Time saving Hedge Trimmer use

I just found a new use for my small, rechargeable hedge trimmer – removing the old foliage from perennials!

I know it is a bit late in the season, but pruning chores just don’t always get done by the timeline suggested!!  When I was ready to prune back the dead foliage on my Southern Shield Ferns, which had spread into 3′ wide clumps, using my hand pruners looked like a big, time consuming job.  So a light bulb went off as I spotted my small Homelite hedge trimmer  with a 6″ long blade(available at Home Depot) sitting on my work bench.  It worked  so well and quickly that I was able to trim back many perennials in a short amount of time, including Coreopsis, Coneflowers, Daisies, Phlox, Asters, Salvia, Herbs, etc.  I do like to leave a couple of inches of the stem showing, mainly so I know where they are in the garden before the new spring growth appears.

So put this fun little hedge trimmer on your spring list of ’need to have’ tools for 2014!  I know you will fun many uses for it to save yourself time with your gardening chores.

Happy Gardening,

Althea

 

No, this is not the roadside weed that causes hay fever – that is Ragweed!

This variety of Solidago blooming in my fall garden is Fireworks.  It reaches 3-4′ tall, but I do the’ Chelsea Chop’ (removing a third or more of foliage) in mid-spring once it is about 2′ tall.  This trimming prevents the beautiful blooms from flopping over.

Plant Fireworks in the back of the garden with earlier blooming perennials in front, such as Daisies, Black Eyed Susan (same color but will be done blooming in the fall) or even sun loving Azaleas.  It looks great with the dark color of the Loropetalum in the background to really show it off.

Enjoy this beautiful day!

Happy Gardening,

Althea

 

 

 

A great way to use up some plastic water bottles or empty plant pots is in the bottom of your new container planting!

Instead of filling the container from top to bottom with potting soil, making the container very heavy & spending a lot on soil, you can place recyclables in the bottom third or so.  Of course it depends on the size of the container & the plants you will use.

Instructions:

Most important is to make sure the container has a drainage hole.  Next, place some coffee filters or a piece of landscape fabric (available by the roll) over the opening.  Doing this will prevent the soil from clogging the hole which in turn will cause too much moisture for the plants.  Remember, more plants die from drowning than drought!

Add whatever recyclables you have on hand & either step on them or press down hard until it feels solid, adding more if necessary.  Use another layer of landscape fabric to cover plastics, keeping the soil from falling down to the bottom.

Fill the rest of the container with soil & add your plants of choice.  Water immediately & then again with a water souble root stimulator to get your planter off to a great start!

Happy Gardening,

Althea

 

I am so glad I took a few minutes to add a handful of tulip bulbs to my large container last fall – I am rewarded with a beautiful spring arrangement!

After removing the spent summer annuals and leaving the Teardrop Ivy in place, I placed  the bulbs down about 6″ and then planted Kaleidescope & Redbor Kales, Violas, (I think they perform better than Pansies) along with pink and white Dianthus.

Next fall, (Gardeners are always planning ahead!) I may try some daffodils and even a hyacinth or two!!

Happy Gardening,

Althea

I love using shrubs & small trees for the center of containers as they give such a presence or bones to the arrangement.  In a few years, they may outgrow the container and then I will transplant it to a coveted spot in my yard!   Recently I planted the orange variety of Sango Kaku (Coral Bark Japanese Maple), ‘Baihu’, as the main component for winter interest because the fun color of the bark.  For the companion plants, I chose the variegated foliage Snapdragon,  a bronzy Sedge, Parsley along with orange and dark red Violas and the existing Ivy.  All of these plants do great in full winter sun, but when the summer sun arrives, I will replace the annuals with a heat tolerant plant such as Vinca.  As an experiment, I am hoping the foliage of the Maple will shade the Sedge from the summer sun.

Happy Gardening,

Althea

Any pretty container can become a wonderful centepiece for your Valentine’s Day dinner.  I used this wonderful old silver casserole dish that belonged to my Grandmother Ruland.  While looking for shrubs at a local big box store, I found a 6-pack of Cyclamens that I thought would fit perfectly into this pretty dish.  I lined the container with a plastic grocery bag & just popped the plants into the dish ( watered them first).

My container should last for quite a while as I long as I keep them moist and place in some bright light once in awhile.

 

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Althea

Putting together arrangements for a fall outdooors wedding was great fun, especially using the homeowners’ wonderful collection of containers!

In this photo of a great wheelbarrow base with a tub attached, I used a nice variety of textures & colors to complement the setting.  The Bronze Sedge(Carex evergreen grass) set off the blooms of the Indian Summer Triloba Rudbeckia and the Black & Blue Salvia – a favorite of Hummingbirds.  The low growing annual yellow Lantana added the loose, trailing element.  All of these Perennials are sun lovers, but can take quite a bit of shade in temporary containers.

Once the wedding is over as well as the fall season, the perennials are great to add to the garden for future years of enjoyment.

Happy Gardening,

Althea

Black-Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia fulgida) is a perennial that I consider to be the workhorse of the garden.  During these dog days of summer, it brightens up any spot in the garden.  Goldstrum is the variety I have as it spreads, but doesn’t overtake its’ neighbors.

Brown-Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia triloba) is a cousin, but grows much taller.  This variety will pop up here & there in the garden, but is very easy to spot with the leaves having 3 lobes.  Transplant it in the spring to the back areas where some height is needed.  However, I didn’t get this done & they look just fine in the front row this time of year!

Both varieties are one of the best cutting flowers.  In the vase pictured, I used both varieties to fill out the bouquet.  Try to change the water daily &  the blossoms will last well over a week.

Look for more details about these summer winners on pages 32 & 40 in my book!

Happy Gardening,

Althea

 

Belamcanda, Blackberry or Leopard Lily, is an easy to grow tried & true perennial.  The foliage resembles an Iris, with sword shaped leaves growing about 18-36″ tall, depending on the variety.  The blossom appears mid-summer in a variety of colors, ranging from yellow to apricot to lavender with darker spotting.  In early fall, the flowers are followed by seed pods which split open to reveal  a shiny blackberry-like seed pod, thus the name.  Not particular about soil conditions, you will find the new plants sprouting up here and there, being easy to share with a fellow gardener.

Both the flower and the seed pod will look great in any arrangement.

Happy Gardening,

Althea

 

Hydrangeas are not listed in my book as a perennial, but they sure look wonderful in a perennial garden!  I have may different varieties mixed in my flower beds to add some stability as well as season long color, which changes as the flowerheads mature & begin to dry.

Mophead varieties(macrophylla or serrata) are the varieties I used in my vase of Hydrangeas – specifically Merritt’s Supreme & Preziosa, both change color as the season progresses.

It is best to cut Hydrangea flowerheads with at least 12″of stem on a dry day 4-6 weeks after they have bloomed.  At this point the flower heads are beginning to dry out & don’t need as much water.  I have found for  me the best way to dry them is put them in a vase with a couple inches of water & let it dry up naturally, enjoying the fresh bouquet(I use a large twist tie to hold the stems together at the base of the flowerhead for a full look).  Other suggestions for drying are to hang the stems upside down in a dry area, put them in a vase without water in a dark area for a couple weeks, or even put them in a brown paper bag & ride them around in your car trunk for a couple days!  Try the different methods to see what works best for you.  And remember that you may lose a couple of the blossoms to wilt, but hopefully you have plenty more in the garden – I start with the blooms at the bottom or backside of the plant so I can enjoy the sight of them in my garden for as long as possible!

Happy Gardening,

Althea