Category Archives: Plants

Lavender in Missouri

I have tried to grow lavender numerous times over the years with poor results.
The problem is that I top-dress with compost every couple of years to create rich soil and I water when necessary with a sprinkler. Most of my butterfly plants thrive under these conditions, but not lavender.

Veronica – a good lavender substitute

Veronica and perennial salvia are great substitutes that will have two bloom periods if you cut them back in July.

If you still want to try and grow lavender, here are some notes from the Mo. Extension Service.

  • Control the amount of water going to the plants. Keep it on the dry side.
  • Use raised beds ….at least 12 inches.
  • Try different cultivars.
  • Plan on losses – 20% to 25%
  • Plants do well in hot and dry weather.
  • They use weed cloth to reduce weeding.
  • They also have training available during the year.
  • There is a good section in the video below on propagation.

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Pruning in May

Ironweed in good soil.

Also known as the Chelsea Chop, cutting back certain plants by 1/3 to 1/2 is a common practice to maintain control and size in the garden.

One of the things I’ve noticed with native plants is that when you find them in parks with poor native soils, lots of competition, no extra water other than the rain and certainly no fertilizer, they seem to maintain a diminished size. Once you buy that same plant and put it into good garden soil with compost, fertilizer, lots of space and plenty of water, the native turns from dwarf to GIANT. In the past, I end up staking many of these plants just so they don’t fall over.

I am making a conscious effort this year, around May 15th, to cut back all of these giants by 1/2.

Here’s a list of plants which I plan to trim back.

  • Downy Skullcap (Scutellaria incana)
  • Echnacea purprea – Purple coneflower – only doing this with some so I can get some later blooms.
  • Helianthus silphioides – Silphium Sunflower – 2020 N
  • Heliopsis helianthoides – Ox-eye Sunflower
  • New England Aster
  • Oligoneuron rigidum – Rigid Goldenrod
  • Salvia – cutting back half of the plants.
  • Senna marilandica – Wild Senna 
  • Shasta Daisy – I’m also going to try this with part of my plants to see if I can get some later blooms.
  • Solidago rigida or Oligoneuron rigidum – Rigid Goldenrod
  • Vernonia p. Ironweed 
  • Veronica – cutting back half of the plants.

Here’s a video on the technique.

Technique #2 – Pinching Your Plants

Many annuals and some perennials can have more branches and blossoms by simply cutting back the main stems – called pinching since you can use your fingers to make the cut.

When you pinch the main stems, you usually force the plant to send out side shoots which will make the plant bushier and increase flower production.

Here’s a good video on the process.

Technique #3 – Chop half the plants.

October 4, 2020

I noticed one year that the bunnies had taken a liking to some of my echinacea and kept them trimmed low most of the early part of the season. While most of my echinacea bloomed normally, the bunny-trimmed echinacea bloomed later in the summer and into the fall. I thought I’d try this technique by chopping back half of my echinacea so I theoretically will have echinacea blooming all year round.

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Pruning in May

Ironweed in good soil.

Also known as the Chelsea Chop, cutting back certain plants by 1/3 to 1/2 is a common practice to maintain control and size in the garden.

One of the things I’ve noticed with native plants is that when you find them in parks with poor native soils, lots of competition, no extra water other than the rain and certainly no fertilizer, they seem to maintain a diminished size. Once you buy that same plant and put it into good garden soil with compost, fertilizer, lots of space and plenty of water, the native turns from dwarf to GIANT. In the past, I end up staking many of these plants just so they don’t fall over.

I am making a conscious effort this year, around May 15th, to cut back all of these giants by 1/2.

Here’s a list of plants which I plan to trim back.

  • Downy Skullcap (Scutellaria incana)
  • Echnacea purprea – Purple coneflower – only doing this with some so I can get some later blooms.
  • Helianthus silphioides – Silphium Sunflower – 2020 N
  • Heliopsis helianthoides – Ox-eye Sunflower
  • New England Aster
  • Oligoneuron rigidum – Rigid Goldenrod
  • Salvia – cutting back half of the plants.
  • Senna marilandica – Wild Senna 
  • Shasta Daisy – I’m also going to try this with part of my plants to see if I can get some later blooms.
  • Solidago rigida or Oligoneuron rigidum – Rigid Goldenrod
  • Vernonia p. Ironweed 
  • Veronica – cutting back half of the plants.

Here’s a video on the technique.

Technique #2 – Pinching Your Plants

Many annuals and some perennials can have more branches and blossoms by simply cutting back the main stems – called pinching since you can use your fingers to make the cut.

When you pinch the main stems, you usually force the plant to send out side shoots which will make the plant bushier and increase flower production.

Here’s a good video on the process.

Technique #3 – Chop half the plants.

October 4, 2020

I noticed one year that the bunnies had taken a liking to some of my echinacea and kept them trimmed low most of the early part of the season. While most of my echinacea bloomed normally, the bunny-trimmed echinacea bloomed later in the summer and into the fall. I thought I’d try this technique by chopping back half of my echinacea so I theoretically will have echinacea blooming all year round.

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60 Days from Now

Hard to believe with bitter cold and snow on the ground, but this is what we’ll see in sixty days.

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3 Bloomers – 1 Area

One of my goals is to have as many blooming plants and as much color throughout the year. Here is a plan which is working well for me.

March – April
Virginia bluebells.

They come back every year and disappear back into the soil. Scatter the seed around when they are done blooming.

May – June
Annual Poppies

They will reseed themselves, but I choose to save a lot of the seed and plant them again around April 1st.

July to Frost
Salvia – Lady in Red – annual.

These will also reseed themselves and germinate around July 1st.

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Late Winter Seeds

One of the tests I am doing right now is to see if late winter seeds that I collect March 1st still have the ability to germinate.

Echinacea pods with lots of seeds
80 seed pods collected March 1st.
Seeds and Fluff Extracted

I have now planted ten seeds inside under lights and the rest of the seeds were planted outside on March 1st.

March 10 – 3 inside seeds have germinated.

Echinacea collected and planted March 1st
June 2020 – Seeds are doing well.

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South Facing Basement Wall

If you have a basement with a south facing wall, then you are in luck. I have a couple of different plants that wouldn’t live if they were just out in the garden alone, but with the extra heat, they can over-winter and come back every year with no work on your part.

Here are a couple of plants which have come back reliably for the last five years.

Black-Blue Salvia – hummingbird favorite
Lantana – Miss Huff or Star Landing
Note – May 1st and they are just showing

For schools, try and use a south wall for the garden and put the more tender plants up close to the wall.

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Goldenrod – the Good and the Bad

With Solidago or Goldenrod you have lots of different choices when you go to the nursery and it’s hard to know which variety to buy. I have bought many, if not all local varieties and most of them look like the type below. I don’t know exactly which species this is, but I do know that the school kids and myself have a lot of work to do. You not only have to dig it out, but also make sure that you don’t leave any runners or pieces of runners in the ground. This is a good reason to be very careful when you buy plants for a school garden. Don’t put in any plant which is aggressive and will take over an area.

Many varieties of solidago in a home garden will take over an area and spread via runners and rhizomes which grow at a prolific pace. If you look at the size of the stalks left behind, these plants get at least five foot tall and many times will flop over. Nothing else has a chance when it has taken over an area.

I have finally found a nice variety that stays in place and looks gorgeous in the fall – Solidago sphacelata – Golden Fleece.

This variety only gets 24 inches tall and grows at a slow pace.

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Zinnias – My Favorites

While I have grown zinnias for many years, almost all of them suffer from bad mildew at some point in the season. Many times, they look so bad that I end up pulling them from the garden.

I have found three versions which seem to be resistant to mildew.

Zinnia – Forecast from Burpee.com $5.99 for 50 seeds.
zinnia-forecast-600

I started these in mid-June and they not only have been blooming ever since, but even though they have been surrounded by plants with mildew, these flowers have not caught the disease. They claim to have different colors, but most of mine are shades of pink. I direct seeded these into the garden.

Zinnia angustifolia – Yellow – Summerhill Seeds. $2.50 for 50 seeds.

zinnia-angustifolia-800These zinnias only grow 12-18 inches tall and don’t develop mildew.
They seem to come true from seed and they are easy to germinate.  I planted some seeds in my beds and they came up just fine.

 My final favorite is Profusion Zinnia.

zinnia-profusion-800Park Seed or your favorite nursery will probably have these. They have larger flowers than Angustifolia, but are about the same height. You can see the difference in the above photo.

 

 

 

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New Plants in April

shelves-rollers-600 (1)

In St. Louis, Missouri, April is always a month for safety first when it comes to new plants. Many new plants that I buy or have started in the basement are much better off outside, but with temperatures below freezing at times, you have to figure out how to protect the plants.

I don’t plant until after May 1st, so I have to keep on top of the weather for all of April.

Here is one way I use to protect my plants.
I put them on a rolling shelf unit. When the temperature is above 45 degrees, I roll out the plants and give them water and sunshine. I don’t put them in full sun all day, but will start them out in sunshine and then move them to a shady area.

At night when the temperatures go below 40 degrees, I bring them inside the garage for protection.

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