Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Facts About Christmas Trees Infographic

You may think you know all there is to know about Christmas trees but All-In-One Garden Centre begs to differ. They created this fact filled infographic with everything you can think of pertaining to Christmas trees. Do you know where the largest Christmas trees in the world are located? Do you have any idea of the number Christmas trees grown annually worldwide? How did the tradition of Christmas trees begin? Learn this and more in the infographic below.

A Tree-mendous Christmas Tree Infographic
Artificial Christmas Trees from All-In-One Garden Centre

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Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Gardening Article: Gifts for Gardeners

How do Gardeners share their love and passion outside of their garden? The joy of soil between your fingers and sunshine on your back is hard to encapsulate in a present. Give the gift of nature to the special gardener in your life with handmade gifts created with flowers and plants. Here are some of my favorite handmade gifts that any nature lover would enjoy.

1. Pink-Purple Rose Geranium Pressed Flower Petal Necklace by IMPRESSED by Nature

What gardener wouldn’t love this beautiful unique necklace made out of real geranium flower petals? The artist, Kyla, selects real flower petals and presses them with a flower press she made herself and then she seals them in light-weight durable sealant that protects the petals and makes the petals’ true color last longer. Wearing this beautifully designed necklace will bring you closer to nature even though you are far from your garden. An avid gardener herself, Kyla grows many of the flowers she uses in her unique jewelry in Oakland, CA and sometimes she buys them from local flower farms. This holiday season, you can also save 20% off jewelry from IMPRESSED by nature.

2. Pressed Flowers Adjustable Ring by Pressed Flower Jewelry

Your gardener friend would love to wear a bouquet on their finger like this lovely ring made of a colorful variety of real flowers that were picked, dried and pressed in early summer and then sealed in clear resin. So many delicate flowers and leaves are captured and preserved in this ring, it’s like wearing a miniature garden on your finger. Just remember to remove your ring or cover your hands with gloves when you garden.

3. Velutina Hanging Air Plant Terrarium With Moss by Plantology

Bring the beauty of nature indoors with this simple and pretty hanging teardrop shaped terrarium that’s beautifully arranged with a Velutina air plant and lime green preserved moss. Any garden lover would appreciate this bubble of greenery to decorate their home especially during the stormiest of winter days. Michelle, the creator, graduated with a degree in horticulture and landscape architecture and her passion for garden design goes into each of her carefully cultivated terrariums.

Celebrate Mother Earth’s gifts with these handmade products inspired by nature and made with natural materials. Find that special unique gift that perfectly matches your gardener friend’s passion for cultivating flowers and nature.

Images courtesy of

About the author: Rita Chu is the Community Manager for NerdWallet Indie, where shoppers can find Etsy coupon codes and save on fun and unique holiday gifts.

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Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Deer Resistant Plants For Your Garden – Part III

Republished from my blog gardeningbytes.

Here is part three of deer resistant plants to use in your garden. The list includes plants that are rated as rarely damaged by deer:

Lavender-Cotton/Santolina – Perennial
Leatherleaf Viburnum – Shrub
Lily of the Valley – Groundcover
Marjoram – Herb
Monkshood – Perennial
Mountain Pieris – Perennial
Pampus Grass – Ornamental Grasses
Poppy – Annual
Pot Marigold – Annual
Purple Rock-Cress
Red Pine – Tree
Rose Campion – Perennial
Rosemary – Perennial
Rue Anemone – Perennial
Russian Cypress – Shrub

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Deer Resistant Plants For Your Garden – Part II

Republished from my blog gardeningbytes.

Here is part two of deer resistant plants to use in your garden. The list includes plants that are rated as rarely damaged by deer:

Common Yarrow – Perennial
Corkscrew Willow – Trees
Creeping Wintergreen – Groundcover
English Holly – Shrub
Fall Mums – Perennial
Forget-Me-Not – Annual and Perennial Versions
Fringed Bleeding Heart – Perennial
Golden Bamboo – Ornamental Grass
Grape Hyacinth – Bulb
Heartleaf Bergenia – Perennial
Heliotrope – Annual
Japanese Maple – Tree
Lamb’s Ear – Perennial
Lantana – Perennial
Lavender – Perennials

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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Deer Resistant Plants For Your Garden – Part I

Reprinted from my gardeningbytes blog.

Looking for deer resistant plants for your garden? If you have deer grazing on your plants you know how frustrating it can be to have a garden that looks healthy. Here are a number of plants rated rarely damaged by deer that would be a good choice for your garden:

Angel’s Trumpet – Annual (all parts of plant are poisonous)
Annual Vinca – Annual ground cover
Autumn Crocus – Bulb
Barberry – Shrub
Bearberry – Ground cover
Bleeding Heart – Perennial (shade plant)
Blue Fescue – Ornamental grass
Butterfly Bush – Shrub
Cinnamon Fern – Fern
Foxglove – Biennial
Daffodils – Bulbs (bulb and leaves are poisonous when eaten)
Flowering Tobacco/Nicotiana – Annual
Heaths & Heathers – Shrub
Iris – Perennial bulb
Japanese Painted Fern – Fern

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Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Gardening Article: Pruning Tips for Tree Care

When it comes to making your trees look good and live a long life one should consider pruning. Pruning is a vital element in proper maintenance of trees and shrubs. Caring for a tree includes strategic removal of sections of branches or whole branches to train young trees and rejuvenate mature trees. Pruning improves the tree's beauty, structural integrity and health. When done properly, tree pruning controls the size of the tree and shapes it to mitigate personal or property damage.

If you are planting a tree, one should dig the hole out that is twice as wide as the root ball. It is good to strategically prune and pull apart the root ball at planting so the roots do not choke themselves out. You want to encourage the roots to expand into the soil outward instead of just dropping it in and calling it a day. The soil that gets filled in is looser than the compacted soil that was not dug up so this encourages root growth as well. As a side note, do not forget to water a new tree a lot, more than just a quick squirt of the hose. This helps lessen the trauma of transport.

Pruning helps the health of a tree by preventing watersprouts in the crown and suckers from the base roots. Watersprouts in the crown of the tree are unnecessary and should be pruned to reestablish a healthier branch structure. Suckers sprout out of the base of the tree from the roots. These should be pruned before they become established and decrease the vigor of the overall tree and weaken its health. Prune to remove branches that compete against each other (co-dominant). This helps improve the appearance of the trees. It is better done when the trees are young because as they grow, they will grow into a better shape. Any branches that seem weak or attached weakly should also be removed.

Pruning and thinning controls the growth and direction of a tree. Thinning is the removal of an entire branch and heading is pruning down to a bud or side branch. In this way growth can be controlled to avoid the side of your house, other trees or telephone lines. Always cut back to a branch collar or fork, don't just cut a branch blindly in half.

Besides increasing the beauty of and improving the health trees, pruning can decrease their hazard of dropping branches in the wrong place, like on your house, car or pathway when someone is walking down it.

After a storm, trees can be weakened and if limbs have not come down, they may be prone to do so when the next gust of wind occurs. It is advised to inspect trees after a storm to determine if pruning or thinning is needed. It is recommended that you have a certified arborist from an established tree care company do an on site analysis. They can make a professional determination on the condition of your trees and offer advice on how to move forward for maintaining the health and beauty of your trees.

Rich Coffman is a writer on the front range of Colorado and enjoys gardening in his spare time.

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Wednesday, October 24, 2012

List Of Cooking Herbs For The Garden

Republished from my blog

Herbs look great in the garden as companion plants and are wonderful used in cooking and desserts. Basil is used primarily in Italian cooking, perfect for pesto and tomato sauces. Oniony chives and dill are often used in cold potato and pasta salads. Fennel is used raw or cooked in Italian dishes. Marjoram and oregano work best in Italian and Mexican dishes. Rosemary is wonderful paired with beef or used to flavor roasted potatoes. Tarragon and sage are often used with chicken, while bay and thyme can be used for meats, stews, and soups. Mint and lavender can be used in various ways for desserts, with lavender used lightly and mostly for flavoring. Parsley is a universal flavoring used for many dishes, used hot, cold, or even in salads. One of the most important herbs is garlic, which is used in almost all cuisines.

Bay leaves
Lemon Balm

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Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Fall Pots to Repot, Restore and Replant

Fall is always a "get as much done as you can" before the rains begin here on the North Coast. We have some rain coming our way this weekend according to the forecast. Then its run out and work on the weekends when its not raining, which can be few and far between.

I have a number of pots that need to be redone, plants pulled out and repotted with fresh soil or moved into a different pot. We have a tree that needs to be repotted into a bigger pot, this will be happening soon because the tree needs more space to grow and the current pot is beginning to seriously fall apart. I also have two pots with ferns in them. One has an asparagus fern and lots of weedy material, a pot the previous homeowner left and I have never repotted with new soil. Its out past the back yard flowerbed and needs to be dug out and redone. The fern is still thriving but it needs some new space and dirt. Unfortunately this pot (as are many of the pots the homeowner left behind) has no drainage holes.

Another pot that needs to be redone is my pot with hummingbird mint. I'm thinking that this might look good from a hanging basket and attract more hummingbirds to it at a higher level. This pot has also been innundated with fern seedlings that have started to overtake the pot. I'm actually looking forward to digging out the ferns from this pot, there are so many of them that they can be split and put back in this pot (I'm thinking about it) and the other half will go in the front yard planted on the far left of our house where not much is growing near the fence other than orange crocosmia bulbs. I dug up a few seeded ferns a year ago and planted them on the side of the holly tree that had no ferns in place and the two ferns have taken off and grown almost to full size already. I think a number of ferns would look great in that section of the yard since there are only a few sword ferns near the porch that I planted a few seasons ago. These feathery ferns are really gorgeous and will look great up near the house and should stand up to the multitude of crocosmia bulbs growing there.

Our large back yard flowerbed still sits ready to be torn down and redone. Its a big job because of the huge number of rocks that were used to create the flowerbed, making it the ideal place for weeds and problems to crop up. That means pulling out all the rocks, a long job which will take many weeks to complete. I'd like to redo the flowerbed building wood walls three feet or so up with a wide seating area on top for people or neighborhood cats to lounge on. I picture ferns, fuchsias and heathers taking up space in the new flowerbed once its ready, but I don't see it ready for a good year or so. There is always so much pruning to do in the garden we keep putting off this big project. Hopefully we can get a start on it this fall.

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Wednesday, October 10, 2012

List Of Perennials For Planting

Reprinted from my blog Gardeningbytes.

Perennials are one of the great additions to a garden. There are many perennials that provide blooms and evergreen foliage as well as shape and structure throughout the year. Study up on the behavior of each perennial before planting to understand the flowering times for plants, whether plants die back for winter, and if leaves drop during fall or winter months. The plant behaviors may factor into when you plant and where you plant in your garden.

Bee Balm
Black-eyed Susan
Bleeding heart
Four o'clock
Lamb's ears
Perennial Sweet Pea vine

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Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Fall Plants in the Coastal Garden

I have been watering the two new plants Goodwin Creek lavender and my false raspberry ground cover and they are both doing well after planting them weeks ago. Growing time will begin to slow as we enter October with just enough cold mornings to let you know it really is fall. All the heathers in the front yard that turn color in leaves are showing their fall/winter hues, it is really beautiful. Even the dried flowers that finished on the plants look so good I will probably leave them until my annual spring trimming of all the summer/winter blooming heather shrubs.

I planted the hebe I grew from a cutting, placing it in the middle of the flowerbed behind the drooping cherry tree since I had a bare spot there. So far it is doing well and establishing itself. The hebe cutting should have a good growth spurt this coming spring. The original hebe shrub I planted two seasons ago is huge now at three feet by three feet, much bigger than I expected it to be, and thriving between the pink climbing roses against the front yard fence. It bloomed well with purple flowers this last season. The heather tree sits next to the original hebe and is growing slower but is also growing up and out in size. The heather tree is supposed to get four to five feet tall, I'm hoping it will flower this coming season and grow taller.

I dug up the ground cover plants that are seeding themselves in front yard, the shrub is low-growing and similar to cotoneaster but has much thicker branches and arches branches the same as cotoneaster. I dug up the plants because they were in bad places in the front yard. I potted up the four stems with roots in gallon pots with dirt and watered them in, placing them on the back patio table. So far they are doing well rooting and the leaves are changing color with the season. I plan to plant them in back yard in spring on the small rolling hill below the kiwi metal structure. The shrubs that are established out front are fairly large at two to three feet tall and wide, covered in leaves, flowers and berries throughout the season, really a great looking shrub. I haven't had time to try and look up what shrub it is, time to get my groundcover book out and see if I can identify this plant.

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Wednesday, September 19, 2012

New Plantings in the Coastal Garden

As we head into fall on the coast I'm looking back over recent summer work in the garden. Over the summer months there is always plenty of busy work happening in the garden. During the summer months there is plenty of pruning, including trimming of the pink roses, cutting back the passionflower vines near the obelisk and also on the front yard fence. The pink jasmine gets cut back often in summer since it grows wildly during these months.

I planted the two new red passionflower vines in the trellis boxes, so far they are showing plenty of new growth with both vines reaching up about a foot taller since being planted. There has been some weird die-off on a small section of one plant (another shoot of the vine), but otherwise overall the vine seems healthy. I'm hoping these vines really take hold so they can go gangbusters by next spring and summer. When I planted them I added in some free fertilizer samples I received from the local garden nursery. The vines look healthy with plenty of growth, better results than the four online vines I planted that did not thrive. I hope the new vines look as good as the old ones pictured here.

The two sets of sweet peas I planted out are doing great, when I planted them I added some free fertilizer sample in the planting hole. So far the sweet pea vines are starting to set flower in September and the vines are growing tall on the obelisk and the front yard trellis near the front porch. I also noticed two vines from the perennial sweet pea seeds I planted a while ago have sprung up under the obelisk also. The perennial sweet pea is not fragrant unfortunately but it is a perennial vine and produces a purple bloom, so far the vine seems thicker and has more pronounced leaves than the annual sweet peas I planted.

I am continuing to water the Goodwin Creek lavender and false raspberry groundcover I planted between the passionflower vine on the fence and the pink climbing roses. Both plants seem to be doing well, I am hoping I can keep the passionflower vine cut back enough so it doesn't cover up the new plants. I wish the passionflower vines in the trellis grew as vigourously as the vines in the yard. Hopefully in spring we'll see this kind of growth from the new trellis passionflower vines.

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Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Heath and Heather Farm Sale

At the end of August we went to my annual heath and heather farm sale. The farm is out in the country with pine trees and rolling hills surrounding the home of the farm owner. There are all sorts of heathers planted on the property which makes it beautiful to look at. The front of the yard has borders filled with colorful full-grown heathers in front of the farm house.

In the back yard where the heather farm is located also has numerous borders filled with heaths and heathers. There is an old gnarled apple tree that still produces apples in the center of the yard and a table with umbrella and chairs so you can sit and enjoy the view. It was a little hotter out there this year, the sale was held in late August instead of late October and held in the afternoon instead of the morning. There are always sweet and savory treats, sodas and coffee and tea available for the plant buyers. Basically we buy our shrubs then sit down and have some snacks and enjoy the scenery, which is pretty spectacular. The people who come to the plant sale are people who visit the farmers market or other events and sign up on her list to get an invitation, so the number of people who come to the sale are smaller.

The selection of shrubs is good, with at least 50 to 100 shrubs total to choose from and multiples of each variety. The heath and heather shrubs run around $3.00 each for a four-inch pot or gallon pot of new cuttings, which are well-established plants, generally four to five inches or more in height. At most nurseries heaths and heathers run $4.75 (if you are lucky) to $7.00 for a four inch pot of heather. I've rarely see heaths offered in the nurseries I've been to, so the variety of heaths and heathers at the sale is really great.

I purchased eight pink, lavender and magenta flowered heaths and heathers and one white heather that is very striking. I have enough of the orange/purple/bronze heathers planted along the front of the walkway up to the house. Some of the foliage of the plants purchased changes color with the fall and winter months while others stay green. Maintenance of the plants is fairly easy: water well weekly for the first year since heaths and heathers have fragile roots, and trim once a year after flowering to shape up the plant. I'm not sure where I will plant this batch of heathers from the sale, frankly I'm running out of room at the moment until we rework one of the flowerbeds in the back yard. Maybe another barrel is in order, the heather barrel in the back yard looks great after a few years and is filling out perfectly with its five smaller heathers.

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Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Plants for the Herb Barrel

On our trip to the local nursery recently we bought two passionflower vines and a few herbs to plant up in our new barrel for the back yard so we have some fresh herbs to cook with. No basil this time, since its later in the season I'll wait until next year to grow it. One of the nursery people at Pierson's a few years ago told me to break off a piece of basil and put it in water and it will root quickly, an easy way to make more plants.

I bought a small chick and hen succulent plant for my half-moon planter on the back deck. Nothing else seems to grow in the little terra cotta pots but I've grown the hen and chicks before in terra cotta and they will do fine in the dry environment. The plant I bought has a main plant and two babies growing from it. I discovered when living in Petaluma you just pluck off the babies and plant them in a pot and they take off and fill the pot with more babies surrounding the outside of the plant. I am hoping the one plant will do the trick for the three pots. I also grabbed a small fuchsia to add to one of my hanging baskets.

The kitchen herb barrel will start off with perennials only: a lemon thyme plant, a greek oregano (the greek oregano looked more robust than the regular oregano), a sage plant and a mint. I have some chives growing in another pot, next season I'll nab some of the seeds and plant them in the herb barrel. We planted up a mint plant in another container and it didn't do well. I know mint can go crazy once established so we'll see if it takes over the barrel or not when planted with the other herbs. Eventually I would like to add a winter savory, good for soups and stews. I grew one of these plants in Petaluma and it grew well and was good for cooking. Next spring I will buy a flat leaf parsley, I had a plant but it finally died off and I didn't grab seeds in time. Flat leaf parsley is great for cooking with for all sorts of dishes. We already have a large rosemary shrub back near the barrel that is well established, and another small potted rosemary that needs to go into the ground. I'd also like to add basil annually, and possibly a few other thyme plants as the barrel fills out. I do have one thyme plant that is growing with the original mint plant, I'll dig that one up and plant it in the barrel as well. Not sure if the original mint plant can be saved, its pretty sparse looking. I have quite a pot of blue lobelia that seeded itself in a pot so there is nothing but lobelia in it, I will plant the lobelia along with the herbs to dress up the barrel. Some nasturtiums may join the barrel eventually, always a nice combo with herbs.

Hopefully there will also be time to fix up the herb barrel to protect the plants. We plan to use some chicken wire to cover the herb barrel in case the raccoons get interested in it, hopefully they won't care about the herbs but you never know. The raccoons do like to get into things so the chickenwire should keep them out of the herbs. Once the plants are established for a season and fill out the barrel there should be no problem pulling off the chicken wire, hopefully the raccoon won't care about the barrel by then.

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Wednesday, August 8, 2012

New Red Passionflower Vines for the Trellis

I had purchased four passionflower vines a few months ago from an online nursery with the gift card I received for blogging. Over the past weeks two of the smaller vines in the front yard trellis died, a third one looks pretty bad and only one is doing ok but none of them really thrived or grew very much, very disappointing. I took some photos and emailed them to the store and they gave me a refund on my gift card. We used most of that money to buy two red flowering passionflower vines at the local nursery and in fact they were a dollar cheaper than the online nursery and three times as big as the ones I planted before. We had seen the red flowering version of the passionflower vine around town and thought it would be very pretty on the white trellis. I had no idea Pierson's carried gallon size passionflower vines at such a cheap price ($8.99). I had seen the red passionflower vines on a trip to the nursery shortly after purchasing my online vines and was bummed they had the vines so cheap there since they usually have larger vines that cost $20 to $35 dollars a pot. Two months later I was sure the passionflower vines would be bigger and cost more but luckily there were three red passionflower vines in gallon pots at the low price so I feel lucky they still had a few of the smaller vines left at this price to purchase.

I can already see a small red flower starting to bud on one of the vines. I am hoping these vines really take off for the last two months of summer here so they are established before the cold weather sets in. October cools down typically here, feeling like fall from the first week of the month and the rains have started mid-October before. The passionflower vines are a good two to three feet tall so their size should help with establishing them quickly in the trellis boxes.

We purchased the two passionflower vines, four herbs for the herb barrel, a small starter fuchsia for one of my hanging baskets, and a small hen and chick succulent, all this for $13.00 less than what it cost for the four online vines and two packets of seeds (which also aren't growing btw) plus shipping.

We plan on planting up the two vines and the other plants this coming weekend. I will dig up the plant or two that are alive (one is barely alive) and plant them on either side of the V-shaped wood arbor over our back door. Maybe planting these wimpy passionflower vines directly in the ground will work, but I'm not holding out much hope, my guess is they both eventually die off like the other vines from the online store. Its frustrating to buy four of one plant and not a single plant really thrives. You wouldn't believe how hardy our other passionflower vines on the front fence grow, they are massive. Hopefully these other two red passionflower vines take off quickly, if so we'll purchase another two next spring to join them in the trellis boxes.

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Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Tending to the Summer Garden

Time gets past you some weekends and our coastal garden has missed some of its usual trimming due to life's interruptions. This past weekend we had a cooler summer day (in the mid fifties instead of the mid sixties on the coast) so we decided it was time to do some serious hedge trimming and mowing.

My husband worked on the overgrown front yard hedges, he used the hedge-trimmer and cut back one of the two hedges. There was so much garden waste that he could only cut back one hedge this week, the other will need to wait until next weekend. Usually we have cut back the hedges in March instead of July, then trim them up one more time before the fall rains hit in October. So there is plenty of extra growth happening which means the hedges are going gang-busters when it comes to putting out stems. The hedges had so much extra growth there was quite a bit of white blooms happening on the stems, which no doubt was a bonus for the local hummingbirds.

Mowing happened in the front yard with my husband manning the mower while I used the weed-whacker to trim back the front yard edges and hit a few taller weed along the way. I am still sore today from swinging the electric weed-whacker but the front yard looks oh so much better now. Next after trimming was planting up two new plants I bought at our local garden center.

While I was in the front yard I also dug holes and planted my new plants near the pink climbing roses. The Goodwin Creek lavender has already put on a few inches growth and was flowering madly waiting to be planted. The ground cover is a thick growing plant, I am hoping between the wide growth of the lavender (if it grows the same as the back yard lavenders) and the heavy-duty ground cover it will fill in bare spot next to the passionflower vine and pink rose. I also dug up a plant that has seeded a number of places in the front yard, it is similar in growth to the cotoneaster ground cover under the pink roses but this plant gets even bigger with thicker stems, as well as flowers and berries like the cotoneaster. I haven't had time to identify this plant but it looks great where it has seeded itself in the front yard.

I am tending to my four passionflower vines I bought from an online garden store. I'm really unhappy with the results so far. The vines have not grown at all since being planted two months ago and the two smaller ones are dying off. I'm going to contact the garden store and see if I can get a refund. The trellis boxes were filled with new dirt, watered plenty and give time-released fertilizer but the vines have been doing poorly to say the least. It is very disappointing after all the work we did to clean out the trellis boxes so we could have new blooms on the trellis this summer.

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Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Gardening Article: Style and Function: The How-to of Raised Garden Beds

Raised garden beds can add visual interest to an otherwise ordinary landscape. They can also take the strain out of gardening by bringing the garden closer to your level, eliminating the time you spend stooping and bending to tend to your plants. With a few tools, you can create raised beds yourself.

A Better Way to Grow

Raising garden beds will improve drainage and curb weed growth. Some additional perks include:

  • Isolation of plants that spread, or are invasive
  • Prevention of soil compaction
  • Protection against slugs and snails

Building the beds puts you in charge of the design. You can create multiple levels and mix different types of wood to make a pattern. For example, alternate cedar and maple to create a checkerboard look with a sweet cedar smell. It may take a little time to develop each section, but the results will be impressive.

Make a Plan

Narrow beds such as 3 feet by 6 feet allow you to work from both sides while maintaining the garden. You can make the walls as tall as you want, but keep in mind deep beds will require more soil to fill.

Once you map-out your design on paper, use string or chalk to block-off each section of the yard where the beds will go. Remove a couple inches of earth and fill the space with crushed stone to improve drainage. Smooth the gravel until it is level. For an alternative to gravel or stone, cover the ground in each bed with landscaping fabric. This will reduce weed growth.

Get Busy: The Step-by-Step

Cut the lumber to the proper size using a table saw. For example, to build a bed that measures 8 feet by 4 feet, buy three 8-foot planks and cut one in half to create the end pieces.

Attach the ends to the side planks with screws or, to make the process easier, purchase ready-made, rot-resistant garden bed posts. The posts stick into the earth and have grooves that hold each plank in place. Set up a post at each corner of the bed and slide the wood pieces into the holders.

Fill the frame with soil and add compost and peat moss to create a nutrient-rich environment for the plants going into that area.

Set up an irrigation system. You can put soaker hoses between each bed or use perforated sprinklers. Installing a drip-irrigation system automates the watering process. If you don't have the time or budget to install an irrigation system, you can always water the plants yourself.

Raised beds can give your yard a manicured, high-end look without breaking the bank. You can design and build your own raised beds in a weekend, and enjoy the results for years to come.

Kristine, a music enthusiast, originally hails from Chicago. She has a cat, her best friend, named Walter. She enjoys crafting from music memorabilia and baking organic treats for Walter. In her free time she writes on behalf of Sears and other brands she trusts.

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Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Gardening Article: Be Your Garden’s Best Friend: Tips To Bringing Life Into Your Garden

There’s nothing like having a fabulous garden of your own to stand back and admire after all that hard work. Creating a beautiful space outdoors is the perfect way to escape life, work and its stresses, and is always, always worth it. Gardening allows you to feel at one with nature, and feel as though you’re conserving and protecting the environment. You become the provider for every tree, plant, flower and fruit or vegetable in your garden. The best bit? Once your garden has sprung into life, you can sit back, relax and say….”I grew that!”

So here’s how!

So what’s the first step?

Well, any good workman knows he can’t blame his tools….except if you want a decent garden, you will need a decent set of tools! Investing in a really good pair of gloves, a shovel, rake, spade, hoe, wheelbarrow, shears, kneeler and hose will make life so much easier!

Once you’re fully stocked up, it’s time to think about the time plan. You need to make sure you’re doing the right things at the right time of year to make sure you get the best results. It’s pointless digging the soil during the winter, its way too late by then!

Autumn should usually be spent digging your soil over, and adding fertilizers to get it ready for winter, when the worms wriggle their way in to the healthy ground. Winter can usually be spent making sure things are ready for the cold weather ahead, and keeping an eye on things happening around the garden. Take this time to relax ready for the busiest period in the garden ahead: Spring! Start by digging the ground again, using a rake or something similar. Check your soil temperature using a thermometer before planting any bulbs, seeds or bedding plants. Spend the spring sprucing your garden to a stunning sanctuary, and then kick back and relax throughout the summer!

Well, actually, that’s not strictly true! Summertime is great for keeping an eye on your plants as they start to grow and bloom into beautiful displays. It’s important to remember that plants need room to grow. If they’ve been planted in an overcrowded bed, or planted too closely together, you’re not going to get the best results! They’ll need enough water every day, with the amount decreasing as the plants grow. If you’ve planted them in hot sunny areas, it’s even more important to check on watering.

Keep an eye on plants with disease or those which are pest infected and burn them away immediately to prevent contaminating all your other beauties. Expect several creepy crawlies to roam in your garden, such as blackflies, slugs, snails and the like. These can be easily controlled with the relevant pest control. Some insects, however, like ladybugs; butterflies and hedgehogs are your garden’s best buds (after yourself!) because they help in pollination and even eat some creatures that may try to destroy your plants.

Top Tip: Pick an area in your garden which receives enough heat and moisture- you’ll already be off to a good start.

Planting flowering plants in your garden with beautiful scents will definitely help attract bees and butterflies, increasing pollination and therefore a better chance of a blooming outdoor space to enjoy. Mixing these flowering plants with vegetable and fruit bearing plants will ensure you can harvest healthy crops on time.

Top Tip: Invest in a water butt to make sure you’ve always got a plentiful supply after the rainy season. You can’t always rely on Mother Nature!

There’s loads of ways to create a beautiful garden, this is just a small snippet of tips and handy advice. Some say that your garden is a reflection of yourself, so it’s important to look after it, just as you look after yourself!

Mike is a gardening writer who enjoys writing about everything there is to know about gardening.

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Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Hanging Basket Fuchsias and Ground Fuchsias

One of my favorite all-time plants is fuchsias. I've grown a number of fuchsias but have had my best luck with thymifolia and the two-tone pink fuchsia I inherited from the previous homeowner. I've managed to root a few thymifolia plants to spread around my yard.

In Petaluma I had a large thymifolia fuchsia under my arbor in partial shade. I found this plant to bloom non-stop all year long in warm and cold weather in Sonoma County. The hummingbirds really appreciated those tiny dark pink tubular flowers in fall and winter, and spent many hours drinking from the miniscule flowers then flying a few feet over and sitting on the thin branches of the Rose of Sharon tree planted at the far end of the arbor. Here on the north coast the two main thymifolia plants I planted are thriving and always covered in flowers, the older plant living happily under the shade of the holly trees while the other sits in the middle of the grosso lavender in our sunny front yard. Besides the hardiness and abundant flowers the thymifolia blooms are tiny but gorgeous! If you want a delicate looking fuchsia that never stops blooming then I can't recommend thymifolia enough for your garden.

The two-toned pink fuchsia plants are growing madly at either end of my back yard flower bed. One of the plants was rooted easily in water from the main plant and planted a few seasons ago and is now getting quite large. I wish I knew the name of this particular fuchsia. I'll have to go looking online to see if I can identify it. The extra plants I've grown from the original two-toned fuchsia are also living in the front yard and back yard, and a number of them are in my recently replanted hanging fuchsia baskets along with a few small fuchsias I bought last season for the baskets. So far the two-toned pink fuchsias are growing best in the hanging baskets (no surprise there), and the smaller mix of fuchsias are starting to leaf out after their replanting and pruning a number of weeks ago. Summer starts late here on the coast so I expect the baskets will be looking fuller by August or September. Even the blue lobelia is growing well and looking good in the hanging baskets.

I have a few pieces each of thymifolia and the two-toned pink fuchsia in water, hoping for easy rooting in the coming weeks. I have plenty of places to add these new plants once they are ready to be potted up. I think I will add more of the two-toned pink fuchsias to at least one of the hanging baskets to get a really full fuchsia basket, the plant tends to grow big and I'd love a basket covered in those dazzling pink fuchsias.

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Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Lavender, Ground Cover and Rooting Plants

I had the chance a few weeks ago to visit our local nursery and buy another Goodwin Creek lavender and a sturdy ground cover plant. I had tried to root some from my two big main lavender plants and did not succeed. The ground cover is a medium green leafed plant that is very hardy with textured leaves and blooms with white bell-shaped flowers. The nursery has had a huge plant of this same ground cover planted in part of the nursery covering a wide area there. I'm excited to get this ground cover in place since there is one area of our front yard that keeps getting overrun by a particular weed. This ground cover is so thick I think it will help keep the weed from surviving in that area. The new Goodwin Creek lavender will be planted behind the ground cover next to the passionflower vine on the fence and the climbing roses. I think the lavender will do well since it has already grown a few inches in the few weeks since we bought it. Between company and a lot of June rain which is unusual here on the coast we haven't had the chance to clear the area in the front yard and plant these new plants. We are hoping this next weekend or the weekend after will be the time for these new plants to get planted.

I took some cutting from my thymifolia fuchsia in the backyard and put them in a glass of water on my patio table, I also took some cuttings from my two-toned pink fuchsia to create more plants. I have some of the two-toned pink fuchsias planted in in hanging baskets and out in the front and back yard, it is really a gorgeous plant. Generally fuchsias root fairly easily in water. I have a purple hebe that I took a cutting from and rooted it, creating another plant. I have to plant this new hebe out in the front yard also, it may end up with the lavender and ground cover, or it may end up across from the main purple hebe under the climbing roses as well. I have a rooted heather, one of the few I was able to root well enough to pot up, its ready to plant out anytime. I don't have the hang of rooting up heathers, I'll have to work on that some more in the future, there are plenty of heathers I'd love to take cuttings from so I can grow new heather plants.

The summer miniature pink dahlias are coming up in the pots on the patio table although the snails are munching on the young plant's leaves. A few sweet peas from last year have decided to sprout under the obelisk and are sending up two vines. I have a pot of sweet peas growing on the patio table, I plan to split half of the them and plant them under the obelisk and the other half are going to be planted with the metal trellis that holds the clematis near the front porch. The clematis has been doing really poorly after planting it in the ground and didn't bloom this spring. Its no problem for the sweet peas to be planted with the clematis and grow up the metal trellis, since the clematis isn't blooming it would be great to have some sweet peas blooming next to the porch for summer.

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Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Gardening Article: Get Your Daily Fiber Naturally by Growing Organic Broccoli

Growing vegetables may seem like an impossible task, but many people who make the effort to grow their own produce find that the process demands management not garden magic.

Broccoli provides key nutrients to the body and even has anti-cancer properties, but its most tangible health benefit is its high-fiber content.

Fiber is valuable in helping improve your digestive system and making you feel fuller faster. Fiber can even be useful in lowering cholesterol. While any vegetable is better than no vegetable at all, organic broccoli is particularly important as a staple in your diet because it lacks the dangerous chemicals and compounds that can get into your body through non-organic produce.

Those chemicals are designed to improve vegetables as an overall product by preventing fungus, pests and other maladies that can ruin produce. Luckily, there are organic measures that can be taken to encourage high-quality broccoli heads without sacrificing the health and safety of this vegetable. You should also store your gardening tools in sheds or other safe places to keep them from getting damaged or contaminated in ways that could taint or otherwise hurt your broccoli crop.

Follow these quick steps to create your own organic broccoli patch:

Use Seed Trays

When broccoli seeds – which are very small and round – are planted directly in the soil, it is easy for gardeners to lose track of where they planted. Furthermore, seeds also become more susceptible to bugs. One solution to these problems is placing the seeds about one-inch deep in seed trays. In these trays, the seeds can begin to grow without being consumed and lost to insects and small animals. Space the seeds three inches apart and water daily. Continue to grow the seeds for four to six weeks, at which time the broccoli seedlings will have grown enough to be transplanted from the seed tray into the garden.

Providing Requisite Sun Exposure

When young broccoli plants are transplanted into your garden, location matters. Broccoli needs at least four hours of sun exposure every day for the most beneficial growth. This four-hour requirement applies throughout the entire calendar year, so in most cases, it is wise to place broccoli in a wide-open area where there will be minimal interruptions of daily sunlight.

The plants should be set into the soil about 18 inches to two feet apart to prevent their roots from infringing upon one another's territory. In nutrient-rich soil – which is more likely the case if you frequently compost and keep chemicals out of your garden – you shouldn't have to worry about natural fertilizer to bolster the health and prospects of your broccoli heads.

Keeping Out Pests

Rabbits and other small animals are the biggest threats to a healthy broccoli crop. Mesh garden fencing should be placed around the garden to keep furry critters out of your fresh vegetables. If deer are a concern in your area, you may need to put up three-foot tall fencing. Always make sure there are no spaces at the base of the fencing for animals to squeeze underneath. You might also consider installing certain plants known to repel certain kinds of animals – this is most effective when you know you are dealing with one or two types of intruders.

By taking a few simple preventative measures, you can drastically reduce the risk of your broccoli becoming afflicted with fungus, disease or pest plagues that ruin plants. Over time, you will hopefully come to realize that raising healthy produce organically is easy and effective. Not only does this lead to a more satisfying gardening experience, but it also improves your health and your family’s.

Image courtesy of

Author bio: Kristine digs all things organic. When she isn’t trying to figure out how to make her whole life organic, she is blogging on the behalf of Sears and their other quality products.

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Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Seeds and Vines: Bird of Paradise, Blue Poppies, and Passionflower

I was thinking of gardening goodies when I won a $200 gift card for adding content to one of my blogs. Some of the items I ordered were 4 passionflower vines (two blue and white flowered and two pink flowered vines) and two packs of seeds: blue Himalayan poppies and Bird of Paradise. I read up on the instructions they gave and both sets of seeds like to stay in the fridge for 2 to 4 weeks before planting. The Bird of Paradise seeds can also be soaked and filed (like sweet peas) to help them grow. I took half of the Bird of Paradise seeds and the pack of blue poppies and put them in the fridge, then soaked the other half of the Bird of Paradise seeds to see which set of seeds will do better. My father had a Bird of Paradise plant growing in the front yard along with his bed of bearded purple Iris. I remember the Bird of Paradise plant blooming, it was really beautiful. From what I've read growing Bird of Paradise from seed can take 3 to 5 years before they bloom. I planted the first set of seeds a few weeks ago, along with some sweet peas for my back yard obelisk. The filing on the sweet peas worked perfectly and the seeds starting sprouting within a week or two with strong little sweet pea stems. So far no sign of my Bird of Paradise seeds coming up, I have to be patient. I will be planting up the blue poppies sometime in June, probably planting some poppy seeds directly in the ground and a few in a pot to see which works best. The blue poppies are supposed to be fussy about warm temps but that won't be a problem here since we rarely get up to 70 degrees here even in summer. I have a feeling the Bird of Paradise won't be so easy to grow either.

We dug out the two front trellis boxes to make way for the new passionflower vines. It took two weekends, we knew it would either be easy or horrible to dig up what was in the boxes and, as we thought, it was horrible. The boxes had so many roots it was a mess, no doubt the trellis boxes had never been changed or cleaned out in at least ten years. We cleaned the trellis boxes out the best we could, filled up the bottom of the big boxes with some large rocks and then refilled the boxes with new dirt and planted two passionflower vines in each one. The pink flowered passionflower vine grows 8 feet tall, that one is placed out front of the boxes; the second vine is a blue and white (closer to purple color) flower and grows up to 25 feet, it is placed in the back, if nothing else this plant will fill out the trellis. Even though the vines are less than a foot tall one of the blue and white flowered vines already has a flower opened on it, very pretty. It has been a month and the vines so far are growing very slowly. Once the passionflower vines take hold I hope the vines grow rapidly, the same as the other passionflower vines in our yard. Bird of Paradise image courtesy of

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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Gardening Article: Appreciating Our Honeybees… and What to Do if You Need to Remove a Nest

I'm fascinated with bees. I've learned how important they are as pollinators, I fret over the colony collapse disorder that killed off nearly one-third of them in 2011 (the good news is that's less than prior years). But most importantly, I love to watch our local honeybees do their thing and encourage others to appreciate them.

I've written several articles on my website about them - see One is a six-month log of plants in our half-acre property in Southern California that provide year-round nectar - and assure pollination of our fruit trees and garden plants. Another goes into detail on live bee removal. We needed to remove a beehive in the eaves of our home in Southern California. But we didn't want to kill them and were happy to find a beekeeper who 'live removes' them. Ours got a plane ride up to a ranch in Central California where their offspring are living today. Below are some photos of the process.

For relocation in Humboldt County
The Humboldt Beekeepers Association keeps an annual list of beekeepers who will come and remove swarms or nests for free. Visit the website or please call Joy Thomas 707-444-1361 or Kathy Lee 707-822-6169. Visit Humboldt County beekeeping organization for more local information.

It was obvious we had a bee problem. 

The beekeeper who removed them was pleased with the quality of the numerous honeycombs.

What about Swarms?
About the same time as the bee removal, some bees built a hive in a date palm tree on our property, and I got to watch them swarm when they outgrew it. It's true what bee experts say  - that bees during swarms are docile as their goal is to protect the queen who is deep in the mass they form, while scouts locate a new home. If you can wait it out, they are usually gone within 24 hours. If you can't, call the phone numbers above.

The bees swarmed around a small tree about 5 feet from their original home and were gone the next morning. The queen is in the middle of the huddle.

In my observations and my reading, here are some  'aha' moments during my bee learnings:

Attract bees year-round by growing a large variety of flowering plants that bloom at different times. Although we tend to tout natives, non-native and fruit trees are all valuable - in fact, two non-natives, lavender and rosemary, have the longest duration of flowering and peak at different times of the year in our area. As Joy Thomas of the Humboldt Beekeepers Association says, if a tree is blooming, it's blooming because of bees nearby. She recommends blackberries and a variety of trees. 

For the garden, rosemary and lavender are great, plus the following. Without bees, our garden's flowers and the resulting fruit and vegetables are limited. 
  • Basil Ocimum
  • Cotoneaster Cotoneaster
  • Giant hyssop Agastache
  • Globe thistle Echinops
  • Hyssop Hyssopus
  • Marjoram Origanum
  • Wallflower Erysimum
  • Zinnia Zinnia
Pesticides kill!  Go Organic. Professional beekeepers have plenty of stories of losing hundreds of hives to pesticides and herbicides, A local beekeeper I know recently lost 350 hives due to the orchard owner of one of his beeyards spraying his fruit trees twice a year - at 20,000 bees minimum in an average hive, that totals up to 7 million bees. Research is showing that an insecticide neonicotinoid -the most widely used insecticide in the world (and in many commercial garden pest products) is a major contributor to colony collapse disorder. Also, the blossoms on GMO (genetically modified organism) crops are also killing bees. The best thing you can do is go as organic as possible.

Exhibit calm around them and teach your kids the same. I actually developed an allergy because I got stung several times within a couple years, and prior to that only got stung once as a child. But I haven't been stung for two years now though I have an epinephrine pen close by in case I get stung. I continue to observe them, fish them out of our pool when their attempt to drink goes amiss. Rarely, a bee colony can be taken over with killer or Africanized bees, which react more easily to noise.

For a good read, A Book of Bees is a classic by Sue Hubbell. It's obvious Hubbell loves her bees, which is evident in her success as a professional beekeeper in the Ozarks. She also wrote A Country Year.

Please support beekeepers. Joy Thomas said that backyard beekeeping in Eureka and Arcata is illegal according to the current laws. It's seldom enforced but please consider contacting city council members or the city manager to urge them to change the ordinance.

About the author: Linda Richards lives in Redlands CA. Her website/blog is dedicated to speaking for our natural world.

Flannel bush (fremontodendron) flower 

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Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Gardening Article: Organic Gardening is a Great Way to Better Health

You don't need to look far nowadays to see and hear people talking about organic gardening. From the clueless hipsters in the middle of the city to the soccer moms in the suburbs, this topic continues to become more and more popular. People are looking for natural alternatives as opposed to the fruits and vegetables that you can typically buy that are full of chemicals and pesticides. Ultimately, it is for the betterment of the family to have healthier food options when it's time for everyone to eat.

Organic gardening is great for the environment as you are nursing the soil as well as the plants that you grow in your backyard and gardens. The common misnomer is that you're feeding your plants when in actuality it is the soil that is providing nourishment to the plants. If the minerals in your soil are unbalanced, the plants will not have sufficient nutrients to survive. Getting your soil balanced is one of the first steps in producing a well-nourished and nutrient-rich garden, which will in turn produce a healthy, abundant yield of organic vegetables and fruits.

When you are first starting out with organic gardening, it can be overwhelming with all of the information that exists. If you're looking for organic gardening information, your local farmers market can actually be a good resource. They can give you excellent ideas about which fruits and vegetables take the least amount of maintenance. This can be quite helpful since you don't want to spend an enormous amount of time growing something only to have it spoil or get eaten by rodents or pests. They can also give you some great tips on which fruits and vegetables thrive in your current environment. There are some fruits and vegetables that grow better in cooler environments versus an environment that is very arid. This will also help you avoid wasting time trying to grow something that wouldn't have a positive outcome in your specific location.

The Internet is another place where you can get some great organic gardening tips. Doing a search in your favorite search engine will pull-up a ton of relevant information as it relates to growing your garden. Social networks like Facebook can also be a great place to bond with people that share the same interests. There are Groups that you can join where you can share tips, recipes and lessons learned. Another option online is to check for the forums related to your hobbies. This is also another great meeting point where great minds can share information about organic gardening.

Now that it is spring, groups also meet at public libraries and local bookstores to find out the latest tips and tricks for their organic gardens. There are certain sections devoted specifically for those that share this interest. These groups are also beneficial since you can visit each other's gardens locally to brag on your successes and also monitor each other's progress.

Organic gardening continues to be the natural alternative to the old-fashioned way which included using fertilizers and chemical sprays that actually harmed the fruits and vegetables that you put on your plate. There are plenty resources that exist both locally and online so you do not need to feel alone in trying to have a successful organic garden. The result is that you are not only taking care of the planet, and living a healthier lifestyle, but you are also teaching your children and those around you how easy it is to grow your own fruits and vegetables without using harmful chemicals.

Image courtesy of 

About the Author: Ruth Martin is the stay-at-home wife of an avid organic gardener who spends all his spare time out in his large garden when he's not working as a carpenter, or fishing. Ruth and her husband live in the heart of the Fingerlakes Region of Upstate NY with their 2 small children, who love helping their daddy in the garden. For more organic gardening information and tips, visit their blog at:

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Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Gardening Article: Balcony Gardening

Have you ever come across an idea and thought, "Where has this been all my life?" Having lived in various apartments for over ten years, my gardening has always been limited to a few sad rosemary and basil plants by the kitchen sink. When a friend mentioned vertical gardens, I was blown away. My tiny balcony suddenly can be more than bicycle storage. Below are the steps I followed to create my own vertical garden; however, there is a lot of room for creativity in this sort of project so you can use my instructions as guidelines.
Getting Started
First, I gathered the basic materials. Many tools were lying around the house: screws, screwdriver and a few extra shelves. Then I had to hit the hardware store for a screen, two-by-fours, a large piece of plywood for backing, and a big bag of soil. Finally, I chose some flower buds, though many people use climbing plants like ivy for fuller coverage, I prefer flowers. Fortunately, previous tenants had mounted storage racks to the brick balcony wall, so all I needed were some new brackets to hang my garden.
Building the Garden
I decided to start with a relatively small frame -- about two feet by three feet. Even having seen pictures of a vertical garden in action, I found it hard to believe that all that dirt would stay put! I used long screws to build the frame, and then cut out the screen to the size of the frame, adding an inch around the edges. I attached the screen with intermittent screws, though a stapler would probably have worked just as well, and poured in most of the soil. The trick is to pack it as tightly as possible before flipping the frame to tack on the back, which I learned through a messy trial and error.
​Plant away
Finally, all that remained was to press the buds into the garden. I widened a few of the squares and dug small holes with the end of a pencil, then pushed my buds through. I watered it, just a little, and mounted the whole frame to the wall. A few extra shelves are holding gardening supplies for now, and maybe eventually potted plants. Within a few weeks, the flowers really started to bloom. I showed anyone who came over, even the person who delivered my bag of broken tile pieces for a little mosaic pattern around the frame.
I would definitely suggest that anyone considering this project approach it with a lot of patience. It took some guessing and checking to figure out the hardiest plants and the amount of watering needed to have my vertical garden really thrive. However, in combination with one of those hanging tomato plants, my balcony is now a source of beauty and lunch, instead of an eyesore. With my relocated basil and tomatoes I can make a pretty mean caprese salad, and enjoy it by a flowering garden. Not a bad way to spend the afternoon.

Image courtesy of
About the author: Along with writing and gardening, Kristine likes to jog, watch bad TV and paint.

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Wednesday, May 9, 2012

More Spring Trimming in the Garden

Spring trimming gets started as soon as the rains will allow here in my north coast garden. Not surprisingly, between the window blowing out during a storm, good old tiredness, and the usual winter rain deciding to descend on us in spring, there has been less going on in terms of trimming and the usual garden care this spring. When we finally did get out in the yard more in April we started trimming and cleaning up as much as possible.

First I began with more heather trimming. There is another flowerbed that needs some heather trimming but I got the main flowerbed trimmed up of old heather flowers. I also spent some time trimming up the large pink fuchsias in the back yard, cutting back the branches so they would fill out with new growth, leaves, and blooms by mid to late summer. Everything here blooms about a month later here than in warmer Sonoma County, so my fuchsia blooms come later in the season. Which reminds me ... we need to replant the hanging fuchsias on the back deck. The dirt and liners have finally pooped out and the fuchsias are growing much less since last summer. We decided to try out some burlap for the hanging basket liner instead of cocoa lining (which falls apart easily), and the concept worked. We will buy many yards of burlap to create round liners then fill the baskets with dirt and replant the fuchsias. I need more plants in the basket and its probably time to add some other flowering plants with the fuchsias other than lobelia.

With a little time left in the garden I decided to plant a few boxes of bulbs that hadn't made it into pots prior to spring. I prefer planting spring bulbs earlier than this but its just how things played out with weather and all, and late planting is better than no planting at all. At least if bulbs don't flower this year they will flower next season. The boxes of bulbs from the store tend to have small bulbs in them which is why they only run $2.00 a box. I'm patient and at that price willing to take a chance on small bulbs that pay off down the road, so to planting I went. I planted some tall purple star shaped brodiaea flowers in with the yellow and purple tulips and new rannuculus bulbs. The tulips are much smaller this season, which probably means they have run their course for blooming. There are some tulips that bloom for a few years but many, like these, bloom well the first season and are much smaller or don't bloom the second season. The rannuculus blooms are tiny this year so I'm not sure if they will do much next season. I also planted some giant columbine in the tulip pots on the patio table. I've never had luck with columbine so I'm hoping planting them in a pot here will do the trick. Lastly I planted the little purple windflowers in my heather barrel. The small windflowers are the perfect height to accent the smaller heathers that are growing in the back yard barrel.

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Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Let the Spring Garden Trimming Begin

This last weekend was spent with trimming back the garden in mind. I am late trimming back the heathers that already bloomed this winter, usually I get to them a little sooner than this. What with too many hours at work, the recent storm that helped push our already weakened front window out of its frame onto the lawn and part of the back gate falling down during the same storm, we've had our hands full. There is more than enough to do on a regular basis in our garden and so I've put on my patience hat and decided I'll get done what I get done. The good thing about gardens is they generally take care of themselves for the most part, it's the cleaning up around the edges that is needed from our end.

I started with trimming up the heaths and heathers. It's going to be a fairly long job, my handy little curved hand trimmers I got from my husband are the perfect tool for this job. The curved edge of the trimmers is small and fits in easily between the delicate branches of the heaths and heathers. The heathers closest to the porch were first, the orange/bronze winter heathers really had very few old flowers on them so that sped things up. I have an old heather I brought up from Petaluma that adjusted very well once planted here. The shrub has got to be eight to ten years old now since we hit the five year mark of living on the north coast recently. This particular heather flowers quite a bit but it is getting a little woody in the center of the plant and not standing up as well. I did a fairly hard trim back a few years ago of this plant to help re-generate it and it seemed to work, but there is still some sparse area in the center of the shrub. I don't mind so much because it still looks good all year long in its evergreen leaves and has pretty pink flowers. I trimmed up a newer heather that was nearby the older plant, it had a small amount of old flowers on it and has been in the ground probably two years now. I also trimmed a little bit of the burgundy flowering heather but there is still more to do on this one because the stems are long and floppy. As I was part-through with the burgundy flowering heather it started to rain a bit which made me shift gears quickly.

The final item of the day for a trim was my large garnet pestemon. It is really gorgeous in the summer months and is covered with long garnet red tubular flowers. Since it started to rain I knew I wanted to cut this shrub back quickly before I had to fold up and head inside. I managed to trim up the garnet pestemon well so it can bloom better this coming summer. A few days later I can see some new growth starting up on the pestemon already. I have another garnet pestemon growing under the pink roses, it is a piece of the original pestemon I grew in water to establish some roots then potted it up for a year so it would get bigger. It was planted last year and is already getting tall and full. I'm hoping it fills out quickly once the weather starts warming up in spring and flowers this summer.

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Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Gardening Article: Spruce Up Your Garden with a Decorative Penny Ball

Unique decor pieces can make your garden picture perfect and welcoming to friends, so don’t settle for mundane when fixing up a garden. Decorate your outdoor room just as you would a room in your home – with personality and flare! Choose colors and fixtures that will compliment your outdoor furniture. Items to consider for your garden are candles, potted plants and even vintage fountains. If you are more of a do-it-yourself gardener, considering making your own decorative penny ball!

A Garden Penny Ball

A penny ball will add the perfect touch of shine to your garden without overwhelming your flowers or other décor. It’s also the perfect project for any do-it-yourselfer – from expert florist to first-time crafter, this project offers a sense of homemade satisfaction in a unique decorative package. Requiring only a secondhand bowling ball, two to three hundred pennies and multi-surface glue, this project can be completed in as little as an hour. Once you’ve gathered the supplies, you need only glue the pennies in a design of your choosing to the surface of the bowling ball. For new crafters, I suggest a simple line pattern. If you’ve got more experience, consider a swirl pattern – wrapping a twisting line of pennies around the ball and then filling in the rest. Remember, pennies come in any number of copper tones, so consider separating them by shade before creating your pattern! The resulting copper-coated ball naturally draws the eyes’ attention while complementing the color of any blossom – white, red, blue or purple. Finally, the finished product requires no special pedestal or holder for display. It can be placed directly on a mulched area, balanced on a garden rock or tucked into a small bed of ivy. If you wish to make your penny ball more of a focal point, consider buying a cast iron stand to display it in a flowerbed or on your patio.

Similar Accent Balls

If copper doesn’t appeal to you, consider making a nickel or dime ball. If you have shades of red and pink in your garden, a silver accent ball may complement your garden better than a penny adorned decoration. And if metal just isn’t to your liking at all, buttons are a great way to add a pop of color to an accent ball. Choosing to apply buttons to your accent ball increases your color and pattern options considerably. If you have paisley or plaid patio cushions, consider picking out buttons that complement the various colors of the fabric to make a vibrant accent piece for your garden!

Finishing Touches

Once you’ve completed your accent ball and chosen how to display it, pick out smaller pieces to finish of the overall look of the garden. Citronella candles are a great way to keep bugs away from you and your guests when you enjoy your outdoor space, but they also tend to only come in yellow. If yellow doesn’t match your color scheme, pick out a candleholder to match your ball – red clay or copper holders look great with the traditional penny ball. Update your patio cushions if they are looking a little tattered, and add one or two more accent pieces like a colorful doormat or colored stones in your rock garden.

No matter which accent ball you choose, your garden will be sure to get the facelift you are looking for. Just remember, keep you color scheme in mind to create a cohesive look throughout the outdoor space. In no time, you and your family and friends will be enjoying your garden oasis.

About the author: Kristine is an avid blogger who loves walking her puppy when taking writing breaks. She has been gardening since her 10th birthday when her parents bought her a butterfly garden!

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Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Clematis Vines or Passionflowers Vines, Which to Choose?

My plan since last summer is to redo the two large trellis boxes out in the front yard. My husband thinks we can do this fairly easily, I'm not as convinced since there are two pink jasmine vines and two passionflower vines in the boxes. For whatever reason none of them are growing well so my plan consists of pulling out the current non-producing vines, hopefully saving them to plant elsewhere, and planting some new vines in their place. You'd think as crazy huge as the passionflower vines on the front fence and the pink jasmine grow in our yards they would do well in the trellis boxes. My guess is the roots are filling the box or the dirt is just too old. Either way it will be interesting to try to pull the vines out intact. I sure hope we can do that but if not the vines are growing so poorly they might not make it elsewhere instead. The passionflower vines on the fence is a different color (dark purple and lime green flowers) than the passionflower vines in the trellis boxes (more of a magenta or lighter reddish-purple color). The trellis box passionflower flowers show up much better than the fence passionflower flowers...of course, because the trellis box flowers are barely blooming. So...its definite...time to start over and replant.

My next decision is whether to put passionflower vines back in the trellis boxes or to plant clematis vines instead. The one clematis vine I have grown has never done too well once we moved up to the coast, it was in a pot then planted in the ground and still is not doing well. Back in Petaluma the fine produced beautiful large blue flowers, but it was never very tall or full of flowers so the fact its doing worse here isn't too surprising.

I received a gift card as a prize for my work on one of my blogs so I have some extra money to spend online and I think the prices I found for both passionflower and clematis vines are worth taking a chance on two vines to see how things go. I'd want to vary the planting schedule by a number of months if these vines do take hold so the vines do not eventually die out at the same time. I'm leaning towards the passionflower vines since they seem to be hardier than the clematis I grew which really has been iffy all along in terms of growth. I've also decided to buy some blue poppy seeds with this order, it's cheap enough and apparently blue poppies like cooler summers (under 80 degrees or less) and we've got plenty of cool summer days here on the coast, rarely if ever getting to 70 degrees. I'm looking forward to placing the order for my new vines and poppy seeds this weekend and the upcoming challenge of digging out the old vines and putting in the new vines. It's time to see the tall trellis filled once again with green leaves and colorful flowers.

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