Thursday, August 25, 2011

Oh Joy

Plant of the Month Sedum Autumn Joy
We are edging towards the end of August and even though the temperature is dropping slightly too where we can once again stand to spend some time in the garden, unfortunately you will find that many of the perennials have already peaked and it won’t be long before you need to cut them back all-together. But this is the time when Sedum Autumn Joy really begins to stand out on its own. This is a great three-season perennial which starts out the spring season looking like tiny heads of cabbage. As spring & summer progress, the stems lengthen and leaves broaden to a very distinctive, succulent look. The foliage has a nice bright green color and makes a great filler. By mid-summer the flower buds begin to form and cover the plant with open sprays of chartreuse. I was wandering my flower beds today and noticed that the flower heads have tightened up into umbels and while some still remain a bright green, others are turning several shades of pink; from very pale pink to a deeper rose.

     As autumn continues, the colors will deepen to cranberry and then garnet. By winter, these seed heads will have turned brown and can be cut off or left for some winter interest. They look lovely dusted with snow. Sedums don’t require much during the growing season. If you find they get too tall and splay open in your garden, pinch them back early in the summer before flowers form. This will force the plant to branch-out and stay dense and compact. Sedum Autumn Joy reaches two feet in height and does best if planted in full sun. Small fritillary butterflies flock to Sedums in August and September.
     This plant is a good companion with Russian Sage, Coneflowers or Black-eyed- Susan’s, but I love to team it with Solidago Fireworks (next month’s pick) for a beautiful autumn combination.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Doctor Is In

   After the wild week on Capitol Hill and the melt down on Wall Street, it’s best to turn off the TV, put down the newspaper and go outside.  American naturalist, John Burroughs stated, ‘I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order’.  This is advice we should all heed.   Many of us find a favorite place outside to sit and get away from the daily stress, finding our gardens to be a wonderful cure-all.  The truth is, there is a great deal of therapeutic benefits in gardens and gardening. 

     Studies have shown that hospital patients who had a view of nature rather than a brick wall complained less, required less pain medication and made faster recoveries.  Plants in an office setting improved worker satisfaction, creativity and productivity.   We all know that landscaping our yard and tending to the grass increases the value of our homes and sometimes it inspires the neighbors to do the same, and so on and so forth.  Residents of areas with more trees and grass reported that they knew their neighbors better, socialized with them more often, had stronger feelings of community, and felt safer and better adjusted.  Trees, greenery and other vegetation make neighborhoods safer and more desirable.  They even play a role in boosting students’ grades and reducing the risk of domestic violence.  As little as 10 minutes spent outside improves attention in children with ADHD:  neighborhoods with more green space improve body mass index of children and youth.  Gardening improves health and happiness, including reducing heart rate and blood pressure. 
     The therapeutic value of a garden can’t be overstated.  Digging, smelling, touching, looking and learning about the workings of the natural world is you connecting to something greater than yourself.
      So the next time you tell someone you’re a ‘Gardener’, you may want to add, Therapist, Social Organizer, Child Advocate and Health Care Provider.  Wow!  I don’t know about you, but I need a bigger business card.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

I Wish, I Wish

    We are in the Nursery & Landscape business so our job is to design, grow, install and maintain our customers’ yards.  A job we love.  A little stressful when we see plants struggling in this heat, a fungus developing in the middle of a green lawn or, gasp, weeds.  Weeds is a four letter word - with an s at the end.  When I waited tables in college and someone said they were ‘in the weeds’ that meant they were way behind and needed help.  Even outside the nursery industry, weeds are a bad thing!   We own 25 plus acres and try to keep our weeds to the naturalized area, away from the nursery.  That is the area where I sometimes see deer and turkey, so one evening I took my camera to look for something interesting to snap a picture of.  What I found were wildflowers or weeds to a manicured lawn. 

There was an abundance of delicate Queen Ann’s Lace, roadside asters, purple thistles and some strange reddish thing with green treadles which was really cool.  Some of the wild grasses with the arching habits and golden tones, rivaled some of the ornamental grasses I sell at the Garden Center.  There were wild daisies to petal-pluck to see if you were loved and buttercups to hold under someone’s chin to find out who loved butter. Heading back to the house I caught sight of a dandelion puff-ball.  In our household a dried dandelion becomes a wishing flower. 

My daughter would see a wishing flower, dash over to it, and carefully pick it, so as not to release its magic accidently.  Holding it firmly yet carefully she would close her eyes and say ‘I wish, I wish, I was a Princess’ then blow the magic into the air.  And it really worked!  Upon opening her eyes, she had become a Princess, and I dare anyone to argue with me.  So a weed is in the eye of the beholder…a rose is a weed in a cornfield and a dried dandelion becomes a wishing flower in the hands of a child.