FEATURED QUOTE :
"Where flowers bloom, so does hope."
- Lady Bird Johnson, from Public Roads: Where Flowers Bloom
Planning an outdoor celebration for Memorial Day? Show your patriotism by planting some beautiful containers to adorn your deck in the traditional colors--red, white and blue!
A good way to design these containers is to choose one plant for the center or back of the container that can remain in the pot indefinitely and filling in with foreground or perimeter plantings that can be changed with the seasons. Be sure to choose a pot large enough to accommodate the plants selected for it. If the pot does not have drainage holes, be sure to drill some before planting.
Dwarf bottlebrush (red), hibiscus rosa-sinensis (red or white), sea lavender (blue), butterfly bush (blue), kangaroo paw (red) or 'Flower Carpet' Roses (red or white). For a more subtle look, you could select a plant with red foliage such as 'Tropicanna' canna lily or one of the red-leaf phormiums. The choices are a little more limited if your pot will be placed in a shady area, but a gardenia or a dwarf red-leaf Japanese maple would work well.
Some good choices for foreground plants or plants that will drape over the sides of the sunny container would be petunia (red, white or blue), million bells (red, white or blue), red or blue salvia, verbena (red, white or blue), vinca (red or white) or ageratum (blue or white). Shady selections would include impatiens (red or white), begonia (red or white), lobelia (blue or white), heuchera (a red-leaf or white-leaf variety) or coleus (a red-leaf variety).
Choose a good quality potting soil. Make sure when potting your plants to compress the soil well; this will get rid of air pockets that will keep water from reaching portions of the soil and will also minimize settling of the soil. Be sure to allow enough room to water by leaving a couple of inches between the top of the soil and the top of the pot.
After your containers have been planted a few weeks, feed them with a good fertilizer to keep them blooming and growing well. Use the recommended amount and frequency suggested for the fertilizer (more and/or more often is NOT better).
With the proper care, your container will continue to bloom until July 4th and beyond. When fall comes, the filler plants can be removed and replaced with cool-season annuals of your choice.
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We love impatiens as much as the next person, but the recent proliferation of downy mildew has taken much of the joy out of growing them.
Signs that your plants are suffering from an infestation of downy mildew are:
• Light green, yellowing or stippling of the leaves
• The leaves curl down along the edges
• White, downy-like growth on the underside of leaves
• Stunted growth, leaf drop and flower drop
The disease spreads rapidly by spores transmitted by splashing irrigation water and/or air currents, and primarily infects Impatiens walleriana (common garden impatiens); those with single flowers and double flowers are equally affected.
Because of this ongoing problem, many growers are decreasing their production of Impatiens walleriana, some as much as 60%.
For this reason, finding this type of impatiens at all might be difficult this year. If you have your heart set on growing them, look for New Guinea impatiens or some of the other strains that have a high resistance to the disease. The Sunpatiens, Fanfare, Divine, Celebration and Celebrette series of impatiens are all resistent.
While there are fungicides on the market that will control the disease, extreme vigilance (and frequent treatment) is required. Because of this, we feel that attempting to grow many varieties of impatiens will prove to be problematic for most people.
We think the time has come to explore other options for summer color. After all, growing plants is supposed to be pleasant, right? Here are ideas for some great floral alternatives:
Dragon wing, angel wing, Rieger, tuberous or fibrous--there's a begonia that will appeal to just about anyone. Available in almost all the colors of the rainbow (except purple and blue), they will provide you with color throughout the summer.
Also known as wishbone flower, these come in a beautiful range of pastel colors. Their interestingly-shaped flowers and shading are real conversation-starters.
For an edging plant or hanging basket candidate, lobelia can't be beat. Available in all shades of blue to white, these can be combined with other plants to create the cool feeling that only blue can provide.
Great color can be achieved with striking foliage, too:
Also called sweet potato vine, this trailer with arrowhead-shaped leaves is a great way to add purple-black, chartreuse or variegated foliage to a hanging basket.
Red, purple, pink, chartreuse, green and white--they are all available in one of the varieties of coleus--sometimes all in the same leaf!
The most well-known is coral bells but there are many others. These plants provide an accent of chartreuse, orange, peach or purple to the garden. Some have several different colors in each leaf; some sport interesting veining.
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William Cowper once wrote the now famous words, "Variety is the spice of life." This couldn't be truer in the garden. Nothing spices up a garden like plants with variegated foliage. Use too many and they'll make you dizzy. But placed in the background or strategically planted in the midst of the garden, variegated foliage can bring out the best in all of your plants.
Variegated plants come in a myriad of shapes and shades. From bold to subtle, there's something for every gardener's personal tastes. Nothing steals the show like a variegated tree. It can be the centerpiece to build your entire garden around.
Many variegated plants make excellent hedges. Instead of hiding in the background, they provide a great starting point to planning a garden. Consider variegated English boxwood, silverberry, euonymus, variegated English holly, variegated kohuhu, variegated mock orange, dappled willow or weigela. Many of these plants also look wonderful when planted individually to bring out a corner or become a focal point on a mound or garden island.
If a hedge is not your cup of tea but you still want to hide some of your fence line, a variegated bower vine or variegated potato vine will do an excellent job. For bursts of color and interest throughout your garden, consider variegated varieties of abelias, daylilies, licorice plants, phlox, mock orange, sage, stonecrop, weigela, New Zealand flax and ornamental grasses.
If your garden has shaded areas, don't worry. There are many great selections for areas with less sunlight. Many popular variegated plants prefer shade or partial shade.
No matter what your garden setting is, variegated plants not only look great but also add interest. We have a large selection of plants with unique foliage and variegated colors. Stop by soon and see the beauty of these plants in person. You wont be able to resist them!
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Few of us can conceive of cooking (or eating) without the presence of tomatoes in our diet. In the US, the tomato is the summer vegetable (or fruit?) most often grown at home--and there are plenty of cultivars to grow. The U.S. Department of Agriculture claims there are 25,000 tomato varieties.
But this delicious food didn't always have it so easy. Up until the 1800's, most people viewed the tomato with caution--and many with outright fear. Originally grown by the Aztecs and Incas as early as 700 A.D., it is thought that the first seeds made their way across the Atlantic sometime in the 1500's.
Early Europeans categorized it with a group of well-known poisonous plants of the era: henbane, mandrake and nightshade. Because of its association with nightshade (whose hallucinogenic effects include visions and the sense of flying), it quickly became associated with witchcraft. In German folklore, witches would use plants such as mandrake and nightshade to summon werewolves (in fact, the common German name for "tomato" translates to "wolf peach"); because of this, the tomato was widely avoided (by everyone other than practitioners of the "dark arts," that is).
Legend has it that one of the main turning points in the popularity of the tomato in the US is largely due to one Colonel Robert Gibbon Johnson. On September 26, 1830, standing on the courthouse steps in Salem, Massachusetts before a crowd of interested onlookers, he proclaimed his intention to eat a whole basket of the red fruit and survive. One member of the audience was his doctor, who loudly stated, "The foolish colonel will froth and foam at the mouth and double over with appendicitis. All that oxalic acid - one dose and he is dead! He might even be exposing himself to brain fever! Should he, by some unlikely chance, survive, his skin will stick to his stomach and cause cancer!" Colonel Johnson proceeded to eat the basket of tomatoes and survive with no ill effects.
Even with all its detractors, the tomato had a few fans. Some people once believed that placing a ripe tomato on a mantel of a new dwelling would ward off evil spirits and guarantee future prosperity. Since ripe tomatoes tended to go bad quickly, it became popular to make stuffed fabric tomatoes to put on the mantel. Invariably, people sewing began to use them as handy pin holders. To this day, pincushions are very commonly covered with red fabric--and many still look like tomatoes.
Today, are much more likely to put a ripe tomato on our plates than on our mantels. We can enjoy all the different shapes, colors and flavors of tomatoes available. Here's wishing you a bumper crop this summer!
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What’s the best way to over-seed a lawn?
That depends on whether it is the entire lawn or just a bare spot. The best time to over-seed is early spring and early fall.
For bare spots, make sure to remove any old dead growth that still exists. Then scratch the soil surface at least 1-2 inches deep and level off. Apply your seed and cover with 1/4 inch of top dressing. Make sure to keep the area moist at all times until the seed has germinated and rooted. You should be able to mow the spot (on a high level setting) three weeks after the seed germinates and is visible.
Before over-seeding an entire lawn, mow your lawn to half its normal height. We recommend dethatching your lawn and removing all thatch debris before applying new seed. Then over-seed at the recommended over-seeding rate on the package of your lawn seed.
Cover the entire lawn with a 1/4 inch layer of the same top dressing mentioned above. Switch your watering cycle to at least twice daily (short cycles) the first two weeks, once per day the second week, every second day the third week and then back to your normal watering cycle from then on.
Try not to mow for at least two weeks after applying seed. Then do so at a higher than normal level setting until the new grass is well established.
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A great southern dish for those impatient for the first tomato of the season. It's also useful at season's end when frost is approaching and you still have unripened tomatoes.
What You'll Need:
- 3 to 4 unripened tomatoes, cut into approximately ¼ inch slices
- Vegetable oil, butter, or bacon grease for frying
- 1 cup flour or fine-ground cornmeal 
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Heat enough oil to cover the bottom of a large skillet over medium-high heat.
- Dredge the tomato slices in the flour to coat both sides; shake off excess.
- Place in hot pan and brown quickly until golden (tomatoes should be slightly softened but not mushy).
- Adjust heat as needed. Add more oil as needed between batches.
- Place briefly on paper towels to remove excess oil, then on a large platter in a single layer.
- Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
 You can also use coarse-ground cornmeal or breadcrumbs; if you do, you'll need to first dip the tomato slices into beaten egg.
Yield: 4-6 servings
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On the Radio
Charlie of The Garden Company is now doing a 10 minute radio garden program with Rosemary Chalmers, host of Good Morning Monterey Bay on KSCO. Tune in to AM 1080 every Friday morning at 8:15 and join us for a walk in the garden.
Can't decide what to get that special person in your life? A Gift Card from The Garden Company is a gift of a thousand possibilities. Available in any amount, for any budget.
Our Special Order Program can help you find that special plant or product you are looking for. We will gladly try to track it down and call you when it is available. Of course, specific plant availability is dependent on production cycles, but if it's out there, we'll try to get it for you.
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