Thursday, March 31, 2011

Digging Out ‘Cerise Blah’

Digging out the yarrow

In ancient times I bought a yarrow plant (Achillea) with reddish-pink flowers called ‘Cerise Queen.’  I enjoyed the beautiful flowers, and the deer didn’t eat it, a double plus.  Over the years the plant spread slowly, seeded, and flowered again.

Seldom did the second-generation plants have burgundy blooms.  Sometimes their flowers were light pink, but usually they were a dull white.  And a year or two ago, apparently the original ‘Cerise Queen’ plant died and was replaced by dull offspring.

'Cerise Queen' in early years
Yes, I know that “beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” but ‘Cerise Queen’ had ceased being beautiful.  Last fall I renamed the plant.  Its new name: ‘Cerise Blah,’ and I decided it had to go.

Rain was forecast for this mid-week, so on Monday I got out my shovel and dug out ‘Cerise Blah.’  The job was easy because the yarrow had shallow roots growing just an inch or so in the soil that I had improved over the years with compost and pine-bark mulch.

In an hour or so I had finished the digging.  Tuesday I took the wilted plants to the compost pile and finished most of the rest of spring clean-up of the front flower beds.  Bring on the rain—or will it be a “wintry mix”?

Now I have to decide what flower will replace ‘Cerise Blah’ in that bed.  I have four requirements: (1) It must be deer resistant; (2) it should be a perennial; (3) it should be relatively short because it’ll be in the front of the bed; and (4) it cannot be “blah.”

Blanket flower
Right now I’m thinking blanket flower (Gaillardia) would be a good addition.  Three plants should look great there.  They grew well for several years in another bed when we first moved here, but over time died off.  They’re deer-resistant, short, perennial, and definitely not “blah.”

I think I’ll keep an eye out for blanket flowers on my springtime visits to local nurseries.

If you have another suggestion, please post a Comment.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Deer Country Extra: Medicine Deer Don't Take

Patterson Clark’s “Urban Jungle” column in yesterday’s Washington Post featured spicebush (Lindera benzoin), a native shrub that deer avoid. This plant was used for medicinal purposes by Native Americans, Clark points out, and its new leaves and twigs can be brewed into an herbal tea.

In his “Manual of Woody Landscape Plants,” Michael A. Dirr describes spicebush as a “good shrub for the border or naturalizing; I have seen it growing in deep woods where it is often rather thin and open; excellent for moist soil areas and semi-shady spots; in full sun it makes a splendid plant in flower and fall color; a harbinger of spring.” He sizes it as 6 to 12 feet in both height and width.

Dirr lists three cultivars: ‘Green Gold,’ with large yellow flowers; ‘Rubra,’ with deep-red flowers; and ‘Xanthocarpa,’ “an orange-yellow fruited form.” Fruit of the native plant is red.

Spicebush is listed as "seldom damaged" in the University of Maryland Extension's Fact Sheet 655, "Resistance of Ornamentals to Deer Damage."

To read Patterson Clark’s “Urban Jungle” column, CLICK HERE.

To link to Fact Sheet 655, CLICK HERE.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Now You Can Follow by Email

You may be getting notices of my new AncientGardenerBlog postings via RSS or Atom feeds, if you clicked one of the icons for those services on my blog. But if you have no idea of what that means, there’s a new way for you to get a notice by email when I publish a new post.

Here’s how to do it: When you're at AncientGardenerBlog, look in the upper-right corner for a box called “Follow by Email.” Type your email address in the box and then click “Submit.” You’ll be asked to complete a word verification, which helps prove you’re an individual and not spam software. Then you’ll be signed up to receive an email notice the next time I post.

Here’s how Blogger, my blog’s home or platform, describes how this new “Gadget” works: “When new blog content is published, all subscribed readers will receive a daily email notification of the new published posts, which includes a copy of the new content as well as links back to the actual posts.”

I’ve just subscribed by adding my email, so I’ll be testing the new service.

Let me know what you think by posting a Comment below.

A Plug for 'Efficient' Lettuce

Is my lettuce 'efficient'?

Oh, no, another painful morning during which I’ve learned the lettuce I've been growing is "inefficient."  It seems there is lettuce and then there is “ultimate efficiency” lettuce.

That’s the view of Barbara Damrosch, “A Cook’s Garden” columnist in the Washington Post. In her recent article, “The curly-headed French superstar,” she explains why she prefers "ultimate efficiency" lettuce that has leaves joining at their base rather than around a central core.

And while she’s at it, she opines why lettuce turns brown when you cut or rip it. On that point she expects an “outcry.”

To read Damrosch’s efficient six paragraphs, CLICK HERE.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Look Up for These Flowers

Yes, we love our crocus and daffodil blooms, but red maple trees are blooming too. You may not take a ladder out to get a close look or to take a photograph in your yard, but you can take one minute to look at Patterson Clark’s “Urban Jungle” column, “Red maples set fruit,” in the Washington Post. You’ll see one large photograph and two short sentences. CLICK HERE.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

'Getting the Vegetable Garden Ready'

My boots: Not trendy?

Adrian Higgins, “Gardening” columnist of the Washington Post, announces spring with a multi-page article “Getting the vegetable garden ready” in the Washington Post.

Sections of his feature include “Cleaning up,” “What to plant,” “How to sow,” “A border of herbs,” and “Add flowers.” Less experienced veggie gardeners will dig good information here, and more experienced diggers will find this a good refresher course.

The first illustration shows “essential gear,” including a pair of “wellies for making you look clever and trendy.” I smile at his humor and at the green wellies shown. Trendy wellies this year are hot pink, according to the cover of one mail-order catalog.

Alas, my boots are neither green nor pink. They’re black—and too hot for my comfort when temperatures soar much above 50° F. I suppose I’ll sleep poorly tonight because my brain will be worrying about whether I should trade in my black boots for green.

Note: In the Post print edition (Local Living Section, March 24), the title of this column was “It’s time to garden.”

To read “Getting the vegetable garden ready,” CLICK HERE.

Friday, March 25, 2011

A Host of Golden Daffodils

I Wander’d
by William Wordsworth

I wander’d lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the Milky Way,
They stretch'd in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed—and gazed—but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

Will snow shower of April 7, 2007, repeat March 27, 2011? 

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Sometimes Hands Are Better Than Tools

Redhot poker with winter-killed leaves

Leaves of redhot poker (Kniphofia spp.) are tough. They are deer-resistant tough, except for an occasional leaf of tender new growth that gets browsed. My pruners and electric trimmer don’t cut them easily or cleanly.

Last spring I discovered an easier, faster way to remove the old redhot poker leaves that had been smashed to the ground by snow long since melted. I used my hands, not a new and exciting cutting tool. I discovered that if I give the weather-damaged leaves a tug with my hands, they slipped off the crown of the plant quite easily. This week I “perfected” the art of hand-pulling redhot poker leaves.

Here’s how I do it.

At first, grasp four or five of the outer leaves about midway and pull away from the plant, not straight up. Trial and error taught me that pulling straight up, especially on leaves of younger plants, sometimes results in the whole plant being pulled, which is not the goal here.

Redhot poker after last year's leaves pulled off
Once you’ve started pulling off leaves, you may increase your leaf grabs by two or three leaves if you’re pulling for a large plant. If the whole plant seems to be coming out, you’ve grabbed too many leaves. After a few tugs, you’ll get a feel for how to do it efficiently and quickly.

As the old leaves come off, you’ll find this year’s leaves beginning to growing at the plant’s crown. Since they’ve been protected by the old leaves, they’ll be a lighter green—sort of like asparagus that has been hilled or otherwise hidden from the sunlight so it remains “white.” The new leaves will begin growing soon and will turn dark green as the days warm and sunlight intensifies.

I have one concern, though. Now that I’ve exposed the young, tender leaves that will grow this year, have I in effect put up a sign saying, “Deer! Come Browse Here!” With grass greening, clover starting to grow, and buds enlarging on all kinds of shrubs and trees, I hope deer remember that redhot poker is near the bottom of their “eat” list.

When I pulled last year’s leaves this week I discovered that voles (Microtus pennsylvanicus), also known as meadow or field mice, had been living under protective “tents” created by the weather-bent leaves. I found two nests made out of plant fiber in the circular runways under the old tents.

Redhot poker in summer bloom
In order to discourage the voles, I’ll try to remember to remove the redhot poker leaves after hard frosts late next fall rather than waiting until early next spring. I don’t see that the voles have gnawed on the trunks of shrubs, small trees, or other plants in the garden over winter, but I don’t want to encourage them with luxury accommodations.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Correcting My Gardening Mistakes

Redhot poker in heather before removal

I confess. I make gardening mistakes. I don’t think I’ve ever read on article about correcting mistakes in the glossy gardening magazines that I read, but I suspect every gardener makes some.

I corrected two mistakes yesterday afternoon. My ignore-ance caused the first. My inattention to detail caused the second.

Three summers ago a volunteer redhot poker (Kniphofia spp.) seedling began growing just inside the edge of my heather. I could easily have moved the seedling or pulled it up, but I ignored it. Two summers ago the plant expanded significantly in size and began crowding the heather. I ignored it again. By the end of last summer the redhot poker was crowding the heather to the extent that the heather wasn’t growing where the volunteer shaded it.

Heather after redhot poker removed
So yesterday—at least two years after I should have removed the redhot poker—I took shovel and tried to move it. That, however, was impossible without doing more damage to the heather, so I chopped and dug out the redhot poker and added it to our compost pile in the woods.

There’s a hole in the mounded heather where the redhot poker was growing, but I hope the heather will begin filling in the void this spring and summer. The problem took three years to develop, and I’ll be happy if the slow-growing heather makes the repair that quickly.

Daisy (right) crowding 'Blue Star' juniper
The second mistake involved a Shasta daisy plant that I started from Burpee seed two years ago. I just didn’t pay attention, I suppose, when I bought the seeds. I intended to buy seeds for Leucanthemum x superbum ‘Silver Princess,’ a dwarf, compact, mounded variety that, with flowers, grows to about 12 inches. Instead I bought seeds for ‘Alaska,’ a vigorous grower that tops out at 36 inches.

'Blue Star' juniper after daisy removed
The plant grew well, and I transplanted it into a small space next to a small ‘Blue Star’ Juniper. Last summer I noticed my mistake. The daisy was growing rapidly and beginning to tower over the short, slow-growing juniper. The aggressive ‘Alaska’ would shade the juniper and seriously disfigure or even kill it in another year or two, so it had to go. I used my shovel to cut it into two sections and moved them into larger spaces where they’ll be able to grow without harming their neighbors.

The moral of this story: When you discover you’ve made a gardening mistake, fix it—the sooner the better.  And when plants are dormant or nearly so—such as right now—is the best time to do it.

Yes, Bob, remember that sooner is better.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Deer Country 15: Summary with More Deer Photos

'Big Buck'
We’ve covered veggies, shrubs, trees, and perennial flowers in previous “Deer Country” postings. Now it’s time to summarize the broad principles that will help you garden successfully in places where deer abound.

'I love roses!'
1. Remember that deer don’t read “don’t eat” lists and in difficult times will eat just about anything: “Deer Country 2.”

2. Study deer-resistant lists anyway, and select plants you’d like to try. Ask your neighbors what works for them: “Deer Country 3.”

3. Be a persistent sprayer if you use deer-resistant sprays: “Deer Country 3.”

'Clover's sweet, dear, but wait until you taste hostas'
4. All things considered, often a deer-resistant fence is a realistic solution: “Deer Country 5 & 7.”

5. Plant resistant varieties. For shrubs: “Deer Country 8.” For trees: “Deer Country 9.” For annual flowers: “Deer Country 10.” For perennial flowers: “Deer Country 11, 12, 13, & 14.”

'First one to run loses the does'
6. Protect shrubs and young trees up to the “browse line,” which is about 5’: “Deer Country 6 & 7.”

 This completes “Deer Country” postings based on the Power Point program that I created and which fellow Master Gardener Donna W. and I present to gardeners in Howard County (Maryland) and nearby counties. From time to time, as new information becomes available, I’ll post a new “Deer Country Extra,” so please check back occasionally.

'Do I smell tulips?'
Remember that once you find a “Deer Country” posting, you can easily find all the others. Go to the end of any posting and find the line listing “Labels” for that posting. Click on “DeerCountry” and you’ll get a list of all “Deer Country” postings, beginning with the most recent. If you get to what seems to be the last posting but it’s not number one, look for a tab that says “Older Posts.”

You might be interested to know that the most-read “Deer Country” posting to date (March 20) is “Deer Country 6: Eating & Rubbing Shrubs & Trees,” with more than 120 page views. For all postings on AncientGardenerBlog, more than 95% of readers live in the United States, but they also come from the United Kingdom, Canada, and Russia and occasionally from Germany, India, Slovenia, Australia, China, and Ukraine, according to statistics that BlogSpot automatically records.

I hope you have learned information about deer and veggies, shrubs, trees, and flowers that will help you grow the gardens you’d like to have even though you live in Deer Country.

'The End'

Friday, March 18, 2011

Power of Positive Blooming

What a day! Sunny, slight breeze, temperature peaking at 77.4°F.

And three varieties of daffodils—their names long since forgotten—celebrated the perfect, near-spring day by opening their first blooms.

Yellow. Yellow and white. Miniature.

Beautiful. Delightful. Power of positive blooming.

All’s right in my garden today.

Kill Those Flowers!


What flowers are blooming in your garden today—crocuses and hairy bittercress?

We usually grab our Canons and fire away at our crocuses—and ignore our hairy bittercress.

But to ignore hairy bittercress is a big mistake!

Hairy bittercress
Hairy bittercress (Cardamine hirsuta) is one of several winter weeds that are blooming right now. Even though the soil was just a tad too damp from the previous rain, I got out my hoe yesterday and started uprooting, decapitating, and otherwise killing the blooming winter weeds in our veggie and flower gardens. To kill them now means eliminating another year’s crop of winter weed seeds that will sprout this fall, winter over, and grow on any late-winter, sunny day.

A week ago I noticed small hairy bittercress plants starting to put up flower stalks. When I attacked them yesterday afternoon with my hoe, they were at least double in height and width and covered with white flowers. Within days they would have begun going to seed. The seeds would have dried in their coiled seed casings ready for me, my hoe, or a passing animal to touch them. The capsules then would “explode,” showering seeds up to nine feet, effectively sowing seeds for the next generation of the weed.

Mouseear chickweed
So I hoed hairy bittercress and other winter weeds, such as mouseear chickweed, trying to knock the still sticky soil off their roots so they would dry and die. It may shower on Saturday, so with hoe in hand I'll have to check in about a week to see if any have tried to re-root.

When it comes to winter weeds, I’d rather spend an hour and a half hoeing them as young plants in mid-March than spending three or four hours hoeing, digging, pulling, and carrying them away as mature plants in April or May.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Ceramic Pigs, Polyester Bees?

Yes, I have ceramic pigs—gifts of friends who think my pig collection should always expand. Some are banks, of course. Others are, well, just pigs. And, yes, I have big pigs, little pigs, plastic, iron, wooden, concrete, coal, and crystal pigs, bookends with pigs, candles in jars topped by pigs—and pigs on calendars, greeting cards, and post cards. I have hundreds of pigs.

And polyester bees? I don't have one.  I hadn’t heard about them until I read Patterson’s Clark “Urban Jungle” column, “Born inside a plastic bag,” in the Washington Post.

Seems the small bee secretes the biodegradable polyester to line her egg cells. Our landfills could benefit from biodegradable plastic, so scientists are trying to figure out how the bee makes its polyester.

Clark’s eleven paragraphs will make you an expert on polyester bees. To read his column, CLICK HERE.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Birds: How Many Do Cats Kill?

Cat food?

We all know that cats kill birds, right? Seems that’s the natural order of things. But how many birds do free-roaming cats kill each year?

The estimated 77 million pet cats—two thirds of which are allowed outside—kill an estimated 500 million birds each year in the United States, according to a recent report. About the same number of undomesticated (feral) cats also kill an estimated 450 million.

This bird lover says, “Hey, cat lovers, we know you love your cats, but hug them close and keep them inside always.”

Reminds me of a winter day about 20 years ago when I was watching a chickadee at our birdfeeder and in a blur a neighbor’s free-roaming cat grabbed the bird. I dashed out the door, grabbed a brick, and went in hot pursuit of the cat … around the corner of our house … across the street … up the neighbor’s driveway … through the carport.

The neighbor’s cat apparently had never been chased by a bird lover. In its rapid retreat, the cat abandoned the chickadee, which bounced off the ground and flew away.

The cat cleared “its” fence in a graceful leap and disappeared somewhere in its home territory. That’s where I stopped—at the fence, huffing and puffing, clutching the brick in my right hand.

Just then the neighbor, a friend, opened the door and exclaimed at what he must have considered a very strange sight, “Bob, what are you doing?”

“Oh, Harold,” I said. “I’m trying to put this brick through your cat’s head.”

The conversation quickly improved as we discussed the situation and possibilities. The neighbor, though, said he didn’t think it a good idea to put a bell on the cat because the bell might get caught in a shrub or on a fence and their cat might strangle. He also thought their cat was clever enough that it could move without ringing the bell. But after thinking it over later, they belled their cat. I restacked my brick.

Here at Meadow Glenn we don’t have neighbors with free-roaming cats. However, over the past few years, since a nearby farm shut down, from time to time we’ve seen four cats that have gone wild. They seem to know that people inside a house looking out are “OK” but people opening a door are “bad.”

For several days this past winter I watched one tough-looking gray-and-white cat creeping stealthily along a line of junipers toward our bird feeders just after dawn. When I opened the front door, the cat was gone in a flash—either into the woods or into the hedgerow at the far side of the next property.

In recent weeks, after the rains, I've noticed cat footprints on the asphalt near our bird feeders. Last week, when I was doing pre-spring cleanup work in the front yard, I found the feathers of a titmouse.

Hmm. Cat victim? Or did a hawk do it?

Cat lovers, cat haters, and everyone in between should read “Suburban birds have archenemy: Your cat,” by Darryl Fears in the Washington Post. I didn’t see the article because I usually skip the page where it appeared, the obituary page, which, on second thought, seems the proper placement. Thanks, blog reader, for alerting me.

To read the article, CLICK HERE.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Remember the Phone Number for Weather?

When we hopped out of bed in the morning and wanted to know what the weather was going to be in the Washington, D.C., area, we called 936-1212. When the electricity went off and we wanted to reset our clocks, we called 844-1212.

People in the metro area have been calling weather and time numbers for 72 years, but current callers are getting an additional message. Verizon, the local phone company, says it is dropping those services June 1.


It’s not hard to figure out.

When I boot up my computer in the morning, a “” desktop page tells me what the weather for our zip code will be, and I can click on tabs that give me forecasts for up to 10 days, which is much more information than the telephone message contains. Also, the time appears at the bottom right corner of my computer screen.

Perhaps you get similar services on your cell phone, you iPad, or your iWhatchamacallit. One local radio station, WTOP News, reports weather every 10 minutes, “On the Eights.” Our cable system includes the “Weather Channel,” which gives 24/7 updates, with the time also displayed on the screen.

When was the last time I called the time number? I can’t remember.

When was the last time I called the weather number? I can’t remember.

Not everyone, of course, is happy with these untimely storm clouds that will change their daily routines. Ellen calls Weather every morning, though beginning June 1 I imagine she’ll be calling elsewhere: “Bob, what’s the forecast for today?”

The telephone weather service began in 1939, when C&P Telephone operators began reading short, government forecasts. Of course you’re probably thinking, “Most of those operators long ago were replaced by new ways of communicating.”

Well, yes they were. And now time and weather numbers will join them, unless another sponsor agrees to pick up the bill.

For the sake of the good old days, for history, shouldn’t you call the weather number one last time before June 1?


Monday, March 14, 2011

Indian Corn: More than Ornamental?

Indian corn, often called “ornamental” corn, with its bright blue, red, yellow, and white colors, makes beautiful autumn decorations. In her “A Cook’s Garden” column in the Washington Post, Barbara Damrosch tells why she thinks it’s more important than a rustic decoration to hang on your front door.

To read the Damrosch column, CLICK HERE.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Deer Country 14: More Summer & Fall Perennial Flowers & Grasses

Goldfinch feeds on lavender

This “Deer Country” will make the final additions to the lists of perennials flowers that Howard County Master Gardeners in a survey said their deer herds don’t eat.

Why do I prefer perennial flowers to annuals? The four silvery-gray lavender plants (Lavandula spp.) outside my study window give the answer. I planted them in 2005, and except for an annual pruning to remove dead wood and to shape them, they’re essentially maintenance free. ‘Munstead,’ the variety, blooms off and on from spring into fall attracting myriads of pollinators. And later American goldfinches come to dine when the seed heads develop. Deer ignore it, perhaps because of its strong fragrance. Lavender likes sun but not “wet feet,” so it won’t do well in your garden wet spots.

Threadleaf coreopsis (Coreopsis spp.), also known as tickseed, comes in a variety of colors, the most common being the traditional yellow and the newer pink. Over the years I’ve bought pots of yellow and pink. I haven’t paid much attention to them, but now, years later, they still grow here and there in my garden because they self-seed. My theory about their deer resistance is that their leaves are so fine that deer just can’t be bothered browsing them. I have also planted wide-leaf varieties, which the deer browsed from time to time.

Bumblebee feeding on butterfly weed
Butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa) loves the sun, and pollinators love its cluster of orange or yellow flowers. In addition to its deer resistance, perhaps its other claim to fame is that it is the food plant of the larva of the monarch butterfly. Monarch butterfly organizations often urge gardeners to plant “feeding stations” with several varieties of this plant. After I see the yellow, black, and white striped monarch caterpillars munching on the leaves of our butterfly weeds, I try to remember later to look for their jade chrysalises. Gardeners generally don’t buy weeds, so nurseries now label this “Butterfly Plant.”

Monarch butterfly caterpillar eating butterfly weed

Russian sage
Russian sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia), a member of the mint family, is a new plant in our front garden. I had seen it on several lists of deer-resistant plants and decided to try it. I planted it last spring, and though I often see hoof prints all around it, the bambits haven’t browsed a leaf. Foliage is bluish-green with delicate blue flowers. Directions suggest cutting back to 4”-6” in the spring. Ultimately it will double in size to 3’ high by 2’ wide. Deer often avoid members of the mint family, perhaps because of their strong fragrance and taste.

Mistaken identity has kept one native flower out of gardens. Many people think goldenrod (Solidago spp.) causes hay fever, but it doesn’t. The culprit is ragweed, which also blooms in the fall. Breeders in recent years have introduced new varieties of this yellow-flowered plant. Ours is ‘Golden Fleece,’ which I bought at an end-of-season sale in 2003, and it’s been growing well in Deer Country with just a late-winter cutting back.

Sweet autumn clematis
Years ago I planted seedlings of sweet autumn clematis (Clematis terniflora) by seven posts of the split-rail fence that encloses our hillside backyard. I cut it to about 12” in late February or early March, and by mid-summer it covers about 50’ of the fence. Its matted, deep-green leaves help block the deer from seeing flowers and veggies inside the fence. Thousands of highly fragrant, white blooms cover the vines in late summer. During the regular growing season, deer don’t sample the green leaves, though when food is scarce in winter, they sometimes browse on the dead leaves from the previous year.

Fountain grass in fall
Lists of deer-resistant plants often add “ornamental grasses.” We have a row of fountain grass (Pennisetum setaceum) on the outside of our backyard fence, and the deer don’t browse it. We have ‘Elijah Blue’ fescue (Festuca glauca) as accent plants in our front gardens, and the deer ignore it. Why? I think ornamental grasses are too tough for the deer to browse easily.

Fountain grass grows in clumps to about 3’ tall. Many gardeners cut it back to near-ground level after the plants die back in the fall, but I let ours stand until late winter to add character to our wintertime views. Also, in late fall and early winter we enjoy watching chipping sparrows land near the seed heads and peck away as the blades sink to the ground under the weight of the tiny birds.

Tufts of 'Elijah Blue' in front of birdbath
‘Elijah Blue’ is a great accent or front-border plant. Its thin leaves make bluish mounds 6” or so high, with seed heads rising above the tufts. This plant self-seeds, so I let a few seedlings grow so I can use them to replace older plants or to add an accent in another bed. ‘Elijah Blue’ is often “bluest” when growing in the sunniest locations. Deer don’t eat it—but another country critter likes it for a reason other than food. Several times we’ve found that a female rabbit has made a fur-lined, shallow burrow under an ‘Elijah Blue’ tuft to hide her young.

Note: Remember there are no guarantees that deer in your neighborhood won’t eat the plants listed here. There is no “deer-proof” plant. Browsing depends on many things, including number of deer, availability of other foods, and preferences of individual deer. If you’re serious about finding plants that deer won’t eat, check the lists in the brochure and the books I recommended in “Deer Country 3” and in lists available online. Pick out two or three possibilities and give them a try.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Just Worn-Out Potholders?

“Let’s get rid of these old potholders,” Ellen said.

Yes, they needed to go. They were old, threadbare in places, several blackened from close encounters with glowing stove-top coils.

So there they were—five worn-out potholders—in the kitchen trash can when I emptied it before our weekly Friday trash pickup.

I had to smile. I remembered how Brian—or was it Lynn—or both of them—had woven them on a tiny frame from pre-packaged loops so many years ago. Was it 1970? 1972? I really cannot guess.

But as I turned them over, I just couldn’t bear the thought of them all resting in some landfill. They are “family.” They’ve served us well—actually my favorites for everyday use, which is probably why they’re so worn.

I examined all five, turning and inspecting them. I put the worst three back into the trash.

I folded the best two and put them back into the potholder drawer next to the stove, way in the back, under the newer potholders.

I just couldn’t throw them all away.


Happy memories.

Brian and Lynn.

Thank you, kids.

We love you.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Stink Bug Update

Not another stink bug!

On a cool day we catch two or three brown marmorated stink bugs inside our house. On a warm day we catch up to 10. We’ve caught hundreds over the winter, dropping them into jars of soapy water.

Quite frankly, we’re tired of them crawling here and there and everywhere. We’re tired of wiping their fecal stains from windows, walls, and floors. We’re tired of them sucking the goodness from our summertime tomatoes, raspberries, and blackberries.

Enough is enough! What can we do?

Here’s the latest update from the IPM (Integrated Pest Management) Garden Center of the University of Maryland Extension. The four-page fact sheet contains sections on life cycle, feeding habits, protecting indoor plants, dealing with them inside, outdoor control options, and current research.

The fact sheet includes a chart of garden products that may repel or kill stink bugs, at least temporarily, and color photographs of the insect's eggs and first and third developmental stages (instars).

If the stink bugs have been bugging you in your house or in your garden, take five minutes to read this fact sheet. CLICK HERE.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Want to Start Garden Seeds Inside?

Tomato seedlings

Have you been thinking about getting a head start on summer 2011 gardening by starting veggie, herb, or flower seeds inside?

The University of Maryland Extension’s Grow It Eat It (GIEI) program has just posted how-to-do-it information to help you: a series of five articles and five videos.

The text series is called “Starting Seeds Indoors.” The five parts are: (1) Getting Started; (2) Containers and Growing Medium; (3) Plant the Seeds of Your Success; (4) Transplant Care; and (5) Hardening—Getting Transplants Ready for Outdoors.

The video series features Kent Phillips, a Howard County Master Gardener, who shows how he starts seeds under lights in his basement. The five parts (with time) are: (1) Timeline (2:06); (2) Materials (3:34); (3) Planting (4:53); (4) Care of Seedlings (2:45); and (5) Transplanting (2:27).

If you are a first-time seed starter, I recommend you read the text series and then look at the video series. The text will give you more comprehensive basic information, and the videos will show you how to put that information to work growing plants for your summer garden.

I’ll post a link to the GIEI website at the end of this posting. For the print series, when you get to the GIEI home page, look for the “Grow It” section at the top of the left column. Click on “Starting Seeds Indoors,” and then you will be able to click on each posting in the series. For the video series, look for the second section of entries, “Get Resources,” in the left column, and click on “Videos.” The seed-starting series tops the list.

Ready to start? To go to the GIEI website, CLICK HERE.