Plant Bold No-Brainer Perennial Garden Flowers

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If you’re a first time homeowner, listen up.  If you think you can’t grow fabulous flowers, read on.  If past failures have made you throw your hands up at gardening in general, get ready to rumble!  There’s a secret to great big bold flowers.   Forget about all that stuff you see in catalogs that brands a plant “easy”, because that’s a relative term.  For anyone who can’t find the right end of a garden hose, “easy” may be downright complex.  What you need is plants that grow even if you plant them upside down, which happens more than you think Lily family has produced two no-brainers that produce truly inspiring flowers.  They are relatively cold hardy and together you get a full range of color.  One is the best source of blue in the garden known as Agapanthus, or lily of the Nile.  The other is Hemerocallis, the daylily, so named because each huge flower opens for just a single day before it withers.  This group supplies you with virtually every color of the rainbow except blue.  So between the two of these you’ll have an incredible palette to paint your garden. Standard blue Agapanthus africanus is the more frost tender, hardy to Zone 8, which does not drop below 10 degrees in the winter.  It is a native of South Africa and can survive considerable heat and drought.  However, there are two exceptionally hardy hybrid forms which include the ‘Headbourne Hybrids’ and a variety called ‘Midknight Blue’.  These will stand winters to Zone 6, which is minus 10 degrees below zero, allowing the vivid Agapanthus blue to extend much further north.  In addition, these last two are darker blue in color than the species.   The daylilies enjoy an even wider range of climate tolerance, which makes them a bit trickier to buy.  The majority are hardy to Zone 4, which is to minus thirty degrees below zero.  But you’ll find individuals that won’t survive below zone 5 or 6, so it pays to check the labels and buy from a reputable grower.  Certain daylilies termed “evergreen” are only hardy to Zone 7. Daylily breeding exploded early in the 20th century.  Since then tens of thousands of named varieties were developed.  Every year more are being introduced including the exotic tetraploid types which feature truly complex flower colors.  The tendency is for newbies to select the common yellow and orange, but if you buy online or from a daylily grower you’ll be able to sample the hot pinks, coral, lavender and purples. To access any of the gazillion daylily growers online, log on to  to start shopping and studying. Armed with your palette of Agapanthus and daylilies you can begin fall planting with a vengeance or divide and transplant those you already have.  All require full or part sun with well drained soil, although they’ve been known to do well in less than ideal clays too.  Each plant becomes a clump of strap-like leaves over thick fleshy roots, and
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Horticultural Speaker Informs and Entertains Garden Events


The art of entertaining education should apply to the horticultural world as it does elsewhere.  The problem is that plant people aren’t often good communicators, and they struggle to share their life long knowledge with others.  This lack of good presentation is matched by TV garden show “talking head” hosts who can read a teleprompter but have little real world horticultural knowledge or experience.  While name recognition from television may help an event’s notoriety, it does little for the audience which must sit through a rambling talk.  I have always made it a goal to give my audiences tangible ideas and tips they can take home and use.  This is what a speaker is paid for – to give all he or she can to those who take the time to attend an event.  But in the process of delivering real information you must make it fun, personal and interesting too.  Overly scripted talks are just that…scripted.  Those lacking drop dead gorgeous visuals are reduced to a dry speech. When you want your visitors or attendees to share a lasting experience, the right speaker, topic and delivery style are essential. As garden events are being planned for next spring, consider a qualified, professional speaker who can bring quality content to your audience.  With lavish PowerPoint photography and a broad range of topics from minimalist modern to lush romantic cottage gardens, my photo archive will wow the viewers. More practical presentations to fire or flood ravaged communities add civic benefit as does a strong landscape architectural approach to community-wide green living and design. Whether you are planning a garden show, a community day or selecting specific educators to create topics for your institution, consider our services.  I am accepting dates for the 2008 garden season and will be happy to create a specialized program for your audience, event, company or charity.  With experience, national reputation and an immense photo archive, there’s no reason to settle for a talking head or a dull horti-holic when you can inform and entertain in glorious color. Contact:  Mo Gilmer (760) 320-6753 Recent speaking engagements: Garden show judge: Northwest Garden Show, Seattle, 2007 Independent Garden Center Show, (trade) Chicago 2007 Portland Garden Show, Portland 2007 Boise Garden Show, Idaho, 2007 San Francisco Garden Show 2006    

Cycads For Hot Zone Gardens

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They can be found in the fossil record of virtually every continent on earth, changing little in the past 200 million years.  They came to prominence in the Mesozoic, a period known as the age of cycads and dinosaurs.  Plants known as “the cycads” are true living fossils that make fabulous garden plants.  Though they may appear fragile, most prove both beautiful and remarkably resilient.    Cycads bear a visual similarity to ferns and even enjoy the same sheltered locations, but are as tough as desert palms.  Cycad foliage may appear soft, but it’s actually quite thick and bears a tough outer cuticle that prevents moisture loss.  In hot climates, whether humid or dry, cycads in all their diversity provide the perfect care-free alternative to finicky ferns.  Their large lush looks create beautiful backgrounds or single specimens.     A tall Dioon spinulosum and unusual round leaf Zamia furfuracea illustrate the lush looks of cycads in a tropical setting. Although they look like palms, cycads are more closely related to conifers, a group which includes pine trees. Conifers are mostly needled evergreens that bear their seed in cones.  So while a cycad may look like a palm, it reproduces like a pine, with its seed in central cones produced at the very center of the plant.  Cycads can be male or female, and each type will produce either a pollen bearing or seed bearing cone.  The male cone of the most commonly grown species, Cycas revoluta, which bears pollen. The female cone of Cycas revoluta begins as a central pineapple-like form, then once pollinated and red seeds mature the cone splits and a new whorl of foliage appears out the middle. Cycads are very slow growing plants.  This makes them quite expensive to buy.  A large specimen can take up to a decade to reach its size, and you pay for those years of care at the grower.  Some cycads such as blue leaf Encephalartos lehmannii are rarely grown, and may cost double that of other species because of its scarcity.  But for gardens in challenging climates, these problem solvers contribute a unique, lush and exotic character.  And their very existence around the world attests to a remarkable ability to survive the rigors of change,

Mediterranean Style Plants Further North


Aristotle made no bones about it. Regions north of the Mediterranean Coast were not suitable for civilized life. His southern world was a warm, mild one that stretched across most of Spain and Portugal, southern France, all of Italy except the Alps, Greece and North Africa. There the moderate climate spawned a native flora of oil rich aromatic plants capable of withstanding a very long dry season in the summer.
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A Curandera’s Garden of Mexican Folk Herbs

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In the 15th century Florentine Codex of Aztec physicians, the healer is “well versed in herbs, who knows, through experience the roots, the trees, the stones.  She keeps her secrets and traditions.”  The healer is clearly female.  But where the Codex covers Aztec physician, the text indicates this role applies to the male gender.     Today the role of healer or “curandera” still exists in Hispanic culture.  It is not uncommon for a Mexican to consult a curandera for spiritual healing while under a medical doctor’s care.  For the very poor with no access to modern medicine, the curandera serves both roles blending the art of healing the mind with the administration of botanical medicines.     In the Mexican neighborhoods of most Southwestern cities you’ll find botanicas, which are herb stores that carry dried traditional plant cures of the curandera’s trade.  If she is fortunate enough to have a plot of land, the curandera would tend a garden of useful plants for her own fresh harvest.     Some of these plants are quite toxic poisons, but in her training she learned the proper dosage and preparation.  Many, such as morning glory and peyote would be divination plants handed down to her from the Aztec Nahuatl traditions.  The most common of these potent medicines is called tlapatl in Nahuatl or toloache in Spanish.  It is the wild datura of the desert and Mexico.  This nightshade contains serious medicine and may be the single most powerful plant in this garden.      The curandera’s garden would also contain New World natives and some European herbs introduced by the Spanish early on.   Maguey agave is perhaps the most ubiquitous plant in Mexico due to its use in the fermentation of an alcoholic beverage known as pulque.  Its fiber is utilized for everything from scrub brushes to weaving cloth.  The agave leaf was scraped and boiled to treat assorted venereal diseases   The many benefits of nopal or prickly pear, Opuntia ficus indica, are just now coming to light in the alternative medicine community.  Flat paddle-shaped stems of this plant are chopped and simmered down to a potent brew.  It is the main component of treating maladies of the heart such as angina and edema.  The mix is drunk on a daily basis as a preventative.    The many forms of sagebrush, genus Artemisia is known as ajenjo.  It includes both native and European species that are all strongly bitter and potentially toxic.  The herbs have been used in the Old World and the New to treat intestinal parasites.  It’s also a powerful antibacterial for treating infected wounds.  Some very long-lived woody shrubs also fall into this curandera garden pharmacoepia.  Bushy apache plume, Fallugia paradoxa, is a desert shrub known as ponil.  Aspirin-like qualities are found in its inner bark, much like that of aspen and willow.  A strong tea of the root and bark is also used for hair loss treatment.   Bright red Ocotillo blossoms from the woody Foqueria splendens are boiled, and
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Beautiful Garden Plants For Soggy Soil

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Call it hardpan or caliche or adobe, but all these soils add up to is dense ground.  And water doesn’t penetrate any better than it seeps through a red clay flower pot wall. Such is the fate of so many homeowners in regions were soils, or subsoil layers are impervious to water.  Or sometimes it’s just part of a homesite that’s problematic.  Cut building pads on hillsides may offer nothing but these dense, exposed sub-soils.  Even if you till them up and add organic matter, the soils may cement themselves back together again once you add water.  Many plants refuse to grow under these circumstances, but the good news is that some will literally thrive in heavy ground.  A good many of these come from habitats around the world that are often flooded, swampy or perennially wet.  Some will grow equally well on dry land too, because they are adapted to the ebb and flow of seasonal waterways.  Knowing which species enjoy these conditions will save you money, dead plants and a lot of frustration. Cardinal flower is Lobelia cardinalis, a perennial named for the vivid red flower spikes that bloom from July to September.  They’re also known as hummingbird flowers due to their lure of these tiny American birds to copious nectar.  It ranges from Canada to over most of the eastern U.S. in wetlands, swamps and streambanks.  Plants reach two to four feet and are quite cold hardy.  Recently breeders have crossed this plant with other lobelia species to create the Lobelia speciosa hybrids with varying flower color, but expect these to be a bit less cold hardy.     Water iris can be found across the globe with many species native to the American south.  These were brought into cultivation and crossed over and over to produce what are today known as the Louisiana iris hybrids.  Big, bold and resilient, with a resistance to mucky soils of the deep South, these beauties are the stellar performers of wet ground gardens.   Explore the rainbow of truly astounding hybrids and more details on cultivation and purchase of these all-American iris at Zydeco Louisiana Iris Garden in New Orleans or online at Hailing from warmer climates come two outstanding wetland performers.  The canna, beloved in Victorian gardens can be a water garden plant or grow on dry ground. Its double nature is a requirement of the Amazon region of its homeland.  Dwarfs or full sized varieties offer a huge range of flower and leaf colors.  The black and striped leaves are exceptional to look at even when out of bloom. The thick, fleshy roots may be left in ground all winter provided they don’t freeze, or they can be lifted and stored after the last frost. Gorgeous white calla lilies, Zantedeschia aethiopica used in swanky flower arrangements and old time funerary bouquets are natives of Africa.  Like the canna they live on riverbanks, thriving in periodic floods but during the long dry season they survive on dry land.  The large
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