FEATURED QUOTE :
"Spring is a true re-constructionist."
Wet & Forget
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Wet & Forget is easy to use. Simply apply with a garden sprayer, then sit back and let Mother Nature do the rest. Wet & Forget starts to work gently over time. Results can be seen within days for those less contaminated areas and over several months for more distressed areas. Naturally.
Every day, we are getting closer to beginning to plant our flower gardens, our
containers, hanging baskets, and window boxes. This spring, I want you to consider
a new sun-loving begonia called 'Bonfire.' (It will also take a bit of shade
at the end of the day.) When most of us think begonias, we think of morning or
late in the day sun, with shade during the heat of the day...right? Not this
plant, as it THRIVES in the full hot sun and it will flower from spring to frost.
You can even bring it inside your home for a few weeks in October before putting
it to rest for the winter in your basement. This is a keeper!
This begonia is grown from a tuber, and if you care for it properly, you can
divide it in the early spring every 3 years and make 4 plants from the one plant.
It is not winter-hardy like most begonias, so it will need to spend the winter
in your cold basement and rest while the snow flies. But when the weather begins
to warm up in March, bring it up from the basement, and give it a good drink
of water and a bit of Miracle-Gro fertilizer. In just a couple of weeks it will
awaken from its winter sleep and grace your home with beautiful foliage that
will soon contain flowers, even before you put it back outside for the season.
No other begonia can do this.
The 'Bonfire' begonia is a new hybrid developed by Tesselaar Plant Breeders
from Australia, and they will be available at your local garden center or greenhouse
in the late spring when the threat of frost is over. What I like the most about
this begonia is the amount of flowers the plant produces during the summer--most
of the time you can barely see the foliage of the plant. Can you say: "Eye-popping
profusion of exotic-looking bright red-orange flowers?" If so, you need
this plant in your yard--and you will need more than one.
The 'Bonfire' begonia's foliage is very interesting to look at also, as it
is a rich dark green color and the leaves have serrated edges that are highlighted
with a red margin. The leaf is one inch wide at the stem and grows 2 to 4 inches
long getting narrower as it reaches the tip of the leaf point. The serrated teeth
on this leaf are beautiful with the red highlights on them, and--if that was
not enough--the veins that run all over the leaf have a bit of yellow in them.
Yes, you heard right--3 colors in the foliage. Unusual, almost tropical-looking
foliage that loves the sun. Because it grows in the sun, the 'Bonfire' begonia
does not get powdery mildew on the foliage as most other begonias do--a real
plus, especially during a wet and humid summer. It's too bad that you only see
half of the foliage on the plants, because they are covered with flowers most
of the year.
Now let me tell you about the flowers on this plant--because they will grow
2 inches wide and 2 inches long. When I first saw the plant from a distance,
I thought it was a fuchsia because of the shape of the flowers. These flower
petals are long and pointed, and resemble the wings of a bird. They hang in clusters
from the strong stems just below the foliage, and the plant has so many branches
that the flowers seem to be in layers all over the plant, almost hiding the foliage
below them. The more sun the plant gets in your garden or planter, the larger
it will grow and the brighter the intensity of the flower color becomes. One
more unusual quality about this begonia is its ability to tolerate a strong summer
storm. A summer thunderstorm with heavy rain and wind will knock off the flowers
off of most begonias but not this one--it's tough!
The 'Bonfire' begonia will grow in a mound that is wide-spreading and very
delicate looking, making it perfect for containers or hanging baskets also. The
plant will grow 18 to 24 inches wide and just as tall in one season; if you feed
it often and care for it properly, it will grow even larger. Because the plant
grows many branches naturally, it will benefit from you from occasional pinching
to induce side branches and create a more compact spreading plant. Fertilize
every 2 weeks with Blooming and Rooting fertilizer, a 9-59-8 fertilizer formula
from Fertilome Home and Garden, for even more flowers and larger plants. The flowers
have no fragrance, but they will attract butterflies, humming birds and other
pollinators to them because of the number of flowers on the plant.
Your plant will grow beautifully and flower nonstop with minimal care and
water. If you're fed up with your New Guinea impatiens' needing water several
times a day when the weather get hot, then you are in for a real treat with the
'Bonfire' begonia, as it requires half the water! Keep it moist and prepare for
a flower show in your garden. When you plant or repot your begonia plant use
a well-drained soil. The better the soil is, the better the plant will grow.
Look for the new Black Gold Potting soil for containers as it contains "Waterhold, "a
new combination of coconut fiber called (coir) and Canadian sphagnum peat moss
to help retain moisture longer during hot days of summer.
If you're planting in your garden, be sure the soil has no clay in it and
water does not accumulate with heavy rains--think "well-drained." If
plants sit in heavy soil and they have wet feet or you overwater the plant, the
stems can rot with a fungus disease. Also never use a saucer outside; you want
the container to drain freely. Foliage disease is not a problem with this type
of begonia and insects are not generally a problem either--but if plants are
overcrowded in the garden white fly can become a problem because of poor air
circulation around the plant. In the garden, space plants on 24-inch centers;
give them room to spread. When planting in the garden, avoid acidic soil, as
the plant will do much better in a neutral soil. Avoid planting them in gardens
with evergreen plants like rhododendrons, azaleas or blue hydrangeas in them.
If you're looking for something different in the foliage but still want the
orange-red flowers, look for 'Bonfire Chocolate-Red' with chocolate/plum colored
foliage and the same bright orange-red flowers. For for other colors, 'Bonfire
Chocolate-Pink' with chocolate/plum colored foliage and soft pink blossoms, or
the new 'Bonfire Bright Scarlet' with the traditional green foliage but the flowers
are a bright scarlet red.
In October, cut the plants back to 2 to 3 inches from the soil line when the
flowers stop coming and put them in your basement for the winter. Set the plants
on the floor to keep the soil and roots cool and keep them as far away from the
furnace as possible. If you live in an area of the country where temperatures
never get below freezing, place them in the garage for the winter and let them
rest on the floor--not on a bench. Do not water while the plant is dormant and
resting; just forget about the plant until March.
For more information and to find a nursery near you that carries these beauties,
go to www.tesselaar.com. Enjoy!
Click to print this article.
The Cosmos is one of the most beautiful annuals for the garden--and
it got its start as a wildflower in the dry wastelands of Mexico, where it still
thrives in poor, sandy soil today. This amazing daisy-like annual flower will
self-seed, so if you're looking for the perfect wildflower for poor soil and
a sunny location, this is your plant. If you're looking for a wonderful cut flower
for your garden, if you're building a butterfly garden or want to encourage birds,
butterflies and pollinators like honeybees to come into your yard, this plant
must be included in your flower collection this summer. Monarch butterflies love
this flower-- just a suggestion to attract them to your yard this summer.
Cosmos are delicate flowers with beautiful fernlike foliage that
is a medium to dark green in color. The foliage resembles the foliage of the Asparagus
Sprengeri fern at first glance, and this unique lacy foliage covers the
plant from its base to the many flower stems that develop on the plant. The ferny
leaf is classified as pinnate, and it will grow 3 to 5 inches or more long. Just
the foliage of the plant will give your arrangements great texture and help soften
much of the course foliage of other flowers in the arrangement. The plant keeps
it foliage all season long and very little of this foliage will turn yellow like
other traditional annual flowers do. One of the things I like about the foliage
is the movement in the garden with the slightest breeze, like a field of grain
moving with the wind.
The flowers are daisy-like but only have eight flat flower petals that resemble
the blades of a fan. The petals are all joined at the center of the flower to
a soft yellow center that provides much pollen for the many insects attracted
to it. As the flower opens, the petals grow upright like a vase but quickly mature
and flatten out with a slight cup shape to the ends of the petals. The color
of the petals begins very bright and as the flowers mature, they fade with the
hot sun, giving you many shades of color on the same plant. Many of the flower
petals will develop a circular band of a deeper color around the yellow center,
giving the look of an eye on the flower. Each flower will grow 2 to 6 inches
in diameter. They come in a variety of soft pastel colors like white, pink, rose
and lavender. Like the foliage, the flowers are continually moving with the slightest
breeze. As the flowers fade from the plant, pinch off the dead flowers to encourage
additional flowers to form on the plant
Cosmos will grow 6 inches to 6 feet tall, depending on the variety
you select, and the plant will grow 12 to 24 inches wide. The flower stems of
the taller varieties of Cosmos will always grow long--12 inches or more--making
them just perfect for cutting. The flower buds are just as wonderful as the actual
flower on the plant. Long stems will develop on the plant with the flower bud
on it. As the buds begin to form, a star-like whirl of 8-pointed triangular leaves
appears first on the tip of the stem that is a shiny and metallic green in color.
This is quickly followed with a rounded metallic green flower bud that will soon
burst open with color. The flower stems will often contain several flowers and
buds on them at the same time. This plant will flower all summer long, until
the frost arrives.
The Cosmos will do best in a full sun exposure but will tolerate
a bit of late-day shade. Cosmos will do very well when the weather gets
real hot, as long as you can water regularly--so always add" Soil Moist
Granules at the time of planting just in case you're away on vacation and the
weather gets hot and dry. Cosmos may have originated in Mexico, but
they will not handle drought conditions well. Because they do grow tall, strong
winds can become a problem unless they are planted in a sheltered area or near
a fence to prevent staking the plants--especially the taller varieties.
Cosmos love a soil that is not acidic ,with a pH of 6.0 to as high
as 8.5, so be sure to add limestone, wood ash or Magic-Cal to sweeten the soil
before planting. You can plant seeds indoors now or wait and plant directly into
the garden in early May, because the seeds germinate quickly--in just 7 to 10
days. Thin the seedlings when they are less than 2 inches tall and keep them
moist until they become reestablished in the garden. They will look good planted
in rows, in groups or scattered in your garden among other flowers. I like to
plant them in perennial flowerbeds, also--to help fill in the holes left by plants
that have finished flowering early. When you plant them in a group, the foliage
will interlock and the plants will support each other.
When you plant, do not add compost or animal manure to the garden as it will
encourage the plant to grow taller and become top-heavy, forcing you to stake
the plants. Fertilize with the new fertilizer called "Plant Thrive" from
Alpha-Bio-Science to build a better root system and promote flower bud production
without forcing a lot of top growth. This is a Mycorrhizal bacteria fertilizer
and totally organic--good stuff and you only have to use it 3 or 4 times a year.
If you use a traditional liquid plant fertilizer OFTEN, every other week during
the season, the plant will make more foliage then flowers--so remember, less
is better for this plant.
If you have a wet season or you water the garden often, you could have a minor
problem with slugs on this plant. The best preventative method is spacing of
the plants growing around them and good air circulation in the garden. If all
fails, use Monterey's Sluggo --a safer way to control the slugs in the garden
if they become a problem. Foliage disease is not a problem with these plants
unless you water the garden at night--wet foliage on any plant will eventually
become a problem.
There is another strain of Cosmos called Sulphureus hybrids, so look
for 'Sunset' and 'Cosmic Yellow' that are smaller growing--12 to 18 inches tall
and 12 inches wide. They have a different look to the flowers, which are single
and double petaled, with yellow and orange flowers on them. The flowers look
similar to the Coreopsis plant, a wonderful perennial, but do not make a good
cut flower and are not as attractive to butterflies and honey bees. The flowers
are also smaller--1 to 2 inches across--and the foliage is not as fine textured;
it almost looks like marigold foliage early on.
In 2010, a new hybrid came out and was named the flower of the year. Cosmos 'Rubenza'
is a wonderful easy-to-grow plant that will flower all summer long right up until
frost. This plant is like the traditional Cosmos except that it is the
first dark, ruby-red flower of its type. As the flower matures, it will slowly
fade to the outstanding rose-red color that earned the plant the coveted "Fleuroselect
Novelty Award." The plant will grow to 3 feet tall and 18 inches wide with
the wonderful Asparagus sprengeri-type foliage and 3 to 4 inch diameter
flowers. Expect great cut flowers from this plant and enjoy the unique ruby-red
color hard to find with cut flowers today. It's not too late to order seed to
direct plant in the garden or start indoors if you go to www.harrisseeds.com for
more information and pictures of the new hybrid. Also, red flowers attract hummingbirds
to your gardens...and this plant will also attract the neighbors to see what
you're growing that is different this summer. Try it--you will like it!
Click to print this article.
The blue Hubbard squash is a native squash from South America that got its
start in this country in the late 1700's. The town was Marblehead, Massachusetts.
It was the first to grow this new vegetable, which is said to have come off a
ship sailing from the West Indies that was heading back home with some of these
unusual vegetables the crew had found. Some said the Sea Captain, Knot Martin,
brought the seeds home with him after a voyage exploring the world for new food
sources and plants and gave the seeds to a local gardening friend Elizabeth Hubbard.
A Marblehead historian, Louise Martin Cutler, tells of her great aunt Sarah
Martin--the sister of Captain Knot Martin--who actually developed the squash.
Sara and her sister Martha were well known gardeners in Marblehead. Sara was
bashful and timid and entrusted the seeds to her friend Elizabeth Hubbard. If
Sarah had not been so shy, the squash would be known today as the Martin squash.
Blue Hubbard squash is very easy to grow, and even if you neglect the plant,
the vine will produce squash for you. Blue Hubbard squash needs to be planted
from mid-May to early June as seed directly in your garden--or you can start
a few seedlings in pots 3 weeks before the threat of frost is over where you
live. This wonderful winter squash takes a long time to mature and most years
it will not be ready for harvest until it's time for a killing frost. It usually
takes 3 months to form good fruit.
Harvest when the skin has hardened and you're unable to mark the skin of the
squash with your fingernail. The squash must also have time to prepare for storage
and I suggest that you keep it outside in the sun for a couple weeks until the
stems begins to dry up. Bring inside during this time if the weather gets cold
(your garage is ok) at nighttime. Do this, and it will keep until January or
February very easily. Before you put the squash into your basement for the winter,
wash the skin of any winter type squash with a 10% bleach and water bath to improve
winter storage quality.
Blue Hubbard squash is a staple for Thanksgiving at my house, and because
it is so large, I cook it all and freeze what we do not eat in freezer bags for
later use--a great treat as a cold winter's evening meal. I like the looks of
this squash; great color silver gray, unusual shape with points on both ends,
lots of lines and depressions, and they grow big--making them perfect for a large
family gathering like Thanksgiving. I also use them in displays with pumpkins
until Halloween or Thanksgiving, before cooking them or storing them in the basement
for the winter. They will keep best on the floor in your basement--not on a table--and
as far away from your furnace as possible. But don't keep them in your garage
in very cold weather, as they will freeze and go bad. I also think I enjoy dropping
them on the cement floor of the garage to break them open--it's easier than trying
to cut one open to clean it out and peel off its tough skin for cooking.
I would describe blue Hubbard squash as a squash with bright orange flesh.
It is also a bit dry, so add some milk and lots of butter when preparing after
cooking it, so you can better enjoy its nutty flavor and fine mild texture. This
is a big squash with thick walls and a starchy and flaky flesh filled with flavor
that will melt in your mouth. You can also roast the seeds as you do pumpkin
seeds in the oven with salt.
Plant blue Hubbard squash in a garden with full sun all day and if you're
tight for space in the garden, plant it at one end of the garden and let it run
out of the garden onto the lawn. The better your soil is prepared, the more squash
the plant will produce, so be sure to add lots of animal manure, seaweed kelp
or compost every spring before planting. The squash plant will grow best if the
soil is on the acidic side 5.5 to 6.5, so be careful not to lime the area every
This squash has a large root system, so before you plant, blend your soil
conditioners in a 3 foot circle around where the plant or seeds are to be set
into the ground and work it into the soil the depth of your shovel or garden
fork--about 12 inches deep. This squash loves the HEAT; I had my best crop the
year I used black landscape fabric over the soil to help warm the garden soil
and keep out the weeds. Also, try not to walk near the seedlings, as the roots
will develop faster and larger if the soil is not compacted by you walking in
If you're going to start seeds indoors plant in pots 3 to 4 weeks before last
frost or direct seed into the garden 1 inch deep. Seeds will germinate in 7 to
10 days--faster if the soil is warm and moist. Don't rush the season, as seeds
will not germinate properly if the soil is cold and wet. This squash loves water,
so rather than planting on top of a hill pull the soil in the area around the
seedlings and make a ring of soil like a saucer to help hold more water for the
roots. If your soil is limited, use the new Grow Point Garden Water Saver--it
works wonderfully, and I had great luck with it last year in my garden. Visit www.grow-point.com for
more information. Plants will need 3 to 5 gallons of water a week per planting
ring if it does not rain until the foliage covers the ground around the roots,
also the more moisture the more squash.
Fertilize every other week with a liquid plant food or monthly with a granular
organic plant food like Garden Tone or Dr. Earth Vegetable fertilizer with pro
biotic, as this plant loves to be fertilized often. Add some of the granular
plant food directly into the planting hole and blend it well before planting.
Once the flowers begin to form on the plant side, dress the plant monthly. If
you're using a liquid plant food, saturate the ground well where the shoots have
developed and apply it directly to the foliage also, as it will be absorbed directly
into the foliage for faster results. Winter squash is a heavy feeder and if you
feed regularly, you will be rewarded with additional squash.
If the weather gets wet and the leaves begin to turn white, they are developing
powdery mildew; this can be controlled organically with Serenade Garden Fungicide.
NEVER water the garden at night. NEVER. Always water first thing in the morning
when you grow any type of squash.
Vine borer can be controlled by covering the stem with your old panty hose
for the first 3 feet of the vine, just wrap them with the nylon as the plant
grows. And one final pest is the squash bug; it can be controlled with a very
effective and safe product called Garden Eight; use as directed or as the problem
Finally, I have great news for those of you who love blue Hubbard but have a family
too small for a 25-pound or larger squash. A new hybrid blue Hubbard squash called
'Blue Magic F1' has been developed for smaller families. 'Blue Magic' is a small
blue Hubbard squash that is more size-friendly for today's smaller family. It
has the same qualities as the larger types, with great taste, a fine flesh, nutty
flavor and great winter keeping qualities. This new plant is semi-vining and
will take up less space in your garden but it will produce many fruits that
will weigh only 4 to 6 pounds each! For squash seeds go to www.Harrisseeds.com,
because seeds are not available in any seed racks this spring. You still have
time to order and plant indoors or directly in the garden and you will enjoy
the smaller size. Try it you will like it--if you like blue Hubbard squash,
it's just the right size. Enjoy!
Click to print this article.
A Customized Gardening Tour of England and the 2012 Chelsea Flower Show
Paul Parent hosts a tour that includes the Wisley Gardens, the Chelsea Flower Show, Tower of London,
Roman Baths & Pump Room, Riverford Organic Farm, Garden House, Rosemoor Gardens,
Lost Gardens of Heligan, Village of Mevagissey, Stonehenge, the Wilton House
Garden Centre and more.
Click here for details.
This Week's Question
What members of the grass family (Poaceae) can be (and often is, in many countries) used as construction material? (Note - we aren't talking about thatching a roof--we mean for the actual building.)
This Week's Prize:
Bio-tone® Starter Plus
All Natural Plant Food Enhanced with Bacteria and Mycorrhizae
For more information, see the Espoma site.
- Microbe-enhanced all natural plant food
- Includes both endo and ecto mycorrhizae
- Grows larger root mass to help plants establish fast
- Promotes bigger blooms
- Reduces transplant loss
Last Week's Question:
Iceberg lettuce was originally called "crisphead" lettuce. How did it get its present name?
- It was the only lettuce that would grow in Alaska
- It was a feature at the Iceberg Salad House in Boston
- It was found growing on an iceberg in the Arctic
- California growers used to ship it covered with crushed ice
- Most of it grows below ground
Last Week's Winner:
Last Week's Answer:
D. California growers used to ship it covered with crushed ice.
Last Week's Prize:
Bio-tone® Starter Plus
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!
Are you looking for a great gift for a gardener (or yourself)? This garden
journal helps make planning and organizing easy. This journal, autographed
personally by Paul,
makes a perfect gift for gardeners. 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.
What You'll Need:
- 3/4 pound ground round
- 3/4 cup chopped onion
- 1/2 cup green pepper, chopped
- 2 cups tomato sauce
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 tablespoon prepared mustard
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
- 12 buns or rolls
- In a large nonstick skillet over medium heat, cook the ground round, onion and green pepper until beef is browned, stirring to crumble.
- Stir in tomato sauce, tomato paste, mustard, chili powder, Worcestershire sauce, salt, sugar, oregano and pepper; reduce heat to medium-low.
- Cover and cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Spoon 1/4 cup beef mixture over bottom half of buns or rolls, cover with top half.
Yield: 12 servings