Thursday, July 28, 2011

Nursery Management : Aster yellows infects various perennials

Home gardeners and professional growers alike may benefit from this article.

Nursery Management : Aster yellows infects various perennials

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

FAQ: What gardening tasks should I do in August?

August is practically upon us, so it's time to plan garden tasks for the month. Here are a few gardening tasks for August organized by region.

Northeast States: Plant fall-blooming bulbs and perennials. Spring and summer-blooming perennials can be divided and transplanted. Sow cool-season vegetable seeds for fall crops. Lightly prune and shape shrubs and trees, with the exception of spring-blooming shrubs and trees. Fertilize annuals, houseplants and vegetables. Mow lawn regularly. Clean up vegetable garden. Compost debris. Order bulbs for fall planting, if you haven't already.

Mid-Atlantic States: Plant fall-blooming bulbs and perennials. Spring and summer-blooming perennials can be divided and transplanted. Sow cool-season vegetable seeds for fall crops. Lightly prune and shape shrubs and trees, except for spring-blooming trees and shrubs. Fertilize annuals, houseplants and vegetables. Mow lawn regularly, aerate lawn if necessary. Clean up vegetable garden. Compost debris. Order bulbs for fall planting, if you haven't already.

Mid-South States: Plant fall-blooming bulbs and perennials. Spring and summer-blooming perennials can be divided and transplanted. Sow cool-season vegetable seeds for fall crops. Transplant collards, brussels sprouts, cabbage, broccoli and cauliflowers sets to garden. Lightly prune and shape shrubs and trees, but do not prune spring-blooming trees and shrubs. Fertilize annuals, houseplants and vegetables. Mow lawn regularly, aerate lawn if necessary. Clean up vegetable garden. Mulch flower beds again. Compost debris. Order bulbs for fall planting, if you haven't already.

Lower South and Gulf States: Sow cool-season annuals. Transplant brassica vegetable sets to garden. Plant fall-blooming bulbs and perennials. Lightly prune trees and shrubs, but do not prune spring-blooming trees and shrubs. Continue lawn maintenance. Compost debris. Order bulbs for fall planting, if you haven't already.

Plains and Rocky Mountain States: Plant container-grown trees and shrubs, perennials, ground covers. Sow cool-season vegetable seeds for fall crop. Divide perennials. Lightly prune trees and shrubs. Add debris to compost pile. Continue lawn maintenance. Order bulbs for fall planting.

Pacific Southwest and Desert States: Sow cool-season annuals and vegetables. Plant fall-blooming bulbs. Divide perennials and deadhead perennials. Lightly prune shrubs and trees, with the exception of spring-blooming shrubs and trees. Fertilize annuals, house plants and and container gardens. Clean up garden and add debris to compost pile. Continue lawn maintenance. Order bulbs for fall planting.

Pacific Northwest States: Transplant cool-season annuals and vegetables. Plant fall-blooming bulbs. Divide perennials. Lightly prune shrubs and trees, with the exception of spring-blooming shrubs and trees. Fertilize annuals, house plants and and container gardens. Mulch shrubs and trees, again. Clean up garden and add debris to compost pile. Continue lawn maintenance. Order bulbs for fall planting.

Return to goGardenNow.com.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Green Grow The Rushes, O!

Juncus effusus 'Spiralis'

For centuries, rushes have been woven into the story of humanity.

Young, pliant and pithy, rushes have symbolized youth and regeneration.

Green rushes with red shoots,
Long leaves bending to the wind -
You and I in the same boat
Plucking rushes at the Five Lakes.

We started at dawn from the Orchid Island:
We rested under elms until noon.
You and I plucking rushes
Had not plucked a handful when night came!
- Anonymous, Chinese, 4th century. Translated by Arthur Waley



Green grow the rashes, O;
Green grow the rashes, O;
The sweetest hours that e'er I spend,
Are spent amang the lasses, O.

There's nought but care on ev'ry han',
In ev'ry hour that passes, O;
What signifies the life o' man,
An' 'twere na for the lasses, O.
Green grow, etc
- Robert Burns (1759-1796), Green Grow The Rushes, O!

Not to be confused with Burns's song, there was a traditional Christmas carol of the same name that was popular in ye olde England.



The lyrics of this Green Grow The Rushes, O! are somewhat enigmatic to the modern ear, though the symbols are based on Christian themes. Strangely, it was twisted to become a popular Sesame Street counting song.



In Victorian times, the language of flowers meant a lot. To them, rushes symbolized docility and domesticity, i.e. peace at home. Certainly, docility should follow marriage. It has, more than less, though life has always been a struggle. But why should rushes symbolize docility? Perhaps because rushes were common material, easily found and used in Asia and Europe around the home, woven into symbols, shades, mats, cushions, beds, carpeting and roofing. Their leaves were even dipped in tallow to serve as candle substitutes. Rushes could be found everywhere. Rushes on the floor, mixed with scented herbs made the home comfortable, welcoming and memorable.

According to Erasmus, rushes were over-used for carpeting in medieval Britain, and may have contributed to scourges.

On the other hand, rushes have been used for medicinal purposes such as reducing inflammation and fever, purging toxins, treating tumors, healing urinary tract infections, dispelling kidney stones, as a laxative, relieving respiratory infections, and sedation.

Though they are evergreen, rushes in autumn and winter look worn and show their age. As Edna St. Vincent Millay and Sara Teasdale wrote, sometimes that's how worn-out life and love appear.

When reeds are dead and a straw to thatch the marshes,
And feathered pampas-grass rides into the wind
Like aged warriors westward, tragic, thinned
Of half their tribe, and over the flattened rushes,
Stripped of its secret, open, stark and bleak,
Blackens afar the half-forgotten creek,—
Then leans on me the weight of the year, and crushes
My heart.  I know that Beauty must ail and die,
And will be born again,—but ah, to see
Beauty stiffened, staring up at the sky!
Oh, Autumn!  Autumn!—What is the Spring to me?

-Edna St. Vincent Millay, The Death Of Autumn

The world is tired, the year is old,
The little leaves are glad to die,
The wind goes shivering with cold
Among the rushes dry.

Our love is dying like the grass,
And we who kissed grow coldly kind,
Half glad to see our poor love pass
Like leaves along the wind.

- Sara Teasdale, November

Christina Rossetti imagined the floor around her death bed being strewn with rushes.

The curtains were half drawn, the floor was swept
And strewn with rushes, rosemary and may
Lay thick upon the bed on which I lay,
Where through the lattice ivy-shadows crept.
He leaned above me, thinking that I slept
And could not hear him; but I heard him say:
"Poor child, poor child:" and as he turned away
Came a deep silence, and I knew he wept.
He did not touch the shroud, or raise the fold
That hid my face, or take my hand in his,
Or ruffle the smooth pillows for my head:
He did not love me living; but once dead
He pitied me; and very sweet it is
To know he still is warm though I am cold.

- Christina Rossetti, After Death

Juncus effusus
"But WAIT," you might ask, "What about the boat of bulrushes which floated baby Moses out of site?"

This is where we get into the physical details of plants. Bulrushes, you see, are not rushes at all; they are members of the sedge family, Cyperaceae. A little poem helps me to tell sedges apart from rushes. “Sedges have edges; rushes are round; grasses are hollow right up from the ground.” Rushes are of the genus Juncus (pronounced JUN-kus), and include up to 300 species. The leaves emerge from clumps, are relatively long, roundish and pithy in the center. The flowers are grass-like, held high, sometimes feathery, sometimes star-like. Plant height differs by species and variety, but ranges between 6 inches and 48 inches. Rushes are found around the world, usually in wet or moist locations. Most grow in cooler climates, rarely in the tropics.

Because of their stark appearance, many rushes are excellent as ornamental plants adding verticality and textural interest to the water or bog garden. Juncus effusus, also known as Common Rush and Soft Rush, may be the best known. Several varieties with cork-screw shaped leaves are especially notable.

Rushes are very easy to grow. All they need is a wet spot. They thrive in full sun to partial shade, and are generally hardy in USDA climate zones 4 through 10. There is no need to till the soil; you can't till mud, anyway. Soil pH should be from 5.6 to 7.5. Wet soils are generally acidic because of the rotting vegetable matter - perfect for rushes.

Rushes can be planted directly into the soil. Space them 12 inches to 24 inches apart, depending upon mature plant size. (Plant the larger ones farther apart.) They can also be grown in submerged containers. In fact, submerged containers may be the best manner for those species that tend to spread extensively.

Beside the fact that rushes are ideal for water and bog gardens, they also attract some species of hungry butterflies either in larval stage or on the wing. For creating aquatic wildlife habitat, rushes are perfect. Gardeners interested in cultivating plants pertaining to history, medicine, literature and crafts will want to grow rushes. If you are establishing or adding to a water or bog garden, planting a rain garden to conserve run-off, or just trying to figure out what to do with that mucky spot in your yard, rushes are for you.

Return to Juncus at goGardenNow.com.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Results of Community Poll Ending 19 July, 2011

Our community poll at goGardenNow.com ending 19 July asked the question, Do you intentionally choose plants for your vegetable, fruit and ornamental gardens that require less water?

45% of respondents answered, "Yes, always."
32% answered, "Yes, sometimes."
23% answered, "No."

Our current community poll asks the question, "Do you prefer to plant your vegetable garden in raised beds or traditional rows?" You'll find the poll in the right-hand side-bar of most pages.

Respond to the current goGardenNow community poll, or return to goGardenNow.com.

FAQ: What gardening tasks should I be doing in July?

Among the most frequently asked questions, "When is the best time to...", is near the top of the list. Here are a few gardening tasks for July organized by region.

Northeast States: Plant container-grown perennials, potted roses. Summer- and fall-blooming perennials can be divided and transplanted. Divide spring-blooming bulbs. Sow warm-season and cool-season vegetable seeds for fall crops. Lightly fertilize perennials. Continue rose care. Fertilize shrubs, annuals and container gardens every 10 to 14 days. Mulch trees and shrubs to conserve moisture. Mow lawn regularly. Order bulbs for fall planting.

Mid-Atlantic States: Continue planting trees and shrubs and container gardens. Summer- and fall-blooming perennials can be divided and transplanted. Divide spring-blooming bulbs. Sow warm-season and cool-season vegetable seeds for fall crops. Continue rose care. Mulch trees and shrubs to conserve moisture. Fertilize shrubs, annuals and container gardens every 10 to 14 days. Mulch trees and shrubs to conserve moisture. Mow lawn regularly. Prune shade trees to remove damaged limbs. Order bulbs for fall planting.

Mid-South States: Continue pruning spring-blooming trees and shrubs. Continue to divide and transplant perennials. Continue to plant container gardens. Remove spent vegetables from the garden and sow or transplant warm season vegetables with short maturities. Pinch planted mums to delay bloom. Lightly fertilize camellias, azaleas, annuals, container gardens, summer bulbs, fruit trees. Spray fruit trees with insecticide and fungicide. Continue rose care. Sow cool-season vegetable seeds for fall crops. Order bulbs for fall planting.

Lower South and Gulf States: Continue pruning spring-blooming trees and shrubs. Continue to divide and transplant perennials. Continue to plant container gardens. Remove spent vegetables from the garden and sow or transplant warm season vegetables with short maturities. Pinch planted mums to delay bloom. Lightly fertilize camellias, azaleas, annuals, container gardens, summer bulbs, fruit trees. Spray fruit trees with insecticide and fungicide. Continue rose care. Sow cool-season vegetable seeds for fall crops. Dead-head crape myrtles to lengthen the bloom season. Order bulbs for fall planting.

Plains and Rocky Mountain States: Plant container-grown trees and shrubs, perennials, ground covers, annuals, roses. Sow warm-seasons and cool-season vegetable seeds. Divide spring bulbs and perennials. Lightly fertilize trees, shrubs, container gardens, vegetables and herbs, house plants. Continue rose care. Lightly prune trees and shrubs. Add debris to compost pile. Continue lawn maintenance. Order bulbs for fall planting.

Pacific Southwest and Desert States: Replace spent warm season annuals, vegetables and herbs. Start cool-season vegetables for your fall garden. Divide perennials. Deadhead perennials and annuals when blooming is over. Fertilize trees, shrubs, container gardens, vegetables and herbs, house plants. Continue rose care. Add debris to compost pile. Continue lawn maintenance. Order bulbs for fall planting.

Pacific Northwest States: Plant container-grown trees and shrubs, perennials, ground covers, annuals, roses. Sow warm-seasons and cool-season vegetable seeds. Divide spring bulbs and perennials. Lightly fertilize trees, shrubs, container gardens, vegetables and herbs, house plants. Continue rose care. Lightly prune trees and shrubs. Add debris to compost pile. Continue lawn maintenance. Order bulbs for fall planting.

Return to goGardenNow.com.

Friday, July 15, 2011

The Saga Of Julie Bass, Gardener and Dog Owner

I posted earlier about Julie Bass, the gardener who incurred the wrath of municipal authorities by planting a vegetable garden in her front yard. Apparently, an unhappy neighbor reported her garden and the law came down hard. Thanks to a ground swell of popular support for Julie Bass, the law backed off but found something else to chase: her dogs. Here is the latest report from Prison Planet about the apparent harassment of gardener Julie Bass. Read more about Julie Bass at Huffington Post. You can follow the Julie Bass Blog for her personal perspective. You can also gently opine to City Planner Kevin Rulkowski.

Return to goGardenNow.com.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

An improper vegetable garden?

When times were tough during the Jimmy Carter administration, front yard vegetable gardens began popping up all over, even in comfortable neighborhoods. Now they are reappearing and becoming more common during the Obama administration.

But this front yard garden belonging to Julie Bass is not allowed in Oak Park, Michigan.

Who would think that gardeners with raised beds visible from the street would be prosecuted? Why is this garden so offensive? Because it's not "suitable." Why is it not "suitable?" Because, at this point, "suitable" means "common", in the eyes of the law. Perhaps there are not enough front yard gardens to make them "common."

So, dear friends, plant vegetable gardens in your front yards to make them commonplace and suitable. For the sake of Julie Bass.

Return to goGardenNow.com.

The Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden


The ornate terra cotta roof of the Main Street Railroad Station rising above a concrete flyover hints to hurried travelers on I-95 in Richmond, VA that there is something grand beneath the city's industrial surface. In fact, it was industry, capital and private benevolence that funded Richmond's grandeur. From the rubble of the Civil War, the city emerged as an economic dynamo. You might say Richmond was smoking...literally, for it became an important home to the tobacco industry. Lewis Ginter was one of its leading citizens. For his business acumen and his part in developing a cigarette-rolling machine, Ginter became very wealthy, and he used his wealth to advance learning and culture.

Ginter's wealth, influence and sense of philanthropy was shared among other members of his family, most notably with his niece, Grace Arents. Grace, heiress to Ginter's fortune, contributed generously to charitable organizations, and was also involved in "hands-on" benevolence.  Eventually, Arents' liberality provided a fitting memorial to her uncle in the form of a wonderful botanical garden for the benefit of the public.

As with the roof of the Main Street station, the entrance to the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden only hints at the beauty beyond. Upon entering the garden from the Visitors Center, the signature Conservatory is viewed beyond three delightful garden rooms. With a map in hand and the conservatory as a destination, we come first to the Four Seasons Garden, which is planted for year-round seasonal interest. Just beyond, the Healing Garden features plants with medicinal properties. Before ascending the hill to the Conservatory, the Sunken Garden provides a water feature and a place for private reflection.

The Conservatory is "the jewel of the garden", its 63 foot tall dome and translucent panes sparkling in the sunlight. In it is housed an extensive orchid collection, palms and seasonal floral displays.

Down the hill toward the lake, the Rose Garden features a vast selection chosen for disease resistance, fragrance and extended bloom period. A visit in summer should be delightful.

We who enjoy asian theme gardens will not be disappointed. Our visit in spring found the Prunus and Magnolia trees to be in full bloom. On the other hand, the season was not the best for enjoying the West Island Garden, which features carnivorous plants.

Perennial plant enthusiasts will be thrilled with the Flagler Perennial Garden, Woodland Walk, Arents Victorian Garden, the Lace House Garden with hand-carved gazebo, and the Wildside Walk. Grace Arents Bloemendaal House, set among these gardens is typical of its day.

The Children's Garden, Conifer Garden and wildflower meadow will captivate young and old alike. The view across the lake from the Lucy Payne Minor Gazebo is not to be missed.

If you're journeying through Richmond, the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden is not far from I-95. We've passed the signs many, many times, always feeling rushed and thinking that we simply couldn't spare an hour or two. But a visit to the Garden is just what a hurried traveler needs.

Return to goGardenNow.com.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

FAQ: How should I prune nandina plants?

My nandina plants look straggley and need to be pruned, but I don't know how. Can you help me?

I assume yours are not a newer, compact variety of Nandina domestica. If you were to cut all the canes back by two-thirds in late spring, they should re-grow and look decent by the end of summer. But since it is now July, they may not have enough time and vitality to re-grow if you remove all the foliage. I suggest that you select about one-third of the canes and cut them back by one-half to two-thirds. They should begin to re-grow and fill in at a lower level within the plant by the end of summer. Next year, cut back the ones that were left un-pruned from this year. By the end of the second growing season, your nandina should be rejuvenated.

Return to goGardenNow.com.