Newly transplanted Cast Iron Plant

I took some time to finally transplant these Cast Iron Plants (Aspidistra elatior) I got from a landscape designer friend several weeks ago. Here are some pictures. Video coming soon!

Cast Iron Plant/Aspidistra elatior - 2 Cast Iron Plant/Aspidistra elatior - 1

Cast Iron Plant/Aspidistra elatior - 3

As always, click for a larger version

I Like This – May 4, 2010

Today: Purple Fountain Grass cleanup

Purple Fountain Grass Pennisetum setaceum in H...
Image via Wikipedia

It has been far longer than I really like to admit since I last trimmed up the purple fountain grass (Pennisetum setaceum) in the center of the front garden. I planted it years ago to fill in a a bed that once held a sizable pine tree that died soon after we moved into the house. It has thrived with little attention beyond raking out some dead stems and leaves.

The last few weeks, though, I have been frowning every time I pulled out of the driveway. It really needed some work. Finally, today, after doing 2 client calls, I took the time to clean it up. First, I picked up each plant (there are 4 in all) and brought it upright so I could get a better idea of the actual size of the clump. Due to some heavy shade conditions throughout the garden, all of the clumps had leaned towards the southwest, where the sun reaches under the large elm tree each day.

Next, I used my fingers to rake out any lose, dead growth on each plant, much like you would run your fingers through your hair. This brought out much of the obvious dead growth. Then I took my manual hedge trimmers and gave each plant a quick trim — quite a bit off the the top and a little off the sides. This allowed them to stand upright again, opened up the space between each plant and gave them some space to grow upwards.

The trouble with such care-free plants like grasses is that they are waaaaaay to easy to ignore. They are a perfect fit for my “benign neglect” garden, but I need to neaten them up each year to keep them healthy and nice looking.

I don’t have any picture to show for all my work today as I did it at the spur of the moment and by the time I finished it was too dark to take any pictures. I have included a generic picture from Wikipedia above to give you small idea what it looks like.

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I Like This – April 20, 2010

Planting time is already here, in some states

PASADENA, CA - APRIL 30:  Vegetable garden see...
Image by Getty Images via Daylife

This was originally written for release in February 2010 for another publication, but it never appeared. Much of the information is still valid, though, even as as move through April. — Douglas

While much of the US is still buried under quite a bit of snow, out here in California we are already planting veggies in our gardens. I don’t point this out to be mean. I am from Ohio, after all, so I understand what Winter means. That said, those of you cooped up in your houses can live vicariously through those of us in warmer climes and maybe even get a few good ideas for your garden once the ground thaws.

While our warmer weather allows us to plant earlier in the season there is also a bit of necessity. Our summers are so much warmer here that traditional garden staples like lettuce, cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower simply can’t cope. Try to plant them in May and they will be bolted almost before you get them in the ground. Sure, we can get tomatoes earlier, but in the middle of summer they can suck up a small fortune in water to keep them going. So, now is the time for us to get all our cold weather vegetables into the ground so we can get our harvest before the 100+ temperatures shrivels them in the ground.

This can make your garden planning for your summer much easier, though. Seek out garden bloggers in warmer areas to get an early idea what the neatest, coolest, best producing varieties are new this year. You can even get some real-world feedback on how well they do before you need to start your own seedlings. It is true,though, that good news about certain plants could have you looking for space to hang grow lights and set up irrigation systems trying to get jump on your own garden.

Here are a couple of hints on how you can use warm climate gardeners as your get your started in your own garden (and kitchen) planning for the coming season.

* Check out online forums and see what others are planning and what they might already be planting.

Share your experience with others. What worked (or didn’t work) for you last year? What are you going to trying this year? You’ll find people from all over the country and the globe.

* Start collecting recipes that can make use of your garden bounty.

Gardening planning is always easier when you have some obvious goal in mine. Online recipe files have thousands of possibilities for all sorts of vegetables.

* Seek out garden bloggers. We all love sharing what is happening in our gardens.

You can use Google or other search engines to locate gardeners both in your area and around the world.

* Use restaurants as your guide

Many higher-end restaurants specialize in using new and interesting ingredients in the dishes. Consider the ingredients in an interesting dish, especially one’s new to you and how they might fit into your garden. Then, seek out these plants in seed catalogs and your local nurseries.

*Be adventurous!

Try something new this year.

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Garden Bloggers Bloom Day – April 2010

Here are a few things that are blooming in my garden this month. Click to view them larger.

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Geranium | Rose, “Mikado” | Rose, “Mikado” (opened)

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Rose, “Bewitched” | Lavender

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Azalea (the last of them) | Fortnight Lily (Dietes)

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Gardenia | Rose “JFK”

I Like This – April 13, 2010

Gardening books are friendly, supportive and stimulating companions

Regardless of whether you are in the depths of your Winter gardening doldrums or at the height of your vegetable harvest, gardening books can be a friendly companion to your planning, a supportive friend to help you diagnose issues and a safe place where you can dream of the garden you would love to have. They can show you beautiful example gardens or help to identify that Clytostoma calistagoides vine in the backyard. They can take you on a guided photographic tour of Sissinghurst or give you the cold, hard facts of curing the scale on your apple trees. So, what are the best gardening books for you to include in your library? It all depends on where you garden and what you want to do.

Read locally

First, you need to find gardening books that speak to your geographic area, your urban vs rural balance, your wildlife — basically everything that defines the natural and relatively unchangeable aspects of your garden. It does little good to read about “banking” your roses for Winter if the temperature never drops below 60 degrees. Conversely, reading about harvesting tropical fruits like bananas and papayas when you are snowed in can only lead to frustration.

For my own gardening needs, I quickly related to the “bible” of gardening books for the American West, the Sunset Western Garden book, when I inherited my current garden. It has served me well, as it concentrates on plants that grow in the West (which of course includes California) and the problems that might arise from this climate. Even then, though it has to cover many different elevations and growing zones, so I have to read with my own zone in mind. Even here in California, it can still snow, even in the desert.

Look in your local bookstores and, more importantly, consult your fellow gardeners about the books they rely on most. It is a rare location that doesn’t have a few books on the unique challenges of gardening there. You just need to go out and find them. Sure, the Internet is a great resource, too, but there are times I am less than keen to take my laptop into the garden.

Balance between information and design

The next item to consider for your gardening library is establishing a balance between books filled with information — latin names, identifying marks, propagation tips –and books that focus on theory and design. You want a few of each as you will need both sides of the equation. Informational books can help you in plant selection, placement and care, but theory books give your mind a place to dream and plan. Do you want a “white garden” or are you growing vegetables, or perhaps a bit of both. Once you sketch out that grand plan for your beautiful garden, you are going to need some in-depth information about each plant so you can design irrigation installations and balance between the sun and shade parts of your garden.

No one book will fit all your needs, nor should it try. Each book has its strengths and focus. You should gather a small collection that serves all your needs by working in comparison and contrast. In this way, you will be able to create your best garden.

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Project: Rotating Compost Sifter

This is a neat little project I might try to put together here. I currently just use a piece of hardware cloth to sift the compost, but this would make it a lot easier and also allow me to sift it much more quickly.

I came across this project via my RSS subscription to Henbogle.

Trommel Compost SifterMore DIY How To Projects

I Like This – April 6, 2010