Monday, April 25, 2011

Special Delivery

It used to be that if you lived in Alaska and lusted for mini orchids, or if your home was in Georgia but your heart was with rare desert cactus, you were out of luck. Not anymore, thanks to the fact that so many plant clearinghouses and specialist growers have gone online and will ship high-quality specimens nationwide.

The websites themselves are a pleasure to peruse, with gorgeous photographs and a wealth of information about the plants they provide; many also offer expert advice via e-mail and phone.
Here are some of the best websites to visit...

In late winter to early summer, Puya venusta (shown) sends up a 40-inch-long, deep purple bloom. It’s available with other California wildflowers and heirloom plants from Annie’s Annuals and Perennials.

If you live in an area with little water but lots of sun, try Simply Succulents for an extensive selection of drought-resistant hardy plants, including an array of sempervivum (hens and chicks), shown.

Rock or trough gardeners score dwarf conifers like the variegated Juniperus squamata ‘Floriant’ (left) through Tiny Treasures.

Rare Find Nursery focuses on unusual hardy plants, including woody shrubs and trees like the Hydrangea quercifolia ‘Pee Wee,’ shown. During fall foliage season, this charming dwarf form of the common oakleaf hydrangea packs loads of visual impact into its three-to four-foot form.

And if you’re hankering for something utterly new for your garden or containers, Plant Delights offers nursery introductions like this Agave schidigera ‘Shira ito no Ohi,’ a slow-growing plant that’s great in a pot.

Article by Lindsey Taylor from Garden Design Dec 2010.
Photos by Todd Coleman
For complete article visit:

Friday, April 15, 2011

Plant Picks

'Autumn Brilliance' serviceberry
x grandiflora 'Autumn Brilliance'

The Morton Arboretum

Gardening with native plants has become a must in the urban landscape of New York City, not only because of zone hardiness, but they attract the most wildlife. When choosing native trees however, most reach a height that is overwhelming for a smaller city garden. One tree that fits the bill is the 'Autumn Brilliance' serviceberry. A hybrid of the native serviceberry, 'Autumn Brilliance' reaches a moderate height and spread and can tolerate partial shade. The showier blooms of this tree emerge in April along with the bronze-green foliage. The sweet red-purple berries ripen in June and are favorites of most birds, especially cedar waxwings. The real difference in this small tree, as the name 'Autumn Brilliance' denotes, is the bright crimson fall color.

The Missouri Botanical Garden

The Serviceberry has many common names; shadbush, shadblow (because the plant blooms in the early spring when the shad run), Juneberry, saskatoon, sugarplum. This particular hybrid, 'Autumn Brilliance', is also known as the apple serviceberry.

Zones: 4-9
Plant Type: Small tree, shrub
Size: 15 t0 25 feet high and wide
Light: Sun to partial shade
Growth rate: fast
Habit: round
Soil tolerances:
clay; sand; loam; acidic; well-drained
Drought tolerance:
Bloom: April; showy, fragrant white flowers
Key feature: fall color
Special attributes: attracts birds, easy care, improved pest and disease resistance
Landscape uses: container or planter, screen, highway median, deck or patio, specimen tree

Friday, March 18, 2011

Wet soil plants

Cornus canadensis

2 to 7
Size: 6 inches tall and indefinite spread
Conditions: Partial sun to full shade; moist, acidic soil

You can tell this deciduous ground cover is a member of the dogwood family just by looking at it. The star-shaped white flowers appear in early summer and have a sweet scent. The blooms are followed by clusters of shiny red berries, which are an excellent food source for birds. In fall, the foliage turns a brilliant red. Bunchberry makes an excellent ground cover in wet spots as well as under evergreens; it just needs adequate water while its first getting established.

From Fine Gardening Dec 2010, by Petie Reed

Monday, March 7, 2011

Carrots for containers

Daucus carota 'Paris Market Baron'

A classic round-rooted carrot with an outstanding flavour and lovely crunchy texture. Their short, almost spherical roots make them perfect for growing in shallow or stony soils where carrots traditionally struggle, and they also perform well in troughs and containers. Give them the shelter of a greenhouse over winter and you can continue growing them almost all year round

Light: Full sun
Soil: Well-drained light, fertile
Sow: March through May
Harvest: June onwards

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Sustainable Peat Moss?

Consider the environmental costs of using it.

Before the mid-1900s, peat moss was largely unavailable and unused by gardeners and farmers in the United States. In the decades since then, peat’s popularity has increased dramatically. And with it, an unanswered question: Is peat moss a responsible and sustainable choice for gardeners?

Peat is the partially decomposed remains of plants, most commonly sphagnum moss. It forms over many millennia in bogs, marshes, and swamps—known as peatlands or peat bogs—often gaining less than a millimeter in depth every year. The process is simple but very slow.

As sphagnum moss grows on the surface of a bog, the older parts of the plant are submerged in oxygen-poor water. The lack of oxygen slows decomposition dramatically, preserving the moss and anything else that falls into the bog. Given enough time, submerged sphagnum moss forms the dense, absorbent material known as peat moss. Left alone, the process won’t stop there. Although the transformation requires eons, undisturbed peat will eventually form coal. Peat is essentially young coal—a baby fossil fuel. And, like all fossil fuels, it is rich in carbon.

A 2009 article in the journal Science makes the claim that, “meter for meter, peatlands store more carbon than any other terrestrial ecosystem.” All told, the world’s peat bogs store approximately 562 billion tons of carbon—more than all the trees in the world, and roughly equivalent to half the carbon currently in the atmosphere as carbon dioxide, or CO2. Healthy peat bogs accumulate an additional 110 million tons of carbon every year, more or less. All this despite the fact that peat bogs cover only 3 percent of Earth’s land and freshwater surface.

Sphagnum moss grows so slowly that management for sustainable use is a significant challenge. At the average rate of 0.6 to 0.7 millimeter per year, Canadian peat bogs add 6 to 7 centimeters in depth (less than 3 inches) over the course of a century. It will require 3,000 years to amass the 2-meter depth needed to justify the costs of extraction. Under these conditions, a fully mined peat bog will not be able to support a second “harvest” for at least 3,000 years.

Can a resource that renews itself this slowly ever be considered sustainable? If we balk at cutting down 500-year-old trees in old-growth forests, should we accept the extraction of 3,000-year-old sphagnum moss from peat bogs?

Article by Cristina Santiestevan from Organic Gardening, Feb/Mar 2011
For full article visit,

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Plants for Privacy

The 8 Best Plants for Privacy
Use these unexpected options that can create a unique hedge or screen.

or needled evergreens create large-scale, year-round boundaries. Their glowing hues of emerald green, blue, or gold brighten the landscape, especially in winter. Conifers, in addition, exhibit strong, vertical, and often pyramidal growth habit, which gives them a unique presence. Although they seem like an odd choice for hedges or screens, they are ideal for establishing a visual boundary in the landscape.

'Yoshino' Japanese cedar
Cryptomeria japonica 'Yoshino'

Type: Evergreen tree
Zone: 5 to 8
Growth Rate: fast
Height: 30-35 feet
Width: 5 feet Soil Preference: Will tolerate drought and will grow in dry soil but prefers well-drained/loamy, sandy or clay soils with a pH of acidic to slightly alkaline
Light Requirements: Full sun
Attributes: Tolerant of many soils

'Gowdy' Oriental spruce
Picea orientalis 'Gowdy'

Type: Evergreen tree
Zone: 4 to 7
Growth Rate: Slow
Height: 8-10 feet
Width: 4-5 feet
Soil Preference: Clay, moist, sandy
Light Requirements: Full sun
Attributes: Intense dark green foliage, recurved, sweeping branches

Western red cedar
Thuja plicata and cvs

Type: Evergreen tree
Zone: 5 to 7
Growth Rate: Slow
Height: 50-70 feet
Width: 20 feet
Soil Preference: moist, loamy
Light Requirements: Full sun
Attributes: tolerant of somewhat wet soils, can easily be sheared

Broad-leaved evergreens make a perfect four season fence. If the size of a conifer is too big for your space, consider one a broad-leaved evergreen that stays smaller and more more compact. These plants reach a mature size quickly and flower readily, some even have berries, which give them added appeal.

Ilex glabra and cvs

Type: Broad-leaved evergreen shrub
Zone: 5
Growth Rate: moderate
Height: 4-8 feet
Width: 6-8 feet
Soil Preference: adequate soil moisture, acidic pH
Light Requirements: Full sun to partial shade
Attributes: tolerates wet soil, lustrous dark green glossy, black berries

Photo by admin
Heavenly bamboo
Nandina domestica

Type: semi-evergreen woody shrub
Zone: 6-9
Growth Rate: fast
Size: 6-8 feet, clumping spreader
Soil Preference: prefers rich, moist to average soil
Light Requirements: Full sun to shade
Attributes: tolerates dry spells once established, panicles of bright red berries that hold on for months, Plant can become invasive in warmer climates

Deciduous shrubs create unobtrusive screens. A quality a plant needs to be an effective hedge or screen is a dense growth habit. Even in winter, when these shrubs have no foliage, their thick branching habit will create a visual barrier. If you're looking to create an informal screen or would like to use a plant that offers more than predictable green leaves, try these options, which have attractive foliage as well as interesting blooms.

photo by

Chinese neillia
Neillia sinensis

Type: woody shrub
Zone: 5a
Growth Rate: fast
Size: 6 foot spread
Soil Preference: moist to average soil
Light Requirements: Full sun to partial shade
Attributes: tolerant of urban pollution, red fall color, showy peeling bark for winter interest

Cutleaf stephanandra
Stephanandra incisa

Type: low growing shrub
Zone: 4a
Growth Rate: fast
Size: 5 foot spread
Soil Preference: moist to average, acidic soils
Light Requirements: Full sun to partial shade
Attributes: emerald green, fine textured foliage emerging burgundy in spring, orange fall color

Buttercup winter hazel
Corylopsis pauciflora

Type: multi-stemmed deciduous shrub
Zone: 6a
Growth Rate: fast
Size: 6 foot tall, 8 foot spread
Soil Preference: moist to average, prefers rich soil
Light Requirements: Full sun to shade
Attributes: fragrant lemon yellow in early spring, forest green foliage turning outstanding yellow in fall, relatively low maintenance

Article by Vincent A. Simeone from Fine Gardening, Feb 2011

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Plant Pick

American cranberry
Vaccinium macrocarpon

Zones: 2 to 7
Size: 6 inches tall and indefinite spread
Conditions: Full sun; moist to wet, acidic soil

An evergreen shrub, American cranberry can be successful used as a ground cover in wet areas or as an elegant accent along the edge of a pond. The tiny leaves line 8 to 10 inch long vines that look like branches, The delicate pink flowers are barely noticeable in early summer, but you can't miss the bright scarlet fruit that follow. The cranberries will be larger than what you might see sold in the grocery store. they ripen as the plant's foliage turns purple in the fall, and they taste sweeter after the first frost.

Article by Petie Reed for Fine Gardening Dec 2010

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Tree Bondage?

Yukitsuri at Kenrokuen Garden, Japan

Photo credit Kanazawa City

Snow that falls in the winter in Kanazawa is heavy in weight because the snow contains a large quantity of moisture. In order to prevent the branches of the trees in Kenrokuen Garden from breaking, yukitsuri is performed. Yukitsuri, which literary means "snow hanging", is a method of protecting the branches with ropes attached in a conical array to the trees.

Photo credit Kanazawa City

Skillful gardeners use more than 800 ropes to give yukitsuri to the Karasaki pine in Kenrokuen Garden, which is famous for the great shape of its branches. Yukitsuri is a true symbol that tells the coming of winter to Kanazawa. The first snow of the season falls in Kanazawa between late in November and early in December. Kanazawa becomes a snow-covered town from January to February.

The oldest surviving record of yukitsuri dates from late in the Edo Period (1603-1867). It instructs Kenrokuen gardeners to "tie trees to prevent snow damage," but makes no mention of specific techniques. The type which is pictured in the photograph is called ringotsuri (apple suspension). It is believed to have been developed some time after apple saplings were first brought to Japan in the 1870s, as a way to support the weight of the fruit.

Photo Credit: Flickr account TANAKA Juuyoh

Erecting a ringotsuri is a delicate operation that requires a whole team of workers. At Kenrokuen, one man climbs the pole and tosses down coils of rope that have been fixed at one end to the top of the pole. Ten other workers stay below to catch the coils, then climb ladders and tie the ropes at strategic points to support the branches and create a visually balanced composition. An experienced team can put up one ringotsuri over an average tree in about two hours. But a very large tree, like the massive Karasaki pine trees in Kenrokuen, can require up to five ringotsuri structures and a full day of work for an entire team.

Taken from an article by Alice Gordenker for The Japan Times. For full article visit

For information on the Kenrokuen garden in Kanazawa visit

Monday, January 17, 2011

Storing Fruits and Vegetables

To prevent rot and diseases from spreading, check fruit and veggies in storage regularly and discard any affected. Fungi and bacteria both cause rot in plant tissues. Most enter via a wound, but some spread by contact; handle produce carefully and keep fruits apart from each other.

Brown rot attacks apples and pears on trees and in storage, spreading easily by contact. Brown patches develop rings of pale spots, or fruit can turn entirely black.

Grey mould affects fruit, carrots and squashes, especially in overcrowded, badly ventilated stores. The fungus forms a fluffy grey mould, releasing clouds of spores.

Bacterial soft rot is common on root crops and onions. Soil-dwelling bacteria enter via wounds, initially causing foul-smelling lesions, and can rot the insides entirely, leaving only skin.

Onion neck rot is a fungus that develops after 10 weeks of storage. Outer scales soften and the neck browns. It does not spread in storage but may have infected many bulbs going into storage.

Potato dry rot causes dark brown lesions and discolored, mouldy flesh. Spores of this fungus are carried on adhering soil and enter wounded tubers in too-warm storage.

Article from The Garden Journal, RHS, Dec 2010

Friday, January 14, 2011

Ancient Asteraceae

A rare fossil flower from the Asteraceae family, found in Argentina, proves that daises existed 47.5 million years ago during the mid-Eocene epoch, when modern mammals and birds were becoming widespread.

The fossil, reported in the journal Science, is unusual in showing large flowerheads several centimeters across - unlike fossils of pollen grains, those of flowers are rare.

To view abstract or full text visit

Article from The Garden, RHS December 2010

Monday, January 10, 2011

Plant Picks

'Glauca' Japanese white pine
Pinus parviflora 'Glauca'

Zone: 6 to 9
Size: 20 feet tall and wide

This tree is a living garden sculpture. It will thrive under just about any garden condition; full sun to full shade, moist to dry soil. It will tolerate some degree of salt exposure; and can be pruned to fit into tight, restricted spaces without losing its character. With its blue-green needles; attractive cones; and twisted, branching structure, 'Glauca' Japanese white pine is a perfect focal point. A trait that is often overlooked is its bark, which is purple-brown and deeply grooved.

Article by Ed Gregan for Fine Gardening, Nov/Dec 2010

Monday, January 3, 2011

Recycle Your Christmas Tree

What to do with your Christmas tree...

Evergreen branch mulch at Wave Hill

Come January, the thrill of having a fresh-cut tree to decorate has faded. You are now faced with the issue of properly discarding the tree. One very earth-friendly way recycle your tree is to cut it up into evergreen boughs which can be used in the garden as a gorgeous mulch.

Most shrubs, as well as perennials and bulbs, welcome the warmth and protection the boughs bring. Simply trim the branches from your Christmas tree and place them upside down under your shrubs and on top of perennials and tender bulbs. The air pockets they create add a buffer against the winter cold and wind, and enough space for early spring shoots to emerge.

Photo from

You can also have your Christmas tree recycled into mulch, which can then be used to protect and nourish your street trees.

Thank you very mulch!
For more information on how to recycle your Christmas trees, check out these websites: