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I remember when I was 10 years old and we took a family ride to visit our grandparents who lived in Bangor, Maine.
It was not a long ride from central Maine, where we lived, to northern Maine and it was always fun to see our grandparents and play with my grandfather's pool table in his basement.
It was early August and one of the reasons we went was to cut some beautiful hydrangea flowers from their two hydrangea trees for my mother.
My mother loved these wonderful flowers and kept them in a vase of water for several weeks and then removed them from the vase to dry in our garage for use in a dried flower wreath for the front door.
I remember helping my mother cut the stems nice and long so the flowers could go into her special vase. This year the flowers were huge, almost like a football in size and shape, and my mother was very excited.
Nobody knew the name or type of the hydrangea tree, it was just a hydrangea tree, and it was beautiful.
Nine years later I was off to college to learn about plants.
During a bi-weekly field trip around campus to look at plants, identify them, some with or without leaves, we came across the hydrangea tree like my grandparents had in their back yard and I got a chance to finally find out its real name.
My teacher called it a Hydrangea Paniculata Grandiflora or "peegee" hydrangea, for short, and the mystery was solved.
When I was in college in the late 60's and before, the white hydrangea was the king of hydrangeas--not the pink/blue types we have today.
Pink and blue hydrangeas lived from Cape Cod south and if you lived north of Cape Cod you grew the white varieties.
At that time you had few choices of hydrangea: the peegee bush, a tree form like my grandparents' or the shrub type called 'Annabelle' hydrangea, with big round flowers that did not dry very well, but were beautiful when in bloom.
Today the white Hydrangea Paniculata hybrids are beginning to take over the hydrangea market and are being planted in gardens all over New England---especially Northern New England--because of their hardiness and the new and exciting hybrids available.
I have two new favorite hydrangea varieties for you to enjoy and plant in your yard this summer.
My favorite is called hydrangea "White Diamond" and I like it so much that I planted 10 in a row along my front walkway to create a hedge for summer color.
This wonderful hydrangea will grow 4 to 5 feet tall and just as wide but with a spring pruning you can keep it at any height you want--and it ALWAYS flowers, starting in mid-July and lasting well into October no matter how hard you cut back the plant in early spring, and it remains white longer than most other varieties.
The plant is very showy and the panicle-shaped flowers are unique because they contain both male and female flowers in the same flower cluster.
The male flowers are large, 4 petaled (1 to 1 -1/2 inches across with unique sunken white veins running through them.
They begin as a pale green color but quickly turn bright powdery white in color.
These flowers are also called sterile flowers and they fill the flower cone with color.
The female flower is very different looking, because it resembles a 5-sided rounded hat about 1/4" in diameter and grows in groups around the male flowers.
The female flowers are considered fertile--and will make seeds.
I think the best way to describe the cone shaped flowers is to say it looks like a small Christmas tree with layers of both types of flowers that fill the cone.
Unlike my grandparents' hydrangea flowers these are much smaller in size--3 to 6 inches tall and 4 to 5 inches wide at the base before going to a point on the tip.
The one thing that makes the White Diamond hydrangea so beautiful is the large quantity of bold conical flowers that grow on the end of every branch and they cover the entire plant.
The foliage is dark green, oval with a point. They do not change color in the fall like other shrubs and trees but the flowers are still in bloom, so who needs colorful foliage?
The branches have smooth gray bark and are not special looking but they are strong and will hold up in heavy snow unlike the other types of hydrangea, which break easily.
The long strong stems make the flowers perfect for cutting, and every home should have a vase full of flowers right now.
'White Diamond' is a multi-stem plant with many stem types on every plant.
The plant will grow 12" to 18" every summer before the flowers arrive.
Some of the branches grow upright while others grow sideways and some even weep over, giving the plant an interesting shape.
Another great quality of this plat is that it will require a lot less water during the summer months than the ball hydrangea types.
They will grow in full direct sun all day to part shade and I consider them drought resistant as they use less than half of the water needed by the ball types.
The plant is very hardy and will even grow in zone 3--which gets down to minus 40 degrees--if you cover the ground with a good thick layer of bark mulch or compost 3 inches thick.
Fertilize every spring in April with Plant Tone or Dr.
Earth Shrub food with Pro Biotic to encourage additional flowers.
The plant prefers to grow in average to rich soil, so be sure to add compost, animal manure or seaweed kelp when planting help establish the plants quickly.
Tests from nurseries have shown that the plant will also do quite well in a city and will tolerate pollution without damage to the plant.
In the fall, as the cold weather arrives and frost frequents your yard, the flowers will turn parchment brown and last on the plant for most of the winter.
If you have room for just one new plant this summer in your garden plant the "White Diamond" hydrangea, you will love it all summer long.
This spring I planted a new variety of the Hydrangea Paniculata called 'Great Star' hydrangea; I love the look of this unusual plant.
The flower is unique and if you love hydrangeas I guarantee you have never seen anything like the flowers on this plant, which was found in Normandy, France, growing in the garden of Princess Sturdza.
The only word to describe this hydrangea flower is "elegant." Its flowers are clusters of creamy white wavy star-shape blooms that grow up to 4 inches long.
Each of the 4 flower petals is 2 inches long but only 3/4 of an inch wide--almost in the shape of a cross.
Now these are the male or sterile flowers outside the flower cluster and you will also find female or fertile flower petals inside the flower cluster.
Now think about this, a flower cluster like a bouquet of large 4 inch wavy star shape flowers that surround the small 5 sided hat-shapes female flower inside the bouquets.
Each flower cluster will grow to be 6 to 8 inches in diameter.
They make great cut flowers and they also dry well.
The flowers last well into the fall. Compared to the 'White Diamond' hydrangea, the flowers do not last as long in the cold weather but when in flower from July to October it is beautiful.
The plant will grow larger--up to 6 to 7 feet tall and wide.
It is not quite as hardy as 'White Diamond' but it will tolerate minus 30 degrees below zero when mulched heavy.
This plant will grow wonderfully in full sun to partial shade in average to well-conditioned soil--as long as it is well drained.
Both plants have no serious insect or disease problems.
Plant as a single plant up against a large evergreen for a wonderful background of evergreen foliage or set them 5 feet apart in a row to create a wonderful tall growing privacy hedge or noise barrier.
Both the 'White Diamond' and the 'Great Star' hydrangeas will do very well when planted in large containers on a patio or deck --and if you have a pool these are a "must" plant if you like color all summer long.
Who needs annual flowers when you have these two new hydrangeas for color? To me the flower cluster looks like a wedding bouquet...so blue and pink hydrangeas, move over because 'White Diamond' and 'Great Star' hydrangeas are here to stay.
If you live north of Cape Cod say to yourself: No hassle, no special demands, no special care, less watering, and they flower every year no matter how harsh the winter is or when you prune them.
Now plant one--and enjoy the flowers all summer long!
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Gardening was so much simpler to understand just a few years ago until the new labeling laws went into effect--and now it takes a college education to understand what is in the package.
A new group of names have been added to the packets and I thought you should know what it all means to you and your garden for the future.
Names like F-1 Hybrid, Heirloom, Open-Pollinated, Cultivar, GMO, GE, Organic, Certified Organic, and even Treated or Untreated seed.
You thought you were just purchasing a packet of marigolds or tomato seeds, right? Here is the real story behind the new packaging.
Breeding new varieties of plants for seed will always continue to improve the quality of the plant for your garden.
Those qualities could be for more flowers on the plant, larger flowers, taller or shorter plants, disease resistance, foliage color, larger or smaller fruit in the vegetable garden, better flavor, better winter keeping, vegetables mature sooner, and a lot more--but what price are we paying for these changes?
Let me tell you about these terms and you can decide for yourself when you select seeds or plants for your garden next time you plant.
As a gardener, you should have the knowledge to make the educated decisions about what is best for your garden and you.
Let's begin with the term "cultivar," which means" cultivated variety."
A cultivar name is often presented as the "variety name" with the genus and species found on the packet or in the seed catalog listing.
This is determined by International Code of Nomenclature and it determines clearly the plant's character or characters, so that when it is produced by seed it will always retain its distinguishing characteristics no matter where you buy that particular seed.
Simply, a cultivar is a cultivated variety with specific characteristics, "Traits that never change from year to year.
Always the same.
Now, "Open-Pollinated" seeds are seed varieties that are pollinated by the wind, insects, self-pollinated and these plants must have both male and female flower on the same plant.
If you save the seed from open pollinated plants varieties and grow them next year, they will "come true," which means the plant will have the same characteristics or traits as the parent plant you harvested the seed from.
Most common available seeds are of this type and they produce wonderful plants.
The only exception I know of is if you plant pumpkins and squash in the same garden.
These two plants can cross pollinate each other when plant to close to each other and you can have fruit that has both characters in them.
The results are funny looking pumpkins with bumps and green streaks in them or squash with a unique shape and different flavor when eaten.
So separate these two plants by planting at opposite ends of the garden or in different gardens altogether.
Hybrid(F-1) is a first generation hybrid when the plant breeder selects two pure line (plants that produce identical offspring when self-pollinated).
Then they are cross pollinated to combine desirable characteristics or traits from both plants.
Some of the traits that plant breeders are looking for is uniformity, earlier crop, color, and higher nutritional quality just to name a few.
Hybrid seed is more expensive than non-hybrid due to production of the new plant as it is often done by hand.
You can save the seeds from hybrid plants but the seed you save will not come true to what you originally planted in your garden.
Some of the seeds will contain the traits of the mother and some of the father from the original cross.
What is an Heirloom seed? These seeds come from open pollinated varieties that have resulted from natural selection rather than controlled hybridization process.
To become a Heirloom seed, this plant must be at least 50 years old and have produced identical plants every year without changing any of its traits or characteristics.
Some seed companies require that the plant has been productive prior to the 1940 and 50s.
Seed Saver organizations have played a very important role in preserving these old and original plants through their seeds for future generations.
What does the word "Certified Organic" means on a seed packet? It is a legal meaning and regulated by the USDA accredited certifier.
Organic seeds are grown strictly without the use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides.
No sewage sludge, irradiation or genetic engineering is allowed to produce these seeds.
In the United States, organic regulations state that the land on which the crop is grown, cannot have had any form of synthetic pesticides or fertilizers for THREE years prior to the harvest.
The land must also be run in according to the Organic System Plan that is approved and regularly inspected by the USDA.
How about Treated or Untreated seed? This means that the seed has been treated or not with a fungicide to protect germinating seeds in the soil from pathogens when planted in wet or cold soil in the spring.
Home gardeners' seed packets would be labeled if they are treated.
Certified Organic seeds are prohibited from this practice.
Now for two terms that have cause a great deal of concern to the home gardener but the commercial grower is the one most affected by these terms, GMO and GE.
These two terms are frequently used interchangeably but they do not mean the same thing.
GE or Genetic Engineering describes the high tech use to incorporate genes directly into and organism.
The only way that scientist can transfer genes between organisms that are not sexually compatible is to use recombinant DNA techniques.
The resulting plants do not occur in nature; they are "genetically engineered" by human intervention or manipulation.
Agricultural business includes corn modified with a naturally occurring soil bacterium for protecting the corn from borer damage (called "BT corn").
Also herbicide-resistant crops are now being grown--like soybeans, corn, cotton, canola, and alfalfa (known as "Roundup Ready" seed).
The purpose of this process is to be able to plant the entire crop, and if weeds develop in the fields where they are grown, a product like" Round Up" weed killer can be applied to the entire field, killing the weeds but not hurting the crop at all.
Now, GMO is defined as an organism produced through any type of genetic modification, whether by high-tech modern engineering or traditional breeding practices.
For hundreds of years plant breeders have manipulated genes and monitored the effect on specific characteristics to create a better plant--like seedless watermelons, pluots, and our modern broccoli.
GMO has been around for a long time and it has improved the quality of life for the world food production, a good thing.
GE is the new technology that is scaring many of us and by right it should scare you too!
Many companies use this technology to improve our quality of life by reducing the use of pesticides and weed killers that are used much too often to keep our food crops safe and productive.
Some companies are now developing seeds that will produce very productive plants--but the seed the plant produces cannot be replanted as it is sterile.
GE seed started out as a good thing but greedy large companies are using this new technology for their own best interests.
Let us all hope that the USDA and Government agencies that deal with Agriculture keep a close eye on these companies so things do not get out of control and they take over the entire seed industry or have the power to regulate what type of seeds we as gardeners can or cannot use in our gardens.
To me it is a bit "scary" and--yes--you should be concerned!
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A few great plants that will survive and thrive in a dry garden!
Wednesday morning, the weatherman showed a satellite picture of Greenland and compared it to last year at this time.
He made this incredible statement that will tell you things are changing on our planet and we are in a very unusual weather cycle now.
As all the heat from the great plains of this country moves east it eventually moves over Greenland and for the first time ever recorded, Greenland has no snow cover! You read this right--no snow cover over the entire country.
While I was in England in May, I read a British magazine called Statesman with a story from Mark Lynas said that "global warming in England is equivalent to your garden moving south by 65 feet every day.
" Our weather is changing so it may be time for us gardeners to get smarter.
Here are a few ideas for you to cope with the changes.
The two most important things that will save water for your garden are the use of mulches and changing your watering practices from sprinklers to drip irrigation.
Mulches like bark mulch, compost, pine needles--and even use landscape fabric under these products--can cut your water demands by half and eliminate weeding at the same time.
Remember that weeds need water to grow so if they are eliminated, you will need less water.
In the vegetable garden, use landscape fabric and cover it with straw or just use straw to help keep out weeds and shade the ground to help hold moisture in it during the heat of summer.
Stay away from stone mulch, and if your planting beds currently have stone mulch in them, cover it with bark mulch to help cool the stone and that will help to prevent soil moisture from evaporating from the soil.
Drip or trickle irrigation is the most effective method of watering your garden because it places the water at the base of the plant.
Drip or trickle irrigation uses 1/3 to 2/3 less water than sprinklers do! With sprinklers, you water the entire planting bed whether there are plants there or not.
Sprinklers can overshoot the water out of the garden, with it falling on driveways, walkways and even in the street.
This means wasted water that your plants could use if it was applied more accurately.
Time of the day is also important--the best time to water your gardens is in the morning before the sun gets hot to prevent evaporation before the plant can get the water.
Also, never water at night or you can create the perfect conditions for disease to develop on your plants, because the foliage will stay wet all night and encourage fungus growth on the plant.
Last thing to remember when watering, is to water deeply, so the roots can chase the water down into the soil.
So, water for a longer period of time and less often during the week.
Now the fun part is to select plants that require less water to grow in your garden and here are just a few suggestions for you to consider.
Consider the following perennials for your garden:
# 1 Lady's Mantle--known for the beautiful rounded leaves that are covered with tiny hairs that can hold drops of water on them--even the early morning dew which helps to cool the plant.
The plant can survive well in poor soils and in gardens with dry soil because of its large root system.
The plants have nice greenish-yellow flowers and will grow in sun or shade with occasional watering.
Great for borders and rock gardens; it can also be used as a ground cover under large evergreens.
#2 Artemisia hybrids are known for their wonderful silvery-gray foliage and they will tolerate the heat and even drought in a sandy soil.
The foliage is attractive and has some fragrance to it.
No matter how hot and dry the weather gets, this plant will still look good, and it makes a wonderful ground cover in tough growing areas.
The plant does make a small white flower but it's not my favorite, what I like is that you can collect the foliage and use it for dried wreaths or arrangements.
The varieties that have foliage that resemble the Dusty Miller, a wonderful annual flower, do best in hot, dry gardens.
#3 Sedum species--and you have more than 100 different varieties to choose from with different looking foliage, different colors of foliage and different plant heights and spread to consider.
Sedums are like growing cactus plants for the northern gardener; most of them will flower, also.
Sedum is known for its ability to store water in its thick foliage, giving it the ability to survive in a full sun garden where the sun bakes the soil all day long.
The foliage can be in tight rosettes or grow tiny leaves as thick and dense as a carpet.
The Sedum makes a wonderful ground cover, it loves growing in rock gardens, and it can even grow over a stone wall in large drifts of foliage.
The only thing that sedums will not tolerate is wet soil or being planted in low spots of the garden where water tends to accumulate.
#4 Ornamental Grasses of all types are great for a dry soil or even drought situations.
Once the plants are established in your garden, the plant can tolerate dry soils and windy locations where soils are more likely to dry out.
Your selection of ornamental grasses is very large and the range of height will range from under a foot tall to over 6 feet tall.
Foliage color range is also large, with many shades of green, yellow, blue, white, and red.
Some varieties also have vertical or horizontal striping on the blades of grass, creating great variegated foliage.
Many of the ornamental grasses will also produce wonderful plumage, like feathers, on the top of the plant in late summer that will last into the winter months.
The plants are deer resistant and will also grow in containers on your deck or patio.
Always check hardiness before purchasing and planting in your garden as some large box stores do sell plants not recommended for your area and the their answer is that the plant makes a great annual; I think too expensive and not worth the investment for one year.
#5 Hybrid Lilies will also do well in a dry garden soil when planted in the spring time.
This will give them time to get well established before the heat and dryness arrives to the garden.
If you can water regularly they will grow larger and the foliage will be lusher green looking but lilies will not tolerate wet soil or the bulbs will rot very easily.
Asian and Tiger lilies are best for dry soils in full sun locations; stay away from the Oriental types as they do require more water.
#6 Gladiolus hybrids will also do well in dry sunny gardens.
The stems will be shorter and fewer flowers will develop on the stem but they still look good.
If you can provide a fertile soil it will keep the plant actively growing even during the hot dry days of August, with a little bit of watering as they begin to form the flower stems on the plant.
Glads love a sandy loam and full sun but must be kept moist for the first few weeks until the plant is established--then let Mother Nature take over.
#7 Sea Holly loves the sandy and even salty sand dunes of Cape Cod and all along the shore line.
Drainage and sunshine is a must for great foliage that is waxy, prickly and looks a lot like holly with clusters of bright blue flowers during the summer months.
This plant has a very large tap root and it does not like to be moved once established in your garden.
With this large tap root the plant can get all the water it needs without your help.
You can also cut the flowers for arrangements, as blue is difficult to find in flowers, or dry them for wreaths and arrangements.
These are just a few plants that will tolerate dry and hot growing conditions, so be sure to check with your local nursery or garden center when planning a garden that will not get much water during the hot days of summer.
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This Week's Question
In Shakespeare's 'Hamlet' an herb is said to be "for remembrance." What is it?
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Last Week's Question:
Which of these flowers caused a financial panic in the 1600's and made many people bankrupt?
Last Week's Winner:
Last Week's Answer:
D. Tulips (Note: As our winner, and a few others, mentioned, the actual speculation was in the bulbs, not the already-grown flowers - but since the price of individual bulbs depended on what variety of tulip they produced, we still think it was the flocwers that caused the panic - the bulbs aren't exactly enticing until they grow!)
Last Week's Prize:
Liquid Plant THRIVE
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.
Do you love cole slaw but not the calories associated with the mayonnaise that goes with it? Wish you had a recipe for something fresh from the garden that you would be able to throw together quickly and know it is healthy for you?
Rickey's Fresh Garden Cole Slaw is just the ticket!
What You'll Need:
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar (2 tablespoons raspberry vinegar for a lighter and less sweet taste)
- 1 freshly squeezed orange
- 2 tablespoons water
- Freshly ground black pepper (season to taste)
- Salt (season to taste)
- 1 head of cabbage, shredded
- 4 carrots peeled and shredded
- 1 stalk of celery, diced
- 1 sweet red onion, diced
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
- In a mixing bowl whisk together olive oil, vinegar, salt, pepper, orange juice and water.
- Set aside, covered, in the refrigerator.
- Toss together cabbage, carrots, celery and onion.
- After thoroughly tossed together, add dressing from the refrigerator.
- Make certain all is coated, then gently blend in the tomato halves.
- Cover bowl and chill in the refrigerator for 2 hours.