Friday, September 24, 2010

Deciduous Native Shrubs for Your Landscape

Want some lovely deciduous native shrubs for your landscape but are unsure about which one is right for your application? Shrubs really add texture and color throughout the yard, and gardeners love planting them as borders or as a standout piece in the landscape. These shrubs all have profiles telling you the way to plant them, general specifics to the native shrub, and little tidbits about them.

Calycanthus floridus L. (Eastern Sweetshrub, Carolina Allspice)
This deciduous shrub grows 4-8 feet tall. Its shape will depend on your planting technique; Full Sun locations will make it tight and round, and Shady locations will make it a more loose open shape. Leaves are fragrant when crushed, and has spicy scented rusty red flowers from May to June. It needs moist soil. A worry-free shrub, it's perfect for those who enjoy drying flowers and bark for potpourri.

Cephalanthus occidentalis L. (Common Buttonbush)
A deciduous shrub, the Buttonbush grows up to 18 feet tall. It will flower tiny white blossoms from June to September and fruit from September to October. The Buttonbush has traditionally had its bark used as a laxative and to cure skin ailments, but be highly cautious of this tradition as the bark contains cephalanthin poison that produces convulsions and paralysis. Bees will use the shrub in its honey making endeavors.

Chionanthus virginicus L. (White Fringetree, Grancey Greybeard)
This incredible deciduous shrub (or can be pruned to a small tree) is known for its light wispy fringe. This fringe is due to the airy white flowers that will come in May. It is very slow growing but will eventually top out around 15-20 feet. You'll love its adaptability and ease in your garden, just be sure you give it full sun or partial shade.

Clethra alnifolia L. (Coastal Sweetpepperbush, Summersweet)
This shade tolerant deciduous shrub will grow up to 8 feet tall. It has lovely reddish-brown bark. This shrub is mainly used purely ornamental due to its incredibly fragrant white flowers that appear July to August. It will fruit from September to October, but has little value to livestock and deer.

Hydrangea quercifolia Bartr. (Oakleaf Hydrangea)
Deciduous shrub that will grow 4-8 feet tall and is wider than it is high. It has dark green coarse leaves and white flowers that will turn pink and then tan in the course of its lifespan. Plant this in full shade to partial shade, and mulch well. This shrub has wonderful showy fall color from October to November

Photinia pyrifolia (Lam.) Robertson & Phipps (Red Chokeberry)
This deciduous slow growing shrub loves well drained soil and partial shade. It will grow up to 6-10 feet tall. It is good for putting wonderful red fall color into your garden and for attracting birds. It will flower from March to May with white or pink flowers.

Rhododendron canescens (Michx.) Sweet (Mountain Azalea)
This deciduous azalea grows 6-15 feet tall and puts out very showy pink flowers in early spring. It prefers acidic, but not limey, soils. The more sun it receives the bushier the shrub will become. Divide the clumps to propagate.

Rhododendron viscosum (L.) Torr. (Swamp Azalea)
This shrub gets up to 4-6 feet tall and has an equal spread. It prefers light shade and acidic moist soil. Its fragrant pink, white, or yellow flowers appear in late winter to early spring. There is deciduous foliage. You can propagate this by semi hardwood cuttings. BEWARE: Parts are poisonous if ingested

Thursday, September 23, 2010

15 Native Plants You Can Propagate Easily

Want plants that you can divide and replant? Want to find good native plants where you can separate and fill your garden with what you have instead of spending even more money on new plants? These are the native flowers for you.

Rudbeckia triloba L. (Browneyed Susan)
This flower gets up to 3-4 feet tall and needs a spacing of 2-3 feet. It likes sun to partial shade. Its gold or yellow flowers come in late summer and it is a self-sow plant. You need to deadhead if you don't want it to reseed. There is good bloom coverage and you can pair it with a nice ornamental grass. To propagate you can either divide the rootball or just let it self-sow.

Phlox paniculata L. (Fall Phlox)
A Phlox that will get up to 4 feet tall and have a 3 foot spread. It prefers full sun, moist soil, and good drainage. It will bloom from mid summer to fall; pinkish purple hues. It is fragrant and will attract butterflies and birds. Divide every 4 years for optimum growth. Expect a longer than average bloom time compared to other Phlox. To propagate you can divide the rootball.

Phlox stolonifera Sims (Creeping Phlox)
This perennial only gets to 6 inches tall with an 18 inch spread. This can be a great ground cover by not pulling up the fine hair like roots. Its blooms range from violet to lavender in mid spring. It's an evergreen and drought tolerant. You may propagate it by stem cuttings.

Physostegia virginiana (L.) Benth. (Obedient Plant)
This is an easy to grow, deer resistant plant and grows up to 2-4 feet. It is fine in poor soils. It has lavender or pink flower spikes from late summer to fall. The blooms open from bottom to top and are very good in wildflower or water gardens. For best results, plant in shade, with slightly acidic soil, and give plenty of water. Keep a watch on this one though, although it may be called Obedient Plant, it certainly can be disobedient in staying within its bounds. A close eye needs to be kept on it to keep it from becoming invasive. To propagate this you can divide the rootball.

Phlox divaricata L. ssp. laphamii (Wood) Wherry (Lampham's Phlox)
This flower gets up to 12-18 inches high and needs a spread zone of 12-15 inches. It prefers sun to partial shade and has average water needs. Its fragrant blue, violet, or lavender flowers com in mid spring to early summer. It propagate this plant you can divide the rhizomes or through herbaceous stem cuttings.

Mertensia virginica (L.) Pers. ex Link (Virginia Bluebells)
This lovely plant will get up to 2 feet tall and have blue trumpet like flowers (pink in the bud). It will bloom in April. It prefers moist humus rich soil and partial shade. You can divide in the spring to propagate.

Mikania scandens (L.) Willd. (Climbing Hempvine)
This vine grows up to 15 feet long. It has smoky pale pink or white flowers in late summer to mid fall. It prefers full sun. It has herbaceous foliage and can be invasive if not watched. Divide the root ball to propagate.

Lonicera sempervirens L. (Coral Honeysuckle, Trumpet Honeysuckle)
This vine is great for wildlife gardens; growing up to 15 feet in length. It likes sun or partial shade and has red or yellow trumpet like flowers. Bloom season is April to August. This is very fragrant; a favorite of birds, bees, and butterflies. It has evergreen foliage. Propagate this from stem cuttings. BEWARE: Some parts of this are poisonous.

Lilium catesbaei Walt. (Pine Lily)
A great pick for a water garden, this will reach up to 2 feet tall. It loves sun or partial shade and moist soil. It has red blooms from late fall to winter. You can divide to propagate.

Hymenocallis caroliniana (L.) Herbert (Carolina Spiderlily)
This member of the amaryllis family will get up to 2 feet tall. It will bloom 3-9 white flowers mid to late summer. It prefers full sun or partial shade. It has evergreen foliage and fragrant flowers. You can propagate these by dividing the tubers.

Helianthus angustifolius L. (Swamp Sunflower)
This flower gets up to 6-8 feet tall and needs a spacing zone of 9-12 inches. It loves full sun and has high moisture needs. Butterflies and birds love it, birds mainly for the seeds. It has bright yellow flowers in mid fall. You can plant this in just about any soil so long as you don't let it dry out. It is deer resistant. Propagate this by dividing the root ball. Cut back after bloom to really insure a healthy growth pattern the next year.

Helianthus tuberosus L. (Jerusalem artichoke)
This plant gets up to 8-10 feet tall and has a spacing need of 2-3 feet. It prefers full sun and neutral pH soil, and is a rapid grower. It will have gold or yellow flowers in late summer to early fall. You can propagate this by dividing the rootball. The rhizomes can be eaten like a potato. It is a good plant for privacy blinds or borders.

Hibiscus coccineus Walt. (Scarlet Rosemallow)
These 5 petal scarlet blooms reach up to 7 feet tall on erect stems. The blooms are 6-8 inch across and will last only one day. There will be new flowers all throughout summer and fall. You can divide the root to propagate. This plant will resemble marijuana before it blooms. Remember that it will die out in winter; but expect it to resprout each spring.

Hibiscus moscheutos L. ssp. moscheutos (Crimsoneyed Rosemallow)
This cute flower gets up to 4-6 feet tall with a spacing zone of 2-3 feet. It prefers full sun and mildly acidic well drained soil. Its red, white, or pink flowers come in mid summer to early fall. It has maple tree like leaves and it is very easy to grow in most garden settings. It has average moisture requirements, and you can expect it to die back in winter. Propagation from stem cuttings or you can divide the rootball.

Helenium autumnale L. (Common Sneezeweed)
This upright hardy reaches a height of 4-6 feet and a spread of 3-4 feet. It will bloom August to October in the red, yellow, and orange spectrum. It does best in full sun and moist soil. You can collect seed heads when the flowers fade to collect seed; or divide in spring or fall to propagate.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Xeriscaping with Drought Tolerant Native Trees

There are a few native trees out there that are indigenous to the United States that will be very good choices for any xeriscaping that you are wanting to do. These drought tolerant trees are perfect for that type of landscaping and for great water restrictions. Water less, have more beauty, that's the key behind these native trees.

Zanthoxylum clava-herculis L. (Hercules' club, Toothache)
This tree gets up to 15-30 feet tall and prefers sun or partial shade. It has yellow or white flowers in mid spring. Drought tolerant, it does like moist soil for better growth. It is called "toothache" because if you chew the bark or leaves it will make your mouth go numb. BEWARE: There are spines or sharp edges on this plant.

Serenoa repens (Bartr.) Small (Saw Palmetto)
This palm tree is a slow grower. It gets up to 6-8 feet tall and prefers any sun pattern, from full sun to full shade. There are white inconspicuous flowers mid spring to early fall. It is drought tolerant. There is silver gray/blue green foliage. Saw palmetto is named for the often times painful "toothed stalks" it has. It is difficult to transplant. To propagate, you can divide the rootball.

Quercus stellata Wangenh. (Post Oak)
This oak is a slow grower that gets up to 40-50 feet tall. It prefers full sun and soil type is unimportant, although best conditions call for sandy dry well-drained soil. There is a 4-8 inch leaf and non-showy golden brown flowers. It is a good shade tree, with variable fall color and drought tolerance. This oak is a bit more susceptible to disease than others.

Juniperus virginiana L. (Eastern Redcedar)
A magnificent evergreen tree that will grow 30-40 feet high and continue to live over 450 years! Redcedar is named for its reddish brown bark and will be a good addition in gardens hoping to attract birds. It is shade intolerant, and Georgia-drought tolerant. You don't have to wait long for it to get mature, as it is a fast growing tree.

Ilex vomitoria Ait. (Yaupon)
Another holly tree, this one gets 15-30 feet tall and needs 8-10 foot spacing. It likes full sun to partial shade and is adaptable to the soil conditions. There are white inconspicuous flowers near spring time. It is an evergreen, drought tolerant, and a fast grower. Birds will eat the berries, so expect a multitude of birds coming to your landscape when this is around. There is a smooth milky bark to the tree that perks some interest. BEWARE: All parts are poisonous if ingested.

Any of these trees will take very little water and you can use in a desert backdrop type garden or in xeriscaping. These are going to be easier trees to deal with in those type of gardening situations

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Historically Medicinal Native Plants

Sometimes a rose isn't just a rose, it's a treatment. These native plants have been used historically as medicines. Planting instructions, a general overview, and how these native plants were used are noted.

Aconitum uncinatum L. (Southern Blue Monkshood)
This hooded violet-blue flower has blooms that are around 3/4 of an inch in size and herbaceous smooth 6 inch leaves. It will grow to around 2-4 inches tall and blooms between August and October, with podlike fruits. Space these flowers between 15-18 inches apart and plant in full sun to full shade. They prefer a moist soil. You can propagate them via dividing or by breaking open the dried pods to collect seeds. BEWARE: Its roots and seeds contain alkaloids that are very poisonous before it flowers. Southern Blue Monkshood makes a sciatica and neuralgia drug.

Actaea pachypoda Ell. (White Baneberry, Doll's-eyes, White Cohosh)
Perennial herb with 2 foot stems, this plant has showy white flowers blooming in May. It fruits July-August with 10-20 berry like fruits. Baneberry prefers partial shade. It's an old aborigine's medicine for rheumatism.

Ageratina altissima (L.) King & H.E. Robins. var. altissima (white snakeroot)
This 4-6 foot tall clump forming perennial will need to be spaced 3-4 feet apart in moist, alkaline, well drained soil. Erect dark purple/brown stems with white fluffy flowers from August to October; it is a great butterfly draw. Make sure that White Snakeroot is planted in partial sun to full shade. Historically it has been used as a medicinal treatment for colds, liver disease, and fever.

Cimicifuga racemosa (L.) Nutt. (Black Bugbane)
This perennial is excellent for borders with its tall spikes and white flowers. It is a member of the buttercup family and prefers deep shade. It will grow up to 8 feet and bloom May to September. Its root was an official drug of the US Pharmacopoeia from 1820-1926. Today it is a popular alternative to estrogen therapy.

Erigeron pulchellus Michx. (Robin's Plantain)
This perennial grows up to 2 feet and has hairy stems. It will have white flowers or lavender flowers that will fade to white over time. It blooms in mid spring to summer. Robin's plantain prefers full sun and well drained soil. Each flower has 50-100 rays and are thin petaled like a daisy. Medicinally, this was used as a tea for a diuretic and astringent. BEWARE: This plant can cause dermatitis.

Fragaria virginiana Duchesne (Virginia Strawberry)
From the Rose family, this grows up to 12 inches and is a low running perennial. Its blooms are 5 petal white flowers with red fruit. It will flower from May to June. Historically it's been used for its fruit as an old time gout remedy and its leaves are a mild astringent.

Polygonatum biflorum (Walt.) Ell. (Smooth Solomon's Seal)
This member of the Lily Family reaches 1-3 feet in height. It has small white bell flowers from April to June and bluish black berries from August to October. Foliage is unique in that it has a fuzzy underside. Early colonists used the root tea for indigestion and coughing.

Salvia lyrata L. (Lyreleaf Sage)
A member of the mint family, this gets up to 15 inches in height with basal leaves up to 8 inches long. Its lavender flowers come in mid spring and last through summer. It is drought tolerant and prefers full sun or partial shade. It is seldom used but easy to grow. Native Americans use as a tea for colds or asthma. It is also a folk remedy for cancer.

Thalictrum thalictroides (L.) Eames & Boivin (Rue Anemone)
This lovely plant reminds me of a miniature Cherokee rose. A perennial herbaceous plant that grows to 9inches tall, it is prized in woodland gardens. It blooms white from late winter to early spring. Root teas by Native Americans was believed to cure diarrhea and vomiting, although it potentially toxic.

Tradescantia ohiensis Raf. (Bluejacket, Ohio Spiderwort)
This flower gets up to 3 feet high and prefers full sun or partial shade. Flowers are blue, lavender, or white and bloom from mid spring to early summer. It has blue hairs on its stamens even on the white flower variety. It is a low maintenence plant and drought tolerant. The Cherokee Indians used this for female and kidney problems, as a root poultice for cancer, as a tea for digestive issues, and as crushed leaves for bug bites. You can divide the clumps to propagate.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Folklore Remedies from Native Shrubs

Many of the traditional native plants and shrubs were used medicinally to treat people. These native folklore plants and shrubs were questionable treatments, but never the less, had been used as medicines in primitive times. Today, many of our drugs come from plant bases, if from better knowledge and understanding. These are some of the old fashioned folklore medicinal remedies from native shrubs.

Aesculus parviflora Walt. (Bottlebrush buckeye)

This shrub grows from 6-12 feet high and prefers shady locations. It is a member of the Horse-chestnut family of plants. It has four-petal white flowers that give off a honey like fragrance, and fruits that have a nutlike appearance. This was used as a treatment for colic and whooping cough traditionally. Its wood is used for packing crates.

Aralia spinosa L. (Devil's Walkingstick)

This shrub gets 12-20 feet tall and needs a spacing of 12-15 feet apart. It has near white blooms in mid summer on large flat clusters. It is a member of the Ginseng family of plants. Butterflies will flock to Devil's Walkingstick, and birds love its purple to near black fruits from August to September. Some of the charm of this plant is its aroma and its spiny curved growth. Its roots and fruit were used by settlers for toothaches. It prefers full sun to partial shade. BEWARE: Handling the bark or roots may cause skin irritation.

Euonymus americana L. (Strawberry Bush, Brook Euonymus, Hearts a Burstin')

This shrub has some unique color and is a member of the Bittersweet family. With its hot pink seed capsules and its orange red seeds, late summer is an explosion of day-glow delight. It will get up to 2-6 feet tall and needs spacing of 15-24 inches. It prefers partial to full shade. There are yellow or pale green blooms from mid spring to early summer. It is drought tolerant and good for xeriscaping. You can propagate this by semi-hardwood cuttings. Early folklore had the strawberry bush's bark as a treatment for laxative effects. BEWARE: Seed and other parts are poisonous if ingested.

Kalmia latifolia L. (Mountain laurel)
This evergreen shrub grows from 10-30 feet and is shade intolerant. It is a member of the Heath family of plants. It will flower from March to June, and fruit from September to October. Its fruiting produces small round brown pods that release seeds. Medicinally it was used to treat bursitis, fibromyalgia, and arthritis. Its interesting crooked branches make it an interesting choice for your garden.

Xanthorhiza simplicissima (Yellowroot)

This woody shrub has wonderful purple fall color and will grow up to 3 feet. It is from the Buttercup family of plants. You can propagate yellowroot by its underground runners. Plant this in partial to full shade for optimum growing. Its flowers are star-shaped. Traditionally, Native Americans used the roots to make a yellow dye, and to make teas to treat mouth ulcers, colds, or jaundice.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Plant Hardiness - Your Guide to Selecting the Right Plants for Your Climate

The USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map is an essential tool for all landscapers and gardeners, whether professionals or weekend do-it-yourselfers. This simple and free tool will help ensure you select only the correct plants, shrubs, or trees for your region. If you do not follow this guide you risk the health of your plant, and ultimately your time and money.

The Map was designed to show the average annual minimum temperature range throughout the United States, Canada, and Mexico. There are 11 different zones that describe the minimum temperature that can be expected. The zones were divided based on a 10 degree Fahrenheit difference in the average annual minimum temperature.

It is important to understand the zones in order to select a plant that will survive the winter in your region. This is called the plant's winter hardiness. The winter hardiness of the plant is one of the most crucial factors for the survival and environmental adaptation of the plant. A plant's hardiness indicates the lowest temperature the plant can sustain and still survive.

Most plants purchased at commercial stores will have their hardiness level indicated on their tag. Determine the Hardiness Zone of the area in which the plant will be located, and make sure the plant's hardiness falls within the correct zone.

Zone 1 contains areas that see an average minimum temperature below (-) 50 degree Fahrenheit. Example locations include Fairbanks, Alaska and Northwest Territories in Canada.

Zone 2 contains areas that see an average minimum temperature of (-) 50 to (-) 40 degrees. Example locations include Prudhoe Bay, Alaska and Pinecreek , Minnesota.

Zone 3 ranges between (-) 40 and (-) 30 degrees. Examples are International Falls, Minnesota and Sidney, Montana.

Zone 4 ranges between (-) 30 and (-) 20 degrees. Examples are Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota and Northwood, Iowa.

Zone 5 ranges between (-) 20 and (-) 10 degrees. Examples are Des Moines, Iowa and Mansfield, Pennsylvania.

Zone 6 ranges between (-) 10 and 0 degrees. Examples are St. Louis, Missouri, and Lebanon, Pennsylvania.

Zone 7 ranges between 0 and 10 degrees. Examples are South Boston, Virginia and Little Rock Arkansas.

Zone 8 ranges between 10 and 20 degrees. Examples are Dallas, Texas and Gainesville, Florida.

Zone 9 ranges between 20 and 30 degrees. Examples are Houston, Texas and Fort Pierce, Florida.

Zone 10 ranges between 30 and 40 degrees. Examples are Victorville, California and Miami, Florida.

Zone 11 is for annual minimum temperatures above 40 degrees. Examples include Honolulu, Hawaii and Mazatlan, Mexico.

About The Author
Matt Adler is the creator of, a free website for landscape and gardening advice.

For further description of the Plant Hardiness Zones, as well as Maps, please check:

Friday, September 17, 2010

Keep Pests Out of Your Yard and Home

(NewsUSA) - When ants invade pantries, or fleas infest the family pet, Americans shriek, jump on chairs and start squashing. But if you really want to keep bugs out of your house, you will have to look to your lawn.

Keeping ants, ticks, fleas and other insects away from the exterior of your home will help keep them out of the interior. But some pest-removal methods prove more effective than others. According to a recent survey conducted by the maker of Spectracide herbicides and pesticides, American homeowners have attempted to kill ants with magnifying glasses, through drowning and by setting ant mounds on fire.

Using a pesticide is far safer than setting a bonfire. Better yet, pesticides actually work. That said, some pesticides are more appropriate than others. For example, if you're dealing with lawn and garden pests that attack plants and flowers, choose a liquid pesticide. Spectracide advises users of its Triazicide Insect Killer Once & Done to use a concentrate with a tank sprayer for widespread infestations, ready-to-spray formulations for covering entire lawns and ready-to-use spray bottles for smaller jobs.

Bugs that live in the soil, like ants and grubs, are best killed through granules. To rid a large area of soil-dwelling insects, apply granules with a lawn spreader. To treat smaller areas, like an ant mound, pour granules directly from the canister. After distributing the granules, water them if indicated on the label.

For especially hardy pests, like fire ants, look for insect-specific pesticides. Spectracide brand, for example, makes a product called Fire Ant Killer Plus Preventer Bait Once & Done in the form of granules. Worker ants confuse the granules with food and take them into the mound to feed their queen, poisoning her. Because only the queen reproduces, killing the queen destroys the fire ant colony.

Homeowners can also destroy mounds that appear on their property using a contact killer like Spectracide Fire Ant Killer Mound Destroyer Granules, which kills fire ants on contact, eliminating the colony and mound. Children and pets can re-enter a sprayed area once the application has dried.

Spectracide brand's Web site has educational guides available for download, as well as online videos that offer tips for selecting and applying pesticides. For more information, visit

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

How to Make Potting Soil

Making simple potting soil doesn’t have to be hit and miss. With these recipes, the potting soil ingredients will come together; making potting soil that will really work in a garden or landscape. These are basic potting soil mixes and how to make it.

The John Innes Compost
This is a famous mix of ingredients that come together to make a rich compost potting soil. It is three ingredients that are put together, sieved, and then additional potting soil ingredients are added. The recipe is as follows:
7 parts loam that has been sterilized
3 parts peat moss
2 parts sharp sand
Put these three in a sieve and then add to each bushel of compost potting soil, ¾ of an ounce of ground limestone
Lastly add 4 ounces of 14-14-14 osmocote.

Additional Potting Soil Recipes
These are some other recipes for potting soils that are simple. Everyone that gardens for recreational fun should test out the recipes and see which one works in their gardens best. There are five that are given here, for those that have ever wondered how to make potting soil.

Soil Mix 1
This potting soil recipe just calls for 1 part peat moss,1 part vermiculite, and 1 part perlite.

Soil Mix 2
The second potting soil recipe requires 1 part peat moss,1 part sand, and 1 part garden soil.

Soil Mix 3
This potting soil recipe calls for 1 part peat moss,1 part sphagnum moss, and 1 part soil.

Soil Mix 4
Only two items in this recipe, calling for 1 part peat moss and 1 part compost that has been sieved.

Soil Mix 5
This recipe needs 1 part perlite, 1 part compost, and 2 parts soil.

Potting Soil
Potting soil is used in a garden or other planting arrangements so that the plant has the best growing environment. There is usually no soil in good potting soil recipes. These additives to the soils will give better water retention and drainage, plus it will add nutrients and fertilizers so that it has a constant feed. It is usually good to use in all occasions but especially if your plant (like the African violet) needs special items not generally found in most soils. Potting soils will give the garden, the container, or any planting session a better ground to help make a better plant.

Store bought potting soil is a hit and miss purchase. There may be lower quality items in there, so if the gardener is serious in striving for better plants, he will want to make the potting soil himself. That way there is nothing but top quality ingredients that go in, with the gardener’s soil and plant in mind. Making simple gardening changes such as making potting soil instead of buying it could be the single difference between a garden that thrives and a garden that languishes about.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Global Garden Report 2010: Survey Reveals Trends in U.S. Gardening

(NewsUSA) - A "punk-rock" gardening revolution is occurring in the U.S., as found in Husqvarna and Gardena's annual Global Gardening Report 2010.

Amateur gardeners reign supreme on the Internet, and the expert gardeners' expertise is being challenged throughout the blogosphere. Bloggers are less apt to follow the gardening experts and pave their own way, perhaps a result of a lingering "damn-the-man" mentality due to the economic slide and rise in unemployment in the U.S. Many amateurs are even sharing their foliage failures via blogs to show and educate other gardeners. With social networking continuing to rise, Americans throughout the blogosphere are showing that it takes a village to raise a rosebush.

Urban farming is also prevalent in the U.S. A push for sustainability and green living has growers from Oregon to New York creating their own version of Eden in any small space available. This includes indoor growing of herbs and plants used in kitchens for cooking purposes. With a focus on fresh, local ingredients and self-reliance, urbanites are now more apt to pluck a leaf of basil from a pot in their kitchen than sprinkle dried-up plant crumbs on Wednesday night's chicken parmesan.

Jay Dahlin, an urban gardener in Chicago, Ill., said that gardening, for him, is an obsession and addiction, noting that he thinks about it constantly from March to October. While growing mostly native plants in his garden, Dahlin says he likes to think that he is re-establishing a very small part of the lost prairie ecosystem.

With spring right around the corner, weathered wintered minds around the U.S. are turning towards all things green. Husqvarna and Gardena, manufacturers of high-quality gardening equipment, identified trends in thirteen different countries after analyzing nearly 1.4 million blog posts worldwide. As experts in the gardening industry, they offer guidance on multiple types of agriculture from farm acres to flowerbeds. For more information on these companies and gardening trends, you can visit and

Ten Southern Native Trees for Your Garden

Southern landscapes are peppered with wonderful trees, these native trees both reduce the amount of pollutants in the air and lowers the heat index. Just in Georgia, the temperatures are on average 10 degrees higher than they should be. This is just from tree loss in the Atlanta metro area. There is also more of a warming trend and severe thunderstorms due to this weather phenomena. Tree loss and the lessening of native trees in a landscape occurs at the rate of nearly 50 acres a day according to NASA. But in the last 20 years Georgia citizens have replaced nearly 6.9 million acres in trees. So, for southern gardeners, think about framing your landscape in trees. Below are 10 southern native tree profiles that are designed to live and thrive in the heat of the south.

Aesculus pavia (Red Buckeye)
This deciduous tree can also be a bushy shrub in some locations. It is a fast growing to its mature height of 15-25 feet. It will flower in dark red tubular flowers form April to May, and is a prime pick for those who want a splash of color. Hummingbird friendly, this tree will also attract bees. It prefers shady locations and will bloom early for first color in your garden. Keep in mind; this is a short lived tree.

Amelanchier arborea (Downy Serviceberry)
Serviceberry can either be a deciduous tree or a large shrub, growing up to 30 feet. It produces white flowers in March and reddish purple berrylike fruits from June to August. For bird lovers this tree can't be beat; over 40 species of birds eat the serviceberry's fruit and it's a preferred food of the gypsy month. It will be a beautiful addition to any butterfly garden.

Betula nigra (River birch)
Known for its paper-like bark, this deciduous tree will grow up to 100 feet tall. It is resilient to flood damage and is good in clay soils found in Georgia. Intolerant to shade, remember to give this a sunny location. Game birds love the birch's seeds.

Carya myristiciformis (Nutmeg hickory)
This shade intolerant tree does well in clay soils like Georgia. It flowers from April to May and has edible nut fruits' from September to October. Hickory will reach a height of up to 65 feet and will have great yellow Fall color.

Cercis canadensis (Eastern redbud)
This short lived southern native tree does well in full sun or partial shade. Also known as the "Judas tree" it is rumored to be the tree in which Judas Iscariot hung himself from. Redbud grows only 10-20 years and will reach a height of around 15 feet tall. It will flower pink or purple (rarely white) flowers from March to May. Bark from Eastern redbud has been used as an astringent and its flowers can be used in salads. A very versatile and pretty tree, albeit having short-lived beauty.

Cornus amomum (Silky dogwood)
Another great selection for bird lovers, the silky dogwood will grow from 6-15 feet. It has abundant small white flowers from May to June, and will produce blue berry-like fruit from August to September. It's this fruit that makes it a favorite for birds. It favors partial shade. Although it does flower, it is decidedly non-fragrant.

Fagus americana (American Beech)
This impressive deciduous tree may be slow in its growth, but it will last well over 100 years. Height for an American Beech range 80-100 feet tall. I'd recommend this for its beautiful fall color, it radiates with a yellow hue. It will also provide over 30 species with its food source. Beech prefers a shady to partial shady area in your yard. You can expect flowering from March to April and fruiting from September to October.

Fraxinus quadrangulata (Blue ash)
The Blue ash is a durable drought tolerant tree, growing up to 50-70 feet tall. It loves full sun for maximum growth. It has a faint yellow fall color and will flower from April to May. Commercially its wood is used for flooring and crates. Traditionally blue dye has been made from the bark of the Blue ash.

Gordonia lasianthus (Loblolly Bay)
This tree will get up to 70 feet tall and have a 10-15 foot spread. The trunk gets to 3 inches in diameter. It will have bright white flowers in the late spring and be fragrant. It is an evergreen that prefers full sun and is often found growing with Sweetbay.

Magnolia virginiana (Sweetbay magnolia)
A slow-growing evergreen tree, this magnolia species can grow from 50-100 feet. It produces spectacular white flowers from April to July and will have red fruits from July to October. It will do perfectly in a partly shady spot in your landscape. Two-thirds of all magnolia wood is used for furniture, but it is also used for popsicle sticks, tongue depressors, and broom handles. It is important forage for deer and cattle, making up 25% of their diet in the winter.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Native Shrubs for Xeriscaping

Gardening with Native Plants of the South
Native plants, especially shrubs, are good for any landscape. Hardy ones that can be used in your xeriscaping plans are even better. These three are highlighted due to their ease of use and their adaptability to changing environments. A good overview of each of them is given so that the best decision can be made as to which to use in the landscape.

Dahoon (Ilex cassine), is a member of the Holly family of plants and gets very tall, around thirty feet or so in height. It needs twenty feet in space between plants or before other shrubs and plants. Full sun or partial shade is recommended and it is adaptable in its soil requirements. There are small white flowers throughout the shrub and even red or yellow berries on the female plants in the winter. It is a fine shrub for xeriscaping, drought tolerant, and it is evergreen.

Strawberry Bush
Strawberry Bush (Euonymus americana) is also known as Hearts a Burstin’, and is a member of the Bittersweet family. It has hot pink seed pods with orange red seeds. There are yellow or pale green blooms. It is an explosion of color that reaches a height of two to six feet tall when in partial to full shade. It is great for xeriscaping and is very drought tolerant. The seeds and other parts can be toxic so care needs to be had around this shrub.

Desert False Indigo
Desert False Indigo (Amorpha fruticosa) is also known as the Lead Plant or Indigo Bush. It is a member of the Pea family of plants and gets approximately ten feet tall. Plant this shrub in full sun or partial shade for best growth. It is used for xeriscaping due to its tremendous drought tolerance. The shrub has great blue-violet flowers that are fragrant and a texture to the shrub that is reminiscent of the Mimosa (or silk) tree. This feathery shrub is a better decision over the Mimosa, due to the mimosa being very invasive in the landscape. Dried seed heads can be removed to get the seeds for replanting.

Three Good Starter Shrubs
Any of the above three are good starter native shrubs designed to tolerate drought and varying water conditions, perfect for those xeriscaping. They all have their differences, so surely one will be able to be added to any landscaping project. Native plants are so adaptable and easier to grow than their exotic counterparts, and with xeriscaping this ease of use can be a godsend.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Top Ten Outdoor Gardening Tips for Fall

Your garden should be a relaxing, enjoyable place to be in every season. Keeping your outdoor space inviting is easy with these tips for yards and water gardens in the fall.

1. Keep the water in your outdoor fountain or garden pond free of fallen leaves. Not only can leaves and other fallen organic matter decompose in your pond and cause problems with bacteria and algae, they can also clog your pump. Skim leaves off the surface daily and be sure to use an algaecide made for fountain such as No More Algae for Fountains (found at

2. Clean your fountain pump before emptying the water for the winter. This will ensure that any debris inside the pump won’t be left to dry up and clog the inner workings once you’ve emptied the water from your fountain. Remove the cover and pull out anything that may have accumulated inside.

3. Protect your fountain from cracks due to the expansion and contraction of water as it freezes and thaws. Purchase a fountain cover in the appropriate size and cover the fountain from the top to the bottom of the basin (pedestals don’t need to be covered). This will keep precipitation from falling into the basins and causing damage.

4. Prepare your water garden for the upcoming freeze by sinking all hardy perennial aquatics to the deepest area of the pond. This will keep them in the warmest water available and allow them to go dormant for the winter without sustaining damage.

5. If your pond is too shallow to sink your plants over the winter, consider purchasing a de-icer. De-icers heat a small opening in the top of your pond where it would normally freeze over, allowing the release of toxic gases from decomposing organic matter to escape and also oxygenating the water.

6. If you supplement your landscaping or water garden with tropical plants, it’s best to remove them for the winter unless you live in a mild climate. They won’t survive the cold weather, and as they decay they can cause damage to other plants around them. It’s recommended to treat them as annuals and purchase new ones each spring.

7. Don’t cut your perennials down over the winter – leave them standing so they can provide resources for birds. Many plants have attractive foliage and seed pods that offer both food and shelter during the snowy months when both can be difficult for birds to find. Birds need water, also – use a plastic container and replace the water frequently.

8. Mulch around perennials and well-established plants to maintain a uniform soil temperature and add a few extra weeks to the root development of newly planted shrubs and trees.

9. Give your garden a good fall cleanup to prevent disease and insect problems next year. Canker, mildew, fungi and other problem spots in your yard can spread to other plant life if the rotting plant matter is allowed to linger and be spread around by wind and water. Prune dead branches, gather fallen leaves and collect yard waste piles and either burn, bury or compost.

10. Plant spring bulbs in October. Planting tulip, crocus, daffodils and other flower bulbs at this time will give the roots time to get established before warm weather rolls back around. Prepare the soil to ensure that it has good drainage. Soil fertility is also important – work a complete commercial fertilizer into the upper 4 to 6 inches of soil. The depth of the soil above the bulb should be approximately twice the diameter of the bulb.

About The Author
Stephanie Gottschalk writes the blogs 'Picnic Fun - Tips and Recipes' ( and 'The Joy of Water Fountains' ( for Specialty Living Inc., an Asheville, North Carolina-based company that aims to share their love of people, nature and life through high quality water fountains, picnic baskets and outdoor living products.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Monthly Wine Gardening Reminders

As you work on perfecting your homemade wine, it is important to spend a little time each month tending to your garden. Here I have broken down by month some of the things that you will want to do to ensure a bountiful harvest that you can use when making your own wine at home.

Little can be done this month, and much will depend on how much has been done in previous months. If the weather is mild the planting of fruit trees and bushes may be undertaken, but do this only if the weather appears likely to stay mild for a few days at least.

Look to blackcurrant bushes and remove any swollen buds and burn them.

Get in supplies of insecticides and fertilizers.

Make sure all trained fruits are tied to their supports securely, and give each a mulch of manure if there is plenty available. If only limited amounts of manure or compost are available keep these till later on. Loganberries and raspberries not already cut down should be attended to and the new canes tied in.

If the weather is mild a light forking of the top soil round fruit bushes and along rows of canes, followed by a dusting of lime, will do a lot of good. This will also unearth a few pests for the attention of birds.

All fruit trees and bushes should have been planted by now; if they have not, get them in before the end of the month.

Gooseberries and currants should be sprayed this month with paraffin emulsion to safeguard them against brown scale and red spider.

Watch blackcurrants for "big bud" and pinch off any suspects and burn them. Care must be taken now because the buds may be at the point of opening.

Fork round bushes and canes as for February if this was not done last month.

Spray blackcurrants with a lime and sulphur wash where "big bud" is suspected. Repeat if necessary.

The main activity in the garden now will be spreading compost or manure and keeping down weeds before they get a hold.

Any weak growths on fruit bushes may be cut out so as to leave the stronger growths to bear the fruit. This will also help the growth of new wood on which next year's fruit will be borne.

To keep strawberries clean put clean straw round the plants. Before doing this dress the bed with two ounces of super phosphate per square yard and hoe this in lightly.

Give all fruit a mulch of manure or compost, or dead leaves. Begin weekly feeding with liquid manure.

Watch all fruit for signs of pests and diseases and spray with proprietary brands of insecticide.

Gooseberries often need thinning at this time of the year. Do this so that the smaller fruits are left to develop fully.

Make wine with the thinning.

If the weather is very dry, mulch fruit bushes with manure, compost, leaves, straw, lawn mowing or whatever is available. Mulching conserves moisture in the soil and helps the fruit to swell. This can increase the annual yield by as much as a third.

If green-fly appears spray with a proprietary brand of insecticide.

Fruit bushes and trees make rapid growth at this time of the year. If there is any suggestion of overcrowding, cut out some of this new growth, leaving the strongest to grow on.

Look to the vines; if there is an abundance of long straggling growths, cut some of them out, leaving those you will want for cutting back in the autumn.

Runners from strawberry plants may be pegged down to make new plants. Peg down the strongest young crown on the runners that come from the plants bearing the heaviest crop. Pinch off the runner an inch beyond the crown to be pegged down. If this is not done the runner will continue to run and develop new crowns; this will weaken the parent plant and will also produce an abundance of new weakling plants.

If tree-fruit crops are heavy, thin to two or three fruits to each cluster. Far better to have three good fruits to each bunch than five or six under-sized ones.

Keep down weeds with the hoe. Gather apples and pears if ready and look to later varieties: thin these as necessary.

Loganberries and raspberries that have borne fruit may be cut down now and the new canes tied in.

Clean up round trees and bushes and burn all leaves if pests and diseases have been prevalent. The ash, if there is enough of it, should be stored for hoeing in round fruit bushes in the spring. Hoeing now will help to prevent weeds growing from seeds dropped earlier.

Pegged-down strawberry runners may be lifted now, severed from the parent plant and planted out. Strawberry beds need replacing every three years; it is a good plan then to replace a third of the bed each year with these new plants.

Clean up and burn all rubbish round fruit bushes and canes. If loganberries and raspberries have not yet been cut down and the new canes tied in, do this now.

Prune currants and gooseberry bushes.

Plant fruit bushes and early varieties of tree fruits.

All those jobs that you should have done during August, September and October must be done now.

Look to blackcurrants for "big bud"; pinch off infected buds and burn them.

Plant and prune vines, fruit trees, bushes and canes.

Make sure that you are getting a good supply of compost ready for next year.

About The Author
Brian Cook is a freelance writer whose articles on home wine making have appeared in print and on many websites. You can find more of these at

Native Plants that Butterflies Love

Native plants are those that are indigenous to the United States, those that were meant to grow and thrive here. Exotics are those that aren’t, and typically need tons more care to get to grow and thrive anywhere. These native plants are ones that many butterflies adore and will stay near. Achieve a thriving butterfly sanctuary full of beauty in your garden or landscape by planting a few of these favourites.

The Milkweeds
Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) and Butterfly Milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa) are both good additions to the landscape for attracting butterflies. They get two to three feet high and like partial shade. Swamp milkweed has pink or purple blooms while the butterfly milkweed has fire orange blooms. They are good with water restrictions and are drought tolerant. Both can be toxic if consumed. These tend to attract Monarch butterflies because they are the plants that the larvae can survive on. Monarch butterflies can only survive in the larvae stage on Milkweed plants, so it is crucial to have these around if Monarch butterflies are what is desired.

White Doll’s Daisy
The White Doll’s Daisy (Boltonia asteroides) is a fabulous looking plant. They have large daisy looking blooms that are white. It is a very adaptable to its surroundings and will get anywhere from two to four feet in height. It is a great butterfly attractor and it will have pink flowers every so often instead of its white blooms. It needs either partial shade or full sun to survive properly. Expect blooms from July to September for this flower. These make great photographs when the butterflies are resting on the big daisy-like blooms.

The Fringed Bleeding Heart
Also known as Turkey Corn, the Fringed Bleeding Heart (Dicentra eximia) has lovely reddish pink flowers that fall from the edges of the flower in hearts. It will get to a foot tall and needs full sun or partial shade to live right. It also needs mostly moist soil. It is a repeat bloomer and butterflies will flock to it. Pinch off the stems if more blooms are wanted from it. It has a vague fern like look to it as well. All parts of the Fringed Bleeding Heart can be toxic, so take care with the pets and small children with this plant.

Four Good Butterfly Garden Starters
These four are good starters if butterflies are what is hoped for as the end result of your labor intensive gardening. They have plenty of things that the butterflies want and are attracted to when choosing plants. Whether one is picked or all, they will add beauty and value to a landscape, the butterflies are just an added incentive to choose natives this year.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Free or Low Cost Gardening Books for the Kindle

Looking for the cheapest reads from Kindle’s gardening section? Looking to do a little brushing up on your gardening reading list before the spring comes? There is a way to find free and ultra-cheap kindle ebooks that you can download. Don’t have a kindle? Download the Kindle for PC app, you can still get them downloaded to your computer.

On the Amazon main page, find “Kindle” on the left hand side and hover over it. With the new drop down menu that will appear, click on “Books”.

On the new page, go down the left hand side of the page again and click on “All kindle books”.

On the new page, go down the left hand side again until you find “Lifestyle and Home” and click there.

“Home and Garden” will now be a choice on the same left hand side of the page choice list. Click on it.

Lastly, “Gardening and Horticulture” is now a choice on the left hand side of the page and you’ll need to click on it.

Set the selector at the top right that said “sort by” to read “Price, low to high”.

Now you can find any free or bargain gardening books available. At the time of this writing there are 200 gardening books at $1 or less.

Direct and Clickable Link to the Free and Low Cost Gardening Books for the Kindle on Amazon's Website.

Drought Tolerant Native Trees for Xeriscaping

When a landscape is being xeriscaped it needs plants that are going to be water savers and drought tolerant. Knowing the shrubs and trees that will work within those restrictions can make gardening a bit easier. Any of the following selections will work well in a xeriscaped landscape.

Hercules’ Club
Hercules’ Club (Zanthoxylum clava-herculis) is also known as Toothache and will get to approximately fifteen to thirty feet in height. It loves moist soil but it is drought tolerant as well. There will be best conditions if planted in a sunny or partial sunny spot in the landscape. The reason that this tree is called Toothache is when the bark or the leaves are chewed it will numb the mouth. There are sharp spines on this tree so it can injure; take care around kids and pets with it.

Saw Palmetto
Saw Palmetto (Serenoa repens) is a member of the Palm family of plants and is a slow grower. It will grow in any spot, shade or sun, and is very water saving with drought tolerance. There are very small white flowers barely seen but gorgeous silver gray foliage throughout. It was named for the saw-like projections in the stalks. This is a fabulous choice for xeriscaping landscapes as it is visually appealing.

Post Oak
The Post Oak (Quercus stellata) is a member of the Beech family and will grow slowly but eventually reach a height of forty to fifty feet. It prefers a sandy dry soil in full sun, and is obviously drought tolerant with those specifications. It has good foliage and makes a great shade tree with lovely fall colors. However, this particular oak will be more prone to disease, so it’s best to keep an eye on it.

Eastern Redcedar
Eastern Redcedar (Juniperus virginiana) is a member of the Cypress family and it will grow for many centuries. It is an evergreen with a height up to forty feet high and while it is shade intolerant it will make a great choice for full sun xeriscaping landscapes. The bark of the tree is a reddish shade and this is why it is called the redcedar.

The Yaupon (Ilex vomitoria) is a tree in the Holly family and will get to approximately twenty to thirty feet in height. It is very adaptable to soil conditions and to sun conditions. It is a fast growing evergreen that will attract birds because of its holly berries. This is a poisonous plant and can make pets and children ill.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

How to Start And Organize a Seed Swap

Seed Swaps have always been a good way to bring together a community and share your garden bounty with others. Successful and timely seed swaps will ensure that your garden always has fresh new varieties without having to invest in purchasing new plants.

Start: You can start a neighborhood seed swap with relative ease in any of the local communities. It's a perfect way for making sure that you never run out of plants for your garden. It's a good way to get the vegetables or flowers that you've been wanting without having to go purchase them. In addition to all your friends and family, invite area school horticulture classes and teachers, library personnel, and any gardening clubs that your particular town has. Calling around to different schools and gardening centers may also land you a speaker for the event, which is always a good draw for stray people to come and join in. Once you have figured out when it's going to be and who you will be inviting then you can move on to Organize.

Organize: Start by setting up a day and time for your event, a few months ahead if possible. Good times are spring and autumn, so that you are either opening or closing a growing season.
•Make sure that you find a suitable site, your house can be fine if there is plenty of parking, or see if a local church or community center will allow you to set up. You will need tables, chairs, pens, boxes, etc.
•Advertise the event by printing up flyers to distribute, send a write-up to any free ad papers your community has, and post to internet groups in the area. Google "seed swap groups" and you will find a good number of message boards and forums for seed swappers who may be from your area.
•Have a donation jar set up for people to contribute. This is good for any advertising costs you may have incurred. You may decide to use the donation jar for your favorite charity or for setting up the next seed swap event. Either way, most never question it.
•Get seed donations from area nurseries if they have spares to give away for "advertising" their store.
•Categorize your seeds by family. Place all the members of a specific group together for easier browsing. Be sure to make small signs to differentiate between your vegetable table, your herb, and your flower table.
•Be kind to people who don't bring anything to swap, but try to set up a one-for-one ticket system. (For every one seed pack they bring, they can take one) Limit them to only 5 of a particular seed type so that you will still have plenty to go around. Also, make sure that they aren't bringing commercial seed. This is for out-of-the-garden non-hybrid open pollinated seeds that need to be specially marked.
•Have beverages, set up a cooler of canned drinks for sale so that people will be able to stay longer. You may even consider having small wrapped baked goods.
•Donate any leftover seed to seed banks to promote good will.

Special Tips: Contributors need to be told ahead of time what their seed packet should be like. They should be marked clearly with the name of the plant (scientific and/or common name), the color, any growing tips, and the number of seeds that are included in the packet.
• Have seeds stored in a small envelope and marked.
• Store them before the swap meet in a cool drop place.
•Make sure your seeds for the swap have been dried for at least 1-2 weeks so that they are good to be stored

Play in the Dirt Cheaper; New Ways to Garden Less Expensively

Gardening is a great way to see the transformation of a seed to a beautiful plant or vegetable. It is a calming end to a stressful day. However, there isn't a gardener around that wouldn't want to save time and money on her landscape. Below are tips to make sure you get the most bang for your buck.

Save your cash!

Tip #1- Buy what you need and only what you need. If you are only going to use 2 or 3 tomato plants, don't buy a couple of flats "just in case". Also, buy plants rather than seed; but if you just love seed make sure that you plant the seedlings directly into the ground. Doesn't sound like a huge tip until you calculate up the price of peat pots and potting soil, etc. For the excess seed you can stage a seed swap or a plant swap with the community. That way you get rid of your excess and are able to get viable alternatives instead.

Tip #2- Get yourself some free mulch. Contact your local landfill, dairy farm, tree care service, and disposal company. They may have ways to use you as a dumping ground for leaves (a great mulch or compost ingredient). The dairy farm may have loads of manure you can get for free; and the tree care service? It's always a good source of wood chips.

Tip #3- Buy out of season. Most plants, if you do your homework, can be planted in the fall and you can rack up some great discounts in the process. Those dead looking plants can sometimes be dormant waiting for spring. Don't always think of spring as your main planting season.

Tip #4- Don't buy plants at all! Separate the perennials you have in your garden and use them throughout your landscape. Request to take cuttings from your friend's or neighbor's garden. Attend a plant swap put on by a local gardening club. One perennial can make tons of smaller segments to use throughout and will mature up to the same size as bigger store bought plants.

Tip #5- Take advantage of the sales. Most mail order companies will have great fall coupons, some saving more than 50%. Look around and you may find just what you are looking for without spending your whole gardening budget.

Save your effort!

Tip #1- Try a raised flower bed. These are the perfect way to keep from bending several times a day and creating fatigue. Make sure you don't forget that straw hat to stave off heat exhaustion too. The perfect height seems to be just to your fingertips when you are standing.

Tip #2- A centralized water bucket keeps you from lugging heavy containers to and from while you water your plants. If you can afford it, install sprinklers for centralized spraying (This also is a money saver. Sure there is a moderate payment, but it cuts down on your bottom line by watering more efficiently). Keep an eye on the weather too, so that you don't spend the afternoon watering right before a rain.

Tip #3- Think perennials, shrubs, and trees instead of annuals. With proper mulching program to stave off weeds most perennials can be a plant-once-and-forget deal. Plus perennials can be used as a money saver by dividing it and using it throughout your landscape or garden.

Tip #4- Don't forego the mulch. A small layer of newspaper under the mulch of choice will also provide an organic biodegradable landscaping fabric. Mulch will break down over the season and will help enrich the soil. It may sound less work to not mulch your garden, but you'll lose out and have to weed all bloom season. Also with any leftover mulch, consider making a compost pile. Rich humus will be yours all next season.

Tip #5- Buy one of those cheap tool aprons to carry your small ergonomic garden tools with so that you don't have to make so many trips or bend as much to pick them up. You can also consider a small child's wagon to roll around your plants so that you don't have to carry them. This may seem a bit lazy, but remember that you can garden longer and get more accomplished when you aren't as tired.

As you can see, with just a little foresight, most gardeners can bask in the glory of a wonderful colorful garden without putting stress or strain on their body or wallets.

Easy Fall Propagation Techniques

As a home gardener, fall should be a very special time for you. Fall is the best season of the year for plant propagation, especially for home gardeners who do not have the luxury of intermittent mist. The technique that I am going to describe here can be equally effective for evergreens as well as many deciduous plants.

The old rule of thumb was to start doing hardwood cuttings of evergreens after you have experienced at at least two hard freezes. After two hard freezes the plants are completely dormant. However, based on my experience it is beneficial to start doing your evergreen cuttings earlier than that. So instead of doing “by the book” hardwood cuttings you’re actually working with semi-hardwood cuttings. The down side to starting your cuttings early is that they will have to be watered daily unless you experience rain showers. The up side is that they will start rooting sooner, and therefore are better rooted when you pull them out to transplant them.

To prepare an area in which to root cuttings you must first select a site. An area that is about 50% shaded will work great. Full sun will work, it just requires that you tend to the cuttings more often. Clear all grass or other vegetation from the area that you have selected. The size of the area is up to you. Realistically, you can fit about one cutting per square inch of bed area. You might need a little more area per cutting, it depends on how close you stick the cuttings in the sand.

Once you have an area cleared off all you have to do is build a wooden frame and lay it on the ground in the area that you cleared. Your frame is a simple as four 2 by 4’s or four 2 by 6’s nailed together at each corner. It will be open on the top and open on the bottom. Just lay it on the ground in the cleared area, and fill it with a coarse grade of sand.

This sand should be clean (no mud or weed seed), and much coarser than the sand used in play box. Visit your local builders supply center and view each sand pile they have. They should have different grades varying from very fine to very coarse. You don’t want either. You want something a little more coarse than their medium grade. But then again it’s not rocket science, so don’t get all worked up trying to find just the right grade. Actually, bagged swimming pool filter sand also works and should be available at discount home centers.

Once your wooden frame is on the ground and filled with sand, you’re ready to start sticking cuttings. Wet the sand the day before you start, that will make it possible for you to make a slit in the sand that won’t fill right in. In this propagation box you can do all kinds of cuttings, but I would start with the evergreens first. Taxus, Junipers, and Arborvitae.

Make the cuttings about 4” long and remove the needles from the bottom two thirds of the cuttings. Dip them in a rooting compound and stick them in the sand about an inch or so. Most garden centers sell rooting compounds. Just tell them that you are rooting hardwood cuttings of evergreens.

When you make the Arborvitae cuttings you can actually remove large branches from an Arborvitae and just tear them apart and get hundreds of cuttings from one branch. When you tear them apart that leaves a small heel on the bottom of the cutting. Leave this heel on. It represents a wounded area, and the cutting will produce more roots because of this wound.

Once the weather gets colder and you have experienced at least one good hard freeze, the deciduous plants should be dormant and will have dropped their leaves, and you can now propagate them. Just make cuttings about 4” long, dip them in a rooting compound and stick them in the bed of sand. Not everything will root this way, but a lot of things will, and it takes little effort to find out what will work and what won’t.

This is a short list of just some of the things that root fine this way. Taxus, Juniper, Arborvitae, Japanese Holly, Blue Boy/Girl Holly, Boxwood, Cypress, Forsythia, Rose of Sharon, Sandcherry, Weigela, Red Twig Dogwood, Variegated Euonymus, Cotoneaster, Privet, and Viburnum.

Immediately after sticking the cuttings thoroughly soak the sand to make sure there are no air pockets around the cuttings. Keep the cuttings watered once or twice daily as long as the weather is warm. Once winter sets it you can stop watering, but if you get a warm dry spell, water during that time.

Start watering again in the spring and throughout out the summer. The cuttings should be rooted by late spring and you can cut back on the water, but don’t let them dry out to the point that they burn up.

By fall you can transplant them to a bed and grow them on for a year or two, or you can plant them in their permanent location. This technique takes 12 months, but it is simple and easy.

About the Author of This Article:
Michael J. McGroarty is the author of this article. Visit his most
interesting website, and sign up for his
excellent gardening newsletter, and grab a FREE copy of his
E-book, "Easy Plant Propagation"

Composting the Easy Way

Having an ample supply of good rich compost is the gardeners dream. It has many uses, and all of those uses will result in nicer plants. However, composting can be time consuming and hard work. I place a reasonable value on my time, so spending hours and hours turning compost piles doesn’t qualify as a worthwhile exercise, at least in my book. Nonetheless, I do compost, but I do so on my terms.

I built two composting bins. Each bin is five feet wide, five feet deep, and four feet high. I built the bins by sinking 4” by 4” posts in the ground for the corners, and then nailed 2 by 4’s and 1 by 4’s, alternating on the sides. I left 2” gaps between the boards for air circulation. The 2 by 4’s are rigid enough to keep the sides from bowing out, and in between each 2 by 4 I used 1 by 4’s to save a little money. The bins are only 3 sided, I left the front of the bins open so they can be filled and emptied easily.

Photos of my compost bins are on this page:\composting.htm

I started by filling just one of the bins. I put grass clippings, dried leaves, and shrub clippings in the bins. I try not to put more than 6” of each material on a layer. You don’t want 24” of grass clippings in the bin, you should alternate layers of green and brown material. If necessary, keep a few bags of dry leaves around so you can alternate layers of brown waste and green waste. When we root cuttings we use coarse sand in the flats, so when it’s time to pull the rooted cuttings out of the flats, the old sand goes on the compost pile. In or little backyard nursery we also have some plants in containers that do not survive. Rather than pulling the dead plant and the weeds out of the container, and then dumping the potting soil back on the soil pile, we just dump the whole container in the compost bin, this adds more brown material to the mix, and is a lot easier than separating the soil and the weeds.

Once the bin is full, the rules of composting say that you should turn the material in the bin every few weeks. There is no way that I have time to do that, so this is what I do. I pack as much material in the bin as I can, before I start filling the second bin. I pile the material as high as I possibly can, and even let it spill out in front of the bin. Then I cover all the fresh material with mulch or potting soil, whatever brown material I can find. Then when I’m out working in the garden I set a small sprinkler on top of the pile and turn it on very low, so a small spray of water runs on the material. Since I have a good water well, this doesn’t cost me anything, so I let it run for at least two hours as often as I can. This keeps the material damp, and the moisture will cause the pile to heat up, which is what makes the composting action take place.

Once I have the first bin completely full, I start using the second bin. As the material in the first bin starts to break down, it will settle, and the bin is no longer heaped up, so I just keep shoveling the material that I piled in front of the bin, up on top of the pile, until all the material is either in the bin, or piled on top of the heap. Then I just leave it alone, except to water it once in a while. The watering isn’t necessary, it just speeds the process.

Because I don’t turn the pile, I can’t expect all of the material to rot completely. The material in the center is going to break down more than the material on the edges, but most of it does breakdown quite well.

The next step works great for me because I’ve got a small nursery, so I keep a pile of potting soil on hand at all times. But you can really do the same thing by just buying two or three yards of shredded mulch to get started, and piling it up near your compost bins. If you do this, you will always have a supply of good compost to work with.

Shredded bark, left in a pile will eventually breakdown and become great compost. The potting soil that I use is about 80% rotted bark. I make potting soil by purchasing fine textured, and dark hardwood bark mulch, and I just put it in a pile and let it rot. The secret is to keep the pile low and flat, so that it does not shed the rain water away, you want the mulch to stay as wet as possible, this will cause it to breakdown fairly quick.

So I keep a pile of rotted bark mulch near my compost bins. When both bins are completely full, I empty the bin containing the oldest material by piling it on top of my rotted bark mulch. I make sure the pile of rotted mulch is wide and flat on top so that when I put the material from the compost bin on top of the pile, the compost material is only 5 to 10 inches thick. My mulch pile might be 12’ wide, but it may only be 24 to 30 inches high. Once I have all the compost on top of the pile, then I go around the edge of the pile with a shovel, and take some of the material from the edges of the pile and toss it up on top of the pile, covering the compost with at least 6” of rotted bark. This will cause the compost material to decompose the rest of the way.

Once you get this system started, you never want to use all of the material in the pile. Always keep at least 2 to 3 cubic yards on hand so you’ve got something to mix with your compost. If you use a lot of compost material like I do, then you should buy more material and add to your pile in the late summer or fall, once you are done using it for the season. Around here many of the supply companies sell a compost material that is already broken down quite well. This is what I buy to add to my stock pile. But I try to make sure that I have at least 3 yards of old material on hand, then I’ll add another 3 yards of fresh material to that. Then in the spring I’ll empty one of the compost bins and add the compost to the top of the pile.

The pile of usable compost will be layers of material, some more composted than others. Kind of like a sandwich. So what I do is chip off a section of the pile from the edge, spread it out on the ground so it’s only about 8” deep, then run over it with my small rototiller. This mixes it together perfectly, and I shovel it onto the potting bench.

Having a pile of rotted compost near your compost bins is great because if you have a lot of leaves or grass clippings, you can throw some rotted compost in the bin in order to maintain that layered effect that is necessary in order for the composting process to work well.

Sure this process is a little work, but it sure is nice to have a place to get rid of organic waste anytime I like. Then down the road when I have beautiful compost to add to my potting soil, I am grateful to have done the right thing earlier, and I know that I have wasted nothing.

About the Author of this Article:
Michael J. McGroarty is the author of this article. Visit his most interesting website, and sign up for his excellent gardening newsletter, and grab a FREE copy of his E-book, "Easy Plant Propagation"

An Autumn Garden for Halloween

There's no better time to enjoy the spectacular beauty that nature has to offer than during the autumn season. This is an ideal occasion for entertaining friends and family, especially around Halloween. Why not take advantage of all the vibrant colors and stimulating textures that autumn provides by creating a garden themed around this exciting holiday.

Halloween parties provide a great opportunity to bring the bountiful harvest from the garden indoors; or better yet, invite guests out into the garden instead. Bathe the garden or patio with soft lights. Set autumn or Halloween-colored votive candles inside small jars or glasses and place them on terra cotta saucers adorned with colorful leaves. These charming, little lanterns can be used as attractive centerpieces for tables or scattered throughout the garden.

Pumpkins are an absolute must for decorating a Halloween garden. Create a variety of Jack-O'-Lanterns and spread them throughout the surrounding landscape. Light them up with candles. You could also choose to hollow out varieties of pumpkin, gourd, and even squash to use as festive containers for cut-flower arrangements. Fill them with various mums, Chinese lanterns, stems having berries attached, sunflowers, dried peppers, twigs, etc. Wicker harvest baskets also make lovely containers. Gather a few bales of hay or straw, add some corn stalks and pumpkins, and accent with Indian corn and small decorative gourds. For additional interest, you could cover tables with old burlap sacks. Create cozy seating around these tables; or perhaps, self-contained, rock fire pits.

Autumn-themed gardens are generally rich with colors such as crimson, gold, dark green, and burnt orange. These beautiful colors result from a variety of flowers, foliage, berries and seed heads. In keeping with a traditional Halloween theme, there are several ways to accomplish a spook-tacular garden. If you desire, your focus can be centered on orange and black. However, too much dark color can result in making the garden dull and unappealing. Your goal is to achieve an inviting atmosphere. Good choices for adding orange color might include zinnias, marigolds, tiger lilies, Gerber daisies, poppies, and butterfly weed. Near-black beauties could include a variety of tulips and irises. Don't forget to throw in some orange and black-colored pansies as well.

Keep in mind, however, that a Halloween theme does not need to be limited to just these colors. Flowers that are deep maroon can also help set off your Halloween effect. Look for these shades in favorite varieties of cosmos, bachelor buttons, or snapdragons. Complimentary colors such as orange mums and purple asters can add additional interest. Mix in some gray or blue grasses.

Likewise, try implementing some dark maroon roses in the garden; allow them to climb along an old iron trellis. Place stone benches in various areas for seating, allowing different views, and maybe a nearby water basin to wash away troubles. Additionally, you might want to include plants that have creepy names such as devil's tongue, blood lily, spider orchid, bat plant, bleeding heart, bloodroot, etc.

Did you know that at one time having certain plants within your garden made you guilty of being a witch? Many types of herbs, weeds, and flowers were once considered to be used solely by witches for making up magical potions and spells. Some of these included Hellebores, lavender, poppies, dandelions, and even ferns. Foxglove, known also as witches thimbles, and yarrow, referred to as devil's nettle, are also commonly grown plants in many gardens today that have a ghoulish connection with witchcraft.

Just for fun you might consider designing a witch's garden filled with various herbs. These gardens are generally circular in shape as it was once believed a sacred symbol by witches. Plant rows of red beauties around the perimeter of the garden. Red blooms were said to keep out evil doers. Try geraniums, zinnias, nasturtiums, red spider lilies, or firecracker flowers.

On the other hand, if you're wishing to ward off a witch, try a border filled with vibrant yellows and rich greens. There are many varieties of flowers such as marigolds, sunflowers, green zinnias, etc. and foliage plants such as hostas, ornamental grasses, or evergreens that will achieve this effect easily. Within the witch's garden you may find an array of native plants.

Add further interest and drama by incorporating ornamental plants as well. Enhance your theme with various features such as gargoyles, toadstool ornaments, broomsticks, and small cauldrons. Allow these objects to crawl out from beneath or behind plants to create an air of mystery.

An autumn garden can easily be designed to fit a Halloween theme. With only a dash of imagination and a few Halloween-related props, you can create an autumn garden that will amaze your family, friends, and neighbors. Happy Halloween.

Author Bio
This article was written by Nikki Phipps and was sponsored by

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Native Plants That Can Be Toxic To Pets

There are several plants that are quite toxic to pets and livestock. Listing them all would take an entire book of their own. These four native plants are highlighted for this article, to bring a heads up to the dangers that may be lurking in gardens nearby. Plant any of these far away from any grazing livestock or pets.

Arisaema triphyllum (L.) Schott (Jack in the Pulpit)
You’ll find this one next to watery slopes, waterfalls, or your local watering hole. Growing up to 2 feet, these have green streaked with purple “pulpits”. There are basal leaves that stay in clumps at the base of the stalk. These have red shiny clustered berries for fruit. Beware: Jack in the Pulpit’s have calcium oxalate crystals present all in the plant and are toxic to most pets. Take care where you have these, but the beauty is astounding.

Aruncus dioicus (Walt.) Fern. (Bride’s Feathers)
These have beautiful creamy white blooms, flowering in late spring to early summer. With a height of 4-6 feet, these delicate airy blooms make a great backdrop for the property or as a border plant. They need a spacing of 4-6 feet apart. Plant these in average moist soil and in partial shade for maximum growth. To propagate, allow seedheads to dry on plant, reserve and collect, then direct sow seed outdoors. Beware: The seed is poisonous if ingested.

Asclepias incarnata L. (Swamp Milkweed)
This flower is a favorite among butterflies. It gets up to 2-3 feet high and you need to space it around 18-24 inches apart. It prefers sun to partial shade in acidic soil. The flowers are pink or purple, and bloom from mid-summer to late fall. It is a clump forming plant, and you can divide these clumps to propagate or just direct sow the seeds outside after frost. Milkweeds tend to be susceptible to aphids, but being that they are the only plant that the Monarch Butterfly’s larvae can survive on makes it worth it. It is a fragrant and beautiful plant to have in any garden. Beware: All parts of this plant are poisonous if ingested.

Cocculus carolinus (L.) DC. (Carolina Coralbead)
This vine grows 10-12 feet long and needs at least 3-4 foot spacing. It prefers full sun to partial shade. Its pale green blooms come in summer and the red berries begin in fall. The foliage is shiny and deciduous, and pretty to look at. Coralbead’s berries look like coral beads, hence its name. You may propagate these by stem cuttings or by seed started indoors. Beware: All parts are poisonous if ingested.

Moist Soil Loving Native Plants

In the world of native plants, there are those plants that prefer various things. There are those that like rich soils, some that prefer harsh environments, and these – the ones that prefer nice moist soils. Perfect for marshes, or those areas that hold water, these are the plants that will be well suited for growth.

Aconitum uncinatum (Southern Blue Monkshood)
Southern Blue Monkshood is a flowering plant that is part of the buttercup family. It is a beautiful hooded flower that has blooms of violet/blue color nearly an inch in size. These flowers will need to be in any sunlight, from shade to sun, and in moist soil beds. They are able to be propagated by dividing the plant itself or by collecting seed via the dried pods that will hang from them. Southern Blue Monkshood is a alkaloid plant that can be poisonous if it is ingested. Take care around it.

Campsis radicans (Trumpet Creeper)
Trumpet Creeper is a flowering plant that is part of the Trumpet creeper family of plants. It is a partially invasive runner that is happy along a fenceline. It is a fast growing plant, especially in full sun and in the moist soil environments. They can have red, orange, or yellow flowers on them and grow up to 40 feet on a vine. Propagation can be done via root division or by their suckers.

Cardamine concatenata (Cutleaf Toothwort)
Cutleaf Toothwort is a flowering plant that is part of the Mustard family. It is a foot high flower that has toothlike projections. It likes partial to full shade. There are white/pink/lavender flowers that are bellshaped and small. They love moist good soil. They are very very tiny and interesting as an accompaniment to other flowers in the garden.

Chelone glabra (White Turtlehead)
White Turtlehead is a flowering plant that is part of the Figwort family. It can get up to three feet high and has a white hooded turtle shaped flower. They will be white blooms but can also be pink or greenish in tint. They love shade and moist soils, with the propagation of it being in dividing it. These are always one to get your garden club talking.

Native Plants that will Thrive in Marshy Soils
These are all plants that are native to the United States. They are all ones that will thrive in the moist marshy soils and will not have issues with mold or disease. Native plants tend to have a better ability to live in different areas instead of fighting with a plant to grow in an environment that it isn’t suited for.