Affecting the Color of Endless Summer Hydrangeas

Endless Summer Hydrangea by geekstogardeners

TheGardenLady received this question from Kathy.

I live in Fenwick, Old Saybrook and have always had a yard full of beautiful, brilliant blue Endless Summer hydrangeas. However, this year is the exception!! I have tried deadheading since the blooms are  overly abundant but the color is still lackluster, pale blue.  I have tried adding hydrangea acid based fertilizer and watering with the hose daily.  Any suggestions?

First of all you should check the pH of the soil where the hydrangea is growing. If your soil is highly alkaline, you will have problems maintaining the blue flower no matter what you do. The pH of the soil should be 5.2 to 5.5.  Sometimes if your hydrangeas are planted near cement, like a sidewalk, the alkaline can leach into your soil. And sometimes your water is alkaline. Get test strips to test the water and the soil, or have the soil in your hydrangea garden tested at your state agricultural extension or through your local Master Gardener office.

If you have the proper pH, next Spring, water the plants really well and then add a solution of 1/2oz (1Tbsp) aluminum sulfate to each 1 1/2 gallons of water and feed this carefully to your plants- it can burn the roots. This should be applied in the spring when you see the buds forming- about 6 weeks before the flowers come.

Readers who have new hydrangea plants should NEVER use aluminum sulfate until your plants are about 3 years old. The addition of the aluminum sulfate seems to be the most reliable method of keeping the hydrangea flower blue.

It is good that you used a hydrangea fertilizer that is high in potassium. But most authorities do not think that this will help change the color.

An excellent site that goes into details of how to keep your hydrangea blue or pink is this.

Pest Problems Related to Indoor Plants

Mealy bugs by mpshadow2003

TheGardenLady received this question from Ben about pests problems with indoor planting.

I know you have answered a few questions on dormitory planting before, and I have settled on starting with an Aspidistra and branching out once I’m comfortable with what seems to be a relatively easygoing plant. I’m simply looking to spruce up my room aside from the obvious posters and lights, so a plant and a small fish tank are on my to-do list this summer.

However, no one seems to address any kinds of pest problems related to indoor planting. Are there any major bug issues I should watch out for when dealing with dorm room plants? I have a room to myself as a Resident Advisor next year, so a south-facing window sill will be available year-round in Midwest temperate weather.

I like to keep the window open during the day so stagnant air should not be a problem, but I worry that circulation will increase the risk of infection either to or from the plant(s).

If I have missed anything or made some kind of gross assumption, your input would be much appreciated. Thanks!

You want to be prepared. Though you are correct to be concerned about raising plants indoors, most people have plants indoors and get away without serious problems. Raising plants indoors would not be such a popular hobby if there were that much to worry about.

Since all living organisms can have problems, I hope you are aware that fish can have health problems in their tank.  I remember how sad we were when our fish developed a disease known by its abbreviated name, ich.  We knew something was wrong in our first aquarium when we saw all those white spots on the fish. But raising fish is still popular and fun. You just have to be vigilant to see that everything in the tank is healthy.

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‘Tis the Season for Plums

part of the plum tree by Brenda Anderson

I love a good plum.

I remember when my father planted a plum tree that was supposed to have 5 different types of plums on one tree.  We couldn’t wait for that first year’s harvest. I don’t ever remember 5 different types of plums on the tree, that was a bit of a disappointment. But I do remember that there seemed to be more than one kind of plum on the tree that first year. And they were delicious. After that first year I only remember one type of plum on the tree and the yield was always sparse. But l  always loved plums and couldn’t wait for the plum tree to have fruit. And I have always loved plums after that.

Plums were the right sweet tart for my tongue and the skin was smooth, not furry.  My mother rarely bought fruit at the market- if we didn’t harvest our own fruit, we didn’t buy fruit because we were so poor. Except for Italian prune plums, which I still buy if I see them. But the bought plums were never as good as the plums on our plum tree.

It is plum season in California where we get so many of our wonderful plums. The season is really just beginning. People refer to plums as stone fruit. I had never heard this expression applied to fruits with pits until my son moved to California.

I try all the different plums as they arrive in my supermarket, but my favorite is one that has smooth and almost black skin and the pulp inside is purple as well. I wish someone would  tell me which plum this is.My son in California, who also loves this plum, says it is the Santa Rosa plum. But the information I see is that Santa Rosa plums have amber flesh.  See here.   Can anyone tell me what is the name of the plum that has the purple pulp that is so heavenly? Is it a variety of the Santa Rosa plum?

Continue reading “‘Tis the Season for Plums”

Eggplant Problem

Eggplant by Gare and Kitty

TheGardenLady received this question from Terri.
Why does the eggplant blossom dry up instead of producing a vegetable?
Though eggplants like hot weather, they do need good irrigation. Your eggplants should have been planted in a warm spot facing south, and near a water supply. The soil should have been a soil that drains well and is high in organic matter. Soils that dry rapidly, pack, cake, or crust are not desirable. Irrigation is essential during the eggplant’s long growing period. Excessive dry periods like we are having this summer can cause eggplants to lose the flowers.  See here.  Eggplants have fairly deep roots that have to receive water. The amount of irrigation water you need also depends on soil type and growing conditions. See here.

Caring For and Identifying a Bonsai Tree

Japanese White Pine Bonsai Tree (Pinus parviflora) by Steve Greaves

TheGardenLady received this question about her Bonsai tree from Judy.

I just bought a Bonsai tree which has needles and not leaves and I am not sure what kind it is. How can I tell the type it is? Also I would like to know, when watering do I water at the soil or water from the top to get the needles wet?

There are so many evergreen trees (trees with needles) that are made into Bonsai trees that without a good clear photo of the needles, it is impossible to tell what type of tree you bought. TheGardenLady attempted to bonsai what is known as a red cedar tree but is really in the Juniperis family. It was used because it is supposedly an easy tree to learn how to make a bonsai. Yours might be a juniperis because it is also one of the cheaper evergreen trees.  See here.

Without seeing your Bonsai tree, no one can guess what kind of tree it is. Most stores selling trees usually tell you what type of tree it is. Also, the store should have given you instructions on the care, which includes watering of the tree. If this is a reliable store, you should go back to the store if possible to get the type of the tree and at least basic care information, including watering information.

If you were sold a true bonsai, you should treat it like a tree, not a plant because true bonsai are not really indoor houseplants. It should be kept outdoors all year round. TheGardenLady thinks this is a fairly difficult plant to maintain for a beginner. Most die because of improper care, especially improper watering.

Please read this link for information on the care of Bonsai. Evergreen Gardenworks tell you that when you water, the plants must be watered thoroughly when they become slightly dry. You must test the soil to see if it is dry by sticking your finger in the soil. Watering should be done from the top (of the soil), not by submerging the plant, and the bonsai should be watered until they are saturated. You will see water pour from the drain holes when they receive enough water. This method of watering helps to prevent salt buildup in the soil. Since you will be leaving the plant outdoors all year round, it will get some rain as well. In times of drought you may have to water more than once a day. You can bring the Bonsai tree indoors when you have company or to admire its beauty and then return it to the outdoors.

People who are really bonsai enthusiasts take care of them like babies, some even taking their bonsai trees on vacation with them to be sure that they get the proper care

Advice about Moss Gardens

Moss Acres

TheGardenLady received this question from Bob on her post “Create a Moss Garden”.

Any suggestions for keeping weeds out and killing the new ones? Will broad leaf weed killers harm moss? Any feed suggestions other than buttermilk?

One of the best resources for technical support on raising moss is Moss Acres. Their website is this. It’s one of the best sites this GardenLady knows about for buying moss and learning how to raise moss. I contacted Moss Acres with these questions.

First one should check the pH of the location where you want to have your moss garden.  For success the pH  should be between 5.0  or lower and  6.0  Any higher a pH number and you are asking for trouble.

Buttermilk helps but if the soil doesn’t have the proper pH, the soil for the moss can easily be amended with liquid sulfur or aluminum sulfate that is sold by Moss Acres to lower the pH to the desired range.

Moss Acres tells you to get rid of weeds BEFORE the weeds set seed. If the weeds you want to pull are tall you can carefully use a weed whacker.  See here. Just be careful to  whack only the weeds, not the moss.

Early in the year you can try using Preen vegetable garden organic preemergent weed killer. Once the weeds emerge it is too late to use Preen.

If weeds do come up, it is recommended that you pull them out with tweezers when they are small- before they set seed. Hold the moss around the weed so that you don’t pull moss with the weed.

You can try using a broad leaf  weed killer like Weed be Gone or Round Up, but experiment first by using the weed killer on a small spot to see if it works or if it will hurt the moss. TheGardenLady is against using weed killer whenever possible because of the chemicals that are worrisome. For example, Denmark bans the use of Round up.

If you are really interested in moss gardens, Moss Acres has just started giving workshops on how to do one. They had their first workshop in May and have two other workshops planned. The workshops will be for all levels from beginners to landscaper professionals.

Moss Acres sells moss to gardens all over the US and Canada. They will also answer any moss questions even in areas where they don’t sell moss. They will answer questions even if you don’t live in the US. Readers from anywhere in the world can contact them for advice.

I Love Animals, Especially Birds, In My Garden

Beija-flor (Eupetomena macroura) – Swallow-tailed Hummingbid 2 592 – 2 by Flávio Cruvinel Brandão

My heart leaps up when I behold
A rainbow in the sky

by William Wordsworth

So does my heart leap up when I behold an animal, bird or beneficial insect that has returned or come for the first time to my garden.

For example, I have a number of birds nests but only one seems to have a resident each year. I know that size of opening is a major factor that determines which bird will use a certain bird house. But I also read that birds seem to like pretty bird houses and this birdhouse that has had birds build nests every year is the prettiest birdhouse on my property.  I had also been told that bird houses should be cleaned out yearly because birds can have lice and that the inhabitants need it clean. This bird house was filled so high with twigs that I couldn’t believe another bird could fit into it. So last fall I cleaned out all the all old twigs only to be entertained by this year’s birds filling the nest back up with twigs piled so high. I didn’t think anything could fit in besides the twigs but I hope they know what they are doing and lay eggs on that pile.   Check out this video clip.

I have lots of birds on this property because I have lots of shrubs for them to hide or build nests and have a stream for them to drink water. I plant flowers that I believe will encourage birds, butterflies and good insects. My soil has been amended so that I have lots of healthy worms. Robins love the worms. I have yellow flowers for the goldfinch so it is a special delight when they return. One has been tap-tap -tapping on the window.

And of course, I do everything I can to encourage hummingbirds. This year I added a honeysuckle that they love Lonicera sempervirens – coral red honeysuckle. Hummingbirds are always such a delight to see in the garden. ( I also have hummingbird moths. See here. )

I have so many birds singing at daybreak that I don’t need a rooster to wake me up each morning.

I have been spraying Liquid Fence on the plants so that deer won’t eat the ones I planted. My heart leaps up even when I see deer but there is enough wild greens for them to eat without eating dessert all the time – like my hostas are to them.  This year I have so many hostas in bloom that I hope all the black swallowtail butterflies will see them  and return. I have been counting those swallowtail butterflies that I see but there haven’t been that many.  I always had a lot of hosta flowers before deer became so prevalent and decimated these flowers. Liquid Fence has been my garden’s savior.

As I sit and write TheGardenLady post, I am often entertained by a bird resting on a branch outside in my backyard. I especially love to see the colorful ones, like the cardinals that always build nests in shrubs around the house.

I almost stopped using my front door because a delicate paper wasp nest was built. I am leaving it up for now unless someone gets stung. As much as I believe this is a beneficial insect, at the end of the year, sadly, I will have it removed.

Silver Lake Nature Center: Award Water Garden Tours

Back Yard Water Garden by ranhar2

Have readers of TheGardenLady blog ever wanted to build a pond or water garden on your property? Or are you someone who has a pond or a water garden and wants to see what others are doing with theirs? Or are you, like TheGardenLady, someone who just loves to visit gardens of all types?

Well, if you are in the Bristol, Pa area, the people at  Silver Lake Nature Center know that many people would just love to have a chance to see backyard water gardens. So in the past they have created award winning water garden tours.  And this year, again, they have arranged a “Water Garden Tour” where visiters can enjoy the beauty of water gardens,  ask questions, share ideas, or just enjoy the beauty of trickling water and tranquil fish. These tours will be held Sunday July 18 and Sunday July 25. 11am – 5pm. You need to buy tickets which are sold on line here.
Once at the above site, click on “About the Water Garden Tour” for more information.
Below is a photo of Silver Lake Nature Center:

Daybreak on the 4th by mike@bensalem

Cricket Hill Garden: Name this Peony Contest

Are you a fan of contests? Are you  creative with  names? I just learned that Cricket Hill Garden is having a contest to name a really pretty new peony. Winner will receive the peony.

Check out the peony contest here.

Check out their link here to learn how to enter. Let me know if a reader of TheGardenLady wins.

Also, check their site if you are having problems with your peonies. Cricket Hill Garden is the place to go with any type of peony questions.

The Amazing Effect of TheGardenLady’s Garden

TheGardenLady’s Garden in Bloom

TheGardenLady’s garden is a flowering garden. I attempt to have flowering plants for as long as the year allows flowers to bloom.  I recently found the book Continuous Bloom by Pam Duthie in the local library and was pleased that I had almost every plant she suggested blooming in my garden. (I have more than Duthie suggests because she only writes about perennials and I have a lot of flowering shrubs and add flowering annuals.)

The earliest plants to flower in my garden are Hellebores, which open in the winter. Can you believe that one Hellebore plant is still in bloom? From that first flower, I insist on having flowers in continuous bloom.  Some of the flowering plants blooming now are echinaceas, buddleias, brugmansia, phlox, among others.  These blooming flowers are mostly along the street where there is most sun and fewest tree roots so everyone who passes the house sees the flowers. This is not a hidden garden.

Because of the problems of the property, my garden is not a particularly beautifully landscaped garden. But because of the visibility of the continuous blooms, the most interesting sociological phenomenon has occurred. This GardenLady thinks the phenomenon is amazing.  She thinks that someone should do a study about it. What has happened that I find so amazing is that every day, more than once a day, mostly when I am out working in  the garden, people stop to tell me how much they love the garden and how beautiful the garden is. I say that it happens mostly when I am in the garden, because sometimes when I am in the house people come to ring my door bell to tell me how much they appreciate the garden. Many of the people are neighbors or people that I know but most of the people are complete strangers. People stop their cars to tell me of their enjoyment. Many of these people have become new friends.  People tell me that they love seeing the flowers so much they purposely drive out of their way to see what is in bloom. Complements have ranged from “You have created a little piece of paradise” to “It is another world walking past your garden”  to a two year old asking if any flowers had more than one color. I showed him my lantana flowers.

When I grew up in the small farming village, this was a common occurrence. People would stop over to discuss gardens and plants all the time. But in the town I have now been living in for about 38 years, people were more formal. People would never just drop over. I missed the friendliness of the town of my childhood. But now my gardens have brought this friendliness back. As I said, I am amazed. Neighbors now drop over and strangers stop and talk or ring my doorbell and talk. This garden attracts people as it does birds, bees and butterflies.  I have met such lovely interesting people of all ages. Today a young man who looked like he was in his twenties stopped. I have been invited to see other people’s gardens – people who don’t live in my town. I now can give plants to people when I divide plants instead of composting the overgrown plants. People have offered me plants that I don’t have.

I can not tell you how much I enjoy this phenomenon. In a more and more impersonal world, my garden is bringing people together. Who would have expected?