"Bread and butter, devoid of charm in the drawing room, is ambrosia eaten under a tree."
Elizabeth Von Arnim
Is your favorite valentine a gardener? This garden journal helps make planning and organizing easy. This journal, autographed personally by Paul, makes a great gift. The cover holds a 5x7 or 4x6 photo and a heavy-duty D-ring binder.
- 8 tabbed sections
- 5 garden details sections with pockets for seeds, tags...
- Weather records page
- 6 three-year journal pages
- Insect & diseases page--3 project pages
- 3 annual checklist pages
- Plant wish list page
- 2 large pocket pages
- Sheet of garden labels
- 5 garden detail sheets
- 5 graph paper pages for layouts
- 5 photo pages, each holding four 4x6 photos in landscape or portrait format
Click here to order online.
Miracle-Gro Moisture Control Potting Mix
Formulated with AquaCoir natural fiber technology to absorb excess water and release it to the plant as needed. Protects against over- and under-watering. Enriched with Miracle-Gro Plant Food. Ideal for all potted plants, including edibles.
Grows plants twice as big as in ordinary potting soil. Absorbs 33% more water! Feeds plants up to 6 months with Miracle-Gro Continuous Release plant food. Enriched with MicroMax nutrients for hearty, vigorous plants.
Miracle-Gro soils generally contain peat moss (the major component that is harvested from natural peat bogs), compost (the compost may contain animal manures, composted leaves, grass clippings, and/or composted bark), and perlite (white volcanic rocks used for drainage and soil texture).
The Miracle-Gro Moisture Control Potting Mix also contains composted hulls of coconuts to help absorb more water than regular potting soil. This is the Aqua Coir (pronounced "core") component of the soil.
Winter begonias are varieties with fancy leaves and some small flowers. The leaves are breathtaking to look at because the markings and colors on the leaves are marvelous. If you pick off the flowers, the leaves will get bigger and more colorful.
Most begonias are grown as houseplants; they come from tropical regions of the country. There are numerous new varieties that are grown for outdoor use, but they can grow indoors for a short time. Knowing this, you must keep these plants warm indoors, or grow them outside during the summer.
Indoors during the winter, the begonia will thrive if you use grow lights on it, but they are not necessary. These fancy-leaf begonias love high humidity so place them on plastic saucers filled with small stones. Fill the tray every morning--the water will evaporate during the day, helping the plant grow better.
I have found that misting of the foliage will cause spotting of the foliage and may cause powdery mildew; this detracts from their looks. If you use a humidifier in the house keep them close by.
Water plants as needed. Keep moist from May to September and on the dry side during the winter.
Fertilize begonias year round with a fertilizer like Miracle-Gro or Blooming and Rooting Plant Food.
The stems are fleshy, so be sure to use a well drained potting soil. Heavy soils will rot the stems.
Select a location in your home that has no drafts from windows or doors.
Temperature-wise, begonias need to be 65 degrees plus all year long. When the plant is exposed to temperatures below 55 degrees it will be chilled and the leaves will begin to fall from the plant.
Begonias do not like to be moved often around your house. Find a spot for them, then leave them alone and let them stay put. Begonias do not need to be repotted often.
They grow better in smaller pots, so be sure the pot they are in is filled with roots like a spider web before you move them. When repotting, use a man-made soil or a lightweight artificial soil. When you over-pot in large pots, the plants can suffer from overwatering and root rot more easily.
Never push down hard on the newly potted soil or you will squeeze the air out of it. Think soft and fluffy when repotting and the plant will thrive.
Begonias need moderate light during the summer, so place them in a east or west window. During the winter, a south-facing window is best--or place them under grow lights. Fertilizer is necessary during the growing season May to September.
The plant should usually be fertilized every 2 weeks, except during the winter fertilize only once a month. Use a balanced fertilizer like Miracle-Gro or Blooming and Rooting Plant Food.
If yellow spots develop on the leaves remove them and clean the plant.
Do not crowd begonias by putting other plants around them; give them room to grow and space around them for better air circulation.
The best varieties for the winter are the 'Iron Cross' or 'Rex' begonias.
Leaf color ranges from numerous shades of green to silver, pink, red and gold. The leaves can be smooth, ruffled, spotted, and almost puckered. Some of the varieties look like stained glass windows.
The flowers are small and several on hanging stems, pink in color--but the foliage is why you grow the plant.
With a little care, plants should last several years in your home. Moving them outside for the summer and back indoors in the fall is not good for them as they have a problem adjusting to the growing conditions.
If you are looking for ground-huggers for paths and stepping stones walkways that will even grow in the shade, look no further than the Ajuga repens.
Ajuga is also known as creeping bugleweed or carpet bugleweed. This is the fastest growing groundcover that I know of; it spreads fast enough to almost become invasive. If you have tried everything you can think of, believe me this is your answer to problem areas.
Ajuga spreads with stolons, a creeping stem on the ground that has leaves and roots to start new plants. It also has rhizomes, a stem that grows underground and will make a new plant on the tip of that stem with leaves and a root system and also makes seeds. Most plants spread by one or the other but very few are able to use all three methods to spread.
Ajuga is a perennial plant that comes back each spring bigger and fuller each year. It is evergreen during the winter but it will lose some of its color with cold weather. When the new growth develops in the spring, it will become a carpet of colorful foliage. The leaves are spoon-shaped, 2 to 3 inches long and grow in a rosette. The plant will grow 3 to 4 inches tall.
There are three varieties, with different leaf colors to choose from. Look for the dark green types, with many shades of green on the plant, the 'Rainbow' with green, white and pink leaves and the burgundy and green leaf variety. If that was not enough to get you excited, all the varieties will develop a spike flower in spring to early summer that grows six inches tall.
The flowers are blue to lavender and will last on the plant for 4 to 6 weeks.
To clean the faded flowers from the planting, I use my lawn mower with blades set high, and the faded flowers are quickly removed without hurting the plant. Use a lawn mower with a bag so you do not blow seed in areas where you do not want this plant to grow.
Empty the lawn mower bag in areas where you would like this plant to grow, as the bag will have hundreds of seeds from the faded flowers. Never blow the faded flowers into the lawn or you will have a weed problem in just a few weeks.
Ajuga will tolerate some foot traffic. It does not like to be planted in full sun; the foliage will scorch, so make sure it has shade during the hot part of the day.
Ajuga does best in a well drained soil with no standing water. They are wonderful plants to grow under pines and oaks, where most plants never seem to survive. Your local garden center will sell plants in pots or in trays with multiple plants to the container.
When planting, set plants in the ground 12 to 18 inches apart, in staggered rows, and mix compost in the hole to get the plants off to a good start. The new organic Plant Growth Activator fertilizer from Organica will speed up the rate the plant roots grow and allow them to get established much more quickly.
Keep the soil moist for the first 3 months--then they are on their own. Fertilize in the spring with Plant-Tone organic fertilizer and watch them grow. Apply as if you were sprinkling salt on ice during the winter.
Let me tell you about a beautiful flower tree that most of you do not know much about but will fall in love with once you see it. This tree is called the European mountain ash (commonly known in Europe as the rowan). It will grow to 35 to 50 feet tall and 25 to 40 feet wide. There are other varieties but this one is the best of its type. When young this tree tends to grow erect and oval. As it ages, the branches spread out and fill in. It will grow anywhere in New England, as it will adapt to those climates easily.
Select a site with full sun and give it room to grow. The European mountain ash will grow best in a soil that is well drained, with no standing water. It prefers moist soils during the growing season but not sandy, as low soil moisture will slow down the growth and keep the tree smaller.
In the spring, the tips of most of the branches will produce clusters of small white flowers. The flower cluster will be 3 to 6 inches wide, each cluster containing 25 to 50 or more of the flowers. When the wind and insects do their job of pollinating properly, you will be treated to small fruit the size of a pea.
Early in the summer, the fruit is green and in the fall season the fruit quickly changes to bright orange. The weight of the fruit tends to make the branch bend to show you the fruit better. With a little bit of luck you will get to enjoy the fruit on the tree until Thanksgiving.
The birds love the fruit and it is common to hear flocks of birds on the tree eating the feast of wonder orange fruit. Waxwings and robins love this fruit. My grandfather told me many years ago that the fruit on this tree was cherished during the days of Prohibition. He told me how he and friends used to make a fine liquor in the basement in those days.
The foliage is also unique, as the leaf has a center stem 6 to 10 inches long and contains 11 to 17 small leaflets that are arranged opposite each other on this stem. The leaflets are one and half inches, long with a wavy edges. The leaflets are bluish green and the underside is somewhat hairy. The trunk is smooth when young, becoming scaly and rough as it ages. In the winter, the buds on tip of the branches are very noticeable and are hairy and whitish--almost like a pussy willow.
When planted in a row, 20 feet apart between trees, they will make a great windbreak or barrier. But the best part of this tree is that disease problems of the foliage are rare. Unlike the flowering crabapple that has great color in the spring, but quickly develops spotted foliage in June, the European mountain ash has no such problems. Clean foliage all year and no spraying! To keep the tree healthy and growing properly, fertilize the tree each spring with organic slow-release fertilizer such as Plant-Tone or Tree-Tone. Use one pound of fertilizer per inch of trunk diameter. Make holes in the ground about 6 inches deep with a crowbar and place a hand full of fertilizer in each hole. Make the holes at the drip line or near the tips of the branches in your lawn. Space holes 12 to 18 inches apart and if more holes are needed make another circle of holes under the tree moving closer to the trunk.
Plant the tree with a lot of compost and animal manure and then stake the first year after planting. Also make a 3 ft. wide mulch bed around the tree to prevent damaging the trunk when mowing the lawn. Plant flowers around the tree, and that will insure that you keep it well watered that first year.
One of the finest broadleaf evergreens for your garden but not widely known is the drooping leucothoe (Leucothoe fontanesiana). The branches are two to three feet long and the plant develops into a graceful fountain-like shrub with long arching branches. The leaves are 2 to 5 inches long, alternating on the stem.
The plant makes 3 to 6 inches of new growth each year. In the spring, the flower will develop at the base of each leaf made the previous year. The flowers come in May and last until June, blooming 6 weeks or more.
The flowers develop on a tassel-like chain about 3 inches long. Each small flower resembles a tiny bell ¼ inch long. The flower cluster almost resembles a pinecone in appearance and hangs down in between each leaf. The flowers will last 4 to 6 weeks on the plant.
Plant the drooping leucothoe in a shaded location in your yard. Select a sheltered location out of the sun and wind, especially during the winter. If you want to create a naturalizing area in your yard, this is the plant for you.
The leaves are leathery and dark green from spring to fall. When the cold weather arrives, the foliage will turn from bronze to purple for the winter months. With a little bit of snow on the ground the plant will jump out at you and become very showy in the garden. When things warm up in the spring the leaves revert to green. In time, the plant will grow 3 to 6 feet tall and wide. Besides the shade, the plant must have acid soils that are well drained and fertile. When planting in your yard, use a lot of compost and animal manure. Water two times a week all summer to insure good root development.
The drooping leucothoe will make a great background plant for perennials and annual plantings. Planted along a fence, a stone wall or under trees they will give a softening effect to the area. Plant them two to three feet apart for a solid small hedge by letting the plants grow together. Prune to encourage a thicker hedge. Or plant four feet apart and shape plants after flowering to become individual rounded mounds of arching foliage. Fertilize in the spring with Holly-Tone slow-release organic fertilizer. Spread around the base of the plant and work into the soil or bark mulch around the plant. Bark mulch around the plant will help to keep moisture around the plant during the hot days of summer, control weeds and help to insulate the roots during the cold winter months.
If you have luck with the drooping leucothoe in your sheltered shady back yard, then it is time to try a hybrid variety called 'Girard's Rainbow.' This new variety has stunning foliage that has new growth with white, pink, copper and green combination foliage in the spring. As the foliage matures, it will change to creamy white and green. The plant stays smaller in the garden and does not have as many flowers but the foliage is striking enough to be your favorite in your shaded garden. Plant next to azaleas and rhododendrons and try them under tall holly and magnolias. They will also do great scattered under tall trees for a natural appearance.
This Week's Question:
What's the main ingredient in guacamole?
This Week's Prize:
One bottle of Vacation.
Last Week's Question:
What very American pie ingredient is the rose related to?
Last Week's Prize:
One bottle of Vacation.
Last Week's Winner:
Last Week's Answer:
The apple, fruit of the apple tree (species Malus domestica) belongs to the Rose family, Rosaceae.
One winner per question - we choose winners from the list of those who answer correctly. Winners must be newsletter subscribers. We'll ship you your prize, so be sure to put your address in the form in case you win!
What You'll Need:
- 1/3 pound sliced pancetta, chopped
- 3 medium red onions, chopped
- 4 celery ribs, chopped
- 2 medium carrots, chopped
- 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 bunch Swiss chard
- 6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 teaspoon pepper
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 (28-ounce) can whole tomatoes in juice
- 3 quart hot water
- 5 cups coarsely chopped cored Savoy cabbage (6 ounces)
- 5 cups coarsely chopped escarole (1/2 pound)
- 1 piece Parmigiano-Reggiano rind (about 3 by 1 1/2 inches)
- 1 (19-ounce) can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
- Accompaniments: extra-virgin olive oil for drizzling; cooked ditalini pasta tossed with oil (optional); grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Step by Step:
- Cook pancetta, onions, celery, and carrots in oil in a wide 7-to 9-quart heavy pot over medium heat, stirring occasionally, while preparing chard.
- Cut out stems from chard and chop stems, reserving leaves.
- Stir chard stems into pancetta mixture with garlic, 1 teaspoon salt, and 3/4 teaspoon pepper and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are very tender and begin to stick to bottom of pot, about 45 minutes total. (Set aside chard leaves.)
- Push vegetables to one side of pot. Add tomato paste to cleared area and cook, stirring constantly, until it starts to caramelize, about 2 minutes.
- Stir paste into vegetables and cook, stirring, 2 minutes. (Paste may stick to pot, but don't let it burn.)
- Stir in tomatoes with their juice, breaking them up with a spoon, then add hot water (3 quarts), scraping up any brown bits from bottom of pot.
- Bring to a simmer. Stir in cabbage, escarole, and parmesan rind. Simmer, covered, until greens are tender, about 40 minutes.
- Coarsely chop chard leaves and stir into soup along with beans.
- Simmer, partially covered, 10 minutes. Discard rind.
- Season soup with salt and pepper. If using ditalini, stir in just before serving.
Yield: 8 servings