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Tips for Growing Pennyroyal

Written by Mindy on June 24th, 2017

Pennyroyal is an herb that has had a long history with man. It has been used to make medicine, a pest deterrent, and as scent for perfumes and/or soaps. But…….it also has a dangerous side in that consumption of this herb can cause death. In doing so, grow with caution.

pennroyalHaving said that, pennyroyal is a great plant to add around your home. Planted under windows and around doors will repel ants and other home invaders during the spring and summer. Before you jump into the car to go to the local garden nursery, no that there are two different kinds of pennyroyal, which includes the European and American. Both are easy to grow but the American is a native.

Pennyroyal is hardy in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 5 through 9. It loves to be planted in areas where the soil has been disturbed recently and does require a soil that has organic matter in it. Beyond that, it does well in full sun, and a soil that is kept evenly moist.

While you can grow pennyroyal from seed, a quicker approach is to buy a plant or find a friend with some pennyroyal to spare. This plant is easily divided and roots with no problem from cuttings. Due to the fact that pennyroyal is in the mint family, you will want to contain it in some form or fashion to keep it from becoming invasive. To keep the pennyroyal looking like a designer element in your container gardens, utilize each variety differently.

European pennyroyal has a training habit that is just right for a hanging basket. Another idea is to use European pennyroyal in a container garden as a trailing plant hanging over the edge.

When it comes to the American pennyroyal, plant it in a decorative trough. If desired, any of these planting ideas can be brought indoors easily.

If you decide to grow your pennyroyal from seed, there are a few tips. First, yes you can directly seed into the chosen garden space after your local frost free date. Two, yes you can start the seed indoors but regardless of which technique you choose, remember not to cover the seed. Pennyroyal seed require light germinate. Also, do not let the soil dry out. While this may be common sense when you are propagating by seed, the mature pennyroyal plant does not do well when the soil is left dry for long periods of time.


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How to Grow Pellitory of the Wall

Written by Mindy on June 20th, 2017

While you may have never heard of pellitory of the wall, in the future you may. This plant has been listed as a plant of the future for domestication due to its food and medical value. It grows wild in Britain and can be grown in the US where frost danger is not an issue.

pellitory.of.the.wallPellitory of the wall can be propagated in two ways. One is through seed and the second is by way of division. Assuming you have no friends with this plant, seed propagation will be covered.

Planting the seed of this perennial should occur in the spring or autumn. While you can directly seed into the garden space, I would not recommend this technique. The reason for this is simple. To get more seed, you will need both male and female plants. In doing so, you will need to plant many seeds to increase the chances of getting both sexes. If you directly seed, you may not have the room for the number of seeds you need to plant. In doing so, the best approach is to plant your seed in a cold frame.

Planting the seed is simple. Just broadcast the seed over the cold frame soil and lightly cover. Mist with water. At this point, monitor the soil moisture and in a few weeks you will see evidence of seed germination.

Once the seedlings are large enough to handle without damaging them, move them to their permanent location in the summer. Continue to monitor soil moisture and water when needed until the seedlings become established.

At this point, you may be wondering where you can plant this perennial. Well, this plant is very flexible when it comes to environmental requirements. It can tolerate any type of soil as long as it is well draining. When it comes to sunlight, it loves full sun but can do well is slightly shady areas.

Lastly, since this plant tends to climb up walls, a nice vertical support would be welcomed but do not set up the old trellis. This plant loves to grow up walls. You can also find them popping up in cracks, and growing in rock rubble. To take advantage of this, planting your planting area along a rock wall or in a rock garden where it can grow throughout the stones. To increase chances of pollination, make sure to group several together in your landscaping and make sure that the area is not so protected that the wind cannot blow. The blowing wind is the transportation for pollen and fertilization of this perennial plant.


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How to Grow Mullein Pink

Written by Mindy on June 16th, 2017

When I was a little girl, I used to walk through my great-grandmother’s garden in amazement. I used to listen to her stories as to where this plant came from and where that plant came from. One day I saw this fuchsia flower supported on a silvery-gray flower stalk. Oh, I fell in love with this flower. As I shyly asked my great-grandmother for a start, she said yes and went out and dug me up a clump. Everywhere I have lived I have taken this plant with me. While I have not lived in a lot of different places, mullein pink is hardy in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 3 through 9.

While my great-grandmother dug up a clump of mullein pink, the best approach is through seed propagation. The reason for this is the fact that it is a biennial. When my great-grandmother dug up my plants I was just lucky they were on their first growing season.

The best propagation method for mullein pink is through seed propagation. While I have never found this seed at my local garden center, I have found a few sources online. But…….since I have my own mullein pink I harvest my own seeds in the fall.

To begin harvesting your seed starts off with knowing when the seeds are ready. I have found that once the flower is spent and the flower stalk has turned brown, the seed pod will begin to open. This is the point by which you want to harvest the seeds. While you could plant them now, it is better to save them for the early spring but………….do not just put them in a container. The best approach is to open up the seedpod and let the seeds dry out for a few more days before you put them in a paper envelope.

Yes, you can start your mullein pink indoors; I have found that it is better to directly seed into the garden space. What is the best garden space for this biennial?  Well, the best environment is one that receives full sun to partial shade and as a matter of fact I have several growing under a blue spruce. Also, the soil needs to be dry or very slightly moist. Finally, what is the best use for this biennial? Well, this plant looks wonderful in a border or planted in mass in a flower garden. Mullein pink also does well in rock gardens.

Now that you know where to plant, how do you plant? As you may have noted, the seeds of this plant are small. In doing so, you will only need to sprinkle the seed on bare ground and mist with water in the spring. In a few weeks, your mullein pink seeds will germinate and begin their growing journey.


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Guide to Growing the Common Elder

Written by Stephanie on June 12th, 2017

The common elder (Sambucus nigra) is also called the European elder and elderberry.  It is native to Europe, including Great Britain, North Africa, and Western Asia.  There is an American elderberry, but it is not the same as this tree.  This deciduous tree grows to thirty-two feet.  It has deeply furrowed bark and a white pith.  The leaves are divided into pointed and toothed leaflets that produce a heavy odor when bruised.  The flowers are creamy-white, fragrant, and in broad, flattened heads five to eight inches across.  The tree flowers in the summer.  The black berries are used in wine making, jellies, and jams.  Make sure the berries are fully ripe before eating them or they will be poisonous.  You must cook them and not eat them raw.  The leaves and stems are poisonous.

Elderberry trees grow in zone four to eight.  Elderberries grow best in cool climates.  They will grow in full sun or partial sun.  This tree attracts bees, butterflies, hummingbirds, and other birds that feed on the berries.

Elderberries will grow in almost any soil.  They grow best in fertile loam soil, but can be grown in heavy clay as well.  The soil where they are planted must be well drained.  Elderberries prefer moist soil but do not like soggy soil.  Soggy soil may cause root rot.

Elderberries can be started from seed or cuttings.  Most people, however, buy it as a small plant and transplant it into the garden.  Remember that this tree can grow to be quite large, so allow enough space for the tree to spread out.  Do not plant too near the house as the roots can go under the house and cause foundation problems.

When you have found the ideal place for your elderberry, you will need to dig a hole twice the width of the roots and one and a half times as deep.  Spread the roots out in the hole, and place the tree at the level it was in the pot.  Fill in the dirt around the tree.  Clip one third of the tree off.  This gives the roots time to grow in the soil and find the water and nutrients the tree needs to grow and reduces the transplant stress for the tree.  Water the tree in, making sure you add enough dirt to keep the tree at the level it was growing at in the pot.

Elderberry plants can be grown as a shrub or a tree.  If you want a shrub, you can cut it to the ground in late winter to keep it tidy looking and healthy.  If you want a tree, be sure and remove the suckers from the trunk or you will get a shrub again.  Elderberries can be aggressive about taking over the flower bed they are planted in.  Make sure that you prune it to keep it in bounds.

Elderberries are generally pest and disease free.  Fertilize the elderberry in early spring using a slow release fertilizer intended for shrubs.


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Tips for Growing Abelia

Written by Stephanie on June 8th, 2017

Abelia (Abelia chinensis) is from central and eastern China.  In fact, it is often referred to as Chinese abelia.  This small shrub has opposite, short-stemmed, oval leaves and masses of small, tubular, white, rose-tinted, fragrant flowers.  This is a late blooming shrub.  Flowers appear in July and last into the fall, so it is good to plant to make sure pollinators have food available all season long.  In cool climates, abelia does best as a wall shrub, protected from cold winds.  In warm climates, it can be used as a specimen plant or as part of a loose hedge. Abelia is a deciduous shrub, so it will lose its leaves in the winter.  However, the sepels around the flowers turn bronze in the fall and give the appearance that the flowers are still there from a distance.

Abelia grows in zone seven to nine and reaches a height of up to eight feet.  It reaches a spread of five feet.  The plant will grow in full sun to part shade.  It is attractive to butterflies.  The adults eat the nectar and the caterpillars eat the leaves.  These pollinators add flashes of color to the shrub.  Abelia is tolerant of deer and rabbits.

Abelia grows in alkaline soils that are well drained.  A simple soil test available from your county Extension agent will tell you the pH of your soil.  It will also tell you what, if anything, you need to do to adjust the pH to successfully grow abelia.  To insure that the place you plant your abelia is well drained, till the earth up to six inches deep.  Spread three inches of compost on the tilled ground.  Till that in well so it is distributed throughout the tilled soil.

Abelia is a member of the honey suckle family and will climb a trellis is given the opportunity.  This plant is usually sold as a small shrub.  To plant the shrub, dig a hole in the tilled soil that is twice as wide as the root ball and half again as deep.  Remove the root ball from the pot.  Place the root ball in the hole with the stem at the same height as it was in the pot.  Spread out the roots.  Fill in the dirt around the roots.  Water the shrub in, adding additional soil as is necessary to keep the stem in the right position.  If you want the plant to grow up a trellis, use string to tie it loosely to the trellis.  Make sure the string is loose enough not to girdle the stem.

This hardy shrub has no significant pests or disease problems.  It should be fertilized in early spring with a balanced shrub fertilizer.  Flowers appear on new growth so prune in early spring.  Abelia should be watered once a week to keep the soil moist but not soggy.  Mulch around the shrub to retain water, keep weeds from competing for nutrients, and keep the roots warm in the winter and cool in the summer.


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