Friday, March 31, 2006

Annie's Annuals

Finally sifting through the last of my garden show finds. From the Annie's Annuals booth, we have:

Limnanthes douglasii 'Meadow Foam'--low-growing wildflower, dense, spreading mat, self-sows. I'm hoping it'll be a good chicken plant. Quick--what's low-growing, spreading (or borderline invasive), flowering, and likes Pacific Northwest climates? Whatever it is, I need it for the chicken yard.

'Morello Cherry' lupin. They say these actually live on the West Coast, where we all drool over you East Coast people and your swaths of Russell hybrids. Hmph. We'll see. I only bought one. At $7.95, I can't take the heartbreak of losing a dozen.

Madia elegans densiflora--big, yellow, happy daisy-like thing that self-sows. California native. What's not to like? Did I mention it gets to be 3 feet tall? Yeah, baby!

Coreopsis gigantea 'Giant Sea Dahlia'--oh, man, this plant is a trip. Your basic coreopsis except that flowers bloom on this thick, succulent trunk. Annie describes it as "straight out of Dr. Seuss" and she's right. Silly and weird.

More grasses. Always more grasses. I decided to plant two or three as an experiment and ended up planting two or three a week. Where will it end? I like Chionochloa rubra 'New Zealand Snow Grass." Big, peachy-gold, elegant.

What they did not have at the show but I am lusting after (damn that print catalog!): Cosmos 'Apricot' if you can believe it...

and nasturtium 'Margaret Long,' named after the woman who discovered it in her Irish garden 100 years ago. Margaret, I could kiss you! (Well, not now. But 100 years ago I would have.)

Thursday, March 30, 2006

The Terminte that Ate Houston, and Other Gardening Urban Legends

The tall tale started, as all good tall tales do, in Texas. Homeowners in Houston circulated this warning on the Internet: “After the hurricane in New Orleans many trees were blown over. These trees were then turned into mulch and the state is trying to get rid of tons and tons of this mulch to any state or company who will come and haul it away. So it will be showing up in Home Depot and Lowes at dirt cheap prices with one huge problem; Formosan Termites will be the bonus in many of those bags.”

The warning had all the hallmarks of a great urban legend: A real catastrophic event (Katrina), combined with a plausible scenario (downed trees and construction debris getting shredded by the ton), result in an extremely icky consequence to unsuspecting suburban homeowners. Open a bag of mulch from the hardware store and hundreds of termites will come running out and head straight for your foundation! I can just imagine the headlines: Katrina Termites Devour Texas Neighborhood.

There’s just one problem, of course. It’s not true. Sometimes I just delete these kind of alarmist Internet warnings without a second thought, but often I’ll go to or and find out the facts so that I can throw a wet blanket on the fears of the worried aunt or neighbor who sent it to me.

In this case, there are any number of reasons why homeowners don’t need to worry about termites in their mulch. A strict quarantine has been imposed in the areas affected by the hurricane. It’s unlikely that termites could survive the mulch experience—shredding, mixing, bagging, transporting. Finally, large chain stores like the ones listed above are most likely to monitor the supply chain for problems like this.

That’s not to say that all mulch is entirely sterile, or that it should be. After all, the reason gardeners use mulch is that it adds organic matter, including some microscopic living creatures, to the garden. In other words, we want mulch and compost to be “alive.” But if you’ve ever bought shredded yard waste or slash from a guy with a pickup truck and a chipper, you know that it can come with a few added bonuses in the form of weed seeds, plant disease, pesticide residue, and even, in the case of one Arcata gardener I know, the spores of a certain illegal and hallucinogenic mushroom. (“Really, officer! It was in the mulch!”) And this is what makes an urban legend so much fun. It’s theoretically possible.

That got me wondering about other garden-related urban legends. I found several that contain at least a grain of truth, and I bring them to you courtesy of the fine people at

Cocoa mulch can kill your pets: True. Well, sort of. Cocoa mulch is made from the shells of cocoa beans. It’s a lovely dark brown color, it helps smother weeds and hold garden soil in place, and it smells like chocolate. What’s not to like? A compound in chocolate called theobromine that is toxic to dogs, for one thing. Now, many dogs will simply avoid anything containing chocolate, and other dogs will eat a small amount that may make them sick but not kill them. Still, if you’ve got a dog who might munch on your landscape, try another kind of mulch. And if your dog does get sick from eating cocoa mulch, dash to the vet. The ASPCA’s website contains several recommendations for treating poisoned dogs, so it’s not a lost cause.

Exploding cactus spews baby tarantulas (or scorpions): False—mostly. There are many variations on this story about a man who brought back a cactus from Mexico, planted it in his garden, and enjoyed it for several months until one day when the cactus burst open and hundreds of tarantulas were flung around the garden. This story appears to be false, and in fact spiders are not known to lay eggs inside a plant. Even if they did, the plant would not explode when the eggs hatched. A scorpion might hang out under or in a cactus, but again, it would not burst apart and scatter hundreds of little garden terrorists. In fact, while any kind of insect might try to hitch a ride on any kind of plant, this is really not the sort of thing you should lose sleep over.

Man Threatens Violence to Get Police to Respond to Garden Theft: False, with some exceptions. I love this story because it contains all of the other elements of a good urban legend, and throws a garden thief into the mix. The story goes that a man noticed someone rummaging around his garden shed late at night. He called the police, but was told that all patrols were busy and he should lock his door. An officer would come when one was available.

He called back thirty seconds later and said, “Hello. I just called you a few seconds ago because there were people in my shed. Well, you don’t have to worry about them now because I’ve just shot them all.” Officers were on the scene in five minutes and they caught the burglars. One officer said, “I thought you said you’d shot them!”

The man replied, “I thought you said there was nobody available.”

Funny story. Not true. But after the tall tale circulated, a minister in Odessa decided to give it a try when he was frustrated at the lack of response to a reported break-in at his church. It didn’t go so well. The pastor was charged with filing a false report and has posted bail while he awaits trial.

Or at least, that’s the story I heard.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Seed Ballz

Something else I'm trying out from the garden show: these little clay balls impregnated with seeds. Last year I picked a few up at the Seattle show and they did nothing for me, so when I saw the booth in San Francisco and said that I'd tried them and they didn't work out, the woman immediately pressed a replacement into my hands. I like that attitude!

The idea is that you just toss these around the garden--no digging--and water until the little guys are well-established. They have photos of beautiful bunches of flowers springing from these things. Maybe I didn't water enough last time. It's raining nonstop here now, so that shouldn't be a problem. Chives seemed like a particularly good use of this idea, since you want them to grow in clumps anyway.

Check them out herePosted by Picasa

Friday, March 24, 2006

A New Toy from the Garden Show

I've seen these upside-down tomato growing contraptions around for a couple years now, but somehow they just didn't capture my imagination. Growing tomatoes upside down? Why bother? Either grow them in the ground, the way they were meant to be grown, or not at all.

The problem is that for me, it's been "not at all." I live so close to the ocean that it's always cool and foggy. Even in the warmest summer months, temps rarely reach 75. It's just impossible to grow tomatoes in this kind of fog. Also, this area just seems naturally prone to all kinds of soil-borne diseases that affect tomatoes. Even if I nurse the plants along and get big green fruit, the whole plant turns black and wilts away before anything ripens. Heartbreaking, because I used to love growing tomatoes. Now I have to content myself with cabbage and potatoes--not nearly as much fun.

But last weekend at the San Francisco Garden Show, the people selling these Topsy Turvy hang-your-tomatoes-upside-down contraptions really had their sales pitch fine-tuned for people who garden in the fog. The advantages were easy to see:

1. No contact with the dirt means much less likelihood of soil-borne diseases.

2. Hanging the plant upside-down helps with air circulation, again cutting down on disease.

3. Easier to position the plant in a place where it will get full sun. Mine are going against a south-facing fence that is never in the shade.

4. Fill the bag with the absolute best potting soil money can buy. Add worm castings and really fabulous organic fertilizer. Then you continue to fertilize and add water from the top, which is actually the base of the root system, where the plants need it the most.

See? This is kind of cool, isn't it? I bought two.

Well, it's my last resort. I haven't planted tomatoes in a couple of years, figuring it was cheaper and less heartbreaking to just buy them at the farmers market. But here I go again. Now, what should I try? I'm thinking about cramming a Sungold and yellow pear together into one and growing a big fabulous Brandywine or Black Krim in the other.

I found the Topsy-Turvy planters for sale online at Gardeners Supply Company--follow this link and they'll give you 15% offPosted by Picasa

Thursday, March 23, 2006

More Highlights from the Garden Show

Today's feature: a yard caddy that allows you to push a big ol' trash can around the garden with lots of attachments for tools and gear. Similar attachments for wheelbarrows, smaller trash cans, etc. The photo doesn't do it justice, but it's...well...large. Sort of a big, powerful, whip-the-garden-into-shape machine. Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

More Wonders from the Garden Show

A fake lawn! Notice the sign in the background: "No Watering or Fertilizing Ever Again."

Well, yeah. 'Cause it's...uh...plastic.

Can't these people go live in apartments? Seriously, if the only thing you can think of to do with the land around your house is to cover it in plastic grass, let somebody else live there. Go enjoy the high-density urban lifestyle that we all wish we could embrace so as to preserve open space and farmland around our cities, but don't because we have to have that little piece of land around us.

But you--you with the plastic grass--you're perfectly cut out for city life! Walk to work. Choose from twenty different kinds of Chinese take-out. Attend poetry readings on Tuesday nights. Do yoga on a rooftop. Turn your nose up at the stifling, bland suburbs you once inhabited.

And when you're in the mood for grass, go to the park and sink your toes into the real thing. Posted by Picasa

Write an essay, win a flower shop

Ever dreamed of becoming a florist? Now's your chance. Write a clever essay, mail in your entry fee, and you just might end up with a flower shop in Florida.

Are you a budding florist? Palm Beach Gardens shop is yours for $100 with write stuff: South Florida Sun-Sentinel

Monday, March 20, 2006

Tobacco in the Garden?

Takoma Gardener is on a tear about Jerry Baker and his questionable gardening advice. Reminds me of a story I wrote years ago about buying tobacco in an attempt to follow his recipe. It ended up being more about the experience of buying a tobacco product and less about whether or not it's a good idea to spray one of Jerry's recipes around your garden (which, for me, was a naive and never-repeated experiment), but Susan pretty much takes the man apart, horticulturally speaking. Check it out.

MetroActive Features Buying Tobacco

Wonders from the San Francisco Garden Show

I bring you this from the garden show: the Garden Auger, a sort of giant drill bit with a round blade at the end. Attach it to your drill, point it toward the ground, and watch the dirt fly. Clay gets busted up. Holes get dug. Weeds get chopped. Worms get pureed.

I gotta say, this one is really a guy thing. Cordless drills in the garden. What will they think of next? Well, tomorrow I'll show you.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

The Evils of Pollen

A couple years ago, I went to visit my cousin Colin in Minneapolis in early spring. As soon as I got into town, I developed all the symptoms of a horrible cold—sore throat, congestion, and headache. Nobody likes a sick houseguest, but I had no choice but to beg Colin to let me crawl into bed and spend my vacation doped up on cold medicine.

A few days later, feeling no better, I thought that I should at least go take a walk along the Mississippi River and see a little of the city. It was a warm, sunny day and all the trees were just beginning to come to life. Colin and I strolled along a trail next to the water, and after a few minutes, I noticed a light dusting of something on my shoulders. “What is this stuff?” I asked.

“Pollen,” she said.

I stopped and stared at her. “Pollen? I’m not sick,” I said. “I’m allergic!”

Sure enough, I had timed my visit to coincide with the glorious spring allergy season in Minneapolis. I’d never considered myself to be particularly prone to allergies, but this time I had met my match.

I’m not alone. About 50 million Americans are affected by hay fever every year. Tom Ogren, author of Allergy-Free Gardening and Safe Sex in the Garden, has a theory about why so many people suffer: gardeners and landscapers, in an attempt to be tidy, prefer to plant male trees and shrubs. The females drop fruit, leaving a mess all over the sidewalk or the lawn. But a male tree just produces nice little well-behaved flowers—that is, if your definition of “well-behaved” includes spewing plant sperm into the air for weeks on end.

It didn’t help that Dutch Elm Disease wiped out stately old American Elm trees across the country in the 1950s and 1960s. Those trees were perfect flowered, meaning that the trees’ flowers had both male and female parts, and were pollinated by insects, so they shed less pollen. When gardeners, landscapers, and civic groups replaced the diseased trees, they often chose the male varieties of various wind-pollinated trees. That means more pollen blowing around on beautiful spring weekends like the one I suffered through in Minneapolis.

Ogren told me a couple of interesting stories about pollen-producing plants last week. He once knew a family who had a huge male mulberry tree in their garden. One day, when their boy was playing down the street, the father decided to blast the tree with the hose to wash the pollen away. What they didn’t realize, Ogren said, was that when light, buoyant pollen grains get wet, “they suddenly start to germinate. Sometimes you can actually see this happen right before your eyes on a glass microscope slide if you add a drop of water. The outside of the pollen grain (the extine) is allergenic, but the inside (the entine) is much more allergenic, sometimes ten times as much so.” Both the husband and wife felt their throats close shut and had to lock themselves in the bathroom just to be able to breathe. The son spent the night at a friend’s house, and the parents actually spent the night in the bathroom.

Ogren also told me that he’d been at a party a few years ago, and a guy in his mid-twenties told him that allergies were all in people’s heads and that no pollen could make him sneeze. “There just happened to be a large male Deodar Cedar tree in the front yard of that house,” Ogren said, “and it was in full bloom. I told the guy that he was wrong and that enough pollen could make anyone sneeze. He offered to bet me five dollars that I couldn’t find any pollen that would make him sneeze in five minutes.”

He took the guy up on his bet and went outside to shake some pollen onto a piece of paper. “To my surprise,” Ogren said, “he took a crisp twenty dollar bill out of his wallet, rolled it up, and proceeded to snort all of the pollen up his nose!”

The guy didn’t sneeze. Ogren paid him his five bucks. But half an hour later, he found him in the kitchen, splashing water in his nose, sneezing uncontrollably. “I’m told he kept on sneezing for three days,” Ogren said.

Ogren’s two books address the many ways in which a plant can make a person miserable, and for both of them he uses a rating system he developed himself called OPALS (Ogren Plant-Allergy Scale). He rates plants based on the amount of pollen they produce, the duration of their pollen season, and other factors, with ten being the worst. The result is a very helpful set of guides for choosing plants that won’t exacerbate allergies. If anyone in your family is prone to allergies, just evaluating the shrubs and trees that grow near bedroom windows could make a huge difference.

A male date palm, for instance, carries an OPALS rating of nine, while a female is rates a healthy one. (Plant labels don’t identify the sex of a tree, something Ogren would like to change. Ask the staff at your nursery for help choosing a female tree if pollen is a concern.) Other popular plants with high OPALS ratings include fountain grass, male wax myrtles, and junipers. Many of the ornamental shrubs that people plant around their homes around here are low-pollen plants: fuchsia, rhododendron, princess flower, camellia, and salvia are all safe bets.

The bottom line is that your garden doesn’t have to make you miserable. Take charge of the situation. Make your plants behave. To find out more, check out Ogren’s books or visit him online.

(photo of feverfew pollen grain courtesy of Dr. Walter H. Lewis)

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

The End of the NY Flower District?

Oh, I could cry!

"Eviction notices have just gone out to merchants along 28th Street, marking the final chapter in the long demise of the flower district. "

There are not a lot of flower districts and flower markets left in this country. Like any other kind of merchandise, all the old distribution channels are crumbling. Florists order directly from growers. Customers order directly from wholesalers. Everyone orders online. Who needs a flower district?

I do, damnit. It's a glorious, crazy, crowded, dirty and beautiful place. Guys propping up willow branches against the backs of their vans and spray-painting them gold. Women staggering under the load of five dozen roses wrapped in paper. Endless vases and tools. Paper flowers, plastic flowers, dried flowers. Roses from Ecuador, lilac from Holland, protea from Australia. Whatever you want, it's there on some rusted metal shelf in one of those grimy shops.

The NY Flower District has not found a new location for itself. Is it possible that it will just be scattered, disbanded? I fear so. A wholesaler gets just a few pennies per stem. Hard to make a profit and pay Manhattan rents on that.

via Manhattan User's Guide > Archives > Flower District R.I.P.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Galleria Carnivora

Fabulous photos of carnivorous plants. Don't miss Dreams of Death on the Third Floor exhibits.

Galleria Carnivora

You know you're a hardcore gardening addict when...

On a routine trip to the hardware store, it starts to hail. This does not stop you from running over to the garden center to pick up some bulbs and plants.

The hail also does not stop you from tossing a 3 cubic-foot bale of soil conditioner into the trunk, even though this requires you to actually wrap your arms around said frozen and wet bale and waltz it over to the trunk, while ice hits the back of your neck and slides down your miserable bare skin.

Because, hey, it was on sale. Besides, just because it's hailing now doesn't mean it won't magically clear up tomorrow and turn into perfect gardening weather. Right? Back me up here! Posted by Picasa

The Gate Repair

Our gate blew over in a storm last week. This is the gate that keeps the chickens from wandering where they shouldn't go, so it's fairly important that it get back up quickly. We had a one-day break in the rain, so we went for it.

It may not be very pretty, and it's not even level, but by god, it took us all day, and that's what really counts.

Memo to self: Larger, more complex gate and fence is not going to make it through another season. Bite the bullet and call a fencing contractor this summer. We are not to be trusted with power tools without adult supervision. Posted by Picasa

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Introducing the Insta-Garden

The Park's Seed Company made the big mistake of sending me an e-mail about their new pre-planned "landscape collections." That's right, you can purchase your entire garden with just the click of a mouse. What a relief not to have to hassle with driving all the way to the nursery, choosing your own plants, and then hauling them home and deciding where they go! Today's busy homeowner doesn't have time for all that!

Park's has made it so easy by choosing a nice selection of utterly unmemorable plants that will complement any home and, for that matter, any gardener. (I have often felt that blandness is a much-underrated quality in a garden.) You'll get a couple of birch trees, some flowering cherries, a pair of Japanese maples, some daylilies, some hydrangeas, and even some ornamental grasses. It's "an ideal combination" that will provide "long-lasting color and multi-season interest."

Oh, but that's not all. You can also spend a thousand bucks on a shady landscape collection just bursting with hostas and astilbe, or, for twelve hundred, a Welcoming Driveway collection (to give you something to look at during that long trip down the driveway) that includes crepe myrtles, spirea, and 300 of something called Dwarf Mondo Grass. ("Honey, let's take a drive down the driveway today. The Dwarf Mondo Grass is supposed to be beautiful this time of year.")

There you have it, folks. Just stick those plants in the ground and you've got yourself a landscape.

Economy Landscape Collection

Friday, March 10, 2006

Mail-Order Plants

I just love it when plants arrive in the mail. First, it's pure heaven to just be sitting at your desk, slaving away, and have the nice Fed Ex man ring the bell and hand you the box of plants you'd nearly forgotten you'd ordered.

And then it's such a wonder to open the box and find these tiny, shriveled little things wrapped in plastic and newspaper, shipped halfway across the country, but somehow, miraculously, still alive. These are not the big, overblown plants you'd find in a nursery, force-fed fertilizers so they'll bloom out of season or pushed to produce big, floppy leaves so the customer feels like she's getting something for her money.

In fact, I realized as I looked at these plants that there's no way a retail nursery could have gotten five or six bucks apiece for them. They don't look like anything. But you know--and I know--that what they do have is a strong, sturdy root system and a good upbringing. That's all I care about. I don't need flowers and foliage; I can take it from here and make all that happen myself.

Isn't it funny that nursery plants look so different from mail-order plants? Mail-order nurseries must have it made--they get to focus on growing healthy, interesting plants, not arranging merchandise to make customers swoon. The catalog does the selling for them, so the actual plants are not forced to do double duty as both sales force and--well--plants.

Wouldn't it be nice if nurseries had one or two examples of the plant in full bloom so you could get a good look at it, but then they sold you healthy young bareroots that didn't look like much but would save their show for your garden?

Which leads me to wonder what else retail nurseries could do for us. As long as we're railing against magazines, garden media in general, television, and so on, let's keep talking to the nursery industry.

I get a few magazines aimed at the nursery industry. (Most of these magazines are free to qualified subscribers; as a journalist/writer, they seem willing to send them to me.) Here are some random comments--more coming in future posts.

1. Please, please stop calling your products "plant material." Oh, what an awful term! It's like publishers who refer to books as "units" when their authors arent' listening. Don't even think it!

2. Don't spend so much time agonizing over how to appeal to "women customers." It's insulting and irritating. The assumption is that male customers are the norm, and you must do something different for women.

3. Same goes for Gen X customers. Nothing irritates me more than reading comments like, "Remember, this is the generation raised on video games and TV dinners. They have short attention spans and want you to do it for them." WHAT?

4. Don't talk about something like container gardening as a trend. That's not a trend. That's putting a plant in a pot. If that's the most interesting trend you can come up with, we're in serious trouble.

5. Likewise for organics. Organic gardening is not a trend, it's a very wise approach to gardening that relieves your customers of the dubious chore of pouring carcinogens on their plants. A recent industry article began by assuring nursery owners that "the term 'organic' itself is no longer reserved for hippies in Haight-Ashbury or a handful of people building some commune in the mountains of New York." Wow. In one sentence, they managed to insult not only organic gardeners, but their own readers, the nursery owners who they assume are so backwater that they associate the term "organic" with hippies in the Haight.

I could go on. And I will. But it's Friday night, and I have a date with my husband. Posted by Picasa

Oh, hail!

You heard me--hail! and lots of it! It is gone just as quickly as it came, and now the sun is out and water is running down the street. This must come as quite a shock to the garden, which was under the impression that spring was around the corner. Snow levels are expected to drop all the way to sea level (we are 8 blocks from the harbor) and then rise slowly to 1000 feet, which is still quite a lot of snow for us.

I even dashed out and planted three of my new plants from High Country Gardens yesterday. Big mistake, I supposed. Oh well, they're from Santa Fe--they're used to cold, unpredictable winters.

Temp in the house when I woke up this morning: 41 degrees. We can't afford to run the heater all night long when we're snug under our comforter & electric bed warmer anyway. But I think 41 is an all-time indoor record for us. Posted by Picasa

Big mistake, tulip. Posted by Picasa

My tender little perennials are just LOVING this. Posted by Picasa

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Be the Change You Want to See in the World

We take a break from our regularly scheduled gardening to bring you this important announcement. I've resolved to make sure I donate at least 1% of my income to charity (that's 1% of gross--this is a moral imperative, not a tax form, and by the way, 1% of global income is what's needed to eliminate global poverty, according the UN), and I've found a couple easy ways to do it. Join me, will you?

Kiva is a new website that facilitates microloans between individuals like us in wealthy nations and entrepreneurs in poor countries. You choose a person or business, make the loan through PayPal or a credit card, and when the loan is paid back (with no interest), you can loan it out again.

I chose Maria Ramos in Honduras, who has asked for $825 for her shop that sells flowers and party favors. She's raised $600 and only needs $225 more. Wanna help put her over the top?

Local microloan/economic development agencies help find loan applicants and oversee the process. You can read success stories of loans that have been repaid here. I was in Ecuador a couple years ago and I really came to understand how a small amount of money can make a big difference. These stories prove that as well: a man in Uganda who made his living buying one cow and selling it at market, then repeating the process, used a microloan so that he could sell six cows at a time. Now, for the first time, all seven of his children have bedsheets. (After what I spent at High Country Gardens yesterday, how could I not be moved to give?)

Finally, if you'd rather give than loan, check out Global Giving, which also uses the power of the Internet to allow donors to contribute directly to small projects all over the world.

High Country Gardens

Just placed an order for some irresistable plants from High Country Gardens in Santa Fe. I know that I shouldn't plant just one of something, but it's hard to convince me to buy three or four new, untried (to me) plants when I could just try one out, and if I like it, either order more or make some divisions.

So here's what I've got on the way:

Agastache 'Ava,' which they say grows to 4-5 feet tall and 2 feet wide. Who can resist? I love these minty, slowly-spreading agastaches for their glorious colors and the fact that the blooms last a long time and even look good when they're mostly dry--they're like yarrow in that sense, and the two look great together. Also got the reddish-orange Agastache x rupestris 'Orange Flare.'

Stachys inflata, a shrubby lamb's ear--native of Iran--that can take poor soil and drought. Low-growing, which is what I need in the part of the garden the chickens spend most of their time in. I'm hoping it can survive their scratching.

Salvia reptens, West Texas grass sage, a surprisingly grassy little salvia with brilliant blue flowers. Am hoping it will look good with my new ornamental grasses. Also got a yummy hot pink Salvia penstemonoides Beardtongue Red Sage, which was thought to be extinct but is making a comeback after being re-discovered in central Texas.

A yellow pinleaf penstemon, Penstemon pinifolius 'Mersea Yellow.' Who can resist a yellow penstemon? Also got a yellow-flowered Texas yucca, Hesperaloe parviflora 'Yellow,' for the same reason. Not sure how it will do without the Texas heat, but it would also look fabulous with my new grasses so we'll see.

Narrow-leaf foxglove Digitalis obscura. I'd like about a hundred of these, but I'll start with one.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Texas Bluebonnets

We Texans look forward to the gorgeous displays of bluebonnets each spring; in fact, the standard family portrait you might see hanging in any Texan's home usually involves dressing the family up in starched white shirts and posing in a field of bluebonnets. Even though I haven't lived in my native state for about 15 years, I still think of those fields of wildflowers every spring.

Now the folks at Texas A&M are working on taming those wildflowers so they will work as a cut flower. According to this report: "Working out the problems inherent in the wildflower, which was necessary before any new varieties could be released, took seven years. Those problems included lengthening the flower, its life and its ability to hold blooms, and increasing the bloom's density and the flower's durability and greenhouse performance. " They drove all over the state to look for just the right breeding stock to create three shades of bluebonnets: blue, pink, and a near-white. The names? Texas Sapphire, Texas Ice, and Texas Sunset. Look for them soon at a florist near you.

(Texas Cooperative Extension photo by Janet Gregg)

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Sexy Flowers

Ah, UK journalists have all the fun. Consider this opening line:

"DAVID Walton’s roses are red, his violets are blue, a nun thought he ran a porn shop and two vicars did too."

As it turns out, this Amsterdam-trained florist "named his shop Sexy Flowers, an act that sparked concerns his blooms were really a cover for selling adult sex goods.

Two local vicars, a host of well-meaning members of the public and a nun all paid secret visits to the shop, believing that David may be a budding porn baron."

Ah, the life of a florist. Never a dull moment.

Salford Advertiser - New florist stems sex shop rumours