After a few nice days in a row, which was nice, we had rain again last night. Today is partly sunny, with a chance of rain tonight and it looks like every day this week. It’s supposed to be warmer this week though, with temps in the 80’s. it’s hard to believe this is the last week of June, it just doesn’t seem like we had any June weather.
Some plants like the cool wet weather though. The pansies are still blooming like crazy. The hosta are huge. Tuberous begonias are lushly blooming. Some of the geraniums (pelargoniums), have huge leaves, I have never seen geranium leaves this large and I think it’s the weather.
In the garden this week the evening primrose is blooming, I was hoping for a spectacular color show of it against the deep purple of the clustered bellflower. The rain and wind last night, however, has tipped the bellflowers over. They’ll need to be staked a bit. The goat’s beard is blooming, wild geraniums and the martagon lilies. The annuals are settling in and beginning to bloom well.
The rose I have near the front porch is in full, spectacular bloom. It was here when we moved here 25 years ago, and I think it’s some kind of cultivar of the common, non-native multiflora rose. It looks like the multiflora rose with slightly bigger flowers, and it has the stipules with tiny hairs in the leaf axils. But it has very few thorns, unlike most multiflora roses which are covered in prickles. And it has a strong delightful rose scent, that wafts in the front door. Maybe mine just has changes from domestication.
I do have to prune this rose back hard a couple times a year to keep it in bounds, but I don’t want to get rid of it because of this brief but beautiful show each summer. People afraid of non-native plants may think I’m crazy, but if a multi-flora rose can look and smell this good it does have a place in my garden. Did you know multiflora rose was once planted in our highway mediums to reduce headlight glare and form a crash barrier?
I am still battling the deer here. I went out one morning and found they had eaten every open rose on my pretty pink rose in my front bed. They did leave most of the tight buds so that’s something. This is a rose called ‘Sunblazer Pink’, it is loaded all summer with small but perfectly formed roses on a bush about 2 feet tall, perfect for blending into a perennial bed.
I now have stakes and wire around the rose, which doesn’t look that nice and I placed a glow in the dark flamingo someone bought me right next to it. I have some “chasing” lights coming today and a motion activated alarm device which I will use to replace the wire and stakes. My electric wire set up is protecting the sweet corn right now.
Speaking of which my corn is growing well although I doubt its knee high by the 4th of July this year. The deer did try once again to eat it, they hit the hot wire, and then spooked and ran through it, dragging it right to where they jumped the perimeter fence. I ran some more wire across the area they jumped over and tied long pieces of white plastic bag (they are good for something) on the wire to dangle and flap.
The field corn is finally coming up in the area and I am hoping the deer start transferring their attention to the farm fields. Sorry farmers, but it’s the farms that attract the deer and feed the herds. Hopefully the farmers will encourage people to hunt them this fall. Harvest will be late, if there is one, and crops may still be standing in deer season which won’t be great.
I moved Mary Helen and Marcella, my “special” plants outside yesterday. Mary Helen was easily 7 feet tall and Marcella at least 5 feet. They aren’t very bushy however; I am hoping the outside sun will pump them up. The experts said not to move them out until the end of June, that’s when the days start to shorten and that supposedly will trigger budding in a few weeks. We’ll see.
I moved them outside on a cloudy day and tomorrow I will put an umbrella over them if it’s sunny, to let them acclimate a bit. They are in a totally enclosed area that’s nicely disguised. No deer will be able to get to them.
Cottonwood fluff isn’t causing allergies, so what is?
The cottonwood fluff is flying. It can be quite annoying, for example I was yelling at my husband (because he’s hard of hearing, not because we were fighting) and a piece drifted right into my mouth and I swallowed it. That was not a pleasant experience. It tickled my throat and first I gagged, then started coughing and choking. I coughed so hard I hurt my back. (I have to learn to keep my mouth shut.)
People are telling me the cottonwood fluff is causing their allergy symptoms. That’s not true. While annoying the fluff does not contain any pollen, cottonwoods released their pollen weeks ago. You may have had an allergy to it then, although it wasn’t very visible. But the fluff is a seed, with soft fibers attached to carry it in the wind. It can’t cause allergies (just choking).
Your allergy symptoms are happening because grasses and sometimes birch trees, are pollinating now. The same breezes that blow the cottonwood fluff around are blowing their pollen to you. Gardeners who have seasonal allergies may want to avoid ornamental grasses, some of which can cause allergies. Keep weedy grasses pulled out of flower beds before they go to seed. Timothy and orchard grass are two prime allergy causing grasses. These are often used for hay, which may be where the name hay fever, comes from.
Pigweeds, of which there are several types, began flowering in late June and bloom on and off until a hard frost. They can cause allergy symptoms when pollinating. Pigweeds belong to the amaranth family. This diverse family has some edible seeded varieties and some ornamental varieties such as ‘love lies bleeding’, which allergy prone gardeners may want to avoid.
Don’t blame the cottonwood for your allergy miseries. Do blame it for coating your pools and ponds with a nasty layer of slimy white stuff. It can clog pool filters and pumps. It sometimes clogs air conditioner filters. But it will be gone soon.
Campanulas in the garden
There are about 500 species of campanulas and several species are used in gardens, with numerous cultivars and hybrids. Campanulas often have bell shaped showy flowers, leading to the common name of bellflower, which is used for several species. Some species don’t have tubular bell-shaped flowers, like Campanula Americana, which has a star shaped flower more reminiscent of a clematis.
Campanulas are usually spring and early summer bloomers and the most common colors are blues and purples, although some species have white and pink flowers. There are campanulas native to most of the northern hemisphere, from arctic to subtropical areas so most gardeners can probably find a campanula species to suit their garden conditions. There are perennial, annual and biennial species. Most campanulas are easy to grow if in the right conditions and sometimes can even become invasive.
Here is a little about some of the common garden campanulas.
Campanula glomerata, is also known by the common names clustered bellflower or Dane's blood. It is a perennial native to Northern Europe and Japan, and there are numerous cultivars. I was given this plant by a friend and I love it, most people admire the plant when its in bloom. Bloom time is generally early summer. Dead heading will extend bloom for many weeks. It also makes a great long-lasting cut flower.
The deep purple blooms of this bellflower look great next to gold foliage or yellow flowers. In my garden I have it near Japanese aralia, which has gold foliage and evening primrose which has yellow flowers There are white and pink varieties. Some cultivars you may run across are 'Superba', ‘Freya’ and ‘Crown of Snow' which is white flowered.
Clustered bellflower can grow up to 30” high. It likes well drained, humus rich soil and grows best in full sun in the north although it tolerates partial shade. In the south partial shade is a good fit for it. The leaves at the base of the plant are larger and wider, further up the stem the leaves are lance shaped and toothed.
This plant can spread aggressively by rhizomatous roots when in the right conditions. It should be divided every 3-5 years to maintain vigor and you will probably find plenty of people eager to take the plants you don’t want.
Campanula medium, with the common name of Canterbury bells, is annual to biennial plant. The first year from seed you get a rosette of leaves but no flowers, unless there is a very long growing season. In the second year they produce lots of pretty, bell-shaped flowers in colors of blue, pink and white. Then they go to seed and die. If allowed to reseed themselves gardeners will get a good show every other year if you don’t weed out the non-blooming plants the year they sprout. Blooming time is June-July.
Canterbury Bells likes moist soil in full sun or partial shade. It likes cooler weather and where summer gets hot and dry quickly it may not perform well.
Campanula rotundifolia, the native harebell, is a perennial plant that begins blooming in its second year. The lower base leaves are round or heart shaped and the leaves along the flower stalks are narrow and blade shaped. It produces dainty bell shaped, lavender blue flowers on long stalks in mid-summer.
This wildflower likes sandy, well drained soil and is often found in Michigan’s sand dunes, but it will adjust to garden conditions. It does best in the front of borders in full sun or partial shade.
Creeping bellflower, Campanula rapunculoides, is often confused with the native harebell and is often called harebell too. It is native to Europe but widely naturalized in the US. It has larger flowers and broader leaves but is otherwise quite like the native harebell. Bloom time is early summer. This harebell like partial shade and will grow in dry to moist conditions. It is a perennial.
Creeping bellflower can be invasive, it has both rhizomes and tubers, and can spread rapidly in moist conditions. However, the flowers are quite pretty, and the roots are said to be edible so it’s probably a judgement call by the gardener as to whether it’s a friend or foe. Personally, I like the plant and it is not invasive in my garden.
Campanula persicifolia, the peach-leaved bellflower, is a perennial bellflower that has several cultivars and is often sold to gardeners. It can have blue or white, large bell-shaped flowers on a long stem. There may be one or several flowers on each stem. Stems can reach 3 feet high. 'Grandiflora Alba' is a popular white flowering cultivar. ‘Takion Series’-Blue is a hybrid bellflower with outward facing flowers and sturdy growth habit.
This bellflower is native to Eurasia but has escaped gardens in many places around the world and naturalized. It likes full sun to partial shade in well drained soil. It can spread by seeds and also produces new plants around the original. It needs to be divided every 3-5 years and the flowers should cut off as they begin to fade to prolong bloom. In warmer climates the plants may be evergreen. It’s hardy in zones 3-7.
Campanula portenschlagiana or Dalmatian bellflower, is a bellflower for rock gardens or it can be used as a ground cover. It forms a neat mounded shape of evergreen foliage 4-6 inches high. In summer it is covered in tiny deep purple bell-shaped flowers.
This bellflower is a moderately aggressive spreader. It should be divided every 3-5 years and it can be trimmed lightly to maintain its shape if needed.
Dalmatian bellflower likes a moist but gravely or sandy soil in full sun. It is perennial and hardy in zones 4-8. A variety called ‘Aurea’ has lovely golden foliage in spring that slowly deepens to green in summer. ‘Miss Melanie’ is a new variety of Dalmatian bellflower with an extended bloom time.
The campanulas have few disease or insect problems. Slugs sometimes eat them. They are said to be deer and rabbit resistant.
Wash those fruits and vegetables
It doesn’t matter if you grew it yourself organically, in your own back yard, bought them at the farmers market or a conventional store. Remember to wash all fruits and vegetables before you eat them. Fruits and vegetables can carry several bacteria that can cause very serious illness in humans, including E. coli and salmonellosis. I know we all ate from the garden as kids- (if you are a certain age) and some of you think nothing of popping a strawberry or pea pod in your mouth as you pick it, but you are taking a risk.
Growing organically means there isn’t likely to be pesticide residue on the produce but the chances of organically grown produce harboring unfriendly bacteria is as likely, if not more likely, as produce grown conventionally. That’s because manure is often used in organic growing. In smaller home gardens and small farm stand gardens there is more likelihood of pets, livestock and wildlife roaming in the gardens too. Birds and other wildlife can get into just about any garden or field. Animals and humans carry disease organisms and can spread them through fecal contamination of food, which can happen even when someone with unclean hands handles food.
So, no matter where or how it was grown, wash it before eating it. Because fruits and vegetables can spoil faster after washing, it’s a good idea to wash produce right before you prepare it. Washing with clean running water is recommended.
Don’t dump produce into the kitchen sink to wash it unless the sink has been scrubbed with soap and hot water first. Sinks often have as many bacteria in them as a toilet does. Use a clean bowl or colander for washing produce and either hold the produce under running water or swish it gently in clean water that is dumped between each batch of produce. The USDA says you do not need to use soap or special produce cleaning sprays to effectively clean produce, just clean running water.
You may need to scrub rough surfaces of root vegetables and melons with a clean cloth or small brush. Try to get all visible soil off. Even if you don’t eat the skin or rind wash it before eating the fruit or vegetable. Its almost impossible to slice an unwashed melon without contaminating the part you eat.
Wash produce you buy even if the seller says it has been washed and it looks clean. The only exception is things like salad greens which have been washed and sealed in a bag. The USDA says they don’t need to be washed again before eating. Things can be contaminated by handling and transporting them after washing. Think of how many times you have seen people picking up fruits and vegetables in stores or at farm markets and then putting them back down.
An occasional unwashed snack from the garden or a few berries popped in the mouth while picking them probably won’t harm you. But food borne illnesses can be serious, even deadly, especially to the immune compromised, the very young and older people. So limit your risk and keep those unwashed snacks to a minimum.
Starting an Herb Garden
Herbs bring exciting tastes to our meals and can also bring comfort and healing to our bodies. Fresh herbs are the best tasting and most nutritious. Anyone with a small patch of sun can have an herb garden. I firmly believe herbs should be grown outdoors, it’s where they develop the best taste and where it is easiest to provide for their needs. In this article I will discuss getting started with an outdoor herb garden of your own.
Choosing a site
Most herbs require a sunny spot to do well. Even a small sunny spot on a deck or porch can be a spot for herbs in containers. In general herbs are not fussy about soil type. In fact, many prefer soil that is not too rich. The majority of herbs do require soil that drains well. If you have heavy clay soil you may want to grow herbs in raised beds of amended soil.
Just like a vegetable garden, you will be more likely to use your herbs if you can dash out the door and pick some as you cook. A spot close to the house will tend to keep the herb bed better cared for and harvested more frequently. If space is limited, herbs can be tucked into flower beds. Some are quite ornamental. Just make sure they are in locations where they will not be sprayed with pesticides.
Herbs can also be planted in the vegetable garden. Many herbs attract beneficial insects. Perennial herbs should be planted where they will not need to be disturbed each year as you prepare the garden.
If you live in zone five or lower, you may want to place your herb garden where it is protected from the wind and in a spot that collects heat, such as near a stone patio or wall. This will give you a better chance for success with some of the heat loving, slightly tender herbs.
Some herbs can become invasive in a favorable site. Mints, lemon balm, comfrey, and oregano are examples. You may want to place these herbs where they are surrounded by a paved area or an area that is frequently mowed rather than in the flower or vegetable garden.
When getting started with an herb garden you should learn something about the herb plants you would like to grow. Do you want familiar culinary herbs, medicinal herbs, or herbs for crafts and dye making? Plant catalogs and good reference books will help you learn about the requirements of each herb.
If space is limited grow only the herbs you will use the most. If you like rosemary and use it frequently in cooking, then you will want rosemary. If space is not a problem, you can experiment with other herbs. One herb plant is usually enough for most households. Plants used for tea, such as chamomile, may require a few plants. If you use them a lot, you can add more plants later.
Some herbs are annual plants and must be planted each year. Others are perennials or bi-annual. Not all perennial and bi-annual herbs will grow in all areas. There may be some varieties of an herb that will survive better in your area than others. Check with other gardeners or the county Extension service for recommendations.
Most annual herbs can be planted after the danger of frost has passed. Some perennial herbs that won’t survive winter in your area might survive if you plant them in a pot and bring them inside for the winter. Check the zone hardiness of each variety of the herb. Some thymes will survive zone five for example, and some won’t.
Many of our common herbs are of Mediterranean origin and don’t like wet soil or to be too wet in winter. If you have clay soil you may have to build a raised bed where the soil is amended with gravel for drainage. These herbs may not appreciate daily soakings from irrigation sprinklers either. You may want to leave herbs without mulch in rainy areas, so they dry out faster. Mediterranean herbs include lavender and rosemary.
There are some herbs that have varieties that have been selected to be more ornamental than edible. Some sages with variegated leaves are quite attractive in the garden but do not have that true sage flavor in cooking. Some basils have been bred to have frilly, colorful leaves but do not have much flavor when used in cooking. There are basils, sages, oregano, thymes and mints that have different flavors, some good for cooking and others just for potpourri or scenting the garden. Choose varieties suitable for your needs.
If you are interested in medicinal herbs be aware that there are some varieties and species that have more of an active ingredient than others. Medicinal herbs should be purchased from a nursery that specializes in them, rather than the local garden store. The herbs will be more likely to be identified correctly and varieties that are high in medicinal qualities will be offered.
If you go to this link, you’ll find a lot of articles on individual herbs and on how to use and preserve herbs;
Caring for and harvesting herbs
Herbs usually are fairly pest and disease free if grown in suitable conditions. Most herbs where the foliage is used for cooking benefit if any flowers produced are removed. Regular pruning and pinching will keep herb plants from getting lanky and will encourage new fresh growth.
In plants where the flowers are used or appreciated, you must be careful about what time plants are pruned. Lavender needs to be pruned in early spring; if you trim later you may lose all the flowers. For some herbs you want flowers to develop. If you want dill seed or caraway or coriander you must let flowers develop.
To prevent powdery mildew and other fungal disease, don’t crowd your herb garden. Leave space between plants for good airflow. Water herbs at the base of the plants and don’t work among them or harvest when the foliage is wet from rain or dew.
Herbs generally don’t require much fertilization. Check your references for recommendations for each type of herb before applying fertilizer. Too much fertilizer may actually harm them.
An herb garden isn’t hard to achieve if you have a little space. Summer can be a good time to pick up herb plants and begin an herb garden of your own.
“Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer's day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time.”
― John Lubbock, The Use Of Life
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And So On….
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I write this because I love to share with other gardeners some of the things I come across in my research each week (or things I want to talk about). It keeps me engaged with people and horticulture. It’s a hobby, basically. I hope you enjoy it. If you are on my mailing list and at any time you don’t wish to receive these emails just let me know. If you or anyone you know who would like to receive a notification by email when a new blog is published have them send their email address to me. KimWillis151@gmail.com