Friday, June 29, 2012

How to Make a Succulent Container Garden

All of the hot weather we've been experiencing has made me grateful for the succulents in my garden.  They can handle the heat, and don't need a lot of water.  They also come in a variety of shapes, colors, textures, and sizes.

Succulents are easy to grow in containers.  Here's how to do it:

1.  Choose the succulents you wish to use.  Two to four different types work nicely.  Here are some possibilities:  Hens and chickens, aloe vera, jade plants, and donkey's tail.

2.  Select a container.  Shallow bowls with good drainage work well. I use the same kind that I use for planting my container lettuce garden.

3.  Design your garden.  Do this with the plants still in the pots.  Place them in such a way to create interesting texture and color combinations.

4.  Use cactus potting mix when you're ready to plant them.  You can also use sand and small pebbles around them to create an interesting effect.  I think black river stones look nice, too.

5.  Place in a location that gets a few hours of direct sun, and a good amount of indirect sunlight.  Too much direct sunlight isn't good.  It'll burn the leaves.

6.  Keep the soil moist, but not wet.  In the winter, when the plants are dormant, water less frequently.

Thursday, June 28, 2012


Celosia are unusual ornamental plants that look a little like the flames of fire.  In fact, the name, celosia, comes from the Greek word, kelos, which means, "burned."  Celosia are perfect for borders.  Red is the most popular color, but they also come in yellow, orange, rose, and purple.  They like full sun, and need rich, moist soil to thrive.  Some varieties grow to be 10 - 12 inches tall, while others grow up to two feet.  Celosia produce a lot of seeds, so even though they are annuals, you will have new sprouts coming up year after year.

Celosia, in addition to being  beautiful plants, have other uses.  In medicine, they are used as a treatment for tapeworms, blood diseases, mouth sores, and eye problems.  The seeds are used to treat chest congestion, and the flowers treat diarrhea.  Celosia leaves can be used as dressings for sores.

Celosia Argentea can be used as a leaf vegetable for salads.  They have a spinach-like taste. In fact, in Africa, these plants are eaten on an almost-daily basis.

Celosia are very easy to grow.  If you live in zones 2 - 11 (which almost everyone does), you may want to add these beauties to your garden. 

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Winterthur Museum and Country Estate Gardens

Winterthur Museum and Country Estate Gardens is located in Winterthur (pronounced "winter-tour"), Delaware, is the former childhood home of Henry Francis du Pont, a renowned antique collector and horticulturist.   The museum is quite impressive.  If you like antiques, you'll probably enjoy visiting it.
The grounds surrounding the museum cover 979 acres, with 60 of them being naturalistic gardens.  Visitors can take a variety of trails that lead to gardens with names like, Azalea Woods, Magnolia Bend, Winterhazel Walk, and Quarry Garden.  There's also a lovely sundial garden and reflecting pool.

The children's garden, known as the "Enchanted Woods Garden," is especially condusive to getting a child's imagination going.  This three acre garden is supposedly inhabited by woodland fairies.  It's not hard to imagine it with the majestic oak trees, Stone Faerie cottage, and tulip tree house.

Winterthur Museum and Country Estate Gardens is open year-round, Tuesday - Sunday from 10:00 AM - 5:00 PM.  Admission for adults is $18.00, and children are $5.00.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Holden Arboretum

Holden Arboretum, located in Kirtland, Ohio, is the nation's largest arboretum.  It covers 3,600 acres, and contains 120,000 plants.  There are beautiful display gardens, lakes, and hiking trails.  Some of my favorites are the rhododendron garden, lilac garden, wildflower garden, and butterfly garden.

With twenty miles of trails, Holden Arboretum is a perfect place for hiking.  If you enjoy bird watching, this is a great place for that, too.
The arboretum is open daily from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM.  Admission is $6.00 for adults and $3.00 for children.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Powis Castle Gardens

Powis Castle Gardens, located in Welshpool, Wales is located on the grounds of the residence of the Earl of Powis.  The castle itself was founded in the early 13th century by Welsh princes. The fomal, baroque gardens were designed in the 1670s. 

Vistitors will see Italian style terraces, statues, an orangery, and even an aviary.  Each terrace has a different theme.  One has a Mediterranean theme.  Another is planted with rhododendrons and ferns.  Another has herbs.  There is also a lower formal garden that has unusual pyramid-shaped apple trees, roses, delphiniums, phlox, and hollyhocks.

The gardens are beautiful year-round, but I think the best time to visit is in the spring when the tulips, hyacinths, and rhododendrons are in bloom.  The gardens are open daily April to September from 12:00 PM to 5:00 PM, and March, October-December from 12:00 PM to 4:00 PM.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Garden of Cosmic Speculation

Don't you just love the name of this garden?  This is definitely a one-of-a-kind garden.  I've never seen anything else like it in all of my travels.  The Garden of Cosmic Speculation is located in Dumfries, Scotland.  It covers thirty acres and was built in 1989 by Charles Jencks, an internationally acclaimed architectural critic and designer.  The garden is actually his own private garden.  It is open to the public only once a year (usually in May).  If you want to see this place, you'll have to do a little planning (and get there really early when it does open, because the traffic jams are ridiculous).

The garden was designed to provide thought (speculation) about the nature of things.  It was inspired by science and mathematics, with themes like Black Holes, Fractals, and DNA helixes.
Plants are not the big feature here.  There are a couple of man made dragon lakes. Mostly what you'll see are a lot of steel structures and symmetry.  The garden begins at the base of steps leading down from the original eighteenth century manor house.  You'll see a Sense of Touch garden, where a metal hand waves back and forth, beckoning visitors to come check it out.  You'll see a steel DNA helix and a Heaven-Hell primeval wilderness garden with a beautiful red arched bridge

 The snail mound allows you to explore the Fibonacci Sequence of numbers that make up the shell.

It would be nice if this place was opened to the public year-round.  The only reason we get to see it, is because it serves as a fundraiser for the cancer charity, Maggie's Centers, named after Mister Jenck's late wife.  If you ever get the opportunity, be sure to visit.  It's really a neat place!

Friday, June 15, 2012

How to Clean Garden Fountains

A reader asked me recently how to clean garden fountains.  I thought I'd share the answer with everyone, in case there are others out there who are interested in knowing.

Fountains are beautiful additions to your garden, but if you don't clean them regularly, you'll notice algae growth and stinky, murky water.  Here's how to prevent problems.

1.  Skim debris out daily.  This is the best way to prevent problems.

2.  Do a full cleaning once a week (some people do this once a season, but I find it is better to do it once a week).  If your fountain came with instructions, read that first.

3.  Turn off the fountain pump and remove it.

4.  Drain the water.  A lot of fountains have drain plugs.  If yours has one, use it.  It makes the job easier.

5.  Remove any leftover debris.

6.  Wipe the fountain thoroughly with a rag.  If necessary, use a soft bristled tooth brush to remove algae. White vinegar can be used for stubborn stains, but test in a small area to make sure it won't hurt your fountain.

7.  Rinse the fountain with a hose.

8.  Clean the pump by removing the cover and picking out any debris that might be inside.

9.  Wipe the inside and outside of the pump and replace the cover.

10.  Re-fill your fountain with clean, fresh water.  There are special cleaning enzymes you can add to help keep the water clean.  You can get these at fountain supply stores.


Thursday, June 14, 2012

Purple Cone Flowers

Purple cone flowers, or Echinacea, are perennials native to North America.  They are wonderful plants for attracting butterflies and birds to your garden.  In late summer, it is fun to watch the golden finches perch on top of the cone and pick the seeds out.

Purple cone flowers grow in dry areas and are drought tolerant.  They bloom in early summer and continue to early fall.  Their stems are usually stiff and hairy, and they usually have purple, daisy-like flowers, with petals that grow downward from a prickly cone in the center.  Some purple cone flowers can be other colors like white, yellow, and pink.

If you see a wild coneflower, do not dig it up!  It might be endangered.  There are only 7-9 species of purple coneflowers, and two of them are on the endangered list.

Many people believe that the Echinacea plant has medical benefits, but research is showing that there are no benefits in relation to sickness or with help in fighting colds.  The consumption of Echinacea may increase white blood cell counts, but that is most likely due to the body fighting off one of the chemicals in these plants.  The increase of white blood cells is short-lived.  The good news, is that if you're one of those people who pops an Echinacea pill when you get a cold, there are no health risks. And who knows,  if you believe it will help you,  you may experience a little placebo effect.  

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

San Diego Botanic Garden

The San Diego Botanic garden, located in San Diego, California, covers 37 acres and features 27 themed gardens of plants from around the world.  It holds the nation's largest bamboo collection.  Visitors can wander through bamboo groves, desert gardens, a tropical garden with waterfalls, and a Mexican garden, with a lovely Mexican-tiled fountain and plant sculptures of a mariachi band and a flamenco dancer.

Within the garden are two children's gardens:  The Seeds of Wonder Children's Garden for toddlers and preschoolers, and the Hamilton Children's Garden.  The latter was formed in 2009, and is the largest interactive children's garden on the west coast.

The Seeds of Wonder garden has a lot of fun stuff for little ones, like buckets of soapy water with wands for blowing bubbles, a sand pit with buried plastic dinosaurs, and a wooden house with a kitchen and utensils.

The Hamilton Children's  Garden is much bigger, with less shade, but there's plenty to do.  Toni's Tree House with rope bridges, tunnels, and a spiral staircase is the hit feature with kids.  There's also an Incredible Edible garden that teaches kids about the plants we eat, and a music garden where kids can make music with rocks, sticks, and water.

The gardens are open from 9:00 AM - 5:00 PM daily.  Admission is $12.00 for adults and $6.00 for children.  Parking is $2.00.  If you want a good deal, visit on the first Tuesday of the month when admission is free.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Hauck Botanic Gardens

Hauck Botanic Gardens is located in Cincinnati, Ohio.  It's a lovely place not too far from where I live.  The gardens are also known by the not-so-flattering name of "Sooty Acres" because of the industrial soot caused by local coal mines that were in use when the garden was first made.  Hauck Botanic Gardens, built in 1934, was the private garden and tree sanctuary of Cornelius J. Hauck, president of the Cincinnati Park Board.

The garden covers eight acres and features a wildflower garden (pictured), a daylilly garden, hosta garden, a daffodil garden, and a dahlia garden.  Mr. Hauck planted about 900 different types of trees and shrubs on the property, including beech, oak, magnolia, and azaleas.  The nice thing, is that all of these trees are labeled.

The gardens are open from dawn to dusk.  A permit is required to enter the park.  You can either purchase a day permit for $3.00, or a year permit (good for all Cincinnati parks) for $10.00.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Villa d'Esta

If you like fountains, the gardens at the Villa d'Este, in Tivoli, Italy, are a must-see.  The gardens are on the grounds of the former residence of Cardinal Ippolito d'Este.  They were built in 1572.  Today, this garden is part of the UNESCO world heritage list.

The garden is organized in terraces and steps.  Visitors will see numerous fountains, grottos, and ponds.  The Neptune fountain, pictured at the top, is the largest and most spectacular fountain.  There's also an organ fountain, which, yes, plays organ music with the sounds of the falling water.  If you'd like to hear it, the first playing is at 10:30 every day, and then it occurs every two hours.

The garden is open daily from 8:30 AM to 6:30 PM.  Admission is 10 euros for adults.

Friday, June 8, 2012

How to Make a Butterfly Garden

One of the fun things about summer, is watching butterflies flit around.  My kids love it, too.  If you would like to have a lot of butterflies in your yard, it's fairly simple to create a garden that attracts them.  Here's how to do it:

1.  First, pick an area that gets plenty of sunlight, but at the same time is protected from the wind.  The area should be able to fit at least five nice-sized plants.  Make sure you have enough space for them to grow to maturity.

2.  Decide what plants you want to have.  Butterflies need nectar, so make sure you have plenty of flowering nectar plants.  You'll have to go to your local nursery to find out which ones are suitable for your area.  A tip when you are selecting them:  get a variety so that your garden is in bloom from late spring to fall.  In my area (Cincinnati, Ohio), these are the plants that work well:  Aster, Black-eyed Susan, Butterfly weed, Coreopis, lilies, goldenrod, lavender, lilac, marigold, butterfly bushes, purple coneflowers (a huge favorite for golden finches, too), rosemary, and verbena.  Butterflies seem to like red and purple flowers, so keep that in mind, too.

3.  Use organic fertilizer.  Butterflies are attracted to plants that are free of chemicals.

4.  Have water nearby.  This can be a bird bath, a natural water supply, or a man-made puddle.  To make a puddle, take a pie tin and sink it up to the rim in the ground.  Then fill it with dirt or sand and add water.  Add water whenever it starts to dry out.

5.  Provide flat rocks for butterflies to sit and warm themselves.

6.  Occasionally, place overripe fruit out for the butterflies to feast on.  They'll love it!

7.  Water your garden every day and enjoy the butterflies!

Thursday, June 7, 2012


My hydrangeas are in full bloom, now, and they look gorgeous!  Hydrangeas are native to Asia, but they can grow anywhere there is a zone 5-6 hardiness.  The hydrangea produces flowers in early spring, and often times they bloom until late fall.  The flower heads look like big snowballs at the end of the stems, and can be white, pink, blue, or purple.  You can actually change the color of the flowers by changing the pH of the soil.  Acidic soil produces blue flowers, while alkaline soil produces pink flowers.  To make pink flowers, add lime to your soil.  To make blue flowers, add aluminum sulfate to your soil.

Hydrangeas like full morning sun and afternoon shade.  They also prefer well-drained soil.  I like to add mulch around my hyrangeas.  If your soil contains a lot of clay, you may want to do the same.

If you'd like to propagate your hydrangeas, you can try to do it by placing a clipping in water, or you can do the following:

1.  Take a cutting from a branch that's about 5-6 inches long, preferably from one that didn't flower.

2.  Remove the lower leaves from the bottom two leaf nodes.

3.  Cut the largest leaves in half

4.  Dip cuttings in a rooting hormone available at garden supply stores and insert into damp vermiculite.

5.  Water the pot and allow to drain.

6.  Cover the cutting and pot with plastic.  Insert stakes to keep the plastic off of the leaves.

7.  Wait 2-3 weeks for roots to form.

One other tidbit of information about hydrangeas:  They are moderately toxic if eaten, because they contain cyanide, but in Japan, an herbal tea called ama-cha is made from crumpled, dried, steamed leaves.  It's used in celebration of Buddah's birthday on April 8th.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

San Francisco Botanical Gardens

The San Francisco Botanical Gardens are located in the Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, California.  They cover 55 acres and contain over 8,000 types of plants from around the world.

Some of the garden collections include an ancient plant garden, a fragrance garden, a Mediterranean garden, a rhododendron garden and plants from countries like Chile, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa.
There's also a small children's garden that contains wood chip paths that lead through vegetable beds, fruit patches, and herbs.  Kids can plant crops, weed, water, and make compost.  Once they are done tending the gardens, they can visit the lovely butterfly garden.

The garden is open daily from 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM.  Admission is $7.00 for adults, and $5.00 for children.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Gardenview Horticultural Park

Gardenview Horticultural Park, located in Strongsville, Ohio, is a little-known collection of gardens. Most people drive by the tall walls of the garden, and never bother to explore what lies beyond. Driving past the walls, you will find sixteen acres of flora and fauna. It was all designed in 1949, by Henry A. Ross. Today, because of funding issues, the grounds are maintained by two volunteers. There's a ten-acre arboretum that showcases 2,000 flowering and ornamental trees with over 500 varieties of crabapples. The remaining six acres are display gardens. There's a special spring garden which has lovely tulips, daffodils, azaleas, and crabapples, a shade garden with beautiful hostas, rose gardens, an herb garden, and two ponds - one with water lilies, and the other with lots of ducks. The gardens are only open on Saturday and Sunday from noon to 6:00 PM. Admission is $5.00 for adults, and $3.00 for children.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Renishaw Hall Gardens

Renishaw Hall Gardens is located in Derbyshire, United Kingdom. The gardens were laid out in 1895 by Sir George Sitwell who was the owner of Renishaw Hall. Most of the gardens on the property are Italian in style. Visitors will see ornamental ponds, a lovely fountain, secret garden rooms, and classical statues. There is also a children's garden with a living willow tunnel. The gardens are open from 10:30 AM to 4:30 PM Wednesday through Sunday. Cost of admission is 6 British pounds for adults, and 3 British pounds for children.

Friday, June 1, 2012

How to Make a Shade Garden

Sometimes planting a garden where there's a lot of shade can be tricky. With a little planning, though, it can be done. Here's how to do it: 1. Determine what type of shade you have - complete shade, or partial shade. This will help you figure out what plants to use. 2. Take a look at your soil. Is it damp and heavy? If so, you may need to add a little sand for drainage. Is it sandy? Then you may have to add some garden soil. 3. Select your plants. Here's a list of plants I like for partial shade (areas under trees or areas that receive sunlight several hours a day): Coleas, impatiens, bleeding hearts, azaleas, columbine, begonias (a very versatile plant), and astilbe. For areas of medium shade, I like hostas, ferns, lily of the valley, hydrangeas, and rhododendron. There aren't a lot of plants that do well in heavy shade, so you'd probably have to opt for mosses and violets in those cases. 4. Plant tall plants in the back and shorter ones in the front. Mix foilage and flowers to create interesting texture and visual appeal. 5. If you have the space, you can finish it off with garden ornaments like benches and small statues.