Wednesday, June 20, 2018

What is "xeriscaping?"

I posted a blog article several years ago answering this question, but the question is asked frequently, so I'll answer again.

"Xeriscaping" is a blend of two words to combine their meanings into one concept.  "Xeri" is derived from the Greek word, xeros, meaning dry.  "Scaping" is derived from the word "landscaping."  So the blended word describes a manner of gardening that reduces or eliminates the need for supplemental watering.  Xeriscaping is appropriate for regions that are naturally dry, for areas under water-use restrictions, and for those gardeners who simply want to reduce the expense or environmental impact of additional water use.

"Xeriscaping" is often associated with the accompanying logo, which, ironically, features a drop of water. The intent, I believe, is to emphasize that only a little water is needed for successful xeriscaping.

I recently journeyed through parts of Nevada, Utah, Colorado and Arizona where arid conditions prevail. Xeriscapes were in the majority. Grassy lawns were few. My eyes were opened to the many landscape designs that minimize the expense of irrigation and landscape maintenance, and to the vast array of plants that are suitable for xeriscaping. Far more are available than are used in other parts of the United States. These are things that desert-dwellers already know. They are relatively new to folks like me who are natives to humid, water-rich environments.

I have and will continue to feature plant species and designs that could save you a lot of time and money normally spent on conventional, high-maintenance landscapes. For past articles, check out this search link on xeriscaping.

What do you think about this concept? Does xeriscaping sound interesting to you? Are there particular types of plants or landscape design applications that you'd like to learn more about? Let me know in the comment section.

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Saturday, June 9, 2018

Quick Tip: Grape Jam Recipe for Orioles

Birds Choice SNOF Recycled Poly Oriole Feeder

Here's a simple, effective recipe from a good customer for feeding orioles. Her birds love it!

I use a whole cup of Welch's grape jam and 1/4 cup of corn syrup. Mix thoroughly and put into a squeeze bottle.

...Remember (to use) jam and not jelly. I think the jam has more grape taste and is thicker.

This year must be a record. I'm going through 4 jars a week.

The mixture is put into any one of our great oriole feeders from Birds Choice, such as:

Birds Choice CDC-ORANGE Copper Double Cup Oriole Feeder
Birds Choice CDCDF-ORANGE Copper Double Cup Double Fruit Oriole Feeder
Birds Choice NP1009 12 Oz. Oriolefest Oriole Feeder
Birds Choice NP1012 12 Oz. Oriolefest Oriole Feeder With Weather Guard
Birds Choice SNJF Recycled Pole-Mounted Jelly Feeder w/ Roof
Birds Choice SNOF Recycled Poly Oriole Feeder
Birds Choice WCOF Natural Cedar Oriole Feeder

Many thanks to Marie B. from Michigan!

Do you have any favorite recipes for attracting orioles? Any other thoughts on the subject? If so, let me know in the comment section.

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Sunday, June 3, 2018

Century Plant - Formidable Native of the Americas

American Century Plant is one of those that catches the eyes of passers-by, especially when in bloom. After what seems like a life-time, it shoots up one massive flower spike up to 30' high. As buds unfold, the century plant attracts attention, sometimes even of local news reporters. Eventually the flower dies, as does the mother plant. In the meantime, though, it has produced dozens of basal shoots that can be separated and planted elsewhere.

American Century Plant is believed by many to only bloom once per hundred years, thus the name. But that simply isn't the case. The span may only be ten or twenty years.

Not only does the century plant catch the eye, it also can catch your britches or flesh. Nasty teeth line the leaf margins. This feature is what makes it so useful as a privacy barrier, providing real "homeland security."

People have used it for other purposes such as drink and fiber. I haven't tried any of them. I like it best as a bold specimen plant. For those whose water use is restricted by choice or necessity, the American Century Plant is an excellent addition to the garden.

Name(s): American Century Plant, American Aloe, Maguey, Agave americana, Agave altissima, A. communis, A. complicata, A cordillerensis, A. felina.

Flower Color: Yellow

Bloom Time: Whenever it gets around to it.

Foliage: Blue-gray/green

Height/Spread: 4' to 6'; 25' to 30' in bloom.

Climate Zones: 8, 9, 10, 11

Sun Exposure: Full sun.

Soil Condition: Average to dry, pH 6.1 - 7.8

Features: Bold, spiny, fire-retardant foliage. Tall, impressive flower stalks. Blooms once during its life-span, but produces multiple adventitious sprouts at the base to propagate. Drought-tolerant.

Uses: Landscape specimens. Xeriscaping. Formidable borders. Leaves used for fiber, and juice distilled for alcoholic beverage by native peoples.

Have you seen one of these in bloom? Where? Do you have one of these in your yard? If so, why did you plant it?  Let me know in the comment section. If you have any other thoughts on the subject, share those, too.

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Saturday, May 12, 2018

The Epic Monarch Butterfly Migration: Doing Your Part

Monarch butterfly - Danaus plexippus

One of the world’s longest animal migrations goes through our own backyards. You can be part of it!

Millions of monarch butterfliestake flight annually, traveling over 3,000 miles across North America. The round-trip spans Canada to Mexico.

As common as they seem, monarchs have many secrets that intrigue scientists. It's known that they overwinter as far south as Mexico, but do smaller populations overwinter elsewhere? If so, why? Are populations declining? If so, why? This is where you can help.
Scientists can not monitor everywhere at once, but you can be their eyes and ears on the ground. Your involvement is needed. You might ask yourself, "Self, what can I do?"
You can provide food. Adult monarchs love flower nectar. Almost any nectar will do, so plant a wide variety of species. Native or naturalized species are best.
Caterpillars eat foliage, but only certain species of milkweed leaves. To satisfy them and yourself, you must select species that are native to or otherwise thrive in your area. My state - Georgia - publishes a helpful brochure for download. Your state might, too.
State Departments of Natural Resources occasionally hold training sessions for citizens to learn how to monitor monarchs. Become involved! Click on a helpful link below. States not listed below apparently do not have web sites for their DNRs, or at least I couldn't find them.

Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources
Arizona Game and Fish Department
Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality
California Department of Fish and Game
Colorado Department of Natural Resources
Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection
Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control
District of Columbia Department of Energy and Environment
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
Georgia Department of Natural Resources
Idaho Department of Environmental Quality
Illinois Department of Natural Resources
Indiana Department of Natural Resources
Iowa Department of Natural Resources
Maryland Department of Natural Resources
Michigan Department of Natural Resources
Minnesota Department of Natural Resources
Missouri Department of Natural Resources
Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation
Nevada Department of Conservation and Natural Resources
New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection
New Mexico Department of Energy, Minerals, and Natural Resources
North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources
Ohio Department of Natural Resources
Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources
South Carolina Department of Natural Resources
Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency
Texas Parks and Wildlife Department
Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries
Washington State Department of Natural Resources
West Virginia Division of Natural Resources
Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources
Butterfly Houses at
Butterfly Feeders at
The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation 

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Saturday, April 7, 2018

Behind a Garden Wall: Bonaventure Cemetery, Savannah, GA

Jewish Section, Bonaventure Cemetery

 Bonaventure Cemetery, Savannah, GA

 Ah, Spring and Easter season in Savannah! Barring any miraculous astonishments, it’s the perfect time to stroll through a cemetery. Bonaventure is one of my favorites. Since Savannah is my hometown, I can remark to my companion about the interred. Beside near relatives, there are notables, friends and acquaintances – “he owned the restaurant where…, he fit my shoes when I was small…, she used to live on the corner of _ and _,”and so on.

In addition to marveling at the historic tombs, visitors from out-of-town usually seek out the resting places of folks like JohnnyMercer, Conrad Aiken, Jack Leigh, Josiah Tattnall, Sr. and J. Tattnall, Jr., Hugh Mercer, JamesNeill, Edythe Chapman, Marie Scudder-Myrick, Edward Telfair and F. Bland Tucker. There’s little Gracie Watson – departed at 6 years – who  probably wouldn’t be known by many if not for the charming memorial at her tomb. Her grave is now enclosed by a sturdy fence to keep visitors at bay. One of the four original castings of “The Bird Girl”, aka “Little Wendy”,  – formerly at Bonaventure and featured on the cover of John Berendt’s Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil – was moved to the JepsonCenter for the Arts for the same reason that Little Gracie is behind bars.

Speaking of which, the cemetery used to be a quiet place suitable for personal reflection on life, death and the chief end of man. That changed a lot with the publication of Berendt’s novel. “The BOOK”, as Savannahians know it, brought instant notoriety and a steady stream of visitors – especially in spring.

Long before Bonaventure became a destination for ghost tours, the naturalist John Muir spent six nights sleeping among the tombs. He declared it safe and inexpensive in comparison to other accommodations of the day. It would still be inexpensive if the cemetery didn’t close at 5:00pm.

For Muir’s observations about Bonaventure Cemetery, check out:

Here are some of my snapshots of Bonaventure Cemetery and of what grows behind that garden wall.

Azalea-lined drive, Bonaventure Cemetery

Jewish Chapel, Bonaventure Cemetery

Intricate portal, Bonaventure Cemetery
American Legion Field

Edward Telfair Memorial

Von Waldner Grave

Nicholson Memorial

Childrens' memorials

View of the Wilmington River

Corinne Elliott Lawton Memorial

Johnny Mercer Memorial

Little Gracie

Have you visited Bonaventure Cemetery? We'd love to read your impressions. Comment and tell us!

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Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Camping among the Tombs - From John Muir's book, A Thousand Mile Walk

The following is a chapter about Bonaventure Cemetery, Savannah, Georgia, from John Muir's book, A Thousand Mile Walk. Bonaventure is a lovely place to visit this time of year when the azaleas are in bloom and the temperature is mild. I hope you'll discover it for yourself.

Part of the grounds was cultivated and planted with live-oak (Quercus virginiana), about a hundred years ago, by a wealthy gentleman who had his country residence here But much the greater part is undisturbed. Even those spots which are disordered by art, Nature is ever at work to reclaim, and to make them look as if the foot of man had never known them. Only a small plot of ground is occupied with graves and the old mansion is in ruins.

The most conspicuous glory of Bonaventure is its noble avenue of live-oaks. They are the most magnificent planted trees I have ever seen, about fifty feet high and perhaps three or four feet in diameter, with broad spreading leafy heads. The main branches reach out horizontally until they come together over the driveway, embowering it throughout its entire length, while each branch is adorned like a garden with ferns, flowers, grasses, and dwarf palmettos.

But of all the plants of these curious tree-gardens the most striking and characteristic is the so-called Long Moss (Tillandsia usneoides). It drapes all the branches from top to bottom, hanging in long silvery-gray skeins, reaching a length of not less than eight or ten feet, and when slowly waving in the wind they produce a solemn funereal effect singularly impressive.

There are also thousands of smaller trees and clustered bushes, covered almost from sight in the glorious brightness of their own light. The place is half surrounded by the salt marshes and islands of the river, their reeds and sedges making a delightful fringe. Many bald eagles roost among the trees along the side of the marsh. Their screams are heard every morning, joined with the noise of crows and the songs of countless warblers, hidden deep in their dwellings of leafy bowers. Large flocks of butterflies, flies, all kinds of happy insects, seem to be in a perfect fever of joy and sportive gladness. The whole place seems like a center of life. The dead do not reign there alone.

Bonaventure to me is one of the most impressive assemblages of animal and plant creatures I ever met. I was fresh from the Western prairies, the garden-like openings of Wisconsin, the beech and maple and oak woods of Indiana and Kentucky, the dark mysterious Savannah cypress forests; but never since I was allowed to walk the woods have I found so impressive a company of trees as the tillandsia-draped oaks of Bonaventure.

I gazed awe-stricken as one new-arrived from another world. Bonaventure is called a graveyard, a town of the dead, but the few graves are powerless in such a depth of life. The rippling of living waters, the song of birds, the joyous confidence of flowers, the calm, undisturbable grandeur of the oaks, mark this place of graves as one of the Lord’s most favored abodes of life and light."
John Muir, Camping Among the Tombs, A Thousand Mile Walk.

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Saturday, March 24, 2018

FAQ: " neutralize dog urine?"

Would you recommend I flush the ground really well (although we've had tons of rain) or amend the soil in some way before planting to neutralize dog urine? 


Flushing usually works, but you could remove the top inch or so of soil in affected areas. Replace with some potting soil, mixing it in with native soil. Then plant on that. It would also be a good idea to take a soil sample to your Cooperative Extension Service for analysis.

Dear reader, if you've had this problem and come up with a good solution, we'd like to hear about it. Let us know in the comment section.

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Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Should I trim the green daylily leaves after planting?

We received our 100 yellow daylily bulbs last week and they are now planted. I have a question-should I go ahead and trim the green tops or wait a while? I want to do everything I can to encourage blooms. Thanks so much. We were thrilled that they came in such a great shape!

Thank you for your nice note. There's no need to trim the leaves unless there are some damaged portions to remove. Otherwise, leave them. They will help to feed the plants via photosynthesis. If leaves turn yellow or brown due to transplant shock, they can be removed. 

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