Monday, August 31, 2015

The colors of the spirit

Nature always wears the colors of the spirit.
                                            Ralph Waldo Emerson

Wowee…my favorite weather this week: A high of 90 each day, all week long. Ugh. The last batch of 90-degree temps we had was when I received and planted my Moonflowers. They made the trip with my daughter from South Central Pennsylvania and landed in a bucket of water for days because of the nasty hot weather. I finally braved the humidity and dug a hole in my concrete yard and plopped them in. Remember this?

As sad as they looked they had little green tips that said to me……….”Feeeeed me!" something right out of The Little House of Horrors. I fed them a gallon of water every day during that heat wave.

The Moonflowers rewarded me triumphantly with this below, and even with a flower. There’s another bud getting ready to bloom nearby. I know they will absolutely LOVE this weeks high temps and humidity (unlike their caregiver). I bring you this photo now because who knows if the sweet bloom will make it to tomorrow given the multitude of wildlife that cavorts throughout my yard. I think they party all night long. They're out there at 5:30AM when they think no one's watching....

It’s late in the season, so my Moonflowers really need to take off in order to make it through the winter. I think they are fairly cold hardy and will keep growing well into the Fall and early Winter depending on the temps, so maybe their will to live will guide them through. I'll make sure I mulch the living daylights out of them to give them half a chance.
Here's a photo of a large pot on my deck to add a little color to this post:
My favorite flowers are combined in this pot - impatiens, coleus and ferns. My new favorite flower are the white ones which for the life of me I can't remember their I love them because they aren't as messy as impatiens, are bigger, and have larger flowers. But I don't think they have as much of a variety of colors as impatiens. Notice my adorable watering can solar light I bought at CVS on a trip I took with a friend to Fenwick Island Delaware last April. Of course the flowers are blocking the solar unit so it's not glowing but when it does it's so cute!

Yesterday I attended my Master Gardener Harvest Banquet and received my pin from West Virginia University Cooperative Extension Master Gardener program. I am now a Certified WVU Master Gardener. What does this mean? It means that I took 30 hours of instruction, did about 30 hours volunteer work and 30 hours of further education for the past two years. Each year I need to do volunteer/educational hours (much less) to maintain my status. I have been telling all my friends I’m finally certified….and of course their response was “I could have told you that….”

Peace out. Stay dry or stay cool, whichever applies.


Thursday, August 13, 2015

Now is the time to buy plants to fill in the empty spaces!

I am fortunate to have a son-in-law that just built a porch in front of my house. It is a simple wooden deck, and turned out very nice.
A gardener on a budget can get pretty overwhelmed at the thought of landscaping a home that has few plants!

Enter my Weirton K-Mart. I made the trip over to see if they put anything on sale. When I visited in the beginning of summer I was very impressed with the quantity, quality and variety of the plants they offered. But I couldn't buy anything because they were not in the budget and I wasn't ready to plant yet.

I must give kudos to K-Mart because they are the only commercial retailer in my town that takes good care of its plant stock  consistently  -  such as regular watering. Our Kroger's does a good job with a very limited quantity, though. They had a lot of help in early summer thanks to the weeks of rain we had. But I noticed the K-Mart staff watering on more than a few occasions. I won't even mention WalMart - it's such a shame. But I guess their strategy is to sell as much as possible as soon as the frost is gone and what ever happens to the rest of the plants happens.

When I made my trip last week to K-Mart to see what was on sale, I was thrilled to find that basic shrubs were marked down to 4 and 5 dollars apiece. I bought thirteen plants and they were in very good shape. My challenge now is to keep them healthy until planting time. And that won’t happen until I can figure out how to amend the soil in front of my house.

Here are some of the plants I got:

Girard's Pleasant White Azalea

Girard Roberta Azalea

Azalea "Johanna"

Crimson Pygmy Barberry "Nana"

Spiraea japonica "Goldmound"

Rhododendrons - "album" (white) and Catawba zembla (pink)

And finally I bought four of these:

spreading yews

One thing I was surprised about: All of the plants will take part (6 hours) to full sun. I always thought the yews were sun lovers, but the tag says part sun.  I have full sun for most of the day and I don't want to burn up the yews - or any of them. So the goal is to mulch heavily to keep the roots cool and moist. Any other ideas?

Now the challenge is to prepare the front garden soil and keep these plants alive while we appear to be undergoing a mini-drought. I got thirteen plants for under $60.00, so the NEXT challenge is to help them grow to their full beautiful potential!

Monday, August 3, 2015

Moonflower melodies

Did you ever see something that just resonated in your heart and you knew you must have them?

Years ago I visited my daughter Erin out in Eastern Pennsylvania and I walked around their new house and there was a huge stand of Moonflowers. I didn’t know what they were, of course. Their gigantic long tubular flowers were just so pretty. Even the ones that were beginning to unfurl have such a lovely swirling  pattern of their petals, making just seeing them something awesome to look at.

I took some home and have been trying to grow them for several years.
 Here is one I grew in a pot.

My Moonflowers are described as the genus Datura, species metel and is considered a perennial herb here in zone 6-10. I am in zone 6.  The name moonflower is applied to many kinds of flowers, by the way. 

But a perennial? I think this gets tricky. My daughter confirms this as her stand of moonflowers comes back every year saying that she believes they can grow from their roots (tap roots), but definitely from the seeds they drop, which doesn’t make them perennial. They have large spiny seed pods that crack open when ripe, spreading their seeds all over. The seeds are very hardy and can hibernate ( for years in the ground.

Something I learned when researching datura is that they are highly poisonous. The seeds and flowers have the toxin atromine, among others, in them. Don’t let animals or kids ingest these plants. They can make anyone very sick or even die. Well. I think I’ll do a post on “Are our everyday garden flowers poisonous?” I think we’ll be surprised, so stay tuned.

My daughter came out to visit recently and brought me a large bag filled with moonflowers. It was a week of temps in the 90's, so I immediately dunked them in a huge bucket of water. They perked up and I even had a beautiful bloom.
Sadly, I am a hot weather hater. My moonflowers were in the bucket for a long while because I just couldn't get out in the yard and dig dirt in the heat and humidty.

But finally I dug a hole and plopped them in it.
Yes they are sad looking, BUT! the very tips are new growth and if they can just get through the heat wave, they will make it. We are only now expecting a storm coming in tonight after probably two weeks, so I'm sure they'll take off. I give them a gallon of water everyday. I will build a fairly wide space around them with amended soil so that when - and if - they survive, the seeds will have a good environment in which to grow.

Finally, a friend gave me a “black” datura Fastuosa and I was blown away by its beautiful flower. 
                               Datura metel Fastuosa "Black Datura"
                          I just stuck the seedling I was given in a pot of pansies as you can see!

Oh I guess I just love these exotic ruffley , large and elegant plants and flowers! Try them out and let me know - do you have datura's - or moonflowers?