Jump Start Your Backyard Wedding Plans at MoPlants

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Whether you’re planning a backyard wedding this summer or a garden party, the process of getting ready is exactly the same.  You need to assess the qualities of your yard, design how the space will function, create the decorations and decide what plants or flowers you’ll need to make it look great.  At MoPlants.com we offer everything you’ll need to get a jump start on the season, especially if you’re already behind schedule! Start with our free eBook:  Backyard Wedding Makeovers.  Download at http://www.moplants.com/eBooks.php   Inside the fully illustrated pages you’ll discover how to strategize seating, the focal point and ways accents are best arranged.  You’ll also find a detailed color-coded chart of bedding flowers by hue to select the perfect palette.  Once you have a strong sense of what to do, move on to actually creating views of how the set-up will look.  Mo’s Garden Maker software is an easy to use digital imaging program that allows you to see exactly how everything will look before you start.  Simply use a digital jpeg of your yard, or a series of different views to experiment with plants, flowers, garden art and seating to take the guess work out of the design process.    Click here to see more information on Mo’s Garden Maker at our store: http://www.moplants.com/Merchant2/merchant.mvc?Screen=PROD&Store_Code=M&Product_Code=MOG005&Category_Code=Books Visit Backyard Wedding Central for a wealth of handy links for everything involved with outdoor wedding plans at home http://www.moplants.com/wedding/backyard_wedding.php  

Don’t Overlook Fabulous Purple Millet

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The first time I saw Purple Majesty millet in all its glory was at the Ball Horticutlure demonstration garden outside Chicago.  A great stand of these corn-like annuals was in bloom and visited by dozens of prairie birds perching on the seedheads to feed on the flower plumes. Purple millet in varying stages of flower plume development.  Buy Purple Magesty seed online for your garden at Park Seed (see Cool Links) Purple millet hasn’t yet caught on as well as I thought it would, perhaps because it’s little understood.  This great strap leaf grain with the deep purple, almost black stems and foliage will shoot out of the ground like its cousins sweet and broom corn.  The stalks can reach six feet at maturity to produce a really big bold color in the seasonal garden.  When they flower the top plume begins nearly black,  As it matures the flowers open growing progressively lighter in color until the entire plume is ivory white.  In a stand of many plants you’ll find stages of maturity, giving a varying color range.  A close up of the young purple millet plume before the flowers open. This millet can sometimes be found in garden center six packs.  However, when a young seedling the plants are green, not purple, which can be deceiving.  Pay close attention to the label to know you’re getting this fabulous plant.  As shown below, they work best when you group them into a dense plot for concentrated color.  Plant into existing beds and borders for a truly fabulous new addition that will transform your garden into something special this year! Purple millet grows beside fountain grass, both of which share the same genus of warm climate grasses, Pennisteum.  

Create Jewel Gardens With A Paint Box of Succulents

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Garden designers are rediscovering the incredible beauty and color of succulent plants in what has become the “jewel box gardens”.  They are so named for the glittering pots and glass accents that are integrated with the plants for a vivid visual feast.   Created inside a cobalt blue birdbath, this beautiful composition of rosette succulent aeonium and sempervivum surrounded by tumbled glass balls was inspired by Monet’s lily pond paintings. Often completely without flowers, succulents from Southern Africa and Madagascar are flooding garden centers with a palette of killer design tools.  Succulent plants are treated much like annual flowers, set out for the season as stellar color points in gardens.  They also take as well to containers that may be brought indoors at season’s end to winter over at a bright window.  A beautifully variegated aeonium growing amidst a field of cobalt blue glass inside a similarly colored pot will make a striking accent indoors or out. Create Cheap Jewel Gardens  The most economical place to buy succulents is at your big box home improvement store which usually has a display of small succulents in small pots for just a buck or two each.  These will grow fast if provided plenty of light.  You will find interesting gravels at your local pet store that offers colored aquarium gravel.  If the gravel is safe for fish, it’s safe for your plants.  Large craft stores carry a wide range of colored glass marbles and half balls for flower arrangers, which make perfect jewel garden fillers for pots.  If you watch the paper for craft store advertisements, these glass jewels often go on sale at a low price to draw customers.  That’s the time to stock up. 

Discover Tranquility In A Quiet Season

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Live in each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influences of each.  Let them be your only diet drink and botanical medicines.  Henry David Thoreau, Journal, 1906   In winter we long for summer, and in the heat of summer we dream of the cool days of winter.  It is the same with age: the old long for the strength of youth and the young are impatient for the freedom of adulthood.  The art of peaceful living, as Thoreau so aptly says, is to live each season for its own unique qualities, without always wanting something different.  In this season savor the scents of burning wood in the hearth, feel the icy wind on your bare cheeks, and marvel at the beauty of the frozen landscape.  For only when you have reveled in the depth of winter, resigning yourself to its influences, will you discover the tranquility of your spirit and the soul of this quiet season.

Great Mullein Becomes a Highbrow Perennial for Gardens

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Great Mullein plants grow like weeds wherever conditions are right.  They’re so common we overlook them as mere weeds, but their rich history is a fascinating look into how people have used plants throughout the centuries.   In the wild, mullein grows much like foxglove with a ground hugging head of grey fuzzy leaves.  They are flat and about the size of a human foot.  It was not uncommon to line one’s shoe soles with mullein leaves to add winter insulation or cushion the foot.  I’ve also learned that mullein leaves were once smoked for asthma, but that is of doubtful benefit! The flower stock bolts out of the center of the plant into a single spike of yellow tightly held blossoms.  The Romans often dipped these into tallow or oil to use as a torch, hence the name Roman candle or torchweed.  They also used this “candlewick plant” for wicks when fabric was scarce.  Verbascum ‘Lavender Lass’ is sold via Wayside Gardens in our Cool Links section. Mullein is native to Europe but came to America to naturalize with the colonists.  It spread across the continent to the arid west where it thrives.  My garden had no wild mullein until a load of horse manure brought them in to stay.  Plants are biennial, dying out after the second year.  Breeders have worked with these vigorous plants to make them more garden worthy.   In the past few years these plants have been undergoing metamorphosis.  The lowly yellow mullein has been crossed with other Verbascum species from around the world to create a new and wonderful perennial for gardens.  They retain the vigor of their persistent weedy ancestor with big flowers and upright stalks.  Verbascum ‘Carribbean Crush’ produces two feet of bloom on top of a whopping four foot stalk. Click on Wayside Gardens in our Cool Links to buy this plant online.  Many of these new mulleins will bloom with a single stalk, then again with many if promptly deadheaded.  An established plant can produce a dozen or more independent stalks for a virtual candelabra of color.  If you’re bored with the same old foxglove, delphinium and hollyhock, mullein may be just the plant to make this year’s garden fresh and different.

Nonsensical Plant Names Make Me Crazy

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Plant names just got a whole lot harder to decipher.  If you thought the old Latin and Greek genus and species was a problem, there’s been yet another change that is literally driving me crazy.  The botanical name for Monkshood has remained the same since this herbal by Fuchs was published in the sixteenth century, but things are changing…again. For those not well versed in the science of binomial nomenclature, it’s all really very simple, and much like humans except that last or family names come first.   So think of a plant as Smith, John.  He belongs with all the other Smiths, but he’s unique because he’s John.  Same applies to those beautiful hydrangea bushes in your yard.  They all belong to the Hydrangea “clan” but the big mopheads are species (or first name) macrophylla.  To remember these we’ve used the fact that this is bigleaf hydrangea which translates into the Latin as macro (large) and phylla (leaf).  And if Hydrangea macrophylla has different colored versions, a third name is applied to differentiate them, always expressed in single quotations.  Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Nikko Blue’ features a reliably blue flower.  So that variety is easy to remember and recognize. All this is simple to me, logical and easy to work with in horticultural literature.  Enter patented varieties which are everywhere in the new plant market.  They are often marketed by a trade name such as Flower Carpet Rose.  But Flower Carpet White doesn’t go by that botanical name at all.  It’s Rosa x ’Noaschee’.  The rest of the Flower Carpet colors go by ’Noala’, ‘Noatrum’, ‘Noare’, ‘Noalesa’ and ’Noamel’.   There is virtually nothing in these names to help me connect a color variety to the nomenclature and they’re all so alike it’s mind boggling.  Try spell checking these puppies! And it gets worse.  My favorite whipping boy is an Agapanthus that goes by the trade name Blue Storm.  While the botanical name for the species is Agapanthus praceox orientalis, which doesn’t bother me at all, the variety name is like an Internet password.  It’s ‘ATIBlu’ with exactly those upper and lower case letters.  Excuse me while I vent, but these are just a few examples of the madness overtaking the new plant world.  Gone is the intuitive understanding of a plant name as devised by Linnaeus and his ilk.  Enter marketing, trade names and indecipherable code that may work great for the computer management and accounting sets, but it makes me look up every one of these to be sure I get it right every time I write them.  And that takes time, and for writers, time is money.  

A Treasure Trove of Heirloom Garden Seed

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Seeds of strange and wonderful vegetables fill the pages of the Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Catalog.  How this cool grower managed to escape my attention for all these years remains a mystery.  Perhaps it’s because folks like Jere and Emilee Gettle love the earth and plants are not always the best at highbrow marketing, or they just grow slowly on a shoestring budget.  Jere Gettle is founder of Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Co. and newly wed to Emilee. The 2007 Pure Seed Book is a pleasure to behold with color photos and an incredibly broad range of kitchen garden crops.  What is a real knock out are the rare and unusual varieties they’ve assembled from around the world, many of them little known Latin American strains.  Never have I seen so many food crops I can’t identify!  For example, “Nipple Fruit” is a nighshade, Solanum mammosum from Thailand.  The cool part about this catalog is that you can buy plants to test in your garden for a big surprise come harvest.  Their eggplants alone are awesome with Green Thai, Turkish Orange, and Chinese cultivars.  Tomatoes weird and wonderful include Pink Accordion, Green Sausage, Japanese Black Trifele, and purple Russian along with striped, white and yellow varieties.  And the winter squash…forget about it!  It’s a gallery of extraordinary shapes and colors that will turn your home and kitchen into a visual and literal feast. http://www.rareseeds.com/   Call: (417) 924-8917 A personal “thank you” goes out to the Gettles from all of us at MoPlants.com for their outstinading job.  Happy 10th Anniversary!