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 The Garden Supplies Advisor : Garden Supplies News Home : February 2005

February 1, 2005 09:41 - From Miracle-Gro to Messenger(R)


The New York Times today reports the death of Horace Hagedorn who was the marketing genius behind the plant food called Miracle-Gro. This product which has been responsible for growing record size vegetables and flowers is estimated to have an 85% share of the home fertilizer market with annual sales exceeding $35 billion. His marketing methods included the use of a competition offering a $100,000 prize for the world's largest tomato provided that his plant food was used by the grower. Read more..

In a press release issued yesterday Eden Bioscience announced their plans for the launch of Messenger(R) at key gardening shows this spring. According to their website "Messenger for the home and garden represents a fundamentally new approach to growing vigorous, vibrant, and healthy plants both indoors and outdoors. Now you can give every plant you grow an edge against quality and yield robbing stress brought on by destructive pests and challenging growing conditions. Messenger allows you to unlock the natural potential of plants around your home and in your garden to thrive and flourish." Read more..

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February 2, 2005 10:02 - Valentine flowers and some good advice


With Valentine's day fast approaching, here's a query from a reader who wants to know whether a pink flowering jasmine that she was given last year can be persuaded to bloom again for a second time. Another reader says that she has a silver maple which has over the years become covered in ivy. She has been told that if the ivy is not removed it will kill the tree. "Is this correct?" she asks. Janet Macunovich from Livonia, MI answers these questions, and you will be interested to see how she deals with this one "Why is it that a plant described by knowledgeable authorities as reaching "10-20 feet" will stop growing at 10 feet if I wanted 20; but will top 20 if I chose it to grow in a restricted 10-foot space? Read more..

Joan Jones from Rogue Valley, Oregan gives some timely advice on roses. How to deal with aphids - buy some lady bugs is just one way. Black spot and powdery mildew are also discussed together with some advice on pruning. Read more..

Talk of roses reminds me that Valentine's day is fast approaching so if you are looking for a covenient way to send flowers to someone special, just follow the link.

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February 4, 2005 09:59 - Not enough yard space? Try these two ideas.


"Let your garden go to pots" is the advice from Marianne Binetti who lives in Enumclaw, WA. Container gardening is the popular trend for 2005. In her article you will learn about "Black Tie" and its formal arrangements. These are contrasted with "swamp pots" which are imports from Asia which get their name from their murky green coloring. When it comes to container planting, anything goes. Read more..

"Beginning with bonsai trees in Japan, the tradition of miniature gardening, which is thousands of years old, is being carried on in Wayzata" reports Troy Pieper. "Designer Kathryn Swenson operates under the “gnome” de plume Gnomenclature, the company that provided a 39-piece miniature garden display for the opening of the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum’s Visitor Center last week. Combining vegetation with fantasy, it includes live bonsai and dwarf conifer trees, as well as fairies, a waterfall and a working train, all in 1:12-inch scale, the same scale as a typical doll house." Read on..

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February 5, 2005 11:41 - Prune, Patrol, Weed & Mulch and more on colors


Prune, Patrol, Weed & Mulch are just three of the tasks that you should be tackling this month if you live in Lake County, CA. Three more jobs all involve planting so you will have to drag yourself away from the pile of seed catalogues, go outside and get down to it. For detailed instructions you will have to read the article, and when you are there, don't miss the link on the right hand side to an item on 2000 pot plants. Read more..

After yesterday's note on "Black Tie" and "swamp pots" here's another item based on colors. Blue, yellow, black, green and red to be precise. The five colours of the Olympic rings are the theme for the 2005 Pride in Waltham forest garden competition. "Use your imagination" a spokesman said. "You could have the five rings, or if you were really ambitious there could be figures in flowers running, jumping, throwing the javelin, weight-lifting and so on." The display must be visible from the street but can be a front garden, balcony, or hanging baskets. The closing date for entries is May 31 and you need to live in Waltham Forest, London to take part. Read more..

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February 6, 2005 20:17 - Top ten summer bulbs and the start of the "real" gardening season


"IT'S never too early to get ideas for summer planting schemes" says John Grayden. "The folks at the International Flower Bulb Centre think so as well. But just to add a little spice to gardeners' lives, they believe in suggesting something a little more exotic than normal. The centre's experts have come up with a Top 10 list of summer bulbs that are anything but ordinary. All will flower between June and October and will brighten up any garden." Read on..

"February marks start of 'real' gardening season" according to Joe White. "Here in the Deep South we like to think we can grow something in our garden or landscape all 12 months of the year and we can. But in practice, there are relatively few who really want to grow a garden of some type for the entire year. While gardening is fun and generally rewarding, like any other pursuit most of us appreciate a break of some length. For some this may be an extended period for much of the dormant season; for others it may involve only a few weeks of time. And a break is a healthy way to get rested and invigorated so we can come back with greater zeal and enthusiasm to get those garden projects initiated and rolling." Read on..

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February 7, 2005 09:27 - Speed gardening and the graffiti geranium


Speed dating has been around for ages, but "Speed Gardening"? "Before you run off screaming into the sunset, rest assured. This is not Desperate Housewives - think more dainty hoeswipes. Speed gardening is not simply a matter of buying fast-growing plants such as wisteria so you're forced to rush around pruning all summer in a seductive outfit (although the extra effort would help)." It turns out that this is nothing new either but is just a report in a UK newspaper about Jeffrey Restuccio's book "Fitness the Dynamic Gardening Way". Read more..

The 2005 University of Kentucky Home Garden and Landscape Expo was held last Saturday morning at the L.D. Brown Agricultural Exposition Center. If you are looking for some new ideas a visit to the show would have been useful but this report by John Van Vleet gives you a flavour of what was on display. Garden gnomes, pink flamingos and the graffiti geranium are just some of the items. To learn about the rest you will need to read on.

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February 9, 2005 10:00 - Spiders, Snowshoeing, Comfrey and Asprin


Want some help in dealing with all those bugs and nasties that are damaging and destroying your favourite plants? Then you need some spiders. According to Professor Susan Riechert at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville spiders will remove from sixty to eighty percent of the insects from a garden. But, if you want spiders to live in your garden, you must not use chemicals that can kill them. Read more..

What has hunting, archery, skating and snowshoeing got to do with gardening? Nothing, which is why you will be asking
yourself what is this item doing in a gardening blog. Despite the fact that the article starts with references to "Fimbulwinter" and "Ragnarok" it does contain some useful advice about propagation. If you need some encouragement to start seed sowing along with suggestions on cuttings and grafting, then read on.

"Help! Comfrey is taking over my garden" is the cry from this correspondent. To find out how you can rid yourself of this useful herb which can turn into an invasive monster Georgianna Taylor has some suggestions. She also has some interesting information on how asprin can be beneficial for your plants as well as being the standard cure for a headache. Read more..

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February 10, 2005 09:45 - Valentine's Day is just around the corner


It's that time of year again. Valentine's Day is just round the corner and everyone is trumpeting their Valentine specials to try and grab your attention. Thompson & Morgan tell you that "Love is in the Air" and "if you place an order for $30 or more by midnight on Valentine's Day, February 14th we will send you"... 2 packets of seeds. Not very exciting in my book but if you want the details, you can find them here.

Of slightly greater relevance is this piece about a new specialty nursery, Chocolate Flower Farm, launching this spring to feature unusual, dark colored and chocolate scented plants. Imagine a garden filled with chocolate – chocolate mint; chocolate columbine; chocolate morning glories; chocolate nasturtiums; chocolate daylilies; chocolate foxglove; chocolate sunflowers and much more. Imagination becomes reality this spring at Chocolate Flower Farm where owners Marie Lincoln and Bill Schlicht specialize in growing unusual, rich, dark plants that add a spot of drama and exotic beauty to the garden. Read more..

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February 11, 2005 09:41 - Garden Ramblings about snowdrops


"Although mid-February may seem a bit late to be rhapsodizing about snowdrops, it's actually the ideal time to focus on these cheery, late-winter-blooming bulbs" says Sarah Robertson. And once they have finished flowering is the ideal time to transplant the bulbs while the leaves are still green. A little effort at this time will pay dividends in the future with an increasing display as the plants naturalize in your garden. Read more..

It's no coincidence that the snowdrop is my choice for Plant of the Month in my Gardening Ramblings newsletter which is due to be published on February 15th. If you want to subscribe, just follow the link.

It is boring and utilitarian, carefree and extremely tough and makes dense carpets from as low as six inches to a couple of feet in height. They also grow into compact ball-shapes, open vase-like shapes, narrow conical or fountain-like forms and are famous as narrow columns. These are all forms of the same plant - the juniper. "Junipers have such an astounding diversity of forms and foliage colors that there really is a juniper for every garden" says Virginia Hayes. Read more..

Just 3 days left to order your Valentine flowers.

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February 12, 2005 09:47 - Of banana peel and a waxing moon


Garden lore, that fount of wisdom passed on down by our ancestors, does it have any real scientific basis or is it just a load of superstitious nonsense? This is the subject of an article by Dean Fosdick in which he examines a number of examples including watering your geraniums with tea and whether peonies need ants to enable the buds to open. He also looks at banana peel and the waxing moon. Read more..

In his piece called "February gardening questions" Dr. Leonard P. Perry deals with a number of topics including which shrub branches you can force into flower indoors. It is common knowledge that forsythia responds well to this treatment, but were you aware that you can also use pussywillow, vernal witchhazel, flowering cherries, crabapples, rhododendron, lilac and mockorange? Whilst forsythia can bloom in as little as one week from cutting, some of the others need up to six weeks before they will open their flowers. Read more..

You've only got 2 days left to order your Valentine flowers.

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February 13, 2005 09:47 - A Valentine tale and Rose pruning woes


If you are looking for plants that give some colour, depth and range to the garden without asking for a lot of attention in return, then you may be interested in this piece by John Grayden. Although he lives in Belfast, the plants he suggests are all common varieties which are suitable for most parts of the US. Read more..

What's this? A gardening writer confessing that he doesn't really enjoy gardening! Well, pruning roses is his particular complaint, which gives me the opportunity to mention a novel rose-pruning technique I came across in a gardening magazine a few years ago. Instead of following the standard procedure, this method involved cutting back all shoots to a uniform height without worrying about ingrowing or outgrowing stems. The magazine claimed that tests had shown that roses pruned in this way performed just as well as those pruned in the conventional fashion. Anyway if you want to learn more about Dick Tracy's woes, Read more..

"If falling in love had a warning label, one of its caveats would surely have to do with gardening" according to Barbara Quick. "Usually I write, but I felt too excited to write. I wanted to get my hands in the dirt. To use a pickax until sweat was pouring off me and I was up to my elbows in mud." Here is the link for the rest of her Valentine tale.

Only one day left to order your Valentine flowers.

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February 15, 2005 09:30 - Teak Lawn Furniture and Russian Comfrey


A few days ago I mentioned an article about a gardener who was having problems with comfrey taking over his yard. To give you the other side of the story, here is a piece which explains the benefits of Russian Comfrey. This is a herb which has many uses in the garden, as a compost activator, liquid feed, comfrey tea, comfrey concentrate, potting mix, mulch and bee-attractant. The author does concede that the herb's one drawback is that it can become invasive if not kept under control, but from personal experience I can vouch for the fact that its benefits outweigh this one disadvantage. Read more..

I have just added some information on my site about garden furniture. Whilst searching the web for the latest developments in this area, I came across this novel idea. Sprout a Couch or grow your own garden seat. It just requires a little effort to construct and then the only maintenance required will be a regular mowing. My new page is rather more conventional being a review of teak lawn furniture.

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February 16, 2005 09:39 - Pond Hoppers and Flowercarpets


Have you registered your "Backyard Habitat" with the National Wildlife Federation? Well not every pond owner is that keen, but the popularity of water gardening has increased by leaps and bounds over the last five years. "Even the simplest water feature can bring new life to an ordinary yard with fish, birds, dragonflies, flowers, reflections, ripples, rustles and the sound of rushing water" says Ellen Beaulieu as she gives details of the 1st Annual North American Pond Tour of Water Gardens. More than 50 pond tours across the U.S. and Canada are to be held over the weekend of the 9-10th July. Read more..

Landscape roses are also becoming increasingly popular. One grower has seen his sales increase from 10% ten years ago to 50% today. This is hardly surprising for a rose that blooms from spring to fall, has exceptional disease resistance and needs little attention. All they require is water and a handful of rose food each spring and summer for maximum blooming. No fancy pruning required either, just cut back to half size early Spring. Read more..

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February 17, 2005 10:33 - Of concrete geese and modern hellebores


Concrete geese and planting by numbers are just two of the ideas discussed in this piece by Jean Starr. Her report of a talk by Tracy DiSabato-Aust on designing a mixed garden develops into a review of the varied prejudices of gardening "experts" down the ages. Read more..

When hellebores are mentioned I always think of helleborus niger, the Christmas rose, so named because it blooms around the time of the mid-winter holiday. Over the last few years plant breeders have extended the range of colors available. There are now crisp, eye-pleasing stripes, luscious ruby reds, smoky purples and clear yellows rather than the muddy brownish-reds of just ten years ago. Read more..

If the wooden handles on your garden tools are showing signs of wear, here is some advice on how to deal with any splinters or other damaged areas. All you need is some sandpaper and linseed oil. Anne Clapp gives you full instructions and even includes a video. Read more..

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February 18, 2005 12:17 - A tall tea olive, a peperomia and the weather


"My fragrant tea olive is 12 feet tall. Should I let it continue to grow, or risk my neck by getting up on a ladder and cutting it back?" is the first question put to Nancy Brachy in her Q&A column. After warning her reader that the shrub may well grow to a height of twenty feet if there are a succession of mild winters, she advises prompt action on the pruning but suggests risking her neck only once. Read more..

House plants are the subject of this piece by Lam Peng Sam from Malaysia. After a brief reference to begonias, African violets, gloxinias and bromeliads, he moves to his main topic which is the Peperomia. He describes some of the common varieties including the Watermelon Peperomia and the Emerald Ripple. Read more..

"Years of watching the clouds roll by do not necessarily translate to an ability to understand the weather, but careful observation, common sense, and a few basic implements will build up your confidence" says Marty Ross. "The tools of the trade are many: thermometers and rain gauges, weather vanes, barometers, and almanacs. All to find out whether the weather will accommodate your plans to plant roses, set out tomato seedlings, or fertilize the lawn." Read on

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February 21, 2005 10:13 - Native wildflowers and the gardening president


Have you seen those plaques in garden shops that say "Even though I am an old man I am a young gardener"? You may know that this quote is ascribed to Thomas Jefferson who could rightly be called the gardening president. Jefferson’s house at Monticello included extensive gardens where he cultivated 70 different species and 250 varieties of vegetables. His favorite vegetable was believed to have been the pea. To learn about his "pea contests" and "pea feasts" read more..

What are drought-tolerant, disease-resistant, and provide food and shelter for our native birds and a habitat for beneficial insects? The answer, according to Nancy Szerlag, is native wildflowers. This is really just another reminder that plants which are grown in conditions which suit them will thrive and will need little attention. If you have been thinking about planting some native wildflowers but are not sure where to start, you will find some helpful pointers in this article. Read more..

If you like the sound of a houseplant with rubber-like stems of fleshy leaves that will often entertain you with clouds of delicate white flowers then you may be interested in this piece about Jade plants. For more information on what Kathy Van Mullekom describes as "easy-to-live-with roommates" read more..

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February 22, 2005 09:48 - Cottage Gardens and Gardening for the Soul


When people talk about "cottage gardens" the picture that comes to mind is of an olde world thatched cottage down a country lane in England with roses round the door and a mixture of old-fashioned flowers and vegetables growing mixed up together in the front garden. "Cottage gardening is alive and well today from the East Coast to the West Coast and certainly on this coast, from Pascagoula to Waveland. There is a revival of sorts going on all around us and it may be as close as the house next door" according to Norman Winter. "What makes the cottage garden so appealing is that there are no rules or mandatory blueprints to follow" which may explain the current proliferation. Taking the picket fence as one defining feature, he provides a colorful description of this revival of a traditional garden form. Read more..

"Cultivating Sacred Space: Gardening for the Soul" by Elizabeth Murray is the subject of this next piece. "A peaceful, renewing relationship with nature begins with an awareness of ancient horticultural symbols and garden design elements including the play of shadow and light, pools and running water, shapes such as arches and pergolas, the role of edible and medicinal plants and the mystical presence of trees." Read more..

A brief note in today's New York Times is a reminder that the anti-tetanus vaccine only protects for ten years and should be renewed with a booster injection to avoid any problems from cuts received when working in the garden. Read more..

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February 23, 2005 10:21 - The Year of the Sweet Pea and boxwoods


Purple is the color and it's "The Year of the Sweet Pea" according to the National Gardening Bureau. This nonprofit organization that focuses on growing plants from seed, has also declared 2005 "The Year of the Melon" although not in purple. But there is a new purple sweet pea "Cupani", a highly scented, heat-tolerant, heirloom variety, has two-tone purple and reddish-violet petals. In her article Maggie Wolf also discusses two more purple newcomers, the Fairy Tale eggplant and First Kiss Blueberry vinca. Read more..

If your boxwoods are becoming a little to large for comfort you may be wondering whether you can prune them hard back to the thick stems without ending up with an ugly looking shrub that takes forever to recover its attractive green leaf cover. Janet Macunovich gives an encouraging answer and promises that a healthy plant that has been pruned back to bare wood will be full and green again by summer. Timing is important though as she explains. Read more..

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February 24, 2005 10:02 - 20 ways to grow a Michigan garden


"Snow is still the reality for Metro Detroit green thumbs" says Marge Colborn. "But it won't be long before Mother Nature changes her tune, and spring will signal the start of the gardening season". She talks to three neighbours who tell of their plans for the coming season. "This is like the calm before the storm," says one Novi veteran gardener, who admits that she's already been poking around her garden looking for anything green that's poking its head up. Read more..

Staying with Metro Detroit, Nancy Szerlag suggests "20 ways to grow a Michigan garden". "Spring is almost here, but it will be several weeks before Metro Detroiters can plant their gardens. Now is a good time to do a little research and compile your garden shopping list". After discussing whether you should choose annuals or perennials, she finds that many people are now growing both types together. The main section of her article consists of a list of both annual and perennial plants that grow well in Michigan. She includes details of the plant size, optimal growing conditions and flowering season together with photographs. Read more..

No picture accompanies this last item but there is a delightful description of what is a somewhat temperamental shrub. Sarah Robertson tells you about her 18-year-old Daphne odora `Aureo-marginata'. "It's the exceptionally fragrant, late-winter blossoms that make this lovely evergreen a favorite with maritime Northwest gardeners willing to risk its flighty reputation". Read more..

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February 25, 2005 10:03 - Terrariums, Privet and Rain Gardening


"Terrariums, those miniature green worlds under glass that gardeners of a certain age remember so well, are making a comeback" says Denise Cowie. "Terrarium-workshop attendance is increasing; plant stores and gardening catalogs are showcasing fancy containers; and one lifestyle magazine even suggests making tiny terrariums out of clear glass ornaments left over from Christmas". A little history of the Wardian Case, memories of the 70's craze and instructions on how you can make your own are all here. Read more..

Problems with privet, brown spots on camellia leaves and valentine tulips are the subject of Janet Brachey's current Q&A session. Bull tallow and insect damage are just two of the possible causes, and she makes some helpful suggestions to solve her reader's problems. Read more..

Rain gardening and pollen production are are discussed in this piece by Jack Kerrigan from Ohio State University Extension. In answer to the question "Is it true that there is an increase in allergies caused by pollen because nurseries are producing more male trees to satisfy homeowners' desire for nonfruiting trees?" he gives a detailed explanation of the difference between dioecious and monoecious plants. But his conclusion is that people are more sensitive to pollen these days rather than that there has been an increase in pollen levels. The second half of his piece tells of a new research project into the subject of rain gardening. He believes the study could provide the foundation for a landscape revolution in America. Read more..

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February 26, 2005 12:03 - Working holidays, blueberries and English Gardens


Do you want a holiday with a difference? Then why not see what the National Trust has to offer. This English charity organises working holidays where you can try your hand at dry stone walling, foot path laying, helping with a sheep count, clearing the countryside of invasive rhododendron, take part in a botanical survey, planting flower borders in historic gardens, clearing beaches of debris, helping at an archaeological dig, erecting new fences or maintaining a coastal footpath. Read more..

"Can you grow blueberries in the Richmond area?" a reader asks and Richard Nunnally assures you that you can. He gives details of three varieties that grow well in the area and includes hints on cultivation. Follow his guidance and you should have fruit throughout the season. Read more..

Americans have a love-hate relationship with English gardens. They're either obsessed with trying to emulate a stereotype of one, with long, colorful perennial borders and fragrant, rose-draped arbors. Or they turn their back on anything so traditionally formal and Old World. So says England's first lady of gardening, Penelope Hobhouse, whose gardens include one for Britain's late Queen Mother. Read on..

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February 28, 2005 09:58 - Alternative cottage gardens and fragrant flowers


The secret to creating a cottage style garden in the Midwest is to succumb to the realities of latitude. When you realise that northern Illinois has a climate that has more in common with Inner Mongolia than with England, you have to forget the flowers and shrubs that thrive in the English maritime climate. In her new book, “Midwest Cottage Gardening”, Frances Manos tells of her experiences in finding plants that are suited to the local conditions and which have allowed her to create her own cottage garden style. Read more..

Here's a reminder that bold and colorful flowers are not the be all and end all. "Don’t forget fragrance when planning spring planting" says Henry Homeyer. From Daphne to Viburnum, Witch Hazel to Honeysuckle, and those are just the shrubs, he gives a run down on scented plants that are hardy to Zone 4. Follow his advice and you will have a garden that is filled with a delightful perfume as well as color. Read more..

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