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Garden Ramblings, Issue #013
September 15, 2005
September 2005

Monthly musings on the garden scene

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In this issue:

- Letter from the Editor
- Plant of the Month
- Guest Article
- Discover the Art of Topiary
- Special Offers
- Useful Resources




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

The "Plant of the Month" is the Agapanthus.

The Guest Article this month is by Gary Guzman who gives us his "September Gardening Tips".

Topiary is the subject of the next article. After a brief history of this ancient craft, you will find some advice on how to create your own.

With Summer now behind us and Fall well and truly here special offers are few and far between, but I have found a few. Details are below.

In the resources section I have mentioned just one website, and one that I have known of for some time but have only recently had a chance to explore fully. I think that it is well worth devoting some time to and hope that you will agree.

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: Agapanthus commonly known as African Lily, African Tulip or Lily of the Nile.

Description: Tender perennial with strap-like leaves which are evergreen in mild-wnter zones. The flowers in many shades of blue are borne in umbels on 2-3 foot high stems from summer to early fall. There is also a white variety.

Origin: Native to South Africa and were brought to Europe by the Dutch in the seventeenth century.

Cultivation: Agapanthus prefers a loamy well-drained soil in partial shade. It also grows well in containers. USDA hardiness zones: 7 to 11 but greater care is needed in colder areas. Propagate by division in March. Can also be grown from seed but plants will not bloom until the third year.

Pests and diseases: Generally troublefree.

Folklore: The name agapanthus is derived from the Greek 'agape', meaning love, and 'anthos', flower. As a member of the lily family it is loosely associated with the folklore that regards it as a symbol of purity and of the Virgin Mary. But that is rather stretching the connection and perhaps a more apt definition is provided by Chris Doyle in the OEDILF thus:

With flowering umbels and style,
The African lilies beguile.
Agapanthus enthrall
Most observers—not all.
Some Egyptians are still in denial.


September Gardening Tips.

Well it is now September, and the mornings are great aren't they? It is now beginning to be the best time to plant trees and shrubs. It is a great time because the above ground temperatures are dropping and the below ground temps are still warm.

This helps plants get a jump on next spring because the roots still develope in the warm soil while the tops slow down in growth. Also, there are less winds and typically more moisture during this time of year, which of course reduces stress on newly planted shrubs and trees. You should be able to plant just about anything, including pansies, (which will last thru next May) mums, winter veggies (starts), most trees and shrubs.

There are a few exceptions: Palm trees might be better planted in the spring and summer, in order to get a good root establishment before the winter sets in. (For the lower elevations of the southwestern U.S. States)

Oleanders may experience some winter kill if planted too late in the season, especially the 1 gallon size. The larger sizes seem to suffer the least winter kill. This is usually for the the first winter, after that they will have even less winter or no winter kill as they age. Using a winterizer fertilizer with plenty of potash will help increase winter hardiness just about all shrubs and trees.

It is recommended for valuable plants that may suffer from winter damage. Use this product before October 30th. Don't forget to use compost, peat moss, or soil builder and root stimulator on all plantings, and make sure plants have adequate water.

Gary Guzman Owner of Guzman's Greenhouse and Color your world Nurseries. Website: email: [email protected]


Discover the Art of Topiary

Topiary is the art of creating ornamental shapes by trimming and training shrubs and trees. A skilled person can reproduce almost any design that you can imagine by careful pruning and training the plant or shrub. Common designs range from globes and pyramids to animals and birds.

The art or craft of topiary has been practised for nearly 2000 years. The first recorded examples come from Ancient Rome as described by Pliny in one of his letters. He tells of clipped box obelisks and animals at his villa in Tuscany. After a long period of neglect the craft was revived at the time of the renaissance when formal shapes were used to complement the clipped hedges of the parterres and knot gardens.

In the intervening years topiary has come and gone in and out of fashion at regular intervals. In the eighteenth century the natural style was all the rage and formal gardens with clipped bushes gave way to informal plantings of groves and shrubberies joined by meandering paths. The nineteenth century saw a revival and Horatio Hollis Hunnewell was one of the first in America to create a garden at Wellesley, Massachusetts with trees trained into cones, globes, pyramids and layered tiers.

Enthusiasm for garden restoration and period gardens has encouraged the taste for topiary which is now as popular as ever. From large plantings in stately homes to small groups in the average sized garden, examples of topiary can be found all over the world.

Many different plants and trees can be used for topiary. Those with small leaves and a compact growth habit will be the easiest with which to work. Buxus, as used for box hedges, is probably one of the best, certainly for small scale designs.

The methods employed to create a topiary design depend both on the complexity of the subject and the skill of the gardener. Geometric shapes such as globes and pyramids can be guaged by eye but it is best to mark out the outlines first. For a pyramid you would trim a line from each of the four corners to the peak. In the case of a globe a line around the circumferance would provide a good starting point.

If you are planning a number of similar designs a former made of wood or metal will help. This is placed over the shrub but can be removed after it has been trimmed to the desired shape.

More complicated designs usually require a wire frame which will remain in place. For instance a spiral design needs a frame so that the shrub can be trained to the correct shape. Wire frames are produced in a large variety of shapes and sizes both for geometric and animal designs. Many are constructed in two halves joined with a hinge so that they can easily be fitted over the shrub which can then be trimmed to shape.

Topiary does not have to be confined to the garden. It is possible to have a tabletop model indoors. A small wire frame is filled with moss into which is planted a slow-growing ivy to cover the frame.

As I have tried to show the art and craft of topiary is thriving today and can be a distinctive feature of any garden or yard. Even if you do not feel confident enough to try and grow your own, there are plenty of established specimens that you can buy from garden centers and nurseries. However the use of a wire frame makes the task so simple that I would encourage everyone to give it a try.



Special Offers

With Summer now behind us and Fall well and truly here special offers are few and far between. As always keep an eye on the merchants' newsletters for the latest offers. Here are a few that I have noticed recently:



Brecks are offering a Reblooming Iris Collection for $19.99 which gives a saving of over 50% on their regular price. They also have offers on their Dinner Plate Dahlia Collection and Lily Sampler Collection.


Dutch Gardens have as their main feature a new labor-saving device - a collection of bulbs in a biodegradable planting tray. All you have to do is dig a 14 inch wide hole, insert the tray, cover with soil and water. They do also have some bargain bags of bulbs.

Gurney's Seed & Nursery are making the BOGOF offer. Buy 15 Lavender Mountain Lily bulbs for $5.95 and get 15 free. The same deal is offered for strawberries, asparagus, daffodils, clematis and more.

Gardener's Supply Company appear to be continuing their summer sale which was supposed to end on 7 September. They also have a new section called Gardener's Living.



Useful resources

This month I am going to introduce you to a website that I have been aware of for some time but have only recently checked out fully. The site is Better Homes and Gardens at and click on the Garden tab. Unfortunately there are rather a lot of annoying popups but, once you get past these, you will find a wealth of useful material.

At the top of the page you find "Landscape Ideas You Can Use" and "Garden Projects" which leads you on to a large selection of garden plans and projects. Further down you come to Gardening Topics, Tools and Guides, Gardening Slideshows and Expert Advice. There are a number of message boards covering various topics and a collection of "how to" videos with some useful information.

The garden plans and landscaping ideas alone make this a site that will be added to my 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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