Saturday, December 27, 2008

Christmas Seeds

Merry Christmas everyone! I wracked my brain again this year for a gift that would be personal, home-made, easy to mail, and have as little negative impact on the environment as possible. For a while I thought, “no, not my seeds”, because I wanted to hoard them all for my own garden. But then I realized that my desire to keep them made them a more meaningful gift. May they grace your yard with many beautiful flowers!

As for the planting instructions. . . I still don’t have all that much experience with plants, so take my suggestions with a grain of salt.

These plants are all native to North America. In the wild, they produce seeds in the Autumn. Those seeds drop on the ground, and the ones that aren’t eaten by the wildlife wait until conditions are favorable, which is usually in the Spring after some good soaking rainfalls.

If you prefer, you can plant your seeds simply by scattering them on the ground and waiting for those favorable conditions. However, the wildlife may eat some of the seeds, and favorable conditions may not occur for a few years. Also, young plants may be killed off by drought or out-competed by established plants.

To get more reliable germination, start with a patch of ground about three feet by three feet in a sunny location that has been cleared of weeds, preferably during an above-freezing day the winter, so that the seeds will have a chance to freeze and thaw a few times. Sprinkle the seeds and then stir up the top layer of soil to mix them in a bit. When warm weather arrives, keep the patch watered so that it stays at least as wet as a wrung-out sponge.

Most of these flowers are native as far south as Texas, so they should do all right without the freeze-thaw cycle. But they might do best in a partially shaded location.
Once established, these plants shouldn’t require any watering or other maintenance from you. And if you leave the spent flowers in place, the plants will reseed themselves for you.

So, what’s in this seed mix?

Evening Primrose:

This biennial will form ground-hugging rosettes of leaves the first year, and bloom the second year after it is planted – though one of mine broke with tradition and gave me flowers on its first year. The flowers form on a stalk that is up to six feet high. Every evening it will open a few yellow flowers, which are spent by the following evening. As the flowers die, tough seed-pods take their place. The seeds in those pods are a favorite of goldfinches during the winter. I collected these seeds from a nearby vacant lot.

Blue Toadflax:

This isn’t flower that you would typically see in a garden, because the blooms are teeny tiny. The plant is an annual or biennial that grows close to the ground, and puts up a thin stalk topped with little purple blossoms. Where colonies of these grow, the effect looks like a purple haze over the grass. These seeds were collected from our front yard. I’ll have to post some photos of this one when I get home from Virginia.

Blackeyed Susan:

These are the standard yellow and black cone-flower seen in many gardens. Sorry, I don’t yet have a photo of these!

Common Milkweed:

This plant has an undeserved bad reputation, probably because some nitwit decided to give it the name of “weed”. When this annual flowers, it has a fascinating sphere of pink blooms. But even better is when monarch butterfly caterpillars make a home on it. I couldn’t collect seeds from the milkweed in our yard because the monarch caterpillars ate too much of the plants, so these seeds came from milkweed growing down the street.
By the way, if you have monarch caterpillars, you can feed them milkweed in a terrarium and watch them turn into butterflies.


These are a standard garden perennial with umbrella-shaped groups of leaves and spikes of purple flowers standing two feet high. When left to go to seed, they form colonies. The young plants that sprout around the feet of the established plants are easy to transplant. You probably won’t see any flowers until the second year, but once established they are showy and reliable.

Obedient Plant:

This flower is called “obedient” because when the flower stalk is bent, it will retain the bent shape. The plant itself is actually a bit unruly, but it’s worth it for the three-foot tall spikes of white flowers.

If you wish to collect seeds from your flowers, simply wait until the seed-pods are mostly brown and dry. Then cut off the entire stalk and place it in a paper bag. When the pods have dried completely, give the bag a shake to dislodge as many seeds as possible, and then collect the seeds from the bottom of the bag.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Home for Christmas

Chris, Gabe, and I are visiting my parents in Virginia for Christmas. This is my parents' beautiful house and yard.

It's a treat for me to be here, because I grew up in this house, and this is where I did some of my first gardening.

I planted this wisteria about fifteen years ago. Knowing nothing about the growth habits of Japanese wisteria at the time, I am surprised that it hasn't eaten the house. My mother has to do battle with it every year, and the dratted thing has never bloomed.

When we planted these evergreens, they were as tall as me.

This butterfly bush used to be short enough for me to jump over.

I planted this creeping mint in the front walkway hoping that it would spread to fill in all the cracks. It took ten years to do so.

I hope I can come back during the summer sometime to see this beautiful yard in bloom.

I'll have to rotate these photos later. Oops!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Organic Farming on Reuters

This reuters article is a bit old and a bit short, but interesting. The title is "Organic farming yields as good or better: study."

Sunday, December 7, 2008

More Snow!

This morning I awoke to falling snow. Here is the view from the front door:

The back yard:

Here is my tiny pond.

Really, it’s just a puddle, but it’s next to a nice rock.

There is no ice on the water today. It is just cold enough for the snow to linger a while before it melts.

Monday, December 1, 2008


We got our first snow of the season yesterday. Pictures soon. . .

Okay, here are the pictures!

There wasn't very much snow. . .

I had to go shopping while the snow was coming down. This was the view from the store's parking lot.

New England has some amazing wetlands. What surprises me is how little people seem to notice them.