Investment Planting the Exotic Way

Probably one of the last things you think about when spending every single penny you have on plants like I do (don’t you, too?) is what sort of investment value these accumulated plants have. For the most part, plants are not great investments, at least in terms of being able to turn them around and make a profit. Few plants increase in value over time in such a way that you can make a significant profit down the road. For example, many of the plants in my yard are either worth about the same as when I bought them, or far less because they’re struggling, look terrible or have long since died. Or they would be worth more had they been kept in pots; digging up many species of large trees or palms is hardly worth the hassle and expense to move them, or because of the likelihood they won’t survive the experience. But surprisingly, many of them have increased in value and stand to increase more over time. Of course, invariably these are the last plants I want to part with, but at least the possibility of profit exists if I change my mind. I am not

Topiary Art with Nature, Part 2~How To Do It Yourself

The Specimen
Shrubs or trees that are suitable for tall styles of topiary design include Alberta spruce, arborvitae, and Juniper. For wider sculpted pieces, globe arborvitae, boxwood, or privet are accommodating. For the classic topiary “ball on a stick” design, you’ll need a tree with a straight leader that will grow up a stake.
The Technique: Spiral
This Alberta spruce had grown too large for the corner where it had been planted as a sapling. I needed to either remove it, or prune it to be less overpowering in the small space. Armed with my bypass shears and a roll of orange surveyor’s tape, I decided to try my hand at designing a spiral topiary. The tree is about 6 feet tall, and the projecttok me a little over two hours.

Look at your tree from all angles and decide just how sloping you want the spiral design to be. Take into consideration the height of the tree, and how wide the bottom is. The taller the tree, the closer together the spirals can be.

Start at the top and tie the ribbon

Community Gardens Different in their own Unique Ways, Part II

Henry Ford’s family donated the 1300 acre site to the University of Michigan shortly after Mr. Ford’s death in 1947. The university built the sprawling U-M Dearborn campus in 1958.The campus has a huge wild area where virgin trees still stand. Located on the banks of the Rouge River it offers hands on opportunities for students to study aquatic life, botany, forestry, ornithology and other environmental related subjects. Mr. Ford’s wife Clara was an avid gardener. Her rose garden still stands on the mansion site.

Local school groups from kindergarteners to high school seniors are almost daily visitors to the area.

There is a large sugar bush on site where each spring sap is drawn for maple trees and cooked into maple syrup.

As part of the environmental studies program a community garden was created for the students as well as the general public. The garden is used by students for research as well as local residents to grow organic vegetables and flowers.

The garden is adjacent to a large virgin wild area. It’s not uncommon to

Master Gardeners, Who they are, What they do

Since being certified as a Master Gardener in 1997 I’ve met hundreds of gardeners, many of them Master Gardeners so I think I have a pretty good idea of what exactly makes these folks “tick”.

Here on DG and elsewhere I’ve heard folks refer to Master Gardeners as “know it alls”, “uppity”, “they talk down to me”, “ they think they are better than me”, and so forth. I want to proclaim that these statements couldn’t be farther from the truth. Needless to say as in any national organization there are a few bad apples. The majority of Master Gardeners are friendly, generous, helpful and passionate about gardening.

We never stop learning, and believe me we don’t think we know more than anyone else about horticulture.

I want to familiarize you with the program and what a MG does to receive that title and how they use the knowledge gleaned to aid their community.

The Master Gardener program was started back in the 1970’s; it was established to aid the local extension offices to serve the public in the area of horticulture.

All of the 50 states have Master Gardener programs and they are organized by county. The requirements vary slightly from state to

Anemone, the Windflower Part 2 – the Fibrous-rooted Species

In part 2 of this 3 part series I will discuss the attributes of a few of the fibrous-rooted anemone species. As mentioned earlier, there are about 120 species of Anemone which fall into three groups; the tuberous-rooted, fibrous-rooted and tall, fall-flowering. By far the largest group are those with fibrous roots or at most, thin rhizomes. These grow in a wide range of habitats from semi-deserts, grasslands, woodland, subalpine, high alpine and even the high Arctic, throughout the world. The tuberous-rooted, on the other hand, are mostly European (refer to part 1 ) while the fall-flowering hail from China and Japan.

Let’s start close to home with some American species. One of the most widespread is A. canadensis (zone 3), a widespread woodlander to grassland species which can reach 30-60 cm. This species has loose clusters of 3-5 cm white flowers in early summer. Plants spread rapidly so may be a bit of a bully in a perennial border. Probably better to grow this one in the wildflower garden. Confined to the east-central is the foliar look-alike species A. virginiana (zone 4), however, its flowers are not nearly as attractive, being rather small and dirty-white.

From the grassland regions

Container Gardening to The max

I have always loved having driftwood in my gardens, it helps create a more natural feel to the beds. We were walking in the woods one day and there was this beautiful, hollow log. It was up on some rocks so it wasn’t half rotted like old logs can be. Hubby and I hauled it home. We placed it in the garden and decided to stop for a well-deserved coffee break. Later I wandered out to take another look at it and discovered Mom had taken advantage of the hollowness and planted a few plants. Interesting. We had placed it in semi-shade so she had planted a few shade loving vines. Stingless nettles, Periwinkle. I have to mention that the beautiful photo on the right is not my hollow log, it belongs to DG member pirl and is a beautiful example of what can be accomplished.

I’ve had an antique bathtub hanging around for years. It has had an interesting life so far. There have been fish kept in it for awhile until we got the pond finished. We have even filled it with cold well water one really hot summer and used it as a “poor mans” pool. It

20 great and overlooked palms for marginal Mediterranean climates

Palms that are commonly grown in such climates include Chamaerops (Mediterranean Fan palm), Trachycarpus fortunei (Chinese Windmill palm), Butia capitata (Pindo or Jelly palm), Syagrus romanzoffiana (Queen palm), Washingtonias (Mexican and California Fan Palms), Phoenix species (many), Archontophoenix cunninghamiana (King Palm), Brahea armata (Mexican Blue Fan Palm) and many of the other Braheas, Dypsis decaryi (Triangle Palm), Howea forsteriana (Kentia Palm), Livistona chinensis (Chinese Fan Palm), Rhapis palms (Lady palms), Sabal palmetto, Ravenea rivularis (Majesty Palm), Jubaea (Chilean Wine Palm) and now even Bismarckias and Wodyetias (Foxtail palms) are becoming common place. The following will be a discussion of some OTHER good but less well known choices for a marginal Mediterranean climate, such as that found in southern California. These palms will be listed in alphabetical order, not order of excellence, though my own personal opinions will show through, I’m sure.

Archontophoenix myolensis may at first look just like another King Palm, but it’s not. It has shorter, brighter green leaves, a bright green ringed trunk (while young) and a nearly turquoise crownshaft. It is less cold hardy and slower than a king palm, but still hardy enough to survive most marginal climates if given some

Growing Thuja From Seeds

Like all gardeners, I love sowing seeds and seeing the plants pop up. So I took a few seeds from the Thuja hedges in the park and sowed them in a pot. Soon some small, delicate thujas popped out, looking like tiny little laces. They have been growing in pots until this past summer, when we finally had our long-awaited garden where we could plant them!The best time for planting bushes and trees is in late spring or early fall, as many of you already know. I waited until September and decided it was time to plant the thujas. I love thuja hedges and I already knew how wonderful it feels to come home through a green thuja “tunnel” since I had one in the garden where we lived before.

That helped me decide where to plant my thujas: along the sidewalk in front of our house. First, I measured the ground for the four holes so they would be evenly spaced and symmetrical. The holes were deep enough so the thuja’s roots would be covered. I poured water in

Open-Source Research – Designing Your Own Home Experiments

Laying A Foundation

The basis, or foundation, for any scientific research is a procedure known as the scientific method. Your home research is not going to be scrutinized like the work done in universities and other institutions, but you will want to do your work in such a way that others can repeat, or replicate, your experiments. In this manner, you and others will be able to verify if what you have discovered is really substantial. The way to do this is to rely on a uniform method for doing your experiments, and that is what the scientific method provides.

Step By Step

Everything starts with an observation. It may be your own observation, or it may be an observation made by someone else, such as a Dave’s Garden member. The important thing is that a phenomenon was noticed, you learned of it, and you wish to investigate it. I’ll use my peanut/Alocasia example from my last article to illustrate this. I observed that a plant which was languishing when growing alone perked up and became healthy when a peanut plant started growing in the pot with it. This is my observation, and it implies

Open-Source Research – Running Your Experiment and Evaluating Your Results

Taking It To Term

In professional laboratories, the progress of experiments is rigorously monitored, with data being collected several times a day in the most intensive cases. Your work need not be so rigorous, but you do need to have a methodology that will help you determine, in a measurable or quantitative way, what kind of results you are getting. This methodology consists of the type of observations, or data, you wish to collect, and how you intend to collect it.

Continuing with my peanut/Alocasia example, the first information I need to record is the date I started the experiment, and a name for this study. The simplest name is “Experiment #1”, and the date is going to be the first day that everything is potted up and ready to grow on. To make your work easier, you should record all your information in a small notebook that you use for nothing else. This is your laboratory notebook and will contain all of the raw data you collect throughout the course of your experiment. You also need to decide how long you intend for your experiment to run. In professional labs, the end of the experiment

Purslane, An Edible and Beneficial Garden Weed

What had been growing in my sidewalk cracks was barely an inch tall, and very scraggly. Certainly not appetizing. When I planted some beans in a new garden plot this year, I mixed the clay soil with peat moss and greensand. The purslane seeds that germinated and grew up around the beans have developed into plants over a foot tall, healthy and lush, and they actually look like something I could or would eat!

Although I am not yet intrepid enough to try eating purslane (Portulaca oleracea), it remains in my garden because it benefits my still-raw soil. In researching for an article on Weeds, I found that purslane is a weed with roots that help break up hardpan, and bring nutrients from deep down in the soil back to the surface for use by other plants. Purslane also brings moisture up to the surface soil, and added to the compost pile as green manure, distributes additional nutrients to the compost.

Purslane, also known as Wild Portulaca, Little Hogweed, Pusley and Verdolaga, is a smooth textured succulent annual in colder zones. It grows about 6-12” tall, in full sun. Purslane is drought resistant and suitable for

Let Your Garden Tell You When to Plant

When that first spell of warm weather with above-freezing temperatures at night comes along in spring, it’s sometimes difficult to resist the temptation to get everything into the ground: plants, seeds, bulbs, rhizomes, and corms. Every year I wrestle with that impulse, especially when spring comes early to our zone 5a Cottage-in-the-Meadow Gardens, as it has for the past several years.

Many gardeners have their favorite methods for determining when those magic dates for planting finally arrive: In the region where I garden it’s Good Friday for potatoes, after the Drei Kalte Männer* in May for plants especially susceptible to frost damage, specific dates on the calendar, and the various phases of the moon. For the more scientifically-minded, a soil thermometer does the trick.

I, on the other hand, prefer to let plants themselves tell me when it’s safe to plant. Here is a list of plants I consult when I begin gardening each year:

When forsythia blooms, it’s time to plant the seeds of alyssum, carrots, cornflower, peas, poppies,

Gardeners Anonymous

1. You watch 10 or more forums.

Not that you post in all these forums, but you keep lurking in the shadows. You keep lists and dream shop every time you read a new posting. The normal tell-tell forums are the Daylily, Iris, Rose, and Tropical. If you have one or more of these forums in your viewer and read each and every posting, you might be in trouble. The more serious addiction comes from those in the Brugmansia, Passiflora, and Hosta forums that almost always leads to carpal tunnel due to the typing needed to reply to the wealth of postings.

2. You keep a spread sheet.

You keep a spread sheet of the cultivars you have of one plant. These plants might look the same to the naked human eye but you have each and every one in a place of honor. You not only record the day you got the plant and number of leaves it had, but when it moved up pots, the day

Garden Design on Your Computer, Part 4 your first garden design with your new software

I had a small kitchen herb garden at my last house…some mint, chives, oregano and sage. Annual herbs, such as basil, went in the veggie garden. This time I wanted a REAL herb garden, with lots of varieties and some style. I wanted to include lots of cooking herbs but also some that were just for fragrance or beauty.

Steps to designing the new herb garden

1. Lay out the bed

There was a space about 90′ wide at the back of our lot overlooking the ‘lake’ (actually a retention pond for flood control). We wanted a lot of color across the back of the lot, both for our enjoyment and the view from across the lake for neighbors and for folks driving by who have a clear view of our back yard. So the choice was an English-style cottage garden. I didn’t want the bed too close to the existing beds at the sides of the lot, so I decided on 70′ for the width of the entire cottage garden.

Missouri Botanical Garden Orchid Show

The perfume in the air is the first thing I noticed as I entered the room hosting the Missouri Botanical Garden’s Annual Orchid Show. Then the bright colors and sun shining through the glass ceiling overwhem me, blending all together. It took a moment for my senses to recover from the shock after such a dreary winter; snow is still melting in the shadows outside.

My first trip around the paths was just to wander and enjoy all of the sights. The displays were based on children’s stories, so orchids and whimsy were blended together in a fun way for the enjoyment of children and adults alike. Jack in the Beanstalk, The Secret Garden, and Johnny Appleseed were a few of the features.

The second time around, I started focusing on individual plants, their color, shape, large or small and how they stood up from the plant or draped gracefully. Some were so small their structure was hard to see without putting your face right up to them, others were large and seemed to yell, “Hey, look at me!”

Conserving Water in the garden with Rain Barrels

If you look up “rain barrel” on the internet you will find a thousand different directions to make them. Although a simple task, all those different directions make it seem daunting. Really, there are only two daunting parts of setting up a rain barrel catchment system for your house. By far, the most daunting part of the process is setting up the run off system for your gutters and roof. But, ultimately, you can leave this to the professionals. In fact, you should check out some of the articles on to learn more about how a professional can help you set up your roof and gutter to work with your catchment system. The other daunting part of the process is finding food grade recycled barrels. You can put together the rest of the barrel from what you find in your local hardware store.My best tip is to make sure your hole tool and your PVC and other fittings are the same size as the hole bit you choose.

To build your barrel you need a FOOD grade container of some sort. Search your area for barrel recycling locations – there are many companies who sell recycled barrels. Get

Aroids of the imagination IV – Branching up to the heights

Penthouse Blooms

While Amorphophallus species on Earth send up a leaf that terminates in a single tier of branches, Triklados trikladum on Aroidia grows a three-tiered structure, with a gargantuan inflorescence as the third tier.? This plant is one of those that must form a dendrostyle, or woody core, to support this massive vegetative growth form.? The base of this plant is also heavily buttressed, much like the base of Pinnatidendron.? In fact, along with Pinnatidendron, these plants often contribute to the root base that forms the substrate of the biological archipelagos.
High-flying Pollen

ImageTriklados trikladum pollenoids are among the most unusual of any plant on Aroidia.? While at first glance they may look like some kind of bee, a close inspection reveals that they are unlike any bee on Earth.? Their mode of flying involves small retractable “parachutes” and their vision consists of both “eyes” and ion sensor antennae.? Eyes and antennae are present in groups of three, unlike Earth insects, which have them in pairs.

These pollenoids possess what appear to be legs, but which are actually attachment points to help them in adhering to the receptive areas of the inflorescence.? Each “leg”

Don’t Whine About Dandelions, Make Dandelion Wine

Taraxacum officinale. This native of Europe and Asia is one of the banes of gardeners around the world. These so-called weeds were brought here because the early settlers missed their pretty little yellow flowers. I, for one, don’t understand the outright hatred of these versatile perennial plants. They are sprayed and weeded with a vengeance, but the dandelion, I hate to tell you, is here to stay. So stop fighting them, eat them!!

Fresh, young dandelion greens go amazingly well with hard boiled egg and bacon. There is something about the bacon fat and egg that counteracts any bitterness.Top with your favourite salad dressing and you have a healthy, tasty treat. For the less health conscious, just pour the bacon fat over it all. Yummy!! Dandelion greens can be used practically anywhere you would use spinach. Soups, omelettes, quiche. Now, don’t just rush out and grab a handful of leaves and start munching. They need to be used IN something. Chop some leaves up finely and add them to you regular salad mix for a nutritious boost. Put a few

Don’t be Callous with your Malus

Crabapples have such a bad name….yes, they bloom beautifully in the spring, but are the scourge of many a home gardener come summer when their fruit drops due to dis-use and they become the cursed object of messing up one’s driveway.

The Siberian Crabapple ‘Dolgo’ is altogether a different story. The fruits of this Malus measure almost 1″ from blossom tip to stem, making it one of the largest crabapple cultivars around. This means they can be readily used in cooking without too much of a pain to harvest. Yes, that colander measures 1 foot high and 1 foot wide, and within 30 minutes was filled to overflowing.

It’s hard to describe the fragrance while sitting under the tree gathering the fruit from both ground and branches. It’s a shame that our ‘puters don’t allow for a scratch and sniff option, but our kitchen right now has an aroma that needs to be bottled!

Crabapple jelly – of course, that’s what everyone thinks. That’s what my mind runs back to….we always made crabapple jelly when I was a kid. No pectin required….just some clean cloth diapers, sugar and a bit of wax on top of

Winter Sowing Your Seeds

From the first time I helped my grandmother pick seeds from the watermelon to place on a plate and let them dry I knew seeds were full of magic. Growing seeds can be a rewarding experience and growing them can be one of the most carefree ways to garden – if you do them right. This will be a basic story of one gardener’s journey into winter sowing and the rewards of that action.

Spacing seeds out in little tray with soil and grow lights is time consuming and takes a lot of space in the house or green house. You also need to be watering each day or every other day and keeping the little guys close to the grow lights. I gave up after only one year— it was just too much work! Then the skies opened up and a light boomed from the heavens….. no, not really, but I found a wonderful forum here on Dave’s Garden that opened my eyes to the world of winter sowing.

The basic idea behind winter sowing is Mother Nature gave us the seeds and she just might know what the seeds need to grow. She just

Building A Formal Rose Garden Part 2

Some of you know me, many do not. Back on September 11, 2001 I was working for a large bank in NY. 20% of our entire staff lost a family member.

After racing home and unable to watch any more news, I went to the only place there was for solace – our garden. Most of the plants got watered that day and the next with an overabundance of salt….I cried buckets as I tended the gardens, not knowing what else to do.

But that’s it, eh? Our gardens contain HOPE!

It would be a year before I found Dave’s Garden via a Google search. During that year our gardens became the place that continually gave us joy as we watched new plantings – some failed and died, others thrived. That spring our entire family room was filled with racks of seedlings – vegetables, flowers – it didn’t matter. Just seeing new growth was a thrill.

Then came DG….I truly was not much of an internet person using my computer mainly for business and plant and cooking research.

Slowly I learned. Here was a group of gardeners who felt their gardens were also