Posts Tagged ‘Plants’

Growing Heirloom Tomatoes

Icon Written by Wayne on August 1, 2009 – 12:01 am

In Past Yard Talks we talked about the red slicing tomato such as Burpee’s Big Boy and Big Girl, Rutgers, and mammoth Beefsteak. These were the big round tomatoes of our youth, the pride and joy of our parents and grandparents garden.

We have also talked about my personal favorite, the cherry tomato. I eat more of these darn things then I care to admit. These are the tomatoes of salads. snacks, and preserves. Easy to grow and with a taste that cannot be beat by any modern plant.

Today we are going to talk about the tomato of our grandparents parents, the Heirloom Tomato. This variety of tomato is enjoying a well deserved comeback in the home garden. Maybe not as easy to grow as today’s hybrids but well worth the effort.

Heirloom tomatoes were bred for flavor, not resistance to disease, pests, heat, cold, or transport. Granted, some years, a heirloom variety was so unproductive it was not worth the space it took up in the garden. You can put months of tender care into a plant and do everything right, but a scorching hot day can cause all the blossoms to fall off. Last season’s cool wet weather completely wiped out our Brandywine crop.

This is why you do not find heirlooms in supermarkets. All tomatoes sold today are hybrids that have been bred to possess traits that favor growers rather than consumers, for example, tomatoes that ripen all at once so they can be harvested at one time or tomatoes with thick skins that are less likely to bruise.
Unfortunately, in developing all these traits, flavor has been overlooked.

An heirloom is generally a plant that’s survived the test of time and produced an abundance of tomatoes with great flavor. Most people consider a plant to be a heirloom if it is over 100 years old, although this is not a hard and fast rule.

The most popular heirloom variety is Brandywine, dating to 1885. Everyone who tastes it loves it’s superb flavor. The fruits have a very large beefsteak shape and grow on unusually upright, potato-leaved plants. We have grown this plant for years in our garden for it’s fine flavor. Make sure to plant several as it is not a big producer.

Some other varieties which we have grown and recommend are:

  1. Big Rainbow

    Big Rainbow


    Big Rainbow which has flesh that is marbled with red in the bottom half of the fruit. It has a big, beefsteak shape with a very mild and sweet flavor.

  2. Cherokee Purple

    Cherokee Purple

    Cherokee Purple has a flavor that is rich and full, and often compared to Brandywine. The flesh is brick-red and very attractive sliced on a plate.

  3. Black Krim

    Black Krim

    Black Krim is a medium-sized, very dark maroon beefsteak, with wonderfully rich flavor. This medium-sized, very dark maroon beefsteak, with wonderfully rich flavor is extremely tasty.

  4. Yellow Pear

    Yellow Pear

    Yellow Pear has an enormous number of yellow bite-sized fruits in 75 days, indeterminate. This extremely old variety makes a vigourous plant, which bears enormous numbers of bright yellow, bite-sized fruit. The flavor is deliciously tangy. Perfect for summer party hors d’oeuvres.

These are but a few of the many heirloom varieties that have been passed down through generations of gardeners. We highly recommend you add a few heirlooms to your garden, they are well worth the effort.

 

Tomato Tips of the Month

My grandmother use to make the best tomato preserves that I just loved. Unfortunately, the recipe was lost when she passed over to the otherside. I had almost completely forgotten about it until I came across this recipe when researching for this Yard Talk. It sounds very close to what my grandmother made and I would like to pass it on to you.

Vine-Ripe Golden Tomato Marmalade

This delicious golden marmalade is an excellent accompaniment to any main course, from lamb chops to chicken to roast pork. Or if you wish, serve it alongside home-made corn bread for a great addition to any dinner menu. You may vary the type of yellow or orange tomato, as your garden dictates, and the results will be equally delicious, but I suggest using medium to large sized tomatoes rather than cherry tomatoes if you want to avoid considerable labor. This is not a heavily sugared marmalade and should be refrigerated to maintain its freshness.
• 6 pounds ripe yellow tomatoes
• 1 pound sugar
• 2 cinnamon sticks
• 1 star anise
• 3 cloves

With a sharp knife, score the skin of the tomatoes in an X on the blossom end. Place in boiling water for 15 to 20 seconds. (This may be done in batches) Plunge the tomatoes into a large bowl of iced water to stop the cooking process. Slip the peel off and remove any hard cores. Cut in half and squeeze out the seeds.

In a deep pot, combine the peeled tomatoes with the sugar, cinnamon, star anise, and cloves. Bring to a rolling boil then lower the heat to a simmer and cook for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, or until the tomatoes are falling apart and beginning to thicken. (This may take more time, depending upon the water content of the tomatoes.) Watch carefully to avoid scorching and stir often. Remove from heat when consistency is similar to a thick jam. Discard the cinnamon, star anise, and cloves. Store in airtight jars, refrigerated, for 2 to 3 weeks.

from James Waller, Executive Chef, Duck Club Restaurant, Monterey, California

 

Flower of the Month

000341sSweet Basil is a classic herb, used in tomato sauce, pesto and salads. Basil tastes great in tomato and pasta dishes but it also gives a sweet scented, minty aroma when crumbled over baked chicken, lamb, or fish. It blends well with garlic, thyme, and oregano. Crush dried leaves with your hand or in a mortar and pestle to release the herb’s flavor. Start early indoors or outdoors after danger of frost.


 

Web Site

The Burpee Company (http://www.burpee.com/) was started in 1876 and quickly became the leading seed producer to the home gardener. The site offers a broad range of information on gardening as well as a wide range of seeds and plants.

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New Daffodils in Our Gardens

Icon Written by Wayne on April 1, 2009 – 12:01 am

No other flower heralds the arrival of Spring in Southwestern Lower Michigan like the first blooming daffodil. There are a number of  Spring blooming flowers but the daffodil stands in a class of it’s own. There just is nothing like waking up in the morning with that first cup of coffee in hand and  walking into a garden surrounded by the warm yellow glow provided by early jonquils.

We just cannot use enough daffodils in our gardens. We have them naturalized throughout our woodlands, planted in formal raised beds, scattered amongst the perennials, and even in pots and containers. All 13 divisions are well represented in our gardens. You will find varieties from the large trumpet classics Dutch Master or King Alford down to the petite mini Chit Chat.

While our favorite color is the classic bright yellow of the large cupped Camelot, you will also find the whites and pinks well represented. We use the white, small cupped daffodil, Polar Ice in large numbers mixed with the hellebores . Also, Ambergate, with it’s brick red cup is a real eye catcher along the front walk. Every year a few of the pinks, such as Chinese Carol, find their way into the gardens.

There is just something magical about daffodils. Each Fall you plant all of these ugly brown things in the ground, quickly forget about them, and in the Spring out pops these gorgeous blooms. For, us daffodils provide a never ending Adventure in Wonderland.

Last Fall  we added to our adventure by planting the following varieties in our gardens:

Colblanc

Colblanc


Colblanc – has a pure, snow white flower with a ‘green eye’ that looks like something grown in the tropics. It is 14 to 16 inches tall, a midseason bloomer.

Apricot Lace

Apricot Lace


Apricot Lace – a Brent and Becky original grown seedlings from ‘Palmares’ and  “Jonquilla’, with great qualities of each parent. It blooms in mid-late spring with the flowers being held on 12-18 inch stems.

Avalanche

Avalanche


Avalanche – has 15-20 white petals and a demitasse-shaped cupped, sweetly fragrant flowers on 16 – 18 inch stems, an early to mid season bloomer. 

La Belle

La Belle


La Belle – is little 6-10 inch intermediate flowering daffodil that brightens up the garden in late to mid Spring.

Kaydee

Kaydee


Kaydee – the pinkest of the midseason cyclaminius, its white petals enhance the vivid salmon pink cup, 10-12 inches tall.

Jamestown

Jamestown


Jamestown – a beautiful, late-mid Spring, 14-16 inch tall daffodil that really stands out in the garden.

Barbie Doll

Barbie Doll


Barbie Doll – an intermediate sized mid – Spring daffodil that performs along walks.

Whatever division, color, or size you choose, you will not be disappointed by the daffodil. Make sure you choose several varieties that bloom at different times to insure continually supply of fresh blooms.

 

Tips of the Month

Daffodils are classified by the The American Daffodil Society into one of the thirteen  divisions described below: 

  • Division 1 – One flower to a stem, trumpet or cup as long or longer than the perianth segments. 
  • Division 2 – One flower to a stem, cup more than one third but less than equal to the length  of the perianth segments. 
  • Division 3 –  Short cup have one flower to a stem, cup not more than one third the height of the perianth  segments.
  • Division 4 – Double daffodils have a clustered cup, petals or both. There can be one or more flowers per stem.
  • Division 5 – These usually have more than one flower to a stem, head drooping, perianth segments often reflexed  and of silky texture. 
  • Division 6 – Have one flower to a stem, perianth significantly reflexed and corona straight and narrow. 
  • Division 7 – Usually have several flower heads to a stem, flowers usually fragrant, stem is round in  cross-section and foliage is often rush like. 
  • Division 8 – Usually three to twenty flowers to a stout stem, sweet scented and very short cupped. Perianth segments rounded and often  somewhat crinkled.
  • Division 9 – Have one flower to a stem. White petals sometimes stained with the corona color at the  base, small flat cup edged with red.
  • Division 10 – Small flowers resemble a “hoop petticoat” form.
  • Division 11 – Corona split for at least one third of its length. Split-corona daffodils with the corona segments opposite  the perianth segments, the corona segments are usually in two whorls of three.
  • Division 12 – Daffodils not falling into any of the previous categories.
  • Division 13 –  All species and reputedly wild forms. 

 

Flower of the Month

Sternbergia hybrid "Autumn Daffodil"

Sternbergia hybrid "Autumn Daffodil"

Sternbergia hybrid “Autumn Daffodil”
It is a terrific bulb to use in naturalizing. They have bright yellow, crocus-like flowers that pops up out of nowhere. Grow in partial shade for autumn color. These bulbs must be dug and stored each fall where killing frost in colder climates.


 

Web Site

teaserBrent and Becky’s Bulbs are a hybridizers of daffodils. They are third generation bulb growers, growing many unusual and specialty bulbs on their ten acre farm in Gloucester, Virginia. They  offer a wide selections of the bulbs species, from old favorites like Dutch Master to new introductions, such as Katie Heath.

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Athyriums in the Garden

Icon Written by GeoffM1968 on August 1, 2007 – 6:33 pm

Athyriums have long been prized by the home gardener not only because they were very easy to grow but, because of their color and texture. Lady ferns, particularly look good when grown in clumps or mass plantings. We use these ferns throughout our shade gardens. Actually, this is one down right spectacular plant. 

Lady Ferns are a highly variable species, with numerous varieties in cultivation. More than 300 varieties, in shades of grays, greens, and burgundy, have made their way to the home garden. Some, like ‘Frizelliae’ are extremely odd in appearance. This delicate, finely cut deciduous perennial fern is at home in the garden as the woodlands and meadows. The plant can even be used as a ground cover or on a wet hillside. 

Athyriums are relatively sun and soil tolerant, compared to many other ferns. Despite its delicate appearance, lady ferns are quite rugged and adapt well to cultivation. In the woodland setting they even do better with an occasional burning. For best growth plant them in partial shade in soil that is rich and moist. Give them a little shelter from wind to protect fronds from breaking and they will perform well for years. 

These ferns need a neutral to acid ph soil which drains well. A mixture of equal parts of loam and leaf mold is suitable growing medium. Lady ferns require no fertilization. Athyriums grown in a greenhouse or home should be planted in peat and loam with a bit of sand. 

Propagation is by division in the spring, although spores may be sown in Summer. Division is most successful and by far the easiest method for the home gardener. Simply divide the clumps every few years, with a sharp spade and replant crowns at soil level. 

In the wild, lady fern often occurs on wet sites but can colonize cracks in rocks and crevices if roots are protected and in constant contact with water. We use them, with hostas and other broadleaf plants, along trails, naturalized on banks, mixed with grasses, or bordering walks. They work well at the base of sculptures, garden benches, and potted plants.

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Culinary Herbs in Our Garden

Icon Written by GeoffM1968 on July 1, 2007 – 6:53 pm

We have been growing herbs for over 20 years here in Michigan. Actually our son Geoff got us started when we lived in Omaha, Nebraska. He was in grade school at the time and was looking for something relatively easy to grow yet still rewarding. One thing lead to another and he soon had a 200 square foot herb garden. He grew most of the culinary herbs, such as, Sweet Basil, Greek Oregano, Sage, Thyme, Sweet Marjoram, Fennel, Chives, and Rosemary. 

When selecting a site you must consider drainage. Most herbs will not grow in wet soils. We built raised beds and installed underground drainage tiles in Omaha. Herbs, also, need a sunny location as the flavor oils are produced best when plants receive six to eight hours of full sunlight. 

Herbs will grow in any good neutral garden soil with average organic matter. In fact, most herbs do not do well in highly fertile soils as they tend to produce excessive foliage with poor flavor. When Geoff prepared the bed, he added 10-12 bushels of peat moss per 100 square feet, although compost would work just as well. Peat improves the soil condition and helps it retain moisture. 

Once established, herbs require minimal care. Quite frankly, we never had to water them, even during the driest times. Just an occasional application of compost at the beginning of the growing season kept them going. Pest were never a problem and weeding was seldom required. 

When we moved from Nebraska to Michigan we dug up most the herbs and brought them along. With the exception of Sweet Basil, the following original herbs still grow today in our garden. 

Fennel, a hardy, perennial, will grow in most any soil. Seeds should be sown directly in the garden in the late Spring. Be warned, the plant will self-sow generously. Use the leaves with pork, veal and fish. 

Sweet Marjoram, may be grown from seed or started from Summer cuttings. Use fresh or dried leaves in salads, dressings, meat, sausage, lamb dishes, beans and soups. To keep the plants neat, cut out all dead wood and remove dead flowers and stalks. 

Sweet Basil, is an annual herb used in tomato sauce, pesto and salads. Basil grows best in full sun and rich, moist soil. Sow seeds indoors in spring and transplant them after all danger of frost is past, or sow outdoors when temperatures are reliably warm. 

Rosemary is an attractive evergreen shrub with pine needle-like leaves. Propagate from cuttings of the non-flowering branches in early summer. Rosemary can also be grown from seed. Choose a sheltered position and well-drained soil and lots of sun. It is used on meats, stews, sauces, and soups. 

Greek Oregano, is a perennial widely used in Italian dishes, tomato sauce, pizza, fish and salad dressing It is easy to grow, we recommend propagating by cuttings in the Summer. 

Common Thyme’s leaves are used to season meats, poultry, stews, sauces, soups and dressings. It should be planted in full sun for best flavor. 

Common Sage, a familiar plant in the home garden, is used in sausages, poultry, meat, bread, dressings, vegetables, omelettes and stuffing. You can never have enough Sage. 

There is nothing like the taste imparted by fresh herbs, although if done correctly, dry herbs are very good. We would not know what to do without our herb garden.

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The Cherry Tomato

Icon Written by GeoffM1968 on June 1, 2007 – 6:36 pm

In Past Yard Talks we discussed the round slicing tomato such as Burpee’s Big Boy and Big Girl, Rutgers, and Beefsteak. These big round tomatoes are the most common varieties found in the home garden. Our parents and their parents grew up growing and eating these fruit. When they thought about tomatoes these are the ones that popped into their minds. Ask anyone over 40 what his or her favourite tomato is and they will say one of the slicing tomato. 

Ask someone from a younger generation and you will be surprised as they will surely say the cherry tomato. Yes, those funny round things we find buried in our salad greens. My grandmother use to raise them along her patio although I never saw anyone eat them. As a kid they made useful ammunition for our trusty sling shots. It would not seem like Summer if the dogs, cats, and neighbourhood girls did not all sport red spots. 

Well folks, as much as I hate to admit it, my favorite tomato today is the lowly cheery tomato. I eat more of these darn things then I care to admit. There are more varieties of these grown then that old slicer and they taste better to boot. 

They are used in salads, stuffed, baked, and canned as preserves. Put a bowl of Sweet 100’s out as a snack food and watch how quick they disappear. We really like Stuffed Devilled Cherry Tomatoes or as a quick lunch Tuna Stuffed Cherry Tomatoes. Eaten fresh from the vine, they are sweet and juicy. With a higher sugar content than many tomatoes, cherry tomatoes have become fast food, finger food and kid-friendly. 

My favorite Cherry Tomatoes are:

  1. Super Sweet 100 Hybrid is a scarlet indeterminate which bears cherry-sized fruits in 70 days on long clusters right up to frost. Bursting with sugary flavor. Scarlet, cherry-sized fruits are produced in long clusters right up to frost.
  2. Yellow Pear has an enormous number of yellow bite-sized fruits in 75 days, indeterminate. This extremely old variety makes a vigourous plant, which bears enormous numbers of bright yellow, bite-sized fruit. The flavor is deliciously tangy. Perfect for summer party hors d’oeuvres.
  3. Juliet Hybrid an indeterminate tomato that looks like a miniature Italian plum tomato but it is really a juicy and sweet cherry. Big vines produce grape-like clusters.
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Plant Picks 2007

Icon Written by GeoffM1968 on April 7, 2007 – 5:47 pm

It is once again when we select Martin’s Yard & Garden’s Plants of the Year. Each year we take time out to make a list of those plants which have really out performed all others in our gardens. This growing season was a tough one for any type of plant, cool, wet, and cloudy from Spring until Fall and then very hot and dry for several weeks before turning cold and wet again. About the only thing that did well was the Kentucky Bluegrass in the lawn! 

It is by no means easy for a plant to make our list, with over 600 varieties of plants to choose from, a plant must really stand out. A plant must not only be attractive but also require low maintenance and be exceptionally hardy. As always, a few are like old friends, that just keep popping up. Since we are mostly shade gardeners, a good percentage of shade tolerant plants find there way into our lists. Also, you will note, a few plants which made our list have a Southern flavor. 

2006 Fern of the Year – Athyrium niponicum ‘Pewter Lace’
It is a very stunning silver fern to go with Bradford’s Beauty and Ghost. With arresting metallic pewter foliage, it is exciting in combination with hosta or lungworts. 

2006 Grass of the Year – Miscanthus sinensis ‘Morning Light’
It has very narrow foliage with a subtle white stripe causes this plant to shimmer and glow in the landscape. This choice ornamental grass that sets off any sunny area. 

2006 Shade Plant of the Year – Polygonatum odoratum thunbergii Variegatum ‘Variegated Japanese Solomon’s Seal’ 
They are graceful shade plants that provide nice form and structure to the garden. These plants have long arching unbranched stems, they have nice clean, veined leaves with clusters of bell like greenish yellow to whitish yellow flowers hanging down from the stems at the leaf axis. In late summer and fall showy berries are produced that are blue to dark blue in color. 

2006 Bog Plant of the Year – Asclepias incarnata ‘Pink Swamp Milkweed’
It is once again our selection as bog plant of the year. If you wish to attract butterflies to your gardens, be sure to plant some Pink Swamp Milkweed. It is the favorite food for the caterpillar of the Monarch Butterfly. Beautiful and unique, bicolored flowers of white and dark pink appear midsummer in clusters. As the name implies, Swamp Milkweed grows best in moist locations. 

2006 Groundcover of the Year – Tiarella hybrid ‘Spring Symphony’
It may well be the best clumping tiarella that we have seen. The jagged, fuzzy green leaves are each highlighted by a black central blotch. In May, the compact clumps are topped with light pink bottlebrush-like flowers. 

2006 Conifer of the Year – Pinus flexilis ‘Vanderwolf’s Pyramid’
The Vanderwolf pine grows to 15 to 40 feet, in the most perfect shape. The color is superb, and unusually blue for a pine. This tree stands out splendidly in an evergreen border. Pyramidal form with soft, blue-green needles. We only wish we had planted more of this evergreen. 

2006 New Introduction of the Year – Sambucus racemosa ‘Sutherland Gold’
It is truly a sight to behold with its deeply cut foliage of bright gold. The masses of creamy flowers develop into clusters of red fruit that the birds love. 

2006 Butterfly Plant of the Year – Sedum telephium ‘Autumn Joy’
It has round flat flower heads rising above bold, flat-leaved foliage. Flowers then transform to pale pink and gradually change to dark pink. We use this plant everywhere, probably more than we should, but it is one of those plants that just has four season appeal. A must for the beginning gardener. 

2006 Tree of the Year – Cinnamomum camphora ‘Camphor Laurel’
It is a dense broadleaved evergreen that is capable of growing 50-150 feet tall and spreading twice that wide with a trunk up to 15 feet in diameter. Camphor is widely planted as a shade tree, screen, or windbreak and is a sturdy storm resistant tree. 

2006 Hosta of the Year – Hosta hybrid ‘Inniswood’
It has rounded gold corrugated foliage and a wide, deep green edge has become a hosta world favorite. The fast growing 4 foot wide clump is topped with medium lavender flowers in late spring. 

2006 Vegetable of the Year – Lycopersicon lycopersicum ‘Burpee’s Big Boy Hybrid’
The greatest tomatoes of all time and still a best seller. When it was released in 1949, enormous productivity and gorgeous, perfect, extra-large scarlet fruit made it an instant hit. What has kept it popular all these years is its wonderful aroma and rich flavour. The only tomato that produced in our garden with our cool wet weather in 2004. 

2006 Fruit Tree of the Year – Malus Hybrid ‘Donald’
A small flowering tree with buds, which are deep red at first, then turn pink, then finally white when they fully open. Its flowers are very showy, and the “snowstorm” that comes when the petals drop is something out of a fairy tale. The show continues into fall, as the glossy red crabapples that form persist into winter, and provide a beautiful feature. 

2006 Bulb of the Year – Zantedeschia aethiopica ‘Childsiana’
It is an old fashioned, but very rewarding garden plant. Childsiana – a compact, pure white, fragrant miniature that is perfect for growing in pots and for the landscape in zones 6-10. 

2006 Herb of the Year – Eupatorium dubium ‘Little Joe’
It is a little known dwarf species of Joe Pye, native in moist soils from Maine south to South Carolina. The tall stems are clothed with whorls of green leaves and topped in midsummer with dome-shaped heads of lavender flowers. 

2006 Shrub of the Year – Buxus glenco ‘Chicagoland Green’
It has glossy evergreen leaves all year with very little or no Winter burn. Ideal for edging or borders along pathways or for year round color in the mixed border. This Boxwood retains its nice green color in winter better than others and is faster growing than the popular ‘Green Velvet’. This cultivar is a Chicago Botanical Garden selection and was chosen for its cold tolerance. 

2006 Rose of the Year – Rosa hybrid ‘St. Patrick’
One of the few yellows that performs best in hot weather, when the characteristic green undertones are most evident. This unique flower color is brilliantly displayed against rich grey-green foliage. Extremely long lasting when used in bouquets. 

2006 Tropical Plant of the Year – Phoenix roebeleuii ‘Pygmy Date Palm’
A small to medium sized palm to about 3 feet, although older plants can be quite tall. Has very attractive dark green feather leaves, and spined petioles. Not self cleaning, so old fronds need to be manually removed. Houseplant in bright light, container plant, or a palm for shady outdoor areas. Moderate growth rate, single trunk. 

Many of the choices were very hard to make as there are a lot of good plants out there with more being introduced each season. Dan Hinkley atHeronswood and Tony Avent at Plants Delight have done much in the way of introducing plants we would have never thought about using. If it had not been for Darrell Probst of Garden Vision we would have never experienced many of the epimediums now found in our gardens. To these plantsmen and many others, we owe a round of thanks. We hope that many of their introductions make next years Plants of the Year.

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Border Planting for Privacy and Screening

Icon Written by GeoffM1968 on September 1, 2005 – 3:23 pm

We all have some part of our yard or gardens that we wish we could hide, maybe an old dilapidated two hole privy, a neighbors forgotten 1952 Nash Rambler, or an abandon oil tank. Things of character to be sure but an eye sore never the less. 

Believe me I would rather have a Nash Rambler as a neighbor rather then a Suds Your Dudes, or heaven forbid, a Mickey D’s. Most of us consider our lawn and gardens an extension of our homes, where we can look for quiet and privacy . Unfortunately, we often take the easy way out, when our tranquility is threatened. We quickly throw up a stockade fence, suburbia’s Berlin Wall. 

We soon realize though that our solution in itself can be quite unsettling. Like busy little beavers, we are soon at work trying to hide what we just built. While taking a little longer to develop, plants offer living privacy walls, which can be especially important in today’s neighborhoods where ranch style homes are lumped together with fast food joints and adult entertainment centers. 

Using plants effectively will require careful planning on your part. First, you will have to decide if you are looking for single or multi season screening. If you are looking for year round appeal you will have to consider plants that flower, have changing foliage, offer winter color, bare fruit, or have interesting texture. 

You will also have to decide how much time you can spend on plant maintenance. While a living border can require a lot of maintenance it does not have to. If your time is limited you definitely will not want a formal hedge or border which require constant pruning and care. Natural planting usually offer a more relaxing soft effect and require little time. A popular option, just catching on, is to rent potted plants which only require watering and can be easily moved around for special occasions. 

Selecting the right size of plant is also critical. You would not want to use towering Oaks to hide a pool nor Firethorns to screen a hot tub, and surly Pygmy Barberries would not hide that Nash Rambler. While this may seem as just common sense, it is surprising how often we select plants we like and are familiar with and not what works best. We also often forget that most plants get bigger as they mature. 

The last thing you need to evaluate, before plant selection, is the area in terms of size, sun exposure, soil, drainage, and proximity to utilities such as gas, water, electrical lines. You will also need to check on existing building codes. Also it might be nice to check with your neighbors and let them know what you are planning. 

Once you have information about the site, and desired effect, you can decide what kind of plants meet your needs. Mixed plantings of evergreen and deciduous shrubs provide interest in many seasons. Deciduous plants provide more shade in summer but allow light to reach your yard in winter. Fruiting trees, bushes, and vines provide snacks for you and the birds and for your neighbors. Tall potted plants make a fast portable screen around a pool, patio, or deck. Ornamental grasses grow rapidly and are easy to maintain. Vines will quickly soften hardscapes and hide buildings.

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The Best of the Best in On-Line Nurseries

Icon Written by GeoffM1968 on March 1, 2005 – 6:25 pm

There are thousands of online nurseries out there today. The number is growing by leaps and bounds as companies discover the profit from web site sales. Unfortunately, this does not mean all of these sites are good or even close to it. In fact, many are just down right poor, offering little service and misnamed inferior plants. 

In this month’s Yard Talk we are going to discuss online nurseries which we feel are not just good but excellent, thus they are the Best of the Best. To make our list they must consistently supply plants which are strong, vigorous growers as represented. Their plants should be healthy, strong, and above average in size, truly specimens of their species. We expect plants to be protected during shipment, while bare root plants are acceptable, potted plants should be the norm. Shipments should be made on time and in the manner specified. All orders should be acknowledge and any back orders brought to our attention promptly. 

The following nurseries are ones which have met or exceeded our expectations: 

Edmunds’ Roses – (http://www.edmundsroses.com/
A site is about modern roses with excellent graphics and a wealth of information. An essential place to visit for those of us into new roses. 

The Antique Rose Emporium – (http://www.weareroses.com/
Is an excellent source for old garden and antique roses. This is their 22nd year of offering our vigorous, easy to grow, fragrant and long-lived roses. Their site has loads of useful information on growing roses. 

Spring Valley – (http://www.springvalleyroses.com/inthegarden/index.html
Specializes in winter hardy Old Garden, Climbing and Shrub roses. They offer roses in the following classes: Centifolia, Climbers, Gallica, Hybrid Rugosa, Shrub and Species. These include many of the newer Shrubs and Hybrid Rugosas developed in Germany and Canada. 

Aesthetic Gardens – (http://www.springvalleyroses.com/inthegarden/index.html
Offer rare and unusual trees and shrubs. They have no catalog nor physical gardens to visit. The material has been collected and grown in the Northwest in Oregon and Washington. If you are looking for that special, hard to find specimen, this is the place. 

Roslyn Nursery – (http://www.roslynnursery.com/
Is a unique nursery specializing in rare and exotic varieties of rhododendrons, azaleas, camellias, trees, ground cover and other ornamental plants. A very good source for Japanese Maples and Ferns. Also for those in the warmer zones they offer a selection of Camellias. 

Clematis Speciality Nursery – (http://www.clematisnursery.com/
Is a small nursery specializing in all types of clematis. Clematis Speciality Nursery is particularly interested in small-flowered species and hybrids that are so easy and rewarding to grow. Their aim is also to introduce new but proven varieties of both small and large-flowered clematis 

Franklin Hill Garden – (http://www.nb.net/~franklin/index.html
Offers enticing selections of annual and perennial flower varieties, natives, exotics, heirlooms, cottage garden favorites, and a few modern hybrids. Franklin Hills goal is to help us rediscover forgotten old favorites as well as find a few new treasures. 

Wildseed Farms – (http://www.wildseedfarms.com/
Offers for sale over 70 species of wildflower seed, and wildflower seed mixes. Their catalog is an invaluable resource for anyone who would like to join the growing community of enthusiasts who support Mother Nature by planting wildflowers. They offer useful information on such diverse subjects as starting a no mow lawn to plants for clay soils. 

Seeds of Change – (http://www.seedsofchange.com/
Is an all organic, 100 % Certified source for over 1500 different varieties of heirloom seeds. Their mission is to seek out traditional varieties, many of which are in danger of being lost. The site offers a lot of information for the organic gardener 

Brent and Becky’s Bulbs – (http://www.brentandbeckysbulbs.com/
Are third generation bulb growers, developing many unusual and speciality bulbs on their farm in Virginia. We cannot say enough about this nursery, we have never had a problem with them and all bulbs have outperformed our expectations. 

Plant Delights Nursery – (http://www.plantdelights.com/
Is a nursery specializing in unusual perennials. They feature a wide variety of native perennials, as well as their Asian counterparts. Genera of special focus include amorphophallus, arisaema, asarum, ferns, hardy palms, helleborus, heuchera, hosta, lobelia, ornamental grasses, pulmonaria, tiarella, and verbena…to mention but a few. 

Naylor Creek Nursery – (http://www.naylorcreek.com
Offer a wonderful selection of unique or hard to find perennials. We were impressed with their wide selection of hostas, pulmonarias, and epimediums, some only recently offered. We have acquired some of our best hostas from these people. 

Heronswood – (http://www.heronswood.com/
Is a speciality nursery located in Washington State. A site to visit if you can find it no where else, a very wide selection of hard to find or specimen plants.

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Plant Picks 2004

Icon Written by GeoffM1968 on January 1, 2005 – 5:45 pm

Every year we take time out to make a list of those plants which have really out performed all others in our gardens. As always, a few are like old friends, that just keep popping up. We have to admit, that since we are mostly shade gardeners, a good percentage of shade tolerant plants find there way into our lists. 

It is by no means easy for a plant to make our list, with over 500 varieties of plants in our gardens, a plant must really stand out. To be selected, a plant must not only be attractive but also require low maintenance and be exceptionally hardy. All of these plants can be viewed on our Plant Data Base at www.myg.info. 

2004 Fern of the Year – Athyrium niponicum Apple Court 
It is a crested Japanese painted fern that not only has lovely purple, silver and green markings, but each leaf is dramatically crested both up the sides and onto the tip. Our specimen has matured at over two foot. This is a superb addition to any woodland garden. 

2004 Grass of the Year – Chasmanthium latifolium Northern Sea Oats 
It is one of the few ornamental grasses that thrives in shady conditions. Northern Sea Oats has a short basal tuft of wide grassy leaves that gives rise to four foot flower stalks with dramatic grain-like flowers. Northern Sea Oats grow best in a naturalistic garden, either in the border or by the water. While it took us a while to get this plant established in an area it liked, it was well worth the effort. 

2004 Shade Plant of the Year – Hosta hybrid Captain Kirk 
It is an amazing new sport of the popular Gold Standard is probably a tetraploid hosta featuring a wide golden center, surrounded by a very wide dark green edge. While only in it’s second year in our garden it has made it’s presents known. A very showy hosta only growing 18 inches tall but over 36 inches wide. 

2004 Bog Plant of the Year – Asclepias incarnata Pink Swamp Milkweed 
It is once again our selection as bog plant of the year. If you wish to attract butterflies to your gardens, be sure to plant some Pink Swamp Milkweed. It is the favorite food for the caterpillar of the Monarch Butterfly. Beautiful and unique, bicolored flowers of white and dark pink appear midsummer in 1-2 inches diameter clusters. As the name implies, Swamp Milkweed grows best in moist locations. 

2004 Groundcover of the Year – Polygonatum odoratum thunbergii Variegatum Variegated Japanese Solomon’s Seal 
Solomon Seals are graceful shade plants that provide nice form and structure to the garden. These plants have long arching unbranched stems, they have nice clean, veined leaves with clusters of bell like greenish yellow to whitish yellow flowers hanging down from the stems at the leaf axis. In late summer and fall showy berries are produced that are blue to dark blue in color. We use these as a backdrop for small wood ferns or under plant with foamflowers. Most Solomon seals grow in spreading colonies that are easy to dig up and divide. 

2004 Conifer of the Year – Abies fraseri Fraser Fir
It is sometimes called Southern balsam or Southern balsam fir. Fraser fir is a uniformly pyramid-shaped tree which reaches a maximum height of about 80 feet and a diameter of 1-2 feet. This fir is somewhat shade tolerant. 

2004 New Introduction of the Year – Echinacea Art’s Pride Orange Echinacea 
It is an amazing coneflower that comes from the breeding program of Dr. Jim Ault of the Chicago Botanic Garden. Each two foot wide clump of slender green foliage is topped with spikes of rustic-orange flowers. 

2004 Butterfly Plant of the Year – Sedum telephium Autumn Joy 
It has round flat flower heads rising above bold, flat-leaved foliage. Flowers then transform to pale pink and gradually change to dark pink. We use this plant everywhere, probably more than we should, but it is one of those plants that just has four season appeal. A must for the beginning gardener. 

2004 Tree of the Year – Magnolia stellata 
It is a deciduous small tree or large shrub growing 12-15 feet, branching is upright-spreading round or oval with multi-stemmed. An excellent specimen focal locations or patios, a tree for small spaces. Blooms are frequently injured by spring frosts, soft-wooded and prone to damage from heavy snow and ice but overall a relatively trouble-free plant. 

2004 Hosta of the Year – Hosta hybrid Whirlwind 
It has a wide central band of white that contrasts dramatically with the darkest black-green leaf that we have seen. In dense shade, the central variegation tends to fade in the summer. The three foot wide clumps are topped with lavender flowers in midsummer. 

2004 Vegetable of the Year – Round French Zucchini Squash
A three to six inch diameter squash that has exceptional flavor and is very prolific. We have grown this squash for the last two seasons without any problems besides not having enough room to grow more. 

2004 Fruit Tree of the Year – Malus Hybrid Donald 
A small flowering tree with buds, which are deep red at first, then turn pink, then finally white when they fully open. Its flowers are very showy, and the “snowstorm” that comes when the petals drop is something out of a fairy tale. The show continues into fall, as the glossy red crabapples that form persist into winter, and provide a beautiful feature. 

2004 Bulb of the Year – Narcissus Hybrid Ambergate 
Ambergate has a bright, brick red cup bleeds into the unusual colored, bronzy orange cup, a real eye-catcher in late spring. Perfect for perennializing, picking, forcing and showing. It is one of the showiest daffodils in it’s division. 

2004 Herb of the Year – Borago officinalis 
It is a decorative annual with coarse, hairy leaves and stems and beautiful sky-blue flowers in a star shape. The plant grows about 2 to 3 feet tall. Borage is easily grown from seed and will sow itself. Use leaves fresh anytime; they are seldom dried. Bees are attracted to the borage plant. We just kind of let it do it’s thing, running wild throughout other border plants. On top of all this the flowers are delicious! 

2004 Shrub of the Year – Sambucus racemosa Sutherland Gold Elderberry 
It is truly a sight to behold with its deeply cut foliage of bright gold. The masses of creamy flowers develop into clusters of red fruit that the birds love. Another first year plant in our gardens that has made it’s mark, a real winner. 

2004 Rose of the Year – Rosa hybrid Voodoo 
This tall Hybrid Tea has Peachy Yellow Blend, heavily perfumed flowers that soften in color to yellow and peach shades, then finally fade to pink. The tall, upright bush carries plenty of dark bronze-green, glossy foliage. Perfect as single specimen plantings or as the featured plant in a mixed bed of roses. 

2004 Tropical Plant of the Year – Syagrus romanzoffianum Queen Palm Feather Palm 
Graceful, arching form adds a delicate look to large gardens. Fast growth rate, single trunk, with green deciduous foliage , reaching a height of 50 feet. 

Many of the choices were very hard to make as there are a lot of good plants out there! The roses Love and Peace, Perfume Delight, and Caribbean all did very well last season. Once again the hosta Great Expectations put on a show, as did, Miscanthus sinensis Morning Light. We also introduced several varieties of elderberry to our wet areas that we expect great things from.

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My Favorite Perennial Mums

Icon Written by GeoffM1968 on October 1, 2004 – 7:09 pm

Last season we tried a new hybrid mum called My Favorite Mum. The My Favorite Mums series is a joint venture of Ball Horticultural Company of West Chicago, Illinois and Anthony Tesselaar International of Melbourne, Australia, both renowned horticultural innovators. 

These mums are bred for hardiness, thriving in the hot humid South as well as the frigid North. Although we have only grown this variety one season we think it is going to be a winner. While probably not replacing the traditional garden mums they do offer a great alternative. 

My Favorite Mums will reach about 12 inches in height and grow to around 16 inches in diameter in the first year. In year two, look for another 2 inches in height and another 6-8 inches in diameter. With ideal growing conditions they will grow not only three feet high but also five feet around. 

These easy to grow and maintain plants produce masses of 2 inch flowers over the entire plant. You can expect over 1,000 flowers the first year and up to 5,000 in the following years. All this without pruning or pinching. On top of this they attract butterflies and are great as a cut flower. 

You can also enjoy the mum in containers on a porch or patio, although, like all perennials, it will not survive the winter out of the ground. This is a great plant to add to existing perennial gardens as you would other mums. It is a great source of replacement color for annual beds that have gone out of bloom. 

The My Favorite Mum is a long bloomer, flowers last 4-5 weeks. They start flowering in Mid-August and continue blooming well into September. Newer flowers generally bloom above older flowers which hides older faded blooms. 

These mums are truly perennial, bred to survive temperatures down to -30 F. A well established plant is the key to keeping My Favorite Mum beautiful. It is best to plant your mum early in the Fall season so it can establish a good root system before winter. 

In the Fall of 2001 ‘Autumn Red’ was introduced with Coral, White, Twilight Pink, and Yellow Quill following in 2002. They are available in pots from area garden retailers, either in bud or bloom. While the selection is somewhat limited we do expect more varieties to be introduced into the market in the coming years. Unfortunately, these mums cannot be sold through catalogs or on line. This is probably the biggest drawback we see to the My Favorite Mum. They are worth the extra effort and we do recommend you give them a try.

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