Where Oh Where Is Spring?
by Debbie Griffith
- posted 03/26/14
Greetings fellow gardeners: It has been a long, long winter here in my neck of the woods, and I’m anxious for this gardening season to begin. I do wonder if winter will ever end. Even yesterday we had another 4-5” of snow followed by a cold night.
On the few days when the weather has cooperated, I’ve been outdoors cleaning out the flower beds which is not my favorite gardening chore. This year’s work is even more so because I didn’t get the leaves cleaned up last fall. So far I’ve filled 27 jumbo bags with yard debris, and I still have three more beds to clean out. I’ve composted much of the leaves, but still have many, many more on the ground.
There have been signs of life in the garden despite the weather: crocuses are blooming as are the Hellebores (Lenten Rose) even though they are late this year. My Hellebores usually bloom in February. Maybe they know Easter is late this year too. While the weather has curtailed outdoor gardening, I’ve been busy indoors. I’m trying something new this year: I’m starting many of my plants, both vegetables and flowers, from seed. I’ve devised my own type of greenhouse for the seeds. I use 2-liter Diet Pepsi (my drink of choice) bottles as individual greenhouses. I cut the bottoms off the liter, then put the peat pot with seeds into the bottom and reconnect. I remove the Pepsi label and write the name of the seed and the date onto the bottle. I can remove the lid to the bottle if there’s too much humidity inside. So far this method has worked very well. To date I have sowed chicory, lupines, strawflowers, blue bonnets, blue bells, merrybells, Chinese houses, monarda, borage, pansy, bloodroot, poppy mallow, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and a variety of heirloom tomatoes, all of which have germinated. I have a large, south-facing window and the greenhouses are on plant stands where they get plenty of warmth (well, when the sun is out) and light. Most of the vegetables have gotten their second set of leaves so I’ll be transplanting them into individual pots very soon.
Gardening has taught me patience, something I’ve sorely needed, and this year may be no exception. As I’ve cleared out the flower beds I’m detecting lots of bare space where plants grew last year. I’m hoping the plants are just slow to come out of dormancy and that I haven’t lost so many due to the severe winter. Time will tell. Let’s hope that Old Man Winter has finally retreated and spring weather will come…soon.
Weird but Lovable Euphorbias
by Debbie Griffith
- posted 10/03/13
Euphorbia 'Diamond Frost'
One aspect of gardening that I really enjoy is discovering new varieties of plants. I’ll try anything once, and very often that trial leads to further discoveries. Such was the case with the genus of plants commonly known as Euphorbia. This genus encompasses over 2,000 different plants with growing habits ranging from tropical to succulent to cactus. There truly is something for everyone.
Euphorbia’s botanical name derives from Euphorbus, a Greek physician who married the daughter of Anthony and Cleopatra. Euphorbus described a cactus-like plant as being a strong laxative. In his honor and in a game of one-upmanship with Augustus Caesar, who had dedicated a statue to his own personal physician, King Juba II of Numidia named this plant after Euphorbus. Many, many centuries later, Carl Linnaeus assigned the name Euphorbia to this entire genus of plants.
Today, you may know this genus by a more familiar title – spurge, so named because of the milky substance emitted by most members of the Euphorbia genus. You are no doubt familiar with one of the most common plants in the Euphorbia world: the traditional Christmas plant, Poinsettia pulcherrima. Poinsettia derives its common name from Joel Roberts Poinsett, the first U.S. Minister to Mexico. Poinsett first introduced his namesake into the U.S. in 1825.
Some of the Euphorbias which I have grown or grow now include Euphorbia ‘Firesticks’, a wonderful succulent whose stems turn a fiery red when exposed to sufficient sunlight. ‘Firesticks’ is one of the many plants from South Africa which have been recently introduced to American growers. Another plant which may be familiar to you is Euphorbia milii -- ‘Crown of Thorns’. This plant comes in several different colors ranging from deep red to pink to yellow. Be cautious of the sap produced by the plant, however, as it is toxic.
Probably the most outstanding, (at least in my book) recently introduced Euphorbia is Euphorbia graminea ‘Diamond Frost’. Introduced by Proven Winners in 2005, this plant literally has it all! Regardless of how hot, how humid, or how dry your growing conditions, this plant never falters. Beginning in early spring until a killing frost, this plant looks as fresh as the first day it was planted. Its leaves and blooms do not wilt, ever. I have never seen any insect damage which makes it a winner in my book. Even now in early October, my ‘Diamond Frost’ is still flourishing. This year, I’m going to bring part of the plant indoors to see how it fares being overwintered. Several years ago I acquired a sibling of ‘Diamond Frost’ – ‘Diamond Blush’ – same plant but the blooms have a faint pink blush. It was also an outstanding performer.
Cultural requirements for Euphorbias are quite simple: they rarely need to be deadheaded, their water requirements are minimal to moderate, most thrive in full sun, they aren’t invasive, and they have attractive foliage. All in all, just about the perfect plant.
If you haven’t tried a variety of Euphorbia, now’s your opportunity. They are readily available in most garden centers and from Internet sources, and I’ve seen some varieties in the box stores as well. They are a wonderful addition to your outdoor garden or houseplant collection. Try one, you’ll enjoy it.
Greetings from your new Kentucky Gardener Blogger…
by Debbie Griffith
- posted 08/14/13
Hello, fellow gardeners. I’m excited to be blogging for Kentucky Gardener and look forward to sharing all kinds of gardening information with you fellow Kentuckians, and other gardeners as well.
Here’s a little background information. I’ve been growing things for many years: houseplants, perennials, annuals, succulents, and Gesneriads. Currently in my garden I have plants that cover the entire alphabet from Alliums (ornamental onions) to zinnias – my favorite annual. I love trying new plants and seeking out plant sources. Because our local plant sources are pretty minimal, I order lots of plants via the Internet.
After living in Colorado for 40 years, I relocated to Eastern Kentucky in February 2010. Even before I’d redone the interior of the house, I was planning the garden. The very first thing I did was have the front lawn dug out. I’d rather sit on my porch and admire the flowers than look at grass. When I say I’m addicted, I’m not kidding. As I was planning the new garden, my gardening friends in Colorado went to my old garden, dug out the perennials, and mailed them to me. Now that’s being addicted. Once I had the grass removed, I hauled in loads and loads of garden soil to amend the clay soil that covers most of my gardening area. I planted the perennials from Colorado, along with new plants I had mail ordered. Within several weeks some of the perennials were already blooming. Then came the rains of May. We had over 9 inches of rain in one day. By Colorado terms, that would equal 9 FEET of snow. I watched as the plants stood in water thinking they would probably drown, but the newly amended soil helped with the drainage and they all survived, including the drought tolerant plants I had grown in Colorado.
Now, after three years of Kentucky gardening, it has been an experience. Things grow here at startling rates. I have a butterfly bush that is now more than 10 feet tall and wide, and that’s after I severely pruned it in the spring. I’ve learned which plants are invasive here – loosestrife (Lysimachia) in particular will take over everything if allowed. With each new gardening season, I’ve expanded my gardening area. I live on a very steep hill and mowing the grass is a challenge that I would rather forego. So, I have gradually replaced grass with flowers. Since I live in a farming area, it has been interesting to see my neighbors’ reaction when they see all the flowers. I do grow vegetables – tomatoes, onions, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, squash, peppers – and ornamentals – gourds, pumpkins, and broom corn. I’ve given up trying to grow eating corn as all I seem to do is feed the raccoons who reside in the area. Thanks to the previous owners, I have an orchard of cherry, apple, peach, plum and pear trees, all of which have produced large quantities of fruit this season.
All in all, it has been quite a learning experience. This summer’s record moisture produced a bumper crop of tomatoes…and weeds, both of which are still growing. It has been interesting to hear people who live nearby report that their tomato crop was dismal at best. Growing conditions vary so greatly even within the same area.
In the coming weeks I look forward to talking and sharing information and hearing from you about what’s happening in your garden. As fall approaches and the gardens begin to wind down, I’ll still be enjoying fresh blooms from the fall crocus that will soon appear as well as the mums and asters.