Seeds Planted

This post, “Seeds Planted” was written for my WordPress blog called Always Growing by Jan in Covington, Louisiana 

Today I started my seeds.  I prepare my own seed starting mix.  I use 10% perlite, 10% vermiculite, and 80% peat moss.  This has worked successfully for me for years.

I start by mixing up the above, damping it, and then placing it in the six packs or whatever I am using.  I add the seeds, and if they need only a slight covering of soil, I just sprinkle a little of the dry mixture on top and then using a mister dampen the dry soil.

I make sure to label each container.  In the past, if I was planting the same thing in more than one flat, I would label just one and keep them all together.  But, I guess my memory just isn’t as good as it used to be, or maybe I am planting more because now I just can’t keep every thing straight in my mind.  For example, last year when I rooted three different types of hydrangas, I didn’t label each and every one, and now there are a few that I don’t know which are which.  So I now am more careful.  I usually write the name of the plant with marker on the container.  That way I don’t have to worry about losing a name because the wooden one discolored or rotted, etc.

I planted the following seeds: coleus, moonflower, morning glory, cypress vine, hosta, toad lily, lettuce and, for the first time, gerber daisies. 

I have a few more I want to start, but that will have to wait for another day.

Propagation of Plants

This post, “Propagation of Plants” was written for my WordPress blog called Always Growing by Jan in Covington, Louisiana 

I thought that I would be able to plant up some seeds today, but it was just too cold.  We are expecting another night of freezing temperatures.  However, I did assemble the seeds and my seed starting mixture.  Since it is supposed to warm up tomorrow, I hope to be able to plant everything then. 

About a month ago, when all the leaves had finally fallen off, I cut back a few small limbs of a Confederate Rose (Hibiscus mutabilis) that were blocking the sun from some understory plants.  I took three cuttings about 10 to 12 inches long and put them in water to see if they would root.  That is how my mom made the one I have.

 I did not really expect them to root because I figured the tree would be dormant, but I felt I had nothing to lose.  I was pleasantly surprised to find after about two weeks there were white bumps on the stems.  After another two weeks, there are enough roots to pot them up.  I will have to keep them inside with all the cold weather, but come springtime, I should have three good plants ready to go in the garden.
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I don’t know what I’ll do with them.  I will only need one, so I’ll probably offer the others to my daughter and sister. These plants grow fast.  They may freeze back to the ground here when they are small, but after they get some growth on them, they usually do okay.

I really like the Confederate Rose because not only is it a beautiful tree when in bloom, but it blooms in the fall when few large plants are in flower.

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The tree was beautiful last fall when this picture was taken.

Cold, Rainy Day

This post, “Cold, Rainy Day” was written for my WordPress blog called Always Growing by Jan in Covington, Louisiana 

Today it rained most of the day, and tonight it should be freezing by midnight.  We are expecting a low of 27.  The rain gauge shows 1.29 inches of rain fell.  It was a slow, soft rain which means that there was no run off, and all the rain has to soak into the ground.  There are still puddles in the yard tonight, and it stopped raining around noon.

With the low temperatures that are expected tonight, I had to protect the tender vegetation.  I had not moved very many plants since the last freeze, so I just had to cover them again.  There is supposed to be a light freeze again Sunday night, so I won’t really uncover anything until Monday.

Because of all the rain and the ground being so wet, I hated walking around the yard when I was trying to protect the plants.  Of course, I had no choice, but it is annoying.  The ground gets compacted, and it doesn’t help the grass any.

I guess I am finding everything about the weather today annoying because with a three day weekend, I was looking forward to being out and working in the garden.  I may still be able to work on Monday, at least I hope that things will dry out enough that I can do something.  There is still a great deal of yard work to do.  Winter weeds need to be dealt with, some pruning needs to be done – you know, a garden is never finished kind of things.  The kind of things that a good three day weekend would allow to get done. 

Because of our mild winters, Gulf Coast gardeners never really have to stop working their gardens.  It is during the hot summers that we don’t do too much.  I don’t know if I could live in the northern latitudes.  I can understand how anxious those gardeners must be to get outside and work in their gardens.  Our long growing season allows us to garden almost year round. After working inside all week, being able to garden or just go outside and walk around the garden is important to my mental health. I guess I miss that, and that is why I am so grumpy tonight.

I know I won’t be able to work outside tomorrow, so I am planning on starting all my seeds.  If I am able to do that, I’ll post an update on what I plant.

A Favorite Garden Book

This post, “A Favorite Garden Book” was written for my WordPress blog called Always Growing by Jan in Covington, Louisiana 

Since there was so much shade on our property when I first started gardening, I would buy books about gardening in shady areas.   I would try the different plants that I was assured would be successful in my garden.  Imagine my surprise when nearly everything died.  I thought it was me.  But then I started reading and finding out that the plants recommended by those books just weren’t meant for where I lived.  I do live in zone 8, but is the Gulf South zone 8 not the Northwest’s zone 8.

So after longing after lily of the valley, lilacs, and peonies, I finally decided that I would stick to regional garden books.  I do have a many of them which I will recommend in future entries. 

So now, the only books that I buy that do not have a regional point of view are landscaping books.  My absolute favorite is one I bought many years ago, and it is the Reader’s Digest Ideas for your Garden.

Don’t let the “Reader’s Digest” turn you off to this book.  I had the book about two weeks and had read the whole thing before I noticed the “Reader’s Digest” part.  This book is filled with fresh ideas.  There are a myriad of designs and plantings with not only photographs but with drawings.  The editor often shows multiple ideas for one garden or how to start a garden and add to it for years to come.  The pictures are inspiring and very informative – no shots too close that you can’t see the design, etc.  They show plants that just about everyone can grow or there are often suggestions for very hot or cold climates.

The book covers topics, such as, entry gardens, decorative boundaries, features that catch the eye, planting to please the senses, and many more that help to create a unified design.  The book also helps no matter the size of your garden.  The advice is practical and there are tips on how to make challenging tasks easier, save money, etc.

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I have recommended and given this book as a gift to experienced gardeners, and they all have told me that it has turned out to be their favorite gardening book too.

I would love to hear of other books that would be good for any section of the country as I am always looking to add to my garden library.

Begonias

This post, “Begonias” was written for my WordPress blog called Always Growing by Jan in Covington, Louisiana 

Living in the hot, humid South, it is sometimes difficult to grow begonias.  Forget the tuberous ones. Unfortunately, they survive only as indoor plants and even then have a short life.  With our high rains and hot, humid temperatures, even wax leaf begonias often succumb to fungus diseases, or as I call it, “the rot.”

Three years ago, my mother gave me a hanging basket of variegated pink begonia for my birthday in March.  I have successfully overwintered it, and  it has survived our summers.  It even survived Hurricane Katrina & the lack of any care for about two weeks after.  I keep it hanging in a small tree on the north side of the house.  It receives about one hour of direct sun in late morning and filtered sun the rest of the day.  I have found that many plants that can take more sun in the North need to have a lot less down here.  I do fertilize about once a month starting in late March.  And, of course, I water it daily in the summer.  If temperatures get into the mid to high 90’s, I usually water twice a day.  I am planning on trying to propagate some of the long stems that are hanging down.  I have read that to do this, there needs to be at least two leaf nodes below the soil.  If I am successful, I will start another basket.  So I am looking forward to another year with this plant. 

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Last spring I planted three white wax leaf begonias in a container.  I placed these in the white garden that I started in memory of my father.  At first the begonias did not do well.  I think it was too chilly and damp, but they did survive.  Finally, they seemed to do better as the summer went on.  This fall they really put on a show.  They, too, have overwintered and will do better this spring.  At least I have my fingers crossed that they will. 

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In the past when I have tried wax leaf begonias, they did not do well at all, and I became discouraged with this plant.  But, now, with the success I have had with these two, I think I may try to plant some in the garden this year.

I have had great success with Rex begonias and the angel wing ones, and when I have some pictures of those I will post them.

Garden Cats

This post, “Garden Cats” was written for my WordPress blog called Always Growing by Jan in Covington, Louisiana 

I love working in the garden and having a cat nearby.  Our current garden cat is Rusty who adopted us about 8 years ago. 

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 He is so funny with the way he will slowly stroll over to wherever I am working.  After checking out whatever it is that I am doing, he will move a little ways away and lay down.  From this short distance, he keeps an eye on things.  If I move off to another area, it isn’t long before he gets up and ambles over to where I am.  He loves to sit in the sun and sleep.  Of course, I do not plant in what seems to be his favorite spots.  Since I mulch with pine straw, he always seems to find an out of the way place (usually under a large shrub) to settle down in the straw.  We seem to think that his sleeping in the pine straw is what keeps him from having any fleas. 

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He is such a sweet, laid-back cat, who never causes any problems.  He doesn’t bother the birds, doesn’t scratch in the garden, and doesn’t walk on any plants.  He is the perfect garden companion.

We have two more garden cats, but they do not belong to us.  They are neighbor cats who just like to hang out around our house.  If I am working in the front garden, they usually show up to check things out.  They don’t bother anything either – just a visit to say hello and back home they go.

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If you are going to have pets in the garden, you might want to check out the ASPCA list of toxic plants.  Also be careful in choosing products that you buy to treat your garden or lawn.  Make sure they are pet safe.  Personally, I only use very few chemicals and then only the least toxic.  If I don’t feel comfortable being in contact with them, I don’t want my pets in contact either.

Just like the birds, butterflies, and squirrels add to the atmosphere of the garden, so do pets like Rusty and “friends”.

Winter Blooms

This post, “Winter Blooms” was written for my WordPress blog called Always Growing by Jan in Covington, Louisiana 

It has been cold all day, but these pictures I shot certainly brighten things up.  Thanks to Carol of May Dreams Gardens for starting Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day.  So these are my first pictures for Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day.

2008-112-red-camillia-reduced-v2-022.jpgRed Camellia

2008-112-elva-amaryllis-reduced-v2003.jpgElva Amaryllis

copy-2-of-2008-112-red-gerbera-reduced-v2-019.jpg Gerber Daisy

The red Camellia is part of the “borrowed” landscape.  It is in my neighbor’s yard, but, because of its placement, I get to enjoy it more than she does.

The Elva amaryllis is the same as I posted earlier in the month, but now, with some cooler temperatures, it is pinker.  I like it this way better.

Last spring I planted red Gerber daisies in the entry garden, and they have not really stopped blooming.  In fact, I can see that they seem to be putting out a new spurt of blooms.  By the end of the week I should have flowers on just about every plant.  Also, I can see where a few have multiplied.  This has really been a success story.

Tearing Down the Star Jasmine

This post, “Tearing Down the Star Jasmine” was written for my WordPress blog called Always Growing by Jan in Covington, Louisiana 

Until yesterday, the north side of the house was covered with Star Jasmine (Confederate Jasmine) vine.  This vine had just completely taken over the entire side of the house (and I live in a two story house).  It had reached the roof line and was already starting to cover about two feet of the roof. 

For the past two years, I kept saying I would cut it back, but then I would want to wait until after it bloomed.  And bloom it did.  It was gorgeous – the entire side of the house covered in white with the most wonderful scent.  By the time it stopped flowering, it would be too hot to do the work, there were lurking bugs, and even nesting birds on the window sills, and that all combined to – procrastination.

Finally, this past fall, I knew it had to come down.  Runners were encroaching on both the front and rear gardens.  I had had it.  So yesterday I started pulling it down.  I had planned to only take down a small part with the idea that I would do a section a day so that I could dispose of it easily.  Well, once I started, I knew it all had to come down.  I had no idea that vine would be so hard to take down.  I was fooled by how easy the first section came off, but when it came to the full two stories it was a real work out.  At one point I thought I just would not be able to yank that stuff down, but finally it gave way.

So the lesson I learned is to not put off maintenance.  I should have trimmed that vine back three years ago it keep it in bounds.

There is still some work left to do.  When I cut it off at the bottom, I left about 18 inches.  At first I thought I would just let it come back, but then decided no I had it with that vine.  I just can’t keep after it- so it must go.

The vine was small when we moved in, and the occasional freeze would nip it back.  Now I think it was so big and vigorous that the freezes we have here didn’t affect it.  Since it was now spreading to other parts of the garden, something I never thought it would do, I realize I will be better off without it.  However, I know come this spring, I will miss the fragrance on the night air and the lovely white-covered wall.

Daylilies

This post, “Daylilies” was written for my WordPress blog called Always Growing by Jan in Covington, Louisiana 

This morning I went to Wal-Mart, and, as I always do, I went in through the garden area.  They had some very nice fiberglass pots out, and some plastic ones that looked like stone.  I was surprised how nice they were.  Anyway, as I was walking through, they had spring plants and bulbs out in plastic bag packaging.  Years ago I  purchased some Plum Tree daylilies like this, and they have done extremely well.  At this time of year we often have very mild days, and I can’t wait to get in the garden and plant something – anything.  So I succumed to the allure and bought two pkgs of Romantic Rose and one pkg of Rose Passion.  There were three in a pkg.  I could feel through the packing that they had already sprouted.  The ones I bought before hadn’t.  When I got home and opened the bags, I was shocked at how large they were.  The roots even had feeder roots about two to three inches long.  They had put out leaves about six inches long and each plant had at least seven leaves.  Since they were in such good shape, they must have been recently picked and packaged.  I’m glad I bought them now instead of later when maybe they were dried out or moldy.  The ones I have purchased before were never that big or seemed so healthy.I soaked them in warm water for about 5 hours and then potted them up.  I am going to keep them protected till it is later in the spring and then plant them into the garden.

It will be at least 6 weeks before the nurseries around here have spring plants to sell.  So maybe my inability to resist plants at this time of year may pay off.

Bamboo

This post, “Bamboo” was written for my WordPress blog called Always Growing by Jan in Covington, Louisiana 

When we moved here 31 years ago, bamboo had been planted as a screen by our next door neighbor.  It has slowly grown over the years and is now a lovely division between us and our neighbors.  The original owner used to trim it like a hedge.  He kept it about 12 feet high and about 3 feet wide and 20 feet long.  It grew under pine trees.

About 12 years ago, he became too frail to live in the house any more. He moved to a nursing home, and eventually the house was sold.  No one wanted to trim the bamboo like a hedge any more, and so it grew into a lovely 20 foot tall vase-shaped planting.  Over the years as we have lost pine trees, more sun than before has helped it grow.  The ground was hard clay, but I started putting leaves and pine straw on my side and watering more often.  I was rewarded with an abundance of growth, but nothing that was overpowering.

Bamboo

When bamboo started to become popular a few years ago, I was happy that I already had some.  It is fairly hardy here.  We did have a bad freeze here many years ago when it got down to about 5 degrees.  The bamboo did lose leaves, but soon rebounded back.  Because there was nothing but bare ground by the bamboo, about 7 years ago, I planted holly ferns in front of the stand and mulched with pine straw. Having all the green there makes it a very restful spot.  I also placed a bird bath and small bistro set there.

The birds are also attracted to the bamboo.  Every year we have some towhees nesting there.  Also in the summer, there are birds that roost among the canes.  I never have seen them, but if I go out at dusk, I can hear them. Today, when I was out in the garden, I saw cardinals and chickadees in the top of the bamboo, flitting around and making the canes rustle.

One of the nicest things about having a large stand of bamboo is the sound it brings to the garden.  When I go into the side garden to read or just sit and look around, it is not long before the rustling of the leaves of the bamboo attract attention.  If there is a breeze, it is even better.  They say a garden needs to appeal to all the senses, and my large stand of bamboo helps do that – adding sound and visual appeal.

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