Category Archives: Garden Design

Coral Honeysuckle

Plant These Flowers Now to Bring Birds, Bees, Butterflies (and Bats!)

This post was written and provided by Michelle Z. Donahue from the Plough & Furrow blog.

Though the flower shows are mostly done for the year, fall is a great time to get some planting done to bring your favorite fauna to the yard next year.

You’vbee on sedume probably read up on the different flowers that bring butterflies flocking, or the best types of plants to build a hummingbird garden.

But knowing why your winged visitors are drawn to these plants is important, and can help you bring even more activity to your garden.

 

The Science

Over millions of years, flowering plants and their pollinators changed shape and features together for their mutual benefit, a term biologists call co-evolution. (Kind of like what happens when people are married for a long time!)Agastache

To get their friends to come and take a closer look—and ensure its reproductive success—plants had to get creative with their flowers.

It’s one reason why hummingbird plants tend to have long, pipe-like flowers. The design is just as much to bring the bird in for a nectar snack as it is to enlist her in pollination efforts. A hummingbird’s head is the perfect shape to collect pollen, which she’ll take to the next flower in line—completing the pollination cycle.

A flower’s shape and color, as well as whether or not it has a nice aroma, are tip-offs to what kind of pollinator tends to seek out that plant. Pick your pollinator by choosing the right kind of plant!

Penstemon 'dark towers' For The Birds

Our feathered friends can see really well, but have awful sniffers, so plants attractive to birds are often bright red or orange. Anything with a tube-shaped flower almost guarantees a visit from a hummer.

Recommended Plants for Birds:

agastache, native columbine, coral honeysuckle, hibiscus, lobelia, penstemon, tall phlox, salvia.

 

Bees See in UV

Beesperceive flowers in a completely different spectrum: ultraviolet (UV) light. To them, blue, purple and yellow blooms pop like a neon sign. Many bee-friendly flowers also have soft, delicate scents.

Bee-friendly flowers also often feature “landing strips,” or platforms wPenstemon Attracts Beeshere bees can alight, along with patterns of lines that act to guide their visitors in for a landing.

Recommended Plants for Bees:

blanket flower, borage, bee balm, butterfly bush,  coneflower, fall asters, goldenrod, hosta, native passionflower, sedum.

 

 Butterflies Love Nectar

Monarch butterfly on BuddleiaLike hummingbirds, butterflies often target flowers in red, orange and purple, but color is really less of a factor than the flower’s overall shape—butterflies probe deep wells for nectar. This keeps other insects out, and the butterfly’s foraging also passes on pollen to neighboring plants.

Recommended Plants for Butterflies: aster, blazing star (Liatris), coneflower, goldenrod, milkweed, joe-pye weed, garden phlox, sedum. 

Feed the Night-Flying Moths

Indulge in a moon garden by planting white-flowered, night-blooming plants to feed moths, which are mainly active at night. Lucky gardeners who visit their bloomers by the light of a full moon will be rewarded with a garden full of strong, sweet smells, and perhaps a chance encounter with the huge, ethereal luna moth.

Datura at Brookside GardensBonus! Most moth plants also attract butterflies.

Recommended Plants for Moths:

angels’ trumpet, hosta, lavender, lily, nicotania, thyme, valerian, yucca.

 

 

Send Out the Bat-Signal

Bats are known for eating tons of bugs during their nighttime outings, but in warm, tropical areasGarden Plox they’re important pollinators. If you like tequila, you’ll be especially interested to know that agave, the plant source of the tipple, is almost wholly pollinated by bats.

In temperate areas, bats follow their food to night-scented flowers, so moon gardens also encourage bats to visit.

Recommended Plants for Bats:

Agave, banana, cocoa, guava, nicotania, phlox.

Bowls for Beetles

Though bees have been in the spotlight lately as an uber-important pollinator, beetles actually do a majority of the pollinating work in the plant kingdom. They’re thought to pollinate 88 percent of all flowering plants—there are over 30,000 species in North America alone!

Beetles love wide, bowl-shaped flowers or large, tightly clustered flowerheads, which tend to be deeply aromatic and pale yellow or white.

 

CalycanthusRecommended Plants for Beetles:

goldenrod, magnolia, poppies, sweet shrub, pond lily.

 

September Gardening To-Dos

September Gardening To-Do’s

What does September gardening look like? As the summer season winds down and fall slowly moves in, the garden is a busy place! Fluctuating daily temperatures mixed with cooler evenings can make knowing what to do next a little confusing. Let’s take a look at what you should spend the month planting, harvesting, and cleaning up!

Planting

Begin planning and planting your overwintering crops (link to main article). Most crops should be planted before the first frost. Apply a generous layer of compost to provide nutrients and cover with a thick layer of straw to protect your plants from winter’s elements. Use cold frames, polytunnels, or greenhouses to further protect your plants.

Bulbs should be put in the ground before it freezes and they’re unable to establish roots. Typically small bulbs are planted about 5 inches deep while larger bulbs are planted about 8 inches deep. Plant with the pointier side up, but if you don’t the bulb will eventually right itself within the soil. Bulbs appreciate soil that is well drained and mixed with compost.

Harvesting

Your garden has been busy all summer and fall is a great time to reap its rewards! Now is the time to harvest corn, potatoes, apples, cucumbers, tomatoes, squash, and strawberries before being killed by a first frost. If your tomato plants are still bearing green fruit, it is suggested that you pull up the entire plant and hang it in your garage or basement to force the harvest to ripen.

Your harvest may be bountiful. Take time to freeze, can, or store it so you’re able to eat fresh garden foods throughout the winter.

Cleaning up

You’ll be busy this month getting your garden back into a state that is prepared for dormancy. Dig up tender plants and transplant them to small pots to be moved indoors for overwintering. Overgrown perennials should also be dug up, divided, and transplanted throughout your garden.

Gather dying and falling leaves from around your property and mix them in to your compost pile. To expedite their composting process, mix in a compost starter like Ringer® Compost Plus Organic Compost Starter. At the end of the month your lawn will benefit from an application of organic fertilizer.

September is a busy month in the garden. The combination of harvesting the old and preparing for the new will keep your gardening to-do list active, but with the right planning and execution you’ll be able to check things off your list.

create habitats in your garden

GREEN GARDENING: Create Habitats in Your Garden

Although humans interfere with natural habitats often, whether it is removing trees, building new structures, or employing chemical solutions that cause trauma to animals, we are also able to create habitats for our furry friends that allow them to thrive. Gardens are the perfect place for this, and with the help of a few trees, plants, and accessories, your property can become a safe haven!

Bees and butterflies are huge fans of flowering plants. They love to eat the nectar, and bees are superstars at transplanting pollen, which helps our ecosystem. Take a 3-foot by 3-foot space in your yard or garden and dedicate it to black-eyed Susans, honeysuckle, climbing vines, and more to attract and support bees and butterflies. A water supply that is shallow and filled with rocks will help these little bugs get hydrated without fear of drowning.

Feathered friends love to visit our gardens if they’re equipped with the right stuff. Like bees and butterflies, some birds like hummingbirds love flowering plants. Orioles love jelly and orange slices, and almost all birds love feeders packed with seed.

Birds also love water and we often underestimate how this makes a difference to them. Fresh, clean water sources allow birds to hydrate without fear of predators. Hanging a bird waterer in your garden allows birds to access water away from the ground where trouble typically lurks.

Man-made accessories combined with plants create desirable atmospheres for birds and bugs. Try dedicating space in your garden next planting season and enjoy as garden friends visit to take pleasure in your efforts!

FavaBeans

ALL ABOUT BEANS: Bean Varieties

Bean varieties offer you options for your garden. Beans are available in two main types: shell beans and snap beans. Shell beans offer protein-rich seeds while snap beans are grown for their pods. Furthermore you can segregate beans into four growth patterns: bush, pole, runner, and half-runner. Bush bean plants are bush-like in form and are self-supporting. Pole beans have vines that grow up structures and appreciate stakes or trellises. Runner beans are cool weather condition pole beans and half-runners have a growing habit that falls between pole beans and bush beans.

There are tons of beans available to grow in your garden this year, but let’s explore the most popular. Black beans, black-eyed peas, fava beans, garbanzo, lima beans and string beans are all easy to grow and have nutritional benefits. Check out the highlights of each:

Black beans – popular for stews and soups, these beans need three months of warm temperatures to mature. Be certain the danger of frost has passed when planting black beans.

Black-eyed peas – available in bush and runner varieties, black-eyed peas are easy to grow given the proper climate and conditions. Black-eyed peas are typically white with one black spot on them.

Fava beans – thriving in cold, damp weather, fava beans are more popular in Europe than the US. They take about 75 days to mature and are a great source of vegetable protein, only second to soybeans.

Garbanzo beans – a bushy bean plant that needs about 65-100 days until maturity, garbanzo beans are also known as chickpeas.

Lima beans – consisting of pole and bush varieties, limas take 60-75 days for bush variety growth where pole types need 90-130 days for growth. Plant lima bean plants when you’re sure that frost threats have passed.

String beans – grown in soil temperatures at 65 degrees or higher, these plants need about 45-75 days until harvest. Stakes or a trellis will help support these climbing vines.

Rose tree at St. Michael's Church in Hildesheim © Leif Obornik

All About Roses: ROSE FACTS

Although garden cultivation of roses started 5,000 years ago, the rose genus is about 35 million years old according to fossil evidence found in Colorado. Planted in A.D. 815, the world’s oldest documented rose bush is located in Hildesheim, Germany. It is now about the size of a tree.

Roses grow throughout the world and are not limited to one geographic region like some plants, and are therefore referred to as a universal flower. They have been used in history for purposes ranging from perfume to medicine to symbolic meaning.

During the seventeenth century there was such a high demand for this flower that rose water and roses were used for bartering purposes and were considered legal tender such as the dollar is today. People could use roses for payment – can you imagine? Additionally, dried rose petals were believed to have mysterious powers until the nineteenth century.

Check out these neat tidbits of info:

  • The Roman Emperor Nero would shower his guests in an extremely dense cloud of rose petals. It is said that some guests almost suffocated from the intense fragrance.
  • A relationship between the five petals of the Rosa sancta and the five wounds of Christ was identified by early Christians.
  • The largest recorded rose was a 33 inch wide pink rose bred by Nikita K. Rulhoksoffski in California.
  • Although roses are known for their medicinal uses they were initially used as an enhancer to hide the bitter taste of medicines.
  • About 150 million rose plants are purchased by American gardeners annually.
  • 85% of Americans claim the rose as their favorite flower.
  • It is said that thorn less roses given to someone symbolizes “love at first sight.”

Image: Rose tree at St. Michael’s Church in Hildesheim © Leif Obornik

homedepot

Garden Tools and Equipment

Quality garden tools and equipment don’t come cheap so protecting your investment for use year after year is important. Let’s discuss how to keep our garden gear in top shape for extended life.

Storage is the most crucial form of care for your tools and equipment. Keeping moisture out and creating a dry environment for your gear is important so be sure to stow away in a garage, shed or airtight bin. If left outdoors, wooden handles can crack, split, and splinter creating a very tough tool to work with. Rust also becomes a huge issue for metal surfaces, so take the extra time to return items to a safe place.

Keeping your tools and equipment clean is beneficial for extended product life, too. Dirt will hold moisture causing damage to wooden features and creating a breeding ground for rust. Wipe all tools clean using a little turpentine and water and dry using an absorbent cloth.

Sharp tools are helpful tools. Every so often you’ll want to sharpen your tools so they do a better job and are better garden assistants. Visit your local hardware store and purchase a file for metal surfaces. Using one long stroke move the flat edge of the file down the beveled edge of the blade you’re sharpening. Once at the end you’ll want to lift the file and place it back at the opposite edge of the blade. Running the file back and forth does not continuously sharpen your blade; in fact it does nothing more than dull your file.

Blades for your weed whacker, lawn mower, and larger lawn and garden equipment can be sharpened, too. We recommend, for safety reasons, taking them to a garden center and allowing professionals to assist in the maintenance. These large blades can be extremely dangerous and injuries can be prevented for a small investment.

With the appropriate actions and a little TLC your garden gear can be helpful for many seasons. Often the best way to keep your tools working top notch is simply a preventive step here and there!

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Your Garden Planning: Flower Garden

Planning a flower garden is not so dissimilar than planning a vegetable garden. You’ll want to start by deciding your goals – are you gardening for color, for scent, for a specific theme? Depending on your goal, or goals, you can begin to gather inspiration. We enjoy creating a large “mood board” full of ideas for our garden and appreciate being able to see a visual of what we are hoping to accomplish.

After you have a mental picture of what you’d like to include in your garden you can take it to paper and pencil. Using the Avant Garden Décor Garden Planner you can map out exactly how you’ll want your garden to look, including what patio area, furniture, fountains, and more you’ll have included.

Make a timeline regarding when to plan the various seeds and the approximate amount of time they’ll need until bloom. You will also want to note whether plants are perennials that bloom multiple times in a garden season or if the flower is an annual that can be replaced once its life cycle is complete.

Next, you’ll want to head online or to your favorite local gardening center to stock up on plants and seeds. Some of our favorite online seed shops include:

Finally, using your timeline and garden tools you’ll want to get started! All your planning hard work will pay off when you can bring your drawings and inspiration to life on your very own property.

Take photos of your planning process for us and share with our community on Facebook. We can’t wait to see them!

Container Gardening (2)

Your Garden Planning: Garden Goals

As with most large projects, defining goals for your garden is the ideal way to begin this planting season! To help you we’ve put together some of our garden goals when we go to plan our gardens:

  1. Decorative gardens to provide visual value to a home – flowers can create a backdrop and decorative value to your property
  2. Gardens created as a food source – growing your own produce allows you access to fresh food at a fraction of retail cost
  3. Gardens created to provide a habitat to certain animals or insects – used to provide a home or food source for butterflies, birds, and more, gardens can have a highly beneficial relationship with animals
  4. Gardens to test various crops or provide hobby – sometimes you may want to garden just for the sake of gardening, and we dig that goal too!

Thinking about this year’s garden and the impact you’re hoping it will make? Share your gardening goals in the comment section below or visit us on Facebook and share with us there!

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Understanding Your Gardening Hardiness Zone

If you’ve exercised your green thumb we’re sure you’re familiar with the term “hardiness zone” or “gardening hardiness zone”. But, what exactly does this all mean? Let’s explore.

A hardiness zone is expressed as a “geographically defined area in which a specific category of plant life is capable of growing, as defined by climatic conditions, including its ability to withstand the minimum temperatures of the zone.” These zones, according to the USDA, are based on the average annual extreme minimum temperature during a 30-year period in the past, not the lowest temperature that has ever occurred or is predicted to occur.

So, how do you know which zone you’re in? The USDA has created a very detailed map outlining the US and how the zones are broken down. This resource is second-to-none when it comes to hardiness zones.

Once you determine in which hardiness zone you reside – and it is as simple as visiting the USDA map and clicking the mouse on your location – you can use this information to better plan your garden. Knowing your zone informs you of the following:

  1. When temperatures allow you to begin planting in regards to projected frosts
  2. What your average lowest temperature is
  3. Which plants best perform in your zone

It is also important to be aware that there are factors that will affect plant growth in addition to your hardiness zone. Consider the following to have a variable effect on your plant’s success:

  1. Pollution
  2. Temperature
  3. Moisture in air and soil
  4. Soil quality
  5. Light exposure
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Holiday Houseplants!

We love the holidays and we love houseplants, so why not combine the two? Consider giving one of our favorite holiday houseplants as a gift this season!

Amaryllis Flower

 

Amaryllis, Amaryllis belladonna: a popular winter-blooming plant most commonly known for large lily-like petals and a tall, sturdy stem. Easy to plant and easy to care for, the Amaryllis blooms indoors but would not be able to survive outdoors during winter.

 

 

ist1_2425192-red-poinsettia-on-whitePoinsettia, Euphorbia pulcherrima: widely available, and very commonly used for holiday decorating, the poinsettia is know for its bright red flower-like leaves, which are called “brachts.” While being famous for the bright red color, Poinsettias are also available in a variety of colors, ranging from peach to blue to white, however the red color is still the most popular.

ChristmasCactus

 

Christmas Cactus, Schlumbergera bridesii: a year-round blooming plant, the Christmas Cactus can survive in both low and intense light. Blooms range in color from yellow to fuchsia to white.

 

 

paperwhites

 

Paperwhites, Narcissus papyraceus: bright white and fragrant, the Paperwhite is an easy to plant and easy to grow flower. Set the bulbs in a stone and water container for a simple display.

Paperwhite image via Jackson & Perkins