Moon Garden Daydream

Moonflower at Night

As a kid I was fascinated with the moon. I remember lying in bed, squinting into binoculars for what seemed like hours, wondering if the surface was meant to look like a face and imagining what its mysterious landscape looked like up close. I haven’t outgrown my relationship with the moon. On full moon nights I am not beyond howling at the moon with my family. I love that my now teenage girls and I still echo back and forth, “I love you to the moon and back”—our special saying that they remember from a sleepy childhood bedtime story.

For years I have sown moonflower vine outside from seed. The 15’ vigorous vine has palm-sized night-blooming flowers that waft an intoxicating perfume you cannot ignore. Another fragrant moon garden favorite of mine is Indian Peace Pipe Nicotiana. This stately plant stands 3’–5’ tall, blooming jasmine-scented white flowers from summer to fall, day and night. Both of these spectacular moon garden flowers attract large night moths. Hummingbird moths (also called Hawk or Sphinx moths) are the size of a tiny hummingbird, and hover just like one, too. Hummingbird moths are mostly active at night and are specially adapted to pollinate the moonflower with their long proboscis (tube-like mouth). Seeing these magnificent moths drawn to the heavy moonflower and nicotiana perfume, much like I am, reminds me that nature’s activity doesn’t end when the sun goes down. Providing unique moon garden varieties is another way to create a habitat for creatures that I may not see often, but that share my love of the moon.

Will you start a moon garden this year? Share your enchanted garden photos with us!

 

 

Moonflower 1120p-Nicotiana-Indian-Peace-Pipe-m

 

See all Botanical Interests moon garden varieties 

 

 

 

Sow a Pollinator Garden

P1030527 adj with FaceJust like you, over the past few weeks, I’ve been pouring over the Botanical Interests catalog, setting up my garden journal, and starting my lists.

I know I need to get a jump-start on a few things that need more-than-average time to germinate. I’m starting with some of my favorite biennials and perennials—Canterbury Bells, Daturas, and Delphiniums. In the next week or so, I’ll start my pepper seeds indoors. If it has to be winter, at least I can start planning and dreaming of my summer garden.

This summer I plan to make a special effort to encourage visitors! Yes, I love when my friends visit, but I’m really talking about pollinators. I look forward to the first sighting of the yellow swallowtail butterflies that frequent my garden. I always plant extra dill specifically for their enjoyment. There are many beautiful and fragrant choices to attract pollinators, but here are a few favorites.

Dill – Dill is an important host plant for caterpillars of swallowtail butterflies. It’s also a must for pickling.

Butterfly Flower – Soft vanilla scent tempts butterflies, hummingbirds, and beneficial insects that feast on its nectar.

Delphinium Butterfly Blend – Delicate spires covered with blossoms on compact plants. Bee, bird, and butterfly charmer!

Bee Balm Lambada – A garden treasure of delightful lavender-pink flower clusters with mint/basil scented leaves.

Hyssop Lavender – Also known as anise hyssop and licorice mint, this native, Midwestern U.S. perennial is loved by bees and butterflies. It is also as useful in the kitchen as it is beautiful.

Save the Bees – A special mix of fragrant herbs and beautiful flowers that attract and provide food for honeybees!

I can’t wait to see all the butterflies fluttering around, and the bees busying themselves with nectar. Calling all pollinators! My garden will soon be ready for business!

Which pollinator-friendly varieties to do you plan on sowing this year?

Planning for Pollinators

Dreams of a summer garden filled with the fragrance of flowers and the taste of fresh veggies are only made more complete by the happy buzz of pollinators. I don’t know about you, but I’ve been dreaming a lot lately to take my mind off of winter. I do this a lot while planning my garden and starting my seeds.

Whenever I do garden planning, pollinators are at the top of my list. Besides the obvious benefits they provide to fruit and vegetable production, they seem to add numerous other benefits. The pollinators I plan for often bring along a host of unintended pollinators and beneficial insects. It seems like the species diversity is self perpetuating and the result is a healthy garden. There is something about the sights and sounds of insects that draws me closer to the garden and often keeps me there longer than usual. It helps keep me in tune with what’s going on and I even pull a few weeds while I’m there.

There are some important things to think about when planning plantings for pollinators:

NO PESTICIDES! It doesn’t matter if they’re conventional or organic; most are not selective enough to avoid good insects while controlling the bad.

Bloom period: Look over all your choices and pick a group of plants that will bloom in each season. Some pollinator-friendly plants bloom all season and some bloom for a given period of time then are green the rest of the season. Be sure to choose some that bloom early, mid-season, and late summer to fall. This way you’ll keep your pollinators, and the benefits they bring, all season long.

Placement of your pollinator plants should be a priority. Position the plants in groups so that they’re easier to find and try to compose each group to have some blooms all season long. Imagine these groups as “pollinator pastures”. Place them evenly around your space to create a scenario where pollen and nectar are never hard to find.

Put all of these tips together and you’ll ‘bee’ surprised at the amount and diversity of pollinators you attract. Next comes the fun part, choosing plants. A mix of annuals and perennials will ensure you the diversity necessary to make the most of your pollinator pursuits.

Check out this post about

PERENNIALS POLLINATOR PLANTS

then get started!

Get Growing,

 

Perennial Pollinator Plants

Rocky Mountain Penstemon is great for pollinatorsAt the top of my list of pollinator favorites are perennials. Most are relatively easy to start, they only have to be planted once and they can represent a big cost savings when I grow them from seed instead of buying finished plants. To increase my chances of success, I like to start them early indoors for later transplant. Here are some ideas of great perennial pollinator varieties to start from seed:

  • Bee Balm ‘Lambada’ – The name says it all. This plant was made for bees and has a long bloom season.
  • Penstemon – Penstemons are versatile plants that tolerate a broad range of conditions. They have ample supplies of pollen and nectar to keep the bees happy and some may even re-bloom when deadheaded.
  • Lavender – Lavender of all kinds attract masses of bees. It doesn’t hurt that they smell great, too.
  • True Hyssop – This is a potentially important pollinator plant in lots of places. If you don’t live where there are lots of late season flowers (and that’s a great many places) this is the Lavender is great for pollinatorsanswer. It may bloom late, but that is blessing to our insect friends that often find food in short supply late in the season.
  • Lavender Hyssop – While this is not a true hyssop. It is just as useful. These tall plants bloom early and continue almost to frost. They provide a steady supply of food for pollinators, which will be evident when you see the masses of bees of all kinds covering these plants.
  • Scabiosa ‘Pincushion Flower’ – This is one of my absolute favorites! The tall elegant stems present sweetly scented flowers with purple pollen! I lovebeing able to tell that bees have visited these flowers by the purple pollen sacs on their back legs.
  • Butterfly Flower – I know, the name is all wrong. But, when you see it at work there will be no doubt why I recommend it.
  • Oriental Poppies are great for pollinatorsOriental Poppies – Poppies of all kinds are great for pollinators and these perennials are no exception. They may not bloom for that long, but the show they put on and the intensity of activity they elicit make them well worth the effort.

There are lots of great choices in the world of pollinator-friendly plants and these are just the beautiful tip of the iceberg. While you explore the world of pollinator check out this post about how to

PLAN FOR POLLINATORS

in your yard, then get started.

 

 

Botanical Backyard a’Bloomin

Sometimes a garden is just a garden. It represents achievement from hard work and a reciprocal relationship with the natural world.

Sometimes, when the light and your frame of mind are just right, the garden is…PURE MAGIC! Bees are buzzing, birds are singing…I’m singing…and the garden represents everything that is good in the world. I lose my need for understanding and just stare in wonder.

This is probably the coolest part of my life. It is great to have a job that intersects with this, often. My garden is full of Botanical Interests plants, some from the past, some from the here and now, and some from the future.

What follows is a selection from about 100 pictures I took during the most recent ‘magical moment’ when I actually thought to get my camera. Now remember, I’m not a professional photographer, but I do my best.

I once heard this idea that the experience is sublime, our understanding of it is second best, and our descriptions do it no justice, so live in the moment. I like this idea. But at the same time, if a picture is worth a thousand words, maybe these photos will do my experience a little justice. Enjoy.

This yellow spider looked as if it was trying to keep it’s feet cool on a hot day.

I’m rediscovering my love for marigolds. I think a lot of people are. This is our newest offering ‘Naughty Marietta’. I love the name.

I’ve been hooked on Brazilian Vervain since the first time I saw it. This year it worked nicely with ‘Bright Lights’ cosmos and ‘Alaska’ Shasta Daisy.

The Echicacea went crazy this year. At this spot in my garden, I have to push them back to get down the path.

I love orange flowers with just about everything they don’t traditionally go with. The new ‘Fireball Blend’ zinnia didn’t disappoint.

I a nut for penstemons. I trimmed back all the spent flowers on ‘Rocky Mountain Blue’ and ‘Cambridge’ and they re-blommed…hooray!

These rudbeckia have been blooming for almost 2 months and they show no signs of stopping.

Scabiosa smells great, makes a great cut flower, and when bees collect the pollen their little legs are lavender-pink.

I’ll sit by my borage plants for and hour with the camera sometimes just snapping bee action shots.

An elderly neighbor of mine was surprised to discover that young people still grow this old favorite. I love the piney smell of Bells of Ireland when you cut them.

I planted ‘Amish Rainbow’ Broom Corn as a privacy screen this year and it worked really well. I’ll leave them until winter when the birds have cleaned the shiny seeds from all the plants.

These cosmos have been a huge show right next to the road. They donate a big bunch of cut flowers every Saturday and recently I’ve been finding goldfinches perched on the stems eating seeds in the morning.

We’ve been trialing some new cucumbers for next year, shhhhh. These little green bees have been doing a lot of the pollinating lately; they’re everywhere.

This portulaca is planted in some stone walls beneath the tomatoes. As soon as the sun hits the flowers I find this type of black bee shamelessly rolling around in pollen.

I cut back my chives earlier this year and they’re flowering all over again!

I LOVE SUNFLOWERS! ’nuff said…

I hope you enjoyed a little visit to my garden. Go enjoy your!

Sow Much Color, Less Wait

I spend a lot of time bent over my garden staring at dirt, bugs, seedlings, the places where seedlings should be, and sometimes just thinking. Yesterday I was scanning the ground and noticed a bunch of little green shoots. I thought, “Great, more weeds to pull!” But then my memory of spring-plants-past took over and I realized I had a new crop of viola seedlings!

This got the gears turning, slowly, and I realized that it was time for one of my summer rituals. After the fall crops are in, I assess the perennials in my beds. If they were successful, I look for a spot to add another. If they performed poorly, or I’m bored with them, I rip them out. In their place I sow seeds…go figure.

Mid to late summer, and in some places fall, is a great time to sow flower seeds. The warm soil ensures quick germination and the warm summer temps get plants off and growing quickly. What am I sowing so “late”?

Fall & Winter Color: One of my favorite things is the bright cheery colors of spring and summer in fall and winter. As the days get shorter, I usually can use a little botanical pick-me-up to keep my spirits high. Some of the best candidates for this are:

  • Pansies and Violas: Start them soon and you could have color all fall. If you live in a warm enough place, you could have color until spring.
  • Desert Bluebells: Bluebells sown in mid summer add a splash of true blue to my fall display and act as great late-season food for pollinators.
  • Ornamental Kale: This tough trooper takes cold and moderate winters alike and only gets more vibrant as the temperatures drop.
  • Southern Charmers: I don’t live in the south, but if I did I’d be filling my gardens with Calendula, dianthus, and snapdragons, along with all the things above to keep my garden blooming year- round.

Biennials: These species spend their first year as a green plant gathering and storing energy for a stunning display the following year. But, if you give them a good start now, you can have that display next season, instead of waiting two seasons for the show. Start these this season:

 

Perennials: I have a great love of growing perennials from seed. I don’t, however, love waiting for results. Perennials often require a period of growth and passage of seasons before they start, and continue, to bloom. Once you understand this, you can use the seasons to your advantage and cut the wait time for perennial flowers. Just like the other plants we’ve discussed, the warm soils and vigorous growth spurred on by summer and fall can give your perennials the start they need now to bloom next season. This is a great way to replace plants without having a hole in your color scheme next year.

Use this time of year to sow to your garden’s delight. You’ll be rewarded with more color, shorter wait times, and well-established plants.

Judy’s Flower Seeds

It has been cold in Colorado, colder and snowier than usual.  As I see all the seed orders coming in, I am comforted imagining the seeds being started in other states.  During the cold winter months, sometimes I find it hard to rouse my planting fervor in February.  To stir my enthusiasm I’ve been imagining the tomato plants that are growing (probably a couple of feet tall by now) in the warmest parts of the country.  Their growing season is quite different from cold Colorado.

This charges me up — dreams of the bright green seedlings, the smell of tomato plants, marigolds (I like the smell of them) and fragrant flowers.  Regardless of my heavy sweater, boots and long underwear, I am ready.  I scan our seed catalog for those items that need a longer time to get going and fill up my cart.  This weekend I will start indoors:

Penstemon Firecracker

Penstemon Cambridge

Delphinium Pacific Giant Blend

Canterbury Bells Blend

Foxglove Gloxiniiflora Blend

Painted Daisy Robinson’s Blend

Hollyhock Indian Spring Blend

Scabiosa Pincushion Flower — Isaac House Blend

Artichoke Green & Purple Heirloom Seed

The ramping-up-to-full-swing-gardening mayhem is at my feet as the birds were especially noisy this morning — another sign that spring is on the way.  My gardener’s soul sighs winters relief.

~Judy

Beautiful Bug Blog

I was thinking about the season that just passed and realized it was a good bug year. Not only was I free of major infestations, but I got to see a bunch of really neat insects. I decided to share my love of ‘Bug on Flower’ photos with all of you in social media land and you shared back in a big way. Sometimes it’s fun to talk about the gardens we love, and sometimes it’s fun to just look at pictures. So here’s all the of the photos you shared with me. I promised to give away some seeds to the coolest picture…and the winner is……..

This neat shot of a pollen covered bee doing its work. Congratulations. If you are the photographer who took this pic, post your info as a comment (it won’t appear publicly) and I’ll send you a Large Packet of Save the Bees and Bring Home the Butterflies.

Thanks to all who shared their photos. This was fun, and we’ll have more photo contests in the near future. Stay tuned.

Oh My! Morning Glories

The flowers in my garden are some of its best parts. They attract pollinators, but some, like morning glories, create shade and cover where I need it, and I need a lot. I live in a suburban death maze, right on top of all my wonderful neighbors. Morning glories are a great addition to my yard but they often show up uninvited in lots of locations from last year’s seeds.

I try to control morning glories but I never really try to eradicate them. Let’s say I like the spot I have morning glories this year but I don’t want them there next year. I pick the spent flowers on a daily basis. This prevents lots of seeds from dropping. I can’t get them all but I greatly reduce the numbers.

Sometimes I really like their spontaneous appearance in unplanned places. In these cases I aim to contain the spread of the plant. Morning glories are great at climbing on structures but sometimes strangle their neighbors. To restrain them, I pinch off the ends of the vines before they get too long. Don’t worry, this wont kill the plant of even stop the flowering. It creates a lower, bushier plant that looks like a lush flowering hedge. This helps control the spread of volunteer plants for next year.

Lets say you have a year like I’m having this year. I planted a few new kinds of morning glories but I have lots of volunteer plants, too. Next year you can keep control of the situation with a few easy moves. When the seeds emerge in late spring, keep a few and thin the rest. A few plants will do the job and produce lots of seeds. The seedlings are easy to find, too. They have a distinctive split or v-shaped leaf when they first appear. If you have seeds that come up over time, keep a few then put down a pre-emergent, like corn gluten, to keep new ones from coming up. As long as you maintain the plants that result, you’ll have that amazing summer morning glory display in the place and size you want.

If you have other plants that tend to wander around the garden like morning glories do then you may be familiar with my winter squash scenario…

Tomorrow: Winter Squash – Summer Jungle

Planning for Change

The perennials have appeared en masse in the garden. Judy and I can see what we have and try to remember what’s missing. The structure of the beds reveals itself more each day. Most of the bulbs and some the perennials, like Turkish veronica and bleeding hearts, are beginning to bloom and give us a hint of the colors and forms waiting to grace the flowerbeds. But unfortunately most of the pictures of last year’s compositions have disappeared and some of the memories have faded. So we look over the gardens trying to find some order in the chaos.

We both love the idea of using annual flower seeds as a versatile way to tie together gardens. There are lots of gorgeous and colorful choices in the annuals palette and you only have to commit to them temporarily, allowing for a changing design every year. Luckily, Judy has lots of spots to introduce bursts of colorful annuals into the flowerbeds. Many of these spots are dedicated to a yearly selection of annuals, and others are unintended chances to try new things in new spots. No matter where they end up, annuals make a garden new each year.

The most fun part of the process is picking what to put where. Picking plants and placements that create a synergistic beauty can really make you feel like an artist. First we consider colors. Light colors placed next to dark colors add an eye-catching sense of depth to an area. Large blocks of single colors, or closely related colors, add impact to a grouping of plants. Some colors, like white or lime green, tend to pull compositions together in beds or in containers and make all the colors bolder by contrast. Grouping plants in even numbers gives them a more formal look, while odd-numbered groups give a more natural and informal feel.

Texture plays a big part in the look of a garden or container. Use contrasting forms and textures like you would colors. Put upright, linear plants near round and mounded plants to emphasize the texture of both. One of my favorite tricks is adding edibles to the flower garden for and unexpected look and sense of playfulness in ornamental arrangements. I love the look of cabbage, either red or green, as the foil for brightly colored flowers. Purple basil is a great contrast plant to add depth, and fennel gives a light feel with its feathery foliage. ‘Bright Lights’ Swiss chard adds color that grabs you from a distance and artichokes give any place in your garden an exotic feel, even if it’s only foliage. One of my favorite additions is Judy’s liberal use of ‘Ruby Streaks’ mustard in the garden. Its form contrasts dramatically with any neighbor and has an unexpected appearance that makes you go in for a second look. The name of the game is experimenting and finding the spot where the plants are happy and where you’re happy to see them.