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Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Awesome African Daisies

One of our favorite flowers for bridging the gap between winter and summer is African daisies (Osteospermum). Their bright, daisy shaped flowers come in wonderful colors and the Symphony series (to the left and below) has purple centers.

African daisies in the Symphony™ series are very compact evergreen, flowering shrubs that originate from South Africa. These bloom all season, and produce striking daisies that may be in shades of orange, lemon yellow, apricot and white, depending on the cultivar. These contrast nicely with their dark green foliage.

Another variety that we enjoy is 'Nasinga Purple Spoon'. The tips of the lavender petals are cupped, giving the bloom a funky, spiked look. These flowers always get compliments.

A new variety we are trying this year is named 3D because of the distinctive shape of the bloom. A pom-pom shaped center of florets is surrounded by a double row of lighter colored petals. Unlike other African daisies, 3D stays open at night.

African daisies are drought tolerant and perform best in full sun and well drained, average soil, but they also prefer cool weather. In temperate climates like ours, this tender perennial is commonly grown as an annual bedding or container plant.


Thursday, January 31, 2013

Cheery Nasturtiums

Nasturtiums perfectly fill the gap between winter and summer flowers. They love the cool weather and produce loads of large, brightly colored flowers.

Nasturtiums have delighted gardeners for centuries with their brilliant flowers and round, apple-green leaves. Originally from Peru, these beauties have travelled the world since discovered by Spanish conquistadors in the 15th century. The original species sported orange, spurred flowers and pale green leaves. Now there are many types with various bloom colors and spotted, mottled or lovely blue-green foliage.

The flowers and leaves of nasturtium are edible, with a spicy, sharp flavor. Use shredded leaves or snipped petals in a salad of young greens for color and interest. Just be sure to carefully rinse the inside of the long spurs (like tails) trailing out behind the flowers.

Nasturtiums are easy to grow. Plant them in a sunny location with well drained soil. Do not over-fertilize as this causes foliage growth but inhibits flowering.

Once the weather starts to heat up, nasturtiums start to wane. Move them to a spot with afternoon shade and keep them well watered for best results.

Trailing nasturtiums make dramatic hanging baskets and leaving them in a basket makes them easy to move in and out to protect from freezes.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Heavenly sweet peas

SWEET PEAS (Lathyrus odorata) have charmed gardeners since the early 1900’s. The spicy scent of the flowers is lovely and the plants bloom in many colors. We like to grow mixed colors that include shades of purple, rose, red, pink and white. The plants are climbers by nature and will scramble up a trellis or fence in no time.
They grow well in our climate during the spring and early summer producing an abundance of flowers. A morning sun location is ideal.
To keep your plants blooming cut off old flowers before they develop seeds. Sweet peas make long lasting, fragrant bouquets, so cut newly opened flowers to bring inside for fabulous flower arrangements. 
We now have 1 gallon plants to be put out in the garden now and a great selection of seeds which should be sown before the end of February. Sweet peas like cool weather so it is best to get an early start on them.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Spring Crops!

Winter life at the nursery is as busy as ever. We use this time to accomplish chores and pot all the baby plants we can in preparation for spring. Several times a week, herb and perennial shipments arrive and everyone gets involved in the process of planting. Chris sows seed weekly and cuttings are done every morning. We all dress in layers with lots of hats and scarves on the cold mornings.

Kendel is enjoying the work. Of course it's always fun to plant and watch things begin to mature.

 Getting as many plants into the greenhouses as possible is a challenge. It seems like it doesn't take long and they are full.We start to run out of room each year right before spring starts.

Poppies are growing nicely and should be ready in just a few weeks.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Gardening mush

We had our first hard freezes this week. Low temps in the 20s. Because the weather up to this point has been balmy, nothing was hardened off, so the plants took a hit.

The veggie garden looks the worst. We had just planted new lettuce and now it is mush. We will pull it up and start over again in early spring.

I don't usually plant snap peas in the fall but did this year. We harvested the first small crop and they were delicious, but that is all we will get. The vines hanging on the fence were destroyed in the freeze.

Even the arugula suffered damage. It usually isn't fazed by cold weather, but the drastic change in temperatures was too much for it. We can trim this back and it should recover.

The kohlrabi is totally unaffected. We had such a great crop this year we are trying lots of new recipes. I like it peeled, sliced and roasted, but it is also good sauteed in garlic and butter. Isn't it a odd looking vegetable? Like an alien lifeform in the garden.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Light up the Holidays

Last weekend was my favorite event of the year - Luminations
We light up the nurseries with hundreds of candles, luminarias and lights. Last year Kendel rigged us up the red lanterns in front. They are a nice touch.
Last year during the drought we also moved from real votive candles in our luminarias to battery opertated tea light to avoid any risk of fire. Not as bright as real flame, but much safer.
We missed the fire in the outdoor fireplace this year, but it was too dry, breezy and warm (62 degrees at 7 p.m. on Dec. 1!) to have open flames.
Here is the front of the workshop building all lit up and decorated for the occasion. Everyone walked over here to pick up their free door swag we make from Douglas fir boughs and sprigs we cut from evergreens in our gardens.
If you have a holiday party this year, plan to include lanterns or luminarias in the front of your house to give your guest a warm welcome and a lit path to the door. You and they will appreciate the effect.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Kale - rock star of the veggie world

Kale is the rock star of the vegetable world these days, but unlike many pop stars, it has no bad habits. Low in calories yet high in vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants, it appears on menus and cooking shows in smoothies, soups, salads, even as baked chips. The good news for gardeners is kale makes a lovely plant for gardens and flowerbeds in cool weather. Plant it in the fall and early winter and you can enjoy the sight of colorful, textural foliage and the flavor of fresh greens all winter and spring.

How to Plant: Sow kale seed directly into the garden in fall. Drop seeds 3 to 4 inches apart in moist soil. Keep the soil consistently damp as the seeds germinate and the seedlings grow. Thin seedlings as they mature until plants are 12 to 16 inches apart.
Buy kale as young transplants to place in beds or containers later in the season. Buy plants that are still small or older plants in l-gallon containers or larger. Growth will be stunted if plants are grown in pots that are too small.
Hardiness: Kale is a biennial, meaning it will grow for 2 years before it flowers and dies. However, the leaves become tough and bitter and the plants unattractive in the heat, so kale is usually grown as a cool season annual, replaced in late spring.  Kale tolerates the usual winter temperatures of Texas without protection. If the temperatures drop into the low 20s, cover your plants with frost cloth or sheets until the cold spell passes.
Harvesting: The flavor of kale improves after a frost, and tender young leaves have the sweetest flavor. Kale sprouts leaves from a center stalk, or sends up loose clumps of individual leaves. Cut the older, outside leaves with a sharp knife so the newer leaves will continue to grow. Rinse the leaves thoroughly then allow them to sit for 5 minutes before cooking. Check the internet for recipes; kale is cooked by many different methods.
Varieties: There are several types of kale and many different varieties. Try them all to discover which grows and tastes best to you.
  • Ornamental kale grows into colorful, rounded heads of foliage popular as bedding plants in cool season plantings. The best variety for our area is ‘Peacock’ kale.
  • Scotch kale has lovely, curled leaves growing up to 24 inches tall. ‘Redbor’ is very popular in landscapes with pink leaves turning deep purple in cold weather. ‘Winterbor’ has the same structure with steely blue leaves. Both are very cold tolerant.
  • Siberian kale has flat leaves with highly serrated edges. Most common in our area is ‘Red Russian’ whose gray leaves turn burgundy red as the season progresses. This is the least cold-hardy type.
  • Heirloom kale, also called Dinosaur kale, has upright, blue-green, bumpy leaves. Sold under the names ‘Lacinato’, ‘Nero di Tosca’, ‘Tuscan Black’ or ‘Dinosaur’ it is the most heat and cold tolerant and said to be the most flavorful kale.