. This technique allows her to create stunning combos rich in color and texture. Hofley says plants thrive when planted together in pots because of the extra humidity. Also, just like outdoors, the larger the pot, the more moisture it holds, the longer it takes to dry out.

The secret to combining plants is choosing varieties that have similar needs regarding light and moisture. “Astral Gem” Asplenium fern, “Florida Beauty” Dracaena, Prayer plant “Marisela,” Philodendron “Golden Erubescens” and Philodendrim “Aureum” make great plant partners because they look fantastic together and all require bright, indirect light. Typically, in winter that would be a room with a south-facing window.

For most of us, when it comes to caring for houseplants, watering as needed is a prescription for plant death. A better method is to water the plant well and then monitor the soil moisture daily to see how fast it dries out. An inexpensive moisture meter will help you get an accurate reading of the soil condition at the center of a large pot. Then plan to water on the same day of the week, whether it’s weekly, semi-weekly or bi-weekly.

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If you’re sitting around pouting, waiting for spring, pop out of that blue funk and get thee to the library or bookstore. Winter is the time to garden in your mind and make plans for spring, and gardening books and magazines are the tools of choice.

Rock Gardens are stunning, but there’s more to the process than just dropping some rocks on the ground and planting away.  “Rock Garden Design and Construction” from the North American Rock Garden Society (Timber Press $29.95 www.timberpress.com (800) 327-8650) brings together the expertise of more than 40 experts to help create a truly dramatic habitat. The chapters include important topics such as rock and plant selection, placement, soil preparation and maintenance. Also covered are trough planting, balcony gardening, woodland trail building and water features. Illustrated with more then 100 photos, that are sooo inspirational, by the time you finish this book, you may want to totally replace your lawn.  Much of mine will be gone by next fall.

Creating and Planting Garden Troughs by Joyce Fingerut and Murfitt (B.B. Mackey Books, P.O. Box 475, Wayne, PA 19087) is the definitive how-to manual for gardeners who what to make their own containers and create stunning little gardens filled with incredible plants that winter hardy and year-around sensational.

Fingerut walks through trough building process from concept to form building – to concrete mixing – to completion. Larger projects take a bit of time and there are no cutting corners when durability is an issue.

Alpine gardening authority Rex Murfitt provides excellent planting instructions and a large plant lexicon to choose from.  Sample landscaping and planting plans along with hundreds of photographs and drawings educate as well as inspire.

My large bowl shaped hypertufa container formed on a commercial size salad bowl has spent a decade in the garden and is none the worse for wear.

Ah, how can one pout with so many projects to complete before planting time in spring.

The Orchid in Lore and Legend by Luidi Berliocchi (Timber Press soft-cover $19.95 www.timberpress.com, 800-327-5680) is a must read for anyone who has more than a passing interest in orchids. This facinating treasure trove of prose combines the magic, the history, the botany, the folklore, and the medicinal values along with the culture of this exotic plant family.

According to Berliocchi, it was Confucius, who first celebrated the orchid in his writings sometime between 551 and 479 B. C.  In Japan the orchid began it’s rise to popularity with the ancient tale of an emperor’s wife who, remained childless for years and then gave birth to thirteen children after deeply inhaling the inebriating perfume of the orchid Cymbidium ensifolium.

It was not until the second half of the eighteenth century that orchids entered the Western consciousness, but by the 19th century the passion for them erupted into full-blown orchid mania. The fabulous glass houses, the Victorian conservatoires, found in England and North America were constructed to house the vast collections that were collected on worldwide expeditions.

Many orchids are surprisingly easy to grow. My partner, Jeff Ball has a white Phalaenopsis thriving in the east window at the front of his desk. Care consists of running the bark-filled container under the water tap every three days or so. The blossoms, currently in large bud stage, will remain in bloom up to 4 months. That makes the twice a week trip to the sink well worth the effort.

A copy of The Orchid in Lore and Legend and a Phalaenopsis orchid would make a great Valentine gift for the plant lover in your life.

Super Seed Catalog

If like me, you have mourned the passing of the Shepard seed catalog that was filled with yummy recipes and gardening tips as well as a cacophony of wonderful veggie seeds, weep no more. The John Sheepers Kitchen Garden Seed catalog (860) 567- 6086 www.kitchengardenseeds.com, looks and reads like an almost exact copy of right down to the line art.

The good gardening tips come from Vermont veggie and garden maven Barbara Demrosh. The recipes are harvested from great restaurants and 4-star chefs. Featured dishes include zesty Radicchio Salad with Parmesan-Balsamic Vinaigrette from Napa Valley’s Terra Restaurant and Baked Penne Pasta with Lobster from Carole Peck’s Good News Café, Woodbury, Connecticut.

Scheepers’ large selection of seeds includes Asian and Italian greens and fun stuff like white carrots, lime-green eggplant and other delightful veggies that are easy to grow and great to eat.

Local Pottery Maven Featured in Fine Gardening Magazine.

Pottery maven Julia Janiak, garden center manager at Goldner Walsh Nursery in Pontiac has an excellent article on choosing terra cotta in the January issue of Fine Gardening magazine (www.finegardening.com). Here you will learn to tell the difference between machine made and hand made pots and how and why to avoid purchasing lesser pieces.

Plans for Easy-to-Make Trellis

The premier edition of Backyard Living magazine (Reiman Media Group (800) 344-6913) includes plans for an elegant six- foot tall wood and copper trellis that is perfect for growing climbing plants. The project is well illustrated with photos and line drawings and the plans are crystal clear, including tips to ease assembly and avoid pitfalls.

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