Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Hi John! Have you heard of Moss Milkshake?

Hi John! Have you heard of Moss Milkshake? www.mossmilkshake.com. I've also read that you can make up your own mixture if you can get some moss. Do you think it would establish itself in a shaded spot with lots of an invasive violet? (The violets took over and actually work nicely under a tree, but leave a big bare area during the winter.)

Dear Lou, it's always good to hear from you. I confess that I often rebelled against ingesting my father's homeopathic remedies. I like real milkshakes derived from cow teats, cacao (pronounced "ca-COW"), vanilla from orchids, etc. My wife and daughter, however, prefer mixes resembling my dad's. I can't shake any of them. Whether their's contain mosses, I don't know, but I shouldn't wonder. My aunt, Ann R. Davis, however, taught me to appreciate nice things like violets and mosses growing together. Whether the mosses and/or violets seem invasive depends on your state of mind. Drench the violets with those moss-shakes, let them work together and enjoy whatever happens.

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What is diatomaceous earth? Will it kill beetles?

Little beetles are clustered on my peas, cabbage, and other plants. I've even seen them clustered on wooden posts! I've read that diatomaceous earth is a safe, natural insecticide. What is it? Will it kill them?

Diatomaceous earth consists of the fossilized, shell-like remains of gazillions of itty-bitty creatures called diatoms. They might have been algae or they might have been critters, or maybe both. I'm not sure. Diatomaceous earth looks safe, like white powder. For you, it's safe.

But, in a "who shrunk the kids" kind of way, diatomaceous remains are like teeny-tiny razors. Sharp and awful. Tiny soft-bodied creatures that crawl over them are cut to shreds. Their bellies are burst asunder, their liquids drain out, and they die. That's what we mild-mannered gardeners, naturally inclined, hope for.

Unfortunately, all pests are not soft-bodied. Some have hard shells. Beetles have hard shells. You might need something stronger.

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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

30,000 Year-Old Seeds Germinated?

According to Sky News, "fruit and seeds hidden in an Ice Age squirrel's burrow in Siberian permafrost have been resurrected into a flower by Russian scientists.

"Using a pioneering experiment, the Sylene stenophylla has become the oldest plant ever to be regrown and it is fertile, producing white flowers and viable seeds."

Read more about the 30,000 year-old Silene seeds.

Read about Silene at goGardenNow.blogspot.com.

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Monday, February 20, 2012

Results of Community Poll Ending 20 February

Our Community Poll ending 20 February, 2012 asked the question: Do you favor All-America Selections winners for your garden?

71% of respondents answered, "Yes."
5% answered, "No."
24% answered, "What are All-America Selections winners?"

Clearly, a large majority favor All-America Selections winners. It's no wonder. All-America Selections winners are chosen for their superior garden performance in North America by impartial judges who know their stuff. Consequently, you can have confidence that you are choosing the best for your garden.

I hope that the 24% will follow this link to All-America Selections to learn more.

Go to our Customer Testimonials Page to participate in our new Community Poll.

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Thursday, February 16, 2012

Are your boxwoods dying?

Are your boxwoods dying? A relatively new fungus is infecting Buxus species in North America. It's called Cylindrocladium pseudonaviculatum, and it's commonly called "boxwood blight." The disease is rampant in Europe and the UK. It is not known how the pathogen arrived in the U.S. So far, it has been confirmed in at least 3 states: North Carolina, Virginia and Connecticut. You can be sure it is infecting plants elsewhere. To learn more about boxwood blight and steps to take to control it, check out this link: Boxwood Blight - A New Disease for Connecticut and the U.S.

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Popularity of Hybrid Tea Roses in Decline?

The Sacramento Bee published an article on Sunday, 12 February about the declining popularity of hybrid tea roses. It may be so, given that hybrid tea roses tend to be chemical dependent and require a lot of maintenance. You might be aware of the run-away popularity of low-maintenance Knock-Out roses, and similar landscape shrub roses.

However, several comments beneath the article point to corporate mergers and high prices as the culprits. Still, it's hard to believe that a flower so perennially popular as the hybrid tea rose might be losing its status as America's most loved flower. At any rate, this is the article link: Roses lose bloom as hobby, industry.

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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

"There's something in these hills" - The South Carolina Botanical Garden at Clemson University


South Carolina Botanical Garden entrance - Clemson University

“There's something in these hills . . . the ability of an institution through the unending dedication and greatness of its people — its administration, its faculty, its staff, its students and its alumni — to impart to all it touches a respect, an admiration, an affection that stand firm in disquieting times when things around it give impressions of coming unglued… Yes, there's something in these hills where the Blue Ridge yawns its greatness.
— Joe Sherman, Clemson University, Class of 1934, Director of Public and Alumni Relations

Sherman’s words, written in 1969, are as relevant today as they were then. The story of Clemson University is, to state the obvious, an inspiring one. The people and the place have made it so.
The place, at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains, was the site of Fort Rutledge, built in 1776. The fort was the idea of  General Andrew Williamson who was in command of the colonial forces in the area during the Revolutionary War. Williamson requested Governor John Rutledge for money to erect a defensive fort against British forces and allied Cherokees. His request was granted, probably because he promised to name the fort in honor of the governor.

The property was later owned by the John E. Calhoun family and descendants, who worked it as the Fort Hill Plantation.  In 1888, Thomas G. Clemson, the widower of Calhoun heiress, Anna Maria Calhoun, honored his wife’s desires and willed the property for the establishment of an agricultural college. The college opened in 1893 as an all-male military academy, later became co-educational, and eventually attained university status.

Part of Clemson’s story includes that of the South Carolina Botanical Garden. The garden began in 1958 as a camellia preserve adjacent to the Calhoun plantation, and has since grown to include over 295 acres of landscaped gardens and woodlands.  With so much to see, I recommend that you geta map online and print it off, or from the Hanson Discovery Center.  A paved drive leads to it from the main entrance.  While you’re there, you should take in the Campbell Geology Museum, which is landscaped to resemble a western mine. The Discovery Center and Geology Museum were closed the day I visited, but I thoroughly enjoyed walking around, viewing mineral displays, cacti and succulents in arid settings, manicured landscapes and container gardens.

The main parking lot on Pearman Boulevard provides a fine overlook of the Heritage Gardens. The Heritage Garden introduces visitors to the history of Clemson, principally its years as a military school, through a series of bronze reliefs and plaques within the Golden Tigers and Class of ’42 Cadet Life Garden. The complex includes trellised walkways, an amphitheater, and the colorful Caboose Garden (Class of ’39), dominated by a restored train caboose.

From there, visitors can meander through woodland gardens and landscaped open spaces via a system of winding trails. Informative signs mark the sections and give insight into the purposeful designs. Most of the gardens seem to have been partially funded by patrons, whose names they bear.
Near the entrance, the Hopkins Wildlife Habitat Garden displays plants and planting combinations that one might use, even in a home landscape, to provide food, water and shelter for wildlife. It’s a great place for children to watch for little creatures.

The Flower Display Garden is certain to provide ideas for the home landscape. Carefully planned combinations of annuals, perennials, shrubs and ornamental trees are delightful and thought-provoking.

The nearby Miller Dwarf Conifer Collection displays lovely cultivars that could easily be included in suburban gardens. Similarly, the adjacent Van Blaricom Xeriscape Garden demonstrates within its attractive panorama how to xeriscape, i.e. to landscape with plants, such as sedum, that have low moisture requirements.

The South Carolina Botanical Garden began as a camellia collection near what is now the football field. It was moved to its present location on the banks of a duck pond. The Camellia Trail is best visited from November through April when they are in bloom. Unfortunately, I visited the Camellia Trail in summer, but the scenery was pleasant.

From the camellia collection, the trail winds downhill to cross the Earthen Bridge. The bridge serves not only to cross a small stream by the duck pond, but as a functional sculpture.

Within the botanical garden is the historic Hanover House, and the Heirloom Vegetable Garden behind it. The Hanover House (circa 1716) was originally situated in Berkeley County, SC and was the home of French Huguenot, Paul de St. Julien. Threatened with being inundated by the waters of Lake Moultrie in 1914, it was moved to the Clemson campus. Ironically, much of Clemson’s campus was also threatened later with inundation by the creation of Lake Hartwell by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Education is at the heart of the South Carolina Botanical Garden, and it certainly extends to young children. Several gardens located in close proximity meet their needs: the Peter Rabbit Garden, Butterfly Garden, Ethnobotany Garden, Food for Thought Garden, and Pollinator Border. I loved them all, and admired the creative minds of designers who were able even to make a large propane tank look like it belonged.

The trail system continues through woodlands, over small streams, and to nature-based sculptures such as The Crucible. One might come upon it without a map in hand and think it’s a historic relic, perhaps a source of water for Cherokee people or early settlers who lived nearby. In a sense it is a historic relic, but not so old. The Crucible was installed in 1995 by sculptor Herb Parker.

Natural Dialogue is another nature-based sculpture that you should visit. Stop to think.

My wanderings eventually brought me to the Hunt Cabin (circa 1826). It originally stood near Seneca, SC, but, when threatened with demolition, was moved to the Clemson campus in 1935. The setting is appropriate, and seems original. You’ll get a glimpse of 19th century life, and read about the hospitality that was shown there, even to scoundrels like William T. Sherman (not related to Joe, I hope).

Returning to my vehicle, I strolled through the Charles and Betty Cruickshank Hosta Garden, taking lots of pictures as I went.  Hostas are among the most popular perennials in American gardens. The Cruickshank Hosta Garden is an official American Hosta Society Display Garden, so you’ll see plenty of them. Keep your camera clicking as you examine some you might want for your own perennial border.

These highlights are but a few of the many you can enjoy in the South Carolina Botanical Garden. Though there were plenty of visitors exploring the grounds, I appreciated the much needed sense of serenity that we often need “in disquieting times” when the world seems like it’s “coming unglued.” Yes, “there’s something in these hills” for you.

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Monday, February 13, 2012

FAQ: What garden tasks should I do in February?


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 February organized by region.

Northeast States: Continue pruning dormant deciduous trees, shrubs, vines; but avoid removing spring flower buds. Continue removing snow from evergreens to avoid limb damage. Inspect indoor plants for disease and insects. Refill bird feeders often. Browse seed catalogs and nursery web sites. Order spring flowering bulbs, onion sets, strawberries, rhubarb and asparagus, if you haven’t already. Check bulbs and roots in cool storage; throw out rotten ones. Clean and oil garden tools.

Mid-Atlantic States: Continue pruning dormant deciduous trees, shrubs, vines; but avoid removing spring flower buds.  Maintain house plants, checking for disease and insects. Feed the birds. Browse seed catalogs and nursery web sites. Order spring flowering bulbs, onion sets, strawberries, rhubarb, and asparagus, if you haven’t already. Check bulbs and roots in cool storage; throw out rotten ones. Add mulch to planting beds, if needed. Plant bare-root trees and shrubs. Sow warm-season annuals and vegetables in cold frame. Clean and oil garden tools. Take soil samples to your local CooperativeExtension Service for analysis. Adjust pH, if necessary.

Mid-South States: Continue pruning dormant deciduous trees, shrubs, vines.  Avoid removing spring-blooming flower buds. Spray dormant oil on dormant fruit trees, if you haven’t done so yet. Refill bird feeders often. Add mulch to planting beds, if needed. Take soil samples to your local Cooperative Extension Service for analysis. Adjust pH, if necessary. Sow warm-season annuals and vegetables in cold frame. Plant bare-root trees and shrubs. Clean and oil garden tools.

Lower South and Gulf States: Continue pruning dormant deciduous trees, shrubs, vines. Spray dormant oil on dormant fruit trees, if you haven’t done so yet.  Continue planting and transplanting broadleaf and evergreen trees and shrubs, perennials and ground covers. Continue to irrigate shrubs and trees as long as weather is above freezing. Fertilize trees and shrubs when dormant, if you haven't done it yet. Add mulch to planting beds, if needed. Take soil samples to your local Cooperative Extension Service for analysis. Adjust pH, if necessary.

Plains and Rocky Mountain States: Follow the same regimen as for Northeast States.

Pacific Southwest and Desert States: Follow regimen for Lower South and Gulf States.

Pacific Northwest States: Follow the same regimen as for Mid-Atlantic States.

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Wednesday, February 8, 2012

FAQ: What is a scaffold limb?

What is a scaffold limb?

Looking up the definition at Dictionary.com, I found one that could that apply: any raised framework.

The plant (shrub, tree or vine) scaffold consists of the largest, strongest limbs or branches which form the main structure of the plant. In some of my blog articles and Youtube videos, I point out the importance of training a strong scaffold, beginning while the plant is very young. A strong and properly trained scaffold will allow the plant to withstand wind, snow loads, and fruit with minimal limb breakage.

Here are four examples:


Prunus persica (peach)


Vitis rotundifolia (Muscadine grape vine)


Acer palmatum var. dissectum 'Tamukeyama' (Japanese maple)


Magnolia denudata (Yulan magnolia)

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