Wordless Wednesday and Pretty Pictures from July 4th

Our friend, John Garrett, took these pictures during the July 4th weekend.

container, Eupatorium rugosum 'Chocolate' and Japanese forest grass 'All Gold'1-DSC_0006-001 Hibiscus 1-DSC_0022 Spider flower (Cleome) Persian shield 1-DSC_0014-001 Purple Angelonia, sweet potato vine 'Margarita' and penta 'Butterfly Red' Red Mandeville and Purple AngeloniaIt’s a law that I must tell you when I post about plants that I get for free because I’m a plant ho. This last picture is the Echinacea ‘Southern Belle’ that I got when I attended the 2011 Garden Writers symposium. I was planning to go again this year, but I canceled the trip. Shit happens.

Echinacea 'Southern Belle'

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The Saddest Thing Ever

My family is going through the saddest thing we have ever dealt with. This is what my 28-year-old daughter, Leandra, posted on her Facebook page:

My soul mate was buried today. The love of my life . . . He said we would be together forever and a day. And the last day would be the best day of all the days before. Then we would leave this world together so we would never have to miss each other. . . When he left for work in the morning, he would wake up 5 minutes early to give me an extra long goodbye. He would always ask, “Can’t I just put u in my pocket and take you with me so I don’t have to miss u all day long?” Then I would say, “But baby, I can’t fit in your pocket!” Then he would give me the saddest pouty face and kiss my forehead, both my cheeks and my lip, and say, “I bless this face.” Then he would leave for work. . . He called me his babylove, told me he couldn’t wait for me to have a big fat potbelly (all stuffed with a baby). He said I would have the most beautiful fat potbelly ever. He made me breakfast in bed every weekend, and told me I was his whole world. He never got mad at me. Not once. . . It’s not his fault he had a heart attach. He was only 28, strong, fast, did back flips, I called him my ninja. . . I am so thankful we never fought and always parted with a big kiss and an “I love you,” and then we would argue about who would miss whom more. . . But if that is not how u say goodbye to your love, it IS true what they say, any day could be their last. So treat every day that way. . . I still tell Ira every day how much I love him. But I never have to say goodbye because I know he is always with me. And he will never have to miss me or want me in his packet because now his spirit can follow me around everywhere I go. . . You can disagree all you want, but there has never been a greater love than the love that Ira and I had. I’ll spend every day of the rest of my life missing him, and loving him, and waiting for him to grab a hold of me so we can be together again.

It’s a little weird for me to post this on my blog, but my blog has always been a mixture of what’s happening in my garden and my life, and to never mention this seems wrong. I also want to ask you to please pray for Ira, Leandra and their families, and if prayer isn’t your thing, maybe you could just send them some love and caring.

Leandra and Ira

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How to Control the Hibiscus Sawfly

It’s that time of year again, when it’s so humid that the camera has to adjust for about 20 minutes before it can take a decent picture.

steamyIt’s also the time of year when the hibiscus sawfly devours my hibiscus. The plant looks ugly for awhile, so I don’t look at it. I look at something else until the hibiscus recovers and starts to bloom, which it always does.

'Sparkling Burgundy' pineapple lily

Why would you look at the ugly hibiscus when there’s a fabulous ‘Sparkling Burgundy’ pineapple lily in front of it?

If I ever decide to do something other than what I do now – which is absolutely nothing because that’s the easiest and bestest way – I’ll follow this advice. It was posted on Facebook by Lloyd Traven, owner of Peace Tree Farm, and was in response to someone’s request for help.

“The fabled hibiscus sawfly—it is NOT a caterpillar, so Dipel and Spinosad are not the agents of choice here. Also, they grow really fast, since they eat like pigs, so early treatment is important. No real biological controls except lacewing larvae, but you are WAY past that point—you have to put the eggs out early, right when you expect the sawfly to show up—-use the NOAA degree day calculation for your area from this summer/spring, and when you get close to the number from a couple weeks ago, release next year. Right now—Suffoil-X is organic option, full coverage required. But knowing (I removed the name), he is going nuclear immediately, so Talstar or something like it. Careful—eye and throat irritant. Do NOT use imidacloprid—just the wrong choice entirely for this, aside from all the other issues.”

I almost deleted the last part of that quote because I don’t want anyone to go nuclear, but I do want to give you good and complete information, so I left it in. The first part of the quote makes the point that it’s important to know what you are dealing with before you decide on a treatment, so here’s a picture of the hibiscus sawfly:

hibiscus sawflyIn addition to being the hibiscus sawfly time of year, it’s also crazy busy, and I only have time for one more, quick horticultural-related story before I need to go do other things.

Warning: If you don’t want to hear about my Clivia, you should stop reading right now.

Clivia foliage

My Clivia

Summer is our favorite time of year to have guests, and last weekend my husband’s family visited. I asked my nieces, “Have I ever showed you my Clivia?” Then I made a sweeping gesture that included many items. “I wanted to put it outside for summer, but your Uncle Dale doesn’t want me to do that. He’s worried that something will nibble on my Clivia.”

They have known me all their lives, so they just roll their eyes and shake their heads.

Okay, now I must go change a few beds because it’s that time of year, and I need to prepare for the July 4th guests.

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How to Harvest Garlic

I wrote a post last fall titled ‘How to Plant Garlic‘, and if you followed those instructions, then you probably have lots of garlic in the garden, and you might want to cut the flower stalks off them. It’s hard to do because the curly stems look so cool, but you want the plant to use its energy making the biggest, most delicious garlic possible.

garlic flower budsThey call the flower stalks garlic scapes. I wish that I’d researched recipes that use them instead of just throwing them on the compost, what a waste.

I left a few of the scapes because I want the beautiful flowers. They dry easily, and last forever. Unless you loan them to your friend Trace because you think that he might want to use them in a New Year’s Eve centerpiece which will end up in the April 2014 issue of Alabama Gardener. If you do that, then they are gone forever.

Most of my garlic plants need more time before they’re ready to be harvested, but I waited a little too long to harvest this one. Do you see the one in the lower left corner that’s fallen over and looks almost dead?

Garlic plantI should have pulled it up sooner. It’s still a nice, big clove of garlic, but it would have a longer shelf life if I’d harvested it a little sooner.Harvest when the bottom 2 or 3 leaves are brown and the plant looks about 40% dead.

Fresh garlicMy raised beds have loose, fluffy soil, and I can just grab the garlic by the stem and yank it out. In heavy soils, dig them out or use a garden fork to lift them. I once read that you should let them sit outside in the sun for a few days. Well maybe that works in Yankee-land, but here in hot, sunny Alabama my garlic baked and spoiled the only year that I followed those instructions. Now I hustle them into the garage, spread them out on a screen and turn on a fan to help dry them. You can also hang them in small bundles.

We ate all of the 2013 crop, so the first cloves that I pick this week will go directly into the kitchen. Before I end this post, I want to show you a few pretty pictures that I took this week.

Hydrangea and dayliliesThe hydrangeas and daylilies are wonderful right now.

Endless Summer HydrangeadayliliesGetting back to the garlic, in addition to showing you pictures when they bloom, I’ll do some taste tests with the different varieties and let you know the results later.

Posted in Delicious!!, Spinning in the Backyard, Tips and Stuff | Tagged , , , | 5 Comments

How to Keep Birds Away

“Look Peggy, I think that bird has a nest in that bush.”

“I don’t think so Dale. That’s a blueberry bush. Damn birds want my berries.”

This was obviously a berry-emergency that demanded immediate action. So I tied a piece of tinfoil to one of the branches. I’ve never done this before. Usually I tie a Mylar balloon to the plant. Mind-readers-for-birds say that this tricks the stupid birds into thinking the plant is on fire. But like I said, it was an emergency, and I didn’t have any balloons, and the tinfoil seems to be working just fine.

Use tinfoil to deter birdsI bought a special, customizable balloon for my other blueberry plant. When the blueberries are done for the season, I’ll move it to the fig tree.

Keep birds off blueberries

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How to Root Cuttings

It’s been crazy, springtime busy around here, and it’s also crazy beautiful. The mountain laurel in my yard peaked on Mother’s Day weekend.

Mountain LaurelMountain laurel and dogThat’s our newest addition to the family, Layla. Isn’t she cute? Anyway, one of the things that I’ve been doing is rooting cuttings. Not because I need any more plants, but because I wanted to prune my Persian shield so that it would branch more. I find it hard to just toss the cutting on the compost pile when, with a little effort, I can have another beautiful plant. I love plants!

Persian shield

I’m about to cut it back.

It’s easy and fun to root cuttings. First, fill small pots with potting soil, put them in a waterproof container, and water with rainwater or dechlorinated water to settle the soil. Leave some water in the bottom of the container so that the soil will stay very wet for the first week. Next, trim the cutting that you will later remove. If it’s tall, remove the top. Then cut any large leaves in half. That’s a really good trick to help plants that lack an adequate root system. Plants are like big water pumps; they suck water up through their roots, and it evaporates through their leaves. – “Evaporate” is probably not the correct term, but you know what I mean. – Cutting the leaves in half reduces the rate at which the plant loses water and helps it survive until it can make some roots. This is what it looked like before removal:

Persian shieldMake the final cut just above the first set of leaves that you didn’t cut in half, and then quick-like-a-bunny push it into the prepared pot.

Persian shield cuttingsIf you use rooting hormone, don’t just shove it in the soil; you’ll wipe off the hormone. Use a stick to make a hole that’s a little bigger than the stem, put the cutting in the hole and gently pat the soil around the stem. But lots of plants, like coleus and sedum, root easily without messing with the hormone.

Basil cuttings

Basil is another plant that roots very easily, even without rooting hormone.

When the container is full, put a lid on it. I use a second container placed upside-down. I call it “the cooker”.

The cooker

Put the cooker where the sun don’t shine, in the deep shade of the porch, for about ten days, and then take the lid off. After another four days, take your plant out of the tray and slowly transition it to more light. Watch closely, and if you see signs of stress, go back a step or two.

You know how on cooking shows, after they put the dish in the oven, they open a different oven and take out a hot, bubbly delicious thing, so you can see it all done? Well, look in the nursery.

Persian shieldI made those a few weeks ago, and once they get a little stronger, I’ll give them to my daughter, Monica. Thanks for editing my blog honey. I love you.

Posted in Family, It Just Grew There, Tips and Stuff, What's Blooming? | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Spring in the Garden

Peony 'Blaze'Every two weeks, I’m going to post pictures of my front garden on my other blog, the one that I write for Alabama Gardener magazine. I think that’ll be interesting to see how the garden changes through the growing season. But right now it’s spring, and everything is changing so fast that if I don’t post pictures every week, you’ll miss lots of pretty things, like that red peony who only bloomed for about two or three days. Seriously, why do I even give Paeonia lactiflora ‘Blaze’ garden space? That closeup and this next picture were both taken on Monday, April 28th.

The Plant Ho's gardenAnd this is what it looked like yesterday morning, three days later:

Peony 'Blaze' and 'Festiva Mazima'

Peony ‘Festiva Maxima’ is just starting to bloom, but after just a few days, ‘Blaze’ is done.

I should blog more often so that you don’t miss stuff, but I’m too busy doing stuff to show you all the stuff that’s happening. One minute it looks like this:

Hidden Hills GardenAnd the next minute, it looks like this:

Hidden Hills GardenI love this next view of it.

6So anyway, I decided that for the time being and until I get tired of it, I’m going to alternate weekly tours of the front garden between the two blogs. That way you won’t miss seeing spectacular plants like this Columbine.

ColumbineI always thought that Columbine liked part shade, but these seedlings popped up in full sun, and they seem happy.

Columbine and salviaHere’s some more pictures that I took on Monday, April 28th, exactly one week after the pictures that I posted on this blog for Alabama Gardener magazine.

Hidden Hills Garden

The view from the front porch.

Hidden Hills GardenHidden Hills GardenHidden Hills GardenIsn’t it crazy how fast things are changing in the garden? I absolutely love this time of year. Come back in a couple of weeks, and see how different it looks.

Posted in I love this plant, What's Blooming? | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Award-Winning Plants

I’ve been a planting maniac trying to get everything that I ordered from Plant Delights Nursery and everything that I bought at the Huntsville and Birmingham Botanical Gardens’ plant sales in the ground. After three solid days, these were all settled in their new homes.

my new gardenWorking so closely with my new plants, it’s clear that some of them deserve awards, so I’m passing some out.

The award for most exciting new plant goes to…..

Bletilla striata Gotemba StripesBletilla striata ‘Gotemba Stripes’. Isn’t it beautiful against that background of sweet flag?

The award for biggest attention-whore goes to…

Coleus and hosta 'Wheee!' the tag just says “coleus” so I don’t know what variety it is. I thought it might be ‘Nuclear Fusion’. I’ve grown that one before, and it’s excellent. It stays nice and small and round and bushy without a lot of pinching, and I never saw a flower, just great foliage. The hosta on the right is the free plant that Proven Winners gave to all the writers at the Garden Writers Convention. It’s named ‘Wheee!’ because if a little bug was sliding on the leaf edge, that’s what he’d say.

Here are some other winners:

Ageratum 'Artist Blue'Most “cute as a button” – Ageratum ‘Artist Blue’

Pitcher plant, Sarracenia sp. Coolest – Pitcher Plant (Sarracenia)

Dead plant

Quickest to die – Blue star ‘Georgia Pancake’

grass 'Northwind'Best bargain – Panicum ‘Northwind’

I read an article about ‘Northwind’ being chosen as the 2014 perennial plant of the year, and then I saw it at the Huntsville Botanical Gardens plant sale for only $3 or $4. That’s a steal. I know they’re small, but they’ll grow. I bought five.

GazaniaBiggest regret – Gazania. I didn’t study the tag closely enough. It’s a mix of colors, and I don’t like mixes. In life, I like all kinds – it’s more interesting that way; but in the garden, I like everyone the same.

Ilex crenata 'Adorned'Most full of potential – Ilex crenata ‘Adorned’

CliviaMost fun to use in a sentence – Clivia

“I love my Clivia!”, “My Clivia is amazing.”, “Have I ever showed you my Clivia?”

All right, that’s enough nonsense. I still have lots of plants in pots, so I better go.



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Pretty Spring Pictures and Plant Sales

Spring is here, and each day is more beautiful than the day before. Everything is fresh, without snail damage and oh-so-pretty. Here’s a few pictures from last week:

Alabama Snow-wreath against Loropetalum

My favorite picture from last week is this close-up of Alabama snow-wreath against a background of Loropetalum.

Loropetalum. butterfly, Alabama snow-wreath

The pink-blooming Loropetalum looks better than ever, and I’m pleased with the Alabama snow-wreath on the left; I planted the snow-wreath last spring.
I snapped the picture just as a butterfly floated past. Can you see it in front of the Loropetalum?

Candytuft, Loropetalum, spring bloomers

The evergreen candytuft in the foreground of that last picture blooms at the same time as the Loropetalum and the snow-wreath.

Hosta, Autumn Frost

Two weeks ago, when I posted about the first day of spring, this hosta ‘Autumn Frost’ wasn’t even out of the ground.

I’d show you more, but I barely have time to post anything because my spring order from Plant Delights arrived yesterday.

Plants from Plant Delights

Spring order from Plant Delights

As soon as I got everyone unpacked and watered, I drove into Huntsville for the Huntsville Botanical Garden’s ‘Night of a Thousand Flowers,’ which is your first opportunity to buy plants at the garden’s spring plant sale. – I told you that I was going, so don’t cry to me if you go to the sale, and they’re sold out of the dark red Alternathera.

What I bought at the Huntsville Botanical Garden's spring plant sale.

What I bought at the Huntsville Botanical Garden’s spring plant sale.

I also got the last blue bear’s claw fern. Every time I walked away from my cart for a minute, I’d look back and see someone eyeing it, and I’d call out, “Don’t even think about it mister! I’ve got my eye on you.” Then we’d laugh and talk about my fabulous new plant.

Bear's claw fern

Blue bear’s claw fern

Crassula, Information about growingAnd I couldn’t resist this pretty house plant. If you’re having trouble reading the tag, you can always click on the picture to enlarge it. I think there were a few more of these, and the sale runs until Sunday, April 13, 2014. Here’s a link to more information about the sale.

CrassulaThe Birmingham Botanical Gardens’ preview party is tonight, and instead of staying home and planting everything I have now – like a sane person – I’m heading to Birmingham to see what kind of trouble I can get into there. Here’s a link to more information about Birmingham Botanical Gardens’ Spring Plant Sale. Both the plant sales are free to attend on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and they’re open to the public, even if you are not a member.

Happy Shopping!

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My favorite thing about this silly, little blog is that I imagine some future child asking their mom, “What was Great Grand Aunt Peggy like?” And their mom will reply, “Well, she had amazing friends, and went on 6 girls’ weekends every year.” Note to future child: Your mom is exaggerating; the most it’s ever been is 5, and it’s usually only 4. And don’t listen to Great Grand Uncle Dale’s tales about girls’ WEEK. It’s never more than 5 days.

Girls' Weekend

Jennifer on Girls’ Weekend 2014#1

Future mom continues, “She liked to have fun.”

Rollercoaster, Kraken, SeaWorld

Jesse’s so fierce, and I’m kinda terrified.

“She loved her family.”

Dad met us in Orlando.

Dad met us in Orlando.

Jesse took this picture of Dale, my dad and I.

Jesse took this picture of Dale, my dad and I.

“And everywhere she went, she looked for the flowers. Here, read her blog, and you’ll see.” One last note to future children everywhere: I hope your whole life is like spring, and each day is more beautiful than the day before.

Garden at SeaWorld

Garden at SeaWorld

My last post was about the first day of spring, and it fell between girls’ weekend in Kentucky and a trip to visit Jesse in Orlando. I posted pictures of Epcot on my blog for Alabama Gardener, and I’m posting a few SeaWorld pictures over here.

Flowering tree at SeaWorld

I don’t know what kind of tree this is, but it sure is pretty.

Red crinum at SeaWorld

I asked Jesse to stand next to this red crinum to give the picture scale, and this is what he did.
Jesse likes to have fun too.

The flowers were HUGE!

The flowers were HUGE!

I wish that I could grow that red crinum, but I’ve only found one website that lies and says it’ll live in zone 7; most sites say it’s zones 9-11.

That’s all the pictures I have from SeaWorld, but before I end this post, let me remind you that both the Huntsville Botanical Gardens and Birmingham Botanical Gardens are having their spring plant sales next weekend, April 10-13. I’m going to Huntsville’s Preview Party on Wednesday, April 9, 2014, and then on Thursday, I’ll go to Birmingham’s Preview Party. I think it’s worth paying the extra money to get into the preview parties so that I can do two of my very favorite things: drink wine and shop for plants.

Happy Spring Planting Everyone!!!!

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