Bite Back at Henbit

Come visit and take a look in our gardens, you’d surely soon guess my favorite color in plants. From light lavender to a deep, nearly black – purple – it’s present in every bed and during every season.

But not every purple flowering plant is a keeper. Henbit – OH NO! I have no idea where it came from but it’s everywhere in our garden. Lamium amplexicaule officially is a member of the mint family, flowers during cool weather and is present throughout the US.

Henbit plant

Henbit – GO AWAY!

Mulching

My favorite method, so I’ll mention it first. Spread newspapers, flattened cardboard boxes and junk mail around the plants and cover with a thick layer of compost or mulch. Instantly, the beds look great and cared for and weeds stay suppressed all season. You may be tempted to go for weed fabric or plastic – resist and use biodegradable paper. It’s better for the environment and there will be no need to wrestle with bits and pieces of material a year or two down the road.
Don’t give weeds a chance to get started!

Hand Weeding

What other activity can you think of that is so destructive and rewarding at the same time?
While not having to hand weed would be the best option at all, no amount of mulching and using groundcovers will eliminate weeds completely. Henbit seems to only need a single ray of sunshine and a speck of dirt to grow into a fine specimen plant!
Try to disturb the ground as little as possible and avoid disbursing weed seeds (don’t shake off the plant) before tossing it. Use a hand weeder or a pair of clippers to cut off at the base. repeat as needed and sooner or later, the roots will be exhausted and incapable of sending up new growth.

Forgetfulness in the Garden

As soon as it was warm enough, I was out in the garden digging around. I had a few hardy perennial seeds to put out, and decided last year to consolidate two or three beds into one big one so still had a few things to move. There was also a tall, floppy sedum that

the consequences of bad (read: no) garden planning

The sedum ended up on top of a hosta. Now I’ll spend the summer seeing which one dominates.

needed to go from the center of the garden to the outskirts.

Anyway, there was almost immediately a problem: not everything was up and I had exactly zero markers. Deciding to rely on memory alone (yes, yes, laugh if you must), I planted some asparagus, moved the sedum, scattered some rudbeckia seeds, built a grape arbor, and moved some raspberry plants.

When it became obvious that markers are a necessity in my garden, I started researching different ways to make them (because of course I don’t want to buy them — that would be money that could be spent on plants!) There are some great ideas out there, and I just happened to have a bag of old silverware.

Flattening spoons and stamping names of plants on them seemed like a lot of work, so I decided to just stick them utensils in the ground next to the plants as they came up. Forks marked the hostas, for example. Immediately, my husband started listing off all the reasons this was a terrible idea (mostly he thought the dogs would pull the silverware up and scatter it all over the yard and make mowing hazardous). I ignored him and proceeded to plant spoons and forks all over the garden.

A couple of hours later, I was walking around, staring at the ground, looking for anything new popping up (I spend hours doing this every spring), and noticed that a fork was missing. The inevitable “I told you so!” was not long in coming…but then I found the fork — buried all the way in the ground. Someone had stepped on it!

Clearly ONE piece of flatware would not do the trick. The next week I planted a small

Spoon markers

Spoon markers

patch of onions, and used spoons to outline it.

While this works great for the onions, it’s not really practical for each hosta, coneflower, peony, and other perennial in my garden. The search for effective, attractive, and free markers continues!

Belle’s suggestions:
Try knives and write on them with a paint pen or a bit less attractive but  functional: plastic slats from window blinds and write on them with nail polish pens.

 

 

How to pollinate an Iris

Plant Sex.

Now that I have your attention, this post is all about taking a little pollen from one plant and dabbing it on the receiving part of another in the hopes of creating a unique new plant.

It’s essential to be able to identify the reproductive parts of a plant, and for an iris that’s not so easy.  Here’s your road map to get started. Find the beards. They look fluffy and inviting. Think of them as the red carpet, leading towards the door #1, the stamen and door #2, the stigmatic lip.  Those two structures are the necessary ones for the iris mating dance.

If you like to try your hand at hybridizing this spring, it’s easy.  Remove the stamen from one variety and rub it into or onto the stigmatic lip of another.  Wait  for about 3 days, if your efforts were successful, the base of the flower will start swelling and growing, eventually forming a fat, oval shaped balloon. Should your stalk break off the plant, don’t worry, just stick the stem into the ground and your pod will continue to mature! It will take about 6-7 weeks for the seeds to be ready for harvesting.

reproductive parts of an iris

 

 

Hummingbird Nectar Recipe

hummingbird in flight

Hummingbirds are always hungry and their favorite food is nectar, be it from the flowers in your garden or from a special feeder.
Please skip the food coloring! Some research suggests this addition is not a healthy choice for birds. The final word is still out on the subject, we suggest erring on the safe side. Choose feeders with prominent colors or hang out some of last years Christmas bows near your nectar feeders instead.

Nectar Recipe

Combine 1 part white sugar to 4 parts water. Bring to slow boil for 2 minutes. Cool before pouring into feeder. Excess may be stored in the refrigerator.

Potato Tower

The end of an odd winter..Spring is here.
The morning air is crisp, the sun is warm, and baby plants are stirring. And with temperatures hovering around 50 degrees or so, it’s time to put out the potatoes here in Tennessee.
You may be familiar with our last potato tower experience, or maybe not.  It was nothing to write home about.  For one thing, I used grocery store potatoes. That’s a big No-No but I had to find out for myself.  Grocery store potatoes are treated with anti-sprouting agents and as you can guess, i ended up with a big pile of – Nothing.
This year, I am using certified seed potatoes and my towers is made with a combination of compost and straw.

Here’s whPotato Towerat you’ll need:
~ cardboard
~ a cage. I used a stretch of fencing joined in the round
~ straw
~ a bucket-full of compost
~ seed potatoes

potato tower step 1

Start by setting up the cage on top on the cardboard,  this will go a long way in keeping the weeds out of the potato tower. Next, add a thick layer of straw to the bottom of the cage, top the straw with your 2/3 of your compost.
Potato Tower step 3
Push the seed potatoes into the compost and cover with Potato Tower step 4the remaining compost.  Top with another layer of straw.
Once the potatoes sprout out, keep adding straw to the tower, keeping about 4 inches of greenery exposed at all times.  Stop adding when the plants set blooms.

So far it’s looking good, don’t you agree?

The Sides of March

Welcome spring! I hope you are here to stay.

As the temperatures are rising and the sun is smiling on the plants, it’s time to take stock and see which plants have survived this arctic winter. I think the part that was toughest on our plants were the really low temperatures in absence of snow (insulation) cover.  The hellebore in pots, for example, had a distinct dislike for that environment and are still sulking.  The potted heuchera, on the other hand, have started to leaf out.  It’s time to repot and trim, ruthlessly.
If your heuchera are in the ground, be sure to give them a good look over If they have heaved or have grown stalky, either replant them deeper or mulch well around their base.

Remove the ratty foliage and give your heuchera some breathing room – they will reward your efforts in no time with lots of nice, fresh, lush foliage.

Heuchera

Top row of potted Heuchera plants has been ‘de-rattified’.