The Season of Gardening Catalogs

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The beautiful, full color Seeds of Change catalog arrived this week, so now begins planning of next year’s garden. It’s one of the few catalogs I enjoy in print form because there is so much food gardening how-to information that it’s nearly a gardening book itself. This non-profit is America’s most famous organic heirloom seed source, and they keep many of these old varieties in cultivation through their efforts. On cold winter days I will be spending a great deal of time perusing the pages, but you can get started online right now at http://www.seedsofchange.com/ or call for a catalog of your own 888 762-7333

Quick and Easy Topiary For Your Garden

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Now you don’t have to wait years to have large topiaries in your yard.  Using wire forms pre-packed with moss and potting soil you can enjoy this age old garden art form in this year’s summer garden.  A single piece can make an incredible change.  Check out what we did on my TV show, Weekend Gardening.    Thanks to Green Piece Wire Art, we were able to transform a forgotten back alley access to a mother-in-law cottage into an inviting entry.  We needed something large enough to draw a visitor down this long narrow path to the end.  Such a huge piece of garden art of any size is not only expensive, it’s obscenely heavy!  And that means heavy shipping charges too. The solution was the Green Piece seven foot tall giraffe.  It was delivered in two boxes and three easily assembled pieces.  Each part of the wire form was pre-packed with soil and lined with spaghnam moss so it looked great as is.  Amazingly light weight for its size means that even super large pieces can be delivered via UPS with no specialty shipping required.  Check out Green Piece Wire Art to browse their many forms that you can order to make this year’s garden a virtual green menagerie!  http://www.greenpiecewireart.com/index.htm

High Country Gardens Mountain States Perennials

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Gardening in the Rockies and Great Basin states can be tough.  The high desert of the Southwest is equally daunting to most plants.  Thankfully High Country Gardens offers mail order perennials that thrive in such hot, dry and cold climates. You can shop online at www.highcountrygardens.com or order their 92 page full color information packed catalog toll free at 800-925-9387 There is so much to tell about this great collection of perennials that are remarkably resilient.  Many are western natives and native cultivars that are made a bit more garden worthy with careful selection.  Some are even High Country Gardens exclusives, developed for the very difficult conditions in their home town of Santa Fe, New Mexico. The catalog carries an extensive range of penstemon, the largest group of western native perennials for gardens.  Their wide variability with species found in high elevation alpine conditions and others adapted to the searing low desert provides opportunities to every garden no matter where in the west.  Mo’s Picks at High Country Gardens To get a faster start in dryland perennial gardening, consider their convenient collections that make choosing unknown plants much easier.  Click the links below for a closer look at each species in the group and read extensive descriptions of the plants’ requirements.   Hummingbird Agastache Collection http://www.highcountrygardens.com/catalog/product/99511/   Liatris and Goldenrod Collection http://www.highcountrygardens.com/catalog/product/99535/ Western Columbine Collection      http://www.highcountrygardens.com/catalog/product/99509/    

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. 

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.

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!