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Yes There Are Well-Mannered Alternatives to Wild Queen Anne’s Lace: Ammi Majus, Anthriscus Sylvestris, ‘Dara’ and More

Category: Plant Ideas & Info, Presenting "The Curious Gardener"

Queen Anne's Lace is the common name used for a variety of plants that share similar characteristics: flowers with a flat-topped, lacy white umbel and delicate foliage. Its foliage makes it a favorite in floral arrangements as a filler. The wild species, daucus carota, is growing everywhere in parts of the US at this time of year, and has been labeled invasive in many States. Although I still find it pretty growing by the roadside (and even in parts of…
Queen Anne's Lace is the common name used for a variety of plants that share similar characteristics: flowers with a flat-topped, lacy white umbel and delicate foliage. Its foliage makes it a favorite in floral arrangements as a filler. The wild species, daucus carota, is growing everywhere in parts of the US at this time of year, and has been…

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How To Make Craft Cocktails From The Garden using A Shrub as a Mixer

Category: Presenting "The Curious Gardener"

When is a shrub not a plant? When it’s in your hand as the ingredient in a thirst-quenching  beverage. In this context, think of a shrub as a pre-made drink mixer to which you can add tonic water, ginger beer or soda water for a non-alcoholic version, or gin, vodka, bourbon or prosecco for an alcoholic beverage. Today’s craft cocktails have taken the concept, which has its origins in colonial times, to a new level of popularity. Many shrubs get…
When is a shrub not a plant? When it’s in your hand as the ingredient in a thirst-quenching  beverage. In this context, think of a shrub as a pre-made drink mixer to which you can add tonic water, ginger beer or soda water for a non-alcoholic version, or gin, vodka, bourbon or prosecco for an alcoholic beverage. Today’s craft cocktails…

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My Favorite Summer Blooming Bulbs To Plant in Spring: Acidanthera, Canna Lily and Agapanthus

Category: Flower Gardens, How-To Projects, Plant Ideas & Info, Presenting "The Curious Gardener", Spring Projects

I have three favorite bulbs that I like to grow in the summer. In my Zone 6 garden they have to be planted in the spring after the last frost. That's what I'm doing now. There are many other summer blooming bulbs as well, but these are my personal favorites, currently. The term 'bulb' applies to a large class of flowering and ornamental bulbouslike plants in their dormant condition, including corms, tubers, rhizomes and pips. White…
I have three favorite bulbs that I like to grow in the summer. In my Zone 6 garden they have to be planted in the spring after the last frost. That's what I'm doing now. There are many other summer blooming bulbs as well, but these are my personal favorites, currently. The term 'bulb' applies to a large class of…

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Easy To Make Paper Ornaments Made From Gift Wrap

Category: How-To Projects, Presenting "The Curious Gardener"

A gift wrapped in artisanal paper and decorated with a handmade ornament is special. We ordered some of Kate Blairstone's wrapping paper, made from her brilliant botanical designs, and wrapped a gift, then made an ornament for the top. Her papers come printed on both sides, so your ornament is reversible, perfect for this design. Click here to order Kate's gift wrap. Click here for step-by-step instructions on making this paper ornament, which can also be used as a holiday…
A gift wrapped in artisanal paper and decorated with a handmade ornament is special. We ordered some of Kate Blairstone's wrapping paper, made from her brilliant botanical designs, and wrapped a gift, then made an ornament for the top. Her papers come printed on both sides, so your ornament is reversible, perfect for this design. Click here to order Kate's…

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Why Do I Use An Infertile, Soilless Mix or Medium for Seed Starting?

Category: Presenting "The Curious Gardener"

When I took a propagation course at The New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx, NY, I learned that the best medium for indoor seed starting is one with little or no actual soil in it. At the time it seemed counter-intuitive to place my seeds in something as lifeless as a ‘soilless’ mix. Even though ordinary garden soil contains both organic and inorganic matter, I learned that organic matter can bring with it pathogens that provide an inhospitable environment…
When I took a propagation course at The New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx, NY, I learned that the best medium for indoor seed starting is one with little or no actual soil in it. At the time it seemed counter-intuitive to place my seeds in something as lifeless as a ‘soilless’ mix. Even though ordinary garden soil contains…

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How Do Wild Animals and Livestock in Northern Climates Adapt to Survive Cold Winters?

Category: Presenting "The Curious Gardener"

Most gardeners are animal lovers I’ve observed. So I know I’m not the only one who wonders (and worries a little) about the wildlife living around me when it gets really cold outside. With the ground frozen and most plant life dormant, how do they find food and stay warm in subfreezing weather, like we’re having right now in New York State?  What about livestock? Here are some things I’ve learned: Hibernation: Some animals hibernate, going into a state of…
Most gardeners are animal lovers I’ve observed. So I know I’m not the only one who wonders (and worries a little) about the wildlife living around me when it gets really cold outside. With the ground frozen and most plant life dormant, how do they find food and stay warm in subfreezing weather, like we’re having right now in New…

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Getting Amaryllis Bulbs to Rebloom

Category: How-To Projects, Plant Ideas & Info, Presenting "The Curious Gardener"

Last year I confided in my readers that several of my Amaryllis bulbs from the previous year did not rebloom as I had expected. So I followed Ruth Clausen's advice more closely and am giving it another try this year. Here are Ruth's instructions, and what I did wrong (at the end): After the blooms finish, cut off the dead flowers to stop the plants from using energy to produce seed. Cut the stalk as well. Leave the leaves intact…
Last year I confided in my readers that several of my Amaryllis bulbs from the previous year did not rebloom as I had expected. So I followed Ruth Clausen's advice more closely and am giving it another try this year. Here are Ruth's instructions, and what I did wrong (at the end): After the blooms finish, cut off the dead…

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Marianne Willburn: Growing and Caring for Tropical Plants

Category: Flower Gardens, Plant Ideas & Info, Presenting "The Curious Gardener"

Like many gardeners Marianne Willburn started small. First she had window boxes and containers, then she moved to a tiny duplex where she managed to squeeze in a small vegetable garden next to the parking area. As she and her young family moved to larger properties, hopscotching from California to London to Maryland and finally Virginia, the space given over to gardens kept getting bigger. But that’s where the similarity to…
Like many gardeners Marianne Willburn started small. First she had window boxes and containers, then she moved to a tiny duplex where she managed to squeeze in a small vegetable garden next to the parking area. As she and her young family moved to larger properties, hopscotching from California to London…

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Fall Cleanup in the Garden: What to Cut Back and What to Keep When Putting Your Garden To Bed

Category: Plant Ideas & Info, Presenting "The Curious Gardener"

Traditionally it was considered good form to tidy up the garden before winter by cutting back just about everything to a few inches of the ground. Many horticulturists and naturalists now recommend that you leave some plants for winter interest and wildlife sustainability. But which ones? Here are Ruth Clausen’s tips for putting your garden to bed this fall. Be choosy about what needs to go. Observe which plants are diseased or pest-ridden and get rid of those. Put diseased…
Traditionally it was considered good form to tidy up the garden before winter by cutting back just about everything to a few inches of the ground. Many horticulturists and naturalists now recommend that you leave some plants for winter interest and wildlife sustainability. But which ones? Here are Ruth Clausen’s tips for putting your garden to bed this fall. Be…

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7 Garden Tips for the Late Summer Garden by Dorian Winslow

Category: Plant Ideas & Info, Presenting "The Curious Gardener"

Here are 7 tips to help you with your garden now, as summer is winding down.  I follow every one of these practices in my garden. #1: Watering Tips: Remember to give your plants enough water. The water needs to reach the roots or it will lead to shallow root systems. This will prevent plants from absorbing and storing enough water to support them. For annuals, lawns and perennials, most roots are 4 to 6 inches below the soil surface.…
Here are 7 tips to help you with your garden now, as summer is winding down.  I follow every one of these practices in my garden. #1: Watering Tips: Remember to give your plants enough water. The water needs to reach the roots or it will lead to shallow root systems. This will prevent plants from absorbing and storing enough…

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Deer-Resistant Native Plants for the Northeast by Ruth Rogers Clausen and Gregory D. Tepper

Category: Presenting "The Curious Gardener"

Horticulturist and author Ruth Rogers Clausen has a new book out, published by Timber Press, titled "Deer-Resistant Native Plants for the Northeast," co-authored with Gregory D. Tepper.  Womanswork is giving away a copy of her new book, which features 75 native plants that deer seldom browse.  She gives each plant a deer resistant rating from 7-10.  Anything below 7 is considered deer candy and is not included in the book. To enter, tell us in a Comment below, or via…
Horticulturist and author Ruth Rogers Clausen has a new book out, published by Timber Press, titled "Deer-Resistant Native Plants for the Northeast," co-authored with Gregory D. Tepper.  Womanswork is giving away a copy of her new book, which features 75 native plants that deer seldom browse.  She gives each plant a deer resistant rating from 7-10.  Anything below 7 is…

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Learn How To Make Garlic Mustard Pesto!

Category: Presenting "The Curious Gardener"

My Friend Debbie B. recently told me she made pesto with some garlic mustard she has growing on her property. My ears perked up because I have it growing on my property too, and I've always regarded it as something to dispense with, and no dilly dallying. After doing a little research online I learned The Nature Conservancy calls garlic…
My Friend Debbie B. recently told me she made pesto with some garlic mustard she has growing on her property. My ears perked up because I have it growing on my property too, and I've always regarded it as something…

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Root Pouch: Making A Difference One Fabric Pot At A Time

Category: Presenting "The Curious Gardener", Strong Women Building A Gentle World, Tools & Techniques

Ashley Fromm, the youngest member of a four-person partnership at Root Pouch in Hillsboro, Oregon, didn’t set out to change the world when she graduated from college in 2008, but that’s exactly what she and her partners are doing. Ashley, along with her godfather, his wife and her sister, are equal stakeholders in a company that manufactures fabric growing pots made of recycled plastic bottles.  Their company is so in sync with the times that the words “landfill” and “gardening”…
Ashley Fromm, the youngest member of a four-person partnership at Root Pouch in Hillsboro, Oregon, didn’t set out to change the world when she graduated from college in 2008, but that’s exactly what she and her partners are doing. Ashley, along with her godfather, his wife and her sister, are equal stakeholders in a company that manufactures fabric growing pots…

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Saving Easter Lilies and Other Spring Holiday Bulbs– Will They Rebloom?

Category: Plant Ideas & Info, Presenting "The Curious Gardener", Spring Projects

I bought a potted Easter Lily for the small family gathering we had this year, and we received some potted daffodils from my brother and sister-in-law as a gift. Most often these bulbs are thrown on the compost heap or trash bin as soon as they've finished blooming, but I decided I wanted to keep mine. I asked horticulturist Ruth Clausen for her suggestions about saving these bulbs for future years. I was hoping she would tell me I can…
I bought a potted Easter Lily for the small family gathering we had this year, and we received some potted daffodils from my brother and sister-in-law as a gift. Most often these bulbs are thrown on the compost heap or trash bin as soon as they've finished blooming, but I decided I wanted to keep mine. I asked horticulturist Ruth…

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Keeping A Journal

Category: Garden Planning, Presenting "The Curious Gardener", Tools & Techniques

It's a tradition among some gardeners to keep a journal.  I like to end the season by recording my plans for next season in my Womanswork Journal. When I start thinking about next season, right about now in the middle of winter, it's fun to begin with a review of those plans and visions. For some gardening activities there's a scientific basis for keeping notes. If you like to start seeds indoors it's advantageous to keep track of when you…
It's a tradition among some gardeners to keep a journal.  I like to end the season by recording my plans for next season in my Womanswork Journal. When I start thinking about next season, right about now in the middle of winter, it's fun to begin with a review of those plans and visions. For some gardening activities there's a…

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Paper Dahlias That Are Easy To Make! by Heather Nunes

Category: How-To Projects, Presenting "The Curious Gardener"

I am giving my neighbor, an ecologist and avid gardener, the Womanswork Houseplant Kit for Christmas.  I wanted to make her gift pop with a paper dahlia instead of a bow.  Here's how I made it. Supplies needed: Scissors Paper - Scrapbook, Cardstock, Construction Paper, etc. Hot Glue Gun & Glue Sticks Step-By-Step Instructions: Step One: Cut a circular base out of paper.  You can use the same paper as the petals or a complimentary color/style.   In the example I used…
I am giving my neighbor, an ecologist and avid gardener, the Womanswork Houseplant Kit for Christmas.  I wanted to make her gift pop with a paper dahlia instead of a bow.  Here's how I made it. Supplies needed: Scissors Paper - Scrapbook, Cardstock, Construction Paper, etc. Hot Glue Gun & Glue Sticks Step-By-Step Instructions: Step One: Cut a circular base out…

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Easy To Make Paper Holiday Ornaments

Category: How-To Projects, Presenting "The Curious Gardener"

A friend sent me an email last week saying "you will love this" with a link to a website that shows how to make festive paper ornaments.  I followed the instructions and added a few steps of my own, and here is my tutorial on making these pretty paper ornaments. My friend Amie Rennolds was right-- I love this! I used gift wrap that I had purchased from Kate Blairstone. Kate is the Oregon designer who created the "Heirloom Garden"…
A friend sent me an email last week saying "you will love this" with a link to a website that shows how to make festive paper ornaments.  I followed the instructions and added a few steps of my own, and here is my tutorial on making these pretty paper ornaments. My friend Amie Rennolds was right-- I love this! I…

vaccinating a dog

Overwintering Tropical Plants Such As Canna Lilies, Colocasia and Alocasia

Category: 'Dear Ruth' Column, Flower Gardens, How-To Projects, Plant Ideas & Info, Presenting "The Curious Gardener", Tools & Techniques

This year I purchased three popular tropical plants for outdoor containers: canna lilies, Colocasia and Alocasia (aka Elephant ears).  I was happy with all three, though the canna lily was the star performer for me. I love plants that come back each year, even if it means digging them up in the fall and storing them away for the winter.  These plants can be left in the ground if…
This year I purchased three popular tropical plants for outdoor containers: canna lilies, Colocasia and Alocasia (aka Elephant ears).  I was happy with all three, though the canna lily was the star performer for me. I love plants that come back each year, even if it means digging them…

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Dominique Charles Loves to Share What She’s Learned About Urban Gardening

Category: Presenting "The Curious Gardener"

Dominique Charles is a woman with a mission. A busy professional living in Washington, DC, she first began gardening in 2014, after her friend Lauren built her a starter garden as a gift. Despite having grown up in New Orleans, and spending summers helping her grandparents - Emmitt and Thelma Muse of Greensburg, Louisiana – with their farm, where her favorite activity was picking blackberries and snapping green beans, Dominique didn’t really believe that she had a green thumb. It…
Dominique Charles is a woman with a mission. A busy professional living in Washington, DC, she first began gardening in 2014, after her friend Lauren built her a starter garden as a gift. Despite having grown up in New Orleans, and spending summers helping her grandparents - Emmitt and Thelma Muse of Greensburg, Louisiana – with their farm, where her…

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Natasha Bowens Blair of Native Mountain Farm and Soul Street in Frederick Maryland

Category: Presenting "The Curious Gardener"

Natasha Bowens Blair didn’t believe you could grow plants in a meaningful way that weren’t edible or medicinal until she experienced the joy of growing and arranging flowers at Native Mountain Farm outside of Frederick, Maryland. The farm, situated on a lush piece of landscape at the base of South Mountain in Boonsboro, is operated by Natasha and her mother-in-law Julie Blair on land Julie and her late husband Billy purchased 32 years ago. Natasha on…
Natasha Bowens Blair didn’t believe you could grow plants in a meaningful way that weren’t edible or medicinal until she experienced the joy of growing and arranging flowers at Native Mountain Farm outside of Frederick, Maryland. The farm, situated on a lush piece of landscape at the base of South Mountain in Boonsboro, is operated by Natasha and her mother-in-law…

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Chelsea Willis of Sweet Delilah Farm on Sauvie Island Oregon Gets Her Hands in the Dirt

Category: Flower Gardens, Presenting "The Curious Gardener", Strong Women Building A Gentle World

Growing up in Colorado Chelsea Willis’ mother would tell her “get your hands in the dirt. It grounds you.”  Chelsea recognized the wisdom of these words at a young age, and never forgot them. After completing a degree in somatic psychology, a discipline that focuses on processing trauma through movement (body-based therapy rather than talk therapy), Chelsea moved to Oregon and began working with teens who had been incarcerated and were transitioning to semi-independent living. She was also doing some…
Growing up in Colorado Chelsea Willis’ mother would tell her “get your hands in the dirt. It grounds you.”  Chelsea recognized the wisdom of these words at a young age, and never forgot them. After completing a degree in somatic psychology, a discipline that focuses on processing trauma through movement (body-based therapy rather than talk therapy), Chelsea moved to Oregon…

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Rebecca Webster, Citizen of the Oneida Nation of Wisconsin

Category: Presenting "The Curious Gardener"

Rebecca Webster is not your average attorney, teacher, activist, farmer and mom. She’s a proud citizen of the Oneida Nation of Wisconsin whose passion to reignite the traditions of her forebears is evident in everything she sets her mind to. Soft spoken and upbeat, Rebecca tells me in a phone interview that she grew up on the reservation but was bussed to public schools off the reservation. At that time there was not a lot of interest in understanding the…
Rebecca Webster is not your average attorney, teacher, activist, farmer and mom. She’s a proud citizen of the Oneida Nation of Wisconsin whose passion to reignite the traditions of her forebears is evident in everything she sets her mind to. Soft spoken and upbeat, Rebecca tells me in a phone interview that she grew up on the reservation but was…

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The Art of Bonsai Making is Still Alive Today with Bruce Baker and Goliath

Category: How-To Projects, Plant Ideas & Info, Presenting "The Curious Gardener"

Bruce Baker has been working on one bonsai project for 12 years -- and he’s just getting started. Taking the long view is part of being a bonsai artist or practitioner. “Bonsai trees can live hundreds of years and they’re always changing,’ he says. “They’re never done,” he adds. The process, as Bruce sees it, is about gradually revealing what is already there, and enhancing or sometimes exaggerating it.  It takes patience, planning and plenty of solitary contemplation—just you and…
Bruce Baker has been working on one bonsai project for 12 years -- and he’s just getting started. Taking the long view is part of being a bonsai artist or practitioner. “Bonsai trees can live hundreds of years and they’re always changing,’ he says. “They’re never done,” he adds. The process, as Bruce sees it, is about gradually revealing what…

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Dividing Perennials and Potting Them Up for Plant Sales and Plant Swaps

Category: Flower Gardens, Garden Planning, How-To Projects, Presenting "The Curious Gardener"

You volunteered to participate in your local plant sale fund raiser or plant swap, and now it's time to make good on your promise! Many plant sales that were scheduled for spring were postponed until fall, which gardeners know is one of the best times to plant! So go into your garden and dig up some perennials or bulbs, divide them, and pot them up. You can even propagate some houseplants if you leave enough time. The night before you…
You volunteered to participate in your local plant sale fund raiser or plant swap, and now it's time to make good on your promise! Many plant sales that were scheduled for spring were postponed until fall, which gardeners know is one of the best times to plant! So go into your garden and dig up some perennials or bulbs, divide…

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Lisianthus, Zinnia, Cleome and Cosmos– Annuals that just want to Please!

Category: Flower Gardens, Garden Planning, Plant Ideas & Info, Presenting "The Curious Gardener"

Reprinted from a story first published in July, 2019. You can't beat an annual plant for its desire to please the gardener. It has one season to live and it puts all of its energy into producing flowers. If you plant a seed, either indoors or directly in the garden, some annuals will germinate and grow to maturity, producing a flower in as little as 8 weeks. Cut that flower and it takes it as a mandate to produce more…
Reprinted from a story first published in July, 2019. You can't beat an annual plant for its desire to please the gardener. It has one season to live and it puts all of its energy into producing flowers. If you plant a seed, either indoors or directly in the garden, some annuals will germinate and grow to maturity, producing a…

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Growing Tall Perennials in your garden

Category: 'Dear Ruth' Column, Flower Gardens, Garden Planning, Plant Ideas & Info, Presenting "The Curious Gardener"

Really tall plants are show stoppers in the garden, providing a single grace note against a contrasting background or softening a hardscape element behind it. The last time I visited the Beatrix Farrand Garden at Bellefield in Hyde Park, I took pictures of some impressive tall perennials, such as plume poppy, that grow in front of the walls inside the garden.  English walled gardens are famous for using tall plants as a backdrop in this way. …
Really tall plants are show stoppers in the garden, providing a single grace note against a contrasting background or softening a hardscape element behind it. The last time I visited the Beatrix Farrand Garden at Bellefield in Hyde Park, I took pictures of some impressive tall perennials, such as plume poppy, that grow in front of the walls inside the…

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Growing Milkweed in Your Garden

Category: Garden Planning, Plant Ideas & Info, Presenting "The Curious Gardener"

Three of the most popular species of native milkweed are Asclepias syriaca (common milkweed), Asclepias tuberosa (butterfly weed) and Asclepias incarnata (swamp milkweed). There are more than 100 native species in all!  (These 3 species are shown in the photo below from left to right) Milkweed is the only plant that monarch butterflies will lay their eggs on, so it's an important plant…
Three of the most popular species of native milkweed are Asclepias syriaca (common milkweed), Asclepias tuberosa (butterfly weed) and Asclepias incarnata (swamp milkweed). There are more than 100 native species in all!  (These 3 species are shown in the photo below from left to right) Asclepias incarnata (swamp milkweed) in…

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Drought Tolerant and Heat Tolerant Perennials

Category: Flower Gardens, Garden Planning, Plant Ideas & Info, Presenting "The Curious Gardener"

It's been hot and dry here in southern New England this summer, and even hotter in many other parts of the country. I asked horticulturist Ruth Clausen for a list of her favorite heat and drought tolerant perennials. I was delighted to see many of the plants in my garden on her list, and I want to keep adding more of them with the goal of creating a water-wise garden! By drought tolerant we mean they can withstand dry conditions…
It's been hot and dry here in southern New England this summer, and even hotter in many other parts of the country. I asked horticulturist Ruth Clausen for a list of her favorite heat and drought tolerant perennials. I was delighted to see many of the plants in my garden on her list, and I want to keep adding more…

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How To Divide Irises

Category: Flower Gardens, How-To Projects, Plant Ideas & Info, Presenting "The Curious Gardener"

Bearded iris (Iris x germanica) is the most commonly grown iris. Its fleshy roots are called rhizomes. The flowers are distinguished by a caterpillar-like fuzzy "beard" that runs down the center of each cascading petal or 'fall'. The "beard" aids in pollination, providing a landing spot for bumble bees and other insects, and supposedly directing them towards the pollen. Iris rhizomes should be divided every 3 or 4 years to maximize vigor and bloom. Two years ago my irises bloomed…
Bearded iris (Iris x germanica) is the most commonly grown iris. Its fleshy roots are called rhizomes. The flowers are distinguished by a caterpillar-like fuzzy "beard" that runs down the center of each cascading petal or 'fall'. The "beard" aids in pollination, providing a landing spot for bumble bees and other insects, and supposedly directing them towards the pollen. Iris…

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How To Store Dahlias in Winter

Category: Flower Gardens, How-To Projects, Plant Ideas & Info, Presenting "The Curious Gardener"

REPRINTED If you live in a cold climate (Zone 6 and colder) you need to dig up your dahlia tubers before the ground freezes, and store them for the winter if you want them to live. More and more people are discovering the beauty of growing dahlias and many of us are learning this Fall ritual. I received a dahlia plant from my friend Kathy Scherer last Spring. Kathy and her husband have built a beautiful garden in Pawling which…
REPRINTED If you live in a cold climate (Zone 6 and colder) you need to dig up your dahlia tubers before the ground freezes, and store them for the winter if you want them to live. More and more people are discovering the beauty of growing dahlias and many of us are learning this Fall ritual. I received a dahlia…

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