Sunday, August 31, 2008

P.S. I may love you.

Last week I was in Chicago for the Independent Garden Center Show. The IGC is a tradeshow showcasing new products and plants, and providing educational sessions.

Being a techno-gadget geek, I was lucky enough to get a private demo of a really cool device (II'll abreviate it as PS) that if it really works will be a must have item for every gardener. (geek and non-geek).

I am going to beta test it, but I'm not aloud to talk about it until the official release which is scheduled for sometime in October.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Not only the bees, the birds too

For the past two weeks I would be either heading to my office or out
to the greenhouse and I would see a goldfinch feasting on the seeds of
the coneflower in our parking lot. I would run up to the second floor
to grab my camera to snag a picture for my blog, but these finches
seemed to sense when I was about to snap a picture and take off.

I haven't given up, but I didn't want to miss the opportunity to talk
about one of my favorite Summer perennials. Echinacea also known as
cone flowers have changes quite a bit in the past several years.
Flowers range in color from pink to purple to white to yellow to
orange. Depending on the variety they can grow anywhere from 12 to 36
inches. They do best in full sun, and attract butterflies and a few

It seems though after I start talking about them, I also neglect
talking about how finches just love their seeds. I won't give up on my quest to catch them
action, and will be posting a picture in the near future. (of course if I'm wrong and I keep missing them I'll just post a large frowny face.)

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

A hint of Sweet Vanilla

While everyone is familiar with the Large Flowering Summer blooming clematis, the Fall Blooming Sweet Clematis is relatively unknown.

Sweet Autumn Clematis is known under serveral botanical names: Clematis paniculata (which is how I learned it), Clematis maximonowicziana and Clematis terniflora.

The sweet autumn Clematis is one of the easiest Clematis to grow. It prefers Full Sun, but will also grow in partial shade. The flowers are tiny, but extremely plentiful. It starts blooming right around now, and will bloom through early October. The tiny flowers have a sweet vanilla fragrance.

The bright white flowers are extremely showy. Sweet Autumn Clematis is a rapid grower, and is a great plant to use to cover a chain link fence.

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Monday, August 25, 2008

Beware of Doing it in the Dark!

Well after I blogged the Praying Mantis yesterday it was brought to my
attention that I missed some important although distressing
information regarding the habits of the Praying Mantis.

I must say that after hearing this little tidbit of knowledge, I'm not
as fond of the little buggers as I was yesterday. Thank goodness that
the courtship rituals of Praying Mantis are not observed by the human
species. Sexual cannibalism is common among mantises. Generally the
female has been known to literally bite the head off of the male once
mating has begun. I mean I've had my head bitten off, but not
literally. Ouch! But good news to the male mantises is that if they
can avoid having their head removed they will be able to mate with
other females.

If you would like a few more details visit the entry in Wikipedia.

All I can say is guys beware the Mantis position!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

A different type of Photosynth

Microsoft announced this week a new service called Photosynth.

Although it has absolutely nothing to do with plants, it's extremely cool. Photosynth is a free service where you can upload your photos and it will stitch them together into a three dimensional rendering. Think of it as panorama photos on steroids.

Before you can use photosynth to view, or create your own, you need to go to the website and download a small program.

To create your own, you just need to select and drag the photos from your directory and drop them into the photsynth window. The program will upload them to the photosynth service and begin stitching the pictures together for your viewing.

Click on the picture below to see the one that I created today. (It's also a good oportunity to see some of the fall flowering plants that we have currently in stock).

There are a few drawbacks to the service that I found:

  1. Pictures need to be oriented correctly before submitting. (most newer cameras attach the orientation to the photo when it is taken)
  2. Once submitted, you can't re-edit your photosynth, you need to reupload all of the pictures in its entirety.
  3. You need to set the thumbnail picture that is your cover before your photosynth is created.
  4. Your photosynth is available for all of the internet to visit. I would like to have the option of paying a small fee to make it private and use internally.
All in all though, its a fun site, and its only the beginning.

Watch Out Little Bugs

As I was walking up to my office I saw this guy hanging out on the
Dutchman's Pipe vine growing up my staircase.

August is prime time for Praying Mantis. As a kid I was always told
that it was illegal to kill a praying mantis, but this is not true.
There are no laws on the books to protect them. That doesn't mean that
you should go and squash one the next time you see one. Praying Mantis
help keep pests under control in the garden.

As I child I was always fascinated by the Mantis. They looked
prehistoric to me. Actually I still like to see them now. Take a
moment and look around your garden. I bet one is lurking there waiting
for its next meal.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Don't lick this Toad lily

I took this picture at the ofa show this Summer. I originally thought
that I wasn't going to be able to get them until 2009, but I found a
supplier that had a few listed for this weeks availabity. (they
haven't been confirmed yet, but if we are going to get them it will be
towards the end of this week)

The plant is Tricyrtis 'Imperial Banner' which is a new variety of
Toad Lily. Toad lilies are fall blooming perennials that tollerate a
fair amount of shade. This one is unique in that it has a creamy
varigated folliage.

The flowers of the tricyrtis is very exotic looking. They are covered with lots of contrasting speckles. They may look like they are from some tropical island, but they are extrememly happy in our climate.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

A Welcoming Scent

I have a friend down South that has gardenias planted around her
house. As soon as you would walk up the front steps the smell would
waft over to you.

For those that haven't smelt a gardenia ...the smell is sweet and
heady, but not over powering. Something about the smell conjures up
the thoughts of a southern romance novel. There's romance and intrigue
all in the fragrance.

This year I decided to put a gardenia tree into one of the pots on my
porch. I did not plan the timing perfect since I had brought the tree
home at the worst possible time. It was almost 100f and I left the
plant at the base of the stairs when I decided to head to the beach.
When I returned my gardenia was extemely wilted. Instead of going back
to the shop and grabbing another one I decided I would nurse this one
back to health.

It dropped every single one of it's buds. I replanted it in a larger
pot. It recovered extremely quickly. It now had over two dozen buds on
it, and the first few have opened up this week.

Every one that visits, makes a comment on how wonderful the smell is.
Even when the gardenia is not in bloom, the foliage is a dark green,
and the leaves have a shiny gloss.

Next year I am definitly going to repeat the gardenia planting.
(without the drying out)

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Hot Color for the Garden

When you're looking for some Hot that's different for the late Summer
garden, these peppers may fill the bill.

Ornamental peppers are closely related to the ones that are planted in
the vegetable gardens. There had been quite a bit of breeding work on
peppers in the past ten years. The colors change on the peppers as
they ripen. Colors can range from green to yellow to red to purple.

The peppers can be small round pea size fruit. Or they can be thin
and long. They will last a bit longer than a mum.

One thing about ornamental peppers is they are super HOT!!! I would
almost classify them as blistering, and would NOT recommend eating
them. (and no it's not a good idea to give them to a friend as a joke

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Mum's the Word

Cooler night temperatures, shorter day lengths, it's the perfect
conditions for mums to start to form their flower buds. We've just
received our first shipment of mums and they're covered with blooms
just starting to open. I usually recommend picking the ones that have
the fewest flowers open. Although mums look pretty in bloom on our
benches, you will get to enjoy all of the flowers at home if you take
them with just buds.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Sad & Tragic

For those that don't know I spend quite a bit of time networking in the garden center industry. About five years ago, I got to spend a week with a small group of Americans touring garden center's in Switzerland. I got to meet Dale and Ruth Bachman on this trip. Last year I had the opportunity to visit several of their stores in MN. Not only do they share information with others in the industry, they are just great people. I only got to meet Dale's cousin Todd once, but this news is very upsetting to me and the entire gardening industry. This is the info from the Garden Centers of America E-Alert. Each of their locations is displaying this floral piece in memorial.

We know that many of you know of this tragedy, but in case there are those who have not heard, the American citizen brutally murdered on the first day of the Olympic Games was Todd Bachman, Chairman and CEO of Bachman's Floral, Home & Garden in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Bachman's, a 123-year-old florist, garden center and greenhouse business, is an institution in American garden center retailing.

Todd spent his life supporting and giving to our industry. He served in leadership positions for numerous industry associations and boards including, the Minnesota Nursery and Landscape Association, the American Floral Endowment, OFA, Hortica Insurance Company, the Society of American Florist and many more.

The Bachman's web site has a special section devoted to the tragedy,
and a guest page to express your thoughts and condolences to the family. Todd's wife, Barbara, and their Chinese guide were also seriously injured in the attack. As of Monday morning, August 11 Barbara's condition had been upgraded from critical to stable.

Please join me in expressing our sympathies and prayers to the Bachman family as they mourn the loss of Todd. -Dave

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Feed Me!!!

For those who haven't seen the play "Little Shop of Horrors" it tells the story of an extremely ravenous plant named Audrey II that has an appetite for blood. When he gets hungry he yells out "Feed Me". Lucky for us plants don't really shout this out because it would be pretty noisy. I just had a poll on my blog that just closed asking how often one feeds their annuals. The results stunned me. It shows that I haven't done a good enough job educating our customers on the importance of feeding their plants. Twenty five percent of the people that responded to the poll don't feed their annuals. The plants that we sell do get fed on a regular basis at the grower, and then get fed biweekly once in our care, but this not enough to sustain them through the growing season. The unfed plants won't die, but they will decrease their flower production, and may stop blooming completely. The foliage will lose that lush green color that they had when purchased, and start to yellow. It is even more imperative that you feed your annuals if they are in a container than if they are in the ground. A plant will get some extra nutrients from the soil in the ground, so the malnourished symptoms will take longer to show up. Nutrients in a container will also "leach out" meaning that you will also wash some of the nutrients out of the soil every time you water.

As a horticulturist I could write quite a long article going into the technical aspects of what a plant needs, but I don't want to bore you with too many details. Here's an extremely abbreviated version. Think of a plant as a factory. It takes sunlight, water, and nutrients to produce its product of leaves, flowers, roots, and fruits. If any of the components are missing the finished product is not going to be complete.

It's not too late to feed your annuals now. Use any fertilizer that is labeled for flowering plants. For the quickest results I would use a liquid fertilizer such as Miricle-Gro. (Ok it's not a liquid when you get it, it's a powder but once you mix it with water it's considered a liquid). Follow the directions. Before you feed your plant, you need to make sure the soil is already wet, so it should be watered several hours before you feed it. A quick trick to speed up the time that it takes to feed the plant is to mix it in a watering can, and lightly wet the foliage with the mix, and get the mix on the roots too. Plants can absorb some of the nutrients through the foliage. By using this technique, you will actually start seeing the foliage darken in just a few days, and flower bud production should start to increase in under a week.

Next year start the season by adding a slow release fertilizer such as Osmocote to the pot when you get it home, and then feed with the liquid feed biweekly, and you'll get the best results.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

A Fair Way to Play with Food

My Son Daktoa and I went to the NJ State Fair up in Sussex County on Saturday night. (When I was a kid, the show was called the Farm and Horse Show.)

He likes to go because of the Rides, and the carnival games, but I like to go because of all of the 4-H things. Click to see some of the pictures that I took at the show. One of the things they had was a contest of create items out of vegetables. Pictured are some of what Dakota and I thought were the best.

Click to see the rest of the Fair Photos

NJ State Fair Sussex

NJ State Fair Sussex

NJ State Fair Sussex

If you would like to go to the Fair, it runs through August 10th. Click Here for the Details

Saturday, August 02, 2008

A symphony of Color in the Perennial Garden

Special thanks to Colleen G. of Cranford for this picture of her Perennial Garden. I particulary like the mix of the yellow Stella D'oro daylily with the pink astilbe. Click on the picture to see the closeup, or you'll miss the silver leaved Perovskia, and the pale pink annual geranium.

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Friday, August 01, 2008

Plant Feeding Poll Results

Here are the results to the Plant Feeding Poll. The results surprised me quite a bit. We're obviously not doing our job on telling our customers the importance of feeding their annuals, and how much better they will perform with proper feeding. For best results you really need to feed them once a month...more on that later.

How Often do you Feed your Annuals?

Everytime I Water
2 (6%)
Once a Week
3 (9%)
1 (3%)
6 (19%)
5 (16%)
Once a Season
6 (19%)
8 (25%)

Great Container Gardening Photos Part 2

A few more of the photos that Joanne K. sent me along with her commentary:

Photo 1: 2-Flambe coleus and 1-wave petunia

Photo 2:
Here's my water garden container (in the plastic whiskey barrel) with bamboo, rush, spiralis juncus, water lettuce.
The black elephant ear is underplanted with wax begonias
The third container has varigated carex and houtonia
Mixed begonias in the hanging basket. (Dave's note I love the planter with the water lettuce. Well done!)

Photo 3:
Here's green panda bamboo that has over-wintered successfully for 3 seasons in the container.
I leave it on the deck for the winter, and just move it into a corner by the house for some protection
Thanks for the gift of the bamboo - you can see how it's grown and is so elegant, with a great shape.

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Great Container Gardening Photos Part 1

Joanne K. just sent me some great pictures of her containers, and I am delighted to share them with you. I had to break this post into two parts because of the limitation to the blogger software.

Joanne told me that she was a bit late in getting these pictures to me because the Japanese Beetles were enjoying her containers more than she was. Comments provided by Joanne

Photo 1: Million bells, zinnia and daises

Photo 2: Show at left: Lantana,geraniums, purple heart and portulaca.

These containers are great- they are grooved to fit on the deck rail

Photo 3:a soothing vignette of coleus, philodendren, fuschia, spider plants with our wall fountain

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New Hanging baskets arrive!

I was just down in Atlantic City for the Pennsylvania Nursery & Landscape Trade show. I found a grower that had some great mixed proven winner hanging baskets in 12" pots. They just arrived today, and they have lots of color. If your baskets are a bit tired, or your having a weekend party these are really nice.