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Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Where the kitchen scraps go ...

I have to post pictures of my compost, if only for the pleasure of bragging about how beautiful it all is.


I piled it up in the wheelbarrow and went around the house putting it around my plants and shrubs (do I put it around trees too?) and for the first time, I felt like a real gardener.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Plants 101: Plant Tissues

Yesterday, I sliced open a stem of my Judd Viburnum (Viburnum juddii) and marveled at the interior, pointing out the vascular bundles and the pith, recognizing the Eudicot vascular formation of this woody angiosperm. We checked out the underside of leaves locating the stomatas. And we opened up buds of a Lilac to see next years buds set in.

Yep, no more walks in the prairie, this class is getting scientific.

Yesterday in my 3rd Plants Class, the hot topic was Plant Tissues, and after reading our "real" college textbook on the subject, we had 1 class dropout. For someone who hasn't taken a science class since 12th grade, and then usually cheated off my lab partner, I was amazed I found any of this interesting. But all a teacher has to do is promise us we can slice open things under a high powered microscopes and you get your class's attention.

If you've never studied plants before (like me) you might find all this pretty interesting. I'm sure the majority of those reading this are thinking, "Ahhh, grasshopper, you have so much to learn. He He He."

For our Plant Tissues discussion, we centered on the class Angiosperms (flowering plants) and their highly developed vascular system (the way in which they bring in water and nutrients for plant growth and development). We looked at diagrams of vascular systems both in the root and the shoot. What makes up the vascular system are complex tissues called Xylem and Phloem.

Wait, there's more!

In woody plants, such as the ones we dissected, instead of dying back each season, the vascular cambium (the secondary vascular system that woody plants have) continues to grow thus giving the woody stems girth and thickening the woody stem. (I hope I have that right).

Finally, we talked about the 2 subclasses of Angiosperms: Monocots and Eudicots. The 2 types have 2 different vascular system layouts and different veinal forms. Woody plants are always eudicots.

Oh there's more we learned (simple plant tissues, the primary meristem, epidermis and growth tissues...) and I could go on, but I don't want my blog to be a substitute for Ambient sleeping pills.

But what I do have to say is that you'll never look at your plants the same again after you've viewed them through the microscope.

Next week: Plant Nutrition & Transport and we get to dissect herbaceous plants and view soil under the microscope.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Garden Blogger's Bloom DayOctober

I totally let the 15th of the month fly by me while I was on Blog Sabbatical. But I've posted every month since February and darn it all if I'm gonna stop now!

Unfortunately, there's just not much going on. The only area that looks "alive"is my Triangle Garden. I'm tickled pink with this perennial bed because it was pretty when I moved in and then everything just went to pot. So this spring I had to replace almost everything and it really flourished.
  • The garden mum keeps coming back (and is still big and floppy despite me pruning it back all summer)
  • the grass I divided in the spring is happier then ever in bloom
  • the clustered bellflower I transplanted over the summer is blooming again
  • the irises I moved here last year are large and healthy
  • the 2 dianthus and bloody cranesbill geranium are both not dead (the dianthus doubled in size over the summer)
  • and the potentilla I moved from a shady area in the front also doubled it's size over the summer
Is there some sort of miracle-gro in this ground?!

And I am happy because I actually planted a garden bed with multi-season interest.

For more pictures of this garden over the 3 summers I've been here, click here.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Apple Trees Gone

At the last minute, I wanted to stop them and say "No, don't cut down my trees!" But that would have labeled me as the crazy lady on the street who can't make up her mind.

Nope, the trees came down last Sunday and while I was sad thinking about the good times -- the pretty white flowers in the spring -- I forced myself to think about the bad times -- the fallen rotten apples, stinking up my driveway and flower beds and attracting colonies of flies and bees from three counties.

The east side of the house now looks totally bare. And I know I need another tree to balance the FACE we made on the side of the house with the windows and direct vent (from the new fireplace). All I need here is a mouth for it to be complete!

And this is one area that's going to get an overhaul next spring -- it's been the one area of our yard I have never touched. Not for much longer.


The front of the house actually looks nice; it does feel a bit bare being able to see our neighbors better, but when I think about all the sun my plants will now be getting there, I can't wait for next spring. The site of the tree is circled in red.

To see the trees before, see my previous post.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Triangle Garden

Location: Backyard, west facing
Light: Full, part-sun
Water: Near water spigot

2005 (July photo):

  • Japanese Barberry
  • Dwarf mondo grass
  • Vinca
  • Prairie Grass
  • Purple Loosestrife
  • Ajuga

Added in August 2005:
2 hardy mums (one survived)


2006 (June photo):

  • Removed swingset and mulch.
  • A few black eyed susans appeared in the front and I left them.
  • In the Fall, I added 3 tall purple bearded irises I had divided from another area.

2007 (july photo):

  • Ajuga died back in the front, and rudbeckia grew bigger
  • Dwarf mondo grass didn't come back.
  • Pulled out Japanese barberry.
  • Divided the grass (huge hole in the middle)
  • Pulled out the majority of the vinca
  • Irises came back and 1 of them bloomed.
  • Mulched again.

Planted new in 2007:

2 pink chedder dianthus
1 eunymous 'emerald gaity'
1 potentilla from the front that didn't get much sun.
1 Bloody Cranesbill geranium 'Max Frei'
1 clustered bellflower Campanula glomerata
1 garden phlox

Purple Loosestrife, mum, & rudbeckia remained from previous yr.

2008 (july photo)
  • dianthus didn't come back (replaced with annuals and pot)
  • everything else came back healthy and in full force ... the bed was getting too small.Expanded bed a little bigger. And moved geranium down towards the fence.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Plants 101

Today was my 2nd class about "Plants"; the topic was about plant communities and we walked through the prairie restoration area of the Arboretum.

We talked about the ecosystems such as prairies, savannahs, bogs, etc; we talked about the link between plants, animals, and insects. Our reading material and the class in general really stressed how we, as gardeners, have to be sensitive to plant communities and the links between what we create and our surrounding environment. I was inspired by the environmental standpoint of the class, as opposed to "let's plant a pretty garden" frou frou.

Our walk in the prairie was rejuvenating, the tall grasses were almost as tall as we were and it felt like swimming in a sea of yellow. We identified wild sumac, compass plant, prairie clover, baptisia, leadwort, prairie dropseed (which I have in my yard), and big bluestem. I learned that most of the plants in this prairie were taken from settler cemeteries and along railroads in the country, and that without this we would have no idea what our prairie would look like because it is one of the most endangered ecosystems in the country.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Plants 101

I just started my first horticulture class this weekend. After 3 summers of taking care of this garden I thought it was time to get some real education. The Morton Arboretum has a lot of horticulture and gardening classes, even classes leading to a Home gardening certificate. I'm taking the first in the Garden Basics series called "Plants" which is the pre-req for everything else.

So I thought, since it's the Fall and there's less stuff going on in the garden, to talk about my plant classes. Boring? Well I'll try to make them interesting -- and think, if you don't know this already, it's a free education.

Our first class was learning about the "bi-nomial nomenclature" which is the latin naming of the plants. I knew that the latin names were superior to the common names, but I didn't realize that you could tell so much about the plant just by the name. For instance, you can recognize if a plant is a straight species or a cultivar, if it's a variety or a hybrid. I didn't know that the "x" means a hybrid (normally 2 species of plants put together) and a non-italicized name in ' ' means a cultivar. I would see this, but I didn't really know when it meant. I did find out that my Judd viburnum is actually a hybrid Viburnum x judii -- the x meaning hybrid. Then we took a walk in the gardens to look at all the name plaques.

I feel so much smarter already!!

Shorts Aster

I am so excited because my Shorts Aster (Aster shortii) that we got at the Native Plant Sale in April has finally bloomed. It's an October bloomer!

It began blooming early October with three stalks full of these tiny purple flowers; it's such a treat in the shady native plant garden. It really grew from the tiny plant it was in April.