Monday, December 28, 2015

Creating a Winter Container Garden

You may think that winter is a time to put away your containers and forget about gardening.  That's not true.  Even though the weather might be cold outside, you can still create some eye-catching container gardens.

First, start with a container that won't crack in the cold weather.  Fiberglass, metal, concrete, or even hollow logs work well.  Don't use ceramics, terracota, or thin plastic. (The containers in the picture would not work for really cold temperatures, but in Georgia, where I live, they're fine.)

Choose plants and flowers that work well in colder weather.  Some ideas for flowers include winter pansies, violas, hellebores, and my favorites, cabbage and flowering kale.  The neat thing about the cabbage and kale is that the color intesifies, the colder it gets.  If you look at the purple cabbage above, you see what I mean.

For greenery, use annual grasses, new zealand flax, variegated yucca, dwarf deciduous hollies, and trailing ivy. You can also use evergreens.  Then, for a pretty effect, decorate with pinecones.

Water your container garden only when the soil is dry. 

I'd like to wish all of you a very Happy New Year!

Monday, December 21, 2015

Christmas Cactus

 Last post, I talked about a popular winter plant called the Amaryllis. This week, the featured plant is another popular Christmas gift:  The Christmas cactus.

The Christmas cactus, or Schlumbergera, is native to the mountains of south-eastern Brazil.  It likes shade and high humidity.  It can be recognized by its leaf-like pads and pink flowers which flower only around Thanksgiving or Christmas (hence the name).

Here are some tips for caring for your Christmas cactus:

1.  Keep away from direct sunlight, drafts, heat vents, or fireplaces.

2.  Provide a source of humidity.  You can put a tray of water next to the plant, so that the water evaporates and provides humidity.

3.  Do not  overwater.  Once a week should be enough.  And if you can, don't water from the top.  It is best to put the plant in a tray of water and allow water to seep through holes in the bottom of the container.

4.  Prune your cactus one month after blooming.  
I won't post here again, before Christmas, so I'd like to wish all of you who celebrate, a very Merry Christmas! 

Monday, December 14, 2015

Growing and Caring for Your Amaryllis

Amaryllis are those beautiful trumpet-shaped flowers you see around Christmas.  They can be found at your local grocery store or florist.  Red is the most popular color, but they can be pink, white, salmon, apricot, or rose.

When growing an amarylllis, select the largest bulb possible, because the amount of stalks and blooms relates directly to the bulb size.  Make sure your container is deep enough for good root development, and make sure it has good drainage.  The container doesn't have to be that big.  The diameter should be one inch larger than the bulb. Position the bulb so that at least one third of it is above the soil.  Press the soil around the bulb so that it is firm.  Then put in a warm sunny spot.  Do not fertilize until it begins to grow.

When buds appear, move the plant out of direct sunlight..  This will help prolong the blooms.  After the flowers fade, cut them off to prevent seed formation.  Do not remove the stalk until it has turned yellow.  The amaryllis needs a lot of sunlight after blooming, so be sure to put it in the brightest possible location inside.  Water when the top two inches of the soil seems dry.  Continue to fertilize.  When the danger of frost has passed, you can take your amaryllis outside, but start by placing it in the shade or indirect light.  Gradually, you can move it to an area where it can receive six hours of full sun each day.  Just be sure to bring it back inside before the danger of the first frost.

Before I go, I'd like to let you know that my book, Ten Zany Birds, is party of SCBWI's inaugural book launch party. You can like the page, comment in the guest book, and try to win one of two copies of the book (US residents only). Visit the link for details.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

How to Make an Evergreen Wreath

Since Christmas is right around the corner, I thought I'd share with you how to make an evergreen wreath.  It's not that difficult, and the beauty and smell of them are so nice for the holidays.

1.  Pick your evergreens.  They can be collected from your yard or purchased.  Using all of the same kind gives a formal look.  Different kinds can give it more texture.  Some kinds of evergreens to consider are fir, juniper, and arborvitae.

2.  Soak your evergreens.  Cut off the bottom of each branch at an angle and soak for 24 hours in a bucket of water.  This will make the wreath last longer.

3.  Gather materials:  a wreath form, florist wire, evergreen branches, pruning sheers, and decorations like ribbons and bows.

4.  Trim evergreen branches into small, easy to work with pieces.

5.  Lay the form on a flat surface, concave side facing up to hold the evergreens.

6.  Lay a piece of evergreen on the form and loop wire around the woody stem, and then loop around the wreath form to attach.

7.  Overlap with another of the same kind of evergreen, facing the same direction and attach the same way.

8.  After your base is done, you can add other types of evergreens and decorations, such as pinecones, berries, and ribbon.

It's a good idea to make your wreath about a week before Christmas so it looks nice for the holiday.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Dey Mansion Gardens

Dey Mansion Gardens is located in Wayne, New Jersey. The Georgian-style house was constructed between 1740-1750, and served as the Revolutionary War headquarters for General George Washington (the first president of the United States). The grounds feature a blacksmith shop, herb and vegetable garden, a formal garden, the house, and a picnic area.

The house and gardens are open Wednesday through Sunday from 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM and Sunday from 10:00 AM to noon. Tours are available. Cost of admission is $1.00 per person.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Colonial Park Arboretum and Gardens

Colonial Park Arboretum and Gardens is located in East Millstone, New Jersey. This 144 acre arboretum features trees and shrubs that thrive in central New Jersey. There's a beautiful rose garden that contains 3,000 roses. The garden showcases a fountain surrounded by miniature and hybrid tea roses. The Perennial Garden on the grounds features a gazebo surrounded by flowering bulbs, perennials, annuals, and flowering trees and shrubs.

The gardens are open daily from sunrise to sunset. Admission is free.

Before I go, I'd like to let you know that I am a guest on author, Virginia Wright's, blog. I'm discussing my newest book, Ten Zany Birds. Please stop by and visit!

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Daniel Boone Native Gardens

Located in Boone, North Carolina, the Daniel Boone Native Gardens were opened in 1963 to nurture rare or endangered plant species. The three acres, which are maintained by the Garden Club of North Carolina, include a bog garden, fern garden, rhododendron grove, rock garden, wishing well, and a pond alongside the Squire Boone Cabin.

The garden is open daily May through October from dawn to dusk. Admission is $2.00 per person.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Sunken Gardens

Today's garden  is Sunken Gardens in St. Petersburg, Florida. I used to live near this place, and it was one of my favorite gardens to visit. Sunken Gardens is one of the oldest in the state. It was begun in 1903 when George Turner decided to drain a five acre pond and make it a nursery. The pond was ten feet below sea level, hence the name, Sunken Gardens.

The garden has grown considerably, and now has over 4,000 varieties of tropical and subtropical plants.

The garden is open Monday through Saturday from 10:00 AM to 4:30 PM, and Sunday noon to 4:30. Cost of admission for adults is $8.00, and for children, $4.00.

Before I go, I just want to say I'm sorry for not being very regular on this blog. I've been busy with other projects including preparing for a recital. Those who follow my other blog have seen the video clip from it. Those of you who would like to see it, can find it here.  

Monday, September 28, 2015

Nehrling Gardens

Located in Gotha, Florida, Nehrling Gardens was founded in 1885 by Dr. Henry Nehrling. It is Florida's first experimental botanical garden. Dr. Nehrling tested over 3000 tropical plants here and introduced 300 of them into Florida's landscape. Visitors can see many of the plants that Nehrling worked with.  Nehrling Gardens is on the National Register of Historic Gardens.

                                                 This site is the original plot for Dr. Nehling's experiments.
Access to the gardens is limited. They are open the first and second Saturday of the month from 9:00 AM to 3:00 PM. They are also open by appointment. If you choose the latter, they ask for a $5.00 donation. Otherwise, admission is free. 

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Mounts Botanical Garden

Mounts Botanical Garden is a lovely thirteen acre garden located in West Palm Beach, Florida. It's the county's oldest and largest public garden. Visitors will see lush tropical trees, fruits, and plants native to Florida.

The nice thing about this garden, is that there are programs offered here year round. These include classes about caring for plants, cooking with plants, and making floral jewelry. If you visit, you'll have to see what's going on at the time you arrive.

There's also a nursery on the grounds from which you can purchase plants, in case you'd like to try making a garden of your own.

The garden is open Monday through Saturday from 8:30 AM to 4:00 PM, and on Sunday from noon to 4:00 PM. They ask for a $5.00 donation. 

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Ichimura Miami-Japan Garden

The Ichimura Miami-Japan Garden is located in Miami, Florida. This city friendship garden was begun in 1961, and features an eight foot high granite statue of Hotei, the smiling god of prosperity.
Visitors will also see Japanese stone lanterns, an arbor, a pond, three bridges and orchid trees.

Unfortunately, the garden doesn't seem to be well-maintained. The plants did not appear to be healthy, and the pond was covered with algae. Hopefully, in the future this garden will be better cared for.

The garden is open daily from 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM. There is no cost for admission, but it does cost $10.00 to park your car. If you can find a free parking space, it's worth the visit to see the statue of Hotei.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

The Kampong Garden

Located on Biscayne Bay in Coconut Grove, Florida, "The Kampong" is the site of the National Tropical Botanical Garden.  It was once the home of David Fairchild, an avid plant collector who travelled the world looking for useful and beautiful plants. He named the garden, "Kampong," which is a Javanese word meaning, "village." The first plants he added to his garden came from Indonesia, hence, the name. The plant collections in the garden come from Southeast Asia, Central and South America, and the Caribbean. Visitors will enjoy seeing all the exotic plants, including an eighty-year-old, fifty ton Baobab tree from Tanzania.

The garden is open Monday through Friday from 9:30 AM to 4:00 PM. Visitors have an option of doing a self-guided tour, or one led by a tour guide. Admission for the self-guided tour is $15.00 for adults. Children under twelve are admitted free. The guided tour is $20.00 for adults, and $10.00 for children.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Avis Campbell Garden

Avis Campbell Garden, located in Montclaire, New Jersey, is a lovely well-kept secret. It is hidden in the back yard of the United Way building next to the Montclaire library. If you weren't paying attention, you wouldn't even know it was there. The garden is maintained by volunteers of the Garden Club of Montclaire. It contains a rose garden, herb garden and a walled English style garden with a small fountain in the center.

There are a few benches placed around the garden, so visitors can just relax and enjoy the scenery.

The gardens are open from dawn to dusk. Admission is free.  

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Maclay State Gardens

The Maclay State Gardens, located in Tallahassee, Florida, were designed in 1923 by Alfred Maclay. It was his intention to have booms in winter and early spring, when he and his wife were in residence at their home on the property.  While there are activities year round, the best time to see the gardens is from January to April, with the peak time being early March.  Visitors will see oriental magnolias, a walled garden, a Secret Garden, an Azalea Hillside, and a reflection pool.  There are picnic benches on the grounds, and other activities such as canoeing, fishing, and hiking.   You can easily spend a full day there.

The gardens are open year round from dawn to dusk, but from January 1 through April 30, there is a special fee to view the Maclay house. That is open from 9:00 AM - 5:00 PM. 

Before I go, I have to special things for you. On this blog, I don't post personal things about myself, so readers don't really get to know me that well. Here's something you might enjoy, though - my first skydive. You can find the link here. (It's unedited. If you want to save time, the jump begins at the 3:13 point.)

Second, to thank you for following me, I'm giving free downloads of my book, Ten Zany Birds. You can go to Smashwords and enter code, AF29X (expires 9-9-15).

Monday, August 10, 2015

Flamingo Gardens and Arboretum

Flamingo Gardens and Arboretum is located in Davies, Florida. It covers 60 acres, and contains citrus groves, subtropical forests, and plenty of flowery  gardens. One of the most interesting gardens is the Xeriscape garden. What's that, you ask? It's a garden that demonstrates the uses of various materials for a low maintenance, minimal irrigation garden. Those who don't exactly have a green thumb might appreciate this.

There's also a free-flight aviary and a lovely butterfly garden. Visitors can take a 1.5 mile narrated tram ride through the gardens and wetlands to see alligators, and of course, flamingos.

The gardens are open daily from 9:30 AM to 5:00 PM. The ticket box closes at 4:00 PM. Cost of admission is $19.95 for adults, and $12.95 for kids.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Miami Beach Botanical Gardens

Located in Miami Beach, Florida, Miami Beach Botanical Gardens was originally created in 1962 on a vacant site opposite the Miami Beach Convention Center. Unfortunately, the "Garden Center" wasn't well-maintained, and slowly deteriorated. Hurricane Andrew finished it off in 1992. In 1996, a group of residents created the Miami Beach Garden Conservancy to restore the garden. 
Today, it is a beautiful four and a half acre garden which contains tropical and subtropical plants.

The garden can be seen as a self-guided tour, or as one led by a tour guide. It is open Tuesday through Sunday from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM. If you choose the guided tour, a $5.00 donation is requested.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Acorn Hall and Gardens

Acorn Hall, located in Morristown, New Jersey, Is an Italian mansion that was built in 1853. It is now the home of the Morris County Historical Society. The gardens around the building are quite nice. There is a rose garden that contains thirty varieties  of Victorian roses, a formal knot garden, and a lovely fern garden.

Tours of the property are given Wednesday and Thursday from 11:00 AM to 4:00 PM, and on Sunday from 1:00 PM to 4:00 PM. Admission for adults is $6.00. Children under twelve are admitted free.   

Sunday, July 5, 2015

East Texas Arboretum

Located in Athens, Texas, the East Texas  Arboretum is a relatively new place. It covers 100 acres and contains marshlands, dry pasture fields, and gardens, including an herb garden and wildflower restoration area.  There's a very nice nature trail that goes along streams and over a 115 foot suspension bridge. If you're lucky, you may see some deer or even a frog or two.  Also on the grounds is the Wofford House Museum. It was built in 1850, and gives a glimpse of what life was like at that time.

The arboretum is open from 7:30 AM to 7:30 PM in the spring and summer, and from 8:00 AM to 6:00 PM in the fall and winter. Admission is $4.00 for adults and $3.00 for children.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Swan Lake Iris Garden

Swan Lake Iris Garden is a 150 acre garden full of Japanese irises, camellias, lilies, azaleas, and magnolias. The 45 acre lake is home to eight species of swans.

The story surrounding the garden is rather interesting. It began in 1927 as a private fishing retreat for Hamilton Carr Bland, a local business man. He had attempted to landscape his home with irises, but failed miserably. Frustrated, he dug up all the iris bulbs and dumped them at the lake. The next spring, the irises came up and bloomed. They've been flourishing ever since. Mr. Bland deeded the gardens to the city in 1949.

The gardens are open from 7:30 AM until dusk. Admission is free. (The best time to view the irises is from mid-late May until early June.)

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Summerville Azalea Park

Summerville Azalea Park, located in Summerville, South Carolina, is a 16 acre public park. Of course, it has many beautiful flowering azaleas. It also has dogwood, wisteria, and crepe myrtle, as well as five butterfly reflecting ponds, bronze sculptures, a gazebo, and ornamental bridges.

It's a lovely place to spend an afternoon wandering down the nature trails. Spring is the best time to view the colorful blooms.

The park is open from 5:00 AM to 10:00 PM. Admission is free. 

Saturday, June 13, 2015

South Carolina Botanical Garden

The South Carolina Botanical Garden is a 270 acre garden located in Clemson, South Carolina, near the Clemson University Campus. It has grown considerably from its original 40 acre size. There are many garden areas here, including the Class of '39 Caboose Garden, a butterfly garden, a conifer collection, and a very beautiful Meditation Garden which has a waterfall, gazebo, and pool.

There are a couple of other interesting things on the grounds, including a Geology Museum, and cabin built in 1716, known as the Hanover House.

The garden is open daily from dawn to dusk. Admission is free.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Magnolia Plantation and Gardens

Magnolia Plantation and Gardens is a 400 acre property that was founded in 1678 by the Drayton family. It is Charleston's most visited plantation, and it's easy to see why.  There's a lot there! It's home to America's oldest garden - The Barbados Tropical Garden. Other gardens on the property include a Biblical garden, topiary garden, a maze of camellias, and a swamp garden that spans 60 acres. Bald Eagles, egrets, otters, and of course, alligators, can be seen in the swamp garden. Visitors can enjoy a variety of bog plants, ornamental grasses, and wildflowers. 

Additional attractions include a petting zoo, Old African American Cabin, and conservatory.

The gardens are open daily from 8:30 AM to 5:30 PM. Cost of admission for adults is $15.00, and for children, $10.00. There is an additional cost for the plantation house tour, nature boat tour, and the Audubon Swamp Garden. All-inclusive tickets are available, but those are rather costly - $47.00 for adults, $43.00 for children.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Hopeland Gardens

Located in Aiken, South Carolina, Hopeland Gardens cover 14 acres. Its paths meander under 100 year old live oaks, cedars, and magnolia trees. Among the many plants visitors will see, are azaleas, dogwood, crape myrtles, and Japanese iris. It's really a nice place to bring a lunch and have a picnic.

Also on the grounds is a wetlands area where visitors can see ducks, turtles, and fish. In addition, there's the Aiken Community Labyrith, the "Doll House," which was the former playhouse of the former owner, Mrs. C. Oliver Islelin's children, and The Aiken Thoroughbred Racing Hall of Fame, which is sure to interest horse lovers.  

The gardens are open year round from 10:00 AM to sunset. Admission is free.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Heyward Washington House

The Heyward Washington House and Gardens is located in Charleston, South Carolina. It is named for the builder, Daniel Heyward and its famous guest, George Washington. The house was built in 1772, and was home to Thomas Heyward, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. For those who like a little history, Thomas Heyward was a patriot leader and artillery officer with the South Carolina militia during the American Revolution.   He was captured by the British in 1780, but was set free in 1781.

The elegant formal gardens surrounding the house look like period gardens, but they were not created until the 1930s. There is a featured knot garden, which is just lovely, as well as authentic period plants. The Garden Club of Charleston maintains the gardens, and has done so since 1941.

The house and gardens are open on Monday through Saturday from 10:00 AM - 5:00 PM, and on Sunday from 12:00 to 5:00 PM.  Admission for adults is $10.00, and for children, $5.00.

Now, I have one more announcement before I go: My new children's picture book, Ten Zany Birds, is now available on Amazon! You can find it here.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Cypress Gardens

Cypress Gardens is located in Monck's Corner, South Carolina. (This is different from the Cypress Gardens in Florida.) It was created in 1927 by Benjamin R. Kittredge. Today, it is a 163 acre garden that contains three miles of foot paths. Visitors can also view the gardens from flat bottom boats. It's really a lovely place. The black swamp water reflects flowering dogwoods, daffodils, and azaleas beautifully.  Also on the grounds, is a greenhouse filled with butterflies (there is a display of the lifecycle of them), birds, a pond, and an arthropod exhibit.

For those who like trivia, Cypress Gardens was the site used for filming several movies, including Cold Mountain (2003), Swamp Thing (1982), The Notebook (2004), and The Patriot (2000).

The gardens are open daily from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM. Cost of admission for adults is $10.00, and for children, $5.00.  A guided boat ride would cost an additional $5.00, but you have the option of an self-guided tour for no additional cost. 

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Fryar's Topiary Garden

Fryar's Topiary Garden, located in Bishopsville, South Carolina, is an unusual place! The three-acre grounds surround a ranch-style house which belongs to a gentleman named Pearl Fryar. The topiaries there are his creations. The collection includes 300 individual plants, many of which were rescued from the compost piles of local nurseries. The topiaries include geometric designs and whimsical creations.

The gardens are open Tuesday through Saturday from 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM. Visitors can get a brochure that includes a self-guided walking tour. A $3.00 donation per person is requested.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Edisto Memorial Gardens

Edisto Memorial Gardens are located in Orangeburg, South Carolina. It is a 150 acre garden on the banks of the Edisto River that commemorates the date, February 12, 1865, when six hundred Confederate soldiers temporarily stopped the advancement of the Union Army. A bronze marker marks the site.

The most notable feature of the garden is the roses. There are 50 beds of roses that represent 120 varieties. The American Rose Society uses this property as a test garden for its roses.

In addition to the roses, visitors will see azaleas, wisteria, a butterfly garden, sensory garden, terrace garden, and a wetlands area that can be viewed from a boardwalk.

The gardens are open from dawn to dusk. Admission is free.