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Archive for the ‘Drought Tolerance’ Category

Today, after lunch, since I was in the Dining Room and half way to the gardens, I thought I’d take a little swing through them to see what was peeking up.  I was NOT disappointed!  In fact, after I waltzed through the 3 levels, I went upstairs and got my little iPod-Touch (my camera!) and went back to take some pictures of the rhododendrons.  They are VERY pregnant with blooms, IMG_7211and I thought that justified a blog posting about how to deal with rhododendrons, or rhodies, as I call them.

Over the next month these plants will bloom, and bloom and bloom.  They are among the most prolific and beautiful blossoms you will find in our gardens.IMG_7214IMG_7213

Now, how do you care for them?  They are really pretty easy.  Here are some basic points to think about:

  • DO NOT PRUNE UNTIL THEY ARE DONE BLOOMING.  If you do, you will rob us all of beautiful flowers!  If you want to pick some of your own blooms for use inside, that is of course your privilege.  Do NOT pick blooms from any one else’s garden however!  (Unless you have permission.)
  • Prune sparingly.  Try to remove ONLY dead and diseased plant material.  If the shrub really needs to be brought under control, size-wise, or if they are looking “leggy”, it’s easy to do by pruning right down as close to a parent branch as possible.  You will get new shoots, which will be blooming in a couple of years.
  • These plants bloom so prolifically that they often exhaust themselves trying to produce seed from all those blossoms.  If you are careful, you can remove the spent blossoms.  However, be careful to take ONLY the spent bloom, and NOT the leaves surrounding them, as that is where next years blossoms form.  If you are feeling timid about this, just leave them alone.  Then when they are completely dry, you can almost brush them off!  Or still leave them alone, the plant will be just fine.  Some wild plants are NEVER pruned and they continue to bloom as if they were being paid for it!!!IMG_7206
  • Here is a Washington State Extension article about pruning your rhodie.  It has more links associated with the page.  Click away!
  • Fertilize them?  They naturally grow in the woods, with no need for extra fertilizer.  They love partial shade, as well as all the needles and leaves that coat the forest floor.  Keep that in mind!
  • Do they need extra water?  Probably not.  As long as they have rich soil and good mulch they should do fine.  If we have a REALLY dry spell, they would probably be grateful for a DEEP watering.  They are shallow rooted, so if you don’t water them deeply, the roots will head toward the top of the soil to get that water, making them vulnerable to heat and dryness.IMG_7210

Here is a PDF from Washington State Extension Service.  It tells about a myriad of issues that can take down your rhodies and azaleas.  Don’t let the article scare you off.  It looks pretty dramatic.  BUT, if you DO have a problem with your shrub, there are great pictures here of what the affected plants and leaves look like, and then you can deal with the problem.  Click on the link to see the information.

Now, notice how healthy all the rhodies look in the photo’s I took today?  Our plants are doing quite well, and you probably won’t have ANY of those difficulties…so don’t worry about it!

At any rate, enjoy the rhododendrons as they fill our gardens with a profusion of wonderful color and cheer!  All of our gardeners are HOPING you go down to the garden terraces and just “hang out” there!

There was also a clump of Hellebores blooming away…here they are!IMG_7209

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From the time we are just wee, little ones learning a catchy rhyme, “Rain, rain, go away.  Come again another day!” Until the present time when we stand aghast to read the news about yet another terrible rain event in the form of one or more hurricanes.

Rain is one of those things that we hate one minute but know the next, that we can’t exist without.IMG_0371

The most important element that we need to support life (any kind of life) is WATER!  It comes to us in the form of rain.  Rain fills the oceans and pushes the brooks into the streams, which form the rivers, etc.  So, we cannot do without rain!

 

Some climates have to live with little, or no rain, as in deserts.  Other places like rainforests, have to figure out how to handle the deluges.  As I recall the cliché is “feast or famine”!  Here in the Pacific Northwest, we are usually in the “feast” category…but not always.  This is where our skill, as gardeners and farmers, comes into play!

Our gardens have to handle both an excess of water, or in the dryest season of summer hold onto the little we get.  In other words, sometimes we need to deal with drought, just as we need to deal with the occasional flood.  Generally in the PNW,img_5618 the rain is frequent, but light. It keeps us constantly damp it seems, but doesn’t rain enough to get down to the deep roots where it’s necessary in order to be of any use to the plant above.  So, what are we to do?

As gardeners (I’ll include farmers in that all encompassing word) we all know that along with water, the most important ingredient is the SOIL!  Just like water, soil comes in different forms as well.  In a desert, it’s sand.  In a rainforest, it is almost pure compost. If it rains in the desert, the water is gone almost as soon as it hits the ground, because sand does NOT hold water and the dampness is burned off by the sun.  In the rainforest, the water is enclosed in the rich, deep compost, held in the shade, and available for whatever time is necessary!

What do we learn from this?  In a desert, there are no plants dropping leaves, or falling onto the ground to rot…so there is no compost forming naturally.  In the rainforest, there are trees and plants galore, which shed leaves, break off branches, and support animals that leave their detritus.  All of this falls to the ground, rots and becomes compost.  Now, if we could just get the two together!!!!

THAT is where the gardener begins to display his or her skills, and brains! compost-hand

Essentially, there are three things you need in order to create good soil for your garden. The growing material itself (which we call the soil); water; and air.  We aspire to “perfect” this combination in order to grow our crop, be it vegetables or flowering plants.

BUT, the bottom line is that we need to take the RAIN and hold onto it long enough, and deep enough, for the plants to utilize it.  If a plant is watered and just the top of the soil is dampened, the roots have no way of getting to it.  That is an unhealthy situation.  The roots will aim upward to get to the water, leaving them vulnerable to the next burst of heat, which will dry those roots out, and eventually kill the plant.  Water deeply!  THAT is the weak spot in our rainy climate.  We think because it’s always raining, we shouldn’t need to water, but that is NOT necessarily the case.

We need to figure out how to adjust the soil in order to hold and convey the water down to the roots of the plants.  This is done by combining our soil with compost.  That compost also loosens the soil, allowing space for air to be incorporporated.  A good equation!

In Israel, they have turned the desert into farms.  Go to this site and read how they created this miracle.  But, certainly this is not what we have to do in our PNW gardens, is it?

The Spruce has a wonderful article about building soil to hold water.  It would be worth a visit.

Here’s a link from the University of Maine, Extension Service telling everything you’d possibly need to know about soil,

Here’s to Happy Gardening…and perfect rainfall!

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I took a walk around the gardens today.  IMG_6752It was HOT out there!  The plants are feeling the heat as well.  Fortunately, most of the gardens are being watered by drip and spray, set up by our wonderful landscaper.  However, it is SO dry and hot, that the plants will enjoy any extra beverage we can supply.  (Just like us!)


IMG_6756

There are a few things I noticed that would probably help our gardens survive and look better.

  • Quite a few gardeners are forgetting to “dead-head” their flowers.  It is important to do that.  A plant is always trying to generate more of itself.  If it’s neglected, it thinks it’s out in the wild somewhere, and will try to generate seeds so when the plant dies, it will be propagated.  The flower is where the seeds are formed.  So, get rid of dead flowers.  Not only do they look unsightly, they will ultimately weaken the plant.  (Having said that, if you really want to get seeds leave them alone.  But, it won’t be pretty!)
  • I noticed in a number of beds, tall plants are planted in the front, hiding the little guys.  If you want to see those little flowers, put the tall plants in the back of the bed, or if you have  center, free-standing bed, put the tall ones in the center.  Smaller plants should always be planted in the front.
  • Many of the tall plants are not staked.  As they grow taller, they become vulnerable to tipping.  All they need is a stiff breeze, and “bang” those tall stems bend, leaving the plant looking pretty sad, and the garden unkempt.
  • If you do water, remember to water DEEPLY.  The roots should be heading downward, where it’s cool, rather than up, toward the hot, dry surface.IMG_6755
  • There are many lily’s that are either still gorgeous, or some having gone by.  In all cases, should you pick them, be VERY careful of those rust colored stamens.  If they brush against your clothing…you’ll be very unhappy because they stain, and you’ll never get that stain out!  It will not hurt their looks at all if you carefully just snip those rust colored stamens off.

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I did it!  I jumped for a “garden” here at Horizon House! Actually, it’s a plot that cannot be gardened in the usual sense.  It has roots from a Japanese Maple that we like a lot.  We don’t want to cut out the roots, as we’d lose the tree!  Drucilla, who had that plot, was moved to a place where she could actually dig.  Now, what to do with that useless plot???

Just cover it with mulch?  Why not place some pots there?

We had just cleaned up the three (3) decks so they could be resurfaced, which meant that all the pots sitting on those decks had to be removed.  There was ample time for folks to claim their pots.  I didn’t really want to buy new pots, when all those unclaimed pots were just sitting in the storage room.  So I picked out a few, and pressed them into service!img_5586

Betty had a pot that she was not going to be able to use.  It had some geraniums in it.  I asked if I could use it in my “new garden”.  She consented.  At first I was going to remove the geraniums, but then decided to keep them.  I would lay that container on it’s side, and put the two other pots around it.

Charlie and August helped me bimg_5590y moving heavy pots, and filling them with wonderful new soil.  I trimmed back the geraniums and am hoping they will reach for the sun and begin to grow in that direction.  They will hopefully provide some color.  I planted drought resistant plants (mostly succulents) in all three pots.  I’m hoping they will require very little care, and after they settle in, should look pretty nice!img_5593

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What requirements does a plant have to have in order to be considered “drought tolerant”?

It’s interesting because sometimes you can tell a drought tolerant plant by just looking at it.  Maybe the leaves are almost nonexistent, as in an evergreen with it’s oh, so narrow leaves (needles).  Some evergreens also have a pine-359845__180waxy substance that helps keep the moisture from being lost.

You’ll notice that there are plants, like silver sage, whose leaves are covered with tiny little hairs.  Those hairs grasp moisture and hold onto it.  sageOr how about plants with very deep root systems?  They dig deep to  find moisture well below the surface of the soil.  Or on the opposite side of the spectrum, those plants with roots very close to the surface to grab all the barest of rain drops.

Generally, plants that are native to dryer climates like the Mediterranean, the American West, central Asia, and southern Africa will do quite well.  A number of our herbs, used in Italian cooking are from that area and hence do well in drought condition gardens.  Think about Rosemary, Thyme, Oregano and Sage.

But, there are other things to remember about drought tolerance. 37350208-old-garden-scoop-on-root-and-soil-of-flowers-top-view Even a drought tolerant plant needs to have plenty of water as it is planted and trying to establish itself.  Do not ignore any newly placed plant.  Those little rootlets will dry out very quickly, and stunt, or kill your plant.  Keep any new plant well hydrated until it’s well established.  Also, we have to remember that although the plants are drought TOLERANT, that doesn’t say they are able to live through extended periods of severe drought.  If that happens, even the most drought tolerant of plants will need a little drink.  Here is a site that will help you deal with an extended period of drought.

These plants should have well drained, and organic rich soil.  img_5553This is a wonderful advantage we have here at Horizon House.  We have raised beds, with wonderful, rich soil and good drainage (especially after our new drainage systems have been installed).

One of the most important things you can do to support your plants is to provide as much mulch as possible.  It will keep the ground cool and hold that moisture in.  It will also reduce the number of weeds that will compete for water.  In our garden beds, weeds are not a huge problem, but it is worth thinking about.

Our drip irrigation system is wonderful.  It provides water to the roots, rather than to the air where it dries out too quickly.  It also is activated in the early morning, which is the very best time, as the heat of the day(which might dry it out) has not been reached as yet.

Here’s a connection to my old blog (North Country Maturing Gardener) from New Hampshire that talks about Xeriscaping or the use of drought tolerant landscaping.  It talks about many of the ideas we are dealing with here today.

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