Learning about horticulture

It was about 40 years ago that I began my foray into gardening. We planted two trees, an arctic willow hedge and we started some geranium cuttings that were quite successful. I read a lot, took some courses, subscribed to several horticulture magazines but it wasn't until I began rubbing shoulders with members of a horticultural Society and a group of Master Gardeners that I feel that I really began to learn.

But it wasn't just a matter of learning from experts, I learned from seniors in retirement homes and hospitals. A farmer at Freeport Hospital taught me about composting when he told me how he converted a really poor soil into a farm that was very viable. Mentally challenged adults taught me about their love for gardening. Gardeners on our garden tours talked about their experiences. I learned so much.

As I thought about this today, I began to think that our Horticultural Societies provide the perfect learning environment with a mixture of young and old together. The older members have a ton of experience that they are more than willing to share. The young are sponges, eager to learn.

It made me realise that we need to maintain this mix. We need to interest the young into joining our societies and we need to provide programs that will keep the older members of the Society active. We can do this through Youth Groups but even more, we need to garden with our children and grandchildren. Our daughter and her children have caught the bug and our grandchildren volunteer with me in horticultural activities - therapy programs, youth groups and horticultural society events.
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Avocado Tree

Have you ever tried to grow your own avocado tree?

There is an excellent description of how to do it at http://www.gardenweb.com/faq/lists/seed/2002114535011263.html

My wife decided to try growing one a month or so ago and today we have 6 leaves on our 'Tree' and it seems to be growing well but it is still in water. Today we will be transplanting it in soil hoping all the while that it will take well to the new conditions.

The whole thing reminds me of orange and lemon trees that we grew when our children were small. When the flowers would open, the kids would rush to get the cotton swabs so that they could make like bees and pollinate the flowers to make oranges and limes. It was always a surprise that we didn't get loranges or orimes as they seldom took care not to cross pollinate the plants. They would usually do both plants at the same time with little regard to changing qtips - but then again I guess that's what bees do with little consequence.

Anyway, try the experiment with your kids. It is always an interesting thing to do to get them interested in gardening and horticulture.
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Orchids


Last March and then again in a recent issue of our Newsletter "Growing Thoughts", I wrote about our fascination and experience with the Phalaenopsis orchid. Well the fascination has grown. I did some research to determine what other orchids we might try and we decided to next try a Cymbidium and possibly a Cattleya.

A friend offered a Cattleya and we picked up a Cymbidium at a local Nursery. I then asked the friend what resources (books) she uses as references for her orchids and she gave me a folder containing all sorts of material on these wonderful plants. And then to Chapters to see what they had and I purchased a book on the topic.

Yesterday, Sheridan Nursery had a seminar on orchids which we attended to broaden our Knowledge and of course there was a variety that we hadn't yet acquired - a Spathoglottis.

Are you getting the picture yet? We seem to have gone a little overboard on the topic but it really is great fun!

Three of our orchids are currently in bloom and at least three others have spikes with buds and are about to bloom. The Phalaenopsis has been relatively easy to get to rebloom but I understand that the others will take some patience but we are anxious to try. The Cymbidium is currently in bloom and it really is lovely. We purchased it with a spike and buds on it. It took a while for the buds to open and I understand that the flowers could last for as long as 10 weeks. I've attached a photo to this posting. One book describes the Cymbidium as a beginner orchid and another says that one of the reasons for it's popularity is that it is difficult to kill - just the orchid for us.
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Plectranthus


Today at the Horticultural Therapy program at Winston Park, I had the members of the gardening group repot a bunch of Plectranthus cuttings that I had saved from the Fall. The one we potted up today is a hybrid called Mona Lavender.

I first was introduced to Plectranthus when a speaker came to speak about easy annuals to grow and he gave me a piece of Plectranthus forsteri (Swedish Ivy or Forsters Mintleaf). It's easy to grow he said "just take the cutting, put it in some soil and it will take off." And take off it did. Within a short period of time, I had several of the plants to use in containers and share with others. This Swedish Ivy is an upright shruby version of the madagascariensis that many of us are familiar with. In full sun, the white edge of the green leaf would get purple spots that made it that much more attractive in a container with bronze or purple foliage plants.

Now most of these plants are savoured for their foliage but the Mona Lavender plant has purple almost snapdragon like flowers that bloom in Summer to late Summer that are quite attractive too.

The Plectranthus has quickly become a favourite of mine and I am always looking for new varieties to use in my containers
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Winter pursuits

I'm often asked what I do in Winter with all of the time that I would normally be spending in the garden were it not Winter.

In the last issue of the Newsletter, I suggested that subscriptions to one of two magazines that I subscribe to might be a great idea as a Christmas gift. Shortly after writing that article, I received the February issue of Fine Gardening. From time to time I’ve heard the criticism that Fine Gardening is an American magazine and there is little of interest in it for the Canadian gardener. Looking at the Feb issue, I’m convinced that this couldn’t be further from the truth. If the subscription price is too much or you are just not interested in subscribing to another magazine, the Kitchener Public Library (Main Branch) subscribes to it. You could also check it out at the cash of your favourite grocery store.

Several columns and articles caught my attention in the latest issue. For example, the publishers of the magazine sponsor a website for subscribers FineGardening.com that includes thousands of garden photos; a plant guide and thousands of free ‘How To’ articles and videos. And then there was a new section on edible plants with correspondents from various sectors of the United States recommending favourite plants—some of which I have grown successfully here.

This is just one of the avenues I follow to occupy my 'gardening time'. In addition to reading my gardening magazines, there are also the catalogues that have begun to arrive. First come the seed catalogues and they are quickly followed by a plethora of others. And then there are the seminars and workshops and ... What do you do with your time indeed!
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Hiatus/Dry spell

As you may have noticed, I've gone through a dry spell with respect to writing the blog but here's hoping the funk is gone and I once again have some energy to do some writing.
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Geraniums - Pelargoniums

I recently had the opportunity to speak at an event honouring a group of people whose gardens were nominated for recognition. I was allowed to choose my own topic and I decided to talk on how I went about learning more on the topic of Horticulture. I then spent some time showing slides that illustrated what I learned from the sources from which I learned about the topic.

I didn't mention the annual geranium in my talk but this was one of my first ventures into the world of cuttings. When we were first married, we would take cuttings from the previous years supply of geraniums and tried to coax them through the Winter. We would often lose half our crop, probably because of the way we started the cuttings.

We tried rooting them in water but that just didn't work for us as the cuttings would rot and die. We tried putting them right in the soil and that worked to some degree but we again lost a significant number of the cuttings for some reason. It wasn't until years later that I mentioned my difficulty to a Master Gardener that I learned to allow the cutting to dry overnight in the refrigerator before putting them in soil that I was most successful. Now most if not all the cuttings survive. I learned too from the same Master Gardener that starting geraniums from purchased seed is almost always 100% successful.

I know that many gardeners will dry out their plants, hang them in a cold cellar and repot them the following year again with mixed success but I'm doing alright with cuttings now that I give them 24 hours to heal before potting them up.
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Much to do in the next few weeks

Over the next few weeks, I need to save the annuals and tender perennials that I want to keep for next year. The Dahlias and Amaryllis have to be cleaned and put into the cold cellar, cuttings of Geraniums, Sweet potato vines and Plectranthus taken and Echeverria preserved. Once again I am going to try to overwinter some pond plants that include Colocasia (Taro) and Cyperus (Papyrus).

I still have some tomatoes to pick and some potatoes to dig up. There are seeds to collect as well. I tried growing 4 O'Clocks in a container this year and the experiment worked quite well.

And then there are some areas of the garden that I plan to change. This includes planting a Clethra that has been in a container for several years and a dwarf Elm that was purchased this Summer. There are still a few Jovibara and two dwarf Astilbes yet to be planted as well. I'll likely plant a few bulbs too (Tulips and Alliums)

After all of this has been completed, I'll begin the cleanup. I feel a little like Alice's white rabbit.
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What's in bloom now?



It is always interesting at the end of September to do a review of what is in bloom. The other day I was at a fellow Master Gardeners place and she has a Clematis Josephine in bloom. While the flowers are smaller than they might be during the blooming seaon for Josephine, the flowers are nevertheless attractive.

While there are the usual Asters, Anemones, Sedums and Helenium, there is a clump of Iris Immortality that is reblooming along with several clumps of Spiderworts. My C texensis Dutchess of Albany still has some blooms on it too although they are much like Josephine mentioned above. The flowers are smaller and not as perfect as they once were.

An unusual occurence is a stand of New England Asters that when planted many years ago were crimson in colour. Now, the stand is as large as it was several years ago but now is completely purple. There is still a stand elsewhere in the garden that is the crimson colour but this one has changed.
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Insect bites

A bee keeper was telling us last night that when he works amongst his bees, he works dirty. This to say that most soaps have a fragrance that attract bees (sounds reasonable doesn't it - the bees think flowers and pollen). So it would make sense that most pollinators would be attracted to scents from soaps and perfumes. That being the case, I guess that it would make sense not to be wearing perfume when you go out to sit in the garden.

I know that mosquitos are more attracted to individuals who eat bananas regularly than those who don't.

Being careful about wearing fragrances from perfumes or soaps in the garden might be a sensible thing this year given the population of yellow jackets this year. For some reason, the population is up considerably and they are building nests everywhere.
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