You can have your landscape and eat it too!

Anyone can grow fruits or vegetables in their own backyard.  No special garden plot needed!

Edible plants  can be tucked in a number of spots in an existing landscape.  The only requirement is enough sun which in most cases is 6-8 hours of direct sun.

Any vegetable can be grown but some look better than others, so they can be put in more noticeable spots.  Some plants that are being used for landscaping are swiss chard, parsley, everbearing strawberries, lettuce, kale, cabbages, peppers and many kinds of herbs.

Best results can be obtained if the soil is improved directly around the edible plant. Also, during dry spells, they will probably need supplemental water.

Blueberries and dwarf fruit trees such as apples, pears, peaches and plums are a good choice even though they need a few early season sprays.

Grapes on a fence or arbor can add quick privacy.  There is even a hardy Kiwi vine for our hardiness zone.

Just think of walking out into your own yard in the summer and picking peaches off your own tree.  Nothing tastes better!

bye for now,


Is Your Jade Plant Thisty?

This time of the year it’s very easy to over-water house plants.

There is a lot less light in the winter,so most  plants including Jade Plants, will not be as actively photosynthesizing and won’t need as much water.

Over-watering has symptoms similar to under-watering.
When you give a plant too much water, it can cause the roots to become water logged and eventually die back. When the plant loses its roots, it can’t take up enough water, hence, the apparent symptom of not enough water. The well-meaning person taking care of the plant gives it even more water making the problem worse.

A Jade Plant  is able to store water in its fleshy leaves and stems. When it dries out to the point of needing water, the leaves become soft and flexible.

If you think your Jade plant needs water, gently squeeze a leaf or two.

Jade Plant

If it feel soft, it needs water. If it’s still firm, which in the horticulture trade is called turgid, no water is needed. The plant shown above needs no water, the leaf feels pretty firm.

Dry Jade Plant

This next plant’s leaves are soft and flexible, that means this plant needs water.

This squeeze-the-leaf  method works only on Jade Plants and other plants with similar fleshy leaves such as sedums and aloe.

Enjoy your indoor gardening!


Caring for Your Poinsettia

Our Poinsettias turned out wonderful this year.

The color and size were outstanding.

We grew about 250 poinsettias of various colors: marble-pink, burgundy, white, and of course, red.

We started giving them out about mid-December and sent the last ones out on the 23rd.

To keep your poinsettia going for as long as possible, you need to follow just a few simple guidelines.

To begin with, keep in mind that most poinsettias die from over-watering. Your home probably has different growing conditions than the greenhouse from which it came, so your plant will be less actively growing and therefore need less water.

Let the surface of the soil dry out some before watering. Then water the plant thoroughly until water flows out of the bottom of the pot.  Any water remaining in the foil wrapper has to be emptied out otherwise the roots will become water-logged and eventually die off.  With fewer roots the plant will not be able to sustain itself and will prematurely die. That is the main reason why many people cannot keep their Poinsettia alive more that a couple of weeks.

If possible, chose a spot that has bright light but not direct sunlight.

Keep your Poinsettia away from cold drafts or from heat vents that may blow hot air  directly on the plant.

Don’t worry about fertilizer for your plant, it won’t really need much until spring. A half-strength dose of water soluble fertilizer once in a while should be adequate.

Also, keep in mind that poinsettias weren’t meant to last too much longer than the Christmas season.  They were bred for color and  not for hardiness as a house plant.

By following these tips you should be able to enjoy your poinsettia as a reminder of wonderful Christmas memories for many weeks to come.


Once in a Lifetime — Agave Blooming in the Greenhouse

We have a very interesting botanical event happening in the greenhouse right now. One of our Agave plants is blooming.

Agave plant in full bloom
Agave plant in full bloom

This plant is about 3 or 4 years old and has decided to bloom after all this time.  This is actually fairly quick for an Agave though.  Their other nick name is “century plant” , so-called because of the seemingly long length of time it normally takes them to flower in the wild.

Agaves are native to the southwestern part of this country and “south of the border down Mexico way”.  The ‘Blue Agave’ variety that grows in the Mexican state of Tequila is used to make… you guessed it…Tequila.

I don’t know what variety this one is since Judy rescued it from going into the compost bin at the Botanical Gardens.  At that time the plant was just a small  one inch diameter “bulblet” with no name.

Agaves only bloom when they have stored enough energy in their roots and leaves. How many years this takes depends on the species.  After blossoming and forming seeds, they die, trusting that the seeds will carry on the next generation.

Even though this Agave of ours is planted in a small 8 inch pot, the flower stalk is 10 feet tall! It has been alternately ignored and well-tended throughout its life.  It couldn’t have had life too hard since it took quite a bit less time than a century to bloom. We had a few last year that were in 6″ pots and their stalks reached nearly 6 feet.

This Agave is planted in an 8 pot. Note the swollen bulb-like stem.
This Agave is planted in an 8″ pot. Note the swollen bulb-like stem.

I counted over 120 flowers on the flower stalk! Wow! Each flower will produce a bulblet that will go on to produce another plant. I’d say that is pretty good odds that the next generation will survive.

Our Agave produced a ten foot tall flower stem containing over  120 flowers. I can barely reach the lowest set of flowers.
Our Agave produced a ten foot tall flower stem containing over 120 flowers. I can barely reach the lowest set of flowers.

The new seeds will go into a 20 inch pot.  I wonder what will happen…


Lilies in the Graveyard

With Halloween right around the corner we are seeing all kinds of scary stuff; themes relating to goblins, jack-o-lanterns, graveyards…

We have a  graveyard here!  It’s not the scary  Halloween type of graveyard, but a flower bulb graveyard.

In this area outside, we plant all of the lily bulbs we grow out of season in the greenhouse that are left over from various projects or those that get returned to us after they are done flowering.

I just can’t bring myself to throw them away or even compost them, so I give them a  “decent burial” in the bulb cemetery that’s located in an out of the way corner. Since it used up most of its energy blooming while in a little pot, some times it takes a couple of years for a bulb to build up enough strength to bloom again. I’ve been doing this for at least 4 years.  It’s always fun to see what new flower will be blooming from one year to the next.

Even  now, during Halloween season, the old Easter Lilies are still blooming!

They seem to have shook off the frosts we have had so far. It won’t be long until they finally give in to the cold weather and take a long winter’s nap.


Aloe vera re-potting

The Aloe vera plant has been popular for decades as a balm or salve used to treat minor burns, cuts, sunburn and other maladies. Every household should have an Aloe plant as part of their first-aid kit.

You can do your part to spread the good news about Aloe by dividing your plants and giving them away to folks who don’t have an Aloe yet. It’s very easy to do.

As an Aloe plant grows, it forms small plantlets or off-shoots around the base of the main stem. They may or may not have roots. These can be gently pulled apart from the main plant and transplanted into new pots.

In this post I’m using an old Aloe that needed to be renewed. The same process is used for making divisions of an Aloe that might not be this far gone. Here we go…

Start by getting a potting mix together. I like to use  fairly coarse potting mix to which I add sand, fine gravel and other grit to help the mix drain water well.  Aloe doesn’t like to be in a soggy pot.

In this example, where the plant has grown too long between re-potting, the Aloe has developed a long, undesirable stem with a lot of dead leaves.

Fix this by cutting the stem an inch or so below the green active part of the plant. Peel off all of the “onion skin” until you reach the stem itself. Also, remove  any dead or dying leaves. The stem has dormant root buds that will sprout to form new roots to support the newly separated plant. A dormant bud can be seen just below the pencil point. If you rub your finger over the stem, the bumps you feel are the root buds.

Then just fill a pot (be sure it has a drain hole in the bottom) with your potting mix and insert the prepared Aloe cutting into the soil. Water the new plant and that is it.  You now have a new Aloe plant that will soon take hold in it’s new home. Here is An Aloe I transplanted a few weeks ago.  Look how nicely the roots are growing.

This brand new plant  can now be given away as a gift.  Everyone loves Aloe !

To use Aloe as a treatment for an injury, cut a leaf from your plant. Slit the leaf open and apply the jelly-like juice to the affected area. You’ll feel relief immediately.

It’s medicine you can grow right on your window sill!


Blue and Gold Season


One of the annual flower color combinations that did well together this season is a blue and gold patch in a skinny bed two feet deep and ten feet long.  It has a medium dark blue Salvia with the varieity name of ‘Gruppenblau’  (which is German and must mean some kind of blue) in the back of the bed.  With a medium green coarse leaf and tall  (24 -36 inch) wand like spikes covered with small two lipped petaled flowers, this blue salvia is at the top of my list of favorite flowers.  Last year we saved seeds from it from plants that were taller than the rest and had slightly bigger flowers.  That’s what I planted in this spot and was rewarded with all of these plants being about 36 inch tall.  Even the stems of the flower are tinged with blue.  It is very striking.


In front of the salvia is another favorite flower called Melampodium ‘Showstar’.  this is the combo to plant if you want no maintenance!  Healthy, full, rounded, 20 inch tall, lots of yellow gold 1 inch daisy blossoms.  It has no disease and a great shape.  The salvia’s tall and spikey shape complements the round full and shorter Melampodium.    Both of them are still at peak bloom , have never needed deadheading and the leaves of both are still looking fresh and bright green.  These colors look great with the goldenrods and the purple asters of the fall season.


Behind me as I sit on the bench is a Monarch nectaring on a white phlox called ‘David’.  This is one of the best phlox – it’s resistant to mildew and is always upright with a clean green look.  Behind the phlox is a patch of Joe Pye Weed 6 feet tall.  Bees and butterflies love Joe Pye, too.


White Phlox David is at the top of the photo.
White Phlox 'David' is at the top of the photo.

Today since it is almost October would be a good day to go out and pull any poor looking plants and compost them.  we have been cleaning up around our beds and cultivating the bare patches when we pull anything out.  It makes this rest of the bed look even better.

That’s it for today.  I am going to go out and enjoy this beautiful weather while it lasts!

bye for now, Judy

Late Summer’s Tall Flowering Annuals

Annuals in GardenIn In the centers of the beds, in the annual garden that I take care of, are the taller flowers.  Cleome ‘Violet Queen’ is 4 feet tall, with a cluster of pure, purple, funnel shaped flowers.  It starts blooming early and continues to bloom as it gets taller.  It has little thorns on it so I like to keep it away from the outer edges of beds so people don’t accidentally get scratched. 


Cleome with other flowers

One of our favorite flowers is Verbena bonareinsis.  It doesn’t usually have a common name listed, but I think Purple Haze would fit very well.  It’s three feet tall with only a few leaves near the base of the plant, and stiff, wiry stems with a cluster of smaller purple flowers on top.  Butterflies love it, since it’s not very full looking or thick with leaves , we let it grow where ever it seeds itself.  The flowers behind it can still be seen very well.  It adds a dusting of purple to the garden.


Verbena bonariensis behind Zinnias


Each bed has a stand of sunflowers in it this year.  The one that looks the best in the beds is ‘sonja’.  Only 3 to 3 and a half feet tall, it blends in with the other flowers quite well.  Another bed has a sunflower in it that turned out to be 6 ft,  that one looks out of place with the other flowers.  ‘Sonja’ has a small flower head, 3-4 inches wide and dark yellow petals with a dark brown center.  Bloomed for quite a while, still is. Plus it attracts, like all other sunflowers, the goldfinches at this time of year.  They add alot of excitement to the garden, while they cling to the hanging sunflower heads and jab away at the newly formed seeds.


Sonja Sunflower

The bumble bees are buzzing around the cleome now. They push their way into the funnel shaped flowers to get to the nectar.

On the other side of one of the beds I can see the pale greenish tubuar blossoms of the Nicotiana ‘Lime Green’, a 18″ -24″ tall flowering tobacco.  I think I will under plant the cleome with this nicotiana next year.  The cleome gets bare at the bottom of the plant and the green and purple will look good together.


'Lime Green' Nicotiana

Butterflies and bees are all over this garden now that the morning has warmed up.  It makes it so alive in here.  So much to see. It really is a satisfying garden.  Sight, sound, smell and the warmth surrounding me totally make the work that goes into this garden worthwhile.


Annual Beds of Color

Happy Gardening, Judy