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Growing Wishbone Flower

Written by Mindy on February 18th, 2017

While you may have not heard of this annual by this name, you may be more familiar with Torenia.  This annual is a compact, well branched mound that matures at a height of 1 foot.  The leaves form little hearts with the blooms looking like snapdragons that have prominent markings on the petals.  The major flower color is blue but pink, violet, rose, light blue, and white colors are also available.  The flowers also have yellow throats with some of the petals having dark blue to purple markings.

wishbone.flowerAt this point, you may be wondering where the name wishbone flower comes from.  The truth is it comes from the two arching yellow stamens that bend over the center of the petals forming a wishbone shape.

When it comes to propagating this annual, this plant is either started by seed or cuttings.  While cuttings are not hard to do; only seed propagation will be covered.

To propagate wishbone flower through seed, one must first decide when to plant.  You will need to start your seed 10 to 12 weeks prior to your local frost free date. Once you have that date, you can begin to prepare to plant your seed.  While you can use a pot or flat to plant your seeds, one of the easiest things to use is peat pot.  When it comes to utilizing these pots, you only need to fill them with a good all purpose potting soil.  Once the peat pots are filled, place them in a flat so that they are easy to water and transport.

Prior to planting the seed, make sure to water the peat pots until no more water is absorbed.  Doing this simple step will keep the seed from being carried down through the soil and getting “planted” too deep.

Since the seed of the wishbone flower is pretty small, it is easier to see where you are planting them by mixing the seeds with sand.  Next, sprinkle the sand/seed mixture over the soil surface and mist the soil surface with water.

Place the peat pots in a location that receives indirect sunlight.  In 7 to 15 days, you should see evidence of seed germination.

Continue to monitor soil moisture.  When you are 2 weeks away from your local frost free date, you can begin hardening off your seedlings.

Once the seedlings have been hardened off, it is time to move them to the garden.  Wishbone flowers love a shady place that has moist but not wet soil.  For the health of the plants, make sure to space them so that there is 6 to 8 inches between plants.

 

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How to Grow Moss Verbena

Written by Mindy on February 13th, 2017

If you are looking for a colorful ground cover that reaches a foot at maturity then the moss verbena is the answer.  If you live in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 8 through 10 then you are lucky enough to have this plant as a perennial.  For the rest of us, this plant is an annual.

moss.verbenaThe dark green leaves of the moss verbena are divided into leaflets.  The flowers are located on spikes and can be found in white, purple or blue. While this plant does have the ability to bloom from spring to fall, the best presentation will occur in the spring.

When it comes to growing moss verbena, this plant requires a well draining soil that is located in full sun.

Moss verbena can be propagated through seed and stem cutting in the spring.  Due to the limited area by which moss verbena is a perennial, only seed propagation will be covered.

To start your moss verbena from seed starts off with the cleaning and sterilizing of the container.  This is easily done by first filling a basin with water and adding a capful of bleach to the water.  Next, put the container or flat in the water and soak for a few minutes.  Once it has soaked, scrub to remove any soil and rinse in clear water.  Allow to sit out to dry in the open air.

After that is done, fill the container with a good all purpose potting soil.  Moisten the soil and allow it to sit for 24 hours before planting.

Once the 24 hours has passed, sprinkle the seeds on the soil surface and cover with 1/8-1/4 inch of soil.  Since this seed requires darkness to germinate, this step is very important.

To make sure that the seeds are covered, lay down black plastic over the top of the container.  Keep the plastic on until you see evidence of seeds germinating, which will be between 10 and 20 days.

The next step is to remove the plastic after seeds begin to germinate and expose the seedlings to sunlight.

Keep in mind that all this needs to be done 12 to 14 weeks prior to your local frost free date.

Once your seedlings have their second set of true leaves, it is time to transplant them into individual pots.  Continue to monitor soil moisture and 2 weeks prior to your local frost free date you can harden them off, which is gradually exposing them to the outside.

When they are ready to be planted outside, make sure to space them 12 to 18 inches apart.  Give them water as needed but back off on the watering once they are established.  The reason for this is established moss verbena is drought tolerant.

 

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How to Grow a Strawberry Tree

Written by Stephanie on January 25th, 2017

The strawberry tree (Arbutus unedo ) is a native of Southern Europe, Asia Minor, and South West Ireland.  It is generally a shrub or small tree, but can reach a height of thirty-nine feet.  This evergreen shrub has rough, grayish brown bark which peels and flakes to reveal an attractive reddish brown inner bark.  The leaves are glossy, dark green, and toothed.  The flowers are usually white or pinkish, urn-shaped, and in drooping clusters.  The fruit is round and looks similar to a strawberry.  It is about three fourths of an inch big.  The fruit is edible but is considered unpalatable.  It is used in wine-making, and for liqueurs and preserves.  The strawberry plant attracts birds with its showy blooms.

The strawberry tree is winter hardy to zones seven to ten.  It generally grows to be ten to fifteen feet tall and ten to fifteen feet wide.  It is important to make sure you give the tree enough room to grow this tall and wide when you plant it.  You should make sure it is not too close to a structure when it is planted.

Typically, the strawberry tree grows with many branches coming up from the crown, like a shrub.  It can be trained up as a tree by choosing one of the branches coming out of the crown as the trunk and pruning off the rest of the branches.  This should be done when the strawberry plant is young so that the trunk is established well when it grows.

Strawberry trees bloom from October to December with a pretty pinkish white flower.  It requires full sun to grow in. The soil should be average garden soil.  You do not have to use any specific soil amendments to grow this shrub.

The strawberry tree needs to be kept moist but not soggy.  Mature trees have some drought tolerance, but will need to be watered if the soil becomes too dry.

The shrub has green fruit growing on it after the flowers are gone.  These green fruit take almost a year to ripen.  In fact, the fruit will not ripen until the tree flowers again.  This makes the tree very unusual in that it has very showy flowers and very showy fruit on it at the same time.

The flowers and fruit of the strawberry tree may be damaged by cold weather. It is also vulnerable to fungal leaf spot and aphids.  Fungal leaf spot usually does not need to be treated chemically.  It can be prevented by raking up leaves and other debris under the tree so the fungi do not have any place to over winter.  In addition, take care that when you water your strawberry tree, you do not splash water on the leaves of the tree.  Fungal leaf spot is often spread that way.

Aphids can be treated with an application of neem oil.  You must be very careful to spray this oil on not just the top of the leaf, but on the underside as well.  Often the biggest number of aphids will be on the underside of the leaf near the stem.

 

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Guide to Growing Satin Grass

Written by Stephanie on January 20th, 2017

Satin Grass (Sisyrinchium striatum) is from Chile and Argentine.  It is also called Spring Bell or Yellow-eyed grass. This perennial is an erect plant growing to about one foot tall.  The foliage is long and sword like.  The creamy yellow flowers are arranged in closely placed spikes of nine to twelve blossoms. They occur in early summer. There is a version with variegated leaves, too.

This member of the Iris family grows in zones five to nine.  It gets up to two feet tall and will spread out up to two feet.  It blooms May to June.  After the blooms are gone, the leaves may turn yellow.  Cut the leaves down to six inches tall and they will grow again and keep a tidy appearance for the rest of the growing season.

Satin grass needs to be in a sunny, rich, well drained soil.  To make sure the drainage is good and satin grass gets all the nutrients it needs, till the new flower bed to a depth of six inches.  Spread three inches of compost over the tilled soil.  Till the compost into the soil so it is well mixed.  Now you can plant the satin grass in the tilled soil.  Each satin grass clump should be planted two feet from its neighbors.

Satin grass requires consistently moist soil.  However, if the soil is soggy, the roots will rot.  Water weekly to prevent the roots from rotting due to over watering, yet keep the soil moist.  Once the satin grass is well rooted, it is somewhat drought tolerant.

Satin grass will spread over time by creeping root stalks.  It may also self seed, forming black seed pods.  Cut the plant stalk off before the seed heads form to keep it from self seeding.

To propagate satin grass, you can sow seeds in a cold frame in the autumn or in early spring.  You will need to transplant them into their regular beds after all danger of frost has passed.

If you all ready have satin grass, you can propagate it by digging it up after it blooms and dividing it.  Cut the foot stalks into two inch pieces and make sure each piece of root has at least one bunch of leaves on it. You can then replant the satin grass, making sure that each piece is two feet or more from any other piece.

Satin grass is vulnerable to aphids, spider mites, and rust.  It is deer and rabbit tolerant.

Rust is a general term for a large group of fungi that infect plants.  One of the conditions that contributes to rust is overcrowding.  If you divide your satin grass when it gets crowded, you can prevent rust altogether.  However, if your satin grass does develop rust, apply a fungicide containing copper.

Aphids and spider mites can be eliminated by using Neem oil on your plants.  Make sure you get both the top and underside of the leaves when spraying the plant.  Always follow label directions.

 

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Tips for Growing Lavender Cotton

Written by Stephanie on January 15th, 2017

Lavender Cotton (Santolina chamaecyparissus) is native to Western and Central Mediterranean. It is also known as Gray Santolina, Holy Herb, Ground Cypress, or Petite Cypress. It is a bushy, aromatic, evergreen shrub.  Lavender cotton leaves are crowded, narrow, and indented with comb-like teeth.  The leaves are grey-green or silvery.  The flower heads are globular, long-staked, yellow, and about one half inch across. The shrub grows to one to two feet tall and spreads from two to three feet wide.  It grows in zones six to nine.

Lavender cotton is most often planted for its aromatic foliage.  Lavender cotton is also used for sunny banks, borders, flowerbeds, and to make short hedges. It blooms from mid-summer to early autumn.  Lavender cotton is often used as an insecticide and moth repellent in its native range.  It can also be used in potpourris.

This shrub needs to be watered the first year it is grown so the roots can develop.  After that, it is very drought resistant.  Lavender cotton does not like much moisture.  It needs to be planted in rocky or sandy soil that drains quickly or it will get root rot. In humid weather, it gets fungal diseases and the center tends to open up.

To plant lavender cotton, simply dig a hole in rocky or sandy soil that is a little larger in diameter than the root ball.  Place the shrub in to the hole, making sure the roots are spread out.  Fill in the hole, making sure that the trunk of the shrub is even with the level it had been planted at in the nursery.  Fill in the hole and water well.

Because it is an evergreen shrub, it provides winter interest.  In colder climates, it can be grown as an annual.  In warmer climates, it can be sheared back to the ground in early spring.  Lavender cotton will grow back the next spring.  It may not produce flowers if sheared back every year. Deadhead flowers as soon as they fade.

This plant is deer resistant.  It is often used as a short hedge around herb gardens.  It used to be brewed in a tonic that was drunk to eliminate intestinal worms.

Lavender cotton is propagated by rooting semi-ripe cuttings.  These should be dipped in rooting hormone and planted in a well drained pot.  Provide bottom heat to help them root.  Water weekly until the shrubs are ready to be planted.  Once the shrubs are planted, water one inch a week for the first year, until the roots are well established.  The shrub will only need to be watered during a drought after that.

This shrub is not long lived and may need to be replaced after five years or so.  However, since it is so easy to care for, replanting should not be a problem.  Seeds can be spread in a cold frame in late winter and then transferred to the landscape after the frosts have stopped, or you can plant the shrubs.

 

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