Monday, December 23, 2019

Current Data Shows Glyphosate Is Not Linked to Cancer

Spraying weed

According to Jason Ferrell, director of the Pesticide Information Office with the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS),  "Currently, the data we have does not seem to indicate that glyphosate causes cancer. So we still believe that it can be used as an effective part of an integrated pest management strategy and plan.”
Glyphosate is the active ingredient in Roundup®, one of the world's most popular herbicides. However, since 2015 when the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) reclassified glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup®, as a probable carcinogen, public concerns have intensified. Many other agencies around the world began studying its safety.
So far, “All of the other world agencies — and there have been several — have not classified it as a probable carcinogen and they don’t believe there is a clear link between glyphosate and cancer with the current data that we have," says Ferrell.
The bottom line, then, is that the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) is the only world agency that classifies glyphosate as a probable carcinogen, in stark contrast to the study results from all the others.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Chop your leaves and leave them there.

Photo by Kadri Vosumae from Pexels

Tired of expense and labor?

Are you tired of the expense and labor of bagging leaves and hauling them to the curb? Do burning restrictions prevent you from dispatching them into the air to cause the crisis du jour? Use your lawn mower to chop your leaves into teeny-tiny pieces, and leave them there. The particles will eventually settle into the grass and compost themselves. It's the easiest way to prepare your yard for the winter and feed it, too.

How to do it

There are a couple of ways to go about it. It begins with a good lawn mower. You can use a “mulching mower” that has no side-discharge port, or a mower fitted with a “high-lift” mulching blade and a side-discharge plug. (I prefer the later; it leaves more options.) The plug keeps the chopped leaves and grass blades under the mower deck for further chopping. For best results, mow the length of the lawn, then mow a second time across the width of the space. For this to work properly, the grass must be relatively short – no more than 3 inches – and dry. The leaves may be moist, but not wet. If wet, the particles will stick to the underside of the deck, clogging up the works. Crank up the engine to high, and let ‘er rip.

The other way is to mow the lawn with your side-discharge mower, fitted with a mulching blade, in a pattern that will allow you to re-cut the discharged particles from the previous pass. Mowing in concentric circles can be very effective. This is a better method if your grass is longer, or the lawn is a little too wet. (Keep in mind, however, that mowing wet grass is never a good idea.) Just keep mowing until the leaves have all but disappeared.

About that mower

Here are my personal thoughts about the mower. It matters not whether you have a riding mower or a push-mower. The principles are the same. If you only need a small mower, I suggest using a lightweight machine with a 22-inch deck, and without the self-propelling mechanism. Self-propelling mowers are heavier and have more parts to break, so are more expensive to maintain. I’d rather have a lightweight mower with the power of a Chevy V-8, but that’s not possible.

Self-propelled mowers can be useful, though, particularly if the lawn is sloped, or your physical ability prevents you from pushing. I recommend those with rear-wheel drives. Honda and Kohler engines are my favorites.

When you've finished

When you’ve finished mowing, apply a “winter-blend” fertilizer. It should have a chemical analysis like 24-3-12, 32-0-10, or 26-2-12. The numbers indicate the parts of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, in that order. It’s important that the potassium content is high, for it promotes winter-hardiness and root growth.

Want more to do?

You can bag your clippings and haul them off, but that defeats the purpose of mulching the leaves. But, if you insist, put them in your compost pile. You can also apply them as a thick mulch in your vegetable garden to prevent weeds. So long as your lawn isn’t full of weeds to begin with, the thick mulch shouldn’t add to your garden’s weed problem.

Bagging works best when the grass is of normal height and dry. Dump the clippings onto a small tarp and drag them off to your preferred location.

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Thursday, October 24, 2019

Roadside Attractions

Ditch lily - Hemerocallis fulva

Those of us old enough to remember when cars didn’t have air-conditioners recall the welcome sights of roadside attractions. They weren’t our final vacation destinations, but their oddly unique appearances piqued our curiosities, and provided occasional relief from our sweat-boxes on wheels. Of course, we usually left with a few souvenirs.
I still have the urge to pull off the road sometimes to “see a man about a dog” or something that catches my eye, or both at once. More than likely, some interesting plants provide the excuse.
Here are a few that often attract my attention. Better yet, you can grow them at home as mementos.

Gelsemium sempervirens

Carolina Jessamine

Our native Carolina Jessamine is a spectacular vine that is well-known throughout the South. Its range is from Virginia to Texas and southward through Mexico. Motorists are sure to notice it as they travel along our highways as Jessamine festoons trees and shrubs in early spring. Read more about Carolina Jessamine.

Rudbeckia species

Black-Eye Susan

Black-Eye Susan (Rudbeckia spp.) is one of my summer favorites, and not mine only. I often pass cars parked beside highways, the driver and passengers strolling among bright-flowered patches to pluck bouquets. Read more about Black-Eye Susan.

Campsis radicans

Trumpet Vine

Trumpet Vine is a very familiar vine native to the southern United States, but can be grown as far north as New York. Travelers will noticed it growing up and over fences and signposts along the highway. Large, bright yellow, orange to red trumpet-shaped flowers appear from midsummer to fall. Read more about Trumpet Vine.

Coreopsis species
Coreopsis - also known as Tickseed - brightens roadsides and median strips in sunny yellow throughout the summer. It's one of my favorites from childhood that has stuck with me all these years.
Read more about Coreopsis.

Hemerocallis fulva

Ditch Lily

Ditch Lily is a species of daylily (Hemerocallis fulva) that is so common you’ll think it’s native, but it’s not. This naturalized beauty is spectacular en masse where you’ll often find it growing … you guessed it … in ditches. There is even a double-flowered ditch lily. Read more about daylilies.

With these roadside attractions popping up every so often, you’ll be tempted to stop and take a stroll, even if your car does have air-conditioning!

Monday, October 21, 2019

How Can Hurricanes Effect Your Garden?

hurricane forecast models

Lord of the winds! I feel thee nigh,
I know thy breath in the burning sky!
And I wait, with a thrill in every vein,
For the coming of the hurricane!
From The Hurricane - Poem by William Cullen Bryant

Okay. Let's be honest. Those of us near the coast are not that thrilled about hurricanes. We prepare as best we can, study the forecasters' spaghetti models, pray that the mega-storm won't affect us personally, but will make landfall elsewhere. 
While I was waiting on the last one, I started thinking about how hurricanes can impact gardeners, even if it's a glancing blow. Here are some observations.

Hurricanes may bring different pests

When Hurricane Irma blew through the Southeast in 2017, the region’s agriculture was affected in various ways. Ayanava Majumdar, Extension entomologist for the Alabama Cooperative Extension Service, pointed out that the storm could have surprising consequences with insect populations in our gardens.
Hear Dr. Majumdar speak about it.
Read more about hurricanes and pests.

The effects of salty soil

Salt is good, right? We say someone is “salt of the earth” if they are virtuous. Salt is a valuable commodity, sometimes used for barter or as money. Roman soldiers received part of their salary – salarium – in salt. A worthless soldier (or slave) wasn't "worth his salt." But, salt can be a bad thing. Just ask any coastal gardener. Storm surges from hurricanes - even minor flooding - increase salt content in the soil.

Why, and so what? 

Effects on pollinators and pollination

The two obvious characteristics of hurricanes are very strong winds and heavy rainfall. Gardeners affected by direct hits are immediately concerned with the devastating impact upon their gardens. But there are other less obvious but important consequences – pollinator injury or displacement, and pollination degradation.
What happens to pollinators such as butterflies and bees during hurricanes? And what happens with the pollination? 
Read more about storms and pollinators.

Unique birding opportunities

As much as we hate them, hurricanes can make a bird-watcher’s dream come true. Powerful winds send birds from distant locations far north along coastlines, or even inland. You might even find some rare species from Africa or the Caribbean in your own backyard. 
Read more about storms and birds.

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Tuesday, September 17, 2019

House Plants That Might Help You Sleep

Woman sleeping with pillow

A representative of recently contacted me to inform about their work in sleep studies, specifically how some plants act as sleep aids. While much of the information about specific plants and their effects are well-known, I think it’s worth reviewing.

House Plants That Might Help You Sleep.

Their contributor, Abbie Stutzer, published an article, Houseplants and Sleep. In it, she names 10 plants that might help you sleep. They are:

1. English Ivy

English Ivy (Hedera helix) is best known as a climbing ornamental vine and ground cover. It can also be grown as a houseplant. Hedera helix ‘Ivalace’ is a good one for indoors, as is ‘Needlepoint’. ‘Baltica’ has larger leaves, but the decorative white veins in the foliage make it another fine choice. Hedera helix thrives in low light conditions and indoor environments. The reason this species is noted is due to its ability to help “clean indoor air.” This characteristic is shared by most other plants, but not all do so well indoors.

2. Chinese (or Philippine) evergreens

Stutzer noted, “A study in the Journal of Physiological Anthropology discovered that Chinese or Philippine Evergreens, also known as Aglaonema brevispathum, are great at removing indoor pollutants. In the study, the researchers observed that Aglaonema brevispathum, and two other plants (Pachira aquatica, also known as a Guiana chestnut, and Ficus benjamina, also known as a weeping fig) effectively removed air pollutants when they were placed by a window.”

Aglaonema is a good choice for folks who don’t have time to mess with keeping plants alive. The most negligent, however, might find a way to kill them. You’ll often find them in shopping mall planters, if that’s any indication of their ability to survive. The foliage is quite attractive.

Pachira aquatica is a good choice for people who have a tendency to care too much and over-water their plants. Its other common name is Money plant, perhaps because it is such a profitable item for commercial plant growers.

Weeping fig (Ficus benjamina) is so very popular it probably needs no introduction.

3. Snake plant

Stutzer wrote, “Snake plants, also known as Sansevieria trifasciata, can thrive inside and outside of the home. An article that was done by Japanese researchers for the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations found that the snake plant is able to absorb multiple hazardous chemicals, leaving indoor spaces cleaner. The plant also requires little care to survive.” Her last sentence can not be overstated. These things grow wild as weeds in the Caribbean Islands. Heat, drought and abuse hardly phase them.

4. Peace lily

Peace lilies, (Spathiphyllum spp.), are superb indoors. They survive with very little light, but the soil should be kept barely moist to the touch. Stutzer cites a study completed for the Plants and Environmental Quality Group finding that peace lilies could remove airborne toxins. She also notes that Peace lilies “have been shown to help people recovering from abdominal surgery recover”, but there’s no indication how.

5. Chrysanthemum

“Chrysanthemum is another plant lauded by NASA scientists for its air cleaning abilities. Its air purifying capabilities also were observed by a group of researchers who wrote an article for the journal Ornamentals and Flowers,” she wrote. She also observed, “The plant is perfect for a bedroom setting because it can live in lower light conditions.”

I’m not so sure I agree with that since they are usually grown outdoors in higher light conditions. I suppose they could be kept indoors for awhile. Potted mums in bloom make fine table decorations, and the foliage is aromatic. Though she specifically mentions Chrysanthemum, Dendranthema has the same qualities. Dendranthema was reclassified; it was formerly a Chrysanthemum.

A popular sleep aid contains the following three ingredients.

As I write, I’m holding a bottle of a popular sleep aid that contains three ingredients believed by many (including me) to be safe and effective. It does not contain alcohol, and is “Drug Free.” It contains valerian, lavender and chamomile.

6. Valerian

Stutzer wrote, “Valerian is a perennial herb, or shrub. Its dried rhizome and roots are sometimes used in supplements. The evidence that supports Valerian as a sleep aid is inconclusive. A 2007 study in the journal Sleep Medicine Reviews found that valerian may not significantly help people with insomnia sleep. However, a study in the journal Chemical Senses discovered that the inhalation of valerian  (when the plant is used as an odorant) could help people with insomnia sleep. People who inhaled that plant’s scent slept longer and better.” That could well be so. Valerian has a similar action upon the body as Valium, the synthetic drug.

7. Lavender

Lavender is well-known for its pleasant scent. “According to a 2013 study in the journal Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, a handful of single-blind randomized studies” concluded that lavender “improved the mean scores of sleep quality” in some students, heart disease patients and persons with insomnia.

8. Chamomile

Chamomile is a well-known daisy-like flower that is favored for its sleep-inducing properties. The flowers contain terpenoids and flavonoids. Chamomile tea is one of the most popular ways to take it, but essential oil of chamomile is sometimes used as aromatherapy.

Frankly, I don’t know how valerian, lavender and chamomile would serve as houseplants. They would certainly be welcome additions to some outdoor gardens.

9. California poppy

The California poppy flower is used to treat nervousness and anxiety. This is another that I doubt could be grown successfully as a houseplant. Stutzer notes: “A 2014 study in the journal European Medicines Agency found that California poppy could improve sleep quality and duration.” I don’t doubt it. California poppy (Eschscholzia californica) is a member of the Papaveraceae family. It contains the alkaloids chelirubine, sanguinarine and macarpine – all sleep-inducing agents. Incidentally, sanguinarine is known to inhibit cell growth in squamous cell carcinoma, but that’s another subject best left for later. (See article in

10. Aloe vera

Aloe vera is a popular that is known to have many medicinal properties. One such property has contributed to its name, “burn plant.” Application of the gel-like juice to a flesh burn helps reduce inflammation, and promotes healing. It is also known to have some sedative effect even when applied as a skin moisturizer. I’m not sure how one might use the Aloe vera plant grown in the bathroom window, but perhaps topical application of the gel might help.

One other plant not mentioned by Ms. Stutzer that’s known to aid sleep is:

11. Hop 

Humulus lupulus, the common hop used in beer-making. Well, no wonder beer makes one sleepy! Hop vines actually are lovely ornamentals when grown on trellises. Dried hops, lavender, chamomile, and valerian have been used for centuries as ingredients in “dream pillows” - little sachets used to induce peaceful, restful, (sigh)…. Sleep.

I must stress that nothing included in this or Ms. Stutzer’s article should be construed as medical advice. Always, always, always consult your doctor before using any purported remedy.

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Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Zombie Deer Disease Apocalypse?

Deer with CWD.

Zombie Deer Disease Is Alarming

This article was passed along to me. It is disturbing. An infection called Chronic Wasting Disease is on the rise. It’s commonly called “zombie deer disease” because infected animals become very thin, disoriented, and have a vacant look in their eyes. “Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) has been reported in at least 26 states in the continental United States and in four provinces in Canada”, the article reports.
“CWD is a transmissible spongiform encephalopathy disease found in deer, elk, moose, reindeer, and caribou. It is a progressive disease that is always fatal.” It is similar to bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE, also known as “mad cow disease”).
“The disease is believed to be caused by abnormal proteins called prions, which are thought to cause damage to other normal prion proteins that can be found in tissues throughout the body. They are most often found in the brain and spinal cord, leading to brain damage and development of prion diseases. Infected brain cells eventually burst, leaving behind microscopic empty spaces in the brain matter that give it a ‘spongy’ look.”

Zombie Deer Disease Is Spreading

The disease is spread through saliva, feces and urine of infected animals. Contact with diseased tissue such as the brain, spinal cord and lymph nodes can also transmit it.
Prior to 2000, it was only documented in a few counties in Colorado, Wyoming and Nebraska. It has now spread to areas as far east as Virginia, Pennsylvania and Maryland, and as far south as Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi and Texas. See this map for greater detail.

What does this have to do with gardeners?

Unfortunately, deer seem to be more prevalent in yards and gardens than ever before, even in urban areas. Until now, their depredations have been limited to vegetable patches and flower beds. Greater problems may arise.
Though experts say that CWD is not transmissible to humans at this time, the same was said about BSE a few years back. Then it was discovered that BSE could infect humans. So, scientists are being cautious.

How should we respond?

  • Don’t panic. Remember that there are no documented cases of Chronic Wasting Disease having been transmitted to humans. Furthermore, cases of CWD in the Cervidae family – deer, elk, moose, reindeer, etc. – are limited, at this time. Chances are your county doesn’t show up on the map. If it does, the number of cases are probably quite few. If you live in or near a county where CWD has been documented, you should:
  • Avoid contact with deer saliva, feces and urine. While it’s unlikely that a moose will lick you, or a deer pee on you, you or your children might find deer feces in your yard. Don’t touch it. (You wouldn't really, would you?)
  • Check with your state Department of Natural Resources Game and Wildlife Division for statements on CWD.
  • Hunters should wear gloves when field-dressing harvested deer, and avoid contact with brain, nerve and spinal cord tissue.
  • Hunters harvesting deer in areas where CWD has been documented should consider having the meat tested for the disease. “As a precaution, they should avoid eating deer and elk tissues known to harbor the CWD agent (e.g., brain, spinal cord, eyes, spleen, tonsils, lymph nodes) from areas where CWD has been identified.”

For more information, read the following:

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

7 Tips For Saving Water In Your Garden

Water sprinkler

During the hot, sometimes dry days of summer, the realization hits – often in the form of a water bill – that we should be cutting back on water use. But how? We check for dripping faucets, toilets that keep running, avoid washing the car, reducing time in the shower, or putting less water in the bath. Those are good things to do, but perhaps the answer is in our own backyards. Yes, and front yards, too. If we maintain any type of lawn or garden, we probably use more water there than anywhere else in the house.

Some solutions to problems may be immediate. Many require planning. Act now while your last water bill is fresh on your mind, and you’re sufficiently motivated.

Here are 7 tips for saving water in your garden.

  1. Water less frequently. “Well, duh!”, you might say. Fact is, though, most lawns, gardens and ornamental plants do not need to be watered every day. Instead of watering every day, water every other day. That could cut your outdoor water use in half. Allowing the soil to drain and feel dry to the touch before watering again is usually better for your plants, too. Mildew and root rot are usually associated with over-watering, so watering less may help to avoid plant diseases. Lawn grasses can undergo some drought stress, and still bounce back when rain returns. You can follow this tip today; it requires no planning.
  2. Recycle water. If you use a sprinkler system, place containers strategically to catch some of it for reuse. Collect rain water in rain barrels to siphon off or dip into later. There’s no sense in letting free water go to waste.
  3. Plant a rain garden. Rather than let perfectly good water run into drains, divert it into a rain garden specially designed as a basin to retain it. Best plant choices should include those that adapt to bogs, but will also tolerate brief dry periods.
  4. Mulch around your plants. This will immediately reduce soil exposure to the drying rays of sun. Mulch choices are many. Bark, wood chips, straw, hay, and grass clippings are popular. Select the one that looks best for your application. Neither does this require planning. Start today. FYI, Ruth Stout was a major influence in the organic gardening movement who taught the benefits of mulch. If you’ve never read her books and articles, you should.
  5. Garden in raised beds or containers. By doing so, you will irrigate targeted areas rather than broadly, potentially saving water. There’s no need to water between vegetable rows and on paved drives and walkways.
  6. Install drip irrigation. This is especially appropriate for raised beds and container gardening. Containers, in particular, are prone to drying more quickly. Here again, drip irrigation targets specific areas. A simple system can be quite inexpensive when compared to what you’ll spend on watering. Drip irrigation systems make use of tiny plastic emitters which dispense small amounts of water right where you need it most. An emitter might release as little as ½ gallon per hour, maybe 1 or 2 gallons per hour. PER HOUR! The savings is significant.
  7. Substitute drought-tolerant plants for the water-hungry species in your landscape. This doesn’t mean you are limited to cacti and succulents. A host of trees, shrubs, drought-tolerant perennials and ground covers are available for your garden. Look for them.

Speaking of ground covers, many are awesome substitutes for water-hungry lawn grasses. Mondo and liriope, low-growing junipers and euonymus are a few. Some tolerate foot traffic; some don’t. Few lend themselves to heavy use, such as games of badminton and foot races. But if you want to cover larger areas with something other than grass, and save water, consider ground cover plants.

Follow these simple tips for saving water in your garden. You'll save money, too!

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Sunday, August 18, 2019

Behind The Garden Wall - The Portland Japanese Garden

The Portland Japanese Garden, set in the hills overlooking the city, provides a peaceful refuge for those seeking rest in an atmosphere of tranquility.  Follow me to see what grows behind the garden wall.

Portland Japanese Garden gate

To heal the wounds of war.

After the horrors of World War II, a number of Japanese gardens were planned in the United States as a way to heal the wounds of war, provide citizens with beautiful gardens, and promote cultural understanding. Portland Japanese Garden was one of those. Planning began about twelve years after the end of the Pacific War. It was hoped that “needing no translation, an American could experience firsthand Japanese ideals and values, communicated simply through nature.” Perhaps the irony was not lost on Allied veterans.

The idea was conceived by Mayor Terry Schrunk and other citizens of Portland. The chosen site was the original Washington Park Zoo. A few remnants of the old zoo remain. For example, the present-day koi pond was formerly the zoo’s original bear pit. In fact, the zoo began as a bear pit where unwanted bears were captured in the interest of public safety, and penned for public amusement. (Mayor Schrunk, once accused of perjury related to labor-racketeering, managed to avoid being penned.)

According to the garden’s literature, “The site was dedicated in 1961, and Professor Takuma Tono of Tokyo Agricultural University was retained to design the Garden. Professor Tono’s plan included five different garden styles laid out on 5.5 acres. This was quite a departure from gardens in Japan which typically follow one singular style. His intention was to represent different historical developments in Japanese garden architecture and through that communicate Japanese culture to create a cultural exchange.” Professor Tono was one of the most revered landscape architects of his time in Japan.

The garden was finally opened to the public in 1967, though some portions were not completed until May 18, 1980. The completion was celebrated with some fanfare, but Mount St. Helens overshadowed the event with a big bang of its own.

A great deal has been written about Portland’s Japanese Garden, so there’s no point in reiterating much, but to say that the garden now consists of eight different Japanese garden styles on 12 acres. Some are pictured below.

I must remark that the staff people were very pleasant, and the docent who guided our tour was exceptionally knowledgeable and agreeable. She was, of course, an avid gardener with a great deal of personal experience to draw upon.

Here are some of my photographs, with a few comments. Click on the images to enlarge them.

Acer palmatum - negative space

Trees such as this Japanese Maple (Acer palmatum) are carefully pruned to create negative space. Negative space becomes as much a feature of interest as the tree itself.

Portland Japanese Garden Zen Garden

The Sand and Stone Garden, seen from above. Zen gardens make use of sand, gravel and larger rocks to recreate natural scenes. Swirling patterns in sand suggest motion of water. Larger rocks suggest islands and mountains.

Portland Japanese Garden scene across a water feature

This lovely vista from the Strolling Pond Garden is probably one of the most photographed in the garden. When the docent said so, everyone snapped a picture, which further established its status.

Portland Japanese Garden scene

A view back across the water feature shown above.

The Flat Garden.

Wisteria arbor at Portland Japanese Garden

The beautiful wisteria arbor is supported by concrete posts molded with the texture of wood.

Azalea in bloom in the Portland Japanese Garden

May is an ideal time to visit the Portland Japanese Garden when azaleas and rhododendrons are in bloom.

Viburnum in bloom with Japanese maples.

Tea House at Portland Japanese Garden

A view across the Tea Garden. The Tea House provides visitors with a sense of settled peace and serenity.


Displays on the bonsai terrace

Scenes in the Natural Garden

The koi pond

A multi-tiered stone lantern set in a mossy lawn.

If planning to visit Oregon, the Portland Japanese Garden should be included in your itinerary. For visitors and residents of the city, the garden affords a unique opportunity to escape the insanity below.

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Thursday, August 15, 2019

Anemones - Tears of Aphrodite

Anemone blanda - blue shades

"Anemone" translated from Greek, means "wind", for it was believed that spring winds caused them to bloom. Just as the winds caused them to bloom, so the zephyrs blew fragile petals away.

Anemones are native to the Mediterranean region where winters are warm and summers are dry. There they have a rich heritage in legend and history. Two species are widely available: A. blanda, and A. coronaria.

Anemone blanda 'Pink Star'Aphrodite's Tears

Grecian Wind Flower

Anemone blanda is known as Grecian Wind Flower. According to legend, the flowers sprang from the tears of Aphrodite as she mourned the death of Adonis. The name evokes romantic scenes of ancient temples, and rocky hills swept by Mediterranean breezes. Certainly, the scene gives a clue to its preferred habitat.

The name, blanda, does not mean "boring", as our contemporary parlance suggests. Blanda means "pleasant" or "mild." It is pleasant, indeed!

A. blanda is reliably hardy in USDA climate zones 6 through 8. Full sun to partial shade is best; morning sun to light shade throughout the day in southern regions. Well-drained soil is essential. The plant naturalizes readily to spread a spring-time carpet of light blue, pink or white daisy-like flowers on 6" to 8" stems. The fern-like foliage is also quite attractive. In addition to naturalizing, Anemone blanda is desirable for bulb and rock gardens, perennial borders, container and patio gardens.


Spanish Marigold

Poppy Anemone

Anemone coronaria is known as Poppy Anemone, Spanish Marigold, and Florist's Anemone. The flower shape and size is very much like that of a poppy. The name, coronaria, refers to the wreath-like appearance of the stamens.

Poppy Anemone - Anemone coronariaThere are two groups of Poppy Anemone widely available: De Caen and St. Brigid.

De Caen anemones produce flowers in bright shades of red, white, blue and pink. They are so-named because they were typically cultivated in the De Caen region of France.

St. Brigid anemones produce double-petal flowers in the same shades. That name was given because they were cultivated in Ireland, and St. Brigid is one of Ireland's patron saints.

A. coronaria is not as cold-tolerant as A. blanda, being reliably hardy in USDA climate zones 8 through 10. However, it tolerates heat much better. Sun exposure and soil moisture requirements for A. coronaria are the same as for A. blanda. These are excellent for bulb gardens, perennial borders, container and patio gardens. They're excellent for cut flower arrangements, too.

Planting and Growing Tips

Though anemones prefer warm climates, they can be enjoyed by gardeners in cooler regions. Planting season for southern gardeners is in the fall. Planting season for northern gardeners is in the spring. Logically, they are commercially available both times of year. The best selection is usually in the fall.

Anemone coronaria cormsWhen you receive them, the tubers will be shriveled and dry. That's normal. Simply soak them over-night in water at room temperature before planting. Don't skip this step!

The planting site should be well-drained and in full sun to partial shade.

Plant the tubers 6" to 10" apart in the garden and 1" to 3" deep, depending upon the size. Sometimes it's difficult to tell which side is up. Don't worry about it, they will re-orient themselves.

Water thoroughly but gently, taking care not to wash the bulbs to the surface. If planted in the fall, the roots will develop throughout the cool months and flowers will appear in spring. If planted in the spring, the flowers will appear.

Water as needed to maintain slightly moist soil during spring and fall. Anemones are drought-tolerant during summer.

Flowering lasts about four weeks. When blooming is completed, let the foliage remain to build food reserves for next year. Foliage may be removed when it yellows and dies back. Take care to leave the bulbs undisturbed. After a few months of dormancy, they will begin another growth cycle.

If you are one of those who tries to stretch the limits of where a plant might be grown successfully, know that Anemone coronaria (De Caen and St. Brigid) benefit from a covering of mulch in USDA climate zones 7 & 8. Anemone blanda benefit from a covering of mulch in USDA climate zones 3 & 4. If you don't want to risk losing them during your cold winters, lift them after the foliage has fallen, then dry and store them over winter.

Container Gardening Tips

As mentioned before, anemones do well in pots and patio gardens. Choose containers with adequate drainage. To improve drainage, place 1" or 2" of polystyrene packing "peanuts" in the bottom of the container. Fill the container with good quality potting soil. Position containers where they will receive full sun to partial shade.

Plant the tubers 2" to 3" apart in the pots. This is much closer than if planting in the garden. Again, it is not necessary to consider which side is supposed to be up. After planting, water well, thoroughly and gently soaking the soil.

When blooming is completed, let the foliage remain to build food reserves. Leaves may be removed when they turn brown and dry. Take care to leave the tubers undisturbed in the pots. After a few months of dormancy, they will begin another growth cycle.

If the containers are kept in an area where cold weather is excessive (USDA climate zones 7 & 8 for A. coronaria, or zones 3 & 4 for A. blanda), they should be moved to where they can be protected.

If you've never grown anemones before, you should do so. Their beauty and historic legacy will lend color and interest to your gardening experience.

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Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Ornamental Garlic – One Surprising Bulb For Your Cutting Garden

Allium aflatunense

Lots of flowers are great for cut flower arrangements, but one of the most surprising is ornamental garlic, also known as Allium. I’m sure you’ve seen them in magazines. Remember those big, bold, purple globes dressing up the featured homes of the rich and famous? That’s what I’m talking about.

The bulbs are planted in fall for late spring or early summer flowering. They’re simply stunning in large vases. Sometimes they’re displayed alone, three or more stems together making dramatic decorative statements. Not only are they eye-popping, they often last much longer than other flowers. They’re easy to grow, too.

Let's go over the basics. Allium has average water needs, so you’ll need to water them if you don’t get enough rainfall. However, the site should be well-drained. Allium is very heat tolerant, but you mustn’t let it wilt. It needs full sun to partial shade. Allium is hardy in USDA Hardiness Zones 3 -10. Only in zones 3 and 4 do they require mulch to get through the winter. If you plant them in containers where the bulbs are more exposed, bring the containers indoors to store in a cool, dark place over winter.

Think about the variety and the size of the bulb to ensure they are spaced correctly, and planted at the proper depth. The depth to the bottom of the planting hole should be 2 to 3 times the height of the bulb. Therefore, a 2" bulb should be planted 4” to 6" deep, a 3" bulb planted 6” to 9" deep, etc... If planting several bulbs, space the holes 4" to 12" apart depending upon the varieties' sizes. Place the bulb in the hole with the pointed end up and cover it with the soil. Water it well. Spread mulch over the planting area if you'd like. Do not allow synthetic fertilizer to touch the bulb.

There are around 400 varieties to choose, but I’ve narrowed the selection to only include my favorites. Of course, I like the tall ones best. The shorter ones like Allium moly and Allium ‘Mount Everest’ are mighty nice, but have short stems. They look best actually grown in containers.

So, check them out at They’re not shipped until September, but you’d better order early while the selection is best.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Saffron - The Most Valuable Spice

Saffron threads

Saffron is hailed as the most valuable spice in the world – more valuable than gold! Let’s see, now. Saffron was recently priced at about $112 per ounce (avoir), and gold was priced at $1425 per ounce (troy). Even without bothering to convert avoir to troy (1 to .91), it’s clear there’s no contest. But here’s the consolation – most of us can’t mine for gold in our backyards, but we can probably grow saffron crocus!
Crocus sativus flowers
Saffron comes from a crocus flower (Crocus sativus), which blooms in autumn. The spicy part is the red, thread-like stigma of the flower. Each flower only produces three stigmas, and each bulb only produces one flower per year. You can see at once that it takes a bunch of saffron crocus bulbs to produce a tablespoon of spicy threads. (That’s why I sell them by the case.)

Besides being tasty, saffron has been used to color fabric – like the yellow-orange robes of Buddhist monks. (They used turmuric, too.)

Saffron crocuses thrive in USDA climate zones 4 through 9, so gardeners in most parts of the U.S. can enjoy them. Plant in full sun to partial shade. Average garden soil that is consistently moist with pH ranging from 6.1 to 7.8 is fine.

A good all-around practice for bulbs is to mix 5 tablespoons of 10-10-10 fertilizer and 2 cups of bone meal per ten square feet area of bulb garden. Be careful that fertilizer does not come into direct contact with plant tissue.

Crocus corms should be planted 3" deep. Depth is measured to the bottom of the hole. Recommended plant spacing is 3" to 6". If 6" apart, you'd need 4 per sq. ft., so a case of 100 should cover up to 25 square feet. Unless snow or rain fall is inadequate, irrigation should not be necessary.

A great thing about crocus corms is that they’ll come up year after year, and multiply. They require very little maintenance. Some folks plant them in the lawn for naturalizing, but you might not want to do that with saffron crocuses.

I’m not claiming that you’ll grow premium quality saffron in your own backyard. Few locations are so productive. But it sure would be fun to grow your own, and use it proudly in your special curry or paella recipe.

So, check them out at They’re not shipped until September, but you’d better order early while they’re available. 

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Here Are 5 Vines That Will Attract Birds To Your Garden

Hummingbird with Trumpet Vine

As I noted in a previous article, bird-watchers who want to see them up close usually attract them with bird feeders, houses and baths. There are, however, other ways of enticing them that shouldn't be overlooked. The landscape can be transformed into a bird sanctuary by including plants that provide food and shelter. Ornamental vines are important components of such a plan.

Here are 5 ornamental vines that birds find irresistible.

A Clarion Call For Hummingbirds 

Trumpet Vine (pictured above) or Trumpet Creeper (Campsis radicans) is a climbing deciduous vine native to the southern United States. Travelers may have noticed it growing up and over fences and signposts along the highway. Large, bright yellow, orange to red trumpetshaped flowers appear from midsummer to fall. Campsis is popular world-wide for its stunning flowers, and because it attracts hummingbirds.

Campsis is cold-hardy in USDA climate zones 4 through 10. For best results, plant in full sun, well-drained soil with average to poor fertility. Plants are drought tolerant when established and heat-loving. It is best planted next to a permanent structure for support.

Carolina Jessamine - Gelsemium sempervirens

Yellow Garlands of Spring 

Gelsemium sempervirens – known as Carolina Jasmine, Carolina Jessamine, Yellow Jasmine, and whatever else comes to the viewer’s mind – is another great native plant that provides nectar for the birds. It’s grown mostly for its glorious early spring flowers. Southerners wax nostalgic about it. Unfortunately, it is cold hardy only in USDA climate zones 7 through 9. The flowers usually appear before the hummingbirds arrive, so is best planted as a nectar source for other species. I’ve written much more about it in a blog article, Carolina Jessamine – The Yellow Garlands of Spring.

Wild and Wonderful 

English Ivy - Hedera helixMost of us think of English ivy and all its varieties as a rampant but boring evergreen covering, or worse. But look closer and you’ll find a plant with lots of interesting variations that can not only provide mass ground- or wall covering, but also shelter and an ornamental food source for birds.

Some folks dislike ivy for it's vigorous growth habit. The very characteristic that makes it a fine ground cover can render it unwelcome; it covers ground. It's true that ivy can be troublesome if completely unchecked, but ivy does not damage trees or sound structures. It isn't a parasite. It cannot harm a mature tree, but it could outlive an old one. It cannot collapse a sound building. Ivy is a major food source for many birds, and the fruits ripen up just in time to fatten them before winter arrives. Hedera ivies also provide abundant shelter.

It Keeps Institutions From Crumbling 

Boston Ivy - Parthenocissus tricuspidataBoston Ivy - Parthenocissus tricuspidata - is native to east Asia, not Massachusetts. Each leaf is composed of three lobes. In juvenile foliage, each lobe is very distinct. It is a vigorous climber, as anyone who has seen it on a wall knows well. Fall brings bright colors of yellow, orange, red or burgundy. The walls it adorns seem draped in a majestic tapestry. It is also widely used to cover trellises, pergolas, and as an ornamental ground cover for erosion control. Small flowers appear in July or August followed by fruits in October or November, and birds love 'em.

Boston ivy grows in any fertile, well-drained soil, and thrives in USDA climate zones 48. In other words, it'll probably perform well in your garden.

A Native With Great Possibilities 

Virginia Creeper - Parthenocissus quinquifolia
Virginia Creeper - Parthenocissus quinquefolia - is native to many parts of North America, from Quebec to Florida, and westward to Colorado. It's a member of the grape (Vitaceae) family. The relationship is easy to see when you look at the flowers and fruits, but I don't recommend them for human consumption. Each leaf is composed of five leaflets. It climbs vigorously. Fall brings bright colors of yellow, orange, red or burgundy. The depth of fall color seems to depend upon available sunlight. Virginia Creeper is widely used as an ornamental ground cover, but its fall color and ability to cover walls, trellises and pergolas makes it popular as well.

Virginia Creeper thrives USDA climate zones 3-9, a broader range than Boston ivy will tolerate. Its fruit and dense growth habit make it very attractive to birds for food and shelter.

These suggested vines, along with many bulbs, perennials, annuals, shrubs and trees will be welcome additions to your landscape from the birds' points of view.

Remember to think outside the bird feeder when you plan to feed the birds.

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Wednesday, July 17, 2019

5 Flowering Perennials That Attract Birds

Bird on Echinacea flower seeds

Bird-watchers who want to see them up close usually attract them with bird feeders, houses and baths. Why not? The avian friends are provided their creature comforts, and we enjoy the pleasure of their company. But they are also attracted to natural sources, especially foods. By planting flowers that produce seed and nectar, we can beautify our landscapes and feed the birds at the same time.

When choosing them, consider bloom time, the types of seeds and nectar produced, and the species they would attract. From early to late, nectar to seed, this will provide extended seasons of color and bird-watching interest. Otherwise, planting for the birds should follow the same principles you would for planning any garden.

There is also a financial benefit; perennial herbs and vines produce nectar and seeds season-after-season so you don’t have to buy so many so often.

You must remember that to grow flowers successfully for the birds, you shouldn’t dead-head them,i.e. remove the spent flowers. It defeats the purpose if the seeds aren’t allowed to mature. Another consideration is that plants should be chosen for their minimal maintenance requirements. Selections that require pesticides to prevent insects and diseases present a hazard to the birds.

Here are 5 flowering perennials that the birds and you will love.

Coreopsis is a bright-flowered plant that resembles large asters. In fact, Coreopsis is a member of the Aster family. Most are yellow, but some are in pink shades, too.

Coreopsis is commonly known as tickseed, and for good reasons. Coreopsis means "bug-like", in reference to the little dry fruits called achenes which in some ways resemble insects. Not only are the seeds small and brown, their hair-like structures cling to passers-by who brush against them; and they don't just drop off, they must be picked off. Thus the name, Tickseed. Birds love them!


Dendranthema, commonly known as “hardy garden mum”, is a gorgeous, old-fashioned looking plant with blossoms that resemble large daisies. Colors vary, but my favorite shade is pink. It’s what you might expect to see in your grandmother’s garden. Maintenance is minimal. It blooms in late summer or fall. Birds are attracted to their abundant seeds.


Echinacea is known worldwide for its showy flowers, reputed herbal remedies, and abundant seeds. It’s native to the United States and Canada, and known by many names including Hedgehog or Purple Cone flower, and Comb flower. All because of the very obvious seeds. Birds notice them, too. The handsome flowers are often used in decorative fresh and dried arrangements. The plants require very little maintenance, are drought-tolerant, and will grow just about anywhere.


Rudbeckia is one of my summer favorites, and not mine only. I often pass cars parked beside highways, the driver and passengers strolling among bright-flowered patches to pluck bouquets. Birds also love the seeds of Black-eyed Susans.

They’re mighty easy to grow, especially R. fulgida, which is the great-granddaddy of the most reliable perennial cultivars. If they’ll grow untended beside the highway, they ought to thrive for you. Read my article, Rudbeckia – Where Black-eyed Susans Grow, for in-depth info on this memorable and ever-popular selection.


I admit that Sedum is not the first flower that comes to mind to those who want to feed the birds, but I want to remedy that. As you know, sedum flowers prolifically. All those tiny jewels at shoe level are perfect for ground-feeding species.

Beside the fact that the seeds nourish birds, sedum is a marvelous ground cover for filling cracks and crevices in rock gardens and stone walls, and for cascading out of containers. What’s more, sedum will grow just about anywhere. If you garden from USDA climate zone 3 to 9, sedum will probably thrive for you.

These suggestions, of course, do not represent all the plant choices to consider. Asters, Centaurea, Cosmos, Gaillardia, Helianthus, Leucanthemum, Papaver, Solidago, Tagetes, and even those cursed Taraxacum (Dandelions), attract birds. Think outside the bird feeder when you think of feeding the birds.!

For these and many other bird-friendly plants,!