All Things Change With Us and Gardens

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All things change, nothing is extinguished…  There is nothing in the whole world which is permanent.  Everything flows onward; all things are brought into being with a changing nature; the ages themselves glide by in constant movement.  –Ovid, Metamorphoses, First Century The only constant we can ever count on in this world is change, and there is no better place to illustrate that point than in the garden.  Unlike static architecture, gardens are evolving creations.  This is perhaps the most compelling aspect of making and tending a garden: that each new growing season brings a host of subtle changes.  We are changing daily as well.  Age brings new questions and answers to the mysteries of life.

Easy to Grow Old Fashioned Cornflowers

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Hand sown cornflowers fill my spring garden with a landscape of vivid blues. These lowly half wild plants captured my heart decades ago.  Perhaps it is the annual flower’s willingness to grow from seed.  Maybe it’s just the delicious shades of blue you get for so little effort.  But I think it is the bouquet of fresh cut flowers that I find so charming. To grow richly colored Centaurea ‘Blue Diadem’, shop for this named variety online at Thompson & Morgan (link below). This old annual, Centaurea cyanus is a native of the Mediterranean.  It popped up all too often in grain fields and thus earned the name cornflower. (Korn is the ancient word for grains in the Old World).  But this plant also goes by bachelor’s button because the fluffy blossoms were often plucked by young men to wear on the lapel.  This is because the flowers are resistant to wilting and thus became a beloved early American cut flower on farms and ranches. This is a hardy annual that can be sown in fall or winter to germinate in garden soil in spring.  This is how it survived naturally in the wild and in the fields.  Therefore no special care is needed to make them perform, so it’s a great choice for novice gardeners on a budget who save money by growing from seed.  It is an old rule to sow this seed sparsely and allow plenty of room between plants, probably to ensure that mildew does not attack them during the early season when the garden tends to be perpetually damp.  Mixtures of Centaurea cyanus will include pink and purple along with the traditional blue flowers. Originally cornflowers were a simple daisy, but around the turn of the century breeding improved this plant for gardens.  The truly fluffy double flowers provide more visible color in the garden and are more appealing as a cut flower.  The wildflower blue has also broadened to include varying shades as well as varieties that bloom pink and white.  Cornflowers have fallen out of style in recent years but they’re due for a comeback because they can be sown in the midst of winter or very early spring if the ground is not frozen.  They provide a beautiful spring cut flower in warmer climates and bloom well into summer elsewhere.  They also lend the quintessential country or cottage garden character.  Seed sources are surprisingly limited and plants are rare in garden centers.  Some general catalogs offer the standard mix packet and you can also find these in store seed rack displays.  But if you want a good choice of color including the newer dark red, check out the US branch of the famous English seed house, Thompson & Morgan. Thompson & Morgan http://seeds.thompson-morgan.com/us/en/list/full-index/c/8 Because cornflowers germinate so readily, they make great mass sowings.  You can buy  seed in bulk for large scale applications from American Meadows.  Simply till with a tractor or disk, broadcast the seed and let Nature do the rest!  American Meadows http://www.americanmeadows.com/bulk_ind_detail.cfm?itemid=71

Free Planner for Your Garden Wedding

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For spring or summer garden weddings, plan well this winter.      For many this will be a backyard affair in the garden, but not every-one’s landscape is wedding ready.  In fact, few are.  It takes time and planning to create a beautiful setting for that special event that seems so many months away. But time passes quickly when there’s a lot to do, and a backyard revamp can be overwhelming if you don’t know how to begin!   So why not use these long winter days to get your backyard revamp together?  Begin by downloading our beautifully illustrated 19 page FREE eBook: Backyard Wedding Makeover  http://www.moplants.com/eBooks.php  Inside you’ll find dozens of tips on basic clean up, planting to match your wedding theme, arranging the focal point where you say your vows and solving problems like masking ugly neighbor houses!  For more useful links and information, visit Backyard Wedding Central at http://www.moplants.com/   If you have more great ideas that we should know about, feel free to add your comments so everyone can benefit.  Share the love!

Harvest Pictures from Garden Mags and Catalogs

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If you’re visual like me and savor the gorgeous pictures in magazines and catalogs, then you know how hard it is to throw them out.  If you’ve checked prices lately, the high cost of glossy mags are through the roof, so my tightwad tendencies keep them close at hand.  They build up around here because I always seem to find some special item in each one that’s indispensable.  And just maybe I’ll make something out of those gorgeous pictures, even though I have no idea what that might be.  The problem is my small house just can’t accommodate my obsessive collection of old garden and decorating magazines and the finer glossy catalogs.  This year I’ve finally arrived at the solution.  If it’s the pictures I like, why save the entire magazine?  I’ve begun to go through them all page by page, and if there’s something I like, I just cut out the picture or rip out the page.  Sometimes I don’t cut the whole picture but just take a section of the image that appeals to me.  Even creatively typed titles, quotes and other unique items get clipped for future collages or altered art.   When the new garden catalog comes in, I find the previous year’s and cut out all the best flower pictures.  They’re perfect for impromptu greeting cards and to augment my collection of online botanical art from my computer.    Most pix will land in a file. I can fit it in the drawer stuffed with the best of the 30 magazines they came from.  Then when I want to make something, perhaps a card or decoupage, I go to my clippings drawer and sort through the images.  Now sending the old mags sans pix to the recyclers isn’t hard at all because when I go to decorate my journal, it’s all there waiting.

Cool Season Blossoms for Early Garden Color

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Back in the Stone Age I worked for Rogers Gardens, a swanky southern California nursery that made its world renowned reputation on seasonal color gardens.  The local rich folks had us come in and “Colorscape” their yards with annual flowers.  Annuals are replanted each year. Iceland poppies are the stars of the early season garden. What I learned at Rogers has served me all my life.  Among the discoveries was how to divide that huge range of annual flowers into groups that helped me use them more effectively.  The most important division was separating out “cool season” annuals from “warm season” annuals. Since there is little to no frost on the south coast where Rogers Gardens resides, we could use annuals all year around.  But not the same ones.  Our winter gardens were composed of a group that thrives in cooler temperatures and will even withstand a light frost and keep on blooming.  These went in during the fall to provide color until temperatures rose in the spring to levels warm enough to change the garden out to heat loving warm season flowers. English primrose may be small but they offer mighty intense color! Where it’s colder, you can plant the cool season annuals in early spring.  They’ll thrive as long as temperatures are moderate.  But once summer heat descends they’ll wither and die out, so at that time plan to replant with marigolds and zinnias and petunias.  Keep this in mind when you shop annuals because home improvement stores tend to mix the cool season in with warm season types, and if you plant them together some will thrive and the rest will fail.  Start your spring early with plants from the list below and you’ll have two flower gardens, one for spring and another for summer guaranteed to do famously. Cool Season Annuals Primrose Snapdragon Viola Pansy Iceland poppy Calendula Stock Pinks

Send A FREE Floral Art Online Greeting Card

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Why not use our FREE POSTCARDS at MoPlants.com to send your friends a floriferous greeting for New Years, birthday, holiday, anniversary or just to show you care? Click here to go directly to our collection of 30 gorgeous original images to share with friends and family.   http://www.moplants.com/free_postcards.php   Inside the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas is a beautiful Italian courtyard featuring this tiered fountain.  But its bowls were filled with beautiful floral arrangements rather than water.  I thought it was lovely but also illustrated a great decorating idea.  Anyone in the north who moves a fountain indoors to protect from freezing, this is a wonderful way to enjoy it all winter long. When I began photographing plants and gardens for my books, I was limited by standard 35mm color slides.  All shots came back from processing as is because slides have no negative – they are direct positives.  I was lucky to get a few marketable shots out of each roll.  Those good shots remained as is in full frame forever.  Going digital changed all that.  Not only can I correct a marginal shot, I can crop an image down to create a new shot with only part of the picture.  I’d spend hours playing around with Photoshop to learn exactly what I could do to my pictures.  That’s how I created my “art shots” which turn a photo into an impressionist painting.  The lath fern house at Sherman Library and Gardens on California’s south coast was originally a marginal shot too dark to be useful.  But with a little digital magic it was transformed into a lush work of art.  I don’t sell these shots, I just create them for the joy of digitally rendering beautiful plant images.  I use the high resolution originals to create personal greeting cards.  I thought you’d like to do the same online, so even if you don’t have a printer you can send my FREE POSTCARDS from MoPlants.com  http://www.moplants.com/free_postcards.php  Just browse through my art shots to choose the right one for any occasion.  Fill out the form provided with your message and the recipient’s email address, then send one or one hundred!  No envelope, no stamp, no mailbox.  It’s just that easy.  Enjoy!  

Back To The Land for Christmas

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May we not once in the year remember the earth in the food that we eat?  May we not in the same way, even though we live in town, so organize our Christmas festival that the thought of the goodness of the land and its bounty shall be a conscious part of our celebration?  May we not for once reduce to the very minimum the supply of manufactured and sophisticated things, and come somewhere near, or at least in spirit, to a Christmas husbandly fare?  –Liberty Hyde Bailey, The Holy Earth, 1915 Liberty Hyde Bailey viewed the art of farming as a quasi-religious act and felt that farming well was akin to obtaining grace from heaven.  He contends that most people never experienced the intangible yet fulfilling rewards of growing one’s food.  To him, the preparation of the Christmas meal was like a sacrament.  To purchase the holiday meal at a grocery store – or worse, to go out to a restaurant – distances us from the land and loses the whole idea of the feast as a reflection of good farming.  If you experience an elusive feeling that something is unearthly about your holiday feast, perhaps it is this separation from your agricultural roots that is nudging your subconscious.