TheGardenLady’s Garden: 2017

Paeonia Japonica – woodland peony

Laura’s Photography

“Beauty is truth, truth beauty,—that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.” from Ode
on a Grecian Urn by poet John Keats

Though the poet, Keats, wrote these lines about the paintings on a Grecian Urn, this GardenLady likes to think they could be said about a garden. And this spring the garden flowers have seemed especially beautiful. Or does TheGardenLady say that each and every spring when the flowers seem to take one’s breath away with their beauty?

This year, in my garden, it seems that flowers have been opening a month earlier than I remember. I always thought lilacs opened at the end of May on my sister’s birthday. This year mine gave me the most lavish display but are now already fading in the first week of May.

Other flowers that have put on a spectacular show for me this year: I have a wisteria that is trained to grow as a tree and this year it has a head full of the flowers; my dogwoods, all wild or self seeded are having an incredible show with amazingly large flowers and my bulbs seemed to outshine themselves: from the crocuses, to the hyacinths and grape hyacinths, the tulips to the Hyacinthoides (bluebells) and camassia. It is breathtaking. I feel like my garden will soon look as beautiful as the artist Monet’s garden since I have most of the same flowering plants.

And because this year, after many years of sitting supposedly still in the small clumps where I planted them, this year the flower plants have spread tremendously either by underground rhizomes like my Convallaria majalis (lily of the valley ) brought from my parents’ farm over 30 years ago or by sending out seeds like my hellebores have done – hellebores that a friend gave me about ten years ago. I have always been impressed when I visited people’s splendid gardens and they told me that certain of their beautiful flowers were “self-seeded” – they had not planted them. I never had this happen to me until recently, after years of amending my soil with top soil and mulch. Now my garden is a garden where plants want to move in. Also this year with the weather so warm, so many of my plants have multiplied. So this spring when there was a request for plants for a plant sale, I had many plants to donate. I also have many plants that I want to put in other locations on my property.

Interesting to this GardenLady is that because the property my house was built on had been a woodland property before my house was built, the first ever built on this site, the plants that seem to be happily expanding have been the woodland flowers that I planted or that planted themselves. I have a large patch of trout lilies (Erythronium americanum) that have come into my garden from their woodland location, a flower I had never seen until I moved here; I have a very large area in the shade where woodland poppies grow with their bright yellow flowers taking over after the daffodils die (Stylophorum diphyllum); Jack-in-the pulpits have come to the front of my house and are happily living under some yew bushes; woodland or snowdrop spring anemones (Anemone sylvestris) this year have had more flowers than ever before and also sent out a number of baby plants: and primulas now seem happy in my garden including primula vulgaris that has made a large clump. I do not know what it is about woodland flowers that make them among the most charming of flowering plants so that I delight in their filling my garden.

TheGardenLady wonders how your spring garden has been looking. If you take photos, could you share them with TheGardenLady readers? Send them and TheGardenLady will try to post them to show the beauty of your gardens.

Gardening with toxic materials

Someone left a comment on this site say in which they say they use old C and D batteries in their garden to make the soil more acidic. TheGardenLady would NEVER recommend gardening with toxic materials. And old C and D batteries are toxic according to the US government (see here).  In fact the DC govt site writes “Batteries pose a special issue since they may contain harmful metals that can be dangerous to the
environment and toxic to humans and animals.”

Dogs could be poisoned if they found those batteries and chewed them. The Pet Poison Helpline writes “Batteries can be very dangerous when
ingested by dogs. When a battery is punctured or swallowed, there is risk for the alkaline or acidic material to leak out, resulting in severe corrosive injury.” Read more on their website about the danger of pets chewing batteries

Why would someone want to put something so toxic in their garden when one can buy products that are safe for the plants and for the environment? Flower gardens especially are supposed to be beautiful. What kind of an aesthetic is it to put non-biodegradable junk in a
garden? It sounds more like a trash site than a garden site. And I am surprised that this person’s town wouldn’t this person for putting batteries in their yard.

The first thing a gardener should do before adding anything to the soil is to have it tested to see if the pH needs altering. If you have your soil tested through your Master Gardener organization or through your agricultural extension office, they will tell you exactly what is needed or not needed to grow your acid loving plants. And they certainly won’t tell you to use old batteries.

If you need to add acid to your soil, there are many products on the market that are safe for the environment and for the home gardener to use. A favorite of this GardenLady and her friends is the Espoma brand. But check out your local or favorite garden store to see what they sell
and read the labels carefully before using.

Where to get a Catalpa tree?

TheGardenLady received this question from Rose.

Where can I get some of these trees for my yard? I am hoping to find some because it reminds me of my youth. My neighbors had one and I was always picking them for my mom. There was also a tulip tree. They are very lovely trees. They draw hummingbirds. That is why I loved them. Also red trumpet vines and wisteria vines do the same. I want to make my yard a butterfly and hummingbird sanctuary.

This GardenLady, like you, grew up with Catalpa speciosa trees – one of its common names is the Northern Catalpa – and loved the flower as well
as the lovely heart-shaped leaf (see here).

On my property today, there is one wild catalpa growing. As you may recall as a child, Catalpa speciosa has loads of seeds. They start out looking like long green beans and when they ripen, the seeds become extremely dark brown. These seeds often germinate so that one can find baby catalpa trees growing in the neighborhood. This happened on my property, so that I now have at least one baby catalpa tree growing with the mother near by – the other baby trees I find, I give away. Also, on the street where I live, they planted Catalpa speciosa as street trees where one can find all these seeds hanging from the branches or on the ground. Why am I mentioning this? Because if you know someone who owns a catalpa tree or know where one is growing, I am sure the owners of the tree would be willing to let you take some of those seed pods because they are messy when they fall to the ground and owners usually rake them up. Early spring is the perfect time to plant those seeds. Here are directions for how to germinate these catalpa seeds if you are willing to wait a few years until your tree grows large enough to bear flowers. It took my baby catalpa tree about ten years before it started having flowers.

But if you want a larger tree, you can find many online sources that sell Catalpa speciosa including the Arbor Day Foundation, which is a charity.
I have found the Arbor Day Foundation trees to be very small so if you want to buy a larger plant, just Google in “Catalpa speciosa” to find other nurseries online that sell the trees and decide where you want to buy the tree.

Straightening a Damaged or Bent Tree

TheGardenLady received this question C.J.Putnam:

During this drought, I noticed my deodor cedar had developed a lean that I don’t believe it had previously.  It was always crowded by a very large pine nearby which was removed a few years ago, but it seems to have developed a wrinkled section of trunk and the lean is more pronounced from the wrinkled part up.  I suspect this is from the wind.  I had not been watering it because there is an aquifer running beneath the property and I assumed it was getting water there but the aquifer may have been drained during the drought.  It is about 40 years old and very, very, tall.  I had an arborist look at it and he suggested trimming it to control windsail, but the lean worries me so much, I’m wondering if I should just go ahead and remove it.  It is a beautiful tree, the most beautiful tree on the property, but it looks dangerous leaning the way it does.

This Garden Lady loves her trees. And Cedrus deodara being one of the most magnificent of trees, TheGardenLady planted one in her back yard. Because of this love, I will suggest doing whatever one can to save a tree. One can always cut a tree down – that’s a ” no brainer.”  First, if you can afford it,  I would get a second opinion.  Be sure that the tree service is certified. I do not recommend any service, but I can tell you that I have used Bartlett Tree Experts.

Continue reading “Straightening a Damaged or Bent Tree”

TheGardenLady’s Birdhouses

[Disclaimer: The birdhouses in this video are not TheGardenLady’s birdhouses]

This GardenLady has been trying to “decorate” her garden with birdhouses. I have had birdhouses for a long time, but I keep looking to add more.

The curious thing is that not all my birdhouses have attracted birds. For example, my son nailed a half dozen unpainted nesting boxes to as many trees. I never saw a bird even look them over let alone move in. But my squirrels sharpened their teeth on them so now even if there were a new bird in town, he or she could not use them. (see here)

I then bought a darling ceramic birdhouse. It did not have a removable roof or base or any way for me to clean it out. I had read that it is important to clean out birdhouses. But because it was so charming, I hung it on a branch outdoors anyway. One little bird had the same aesthetic as I and moved in immediately, filled it with twigs and had her family in it. A bird moved in each year after that until I saw that the twigs the birds had brought in reached almost to the ceiling. So, helpful me, I got tweezers and pulled out of the small entrance opening as much of the nesting material as I could reach so that, I thought, birds could fit back in. That year I cleaned it, no bird moved in. But the following year (was it desperate?) another wee bird brought twigs in and rebuilt the nest inside that darling birdhouse. I learned my lesson and never helped with the housekeeping of that house after that. Birds continued to live in that uncleaned ceramic house until the chain rusted and broke and the birdhouse fell. (see here)

Continue reading “TheGardenLady’s Birdhouses”

Herb Society: Coriander is the Herb of 2017

Getting excited about getting your garden started? Do you like to grow herbs? This year the Herb Society has designated Coriander/Cilantro Coriandrum sativum as the herb of 2017.

Consider adding cilantro to your garden or plant it in a pot to grow on your deck or patio and/or if you have the right lighting, you can try growing cilantro indoors. For directions on growing cilantro, most companies that sell the seeds, like Burpees, have good planting directions (see here).

If you love herbs, also consider joining the Herb Society (here or here) – and attend local, national and/or international meetings to meet other
herb enthusiasts and learn more about herbs.

Above is a video made recently about Cilantro being named herb of the 2017 year with interviewer David Moss who prides himself on being
quite the cook! and has been around our TV world forever.

And if you want some lovely recipes using cilantro, check out the blog Simply Recipes. I especially like the cilantro pesto recipe because it
is simple to make and does not have any dairy in it so I can serve it to my vegan friends.

Great Websites about Holiday Plants

Holiday Season is here and many readers are getting their houses and properties decorated.  Some good websites about holiday plants.

Haven’t bought your Christmas Tree yet and want the best for your home decor? Check out The National Christmas Tree Association.

There is a  website that tells you where to go to cut your own tree.   Each state should also have a listing, like this one for NJ.

And you can find out if the place you are getting your tree sells ORGANIC trees. Here is one list of Organic Christmas Tree nurseries. (If you are going to have the family fun day of cutting your own tree, call the nurseries before you go to be sure they are open and have the type of tree you want.)

If you are decorating your house with holiday flowers there are some good websites for caring for these flowering plants.

Rutgers Master Gardeners of Mercer County has a good website for gardening all year long. And now they have information for holiday plants.

If you want to take care of you Poinsettia all year long check out this site.   And for an interesting article about the history of the Poinsettia as a Christmas flower read this.

Have a beautiful holiday and a Happy, Healthy New Year.


TheGardenLady received this question from Raymond

I want to purchase a plant called seavola. Where can I get this plant?

The plant you are looking for is spelled Scaevola (Scaevola aemula seems to be the most typical one sold in the US ) with common names such as, Fan flower or Fairy fan flower. Perhaps because you have the spelling incorrect you may be having a problem finding out more about this plant.

Scaevola is a pretty little plant that grows no more than 10 or 12-18 inches tall and about 2 ft wide. The flowers can be white, pink, purple, blue and mauve. It blooms profusely the entire summer.

Because it comes from dry hot parts of S Australia, Scaevola is a perennial only in US temperature zones 10a and 11b and maybe temp zone 9.

In all other US temperature zones, Scaevola is treated as an annual, which means you will have to plant it each spring after the last frost in your area. Then in the fall, when the first frost of that season comes, it will die. Most people or garden stores seem to plant this flower in containers but you can plant it directly in your garden.

It is a showy flower that blooms constantly over the summer. It likes moderately fertile, sandy soil in full sun or dappled shade with adequate moisture. It loves hot dry summers like we have had this summer unless you live in the desert where it likes that dappled shade.

You can start the plant from seeds, though I mostly see the seeds sold abroad and not in the US, by rooting plant cuttings or you can buy the plant online or from some nurseries. Here are two foreign seed companies you might be able to order from (here and here).  ood luck.

If you want to buy the plant, Proven Winners, the company that starts many of the best plants that are sold in retail nurseries will tell you how to locate the closest retail nursery near you that sells the Scaevola plant they breed. Go online here to their website. I have been told by the Ball Plant Co. that they have Scaevola called the Bondi ™ series that is sold in retail nurseries. Ask local nurseries using the trademark Bondi to see if they sell it. I have also seen Scaevola plants on sale online from places like Amazon or Brecks.

More on directions on how to plant Scaevola can be found here.

(If readers of this GardenLady blog know where one can buy Scaevola seeds in the US, would you let readers know so we can buy the seeds?)

Dutchman’s Pipe

TheGardenLady received this question from Diane on the post “How to Grow Ductchman’s Pipe“.

Do the seeds need any treatment before planting? Should I plant them immediately after collecting or wait until early Spring? I have about 10 fruits of a Californica and hope to propagate many plants from these.

Aristolochia or Dutchman’s pipe is a genus of 300 species. Not knowing which you have, the general instructions for propagation are these:

You should harvest the seedpods AFTER they have dried on the vine. One tip is to soak the seed for 48 hours. A suggestion for the best way to fulfill this requirement is by ” filling a thermos with hot-to-the-touch tap water and dropping the seeds into it. Seal the thermos and allow the seeds to soak for 48 hours.”

You can sow the seeds indoors in seed flats and transplant outdoors. Or you can use any type of container so long as there are holes to allow the water to drain. To prevent seeds from getting a fungus pathogen from soil, use a soilless potting mixture that you can get on line or in box stores or gardening centers. When you fill the container with the soilless mixture, moisten the soil completely. Let the soil sit till it is barely moist.

The seed needs light to germinate. So put the seed on the top of the soil and press it slightly so the seed makes contact with the soil-less mixture you are using. To prevent the seeds from drying out, cover the container with plastic wrap or put the entire container in a seal-able plastic bag. You have just created a miniature greenhouse. But check your seeds daily to see if there is moisture which you can see collecting on the plastic. If not, lightly mist the seeds and recover the container with the plastic- do not soak them. Place the container in a bright area but not in direct sunlight.

The seeds also need warmth to germinate. So if you have a heating mat, put the container on that and keep the temperature at 70F. in the bright light area without direct sun.

The seeds take 1 to 3 months to germinate and not all the seeds will germinate at the same time, so be patient. When the seedlings have their second set of leaves, start lowering the heat temp. over the next 7 days while also uncovering the seeds a little more each day to acclimate the seeds to the dryer conditions outside their cover.

Read this article.

You can also grow a Dutchman’s pipe vine from a stem cutting. Take the stem cutting in the spring when terminal growth is new and root the
cutting in a glass of water. Change the water daily to prevent bacterial build-up and transplant the stem to soil when the stem cutting has a thick clump of roots.If you are transplanting the rooted stem cutting outdoors, be sure the soil has warmed to at least 55F (13 C). You may try growing a Dutchman’s pipe vine in a pot for a year or two. Choose a large pot and place it in sheltered location.

Read more at Gardening Know How: Dutchman’s Pipe Info: Learn About Growing And Caring For Pipe Vines

Good luck. Let TheGardenLady know how successful you have been in growing your Dutchman’s pipe vine and if you learned any other tips to
share with TheGardenLady readers.