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Archive for the ‘Patio Gardening’ Category

Last week the Garden Committee here at Horizon House had a “field trip” to IMG_6235Swanson’s Nursery to fulfill our GEM Grant.  The gardeners were awarded a bit of “flower candy” as I call it, for the inconvenience they suffered during the renovations to our West Wing.  IMG_6230Not everyone was able to go, but those who did had a good time browsing, buying, eating and

learning.

The Horizon House bus was packed to the gills with plant material.

Not all of it was able to be in the back, so was to be found all over the bus, along with some happy gardeners!

Once we got home, the staff helped us by putting plant materials on the proper decks IMG_6246for the gardeners to plant.

What followed was the planting itself.  Talk about busy bees…  The gardens are now getting full and attractive.  IMG_6249Here’s one I planted.  Now I’ll stand back and watch the magic!

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Oh, yes!  There is hope and renewal in the garden…everyone’s garden.  I took these pictures of our gardens just this week.  Go and look for yourselves!

Some things never died back.

img_6014 Some things are budding and preparing to burst forth.img_6015img_6017

Branches are forming.

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I noticed one of the roses (in fact the one pictured) has a plastic label around the stem.  It is too tight.  It has obviously been on there for a few years.  It’s time to cut it off.  Remember, even plastic will strangle a plant.  Cut those labels off as soon as you notice they are getting a bit tight.  But, goodness, look at those new stems just itching to get longer!!

Bulbs are pushing up toward the sun.img_6021

Have you begun checking out the gardening catalogues yet?  They are full of colorful ideas.  You don’t have to buy anything…just enjoy making plans!

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At our last Garden Committee meeting the topic of “SOIL” came up.  Although we all have a pretty good idea that as gardeners, we know what soil is…it ain’t necessarily so!  My aim here today is to acquaint us with the REAL meanings, definition and uses of various types of SOIL.  They are definitely not all the same!

For instance, do you know that “dirt” is the stuff under your fingernails; what’s on your dungaree knees; the debris carried into the house on your sneakers after being in the garden; what the dog brings in; and in general, what you need to vacuum up to keep the house clean?  That is NOT the stuff we plant our posies in!

What we plant in, is SOIL!  But, there really are different types of soil.  As gardeners we should be aware of what they are and how to differentiate between them, so we use them properly.

We could start by calling it a “planting medium”.  The reason for that is that there are so many soil types.  Here is a site from the University of Maryland Extension Service.  After a fair amount of searching I found this one which is pretty basic.  No super charts, or long chemical connections…just the simple facts.  I will go into more specifics about what is available to you here at Horizon House.

We essentially have 3 (three) different soil types available for your use.  Remember you should NOT need to add much soil at all.  All the garden beds have ample soil right now.  Occasionally, you might want to top dress, or dig in a bit of compost (as an amendment).  If for some reason you really do need to add soil, it should be in the “top soil” category.  So, here goes!

TOP SOIL   is what you will commonly find beneath your feet, in any garden environment!  Top soil varies in quality, depending on where it is found.  The top soil on a mountain top will  be very different from that on a river flood plain.  So, unless you know where it originates, you really won’t know at all whether it’s any good at all for your garden.  But, having said that, the Garden Soil we get is in a bag. We can rest assured that it is decent soil.  It is NOT special potting soil, that often has amendments added; nor is it mulch or compost.  It’s just plain soil…nothing more, nothing less.  Here is a link about soil basics  that you might find interesting.

MULCH  is what you put on top of the soil, around your plants.  It provides protection from drenching rain; it holds moisture which your plants can access easily; it provides shade for tender roots lying just beneath the surface; weeds cannot find their way into your well mulched garden; it provides warmth, protecting roots from deep freezes.  Over the year(s), if it is organic, it breaks down, adding texture and nutrients to the soil below.  This means that you can add, probably SHOULD add, new mulch every year, either in the spring or the fall.  Go to this link about MULCH which will add to your understanding of this product.  And by the way, do not worry about the mulch getting into the soil.  It will break down and become compost in the soil.  It will also provide instant bulk and moisture retaining qualities. (There is also non-organic mulch which will not break down, like plastic and rubber.  We do NOT utilize non-organic mulch in our gardens here at Horizon House.)

COMPOST is what I define as “Black Gold”!  compost-handIt is naturally broken down organic materials.  These are usually composed of leaves, grass, discarded garden plants (NOT diseased) and even non-fatty kitchen scraps(fat attracts “critters”). It sits and decomposes until it’s totally broken down.  A process that takes about a year.  Here is a link that will explain the process of making and using COMPOST.  For our gardens at Horizon House, we get bagged compost.  We should use this as an AMENDMENT to our garden soil.  It should NOT be 100% of the soil surrounding your plants!

Ragan suggests a ratio of about 4 parts garden soil to 1 part compost.  I’d say that’s even a bit high, but it’s a good guide.  The compost can be worked into the soil around your plant roots.  When you plant new materials, work some compost into the soil.

So there you have it.  I hope that helps.  I’ll try to get that little chart we talked about at the meeting posted somewhere in the E level storage area.

 

 

 

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Someone was concerned because many plants appear to be dead or dying out in our garden terraces.  So, I put on my “woolies” and ventured out to check all three levels.

 

What I found there were three levels of gardens suffering from winter!  I found nothing unusual. I found that most gardeners had done with their gardens, what they needed to do.  They had cut back perennials that needed cutting back.  The hardy perennials that had been left, were in differing states of life.   Some of them looked fabulous!  Some looked a bit haggard (like me on a cold, windy day).  And some looked a little surprised that their moderate Seattle had dealt them a surprising hand with freezing temperatures over a few weeks.

Seattle doesn’t often suffer from such cold for so long.  BUT, right now that is what’s happening.  If our tender plants were not bundled up (like we have done with ourselves when we’ve ventured out) before this hard frost hit, they are suffering a bit.  But, worry not.  Nature has planned for this.  Notice, even the plants caught in their own little pond, are doing quite well!

The plants that are perennials are doing just fine.  It could be that their tops have died back…but that’s OK.  That’s what they do!  They will come back robustly in the spring.

The shrubs and trees (be they large or little) that are deciduous (losing their leaves in the winter) have lost their leaves, making them look a bit naked.  The other trees and shrubs look wonderful.  Their leaves and budding tips are just waiting to burst forth on the first warm day.

The annuals, or non-hardy plants, large and small, have succumbed to Father Winters cold blasts…as they are expected to do.  They do NOT look good.  They are the ones that should find their way into the compost!

The final word on all of this is not to worry.  It’s too late to do anything anyway.  Some of the gardeners have either put, or left, fallen leaves on their garden beds.  That is a wonderful technique of mulching (snugging up the plants).  Nature takes care of it’s own.  When a cover is needed…there are the fallen leaves!

img_5956Many gardeners also cover their plants with burlap when a hard frost is expected, but nature hasn’t planned anything like that, so it’s nice, but not necessary.  That is a more prevalent technique in areas with snow and wind, to protect a plant against losing too much moisture, and even protecting branches from heavy snow loads.

All in all, I think the gardens look great.  Don’t worry!  All will be well in the spring.  And if you’ve lost something, consider it an opportunity to plant something new and different!

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1Schlumbergera bridgessii,  Crab Cactus, Christmas Cactus, Easter Cactus, or Thanksgiving Cactus whatever you call it will (probably) have to do with when it blooms.  They are ALL Schlumbergera bridgessii which is MUCH too hard to pronounce, to say nothing about spelling!  So any title you choose to give it will work!
They come in many flower colors, sizes, and leaf shapes, but they are popular enough that even the greenest (pun intended) of gardeners can identify them!
I bought a white one last year, in full and massive bud for a little plant. IMG_4454 It was dirt cheap (no pun here!) since it was past the season (whatever season that might have been, knowing this plant).  I picked it up at the local grocery store for about $7.00!  I couldn’t resist, especially since I’ve never owned a white one.  Actually, when it blooms it has a blush of pink.  So much for white!  But it was very pretty, and still is.  However, this year instead of about 30 flowers it only has 5. Thanksgiving Cactus I’m sure it’s because it was raised (before I got it) in a greenhouse, where on my shelf it doesn’t get much sun at all.
My purpose for this post today is to help all of you who have one of these Schlumbergera bridgessii treat them so they give you as much pleasure as possible.
  • Sun exposure should be moderate.
  • Temperatures should be 60*-70* which is perfect for a home environment.  Note: most bud drop is caused by temperatures being too high, or light being too low.
  • Humidity should also be moderate.
  • Fertilizing should be done when it’s in a growth period, which is commonly between April and October.  A complete indoor plant fertilizer will be fine.  Less is more as far as strength!
  • Watering-it should be moist when in a growth period, but NEVER allow the soil to be WET!  When it’s “resting”, cut back on the water, only watering when it’s dry.
  • Propagation-can be easily accomplished by cutting a section (at a joint) of more than 2 or 3 segmented stems, after letting them dry out for a few days, root them either in water, or damp sand.  Once they are rooted they can be planted in a peat based compost, or potting soil.
  • Resting Period is after they bloom.  At that point they need to have less water; cooler temperatures; darker location and perhaps a summer vacation outside in a sheltered spot, img_0044hopefully safe from snails.  This can be difficult to offer a plant for many people, meaning that blooms may not be as prolific.  I’m sure that is what happened to mine!  Window sillWe live in a small apartment with limited exposure to sun on the window space.   It did NOT get outside this summer-next summer it will!!!  I’d check the soil every two weeks or so in our Pacific Northwest climate to be sure it doesn’t get TOO dry.  They can stay outside until temperatures drop below 50*.
  • Blooming Period-as soon as buds appear, cut back on the water, and don’t allow the temperature to drop below 55*.

So, there you have it.  I hope all these tips help you deal with Grandma’s Christmas (or whatever) Cactus.  It shouldn’t die on YOUR watch if you pay attention to all the advice I’ve given you here.

Maybe this is the year to make cuttings for next Christmas and give each family member their own piece of that family “heirloom”!  Enjoy!

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daffodils-1399483I have gotten so many questions lately from our gardeners about their bulbs.  They are coming up and it’s only the beginning of November!

I am a little unfamiliar with  this problem.  In New England (my recent, and longtime home) this isn’t a problem.  If the bulbs begin to show green, they are soon nipped by frost and go back to bed like good little bulbs.  But, here in the Pacific Northwest, it appears this is a real issue!

I have checked everywhere for more information on this problem and have not been able to find specific suggestions on how to handle it.  But, let me “soldier on”.

Bulbs will begin to sprout when they have had enough time, darkness and moisture to produce good root growth.  When it gets warm the bulb thinks it’s spring.  How does figure that out?  It’s under the surface of the ground, and can only react to what nature is telling it…and right now, it’s being told it’s warm enough to send up some shoots.  The bulb thinks it must be spring!  But it’s NOT spring, and we gardeners are puzzled.  We have every right to be puzzled.  Just remember the bulb is not puzzled, it’s just doing what it’s supposed to be doing.  Or so it thinks!

In all my research, I think I’ve come up with enough information to suggest why this may be happening.

screen-shot-2016-09-24-at-8-26-56-amLike so many problems, we often have to back-track to the beginning.  Bulbs need to be planted at least 3 times their depth.  That means a dry bulb that measures 2 (two) inches from root to tip, should be planted 6 (six) inches in the ground!  That’s pretty deep.  Take it seriously!

Here at Horizon House, we garden in large beds.  Those beds are actually large containers.  I wonder if our bulbs think we are forcing them?  In that scenario, bulbs are planted in a much more shallow manner, and come up pretty quickly once they sense it’s warm!  If that is the case, it would say to me that we need to be ever vigilant to plant our bulbs deeply, so they don’t get an early wake-up call.

Right now, we’ve got early shoots appearing…what do we do?  There is not much you can do, unfortunately.  If you cover them, they will just continue to reach for the sun.  They will become leggy and vulnerable.  I would just leave them.  In nature this would happen as well.  The bulbs won’t die.  They might not flower particularly well come spring, but the following year they should be fine.

Remember to let the foliage die down naturally come “post-blooming” time.  The bulbs themselves need the nutrition that comes from the leaves.  You might also give them a “shot” of fertilizer at that time.

37350208-old-garden-scoop-on-root-and-soil-of-flowers-top-viewA further suggestion might be that in the spring when you’re so happy to be out in the garden and are digging, if you run across any shallow bulbs, get them down deeper.  If you buy new bulbs, plant them DEEP!  In our beds, it’s easy to not go deep enough.

I don’t know if this has helped your quandary at all, but at least it has given us all something to think about.  As we garden, we learn.  Sometimes we just have to stand back and let nature “do it’s thing”.  I also feel it’s telling us that global warming is even affecting our bulbs!

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The other day I ran into Don and Lynnea in the hallway here at Horizon House.  They want to plant a few new plants, in pots, on their balcony and requested a bit of advice.  I told them I would do a blog about that.  I have found that if someone asks a question, there are others thinking of it as well.

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Southern Living Photo

When planting in pots, try to remember “Thriller, Filler and Spiller”.  It will help you set up an attractive planter.

The Thriller is something tall and flashy.  Usually they are placed in the back , if viewed from one side; or in the center of the planting, if you will see it from all sides.  They can be flowering plants, have attractive foliage or maybe be tall grasses.

The Filler is something that is neither tall, nor a ground cover, but rather something that will fill in the center area with color or nice leaves.  They often grow in a rounded manner so they literally fill the center space.  If your thriller is in the back, place your filler between that and where you will put your spiller.  If the thriller is in the middle, surround it with the filler.  Remember to leave room to plant your spillers!

The Spiller is just what it says.  It is something that will spill over the edge of the container, drawing your eye from top to bottom in a graceful way.  Remember again if your thriller is in the back, the spiller should be between the filler and the edge of the pot, so it “spills” over the edge.  If your thriller is in the middle, have a number of spillers all the way around.

Also remember, depending on the size of your pot or container, you can have either 3 plants, or many.  Although generally the Thriller will just be one dramatic plant!  They tend to be larger, so one is often enough. Let your taste prevail!!!!!

You can also use different pots to provide a different spot for one or two of those categories.  One has the thriller, with spillers; another pot with fillers and spillers; etc.  Be creative!

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What are some plants that might be appropriate for your container?  When you go to the nursery, just tell them you are looking for “Thrillers, Fillers and Spillers” for your container.  They will know EXACTLY what you mean.  (A big box store may not…)  They can help you by showing you what will work in your particular planter, in your particular climate, with exactly the colors you’re looking for.  That is what they are there for.  Most of them are very knowledgeable.  Don’t be afraid to ask!  They will enjoy showing you what they have to offer.

I could give you lists of some plants, but I think that’s limiting.  Go to the nursery and enjoy a few hours there.  Talk with the staff.  Look at the plants that are available and get a real sense for what they will do for you and YOUR pot.  Then ENJOY!

 

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