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Help in the Garden through Apps! The Down and Dirty!

iPad mini

iPad mini (Photo credit: patrick-allen)

This was written by Jane Milliman and I felt it was worth sharing! By all means if you find an app that you have found to be helpful, I’d be glad to hear about it!  We’re always looking for ways to make our customer’s gardening experience a positive one!

Fortunately, a few apps for both Android and Apple users have generated positive reviews and the even better news is that two of the better ones are free.

The Gardening Guide from Mother Earth News (free onApple and on Android, as Garden Guide), Gardening How-To (free on iPad and Android) and Landscaper’s Companion — Gardening Reference Guide ($6 on iPad andiPhone, $5 on Android) are all worth downloading.

The Landscaper’s Companion wasn’t created by a gardener, but the app’s developer, Dave Stevenson, and his researchers have landscaping and gardening experience with botanical gardens and the United States Department of Agriculture, among others.

The companion is an encyclopedia of sorts, with more than 20,000 plants and vegetables listed. You can browse an alphabetized index that is separated into 16 categories, including houseplants and vegetables, for instance, or you can search by name.

The search feature is nicely designed. You can enter “cucurbita pepo” or “zucchini” or “summer squash” and the software will find the same vegetable.

Each plant page includes a profile with the plant’s zone, growth rate, water and sun requirements, color and typical height and width. The descriptions are basic but include important elements — like whether the plant has thorns, for instance — that would help a gardener prepare for a planting.

You can also narrow the search criteria if you specify the zone, height or color of a plant, among other features. If you live in an area with deer, you can also filter results to show only plants that are deer-resistant.

On each plant page you can leave notes for yourself, e-mail the description or add photos of your own. In another section of the app, you can review only those plants that you marked as favorites, or review every note you have recorded.

Not every feature of the app is built with this same attention to detail.

You could spend hours perusing the 14,000 photos in the “Plant Images” section, for instance. Unfortunately, some of that time would be wasted, since you can sort the images to include only plants in your particular zone, but you can’t sort in other meaningful ways.

If you could filter out all but the plants that needed full sun, for instance, or those with red flowers, the images would be more useful.

While the Landscaper’s Companion is encyclopedic, it’s not highly useful as a how-to guide. On that front, the Mother Earth News Gardening Guide is considerably more helpful, at least for vegetable gardeners.

The app makes good use of archival materials from Mother Earth News, an environmental conservation magazine that publishes organic gardening tips, among other pieces.

The guide includes tutorials on growing about 20 different types of crops, like carrots and tomatoes, and the advice is excellent.

The carrot tutorial, for instance, offers overviews on the different varieties, how to plant them, when to harvest and how to generate and collect seeds. The “Growing Tips” section includes a range of information that will appeal to serious and more casual vegetable gardeners alike. (Carrots grow best in soil with a pH balance of 5.8 to 7.0, it says, then adds: “Before pulling carrots, use a digging fork to loosen the soil just outside the row.”)

The techniques section is equally helpful, with 23 in-depth tips on disease prevention and planting self-seeding crops, among others.

The app is free, which is great, but it wastes valuable space with advertisements for Mother Earth News. No ad-free option exists for current subscribers or those who would rather pay for the app.

Flower gardeners who own iPads have a solid option with Gardening How-To, which is built on content from the magazine of the same name, published by the National Home Gardening Club.

Users receive four free issues of the magazine in iPad format, which yields dozens of features and smaller stories on flower gardening and information for vegetable and fruit growers.

Unlike many other apps, Gardening How-To isn’t strictly confined to biology or design. Articles on new plant varieties and building flower beds sit alongside more conventional growing tips.

You can take the iPad into the yard for guidance, as long as the device is in a zippered plastic food storage bag. That way the screen is protected yet still reacts to your touch.

Graphically, Gardening How-To is far more polished than Mother Earth, with beautiful photography and interactive elements like animated graphics, audio and video. (All those interactive elements and glossy photos add up to a slow download, so start the download at bedtime.)

Unfortunately, I found nothing as good as this for iPhone or Android users, who must pick through a thicket of poorly rated choices — often for $1 or $2 — to get what they need.

Given that we are still in the early days of apps, this looks like a case of the software engineers grabbing some quick bucks before being crowded out by more established gardening publishers.

So until those publishers get serious about mobile technology, gardeners will have to pull lots of weeds to find something good.

How to stay Healthy in a Dark Garden!

 

    I was speaking to one of our sales reps today and he and I got on a rant about weight gain and the holidays and cookies and jeans not fitting……and it brings me to this.  How in the &)^%$^& are we to stay fit when the garden is dark at 5pm or sooner!  You can’t rush home this time of year and plant, or weed, or mow or for that matter….anything outside!  When it does start snowing and you know it will the news will be full of the “dangers” of shoveling the driveway!  Honestly…..with 11 more days till the days begin to get longer, what are we supposed to do with ourselves!?

  Get to the gym!  Get on your treadmill! Go for a walk (albeit with a flashlight!) Walk up and down your stairs! Go to the mall! Go to the Library! (great seed catalogs!) My point is do something!  All summer long we go every night until the sun starts to fade, being outside, doing whatever it is we love and we all know we’re not just lying around in the hammock!  So why, in the winter do we rush home to sit on the couch and start our primetime at 6pm?       

     STOP!  Get yourself moving now and believe you me we will all feel better for it when spring gets here and we can still see and touch our toes!  Fight the darkness!  I promise you, it will head off depression, keep you more focused and thinner! (or at the very least, less fatter!)  Keep dinners light and easy (you know we can all survive on a salad in the summer!)  Let me know what you do to stay busy in the winter! Maybe we can all make a plan for a fitter winter!

Fall Planting is GOOD for your Plants!

  Remember the old adage…Fall is for Planting“?  That has been the truth for  many, many years! Not only is this the time for planting bulbs like daffodils or tulips for spring but almost anything else you want to plant!  The secret?  Mulch!

As long as you mulch your plantings, you are almost guaranteed that your fall plantings will break forth in the spring with new growth and be as happy as ever! 

Shrubs, perennials, ground covers, grasses, vines, etc. actually love this time of year. Planting now, you get the benefit of fall rains, soil temperatures that aren’t headed to  “too hot” and cool air temperatures mean the stress level is low.  Plants get a chance to get settled in before winter which is what you want!

We do not recommend planting rooted cuttings this time of year. We do not suggest you divide your hostas now but most anything else is fair game! Most perennials are on their way to dormancy so they won’t have much on top anyways. You are planting the roots, giving them a nice home for the winter where they will settle into the soil and be ready for take-off come spring!

Don’t fear the fall and the good news is most garden centers are running specials and sales to avoid storing them in containers over the winter.  You get rock bottom prices and happy plants!  You won’t be sorry!  Just follow the planting instructions on the labels!  Have fun and PLANT!

Fall Bloomers in the Garden

This was sent to me in an email and it has good information for fall bloomers in the garden! Enjoy!

 

Final Flourish
by Gene Bush – posted 08/15/11

Think about adding some of these underused fall-blooming beauties to your shade garden later this season. After the heat lets up a bit, you will want to get back out there and expand your season and plant palette.

Gardeners in this region tend to give up on gardening come mid to late July and into August. Still fewer gardeners are aware September, October and into November can be filled with flowers. The fact that fall-blooming flowers are not found more frequently is due more from an absence of information than a lack of performing plants.


Aster divaricatus‘Woods Purple’  
Aster divaricatus ‘Woods Blue’


Aster laevis ‘Bluebird’
Aster photos Courtesy of Bailey Nurseries

Gardening myths about lack of blooms in shade gardens during summer and fall are just that. Myths. Gardening references tend to switch over to evergreens, bark textures and various colors of berries with the mention of blooms sadly missing after September. Bark and berries are important for the backbone of a garden—to basic design—but blooms are what we gardeners truly desire.

Fall-blooming perennials are no more difficult to grow than plants blooming in spring or summer. If you have been successful with a bed, border or garden containing bulbs and perennials you can grow fall-blooming plants to perfection. The exact requirements concerning soil, moisture and sun or shade varies from plant to plant. In general, I begin with the classic “well-drained soil with plenty of humus and adequate moisture.” My next step is a good gardening encyclopedia or nursery catalog that gives tips and hints for success with each family of flowers and special needs for individuals within a family.

Since some of the fall bloomers are not as well known as spring bloomers, you might have to shop a bit to locate specific species or cultivars. A local nursery or catalog specializing in a full inventory of perennials is my first choice.

 

Asters (Aster species and hybrids)

Asters are well known, but to the best of my knowledge, sadly underused in local gardens for fall bloom. Since they are such a widely adaptable and easily grown plant, it is hard for me to understand why they are not used more often in gardens. Perhaps it is a case of familiarity breeds contempt for numerous species of asters decorate our fields, fence rows and woods during September and October. Asters are a must-have for middle to back of a border with its stately foliage and wide range of bloom color from all the new hybrids.

There are numerous species, hybrids and cultivars to choose from with a range in height from 18 inches to well over 6 feet. In decent garden soil, give them room—for they will form clumps rather quickly making for a large show. The taller species benefit from shearing or pinching back around June to make them more compact and fuller in foliage.

One of the features that makes an aster an aster is the yellow disk in the center of each ray of petals. Flower petal colors include blue, lavender, white, pink and red. Great drama in color combinations can be easily achieved by using goldenrods as companions with all their different shades of yellow.

 

 


Monkshood Aconitum napellus
Photo: iStock-© Anna Yu

Monkshood (Aconitum species and hybrids)

Monkshoods or aconitum are masters of the open shade garden in fall and early winter. Depending on the species or hybrid, you can have blooms from June through December.

Aconitum are easily grown to perfection in the Midwest when given three basic needs. Provide a good compost-rich soil dug relatively deep. Place them in all the light you can provide without full sun. Mulch around (but never over) the crown to retain moisture.

Almost all aconitum are tall and stately with a range in height from 2 ½ feet to more than 6 feet. The blooms have their top two petals fused together, which forms a helmet or hood shape that gives it the common names of helmet flower or monkshood. Blooms are numerous toward the upper third of the plant with most en masse at the top of the main stem. Colors can be white, rose, yellow and bi-color, but blue and lavender are the most common.

All aconitum are toxic to mammals and caution should be exercised. Use gloves when handling or planting.

 

 


Gentian saponaria 
Photo: Gene Bush

Gentian (Gentian species and hybrids)

My favorite fall-blooming flowers are gentians. Imagine, if you will, the red, brown and gold of falling leaves. Then picture rich green foliage decorated with masses of the most beautiful blue blooms. There are some 200 to 350 species of gentians around the world plus numerous hybrids. Among the fall bloomers are species growing wild in local woodland edges, fields and roadsides. Bloom shape can range from a bottle to crested trumpets. Size can begin at less than 1 foot to more than 3 feet in height. There are numerous gentians that begin blooming in September and October lasting into November.

The two most common species in the Midwest are the bottle gentians (G. andrewsii and G. saponaria). The common name comes from the resemblance in shape of the blooms to small bottles. I think they look like the old-fashioned Christmas tree lights with the rounded tips. The blooms do not fully open on these two species. Other easily grown gentians I enjoy are summer and fall blooming species and hybrids from Asia. Two species on the smaller size in foliage with large trumpet-shaped blooms are the G. paradoxa and G. septemfida or everyman’s gentian.

 

 


Tricyrtis ‘White Towers’
Photo: Gene Bush

Toad Lilies (Tricyrtis species and hybrids)

Toad lilies have been gaining popularity in the last few years. They originate from Japan, Asia and the Himalayas with about 18 species and many hybrids to choose from. There is a toad lily for every shade garden, since growth can range from 6 inches to more than 4 feet. Blooms can be upright cups to hanging bells and exotics resembling orchids in shape. Colors run most of the spectrum with rich buttery yellows to spotted bi-colors of lavender and pink. The individual species and hybrids chosen determines the period of bloom. It is possible to have a toad lily in bloom from June through the first hard frost. The blooms are frost sensitive so you will need to cover the plants if an early frost is forecast. One of my favorites for fall blooms in the shade garden is T. hirta x miazaka. This hybrid toad lily is one of the most graceful with its arching habit and height of about 2 feet. Be sure to place it on a raised bed near a path where you can see the blooms up close.

 


Hymenocallis occidentalis 
Photo: Gene Bush

Bulbs

There is a wealth of bulbs to choose from that will provide blooms from September into November. There are fall-blooming crocus and colchicum, which are often confused with the crocus. Several species and hybrids of flowering onion (Allium sp.) make gorgeous displays. The native spider lily (Hymenocallis occidentalis) is seldom seen and blooms about the same time as our resurrection lilies, or naked ladies. Hardy cyclamen are seldom seen in gardens and there are at least three species and their hybrids with some performing into December.

There are far too many flowers blooming during fall and into early winter to give up on gardening now.

 


Japanese anemone 
Photo: © justdahl – FOTOLIA


Turtlehead (Chelone obliqua speciosa)
Photo: Don Kurz

Fall-Blooming Perennials

•  Japanese anemone (Anemone hupehensis)

•  Hardy begonia (Begonia grandis)

•  Bluebeard (Caryopteris sp.)

•  Turtlehead (Chelone sp.)

•  Bugbane or Fairy candles (Actaea aka Cimicifuga)

•  Hardy cyclamen (Cyclamen hederifolium)

•  Joe Pye weed (Eupatorium sp.)

•  Lobelia (L. cardinalis, L. siphilitica)

  •  Goldenrod (Solidago sp.)

 

 


Gene Bush is a nationally known garden writer, photographer, lecturer and nursery owner. Contact Gene at munchkinnursery.com.


I received this from a friend that read it online at opennhort.com.  It’s fantastic and should make all independent garden centers think about their customers. Also…to those that shop at the big box stores…remember the lil’ guys out there where you will receive the personal assistance and someone WILL remember your name when you walk in but may not have that big parking lot!

 

You know Her: she’s a great customer. She ADORES plants, devours every issue of Better Homes & Gardens, and spends Her winters pining away for the first signs of spring thaw so she can eagerly attack Her garden plans. She drives the nice-but-not-too-nice car, knows your staff by name, and wouldn’t dream of shopping for Her garden anywhere else.

Um, yeah. There aren’t 10% of Her out there anymore.

NewsFlash: She’s already cheating on you. And if she isn’t, she will.

Honestly? She likes you well enough, but she’s gotten bored with you, the spark just isn’t there anymore. She used to be surprised by something new each time she came in, she was inspired by your lush and lavish displays.

The recession-era you: with paint from two seasons ago, staff reductions, and merchandise constriction, well, you’re a little less alluring.

You’ve become predictable, and not in a good way.

She’s already shopping at Nordstrom for Her shoes but Costco for Her paper towels. She’s smart enough to see the grower’s truck when it stops at the Big Box store on Tuesdays with fresh product, which, golly – looks fairly much the same to Her eye.

She’s using more coupons these days, because austerity is ‘in.’ She’s savvy enough to price shop the essentials online. And even if you’re closer… well, your staff are more harried and distracted than ever, your parking lot is tight, she can’t get to your store after work…

Can you make Her feel special again? Can you give Her the thing she values most – Her TIME – back? Can you delight Her? Make Her life easier? If not, then you’re just 5% better than the other guys – and they’re 20% cheaper.

And she’s smart enough to do the math.

Those intriguing elegant ferns in the garden

Fern plants at Muir Woods, California

Image via Wikipedia

     This has been an interesting spring so far. We nurserymen don’t even know what it means to have a “normal” spring anymore.  Mother Nature finds a way to keep our lives interesting year after year!  This year (as any other!) we emerge from winter as the sun-starved creatures that we are. We look to the sky and gaze at the blue sky welcoming it back! But…this year…not so much! April….I’m pretty sure we didn’t see the sun and it was still so cold!  May came in pretty nice but wet…oh the rains we’ve had!  Our neighboring towns have had hail three times in the last month and the winds have been dangerous and damaging!  

  So where am I going with all this whining about the weather….to the ferns…the beautiful ferns. They emerge from the ground like some slow alien being that pops up out of the earth and slowly begins to unfurl their fuzzy tendrils and fronds! I am absolutely fascinated by the stages of the fronds as they unfurl and dream of just sitting and observing the show but hence, no time for that!  All the different shade of green, and it’s a wonder-garden of  perfectness for fairies and tree-frogs!

  I took some pics of the fronds opening on some ferns in the nursery and I’ll try to post them. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Are you ready for a house fire?

     I generally post about plants and flowers and photography. Those are my loves and my life besides my family. However, I am posting today about fire. My mom’s and her husband’s house burned down this past Tuesday. They live about 3 hours from me so I got there the next day. Nothing could have prepared me for  the job ahead of us.  You stand out in the yard and just remember what the house used to look like. The family times inside the house….the memories.

     Stepping inside is like stepping into what I imagine hell must be like. Black soot, the smell of burnt everything, walls missing, what isn’t burnt to a crisp is is drenched. The firemen did their job, they got the fire out but their job is not to keep items dry!

     After spending three days picking through the rooms that were left, I was amazed at some of the things that seemed okay (but stunk) and crushed by those items that were gone.

     I know that come Monday, I’m calling our insurance company to make sure that we have the correct insurance to protect us if we had a fire. I’m also going to buy a firesafe box for those papers that my mom lost but now needs.  You never know if it could happen to you but if you don’t protect yourself before, it’s too last after the house is burned.  Family photos saved on line….worth every dime!

     A lesson we’ve learned from this is that no one is exempt of a disaster. We are thankful that no one was hurt and that my mom was home when the lightning struck or they would have lost their dog. Material things are just that but if you have items you know you wouldn’t want to lose. Know where they are so that when you begin to dig through the rubble….you have an idea where to start looking. Walls, drywall, roofing material, insulation…can all be between you and your beloved items.

     Insurance is a great thing to have and you must have it. Be sure to know your policy, have the numbers you need saved somewhere besides your house. Have a file that has all your important numbers.  A bank safe deposit box is worth the money. I promise you!