“Trucking Buddies” Enjoy Garden Features on a Trip up the Rivers

A Georgia boy needs a good “trucking buddy” and I happen to be married to mine which makes things even better. Dekie and I decided to take a road trip to see Cousin Jane in Des Moines, Iowa. The Midwest is beautiful and our gardening interests helped us to appreciate sights that varied from the smallest flower to the immense corn fields.

Iowa corn fields with day lilies

Iowa corn fields with day lilies

Even though visiting Cousin Jane and her husband Terry in their new dome house was the overall immutable objective of the trip, we viewed our trip as an entity in and of itself. Good trucking buddies don’t hold interstate highways in a very high regard and prefer instead to get on the back roads and see what happens. That’s how you see the good stuff.

Town green, Le Roy, Illinois.

Town green, Le Roy, Illinois.

Before we left I didn’t really think of it as a “river trip” but we departed from Rome, Georgia, where the Oostanaula and the Etowah rivers join to form the Coosa river and we visited the Cumberland, the Missouri, the Ohio, the Mississippi, and the Des Moines rivers among others. The trip was both complicated and enhanced by the fact that the northern parts of the rivers were flooded.

Flooded Mississippi from Lover's Leap near Hannibal, Missouri--childhood home of Mark Twain

Flooded Mississippi from Lover’s Leap near Hannibal, Missouri–childhood home of Mark Twain

The flooding had been moving south. On the way north we enjoyed the riverside gardens in Peoria, Illinois. We watched immense barges full of granite gravel moving down the river. Later that week, on the way home, we saw that the barges had been tied up down around Hannibal because the river was so high they couldn’t go under some of the bridges. We had to turn around at one point because the scenic highway was impassable.

River front park and gardens, Peoria, Illinois

River front park and gardens, Peoria, Illinois

We spent a lovely evening in Davenport, Iowa where my wife enjoyed trying to find out just how far my old legs could walk. I kept up, though. Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. My legs ought to be a lot stronger. I sure did sleep well that night. Here’s a view of the flooded Mississippi from the bluff. I loved the daylilies.

Stairs, lined with yellow daylilies, leading down to the river in Davenport, Iowa

Stairs, lined with yellow daylilies, leading down to the river in Davenport, Iowa

We thought Des Moines was beautiful. I was amazed at the lack of traffic problems—knowing that it was the state capitol. We had a very nice tour of the city including their museum, the World Food Prize center (which I’ll write about next week), and the botanical garden that is currently being re-vamped. I was interested in the rather large water feature with islands that was in a middle stage of construction. I was impressed with the islands being built with pallets of stacked rock. I never would have thought of that one. It’s amazing what can be accomplished with a large enough budget.

Large water feature under construction at the Des Moines Botanical Gardens

Large water feature under construction at the Des Moines Botanical Gardens

The botanical garden must have a greenhouse or conservatory—especially way up north where tender plants and Georgia boys just don’t belong in the winter. Des Moines has a beautiful geodesic dome greenhouse. I was disappointed to find that I had failed to get a picture from the outside but the following picture will give you an idea of what’s going on.

From inside the greenhouse, Des Moines Botanical Garden

From inside the greenhouse, Des Moines Botanical Garden

And speaking of domes, Jane and Terry Swanson have been working on this dome home for a number of years. It is most impressive—tornado, hail, and fire proof—and I think it could be heated with a Bic lighter. Actually, the heating is accomplished by warm water being circulated through pipes in the floor. I love the thought of a nice, warm floor to walk around barefoot on. The dome will receive a stucco-like coating this summer to cover up the skin which was used to form the concrete and steel structure. It’s quite a building. Jane is working with an entire yard full of native wildflowers and she knows the names of almost all of them.

The Swanson's new Dome House near Des Moines, Iowa

The Swanson’s new Dome House near Des Moines, Iowa

Not driving on the interstate took us to a surprise—the home of Superman—Metropolis, Illinois.

Entering Metropolis, the home of Superman

Entering Metropolis, the home of Superman

I took a wrong turn and we saw these beautiful ceramic lions guarding a door.

Ceramic lions guarding a door

Ceramic lions guarding a door

I will leave you with a quote from Mark Twain. I saw this in Hannibal and thought about how true the statement was

From Mark Twain's birth place, Hannibal Missouri

From Mark Twain’s birth place, Hannibal Missouri

Thank you for visiting Johntheplantman

 

 

 

 

 

These Garden Weeds Should be Sprayed–Not Pulled—Here’s Why…

Frances walked through her landscape garden with me, pointing out some of her maintenance concerns. She said, “I would like for you to hand-weed this area.”

“I don’t think that’s a good idea,” I replied.—Here’s why I said that:

There are a number of weeds that are most pervasive and undesirable in the landscape garden. These plants are so survival oriented that they spread their roots out for quite a distance. When you pull one of them as a weed it will break off from these adventitious roots which will then sprout on their own, coming up all over the place (the more you pull the more you get). If you spray these weeds with a good weed killer they will die, roots and all.

I wrote an earlier article on weed spraying techniques, Click Here: Killing Weeds in the Landscape Garden I am sure that you will find that information helpful.

If left to grow, these vines have the ability to infest and totally destroy your special shrubbery. Here are some of them:

1. Cow itch, (trumpet vine, hummingbird vine)

In the south it's called "cow itch" also trumpet vine or hummingbird vine

In the south it’s called “cow itch” also trumpet vine or hummingbird vine

I loved what Wikipedia said about cow itch:

The vigor of the trumpet vine should not be underestimated. In warm weather, it puts out huge numbers of tendrils that grab onto every available surface, and eventually expand into heavy woody stems several centimeters in diameter. It grows well on arbors, fences, telephone poles, and trees, although it may dismember them in the process. Ruthless pruning is recommended. Outside of its native range this species has the potential to be highly invasive, even as far north as New England. The trumpet vine thrives in many places in southern Canada as well.”

2. Saw briar (smilax)

One of the most difficult weeds to eradicate is the saw briar. The southern Indians used to dig the roots of this plant and eat them like potatoes.

This weed is appropriately named saw brier. More technically, "Smilax"

This weed is appropriately named saw brier. More technically, “Smilax”

3. Poison ivy

I assume that we all know the consequences of pulling this weed. I found it interesting that my Dutch brother-in-law pulled weeds in Tennessee and then flew to Amsterdam. The next day in Holland he broke out in a terrible itchy rash and had to go to the hospital. The doctors in Holland didn’t know what was wrong or how to treat it so they had to call The U.S. You guessed it—poison ivy

The dreaded poison ivy. Here is what it looks like

The dreaded poison ivy. Here is what it looks like

4. Virginia creeper

Virginia creeper is a pretty plant. My Swiss mother-in-law loves the way it looks growing up a wall. Apparently people in the northern U.S. and in some parts of Europe actually cultivate this noxious weed. Grown up the side of a house, this plant will eat out mortar joints and cause wood to rot and fall apart. In the garden it will cover and choke your desirable plants.

Virginia creeper

Virginia creeper

5 Muscadine

In the right place this grape vine is desirable. The fruits make wonderful jellies and wines. However, in the garden it will take over trees and shrubs in a rampant manner while searching for light. Remember, “a weed is a plant that is in the wrong place.”

Muscadine--a wild grape vine that may become a difficult weed

Muscadine–a wild grape vine that may become a difficult weed

6. Honeysuckle

There are some desirable cultivars of this plant but the wild variety can be a nuisance. The blooms do smell good and I have fond memories from my childhood that deal with pulling the bloom apart and sucking on the sweet nectar therein. Now, though, I routinely remove it from azaleas and hollies in people’s yards.

wild honeysuckle

wild honeysuckle

And to finish off this article I am including a picture of the beautiful trumpet flower of the cow itch plant. You can see why it is also called “hummingbird vine.”

"honeysuckle vine" flower. Also called trumpet vine or cow itch

“honeysuckle vine” flower. Also called trumpet vine or cow itch

As usual, I would just love for you click here to go to Amazon and purchase the ebook edition of my wonderful book, Requiem for a Redneck to go on your Kindle. I have also noticed that Amazon now has a free Kindle app for iphones and tablets. Is that cool or what?

How do I trim mixed flower plantings to keep them from getting leggy and spindly?

Pruning is an art form. One of the best ways to practice your pruning techniques is by taking care of your mixed flower plantings as the summer progresses. (You may wish to look at my most popular article of all time, “Pruning as an Art Form” Click here).

One of my clients loves her window boxes which we plant in coco fiber lined wire containers. Last year about the end of May she told me how good the planters looked and I remarked that we needed to trim them up so that they wouldn’t get leggy and spindly. She wouldn’t let me touch them and, sure enough, they got all stretched out and leggy and falling over. This summer—the end of May—the window planters looked like this:

A beautiful window box but to stay beautiful it needs to be trimmed

A beautiful window box but to stay beautiful it needs to be trimmed

I remarked on how pretty the window planters were and she said, “We need to trim them up this week. I don’t want them to get all ugly like they did last year.” I was impressed. Someone was paying attention! I find that the tailgate of my truck makes a wonderful portable work table. Here’s one of the planters before cutting:

Window planter before trimmimg

Window planter before trimmimg

We were just in time to do the project. Some of the begonias were getting all stretched out and falling over.

stringy begonia needs pruning

stringy begonia needs pruning

If we cut the tops out of these plants, the remaining stalks will get much stronger and the plant itself will branch out and produce many more flowers. Even though it pains you to cut off some of the flowers, you may rest assured that you will get many more in return.

Pruning the begonia properly causes it to branch out and become stronger

Pruning the begonia properly causes it to branch out and become stronger

Plants that trail and vine tend to bloom only on the ends of their stems. If we cut them back a bit they will branch out and therefore will have many more stem ends to bloom from. On this bacopa below, I’m just going to grab a handful and whack it off,

I just cut the trailing plants off by the handfull

I just cut the trailing plants off by the handfull

I love petunias but if they aren’t pruned back several times during a season they will just not perform satisfactorily. They become leggy, stretched out and funky looking. (“funky looking” is a technical term).

petunias need periodic  pruning throughout the growing season

petunias need periodic pruning throughout the growing season

Sometimes with petunias I just grab a handful and cut it off. These plants will branch out and start blooming again in two weeks.

trimming petunias helps them to branch out and stay pretty

trimming petunias helps them to branch out and stay pretty

I cut the dragon wing begonias way back, being careful to make the cut right above a leaf axil. This is where the new growth will come from

prune dragon wing begonias just above the new growth

prune dragon wing begonias just above the new growth

I was being careful to cut enough to do the job but not so much that I would freak the lady out, but she surprised me by saying, “I don’t think you’re cutting enough off.” Then she asked me to show her how to do it. The pile of cuttings on the ground at her feet attests to her aggressiveness. I was impressed.

pruning them to perfection

pruning them to perfection

Below is a picture of a planter that has been properly pruned. It will grow back stronger, healthier, and more floriferous.

A well-pruned window planter

A well-pruned window planter

An article you may find interesting “Mixed flowers in a wire basket with coco fiber” Click Here

And another one on “Plants in containers for summer color” Click Here

As usual, I would just love for you click here to go to Amazon and purchase the ebook edition of my wonderful book, Requiem for a Redneck to go on your Kindle. I have also noticed that Amazon now has a free Kindle app for iphones and tablets. Is that cool or what?

Hanging Baskets, Window Boxes, Raised Flower Beds, Progress Report

Yesterday—Saturday, May 31– was a good day to go check on a few of my regular clients. It was a good day in that, other than a couple of frost-damaged sprinkler heads, all was well and as it should be. I started the day checking out Dot Fletcher’s window boxes that we had planted in April. They were amazing:

Window box with begonias and petunias planted in coconut fiber basket and grown in for one month

Window box with begonias and petunias planted in coconut fiber basket and grown in for one month

I plan to prune them this week so they won’t get all straggly. Here’s another one.

begonias and bacopa in a window box

begonias and bacopa in a window box

I really like the way the window box on the corner looks with its base of manicured loropetalum. These planters are made with coconut fiber. I wrote an article about the planting process a couple of years ago,

How to plant a mixed color window box for summer color

Window box with begonias and petunias. Loropetalum at base

Window box with begonias and petunias. Loropetalum at base

The next thing I got to do was check out the coconut fiber hanging baskets at Betty’s house. They are doing well.

Mixed flower hanging basket in coconut fiber container--grown in one month

Mixed flower hanging basket in coconut fiber container–grown in one month

The plants really like the fiber containers. They take a lot of water but are well worth the effort. We used lots of time-release fertilizer when we planted. I wrote an article about these baskets about a month ago:

Click here. Make a beautiful flower creation with a wire basket and coconut fiber.

Mixed flower hanging basket in coconut fiber container--grown in one month

Mixed flower hanging basket in coconut fiber container–grown in one month

In the afternoon I went downtown to check out the irrigation system for D’Ann. I love her name. There were some problems with the sprinklers, but not bad. I enjoyed seeing the progress she had made on planting her front yard perennial garden. I like it that she doesn’t get in a hurry.

front yard perennial with brick raised beds in May

front yard perennial with brick raised beds in May

I wrote an article last October about the installation of D’Ann’s garden. Click Here to see it

 There’s one other garden that I never wrote an article about. It’s on a hillside at the base of a retaining wall. Cathy Reese is a most accomplished gardener and I installed this for her

Raised perennial bed with landscape timbers at the base of a retaining wall

Raised perennial bed with landscape timbers at the base of a retaining wall

When I went back to check on it a few days ago she had put lots and lots of plants in it.

Cathy's raised perennial bed.

Cathy’s raised perennial bed.

Thanks for visiting Johntheplantman. Tell your friends about it. One other good thing to do in June is to build a really neat sprinkler. Click Here for Directions

As usual, I would just love for you click here to go to Amazon and purchase the ebook edition of my wonderful book, Requiem for a Redneck to go on your Kindle. I have also noticed that Amazon now has a free Kindle app for iphones and tablets. Is that cool or what?

Prune Azaleas in May-June. Fertilize Azaleas, Avoid and Kill Poison Ivy

There is a rather old planting of George Tabor azaleas on the side of our driveway and Sweetie has been reminding me relentlessly for months that they need to be pruned and shaped. The last week in May or the first week in June is just the right time for the job. Here’s the “before” picture:

Azaleas at driveway need  pruning

Azaleas at driveway need pruning

There’s a reason for pruning azaleas the first week of June, too. One of my fun mental exercises for years has been to listen to the old people’s comments on growing plants and then to figure out why their techniques work. Please note that Encore azaleas are treated differently.

As for the time to prune azaleas, it’s interesting. In June, the plants have finished blooming and are entering their peak growth stages. The azalea will set its bloom for the following spring in August. The blooms are commonly borne on the growth tips and pruning at the right time increases the number of tips so that you will end up with a more compact plant and many more blooms. You may wish to read my article on Pruning as an Art Form for a concise description of what happens when you prune a plant.

I select a place to cut that is right above shorter new growth

Cut the stem right above smaller new growth buds

Cut the stem right above smaller new growth buds

One of my goals is to open up the plant canopy to allow more light to reach the inside. This will promote lower growth which will strengthen the plant. I try to keep the sides of the plant neat and pretty but I never hesitate to open up a “hole” in the top. New growth will fill this in rather quickly.

prune so that sunlight can reach the inside of the shrub

prune so that sunlight can reach the inside of the shrub

I’m a little over six feet tall and this plant was a bit taller than that. I try to watch for danger when I’m working in overgrown shrubbery and my diligence paid off this time. As I worked, a giant poison ivy vine was sneaking up on me. I saw it just in time and backed up. I planned to approach it slowly and carefully.

poison ivy snuck up on me like a snake but I avoided it

poison ivy snuck up on me like a snake but I avoided it

The only really good way to get rid of poison ivy is to spray it but I don’t want to get any spray on the azalea so I placed a garbage bag over the azalea and carefully moved the poison ivy stem on top of it.

carefully place plastic between the poison ivy and the azalea

carefully place plastic between the poison ivy and the azalea

Using a generic form of Roundup with glyphosphate as the active ingredient, I sprayed the tip of the plant. The chemical will enter the system of the plant and should move on down the stem and kill the roots.

Spray with very low pressure to cover weed but to not get it on the good plant.

Spray with very low pressure to cover weed but to not get it on the good plant.

This is a good time to fertilize the azaleas, also. I grabbed a bag of azalea fertilizer at my local nursery. The analysis is 9-15-13 with the addition of iron, copper, manganese, and zinc. If you don’t know about fertilizer labels, they are explained in my article “Choosing the Right Fertilizer”

azalea fertilizer

azalea fertilizer

And here’s the “after” picture. Remember what I always say—“Happy Wife, Happy Life.” Now she will be free to find something else to remind me to do.

Azaleas pruned "just right"--Happy Wife, Happy Life"

Azaleas pruned “just right”–Happy Wife, Happy Life”

Thanks for visiting Johntheplantman. Tell your friends about it. One other good thing to do in June is to build a really neat sprinkler. Click Here for Directions

As usual, I would just love for you click here to go to Amazon and purchase the ebook edition of my wonderful book, Requiem for a Redneck to go on your Kindle. I have also noticed that Amazon now has a free Kindle app for iphones and tablets. Is that cool or what?

Use Decorative Chain to Support Vines and Climbing Roses on a Wall

I get a lot of compliments on this Carolina jasmine planting on the front of a garage. It takes a bit of time to grow the plant and the actual installation may appear to be difficult and expensive—but it’s not. Read on…

Swagged Carolina jasmine frames a garage door. Here's how to do it

Swagged Carolina jasmine frames a garage door. Here’s how to do it

The other day I was planting this year’s mandevilla vine in a pot by a pool for one of my clients. I do this every year and it is amazing to watch how quickly this sweet-smelling vine reaches the top of the pool house. And all it takes is a chain.

Mandevilla in a decorative pot ready to grow up a chain

Mandevilla in a decorative pot ready to grow up a chain

I have been doing some work for Cathy, who is a true plant freak and she asked me what the best way would be to grow Lady Banks and other climbing roses up the brick columns on the side of her garage. The answer was simple—use a decorative chain. Here’s how you do it:

Just what you need--a roll of decorative chain and a wall anchor kit.

Just what you need–a roll of decorative chain and a wall anchor kit.

The roll of chain and the wall anchor kit came from my friendly Ace Hardware store. I use the wall anchors a lot, both outside and inside. The anchors are most useful for hanging pictures on inside drywall. The kit comes with a masonry bit for drilling holes in brick mortar joints. We start the job by drilling holes for the mounting screws.

Drill a hole just the right size for the wall anchor

Drill a hole just the right size for the wall anchor

The little thingie shown below is a wall anchor which is inserted into the hole in the mortar joint. You must be sure to use the right sized drill bit.

The wall anchor expands to hold the screw firmly in place

The wall anchor expands to hold the screw firmly in place

In the picture below, the screw comes with the wall anchor kit and I also bought “fender washers” that are made with the right sized hole for the screw. I have no idea why they are called fender washers. I guess it’s just because that’s their name. The other item in the picture is a driver to put on my DeWalt drill in order to make the screwing easier.

Fender washers will hold the chain in place

Fender washers will hold the chain in place

When we mount the chain, the washer holds things together as in the picture below

To steal a phrase from David Allen Coe--"It goes like this here..."

To steal a phrase from David Allen Coe–”It goes like this here…”

In this installation we will hook the chain to three columns. We leave a small sag in the chain as we hook it to each column. The chain will hang down to the plants on the right and left columns and we will add the center chain last.

The next step is to secure the chain to the wall

The next step is to secure the chain to the wall

I was careful to measure and purchase enough chain so that when I got to the right side there would be enough left over to hang down from the center. You don’t have to cut this type of chain; it comes apart easily with a couple of pairs of pliers.

Opening a chain link with two pairs of pliers.

Opening a chain link with two pairs of pliers.

The final piece of chain is added to trail down the center column.

Add a piece of chain to the center column

Add a piece of chain to the center column

For fastening the plants I like to use a Velcro-backed plant tie material. It is easy to use and I can cut it to size with cheap scissors.

I really like using the velcro backed plant tie material

I really like using the velcro backed plant tie material

We tie the plant to the chain and everything is set to go. All this project will take now is a bit of tying and pruning.

Some plants will twine up the chain on their own. Others need to be tied.

Some plants will twine up the chain on their own. Others need to be tied.

If you enjoyed this article, you may wish to visit one of my articles on “Garden Accents.” It’s well worth the looking into.

 

Thanks for visiting Johntheplantman. Tell your friends about it.

 

As usual, I would just love for you click here to go to Amazon and purchase the ebook edition of my wonderful book, Requiem for a Redneck to go on your Kindle. I have also noticed that Amazon now has a free Kindle app for iphones and tablets. Is that cool or what?

Divide and Repot the Plants in Your Mother’s Day Hanging Baskets for Extra Quality and Quantity

Can you imagine how many flowering hanging baskets are sold for Mother’s Day presents in the United States? If I had to guess, I would say maybe a mazillion, more or less. Most of the baskets that you see on the market are of excellent quality, too. Here is a picture of the dragon wing begonia baskets that I bought for my mother, sister, and sister-in-law.

Mother's Day hanging baskets need dividing and re-pottine

Mother’s Day hanging baskets need dividing and re-pottine

Now, in order to turn out a mazillion good looking baskets on a tight production schedule, the commercial growers will use about four or five mazillion plants. The beautiful baskets that we purchase from the florist or nursery will more than likely have several individual plants in them. I looked under the foliage and counted four begonia plants in each of these baskets. I took the planting out of the basket and found that it was almost root-bound. It is unlikely that this planting would perform well for the entire summer without copious amounts of water. The plants just need more room.

The plant is almost root bound and needs dividing and repotting

The plant is almost root bound and needs dividing and repotting

I very carefully worked my thumbs and fingers into the root ball to break it in half.

Carefully break the root ball into two pieces

Carefully break the root ball into two pieces

I took each half of the planting and carefully split it further, ending up with four healthy, well-rooted plants.

The begonia planting has been divided into its four original plants

The begonia planting has been divided into its four original plants

My sister-in-law, Sheila, wanted a nice potted plant on each side of her entry steps so we decided to use two of the plants in each pot. The plants will love the extra room and will grow large and lovely in a short time. I was given two 12-inch clay pots. We filled them partially with potting soil and then I sprinkled Osmocote (a time-release fertilizer) over the mixture. The fertilizer is one of the main secrets to success.

Add a time release fertilizer that will keep the plant well-fed all season.

Add a time release fertilizer that will keep the plant well-fed all season.

I chose the tallest plant and set it to the rear of the pot.

Arrange the plants carefully for maximum effect

Arrange the plants carefully for maximum effect

We placed another of the plants to the front, looking for a bit of symmetry, and Sheila held the plants while I packed potting soil around them. With larger plants like these, this is a two-person job.

It is good to have a helper when planting the larger flowering plants

It is good to have a helper when planting the larger flowering plants

I would ordinarily prune these plants (see my article, “The basics of pruning”) but we decided to stake them instead and let them do their own thing.

Staking and loosely tying the plant will help it to root in nicely.Staking and loosely tying the plant will help it to root in nicely.

Staking and loosely tying the plant will help it to root in nicely.

My sweet wife, Dekie, helped me clean up the mess. She is well familiar with my magnificent messes.

Every now and then I get help with my messes.

Every now and then I get help with my messes.

Dekie really liked the planters.

These plants will be beautiful in a couple of weeks and should last all summer

These plants will be beautiful in a couple of weeks and should last all summer

If you do prune your begonias, you may wish to check out a related article on rooting the begonia cuttings

And here’s another article I wrote a while back about planting containers for summer color.

Thanks for visiting Johntheplantman

As usual, I would just love for you click here to go to Amazon and purchase the ebook edition of my wonderful book, Requiem for a Redneck to go on your Kindle. I have also noticed that Amazon now has a free Kindle app for iphones and tablets. Is that cool or what?