Picture Snob

April 27, 2011

Bleeding Heart is another nostalia enducing flower

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My mother grew a Bleeding Heart plant and I remember her showing me the flowers and telling me about the "drop of blood" coming out of the bottom of the flowers. They were truely lovely and had the magic of myth about them.

I'm creating a shade garden on the northwest side of the house. The soil is terrible, but I'm digging big holes and using the hole as if it were a clay pot. Bleeding Hearts are perinneals and grow 2 to 3 feet tall and as wide is they are in the right conditions. Here in California I"m going to have to water well and hope the shade garden will provide enough protection from the sun. I think I will put some Hostia on each side of the Bleeding Heart to give it some more protection and also to fill in the empty space if the bleeding heart decides to die back after flowing. I'm excited to have this sweet plant and it's memories growing near the back porch.

At Old Fashioned Bleeding Hearts-Dicentra spectabilis

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April 22, 2011

Ranunculus make a great spring holiday bouquet

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I give a big spring celebration party every Easter. This year I'm using ranunculus for the centerpiece on tables. I got these from my local nursery. They come in such beautiful colors and are huge. I remember I bought these last year and planted them in the flower bed, but they are, this year, only poking their true leaves up. My nursery friend suggested using them as a living bouquet and I think this is a wonderful idea.

You might check out your local nursery for such eye catching pleasures. I bought 12 plants for $24 which is much much cheaper than buying cut flowers or ordering from a florist. And the bonus is that you have flowers that come back year after year.

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April 20, 2011

Burpee Seed Starting is an all in one system for a great price

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If it's still freezing at night in your area or generally too cold to plant the warm weather vegies, you might try this seed starting kit from Burpee which has everything needed for successs. They say it is guaranteed to grow bigger and better seedlings every time. The all-in-one kit has everything needed to start growing seeds. Everyone says it is easy to set up and doesn't require much maintenance. You only need to water once.

It has a transparent cover retains heat and moisture and the mat underneath draws water from the bottom tray reservoir and feeds it to each cell evenly. Roots don't stick to mat as in other systems. It comes with enough soil and nutrients to grow the seeds into transplanting size. The big 72-cell tray makes it easy to start all your seeds in one unit and it is reusable.

At Burpee Ultimate Seed Starting System

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April 18, 2011

I'm planting Daphne near the screened in porch

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A friend showed me a plant he loves which was planted by his wife several decades ago. It had sweet smelling flowers and shiney green leaves and after some exploration I learned it's name--Daphne. Daphne means laurel and was sacred to Apollo who chased a nymph of that name and to escape him, she turned into a laurel tree. There are many differenty types of Daphnes and they vary as to their flowering times.

Daphne's small clustered flowers are very fragrant and they can easily fill an entire garden with scent. Daphne blooms in mid-February. There is reason to be cautious about where you plant them. Some varieties are also pretty poisonous, and its flowers, leaves and berries should not be planted or kept near children or pets. The danger is similar to shrubs like azaleas and rhododendrons.

Daphne cneorum is called the 'Rock Daphne' ' because it is often grown in rockeries. This plant also does well and is very attractive in raised beds or border plantings and as a container plant. I think this is the showiest of all the Daphnes. The April and May rosy-pink flowers absolutely cover the plant, providing a massive flower display, that has a sweet, intense fragrance.

Daphne odora is one of the most popular varieties. It has a bushy growth habit, eventually attaining a height of up to 3 or 4 feet and, if crowded, occasionally taller. In the Pacific Northwest where I am this plant often begins flowering in late February or early March and may continue into April.

Daphne retusa is another nice dwarf variety of evergreen Daphne. The whitish to rosy-purple flowers are fragrant. It's flowers are not as bright as the others, and it may be a little more difficult to find.

Daphnes benefit from an application of lime at planting time. Dolomite lime is especially beneficial because of the sulfate of magnesium it contains. If pruning is needed, the best time is right after they have finished flowering.

I'm hoping by putting Daphne by the screened in porch, the fragrance will waft though the porch and into the house.

At Spirea Daphne

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Spirea makes a lovely landscape plant

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I remember spirea from my childhood and although I didn't think anything of it then, I remember it fondly now. We had a whole side of the house lined with spirea and the white flower blossoms cascaded beautifully, drooping almost to the ground. I like the fact that this is an old timey plant and hardy and easy to grow.

The spirea plant is a shrub with about 100 varieities and they are native to the Northern hemisphere. I like the common name which is meadowsweet. What I didn't know that it was used as a medicinal herb by Native Americans and contains some of the same properties as aspirin.

The spirea comes in many different colors and growing patterns. There are spring flowering and summer flowering types. The most nostalgic for me is the bridal wreath type of spirea. Vanhoutte spirea easily grows 6-10 feet tall and just as wide, with an arching shape. There are many that don't grow as tall or spread as much, but all bridal wreath types have white flowers.

The summer blooming spirea are frequently planted along foundations or in mixed borders, They have colorful summer-blooming spireas which are compact plants pale pink, deep pink, or white flowers. Many of the summer-blooming types will produce flowers more than once during the growing season, especially if faded flowers are deadheaded. The foilage of these plants come in gold, chartreuse or red.

Spireas are hardy and fairly easy to grow. The spring-blooming bridal wreath types bloom on old wood and should be pruned only to maintain a natural shape and reasonable size. Summer-blooming spireas generally bloom on new growth. Prune them in late winter or early spring before the leaves emerge.

At Spiraea X Vanhouttei 'Renaissance

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April 13, 2011

How about a beautiful lawn that is also safe for kids and pets?

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This is a book for those of us who are tired of seeing the little yellow flag on lawns advising people to stay off because of pesticides and chemical fertilizers. What is the point of a lawn, anyway? As a kid I loved to run barefoot, playing with the dog or my friends. It felt of freedom from school, from shoes and the restrictions of rules. It saddens me to think that with weed and feed chemicals, the lawn is not safe for kids or pets. It's something to look at but not to touch.

If you are of the same mind but still want a lawn that's lovely too look at as well as play and sit in, or godforbid, lie on your back in and look at the clouds on a warm spring day, then this book may have the way to acheive that. The Organic Lawn Care Manuel was written by a guy who used the weed and feed method until the chemicals he used started affecting his health. Then he began going organic. He has instructions on starting a lawn from scratch and on how to improve soil structure. He discusses grass varieties and how to choose a drought and disease resistant grass. There is also a section on what to do about moles, voles and other burrowing creatures. And best of all, he doesn't forget what a lawn is really for--fun games for the family! Croquet, anyone?

The book comes with a good glossary, a list of ground covers, and lots of photographs for illustrating various problems. He has chapters on making the transition from chemical to organic lawn care without loosing what you already have worked for.

At The Organic Lawn Care Manual: A Natural, Low-Maintenance System for a Beautiful, Safe Lawn (Paperback)

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April 12, 2011

Mountain weather refreshes everything

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We just had one of those spring mountain storms. The weather turned cold and last night it rained and poured and this morning I awoke to about an inch of snow covering the ground. The sun was shining and soon I could hear the plop and thunk of melting snow falling off the trees and roof. There is still snow halfway up the mountain.

I went up to the garden to scout around and find greens for a salad. I'm so amazed this year that last years carrots which are ususally rotten by this time are still juicy and sweet and I found a beet that was in perfect shape. There was kale and the tender tops of brussle sprouts going to seed. Some cilantro had geminated and there was self sown endive was about a couple of inches high everywhere. So it was fun to see what the garden itself could provide and glean the new growth for a spring salad.

At Ferry-Morse 3243 Organic Seed Collection, Salad

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April 7, 2011

Spring is a good time to plant summer bulbs

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I'm going to the nursury tomorrow and I have a long list. I'm getting more grass and wildflower seed and some time release fertilizer for the bare patches around the new house. I'm also getting six packs of broccoli, kale and maybe lettuce. And I'll check out what's on sale or looking especially tempting.

Mainly, I think April is the month for planting summer flowering bulbs like dahlias, gladiolas and lilies. I want to put them with the other perinneals I'm transplanting and also space them around the house. I'll get some organic bulb fertilizer and manure and maybe a little peat moss to make a nice bed for them. However, while I was surfing around, I found a sale of summer bulbs online. You might check it out. They have a gladious rainbow mix for $25 for fifty bulbs.

At Summer Bulbs

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April 6, 2011

Transplanting the perennials

With the warm weather the garden activity has begun and although the garden itself is too wet to till, I can dig holes, fill them with compost and plant some of the cool weather vegetables I love. Kale, broccoli, lettuce all go in nicely and thrive in the wet and cool weather. But today I decided to transplat some of the perennial flowers that are being neglected on the fringes of the yard into the area around the new house.

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It looks pretty barren even after the planting. This hill was scraped clean of all topsoil and although I planted grass and wildflowers there last year, nothing grew. Nothing. So I have the idea of using the ground here as if it were a flower pot and dig a hole, fill it with good soil and put in a plant. With lots of care and some feeding of compost, I think I can get flowers to grow and since i plan a patio area, it will be a great place to sit and enjoy the color and the fragrance.

I planted Dutch Iris, regular iris, some Lamb's quarters, bergamot and a Dusty Miller. This fall I'll put in some spring flowering bulbs between these plants and keep the compost feedings and my finger's crossed.

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March 31, 2011

Look for Spring Garden Markets in your area

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All over the country, spring garden markets are happening on weekends. Take a look in your area. Spring Garden markets are a great place to pick up vegetable, herbs and flowers on sale. Some of these markets also provide information on techniques and varieties of vegetables for growing with talks and demos for gardeners.

The range of tomato and pepper varieties is overwhelming now that heirloom varieties are all the rage. It's good to have some kind of help to sort your way through the seemingly endless choices. Here is a small sample of advice on tomato varieties from Santa Clara Master Gardeners.

There are options and sizes to satisfy virtually every palette and almost all space limitations. According to Mary Collins, our tomato seed queen, great options include:

Early producers (50-60 days): Stupice, Lime Green Salad, Elfin, Sugary and Black Cherry.

Great color: Orange Strawberry, Mary Robinson's German Bi-color, Marvel Striped and Isis Candy.

Sauces and pastes: Speckled Roman, Amish Gold and Jersey Devil.

Prolific producers: Black from Tula, Carbon, Dr. Neal, Ernie's Round, Black Cherry, Chadwick and Principe Borghese.

Latest fruiting (90-110 days): Gold Medal, Marvel Striped, Russian 117 and Big Rainbow.
Great in containers: Lime Green Salad, Kootenai, Orange Blossom and Koralik.

Even if you just picked on out of each catagory, it would give you a chance to taste and try some new varieties and see which you would like to include in your garden every year.

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