Cultivating a Culture of Gardening™

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Nov. 25, 2009 Wordless Wednesday

Last of the Hydrangeas


Thursday, November 19, 2009

Multi-cultural Communications

I have an incredible staff. My right hand gal, Yelena Petruk, is creative and hardworking; Luis and Armondo are as obsessive as I am about bed prep and layout, and they make sure that the rest of the guys work as hard as they do. But having an international staff has led to some interesting communications. Yelena is from the Ukraine, Luis and Armondo and crew are from Mexico, and my husband - the airline pilot - flies all over the world. Ok, the last part doesn't actually count for me having an international staff but thought it makes me sound a little more multi-cultural. Here's an example yesterday of the often funny misunderstandings that occur between my deep southern accent, Yelena's Russian accent, and Latino broken English:

We had just finished putting up Christmas decoration at one of the developments I work in and Yelena, Luis, and I were standing back to inspect all the work. Yelena says, "Du zu lock de door?". Luis, "Do I need to lock door?" Me, "The door locks by itself at 8 tonight." Yelena looks at me perturbed, "No, du - zu - lock - de - door?" Luis, "I go lock attic door." Me, "Remember, I locked the attic when we were finished putting all the boxes away." Yelena, now really giving me a disgusted look, points to the front door, "Du zu lock (like) how I decorated de front door?" Finally getting her question, and after I stopped laughing and explained to a still bewildered Luis who was worried that he'd forgotten to lock something, I told Yelena that I really did LIKE the door. Check out her handy-work and let me know how you "lock de door"!


Horticulture Magazine's List of Favorite Gardening Blogs

Yes, I hope to some day be on this list, but considering I've only been blogging for a month I'll pass these great references on for others to benefit from. I'll just keep tilling away at the gardening cyber soil and plan on having a bumper crop of great blogs for Horticulture and you to enjoy throughout the year!
A Chef in the Garden
Georgia estate gardener tells it like it is
A Caribbean Garden
A world traveler shares her tropical treasures
Clay and Limestone
Zone 7-ish Tennessean with a passion for native plants
Cold Climate Gardening
Advice about hardy plants for hardy souls
Dig, Grow, Compost, Blog
Days in the life of a north Louisiana gardener
Dirt Therapy
Northwest Alabama no-mow fan
Garden Faerie’s Musings
Michigan garden fanatic and awesome photographer
Garden Rant
Edgy, entertaining and informative
The Gardeners Anonymous Blog
Stories from the Santa Cruz Mountains of California
Gardening Gone Wild
Big names collaborate to share their gardening passions
Idaho Gardener
Way-cool blog design with plantaholic wisdom aplenty
The Manic Gardener
Organic gardening in Montana
May Dreams Gardens
Indiana Zone 5 gardener with great giveaways
Outside Clyde
North Carolina mountaintop gardening at its best
Plants and Stones
Upstate New Yorkers share their garden’s glory
Red Dirt Ramblings
Oklahoman with more than 90 rose bushes
Sin City to Slaterville
Veggies and flowers in New York state
Urban Organic Gardener
NYC veggie gardener making do in small space
The Veggie Patch Re-Imagined
Zone 5a Canadian seeks sustainable edible space
Wild Suburbia
California horticulturist with a knack for natives

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Twelve Days of Christmas for Gardeners

Had a little too much eggnog tonight and came up with a new twist for an old song--

You may sing this if you wish:

On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me:
A newly planted tree in my courtyard. (Try a fig tree - "Celeste" is hardy here and doesn't get too big)
On the second day of Christmas my true love gave to me:
Two gardening books. (Southern Living Gardening Book; Gardening in Tennessee and Kentucky - month by month)
On the third day of Christmas my true love gave to me:
A three-day gardening symposium. (Go with me to Callaway Gardens symposium devoted to gardening in the south - - fantastic program!)
On the fourth day of Christmas my true love gave to me:
Four gardening magazines. (Garden Gate; Horticulture; Fine Gardening; Tennessee Gardener)
On the fifth day of Christmas my true love gave to me:
Five golden arborvitae. (Thuja orientalis - 'Golden Globe')
On the sixth day of Christmas my true love gave to me:
Six poinsettias to grow indoors. (Don't overwater them!)
On the seventh day of Christmas my true love gave to me:
Seven bags of tulips. (You can keep planting until Dec. 31!)
On the eighth day of Christmas my true love gave to me:
Eight bags of daffodils. (Plant them in an area where they can multiply in the years to come)
On the ninth day of Christmas my true love gave to me:
Nine gardening tools. (Cobra-head, Felco pruners, Hori-hori knife, long-handles pruners, gardening shears, short shovel, rake, gloves, garden bucket)
On the tenth day of Christmas my true love gave to me:
Ten bags of soil conditioner. (woodland soil mix for your shady areas, 'Erth food', compost to amend soil)
On the eleventh day of Christmas my true love gave to me:
Eleven more bags of soil conditioner. (I never buy enough the first time)
On the twelfth day of Christmas my true love gave to me:
Twelve days of yard work. (Use some of those days for clean-up, shrub, tree, and bulb planting and save the rest for next spring!!)

Wordless Wednesday

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Pansy Care

I was going to write an article on pansy care and then remembered reading this several years ago - these guys summed things up pretty well.
Simple care keeps pansies beautiful during winter
By Paul Thomas
and Gary Wade
University of Georgia
Colorful pansy beds take a bit of
time. But a few simple tasks can
keep them looking great and bloom-
ing for months whenever the weather
When the temperature drops be-
low 25 degrees Fahrenheit, pansy
foliage will wilt and turn gray-green.
This is normal.
On a winter day, the soil on the
south-facing slope of a pansy bed
can be 45 degrees while that on the
northern side, 10 feet away, is frozen
solid down to the root ball.
In that case, the roots can’t absorb
water from the frozen soil, so the
plants on the north side of the bed
dehydrate and die. Frozen soils and
drying winds can spell disaster for
One of the best ways to save pan-
sies from freeze injury is to apply
pine straw 2 to 4 inches thick over
the entire bed during extreme cold.
This helps trap heat in the soil,
prevents it from freezing and greatly
reduces exposure to cold, drying
wind. As a rule, do this only when
you expect the temperature to drop
below 20 degrees for a long time and
expect dry, cold winds to blow. Al-
ways do it whenever the soil may
freeze solid.
Carefully rake the pine straw off
when the cold weather passes.
times even in single-digit cold with-
out protection.
Fertilize pansies in late Decem-
ber, late January and late February.
But don’t use granular products.
When the soil drops below 50 de-
grees, pansy roots don’t take up the
nitrogen commonly used in granular
Instead, use a liquid fertilizer
containing at least half its nitrogen in
nitrate form.
Apply “pansy-vinca special,” a
high-nitrate, pansy-formula, 15-2-20
fertilizer, every 14 days through
March 15. It works great for begin-
ners and professionals alike. Just add
it to a watering can full of water and
water the bed thoroughly.
Potassium nitrate, calcium nitrate
and even magnesium nitrate can
provide good results in the winter,
How often you should fertilize
pansies depends on the plants’ vigor.
Consult the label for recommended
When you’re feeding over the top
of the plants, apply enough liquid not
only to wet the foliage but to saturate
the root zone 4 to 6 inches deep, too.
By March 15, soil temperatures
should let you begin using granular
fertilizers again. Using 200 parts per
million of 20-20-20 or a slow-release
granular fertilizer, as you would for
summer annuals, should work well
for pansies for the rest of the spring.
Check the pH, too. Take a soil
sample in early spring to test the soil
and 5.8. A pH above 5.8 can lead to
boron and iron deficiency and maybe
to more black root rot.
If the pH gets above 5.8, drench
the bed with 1 to 3 pounds per 100
gallons of either iron sulfate or alu-
minum sulfate. When you do this,
lightly rinse the pansies afterward to
prevent any foliage injury. Do this
every 10 days until the pH drops and
stays between 5.4 and 5.8.
Too much soil moisture reduces
oxygen and root growth. Try to keep
pansies’ soil slightly on the dry side
of moist to harden growth before
very cold weather.
Finally, keep the bed clean and
free of decomposing flowers and
Make frequent deadheading (re-
moving spent blossoms) and cleaning
a top priority. This prevents insect
and disease problems while making
the color display more striking. Bi-
weekly deadheading is essential for a
professional color display.
Trim lanky pansy stems from time
to time, too, to encourage branching,
compact growth and improved flow-
If you do these things consis-
tently, your pansy beds will rival
those you see at the entrances of
corporate buildings and botanical
(Paul Thomas and Gary Wade
are Cooperative Extension horticul- turists with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environ- mental Sciences.)


Monday, November 16, 2009

Fun Things to Do on a Winter’s Day

Mention a list of fun things to do in front of my sons and you might get groans of dismay. Saturday mornings and summer breaks will find them greeted most mornings with a yummy breakfast and their own personalized list of fun things to do for the day. This detailed list will include activities like, “Pick up dirty clothes, dust your room, complete your laundry, mow the grass,” thus giving you understanding for the aforementioned groans. Why, you may ask, would a loving mom use such false advertising in getting tasks accomplished? Maybe because the fun is in the reward at the end – the joy of walking across a bedroom without breaking your neck, the opportunity to actually see our wiener dogs as they romp through the grass, or even the promised trip to the movies when all is finished.
So, I’m taking advantage of this media forum here to give the reader your own list of gardening fun things to do on any winter day. Put on a jacket, some warm gloves, and maybe even get some of those toe warmer packets to get the jobs done. The reward this spring will be worth the all the fun!
Gardener’s List of Fun Things to Do

1. Clean your tools and sharpen the blades on your pruners and shears. I use Krud Kutter Original Formula and fine steel wool to clean off most of my tools, then go over them with a few drops of lubricating oil rubbed on with another piece of steel wool before putting them neatly back in their storage area. (Sorry, the mom in me is hard to turn off.)
2. Put a light layer of pine fines, pine straw, or shredded leaves over any bulbs that popped up during those random warm days this fall.
3. If you are reading this in February, this is the time you want to be putting out your pre-emergent herbicide to deal with all those pesty weeds. Look for products like Surflan (which can be mixed with Round-up to deal with existing weeds) or Treflan®.
4. If you like to grow annuals from seed you can start them indoors during this time. Check your local nursery center for seeds and seed kits.
5. Planning on doing some major landscaping? This is the best time to get with landscape designers for plans. Take lots of pictures of the areas that you want to landscape and note the sun positions (remember that the sun positions will change by summer and note any deciduous trees that will add shade.)
6. Prune back any perennials that you left standing in the fall. By fall you can cut back grasses to about 6 inches and lirope to about 1 inch.
7. In February prune back shrubs that bloom in the summer or fall such as butterfly bush and prune off any evergreen shrubs that have been damaged by winter weather. Prune deciduous trees that do not bloom in the spring
8. This is a good time to remove dead trees and shrubs and replace with new ones or transplanted ones.
9. Walk around your yard to see if any bulbs or plants planted in the fall have been heaved out of the ground from freezing and thawing and gently replant. Add an inch or two of mulch for protection.
10. Sign up for the Master Gardener course in your county.
11. Visit local nurseries to see what they have growing in the greenhouse. Mary’s Greenhouse in McMinnville, Mouse Creek Nursery and Perennial Farm in Riceville, Randolph’s Greenhouses in Jackson, Tennessee are a few road trips worth taking.
12. Head to Cheekwood, and the two UT test gardens (one in Knoxville on campus, one in Jackson up the road from Randolph Greenhouses) to check out what you can plant for winter interest. All three have a wonderful array of different varieties – deciduous and evergreen trees and shrubs, perennial, and annual plants. Take your camera and a notebook – this is an untapped resource for gathering ideas and information.

After you’ve worked so hard outdoors, gather up in front of the fire with all your plant catalogs and magazines and start reading about what’s new for this year. Some of my favorite catalogs that are worth reading from cover to cover are “Plant Delights”, “Bluestone Perennial”, “White Flower Farm”, and “Brent and Becky’s Bulbs” These magazines always stay on my coffee table: “Tennessee Gardener”, “Horticulture”, “Fine Gardening”, “Garden Gate”, and “Nashville House, Home, and Garden”. With so many fun things to do, and so short a winter’s day I’ll leave you with a quote from one of my favorite gardening authors, “Now, nobody imagines his modest little patch is going to be the greatest thing since copper bracelets, no. But it will be personal, and it will be fascinating, because there is no such thing as dullness when the gardener is going full steam ahead and damn the torpedoes, as it were.” Henry Mitchell in “The Essential Earthman”.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Garden Truth in a High School Musical

I went to watch my third son in his high school musical and came away laughing and in awe of the talent in these kids. But I also came away with a wonderful gardening reference that proved to be a pivotal point in the play. Enjoy this quote - let it sit around and compost in your brain. And dust off an old vhs of Hello Dolly to enjoy sometime soon.
"Money ... pardon the expression, is like manure - it's not worth a thing unless it is spread around encouraging young things to grow..."

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Spring Garden Tour

If you are planning your spring garden tours, make sure you travel through Nashville to visit Cheekwood Botanical Gardens. Here's a little temptation of spring's glory there.

Friday, November 13, 2009




Gardening is a long road, with many detours and way stations, and here we all are at one point or another. It's not a question of superior or inferior taste, merely a question of which detour we are on at the moment. Getting there (as they say) is not important; the wandering about in the wilderness or in the olive groves or in the bayous is the whole point.” Henry Mitchell - Gardening Is a Long Road, 1998.

I love to read Henry Mitchell, how he reminds me that the products of my flower gardens are not alone what brings me satisfaction. There is mystery and intrigue along the way, elation and deep disappointment, character revealed and hopefully character developed. Then there are the lessons learned that some flowers along the way are simply over hyped hussies who shout at you from the nursery shelves and garden advertisements, but have very little to offer. Meanwhile, the hesitant, scrawny plants rescued from the bargain rack prove they are tough and resilient, and remind me that I always have more to learn from my ever changing garden beds.

There are a few of these resilient toughies that deserve careful consideration for those who find themselves low on time and conscious of frequent water restrictions. While some avid garden folk look piously down on annual flowers, these eight summer annuals have proven to be stalwarts of my flower beds. Annuals are the variety of interesting characters that gardeners can meet along our laborious horticultural road. These plants enhance the beauty of existing perennials and carry the bed with consistent color from spring until frost. Like a complementing harmony, the perennials only accentuate the melody of this annual color.

When I first saw Cuphea “Flamenco Samba” in a big box store, I turned to my co-worker and said, “We’re buying every one of these.” She looked at me like I’d just suggested we buy soil from Chernobyl. The plants were tall and spindly with barely a bloom on them. Fortunately I had seen the Cuphea Flamenco series and Cuphea “Totally Tempted” at several trial gardens the year before and knew that they were simply an ugly duckling waiting to become a swan. Once put into the ground and given a few weeks to get established, this Cuphea withstood the harshest of conditions and never slowed down in its prolific blooming until our first freeze in October. This Cuphea is a great mid-layer for your garden, though I’ve used it also to fill any entire annual bed for impact. These thrive best in hot, blazing sun.

Mention that you have a lot of Scaevola or Setcreasea to the wrong crowd and you’ll have a lot people quickly backing away from you. What sound like horrid diseases are actually two notable components of many annual beds. Scaevola aemula “Whirlwind Blue” and Scaevola hybrid “New Wonder” are prolific bloomers that crave the sunlight and heat of our Tennessee summers. “New Wonder” is great for the front of borders or trailing down a slope while “Whirlwind” has a bushier habit. Setcreasea offers the desirable purple that works so well to offset brighter colors. Purple plants are one of your blending tones to unite a variety of colors. I’ve put Setcreasea in non-irrigated beds and seen it press on through days of heave wave. No deadheading needed, but you may want to trim it back if you didn’t believe me when I call them vigorous!

No matter what your political persuasion, you’ll want to become friends with the Bidens. Bidens ferulifolia “Peter’s Gold Carpet” and “ Solaire” are two of several great Bidens varieties that offer carefree bright golden color. With strong wiry stems and light finely cut foliage, this flower is an excellent companion plant to your heavy-headed plants like lantana, geranium, or petunias. Little sunburst of yellow pop out consistently from spring until frost, paying little attention to dry hot days.

Angelonia angustifolia is slowly making its way into the annuals’ circle of superstars. Different series such as the “Angelmist”, “Carita” and “Angelface” series offer a variety of height options for placement in your garden. With a name that sounds sweet and delicate, these belie the connotations of being fragile. Angelonia is another heat and sun lover that continue upright even after those desirable afternoon downpours. Because it is self-cleaning, this flower is a great choice for the center or back of a bed that may be difficult to reach once all the surrounding flowers have filled in.

I would be amiss to leave out my new favorite white annual, Euphorbia “Diamond Frost”. When I’ve seen these in the stores, they usually are not making a good first impression. But planted in either the ground or a container, the more I ignored this plant, the prettier it looked. Planted in mass, the effect is one of a soft fluffy cloud. This plant has the similar characteristic of the Bidens with delicate looking but strong stems that work their way through heavier companion plants. Mix this with the equally heat and drought tolerant Plectranthus coleoides or hybrids for a cooler, soft look.

When you need a taller, upright annual that’s a real attention getter, go for Rudbeckia “Indian Summer”. This beauty will bloom their heads off (literally) all summer long, providing bright golden color with minimal upkeep. This is not your grandmother’s Rudbeckia!

As with most annual flowers, these varieties are all heavy feeders. A consistent feeding using both a slow release fertilizer and monthly liquid fertilizer keep these plants vigorous throughout the summer. Products with an NPK that are formulated in 1:2:1 ratio work best for summer annuals. Some products that I use on a regular basis are Miracle-Gro “Bloombooster”, “Colorburst” granular plant food, Espoma “Flowertone”, and Monty’s Joy Juice. Caring for these summer flowers are part of our gardening journey, but it’s always nice to have those plants that call for fewer detours and let us enjoy the way a little more leisurely.


Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Thank-you Veterans

Have you hugged a Veteran today?
Thank-you to my soldier, his sweet wife, and son for their service to our country!
Read more about how you can support our veterans at

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Plants that Grow Anywhere

This little heuchera found it's home in my front steps, a seedling from the heuchera that was growing last spring in the pot on the step above.

The Essence of a Garden

Somewhere right now there is a landscape architect whose is trying to channel the mind of a homeowner. He/she might have taken pictures of the place to be designed, written notes of what the client may want, measured, and sketched. His goal is to be able to present a plan that will provide a living reflection of the client’s botanical aspirations. What he hopes is that when the plan is implemented, he has captured a landscape with
arms that draw us in, that welcome our guest, and that hold us securely as we retreat to its refuge. Maybe it’s a place for play or for inspiration. Maybe it is an outside room, another place to gather, or a way to showcase and enhance our home. Whatever the essence of your garden is, the designer of your landscape will need all your help to capture it. These are a few tips to help you in communicating with your landscape architect or designer. (This way he won’t have to use a Vulcan mind reading technique. )
1. Let the landscape architect know your gardening involvement. For example, communicate whether you hope to be able to get out and work in your yard on a regular basis by planting, pruning, maintaining, if you plan on having someone else maintaining your garden, or if you want something very low maintenance.
2. Do you want to have containers or window boxes? Do you want areas for annual flowers? This is good to know ahead of time when irrigation is being planned so that separate zones can be established for these items.
3. Do you have pets that will be outside a lot in some or all of the garden areas?
4. What colors/view do want to see when you are working at the sink or looking from a workspace window?
5. What do want your focal point to be – a specimen plant, artwork, an archway?
6. Do you want outdoor lighting in an area?
7. If you are planning a water feature, what type of sound do want presented – a gentle bubble, a splashing to block out other noises, ect.?
8. How will you use your garden area – for large entertainment, a play area for the kids, a private refuge, or maybe a place to collect the plants you can’t resist at the garden center ?
9. Let your LA know if you have anyone in the family with strong allergies – especially with bees.
10. Budget restrictions.
11. Do you want lots of flowering plants or are you more comfortable with greenery and foliage color?
12. Before meeting with your landscape architect, collect pictures from magazines or places you’ve visited of ideas that you admired or desired.

Landscapers Song of Lament

Poetry is often an outlet for expressing the emotions that wax and wane as a result of interpersonal relationship. With all the planting that goes on in the fall, I thought I'd share a series of botanical poetry and prose that might help others as they interact with both their plants and those that help them plant:

Landscaper’s Song of Lament
(with apologies to Joyce Kilmer)

I think that I shall never see
A sight as maddening as a tree
That I installed with care applied,
Was left un-watered until it died.
Or pansies planted in the fall
And then I get the random call,
“You said these flowers would last through freeze!”
I say, “This week it HAS been 12 degrees,
Of course they’re lying on the ground.
Next week at 50° watch them rebound.”
Then you have the West Coast guy
Who’ll plant the rose and wonder why
The leaves are eaten and not spot free.
Welcome, friend, to Tennessee!
Spring annuals provide a gorgeous display
But I’m sure to get the call of dismay:
By midsummer, the flowers look weak
“Could you come by the house and take a peek?”
No pinching was done or the rabbits have feed,
Aphids are present and fungus has spread.
No maintenance was wanted to add to the cost
So a full season’s color could be easily lost.
By late July they SHOULD realize
The need to water and to go fertilize!
There are folks who want shade plants to grow in full sun,
Bamboo to stay put, and their ivy not run.
They want something that, “Blooms all year
And never needs pruning - can we do that here?”
They want grandma’s peony that they’ve had since ‘05
In the garage in a bucket to be planted and thrive.
The most trying folks to deal with I’ve found
Are the ones who insist that the have all around
The biggest and fullest - a yard instantly grand;
But the cost for that they don’t quite understand.
Yes, gardens are planted by fools like me -
God, help all my clients not think that it’s free!


Tennesse Gardening Class

NOTE: This Saturday at 10am is Rita Randolph's last Leaf Casting class for the fall... Other classes in January & Feb.
Please call to sign up. These make fabulous gifts!

Randolph’s Greenhouses
1690 Airways Blvd.
Jackson TN 38301
9am to 4:30pm ~ M thru Sat

THIS Saturday, November 7th at 10am
Concrete Leaf Casting

Christmas Greenery Workshops
Saturdays @ 2pm
November 7th, 14th, 21st
& December 5th
Garland Making – $ 35. Learn how &Take one home !
BUT ... Garlands aren’t just for Christmas!
See ideas for Garlands year-round too!

~ December 5th ~
~Our Christmas Open House~
Centerpieces ~Poinsettias
Paper whites & Amaryllis
All ready for your decorating needs!

Also... At 2pm Dec 5th
Garland class ~ a fund raiser for
Loving Paws Animal Rescue
All class proceeds go to LP!

Come see us, or call to place your holiday centerpiece order.


Friday, November 6, 2009

Hanging on to Autumn

Driving home from work today I saw the first glimpses of a sight that usually brings me great delight - glistening Christmas lights. But being just the first week of November, I am longing for a few more days of gold and red leaves, pumpkins, and candy corn. So here's a few pics from this week's work to remind the early elves that some of us are still enjoying autumn's gentle transition into winter's dark days.