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Formal Or Not, Agapanthus Is A Compelling Addition To Any Garden

agapanthus-liy-of-the-nile-3

Agapanthus is an ancient plant, originating on the banks of the Nile River in Egypt, but in recent years has become a staple in a variety of modern gardens from the northeast to California. Also known as Lily-of-the-Nile or Blue African Lily, the botanical name comes from the Greek word meaning love, so this blue beauty is sometimes known as The Flower of Love.

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Despite its pervasiveness throughout the US, Agapanthus takes its place as a compelling addition to any landscape, set against the backdrop of an overgrown garden or a manicured lawn. The unique, globe-shaped blooms add a sense of whimsy to the garden or containers.

Agapanthus praecox orientalisProlific and charming, this tropical plant is hardy in zones 7-11, where it blooms from late spring into early fall. In colder areas, Agapanthus is grown as an annual and should be to be dug up and stored each winter.

Try planting Lily-of-the-Nile close together for colorful clumps of blooms, in tailored, formal rows, or even in containers – the vibrant blooms are sure to create a colorful show in any outdoor space.

The blooms last long as cut flowers and give a unique, geometric accent to compact bouquets as well as enhance tall, architectural arrangements.

What is your experience growing Agapanthus? Please share in the comments below or on our Facebook page. Happy Gardening!

 

March 28, 2015 · Amanda Shepard · No Comments
Tags: , , , , ,  · Posted in: Flower Bulbs, Gardening in Spring and Summer, How-Tos, Perennials

How to Prepare Flower Gardens for Spring

Purple Crocus

Customer Photo of Spring-Blooming Crocus

Flower Garden Spring Clean up

Taking action in spring will give your garden the early boost it needs to look amazing throughout the seasons. Below are some steps to ensure a thriving, blooming garden from spring through fall. Tip: before digging into your garden, make sure the soil isn’t soggy or still frozen to limit any plant damage.

Cutting Back & Pruning In Your Garden

Customer Photo

Coral Bells & Hostas
Customer Photo

The first task is to cut back dead stems. Spring is a great time to cut back any dead materials that you didn’t have a chance to in the fall. If no new growth is coming up through the ground, then cut the dead stems as low as you can go to make it easier for the new growth to come to the surface.

If new growth is appearing through the soil, be gentle and cut as close to the new growth as you can, without damaging it.  If the dead stems or old growth has flopped over, gently give the material a tug.  If the material comes out easily, pull as much away from the new growth as possible, allowing the plant to be exposed, this is recommended for lilies hostas, and grasses and is easier than cutting.

Wooden perennials such as lavender, artemisa, and russian sage  should be pruned in the spring to maximize growth, since they bloom from existing branches. Prune just above the new growth. Other evergreen perennials, such as coral bells, keep their foliage though winter, so just cut the damaged leaves and the plant will start to produce new foliage shortly.

Raking Debris From Your Garden

After cutting and pruning, it’s time to gently rake your garden. As long as the ground isn’t frozen and or too wet, rake off any leaves, branches and anything that may have settled on to the garden during winter. If you notice weeds, this is a great time to weed your garden before applying compost, fertilizer and mulch.

When To Use Compost, Fertilizer and Mulch in the Spring Garden

Once you have cleaned all the debris and your garden is ready, add a layer of compost. Compost is a great way to feed your plants as they grow throughout the season. After laying compost, apply a granular fertilizer, preferably on a day before a gentle rain. Rain helps break down the fertilizer as it is slowly releasing. Use a fertilizer that is either 10-10-10 or 10-15-10. The first number is nitrogen, the second number is phosphorus (phosphate) and the last number is potassium (potash). All three ingredients are essential to the happiness of your plants. To spread fertilizer, use a conventional spreader or make your own, (an old Parmesan cheese container is an excellent spreader or use a milk container with holes in the bottom of the container). To prevent burning, spread the fertilizer around the base of the plants that are appearing, but make sure it doesn’t make direct contact with the leaves.

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Daffodils & Muscari
Customer Photo

One of the final steps in prepping your perennial gardens is to add a layer of mulch. If you are planning on adding or dividing plants, omit this last step until you are ready. If your garden is ready to go, apply 2-3 inches of mulch, such as shredded bark or pine needles. Mulch helps retain water when needed and keep weeds at a minimum. If you use cedar mulch it is a natural mosquito repellent, something to consider if you live in a woodland or wetland area.

The very last step is, enjoy your garden! Proud of your garden? Share with us on Facebook! Happy Gardening.

March 23, 2015 · Heather Viani · No Comments
Tags: , , ,  · Posted in: Gardening in Spring and Summer, How-Tos, Perennials

Winter 2015 Photo Contest Winners

Our Winter Photo contest was so hard to judge this year and kept us going through the cold months with all of your amazing photos! We truly enjoyed becoming spectators in each of your gardens and appreciate you taking the time to submit your photos. Below you’ll find our winning photos and we hope you enjoy them as much as we do. Don’t worry, Our Spring Photo Contest has already started — Enter Now!

Grand Prize Winner – Goldenrod, Submitted by Sharon C.

Sharon C Grand Prize Winner

Winner – Showy Evening Primrose, Submitted by Richard M.

Primrose

Winner – Hydrangea, Submitted by Lyn N.

Hydrangea

Winner: Stargazer Oriental Lilies, Submitted by Rosanna P.

Lilies

Again, a big thank you to all who entered photos of their gardens in bloom. Happy Gardening!

March 15, 2015 · Amanda Shepard · One Comment
Tags:  · Posted in: Contests, Customer Stories, Gardening in Fall, Gardening in Spring and Summer, Perennials, Wildflowers

Peony Growing Tip: How to Prolong Cut Blooms

peony-blog

Peony blooms are some of the most rewarding, fragrant treats of the spring garden and make for amazing cut bouquets. Wish your cut Peony blooms would last longer? Try our simple growing tip for longer-lasting cut flowers!

To enjoy gorgeous, fragrant Peony blooms after they’ve finished in the garden, cut several stems with large buds before they have opened up. Place them in a plastic bag and store in the refrigerator. They will keep this way for several weeks and when you’re ready, bring them out and place in a vase. Shortly after, the blooms will open up and you can enjoy the show once again! This method is also bug-free.

Do you have any tips on how to prolong cut flowers, Peonies or other varieties? Please share them in the comments below or on our Facebook page. Happy Gardening!

March 7, 2015 · Amanda Shepard · 2 Comments
Tags: , ,  · Posted in: Gardening in Fall, Gardening in Spring and Summer, How-Tos, Perennials

Plant Alyssum to Help Naturally Protect Lettuce Crops

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A new study by horticulturist Eric Brennan, from the Agricultural Research Service, shows that organic lettuce growers in California are using Alyssum (Lobularia maritime) as a companion plant, to help naturally protect their crops from destructive aphids.

Alyssum, an easy-to-grow annual, produces small, elegant flowers that attract hoverflies. The hoverflies feed on Alyssum’s nectar and eventually lay eggs. Once the eggs hatch, the larvae feed on aphids common to lettuce crops. Aphids can be particularly difficult to control on lettuce crops because they tend to live in the inner leaves of the plant.

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The study shows that Alyssum is so effective in protecting lettuce crops from aphids, that California farmers are using the wildflower on as much as 10 percent of their land.

Brennan shows that best practice for the companion planting is to randomly intersperse Alyssum throughout the rows of lettuce, which helps to encourage hoverflies to feed and lay eggs more evenly throughout the crop.

Shop Sweet Alyssum Seeds Here. Shop All Lettuce Seeds Here.

March 1, 2015 · Amanda Shepard · One Comment
Tags: , , , ,  · Posted in: Gardening in Fall, Gardening in Spring and Summer, How-Tos, Perennials, Vegetable Seeds

All About Begonias

Begonia Picotee mixed

Begonias are the stars of the shade garden, with colorful, dazzling blooms that open up in the late summer. Begonias love rich, moist soil and are perfect for containers, window boxes and small space gardens. We love planting Begonias in containers all throughout the garden, then bringing them inside in the winter to liven up our indoor spaces.

When to Plant

Begonia double whiteBegonias are not quick-blooming plants. We recommend starting the tubers indoors in the late winter, around February or March (we begin shipping in early February). Give them plenty of water and regular feeding with an organic fertilizer. Come spring, once the ground warms and the chance of frost is over, bring your Begonia tubers outdoors and either keep them in containers or transplant into the garden.

Care

Begonias love shade, rich soil and plenty of water. We recommend giving them a regular watering every few days and organic fertilizer every other week. With the proper care, Begonia blooms can reach 5 to 6” across, creating a spectacular show in the summer garden. Once temperatures drop in the fall and frost threatens, bring your Begonias indoors in containers for the winter. Continue to feed and water them regularly, then bring them back outdoors the next spring.

Varieties

Begonia splendide pastelTuberous Begonias have rose-like blooms and come in a variety of colors, including pink, scarlet, yellow, white and more. Hanging Basket Begonias aren’t as upright growing and look amazing planting in containers, cascading down the sides. View our entire selection of Begonias here.

What experiences have you had growing Begonias? Please share on our Facebook Page or in the comments below. Happy Gardening!

 

 

One gardener was so impressed with our Begonia tubers, she wrote us a letter and sent photos!

 

February 21, 2015 · Amanda Shepard · One Comment
Tags: , , ,  · Posted in: Flower Bulbs, Gardening in Spring and Summer, Gardening in the Winter, How-Tos, Perennials

Plant for Monarchs this Season

Annual Monarch Collection

We’re excited to announce the introduction of two new seed packet collections for spring 2015. We’ve created a Monarch Perennial Wildflower Seed Collection and a Monarch Annual Wildflower Seed Collection. Each collection contains five packets of Wildflowers that attract Monarchs and give them a place to eat, rest and reproduce.

Perennial Monarch Collection

Our Monarch Butterfly Perennial Wildflower Seed Collection contains Asclepias tuberosa (Butterfly Milkweed), Asclepias syriaca (Common Milkweed), Asclepias incarnata (Swamp Milkweed), Eupatorium fistulosum (Joe Pye Weed), and Solidago rigida (Stiff Goldenrod). This colorful mixture will bloom in the second season and for years after, making it the perfect long-lasting choice for any garden or meadow. Monarchs use these varieties to pollinate and as breeding grounds, and will be coming to and from your garden all season long!

Annual Monarch Collection

Our Monarch Butterfly Annual Wildflower Seed Collection contains Zinnia elegans (Zinnia), Cosmos sulphuris (Sulphur Cosmos), Lobularia maritime (Sweet Alyssum), Gaillardia puchella (Indian Blanket), and Tagetes erecta (Marigold ‘Cracker Jack’ Mix). This colorful mixture will bloom in the first year and is the perfect choice for gardens, meadows, green spaces and anything in between! Monarchs use these varieties to pollinate and as breeding grounds, and planting this mixture will make their lives a little easier.

Whether you have acres of land or are planting a city garden, these collections are the perfect choice. You’ll not only enjoy the gorgeous blooms of native Wildflowers, but also be visited by Monarchs all season long and know you’re doing your part to help the disappearing Monarch population. Happy Gardening!

February 12, 2015 · Amanda Shepard · Comments Closed
Tags: , , , , ,  · Posted in: Gardening in Fall, Gardening in Spring and Summer, How-Tos, Wildflowers

Create Your Own Honeybee Wildflower Wedding Favors

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We were ecstatic when we saw Amanda’s DIY blog at Small Home Big Start. She created unique and adorable honeybee favors for her summer wedding using our Honey Bee Wildflower Seed Mix! We’ll outline how she did it below, but you can learn more and view her amazing photos here.

Amanda says, “When we started talking about making DIY Honey Jars for the wedding favors, it made me think about the bees. We needed to give something back to them too. That’s when I came up with the idea of creating little packets of wildflower seeds that guests could take home.”

She paired her honey jars with a homemade packet of our Honey Bee Wildflower seeds, asking guests on the sign to please “scatter them in your garden or in a ditch on your way home.” Taking it one step further, she and her husband took some of the Wildflowers on their honeymoon to spread, but instead gave them away to people they met on their trip!

wildflower-seed-closeup

Amanda found great resources for the envelopes and labels, so each favor only cost them $.58 (including the seeds).

She put a tablespoon of seed in each packet, which will cover almost 100 square feet. She placed the seed in transparent envelopes and used store-bought labels to print “Honey Bee Wildflower Seed Mix” on the labels using her printer.

She created a fabulous display for the favors using a wood tea box and moss. Check out her photos to see more.

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We absolutely adore this idea and are thrilled that we could be such a colorful part of Amanda’s wedding. Have you used Wildflowers in your wedding? Please share your experiences in the comments below or on our Facebook Page. Happy Gardening!

February 3, 2015 · Amanda Shepard · Comments Closed
Tags: , , , , ,  · Posted in: How-Tos, Wildflowers

Pollinator Partnership Part II: Creating a Pollinator Habitat

Butterfly Weed and Daylilies

In last week’s blog, we talked about our sponsorship of the Pollinator Partnership, a non-profit that is dedicated to the protection of pollinators and spreading awareness of their cause.

One of the big focuses of their organization is working with gardeners and farmers to create better habits for pollinators. They work on conservation techniques that you can easily create in your own back yard!

Plant native varieties as much as possible and make sure to create a garden full of easy-to-pollinate varieties that bloom all season long.

As you’re planning your spring gardening season, try to keep the following varieties in mind to add to your garden and make it a little easier for our disappearing pollinator population!

Dahlias

Wildflowers:

View all Wildflowers that are great for creating a pollinator habitat.

Summer-Blooming Bulbs:

View all Summer-Blooming Bulbs that are great for creating a pollinator habitat.

bee-ffmnPerennials:

View all Perennials that are great for creating a pollinator habitat.

Even if you only have room for a few more varieties in your garden, consider choosing plants that are easy-to-pollinate and will create a better habitat for bees, butterflies and others. Happy Gardening!

January 27, 2015 · Amanda Shepard · Comments Closed
Tags: , , , , , , ,  · Posted in: Gardening in Spring and Summer, How-Tos, Perennials, Wildflowers

Pollinator Partnership – Part I


milkweed

We’re excited to be sponsoring the Pollinator Partnership in 2015. This non-profit is the largest organization in the world that is dedicated to the protection of pollinators and their ecosystems.

HostaThe Pollinator Partnership not only works hard for the protection of pollinators, but also helps to promote the importance of pollinators in our world. They shed light on the problem (and solutions) through initiatives in governments and industry, consulting, public outreach and education programs. They work in the United States, Canada, Mexico and other countries around the world to help preserve the pollinator population.

From their website: “Many pollinator populations are in decline and this decline is attributed most severely to a loss in feeding and nesting habitats. Pollution, the misuse of chemicals, disease, and changes in climatic patterns are all contributing to shrinking and shifting pollinator populations. In some cases there isn’t enough data to gauge a response, and this is even more worrisome.”

So how can you help? The Pollinator Partnership works with gardeners and farmers to create better habitats for all pollinators. They work on conservation techniques that you can create in your own back yard.

sunflowerBut how? It’s pretty simple. Choose native plants and make sure to create a garden that is in bloom all season long, which will help busy pollinators know that your garden is a good spot for them to stop at. Growing a vegetable garden? If you plant native flowers around your garden, the pollinators will help you get bigger and better crops.

If you’re looking for a comprehensive database on native plants, try using the great online tool from the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

For others way to help, visit the Pollinator Partnership website, but they emphasize that everyone should be spreading the word about the importance of pollinators and supporting farmers and beekeepers by buying local honey and locally produced organic foods.

Stay tuned for the second part of our blog, which will outline a variety of seeds, bulbs and perennial plants that you can add to your garden this season to help the disappearing pollinator population. Happy Gardening!

Zinnia

 

January 18, 2015 · Amanda Shepard · Comments Closed
Tags: , , , ,  · Posted in: Flower Bulbs, Gardening in Fall, Gardening in Spring and Summer, Gardening in the Winter, Perennials, Vegetable Seeds, Wildflowers