Category: Garden

Say No to Nicotine and Yes to Nicotiana

Nicotiana 'Perfume Deep Purple'Today, May 31st is World No Tobacco Day so in honor of that celebration I’d like to tell you about a few Flowering Tobaccos!

Smoking tobacco, Nicotiana tabacum came from the New World and circled out to cultures around the globe. Flowering Tobacco, the cousin of leaf tobacco, is a charming heirloom flower experiencing a Renaissance with gardeners lately. The best part about this ornamental is that it fills the summer garden with large, brightly colored trumpets of star-shaped flowers that attract butterflies and hummingbirds. Many hybrids offer smaller, more compact plants with abundant flowers that bloom throughout the summer.

I also grow Nicotiana sylvestris for its statuesque presence and sweet aroma. It makes a bold statement in my flower borders and frequently comes back as a volunteer. The plant is very fragrant with tubular-shaped, white flowers that dance on 30″ – 36″ tall branched stems during the summer.

Another one to try is Nicotiana langsdorfii because it too grows to an impressive height and I love the waxy, lime green blooms. A third species that I just discovered is Nicotiana x hybrida ‘Tinkerbell’. It is similar in appearance to N. langsdorfii but produces lime green and rose flowers with amazing azure blue pollen.

Try Planting an Evening Garden

I enjoy Nicotiana alata for its strong, jasmine like fragrance at night. Introduced into garden cultivation in the United States and England in the early 1800′s Nicotiana alata was prized for its white, highly scented night-blooming flowers. In Victorian times, Nicotiana sylvestris was intentionally planted along walkways and paths so that those strolling by could enjoy the sweet fragrance of the flowers.

A noted garden writer of the early 20th century Louise Beebe Wilder describes Nicotiana alata as a “poor figure by day … but with the coming of the night the long creamy tubes freshen and expand and give forth their rich perfume and we are then glad we have so much of it…”

I have to agree, I’m a huge fan of all of the Flowering Tobaccos!

Name that Tomato!

Wow! Thanks to everyone for participating in the contest. What a great response! Just goes to show how much we all love our tomatoes.

The correct answer is ‘Arkansas Traveler’ and the winner is Mike Lyons.

Can you name this tomato variety?

Answer correctly for a chance to win a tomato t-shirt from Bonnie Plants. Leave your response in the comments section below. I’ll select a winner by random drawing on Wednesday June 6, 2012. Click here for the official rules.

Here are a few clues.

  • It’s an heirloom that originated in the Ozark Mountains before 1900.
  • Keeps producing during periods of drought and hot weather.
  • Mild fruits with pink coloring are produced on indeterminate vines.

Need more help? Search the Bonnie Plants tomato selector.

5 Tips for Growing Better Tomatoes

Don’t plant too early! Flowering and pollination that occurs when temperatures are below 55 degrees F can result in malformed, poor quality fruits. This is also referred to as catfacing.

Plant deeply. Remove the lower leaves and plant your tomatoes as deeply as you can dig into loose, rich soil. Up to 2/3 of the plant can be buried. New roots will develop along the buried stem. Don’t believe me? Read more about planting tomatoes deeply on BonniePlants.com.

Tomatoes prefer a slightly acidic to neutral soil (pH of 6.0 to 7.0) rich in phosphorous and calcium. To increase calcium, add crushed eggshells or a spoonful of bone meal when planting.

Tomatoes don’t like fluctuating moisture levels. Water consistently and cover the soil with mulch to retain moisture. Avoid overhead watering as it encourages leaf disease.

Staking is important to expose leaves to sunlight and keep fruits off the ground where they may come into contact with soil borne diseases, or slugs and snails. Get the stakes in early so you don’t have to worry about damaging mature root systems.

Lemon Verbena

Lemon verbena with its sugary lemon scent is an herb you’ll want to have in your garden for the fragrance and flavor. And plant it somewhere close! It’s one of those plants that release scent every time you touch the leaves.

Lemon verbena is a shrubby herb with loose, twisting branches and bright green foliage. It can grow to 6 feet tall by 8 feet wide where it is perennial (zones 8 – 11). In my zone 7 garden it stays a little more contained because I grow it in a pot that I move indoors for winter. It’s a fast grower that needs full sun and excellent drainage – too much water will rot the roots! Lemon verbena has a sweet lemon flavor – I tend to use it with desserts and as a seasoning for meat dishes, but I also love placing it near my outdoor living areas so I can enjoy its lemony scent. In fact, it was its lemony scent that led me to make this lemon verbena infused honey, and I can’t wait for you to try it.

What you’ll need

  • A few stems of lemon verbena, cleaned and dried
  • 1 mason jar
  • Honey

All it takes is a little herb-tidying. Pluck the lemon verbena leaves off of their stems, rinse them, and dry them with a paper towel. Loosely fill a mason jar with the leaves and then pour the honey over the top. While you may want to try it right away, put the jar in a cupboard for a few weeks to infuse. After two weeks strain the honey to remove the leaves.

You’ll end up with a lovely lemon-flavored honey that you can stir into tea, drizzle over nuts or cheese, or use as a sweetener.

Do you want to know more about this great herb? Jump over to the Bonnie Plants website to read about growing lemon verbena.

Color-Blocking Containers

A big trend in fashion last year was color-blocking; combining blocks of colors in one article of clothing or outfit. It was a big hit that seems to have carried over to 2012. So I got to thinking, why not color-block containers? The same principles that apply to fashion can be used in the garden. Just plant one color flowers and foliage per container. If you really want to take the idea to heart select a bright container to contrast with your plantings. Or choose a neutral hue for the pot to really make the flowers pop.

All About Blue

Blue is my favorite color for the garden. For harmonious pairings choose other cool colors like green, turquoise and purple. Fuchsia is even a good match. Jazz up blue with contrasting hues like orange and yellow.

In this Container:

  • Proven Winners® Graceful Grasses® Blue Mohawk (Juncus inflexus)
  • Proven Winners® Sweet Caroline Light Green Sweet Potato Vine
  • Proven Winners® Colorblaze™ Alligator Tears Coleus
  • Proven Winners® Decadence ‘Blueberry Sundae’ Baptisia
  • Proven Winners® Laguna™ Sky Blue Lobelia
  • Proven Winners® Graceful Grasses® Fiber Optic Grass (Scirpus cernus)
  • Proven Winners® Color Spires® Steel Blue Agastasche

Passionate about Purple

Purple is the number one color choice for gardeners. It looks great with orange or chartreuse. Keep it cool with green, fuchsia or varying shades of purple.

In this Container:

  • Proven Winners® Artist® Purple Ageratum
  • Proven Winners® Graceful Grasses® Purple Fountain Grass (Pennisetum setaceum ‘Rubrum’)
  • Proven Winners® Superbells® Plum Calibrachoa
  • Proven Winners® Supertunia® Lavender Skies
  • Proven Winners® Senorita Rosalita® Cleome

Blushing Pink

Pink is a chameleon that can be both warm and cool. Color-block it with yellow, blue or orange. It also looks great with bright green and chartreuse.

In these Containers:

  • Proven Winners® Flying Colors® Trailing Antique Rose Diascia
  • Proven Winners® Supertunia® Vista Bubblegum Petunia
  • Proven Winners® Karalee® Petite Pink Butterfly Flower (Gaura lindheimeri)
  • Proven Winners® Superbena® Pink Parfait Verbena
  • Proven Winners® Molimba® Pink Argyranthemum

Window Treatment Ideas with Tobi Fairley

Hello Allen’s readers! It’s great to be back with you today. I hope spring is treating you well and that you’re soaking up some sun!

Being a Southern girl, I’m especially fond of the warmer temps and longer days we have this time of year. I also love natural light and the beauty that it can bring to any room!

Tall panels like these make the room “guest-ready” and opening them allows plenty of light to shine throughout the space. Since living rooms are such a multipurpose space, it can be nice to maintain some formality while still making your window treatments work for everyday use.

Most people typically think of using roman shades in kitchens or baths. However, they make a fantastic option for bedrooms, too. Having one near a bed can provide extra light for reading, too. For this room, I matched the panel to the duvet and shams to create a polished look.

If you like to entertain, you know that lighting can make or break any event. Blending blinds with panels gives you more control over how much light you let into the room. Here I paired matching cornices and panels with plantation shutters to give the room a more formal or “dressed” look.

If you live in an area that’s lucky enough to get warm temps for more than a few months out of the year, you might also consider changing out your draperies for a fun summer pattern made from a lightweight material. As a color lover, my motto is “go bold or go home.”

These bright, punchy fabrics from my Tobi Fairley Home line are a testament to that and I think they can bring a bit of happy to any room. See the full line at TobiFairleyHome.com.

Speaking of windows, I’m also excited to be a guest speaker at this year’s Vision Conference in Chicago, April 23 – 26. I’ll be sharing some of my favorite trends for windows and more about my business and design philosophy. If you’re in the area, I hope to see you there.

Happy Decorating!
xo,

-Tobi

 

Ten Unusual Seeds

Seeds are the miracle makers of the garden world. Big things come from such small, seemingly inert packages. A carrot seed is small enough to get caught under a fingernail and yet will produce a delectable carrot in a few months. And what about sunflowers or corn? So much promise!

There’s still time to get seeds started. If you live in a cold climate you can get a jump start by sowing seeds indoors. Gardeners who live in regions with long summers and warm falls be sure to buy extra now to start a second crop of blooms and vegetables midsummer.

Flowers

Sunflower ‘Sonya’


Zinnia ‘Benary’s Scarlet Giant’


Gomphrena ‘Las Vegas Pink’


Cosmos ‘Cosmic Orange’


Polish Amaranth ‘Oeschburg’ (Amaranth cruentus)

Veggies & Herbs

Carrots ‘Purple Dragon’


Lettuce ‘Tom Thumb’


Tomato ‘Sun Gold’


Yard Long Beans


Pepper ‘Holy Mole’

Who’s Got the Best Strawberries?

The Fruit Gardener's Bible

Congratulations to Fran Danner! You’re the winner of The Best Strawberry Giveaway. Your cautionary tale of eating strawberries that you should be saving for shortcake made me laugh. I’m sending you a copy of The Fruit Gardener’s Bible.

Thank you for all your comments. It was a joy to read each of them. There’s something comforting in the fact that so many of you can remember the taste of an exceptional strawberry from 20, 30 and even 60 years ago!

It’s so close to strawberry season I can almost taste the strawberry shortcake. I’m a little biased but I think the best strawberries are grown right here in Arkansas. Care to challenge me on that? Tell me about the best strawberries you’ve ever eaten for a change to win a copy of The Fruit Gardener’s Bible by Lewis Hill and Leonard Perry. If you’re interested in growing fruits of any type this is a handy reference to have around.

Strawberry Tip from The Fruit Gardener’s Bible

  • Everbearing and day neutral strawberries are the best choice for growing in hanging baskets.
  • Plant strawberries with the crown sitting at soil level. Too deep encourages disease; too high and they’ll dry out.
  • Alpine strawberries, Fragaria vesca, produce small, intensely flavorful berries all summer. They spread by seed and don’t produce runners. Great for partial shade.

Soil Prep for Edibles

The first week of March definitely came in like a lamb this year with temperatures in the 60s and 70s. It was beautiful weather for working in the staff garden at the City Garden Home.

The soil needed some TLC after working hard all fall and winter. Vegetables are needy when it comes to soil. They require fertile, well draining ground for optimal growth. I like to refresh the soil after each growing season to replenish nutrients. Gardening is raised beds makes it easy. I take the existing soil and mix in well rotted manure and compost or humus. A good ratio is 2 parts soil to 1 part manure and 1 part compost.

As a final step Jobe’s Organics All Purpose fertilizer was added. This stuff is powerfully good at breaking down nutrients in the soil for plants to absorb.

This year is going to be the best yet for the staff garden.

 

Fruit or Vegetable?

From a gardener’s perspective a tomato is a fruit. It forms from the ovary of a flower and contains seeds. Therefore it is a fruit.

Now a cook might tell you different because tomatoes are not often used to sweeten a dish. They are served as vegetables so they are vegetables. Right?

Tell me your opinion for a chance to win an awesome Garden Patch Grow Box™ and a packet of ‘Jelly Bean’ and Roma tomato seeds from my Bountiful Best collection from Ferry-Morse Seed Company.

The winner will be announced Wednesday March 7, 2012.*

Congrats to Debbie Chen! She’s the winner of a Garden Patch Grow Box™. We suggest planting it with tomatoes!

*Winner will be selected by P. Allen Smith and his staff based on the merit of their comment. Click here to read the official rules and legal mumbo jumbo.