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.