Everyday Gardeners

Plant. Grow. Live.

Posts by Justin W. Hancock

Did you know that it’s National Indoor Plant Week? We love any opportunity to celebrate gardening! There are lots of reasons to grow plants indoors, especially in your home or office.

University studies have shown that we’re more productive and less stressed when there are plants around. That little plant on your desk is a connection to nature, especially if you can’t easily see a window to look outdoors.

In addition to making us feel better psychologically, plants help us physically. Plants indoors do a marvelous job of filtering out pollutants, especially from super-energy-efficient buildings where air is circulated all day and there’s not much fresh air coming in from outside.

Do you have plants? If not, now’s a GREAT time to add some to your life. Not sure which are best? Take our fun quiz at http://www.bhg.com/gardening/houseplants/houseplant-finder/.

Here in Iowa, it’s been a hot, dry summer. Unless we watered our gardens regularly, a lot of our plants suffered. So far, it’s turning out to be a dry autumn, too, so don’t put away the water hoses just yet.

Keeping your favorite plants well watered this fall (especially evergreens such as: rhododendrons, pines, spruces, firs, hollies, andromedas, and camellias) is the best thing you can do to get them through winter so they look fantastic next spring.

Try to keep the soil evenly moist, like a well-wrung sponge. And, like watering in summer, it’s still best to water deeply and less frequently than to give your plants a little water every day. Additionally, it’s still helpful to prevent plant diseases by doing most of your watering before noon.

One question I hear often is: How long should you keep watering. That’s an easy one! Keep watering up until ground starts to freeze. Plant roots continue to grow and develop even after deciduous trees lose their leaves.

Watering now can do a lot to help keep your plants healthy next spring!

Talking about invasive plants a serious subject. As gardeners in my home state of Minnesota know, purple loosestrife can be a horrific problem to native plant and animal species in waterways. The same goes for folks in the South who have seen kudzu smother acre after acre. Invasive plants cause harm to our environments and expense as we try to repair that harm.

Unfortunately, invasive plants (as with many things in gardening) aren’t always so easy to deal with. From time to time I receive angry comments from readers because we’ve highlighted an invasive plant. And that’s where things get a little tricky.

It seems a bit extreme to position ourselves and not write about any invasive plant that shows invasive tendencies, though that would mean no more burning bush (a problem in Connecticut), butterfly bush (Oregon), mimosa (Georgia), Norway maple (Connecticut), perennial sweet pea (Oregon), and wisteria (Georgia), among others (including lantana, for our Australian readers).

So instead, we do our best to make note that a plant may be invasive in some areas and to suggest you check with your local authorities about whether a particular plant is a good choice for your area (especially since lists are updated regularly).

What do you think? Would you like to see more emphasis put on the fact that some of the common garden plants we know and love may be aggressive invaders in other regions?

There are a handful of perennials that I consider must-haves for the garden. Phlox is one of them. In full bloom right now, it’s offering big heads of flowers reminiscent of hydrangeas in luscious shades of pink, purple, and red. During the day, the flowers are butterfly magnets; I often see hummingbirds visiting them, too. I have several varieties of phlox planted on the west side of my house; in the late afternoon the fragrance is almost overpowering.

While there’s a lot to be said for this wonderfully old-fashioned perennial, there are a couple of reasons some gardeners don’t love it. The biggest drawback is that many varieties, especially older ones, suffer from a disease called powdery mildew which can make them drop their leaves by midsummer. Happily, newer varieties of phlox such as ‘Grape Lollipop’, ‘Blue Paradise’, and ‘David’ do a stand-up job of resisting the disease. Or, if you don’t grow disease-resistant varieties, grow a medium-height perennial in front of your phlox to hide the foliage.

Another drawback is that phlox will create a lot of seedlings the following spring if you don’t clip off the faded flowers. But deadheading phlox will prevent this. And keep it reblooming through late summer or early autumn.

Do you grow phlox? Do you have a favorite variety?

Earlier this month I had the opportunity to take a trip to OFA Short Course in Columbus, Ohio. It’s one of the best experiences I’ve had all summer! What makes the Short Course different than most events is that it combines all layers of the horticultural industry — you see folks who build commercial greenhouses, who sell high-tech machinery to big growers, plant breeders, plant growers, distributors, and the like.

It feels tailored to plant growers and retailers. In fact, there were lots of cool displays (the one shown here was in the lobby of the convention center) to help give garden center owners ideas on how to set up their shop. And my favorite, there were displays of hot new plant varieties (look for them to be profiled here on BHG.com in the upcoming months!).

It’s a big show, and many fantastic companies where there, including:

Watch for us to write about new plants, products, and trends inspired by the show here on BHG.com!

I’m fresh back from a trip to Oregon where I had the pleasure of meeting the folks at Fall Creek Nursery. The nursery is a large wholesale nursery that provides a ton of blueberries to both garden centers and commercial blueberry fields and they’re located just outside Eugene, Oregon.

Fall Creek Nursery hit my radar earlier this year when they announced a new variety would be coming out for spring of 2013: ‘Raspberry Shortcake’ raspberry. It immediately captured my full attention: ‘Raspberry Shortcake’ is a dwarf thornless raspberry bred for growing in containers. You can have fresh raspberries right on your deck or balcony and not have to worry about scratchy thorns or a crazy raspberry patch.

Happily, this cool advance in plant breeding didn’t come with a sacrifice in flavor: The fruits are juicy and delicious! (Our hosts at Fall Creek Nursery served a big bowl of them at lunch. Yum!)

I took the photo here on the patio where we had lunch — though the fruits on this one weren’t ripe yet (the plant had been cut back in the spring to delay fruiting) others at the nursery were bursting with fruit.

( By the way: If you’d like to be one of the first gardeners to try ‘Raspberry Shortcake’, a limited number is being offered in the BHG Garden Store that will ship in the mail this autumn. If that’s of interest, you can order it here.)

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