» Archive for June, 2013

Delicious and Healthy Herbs

Thursday, June 20th, 2013 by Jenny Watts
    • Feed camellias, azaleas and rhododendrons with an acid plant food now. Remove dead flowers and mulch to keep the soil cool.
    • Check roses for black spots on the leaves and treat immediately to prevent defoliation.
    • When fuchsia blooms fade remove the whole flower stem to prevent it from developing seed pods which reduces continued blooming.
    • Fertilize container plants every 10 to 14 days with a liquid fertilizer. Pinch off faded blossoms and they will keep blooming all summer for you.
    • Red, white and blue petunias, verbena or combinations of these with lobelia, geraniums, impatiens and salvia will make a nice display for the Fourth of July.

Delicious and Healthy Herbs

Plants valued for their fragrance, flavor or medicinal and healthful qualities are often referred to generally as herbs. They cover a wide range of trees, shrubs, perennials, vines and ferns. From wild plants to garden favorites, there is a wide, wide world of herbs to choose from.

Culinary herbs are the most popular with local gardeners. They are used in all different kinds of cooking from all over the world. “Herbs” usually refers to the aromatic leafy parts. Basil is a popular, tender, annual herb. It is native to India and Asia, and is grown for its aromatic leaves which are used fresh or dried as a flavoring. Many different basils offer a wide variety of flavors including lemon basil, Thai basil and Greek basil.

Other popular culinary herbs are chives, dill, French tarragon, marjoram, oregano, parsley, rosemary, sage, savory and thyme. There are many different mints which, like basils, have various interesting names and flavors. Peppermint, spearmint and lemon balm are well known, but chocolate mint, apple mint, lavender mint and Corsican mint offer many different taste experiences.

Stevia is grown for its sweet leaves and used as a sweetener and sugar substitute. Lemongrass is native to India and tropical Asia and is used for its citrusy flavor in Asian cuisine.

Fragrant herbs are herbs used in bath oils, perfume and aromatherapy. Bergamot, catmint, chamomile, thyme, lavender, lemon balm, mints and sage can be used in herb sachets, to make lavender wands and for fragrant herb pillows. Fragrant rose petals can be used to make a delightful potpourri.

Herbs have been used as medicines for centuries. From the medieval French apothecaries to Chinese herbalists, plants have been used to cure illnesses and stimulate health since ancient times. Herbal remedies are made from thousands of different herbs. Some of the more common ones are chamomile, echinacea, calendula, St. John’s wort, feverfew and valerian.

Aromatherapy is the use of essential oils in massage, inhalations, baths, natural room fragrances and perfumes to maintain and improve health and vitality. Some of the more common herbs used for aromatherapy oils are basil, bergamot, chamomile, gardenia, lavender, marjoram, peppermint, rosemary and sage.

Herbs can also be very ornamental. They add various leaf colors, textures, fragrances, and flowers to the garden, making them attractive as well as useful. You can grow them in individual pots, grouped together to catch the sun, or in a special part of the garden.

A small bed of culinary herbs within easy reach of the kitchen is a popular choice. A “tea” garden could include fragrant lemon balm, chamomile, peppermint and your favorite open-faced rose for rose hips. Scented herbs are always nice near entrances and walkways where you can enjoy their lovely fragrances.

Make your garden a little more appealing with herbs for color and fragrance in the garden.

Hardy Ferns for the Landscape

Thursday, June 20th, 2013 by Jenny Watts
    • The “Wave” petunias make wonderful hanging baskets for full sun. They come in purple, bright pink, reddish-purple and pale “misty lilac.” They can also be used for a colorful summer ground cover.
    • Cage or stake tomatoes while still small so that you can train them as they grow.
    • Cover cherry trees with bird netting to protect your crop.
    • Ladybugs are a big help with aphids in your greenhouse or garden. Release at dusk in problem areas.
    • Roses bloom all summer with their abundant flowers in so many different colors. Choose some now when you can see their lovely flowers.

Hardy Ferns for the Landscape

“Nature made ferns for pure leaves.” So said Thoreau, and indeed, the variety and beauty of ferns is almost endless. Their many shades of green and even bronzy-red leaves make them interesting at any season.

Ferns are relatively easy to grow. They are long-lived and generally pest-free. Some ferns are evergreen the year round, while others turn brown with the frost and come back to life the next spring with a great burst of growth.

Ferns need protection from hot sun and moisture through the dry weather. Most ferns will live in heavy shade where few other plants are successful. Generally speaking, deer avoid ferns, so they are good plants for the forest garden.

Ferns are practically essential for the shade garden. Their graceful, arching fronds add texture to the landscape. Large ferns, like giant chain fern, can be used along fences or walls to break up the flat surfaces. Lower growing ferns can be used in front of sparse shrubs.

Most ferns grow in deep or light shade and are at home in woodland areas. They like moist soil and mulch to keep the soil soft. Use them with hostas, astilbe, foxglove, Bethlehem sage, and impatiens for a lush look.

Some ferns will take more sun than others. Deer fern, sword fern, and chain fern can stand a half day of sun if the soil is moist.

There are many hardy ferns that grow well in this area. Some of the native ferns are the familiar sword fern (Polystichum munitum), the giant chain fern (Woodwardia fimbriata), five-finger fern (Adiantum pedatum) and deer tongue fern (Blechnum spicant).

Sword ferns grow from two to four feet tall depending on soil conditions. They are evergreen and make a good foundation planting or naturalize easily under trees. Giant chain ferns are the largest growing ferns in this area, reaching six feet tall. They grow tallest in cool, wet places, and are very attractive against a shaded wall.

Five-finger ferns come up in the spring with delicate fronds on dark, wiry stems. The fronds make a finger-like pattern atop 12 to 18 inch stems. They die back in the winter but are very hardy. Deer tongue ferns grow one to three feet tall with narrow, glossy green fronds. They have a symmetrical, formal appearance.

There are several other ferns that do well here. Japanese Painted fern (Athyrium nip. ‘Pictum’) blends wine-red and silver markings on its graceful fronds. Autumn fern (Dryopteris erythrosora) has reddish new fronds which turn a deep green as they mature.

Japanese Tassel fern (Polystichum polyblepharum) is a shiny leaf fern that adds an elegant look to shaded gardens. It is particularly beautiful when new fronds emerge stiffly, then droop backwards to form a tassel. It grows to 2 feet tall and wide.

Soft Shield fern (Polystichum setiferum ‘Proliferum’) is a hardy European native that does well here. It has distinctly cut leaflets that give a frilly effect to the fronds for a lush, rich appearance. They grow 2-3 feet tall and 2 feet wide.

Create lush shady landscapes with a variety of ferns and other perennials.

The Cutting Garden

Thursday, June 20th, 2013 by Jenny Watts
    • Star jasmine is an evergreen vine that prefers some shade. The fragrant blossoms fill the June air with their sweet scent.
    • Attract hummingbirds to your patio this summer with hummingbird feeders, so you can enjoy their iridescent beauty and charm.
    • Azaleas, camellias and rhododendrons can be pruned now without sacrificing next years bloom. Ask at your nursery if you need help.
    • Paint trunks of young fruit trees with Tree Trunk White. This will keep the soft bark from sun-burning which leaves cracks for borer insects, the most common cause of death of young apple trees.
    • Earwigs are out and about and hungry. Control them with the new “Sluggo Plus”, which has the natural, bacteria-based spinosad added to the original iron phosphate formula.

The Cutting Garden

If you enjoy having fresh flowers in the house, it makes good sense to grow your own. With your own cutting garden, you can grow the flowers you love in the colors you want and make sure you have a selection of flowers for cutting most of the year.

Cut flowers are as easy to grow as vegetables when grown in blocks of the same kind. Choose plants that bloom for a long period and hold up well in the vase. Make sure you grow flowers that bloom at different seasons to have bouquets throughout the year.

In order to receive the maximum production of flowers, the garden should receive seven or eight hours of sun a day. The soil should be fertile with good drainage. There are also some flowers for cutting that can be grown in light shade, though flower production won’t be as great.

If you want to grow cut flowers in an ornamental garden, mix annuals and perennials with ornamental grasses, bulbs and roses. Grow at least three plants of each perennial and six of each annual to have enough flowers for cutting at one time.

Many of the best annual cut flowers are in the daisy family: asters, bachelor’s button, calendulas, cosmos, dahlias, marigolds, zinnias and sunflowers. Some contrasting flowers include gladiolus, dianthus, gayfeather, Victoria Blue salvia, snapdragons and stock.

Everlastings make great cut flowers for fresh or dried arrangements. Baby’s breath, globe amaranth, pink candle celosia, yarrow, statice and strawflowers are easy to air-dry without losing their color or form. Some, such as purple coneflowers and black-eyed Susans produce bold, bristly seedheads that are nice in dried arrangements.

Perennials from the daisy family include: aster, gaillardia, chrysanthemum, coreopsis, black-eyed Susans, Shasta daisy and painted daisy. Cup-and-saucer campanula, delphinium, lupine and penstemon offer tall spikes of bold flowers. Iris, poppies, peonies, daffodils, lilies, tulips and roses have individual flowers to uses as centerpieces of your arrangements.

Ornamental grasses add drama to flower arrangements. Use Northern Sea Oats, fountain grass, feather reed grass (Calamagrostis ‘Karl Foerster’), or Japanese silver grass (Miscanthus sinensis) in both modern and country-style arrangements.

For long-lasting cut flowers, be sure to include carnations, Peruvian lilies (alstromerias), delphiniums, roses, lilies and sunflowers in your cutting garden. Their blooms will last in the vase for 6-14 days.

In areas that receive less than two hours of sun a day, you can grow astilbe, columbine, foxglove, and old-fashioned bleeding heart. If your flower bed is under deciduous trees, daffodils and tulips will flower nicely before the trees leaf out in the spring.

Whether you create a cutting garden, or add cut flowers to your ornamental flower beds, it’s easy to have lots of pretty cut flowers to enjoy indoors all season long.