Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The Garden Trivia Quiz: An arboretum is a collection of trees for study, a fruticetum is a collection of shrubs for ornamentation or study. Wow, that was a hard one. Not even the Countryside staff got that one right. Try this one: Rosemary, sage, oregano, thyme and marjoram are all in what family? E-mail me at leslieross@sbcglobal.net with the answer and you could win a coupon worth $5 for use at the store. Good luck!

Notes from the Nursery: Are you considering planting some trees this year? Now would be a good time to think about it as next month (June) we will be running our free planting promotion. Watch our ads to find out more. One tree to consider would be the river birch. This tree grows up to 70 feet tall and has reddish brown exfoliating bark, making it an interesting ornamental plant. It is relatively disease free and resistant to the bronze birch borer. The bark is its most interesting feature. It blooms in the spring with long catkins. It is primarily found in the southeastern US but is found as far north as southern Wisconsin and Minnesota.

How to Post a Comment:I was looking at the blog from my daughter’s computer and realized that in order to leave a comment you need to have a Google account. I went to the http://www.google.com/ and signed Alexa up for an account. It is free although I am sure there is some sort of nefarious marketing opportunities going on. Then I tested it by posting an admittedly seIf-serving comment about the petunia basket article from last week. I have to approve the message so any of my friends who were thinking of posting some of those pictures from the last time we went out, it won’t work. Any way if you are interested in leaving a comment and don’t want to go through the hassle of creating a Google account, go ahead and e-mail them to me directly and I will respond. My e-mail is mailto:leslieross@sbcglobal.net. . Sorry it took me so long to figure this out. Actually, I think I'm doing pretty well, being as I am a "woman of a certain age."

More on Proper Planting
So far we have amended the soil, properly planted our plants and are watering correctly, which is to say, watering in the morning and not spraying the foliage. The last step in the planting process is fertilization. So often we spend boat loads of money on the plants, maybe we take the extra step to amend the soil and then we don’t fertilize. We say to ourselves well the plants are in soil that naturally has nutrients in it. This is true, but under natural circumstances, the soil is not as heavily planted as it is in our ornamental or vegetable beds. My friend Kim explains to her customers that you have made an investment in your garden and fertilizing is going to help your investment grow. The cost of the fertilizer is a small part of the total cost of your project, so don’t scrimp on this important part.
Decoding the fertilizer box can be a little tricky. There are three main components to fertilizer and these are shown on the package as percentages. The first number is the percentage of nitrogen, the second phosphorus and the third potassium. A good fertilizer will also have calcium, magnesium, and sulphur as secondary nutrients . Additional trace elements such as copper, iron, manganese and zinc should also be included. A quick way to remember what does what is that nitrogen promotes top growth, phosphorus promotes flowering and potassium promotes root development.
Another factor that impacts nutient uptake is the alkalinity of the soil. The more alkaline the soil, the less efficient the plant is at taking up nutrients. A soils test will determine the pH level of your soil. A neutral soil will measure 7 on the scale. The higher the number the more alkaline it is. It is hard to change the soil alkalinity. You can add soil acidifiers, such as sulphur, and add organic matter as a soil amendment. You can also select plants that do better in alkaline soils as well.
Fertilizers come as water soluble, such as Miracle Grow, or in a slow release pelleted form, such as Osmacote. I use the slow release in my perennial and annual beds. With the rain we get during the summer plus the watering we do when we don’t get rain, the water soluble fertilizer will leach out while the slow release type will stay in the ground longer. For your hanging baskets and containers it may be more convenient to use the water soluble. We recommend the Proven Winners water soluble fertilizer for your hanging baskets and containers because it is formulated especially for container plants that tend to be heavy feeders, that is they need large amounts of nitrogen.

More on Containers and Hanging Baskets:
Our container designer, Michael Fedoran, did this container for the store the other day. This container includes sweet potato vine, ageratum, euphorbia "Diamond Frost," sedge, coleus, geranium and calibrachoa. As we were looking at it, he gave me some tips on container design.

Basically, you need three types of plants in the container: the "thriller," the "filler," and the "spiller." These are pretty self-explanatory. The "thriller" would be the focal point of the container and be situated at the center or back of the container, depending on where your container is viewed from. The filler plants are shorter mounding or semi-trailing plants and the spillers are the trailing plants that pour over the side the container. In order to make the container last all season, Michael uses some plants that bloom well during the cooler months of spring and fall and some plants that do better during the heat of the summer. About the time the cool loving plants are going dormant the heat tolerant ones take over. In the example shown here, the thrillers are the geranium and the coleus, the fillers would be the euphorbia, the ageratum and the sedge. The spillers are the sweet potato vine and the calibrachoa. For hanging baskets, you would forgo the mounding plants and use only the semi-trailing and trailing plants.

On the Go

Last Saturday, our youngest daughter graduated from high school. She will be going off to Northeastern in Boston in the fall. My dad and brother came in from the West Coast (Dad from Bend, Oregon and Stewart from Santa Rosa, CA). To keep them entertained we went down to Chicago on Friday and did the architechtural boat tour from Navy Pier. It was really great, if you have never been. Afterwords we sauntered down to Millenium Park and strolled through Lurie Gardens, designed by Kathryn Gustafson, Piet Oudolf, and Robert Isreal. They have really matured over the past several years. I took this picture of the salvia. What a great color impact, with the two varieties of salvia. I don't know what varieties they are, presumably one is "May Night." I think this is a great example of the color impact of mass plantings.

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