Sunday, April 29, 2012

Micro Greens - Thinning Seedlings

Thinned Radish Seedlings
One of the more difficult things for me to do is thin a row of directly sown seeds.  It always struck me as wasteful, and contrary to my gardener's natural nurturing of plants instinct.  So I would either not do a very good job of it, which affected the crop, or I'd spend too much time painstakingly placing individual seeds the proper distance apart to avoid having to pull too many of them.  Then I learned that most seedlings of food crops are edible, and absolutely delicious.  Radish seedlings are particularly good, giving a nice "sprout-like" texture to top off a salad, and with that uniquely peppery radish flavor.  Carrots, peas, and beets are other examples of micro greens that make a nice addition to spring salads, and are available almost exclusively to home gardeners.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Sweet Slips

Fall Rescued Roots
Remember those Ornamental Sweet Potato roots I rescued last fall? I dug them from containers, cured them, wrapped them in newspaper, and stored them in the basement, with the hope of trying to propagate them this spring.  Hope became reality.

Set in Moist Potting Soil
With the help of fellow MG, Juanita Kauffman, they were placed in moist potting soil in the greenhouse in March, as we watched and waited for them to sprout.

First Slips Sprouting
It took about two weeks, and some of them never did anything, but the others kept sending out shoots, which I cut off and potted up.  Sweet Potato shoots are called slips.

Slips Forming

More Slips Forming

Potted Up Slips

Potted Up Slips

We'll have over 100 plants for the Plant Sale.

Kinda cool.

Monday, April 23, 2012

What's in Bloom - April 2012 - Wildlife Area

We hope to bring you a regular feature of "What's Blooming" in the various Demonstration Gardens throughout the year.  Jane Krumpe took these pictures last week from the Woodland, Meadow, Native Habitat Garden, otherwise known as the Wildlife Area.

Native Honeysuckle Lonicera sempervirens
Our native honeysuckle vine.  Other common names include Coral honeysuckle and Trumpet honeysuckle.  Early nectar source for hummingbirds, which are its main pollinator.

Gelsemium sempervirens - Carolina Jessamine

Gelsemium sempervirens - Carolina Jessamine
Carolina Jessamine is South Carolina's state flower.  We're stretching its northern hardiness border at Zone 6b - usually described as a zone 7 plant.  It's considered toxic to livestock, but supposedly has some medicinal qualities.

Red Chokeberry Aronia arbutifolia

Red Chokeberry Aronia arbutifolia
Red Chokeberry is a common upright, open shrub with white flower clusters in spring and red fruits in fall and winter. The University of Connecticut lists it as one of the best shrubs for fall color, with foliage having an intense, shiny, raspberry to crimson color, with purplish highlights. Can also have some orange mixed in, especially in shady sites.  And of course the berries will provide food for wildlife.

Rhododendron calendulaceum - Native Flame Azalea
Just getting ready to bloom - one of our native deciduous Azaleas, the Flame Azalea.  Azaleas like acidic soil with a pH between 4.5 and 6.0.

Carolina Sweet Shrub - Calycanthus floridus

Carolina Sweet Shrub - Calycanthus floridus
Crush the leaves of the Carolina Sweet Shrub to get a spicy, sweet aroma.  Also called Sweet Betsy in North Carolina.

Halesia tetraptera (Halesia carolina)
Carolina Silverbell
There seems to be one of those taxonomic changes going on, since multiple sources list both Halesia tetraptera along with Halesia carolina interchangeably with the common name Carolina Silverbell.  The University of Connecticut describes the fruit as interesting, four-winged (tetra - ptera), and oblong that changes from green to tan and persists into the winter.

Woodland Poppy - Stylophorum diphyllum
Woodland Poppy - a must for any shade garden.  Also forms an interesting seed pod.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Redbud - Cercis canadensis

Cercis canadensis, Redbud in Eckhart Landscape

I enjoy driving to work this time of year since parts of my route take me through Michaux State Forest and I can observe the leaf out of the trees, as well as the spectacular blooms of our native Redbud, Cercis canadensis.

The pictures are from my landscape - specimens acquired 7 years ago from the Franklin County Conservation District's annual tree seedling sale.

Redbud blooms also have a professional interest for me, because their bloom time coincides with the hatch and emergence of the destructive forest pest, the gypsy moth, or Lymantria dispar. Next week's news column talks about gypsy moth, as well as the start of the mosquito season.

Cercis canadensis, Redbud in Eckhart Landscape
Another common name for a Redbud is The Judas Tree, acquired from the legend that Judas hanged himself from a similar Middle Eastern species Cercis siliquastrum.

Alternative reasons suggest that the flowers and seed pods resemble a tableau of Judas hanging himself, or, more simply, that 'Judas' is merely a corruption of 'Judean', as the tree was once common in the Judean hills.

The generic name, Cercis, comes from the Greek ‘Kerkis’, a weaver’s shuttle, which the fruits are said to resemble.

According to Wikipedia, "In some parts of southern Appalachia, green twigs from the Eastern redbud are used as seasoning for wild game such as venison and opossum. Because of this, in these mountain areas the Eastern redbud is sometimes known as the spicewood tree."

Redbud is an understory tree and it is one of the the larval host plants for the Io Moth, Automeris Io.

Cercis canadensis, Redbud in Eckhart Landscape

The redbud is the state tree of Oklahoma and is a legume belonging to the pea family, Fabaceae, subfamily Caesalpinioideae.

Besides all that - it's just plain pretty,and that's enough for me.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Birch Tree Pix

My birch tree is leafing out - it gives me a chance to watch nature at its most fascinating.

Day 2 - Not Much Action...

Day 1

Day 3 - Some green!

Day 4 - why does it all twist up?

Day 5 - Almost a leaf!

Day 6 - Leaf is there!

Day 7 - All done!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Spring 2012 Vegetables


Lest you think I've somehow given up on vegetables, and totally gone over to the ornamental side, rest assured.

Here are some pictures of my edible stuff

Peas Sprouting
The warmth, and lack of moisture allowed me to work the soil early this year, so I was actually able to plant peas on St. Patrick's Day, something that I have only rarely been able to do. Usually, it's not until the Easter weekend that I get enough time, or energy to get going in the garden.

More Peas Sprouting
 This year - the peas are up for Easter weekend.

Lettuce and Radishes

And I seeded some lettuces and radishes the same weekend, seen here coming up in a hastily created raised bed.



Perennial plants Rhubarb (top of the page), Horseradish, and Asparagus.  All of these were planted 6 years ago and will provide bounty practically forever.  I need to divide the Rhubarb and Horseradish. 

Self Sowed Cilantro
 And here is some self-sowed cilantro.


Last fall's planting of onions and garlic is doing well.

Multiplier Onions
The many leaved ones are the multiplier onions.

2nd Year Garlic Clump (Unharvested from 2011)

Given where it's growing, I must have missed harvesting this garlic clump last year.   I googled around trying to learn what to do about it.

This Mother Earth News article  offers one possibility - Garlic Greens:
To grow garlic greens for cooking, plant whole bulbs 12 inches apart in the fall. In spring, when the greens are 10 inches tall, grab them with one hand, and use your other hand to lop them off with a knife. You should get two more cuttings before the plants give out.

Another article suggested digging and dividing them for a regular, but later, garlic harvest.  Me - I'm gonna leave them alone and see what happens.  I'm not sure if the clump is a soft neck or hard neck variety, or if it matters.  From what I've read, there will be multiple, smaller heads, with smaller cloves.  We'll see.

Garlic is not biennial, like regular (not the perennial, multiplier) onions.  Regular onions will flower and produce seeds the second year if you missed harvesting them and left them in the ground.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Betty and The Girls

Girl Magnolia 'Betty'
Picture by R.K. Parisien
Jill's post below on Magnolia stellata prompted me to research the Magnolia specimen in my landscape. I got the plant from fellow Master Gardener Iris Masters when it outgrew the space in her garden. It bloomed beautifully this year, as you can tell from the pictures (taken at various times throughout March). Googling around, I narrowed the identification down to a Magnolia liliforum, but wasn't sure, so I enlisted the help of Linda Secrist, Kathy Engle, and Jill Hudock, to see if we could positively identify it before creating this post.

With that team working on it, we were settling on a cultivar of Saucer Magnolia, or Magnolia x soulangiana, but weren't sure which cultivar. At some point, it dawned on me to ask Iris (Duh! moment) and she came through beautifully, identifying it as a Magnolia Kosar De Vos Hybrid from the Little Girl Series.

From Iris:  "Deciduous, 12 ft H, 15 ft W.  Bloom at age 4-5 years.  Colors range from deep to pale purple (sometimes pink or white inside) Bloom in spring before leaf-out. Sometimes sporadic rebloom in summer. Hybrid between M. liliflora ‘Nigra’ and M. stellata ‘Rosea’, bred to bloom later than M. stellata to avoid frost damage. Erect shrubby growers bearing girls names: Ann, Betty, Jane, Judy, Pinky, Randy, Ricki, Susan. This specimen is Betty."

Girl Magnolia 'Betty'
Picture by R.K. Parisien

Girl Magnolia 'Betty'
Picture by R.K. Parisien

Girl Magnolia 'Betty'
Picture by R.K. Parisien
From the National Arboretum web site:

The U.S. National Arboretum presents eight hybrid magnolia cultivars affectionately known as ''The Girls.'' These selections offer a spectacular floral display approximately two weeks later than M. stellata and M. x soulangiana, thus decreasing the possibility of spring frost damage. The flowers are doubly delightful! They welcome spring in shades of pink to purple and later surprise you with occasional summer blooms. Plants grow as multistemmed large shrubs or small trees bearing slightly leathery leaves that stand up well to summer heat and drought. Winter reveals the plant architecture highlighted by smooth grey bark and fuzzy flower buds. In every season "The Girls'' embellish the landscape.

''The Girl Magnolias'' are selections resulting from controlled pollinations of Magnolia liliflora 'Nigra' by M. stellata 'Rosea'; M. liliflora 'Reflorescens' by M. stellata 'Rosea'; and M. liliflora 'Reflorescens' by M. stellata 'Waterlily'. The crosses were made at the U.S. National Arboretum in 1955 and 1956 by William F. Kosar and Dr. Francis de Vos. All are F1 hybrids and reported to be sterile triploid selections. These plants were selected and named by William F. Kosar. Released 1968.

Plants grow best in full sun to light shade; prefer loam soil with adequate moisture; tolerate poorly drained, heavy clay soils or dry areas.
Specimen plant or mass planting in open recreation areas, industrial parks, or in the home garden. Locate to accentuate floral display, silvery gray bark, multi-stemmed habit, and winter architecture.

Readily available from retail and wholesale nurseries.

Girl Magnolia 'Betty'
Picture by R.K. Parisien
In this picture, you can see suckers at the base of the shrub that were pruned away today, after Jill advised me to, to give strength to the main stem.

Another interesting fact about Magnolia blooms.  They lack nectar, but are full of pollen which attracts beetles:
Magnolia flowers are typically pollinated by beetles. Magnolias flowers do not produce nectar but they do produce large quantities of pollen. The pollen is high in protein and the beetles use it for food. There are many different types of beetles that pollinate the various species of magnolias located in southeastern Asia and eastern North America.
More on beetle pollination here.

2012 Victory Garden

Picture Courtesy of Joe Wirtheim

The 2012 Victory Garden program has been announced.

This is a season long, highly rated, weekly vegetable garden growing experience. Master Gardeners of Franklin County, led by Darl Hospelhorn and Linda Horst, will teach everything you need to know to grow great vegetables, beginning with spring garden preparation, and ending with the final fall harvest. Each Monday begins with a short class related to what is happening in the garden at that time.

Participants will then work in the garden and be rewarded with a share of the harvest.

Wear your garden clothes and bring your gloves. We will provide garden tools.

Class meets from 9:00 to 11:00 a.m. every Monday from April 23rd to September 17th at the barn across the street from the Extension Office. The fee for the whole season is $35.00.

Call 263-9226 to register.  Class size is limited to 25 participants, so register early.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Nanking Cherry in Spring Bloom

Nanking Cherry (Prunus tomentosa)
I talked about the virtues of Nanking Cherry, or Prunus tomentosa  in June, 2010 back at this post.  Here's what they look like in spring bloom.  The blooms don't last long - barely a week, but while they do, they put on a pretty good show.  The warm weather coaxed them out earlier than usual this year, and the recent low temperatures don't seem to have hurt them, but I won't know for sure until fruiting later in early summer.

Nanking Cherry (Prunus tomentosa)

Nanking Cherry (Prunus tomentosa)
UPDATE:  April 6th - I forgot to mention that there are two or three specimens in the holding area that will be available for the plant sale, plus I potted up three more to bring this year.