Thursday, August 31, 2017

My New "Babies" are Planted!

I managed to get all seven of my new "babies" planted this past "my weekend."  (I do not get Saturdays and Sundays off work, so to avoid confusion in my family, "my weekend" is whatever days I have off.)

Again this summer the valley is full of smoke.  Air quality earlier was "moderate," so I got things done outside, including planting and bathing Edward the Goldendoodle.  Good thing I took the time, air quality is now "unhealthy."  I figure if I can't see the mountains it's probably not a good idea to breathe the air! 

So...  here's what I did with my "babies." 

*firecracker penstemon - rock garden in the front yard, near where the dying creeping phlox was pulled out. 

*woolly sunflower (or Oregon Sunshine, isn't that a lovely name?) - in the newer part of the rock garden.

I then sprayed a lot of cat repellent on the newly dug soil!

*"Mini Blue" lavender - in a ceramic pot on the deck that held the dwarf eggplant.  It's next to the germander with a summer trim.  I used that big blue pot behind them to transplant the flowering plum tree given to me by a co-worker a few months back. 

*"Hi Ho Silver" thyme - a pretty cobalt blue ceramic pot that has a poor history growing anything.  I think I over water whatever is in it. I think the glass float is from a garage sale.  My family and I used to find real Japanese fishing floats ripped off their nets on the beaches near San Francisco in the 60s. 

*coyote mint - a large plastic planter which I placed near the herb garden proper.  Coyote mint likes sun, but not temperatures over 90.  Since the temperatures coming in the next few days will be in the 100s, a container is best so I can move it to a shaded area.  This is my favorite of the seven new "babies." 

It is forming flowers since I bought it!

*"Angel's Wing" catnip - in the low plastic planter I got 75% off.  It didn't have drainage holes, so I drilled some into the bottom.  Online this "Nepeta" is called a catmint, not catnip, but my nursery has it labeled as a catnip.  No biggie, they are much the same to me!  It's a very fragile plant, just gentle transplanting broke off several stems. 

*"Walker's Low" catmint -  the rose I didn't like wasn't looking very healthy so I pulled it out and replaced it with this catmint.  Really, the rose wasn't doing well! Honestly, it had barely any roots to it and the leaves were yellowing.  I didn't like it, so didn't try to save it.  Remember, it wasn't the variety it was labeled and wasn't what I wanted. 

For all, in the ground as well as in the containers, I mixed potting soil in with sand and sharp gravel to give better drainage.  Next time before I water I'll sprinkle some Dr. Earth's Tomato, Vegetable and Herb Fertilizer around their bases. 

"Angel's Wings" and "Walker's Low"


Potato Harvest!

I've been waiting for this day!  The plants never blossomed, and I didn't wait until the foliage died back like I was supposed to, but growth had stopped, and some plants were disappearing.

It was easy to just push over the wire cage, cardboard liner, and straw.  Other than the two wire pieces, it's all compostable.

So, where were the potatoes?  All the potatoes I'd been led to believe would be all up and down throughout the straw mulch?  The pounds and pounds of potatoes others bragged about growing in small containers and towers?

Well, here they are.  The entire crop of German Butterball potatoes started back in May.

Now, that one there in my hand is a good lookin' Butterball, perfectly shaped.  But, I'd need dozens to make a meal, and I got four.  FOUR!  Oh, I left behind a few the size of pencil erasers.  Half used pencil erasers.

What I did find in the straw, larger than potatoes, were these...

These are the creatures "who shall not be named" around my house.  My daughter has an extreme disgust reaction to slugs (snails too, but slugs are worse).  She isn't afraid of them, it isn't a phobia, but a deep-seated disgust.  I wouldn't dare suggest cooking the tiny taters, I added them to my fabulous compost keeper (Christmas present 2016!).  They associated with slugs!  While I find snails and slugs fascinating (if only because they are hermaphrodites), they are indeed "disgusting."   I was surprised to find them in the straw mulch, I don't have a problem with snails or slugs, and rarely see any in the garden.

Will I plant potatoes again?  No.  No chance.  I bought these for just $1.00, and threw the cage together with materials I had on hand.  I bought the bale of straw to mulch, but I usually keep a bale around anyway, so it wasn't just a potato specific expense.  So, my potato growing experiment cost all of $1.00, and was a resounding failure not to be repeated.  Sacks of potatoes cost so little here it's not worth the effort.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Oops...It's Black-Eyed Susan!

I'm as red as the Radio Red salvia. What I have been calling Mexican sunflower is actually Black-eyed Susan!  What a silly mistake!  Of course they're Black-eyed Susans!  So, okay, Black-eyed Susans are my favorite flower in my butterfly garden.  I hope these are a perennial variety, but will let a few flowers form seeds just in case it's the annual. 

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Dividing Herbs

It's not a fun job, but it's gotta be done.  Some perennial herbs, in fact, many, need to be divided (dug up, separated into smaller pieces, replanted) on a regular basis, at least every 3 to 4 years. My herbs are long over due. I have a lot of work cut out for me!

This is what undivided oregano looks like!  The brown stems are what is left after I cut back the spent flowers.  You see how quickly the plant (perhaps dozens of plants!) come back.  

I need to divide my French tarragon, chives, oreganos, some thymes, lemon balms, and mints.


onion chives
What to divide?  If the herb grows in clumps (think chives) or send out underground runners (mint), they will need dividing.  Woody herbs, such as rosemary and sage, do not need it, and lavender dislikes it.  You'll know when your non-woody herbs need it.  There may be a bare center where in the past the plant filled in the entire area.  Or, the leaves and flowers are smaller than they used to be.  If your plant is growing in a container, these will be more obvious.  In mints you will see small plants and runners popping up all around the container walls.

This spearmint has been years too long in the same container.  What look like roots are actually the runners going around and around the container walls trying to find soil in which to grow.  Poor little spearmint...  All those upright stem pieces will actually become new plants if given the chance.  This is why mints are so invasive, their underground runners.  

spearmint runners

When to divide?  My herbs are all spring bloomers, so fall, when the nights are cooler is best.  If you have fall bloomers, divide in early spring.  In many cases the plants are cut back after blooming anyway, so that is a good time to divide them as well.

I've cut back the French tarragon, so all that's left is the dividing.

French tarragon

How to divide?   That's the easy part!  It's time consuming and dirty, but easy.  Dig out the plant, and gently remove enough soil to see what you have.  The plant may have several distinct smaller plants that can be gently pried apart with your fingers.  Some may need a shovel cut cutting the clump into pieces (chives are one of these).  Shake off the remaining soil and prune off any dead or broken roots and branches.  Then, replant!  Don't forget to amend the soil some (dig in a shovelful of compost and a few handfuls of sand or even gravel for those Mediterranean herbs!).  If your herbs are in containers, refresh the soil by loosing up what's there, and adding in new potting soil.  Never use garden soil in containers.  Mints prefer completely new soil each year, the picky things!

Aftercare? Cut back top growth by about 1/2.  As you see in the spearmint photo below I didn't do that.  The plant is still blooming, and the pollinators are loving it, so I skipped that step.  Thoroughly water and you're done, for at least a few years!

My spearmint has been divided and replanted.  I planted one piece back into the container, and four into the ground.  Yes, it's invasive, but I have a planned mint area, where the pineapple mint is already thriving, and a lemon balm has been newly cutback.  

spearmint -divided and replanted

What about all those "extra" plants you end up with?  What's the problem with extra plants?  Well, in the case of dividing herbs, you will have lots and lots of rooted pieces you don't want.  I pot them up in little leftover nursery pots and once their growing well, give them away.  I take them to co-workers (just the other day one woman told me all her mints but one came back), or post them on local "free stuff" sites. 

The best part?  Well, it's all the new "free" plants of course! 

Monday, August 28, 2017

My Herbs - Part 5 - Feverfew and Yarrow

I don't know much about feverfew and yarrow, having only grown one of each plant for this one growing season. 

YARROW: I bought the yarrow for the butterfly garden, where it is doing very well.  This variety is called "Moonshine."  It will peak at about 2' tall.  It prefers hot, dry conditions and poor soil.  No, it's not one of those Mediterranean herbs!    My yarrow is a butterfly garden flower, but yarrow can be grown as a medicinal herb.  According to herbalists, it's good for most of what ails ya!  I take those claims with a grain of salt.. or two.  It might be interesting to try it next time I cut myself though; if you hold a piece of it next to the wound the bleeding should stop. 

If you dry the flowers, you can make a tea to help with sleep by steeping 1 tsp flowers in 1 cup boiling water.  Add honey to taste.  But, before you do, please research (or ask your doctor) interactions with any medications you are taking!  

Because of the oils in yarrow, it repels various insect pests.  It doesn't seem to repel beneficial pollinators, as mine is planted right next to corepsis and cosmos, which are a-buzz with them.

Yarrow needs dividing every 3 or 4 years. 

FEVERFEW: Feverfew is a kind of chrysanthemum, although much pretty than chrysanthemums, in opinion!  If it's possible to despise a flower, I despise chrysanthemums!  I love the fall colors, but just strongly dislike the plant itself!  When I buy them, I end up asking "why," and actually throw them out!

I bought my feverfew as a 50% off dormant perennial, just because.  Just because it is an herb, and I didn't have one!  I didn't know enough about it to even know what pretty little daisy-like flowers it has.

Feverfew grows about 20" high.  It likes full sun.  Feverfew can grow in a container, like mine.  I will be transplanting it once dormant, since I don't think the terra cotta pot at the head of the herb garden is the right place for it. 

Feverfew has been used for centuries for relief for headaches, arthritis and fevers.  Again, there are interactions with other medications, so find out before using it.

In fact, "find out" is a good idea before using any herbs medicinally!  Just because they are "natural" and "herbs" does not mean they can't be dangerous!  They can!  Especially if you are taking prescription medications.   The old saying, "Ask your doctor" applies even to herbs.  I grow medicinal herbs for their beauty, their flowers.  

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Made a Mis-Identification in the Butterfly Garden!

How silly of me... it isn't vervain at all!  It's anise hyssop!  It looks exactly like anise hyssop!  I guess I completely forgot I planted You Grow Girl ( anise hyssop seeds back in late May, and forgot where I planted any of the seeds at all.  I need a map next time!  I wondered why the plant didn't look a thing like the annual verbena!  Live and learn...


still a baby (with a smaller baby in the upper left)

looking just like anise hyssop should... 

Oooo, Oooo, Look What I Got!

I bought myself a birthday present!  No, not with the wonderful gift card my children gave me, I'm still planning that.  And it's not a singular birthday present either.  It's plants though!

I did a little Internet research (great place, the Internet!) and found some plants I wanted at Shooting Star Nursery.

I had a four item list, and came away with seven, which is pretty good!  They have a new (since I've been there) demonstration garden, and right in front of where I parked was the most amazing shrub!  A Walker's Low catmint (Nepeta x faassenii 'Walker's Low').   It was a mounded mass of  lavender colored spikes.  Walker's Low is named for the place it was accidentally, or naturally, hybridized, the lower part of a Mrs. Walker's garden!  It's sterile, so will bloom and bloom and bloom in vain, trying to form seeds.  Mine has already been cut back for the summer.  I think it will go out front where the rockrose died.  Catmints are not cat attractants like catnip.  They are related, and both members of the mint family.

My list contained:

1) "Hi Ho Silver" thyme
2) "Mini Blue" lavender
3) Coyote mint
4) "Firecracker" penstemon

"Hi Ho Silver" thyme ( Thymus argenteus 'Hi Ho Silver') is a culinary thyme with pretty variegated leaves.

"Mini Blue" lavender (Lavandula angustifolia 'Mini Blue') is just that!  12" high with a 14" spread and deep purple-blue flowers.

Coyote mint (Monardella odoratissima glauca) is a native to California and parts of Oregon.  It smells like toothpaste, really, it does!  It was a Native American tea plant, and the Spanish used it to help sore throats.

It isn't much to look at right now, and might never be, but one grows it for the flowers.  They have died back on mine, but you can see how they are clusters of purple blooms. 

The last of the four planned purchases is the "Firecracker" penstemon (Penstemon eatonii. It will grow several feet high, much more than the penstemon I have growing in the front yard rock garden.  I don't know what type that is.  I seem to have a little extra plant growing in the pot!  It's not a grass weed, it's flat like an iris.  A baby something...  I'll tenderly transplant it and see what happens.

Besides the Walker's Low catmint, my unplanned plants include the most amazing catnip I have ever seen!

"Angel's Wing" catnip (Nepeta 'Angel's Wings') was irresistible!  That's my excuse, and I'm sticking to it.  It's a ground cover catnip, growing to just 6". 

Last, but not least, is the Woolly Sunflower (Eriophyllum lanatum) is also called Oregon sunshine.  A native of the Willamette Valley in Oregon, it should thrive in the front yard rock garden.  It also is a butterfly magnet, but my butterfly garden is too fertile and kept too moist for its needs.

Woolly Sunflower is actually woolly!  It's leaves are fuzzy, and you can see in the close-ups below.  It's almost like it's covered in cobwebs, and the buds seem to be breaking out of cocoons. 

All of these are low water plants, and any would do well in the rock garden, but some will be kept in the backyard, maybe in containers.  The catnip for sure can't go out front; I already have trouble with the neighbor's cat messing in the rock garden, I'd hate to see what he'd do with catnip!  My cats don't cross the street into his yard, I don't know why he should let his come over to mine.  Sigh... he's not the best of the best neighbors even without his cat...

While my employer does carry some great plants, especially seasonal Log House herbs, sometimes I need to go to Shooting Star to find the less common, or native, plants.  If you are in Southern Oregon, check both out, the Grange Co-op (the Central Point store has some very knowledgeable nursery staff) and Shooting Star Nursery (also in Central Point).

I happened to work one day last week at one of the farm/ranch stores, and, as expected, bought some gardening supplies!  50% on broken bags of bark (2-medium, 2-small), bark mulch, and steer manure!  I need it all!  I really do!  I wonder what my one day there next week will bring?

Late Summer Pretties in the Butterfly Garden

It's hard to admit it's "late summer," but in a week it will be September. 

The butterfly garden has been hard at work, growing and blooming, and generally looking pollinator attractive.  I love to look at before and after photos...

May 3, 2017.  Built, filled, and ready to plant.

May 23, 2017.  First plantings.  Asters in the left-hand ring died.  The pineapple sage in the center took over and never bloomed (soil too rich, I'll move it when it dies back).  The coreopsis (Up Tick) is doing tremendously well.  Tremendous flowers... biggest flowers in the history of flowers... everyone tells me so... there have never been flowers like this before...  In fact, nobody grows coreopsis better than me, it must be record-setting coreopsis... It's rated the best coreopsis in the country!  (My apologies.  Some words and phrases, like "tremendous" or "record-setting" set me off, starting with giggles, then some serious concerns.)

The true story is, I am impressed by its growth.  That's it.  Just me impressed by the growth and blossoms.  Oh, the pollinators like it too, in fact they might rate it #1! 

The mystery seedlings have all been identified, save one.  I think it is a milkweed of some sort.  Time will tell, even if it's next year. 

July 1, 2017.  California poppies, dwarf godetia, bachelor buttons, and coreopsis (maybe they'll give Up Tick a run for its money).

August 14, 2017.  Indian blanket, Mexican sunflowers, dwarf godetia, and bachelor buttons.


August 21, 2017. 

As large and lush as the cosmos grow (and I think these are "dwarf" cosmos), I don't like them one bit.  I actually cut off a lot of the branching stems that were crowding the yarrow and white lavender.  Since it's an annual, I know not to plant it again.  The buds just ready to open are quite gorgeous though...

The dwarf godetia flowers still remind me of vinca or impatiens.  The ones in the bottom photo have been nibbled by something before they opened.

The Mexican sunflowers are my favorite.  Too bad they are annuals.  Considering they started from seed, they did very well.  The bees like them too!


So, now I know what I like and don't like for next year's annual plantings.  Definitely Mexican sunflowers, lots and lots of  Mexican sunflowers!  I'll let the poppies self-seed, as well as the bachelor buttons. 

I still have the original milkweed seeds that started this all off last November!  I'll put them in the refrigerator this winter and they'll be ready to go come spring!  I'll need to give them their own bed if I want enough for monarchs!  

And, believe it or not, I've already ordered some seed packets off eBay!  A perennial salvia, giant hyssop and wild bergamot (it isn't labeled monarda though).  I guess the "giant" hyssop needs a space to take over too!  I'm glad I have a lot more room in the far-back yard!