Clock Tower garden, Rome, Ga. plant guide

The new clock tower garden is built on the theme “As Time Goes By.” It has been dedicated to Anne Culpepper of Rome, Ga. This is a smart phone-friendly guide to the plants involved. Something will be in bloom every day of the year. The pictures for this article were taken on May 1, 2019.

From the parking lot, walk up the sidewalk that is parallel to E. 3rd Street. The garden will be on your right. Flower bed information and butterfly plants will be added at the end of the article. Entering you will have this view:

ct 1a enter from parking lot
Coming from the parking lot at the clock tower, walk parallel to E 3rd Street. The garden is on your right. At the corner, rest a moment on the bench and then turn to follow N. 5th Avenue. Enjoy the tour.
ct 1 dogwood cherokee brave
Dogwood, Cherokee Brave. Blooms in the spring. Provides shade in the summer and beautiful color in the fall. Berries for the birdies.
ct 2 tea olive screen
Tea olive. A row of these has been planted on the back border to give a background to this section of the garden. These plants are evergreen and they bloom periodically over the spring, summer and fall. When blooming, they fill the air with fragrance.
ct 3 red drift rose
The red “drift rose” will bloom periodically all summer. After the first flush of blooms it will rest a bit and then come back for more. It will form a good low accent to the trees as they grow.
ct 4 Seven brothers
The Seven Sons tree. This plant will bloom and smell good in September. It is meant to be grown into a cascading tree form. When the noted horticulturist Shannen Ferry passed away, I found a stick in a flower pot in her back yard. It looked purposeful, so I tended to it and the following year it grew and prospered. This plant is what the “stick in a pot” has become. Planted in the clock tower garden in honor of Shannen Ferry.
ct 5 coral drift rose
Coral Drift rose. This is a companion plant to the red drift . The neat thing about this pictorial essay is that it can be a reference to notice the growth of the plants “as time goes by.”
ct 6 chinese fringe tree
The “Chinese Fringe Tree.” This is a medium sized tree reaching 25 feet or more. It produces a profusion of white flowers in the spring. I will include a picture of a mature tree so that you can see what I see when I look at these three sticks.
micky's fringe tree
For years I have admired this beautiful fringe tree in the back yard collection of Micky Sachs-Smith. Now, following the concept of “As time goes by…” look at the plant in the garden with its surrounding companions and you can visualize what is possible..
ct 7 gold mound spirea
gold mound spirea. This beauty keeps its foliage most of the year. In early summer the golden leaves are adorned by a profusion of lavender flowers. It gets off to a slow start but will be a show piece in a couple of years.
ct 8 hydrangea phantom
Hydrangea “phantom” is a rather new paniculata variety which gives us glorious large, brilliant white flowers in the summer.. Be sure to watch this one as time goes by.
ct 10 camellia
Several camellias (and one sasanqua) are planted in the garden. The intention is to grow them into a tree form that will blend in with the smaller shrubs to give dimension to the garden. These bloom in the fall and winter.
ct 11 frostproof gardenia
Frostproof gardenia–named for the town of Frostproof Florida–is a very tolerant, low-growing plant that blooms with white, fragrant flowers throughout the summer season. It is evergreen.
ct 12 dogwood stellar pink
Dogwood, “stellar Pink.” This plant is placed so that it will grow up to shade the bench in the summers. A wonderful place for meditation. Thanks to the neighbors for the arborvitae screen.
ct 14 buddleia pink delight and white bouquet
Buddleia, the butterfly bush. This plant blooms profusely during the warm summer months. Butterflies love it. We have included two different colors in the garden planting. You’ll have to check back to see which is which. I will, too–I lost the tags.
ct 18 hydrangea
This is a hydrangea but I’m not too sure that I remember its name. I’ll guarantee you that it will be special though, and I’ll find out what it is when it blooms. It should be in bloom before the end of May, though, so check it out.
ct 20 camellia sasanqua cleopatra
Camellia sasanqua “Cleopatra.” This is a jewel that should begin blooming around mid-November and continue for quite some time. It will be pruned and shaped into a tree form as time goes by.
ct 21 autumn fern
Autumn fern–behind the corner bench. This is my favorite of the perennial ferns. It is almost evergreen and, in the spring, it sends out beautiful fresh fluffy fronds. Too bad they don’t smell really good so I could have used, “fresh fluffy fragrant fronds.” Oh, Well
ct 22 hosta stained glass
To my mind, the “stained glass” hosta is one of the showiest . Over the years it will spread and multiply and it will made a dramatic show all summer long. It also blooms, which is a bonus.
ct 23 flowering cherry
The Yoshino cherry trees, which had been planted previously, are lovely when they bloom in the spring. This variety is probably the latest blooming of all of the cherries. They also offer a bit of shade for a hot summer day.
ct 24 abelia rose creek
Abelia “rose creek” is a very dependable variety of the old-fashioned favorite. It is almost evergreen and it blooms nicely in the summer. Heat tolerant.
ct 26 azalea
We planted a few of the larger-growing azaleas for spots of color. This one is the “purple Formosa.” We also used George Tabor and G.G. Gerbing. They will bloom in early spring and offer beautiful evergreen foliage.
ct 28 camellia
I believe this is Camellia sasanqua “Alabama Beauty.” We will prune and grow it into a shade tree to make this bench comfy and cool in the summertime. It should bloom in January/February
ct 28 dogwood
Another “stellar pink” dogwood. Looking down South 5th Avenue. This one is for Michelle to enjoy.
ct 32 azaleas george tabor gg gerbing
We end up with a few more azaleas. It will be interesting to see how much they have grown five years for now. Plants have a habit of growing, as time goes by.

If you got this far you also passed a “butterfly garden” that qualifies this garden as a part of the Rosalynn Carter Butterfly Trail which starts in Plains, Georgia, and goes north. The butterfly garden plants include: Salvia “pink dawn;” Agastache “Kudos Mandarin;” Echinacea “crazy pink;” Achillea  “moonshine;” Salvia guaranitica, “black and blue;” Asclepias incanarta, “butterfly weed;” Monarda, “sugar buzz;” Rudbeckia fulgida “Goldsturm;” Helenium, “Short and sassy;” red salvia; and parsley. I find it interesting that the swallowtail butterfly lays eggs on the parsley and the ensuing caterpillars come out and eat the leaves.

In the seasonal color beds,  pansies are planted in October. About the first of May when the pansies are looking good but before they croak from the heat, we will take them out and plant summer flowers which will last until the first frost. The flowers for this year (2019) are Dragon wing begonias, Sunpatiens hybrids, Mexican heather, begonia “big,” angelonia, white cathedral salvia, and a few others. Come often and watch them as they enjoy the summer heat.

Thank you for visiting the garden site and Johntheplantman.

John P. Schulz, Landscape Artist.

The sign, designed by J.R. Schulz of Coosa fame.

Clocktower Garden sign for blog
You will find this signage when you visit the garden. I would like to thank Anne Culpepper, Lisa Smith, and all of the other nice people who supported this project. Signage design by John Robert (J.R.) Schulz





Saikei—Build a Garden on a Rock.

“Saikei” is a Japanese art form that involves “a garden on a flat surface.” This art form usually involves bonsai, but it can lead to an intriguing chain of experiments.

In early 2018 I found and joined a Facebook group entitled “The art of Saikei.” Members of the group showed me many beautiful pictures and ideas related to the art form.

But here is something from my personal background that made it even more interesting…

Forty two  years ago, my eight- year- old son Paul said he wanted a garden for his “elf man.” So we made an elf-man garden. Over the years we made a lot of elf-man gardens, large and small (with stairs, pathways, and even a “tire swing” from a broken matchbox truck”).  I didn’t know until the Facebook post  taught me a year ago that Paul and I had been making Saikei gardens. Paul would have enjoyed this site but he died three years ago. I still make elf-man gardens in his honor and give them away to 8-year-old kids who know how to behave. A man I know named Jason made an elf-man garden one time. It looked like this:

Jason's elf man garden
Elf-man gardens show up when you least expect to see them.

My wife, Dekie, and I had found a slow-growing but charming “Blue Star Cypress” in a nursery a couple of years ago. It was expensive but that’s because it’s a slow grower.

blog Saikei blue star cypress
Blue Star Cypress is a slow-growing compact specimen. It is a great bonsai subject because it stays compact and shapes well.

Dekie spent a couple of years shaping the plant and this year she wanted to use it in a Saikei garden. We got some special rocks together and I showed her how Paul and built these gardens long ago. The first thing that she had to do was to arrange the rocks exactly as she wanted them. We would put together a framework to hold the garden together. She spent a long time finding special rocks and in laying them out. Here’s what she did:

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Preparing the Saikei base takes a lot of careful consideration.

I spent a lot of time years ago finding the proper adhesive to stick the rocks on the slab. The kind that did best had a Urethane base. I found that silicone won’t hold up. I looked through the adhesives at the hardware store and found this “construction adhesive” that contained urethane. It was just what I wante. The caulking gun is cheap enough and it works.

saikei glue gun
be sure to use an adhesive that contains a urethane base. Nothing else I tried gave anywhere near the results of urethane

I carefully turned each rock, one at a time, to the side and squirted the adhesive underneath. I did it so that if the rock squeezed any of the glue out it would be to the inside.

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I tip the rocks back and apply the adhesive, being careful to maintain the orientation of the rocks.

It took her another long time to figure out just where she wanted the project to be in the garden. You see, this plant will live outside all year (Northwest Georgia, U.S.) The saikei base is ready to go.

Saikei base in garden ready
She had to find just the right place in the garden. It will be an accent piece in just the right location

To get the plant ready for the container, I chopped the root ball in half with a hack saw and then I roughed up the remaining root ball so the roots would fit in the garden that awaited it.

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It’s good to prune the roots of the plant and I need to rough up the root ball anyway to make it fit into the project

We washed off the rocks and watered in the planting. Dekie packed soil around the base of the plant to fill in any places that needed it. Then it was time to carefully peel some moss from the ground in our moss garden and transfer it to the project for finishing. We were after soil-holding properties as well as looks. The moss was tucked in carefully and then watered.

blog saikei planting 4
We take a lot of time with the orientation of the plant and then pack the potting soil around it and then put moss over the soil for looks as well as to hold the soil.

And then came the best part—the part where you get to stand back and grin. Over the next few weeks, Dekie  will carefully trim the tree so that it will grow to desired dimensions. She already told me that I had put the little bridge in the wrong place and that this was her project now. I can take a hint. I’ll stay out of the way.

blog saikei planting 5
The Saikei project is finished for now. We may add plants or features and pruning will be often and careful until the desired shape has been reached.

If you would like to see some magnificent bonsai trees, Click here and scroll through the pictures

Thank you for visiting johntheplantman. I hope you enjoyed the show. I don’t posst on a regular basis so you may wish to subscribe for an emeail notification (upper right). If you don’t want to subscribe, it’s ok.

How To Use Your Pump Sprayer To Reach Japanese Beetles In A Tall Crape Myrtle


I had three calls today to let me know that the Japanese beetles had made their appearance. The last message was a text from my good friend Randolph who wanted to know how to get the pesky beetles that were eating up his crape myrtles.

blog jb 7
Japanese beetles in the Southern U.S can wreak havoc on plants such as roses and Crape myrtles. They don’t stay around long but they eat a lot

I started to explain the process to him but then I decided to get my friend Johntheplantman to write an article with pictures. Here’s how you do it.

Ace Hardware sold me a sprayer for around ten dollars. That’s reasonable and it serves my purposes. Here it is:

blog jb 1
An inexpensive pump sprayer. Always clean and rinse the sprayer before using it on plants. Be careful

The most effectivechemical I have found for these beetles is Liquid Sevin, which is an easy to spray version of the old fashioned Sevin dust that has been used by farmers and gardeners for many years. Liquid Sevin is one of the safest insecticides on the market, but be sure to wear eye and face protection when applying it.

blog jb sevin
Liquid Sevin is a relatively safe insecticide and it works on the beetles. Be sure to wear safety glasses and face protection.

Most, but not all, sprayers have an adjustable nozzle similar to the one shown in the picture below. The expensive sprayers have a brass nozzle while some of the other sprayers have strange nozzles that won’t work. Here’s my nozzle:

blog jb 3
nozzle on cheap sprayer. tighten for wide spray, loosen for distance

The nozzle may be twisted to set a spray pattern. Here is a medium spray pattern

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A medium spray pattern

If you tighten the nozzle, the spray pattern becomes finer and wider.

blog jb 5
Tighten the nozzle to increase the fan

And if you loosen the nozzle the spray pattern will become more concentrated and will shoot for a greater distance. I used this spray pattern for a good picture but you may with to experiment and you will find that if it is set “just so,” it will look like a high-powered water gun and shoot 20 feet or more.

blog jb 6
Loosen the nozzle and experiment until you get a long, narrow stream. This will reach way up on the crape myrtle or other tall plants.

So mix the Liquid Sevin according to directions and set your sprayer. (Disclaimer: If You are against the use of this method of control, you may wish to get a Japanese beetle trap. If either of these procedures hurt your sensitivities in any way, I’m so sorry.)

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Plant a bonsai on a mountain side in a shallow dish

A friend gave my wife a beautiful small bonsai dish and then a few weeks later, the same friend presented me with a carefully-chosen small evergreen that was well shaped and only needed a touch up to become an excellent bonsai starter. The plant is chamaecyparis obtusa nana lutea

The dish was rather shallow and my friend suggested that I should get a deeper container for this beautiful (and expensive) plant. I decided to show off. Here are the pictures of me doing exactly that.

I like to use a good, porous potting soil for the process. I check out the plant to see how it will fit and to get a mental picture.

blog dwarf bonsai 1
I like to use a good, porous potting soil. The plant should like this just fine

I study the relationship of the plant to the container. I move it around and study the placement possibilities. The main rule I am following here is to “stay out of the center.” I get an idea of my direction with the project.

blog dwarf bonsai 2
Take lots of time studying the placement possibilities. Stay out of the center

Take the plant out of its container and study the root structure. This is the “soul of the plant” and sometimes that soul needs a bit of re-arranging. (I’m sure you can understand that).

blog dwarf bonsai 3
study the root ball to determine how you will modify it to fit the container

I carefully break up the root ball. Sometimes I have to use a hack saw or a knife to cut the bottom from the root ball but this one is easy. Pruning the roots of a plant adds strength to the plant by encouraging the remaining roots to branch out and develop more feeders.

blog dwarf bonsai 4
break up the bottom of the root ball so that it will fit in the container

After determining the placement of the plant, I place the soil around the root ball, packing it down firmly, and this gives me the basic shape for the “mountain.”

blog dwarf bonsai 5
Pile potting soil around the root ball and shape the mountain (sort of like with modelling clay)

I start to “build a mountainside” around the plant by adding well-chosen rocks which support the plant while they keep the soil in place. The rocks, in essence, increase the depth of the container in an attractive manner. At this point, I take care to make sure all roots are covered.

blog dwarf bonsai 6
continue to shape the mountain and add a rock or two if needed to hold the soil or stabilize the plant

Dekie and I keep a bucket of “neat rocks” that we have picked up here or there. Collecting rocks is fun. My next step in this project is to use a few of these to build “cliffs and mountainsides.” I make sure that everything fits tightly so it won’t fall out when the plant is moved.

blog dwarf bonsai 7
On a stable surface, pack the soil around the rocks and plant so that nothing moves.

I used to have to go to the aquarium department of a pet store to find the polished rocks, but I had spotted these flat, polished, black rocks in the Dollar Store one day. I bought them for just such an occasion as this. I start adding a stabilizing and attractive “ground cover” with the black rocks. As I work, I pack the soil over and over to make sure it will stand the test of time.

blog dwarf bonsai 8
add decorative roocks and perhaps a bit of gravel to paint a picture.

We cleaned off a prominent place on the patio for the mountain bonsai to live. After a couple of years of meditative pruning it should be a masterpiece.

blog dwarf bonsai 10 chamaecyparis obtusa nana lutea
The mountain bonsai looks good enough to earn a place of prominence.

And here’s a top view

blog dwarf bonsai 11
We named it “Betty.”


Other articles that pertain to this subject:

The basics of pruning-Pruning as an art form

A few years ago Dekie and I visited a bonsai show in Nashville at the Cheekwood gardens Here’s the story

Proper Pruning for Petunias—Keep them compact and blooming all season.

Petunias are beautiful, quick, and fun to grow. Here’s how to keep them pretty all summer.

Trude visited us the other day. She said, “John, you said you would tell me how to grow a well-shaped petunia, but you never did.”

I reached for the pruning shears and led her over to a nice plant that needed a bit of care. I handed her the camera and then cut a tip from a stem that was getting too long. “It’s sort of like giving the plant a hair cut.

blog prune petunia 1
careful pruning makes the petunia plant stronger

I cut another tip and then another. Trude said, “I usually just cut mine way back in June or July after it gets stringy and stops blooming but it never does well after that.”

I replied, “I like to trim them every three weeks or so—just about when I notice that they are getting straggly. This does several things, it makes the plant more compact and therefore much stronger, it increases the number of leaves that are available to make food for the plant, and it furnishes more and healthier blooms. This sort of pruning also takes care of the need for dead-heading.”

blog prune petunia 2
Give the plant a “haircut.” It will grow out quickly.

I pointed. “When the tips are removed, all of the growth that is developing on the stem will begin to grow out and develop. With good care, this growth happens quickly and the plant will be back in full bloom in a week or two.”

blog prune petunia 3
cutting the tips will allow this new growth to take off and grow

Trude reached in and removed a dead bloom, “I always go through and remove all of these,” she said. She showed me the dead bloom.

“You didn’t get the ovary,” I replied. She looked at me with a question asked by raised eyebrows.

blog prune petunia 4
merely pulling off the dead bloom doesn’t do the job. You must get the ovary containing developing seeds

I thought for a moment, “Here’s the concept,” I began…

This plant is an annual. It seems to know that it has only one season to grow and reproduce so it makes lots of blooms. When these blooms have been pollinated and when the ovaries are full of developing flower seeds, the plant’s chemical sensors relay that its job has been done. When the plant has made plenty of seeds, it doesn’t see a need for more. It’s sort of like a lady who had several children but wanted a daughter. She tried one more time and got twin boys. She said, “It’s time to stop.”

I pinched off a flower and set it in her hand. “Look closely at the lump at the bottom of the flower. This is the ovary where the seeds are formed. If you just remove the flower and not the ovary, you haven’t really accomplished anything.”

blog prune petunia 5
The petunia bloom showing developing seed pot (ovary).

I finished cutting the tips from the plant. “If you just cut the tips carefully, you will accomplish the task of dead-heading and shape the plant at the same time.”

Here is the plant after I practiced proper petunia pruning procedures:

blog prune petunia 6
A well-trimmed petunia plant will grow out quickly and produce many fore flowers

“To keep the petunia growing strongly, I like to give it lots of light and to feed it every couple of weeks with a well-balanced plant food. If your plant is in a Mother’s Day hanging basket, you may wish to put it in a larger container to give the roots plenty of room to grow.”

blog prune petunia 7
Your petunia basket will grow better and longer if it is transferred to a larger pot

You may also want to read my article titled “The basics of pruning.”

Thanks for visiting Johntheplantman. Tell your friends.

How to fix a water hose that kinks and leaks

Do you need a new water hose or do you need to try these simple directions to get the kinks and leaks out of your life? Watering plants and meditation go well together unless you have to constantly stop and unkink the hose. This is a simple concept and I don’t want to insult anyone, but I have noticed that a lot of people just never thought about it. Read on.

kink 1
Watering plants can be a good meditation experience. A kink in the hose will ruin it.

I find it annoying to have to stop and pull the kinks out of the hose but there is a reason for the kinks and there is an easy way to rectify the problem. So, I’m watering the plants, I have my mind out of gear enjoying solitude and quiet and the freaking water stops coming out of the hose. I turn and look.

kink 2
someone has left the hose in a dreadful state. I can’t get any watering done

The reason that the hose kinks up is that the hose is twisted. It gets twisted when we turn and move about while using it. This is natural. Some hoses have a stripe down one side. I used to wonder what that stripe was and then one day I slapped my forehead—“It’s got that line to help me get the twists out. Duh.”

So, now when I start getting kinks in hoses, I gently pull the hose out in a straight line, twisting against the kinks as I go. As the hose is untwisted the kinks disappear by themselves. And that’s all there is to it. Here’s the same hose after I untwisted it:

kink 3
Don’t try to take the kinks out one at a time but instead pull the hose straight and un-twist it against the direction of the twists. It will heal itself.

With that problem solved, I find that I need to tell the others who use this particular hose that if they are going to bend it to stop the flow of water, to do it somewhere besides the same place close to the user end. This habit will quickly break down the cording in the hose and cause the bend to become chronic and aggravating. This is a good and expensive hose which has been compromised by “hose abuse.” Oh, Well.

kink 4
Don’t take part in “hosal abuse.” This hose has been compromised by being bent at the end to stop the water flow. It begins to start doing it automatically and that will ruin good meditation time

The next thing is leakage. If the hose is leaking at the faucet (hose bib), don’t over-tighten it with pliers, but check the washer instead. A worn washer is the cause of a hose/faucet connection 99% of the time. Washers are cheap and easy to replace; just use a screwdriver or something like that to pry out the old one and then stuff in a new one. It will last for a year or two. I have seen lots of good hoses discarded for this reason and I have seen many instances where there was no washer at all in the fitting. The same thing applies if your hose nozzle is squirting more water on you than on your plants. Check it out.

kink 5
worn hose washers leak. Don’t keep tightening the hose, change the washer. This is the cause of most leaks.

One other tip—When you get a new hose, unroll it carefully instead of just pulling it out of the roll that it comes in. This will keep the hose from being twisted from the start.

I wrote a related article some time back about how to use your hose to fertilize your plants with a syphonex.  If you have a lot of ornamentals to care for, this will be a tremendous help.

Happy Gardening

Early Spring Pictures From A Meditation Garden

Laura Adams got a new camera and made some beautiful pictures of the Myrtle Hill meditation garden in early spring.

The garden in the historical cemetery in Rome, Georgia, was started in 2016. There seems to be something magic about this garden. It was built on the theme of “Three Rivers and Seven Hills,” and some very good soil was hauled in to build the “seven hills.” It just seems that everything I plant in this garden thrives. Maybe it’s the quiet neighborhood.

Here’s the garden tour. Thank you Laura for the beautiful pictures

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The stone walkway represents the three rivers of Rome
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Dianthus in a rock bed. A dependable perennial
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lovely spring iris
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The hillside supports the plants. The plants maintain the hillside symbiosis at its best
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The Japanese maples will eventually form an arch over the walk way
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Their common name is “Sweet William.” They are a member of the same family as the carnation.
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The ornamental iron fencing was a gift from Mike McDougald from his childhood home
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The comfy benches are nested into a planting of fragrant gardenias and tea olives
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several boulders have been placed for sitting, enjoyment, and pondering
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a wonderful year for iris blooms


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The photographer took care to frame the shots just right


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I love the window to the mountains framed by the overhanging Japanese maples.
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a study in blues and purples


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Summer color will be added to the garden during the first part of May
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A walk through this garden will provide a connection with serenity and peace.


I don’t know about you but I truly enjoyed the tour. Now I will have to get out my pruning shears and go over there to clip a few tips.

There is a story to this garden. I posted it a while back. To see the story of the garden click here


A Garden Tour of the Callaway Estate in LaGrange, Georgia. Part one of several

Let me tell you a secret.
There is a magnificent garden to visit in LaGrange, Georgia.

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A map of the garden started in 1841 by Sarah Coleman Ferrell as she expanded a garden started by her mother in 1832

My wife and I made plans to go to LaGrange for a Saturday visit with some friends. Dekie and I like to visit small towns and see the sights, the architecture, and to just get a feel for the places that we visit. I have driven through LaGrange many times on my way to and from my hometown of Columbus, Georgia. I had never stopped to look around until this past weekend. Our friends mentioned the Callaway Estate (not to be confused with Ida Cason Callaway Gardens in Pine Mountain) that had some “interesting grounds.”

And the grounds were, indeed, interesting. I took pictures as we walked through the beautiful gardens and I will share these in several articles. I knew it was going to be good when we drove up and I saw the pruning job on the plants around this sign:

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carefully pruned shrubbery by an entrance sign.

I looked around after we parked and saw that the natural areas were inviting and interesting.

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Natural areas and pathways welcome us from the parking lot

The well-tended loropetalum plant against the welcome center wall was a great blend of color and texture.

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I love that shaped loropetalum

The entrance plantings were delightful. I wanted to shrink myself down and get lost in the maze.

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A boxwood parterre on each side of the entrance to the visitor center carries a sort of magic feeling

We were about a week late for the azalea bloom but I could tell that they had been magnificent. The garden, however, is able to stand on its own without depending on the azalea blooms and I’m sure that our visit was a lot less crowded than it would have been.

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There are lots of isolated visual treats

Another view of the entry garden shows that the background is also very important and well-done.

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I love the way the background merges with the total picture.

When we walked out on the rear landing, right away, I was taken by the pathway meandering through the vista. The trees were all manicured and precisely placed.

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I wonder what’s at the end of this pathway?

I love planters as accents. This arborvitae topiary was matched on other corners.

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topiary plantings in flower pots make a statement

There were a lot of Chinese fringe trees (Chionanthus retusus). We were just in time to catch the flowers. I could tell that the trees had been totally full of blooms a week before.

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Chinese fringe trees make a statement

All of today’s pictures were taken before I even got to the actual gardens. I will post more in another post in a few days. Stay tuned.

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The garden tour begins from this point. Tune in for the next article, or subscribe.

Grow your own Hydrangea Plants From Cuttings.

Just like Grandma did

Rooting Hydrangeas in April.

You can start your own hydrangea plants in April just like Grandma did in the “Good old days.”

rooting hydrangea in April
This is the “Phantom” hydrangea which forms blooms on new growth. Cuttings may be rooted in early spring without interfering with the bloom cycle

(I’m writing this article on April 6 in Northwest Georgia. At this time of year your hydrangea plants could look different according to how far north or south you are of Rome, Georgia.)

I am not talking about all varieties of hydrangea here. Some Hydrangea plants form their flower buds in the fall and winter. These varieties do not need to be cut this time of year because this will stop the plants from blooming. These varieties are the “big leaf varieties” such as Nikko blue or pink. They are commonly called “mopheads.” You should wait to cut on these varieties after they bloom. The big leaf mopheads look something like this picture.

rooting hydrangea 1
This is a picture of the leaves of hydrangea macrophylla or “big leaf” hydrangea. These plants form their flower buds in late fall or winter. They should be propagated immediately after blooming, not in April

Some hydrangheas form their blooms on new growth. These are referred to as the  “smooth leafe hydrangeas” and include varieties such as Annabelle, Limelight, and Phantom (which is what I am using.) These varieties commonly bloom later in the year and that means that some of the tips may be safely removed in Aril and early May. The foliage looks like that in the picture below.

rooting hydrangea 2
The “smooth leaf” hydrangeas form their blooms on new growth. These are the ones to use for rooting in april.

Since this Phantom variety is one of those that bloom on this year’s growth, I can remove some of the tips and leave some others. This way I will get a succession of flowering and as a bonus, when I cut the tips it will cause the plant stems to branch out which will mean even more flowers. So to start the propagation process, I reach in and cut a few tips. I cut them about eight inches long.:

rooting hydrangea 3
take about an 8 to 10 inch cutting from the plant as shown

The place where the leaves and tiny lateral buds are attached to the stem is called a “node.” I have trimmed the stem to just up under the node and I have also removed the leaves. This is where the roots will develop.

rooting hydrangea 4
prepare the hydrangea cutting by removing lower leaves and trimming close to the leaf node

Next, I will take several of the prepared cuttings, bunch them up, and stick them in a vase of water. The vase will be placed in a cool, shady (but not dark) location. I use a clear vase because the cuttings will suck up the water and the vase will need more water ever few days.

The cuttings in the picture below have been in there for at least a coupleof weeks. If I look closely I can see that the bases of the stems have gotten larger and that they are getting ready to send out some roots. Once the roots grow out a little bit, I will pot them up with some good potting soil. At that time I will pinch the top growth bud off of the stems to encourage branching.

rooting hydrangea 5
hydrangea cuttings in a vase of water waiting for roots to form

One more piece of information: The linguistic root of the word hydrangea is “hydra” which means “water” (hydrated, for instance).

A good article on pruning hydrangeas in January which goes into the different types of hydrangeas can be found here

Thank you for visiting John the Plant Man.

How to mix your own super potting soil

My secret formula for making good potting soil and saving money.

Good, clean potting soil, it’s cheap, and it really works.

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I need to repot some older plants and plant some new ones. I’m going to need a lot of potting soil and potting soil is expensive. I’ve been thinking about it for some time and I’ve figured out how to put together a mix that will do a wonderful job of growing our plants over the coming season. A mix like this is cheaper than buying regular potting soil. I’ll do a cost analysis at the end of the article.

Potting soil is an art form. In 1970 when I got a part time job at a commercial greenhouse, my first job was to mix potting soil. It’s a fun job. I’m still doing it 48 years later. Here’s the secret:

On March 31, I did a bit of shopping. I got some soil conditioner, mushroom compost, peat moss, and lime from Willow Creek Nursery.

peat moss, mushroom compost, soil conditioner, and lime for excellent potting soil

The soil conditioner is a finely ground bark. A two cubic foot bag cost $3.00. I’m sure that there are different brand names and different consistencies everywhere.  I wanted something to make up the bulk of the soil mix that wouldn’t pack, was relatively lightweight, and would remain porous. It also had to be cheap. I dumped a bag into my wheelbarrow:

soil conditioner
A finely ground organic soil conditioner is a good start.

Next I needed something to supply growth organisms and to hold a bit of moisture.

mushroom compost
straight from the mushroom farm. This is good stuff.

Many years ago a man from Tennessee brought me pickup truck loads of wonderful black stuff from a mushroom farm north of Chattanooga. Mushroom growing mix is highly specialized and it can only be used once, so the mushroom farm just threw it away at that time. I got it delivered (I had to help shovel it off the truck) for maybe $40.00. Now it costs right at five dollars for a 40 lb. bag—but it goes a long way.  I dumped in about a third of the bag, pouring a layer of it on top of the soil conditioner.

potting soil mixing
add the ingredients in layers, they will mix more evenly that way

Next is peat moss. I bought a one cubic foot bag for $9.95. I could have saved money by buying a larger bag but I was thinking more like a homeowner and hobbyist. I figure that this will be enough for four large mixes. The peat moss will help to hold moisture and nutrients, and it is relatively light-weight. I have now made three layers of materials in the wheelbarrow.

peat moss in the potting soil
the peat moss is tightly packed and should be broken up and added as a layer

Most organic soil materials are a bit on the acid side and we need to rectify this. I use a bit of pelletized lime to change the pH (acidity balance) toward slightly basic (alkaline).

lime for potting mix
pelletized lime acts quickly to balance the potting soil

This is important for most plants, but if you are using the soil for azaleas or camellias, you may wish to leave the lime out. Some evergreens also prefer an acid soil. I am a firm believer in the positive effects of lime in potting soil. I just spread a bit on top:

adding lime to potting soil mix
spread lime over the potting soil prior to mixing

There are a lot of different time release fertilizers. Osmocote is a good one. These fertilizers are made so that they will break down over a period of several months. I like a fertilizer balance with a high middle number (phosphorous) but sometimes it’s hard to find and in that case a balanced plant food (14-14-14 for instance) will do.

add fertilizer to potting mix
sprinkle time release fertilizer over the potting soil mix

The next step is fun. Mix the concoction thoroughly. It is also good to add some water after it is well mixed and turn it over one more time. This mix looks good, it sounds good, but more importantly, it feels good—and it’s cost effective—a good product at a good price.

mix potting soil with a shovel
The dry ingredients are easy to blend with a shovel or by hand. Then add a bit of water

It was a beautiful day. My wife has been working on some tree-form camellias and I was able to pot up several of them without spending a fortune on potting soil.

camellia planted with home made potting mix
These big pots use a lot of potting soil, but the plants grow well in them

Here’s my cost:

Soil conditioner, $3.00, mushroom compost, $5.00, peat moss, $10.00, lime, $4.00. I bought four bags of the soil conditioner and using the other additives will make up four wheelbarrow mixes. The one wheelbarrow load that I made for this article used one bag of conditioner and ¼ bag of the peat and mushroom compost. The bag of lime will do about 20 mixes. So this mix was $3.00 (conditioner )+ $1.25 (mushroom compost)+ $2.50 (peat moss)—add on a bit for lime and fertilizer and you will have about ten dollars for three cubic feet of some really good potting soil—and you know what’s in it. Compare that with two cubic feet of comparable, prepared potting soil, which would cost you about $15. This type of savings really adds up over the long haul.

Have fun gardening, and share this with your friends,

John Schulz

Another article that may be helpful this spring is about an easy way to apply liquid fertilizer on your plants
















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