All In One Gardening Tool for Girls

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It’s not often something really good comes along in the gardening world.  In fact, I’m a very suspicious sort, particularly when it comes to tools.  You see, it’s hard to beat the traditional implements that have filled gardener’s sheds for eons.  Some things never change and garden tools are one of them.  The Hybrid features razor sharp clippers, wire cutter and saw, slot and Phillips head screwdrivers, weed root cutter and more on one small unit. We at MoPlants are quite impressed by Leatherman’s new Hybrid tool because I can’t tell you how often I have to go hunt down a screw driver or wire cutters.  And maybe I have the wire cutters but need a pair of clippers to complete some small task.  Tasks that take just a minute to accomplish often follow a half hour of hunting around for tools.  Leatherman’s famous Swiss Army Knife approach to practical tools has put their standard needle nose pliers model on every man’s belt from coast to coast.  But the Hybrid is a perfect too for every woman to perform virtually all functions with a single purchase. The HYBRID features clippers rather than pliers, using the same great design as the original Leatherman all purpose tool.  It will fold down to a size slightly longer than a cigarette package.  Slip this beauty into your pocket or on the belt and you’ll be ready to tinker with anything at a moment’s notice. The Hybrid handles are coated in soft rubber to give a more comfortable grip. The big burly MoPlants.com product evaluators put the Hybrid through their patented “can you break it” tests.   We concluded that this should be considered a tool of convenience, NOT an everyday pruning tool for avid gardeners.  With rigorous use the blades dull quickly and the square grips are somewhat uncomfortable.  That said, we still think this is a well made must-have for saving time on everyday tinkering, puttering and occasional pruning of garden and landscape. www.MoPlants.com gives the Leatherman Hybrid a thumbs up for holiday and year around gift for you and others on your gift list.  You can find the HYBRID at The Sharper Image (see Cool Links)

Chelsea Flower Show Gardens On The Grid

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Rich and rectalinear describes this modern city garden by Ruth Marshall.    What knocks me out about this thoroughly modern presentation is that it doesn’t ignore the traditional perennials and borders that make England so gorgeous.  The difference is that rather than drifts and naturalistic groupings, these plants reflect the central grid of paving.  The cool color palette makes the magenta heucheras and the rusty bark of the trees stand out in sharp contrast. The background panels give a feeling of midcentury peg boards with stronger square grids that mirror the paving. The black pavers are broken by fascinating glass panes, water and outstanding lighting.  The tall triangular glass tubes at the rear become fully illuminated by uplights at night.  The slick surfaces of the black granite pavers and all the glass give a decidedly refined and elegant appearance without the cheap looking pop-plastic elements and garish colors we see so often in the retro style. To read more about this cute garden, click here http://www.rhs.org.uk/chelsea/2006/exhibitors/city_gardens/mencap.asp  If you’d like to print the plant list for this garden, click here http://www.rhs.org.uk/chelsea/2006/exhibitors/city_gardens/mencapplant.asp    

Ethnic Accent and Color for Garden Walls

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Blank bare walls are the bain of our existance.  In America we leave them wholly undone but in other cultures where this is but a blank canvas for color, walls become magic. I didn’t have to go far to find a Mexican ceramic and masonry artist right here in the enclave of Palm Springs.  He goes by Olmo and has turned a back alley of designer shops into a showcase of exactly how much you can do with a bare wall.  Influenced by both the Aztec and Pueblo Indian mythology in these works, you can see the ghosts bring his walls to life like a combination of Myan glyph and prehistoric petroglyph.  Olmo created the masks in Mexico to bring norte to flesh out this wall sculpture. They are hollow, and while building the wall he adds flat masonry anchors to the places the masks will hang.  Then he builds up an extruded area when the wall is plastered that fits right into the hollow back of the mask.  Then he plasters all around the edge of the mask for a solid set.  To create a similar effect, you can use virtually any mask made of fired clay and hang it on a molly or anchor bolt and paint the wall in a similar way.  Watering down the color allows it to seep into the plaster like a fresco to create the softer colors and the vaporous ghost-like look.  You’ll find some excellent quality Mexican masks similar to Olmo’s at the NOVICA National Geographic store online: http://pics.novica.com/art/masks/mexican-archaeological-masks/index.cfm?c=651&l=4  Stay tuned to the MoZone to see more cool Olmo wall treatments that will fill your creative soul with a desire to paint every surface in sight!

Free Digital Botanical Illustrations from Down Under

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My travels lead me far and wide around the globe in search of the elusive botanical illustration.  No stone is left unturned in these journeys through the Internet web of archives from distant lands.  Fortunately my guide is gardener’s Latin, the universal plant names that I recognize no matter what the language of origin for the digital archive.  But when it comes to Australian plants I’m all thumbs.  Sure, I get the eucalyptus and a few grevilleas, but this island continent’s plant species evolved in isolation with their own unique array of bewildering genera.  That’s what makes the Australian Botanic Gardens archive so fascinating.  Every click is a new and never before seen plant in its own original artistic presentation. Here Brunonia serica is painted by the Austrian master, Ferdinand Bauer (1760-1826),  excerpted from Illustraciones Florae Novae Hollandiae, (Floral Illustrations of New Holland) published in 1813.  This exceptional artist’s skill is shown in the details of the plants minute structures at the bottom of the larger central painting.  The long list of Australian illustrations varies over many artists and the site features a little backgrounder on each.  This gives the images themselves a wide variety of characters depending on the individual styles.  Some are as old as Bauer’s and some are by still living artists so you get a great cross section. This is just one of dozens of fabulous prints in the archive found today at: http://www.anbg.gov.au/gallery/colour.html Save illustrations directly from this site to create personalized botanical cards and digital crafts for gift and home.  It’s just one of many of my favorite sources of images and craft ideas detailed in my new FREE eBook available right now at www.MoPlants.com: Online Botanical Illustrations: A Treasure Trove of Free Images for Digital Crafts Remember:  Even if you’re not a gardener or a crafter, browsing online archives for beautiful antique flower pictures is great fun for a dull winter day!    

Scotch Broom, Goats and Morning Glory Toxicity

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 Reader question:    I’ve been told by someone who has 50 goats and rents them out that you shouldn’t let the does eat Scotch broom three months prior to pregnancy as it causes miscarriages or deformed kids.  Our goats have other plants on the menu but it would be difficult to keep them away from Scotch broom.     MO-  Let me say right off that I am no expert in livestock and know nothing about goat health or diet.  However, I have lived in broom country and can give you some information an resources to help you find answers.  Scotch broom does contain a number of different alkaloids that are known to be linked to occasional livestock poisoning.  How it influences pregnancies in goats would likely be linked to just how much broom the animal ingests.  In heavily infested wildlands, broom can become the dominant vegetation, and there pregnant rent-a-goats could clearly have problems.  But if your goats nibble broom but are browsing on a wide range of other plants, that may not be enough to have much influence on the pregnancy.  For more information, two resources below give details on the alkaloids and nature of livestock problems with broom:  Poisonous Plants of the Southern United States http://www.caf.wvu.edu/~forage/library/poisonous/page13.htm#scotch USDA Natural Resource Conservation District  PLANTS database http://plants.usda.gov/java/profile?symbol=CYSC4 MO NOTE:  Members of genus Ipomoea, morning glory or bindweed species have significant effects on goats and can cause serious problems in very young and growing individuals.    Reader question:  I don’t think I came in contact with the sap, but I developed facial flushing and slightly swollen throat from Ipomaea species that was in my office for identification.  I am apparently so sensitive to it that despite removing the plant, vacuuming and wiping down surfaces in my office, my face still continues to burn when I have been gone and reenter my office. Have you heard of anything like this?  MO: Ipomoea sap has varying degrees of toxicity depending on the species you were working with.  However, there should be no residual problems after you cleaned up the area.  The only thing left to check is the filter in your heater/air conditioner/ventilation system in the office.  While it’s very unlikely that’s the cause, a clean filter might solve the problem. 

Get Monrovia Camellias By Mail at Wayside

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Monrovia is America’s premier grower with plants available only through quality garden centers.  But things have changed! Now a select number of Monrovia’s hottest new plants are being sold through the Wayside Gardens print and online catalogs.  Perhaps the best way to understand this grower’s unique dedication would be to see how Monrovia growers make all their own soil.  Dozens of different mixes are created, each prepared to meet the preferences of a certain plant or plant group.  This is definitely not a one-size-fits-all-grower.  No wonder their plants share such marked vigor! If you don’t live close to a Monrovia retailer you can now enjoy the Ice Angels Camellia Series by mail.  After a rare hard freeze, an old camellia garden all but died out in the cold.  One healthy survivor proved to have more cold hardy genes that the rest of the camellia clan.  Growers set to infusing its blood into modern camellia strains that resulted in the Ice Angels series of hybrids.  They’re rated a full zone colder than their kin.  But cold hardiness has not sacrificed any of their natural beauty! Ice Angels ‘Winters Fire’ Camellia Ice Angels Camellia ‘April Remembered’ Click on Wayside Gardens in Cool Links to buy camellias. Click on Monrovia in Cool Links to learn more about their plants.

Three Gardening Women and A Blog

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Author Amy Stewart  These ranters are no shrinking violets!  When an editor poined me to Garden Rant blog I was skeptical it was just another trite gardening diary.  But no sir!  These chicks are smart and witty, and obviously been around the garden, had a soda and a bag of chips! http://www.gardenrant.com/ You can just tell when a blog is written by pros who really know their stuff.  And when that blog is hysterically funny and pithy at the same time, you’re getting the best of the best reads.  I totally dig their manifesto which I’ve excerpted to see if you and I and they are all on the same page. According to the girls they are: Convinced that gardening MATTERS. Bored with perfect magazine gardens In love with real, rambling, chaotic, dirty, bug-ridden gardens. Suspicious of the “horticultural industry.” Delighted by people with a passion for plants. Appalled by chemical warfare in the garden. Turned off by any activities that invlove “landscaping” with “plant materials.” Flabbergasted at the idea of a “no maintenance garden.” Gardening our asses off. Having a hell of a lot of fun. Garden rant is written by three accomplished writer-gardeners: Amy Stewart, Michele Owens and Susan Harris.  From someone who knows, it would take at least three good people to produce this much great stuff so often!   Don’t miss a single post by signing up for their feed! Award winning author Amy Stewart’s latest book from Algonquin Books is due out in February 07.  I can’t wait to give it a review! The Good, the Bad and the Beautiful in the Business of Flowers