New Year’s Day – Here are my “I’m Gonnas” – Sharing With You My 10 Garden Resolutions

HAPPY NEW YEAR

Here at Helen’s Haven, we take every chance to have new beginnings. In the world of gardening, everyday offers  a new beginning; most, sadly, are not necessarily planned.

On New Year’s day, we have an opportunity to plan some resolutions and then hope for the best.  As someone profound once said, “if you don’t have any goals, how do you know when you got there”, or some such talk.  So I have goals for the garden…drumroll, please.  Here are my I’m gonna’s:

10.  I’m gonna stop waking up in the morning and going straight to the window to see if the boxwood hedge in the back connected during the night. The Best and Hardest Thing to Give Your Garden is Time

9.  I’m gonna deadhead like I should.

8.  I’m gonna grow more plants from seed.

7.  I’m gonna sow poppy and larkspur seeds again, even though I know I will fail.

6.  I’m gonna reduce even more lawn. Lawn Reform Coalition

5.  I’m gonna add more native plantings to the garden. North Carolina Native Plant Society

4.  I’m gonna take a series of monthly images at predetermined stops in the garden so I can slide show the beds annual pattern with monthly performance.

3.  I’m gonna stop worrying about where my garden gnomes go. Six Places Your Garden Gnomes May Go

2.  I’m gonna read plant labels and then I’m gonna factor 25% to whatever number they print. What do You Want to Know About a Plant?

1.  I’m gonna kick zonal denial in the butt.  Only plants with a zone wrapped around my zone 7b garden will be allowed in Helen’s Haven…unless it’s for the south side and I can’t help myself.

Helen Yoest is a garden writer and coach through her business Gardening with Confidence™

Follow Helen on Twitter @HelenYoest and her facebook friend’s page, Helen Yoest or Gardening With Confidence™ Face Book Fan Page.

Helen also serves on the board of advisors for the JC Raulston Arboretum

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What do You Want to Know About a Plant?

All I wanted to know was if it was favored by bunnies…

As a garden communicator, when I write about a plant, I like to present as much information as possible,  at the same time making it readable.  Also, most times, I’ve had a good experience with a particular plant, bringing me joy and I want to share this experience and hopefully encourage the reader to plant one in hopes they experience  similar joy.  I don’t like to write about a plant I don’t have a personal experience with.

What I want to know about a plant may be different than what you want to know.  The variables per reader are vast.  Most gardeners will want to know about the plant’s USDA hardiness, sun requirements, soil type and the like. There are those plagued with deer who want to know if it’s deer resistance, with nearly every communicator qualifying the answer with, “But as you know,  deer will eat anything if hungry enough.”

I need to know the plants water needs.  I have a waterwise garden design, so I need to know if the plant of my desire will go into my oasis, transitional, or xeric zone.  From there, I can decide if I have room, or if I really want it, I’ll make room by trading up. I find it frustrating when I see a plant I want and have to go to several sources to get all the info about a plant I need.

When I’m gathering gardening info, I’ll gather even more information than I need personally, in the event I really like the plant and want to put it in a clients garden or if I want to write about it.  For example, I am plagued with bunnies.  I need to know if a plant is resistant to bunnies.  I don’t have deer.  However, I will want to know this information to file away for a client’s need or for a writing assignment.

The magazines (me included) are currently writing about the 2009 Perennial Plant of the Year, Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’ ornamental grass.   A timely endeavor.  I like it.  It looks good in the photos and I want it.  But with having made too many plant purchase mistakes to mention, and finding that zonal denial only benefits the nursery or garden center, I’m getting to where I need to be gaining more knowledge and killing less. If a plant is listed as a bunny favorite, I’ll stay clear of it.   No use building a buffet line for those marauding, munching, members of the cute critter club.

Here is what I want to know about a plant.  The list started out organized and ended up random as I continued to think of things I wanted to know:

Hardiness range. My garden, Helen’s Haven, is in Zone 7b.  I have to really, really like it if  is at the end of it’s zone.  Preferable, I like to have another zone  wrapped around it.  I no longer buy zone 8 plants; those days will be here soon enough if you listen to the global warming conversations, but for now, I’m sticking to my zone.

Water requirement. I will accept most conditions, dry, moist or wet.  I don’t have all the waterwise  zones covered, but I do have most of them  including, sunny oasis, sunny transition, sunny xeric,  shady transitional,  shady xeric and a tiny bit of shady oasis.   I need a plant’s watering need so I know where to plant it.

Sun/shade requirements. Absolutely need to know.  Boy oh boy, this simple concept can be so confusing.  A footnote could accompany just about any plant going something like this – give afternoon shade in hot climates, or give extra water if planted in sun…you get the point.

Height. We all gotta know.

Width. Ditto.

Good for containers. Very useful for those with limited space and those of us who like to use containers throughout the home and garden.

Drainage requirements. For the most part,  Helen’s Haven is well drained.  This is by design.  As I created my gardens, I amended the heavy clay with lots of organic matter.  However, there are parts of my oasis zone that receive a lot of extra water either by my neighbors lawn sprinklers or from fountain splash.  As such, these areas stay wet.

Soil structure. This usually goes hand-in-hand with drainage, but not entirely. There’s more to it when growing a living thing.  Every gardener needs to know their soil structure.  We are solid clay.  The kind I imagine potters use to throw pots – I sure would like to throw it about.  But, reality sets in and it does make good soil, if amended properly.

pH. Every plant has a  pH preference.  It is no coincidence here in the south that pines and azaleas are the most common combination.  Not only do the azaleas benefit from the dappled shade provided by the pines, they also benefit from the acid soil the pines provide.  The pH in Helen’s Haven tends to be acid; a common occurrence in the south, which is why our hydrangeas tend to be blue and if we want to change to the color to pink, we need to go through some hoops and amendments, too many for me, besides I like blue.

Does it reseed? This could be a good thing or a bad thing.   I also need to know more than if it is listed as a reseeding annual.  Poppies, Larkspar, Cleome, Monarda are all considered reseeding annuals.  But the the success of each will depend of many factors, including mulching.  I can mulch like crazy and my Cleome and Monarda are snug as a bug and perform beautifully.  If I treat my Poppies and Larkspar with mulch, they will not survive.

Hoes it spreads and  how fast?  Is it Invasive?   You have to look for code words to know.

  • Reseeds freely
  • Spreads by stolons
  • Plenty to share with your gardening friends
  • Oh, it’s easy to pull up if it gets out of hand
  • It’s worth it

Evergreen, semi-evergreen or deciduous. This is most important in design.  If I’m building a buffer hedge, I may well benefit from an evergreen hedge for year round privacy.  Or I may like the lightness a deciduous hedge offers in the season I’m not in need of as much privacy.

Seasonal interest. It’s good to know when a plant is the showiest.

Deer resistance. More and more people need to know this.  The deer population is growing at about the same rate  land is being claimed for new developments.  I don’t even want to consider how this gets balanced.  But my clients want to know what they can grow that the deer won’t eat.  I make suggestions and then of course I say, “But as you know,  deer will eat anything if hungry enough.”

Bunny resistance. This is my biggy.  I need to know.  I don’t recall reading this as clarification on a plant tag.  As such, I’m always doing extra research, usually with no success.  My success comes if I find it is still standing the next day.

    Origin. Some want to know if it’s native.  Others not.  I think in general it is good to know.  Sort of like all of us.  Our origins are conversation worthy.

    Maintenance. High, low, moderate or maintenance free.  All good to know.

    propagation. Handy to know in the event you only want to pay for this plant once.

    Pests. We need to know.  We re more likely going to choose a variety of plant that isn’t prone to pests, than one that is.

    As I lust over the 2009 Perennial Plant of the Year Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’ ornamental grass, I decide to consult the current literature and see how many source reviews I needed to do to get all the information needed necessary to decide if this beauty will go into my garden.

    Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’

    Golden Japanese forest grass

    Hak-on-eh-KLO-ah MAK-rah

    Need to Know A B C D E F
    USDA Hardiness zones 5 – 9 5 – 9 6 – 9 5 – 6 need winter protection 5 – 9
    Water requirement Medium Moist Moist
    Sun/shade requirements Full sun to Partial shade Partial shade Sun or shade, woodland Full sun Partial to full shade is best.Full sun tends to scorch the leaves Partial shade in hot climes. More sun in cooler climes
    Height 1’ – 3’ 1 – 1.5’ 18” 12 – 18”
    Width 1’ – 3’ 24” 18 – 24”
    Good for containers Yes Yes
    Drainage requirements Well-drained soil Well-drained soil
    Soil Structure Humus-rich Average soil. Also says humus-rich Average Rich and loamy Humus rich
    pH
    Does it reseed?
    How it spreads and how fast.  Is it invasive? Spread by stolons, it is a slow grower By stolons, but slowly
    Evergreen, semi-evergreen or deciduous.
    Season Interest Summer, fall. Reddish tint in fall Shades of pink and red in the fall. All summer with shads of pink and red in the fall
    Deer resistance Yes
    Bunny resistance
    Origin Honshu Island, Japan
    Maintenance Can divide after many years. Little. Cut back in late winter or early spring.Slow grower so division after many years.
    Propagation Divide in spring By division or plugs
    Pest Few insect or disease problems

    The table above, represents 6 reputable reference I consulted to answer my questions about this plants performance. I have hidden their identify with letters.  But, just to give you an idea, one was a nursery, one an e-magazine, one a botanic garden, two were gardening magazines, one a professional organization.

    My, my this exercise thought me a lot.  Did it you?  I had other referenced I could have considered, but I had enough trouble importing this table as it was.  But it didn’t matter, the sources I referred to all varied as you can see above.

    Notice all the blank blocks?  Me too.  Who knew?

    Sadly, I still do not know if this plant is favored by bunnies.

    Helen Yoest is a garden writer and coach through her business Gardening with Confidence™

    Follow Helen on Twitter @HelenYoest and her facebook friend’s page, Helen Yoest or Gardening With Confidence™ Face Book Fan Page.

    Helen also serves on the board of advisors for the JC Raulston Arboretum

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    Sunday December 27, 2009 Puttering in Helen’s Haven

    What a week in the garden.  It rained on Christmas, so I didn’t have to make up any excuses about being outside.

    Nature put her breaks on me so I could focus on celebrating with my family.  Then lo and behold, the skies cleared, the temperature rose, and I was out playing in the garden once again.

    The wintertime is a great time to clean up, gear up, and read up on gardening for the next season.  But in Helen’s Haven, the winter is a season we celebrate.  Helen’s Haven is a four season garden with plenty of interest in each season, especially the winter.

    As I cut back The Red Bed, I evaluated what I wanted for the coming year.  The castor beans were a huge hit this year.  Bold, lush and red; the drama they brought can be matched by no other.  However, after the frost, when they needed to be removed for the season, it was like felling a forest.  I may have had a bit more than needed; especially considering the amount of work they were after the frost.  Castor beans will continue to grace The Red Bed, but in smaller numbers.


    I have plenty of seed to share.  Let me know if I can send some to you!

    Also in The Red Bed, the hedgerow I started last winter is taking shape.  Having planted daylilies there (divisions from clients and friends), they became a maintenance headache.  So, as much as my neighbors love them, I decided they needed to go.  I made an attempt to remove them, but I know I didn’t get them all and will be after them for quite a while.  I left one patch on purpose because I do love them.

    But the goal for the south side is to have a nice tapestry hedge to attract wildlife.  The plantings included in the hedgerow are, a spice bush, camellia, variegated box, Rose of Sharon, Gold Totem Pole, Knock Out Rose, Japanese Black pine, Abelia ‘Little Richard’ and Forthysia.  These plantings are a continuation of the Southern Magnolia that anchors the Southwest corner of the house.

    Fledging Hedgerow

    Another area in The Red Bed that needed my attention was the Forsythia.  There were four big clumps that needed to be removed.  This is one of my favorite harbingers of spring; but it can get a little unruly.

    The aster, banana, elephant ears, daisies, ruellia, salvias were cut back.  kk decided he had no room for the Invincibelle Spirit, so I planted it in The Office Border.

    For some time now, I have considered putting in an edge along the back lawn area where it meets the twin beds.  Left over from a job were 15 Ever-edges.  Laying them out to see how they will look, there they sit until I can decide.  It’s looking like it will be a good investment to at least try.  There are enough to be able to tell if the look is something I want.  Cut edges just don’t last long enough.  Given the look of that back area, a crisp formal edge is necessary.  Whether I go with this edge or another, an edge will be addressed in 2010.

    Added Christmas tree cuttings to the wildlife brush pile

    Wildlife brush pile

    Fresh Cut Christmas Trees Versus Artificial Trees

    Christmas Tree Afterlife for Wildlife

    Merry Christmas to All and to All Good Gardens

    Helen Yoest is a garden writer and coach through her business Gardening with Confidence™

    Follow Helen on Twitter @HelenYoest and her facebook friend’s page, Helen Yoest or Gardening With Confidence™ Face Book Fan Page.

    Helen also serves on the board of advisors for the JC Raulston Arboretum

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    Merry Christmas to All and to All Good Gardens!

    From my family to yours, we wish you a very merry Christmas!


    Two thousand nine, was just divine,

    Count your blessings and mourn your losses,

    Show your garden who the boss is.

    Begin again in two thousand ten!


    Helen Yoest is a garden writer and coach through her business Gardening with Confidence™

    Follow Helen on Twitter @HelenYoest and her facebook friend’s page, Helen Yoest or Gardening With Confidence™ Face Book Fan Page.

    Helen also serves on the board of advisors for the JC Raulston Arboretum

    Comments (8)

    Christmas Tree Afterlife Will Delight Wildlife

    After Christmas, when your tree has served a charming tradition, your tree can have an afterlife as protection for the wildlife.

    HANGING TWEET TREATS

    Here, at Helen’s Haven, we put our tree in the Mixed Border to go form hanging glitzy ornaments inside to tweet treats outside.
    Making Tweet Treats: Gather the kids, birdseed, cranberries, bagels, peanut butter and string. Spend a couple hours creating treats for your birds

    Detail of Lily's tweet treat

    Other “ornaments” to hang include orange halves, popcorn garland, and suet balls.

    WILDLIFE COVER

    When the birds come to the tree for tweets, they will also find cover.   Whether the tree is upright in the yard or lain on its side, the birds will enjoy a quick escape from prey and the elements.  Christmas trees provide cover as a whole tree or with the side limbs snipped away and piled for a wildlife brush pile.



    WINDBREAK

    A tree erected downwind of the prevailing wind can offer your bird friends some protection from the cold, desiccating winds.

    Come spring when the foliage returns, winds settle down, and natural food sources abound, your tree can be chipped and turned into mulch for the garden or material to delineate paths.

    A Christmas tree’s afterlife will be the birds winter delight!

    Helen Yoest is a garden writer and coach through her business Gardening with Confidence™

    Follow Helen on Twitter @HelenYoest and her facebook friend’s page, Helen Yoest or Gardening With Confidence™ Face Book Fan Page.

    Helen also serves on the board of advisors for the JC Raulston Arboretum

    Comments (24)

    Fresh Cut Christmas Trees Versus Artifical Trees

    The What is Greener discussion of Fresh Cut Christmas Trees versus Artificial Trees has seemed to have stabilized.  In my mind, its a wash.  A trade-off of pros and cons to the environment appear to be equal.

    I prefer to walk my carbon footprint with Santas  – used year after year, no lighting required (something both tree types use), and no live option, so it can’t be debated.  The only ones in the Christian world who don’t like Santas are the gnomes.  They’ll get over it..

    You can decide.  I wouldn’t bother with a tree at all, but my kids are keen on it and I happen to like those glitzy globs  they call ornaments; ornaments have to be hung somewhere.

    There are three main considerations and the pros and cons to go with each: CHEMICAL – DISPOSAL – FUEL USE.

    CHEMICAL

    REAL Trees – There may be pesticides on the tree.  Bringing the tree  into the house, bringing pesticides and all.

    ARTIFICAL Trees – PVC Plastic (Polyvinyl chloride) and the possible threat of lead from needles.


    FUEL USE

    REAL Trees – Fuel is used to transport trees and driving to purchase.

    ARTIFICAL Trees  – As the result of manufacturing and delivery.


    DISPOSAL

    REAL Trees- Easy to compost or to use elsewhere in the garden such as hides for wildlife and mulch.

    ARTIFICIAL Trees – Will never decompose.  If you go the route of an artifical tree, plan to hold on to it as long as possible.  That will be the best way to Lesson Your Footprint.



    Helen Yoest is a garden writer and coach through her business Gardening with Confidence™

    Follow Helen on Twitter @HelenYoest and her facebook friend’s page, Helen Yoest or Gardening With Confidence™ Face Book Fan Page.

    Helen also serves on the board of advisors for the JC Raulston Arboretum

    Comments (25)

    Sunday December 20, 2009 Puttering in Helen’s Haven

    The Sunday Before Christmas

    It was a slow gardening week at Helen’s Haven.  The kids last day of school was Friday, so any preparations that involved their Christmas needed to be complete.

    While Helen’s Haven slept through sleet and snow and rain, I waited to garden.  The next dry, sunny day, I will be out in the garden again – despite the cold.  I just don’t want to be cold AND wet.

    The hope of a Christmas season snow was dashed by a mere degree.  The kid’s disappointment quickly faded dreaming of sugarplums and Santa.

    This story about Suzanne Edney’s design is a good Garden Coaching lesson to evaluate your garden for winter interest.  Winter Interest Under Way for Umstead Hotel and Spa

    Tomorrow (Monday) at 12:47 PM EST will bring the Winter Solstice.  For this light starved gardener, the Winter Solstice is a much anticipated day.  To celebrate, fellow bloggers and I created a Plantluck Dinner – A Winter Solstice Celebration Meal.

    When you finish Bobby Ward’s book Cholorphyll in his Veins: J.C. Raulston: Horticultural Ambassador, please share with me your comments so I can post and share for others to see.

    The decorating is done, for me and my clients.  If you are still looking to be inspired, have a look here:  How to Decorate a Birdbath for the Holidays &  How to Decorate a Container for the Holidays.


    Helen Yoest is a garden writer and coach through her business Gardening with Confidence™

    Follow Helen on Twitter @HelenYoest and her facebook friend’s page, Helen Yoest or Gardening With Confidence™ Face Book Fan Page.

    Helen also serves on the board of advisors for the JC Raulston Arboretum

    Comments (3)

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