Saturday, June 22, 2019

5 Bee-Friendly Perennials for Your Garden.

They’ll Grow Just About Anywhere!

Echinacea with bee

Gardens and wildlife just seem to go together, sometimes too much so. (Deer and rabbits come immediately to mind.) Thoughts of flowers, birds and butterflies most often enter one’s head. But there are other creatures worth accommodating. I’m thinking of bees.

Why bees? 

Well, because they are very important. For example, bees are major contributors to the well-being of a host of living things by the not so simple act of pollination, which, by the way, they do by accident.

For many folks, “BEE” is synonymous with “honeybee.” But those aren’t the only ones that deserve attention. In fact, the common honey bee is not even native to North America. There are over 4000 species of native bees in the United States.  There are sweat bees, stingless bees, bumblebees, long-horned bees, cuckoo bees, leaf-cutter bees, carpenter bees, and a blueberry bee.

Bees could use our help.

Bees suffer from loss of habitat, mites, pesticides, wax moths, and colony collapse disorder. I doubt that any are actually in danger of extinction, though. (I expect someone will write to argue otherwise.) Still, it never hurts to be generous and help other creatures set upon by trials.

You can help in various ways, but some of the easiest and most obvious include the following:
    • Avoiding insecticide use when bees are present;
    • Providing nesting places, or leaving some plant litter around the garden so bees can find their own;
    • Providing a water source (Bees will line up around the edges of bird baths to drink.)
    • Providing lots and lots of flowers.

Bees LOVE flowers!

There are very few that bees will not visit. For some, any flowering weed will do. But there are some things that bees look for especially in a flower. These are:
    • Pollen
    • Nectar
    • Scent, even if imperceptible to us
    • Color (Bees especially like blue, purple, violet, white and yellow.)

With that in mind, here are five flowers for you to grow that bees love, and they’ll flourish almost anywhere.

Achillea flowers
Achillea, commonly called Yarrow, is a perennial herb native to parts of Europe, Asia and North America.   Yarrow produces flat flower clusters in hues of red, pink, gold, yellow and white. Flowering begins in the spring and continues well into summer or even fall. Feathery, fern-like leaves are green or gray and have a fresh, spicy fragrance.  Yarrow is perfect for borders and naturalizing in mass plantings, fresh- and dried flower arrangements. It grows well in zones 3-8.

Coreopsis – known by the unflattering name of “tickseed” – is a bright-flowered plant with blossoms shaped like large asters. Color is mostly yellow, but there are some in pink shades, too. Maintenance is minimal. It’s a sunny summer flower that will lift your spirits. Coreopsis thrives in USDA climate zones 4-9.

Echinacea (Coneflower) is loved for its beautiful, showy flowers, and has been reputed for centuries to be an herbal remedy. It requires very little maintenance, too. Popular colors include pink and white. Echinacea is perfect for climate zones 3-8

Nepeta 'Blue Wonder'
Nepeta (Catmint), of course, is adored by cats and their servile humans, but bees go crazy around it, too. Catnip plants are wonderful for the herb garden. The alluring flowers and aroma are pleasing to all. Catmint colors include blue, blue and deeper blue. Though native to Europe, it is right at home anywhere in climate zones 3-9.

Rudbeckia (Black-Eye Susan) attracts bees, butterflies, and birds which love the seeds. All Black-Eyed Susans are reasonably drought-tolerant. They're especially suited to naturalizing, wildflower meadows, cutting gardens, wildlife gardens, native plant collections, heritage and cottage gardens. Colors are shades of yellow and orange. Rudbeckia is native to North America, and since there are very few states where it cannot be found, you know it’ll thrive in USDA climate zones 3-9.

“But”, you say, “I’m afraid of bees!”

That’s called melissophobia. Actually, though, you’re not so much afraid of bees as you are of bee stings. Am I right? Fear less. Bees are not interested in you. They only sting in self-defense or to protect their homes. As a former bee-keeper, I speak from personal experience. Many were the times I’d slowly approach the hives without protection of long sleeves, veil and gloves to sit and observe the wondrous little creatures. Some would fly up to inspect me. Sometimes another person would join me. So long as one of us didn’t thrash about, the bees would buzz off and go about their beesiness.
Think how much satisfaction you’ll feel with a garden full of flowers for the bees, knowing that you’ve done some good.

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Sunday, June 9, 2019

What's Your Soil Type

Bare foot farmer on soil

Soil is more than just something to hold your plants upright and in place.

Sometimes we think of it that way, though. Fact is, it’s that and more. It provides the elements that plants need to grow.

Unless you’re growing hydroponically (artificially in soil-less, nutrient-rich solutions), you need to know what type of soil you have, if you’re going to garden successfully. It’s true even if you’re growing in containers.

As noted in a previous article, soil consists of solids, liquids and gases. Let’s consider the solids. They include:

  • Minerals – Inorganic solids with definite chemical compositions in crystal forms formed by geologic processes. Examples include magnesium, sodium, iron, copper, and zinc.
  • Organic matter – These are left-overs of dead plants and animals. Examples include shells, bones, hair, feathers, leaves, grass, wood, and such cell structures in various stages of decomposition.
  • All of those help to nourish and support your plants.

These are the basic soil types.

I did a web search for soil types to see what answers would turn up. Some returned as few as four types. One search returned twelve! While it might not be as precise, I prefer the fewer.

With the exception of one type, the difference between the other three amounts to the size of the soil particles. Those would be:

  • Sand – This includes the largest of the particles. Each one is usually visible to the naked eye. Liquids and gases can easily flow between them, maybe too fast. Dry particles typically do not cohere.
  • Silt – Silt particles are somewhere between the size of sand and clay. They are produced by the action of water, becoming sediment. When wet, silt coheres, but remains somewhat crumbly.
  • Clay – Clay includes the finest of all soil particles. Many are flat in shape. When wet, clay is plastic. When dry it becomes brick-hard.
  • Loam – It’s a combination of the other three soil types. Here the combinations are many. They are named according to the particle sizes, their predominance, and, often, the location where they are found.

A good example is Tifton soil – a soil of Georgia. A Wikipedia article describes it like this:

A typical Tifton soil profile consists of an 11 inches (280 mm) topsoil of dark grayish brown loamy sand. The subsoil extends to about 65 inches, strong brown fine sandy loam to 22 inches; yellowish brown sandy clay loam to 40 inches; yellowish brown mottled, sandy clay loam to 60 inches, and strong brown, mottled sandy clay to 65 inches. Two distinctive features of the Tifton soil profile are the presence of more than 5 percent ironstone nodules in the upper part of the soil and more than 5 percent plinthite in the lower part of the soil.

Tifton soils are on nearly level to gently sloping uplands of the Southern Coastal Plain. They formed in loamy sediments of marine origin. Tifton soils are among the most agriculturally important soils in the state.

Learn more by observation or the official soil maps.

It’s important to know your soil type because it informs you about the possible success or failure of your plant choices and landscaping plans. You can learn your soil type by simple observation, but if you want to be more sophisticated about it, go to the interactive USDA Web Soil Survey web site. According to the site, “NRCS has soil maps and data available online for more than 95 percent of the nation’s counties and anticipates having 100 percent in the near future.” Thanks to your tax dollars at work, you can probably drill down to your own location, and get the official nitty-gritty about the dirt under your feet.

What about organic matter?

Well, that’s called humus. Humus is the organic component of soil. (It is not to be confused with hummus, which is organic matter of an edible sort.) Humus is made up of decomposed plants and animals. It helps with water retention in the soil, and also provides many nutrients to your plants in readily available form.

What you should do about your soil.

If you have sandy loam, loamy clay, or any of the other combinations, there’s not a lot you can do about it. If you have perfect garden soil, consider yourself lucky. But, what if  your soil is much less than ideal? Short of a major excavation project, you’ll always have it under your feet. Even then, you can only excavate so deep. I think you ought to just learn to live with it, but living with it still means you can improve it to some degree with the addition of soil amendments.

The helpful folks at your local Cooperative Extension Office can advise you about that. They should know what measures have been successful, and what have not.

For example, Iowa State Hort News states, “Advertisements for gypsum sometimes claim that gypsum will help loosen heavy, clay soils and improve soil drainage. However, the addition of gypsum to Iowa soils is of little benefit.”

Experts at Washington State University concur. “With the exception of arid and coastal regions (where soil salts are high) and the southeastern United States (where heavy clay soils are common), gypsum amendment is just not necessary in non-agricultural areas.”

Cooperative Extension agents in other states might advise differently.

Adding organic matter (humus) to your soil is always a good idea, and composting is one of the best ways to achieve it. My article, The Not-So-Magical Experience of Composting, gives a basic idea of the process.

Soil improvement is an ongoing project.

Keep in mind that soil improvement – especially adding organic humus – is an ongoing process. About 30 years ago, when I was intent on improving the organic matter of my Tifton loamy-sand, a farmer friend told me I could add it ‘til the cows came home, but it wouldn’t do any good. The reason being that the heat and humidity here breaks down organic matter so quickly it won’t build up on the soil. He was right. After three decades of growing and mowing clover and rye grass, there’s less than 1 inch of organic matter on top of my acres of loamy sand. I’m not saying it hasn’t done some good. I’m simply saying you have to keep on keeping on.

Building a thick layer of humus in a few flower beds or vegetable garden should be easier because you have less area to work. This would be especially true in raised bed gardening. Even so, dig down a foot or so; you’ll probably find your native soil just as it was before.

My last word on the subject…maybe.

Choose your plants to match your soil type, not the other way around. You have arid, sandy soil? Plant something that thrives in it – cactus, perhaps. (By the way, check the GoGardenNow – The Gardening Blog articles on xeriscaping.) You have heavy, clay soil? Select plants that love it. Same goes for any other soil type.

The bottom line is that knowing and understanding your soil type will help you make better decisions about how to manage it, and to select plants that will improve your chances of gardening success.

Saturday, June 8, 2019

4 Thinks You Should Know About Soil pH

Soil samples with beakers

Plant descriptions often include brief statements about the acceptable range of soil pH for those particular plants to thrive. So, there are four things you must know about soil pH. They are:

  1. A low pH indicates an acidic environment,
  2. A high pH indicates an alkaline environment,
  3. pH of 7 is neutral, or right in the middle, and
  4. You can take a sample to the nearest Cooperative Extension Office for lab analysis to find out the pH of your soil.

That’s all you really need to know. As with most things in life, a little basic knowledge is enough for us to function. If you’re satisfied now, please go to, and check out my plants. If you’re curious and want to learn a little more, read on.

The meaning of p and H

Believe it or not, no one really knows for sure what “p” is supposed to mean! It depends on whose speculation you adopt. According to Wikipedia on pH (which is the obvious authoritative source for everything),

“The concept of pH was first introduced by the Danish chemist Søren Peder Lauritz Sørensen at the Carlsberg Laboratory in 1909 and revised to the modern pH in 1924 to accommodate definitions and measurements in terms of electrochemical cells. In the first papers, the notation had the "H" as a subscript to the lowercase "p", as so: pH.

The exact meaning of the "p" in "pH" is disputed, but according to the Carlsberg Foundation, pH stands for "power of hydrogen". It has also been suggested that the "p" stands for the German Potenz (meaning "power"), others refer to French puissance (also meaning "power", based on the fact that the Carlsberg Laboratory was French-speaking). Another suggestion is that the "p" stands for the Latin terms pondus hydrogenii (quantity of hydrogen), potentia hydrogenii (capacity of hydrogen), or potential hydrogen. It is also suggested that Sørensen used the letters "p" and "q" (commonly paired letters in mathematics) simply to label the test solution (p) and the reference solution (q). Currently in chemistry, the p stands for "decimal cologarithm of", and is also used in the term pKa, used for acid dissociation constants.”

(If your eyes are now rolling back in your head, go to and check out the plants. If not, read on.)

As noted before, H means “Hydrogen”. That’s easy enough to understand. So, “pH” refers to the concentration of hydrogen ions on soil particles. More particularly, it refers to the quantitative relationship between hydrogen ions and hydroxide ions. (I’m not going to explain the difference.) The accepted scale of measurement ranges from 0 to 14, with 7 being neutral. Solutions with more hydrogen are lower on the scale, so are acidic. Hydroxide solutions are higher on the scale, so are caustic or alkaline.

Why soil pH matters to plants

Soil pH matters to plants because it affects the availability of soil nutrients to their roots. Their roots can only absorb nutrients in certain ionic forms, and this can only occur within certain pH ranges. If the pH range is wrong, the nutrients are not made available to the plants. Most of the plants that we grow in our gardens require a soil that is more or less acidic. So, plant descriptions tell us what pH range is acceptable to that particular plant. Thankfully, the acceptable pH range is usually fairly wide. You will find, however, that if the pH range creeps up or down, the plant will begin to suffer and show signs of stress.

How pH changes

pH changes due to environmental factors. It can happen by itself, or you can make it happen. A soil scientist advised me a long time ago to test my soil the same time every year because seasonal changes can affect pH. Though the changes might be minor, differences will show on the soil test results and influence the recommendations.

If you need to make it happen, you won’t know unless you take a soil sample to your friendly local Cooperative Extension Service for analysis and recommendations. If you’ve never had your soil tested, start by doing it annually. Learn what changes result over time. If you see the pH stabilizing at a proper level year after year, take samples less frequently. If you observe signs of stress – chlorosis, for example – have your soil tested at once.

When you collect your soil sample, follow the instructions provided. One such instruction will direct you take soil from more than one place in your garden, and mix it up so you have a general soil profile. When you receive the results, follow the instructions. (I don’t know why I feel like I have to keep saying so.)

Now, if you’ve read this far, you should check out the plants at Be sure to observe the soil pH recommendations.

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Soil - First Things You Need To Know

Soil is perhaps the most overlooked part of the garden. It’s always underfoot, but seldom on the mind. Gardeners - especially those who are new to it - spend a lot of time thinking about colors, bloom season, days to maturity and landscape design, but not so much about what supports it all. Fact is, other considerations come to naught if the foundation, soil, isn’t carefully reviewed.
Unless you’ll be gardening in containers or hydroponically (artificially in soil-less, nutrient-rich solutions), you’ll understand that you can’t start with a blank slate, so to speak. What you have underfoot is, basically, what you’ll have to work with.
Want to skip ahead and dream about your future garden? Already an active gardener? Visit Want to know more about soil? Read on!

What is soil, exactly?

The USDA defines it like this:
Soil is a natural body comprised of solids (minerals and organic matter), liquid, and gases that occurs on the land surface, occupies space, and is characterized by one or both of the following: horizons, or layers, that are distinguishable from the initial material as a result of additions, losses, transfers, and transformations of energy and matter or the ability to support rooted plants in a natural environment.
Let’s break it down. Soil includes:
  • Minerals – Inorganic solids with definite chemical compositions in crystal forms formed by geologic processes. Examples include magnesium, sodium, iron, copper, and zinc.
  • Organic matter – These are left-overs of dead plants and animals. Examples include shells, bones, hair, feathers, leaves, grass, wood, and such cell structures in various stages of decomposition.
  • “But”, you might ask, “what about rocks?” Rocks are aggregates of different minerals – and sometimes even organic solids – bound together as a solid mass.
Liquids – Water, mostly. It’s estimated, though, that only 0.01% of all the water on earth is stored between soil solids.
Gases – Oxygen, nitrogen, carbon dioxide, methane, radon. These fill the rest of the spaces between soil solids and liquids.
Layers or Horizons – These are easily identified one from another. Horizons are laid one upon another by age and subject, and moved around by water, wind, tectonic forces, and big machines. You might have bedrock at the very bottom, several layers of silt interspersed with layers of ash from fires or volcanoes, and a layer of soft, dead plant and animal matter at the very top.
The layers – horizons – have actually been named so we can wrap our heads around them. They are Horizon O, Horizon A, Horizon B and Horizon C.
  • Horizon O is the topmost soil that we tread. It’s pretty shallow, made up of dead and decaying organic material. It’s quite fertile.
  • Horizon A is just beneath Horizon O. It’s made of organic material in advanced stages of decomposition, helped along by fungi, nematodes and earthworms, eating and being eaten, adding further to the richness.
  • Horizon B, the one beneath A, is very thick and dense. So dense, in fact, that it is impenetrable by all but the most violent forces.
  • Finally, there’s Horizon C, the basis of all that lies above it. This layer consists of bedrock and other materials that long ago were compressed into stone.
Obviously, soil will present different colors – red, yellow, white, brown, gray, black – and textures – hard, soft, crumbly, gritty, sticky, slippery – depending upon the constituent parts.

Soil takes a long time to make

Soil-making is a natural process, and natural processes can take a very long time.
Creation of topsoil – Horizon O – probably takes the least amount of time. It doesn’t take long for leaves of grass, little critters and such to die and decompose to the point that they’re unidentifiable and look like plain old dirt. Much larger corpses, like humongous trees, will take longer.
The deeper we dig, the longer it took for those layers to become. We find, not just relics of the recent past, but ancient history right below our feet.
Because it takes so long to create, soil is a valuable resource. Let's take good care of it.

For Now and In The Future

In a future article, we’ll discover more about the soil that is the foundation of your gardening plans.
Meantime, check out our other articles in GoGardenNow  – The Gardening Blog. You’ll find lots of insights and tips on plants, gardening, garden tours, and answers to frequently asked gardening questions.
Our Gardening Resources page presents a wealth of links to just about every plant society and team of horticulture experts imaginable.

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Something you should know BEFORE you buy your plants.

How to find and use the USDA climate zone map

Will those plants survive the winter where you live?

Nearly every plant catalog and label comes with valuable information for each plant to help gardeners like you enjoy growing success. One of those info bits might read something like this, “Zone: 3 to 8”. But what does it mean for you? You'd better check out the climate map.

Making sense of local climates

Climatologists and horticulturists have long tried to make sense of the earth’s geography and climate to better understand how plants relate to their environments, and how they might perform in them. Such knowledge would help farmers and gardeners enjoy success. So climate zone maps were developed, sort of like road maps to benefit just about anyone who worked with plants. There was a lot riding on it, too, not only for gardeners, but because entire industries relied on the data for their businesses.

They had to gather and study climate data collected over many years. Imagine the many locations throughout the U.S. where weather statistics had to be recorded, then collated. That was a huge undertaking.

A short history of climate map-making

In 1990, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) published a climate zone map based upon data spanning the years from 1974 to 1986. The American Horticultural Society produced a map in 2003 from info gathered from 1987 to 2002. The Arbor Day Foundation released a map in 2006 from statistics taken from 1990 to 2005.

As you might expect, the climate zone delineations differed, which made matters rather confusing. In some cases, a location on one map would be in a different climate zone than on another. The spans of years differed. The locations of data gathering differed. So did their conclusions. Frankly, there were some areas of the country where climate data wasn’t gathered at all. Perhaps it was because they were inaccessible, or there were just too many places to actually study.

Then, the USDA published another map in 2012 based on a larger sampling of data from 1976 to 2005. It’s called The USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map, and is the one in use today. It used an algorithm developed by the University of Oregon PRISM Climate Group. The method involved estimating climate conditions, which seemed like a pretty good idea.

How to read the map

The map shows a series of lines winding in and out of various parts of the U.S. Sometimes you’ll see enclosed patches or circles. Some of the spaces are very wide. Other spaces are quite narrow. The spaces between the lines are color-coded. These represent separate climate zones. There are 26 of them. You’ll see 1a and 1b, 2a and 2b, 3a and 3b, and so forth, all the way through 13a and 13b. Each of those zones represents a 5-degree Fahrenheit temperature range, and a corresponding range in Celsius.

Here’s an important point. The map is based upon the average annual minimum temperature. It says nothing about heat, humidity, or any other climate condition. What that means for any particular plant is that it is likely to survive the winter in whatever zone it’s rated for. If the plant is rated for zone 6, it will likely survive a minimum winter temperature of minus 10-degrees F. At any rate, the map only suggests the likelihood of survival; it’s not a guarantee.

The times they are a-changin'

I used to keep a large printed copy of the 1990 USDA map in my garden shop to display to shoppers, with a bright red push pin to show where we were located. If they were from another county or state, we’d find it on the map. “There---it---is---right-----THERE.” Those days are over. Though less nostalgic, the new map is downloadable to your computer, or you can use the interactive map on the USDA website. All you do is type your zip code into the field provided, press “enter" and Voilà!  You have your zone.

I don’t have the map on my wall now, and even if I did, you wouldn’t be able to see it. So, I’ve progressed with the times. I’ve included a link on every description page of my online plant catalog. If you’re considering whether a plant is right for your climate zone, just click the link. You’ll be taken to the USDA site under a separate tab (so you don’t lose your place in my catalog).

See for yourself

Check it out. Go to the plant catalog at, and see the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map in action.

While you're there, be sure to sign up for our newsletter so you can be among the first to receive GoGardenNow news and gardening tips.

Friday, May 3, 2019

Behind The Garden Wall - Red Hills Desert Garden, St. George, Utah

Follow me to see what grows behind the garden wall.

The Red Hills Desert Garden is aptly named, as you can see. Situated on about 5 acres located above the city of St. George, Utah, the garden is described as "beautiful and smart." "Beautiful" because of its attractive layout and enchanting desert plant collection; "smart" because the garden "uses an average of five million gallons of water less per year than a traditional turf landscape. That’s enough water to support 50 average American homes for a year." 

Red Hills Desert Garden - opened in 2015 - is Utah’s first desert conservation garden, a collaboration of Washington County Water Conservancy District, City of St. George and Virgin River Program. It was established to showcase the beauty of a water-wise landscape, and to provide information to homeowners and businesses about designing, installing and maintaining one. It helps that the garden signage is well-placed and clear.

Simple fascinations

You'd think that such an exhibit would be a dull place to visit, but it's not. We were there on a Sunday afternoon. There were many families strolling about, picnicking nearby, and kids having the time of their lives. Certain features captivated the children most: dinosaur tracks, the meandering stream, and areas off the designated paths.

These attractions, of course, kept their parents occupied with scolding, "Get off the dinosaur tracks", "¡Sal del agua!", and "Come back here RIGHT NOW! NOW! I'LL COUNT TO THREE!" Then they'd demonstrate their arithmetical skills, and threaten to do it again.

Chilopsis linearis

I had a child-like fascination with the plants. Some, like the Red Yucca (Hesperaloe parviflora), Desert Willow (Chilopsis linearis), Prickly Pears (Opuntia spp), and Chollas (Cylindropuntia spp) I soon realized are ubiquitous in the environment. But they interested me, nevertheless.

Recurring questions

I wondered about those dinosaur tracks. What were they doing around here?

More than that, though, I wondered about the plants. Many of the landscapes in the American southwest feature plants are well-known to me - Agave, Lantana, Oleander, Yucca, Barrel Cactus, Prickly Pear Cactus, Parkinsonia and Vitex.

Agave americana var. marginata
Parkinsonia florida
Vitex agnus-castus
The recurring question in my mind was whether many of the native or otherwise unfamiliar plants would thrive in the hot, humid coastal Georgia climate. I already knew that some do - Prickly Pear cactus, for instance. What about some others in this garden?

Problem solving

About the dinosaur tracks. Seen from the air, the area around and above the Red Hills Desert Garden looks like a dried up mud flat. I'm guessing those lizards were wandering around when conditions were more clement and left their tracks in the muck. Or, perhaps they were looking for water when it was becoming scarce. The climate was changing - as usual - and the region becoming more arid. Eventually, the mud dried, and the impressions turned to stone.

We're not in such dire straits, but Lord knows we coastal plain gardeners would have fewer worries and fatter pocketbooks if we didn't have to irrigate our plots so much. During some summers, the crispy grass under our feet is an immediate concern.

Not only does summer heat and occasional drought cause problems, some of us have poor, sandy soil. There are deer to contend with, and even some 2-legged trespassers. I asked myself, "Self, are there any plants commonly used in the southwest - native or otherwise - that might solve some of our problems back home?"

Here are some plants I saw at Red Hills Desert Garden that I think would be most likely to adapt to the climate at the southeastern edge of our continent. In addition to being drought tolerant, some might be deer resistant, and those armed with spines might deter trespassers.

Caesalpinia gilliesii

Cereus peruvianus

Agave parryi var. parryi

Agave parryi var. truncata

Euphorbia rigida

Gazania rigens 'Sun Gold'

Malephora lutea

Oenothera speciosa 'Siskiyou'

Opuntia violacea var. santa rita

Yucca rostrata

Zinnia acerosa

Zinnia acerosa

Would they adapt? What do you think? Do you have experience with any of these? Leave a comment.

Monday, April 8, 2019

FAQ: How many plants will I need?

Photo by Dominika Roseclay from Pexels

Q. I'm planning a landscape project. How many plants will I need?

A. Here are some general spacing guidelines applicable to many species for planting bare root plants, 2-1/2" pots, 3-1/2" and 4" pots, 4-1/2" pots and Quart-size pots.

Bare root plants should be spaced 4" to 8" apart. If 4" apart, you'd need 9 per sq. ft. If 6" apart, you'd need 4 per sq. ft. If 8" apart, you'd need 2.25 per square foot.

2-1/2" pots should be spaced 8" to 12" apart. Again, if 8" apart, you'd need 2.25 plants per sq. ft. If planted 10" apart, you'd need 1.45 plants per sq. ft. If planted 12" apart, you'd need 1 plant per sq. ft.

3-1/2" and 4" pots should be spaced 12" to 18" apart. Again, if 12" apart, you'd need 1 per sq. ft. If 15" apart, you'd need 1 plant per 1.56 sq. ft. If 18" apart, you'd need 1 plant per 2.25 sq. ft.

4-1/2" pots and Quart-size pots should be spaced 18" to 24" apart. Again, if planted 18" apart, you'd need 1 plant per 2.25 sq. ft. If planted 24" apart, you'd need 1 plant per 4 sq. ft.

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Wednesday, March 27, 2019

FAQ: What is the advantage of plants in 3-1/4 inch pots over 2-1/2 inch pots?

Asiatic jasmine in 2-1/2 inch pot and 3-1/4 inch pot

Q. What is the advantage of buying plants in 3-1/4 inch pots over 2-1/2 inch pots, or vice versa?

A. The advantage has more to do with your circumstances and choice than with the pot sizes themselves. The better choice is subjective.

I'm including a picture of Asiatic Jasmine - Trachelospermum asiaticum - in a 2-1/2 inch pot (left) and 3-1/4 inch pot (right). Beside the obvious difference in pot size, you see a larger plant and larger root mass in the 3-1/4 inch pot. You should expect that the larger plant will establish itself and spread faster than the smaller one.

But there are other considerations for you: time and money. If you have a lot of area to cover, and your budget is limited, you might do better with plants in 2-1/2 inch containers. Sure, it'll take a little longer to achieve the desired coverage, but you'll have more money left in your pocket.

However, plants in larger containers may be planted farther apart. Then it'll take them a little longer to fill in the space. Soooo, you might end up spending the same if you buy the larger plants, and increase the spacing.

On the other hand, the difference in time to achieve coverage might be negligible, depending upon their actual rate of growth. That depends on many factors: climate, soil, care.

Large plants are more noticeable in the landscape from the get-go. If that matters to you, go with the larger plants.

If I had all the money I wanted, I'd install the larger plants cheek-to-jowl, and get instant coverage. But I don't. So I, as you, would make my decision based upon the present circumstances. What do you have more of? Time or money? How would you compromise?

Dear Reader, I'd like to know what you think. How have you handled these kinds of decisions? Let us know in the Comment section. I'd love to hear from you.

Friday, March 22, 2019

Better Homes and Gardens Promotes Some Of My Favorite Easy-To-Grow Perennials

Naturalized Daylilies

Better Homes and Gardens published a very helpful gardening article a few years ago promoting some of my favorite easy-to-grow perennials. I enjoyed it so much that I want to share some excerpts with you.

Coneflower - Echinacea purpurea

First on their list was Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea). "Hot, sunny weather won't stop coneflower from producing armloads of flowers from early summer until fall. This purple-flowering native is a snap to grow... ...The nectar-rich flowers will also attract butterflies and hummingbirds to your garden."

Coreopsis 'Moonbeam'

Second was Coreopsis. "Equally at home in containers or the landscape, Coreopsis is a must-have perennial for novice and experienced gardeners. This cheerful plant puts on a nonstop flower show from late spring to fall..."

Rudbeckia 'Goldstrum'

Black-Eye Susan (Rudbeckia) was also praised. "The more you cut the bold daisylike flowers of black-eyed Susan, the more blooms these prolific perennials will produce. Susan thrives in full sun and can tolerate drought. It’s also a bee and butterfly favorite."

Hemerocallis 'Autumn Red'

Daylily (Hemerocallis) was honored. "Talk about easy! With daylilies, all you have to do is plant them in a sunny spot and stand back. After that, these rugged perennials need very little care..."

Catmint (Nepeta), of course, is favored by cats and their fawning humans. Better Homes noted, "Also called catmint, Nepeta is so easy to grow. Sporting graceful stalks of blue, white, or pink flowers in the spring, Nepeta will quickly rebloom if you cut the plants back after the first flush of flowers fade. The flowers are highly attractive to bees and butterflies. Nepeta also has fragrant foliage..."

Sedum 'Lemon Ball'

Sedum made the list. How I do love sedum! "Stage a colorful fall finale in your garden by including a generous supply of sedum. ...Sedums are prized for their showy, nectar-rich flowers that feed hordes of hungry insects in the late summer and fall. And, when not in flower, you can still enjoy the plants’ brightly colored fleshy foliage."

Heuchera 'Palace Purple'

Heuchera is hot nowadays. It seems growers can't get enough of coming up with new colors. Better Homes said, "Do you remember the scene in the movie The Wizard of Oz when the entire landscape magically goes from black and white to color? Well that’s what will happen in your own shady backyard when you let Heuchera steal the show....Heuchera makes an excellent groundcover or container plant."

Achillea 'Coronation Gold'

Yarrow (Achillea), storied in legend and song, was mentioned. "Some perennials seem to thrive on neglect. Yarrow, for example, blooms its head off even in poor soil or during times of drought. The plant's fragrant, ferny foliage supports a midsummer explosion of gorgeous flowers... It's deer- and rabbit-resistant, too." All true!

Better Homes and Gardens listed several more perennials worth your attention. Be sure to read the entire article and view the slideshow. Easy-To-Grow Perennials.

What do you think? Do you have some easy-to-grow perennials you'd like to rave about? Let us know in the comment section. We'd love to hear from you.

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Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Strolling Around To Discover Deer Resistant Plants

Big honkin' buck captured by my game cam

I'm frequently asked about deer-resistant plants. A customer who lives on Skidaway Island, Georgia declared that "deer eat absolutely everything" in her yard. (I'm sure they don't, for I've explored Skidaway Island since my youth, and the island is far from denuded.) Of course she wanted to know what deer won't eat.

The first thing anyone needs to understand is that very hungry deer will eat practically anything. They're almost proverbial billy goats. They won't eat tin cans, but goats don't either.

I was on Kiawah Island working on another project. Kiawah is much like Skidaway, so, inspired by her query, I decided to take a stroll to see what plants deer hadn't touched.

Viburnum odoratissimum

The first ornamental shrub I spotted was Viburnum odoratissimum, aka Sweet Viburnum. There was nary a nibble from it. V. odoratissimum is native to Asia. It is evergreen, grows to about 20' high, and as wide, and is at home in USDA climate zones 7-9. I don't know why it was untouched. Perhaps it smells better than it tastes.

Palm frond

Then there were palms. Lots and lots of palms of various species. Some were native; some were not. Palms are wonderful ornamentals, from the lowly Serenoa repens - aka Saw Palmetto - to the stately Roystonea regia - aka Royal Palm. Palms are typically considered to be for tropical to semi-tropical climates, but the Rhapidophyllum hystrix - aka Needle Palm - is cold-hardy to zone 6a. I suppose palms are deemed inedible by deer because they are stringy and hard to chew.

Persea borbonia

Redbay - Persea borbonia - was untouched even though deer reportedly like it. I didn't spy any damaged by ambrosia beetle, either. Redbay isn't often used as an ornamental, but it could be. The leaves are fragrant when crushed. It's a small, evergreen tree. Folks used to use the leaves for seasoning. American Indians used the leaves as a medicine to induce vomiting. I would guess that deer know of that effect, so avoid it unless needing an emetic.

Ilex vomitoria berries

Moseying along, I came upon a stand of native Yaupon holly - aka Ilex vomitoria. It was unmolested, perhaps because it is also a strong emetic. A beverage of the leaves will make you vomit. It appears, however, throughout the South as an ornamental shrub or small tree in compact, multi-stemmed, and weeping forms. The berries are very appealing.

Cycas revoluta

Sago Palm - aka Cycas revoluta - is practically ubiquitous in these parts. It's native to Japan, but you'd think it was native to the Southeastern United States. It's not a palm. It is a cycad, related to the deer-resistant native Zamia integrifolia or Coontie. No wonder deer don't eat it; it's poisonous.

Farfugium japonicum

Farfugium japonicum - aka Ligularia, Ragwort, Leopard plant, Leopard's Bane - has grown in popularity in recent years. It's a fine perennial plant for partial shade to full shade. It was obvious to me that deer don't like it, perhaps because they somehow intuit that the plant contains tumorigenic alkaloids. Glossy, evergreen leaves - sometimes spotted - are gorgeous. The yellow flowers are mighty attractive and daisy-like. It's in the  Asteraceae family.

Juniperus conferta

Soon I spied some juniper ground cover - Shore Juniper (Juniperus conferta). It's an ideal choice for a coastal garden because of its salt-tolerance. Deer will eat junipers, especially Eastern Red Cedar (Juniperus virginiana). You can see evidence of that as you travel along interstate highways. But Shore Juniper has awl-like foliage which can put a hurtin' on the tongue.

Daniella tasmanica

Daniella tasmanica (Variegated Flax Lily) was uneaten. I don't know if it's supposed to be deer-resistant, but it certainly appeared so. It appears with growing frequency in perennial borders.

Cortaderia selloana

Cortaderia selloana, commonly known as pampas grass, was untouched. I understand exactly why. The sharp leaf edges will discourage anyone or thing from intruding. It's a stately grass, and certainly deserving of a place in the large landscape. It tolerates a wide range of temperatures, and is requires very little maintenance. Good thing, too. It's too sharp to handle without gloves, long-sleeves and trousers.

Illicium parviflorum

I saw some Illicium parviflorum - Yellow Star Anise - that had been abused, but not by deer. It's a fine shrub, and grows to a large size. The leaves are fragrant when crushed. Unfortunately, these individuals were planted in a hedge, expected to remain compact, and the foliage had been chopped up by a hedge-trimmer. Large-leaved plants do not look good when eaten up by a hedge-trimmer.

Yucca spp.

Yucca had not been touched. Understandably so. The sharp-pointed and fibrous leaves render it inedible for deer. It's a fine ornament, though, especially when in bloom.

Loropetalum chinense

Loropetalum chinense is a fairly new introduction to the landscaping community. It seems that new ones are released every year. It is known to be deer-resistant. This planting was no exception.

Eleagnus spp.

One of my least favorite landscape shrubs was undisturbed by deer - Eleagnus. I've hated it since I was a child. My mother made me prune hers into large globes, and I swear I could hear them growing as I walked away. I must say, however, that I did enjoy eating the fruits when no one else seemed to care. I've seen Eleagnus planted beside highway overpasses and in cloverleafs, probably to stop runaway traffic. They'll do that, for sure.

Parthenocissus quinquefolia

Virginia Creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) was ignored by hungry deer. Though considered by some folks to be a nuisance vine, it makes a nice ground cover. It also covers stone walls very well. The scarlet fall foliage is gorgeous.

Afternoon shadows were lengthening. It was time for my saunter to end. I hoped that my impromptu discovery hour turned up a few plant choices for my friend to consider.

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