Plant Geek Alert-Pink Zazzle Gomphrena

 

Pink Zazzle Gomphrena flower

Pink Zazzle Gomphrena flower

Ok, Plant Geeks of the world listen up. Have you heard of the plant genus Gomphrena, or Globe Amaranth? Yes, it is mostly a boring run of the mill plant that has the advantage of drying well. I think that is why most people like to plant it, for its quality of lasting long into the winter in dried flower arrangements – certainly not for its garden bedding characteristics. In Hawaii, they use the flowers in leis because of its lasting qualities.

Pink Zazzle at the nursery

Pink Zazzle at the nursery

Globe Amaranth is easy to grow, tolerates drought and has long-lasting flowers held on the plant for months on end.  Pink Zazzle Gomphrena has burst on the scene with a blast and not only did the flowers get a makeover, the foliage is quite beautiful with a downy coating of fur on the leaves, like a soft blanket of lambs wool.

 

pink zazzle gomphrena

Culture

Pink Zazzle will get about 12 inches tall on a well branched plant and bloom prolifically with “knock your socks off” hot pink blooms up to 3 inches across. It prefers hot sun and dry conditions. I noticed this when I first bought it and kept the plant inside. I watered the plant to keep it moist, but when the plant started to droop and looked like there was rot in the stem, I stopped watering it and it perked up. Grown indoors as a pot plant or outdoors in the garden or container, I am planting Zazzle outside in the hot sun and heat. The flowers literally last for weeks, almost drying in place on the plant.

Pink Zazzle flower

Pink Zazzle flower

 The price point of the plant will be higher than a marigold and most likely treated in the nursery as a premium annual. I planted these out last year in containers and in the ground, and though they are slow in getting going, they eventually form a nice mounding plant covered in these “strawflower” type of flowers.

I used dried Pink Zazzle blooms in this pod basket for the fall

I used dried Pink Zazzle blooms in this pod basket for the fall

According to the Proven Winners website http://www.provenwinners.com/plants/gomphrena/pink-zazzle-globe-amaranth-gomphrena-hybrid, the flowers will attract hummingbirds and butterflies and is hardy to zone 8. Growing only a foot high and wide, Pink Zazzle is perfect placed in front of a flower border.

Pink Zazzle Gomphrena likes hot dry situations

Pink Zazzle Gomphrena likes hot dry situations

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Farmer Florist-My Luscious Backyard

Sarah Nixon and daughter explaining how her business works

Sarah Nixon and daughter

There is a movement afoot to buy your flowers from local sources, instead of getting that canned arrangement sent out from FTC with the same old chemical laden flowers. Sarah Nixon of ‘My Luscious Backyard‘ made a compelling demonstration that you can grow your own flowers and foliage to make your one of a kind floral arrangements with very little space and time. Plus, create a thriving business out of it.

A beautiful example with Cafe au Lait Dahlias of Sarah's artwork

A beautiful example with Cafe au Lait Dahlias of Sarah’s artwork-permission Sarah Nixon

As a flower gardener, I always have arrangements sitting on my kitchen counter with all my cuts from my garden stuck into a vase. Visiting with Sarah Nixon and learning about her ingenious scheme of using other small neighboring plots  to grow different varieties of plants that she couldn’t fit into her small plot, was inspiring.

Dahlias planted in a yard

Dahlias planted in a yard

 

More and more at farmer’s markets, I see not only locally cut flowers, but for the many who feel inadequate at making a composed arrangement, take-home arrangements.

Just like the slow food movement, the slow flower movement has picked up steam because consumers want to buy from local sustainable farms. At least 80% of the cut flower market comes into the U.S. according to Wikipedia, from distant parts of the globe, but the shift is moving more and more to cut flower growers in the U.S.

Arrangment by Sarah Nixon- with permission by Sarah

arrangement by Sarah Nixon- with permission by Sarah

With my recent visit to Toronto with the Garden Bloggers Fling, I checked out Sarah Nixon’s operation and her jam-packed small garden in the city of Toronto. She farms her small plot along with cultivating numerous neighboring plots (with the homeowner’s permission!), to provide her burgeoning florist business with a constant in-season supply of floral cuts and treasures.

Teacup arrangement, used with permission of Sarah Nixon

Teacup arrangement, used with permission of Sarah Nixon

Locally Sarah delivers  many floral designs arranged simply and beautifully in vases, both vintage and recycled. In addition to selling her cut flowers to area florists and creating arrangements for weddings and other events, Sarah has a thriving business that started with just a few jars of flowers at a farmers market.

Small portable greenhouses get her seedlings a head start

Small portable greenhouses get her seedlings a head start

 Growing all of her own transplants from seed, corms, bulbs, and cuttings, using small portable greenhouses, and cold frames, Sarah can grow things that aren’t readily available at the local nurseries.

Dahlia tubers set into trays of soil will be transplanted into the ground soon

Dahlia tubers set into trays of soil will be transplanted into the ground soon

Dahlia tubers are laid on top of soil to root in early in the season and then she will take these and her other transplants and plant them out in “divets” in the garden. The “divets” make sure that when it rains that the water pools around the plant and goes right to the roots. Planting out the transplants intensively and staking them as they grow, Sarah can pack a lot in a small space.

Divets or soil depressions are created to make sure water goes right to the roots

Divets or soil depressions are created to make sure water goes right to the roots

Sarah tends to the plants all summer, staking, weeding, and watering, and cuts the flowers as they bloom for her arrangements that she composes and delivers to her subscribers to their door or workplace. The bouquet subscriptions can start at $45 plus delivery for a beautifully composed arrangement with cuts that you just don’t see in a regular florist arrangement. For homeowners who donate space for growing, Sarah gives them a discount.

Dahlias play a big part of Sarah's arrangements-permission of Sarah

Dahlias play a big part of Sarah’s arrangements-permission of Sarah Nixon

Sarah’s Pointers for a freshly composed arrangement

As a former designer myself, I picked up some valuable advice during Sarah’s demo.

  1. Condition your cuts by gathering early in morning and placing them in a  squeaky clean bucket that has fresh water amended with floral preservatives (follow the directions for best results!)

  2. Let stems remain in that solution for at least several hours to properly hydrate

  3. For twiggy branches, slit the cut ends with pruners so that the water is more easily absorbed

  4. Avoid using floral foam which can clog up cut ends and is a non-sustainable petroleum product; instead add twiggy  branches first which will act like a nest to place premium blooms into

  5. Remove all foliage that will be under water; this can lead to bacterial contamination which shortens the life of the arrangement

  6. Enjoy your floral arrangement in a cool spot and add water to make sure all cut ends are under water

Start with the framework of branches first. Here Sarah is using Ninebark

Start with the framework of branches first

Add things gradually building up the compostion

Add things gradually building up the composition

All done!

All done!

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Bee Counted

 Bee crossing sign

Drum roll please!……..It is National Pollinator Week starting today and you need to start counting those bees. Go to my post Pollinator Week to see the drill, but it is real simple. Name the flower, and then do a quick count, say five minutes each flower of any pollinators that visit. Bees are of course the poster child for this campaign, but remember bees are only one part of the equation.

Apiary

Beehives are important but only part of the picture

Butterfly on Zinnia

Butterfly on Zinnia

Count butterflies, hummingbirds, moths, flies- basically anything that visits the flower by wings or just crawling. Do as many or as few counts as you have time for this week and click on Great Sunflower Project, and if you haven’t already registered, set up an account and input your results. This project collects data from ordinary gardeners all over the country to track pollinator numbers so that scientists can have a better understanding of the health of our populations in North America. Consolidation of all this data gives scientists hard numbers when they determine the best strategies in tackling this problem.DSCN0733

Citizen Science at its best!

Bee One in a Million

Set up a pollinator garden with blocks of plants

Set up a pollinator garden with blocks of plants

 

To take this effort even further, you can join the Million Pollinator Garden Challenge which is a nationwide call to action to preserve and create gardens and landscapes that help to revive and sustain the health of all pollinators.

Plant in blocks of color

Plant in blocks of color

Plan of a pollinator garden

Plan of a pollinator garden

Aiming to move millions of people outdoors to create nectar rich gardens, this initiative fosters a connection between pollinators and the food that we eat. The goal is to get people out in the great outdoors and start planting flowering plants. You notice that I say “flowering plants” and not just “flowers”? Flowering trees and shrubs are just as important as perennial and annual flowers. And if you can plant native ones, all the better. Go to Plant These For the Bees to see the best strategies on attracting pollinators in the garden. And check out Monarch Way Station if you are interested in Monarchs in particular.

Bee on Azalea shrub

Bee on Azalea shrub

 My Sunflowers and Zinnias here in the mid-Atlantic aren’t quite blooming yet, but I do have lots of other flowers that are popping out that I can start my count on. Happy counting!

Monarch butterfly

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Deutzia-Retro Shrub

Pink Deutzia

Pink Deutzia

I love it when I see an old-fashioned shrub, one that has not been tinkered with by hydridizers, at an established property in all it’s glory. These shrubs require a lot of space, at least 10′ x 10′ or more to grow unfettered and spread out in all their glory.

Double flowered Deutzia

Double flowered Deutzia

 Nowadays, everyone wants a dwarf shrub to fit into a 3′ x 3′ space, stay that way for many years, and require little or no maintenance. Oh, and have lots of beautiful flowers-preferably pink! Deutzias have been around a long time with cascading flowers that waterfall off the shrub in late spring that can cover the plant. Native to Asia and Central America, Deutzia is an easy to grow deciduous shrub in sun or part shade that is used as a ground cover or a specimen plant. A lot of people are familiar with ‘Nikko’  which won The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society Gold Medal Award, 1989. Great cascading over low walls, Nikko can spread 5 feet wide in ten years but remain only 18″ tall.

Deutzia Nikko with Deutzia Chardonnay Pearls in the middle

Deutzia Nikko with Deutzia Chardonnay Pearls in the middle

As a landscape designer, I am guilty of looking for cultivars of the old-fashioned shrubs like Deutzias in a smaller package. Chardonnay Pearls with its golden foliage and the new Yuki Cherry Blossom with pink flowers fit the bill for me and my clients.

Deutzia Yuki Cherry Blossom, a great pink miniature Deutzia

Deutzia Yuki Cherry Blossom, a great pink miniature Deutzia

Yuki Cherry Blossom is a pink Deutzia shrub in a small package ready to fit into a small landscape or container. With soft pink flowers covering the plant in spring, it is a great little plant to use in borders along with other flowering perennials.

Chardonnay Pearls by Proven Winners is a beautiful Deutzia with chartreuse foliage which does great in partial shade and does well on hillsides. The arching branches root in at the tip and are great for stabilizing hillsides. The golden foliage brightens up shady locations.

Chardonnay Pearls Deutzia

Chardonnay Pearls Deutzia

 

AA double flowered Deutzia

A double-flowered Deutzia

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Pollinator Week

Sunflower painting by Redenta Soprano

Sunflower painting by Redenta Soprano

White House wants to save the bees! That was music to my ears when I got The Great Sunflower Project newsletter in my inbox. A task force has been created by this Presidental decree that is trying to answer particular questions about the role of pollinators in relation to specific species of plants. Pollinators refers to both native and non-native honeybees, as well as all the other insect pollinators.

sunflower

I have posted before about The Great Sunflower Project and how it is utilizing citizen science to gather information about pollinators to assist scientists in analyzing information from all parts of the country to determine the health and ways to help pollinators.

sunflowerproject-seeds-mountain-1

All you need is five minutes per plant. Simply identify the plant and count the pollinators that visit. It is that simple!

Fibonacci spiral

Fibonacci spiral

If you want to read some amazing information about sunflowers, go to Magical Sunflowers.

 Mark your calendars for June 15-21, 2015 and go to https://www.greatsunflower.org/ to register and read all the great information that has been collected already by people in their backyards. And participate and help the bees!

Posted in beekeeping, Pollination | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Bee Swarm Videos

I captured some incredible bee swarm videos this week! The first is a video of the swarm booking out of the hive. Turn the volume up to hear how loud they are. I could hear them from the other side of my property about 100 yards away and came running.

 

 

The bees have made landing on a nearby tree branch and are forming their swarm formation. It takes about 20 minutes for them to pour out of the hive to form their trademark tear drop formation.

Unfortunately, by the time I gathered my equipment to capture them, they decided to leave and I lost them. For more info on swarming, look at my post Swarming of the Bees. 

The last video is of the complete swarm which is pretty big!

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Help! What Can I Plant Besides Impatiens???? Some Alternatives

Common Impatiens

Common Impatiens

If you haven’t heard by now, common Impatiens, Impatien walleriana, are in trouble.  Lots of shade gardeners are bemoaning this right now, and wonder what should they plant instead!!??

Downy Mildew is the Culprit

First, a little background. I found out about this when I visited a client three summers ago who gardens in the shade, and took a look at all her wilting, disgusting impatiens, and was at a loss to explain their demise. After calling around to different help desks at county and state offices for gardeners, I found out that impatiens are taking a direct hit from Impatiens Downy Mildew (Plasmopara obducens), a new disease that has recently has reared its ugly head in the states, and has killed off masses of Impatiens throughout the U.S. It started as long ago as 1942, with only sporadic outbreaks, but really starting getting going in 2004. In 2011, widespread kill-offs of Impatiens were reported and things aren’t expected to get any better.

This is a relatively new disease that only targets the common Impatien, not the other Impatiens like the  New Guinea, Big Bounce or Sunpatien. Sunpatien and Big Bounce are new on the market in the last few years and are husky vigorous plants, unlike the common Impatien.

Big Bounce Impatiens are resistant

Big Bounce Impatiens are resistant

New sunpatien takes partial shade and the flowers are larger

New sunpatien takes partial shade and the flowers are larger

Symptoms

If you experienced it in your annual plantings last year, then this year watch out! The pathogen overwinters handily and can persist for years. Here are the things to look for:

  • Yellowish or pale-green foliage
  • Downward curling of the leaves
  • Distorted leaves
  • White to light-gray fuzz on the undersides of the leaves. There are excellent images on the web if you search for “Impatiens Downy Mildew.”
  • Emerging, new leaves that are smaller than normal and discolored.
  • Flower buds that either fail to form or abort before opening.
  • Stunted plants
Impatiens with Downy Mildew

Impatiens with Downy Mildew

Sounds like a horror story for any gardener who relies on Impatiens for color in the shade.  And there are a lot of gardeners who plant them exclusively. So, now is the time to look for alternatives until plant breeders come up with some resistant varieties and that could be a while. There are lots of beauties out there for the taking if you know what to look for.

Alternatives for Shade Color

1. Lobelias

There are newer varieties of the old standard Lobelia that are worth a try. Many people thinkk of Lobelias as early season performers that fizzle in our heat here in the mid-Atlantic region of the U.S.. The reason these new varieties are garnering such attention is that they are showing a new heat tolerance, blooming like superstars from spring through midsummer. Cooler regions of the country will find them blooming even longer. They are tolerant of shade. Try the Laguna Sky Blue cultivar.

Annual Lobelia

Annual Lobelia

Purple Lobelia with Begonias for shade windowbox

Purple Lobelia with Begonias for shade windowbox

2. Begonias-Foliage and/or Flowers

Begonias are a huge shade loving group and I use them either for their striking foliage or colorful large flowers or both.

Tuberous begonias are great for shade

Tuberous begonias are great for shade

Tuberous begonia

Tuberous begonia

Foliage

 I love this big-leaved heirloom begonia. It has a black palmate leaf with green marbling and appealing tufted edges. Begonia ‘Black Fancy’ is a rhizomatous heirloom variety. Of course, the flowers are insignificant, but the foliage is stunning!

Begonia 'Black Fancy'

Begonia ‘Black Fancy’

Fancy leaved begonia

Fancy leaved begonia

Flower–  Pretty new to the market, this begonia ‘Bonfire’ positively glows. Easy to take care of with filtered light, it looks good in hanging baskets as well as planted into borders.

Colorful shade container with tuberious begonias

Colorful shade container with tuberious begonias

Begonia bonfire

Begonia bonfire

Begonia bonfire with honeybush

Begonia bonfire with honeybush

3. Fuchsia-These have elegant two-toned hanging flowers for the shade.  They look good in pots and if you plant them in beds, be sure to water regularly. Fuchsia aren’t as easy to grow as Marigolds but are well worth the effort. Chillier temperatures and partial to full shade is required for the best performance of this beautiful plant so they do not do well in the south.

Fuchsia

Fuchsia

Fuschia

Fuchsia

Fuschia

Fuchsia

4. New Guinea Impatiens –The old standby New Guinea Impatiens are more tolerant of sunny conditions and are great for containers.  If you plant them in the ground, be sure to add plenty of compost, water regularly, and dead head to get rid of the ugly spent blossoms.

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5. Torenia (Wishbone Flower)- This is an underused plant for the shade. Tough and colorful, Wishbone Flower comes in shades of pinks, blues, and violets. It is a ground hugging plant that when happy in the shade, will produce loads of colorful oddly shaped flowers-like a wish bone!

Torenia or Wishbone Flower in Violet

Torenia or Wishbone Flower in Violet

6. Scaveola (Fan Flower)- I found out by accident that this lovely blue mounding plant is tolerant of shade. I was desperate to get some color in a client’s shady border and threw some in and it grew wonderfully. There are also some varieties in pink and white, but I love the blue.

 

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Scaveola or Fan Flower

7. Coleus –    This is not your grandmother’s coleus with a limited color palette. Breeders have been very busy making new varieties for sun and shade.  Take your pick and go for the colors that you like best!

Coleus with Sweet Potato Vine and Fuchsia

Coleus with Sweet Potato Vine and Fuchsia

coleus

coleus

 

8. Euphorbia Diamond Frost An annual euphorbia that resembles babys breath, Diamond Frost gives an airy light touch to shade plantings, whether in planting beds or containers.

Euphorbia Diamond Frost

Euphorbia Diamond Frost

 

9. Caladiums – These have been around for a long time but there are some really beautiful variations. Some have huge ruffled leaves, beautiful colors, and they brighten the shade with a rainbow of colors using just foliage.

Calaldiums in a shade container

Calaldiums in a shade container

Caladiums come in a wide range of colors

Caladiums come in a wide range of colors

10. Sweet Potato Vine-There are several colors of this vine – purple, tri-color, and lime green.  Try the lime green in a bed and it will cover the ground very quickly. One plant goes a long way in the sun or shade.

Sweet potato vine does well in shade or sun

Sweet potato vine does well in shade or sun

Sweet potato vine with Caladium

Sweet potato vine with Caladium

 11. Mona Lavender (Plectranthus)

Mona Lavender with a Colocasia

Mona Lavender with a Colocasia in the shade

Mona Lavender

Mona Lavender

 Mona Lavender or otherwise known as Swedish Ivy, has glossy, dark green foliage that set off the lavender tubular flowers like a charm. Flowering quite happily in the shade, you have to keep this plant on the moist side. The one called “Velvet Elvis” is a superior variety with larger flowers, a deeper green leaf, and a more compact habit.

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Swarming of the Bees

Yes! It is that time of year (Honey Flow) when the bees build up quickly. Before you know it you are looking at a huge moving bee mass perched on a tree branch like the one below when you come home from work. And you must do something quickly before they move on to roomier and more distant pastures! 

Honey Flow

Honey flow is a term used by beekeepers indicating that one or more major nectar sources are in bloom and the weather is favorable for bees to fly and collect the nectar in abundance. For me in Maryland, honey flow happens when the black locust is in bloom, starting in mid May into June.  I can see the heavy creamy white hanging blossoms dangling from the trees lining the wooded roads around my house and I know that my bees will be in tip top form ferrying nectar to the hive and capping it with wax to make honey stores for the winter.

Black Locust blooms

Black Locust blooms

This is the beginning of the peak honey-producing season, when bees, taking advantage of the pollen available from spring blooms, make as much honey as they can to store for the cold days of winter ahead.

Bringing nectar and pollen into the hive

Bringing nectar and pollen into the hive

With the coming of spring a couple of weeks late this spring, I haven’t worried so much- but honey flow arrives quickly when I really busy with the garden and my landscape business that sometimes I am taken by surprise by swarming activity. If you ask any beekeeper how to prevent swarming, you will get 10 different answers and opinions. Other non-beekeeper friends who don’t understand will ask me, ” Why don’t you want your bees to swarm?  You can increase your hives !”  The answer is really simple.  Say goodbye to any honey production for that year! And there is no guarantee that you will catch the bee swarm.  The bees have a mind of their own.

Swarm Production

As a beekeeper, I am sometimes called by a panicked home owner when a huge ball of noisy bees appears in their backyard. They are afraid of them stinging and just want the bees to go away or be killed. In fact, swarming bees are loaded up with honey and are very unlikely to sting. They are not dangerous and are just looking for a new home.

Peanut shaped swarm cell

Queen bee in the makingSwarming is a natural duplication process for honey bees to form a new colony.  When a colony is bursting at the seams in their home with little room to grow, the bees will raise a new queen on their own. The old queen will take off with up to 10,000 to 15,000 bees from the home colony and fly a short distance and cluster on a tree branch, shrub or other object to form a large ball or cone shaped mass which can weigh 10 pounds or more.  The queen is usually centered in the cluster and scout bees leave looking for a suitable new home such as a hollow tree or the walls of your house! The swarms can stay in their temporary location for several days as the scout bees do their job and find a new home.

A swarm starting to form

The Big Event

I have observed a swarm in progress from my hives several times and it is very impressive and exciting.  One of the signs that precedes a swarm is the sound! The tone of the hive increases greatly in volume and the bees start to exit in a huge undulating wave from the hive body and head for some nearby structure- usually a tree, to land. The bees seem to have a unified purpose and know exactly what to do.


The Honey Bees have made a bee hive on the bra...The new queen that the hive produced in preparation for swarming, will remain with the original colony in the hive and the remainder of the worker bees and start building up a viable hive once again. But they are a much smaller population so won’t produce that honey surplus. Beekeepers try to avoid a swarm because it splits their population and reduces the likelihood of producing honey to harvest that season. The advantage to swarming is that now you have two hives instead of one but again you have to put off harvesting any honey because both colonies will need honey stores to get through the winter.

Capturing a swarm

Capturing a swarm

Capturing the Swarm

If the swarm is from a beekeepers own colony the beekeeper will try to capture it and put it in a new hive. But if it is a wild colony that swarms it can land in a unsuspecting homeowners yard and they start calling 911 in a panic. If a beekeeper gets the call, and the swarm is not that far off the ground, the beekeeper can knock the swarm with a firm yank into an empty hive box and take it away. As bees can be expensive, about $125 for a laying queen and brood, beekeepers are usually delighted to take them off your hands. Sometimes beekeepers will charge the homeowner a fee, especially if the swarm is located in a difficult to access place. Go to https://thegardendiaries.wordpress.com/2011/11/09/hiving-a-swarm/ to see a slide show of me hiving a swarm.

Swarm high up in a tree

Swarm high up in a tree


I have heard of swarms under picnic tables, on grills, on the bumpers of cars, and in the walls of houses.  If they are in your walls, the bees are almost impossible to extricate and should be euthanized. April through June is prime swarming season when the hive is at it’s strongest. If you discover a swarm in your yard, the best thing to do is call a local beekeeper by looking on the internet for the CMBA, the Central Maryland Beekeepers Association which keeps a database of beekeepers interested in capturing swarms. If you are not in MD, just look up Beekeepers in your area and someone will take them off your hands.

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Preventative Steps

Here are my pointers on avoiding this catastrophe:

Ventilation

I like to give the bees plenty of ventilation by not only having the entrance unimpeded with reducers but also by shimming my upper boxes open slightly to give the bees more openings for air flow.

To ventilate, I place matches between the inner cover and hive body

To ventilate, I place matches between the inner cover and hive body

Plenty of Room

 I have already added supers (extra honey boxes) on top of my brood boxes to make sure that the queen has plenty of room to lay eggs. I have stopped using a queen excluder to the horror of many beekeeper friends. I feel that this keeps the queen from going where she needs to go and if she feels restricted, swarm production will start.  When I harvest my honey, if there is brood in the supers, I just move it down to the brood boxes.

Give the bees lots of room

Give the bees lots of room

Young Queens 

Requeen when your queen is a couple of seasons old.  Some beekeepers say every year, but there is so much supersedure going on (bees making their own queen) that sometimes this isn’t necessary.

New queens come in small cages

New queens come in small cages

Splits

Split up your hive early in the season if it is going strong.  This simply means take a few frames of brood with some nurse bees and place them in a new hive.  You can add a new queen or let them make their own.  This can be a gamble because it takes time to make a new queen but by separating the hive you reduce the urge to swarm.

Removing Swarm Cells-Forget it!

Beekeepers recommend to go through your boxes frequently and remove the queen swarm cells that are ready to hatch out new queens.  I think at that point, it is too late. Bees are programmed to swarm and you are swimming against the tide by trying to stop the process. Also, I don’t think it is a good practice to open up your hives too frequently.  Leave them alone!

Sweet Rewards!

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Alliums All Season Long

Allium schubertii

Allium schubertii

Once in a while a plant comes along which I fall in love with instantly and I can’t do without – in this case Allium schubertii! It is in the onion family so is unpalatable to deer-hooray! A pink or purple fireworks display, Alliums are under-appreciated perennials that will persist for years in your garden with little care.

 Another allium which is a little bit smaller


Another allium which is a little bit smaller

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Sprayed seed head in garden

 

Alliums are great for long-lasting color in flower, and the seed heads live on for years afterward and can be used for decorating, especially for fairy gardens and Christmas.

Dried allium seed heads sprayed gold and silver

Dried allium seed heads sprayed gold and silver

A showy starburst pink flower 12 to 18 inches wide is its trademark (Schubertii), held only 8 inches high, and then it dries right on the plant to a sturdy seed head. If you don’t pick it by early summer, it will become a tumbleweed in your garden. I find the seed heads everywhere after a windstorm as I have dozens of these plants.

Alliums in my garden

Alliums in my garden

Alliums

Of course, there are lots of alliums out there, but I love the soccer ball size of the Schubertii! The bulbs require good drainage and my alliums must be happy as they come up year after year. Planted by bulb in the fall, alliums are not eaten by squirrels either as they have an oniony taste.

Alliums

Alliums planted with Amsonia

 

A large grouping of a smaller allium

A large grouping of a smaller allium

 

So- hardy, deer, rodent and deer resistant, and no care- why aren’t they more widely planted? Probably because they are pricey. In the fall, you frequently see the 3 to 4 foot tall Globe Master allium which could set you back $10 for a single bulb. The other varieties are a little less expensive, but not as easily available in stores.Allium Schubertii

Allium Schubertii

Bees love alliums

Bees love alliums

For the recent Baltimore Symphony Decorator Show House, I strung a half dozen dried seed heads together and suspended them over the fairy garden in the landscape. I had a lot of comments about this feature and most people had never heard of alliums or ornamental onions. This fall I will be adding to my collection.

Seedheads of allium suspended over fairy garden

Seedheads of allium suspended over fairy garden

PicMonkey Collage

 

Allium

 

 

Alliums intermingle with other flowers nicely

Alliums intermingle with other flowers nicely

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Gnomes on the Loose

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The gnome on the left is a fishing gnome and the gnome on the right was supposed to be carrying an egg

 

One of my most popular posts on The Garden Diaries was Gnome Home, and has gotten more hits than any other post except for Decorating the White House, so I know that they are popular!  When I started decorating the Baltimore Symphony Show House this spring, I was delighted to find two old gnomes still kicking around in the basement of this house that was built in the 1920’s. Bringing them out in the light of the day, I set them up next to the fairy garden which I created on a mossy hill. The larger gnome above has an inscription “Made In Germany” so I knew that I had some authentic gnomes, made in Germany where they originated.

Fairy garden in a mossy setting

Fairy garden in a mossy setting

Gnome Origins

fishing gnome

Garden gnomes go way back to 1870’s Germany where they were first sculpted out of clay by Phillip Griebel, a sculptor of terra-cotta animals, in the town of Graefenroda. Gnome legends were very popular in Germany and Griebel made Gnome statues that spread throughout Europe. They are still being made there today by Phillip Griebel’s descendants and knowing that, I just am dying to go there. I would love to see their birthplace! You can tour their production facilities and see their informative museum. To see pictures, go to http://gardengnomeshome.com/gnome-directory/gartenzwerg-museum.

Philip Griebel produced gnomes based on local myths about the gnomes’ willingness to help in the garden at night. The garden gnome quickly spread across Germany and into France and England, and wherever gardening was a serious hobby.

Mickey Mouse gnomes?

Mickey Mouse gnomes?

 Just to check on the authenticity of the basement gnomes, I emailed Reinhard Griebel in Grafenroda, Germany and sent a picture of the found gnomes. He confirmed that they were in fact made in Germany and the little guy was still in production.

Fairy garden at the show house was the perfect spot to place the old gnomes

Fairy garden at the show house was the perfect spot to place the old gnomes

Controversial Gnomes

Garden Gnomes are not without their controversy, and were banned from the high-class Chelsea Flower Show until just 2013. Accused of garden snobbery, Chelsea lifted their ban, caving to pressure, and started to allow these popular garden sculptures. Serious gardeners don’t seem to appreciate these cute creatures, so I guess that makes me an amateur gardener!

German gnome, by Wikipedia

German gnome, by Wikipedia

Also, gnomes are the subject of pranks, called gnoming, which is the return of gnomes to the “wild”. Many gnomes have been “liberated” or “kidnapped”, sent on trips around the world, and have become quite famous.  The best known example was a kidnapped gnome taken from a garden in California, and it ended up being photographed with Paris Hilton  in People magazine. These antics just add to the “tongue in cheek” appreciation of gnomes for me. I enjoy that people can have fun with gardening and gardening tchotchkes. There are many clubs and organizations dedicated to the prank of gnoming.

Protest Gnome from wikipedia

Protest Gnome from wikipedia

The best-known of these is the Garden Gnome Liberation Front. Their website is hilarious and says that, “For too long we have let our neighbors usurp the rights of these gentle woodland creatures“. They entreat people to report any gnome in captivity! Go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WaEh8EABR-s to watch a moving video.

Polish Gnomes

The hot spot of gnomes is Poland. More gnomes are made in Poland and China than anywhere else on the planet, even in Germany. In the Wieliczka Salt Mine, called the Underground Salt Cathedral of Poland, gnomes were carved underground out of salt.

Gnomes in Kunegunda Shaft Bottom of the Wieliczka Salt Mine in Poland, photo by Adam Kumiszcza

Gnomes in Kunegunda Shaft Bottom of the Wieliczka Salt Mine in Poland, photo by Adam Kumiszcza

Popular in Polish folklore, in Wroclaw Poland, gnome statues dot the city everywhere and have become a major tourist attraction. A legion of little people cast out of metals, are ubiquitous – in doorways, alleyways, and street corners, but easy to miss because of their size. You can actually do a tour of these gnomes which number over 250, and they have become one of the most popular tourist attractions in the city, more so than the magnificent cathedral.

Gnomes in Wroclaw Poland from Wikipedia

Gnomes in Wroclaw Poland from Wikipedia

gnome

For directions on making your own Gnome Home, go to Home Sweet Gnome

Tutorial on making a gnome home

Tutorial on making a gnome home

Below is another of my broken pot gardens in a much wider pot to give you a totally different look.

Broken pot garden for a gnome

Broken pot garden for a gnome

Happy Gnoming!!

Posted in Fairy and miniature gardens, Garden Oddities | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments