Easy Holiday Wreath DIY

We’ve decided to give the traditional holiday wreath an American Meadows’ makeover by adding our own sweet touch: dried wildflowers! All you need to easily make your own are some cut greens, berries, dried flowers from your garden, and a wreath form. The best part about making your own wreath is you can customize it with whatever decorations and ribbon fits your style. Once you make one of these, you’ll be hooked!The post Easy Holiday Wreath DIY appeared first on American Meadows Blog.

The Best Seed Company in the World by Allen Bush

It is time to say good-bye to the wonderful and versatile Jelitto Perennial Seeds—at least in one sense. I’ll be clocking out, for the last time, at the end of the year.

I am grateful to my friend Klaus Jelitto for giving me a job 22 years ago. There has never been a dull day.

A perennial business, with an astounding selection of over 3,721 different seed items, was, from the beginning, right up my alley. All I had to do was convince the rest of North America to buy into my passion for perennials. I approached my work as pleasure, though I’ll admit: I was a little more adrenalized than most about perennials and gardening.

I love growing seeds.

Klaus Jelitto started the company in 1957 on a shoestring. In the beginning, he visited nursery customers between Stuttgart, Germany, and Landskrona, Sweden, in a rusted VW Beetle. He kept a bedroll handy, in case he needed to sleep on the side of the road. The first few years were hand-to-mouth, but hard work and good fortune enabled Klaus and his wife Margot to keep the business afloat. After moving six times, as the business grew, the company settled in Schwarmstedt, Germany, in 1992.

Klaus Jelitto 2004

Jelitto Perennial Seeds today is a small company of 32 gifted, hard-working employees. There is a United Kingdom and a Japan office as well. This year is the 60th anniversary of Jelitto Perennial Seeds.

I opened up a Jelitto marketing office in Louisville, KY, in 1996. I was the sole American employee until the business expanded in 2002 and the company hired Mary Vaananen. As a moniker, North American Manager doesn’t scratch the surface of Mary’s talents or her devotion to Jelitto’s customers. Mary has a vast storehouse of seed information, plus she is a superb, artful gardener, an inspirational speaker, and a great friend.

Georg Uebelhart collecting seed in Yunnan, China 1997.

Georg Uebelhart now runs the Jelitto show. I first met the precocious plantsman in 1987 when he worked as an international intern for Kurt Bluemel. Georg lives and breathes hardy perennials. Klaus Jelitto hired him after he completed a year with Bluemel.

Georg later confessed to Klaus that, in a move atypical of adolescents the world over, he had put out his own small seed list during his teenage years in Basel, Switzerland. Georg’s selection included wild collected seeds of Swiss herbaceous and alpine plants. He promised his customers that he would beat Jelitto’s prices.

Georg Uebelhart and Mary Vaananen in the Sarah P. Duke Garden in Durham, North Carolina 2016.

I’ll stay in touch with my Jelitto friends and colleagues. Klaus and I email regularly. Mary Vaananen and I will still hang out. My good friend Georg Uebelhart and I will continue travel to beautiful wild places to explore native plants—wherever they grow.

I lucked out in so many ways. I couldn’t ask for more.

But then Georg Uebelhart gave me keys to the candy store.

Retirement never looked better.

I can order anything I want from Jelitto—no cost!

Call me biased. I love Jelitto Perennial Seeds!

Jelitto staff in Schwarmstedt, Germany 2017.

Here’s a short list of my favorite 22 Jelitto pick hits (1996-2017). They’ve all been grown in Kentucky’s Zone 6.

Alcea rugosa—My favorite hollyhock.

Alchemilla sericata ‘Gold Strike’—Littler than the common lady’s mantle and tolerant of Kentucky’s heat and humidity.

Aquilegia canadensis ‘Little Lanterns’—A dainty and durable version of the Canada columbine.

Baptisia australis var. minor—You’ll need to wait three or four years for this to come into its own, but then you’ll have an easy and long-lived plant for years. Don’t sweat it. You’ll never regret this smaller baptisia.

Bigelowii nutallii—A charming and enchanting new perennial for me.

Coreopsis pubescens ‘Sunshine Superman’—A low-growing flowering fool with a long season of bloom.

Dianthus arenarius ‘Little Maiden’— You can’t miss the fragrance. Great for rock gardens and troughs.

Digitalis ferruginea ‘Gigantea Gelber Herold’—A tough foxglove with yellow blooms.

Echinacea purpurea ‘Magnus Superior’—Shouldn’t all coneflowers be grown from seed?

Eriogonum allenii ‘Little Rascal’—Thick, silvery-gray rosettes and long-blooming yellow blooms. Drought resistant.

Eritrichum canum-hybr. ‘Baby Blues’—I’m tossing in a free-flowering, self-seeding annual. Blue flowers from May until frost.

Goniolimon collinum ‘Sea Spray’—White, statice-like blooms with beautiful silver-gray leaves. Excellent for rock gardens.

Heuchera villosa var. macrorrhiza (Autumn Bride)—The fresh, unadorned mother of so many of the newer hybrids. Still one of the best.

Iberis sempervirens ‘Snow Cushion’—Smaller candytuft.

Knipfofia hirsuta ‘Fire Dance’—Easy-to-grow and lower growing.

Penstemon x mexicale ‘Sunburst Colours’—You deserve this penstemon.

Pulsatilla vulgaris ‘Rosen Glocke’ (Rose Bells)—Pasque flowers are terrific, early spring bloomers.

Rudbeckia triloba ‘Prairie Glow’—A later blooming black-eyed Susan with red tones.

Scutellaria resinosa ‘Smoky Hills’—A favorite, well-behaved skullcap.

Thalictrum polygamum—If I had to pick one tall plant…

Thermopsis chinensis—The early spring blue-gray buds open to brilliant yellow.

Tricyrits hirta—No one should be without toad lilies in partial shade.

The Best Seed Company in the World originally appeared on Garden Rant on December 13, 2017.

The Humane Gardener: 5 Tips for Compassionate Landscaping, with Author Nancy Lawson

What is humane gardening? According to Nancy Lawson, author of the new book The Humane Gardener: Nurturing a Backyard Habitat for Wildlife, it means going beyond “birds, bees, and butterflies.” As she writes: “Humane gardeners embody the ethic of compassionate landscaping, challenging long-held assumptions about animals, plants, and themselves.”

So let’s start with an assumption about “wildlife gardening.” It’s about not using pesticides, feeding the birds and planting flowers for pollinators, right? In part. “It’s really about creating habitats,” Lawson says. “Thinking holistically.”

Here are five tips to get you started.

1. Design with the neighbors in mind.

Create contrast with mown paths.
Above: Create contrast with mown paths.

A humane garden might look like a wild unkempt one to untrained eyes, so show your neighbors you are caring for the landscape by mowing a strip or adding a fountain. Lawson suggests “adding signs of human intention” to your design.

Birds in urban and suburban environments need water to keep their feathers clean. (Lawson keeps her fountain heated in winter.) Photograph by Marie Viljoen.
Above: Birds in urban and suburban environments need water to keep their feathers clean. (Lawson keeps her fountain heated in winter.) Photograph by Marie Viljoen.

2. Know your allies.

Photograph by Kristin Shoemaker via Flickr.
Above: Photograph by Kristin Shoemaker via Flickr.

Rather than trap or kill small mammals, celebrate them as gardening friends. Gophers aerate soil and moles till it. According to Lawson, moles don’t eat plants. “They eat worms —some of which are introduced.” Lawson plants into her mole hills. “The dirt has been kicked up—it’s wonderfully friable,” she says.

Rabbits, long considered a bane to gardeners, Lawson discusses with equanimity. “Rabbits are more of a problem in yards with manicured turf grass. There, they direct their attention to the plants dotted around the house. But in my garden, where there’s a bounty of edible options, they choose their favorites—clover and dandelions. Weeds, in other words.”

Opossums similarly help gardeners (and their pets) stay healthy. In her book, Lawson cites a study which measured possum-tick consumption—at a staggering 5000 week.

Lawson notes that most of North America’s terrestrial bird species feed their young spiders and insects, primarily caterpillars. Many become baby food for the young of birds like this prothonotary warbler.
Most bird parents need thousands of caterpillars to raise a single brood to the fledgling stage. And caterpillars are usually specialists, eating only the plants they coevolved with. So without native plants, you wouldn’t have baby bird food in the form of the caterpillars

4. Let sleeping logs lie.

Photograph by Britt Willoughby-Dyer. See more in The Well-Kept Woodpile: 10 Tips to Stack and Care for Firewood.
Above: Photograph by Britt Willoughby-Dyer. See more in The Well-Kept Woodpile: 10 Tips to Stack and Care for Firewood.

Humane gardening underscores decay a fundamental part of life. Lawson explains: “Beetles live in rotting wood. Stumps provide food for woodpeckers. Similarly, logs lying on the ground provide homes for salamanders—they keep eggs protected from predators.”

Brush piles provide similarly important habitats. They shelter turtles, allow insects a place to overwinter, and offer food to birds.

5. Build a “catio.” 

Photograph by Meredith Swinehart.
Above: Photograph by Meredith Swinehart.

“Cats kill wildlife,” Lawson says. “It’s not the cat’s fault.” So create a ‘catio’ by enclosing an area of your deck or build a small balcony outside an apartment window. It’s safer for the cat, Lawson says, and helps protect snakes, mice, small rabbits, bats and birds, from their teeth and claws.

A hardcover copy of The Humane Gardener: Nurturing a Backyard Habitat for Wildlife is $16.96 at Amazon.
Above: A hardcover copy of The Humane Gardener: Nurturing a Backyard Habitat for Wildlife is $16.96 at Amazon.

How to Care for Your Lawn in Winter

Many people, even those who consider themselves to be clued up on the do’s and don’ts of gardening, assume that winter is a time to ditch the gardening and head inside, and in some respect this is true. However, if you want to ensure your lawn remains healthy and happy throughout the winter, there are a few simply things that should be done.

In this winter lawn care guide, you’ll find some of the most effective ways to look after your lawn during the colder months.

How to Care for Your Lawn in Winter

Taking the time to care for your lawn throughout the winter doesn’t take a lot of time or energy, but it goes a long way towards keeping the lawn in great shape for spring. (source)

Keep Off the Lawn

Though you probably won’t be spending much time outside during the winter, try to stay off the lawn as much as possible when it’s wet or frosty. The lawn won’t be growing a lot during the winter and therefore any damage caused by walking cannot be repaired.

​Avoid Mowing the Lawn

​Avoid mowing the lawn in winter as much as possible and only mow the lawn if it’s necessary. A lawn will not grow much during the winter and therefore most people will find there’s no need to cut it. However, if temperatures do spike and weather conditions are good, a small amount of mowing may be required.

​Remove Leaves and Debris

​During the winter a lot of leaves and branches fall from trees, many of which will end up on your lawn; this is only increased when it’s windy, as debris can be blown in from elsewhere. It’s important to remove any leaves and debris from the lawn as frequently as possible, to reduce the chances of damage. If you have a large lawn, you may find a leaf blower or lawn vacuum useful.

​Check and Service Your Lawnmower and Strimmer

​As your lawnmower and strimmer won’t be used often during the winter, it’s the ideal time to give them the once over. Check to ensure all blades are sharp and that nothing needs repairing, as well as replacing any parts. Doing so will leave you with a lawnmower and strimmer that are in tiptop condition for when spring rolls around.

​Aerate the Lawn

aerate lawn

​Aerating the lawn refers to process of allowing air into the lawn; this is done using a pitchfork or any other spiking tool. By allowing air into the lawn, compaction is reduced and drainage is improved. This leads to a healthier lawn overall.

​Decrease Lawn Watering

​You are probably used to watering your lawn a lot during the summer, especially as the warmer temperatures can dry it out. However, the amount you water the lawn should be drastically decreased during the winter. Not only will the extra rain keep the grass hydrated, but the colder temperatures tend to bring dew.

​Raise Lawnmower Cutting Heights

If you do notice that your lawn could do with cutting during the winter, it’s best to raise your cutting height slightly; this will reduce the risk of damaging the lawn. Low lawnmower cutting heights can result in scalping and brown patches of lawn.

Apply Fertilizer if Necessary

A lot of people assume that applying grass fertilizer is a task best suited to spring and summer, but that’s not always the case. Though not all lawns will require fertilizer, some could do with the help. Applying a fertilizer helps the lawn to stay healthy and looking its best throughout the winter months.

Keep an Eye on Extreme Weather Conditions

Though a lawn is very resilient in general, certain extreme weather conditions can cause damage in the long run. The best way to avoid this is to keep an eye on the weather and remove any large patches of ice that occur. Similarly, if snow builds up in low areas of the lawn and doesn’t melt naturally over time, it is beneficial to remove it manually.

Remove Weeds and Unwanted Plant Growth

Though weeds and plants tend to grow a lot slower in the colder temperatures, they can still appear. As well as looking unsightly and causing the garden to look overgrown and unkempt, weeds can cause damage to other plants. Remove weeds periodically throughout the winter and cut back any plants that are overgrowing. There are a lot of different weed killers available and many do not cause harm to the lawn.

When it comes to caring for your lawn this winter, a little goes a long way. By removing debris, keeping time spent on the lawn to a minimum and aerating you’ll find yourself left with a healthy, happy and great looking lawn despite the cold and the rain. After all, there’s no need to have your lawn looking worse for wear just because it’s winter.

The post How to Care for Your Lawn in Winter appeared first on Sumo Gardener.

Money being raised to turn Indy home into place for people to learn urban gardening

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“INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – An effort to create urban gardens on the northwest side of Indianapolis is moving ahead. The Kheprw Institute is raising $30,000 to renovate a home on Boulevard Place and turn it into an urban agriculture learning lab.

The community will be invited to learn how to create their own urban garden and borrow tools to help them get started.

The home will include a board of health-approved kitchen to teach families how to prepare the food they grow themselves. The goal is to address a food access crisis in the area.”

Read the FULL STORY at: “Fox59.com

Cold Climate Gardening Books: New Titles

There are a lot of great gardening books out there, but when you read instructions like “plant in early spring, and thin in April,” and you think to yourself, “April is early spring where I live” you realize you might have to make mental adjustments to everything the author tells you. How refreshing then, to read a gardening book written specifically for cold climates! The author understands where you’re coming from: you don’t have to worry if the plants will survive the winter, you don’t have to mentally adjust the planting or maintenance schedule, and you’ll usually get a few tips on overcoming some of our climates challenges. A-a-ah!

A couple of years ago I gathered all the books I knew about cold climate gardening in one giant post. I intended to update it as I found new books, but I haven’t. (All book reviews can be found here.) Below I’ve reviewed four books that I should add to the list. (I receive a small commission from Amazon if you buy something after clicking through one of the links.)

The Northern Gardener

Minnesota is entirely in USDA Hardiness Zones 3 and 4. (Okay, there’s a teensy bit of Zone 5 in the latest revision of the map.) So when Mary Lahr Schier, the editor of Minnesota State Horticultural Society’s (MSHS) magazine, Northern Gardener, writes a book called The Northern Gardener, you know it really is going to be about cold climate gardening, by someone who has actually lived it and done it. This is a basic gardening book from a northern perspective, so you won’t get any inappropriate advice and the bloom times will be spot on. But it’s a basic gardening book with a twist–at the beginning of each chapter is a quote from the MSHS’s archives and some agricultural history relating to the chapter. I loved reading about these pioneer gardeners and their struggles and triumphs. I appreciate how much we stand on the shoulders of the gardeners who’ve gone before us, and I realize I’m not alone in my own garden challenges and victories. It really kicks the book up a notch.

But reading The Northern Gardener also made me a bit jealous. In my state the vast majority of the population gardens in a climate warmer than mine, and the nurseries, the newspaper columns, and even cooperative extension are focused on providing information and plants for that majority. Is there anywhere in New York, I wonder, where I could find ‘Northern Strain’ redbud? Does my local rose society know about the “875 roses that grow well in northern climates,” as the Minnesota Rose Society does? Where can I buy ‘Above and Beyond,’ “a peachy climbing rose that’s extremely hardy and blooms repeatedly”? I guess I have the rest of the winter to come up with the answers.

Fresh From The Garden

Fresh From The Garden: An Organic Guide to Growing Vegetables, Berries, and Herbs in Cold Climates by John Whitman is encyclopedic in its scope and very even-handed in its presentation of topics that many gardeners have strong opinions about. In “Types of Gardens,” for example, he discusses beds and borders, compost gardening, community and guerilla gardens, container gardening, lasagna gardening, level gardens, mulched and no-till gardens, raised-bed gardens, straw bale gardening, and vertical gardening–whew! And each type is discussed in enough detail so you can make an informed choice. Each chapter in the first part of the book is just as comprehensive and thorough.

The second part of the book describes how to grow individual vegetables, berries, and herbs. All the common vegetables are covered, as well as some that are challenging in cold climates, such as sweet potatoes and melons. He has entries for thirty-six kinds of greens–not including lettuce, which has its own entry–and twenty-nine different herbs. And then he has a section called Unique Plants with twenty-four entries, everything from Artichoke to Yardlong Bean. Plenty of the plants included in the Greens section were also what I would call “unique”. I didn’t know Malva was edible (it’s not the species commonly grown for its flowers) and I never even heard of Hanover Kale. I did find it odd that Nasturtiums got an entry of their own not in the herb section or the unique plants, but gooseberries were considered unusual enough to be in the Unique section. The omission of edible blue honeysuckle, which is extremely hardy, surprised me. Perhaps Whitman has never grown them.

If you’ve been growing vegetables for a while, you will love this book for the explanation of techniques and tips, and the many new vegetables you can try growing. But if you are just thinking of growing vegetables for the first time, this book may be a bit overwhelming. Whitman advises reading the whole first section of his book before getting started. That’s one hundred twenty very large pages of fairly small print. I’d suggest instead that you get Dee Nash’s The 20-30 Something Garden Guide in addition to Whitman’s, looking up the vegetables in Whitman’s book but following Dee’s plan for starting small and building on your success each year. And even though this book was written for cold climate gardeners, just about any vegetable gardener would learn from the general information in the first part and the extensive listing of edibles in the second part. It really is quite an achievement, with a refreshing candor that you don’t often find in reference books.

Hydrangeas In The North

If you have been struggling to get your blue- or pink-flowering hydrangeas to bloom, get your hands on Hydrangeas in the North: Getting Blooms in the Colder Climates by Tim Boebel. He has perfected a pruning technique to get the most bloom possible out of H. macrophylla and H. serrata. If, like me, you’ve decided getting shrubs native to southern climes to bloom in the frigid north is too much work, stick to H. arborescens and H. paniculata, both hardy to USDA Zone 3. Boebel also covers these in his book, as well as H. quercifolia, which is hardy to Zone 5. I am impressed how much Boebel has taught himself about hydrangeas through trial and error and close observation. Both the book and his website profile the most successful cultivars in each of these species, and the garden center he works for, located near Rochester, NY, carries over 200 different cultivars. Road trip, anyone?

The Plant Lover’s Guide to Primulas

Almost all primroses are quite cold hardy. What most of them need is consistent moisture, which I certainly have in my clay soil. Most of the primroses featured in The Plant Lover’s Guide to Primulas by Jodie Mitchell and Lynne Lawson are hardy to Zone 4, and many are hardy to Zone 3. If you have moist soil, everything else you need to know is included in this book, including loads of scrumptious pictures. I used to think primroses were difficult, but the authors reassure, “we have chosen only the more garden friendly species that have proved their worth.” I now have several different kinds in my garden and most of them are multiplying well. So what are you waiting for?