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Category Archives: Garden

This is Hellebores

Add a burst of color to your part-sun to full shade flower garden with Hellebores (also known as Christmas Rose and Lenten Rose). Blooming in late winter and early spring, this evergreen perennial is even known to emerge through the snow. It has pendulous, papery-textured flowers that display unusual colors starting as early as winter. Blooms are long-lasting which makes them good for cutting as well as for use in floral arrangements. One reason Hellebores last so long is that their rounded petals aren’t really petals at all. They’re sepals, which by definition are sturdy, petal-like parts that surround the true petals. Hellebores can withstand poor soil, drought, heat, humidity, and cold. They are disease-resistant, pest-resistant, and will grow in most types of soil. They are also resistant to deer and rabbits.

The genus is native to much of Europe from western Great Britain, Spain and Portugal, eastward across the Mediterranean region and central Europe into Romania and Ukraine as well as along the north coast of Turkey. Popular Hellebore varieties include the Helleborus x hybridus, Helleborus niger, and the taller varieties which include Helleborus argutifolius and Helleborus foetidus. Helleborus hybrids come in a wide range of colors from pink and red to yellow, apricot, white, green and even black. Helleborus niger blooms are either white or white with a pink tinge. Helleborus foetidus displays clusters of striking chartreuse flowers with dark red edges. Hellebores will bloom for 8 to 12 weeks or more. Both H. argutifolius and H. foetidus have received the coveted Award of Merit from the Royal Horticultural Society of England.

Hellebores prefer humus rich, moist, well-drained soil. They will grow in USDA Hardiness Zones 4-9 and American Horticultural Society Heat Zones 8 to 1. Some Hellebores may grow in Hardiness Zone 3 as well. The more sun the plants receive in the Spring, the fuller they will become later in the year.

Warning: Hellebores are poisonous and should not be consumed. Some people develop rashes if they come into contact with the sap. Always wear gloves and warn children about touching the plants.

To propagate Hellebores, you will need to dig the plants after bloom and carefully divide them into sections having several roots as well as some dormant buds. The best time to do this in the spring. Multiplying these plants by seed is a slow process that takes up to two or three years before the first flowers appear and as much as eight years to grow a good, thick clump. Hellebores will self-sow. Young plants appear near the base of an established plants.

Pruning is best done in mid-winter. The old growth around the outside of the plant should be cut to the ground and the flowers dead-headed. Snip off faded blooms if you want to prevent seed colonies from forming around the base of the plant. You can remove old foliage anytime it begins to look ragged or unsightly. Hellebores are very forgiving plants when it comes pruning. Keep an eye on the foliage and prune out the old leaves when the new ones start to emerge. If you let new foliage emerge among the old foliage, it will be very difficult to prune out the old without harming the new.

Although known to be resistant to diseases and pests, one disease that has become problematic for Hellebores is the Hellebore net necrosis virus (HeNNV), also known as Hellebore Black Death. Other problems that are less severe are Hellebore Leaf Spot, a virus that causes brown patches on the leaves and stems, and aphids which not only suck juices from leaves and stems but also transmit diseases. Natural insect sprays can be bought commercially or can be homemade. Always remember that most sprays that kill problem insects will also kill the beneficial ones. Read the labels carefully. Suggestions for making your own natural insecticides can be found here.

Some plants that make good companions for Hellebores include spring bulbs such as Crocus. Anemones and Daffodils, Woodland Phlox, Pulmonarias, Cyclamen, Toad Lilies, Polygonatums, and Asters. Hellebores planted around shrubs like Viburnum, Callicarpa, Ilex and Hamamelis can become striking displays in the landscape.

8 Plants in Winter

1. Camelia

With its glossy green foliage and its large, beautiful flowers, the camellia is indeed a showstopper. Some varieties bloom in the winter when the plant is not in active growth. The flowers vary from a clean white to various shades of inks, reds and burgundies. Flower size can span from a few inches to as much as 7 inches in diameter.

2. Christmas Rose

Nicknamed the Christmas rose, the hellebore is an evergreen perennial with shiny dark leaves that grows to about a foot in height. In winter, its flower stalk boasts a lovely single 2 – 4-inch white or white and pink flower.

These plants prefer partial shade and do well when planted under deciduous trees.

3. Calendula

This daisy-like plant will charm you throughout the winter with its cheery blooms of orange and yellow. As a branching plant that prefers sun, calendula grows 1 – 2 feet in height and to about 1.5 feet wide. Calendulas are striking in a border or in a container garden.

4. Cyclamen

The pretty cyclamen, with its white, pink and red flowers, has become a popular wintertime gift for flower lovers. While you can use the typical florist variety of cyclamen as an outdoor bedding or container plant, the smaller-flowered cyclamens are hardier for cool weather.

5. Primrose

The English primrose, the fairy primrose, and the Chinese primrose are good choices for splashes of winter color in your garden. The English primrose comes in a variety of bold colors and can grow to 8 – 10-inches in height and about nine inches wide.

6. Ornamental Kale

With its large, showy rosettes and its frilly colorful leaves, ornamental kale is a great addition to your winter garden. Kale will generally holds it purple, pink, white or creamy yellow color throughout the cold weather months. You can display ornamental kale in your flowerbed or in containers on your porch or patio.

7. Pansy

Available in a huge array of colors, including solids and multi-color blooms, pansies like the cooler temperatures of a mild winter and will reward your watering and care with plenty of blooms all season long.

As low-growing plants, pansies can fill in that empty spot in your garden with a splash of color this winter, or you can add them to your containers and hanging baskets.

8. Viola

Smaller than pansies but with more prolific blooms, violas also offer non-stop cold weather color. These hardy plants bounce back from a rainstorm quickly, and they self-sow readily.

Don’t let winter be the end of color on your garden. Another way to add color and interest to your landscape is by adding a winter birdhouse to your garden area. When you feed and provide shelter for your local bird wildlife, they will reward you with their brilliant color.

Baby’s-Breath

Baby’s-breath are well known to most gardeners for their ‘filler’ effect in the border or use as a cut-flower, but this diverse genus also contains some very desirable alpine species. This article will discuss the more traditional baby’s-breath but also introduce you to some of the less well-known yet exquisite miniature species.

The vast majority of gardeners are familiar with baby’s-breath or Gypsophila. It is certainly one of the most popular cut-flowers as ‘fillers’ in arrangements, but this genus of about 100 species, has great diversity in size, form and uses in the garden. The name Gypsophila comes from the Greek gypsos (gypsum) and philos (loving), referring to the chalk- or lime-loving nature of most species. In the wild, they are only found in Eurasia, southeast Europe in particular.

In the garden, we grow both large and small alpine species. Among the larger species are G. paniculata, the perennial baby’s-breath (zone 4), G. pacifica (zone 4) and G. elegans, the annual baby’s-breath. All are popular as fillers in the garden, especially if planted in areas where spring bulbs are left to go dormant. They are also perfect cut-flowers, grown in great profusion for the cut-flower industry. They may even be used as a dried-flower. In the garden, G. elegans can reach 50 cm while the other two can reach twice that height. While providing a loose and airy floral display, they can be devastated by heavy rains. A relatively new introduction is the annual G. muralis. The wild species may reach 90 cm but most named selections are only 20 to 30 cm. The smaller forms are dense and covered in minute flowers all summer. They are excellent fillers for window boxes and hanging baskets.

There are many named forms of G. paniculata and G. elegans, which may have single or double flowers in white or pink shades. Among G. paniculata are the single-flowered ‘Festival Star’, ‘Snowflake’ and ‘Compacta’; the double-flowered ‘Bristol Fairy’, ‘Double Snowflake’, ‘Early Snowball’, ‘Perfecta’, ‘Virgo’, Festival White’ and ‘Happy Festival’; the single pink-flowered ‘Red Sea’ and the double pink-flowered ‘Flamingo’, ‘Pink Fairy’ and ‘Festival Pink’. Among the annual G. elegans cultivars are the white-flowered ‘Covent Garden’, ‘Grandiflora Alba’, ‘Giant White’, ‘White Elephant’, ‘Lady Lace’, ‘White Monarch’ and ‘Snow Fountain’ along with the pink-flowered ‘Red Cloud’, ‘Rosea’ and ‘Carminea’.

Most of the other cultivated Gypsophila species are alpine in nature. The most popular of these is the creeping baby’s-breath, G. repens (zone 4). This species has long trailing stems and small but profuse sprays of white or pink flowers in late spring-early summer. The foliage is blue-tinted, adding to the attractiveness of this species. Creeping baby’s-breath is ideal when grown draped over a stone or concrete wall. Another attractive alpine is G. petraea (zone 5), a tufted species with clustered flower heads of white to pale pink flowers on 20 cm stems. Superficially, this species looks like sea-thrift, Armeria. Gypsophila fastigiata is a montane, mat-like species with wiry 30 to 45 cm stems and open sprays of white flowers. There is one relatively popular alpine baby’s-breath which hails from the Himalayas called G. cerastioides (zone 5). This species has rounded leaves, unusual among this genus where narrow, lance-shaped leaves are the norm. The habit is tufted and the loose sprays of relatively large flowers are held just above the leaves. The flowers are white with pink veins and look similar to those of Cerastium.

The next two species to be discussed are more challenging and require scree-like conditions to do well. Gypsophila tenuifolia forms a tight, bright-green dome with wiry stems to 20 cm topped with a loose cluster of relatively large, white flowers. The most unusual species is G. aretioides. This one looks like a domed, green rock and is almost as hard! Extremely dense, this species is grown more for its form than flowers. In fact, flowering is rather scarce with solitary blooms being very small and stemless. These last two species are both rated for zone 5.

In regards to general cultivation, all the various species of Gypsophila prefer full sun and well-drained soil which is alkaline in nature. If your soil is more-or-less acidic, then a yearly application of lime would be very beneficial. Whether your garden is more designed for traditional perennials or if rock gardening is your forte, then there is at least one species of baby’s-breath that would make a useful addition to your garden.

 

Berries Of The Vaccinium

Every berry in the Vaccinium group is edible, and most of them are exquisitely tasty as well as extra-good for you. (Please be completely sure before you eat anything you find that you didn’t plant. ) Here’s an overview of cranberries, lingonberries, blueberries, huckleberries and more.

Vaccinium berries can be found in nearly all zones. All require acidic soil, either naturally acidic or amended to be acidic. Although most common, commercially available berries (like cranberries and blueberries) are pretty much understood to be one of just a few varieties, lots of locally grown, wild, blue-purple-or-red berries may have different regional names like whortleberries, blaeberries, bilberries, or even razzleberries and may be known as ‘blueberries’ although they may not be blue.

Who knew the huckleberry of Mark Twain’s famous character, Huckleberry Finn, was a actual berry? Not I. The huckleberry is a common name for various small berries in this group.

From the ‘Ōhelo berry (native to Hawaii, USDA zones 10-11) to the lingonberry (native to Scandanavia, Canada, Finland and other cold places), berries in the Vaccinium family are so acidic themselves that they aren’t hard to preserve. You don’t need to add pectin to jell if you’re making jelly; these berries are anxious to jell all by themselves. In fact, the Lingonberry (made familiar to American consumers by IKEA) was often preserved just by mashing it with sugar or storing it in fresh water. About Scandanavian food suggests the following other names for lingonberries: “red whortleberries, cowberries, fox berries, mountain cranberries, mountain bilberries, or partridgeberries,” and that’s just a list of the names in English. The lingonberry marketing people suggest the name lingonberry instead of, for instance, cowberry!

Cranberries (V. caesariense) are slender, trailing, wiry non-woody shoots and strongly reflexed flower petals. Cranberry producers often flood the fields or bogs to facilitate harvest. As I said above, there is so much pectin in cranberries that they are totally easy to jell; add sugar (for taste) and cook (to preserve) to make jam or whole berry “sauce.” Cranberry juice and dried cranberries typically have way too much added sugar to be health food, but appeal to kids and old folks. Cook (to burst and liquefy berries) and preserve.

Read more in the first article I ever wrote for Davesgarden.com here, all about cranberries. Cranberries are even more popular than they were in 2007. Now the dried berries (sold under the tradename Craisins™) are nearly as popular as cranberry sauce and cranberry juice.

Other species like blueberry, bilberry, blaeberry, are also included in the Vaccinium family. Because berries have more peel per berry than grapes or apples, they are more healthy! You can’t peel them, so you’re stuck with the healthy part like you can with potatoes. (You’re welcome to peel potatoes, apples and carrots.)

Native to Hawaii is the ‘Ōhelo berry. While growing far outside the typical climate for Vaccinium, ‘Ōhelo berries are similar in appearance and flavor–and health benefits. Not as well researched as the cranberry (V. macrocarpon) or the blueberry (V. caesariense), ‘Ōhelo berries, like other Vaccinium berries are tart and packed with vitamins.

Blueberries are the second most popular berry in the US (the strawberry is first). Daves Garden did an entire series on blueberries back in 2007. Blueberries are renowned for their health benefits now, like the cranberry, and medical research is focussing on blueberries as more than just a tasty addition to a bowl of cereal or pancakes. Like most berries, blueberries have a flavinoids concentrated in the tiny peels, are fragile when picked and are popular as additions to baked goods like pancakes, muffins and breads. Blueberries are dried for addition to baked goods.

Why are these particular berries so healthy?

1. The acidic soil, maybe?

All Vaccinium berries grow best in heathy, acidic soils. Growers should adjust the pH of their soils to be like the soil of a pine forest, carpeted with pine needles or peat and tending to the acidic. The pH of soil is often reflected in the color (to wit, hydrangeas) or flavor (…the tangy flavor?…) of the plants, if not in the health of the plant.

2. How about that tiny little peel?

My own theory is that Vaccinium berries’ tart, edible peel is responsible for their healthiness. We’ve all heard that we should eat peels (when they’re edible) instead of peeling our fruits and vegetables. Although peels like citrus and banana are not recommended, most other peels are. Cucumber? Gag it down. Potato? All the vitamins are right there. Apple? Some folks eat apple cores and seeds, too! Is this related to why the berries are so healthy, that we cannot actually peel cranberries, blueberries and huckleberries?

3. Not too sweet?

Unlike grapes, bananas and dates, Vaccinium berries have the a tangy flavor that makes them tasty. Is that same tanginess attached to the vitamins?

Berries possess a high proportion of antioxidants and vitamin-packed flavinoids, and are among the healthiest fruits you can eat. Overall, berries have more fiber per bite and more health-protecting compounds per mouthful.Whatever you think of my theories, everyone can agree that V. berries are tasty and healthy. Try some today. No matter your climate, you can probably find a V. berry that is happy to grow there. Please investigate whether a V. berry is right for you.

Grow your own berries from the Vaccinium group if you can; but if not, buy them and eat them.

Rose Flowers Colors

For as long as writers have been putting words on paper, they have been writing about roses. Roses have been used as symbols of love and war, birth and death, and many more concepts.

Fossil evidence indicates that roses have existed for some 35 million years in nature, and there are 150 species of the genus Rosa. Historians believe that cultivation of the rose began in China 5,000 years ago and then spread westward.

We know that roses were used in ancient celebrations and as a source for perfume by ancient civilizations. During the 17th century, roses were so valued that they were used as legal tender in some parts of the world.

Prized for the beauty of their blooms, their rich colors and their lovely scent, roses long have been a popular flower to give and to receive.

However, did you know that you convey certain messages just with the color of rose you choose? Roses are rich in symbolism. Here is a guide to the meanings of different rose colors.

Red Roses

As the most popular rose color, the color red reveals a message of love, respect, admiration or devotion.

In addition, a deep red rose can show heartfelt regret or sorrow. The number of red roses also has special meaning. A dozen red roses conveys, “I love you”

Pink Roses

The pink rose offers a message of gratitude and appreciation. The gentle color also reveals joy and admiration.

White Roses

White roses symbolize purity and innocence. They also can represent new beginnings, which is why they are a popular choice for weddings.

Their quiet, simple beauty also makes white roses a good choice for a bouquet of remembrance and honor.

Orange Roses

These fiery blooms convey energy and passion. They rival red in making an elegant and bold statement.

Lavender Roses

This lovely subtle color can convey a desire to be more than just friends. They also can serve as a reminder of devotion and respect. Dark shades convey a sense of royalty and splendor.

Yellow Roses

If you could describe yellow roses in one word, it would be with cheerful. As result, yellow roses convey friendship and warm feelings. A bouquet of yellow roses can mean “congratulations” or “welcome.”

Blue Roses

The rare blue rose offers a sense of mystery. It can give the message that you are thinking of someone special.

Green Roses

Green roses represent renewal and earthy qualities. They convey a message of cheerfulness and are a good choice in a “Get well” bouquet.

Peach Roses

A bouquet of peach roses shows deep appreciation. Give them to someone who has been especially thoughtful and kind.

Black Roses

Black roses are actually very dark red roses. Their black appearance conveys the message of the ending of a relationship or of death.

Assorted Roses

When you give someone a multi-color bouquet of colors, you can reveal that you have mixed emotions. Selecting two colors can convey a combination of two emotions. Red and white, for instance, can show deep devotion.

Numbers game

In addition to colors, the number of roses you send or display can convey special meaning.

A single rose shows thanks or devotion.

Two entwined roses can indicate a marriage proposal.

Six roses indicate a desire to be loved.

Eleven roses reveal deep devotion

Twelve red roses mean, “I love you.”

Thirteen roses are the sign of a secret admirer

Now that you know some of the traditions behind roses, you can enhance the gift of roses this holiday season — or any time of year — with special meaning.

Star of Bethlehem

“For those who have troubles, for those who are unhappy, for those who have received bad news, a loss, or an accident, the Snowdrop gives them comfort.” – Author Unknown.

Early this spring, I was walking in my gardens and I happened to see something white growing very close to my house behind a cluster of daylilies, coralbells, sedum and a newly planted rosebush. I have nothing that has a white bloom and could not imagine what it was. The daylilies and coralbells nearly covered it, and the rose was getting ready to bloom. I looked more closely and was surprised to find a cluster of Star of Bethlehem.

You know when you sniff the scent of something that reminds you of your childhood, and you are instantly taken back in time? Or when you glance at a piece of lace and you think suddenly of Aunt Lucy and the lacy handkerchief she was never without? Star of Bethlehem did that very thing to me. I remembered Aunt Bett.

I knew that the little plant with the sweet white flowers grew from a bulb, so a bird didn’t bring it. I also knew the soil had not been disturbed in more than twenty years when I planted the daylilies and coral bells. The rose was new, but it was at least eight feet from the little white plant. So where did it come from? It had been a staple for my Great Aunt Bett, so was she now wreaking havoc in my garden? Sneaking up in the middle of the night and leaving surprises for me to find? I guess I will never know, but that little plant sure brought back some memories.

The Star of Bethlehem (Ornithogalium umbellatum) is a member of the lily family and is also known as the Snowdrop. It is mentioned in history and research tells us that its English name seems to date from the Middle Ages and the Crusaders. The bulbs were sometimes used as emergency rations during their pilgrimages to the Holy Land. When I was going on my mountain journeys with Aunt Bett, we found it in dappled sunlight near the cool, clear mountain streams. Aunt Bett collected it for its little bulbs, but I was only allowed to hold the bag open for her to drop them in to. “I just want you with me,” she said, “this ain’t something you can help me make.”

Her use of the Snowdrop was a puzzle to me because it was not one of the plants that I was allowed to touch or even to sample. “This is powerful medicine, chile, an’ it ain’t for the likes of little ones,” she said, “it can wipe out a whole mess of cows if they ever get ahold of it, I don’t think I want to lose you.” Well. I was not a cow, so surely it wouldn’t bother me, not while I was wearing the asphidity bag. But I listened to Aunt Bett while she told me what she would do with it, and I watched her every move. She chopped the bulbs from the plants and saved all of them in a pan. Then she washed them thoroughly, cut them in half and covered them with water. She put them on the stove and brought them to a boil. They boiled for about 20 minutes, then she let them sit for an hour. She repeated the process three times, adding a little more water each time. She was making it into a decoction.

“Long time ago, folks ate the roots, and if they was real hungry they ate them raw. Most of the time they was cooked, biled or roasted like chestnuts. Most nobody eats them now cause if they ain’t used right, they can bring on sickness more’n they cure.” I asked her if she knew how to use them right, but she just gave me that Aunt Bett look. Later I learned that it was a heart stimulant with a digitalis reaction. No wonder she would not let me sample it. When I was older and allowed to hear such things, she told me that it would ease a woman’s labor, if used in combination with other flower herbs. It was also used as a mood elevator for those who had suffered trauma, loss of a companion, or something like the shock that can follow an accident, and her notes tell me that in those instances the Star of Bethlehem was also mixed with other herbal flowers. Today it is still in use by homeopaths, but with some caution. They make a tincture from the bulb which they claim is useful in some cases of cancer. This is certainly not advised by medical specialists. I have learned that herbalists also continue to use it as a mood elevator. Please be advised of the toxicity of this plant and always handle it accordingly.

You might be wondering what I did with those that suddenly appeared in my garden. You might also consider them invasive and you will find a lot of others who agree. Well, I have no cows nearby, and my cats live indoors and certainly are not grazers. So I dug them up and planted them underneath the maple tree in my back yard. I used my trusty gardening gloves when I moved them. The blooms and the foliage are gone now, but will reappear in the spring, and I will have them to remind me of my days in the mountains with Aunt Bett.

Feed Your Pets With These Garden Plants

Fresh vegetables are an important part of our human diet, but they also are essential for the health of our animals. They provide essential vitamins and minerals and protect their cells from disease. By growing some of your own plants for your pets, you cut down significantly on your pet food costs, and your animals will gain the health benefits of fresh veggies. An added bonus is that most pet-friendly plants are easy to grow.

Here are 14 garden plants that you can safely grow to feed your furry friends.

All Animals

1. Wheat and Barley Grass

These all-purpose grasses are easy to grow and maintain, and they are an excellent source of antioxidant nutrients, vitamins A, B-complex, C, E, K, minerals, amino acids, and even a bit if calcium. But the best part? Most animals love them. Cats will nibble grass right out of a container in a sunny windowsill, or you can feed it in clumps to your rabbits.

Dogs

Although they love meat, dogs are omnivores, so a dog’s healthy, balanced diet will always have vegetables make up about a third of the meal. Dogs and also be fed some fruits and vegetables for easy, nutritious treats.

1. Melons

On a hot summer day, my dog begs for watermelon. Turns out, she knows what is good for her. Watermelon is a good source of lycopene for dogs and provides thiamin, vitamins A, B-6, and C. Plus, it is hydrating!

Cantaloupe is packed with vitamin A and beta-carotene, both of which are good for your dog’s health. However, if you feed either of these melons to your pooch, just make sure to remove the rinds and seeds first.

2. Green Beans

Steam these easy-to-grow garden plants before offering them to your dog. Green beans provide important omega-3 fatty acids and vitamins A, C, and K, and since they are low in calories, yet high in fiber, they are great for dogs that need to lose a little weight.

3. Spinach

The boost of iron gained from adding spinach to your dog’s diet helps your pet fight any inflammatory and cardiovascular problems and may help prevent certain forms of cancer. Spinach also is a natural source of calcium.

Cats

Cats are obligate carnivores, so meat must be their main food source. However, they too enjoy fresh vegetables in their diet on occasion. These plants should usually be offered as treats for your cat or meal additives, not as a replacement for a regular meal.

1. Carrots

Cook and dice carrots before mixing them in with your cat’s meaty entree. Carrots are a great source of healthy beta-carotene as well as other important vitamins and minerals. Never serve your cat raw carrots, as they present a choking hazard.

2. Peas

Mash some cooked peas into kitty’s regular food for a healthy boost of proteins and carbohydrates. In some cases, peas have even been known to help with gastrointestinal problems in cats. Any variety of peas will be fine for your cat, but since the pods will likely be too tough for them, feed them only the peas themselves.

3. Broccoli

Kitties like to nibble, and when your cat nibbles on steamed broccoli, she will gain a blend of healthy antioxidants that will boost her immune system.

Rabbits

Contrary to what most people think, rabbits are not strictly herbivores. Rabbits are classified as obligate herbivores, which means, in terms of diet, they are the opposite of cats. Plants must be their main food source, but they can also eat meat.

Since rabbits are voracious eaters, growing some of your own bunny food will save you quite a bit of expense.

1. Herbs

As many gardeners have found out, sometimes to their displeasure, rabbits love herbs, so if you have pet bunnies, why not try growing some herbs just for them? They will love the taste, and they will gain all the nutritional benefits. A few of their favorites are basil, chamomile, cilantro, dill, oregano, mint, parsley, sage, thyme, and rosemary.

2. Dandelions

I grow dandelions and clover whether I want to or not, so it is good to know that they are good bunny food. In fact, those pesky dandelions contain more beta-carotene that carrots and more iron and calcium than spinach. Just be sure these plants come from a lawn that has not been treated with chemicals before you feed them to your rabbit.

3. Marigolds

Marigolds are a great addition to any rabbit lover’s garden. They are colorful, easy to grow, and rabbits love them. In fact, your hungry bunnies will eat them—flowers, leaves, stems, and all! Select the Calendula species of marigolds (Pot or English marigolds) as other varieties have a much stronger scent that may actually repel rabbits.

4. Leaf Lettuce

You know bunnies love lettuce, but for their health, did you know that the darker it is, the better? The good news about growing lettuce for rabbits is that they are not as fussy about taste as we are. They will eat an enjoy lettuce even after it has bolted.

Although we all are familiar with the image of Bugs Bunny munching on a carrot, feed them sparingly to your pet bunnies! Carrots are high in sugar and can cause digestive upset when eaten in excess.

Goats

It is in the popular mindset that goats will eat anything, but when they nose around things like your clothing, a box, or a can, goats really are just investigating whether it is edible or not. Goats are herbivores and ruminant animals, which means they chew cud. They enjoy hay and grass, but you also can grow other plants for your goats’ benefit!

1. Vetch

This fast growing cover crop is in the family of legume flowering plants. It actually helps the nitrogen levels in your soil and provides a solid protein source for your goats.

2. Root Vegetables

Goats enjoy eating the leaves, roots, and leaves of beets, carrots, turnips, and radishes. As they munch, they will be getting valuable vitamins and minerals.

3. Pea and Bean Vines

Harvest the peas and the beans for your family, and then let your goats nibble on the vines for the nutritional benefits.

What Not to Plant

Some garden plants are not safe for your animals to eat. These include tomatoes, potatoes, rhubarb, and onions. Certain varieties of flowers are even toxic to most pets, including clematis, crocus, daffodils, day lilies, foxglove, morning glory, narcissus, and lily of the valley. Not all parts of a plant may be toxic, however, but it is best to keep these away from your pets as best you can.

Symptoms of plant poisoning include sudden vomiting, diarrhea, heavy breathing, and listlessness. Call your vet immediately if you suspect poisoning, and if you think a certain plant is the cause, take part of it with you to the vet’s office.

Fall Garden Cleanup?, Here Its Tips

As gardeners, we never want the gardening season to come to an end. But, in most of North America, we must welcome the coming cold months by preparing our gardens for winter. Follow the tips below for a few good basic steps in preparing your beloved garden for the coming chill:

* Dig up tender bulbs for storage until next year

* As perennials quit blooming or die back, trim the dead foliage. You can compost the healthy trimmings to continue the cycle of nature.

* But, some perennials, if left alone, look great as winter interest and/or provide winter food for wildlife.

* Clean away any and all diseased plants and dropped leaves.  It will make next year’s gardening that much easier.

*  If you live in an area with cold winters but not much snow as protection, mulching in the fall will protect your plant investments.

* Vegetable gardens are best completely cleared up to prevent any disease or pest overwintering.

* Move your indoor foliage plants back inside before even the first light frost.

* And, don’t forget your gardening tools.  A thorough cleaning and sharpening now will save valuable time next spring.

Learn more about Container Gardening

Container gardening offers many advantages that people can tend to overlook: containers can be less work because they can be placed closer to a water source; they offer a smaller soil area to have to weed; they can be placed at a height that can minimize bending for watering and tending; movable containers can “follow the sun” if you have changing exposure; they can provide a garden plot even in high-rise apartments or homes with no space for a traditional garden; and just about any plant—flower or vegetable—can be grown in a container.

Selecting a Container

Virtually anything that will hold soil and water is a candidate for container growing. From a bag of soil with holes punched for planting and drainage to wooden tubs, old riding boots, milk cans, hanging baskets and fancy ornamental pots. You can choose the size, shape and cost to fit your needs and desires.

The deeper the pot the less watering it will need. Pots with a small soil volume will dry out faster and require more frequent watering. Unlike plants in the ground, plants in pots or hanging baskets in the yard, on a deck or on a windowsill are exposed on all sides to the drying effects of wind and sun. On hot, windy days you may have to water them more than once.

Darker colored containers will absorb more heat, which can get seeds and transplants off to a faster start, but these containers will need more watering if they are in direct sunlight. Lighter colored containers may be better for most people.

Select a container that will give your plant’s roots room to grow, but not so much that it will not fill out the pot. Consider the mature size of the plants you will be growing, and follow the spacing recommendations on the seed packet or plant label. Plant leaves should grow to touch each other in a container, providing shade that will help retain moisture in the pot. Because weeding will be minimal and you can easily reach into a pot, there is no need to plant in rows and you can space plants closer together in a container than in a garden.

Plastic vs. Clay

While unglazed clay containers, such as those made of terra cotta, may seem more “natural” or appeal to those who want a certain look, plastic containers offer an advantage if they are to be placed in full sun. Unglazed clay pots are porous and water can quickly evaporate from them, while plastic containers do not “breathe” and therefore they will not need watering as often as clay. If you like the look of clay, there are look-alikes available in plastic.

Drainage is Important

Be sure that your container allows for drainage when you water. If the pot doesn’t have a drainage hole in the bottom, add one. If you don’t want to put a hole in a decorative ceramic container you can simply put a smaller pot inside the decorative one, being sure there is some room at the bottom for water to drain out. This will provide a reservoir for the water to drain into. The soil has to drain water or the plant roots won’t be able to breathe.

Soil Selection

Some people are tempted to just dig up some garden soil and put it in a container. Generally, though, you are better off buying a prepared soilless mix for container growing because it is free of weeds and often contains added nutrients to help plants grow. Choose a potting soil that will provide support for plants as they grow, and one that will help retain moisture. A peat and perlite or peat and vermiculite mixture is usually a good choice.

Planting Procedures

Thoroughly water the soil before planting. Water gently until water drains from the bottom of the pot. This way you can be assured that the entire soil mass is wet. If you are going to move the pots, you may want to move them before watering so they will not be as heavy as they will be after watering.

For seeds, follow the seed packet directions for spacing and whether or not to cover the seeds with soil. Keep the soil moist by gentle misting or watering several times a day. When seedlings emerge keep them watered, and if you have too many plants thin them by plucking out the weakest looking ones.

For transplants, plant the top of the root ball even with the soil line and keep plants well watered as they get established.

A simple test as to whether or not to water is to stick your finger into the top inch of soil. If it feels damp, there is no immediate need to water; if it feels dry then you should water until some runs out the bottom of the container.

Mulching Helps

Plants that will be grown outdoors in full sun in containers can benefit from a layer of mulch on top of the soil. Mulch will help retain moisture in the soil, discourage weed growth, and break the harshness of raindrops or watering from a hose or watering can. Sawdust, shredded bark and gravel can act as mulches—choose one appropriate to the container and the plants.

Containers placed in semi-shady or shady areas do not need mulch as much as those planted in full sun, but it is never a bad idea.

Staking Tall Plants

Vining plants such as tomatoes, cucumbers, morning glories, thunbergia and others will need the addition of stakes or a small trellis to support them. Add the stakes or trellis when you first plant the seeds or transplants so that you won’t damage roots by adding them at a later date.

When the plants are large enough that you need to fasten them to the stakes or trellis, do not tie the stem tightly to the stakes. Leave a big loop that will support the stem but not constrict it. For large-stemmed plants like tomatoes and melons, strips of cloth are gentler than plastic or metal twist-ties. When fruits begin to get large, a cloth sling tied around the fruit and fastened to the stake can keep the fruit from falling off before it is ripe.

Extending the Season

One of the special advantages of container growing is that you can extend the harvest or bloom season by moving pots indoors when the weather grows cold. When you move them indoors, put the containers in a location where they will receive maximum sunlight during the day. Eventually, winter’s shorter days will take their toll and your plants will get scraggly looking. You may want to finally get rid of them, but with the right exposure, you can keep plants growing indoors for months after their usual outdoor life.

Other Advantages of Containers

Growing in containers gives you an opportunity to try something new on a small scale. If you have a shady area that you want to test to see how certain plants will grow, putting a few in a pot in that area will let you see how they do without a lot of work. Of course, you can do the same for sunny locations too. By grouping several pots, each with a different selection, you can see which ones do better so that you can decide what to grow more of next year.

Container growing is also an excellent choice for introducing children to gardening. Containers are easy to tend and can be sized to the age and interest of a child. A child’s favorite vegetable or cutting flowers are popular choices to get them started.

Philodendrons

The Namesake of the Genus

These plants are the ones that gave the genus Philodendron the name, as they are the ones that are the “tree lovers”. From delicate vines to tropical jungle lianas, these expert climbers come in all sizes, many varied leaf shapes and a kaleidoscope of colors. Often they will start out with small leaves and, as they grow up a tree, develop leaves of increasing size until they arrive at the tree canopy. There, in the brighter light, they will thicken up and begin blooming. However, most people who have these plants indoors never see the mature sized plants. What they do see is a plant that is prone to roam, growing in every direction in search of a tree to climb!

The thumbnail picture at right shows an example of a plant known as Philodendron superbum, here seen growing up a Queen palm trunk in south Florida. Note how short the internodes are on this specimen. When juvenile, this plant exhibits longer internodes, but upon attaining maturity, the internodes shorten appreciably and the plant may bloom with slender inflorescences.

One of the commonest and most well-known of the climbers is the Heart-leaf Philodendron, also known as Philodendron scandens, P. cordatum or P. oxycardium. A good example from PlantFiles. The Heart-leaf Philodendron is grown easily from cuttings and can make a nice full hanging basket, as seen in the link photo. They will also grow well on a totem, and even when mature do not grow into the heavy liana-like vines that some of the climbers do.

Creep, then climb, or climb, then creep?

I’m familiar with at least one species in this group that seems to alternate between a creeping growth habit and a climbing growth habit (see photo at left). When grown from seed, the plant starts out as a creeper, and stays that way for some time. As the specimen reaches a certain maturity, the internodes elongate and the plant begins seeking a support to grow up. Once established on a support, the plant will develop shorter internodes again as it prepares for a blooming cycle. Interestingly, if grown from a cutting, the plant will begin new growth with longer internodes and develop the shorter ones only after reaching and climbing a suitable support, such as a tree trunk.

Look-Alikes

While the vining members of the genus Philodendron are many and varied, a number of other vining aroid genera are often confused with them. For example, the common Golden Pothos (genus Epipremnum) looks very similar to a vining Philodendron at first glance. I have a Marble Queen Pothos (very similar to the Golden Pothos except with white variegation instead of yellow) growing up one of my Royal Palm trees. It has attained thick stems and huge leaves with natural cuts in them similar to those seen on mature Monstera plants. Unfortunately, most of the growing stems have lost all variegation, but when the occasional huge variegated stem appears, it is truly spectacular!

Another aroid genus that might be confused with Philodendron is the genus Syngonium, also known as “Nephthytis”. Many of the species and varieties of Syngonium have white, silvery, pinkish or reddish variegation on the leaves when juvenile. Most or all of this coloration is lost when the plant reaches mature size, and the leaves change from a simple arrowhead shape to a unique palmately divided structure.

Both the true Philodendron species and the look-alikes grow well in shade, well-drained soil and periodic, moderate fertilization. Oh, and something to climb on is strongly recommended, or else make sure you provide plenty of room for your plant to roam around in!