Herb Update

“Herb Update”, a copyrighted post, was written for my WordPress blog called Always Growing by Jan in Covington, Louisiana 

 

A gift we received at Christmas time was the Aerogarden.  I am sure you have seen these on TV.  On January 6th, I wrote about how the seeds had sprouted, and the little seedlings seemed to be doing well.  I guess it is time for an update since the tiny little seedlings have grown a bit more.

The seeds were planted on December 30th and here is how some looked by January 6th.

  

Purple Basil
Purple Basil
 
 
Mint

Mint

 
Dill

Dill

 

As you can see, they were very tiny, and the dill was only one thin thread.  Here is how it looks today.

 
 
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The last seeds to germinate was the cilantro.  It was supposed to come in 8 to 14 days, but it took almost three weeks.  So, this is how the Aerogarden is looking after four weeks.  As I wrote before, we have had to place this in the laundry room where it is a little on the cool side right now, so that may account for the plants not being any bigger.  They are coming along, though, especially the Italian basil, parsley, and mint.  So far, everything seems to be growing  fine, I’ll keep you updated on our hydroponic experiment.

Enjoying Nature

“Enjoying Nature”, a copyrighted post, was written for my WordPress blog called Always Growing by Jan in Covington, Louisiana 

 

I think it is important to beautify all our surroundings, not just the area around  our homes.  I work in a suburb of New Orleans which is about thirty miles south of where I live, and it is one zone higher than my zone 8.  Today was a bright, sunny day (the first one we have had in almost a week), and I noticed what was blooming in the gardens where I work.  The first flowers I noticed were the Blanket Flowers (Gaillardia x grandiflora).   I swear they were not there yesterday, so I don’t know how they got so big overnight.  Seriously, I get to work about 6:50 AM, and lately, with the cloudy weather,  it is still fairly dark, so that must be the reason I had not noticed them before.  With the bright sun, they looked so cheerful that I just might put some in my garden.  They have to be extremely easy to care for because no one tends these gardens at all.  Rarely are they weeded, watered, or fertilized, so these are very tough plants to make it on their own next to a hot parking lot.

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Around the courtyard area, the Fashion azaleas are in full bloom.  These are among the earliest blooming azaleas, sometimes blooming at Christmas.   These salmon-colored flowers add a great deal of cheery color to this area.

 

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Outside the main building, the pomegranate tree is in flower.  I know this has just started blooming because there is not many flowers on this bush yet.  I have often thought of planting a pomegranate tree in our garden, but haven’t so far.  The one at work has delicious fruit that no one picks but me.  I guess no one really notices or knows that it is edible.  It is amazing how little most people know about or pay attention to the natural world all that is all around then

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Whenever there are plants around businesses, schools, or government buildings, these plants seem to make the world a little nicer.  There seems to be other benefits as well:  health benefits (enjoying fresh air), psychological benefits (less job stress when enjoying nature), social and personal benefits (enjoying green spaces and interacting with others).  It would be nice if in addition to homes, other areas were landscaped.

Green Velvet

“Green Velvet”, a copyrighted post, was written for my WordPress blog called Always Growing by Jan in Covington, Louisiana  

Even though we have been having several flowers showing up extra early, there still is a general lack of color in the garden.  There are a few plants just starting to leaf out, bud, or show some tiny bit of color even though it is just the end of January.  But, one bright spot is the vibrant green moss that while small, still packs a punch of color.  Nothing can beat that bright green piece of velvet found in deep shade.

 

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Moss, that low-growing, mat forming plant that is at home in shade gardens, requires shade, moisture, and is often found growing on rocks which is why they are so popular in rock gardens.  Lately, moss has been found as a desirable alternative to a lawn in shady, moist areas.  In fact, moss gardens are now on the cutting edge of gardening, and have been very popular in Japanese gardening for centuries.

 

Many people who love their lawns are horrified when they find moss in their lawns.  This usually means there is high acidity, moisture, and shade in that area.  There are many things that can be done to rectify this, but an alternative is to make a shady, moist area a moss garden.  Work with Mother Nature, not against her.  As we all become more environmentally aware, we need to think about choices we have that may require less chemicals, less work, and more enjoyment of our gardens.

 

While I just appreciate the pop of color the mosses bring in late winter, for some absolutely fantastic photos of moss used effectively in a garden, look here.  It is time we re-evaluate this lowly plant.

Unwanted Guests

“Unwanted Guests”, a copyrighted post, was written for my WordPress blog called Always Growing by Jan in Covington, Louisiana 

 

What do you do when unwanted plants show up in your garden?  And, why is it that pretty, well-behaved plants don’t suddenly appear in the garden like the bad ones do?  I have written before of how I have started to clear out the area that adjoins a neighbor who is no longer able to garden.  Invasive plants, in particular, vines have been showing up to the point it is almost overwhelming.  I am talking about Virginia creeper, wild honeysuckle, and Japanese climbing fern.

It used to be that Virginia creeper was the only problem.  It is amazing to me how fast and long this vine can grow.  It has grown up to the top of 120 foot pine trees.  The vine can also creep along  just barely under the ground and can go for twenty, thirty feet, sometimes branching off several times.  I have been pulling this up now for months, and am still seeing new shoots where the vine has broken.  I have been fighting this particular vine since we moved here over thirty years ago.  I guess I’ll never beat it completely.

A new invasive here at our house is the wild honeysuckle which has become a problem only in the last three years.  What is frustrating about this one is that when you pull on it, the outside sheath pulls away from the stem and your hands slip.  You must use gloves to pull this out.  When it does break, that usually means some digging is required because wherever the stem touches the ground, it roots.  I remember as a child there was one of these vines growing on a fence in the back yard.  We would spend a lot of time picking the flowers and then pulling the stamen out the back of the flower and finally sipping the drop of nectar that was pulled out.  I thought this was the neatest plant.  Boy!  Has my opinion changed now.

 

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The bad thing about Japanese climbing fern is that it smothers whatever it covers, and it tries to cover everything.  It is a shame this is such a pest because this one is a very pretty plant.  I have been trying to rid my garden of this plant for over ten years, and it still keeps coming back.

I don’t like to use chemicals in the garden, so I pretty much resort just to pulling these weeds out.  I didn’t plant any of these, they just showed up.  Even the ones which are native are unwelcome in my garden.  I wish these unwanted “guests” would take the hint and leave.

A Scouting Party?

“A Scouting Party?”, a copyrighted post, was written for my WordPress blog called Always Growing by Jan in Covington, Louisiana 

 

I have been posting about all the flowers that have been showing up in the garden lately.  It seems that so many are blooming weeks early this year.  One plant that is showing an early flower is an old variety of climbing rosebush that I first got as a rooted cutting from my mother’s rosebush.  We don’t know the name, but I think it might be Climbing Pinkie.  My mother got her plant many years ago from an old friend who didn’t know the name.  I guess that is often what happens with pass along plants – the name is lost.

 

There were only three flowers on the canes so far, and I didn’t see any other buds yet.  Maybe these three are part of a scouting party to see if it is going to be warm enough for the rest of the flowers to show up.

 

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As you can see, this little pink rose stands out against a gray, winter sky.  I hope it tells its friends that it is safe to come out.  I can’t wait for the whole rose bush to be in bloom.

A Few First of the Year Bloomers

“A Few First of the Year Bloomers”, a copyrighted post, was written for my WordPress blog called Always Growing by Jan in Covington, Louisiana 

 

Warmer temperatures are on the way for this coming week, but already there are early spring bloomers showing up.

 

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I noticed the first wild violet while strolling around today.  I know many people dislike them because they can be so invasive, but we don’t have a problem with them.  Just a few show up in the lawn here and there, and the sweet little flowers are welcomed.

 

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The first of the oxalis has shown up.  Now, this has become a very invasive weed in the garden.  While I do think the flowers are pretty, they are, for the most part, not worth it.  The only way to really get rid of this weed is to dig it up and remove the little bulbs.  I have had oxalis grow up through ten inches of pine mulch, so heavy mulching won’t help, and I don’t use herbicides.   But, with only one showing up among the agapanthus when there are few other flowers showing, I can appreciate the bloom, however, that won’t save it.  Next time I am in the garden, out it goes.

Disaster

“Disaster”, a copyrighted post, was written for my WordPress blog called Always Growing by Jan in Covington, Louisiana 

 About three weeks ago, I was working in the garden planting a small rose bush when disaster struck.  Have you ever inadvertently cut down, stepped on or otherwise destroyed a favorite plant?

 I was working in rather tight quarters while planting Caldwell Pink, a gift rosebush from Phillip of Dirt Therapy, and I was trying to be careful.  As I was just finishing up planting, my foot got caught on the Swamp clematis (Clematis Crispa) and broke off the only stem on the plant.  This is a plant I have had only since last spring after trying for over four years to find one. 

 One of the reasons this is so hard to find is that only one vendor here has it, and she usually only sells wholesale.  I just happened to find her at a March Garden show with only one left which I quickly scooped up. 

 As soon as I saw what had happened, I almost died.  I couldn’t believe what had happened.  I quickly grabbed the broken off stem and made a bee line for the potting soil to try and root another clematis.  I ran inside and found the seeds I had saved from early winter and quickly planted some.  I researched the Internet for info on growing clematis from seeds and couldn’t believe my eyes when I read it can take over a year to germinate seeds from this particular clematis.  No wonder it was so hard to find.

 

Swamp Clematis in better days.
Swamp Clematis in better days.

 

If the cuttings didn’t take or the seeds germinate, would this mean I had lost this beautiful flowering vine?  I have faithfully kept the cuttings moist and warm.  I have also looked after the seeds (just in case they would happen to want to germinate sooner).  Neither look too promising at this point, but I am not giving up hope.

Then, today, I went looking for the short remains of the original plant to see if there was any new growth which would let me know it was still alive.  I figured it would be too early or maybe the hard freeze we had a few days ago would knock it back, but I just had to check anyway.  Well, I was rewarded with this sight.

 

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New, tiny leaves showing!  It’s not dead!  It’s alive!  I can’t express the relief I felt when I saw this favorite vine making a comeback.  I’m going to keep on tending the cuttings and seeds, but if they don’t make it, it seems I still will have the original plant.  Thank the good Lord.

Everybody’s Favorite

“Everybody’s Favorite”, a copyrighted post, was written for my WordPress blog called Always Growing by Jan in Covington, Louisiana 

 

Judging from the hits on the posting I did last year, Japanese Magnolias must be everybody’s favorite flowering tree.  That entry has been my most popular one – over 3,000 hits so far since its debut on February 21st.  Everyday there is someone who looks at that particular one, and I still get questions about these very pretty and early-blooming trees.  I find this very surprising because while I think these are lovely, I didn’t realize how many people must really like this particular tree.

 

This year the Japanese Magnolias started blooming about two weeks ago, and in New Orleans, about 30 miles south of us, they have been blooming even longer.  There are many in the gardens of the houses that I pass on my way to work, and all the trees are covered in blooms.  When you see one of these trees in full bloom in late winter when most everything else is bare or dead, you realize that nothing could be more lovely, as these photos of my next door neighbor’s tree shows.

 

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Only Three

“Only Three”, a copyrighted post, was written for my WordPress blog called Always Growing by Jan in Covington, Louisiana

In reading several garden blogs today, I found that many were discussing a Desert Plant Challenge hosted by Shirl’s Gardenwatch.  This got me thinking.  What three plants would I take to a desert island?  Only three?  How do you decide?  This is tough.

After much thought I know I would definitely take flowering plants.  The first one would be a hydrangea.  That is among one of my favorite blooming shrubs.  I like not only the big clusters of flowers which last a long time, but also the foliage.  The leaves are so cool to the touch in the middle of summer.

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Next, I think I would have to go with a large camellia shrub.  Again, it would be because of the flowers.  Camellias bloom over a long period of time, so there would be flowers for weeks if not months.

Last of all would be an amaryllis.  If I only could bring one, I know it would make seeds or bulb offshoots and then there would be more.  I think the amaryllis flower is one of the prettiest.  So tall and stately.  Long lasting, too.  A perfect companion on a desert island.

2008-112-elva-amaryllis-reduced-v2003

Think about which three plants you would take to a desert island, and then stop by Shirl’s blog to leave a link or a comment about your selections.  It will be interesting to see what three plants people can’t live without.

They Made It

“They Made It”, a copyrighted post, was written for my WordPress blog called Always Growing by Jan in Covington, Louisiana 

 

As I have written before, I do not have much experience with lilies.  This is only the third year that I am growing lilium longiflorum or Easter Lily in the ground.  The first year, I knew they would do well because they came straight from the growers and then into the garden.  Since the flower was in the bulb from the year before, I was not concerned that they wouldn’t bloom.  Last year, I was a little anxious about the blooms.  Did they get enough sun? Were they planted at the right depth?  I needn’t have worried.  They produced spectacular flowers.

What did surprise me last year and again this year is how early the foliage emerged.  Late fall arrived, and I could see green shoots coming up.  Last winter when we had several hard freezes, I covered the green sprouts with newspaper and then plastic, and they came through with no damage at all.  Last night we had a rather unexpected hard freeze, and I didn’t have a chance to cover the Easter Lilies.  It got down to 28 for almost six hours.  I thought surely that my Easter lilies were going to be nipped back so bad that there would be no blooms this year.

I leave for work when it is still dark, so it wasn’t until this afternoon that I was able to go out and check on them.  Surprise, surprise (at least to me).

 

lilies-redu

 

No damage – none at all; they came through just fine.  I always thought that lilies were rather delicate or fussy plants, but these guys are tougher than I thought.  I had no idea that they could survive a freeze of six hours unprotected.  I am impressed, relieved, and happy that the Easter lilies made it through the freeze and will be able to bloom in just a few months.

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