White Candytuft Iberis sempervirens

Rough Draft 1.0  10/20/2020 

Intro

If you have ever driven through the city of Seattle Washington on I – 90 during the late spring you absolutely can’t miss this spreading evergreen with popping white flowers growing down the side of an above overpass. It is eye catching as it sways with the wind from the fast passing vehicles. It is a beautiful sight. This spectacular evergreen perennial  is Candytuft. Evergreens keep their leaves all year round, a perennial in this instance means the flowers will transform a garden as they bloom year after year.

Candytuft Blooms

Candytuft is known to bloom bright white flowers through early spring and into early to mid-summer. Sometimes candytuft reblooms in the fall. Candytuft is known to be planted as a ground cover that can fill in the desired space quickly. Candytuft can also maintain a neat, low mound of dark, glossy green foliage throughout the year. If you are looking for butterflies to visit your garden, candytuft does provide nourishment for butterflies, ladybugs,  and other aphid eating insects.

Candytuft is Hardy in Dry Conditions

Iberis is suited for several uses in the landscape due to its spreading nature and preference for dry conditions. This is a good choice for rock gardens, and it is an excellent partner for mixed borders, and it can stand alone in mass plantings as a ground cover. The showy white flowers can be a peaceful  color that will contrast well with spring bulb flowers. The candytuft spreading nature can also be used  in container gardens, or in retaining wall plantings.

Planting Tips

Candytuft need acidic and well draining soil. Adding some lime to your soil will help your candytuft take root and produce blooms. This plant will also need to grow in a very full sun location. Avoid shady conditions  or continuously soggy or damp soil, those are detrimental to the candytuft plant and the ability to flower. Tip – have the soil dry slightly between watering. Too little water is preferable over too much. Waterng your plant about 1 inch, once a week is a good rule of thumb.

The white candytuft flower is compatible with a range of tall, blooming annuals and perennials and is the perfect height to cover tall or bloomless stems of flowers such as zinnia, cosmos and evening primrose. Candytuft flowers are handy to cover up declining foliage of early spring blooming bulbs. Candytuft flowers look lovely spilling over a wall or draping from a hanging basket. Try it as a ground cover. The evergreen foliage is enjoyable all year round.

Resource Links

https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/ornamental/flowers/candytuft/growing-candytuft.htm

https://www.thespruce.com/candytuft-flowers-for-your-garden-2132549

Buttercups Ranunculus acris

Rough Draft 12/14/2020 

Intro

These yellow meadow flowers emerge in the springtime usually between April and May. There are about 250 species of these flowering plants from the Ranunculaceae family. These can grow a little wild in woods and fields in the north temperate zones quite easily, or be purposely planted with seeds. To identify the true buttercup is to notice they have 5 bright and shiny petals that are yellow and five green to yellow sepals which surround the many yellow stamens.

Do You Like Butter?

This child’s custom is still taught to this day by holding this flower under the chin of a friend or family member. If the yellow reflection from the shiny petals can be seen under the chin, that child is said to “like butter”. This is a little funny thing to do but it’s a great way to turn this fascinating custom played on kids can be turned into a lesson on reflection by how these flowering petals can reflect light.

Symbolism

The yellow flower is associated with humility, neatness and childishness. It’s also been said that the origin is a belief that the yellow buttercup gave butter it’s vibrant hue,  which is an old wives’ tale because buttercups are poisonous to cattle and are often left uneaten in fields where cattle graze.

Growing Buttercups

This small yet eye catching flower can be found in most open spaces from fields, lawns, gardens and to even along roadsides throughout North America. This flower can be characterized as a bit of a wildflower. Although interestingly enough buttercups are native to Europe who considers this plant a weed. There is no apparent obvious  disbursement of seeds from the flower. The seeds just fall around the parent or flowering plant. Birds tend to eat the seeds yet there seems to be many or enough seeds to sprout on their own. Buttercups are winter hardy and are perennials so they will return and bloom year after year.

The buttercup plant prefers full sun or light shade and grows best in moist, well-drained soil. The Mountain buttercup has single, yellow 1” wide flowers that bloom in late spring. The plant grows only 3-6” tall and even does nicely in well-drained soil within a sunny rock garden. 

If you have children or grandchildren this is a fun and easy plant to grow. The low flowering plant only reaches about 6” at the most and is at the right height for children to pick and place in a small vase or share with others.

Resource Links

https://www.theguardian.com/science/2017/may/14/secrets-shiny-yellow-buttercup-plantwatch

https://homeguides.sfgate.com/care-buttercups-60207.html

Forget-Me-Not Myosotis sylvatica

Rough draft 1/25/2021

Intro

In western Washington within the Cascade foothills is where this plant became a beautiful ground covering where grass couldn’t grow. Every spring this beautiful blue hue was a top, a rocky ground green cover under tall evergreen trees. It was so easy to plant by just sprinkling a packet of seeds where we wanted them to grow. A forget-me-not produces and drops their seeds every year. Although they are considered biennial meaning they flower and die the second year, we continue receiving sprouts and blooms every year as they are self propagating. They seemed to grow and bloom just like a perennial. This plant is very hardy too, it will die back in the winter and reappear as a larger cover every year in the spring .

The Forget-Me-Not Represents

The forget-me-not flower has been known to have received its name after a Greek word Myositis which actually meant mouse’s ear.  The name forget me not came from the German word vergissmichnicht which means do not forget me. This small flower has blue petals with a yellow center.

The forget-me-not represents true love and giving someone this flower means you truly love and respect this person. It is a testament to your relationships and promises the other person that you will never forget them in your thoughts. Forget me nots are a symbol of fidelity and being truthful to someone you love.

Sun or Shade

Forget-me-nots are very easy to grow or propagate as long as they have organically enriched soil, regular-to-ample water and partial shade. They prefer moist soil with good drainage in a sunny or shady spot. Forget-me-nots perform best in cool weather and in areas where summers are not excessively hot. Again shade is fine for growth and flowering. 

Watering

Water the soil around the green stems deeply when its top 3 inches feels dry to your touch, continue to have the water flow until the water drips through the bottom of the pots for container gardening. Don’t allow the plants to stand in water, the roots don’t like soggy feet. Reduce watering to about once or twice each month in winter, while the plants are dormant. Resume normal watering in spring and through summer. A good drenching is okay during hot summer months as long as the soil is able to drain well. Growing this plant on a small or sharp hill, slope, or  incline is a good way to keep the roots out of pools or puddles of water.

Forget-me-nots are a beautiful blue no fuss maintenance flower. This flowering ground cover has pleasing results for novice and expert gardeners. Forget me not plants and flowers are generally pest and disease resistant, thus another reason they are easy to care for and a sight to enjoy. 

Resource links

https://www.thespruce.com/forget-me-not-plant-profile-4799948

https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/ornamental/flowers/forget-me-nots/growing-forget-me-nots.htm

African Violets Saintpaulia ionantha

Rough draft 12/3/2020

INTRO

Saintpaulia ionantha, commonly called African violet, is one of the most satisfactory flowering houseplants. It is a low, compact plant with attractive dark green, thick, velvet like leaves. The deep and bright violet colored flowers with a speck of yellow in the middle of each bloom are seen atop the foliage. As a beginner gardener with house plants this was one of my first purchases. It came in a small clay pot and fit perfectly with other companion plants in my kitchen garden window.

SUNSHINE

African violets need bright indirect sunlight to bloom. An African violet can last indefinitely, according to the Bay State African Violet Society. It’s not unusual for them to live 50 years or more with proper care. The key is to avoid over watering, chilling and direct sunlight —  these three things that can drastically reduce an African violet’s lifespan. Also to note an African violet plant does it’s best as an indoor plant. This plant thrives at temperatures around 70 degrees Fahrenheit and needs to stay from having the temperature drop to 60 degrees f. or below. 

WATER

“How often to water African violets?” is perhaps the most pondered African violet dilemma. The best guide is to feel the top of the soil.  If the soil is dry to the touch, then it is time to water. African violets should be allowed to dry out between each watering for best results. Over watering and watering daily can kill a plant.  Also when watering use room temperature water the plant loves this! I have a sister in law that is definitely a sister for life that shared a great tip with me years ago. Tip: Use a spray bottle to water this violet because it mimics the east African mountainous rain forests where these plants originated from. When spraying this plant it’s okay to water more frequently as long as the plant isn’t being drenched with the water from the spray bottle. Try to keep any water from getting on the leaves by watering at the base of the plant. Note: It’s been known that you can bring an African violet leaves back to life within 24 hours if given a dousing or “good drink of water.”

PLANTING INDOORS

Yes! There is an actual African violet potting mix available at most home improvement stores. All purpose potting mix or potting soil will do just fine for your plant as long as it is well draining soil. Keep the soil loose and avoid packing down. African violets need to be re-potted in larger pots as they grow. Keep in mind that the African violet tends to bloom more being slightly root bound. When transplanting into a larger pot or container it’s not necessary to loosen  or break the roots. Just tip upside down let it come out gently or lift it lightly out of the pot, place it into the new pot and fill loosely with potting soil. Water if needed for the soil to feel moist. It’s that easy!

The African violet symbolizes loyalty, devotion, faithfulness, and modesty. Because of this plant’s symbolism it can be a thoughtful wedding gift by mentioning the meaning behind this flowering plant in a card or nestled in the plant itself or even staked on a plant card next to the foliage. The little plastic stakes and business size cards can be found in the floral department of most stores and are usually free of charge. This adds a nice personalized touch when presenting this as a gift. In any case if it’s a gift for others or yourself this plant is highly recognizable but if it isn’t to some, you’ll always get a oooh or ahhh and the question asked “What is that plant?”  It is a true eye catcher!

Resource links

https://www.thespruce.com/grow-african-violets-indoors-1902733

https://www.miraclegro.com/en-us/library/indoor-gardening/how-grow-african-violets

https://www.optimara.com/africanvioletcare1.html

https://www.almanac.com/content/flower-meanings-language-flowers

Magnolia Magnolia grandiflora

Rough Draft 1.0  10/21/2020 

Intro

This tree comes from a very large genus of about 210 species of flowering plants. If you like bees or beekeeping it is a fun fact to know that it’s been said that the tree appeared before bees did. The usually pink flowers that bloom have been theorized that this has evolved to encourage pollination by bees. In this article we’ll cover how to plant and care for this incredible tree. The Conifer (Evergreen) and the Deciduous Species Differ.

The Southern Magnolia

This tree is the most well recognized and well known when magnolia trees are mentioned. This is the Alexandria Saucer Magnolia offering pink tulip like  flowers all over the tree when spring arrives. This deciduous tree can be grown in almost any region from the most southern tip of Florida to as far north as Maine and Washington. In Western Washington within the Cascade Foothills we planted a Southern Magnolia that stands there to this day bringing flowers up high every spring.

Planting a Magnolia Tree

Start by digging your planting hole at least two to three times as wide and no deeper than the root ball. The wider the hole the better. Amend the soil with a good planting mix at a 50/50 ratio with the soil removed from the planting hole. To plant, set your Magnolia in the planting hole so that the top edge of the root ball is at or slightly above ground level (an inch or so) to allow for settling. After setting your Magnolia tree in the planting hole, keep the  tree straight while  back-filling your soil mixture around the root ball, It’s best to have two people when planting a magnolia tree. Next, deeply water the planting area. To help conserve moisture and suppress weed growth, spread a 1- to 2-inch layer of shredded or chipped wood mulch or a 3- to 4-inch layer of pine needles, grass clipping and / or fallen leaves around the planting area. As the mulch decomposes it will add vital nutrients to the soil that your plant will appreciate.

How to care for your Magnolia

When

Plant evergreen magnolias in early spring. Plant deciduous magnolias during autumn if you live in the South and during spring if you live in the North.

Soil

Well-drained, rich in organic matter is ideal. The Magnolia tree can tolerate clay, loam, or sandy soils. It is wonderful for your tree to add organic matter to our soil throughout the year.

Exposure

Evergreen varieties grow best in full sun. Deciduous species prefer part shade. Where frost is possible after blooming begins, find the best sunny location and take measure to cover or grow in a protected location. Magnolia trees require little care and are resistant to many diseases and pests. They offer long life spans of 100 years or more given the right growing conditions.

Watering

Most varieties tolerate hot summers and moderate drought, making them a resilient choice for gardens in harsher climates. However, younger trees should be watered regularly until fully established. Constantly soggy or wet soils can be problematic. So make sure to plant them in a well-drained site.

Pruning

Magnolias typically need little pruning other than to remove crossed or damaged branches or for aesthetic reasons. The best time for pruning is soon after the tree has finished blooming, in either late spring or early summer. Pruning too late in the season will result in fewer blossoms the following spring.

Fertilizing

If your magnolia is growing and flowering well, there is no need to fertilize. However, if your tree isn’t thriving or has yellow leaves, you should have your soil tested. Check with your local nursery  to see if they provide soil testing and recommendations for adding the right  fertilizer. If you do decide to fertilize, wait until the spring after the flowers have fallen, then apply a slow release fertilizer just as your tree starts to leaf out.

A nick name for the magnolia tree is AKA as a tulip tree. Yes , in the spring when our magnolia tree was in bloom is was glorious and each fragrant flower looked like a pink tulip looking flowers. The tree was covered with tulips. If you’d like a single large trunk flowering tree in your landscape this is a great one to choose from. 

Resource Links

https://extension.uga.edu/publications/detail.html?number=C974&title=Growing%20Southern%20Magnolia

https://www.magnoliasociety.org/MagnoliaResources

Gerbera Daisies – gerbera jamesonii

Rough Draft 12/7/2020

Intro 

Gerbera daisies are a bright colorful flower with hues that vary but also include the colors red, pink, yellow, salmon, orange, and white. They are also known to originate in south Africa but can be found at most florist or shopping stores more common as a plant instead of cut flowers. This flowering plant has stems that are sturdier for being a compact plant which is ideal to be planted in a container garden, pot, or flower bed. These varieties of colored flowering plants are tender perennials and can be enjoyed in the spring and summer in any climate. 

The Meaning of the Gerbera

The meaning stems from the well known daisy family and stands for innocence and purity, as well as being a classic symbol of beauty.  This flower is also known to be the 5th most popular flower in the world. The gerbera variety holds an added meaning of cheerfulness, which is attributed to their perky variety of colors. An assorted bouquet of gerbera daisies can quickly lift the spirit and are an ideal way to bring sunshine indoors or  brighten someone’s day.

Gerbera Daisy Care

These flowers are known to resemble sunflowers because of their large flowering heads ( the diameter of the flower can grow between 2 – 5 inches). Gerberas don’t need too much attention, as they’re quite sturdy plants! Misting with a spray bottle regularly is a plus for growing indoors.

Sunlight:

Gerberas are huge fans of the sun. They prefer direct morning sun and afternoon shade. Unless you’re in temperatures of 80ºF and higher, allow the gerberas to receive more shade (at least two to three hours a day). If the gerbera is placed indoors, make sure to place inside a garden window or next to a window that receives direct  bright sunlight. Your gerbera is perennial and with care your flowering plant can last upto 2 – 3 years.

Water

Deeply water gerbera daisies exactly once a week. To water deeply, a general rule of thumb is to soak at least eight inches below the soil surface. This is beneficial for gerberas since their roots grow deep into the soil. During hot summers (85ºF or higher), you may want to water your gerberas twice a week. From experience,  If you’re leaving on vacation find a way to keep your gerberas watered to keep them flowering and living.  They can look like the leaves are drooping if they are not being watered enough. After a dose of water they’ll perk right up.

Temperature

Gerbera daisies thrive best in temperatures between 70ºF and 75ºF. Since the gerbera daisy is a frost-tender perennial they can tolerate temperatures as low as 30ºF, but any frost will cause damage. Ideal temperatures are between 40ºF and 70ºF. Tip transplant healthy flowering plants to pots to keep indoors through the winter months if your area outdoors is known to receive frosty conditions or snow.

The gerbera daisy is definitely a beautiful bouquet of flowers to grow indoors, in or near a kitchen window. The bright colors from these blooms are vibrant enough to bring sunshine into your home. 

Resource links

https://www.gardengatemagazine.com/articles/how-to/start-seeds/how-to-grow-better-gerbera-daisies/

Mycorrhizal Fungi and Plants

If you’re like me, you may have thought “mycorrhizal fungi” described a specific fungi, which isn’t quite accurate. It’s actually descriptive of a process or system wherein fungi interact with plant roots. The mycelium of the fungus radiate out into the soil to enhance phosphate uptake, with the host root providing carbohydrates to the fungus.

Mycorrhizae Definition

Mycorrhizae’s literal translation is “fungus-root”, which is the mutually beneficial relationship between the colonizing fungus and the plant root. These fungi can grow on the surface or within the plant root. The fungi facilitates water and nutrient uptake and the plant provides food and nutrients to the fungi.

Types of Mycorrhizae

Ectomycorrhiza

This type of fungi tend to grow on woody plants, including oak, spruce, fir, willow, pine, beech and birch trees. This fungi forms a dence hyphal sheath or mantle around the outside of the root. Five to ten percent of terrestial plant species have ectomycorrhiza.

Endomycorrhiza

Eighty percent of extant plant species, including crops and greenhouse plants, most vegetables, grasses, flowers, and fruit trees, have endomycorrhizal relationships wherein the fungi penetrate the cortical cells. The exchange mechanism between the fungi and root system is internal, inside the root, but the fungi’s hyphae extend outside the root. This makes for a much more invasive relationship compared to ectomycorrhiza.

Mycorrhiza examples

Orchid Mycorrhiza – Orchid seeds require fungal invasion to germinate because the seeds lack necessary nutrients to grow. Once the seed sprouts and roots emerge, the hyphae of orchidaceous mycorrhiza penetrate the root’s cells and create hyphal coils or pelatons, which are where nutrients are exchanged.

Arbuscular Mycorrhiza – The most widespread mycorrhiza which are obligate symbionts; they cannot grow without a plant host.

Ericaceous Mycorrhiza – Generally found on plants in the order Ericales. Inhospitable, acid environments where these fungi help regulate the plant’s uptake of minerals including iron, manganese, and aluminum. They form hyphal coils outside of the root cells significantly increasing root size.

Ectotrophic Mycorrhiza – Associate with Ascomyota and Basidiomyota families. They are found in cooler environments around tree roots. They derive their nutrients from the living plant exclusively.

Arbutoid Mycorrhiza – Similar to ectomycorrhizal fungi with the exception they are nonpenatrative. Instead they encompass the roots of the plant.

How do Plants Benefit from Mycorrhizae?

  • Increase available water and nutrients to the plant through their finer hairs, mycelia, which increase surface area and act as a second set of roots for the host plant.
  • Studies have shown that mycorrhizal fungi can be an effective disease control creating a physical barrier between pathogens and plant roots.
  • In addition to this, mycorrhizal fungi can also impart to the host plant resistance to toxicity and resistance to insects.
  • Improve soil structure and quality. Mcorrhizal fungi create humic compounds, polysaccharides, and glycoproteins that increase soil porosity, bind and promote aeration and water movement in the soil.
  • Some ectomycorrhizal associations create structures that host nitrogen-fixing bacteria. Mycorrhizal fungi do not fix nitrogen themselves.

What’s in it For the Fungi?

  • Sugar – glucose and sucrose.
  • Photosynthetically fixed carbon – which triggers nitrogen uptake and transport.

Resources:

https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/agricultural-and-biological-sciences/mycorrhizal-fungi

https://sciweb.nybg.org/science2/hcol/mycorrhizae.asp.html

https://mycorrhizae.com/how-it-works/

Wisteria – genus Wisteria

Rough Draft 1.0  9/19/2020

Intro   

If you are looking for large and gorgeous hanging sweet smelling purple flowers to bloom in the spring have I got the vine for you. Try a wisteria bush. Wisteria summer foliage is abundant and comes with beautiful bushy leaves which make this plant an eye pleaser. From this bush vines are formed and can climb wildly. Upon an arbor, pergola or the top of a fence is the best structure to let your flowering bush grow free.

Where is the Best Place to Plant Wisteria?

Location 

Wisteria grows best and loves full sun. Sunlight is essential for wisteria to present flowers. The flowers which grow in large, drooping clusters fall between the colors of  blue, purple, rose, or white. Wisteria is a perennial so it will continue to grow and bloom year after year. It is best to find a spot away from other plants because wisteria can grow quickly and can easily overtake the space where it is planted.. As it grows you can help the vines find their way onto the structure and during  the late spring when the flowers bloom they will hang freely.  As the vines grow and climb the new tendrils are very flexible. With a gentle touch you can move and place  the vine where you would like it to grow. We planted our wisteria nest to a fence going up a long driveway. We were able to keep an on it and train the branches and vines to grow on top of the fence line. Tip:   Make sure the structure that the wisteria will be planted close to is super sturdy. As the plant matures it can become very heavy and has been known to break structures so make sure the materials used to build a structure are heavy duty.

Soil and Water

The wisteria vines require deep, rich soil that is somewhat moist but also may tolerate many soil conditions.  It’s also been known to grow in poor soils.  However for best results, if your soil is in poor condition it’s best to add compost to the soil when planting your wisteria. Since this vine is an aggressive grower, there’s no need for fertilizing and being drought tolerant, wisteria requires little watering.

Can Wisteria grow in Pots? 

Yes, container gardening with a wisteria plant can be quite lovely. Planting wisteria in a pot is easiest if you buy a single stem plant since it is easier to train to one trunk. Install a sturdy stake or sturdy stick about 5 feet tall at the time of planting, then train the stem of the wisteria to grow up and around it. Tie the stem to the support post as it grows

Pruning Wisteria

Pruning Guidelines and to Keep Blooms Appearing Year after Year

Pruning is the key for obtaining abundant flowers. Wisteria flowers only bloom on new seasons wood. Pruning can take place in late winter, January – February depending where you live of course. Remove by clipping at least half of the prior years growth. Watch out or look for buds on each stem because you’ll not want to remove too many of those. The buds are where the flowers will bloom in the spring. Tip: For more blooms cut back the shoots forming every 2 – 3 weeks during the summer. Wisteria needs to be established to bloom. Wisteria is widely known to be an invasive plant. This next tip really won’t hurt your shrub or flowering vines. Damage about half of the roots and the bush will be shocked into reproduction (flowering). Frigid winter temperatures can also affect wisteria’s blooms. If your winter was frigid, add compost in the spring. Compost with a natural organic fertilizer will help your plant stay healthy.

When wisteria is flowering it will be  a great pollinator magnet. It will attract bees, beautiful hummingbirds and butterflies. Tip  – providing  extra water for your wisteria during the months of July through September will help with bud development for the coming springs display of flowers.  The sweet scent is marvelous and unforgettable. Blooming wisteria can be a beautiful addition to your yard and/ or garden.

Resource Links

https://www.almanac.com/plant/wisteria

https://www.britannica.com/plant/Wisteria

https://www.burpee.com/gardenadvicecenter/encyclopedia/perennials/learn-about-wisterias/encyclopedia__Wisteria-article.html