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goldenrod

I always thought of goldenrod as a dyer’s plant and was surprised to learn that it has medicinal properties.

Its Latin name, Solidago, literally means “to make whole”, and puts goldenrod squarely in the wound healing category. It has other medicinal properties, too, mostly related to improving the kidney and circulatory functions.

Apparently it is edible, but I wouldn’t know about that and will refrain from testing this hypothesis on my long suffering stomach. Read more…

easy color schemes

Unless it was designed that way, it is kind of hard to impose a color scheme on an established garden, especially if you have a spontaneous personality type that succumbs to the charms of any special-special plant seeming to speak to you and you alone at the plant nursery, and have to bring it home despite the fact that it doesn’t fit into your existing garden design.

If you do have the discipline and willpower to stick to the plan, some color themes are easier to maintain than others, because nature itself designed them that way. For instance, a white, yellow and purple theme will last indefinitely; those are the colors wild flowers come in, these hues are part of a packet of dominant traits which impart on the plants resilience and adaptability.  White, yellow and purple perennials make for the most efficient color palette, they tend to live longer, need less maintenance and be healthier than the rest.
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perennial groundcovers

I can’t figure out the precise point when a fast spreading plant becomes a ground cover. Some, like ivy, periwinkle and the beautiful blue flowering plumbago in the picture, are quite obvious, others, like lily of the valley and sweet violets, take you by surprise, starting with a shy little clump in spring and filling the garden with their prolific progeny in one season.

I guess if we define as perennial ground cover any plant that fills up all the space it occupies, we can expand the list to include daylilies, beebalms, tickseed, irises, raspberry thickets and strawberry patches. Read more…

the fullness of summer

There is a time around the middle of July when the garden looks absolutely resplendent. It feels like every flower is in bloom, competing for attention. The late spring blooms haven’t faded yet and the some of the late summer ones decide to show up early, so there is a surreal mix of seasons that coexist in harmony before my very eyes: delphiniums, lilies, salvias, roses, daisies, bee balms, cone flowers, catmints, lavender, yarrow, spider flowers, black eyed Susans, day lilies, hostas, coral bells, and last, but not least, giant clumps of fragrant garden phlox.

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what a mess!

You will not believe the level of chaos nature can impose on a reasonably well tended garden in three weeks. It took the plants that long to look scary and me one week to salvage the back yard from the wilderness. Five foot tall weeds, cracked nutshells, broken branches, vines grown out of control, covering pathways, grabbing onto everything in sight and smothering their defenseless neighbors. And this is the extent of my whining. Seriously, it was offensive.

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how to grow herbs

You decided to start an herb garden? Here are a few tips. Most herbs like full sun (except a few, like mint and lemon balm) and a sweet soil that keeps moist but drains properly. If your soil is acidic, improve it with lime.

If you decide to grow a perennial herb garden, it is easier to start it from seedlings rather than seed, for two reasons. First, some of the perennial herbs, like rosemary and tarragon need to be started from cuttings anyway, germination is not always reliable and very young sprouts are vulnerable to anything from a late frost to dry spells or unseasonably warm weather. Read more…

about watering

Shortly after I took this picture a powerful summer storm started, and not a moment too soon, I was a bit worried because the plants were drooping.

I take this opportunity to mention that rushing to water your plants at the first sign of wilt will keep them from developing a strong root system and will not work out well for either the plants or the gardener in the long run. When the dog days of summer finally arrive you won’t be able to drench their shallow rooted systems enough to keep them alive. Read more…

morning, sunshine!

What strange weather we’re having, with thirty degree temperature changes from one day to the next! Right now we’re in cold mode and the sixty degrees feel quite chilly after the tropical climate we experienced only a couple of days ago.
It rained a lot and the garden took on that fierce look it gets every time it is left to its own devices. More weeding, more weeding. Read more…

the makings of a vegetable garden

Even for those of us with a more relaxed attitude towards garden design, a vegetable garden demands discipline. For one, you don’t want to question whether the contents of your herb wheel are edible, and vegetable crops are energy intensive enough without unproductive demands on their resources.
The most important task in a kitchen garden is keeping it tidy: weed religiously and trim excessive foliage to encourage produce yield. Avoid diseases promoted by poor air circulation by respecting the plants’ spacing requirements. Read more…

working with herbs

Working with herbs is an art and small details in the practice of harvesting and preserving them make the difference between success and failure.

Harvesting:
Always harvest herbs in the morning, right after the dew has dried up but before the heat makes the plants release their volatile oils. Harvest fresh young leaves free of blemishes from areas away from roads and traffic. If you grow herbs for their flowers, always pick the flowers before they fully open. Never harvest plants on rainy days.

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