Everyday Gardeners

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Better Gardener

Coin-shaped seed pods have earned Lunaria the common names of ‘money plant’ and ‘silver dollar plant.’

When I was young, one of my mother’s close friends had a garden tucked with all sorts of interesting things, such as  dill, horseradish, and strawflowers. But my favorite plant was her Lunaria because it yielded bouquets of silvery, translucent disks. Though named the “money plant” or the “silver dollar plant”, to me the seedpods looked like bundles of tiny moons tethered to the earth by slender but tenacious stems. The Latin name ‘Lunaria’ means “moonlike.”

Last year, my 7-year-old son discovered “money plant” seeds at the nursery and was instantly attracted to the idea of growing money. Lunaria is easy to grow, though we actually forgot we had planted it until this summer when the distinctive pods emerged. The Lunaria plant itself looks unremarkable in the garden, with broad, floppy leaves and clusters of shy, purple flowers. When the seedpods sprouted, they looked like flattened sugar peas. Then they turned a dirty brown that definitely looked unappealing (in fact, when I harvested a Lunariaplant this summer and left it on a patio table to dry, my husband tossed it on the compost pile). But peel back the dry husk and a shiny, papery moon reveals itself, ready to last for years in a dried flower arrangement or on its own.

The green seed pods and purple flowers of Lunaria.

My son, though, was a little disappointed he couldn’t spend the “money” we raised in our garden.

 

The dry, brown seed pod husks peel off easily to reveal translucent surprises inside.

Lunaria, a member of the mustard (Brassicaceae) family, originated in Europe and migrated to America with early settlers.  The plants are biennials, growing one year and flowering the next. The seeds sprout easily, making them a nuisance in tidy gardens. They bloom spring through early summer. In Zone 5, where I garden, the pods were dry and ready for cutting by early August.

 

How to Grow:

Direct sow Lunaria seeds in the spring and cover lightly with soil, then water.

Lunaria thrives in most soil types (even my clay!), prefer sunny sites but deal with partial sun. Fertilize once a year, if you’re into that sort of thing, and water if they seem droopy (but remember that Lunaria dislike consistently soggy soils). After the seedpods have turned brown, they are ready for harvesting. If not quite ready, you can hang upside down and dry for an additional week or two. Then simply peel off the brown layers on each side of the pearly “coin” and your Lunaria are ready for display.


A few years ago I tilled up the entire lawn in my front yard and planted herbs, veggies, fruits and edible flowers, but I had a dilemma. How should I handle the strip that runs between the sidewalk and street curb? I certainly didn’t want to eat anything that grew in street grit and car exhaust and was irrigated by passing dogs. Over time, that strip has turned into my test garden for perennials and a few annuals, such as this bunny tail grass (Lugurus ovatus). Bunny tail grass is like the adorable kitten of the botanical world. It makes me smile every time I see it bobbing playfully in the breeze. My 5, 8 and 10-year-old sons can’t pass bunny tails without giving the silky-soft seed heads a quick stroke.

I started the grass seeds in my pantry early last spring and transported them outside the first week of May. The grass is doing quite well in my fairly dry curb strip and has been very low maintenance. Right before the first major snowfall, I plan to clip a few bunny tails for dried flower arrangements. Until then, they can amuse my family and passers-by.


The following is a guest blog post from Scott Jamieson, Vice President with Bartlett Tree Experts.

Deer, they are so cute—who doesn’t want to see a deer? One in the landscape can be a fantastic sight, at first. In many places in the country deer have overpopulated their natural habitat and have moved into the urban and suburban landscape. Many communities that have never seen a deer are being overrun by the doe-eyed creatures.

An adult deer eats about six pounds of plant material each day which adds up to about a ton of plant material each year for every adult deer. When they are feeding in the forest that is not a problem but it is when they find the delectable food of our landscapes it becomes a serious issue.  Landscapes that have been nurtured for years can be stripped clean in one winter if hungry deer find their way to the previously undiscovered gourmet dining spot. Our landscapes can contain plants that deer absolutely love and once they find a spot to dine, they will be back for more.

Keeping deer out of your landscape is also a health concern. Besides denuding the landscape, deer harbor ticks that can carry Lyme disease, babesiosis, and Rocky Mountain spotted fever. A single deer tick can introduce 450,000 tick larvae a year into its territory.

Deer are most effectively managed by keeping them out of the landscape physically. This typically involves putting a fence around the entire property or certainly the areas you want to protect. A deer fence must be tall enough to keep leaping deer out—at least 7 feet tall. You can also install products such as the Shrub Coat on smaller plantings that will keep deer from feasting on the plants while also protecting the plants from cold temperatures.

Many property owners spray deer repellents on valuable plants.  No repellent is foolproof but several have proved to be quite effective in reducing deer damage if used regularly and with the correct timing.

Click here for a list of deer-resistant plants from Bartlett Tree Experts you should consider for your landscape. Know, however, that under extreme populations deer will eat just about anything and you may find that a plant deer have never touched becomes their filet mignon the next year.

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Scott Jamieson is Vice President with Bartlett Tree Experts. He leads Bartlett’s national recruiting and corporate partnerships efforts and also heads the Bartlett Inventory Solutions team in providing innovative and technologically advanced tree management plans to clients across the country. Prior to joining Bartlett in 2008, Scott was President and CEO of a national tree care firm.

 

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The following is a guest blog post from Katie McCoy Dubow.

The winter blues affects us all differently, but surrounding yourself with fresh, colorful plants all winter is sure to be the cure for what ails you.

With color, texture, drama and a touch of whimsy, indoor plants instantly liven up any room with their individual personalities and will help you beat the winter blues this year. Whether it’s a terrarium full of succulents or the bold colors of an amaryllis, there is an indoor garden that will fit your style, mood and taste.

Besides what they give back in aesthetics, one of the greatest things indoor plants do is provide much needed humidity in the winter months and freshen the air year round.

Here are four, easy indoor garden styles to brighten up your home this winter:

Craft a mini garden with maximum impact.
Terrariums are a popular garden style because they require little maintenance to flourish, yet have an endlessly elegant look.  The key to success is choosing the right plants. A great variety to start with is Golden Club Moss because it thrives in a low light, high moisture environment. Other great starter plants include water-retaining, light-loving succulents and cacti. They’re virtually indestructible and come in many colors, shapes and varieties.

Learn how to make your own terrarium.

Create inner peace.
Creating this indoor garden will help calm and relax your mind. Every aspect of a Zen garden — its nature, construction and upkeep — is designed for contemplation and reflection. Rocks and sand make up the basic elements, but beyond that it’s up to you. NativeCast’s dish containers work perfectly as a base for your Zen garden because of their size and shape.  Have fun with it and think of it as an ever changing work of art.

Photo credit: NativeCast

Even more Japanese garden inspiration.

Make your room come alive.
Greenery is growing in surprising places. Just look up and around. Now you can get your nature fix inside with your very own living walls or vertical gardens. If you have the time and resources, or want a visually dramatic look for a room, living walls are the ticket.

Garden expert at Costa Farms, Justin Hancock, says that living green walls are a great way to maximize the benefits of houseplants by purifying the air and beautifying spaces. Try hanging one in the kitchen planted with herbs for fresh kitchen flavors all year long.

With more and more companies selling these kits and supplies, it’s easy to re-create these gardens over a weekend.
 

Make your own living wall.

Pop a color that will last all winter.
Growing bulbs indoors in the winter lets you enjoy the colors and fragrance of spring even though it’s still months away.  But now’s the time to get started.

First, choose your bulbs. Amaryllis and paperwhite narcissus from Longfield Gardens are perfect for indoor gardening because they don’t require any chill time. I like to plant bulbs every week in the winter, so I can have blooming flowers all winter long.  Paperwhites will bloom in four to six weeks, amaryllis in six to eight.

Photo credit: Longfield Gardens

Here are my top 12 favorite ways to decorate with amaryllis.

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Katie McCoy Dubow is creative officer at Garden Media, a PR firm specializing in the horticulture industry.

 

 

 

 

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If you’re looking for first-of-the-spring blooms, you have to plant bulbs. And you have to get them in the ground this fall! I understand how overwhelming it might be to decide which bulbs to pair together — there are so many options! I get it. Hopefully, I can help by sharing three of my favorite bulb combinations.

Fresh-Makers

When I see white and purple together in the garden, it seems so fresh, so crisp, and so refreshing, especially after a long winter. It’s probably my ultimate bulb-combo recommendation. There are several different varieties of daffodils and tulips, see which ones suit might your fancy in our plant encyclopedia: Daffodils,  Tulips.

Looking for more ways to pair white and purple? Get design ideas here.

Ground-Huggers

I’ve always thought the idea of planting bulbs in your lawn for a blanket of spring blooms was clever. Someday I’ll implement this technique with fragrant grape hyacinth and crocus. It really isn’t that hard. See how here.  Also, find out which grape hyacinths are our favorites and learn more about growing crocus.

Do you have bulbs planted in your lawn? I’d love to hear what varieties — and any tips you’ve learned.

Bold Partners

Sometimes you have the desire to make a statement, turn heads in the neighborhood, and that requires a bold combo. Crown imperial and parrot tulips top my list for a crowd-pleaser. Not only are they unique bloomers, their color really pops in the garden. Learn more about crown imperial and hybrid tulips from our plant encyclopedia.

 

Do you have a favorite bulb combination? Share with us!


Fall Raised Bed Frost Cover Greenhouse Shawna Coronado

Fall is almost upon us, so it is time to start planning for how you are going to extend those garden crops for as long as possible through the frost season (see the before picture on the right). Helping your vegetables survive through fall means a longer growing season and money saved in the bank. There are two types of frosts to be aware of. Advective Frosts are plant killers; very coldFall Raised Bed Shawna Coronado temperatures that drop below plant hardiness levels. Radiation Frosts are survivable for your plants if they are covered and generally represent the frosts most likely to occur in early fall.

Below are three super-easy ways to help save your crops from a radiation type of frost. Advective frosts are tough to fight and you might need more powerful protection tools. All the below concepts involve covering the crop and trapping the heat of the soil beneath the covering. These coverings work as long as they do not get wet. A wet cover makes the temperatures surrounding the plant cooler.

1. Blanket and Sheet Covers

These are the simplest to use. Simply toss a lightweight blanket or sheet over the area of garden you are trying to protect. I have been known to use all the blankets in my house and ask my neighbors for theirs, but have had regular success in saving the garden for many weeks if there is only a one or two night frost situation; the covers help the plants survive those two nights in order to enjoy the Indian Summer later in the fall. Be sure to remove the blanket in the morning so the plants receive sunlight and warmth during the day.

2. Floating Row Crop Covers

Floating covers keep frost and insects off the plants, but allow daylight to provide enough light for growth. Depending on the plant, you can leave the row cover up all day without a problem. Do not forget to water the plants that are beneath the floating row covers.

3. Plastic and Garden Covers

Plastic covers work, particularly if you have a supportive frame to cover the planting bed. If you like, you can add lights at night to increase warmth within the protective frame. In the top photo you see the miniature greenhouse garden cover I have placed over my raised beds from Greenland Gardener. The garden cover is easy to assemble – it took me less than 15 minutes to put this together and place it properly. Unfold, assemble support pole, place in position, tighten Velcro (see photo below), tie the poles together at the top, place over beds, and DONE!

Fall Raised Bed Frost Cover Greenland Gardener Greenhouse

Fall Raised Bed Frost Cover Greenhouse Velcro

According the FTC, I need to let you know that I received products in this story at no cost in exchange for reviewing them. They worked well and I am happy about that.


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