Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Woodies continued ....

I am continuing around the house with the shrubs, some successes and some not so special.  All along the front right side of my house I have a shrub called Rhus Aromatica Grow Low.  It is aromatic and it is low.  Other than this it is a pain!  I have to trim it about three or four times a season to keep it from encrouching on my neighbor's yard, and last year it developed a scale problem - yuck!  It supposedly grows about three feet high and can have a spread of eight feet. I can see this on a hillside, but this is one I am rethinking.

I have put in some Endless Summer Hydrangeas along the side of my dining room.  They did well the first year and last year looked pretty good, but I am reserving my opinion because in zone 5 they have not always performed well.  They do need to be trimmed down in the spring  (I know they say they can grow on old and new wood, but mine die back to the ground) and fed with an acid fertilizer. 

As I move back on the north side of my house I have three wonderful hydrangeas called "Unique,"  not as floriferous as Limelight, but they thrive in partial shade.  I keep them lower than they are meant to be (can be up to ten feet) by cutting it down to about two feet in the spring.  It still gets pretty tall but not ten feet.  It has wonderful long panicles of rosy and white colored flowers in late summer, great for drying!

I really am delighted with the shrubs I have in the back of my yard.  They are Amelanchier Regent, not very well known in this classification.  It's namesake a much taller version is also known as Shadblow, Juneberry or Serviceberry and grows to ten or twenty feet depending upon the variety.  Regent only grows to three to six feet (mine are more like three feet), long panicles of white flowers in spring, berries in summer and glowing red leaves in the fall.

Shrubs contribute to the bones of the garden.  They should be attractive and have interest through more than one season and most of all be low maintenance.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Woodies

I guess I am into the woodies right now, because these are the plants I can see in my yard right now.  What would we do without shrubs, our landscapes would certainly not be as interesting.  One of my favorite shrubs is right next to the walk as you approach the front door - Viburnum Carlesi Compactum.  It is small (about three feet) fragrant and attractive in the fall.  You can only prune it right after it flowers or you won't have blooms the following spring. 

As I look out my front door I see the dried flowers of Limelight Hydrangea which is the showstopper of late summer.  Cars stop, people with dogs stop because it is an unbeliveable specimen!  It grows about eight feet tall and six feet wide.  I cut it down to about three feet each March, feed it an acid fertilizer and it rewards me and most of my neighbors with gorgeous flowers in white, pale green, pink tinged and rose up until frost.  This hydrangea prefers sun!

Along the side of Limelight I am struggling with a grouping of four Itea Virginica Henry's Garnet.  They have been in the ground six years and never flowered.  I have given them one more year and then it is goodbye.  They get a few little flowers, so this year I cut them down, fed them with a systemic because it looked like some of the leaves were being eaten, and watched them revive to look more plush than I had ever seen.  I try to be as organic as possible, but when an "antibotic"is warranted, I go for it.  Well, we'll see come spring!

These are my woodies in the front of my house, we will move around the sides and back another day.  Can anyone give me some pointers on Henry's Garnet?

Friday, January 29, 2010

Trees We Love

I have always loved trees!  They not only frame your home, but they put their arms around a neighborhood.

I grew up with Chinese Elms that made my father want tear his hair out.  They had become completely entangled in our city lot sewer system.  I remember the diggers coming to tear up our front lawn to rod out the system.

In the second home I owned, we had 100 year old American Elms that made a canopy up and down our street.  They evoked such a peaceful feeling as we raised our children and lived our daily lives.  However, one by one over a period of years all of those beautiful elms disappeared due to Dutch Elm Disease.  We would stand outside in the springtime and watch a village person come through and mark a big red X on the trees they determined were infected.  It was the X of death, and no matter how much we argued with the X maker, the tree came down!

Thousands of the Elms are gone, and even though I have a different home now on a street with many century old homes, most of the trees are new.  Two months after moving in we lost two one hundred year old trees and now have trees not much taller than me planted in front of our home.  I look at my new trees, and I can actually see which branches need to go, something I could never have done with the century old trees.  This is the best time of year to shape your trees, either by a professional or by you if you are a careful pruner.

I have an Accolade Elm and a Maple in the front of my house on the parkway and a Chanticleer Pear closer to my house.  The Chanticleer is an improvement over the Bradford because it's branches are more upright and stable during a storm.  The Trinity Pear is lovely, but it does spread out more than the Chanticleer.  These pear trees have leaves that turn a deep red in the fall and are the last to disappear.  I forgot to tell you that it has beautiful white flowers in the spring.

I have a Pagoda Dogwood in the back because my yard is so small I could never have accomodated a shade tree.  It has taken me a couple years to get this tree in shape as it was hit heavily by the cicadas a few years ago.  They really liked this tree, lots of pruning!

Does anyone have trees that they really love?

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Gardening With Children

I can't guarantee you that if you garden with your children they will become gardeners.  But I can assure you that if you do expose your children to gardening that the gardening gene within specific children will be awakened.  My gardening gene was awakened by my dear aunt.  So anyone can awaken that gene in a child, parents, grandparents, friends, teachers.

Each year I taught young children, I would pull out the planting cups, children would decorate, fill with soil, push their little finger down and plunk in a seed or two.  Some years we did vegetables, some flowers.  It was difficult to get a nice looking plant years ago because we did not have plant lights in the classroom.  No matter how weak some of them looked, we wrapped tissue around the cups, made beautiful Mothers Day Cards and wondered if they would ever survive the bus ride home.  It wasn't just a gift for their Mother, it was a gift of knowledge for that child.  They learned the basics of plant growth (soil, water, light) and the responsibility of taking care of what they had decided to grow. 

When I began working with children and gardens , we planted in outside gardens, digging through rock-like clay my first year.  Needless to say, the vegetables did not flourish.  The plastic pool seemed like a great idea until we arrived to see it tipped over and our plants strewn all over the playground.   We pulled ourselves up and moved on to the soil berm (couldn't be tipped over), however, the plants could be pulled out and they were!

We really did get very modern through the years, graduating to a double tiered planting greenhouse with lights, a root vue garden (where we could see the roots forming on radishes, carrots, onions) and a raised garden bed outside (behind the school) with our own child-sized shovels and garden gloves.

Gardening at home with my own children seemed to produce less than the desired results.  It was all excitement in the beginning, picking out the seeds, planting them and giving them that first drink of water.  It was a lot like getting the new puppy and guess who ends up taking care of him!  I put in a lot of  time caring for my children's gardens over the years and crossed it off as a lost cause.  But, lo and behold, as adults, they are both avid gardeners!

So, I didn't write about plants today, it's all about the "gardeners" of tomorrow!

Check out and their article Caitlin Flanagan Demonstrates What A Deficient Education Will Do (In Defense Of School Gardens)

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

A Plant For All Seasons

In my early gardening days I never had a love affair with the "Daylily."  I thought any plant that produced a flower for only one day was not worth having in the garden!  Boy, was I wrong!  The daylily has become a welcome seasonal anchor in my garden.  My Oakes daylily catalog arrived today, and the first thing that entered my mind was where could I possibly fit another plant. 

I very rarely buy a potted or packaged daylily, mostly ordering from reputable firms over the internet.  The selection is endless finding plants that will never be offered at the garden center.  The daylily is a hardy character and is perfect for being ordered wrapped in newspaper with a rubberband around the scapes.  They do not look very viable when received, but oh what a pail of water can do overnight.  If you take off all packing material, remove the rubberbands and soak, they are ready for planting and wonderful growth even the first year.

There are daylilies that will bloom early, early middle, middle, middle late and late.  What this means is that you can have daylilies blooming throughout the growing season.  If you get excited about the notation that some are rebloomers, well don't, because if you live anywhere in zone 5 or below it is sporadic at best.
Stella D'Oro is the prime example of this, blooms great for the first flush, not much after that, plan on dividing this one often - finally gave all of mine away.  Ditto for Happy Returns - it doesn't return, but I kept this one.

I have finally come to the conclusion that I want a lot of bang for my buck!  It is my large, colorful daylilies that are spectacular in my summer garden.  Please do not think that I have ignored all of those beautiful, delicate or miniature daylilies, I have made some room for them also, but I call them my walk by daylilies not to look at from fifty feet away.

Picking off a mushie (dead flower) will not produce more daylilies on that plant.  It will make the plant look more attractive especially on the larger flowered daylilies.  However, cutting the whole stem to the ground on the professed rebloomers will give you some rebloom. 

Well, I am going to leaf through this great little catalog, thinking to myself I can always make room for a few more! and  Martha's Vineyard (they are small and have an email on website).

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Deadheading Brings New Life

Don't let anyone tell you differently, but deadheading is a job!  It seems like an endless job if you want to keep your garden in bloom throughout the summer.  We all know about cutting off the spent roses (however, with Knockout, you do not have to prune except for looks and size).  The salvias and nepetas need to be deadheaded if you want rebloom.  May Night is everywhere, and it seems that not many people know that it has to be cut back if you want it to bloom throughout the summer.  The rebloom on most plants will never equal the initial bloom.  I cut my May Night back about four times in a season.  I have several other low growing salvias that benefit from the same practice.  Nepeta, I deadhead less or more often depending upon the plant, Walker's Low once during the season, Six Hills Giant, once and Souvenir d'Andre Chaudron stem by stem.

Certain phlox will bloom most of the summer if deadheaded, one of the most prolific after pruning is Blue Paradise.  I have tried it with David (although my daughter has better luck with David reblooming profusely) Franz Schubert and Eva Cullum with less than spectacular results.  Deadheading Echinacea (coneflowers) is important if you want to extend the blooming time.  I went to a workshop some years ago where the speaker was Tracy DiSabato-Aust who wrote The Well-Tended Perennial Garden (planting and pruning techniques) great book for a beginning pruner as I was.  Some plants do not benefit from deadheading, most daylilies, lillies, asters and peonies are in this category, and I am sure there are many more.   My motto is, if in doubt, deadhead - it can't hurt and it will give you a neater looking plant.

Monday, January 25, 2010

The Mystery of Clematis

I see the grass again!  The Christmas lights can finally be removed from those expensive Chicagoland boxwoods. I know I'm getting ahead of myself, but I began thinking about clematis.  I have a lot of clematis for such a small property.  It takes up such a limited amount of garden space, I just keep adding more each year - I'm up to about eighteen.  I never knew much about clematis, just buying whatever color and size flower appealed to me.  Henryi really taught me everything I know now!  I loved that big white flower I saw on the package, but mine were always miniature versions of that!  When I moved to a new house I decided to try Henryi again on my arbor, and again after the first year, the flowers were much smaller than on the package.  So, finally I pulled out my plant encyclopedia and began reading about clematis.

As I read about all my other clematis' I realized they were all a type 3 (cut down to 6" every spring and they flower like crazy).  Henryi was from a different family, he was a type 2 (don't cut down, trim lightly) and you will get 6" to 8" huge white flowers.  I realized I even had a type 1 (Miss Bateman - just trim off any dead parts) that I had been cutting down each year with the result of very few blooms.

I now have all three types of clematis and my fear is that I will forget which is which.  This new found knowledge has prompted me to pay attention to which of my clematis require full sun like Rouge Cardinal and which can take part shade like Hagley Hybrid and Nelly Moser.

Clematis is easy if you follow the directions (a lesson learned late by me), check out the classification, either 1, 2 or 3 or A, B or C and prune accordingly.  New plants should be put in deeper than the pot they are in, cut back so they develop many shoots, not just a few spindly ones and feed lightly.  You won't get much the first year, but from each year after you should be rewarded with an abundance of beautiful flowers.,

Sunday, January 24, 2010


I know boxwood has been around since the 1600's, but it seems like it has taken on a major rejuvination in the past ten years.  I remember about twenty years ago when I planted  twelve boxwoods around a garden and not one of them made it through the first winter!  I was so upset, I never planted it again until about six years ago when we moved to a new house.  Chicagoland or Glencoe as it is called had been introduced a few years earlier (developed at the Chicago Botanic Garden), so I thought I would give it another try.

I planted five very expensive boxwoods in front of the house and was also going to plant another seven along the patio in the back.  After paying the price for the five, I decided to take a chance on a boxwood called Green Velvet which I purchased at Home Depot.  Well, you probably know what I am going to say, the $16.99 Green Velvets look better than the $50.00 Chicagolands.  Now, I realize that they are growing in different areas but the conditions are similar, not too wet (boxwoods do not like wet) and I have fertilized both varieties each year with a higher nitrogen fertilizer. 

Chicagoland grows a little higher and not as rounded as Green Velvet, but for the difference in price I think I would go with Green Velvet (they look healthier).  Boxwood does experience some dieback each year, dead yellow stems peeking out, cut them off at the main stem.  Hopefully, with good care the bush will fill in to cover any bare spots.  Trim Boxwood lightly each year to encourage growth and for a pleasing shape.

They are lovely evergreens, much more interesting than yews - so historical!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Heuchera Villosa

I have always loved "Coral Bells" or technically Heuchera, but they certainly have not loved me.  They would either slowly disappear, pop out of the ground each year, breaking apart when I would try to replace them in the ground.  Anyway, I stopped growing them for a number of years until I bought Heuchera Villosa Purpurea for a design under my Chanticleer Pear tree.  This certainly did not look like the Coral Bells I was used to growing.  The leaves were large, bronze colored and certainly not delicate.  They sent up very delicate (almost baby's breath-like) flowers that first year that lasted summer through fall.  Two of the four that I purchased thrived under the cover of the pear tree, and the other two which received a little more sun, I kept having to replace.  They were very expensive and only offered at a specialty nursery.

Then, two years ago, I was at Home Depot and I spotted a Heuchera that looked very similar to mine, but it said Heuchera Villosa Mocha.  I decided I would add these under the tree instead of replacing my original ones.  These new varieties will take more sun, they are much hardier than my original ones and the flowers are a variety of colors.  The leaves range from bronze, carmel, raspberry, black, brown, and multi-colored.  I am slowly adding them to my landscape because I keep thinking they may not come back.  But so far every one of the newer varieties has survived.  The best part is the price $5.99 to $7.99 per gallon pot at Home Depot not the $17.99 I was paying for my original plants.

Friday, January 22, 2010

All America Rose Winners

I guess by now, you know I love to have roses in my garden.  I do not have a "rose garden," but I do include them throughout my perennial garden.  I have heard that hybrid tea roses do not like to have competition too close to their roots, so most of my choices are shrub or floribunda roses.  So far I have not had any problems growing them among the perennials and annuals.

This year the winner is "Easy Does It," a floribunda that is disease resistant and is recommended for all climates.  It has been stated that it has been grown in zones 6 and above, but the growers feel that it will do well in zone 5 also with minimum protection.  I always put a little extra mulch on the crown of all of my roses in the fall, so I am willing to give this one a try.

Last year, I planted two of the winners, "Cinco de Mayo," (floribunda rose) and "Pink Promise," (hybrid tea).  I know, I said I don't do hybrid teas, but they came together.  Yes, I do mean they were sold as a set!  Where - at Costco.  Every year Costco has a huge display of Jackson and Perkins essentially bare root roses.  If you are not near a Costco, look at Home Depot, Wall Mart, etc., but they will probably only be found bare root under the Jackson and Perkins name.  They are a great buy (usually about $18.00 for two) and the secret is that this display usually includes the current All America Winners.  The problem is you may see them in March, and in zone 5 or less it is too early to plant them.  So, buy them, put them in a garage (preferably) or a cooler area in the basement.  If the weather cooperates in April, soak the bushes overnight (take all packing material away) and plant in a nice sized hole, mounding the dirt over the crown.  This can be removed when you see growth.  Fertilize lightly in May.

My Cinco de Mayo looked great planted amoung my perennials in part shade towards the front of the border.  I stuck Pink Promise in the back of my Becky Shasta Daisies, and it was a slow start but did peek out towards the end of the summer.  So, this year I'll have to find a place for Easy Does It, only if I get it as a bargain!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Ranting About the Knockout Rose

I didn't really plan on blogging about the Knockout Rose this morning.  But since it is the topic on The Garden Rant, on which I felt compelled to make a comment, I guess I should just deal with it now!

The introduction of the single red Knockout is now ten years old.  It has become one of the most popular landscape roses ever.  I planted eighteen single red Knockout roses a little over six years ago.  I will bet I have no more than four of the original left.  After the first year and a few losses, I asked a Jackson and Perkins rep that I met at a local plant show what was going on with the Knockout.  He stated that it was never meant to be totally hardy in Zone 5 and that I should replace them with the newly introduced double Knockout.  So, this is what I did.  As each original Knockout succcumbed I replaced it with a double.

Some I replaced with pink, or single yellow, or Rainbow Knockout.  Rainbow is a single, but it is the hardiest of all.  It begins as a pink, morphs into a combination of yellow pink and slowly fades to a pale pink.  It will bloom without being pruned, but I do prune it for looks.  The blooms stay on the bush until November.  I now have more Rainbow Knockouts woven through my landscape than the red single or double Knockout.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Confessions of a Magazine Junkie

I stopped at the local grocery store today on my way home from work.  Well, OMG, the first garden magazines have arrived!  There were only two in my local store, and I put both of them in my cart before looking at the price.  I got quite a shock when I saw that one was $8.00 and the other one $10.00.  I took another look at each one and settled for the more expensive one because it had a lot more to it as far as pages.  Not a great way to choose, but I didn't have time to go through the whole issue.

For many years I subscribed to several gardening magazines, bought at least two per week during the gardening seasons.  I probably would have bought them in the winter if they hadn't stopped publishing!  Finally, I said to myself, "this has to end!"  I wasn't really getting a lot of new ideas or learning about new plant introductions.  The internet could answer all of my questions, so I settled on one beautiful gardening magazine and was satisified up until today.

Dinner in the oven, I couldn't wait to sit down and begin perusing this lovely publication called Great Gardens Made Easy,  The sections really grabbed me with titles like retreats, privacy, what color can do, heat up your escape, living walls and natural inspirations.  There are so many subjects, I can't even share them all in this short blog.  I have to say, I think this one is a winner!  It has multiple plans, not that I have the space to implement one, and references many new plant introductions. 

I have not purchased a plant magazine as the grocery store in a few years.  I am starting to worry about a relapse!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Seed Starting Revisited

I went to my garden group workshop today, great lunch, much conversation about holidays, snow, warm up, etc.  Seed starting was not on anyone's lips today! 

Our instructor arrived from the University of Illinois Extension group with dirt, seeds, starting containers and brochures in hand.  She proceeded to beguile us with her stories of how easy it is to grow the most fabulous plants in your basement under lights.  Rattling off a comple list of requirements, sterile germination soil, seed trays with styrofoam planting pockets with trays, plastic greenhouse covers, moisture blankets, heating cables, labeling sticks, flourescent light fixtures with chains, seeds, our eyes and ears were totally engaged.  Someone came out of their hypnotic state to ask the instructor, "why would you do this?"  She answered understandbly that you would do this to grow unusual plants that are not readily available on the open market, but her real answer was that, "you do it for fun!"

I grew plants under lights for many years and ,WOW, I never realized all of the work it was until I heard this presentation.  Although, I do remember having to get a babysitter to water my plants went we went on spring vacation. 

I am into the natural approach to seed starting now, every seed I purchase will go right into the soil at the appropriate planting time.  I think I'm over the fun of seed starting, but my lights are still in the basement!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

A Tiny Cottage Garden

When you have a small garden, it is difficult to develop diverse, interesting areas throughout the property.  Sometimes, an area just speaks to you and you just know how it should look.  I have an area with a cedar shed where we store the snowblower, garden supplies and some garden containers.  It is on the side of my raised bed vegetable garden.  This is very small area, but it definitely is visible and not suited to formal plantings.

It is a house-like little shed, with a shake roof, window and hayracks on two sides.  Clematis Rouge Cardinal is a backdrop on one side with Rainbow Knockout Rose (this is my favorite Knockout, it is a free spirit, changing colors and very long blooming).  Art's Pride and Mango Echinacea look so appropriate in this setting.  They are much more whispy than White Swan or Magnus type varities.  The baskets are planted with Profusion zinnia, verbena (not the hybrid type -  think it is called Great Expectations).  Everything in this area looks a little looser than the other garden areas.

Saturday, January 16, 2010


I remember exactly when I became a gardener!  Finally, we had a yard after living in an apartment for the first seven years of my life.  At about the age of eight I began to ask my mother if I could have a part of the yard and could I have money to buy some seeds.  This was not a large piece of property, just thirty feet wide, a typical city lot.  I dug out a small area towards the back and planted corn and carrots in an area around the catch basin (this was an old house which had this type of sewer to catch all of the grease from the kitchen sink).  My aunt and uncle lived upstairs (two flat) and she was my mentor gardener.  We crawled around the yard together on our knees, digging, planting and pruning.

My first harvest yeilded only about three ears of corn, but the carrots were a bumper crop, and my dad said they were the best he had ever tasted!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Are My Rhododendrons Here To Stay?

The snow has finally melted off the rhododendrons that are to the side of my front door under my dining room windows.  I have replaced each one of them once and one of them twice.  They are sheltered by a stone wall with a limestone ledge in front of them, so they are protected.  My husband wants to put a concrete porch there and pull out the rhododendrons and the ferns and hostas which grow beneath.  Each time he would mention this I would protest that a porch would be too small and the beautiful flowers in the spring were worth another try.

I turned off the sprinkler system beneath this area, fed them religiously with an acid fertilizer and kept the watering to a minimum.  They have a shallow root system, and do not like to be wet.  They look better than any other winter, of course it is January!  Their little leaves are not shriveled from the cold, and I am certainly going to keep hoping they survive or I am afraid the "cement boot" will win!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Favorite Gardening Magazine

We took a longer car trip today, so I needed some reading material to endure riding in the car two hours to destination and two back.  I reached into my magazine rack on the way out and came up with two of my favorite gardening magazines.  They were both issues of fine Gardening,  I have never thought too much about them except that they are a little pricey for a magazine.  But, when I really started to think about it, they are one of least expensive things that I buy for a great deal of enjoyment.

The pictures are beautiful of real people's plantings, executed on high quality glossy paper.  They are filled with so much information, designs, plants by region and tips from gardeners throughout the country.  I use them like a reference or a cookbook never discarding an issue but referring to them over and over throughout the years. 


Wednesday, January 13, 2010

An Early Spring In My Closet

I had put off way too long organizing my receipts to be filed away in my closet file cabinets.  So, I pulled up my little bench seat and began going through what looked like an overwhelming task.  I used four wire file baskets to sort, and soon I started to come upon my receipts from last fall for all of the bulbs I ordered. 

It seemed like such a long time ago that I was so excited thinking of what my landscaping would look like with all of these beautiful bulbs.  Muscari Armeniacum Saffier, Narcissus Itzim, Narcissus Rijnvelds Early Sensation, were part of my order to Scheepers.  I do remember planting many bulbs this fall, however, I am not too great about putting markers down because I do know the names of most of my bulbs and perennials.

Wow, I went a little crazy this year trying to be different.  I will probably have to look these names up on the internet this year to identify them in the spring!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010


Until I let my dog out this morning, I had almost forgotten about the rabbits!  Reggie shot like a bullet out the door in pursuit of the rabbit he saw by the bird feeder.  Needless to say, he is never as fast as that bunny.  I cannot believe I had forgotten about the damage the rabbits bestowed on my daughter's garden last spring, summer and fall.  All of her hosta was chewed to the ground, coneflowers, phlox, ferns and even the rose bushes.

She has a dog, but obviously this did not deter her brood of rabbits.  We sprayed liquid repellants, spread dog hair, even resorted to laying plastic snakes throughout the garden!  We eventually ordered plants from known for it's rabbit and deer resistant plants.  Those rascals seemed to like these even more, chewing them relentlessly until the cold weather hit.  Maybe, the plants will come back since a speck of green was still visible as the snow began to fly.

Well, we are not giving up!  High Country Gardens just sent me an email advising to ring your garden with lavender to keep rabbits out.  Don't they remember that Peter Rabbit's cousin Benjamin Bunny's father (old Mr. Banjamin Bunny) smoked rabbit tobacco (better known as lavendar)?

Monday, January 11, 2010

Start Your Seeds,Get Ready, Get Set!

I received a note from a friend yesterday about mishaps starting seeds and the expense incurred by their failure and having to buy plants from the nursery.  Seed starting can be very rewarding if you experience success.  The first time I practiced seed starting, I lost the whole crop to damp off because I used a regular potting soil instead of a seed starting medium.  Also, I did not have them under lights, and before they all sucumbed they were tall and leggy leaning toward the light.  I realize now that they never would have been healthy plants.

Since then, I have practiced seed starting many times, with many successes and still some failures.  Research needs to be done on the specific plants in regard to germination and the time frame from planting the seed to readiness for outside planting.  Geraniums take a long time, petunias a much shorter time span.  One March, I had 12" full blooming petunias under my lights.  I had to cut them back several times before putting them in the ground.

There are so many products today to start seeds, that it is almost foolproof.  I also found that it didn't seem to matter much in regard to lights just used for seed starting.  I spent much more buying specialized plant lights than for flourescent, and both seemed to work equally well.  If I were keeping the plants under lights permanently the special plant lights might make a difference.

My lights are packed in a box in the basement now, and the only thing that would prompt me to ressurect them would be a most unusual plant that I could not buy at the nursery.  Good luck to all you indoor seed starters!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Gatsbys Gardens: Lettuce Dream

Gatsbys Gardens: Lettuce Dream

Lettuce Dream

It is afternoon,and weattherbug says it is still only 11 degrees.  My fingers are actually cold typing this!  I did manage to peruse some internet catalogs today, Select Seeds (vintage flower seeds), saw a great vining fragrant petunia.  I may go back and order these as plants - not seeds.  Then I went on to imagining what my vegetable garden will be this year.This is the one type of garden that can be started before the snow stops flying.  Several years ago, I used to start all of my vegetables under lights.  I would begin in February with tomato plants, then a few weeks later with peppers.  I prefer to start my cucumbers and basil right in the soil when it warms up - late May.  By starting your own seeds, you can grow unusual varieties that do not come in the seed packets at the grocery store.

I really got the bug today to grow some unusual lettuces this year.  For the past few years I have bought those seed packets at the grocery.  They were just fine, and I always got an abundant crop, but nothing new!  This morning I moved on from Select Seeds to Johnny's Selected Seeds, and ordered several of their new introductions.  Some of their introductions don't even have names, just numbers - what could be more mysterious!  It was a good thing I recognized the pictures as lettuce.  The ones I ordered had names like Guardsman, Skyphos and Panisse - nothing like what I was used to like Salad Bowl, Buttercrunch, Romaine and Bib.  Come March, I will put these experiments in the ground along with radishes and green onions.  I can't wait to throw these names around, but probably no one will even ask!

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Colors for Containers

Actually as I looked out at the snow this morning, I thought any color would go with this!  For gardeners, this is the time of year for planning.  I like to vary my color scheme for colors each year, oranges one year, pink another year, or orange and pink together or pink and cherry red together.  I have all of these colors in my perennial garden, so no matter which color I decide to play up in my containers it is a blend.  Also, take into consideration the color of your house.  If you have a red brick house, red flowers are not going to "pop."  Adding small splashes of blue, yellow and white also help frame your main color scheme.

Containers can also be filled with colorful plants that do not have showy flowers.  I check out the site to get ideas for my containers and see what is new for the 2010 planting season.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Snow Duty

As I shoveled along the side of my house this am, I noticed my Miscanthus Udine (I could only find this on the internet) trying to stand upright in the raised planter bed.  Each year I debate whether or not to cut it down before winter.  I should have cut it down, looks really bad, doesn't hold up well under snow.  Very few varities of the taller grasses do well once the snow hits.  One that does do well all through the winter is Panicum "Northwind."  You can see "Northwind" at  It pops back up even after the heaviest snows.  Come March it is ready to cut down, but you have this lovely upright grass all fall and winter ( tan color).

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Oh The Weather Outside is Frightful!

Another great tulip is called Monte Carlo.  It is a double, blooming in early May (yellow).  The squirrels and rabbits do not seem to bother this variety.  They are very showy, low enough to put around trees.  I order mine from Scheepers or VanEnglen.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

A spectacular tulip is Orange Emperor. It is large and continues to open up even bigger as it ages. I hope the squirrels left some! Treat tulips as annuals in this zone. If they come back it's a bonus. When they come up it's the rabbits that bit off their yummy tops.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

I am thinking of yanking my Knockout roses from the front of my house. They face east and get a decent amount of sun, but have never done as well as the ones in the back. I have switched to almost all doubles because they are hardier in zone 5.

I talked to the Jackson and Perkins rep a few years ago, and he said that the popular single does not do well in the Chicago area. My favorite Knockout is Rainbow, very hardy and flowers until November profusely!

An asian friend of mine said you should not have thorns in the front of your house bad luck!

Monday, January 04, 2010

Gatsbys Gardens

I hope I get the hang of this blogging. I am not sure how to get my blog seen? I need to learn how to download some of the plants I will blog about. Oh well, tomorrow is another day!

Gatsbys Gardens

Thirteen degrees and I am thinking of my tulips and daffodils poking out of the ground. Then again, maybe I won't see any tulips because the squirrels may have found all! I put down wire nets, I sprayed repellant, I put boards over some, I ranted and raved when I saw them. Time will tell if I won!