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Archive for June 2011

Our Annual Annual Plant 50% Off Sale

June 10th, 2011

annual plantsNow is the time to take advantage of the fantastic prices that we are offering on every single annual plant in our greenhouses. Summer is starting to heat up and many of your perennials may be fading soon, which is what God created annual plants for—to supplement the blossoms of their perennial cousins—adding color to a landscape that has become mostly green.

Many gardeners plan their annual beds in advance, knowing exactly what they will plant where, but annual plants offer a great opportunity to change things up year to year. Just as you decorate your indoor space, your outdoor space can also be a reflection of your personality, your moods and what makes you happy. Searching for and trying new annual plants offers not only a change of pace, but gives you the chance to really shine, to take a risk, to try something new and different that may very well become your new favorite, but will certainly have your friends, family and neighbors sitting up and taking notice.

We also suggest planting containers and just setting them in amongst your perennials, grouping them in naked corners or hanging them from your pergola, the eaves of your house, or even from tree branches throughout your yard. Planters also enable you to move things around, just like you do your furniture and since annuals are only here for the current season, you can try something new in the same planter next year! How cool is that?

Our three top sellers are the Calibrachoa, Fuchsia and Ipomoea plants:

  • Calibrachoa look similar to petunias, but have smaller blossoms that literally overflow their containers! We have a collection of Calibrachoa plants from four different award-winning producers: Candy Shop, Million Bells, MiniFamous and Noa. These beauties are completely self-cleaning, which means you don’t have to deadhead. They will produce blossoms over and over again!
  • Fuchsia plants are an exotic beauty, also called Lady’s Eardrops. Its blossoms hang gracefully, and will gently move with the slightest breeze. Available in a variety of colors, from deep jewel-tones to feminine pastels, even the blossoms can appear quite different from plant to plant. The tropical scent is nothing short of heavenly!
  • Ipomoea plants are better known as Sweet Potato Vines, though they will not produce one single sweet potato. In varieties that include black and bronze colors, the leaves are also not the same from plant to plant, some being spade-shaped, while others are lobed and veined in contrasting colors. Ipomoea is most often used in combo plantings with blooming plants or are used as an annual groundcover.

But don’t stop there! We have a huge selection of ANNUALS available and every single one of them is 50% off…but only for a limited time!

The sale starts Friday, June 10th and ends Friday, June 17th.

Choosing a Quality Garden Hoe

June 9th, 2011

garden hoeWe know that when you buy a garden hoe, you have a choice. We just think that your choice should be an educated one, with you having all of the facts in front of you…before making a choice on which garden hoe to purchase.

We carry Rogue hoes because we consider them the absolute best on the market, for a reasonable price and because they are made by a family-owned company, right in the heart of the good old U.S.A, in the Ozarks, in Missouri.

In researching this article, I looked at those hoes available at Wal-Mart, Lowe’s and Home Depot, the three most common places for people to shop for garden hoes. I saw all kinds of hoes, in all different colors, and in many different shapes and priced from a cheap $3.98 to a whopping $153.00!

The one for $153.00 claimed to be “non-sparking” but did not tell you what it is made of. It also claimed to be “non-magnetic”, hmmmm, maybe made of aluminum then? “Corrosion resistant” and “Beryllium-free”. I think that aluminum probably fits the bill for the corrosion resistance, but Beryllium is a naturally occurring element that has been used for years as a hardening agent in metal alloys. If the metal here is aluminum and is not a Beryllium-aluminum alloy, its strength should be called into question. It also claims to be made in the U.S., but when you scroll down to the Specifications part, right under the shipping weight, which is specified in pounds, it says “Assembled in Country of Origin: USA and/or Imported”, and on the next line it says, “Origin of Components: USA and/or Imported”. Would you trust that this item is made in the U.S.A. by American workers? Or do you just buy it because it must be a “magic” hoe since it costs so much and the fact that it costs so much must mean it really IS made in the U.S.?

So, after looking at all of the other garden hoes, I decided to point out the features that are not present on any given hoe, all at one time but that are all standard features of every Rogue garden hoe; in fact, all garden tools made by Rogue Hoe are superior in their handcrafted craftsmanship, are loaded with well-thought out features that make gardening and work-sense and are 100% made in the U.S.A.

First and foremost is that every single hoe blade is made with recycled agricultural disc blades. These are the blades that are used in commercial farming operations and are made of high quality tempered steel. They are strong and made to hold an edge, and the fact that these are re-purposed to make Rogue garden hoes is impressive. Every hoe blade is sharpened on three sides, not just one. You can flip each hoe to either side to reach into smaller spaces with the same cutting ability as the full-sized front blade. All grinding, welding and sharpening is done completely by hand.

The handles are all made of Northern White Ash, which is 2% harder and 26% more stable than Northern Red Oak. It also has exceptional shock resistance and remains smooth under friction, which means you won’t be getting splinters in the palms of your hands. Then, the hoe blade is attached with both a pressure fit and epoxy bond, with the handle being firmly inserted inside a steel sleeve. Rogue hoes have been handed down through generations, having never had the blade become separated from the handle. You also have your choice in most models, of both a 54” and 60” handle, which means short and tall people alike, can more comfortably use this hoe without choking way up on the handle or unnecessary stooping, thereby losing much of the leverage that is built into this garden hoe.

And, take a look at the swan neck. This is a signature of the Rogue hoe. A wide, swan-shaped neck, as opposed to a thin tube-like form of attachment not only lends additional strength, but increases the leverage, making the Rogue garden hoe more effective, with less exerted energy. Hoeing can be a tough job! Rogue hoes, by design, make it much easier.

So now the decision is yours. We invite you to shop and compare! We are confident that you will find that Rogue garden hoes are an exceptional value with a life-expectancy that will not only surpass your own, but that of your grandchildren and great-grandchildren too. And it costs no-where near $153.00!!!! Not even close. In fact, Rogue Hoes are less expensive than about half of the hoes I saw advertised on those other sites, but with many more features that make them what we consider to be the best garden hoe on the market!

Caring for Your Coleus Plants

June 8th, 2011

coleus plantThe Coleus plant is, by far, one of the most popular house plants ever, but is also fast becoming a sought-after annual, one that provides amazing color and contrast for perennial beds past their bloom and for those partially shaded areas for which color is hard to come by. However, Coleus is a somewhat fragile annual; one that requires a bit of TLC in order to reap its colorfully impressive rewards.

Transplanting Your Coleus

Your Coleus plants will arrive in a 3-inch pot. We have carefully nurtured your coleus plant in our greenhouse, providing it with the proper amount of sunlight and nutrients in order to ensure it grows the best root system possible. Your coleus plant, however, has not been subjected to wind and full sun, so should be “hardened off” before actually being planted in the ground or in a fully exposed area in a pot.

Hardening off is the process of acclimating a plant to its new habitat. You do the same thing for vegetable seedlings you’ve started at home, moving them outside for longer and longer periods of time where they are exposed to the elements and can therefore survive more easily when first transplanted into the garden. The same method is wisely used for any new transplant. Start by moving them into a partially shaded area that is protected from the wind, gradually moving them to an area with the same conditions as the one they will be planted in. Be weather-aware and be sure to provide shelter or bring them inside if the nighttime temps are expected to drop below 40°F and if high winds, driving rain or hail are expected. This whole process should take no longer than a week to a week and a half, but will virtually guarantee the most beautiful and healthy Coleus plants possible.

We recommend transplanting your newly acquired Coleus into a pot with good quality planting soil within a couple of days of its arrival. Immediately upon receipt, remove the plant(s) from the shipping box and put them in a shallow glass baking dish or some other suitable container and make sure that the soil stays moist, but that the shipping pots are not sitting in standing water for any length of time. We also suggest that you mix water with our highly concentrated Neptune’s Harvest and just pour a little into the container at a time until the plants have soaked up the water. Pour off any excess and leave them for 15 minutes before potting, or leave them like this for up to three days, but no longer. When we shipped them to you they were most likely already starting to outgrow their shipping pots. Neptune’s Harvest helps your plants to more quickly overcome the stress of shipping and will give a boost of essential nutrients to get them off to a great start.

Potted Coleus Plants

If transplanting to a permanent pot or container, the process is quite simple. Choose a pot with a drainage hole in the bottom, or one of any number of decorative hanging baskets. Of course, the ultimate destination for that pot, be it inside or out, will determine your container needs. One or two coleus will fit well in a 6” to 8” diameter pot, while a larger pot may hold three or four. The best potting soil will have lots of organic material and may even contain a slow-release fertilizer. If you live in a particularly hot area and your coleus plant(s) will be hung or placed outside, you may water crystalsalso want to consider adding water crystals to the soil. They expand, holding 100s times their weight in water, releasing it as the soil starts to dry. Using these will reduce your household water bill and keep your coleus hydrated, even on the hottest days.

And never place your Coleus plant where it will have all day direct sunlight! The newer cultivars are much more sun-resistant, but Coleus will not thrive well in all day sun throughout the summer. The best combination is full morning sun, as sun seems to produce more colorful plants, and then afternoon partial shade, especially in the heat of the summer. If you have your plants in pots, you can even move them in and out of the sun as necessary, most easily accomplished if you have them on a rolling cart or trolley. You will know that your coleus plant is getting too hot when its colors seem to fade and it wilts, even when well hydrated. Coleus recovers quickly from wilting once watered, but too much repeated water deprivation will result in a faded, unhealthy plant over time.

Garden Bed Coleus Plants

For your Coleus plants that will be going directly into the ground, we strongly recommend you transplant them into a larger pot in order to harden them off and then ultimately put them directly into your flower beds. Again, location is important. If you are not quite sure that an area is suitable (morning sun and afternoon partial shade), you can either monitor your planned area throughout a couple of days, or get an inexpensive light tester to measure the amount of sunlight an area receives, even if indoors. Also keep in mind your geographic location. Full sun in Texas or Arizona is much stronger than full sun in northern climes.

Planting your Coleus plants into a peat or organic material pot will preclude your having to stress the plant further when transplanting, though once you’ve given them a couple of weeks in a pot and have hardened them off properly, this shouldn’t be an issue. The choice, of course, is totally yours. Many people save their “nursery” plastic pots, just for a purpose such as this, which makes perfect sense. You have re-purposed the pot without spending any more money, and have probably also proven to your significant other that you weren’t at all out of your mind when you decided to save them in the first place!

Additional Care for Your Coleus Plants

Amazingly, Coleus plants don’t respond well to over feeding. Besides adequate moisture, you will find that your Coleus’ colors are much more vivid when the plants are just a little neglected. If you fertilize, use a slow release or feed at half the recommended strength. We also highly recommend mulching your Coleus plants if planting in the ground, especially in hotter climates. This not only retains life-giving moisture, but will inhibit the growth of weeds and grasses. If you water with a sprinkler or hand-held nozzle, make sure to water after the full sun has left your plants, but with enough time for the leaves to dry before it turns dark. Wet nighttime foliage on any plants can lead to fungal diseases, mold or mildew occurring and wet leaves in full sun can burn the plant.

Growing coleus plants in the flower gardenFinally, pinching the growing tips of your Coleus plants will encourage fuller and bushier growth. For blooming Coleus, you can pinch the bloom or allow it to remain, though Coleus blossoms are mostly insignificant and do not noticeably add or detract from the beauty of the plant. You may find that in mid-summer pinching will help the plant to maintain its bushy appearance and keep its shape, but that is largely a personal preference as well, just as are the colors you have chosen.

Speaking of colors, these annual plants are available in just about every color of the rainbow! Though it may be tempting to buy some of every color, planning in your head for the mixture of textures and colors will result in the most beautiful indoor and outdoor decorating and the personal satisfaction that comes from a job well done!

Happy Planting!

The Dracaena Spike-A Perennial?

June 7th, 2011

Yes, my eyebrows arched as my eyes widened in surprise! Long considered an annual staple for container gardens to add height and architectural interest to both blooming and non-blooming arrangements, we are now hearing reports of the Spike Dracaena being taken out of the container and moved right into the garden, even surviving unscathed throughout the winter in places like Prince Edward Island, Canada, which is in zones 5a and 5b. Some gardeners put protection over or around them, like fall leaves or commercially made plant covers, but the gardener from Prince Edward Island said that hers had no protection, besides the insulation from the snow.

For a plant that looks particularly tropical in nature, in addition to being remarkably cold tolerant, Spike Dracaena are also relatively drought tolerant. Widely adaptable, once they are well-established, normal watering will usually suffice, especially if they are mulched or planted with foliage plants that help to retain moisture.

So, when you buy the Dracaena Spike plant, you are getting a two-fer! Use it first in your containers, either putting it in the back of your container if it is against a wall or in a corner, or in the center if your container can be viewed from all sides. Surround them with lower growing foliage or blooming plants, adding a cascading variety or two, and you have a beautiful, yet inexpensive artful arrangement. Here’s a suggestion for what to use:  Start with the Spike Dracaena in the middle or the back of the planter. Then add a mid-height flower or foliage plant, such as Tickseeds, Stellar or Regal Geraniums, all of which have the same moisture requirements of the Dracaena. Finally, add some MiniFamous Calibrachoa or Lobelia plants to cascade over the edges. You can also use something like Dichondra to fill in the spaces or English Ivy as a non-blooming, yet cascading accent. The possibilities are absolutely endless and much better than succumbing to the average garden retailer’s idea of a fashion statement, whose container gardens all feature the same plants, over and over and over again. Chances are that your neighbor next door or down the street will have one of these.

Dracaena SpikeDracaena PlantsDracaena Tricolor

Then, when your Dracaena Spike has outgrown the container, simply remove it from the container and put it in a place of honor in your garden. You will want to keep the height in mind, planting it behind lower growing perennials or annuals, though it is not too picky about sun. It will tolerate full sun when the weather is cool or in the northern climes, but prefers partial shade in hotter areas. The Spike Dracaena is widely adaptable to the type of soil. Keep in mind that it will grow somewhere between 18 and 24-inches tall and just as wide. They seem to do really well when planted along your foundation at the back of your flower beds; the warmth retained by brick or stone will help it to survive some of the coldest winter temperatures with ease.

As with all plants, proper nutrition will ensure healthy and prolific growth. We recommend using a soil amendment, such as Neptune’s Harvest when transplanting and then feed on a regular basis. If you compost at home, an additional fertilizer will not be necessary.

All in all, the Spike Dracaena is a versatile plant that is easy to care for and easy to decorate with. With its returning popularity, let’s keep our fingers crossed for even more colorful hybrids!

GHS Guide to Attracting Butterflies to Your Garden

June 3rd, 2011

how to attract butterflies to your gardenWant to attract butterflies to your garden? Just plant some asters in a sunny place and you’re on your way. Other good plants to draw the colorful critters are buddleia (butterfly bush), blazing star (liatris), echinacea (coneflower), monarda (bee balm), rudbeckia (black-eyed Susan) and lantana. A mix of bright colors—especially purple, orange, yellow, and red—works best.

Butterflies like to feed on the nectar of these and other flowering plants. But if you want to make your acrobatic friends’ happiness complete, also provide them with host plants such as asclepias (milkweek), dill, parsley, and fennel.  These are plants on which the butterflies can lay their eggs and that will nourish the resulting larvae.

Making Your Garden Butterfly Friendly

There are a lot of resources on the Internet to help you plan a butterfly-friendly garden, but one site really makes it easy: Gardens With Wings. All you do is type in your ZIP Code and you’ll see photos of the different kinds of butterflies that pass through your area. You choose those butterflies you are interested in attracting, and the site will generate a list of the best nectar and host plants to do the job.

One additional step you’ll want to take is to determine which plants on that list are native to your region. Using native plants is important because, as the National Wildlife Federation explains, “many butterflies and native flowering plants have co-evolved over time and depend on each other for survival and reproduction.” You can easily find a list of plants native to your state by visiting the Plant Native site. The ideal plants for your butterfly garden will be those that appear on both the Gardens With Wings list and the Plant Native list.

We carry nearly all the nectar and host plants that will show up on these lists, no matter where you live.  We’re proud of this, not only because we have a larger inventory than any other plant-seller online, but because the butterflies really need these plants, especially the host plants.

The Plight of the Butterfly

Over the last fifty years, the butterfly population has dramatically decreased because of habitat loss and our flittering friends are having a tough time.

A Monarch butterfly on a milkweed plantThe U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service currently lists more than a dozen butterfly species as endangered or threatened. What’s more, all species have been decreasing, mostly because the host plants they depend on have often been cut down or paved over.

Consider the exquisite Monarch: the only plant it will lay its eggs on is asclepias (milkweed). This plant is native to nearly all of the U.S., is hardy from Zones 3 – 9, and used to be found all over the place. Yet, today it is difficult for Monarchs to find, and their numbers have dropped to dangerously low levels. If you plant asclepias in a region through which the Monarchs pass, you’ll be providing them with a nursery!

You might like to grow dill, parsley, and fennel for culinary reasons, but did you know that Black Swallowtail butterflies need them as a place to lay their eggs? By including these plants in your garden, you’ll be helping the Black Swallowtails to be more plentiful.

Creating a Safe Butterfly Environment

One thing to understand before you start planting is that butterflies and pesticides do not mix. Butterflies are very sensitive creatures and even natural pesticides and herbicides can cause problems and even kill the eggs they’ve laid on the host plants you’ve provided. Instead, when it comes to both the nectar and host plants, use the old-fashioned method of picking pests off by hand. You can also release ladybugs to go after the pests for you. That is what they do at the Smithsonian, and it will work for you, too.

But be sure you don’t squish the larvae, thinking it’s an infestation of something pesky. To be sure you know what butterflies look like at every stage of their development, watch this beautiful slideshow produced by the University of North Carolina School of Education.

Perfecting Your Butterfly Garden

Provide the butterflies with opportunities to bask in the sun by placing a few flat stones around the garden. As for water, just keep your garden irrigated: the butterflies will use any tiny puddles as watering holes.  If you live in a windy area, position your butterfly-attracting plants along a hedge, fence, or wall. And, again, be sure there is no pesticide or herbicide residue around the area where the butterflies are going to be eating and laying their eggs.

Butterfly Garden

 

Expanding Your Knowledge
As with everything else concerning gardening, there’s always more to learn. To view a comprehensive list of plants that attract butterflies, try Gardening for Butterflies, from Iowa State University. How to Make Butterfly Gardens from the University of Kentucky also contains a good list and a lot of helpful information. For a nice video introduction to the subject of attracting butterflies, check out this short video by P. Allen Smith.

If You Plant It, They Will Come

We wish you much success in attracting butterflies to your garden, and please don’t get overwhelmed by the amount of information in this newsletter. All you need to do to get started is to plant some butterfly-attracting plants in a sunny place and use non-chemical methods of pest control. Enjoy yourself, and know that your butterfly friends will appreciate your efforts.

How to Harvest Asparagus

June 1st, 2011

Asparagus PlantsIf you are planting asparagus crowns for the first time, then you probably have some questions about when to start harvesting and how to go about it. If you’ve forgotten everything your grandma taught you, or you were just too young to remember anything past that wonderful taste, we hope this will help. 

The very first rule is patience! An asparagus bed, if established and maintained properly, can produce asparagus spears in excess of 15 years. In fact, some asparagus beds have been producing for 30 years! So, the first year you want to avoid harvesting, except maybe to get a very tiny taste of what’s to come, and concentrate on growing the healthiest and strongest root system possible.

The First Year

We recommend babying your asparagus through the first year. Invading perennial grasses are young asparagus’ worst enemy, so keep them under control as your young plants are becoming established. Depending upon where you are planting, you may want to install a barrier, keeping it in place through the first year, to be removed at a later time if you choose….or not. The root system of asparagus goes deep and becomes quite extensive, but the plants need that first full year to really take hold and to survive the winter, especially in the coldest regions. You should provide 1 to 2-inches of water per week during the first two years and feed well. After the second year, you can water more infrequently. You might want to use a soaker or drip hose through your asparagus bed, rather than watering from the top as this will allow the water to soak deeper, instead of settling on the tops of the plants; there will also be less evaporation, resulting in less water use. Applying mulch around your plants will also conserve water, as well as inhibiting weed and grass growth. 

As the spears are left to grow past the point of harvesting, the tops will open up and become fern-like. They are actually quite pretty, but also a very important aspect to the continuing good health of your asparagus bed. Using photosynthesis, these ferny tops will send food throughout the spears and into the crowns below the surface, ensuring the perpetual harvest that this perennial vegetable provides.

When it comes to cutting back your asparagus plants, there are basically two schools of thought. Some gardeners cut them back to the ground once they turn brown, going dormant, usually after the first heavy frost. In fact, some people just mow them down as close to the soil as possible, either adding the foliage to their compost bin or discarding it.

The other half of asparagus growers will leave the ferny tops to catch the snow and to protect and insulate the plants, while providing necessary moisture throughout the winter and into early spring. Cut them back in March or early to mid-April, depending upon your climatic zone. Besides helping your plants to survive the winter, the brown, feathery ferns will add a bit of winter-time interest to your stark garden landscape, especially when coated in layers of sparkling hoar frost.

The Second Year

Second Year AsparagusFinally, your patience has paid off!  The spears are growing and you can start harvesting, but only for a little bit and only a little at a time. At no time should you harvest spears that are not at least as big around as your little finger. For this second harvest year, we suggest that you only harvest for the first 2 to 3 weeks. Heavy and continual harvesting past this point may weaken the plants, meaning that your asparagus bed will not continue to develop well for subsequent years. Just a little more patience is required. Time flies and a little patience now will reap huge rewards in three, four, five…..fifteen or twenty years!

In most areas of the country, you will be able to start harvesting in May and continue into June. Asparagus is considered a “cool weather” crop and will be one of the first vegetables ready for harvest, even before your lettuce, broccoli and cauliflower. However, in more temperate climates, like that of southern California, you may have to treat your asparagus a bit differently, keeping track of the “normal” growing cycle for this perennial and allowing the ferny tops to grow and develop, rather than harvesting for an extended period just because you can. And then cut the plants back in late fall or early winter to encourage dormancy that occurs naturally in other climates.

As in all things gardening, gardeners have different ideas on what is the best way to harvest. Some prefer to use their thumb and forefinger to “snap” the spear at ground level, while others will use a sharp knife or asparagus harvesting tool to cut the spear one or two inches below the soil. It is our belief that using the asparagus knife to cut below the soil allows the plant and crown to be protected by that layer of soil, from both the hotter summer temperatures and marauding pests. A clean, sharp tool will also ensure that the plants are not stressed from the cutting. Pulling and tugging while “snapping” the spear can result in damage to the crown below the spear, which is already developing new buds for next year’s harvest.

Don’t forget! Only harvest this second year for 2 to 3 weeks! Your patience will be well-rewarded.

The Third Year and Into the Future

Now that your asparagus bed is well-established, you can harvest spears that are emerging which are 3/8 or larger (about the size of one’s little finger). Also, don’t submit to the myth that the larger the diameter of the spear, the less tender they are. That is just not the case at all. What IS true, is that as the season progresses, the part of the spear below the ground and possibly 1 or 2-inches up, may become somewhat tougher. This is just a fact of life when it comes to asparagus and one easily remedied by just cutting off the tougher part. You will still have plenty of tender asparagus spear above this point. If you’ve missed harvesting some spears and the tips are no longer tight and closed, you will be a little disappointed in the quality, so allow those spears to open and become ferny. You won’t be wasting them, just allowing them to become next year’s harvest.

Harvesting AsparagusAs a rule, you will harvest every other day when the spears are between 4 and 8-inches tall and usually for a period between 6 and 8 weeks, depending upon your geographical location, and also depending upon the weather for that particular year. Hotter weather will shorten your harvesting season, while cooler weather will extend it.

Again, once you notice that the emerging spears are smaller than your little finger, quit harvesting and allow the ferny tops to develop, effectively perpetuating the cycle that will have your grandchildren and great-grandchildren harvesting the asparagus bed you plant today. Early summer mornings, working by grandma’s or grandpa’s side, will be a perennial memory!

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