Posts by Everyday Gardeners

Everyday Gardeners

pick of the crop: pets are gardeners too

Pets are a big part of gardening

Pets are a big part of gardening

Your pets will probably be accompanying you back to the garden this spring. The ASPCA has these tips to remind us that it takes just a little thought to create a pet-safe space. While you’re at it, take a look at our slideshow: 20 tips for gardening with dogs.

The Summit Daily News defines 15 common gardening terms.

The Daily Green asks, “What do beginning gardeners need to know most?” Their answers are here.

A little game of hide-and-seek in the garden can add a lot to your landscape’s design.

The LAist suggests seven things you can do to celebrate National Garden Month.

And the DIS Unplugged blog takes us behind the scenes at the Epcot Flower and Garden Festival.

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Everyday Gardeners

First blooms in our Test Garden

Sandra Gerdes, manager of the Better Homes and Gardens® Test Garden, got some great pictures of this year’s first blooms.

Chionodoxa and Narcissus ‘Little Gem’

Chionodoxa and Narcissus ‘Little Gem’

Chionodoxa and Narcissus ‘Little Gem’ are small flowering bulbs that grow only 5 inches tall, but they bloom so bright that a mass planting gives a real color splash in the early spring. They make a super combo — one of the earliest to bloom in the Test Garden – because they grow to about the same height and bloom at same time.

Hellebore ‘Golden Sunshine’

Hellebore ‘Golden Sunshine’

Hellebore ‘Golden Sunshine’ is one of several new hellebore varieties that Sandra planted last year.  This one really glows in the spring sunshine.

Helebore 'Pink Frost'

Helebore 'Pink Frost'

Hellebore ‘Pink Frost’ is another new one in the Test Garden. This one displays dusty rose flowers and stems.

Hellebore 'Ivory Prince'

Hellebore 'Ivory Prince'

Hellebore ‘Ivory Prince’, with it’s toothed foliage, has been in the Test Garden for a few years now and just keeps getting better. Sandra says hellebore flowers last two months or more in our garden.

Iris reticulata ‘Clairette’ with Scilla siberica

Iris reticulata ‘Clairette’ with Scilla siberica

Iris reticulata ‘Clairette’ with Scilla sibirica make an intense blue duet in the garden. This petite pair grow only 4-5 inches tall.

Viola ‘Penny Marlies’

Viola ‘Penny Marlies’

Sandra says, “Oooh-la-la! My favorite viola this year.”

Viola ‘Penny Mickey’

Viola ‘Penny Mickey’

This cheery little wonder — Viola ‘Penny Mickey’ — never fails to bring a smile to the gardener’s face.

Violas ‘Penny Orange’, ‘Penny Peach Jump Up’, and ‘Penny Orange Jump Up’

Violas ‘Penny Orange’, ‘Penny Peach Jump Up’, and ‘Penny Orange Jump Up’

Violas ‘Penny Orange’, ‘Penny Peach Jump Up’, and ‘Penny Orange Jump Up’ combine to make a bright, juicy-colored combination. Sandra says violas make a great carpet under larger bulbs like narcissus and tulips in the early spring garden.

Tulip ‘Stressa’

Tulip ‘Stressa’

‘Stressa’ is a Kaufmanniana type tulip with early flowers in red and gold.

Hyacinth ‘L’Innocence’

Hyacinth ‘L’Innocence’

These bright white flowers of Hyacinth ‘L’Innocence’ push up through rose canes and lamb’s ear in the Test Garden. And they smell wonderful.

Narcissus ‘Replete’

Narcissus ‘Replete’

Narcissus ‘Replete’ — a double daffodil — holds up blossoms that are fluffy and full of petals.

Narcissus ‘Cassata’

Narcissus ‘Cassata’

Narcissus ‘Cassata’ — a split corona type daffodil — produces blossoms that have a cup the color of lemon chiffon. The cups split open and lay flat against white petals.  They are usually the first of the Test Garden’s large daffodils to open.

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Everyday Gardeners

sneak peek

One of the advantages of being a garden editor is that I get to see and grow new varieties before they’re widely available. Yesterday our friends at Ball Horticultural made a visit to our offices to let us know about some of the new varieties they will be introducing this year and next. It sparked a feeding frenzy as editors grabbed samples to try in their gardens this summer. If these varieties pass muster in our yards, you’ll hear more about them from us in the future.

Double Wave Red petunia

Double Wave Red petunia

One variety of petunia that you’ll soon be able to get for your own garden is Double Wave Red. It will be released on May 1, just in time for summer planting. It’s a new color in the Double Wave Series of petunias. This year also is the 15th anniversary of the original Wave Purple spreading petunia. Ball is celebrating by introducing an upgrade to the original with larger flowers and earlier bloom.

Divine Orange Bronze Leaf New Guinea impatiens

Divine Orange Bronze Leaf New Guinea impatiens

You’ll likely have to wait until 2011 to get your hands on Divine Orange Bronze Leaf New Guinea impatiens. This large-flowered heat and shade lover is reported to grow well in baskets or in the ground. Most New Guineas impatiens with blooms this large are vegetatively propagated (from cuttings). This one is grown from seed. Commercial growers can order seed this year, but consumers won’t find them in the garden centers until next year.

Phantom petunia

Phantom petunia

One of my favorites at first glance from the presentation was Phantom petunia. This near-black flower with a chartreuse-yellow star pattern really caught my eye. It’s one of several “black” petunias that Ball will introduce in 2011. Pinstripe is similar to Phantom except that the star pattern consists of narrower white bands edged in purple. Black Velvet is the truest black petunia I’ve seen, and as its name suggests, has a lovely velvety sheen. Our Test Gardener manager, Sandra Gerdes, is planning a black garden border for this summer, and Black Velvet will be prominent in the mix.

With the arrival of summerlike weather this week in central Iowa, I’m anxious to plant these new annuals to see how well they’ll grow in clay in my windswept garden.


Everyday Gardeners

Make Your Own Faux Copper Obelisk

GI SP 2010-2The current issue of Garden Ideas & Outdoor Living includes an obelisk made out of PVC pipe. Yes, PVC pipe.

While the version in the magazine is painted lavender, we also made one with a faux copper finish (see below). Here are the steps project creator Mark Chervenka suggests for re-creating the effect.

1) Wet sand assembled obelisk with 220 grit wet/dry sandpaper. A perfectly smooth surface is critical to the realism of this effect.

obelisk12) Apply primer listed for use on PVC. Lightly wet sand dried primer with same 220 paper.

3) Apply two coats of a shiny gold-toned bronze acrylic metallic paint to entire surface; follow instructions for appropriate drying time. Wet sand between coats and after second coat with 220 paper.

4) The weathered patina is created with three different colors of matte finish acrylic craft paint: deep blue-green, pale blue and pale green. Prepare a glaze of 1part water to 1 part paint for each color. Set aside.

5) Working in small sections, wipe on deep blue-green color first with a clean, dampened cotton rag or sea sponge, making sure color density varies across surface. Immediately saturate a second rag or sponge with water only and squeeze it randomly over the recently applied paint allowing drops of water to create drips and streaks in fresh paint. Move on to next section and repeat technique for pale blue then pale green. Allow to dry 8 hours between each color; do not sand between coats of patina colors.

obelisk26) The powdery corrosion found on old copper is created with a mixture of equal parts water and white craft glue (PVA). Apply mixture sparingly to some joints and random spots on pipes. Immediately sprinkle whiting (ground white chalk available at paint stores) over mixture. Lightly whisk whiting with small paintbrush or pounce with dry cotton rag. Let mixture dry 36 hours.

7) Protect entire completed faux finish with at least two coats of matte finish UV resistant clear sealer.

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Everyday Gardeners

Pick of the Crop: Spring, season of joy and tears

What happens when you unplug the birdbath too soon.

What happens when you unplug the birdbath too soon.

The photo at left is the result of my pushing the season – trying to make it be spring in Iowa before it was really ready to be. I may have unplugged the heated birdbath one day too early.

Also pushing the season is my good friend The Planting Queen. And although she’s talking about going naked in the garden, it’s got nothing to do about the “topless in the garden” debate going on in Colorado. (Google it if you want to know more. I got 617,000 results for “Colorado topless gardening”) I’ve been trying to avoid the topic, but Deb’s blog forced me into talking about it. Honest.

The birds in my yard didn’t have to wait long for the birdbath to thaw today, so they didn’t suffer too much. But the BBC says the cold winter was very hard on songbirds in the UK.

USA Today is ready for spring, too.

But the Irish Times carries a humorous column (at least it think she was being funny) about too much blue-sky thinking about gardening. Just keep in mind that she’s right about some gardening projects ending in tears.

And then there’s that big seasonal to-do at Macy’s that lets us know that the season of joy is once again upon us. No, not the Thanksgiving Day parade.

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Everyday Gardeners

pick of the crop: gardening is fun

Are gnomes an invasive species?

Are gnomes an invasive species?

See, extension folks do have a sense of humor.

But this item is not funny at all. I agree with UK gardener Henrietta Hudson that the plant thieves who have repeatedly targeted her garden are “sick in the head.”

This comes under my category of ‘places you didn’t expect to find garden stories.’ But the JewishJournal.com has a very thoughtful way of using your garden to connect to your religion.

I do expect to find this kind of helpful garden article in the Christian Science Monitor because I do every week. Enjoy.

The Geffrye Museum in London uses its art collection to examine the role of plants and flowers in the home over the past 400 years or so. And here’s a link to a slide show of selected works in the exhibition.

I admire people who stand up in public and admit they made a mistake in the garden. It’s OK to make mistakes when you’re gardening. I once said, and still believe, that you’re not a real gardener until you’ve killed 100 plants. Or 1,000. Or 1,000,000. Just garden.

Debra Lee Baldwin reflects, ahem, on gardening and April Fools jokes.

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