Wednesday, April 22, 2015

The Adaptable and Beautiful Daylily - A Full Sun Perennial Flower

The Adaptable and Beautiful Daylily - A Full Sun Perennial Flower

Daylily - A Full Sun Perennial Flower
Daylily - A Full Sun Perennial Flower
If there is only room for one perennial in the garden, the daylily should occupy that spot. Few plants possess the durability, ease of maintenance and floral abundance as the daylily. The trait of each individual flower lasting only a day is the source for both the daylily's common and the botanical name, Hemerocallis X species. The word Hemerocallis springs from combining two Greek words, hemera, which means "day" and kallos, which means "beauty."

Daylily plants form clump made up of leaves, crown, roots and flowers. The grass-like leaves arise from the upper portion of the white crown. Roots extend down into the soil from the bottom of the crown. The flowers range in size from miniature daylily flowers that are less than three inches in diameter to the almost giant size five inches in some of the larger varieties. Growers group daylilies into three main bloom classes: early summer, mid summer and late summer. A mix of all three provides a long season of bloom, from about mid June to late August. Botanists divide daylilies into two groups, diploid and tetraploid. These two terms refer to the number of chromosomes the plant has. Diploids have twenty-two chromosomes, the normal amount. Plant breeders found a way to double the amount of chromosomes to forty-four, which they called tetraploids. These lilies possess stronger growth, more vigorous flowering and greater color intensity in the flowers. The daylily color selection includes the full spectrum of colors with solid colors, bi-colors, tricolors all available. Hardy from USDA Zones 3 - 9, the daylily can fill a spot in every full sun perennial garden.

Few plants in the garden require as little maintenance as the daylily. Cutting the flower stalks down after bloom will allow the foliage to renew and make the plant look fresh and clean. Another trimming after frost will help keep the planting bed tidy and help to eliminate pests and diseases. Other than dividing the plant every three to four years to prevent overcrowding, this is just about the only care they require. They enjoy full sun and can adapt to many different soils. Gardeners use daylilies as accent or specimen plants, in borders, and as edging plants. The abundant flowers attract both hummingbirds and butterflies.

The daylily has the virtue of having very few problems. The most common ones are spider mites, thrips and aphids. Spider mites spin web-like masses among the leaves and subsist by sucking the juices from plant leaves. Ants usually carry the aphids to the plants and consume the "honeydew" excreted by the aphids. Aphids, like spider mites, suck juices from the plants, sometimes deforming the leaves. Thrips are tiny, almost invisible to the eye, and cause damage by sucking juices from the flower buds and petals. A heavy infestation can cause the flower buds to drop off without blooming. Control of all three insects is by spraying with insecticidal soap.

Plant breeders have developed over 35,000 different varieties of daylily, well out of the scope of this article. Plant heights can vary from eight to sixty inches tall. Flower colors include every color of the rainbow and, if the gardener chooses a broad range of varieties, the bloom season can extend from spring until fall. There are even night-blooming varieties. A search through any nursery or garden center will surly yield several good varieties.

Gardeners searching for a low maintenance plant that blooms faithfully under a range of soil conditions that has few pests will find that plant in the daylily. With the wide selection in cultivars developed by modern plant breeders there will surely be a daylily that suits anyone's full sun perennial garden.

Grow Chrysanthemums for Autumn Beauty - For the Full Sun Perennial Garden

Grow Chrysanthemums for Autumn Beauty - For the Full Sun Perennial Garden

Chrysanthemum - Full Sun Perennial
Chrysanthemum - Full Sun Perennial
The eye-shocking roadside displays of colorful chrysanthemums are a sure sign that autumn approaches. The brilliant flowers on the chrysanthemum form a huge exclamation point on the fall garden bringing an emphatic end to the floral blooming season. The botanical name, Chrysanthemum X hortorum, has provided the common name, which most fans of the plant have shortened to mum.

Hardy to USDA Zone 5 - 9, the chrysanthemum is one of the most hybridized flowers in the garden. The hardy mum's popularity has led plant breeders to develop hundreds, if not thousands, of different varieties. Floral colors include every color of the spectrum but blue. The flowers appear in a large variety of shapes which mum enthusiasts have narrowed down to five basic types; button mums, pom poms, cushion, daisy and decorative. Button mum blossoms generally are small, less than one inch in diameter. Daisy mums resemble daisies while cushion mums are compact, spreading plants with double flowers. Decorative mums bear a close resemblance to cushion mums but the plants grow bigger.  Pom pom mums have small, ball-shaped blossoms on plants that can grow to eighteen inches in height.

Mums purchased as pots for decoration in the fall will have a difficult time surviving the winter unless planting occurs early enough for the roots to establish. There are two methods to increase a potted mum's odds of survival until spring if early planting is not possible. After bloom finishes, cut the foliage back to the soil line. Then place the pot in front of a window in an unheated building, watering as necessary during the winter to keep the soil moist. Alternatively, plant the mum in the pot in a protected area and mound leaves over them. Remove the leaves as soon as the weather begins to warm in the spring and plant in full sun in the garden. There will be several plants in the pot as growers typically stick four or five cuttings in each pot. Separate these and plant each, separating them one to three feet apart. Keep well watered until the small plants become establish. Mums require a consistent supply of moisture, so keep watering throughout the season if rainfall proves inadequate. Mums appreciate full sun and a rich, moist soil.

The gardener will achieve better success by purchasing small plants in the spring from a nursery and planting these in the garden, spacing them one to three feet apart. Pinch the growing tips off to encourage busy growth until late July. Mums are spectacular in mass plantings but can also add fall interest to borders and container gardens. Mums make wonderful bouquets, also, so include some in the cutting garden. The mums will need full sun to do best.

Aphids and foliar nematodes are the biggest problems for the hardy mum. The treatment for both pests is the same. One option is to focus a powerful blast of water on them and knock them off or spray insecticidal soap on the plant. Alternatively, rubbing the leaves between finger and thumb, crushing the insects, works for small infestations.

The list of varieties is extensive and not all chrysanthemums grow well in every area. Generally the small plants offered for sale by a local nursery in the spring will be varieties well suited for that particular area. Not all the potted plants offered in the autumn will be suitable for over wintering in that area, especially those sold by large chain stores.

The chrysanthemum provides magnificent color in the autumn after most other perennials have ceased blooming. With proper care the chrysanthemum will survive for several seasons in the full sun perennial garden.

The Tough and Beautiful Perennial Blanketflower

The Tough and Beautiful Perennial Blanketflower

Gaillardia - Blanket Flower, Full Sun Perennial
Gaillardia - Blanket Flower, Full Sun Perennial
The Blanketflower (Gaillardia x grandiflora) graces the garden with its large, colorful flowers in mid to late summer. This tough, hardy perennial plant withstands drought, has few pests and has a long season of bloom. Because of these attributes, Blanketflower is a delightful addition to the perennial full sun garden.

Hardy to USDA Zones - 2 - 10, Blanketflower will grow from eight to thirty inches tall with a spread of eight to eighteen inches, depending upon the variety. The common name, Blanketflower, comes from the flower's resemblance to the brightly colored blankets weaved by some of the Native American tribes. The genus takes its name from Gaillard de Charentnneau, a wealthy Eighteenth Century patron of botany. The species name, grandiflora, means, "bearing large flowers."  Gaillardia x grandiflora is a hybrid created from two species of Gaillardia's from the American prairie, the annual Gaillardia pulchella and Gaillardia aristata, which is a perennial. The resulting hybrid, Gaillardia x grandiflora, is a tough short-lived perennial with characteristics of both parents.

Blanketflower's blossoms consist of an interesting blend of red, yellow and some shades of brown on a single flower. The flowers on the larger varieties can reach three inches in diameter and will appear most of the summer. The sprawling, wiry stems hold the flowers high above them. The plant prefers full sun and can adapt itself to any soil as long as it is well-drained.

The most common way to propagate Blanketflower is by seed, available from most seed suppliers. Plant the seed in late winter in pots in a sunny windowsill. Seed planted early enough may bloom the first year. It is possible to plant the seed in late summer, over winter the seedlings in a cold frame and set the small plants in the garden in the spring. Another method of propagation is to divide the plants in early spring. Very often the center of the plant will die out, leaving a ring of small plants. Dig these, separate them and plant them throughout the garden. Blanketflower is a short-lived perennial that needs dividing every two or three years to keep if from dying out. It will self-seed under good conditions but, since Gailardia x grandiflora is a hybrid, there is the possibility the seedlings will be different than the parent plants.

The flowers will attract several species of butterflies and some birds will visit the seed heads to devour the seeds. Gaillardia has few pests, but aphids and leafhoppers can spread a disease called aster yellows. Control the insects with insecticidal soap. Any plants afflicted with the disease will cause stunted flowers that remain green. The only recourse is to destroy these plants to prevent the disease from spreading. It can afflict other plants in the aster family, which includes daisies, black eye Susan and chrysanthemums.

Plant breeders have developed many varieties of Blanketflower. Some of the most popular include Gaillardia 'Painter's Palette', which is a mix of colors on thirty inch plants. The huge, golden flowers of 'Gaillardia Amber Wheels' surround a center of amber. Gaillardia 'Arizona Sun' is a dwarf variety with bright orange-red blossoms tipped with yellow.

The Blanketflower combines the toughness of its two prairie parents, creating in the process a beautiful flower to enhance any perennial full sun garden with its huge, unusual flowers. Adapting to just about any soil, it is a problem free perennial flower sure to please any garden visitor.

4-22-2015 - Blooming This Week in Abe's Beer Garden

Betty Magnolia
Betty Magnolia

Betty Magnolia
Betty Magnolia

Daffodil
Daffodil

Phlox subulata   - Creeping Phlox

Phlox subulata   - Creeping Phlox
Phlox subulata   - Creeping Phlox

Alyssum Saxatalis - Basket of Gold
Alyssum Saxatalis - Basket of Gold

Alyssum Saxatalis - Basket of Gold
Alyssum Saxatalis - Basket of Gold

Phlox subulata   - Creeping Phlox
Phlox subulata   - Creeping Phlox

Iberis sempervirens - Perennial Candytuft
Iberis sempervirens - Perennial Candytuft

Iberis sempervirens - Perennial Candytuft
Iberis sempervirens - Perennial Candytuft

Daffodil
Daffodil

Cercis canadensis - Redbud Tree
Cercis canadensis - Redbud Tree

Cercis canadensis - Redbud Tree
Cercis canadensis - Redbud Tree

04-22-2015 - This Week in Abe's Beer Garden's Vegetable Patch

Activity in the vegetable garden is heating up. The first transplants went into the garden and most of the early spring crops seeds planted. To be sure, there will be seeds planted until mid to late August as the fall lettuce crops go in. But most of the future residents of Abe's Beer Garden's vegetable patch are planted.
In the Garden
Compost Mulch
Compost Mulch
The frost tolerant crops have taken residence in the garden. I set out the cabbage, broccoli, kohlrabi and lettuce plants on Saturday and they are ready to grow. The fall planted onion sets are up as are the March planted peas. I have a worm bin in the garage that has produced worm compost all winter. It has yielded about three five-gallon bucket full of nice, rich compost.
Transplant HoleThe first step in setting out the seedlings is to dig a small hole in the soil. I covered the bed last autumn with a layer of compost. The compost consists of layered grass clippings and leaves. I made it during the summer from fresh clippings from the lawn
Worm Compost
Worm Compost
and leaved stockpiled the autumn before. I layered this composted over the top of the bed, allowing it to rot down over the winter.
Now it is loaded with earthworms and serves as an ideal mulch. It will continue to break down and provide nutrients and humus to the plants growing in the garden.
Cabbage Transplant
Cabbage Transplant
After poking out the hole in the mulch, I put a handful of compost in and work it in with the trowel.The transplant goes in the hole. Note the toilet paper roll pot that goes in intact, leaving the seedling's root system undisturbed. The pot will disintegrate and the plants roots will grow through it.
The last step is to pull the mulch around the seedling. If using these pots or peat pots, make sure the top of the pot is not sticking above the soil level. These types of pots can act as a wick and and pull the moisture away from the plant if left exposed.


In the Greenhouse
I managed to find a spot for another crop of carrots. Chatenay, Little Finger and Livingstone Mix are the carrots of choice. Little Fingers grow one to two inches long and provide a nutritious snack, eaten raw. Chatenay is a main crop variety that we usually eat cooked. Livingston Mix is one I am trying. The roots are a mix of colors, should provide a colorful addition to cooked carrot dishes, and shredded into salads. I transplanted the last spring crop of lettuce into bedding packs, as I am running short of toilet paper rolls to cut into pots. These are now in the greenhouse along side the sweet potatoes, potatoes, tomatoes and other seedlings awaiting warmer weather.  
Seedlings in the Greenhouse
Seedlings in the Greenhouse
Seedlings in the Greenhouse
Seedlings in the Greenhouse

Under the Lights
The potato seed are slowly germinating. I moved them from the plastic dome side to the other side so they would get more light from the four lamps installed in the hood. The fennel seed was probably not viable, as it is not germinating. I planted zucchini, cucumber, watermelon, cantaloupe and peanut seed in pots and put under the lights on the heat pad. I normally don't have a lot of luck with watermelon and cantaloupe, but I keep trying. I grew peanuts years ago and always managed to get a crop, though not as good as the gardeners in the south get, I am sure. But we love fresh roasted peanuts and it is worth planting them if I have a spot open. I placed a seed order for two new crops, Broad Windsor Bean and Midori Giant Bean. Midori is an edible soybean that we have tried from the local grocer's produce case and found them delicious. The Windsor bean is a fava bean that I want to plant in the fall for spring harvest, as it is supposed to be winter hardy. I like to experiment and am always game to try something new.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Tuxedo - 2009 - April 20, 2015

He came on a cold December afternoon. A cold wind blew hard ice pellets before it and the sky covered with cold, gray clouds. A little black and white kitten scampered past our patio door. We had lost a cat the summer before. Boots was her name and her color was almost identical to this new cat.
"Boots," I cried, springing out the door, as I thought first our lost cat had returned.
But this one was too small to be Boots and it cowered in front of the garage door, frightened and cold. I got some food and set the dish in front of the little guy and he went at it with a voracious appetite. I petted him, picked him up, and brought him in the house. He shivered for an hour or so before he warmed up. I sat by him as he filled his belly and before long he started to purr. He had a loud purr, one of the loudest I have ever heard. The other cats did not like him at first. We had five other cats. Satan, our black male, made up to him first and the two became sort of buddies. Scampy, the big tom, paid little attention to him. Midnight, our black female, sniffed at the little guy and ignored him, as did the yellow female, Lemon. Stormy did not like him at all and would attack him viciously, driving him off the food. I took to sitting by him, petting him so he could eat unmolested. It was a pattern that held through the rest of his life. Eventually he could eat unmolested, but two or three times a day, he would come and cry at me. I would then go and sit by him while he ate and he would purr and rub my hand with his head.
He was sick when he came, a respitory infection I am sure would have killed him in a short time in the cold weather. But he got well and healthy.
We named him Tuxedo, because his coloring looked like he was dressed for a night on the town. He had black fur, white gloves and shoes. He had a dapper little black goatee and white vest. He became fast friends with me and followed me around when he wasn't sleeping. The cold had penetrated him and he refused to go outside until spring, when it warmed up. He would stand at the door and sniff the cold air, then turn and run away from the door and the cold air.
We kept him in always at night. After that cold night in December, he was always in the house. He would lay on the footrest next to my feet and beg for food when we ate. At bedtime many nights, he would curl up by my feet. He would lay there until I either kicked him off in my sleep or he would jump down in the morning when I got up. Mornings he would come into my office where I kept a bowl of food for him. It was his little stash. He would eat while I played with him, scruffing the fur on his neck and rubbing his soft, black fur. then he would go outside and take his walk around the pond, sniffing at everything he encountered as he walked.
In the evenings, he would cry at me just before bed. I would have to sit with him a bit, pet him and make him purr. When I got up, he would skitter off to the food bowl and start eating as I sat by him, rubbing his fur.
I recently rearranged my office and left a shelf for him next to the computer. He would jump up on that shelf and lay on the towel I put on there for him. He would purr and look at me with half glazed eyes as I talked to him and rubbed him.
This morning he came back for his usual purr session. I played with him, and then he wanted to go out for his morning walk. I opened the door and he shot out into the darkness. It was the last time I got to see him alive.
It was a rainy morning and I lost track of him as I worked. After a couple of hours, I grew uneasy. Tuxedo just did not disappear for a few hours like that. He always turned up after his walk, wanting a turn at the food dish and a nap. I went looking for him, but did not find him. I decided to go into an area of the woods he did not usually frequent. An uneasy feeling came over me as I descended the path, calling his name. I looked off to the right and there he was, lying tangled in a patch of greenbrier. Almost overwhelmed I ran and picked him up. He was already stiff, cold and wet with the rain.
I had seen a large German shepherd dog earlier come up from that spot just after Tuxedo disappeared. It was that dog that mauled my little Tuxedo to death.
I took him to the garage, cleaned him and built him a box. His wounds were extensive and some of his fur appeared as if it were ripped off. I put him in the box on the towel he would lie on, purring, as I rubbed his neck.
Tomorrow morning at dawn, I will bury my little Tuxedo.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Abe's Guide to Flowers







Flowering plants are one of the most successful classes of organisms on earth, appearing from the Arctic to the tropics.

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Written by a gardener for gardeners Abe's Guide to Flowers contains plenty of information about flowers from their life cycle to their parts. It is an excellent botanical guide for gardeners. Full of basic botany about flowers and flowering plants it covers the biology of flowers in an easy to understand way.

Abe’s Guide to Flowers contains sections on the shapes and types and covers pollination, seed formation and symbolism. Abe’s Guide to Flowers is an excellent basic botany guide for the gardener.

Abe’s Guide to Flowers is the third volume in the Abe’s Guide to Botany series. The other books in the series cover all facets of the plants we use in our gardens. They include the roots, stems, leaves and flowers of the plants we grow for flowers and vegetables in the garden. They contain information on the propagation, harvesting and storage of the plants we need to enjoy or consume. Abe’s Guide to Flowers explains the many types of flowers found in the garden. It also explains the functions of each.

Beginning and experienced gardeners will find Abe’s Guide Flowers a valuable guide and handbook. They can use them as they strive to learn how to grow their plants and maintain better gardens. It is a great introduction to botany and the growing of plants. .



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