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Garden Ramblings, Issue #012
August 15, 2005
August 2005

Monthly musings on the garden scene

*********************************************************** If you prefer, you can view this month's issue online where you can also subscribe if this copy has been forwarded to you by a friend. ***********************************************************

In this issue:

- Letter from the Editor
- Plant of the Month
- Guest Article
- Plants for Groundcover
- Special Offers
- Useful Resources




Welcome to the August issue of Garden Ramblings your monthly window on what's going on in the world of gardening.

The "Plant of the Month" is the Coneflower which seems to have more "common names" than any other that I can think of, but perhaps this is not surprising because it is a native wildflower.

The Guest Article this month is by Frank Vanderlugt who has some helpful reminders on how to care for cut flowers.

Plants that can be used as groundcover are the subject of the next article which surveys the range of plants that are suitable for differing situations of light and shade and soil types.


As we near the end of Summer and Fall is fast approaching there are a new rush of special offers. Details are below.

In the resources section I have mentioned just one website, but it is a huge one that could keep you occupied for hours so make sure you have some time to spare before you take a look.

If you want to keep up with all the news in the gardening world, you can read my blog Garden Supplies News.

Enjoy the issue.




Plant of the Month

Name: Echinacea purpurea commonly known as Coneflower but also red sunflower, comb flower, Indian head, black sampson, cock up hat and Kansas snakeroot.

Description: Hardy perennial with mid-green leaves which are lanceolate and slightly serrated. The purple crimson flowers are borne on two to three foot high stems between July and October. Butterflies and bees are attracted to the flowers and in the fall birds feed on the seed heads.

Origin: Native to North America from Virginia to Ohio and Michigan, south to Georgia and Louisiana.

Cultivation: Echinaceas will tolerate most soil types and are drought resistant. They thrive in loamy well drained soils in full sun but will put up with light shade. USA cold hardiness zones 3-9. Propagate by division between October and March. Alternatively take root cuttings or grow from seed.

Pests and diseases: Generally troublefree.

Folklore: Native Americans from various tribes made use of the coneflowers in early times. They used all parts of the plants to treat poisonous bites and bathe burns. Early American settlers also adopted its use as a tonic and as a general immune system builder to ward off colds and flu. In certain old English herbals it was said to cure syphilis and rabies.

Since coneflowers are native to North America it is hardly surprising that there are no classical myths and legends associated with the plants. The fact that the name derives from the Greek "echinos" meaning hedgehog (AKA “porcupine”) because of the flower's prickly cone must surely have more to do with the person who chose the name rather than any mythical connections.


Flowers Truly Reach Your Soul.

Flowers are a heartfelt, natural way to lift our spirits. They can provide a smile for a tired face or even brighten a room for a convalescent. Just imagine your favourite flower. Are you smiling yet? You are definitely in a better mood.

There isn't a doubt that beautiful surroundings provide us with a favorite environment that helps us thrive. Flowers are an simple and affordable way to add a splash of color and emotion into your life.

Tropical flowers are an exciting new change from traditional floral gifts like roses , and with modern shipping methods they are availble worldwide. Their large size and vibrant colors make them an impressive gift for favorite occasions like Mother's Day, Valentine's Day, birthdays and anniversaries.

Flowers can be purchased from local florists or "Grower Direct" services that ship them worldwide. If purchasing flowers to be shipped, make sure someone is waiting to accept the order and that they are not left with the mail on a back porch in the sun all afternoon until someone comes home from work. Flowers are shipped without any water supply, and neglecting them for hours on top of the shipping time can take days off their lifespan.

If you buy tropical flowers like heliconias or gingers, or if you are lucky enought to live in the tropics and have them in your garden, here are a select few tips to help them thrive and to extend their shelf life as cut flowers.

Caring for Cut Tropical Flowers ------------------------------------------

1. Water your plants well and give them a large drink prior to cutting. This is significant for foliage plants as well because a few varieties “drink” incredibly little after cutting. Instead, they live off their stored sap.

Tropical plants have adapted to their natural environment which means frequent but short periods of heavy tropical downpour.

Look at the flower heads and notice how the petals are “cupped” to catch and store as much water as possible. These plants drink from the top and like being showered with water.

Look at the pattern on the leaves. The ridges channel water down to the stem where it's absorbed into the many layers of the plant.

2. If your flowers have been out of water for any length of time after cutting, submerge them entirely in the bath for half an hour before placing them in a vase.

3. Cut three to four inches off the stem and then place them in a tall vase FULL of clean water.

4. Use a spray bottle to mist them at least twice a day.

5. Change the water and trim a new end on the stems every second or third day.

You are able to double the vase life of your cut flowers by applying these elementary techniques.

Frank Vanderlugt

Visit our website at http:/

Article Source:


Plants for Groundcover

If you are looking for a fast growing groundcover for shade, such as a narrow border on the north side of your house or an area shaded by trees, there are a number of possibilities. The lesser periwinkle (vinca minor) has glossy dark-green leaves and small blue flowers which appear in spring and early summer. Growing only 2-4 inches tall but with a spread of 3-4 feet the one drawback of this plant is that it can become invasive. Another aggressive grower is deadnettle (lamium). L. garganicum is a neat perennial growing six inches high and is one of the less rampant of the species.

My first choice for perennial groundcover for a fragrant rock garden is Dianthus. Two dense mat-forming varieties are D. areniarius and D. arvensis both of which bear fragrant flowers from June to August.

When you are considering groundcover for containers, plants with a creeping habit are indicated. Wild thyme (T. serpyllum) grows to a height of 1-3 inches with a spread of two feet or more. This is an aromatic herb which is related to the common thyme used for cooking.

Choosing groundcover for an acidy area is not too difficult. Heaths and heathers thrive in acid soils and come in a variety of colored foliage and flowers. The Trumpet gentian (G. acaulis) grows 3 inches tall and forms mats of sturdy, glossy mid-green leaves. The horn-shaped blue flowers appear in May and June but flowering can be somewhat unpredictable.

If you ask which groundcover is best for sunny areas, the answer is that you have a wide choice. Since most plants thrive in sun, several of those mentioned above would be suitable. Here are a few more: Aubretia - only 3-4 inches high and spreading to form a mat of hoary green leaves with small flowers in shades of purple and lilac between March and June. The Geranium genus includes several low growing varieties. G. sanguineum and G. subcaulescens are two examples. Sedums are another possibility. S. acre with a height of 1-2 inches is a mat-forming evergreen alpine species with yellow flowers in June and July. S. album is similar but with white flowers.

For colorful perennial groundcover Moss phlox (P. subulata) would be a good choice. With a height of 2-4 inches this plant spreads to form a mat of mid-green leaves which are covered by a mass of purple or pink flowers in April and May.

Plants that would be suitable for shade-tolerant evergreen groundcover include Pachysandra. P. terminalis is rather taller, growing to a height of 12 inches, but spreads to cover the ground in both partial and deep shaded areas. For fast-growing groundcover in shade we have already mentioned vinca minor. Two further candidates for these conditions are Pulmonaria and Saxifraga.

This article has been a brief survey of those plants which are suitable for use as groundcover in the varying conditions of sun and shade and differing soil types.


Special Offers

As we near the end of Summer and Fall is fast approaching merchants are gearing up for September and October which some regard as their busiest months. Keep an eye on their newsletters for the latest offers. Here are a few that I have noticed recently:

Brecks are offering Exotic Lilies on sale from $9.99. For Spring color and taking their cue from the "Blue River" in the Keukenhof Gardens they have special collections of Blue Grape Hyancinths and Tulips.

Dutch Gardens have a selection of New Perennials at special prices. They are also promoting their "$25 Off orders of $50 or more". And if you are thinking about a new bed you could try one of their "Pre-planned Gardens" which are all ready to plant.

Gurney's Seed & Nursery have over 20 different iris varieties -- from the classics to the new and exotic cultivars -- with prices starting at just $2.95! Or, if you prefer, three Thornless Blackberry Bushes for $14.99.


Useful resources

This month I am going to introduce you to just one website. It is the National Gardening Association. As you will see it is a huge site covering a wide range of gardening topics. I discovered the site through a news report about the introduction of Regional Reports. Enter your Zip Code and you find a new report every two weeks covering your area.

Apart from a large collection of articles there is a searchable Q and A Library. I entered "slugs" and found 92 results. There are sections on How-To Projects, Pest Control, a Weed Library and a Plant Finder. These all come under the heading of Home Gardening and there are further sections on Kids Gardening, National Garden Month, Garden Research, Garden Smart TV and, of course, a Shop.

This is definitely a site to add to your Bookmarks.


Please feel free to pass on this newsletter to your gardening friends. Do let me have your feedback and suggestions to: [email protected]

That's all until next month but in the meantime you can always look at my Blog Garden Supplies News

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