Category Archives: Flowers & Ornamentals

An Early Spring

I haven’t been garden much over the last couple of weeks. Two weeks ago I planted some peas and some fava beans in my yardshare garden, but assumed they would stay underground for a while until things warmed up. Then last week I notice the crocuses coming up.

Creative Commons License photo credit: audreyjm529

Ok, I thought, it’s pretty early, but when I lived in Ohio the crocuses lived through occasional late spring snowfall. No problem. But this week the magnolias started dropping the fuzzy shells that cover their buds. In a few days they will be in full bloom.

Creative Commons License photo credit: emdot

The problem is that once these processes are triggered by weather changes they don’t stop. The blooms can’t stop growing once they start. The weather here in Eugene will turn cold again and it will start raining, and raining hard. If it rains or turns cold while all the fruit trees are blooming then we can look forward to a very bad year for fruit. We will have few apricots, plums, cherries, or peaches.

I don’t want to harp on climate change again, but I have to say something. One period of exceptionally cold or warm weather doesn’t mean anything, but if you are a gardener you can record these signals. Keep a garden journal and record when the crocuses come out every year. This is actually invaluable information for you in terms of keeping track of your planting dates and also for scientists to understand how climate change is impacting different areas. You can understand climate change. You can see it happen if you pay attention.

Seeds are sprouting!

Creative Commons License photo credit: mahalie
Last Saturday I took a study break and headed down to the Eugene Propagation Faire at the local community college. The organizers had gathered an amazing array of fruit tree cuttings: apples, pears, apricots, almonds, plums, nectarines, etc. Gathered around long tables were people watching local experts raptly as they grafted the cuttings onto rootstock. Unfortunately for me, I don’t have a place to plant fruit trees at the moment and while I could plant a dwarf tree or two on my patio garden, I decided to wait until I was better prepared with the perfect container and planting mix.

Instead, I took advantage of the seed swamp happening on the other side of the cafeteria and went home with a nice mix of herb, flower, and vegetable seeds. When I got home I sorted through my box of old seeds and made myself a promise to plant all those old seeds this year. I have quite a collection of seeds of various ages going back about ten years.

Take note gardeners! This is not good practice. Seeds that are a year or two old are generally still viable, but the older seeds get, the less likely they are to sprout. Some types of seeds, like corn, age quite rapidly. I tend to be tempted to buy more seeds than I have time or energy to plant. Also, seed packets generally hold many more seeds than a home gardener would need in one year.

Saturday evening I planted something like ten different types of old seeds, figuring I would just experient and see what sprouts. I set my little plastic pots on the windowsill of my office and next to the sliding glass door were they could get some sun. Most of what I planted will take 10-20 days to sprout, but I woke up to find my first seedlings this morning!

Some of the seeds in my collection are from packets, some are seeds I collected from my own garden, and some are seeds I collected in my wanderings. When I see a flower I like somewhere going to seed I stick a few seed pods in my pocket to take home. My seedlings came from a plastic bag marked “unknown flower.” Also not good gardening practice! I’m excited to see what they turn out to be. When they get some real leaves I will try posting a photo and we can play name that plant.

Patio Gardening – Geraniums

I love coming home to cheery flowers on my patio or front step. Geraniums are great easy perennial plants for patio gardening. When I say geraniums are great for a patio garden, I don’t mean actual Geraniums, although they might be nice as well, I mean pelergoniums. What’s the difference?

Geranium Nimbus
Creative Commons License photo credit: Mommy of Five

Here’s an actual geranium. It’s a member of the genus Geranium, sometimes also called “cranesbill.” Geraniums are a great plant for the front of a perennial border, but they aren’t what most people think of when one says “geranium.”

Geranium / Regal pelargonium 'Viola' / ?????
Creative Commons License photo credit: TANAKA Juuyoh (????)

Here’s what most people think of as geraniums. This plant is a member of the genus “Pelargonium.” It is a great plant to grow in pots on a sunny patio because it tolerates hot, dry conditions well. Pelargoniums also bloom over a long period, brightening up your patio all summer.

The common pelargoniums found at your local nursery will most likely come in bright colors such as hot pink, orange, or fire engine red. If very brightly colored flowers aren’t your style, you might consider planting “scented geraniums” on your patio instead. Scent geraniums are pelargoniums bred so that their leaves give off familiar scents. My favorite is “rose geranium” which has a wonderful scent of roses, soft fuzzy leaves, and lovely light pink flowers. Scented geraniums can actually be used as an herb to a their scent to sugar or baked goods. Once you discover how easy to grow and beautiful pelargoniums are you might even start collecting different varieties for your patio garden.

Creative Commons License photo credit: shimgray

The Itinerant Gardener

For the moment, GardenGrrrl is an itinerant. This summer I’m living with some friends in a shared house. In September I will be moving to a new city to begin a new graduate school program. Lately it’s been one move after another with little time to establish a garden. In the meantime I have still be assisting friends in getting their gardens started. I will be posting more on various gardens that I have coached clients through.

For now, here’s a picture of some Lantana in the front yard of my summer home. Mostly the garden here is a mess, but despite the neglect the Lantana is doing beautifully. Gardening snobs might not be fans of Lantana because it is so ubiquitous in this part of the country, but it’s the kind of plant that can make anyone feel like a successful gardener. It’s a great groundcover or perennial for places you don’t want to spend that much time on. Lantana does well in summer or part shade and tolerates forgetful watering. In some parts of the country it can become invasive, but I have never seen it cause a problem here in California.

Since I’m only here for another six or eight weeks I have a limited amount of time to get the garden here straightened out. Luckily my roommates have both expressed an interested in learning more gardening, so expect to see more posts in the coming weeks as I attempt to get them started.

Law Mowers on Scientific American

I would like to comment on this article about buying a “green” lawnmower. While electric lawn mowers are better than gas, the writer could have offered some other options. Maybe if you aren’t fit enough to push a reel mower it’s time to find a neighborhood teen who needs some extra cash. If your yard has so much grass that you need a huge mower you might think about whether you really need all that lawn. Lawn is very resource intensive. There are many other options available that use less water, fertilizer, and time. Reel mowers, if kept sharp can be surprisingly easy to use. Many of us just assume that a gas or electric mower would be easier, but we have never tried a reel mower or don’t know how to maintain one. Unfortunately I didn’t get to say any of that because I have to create a login in order to comment. I understand they don’t want a ton of spam, but there has to be a better way. If they want to spam me with adds about Scientific American ask for my email, but I’m not going to create a new password and log in for every website I visit.

Grass Clippings Flying
Creative Commons License photo credit: Dan4th