Dainty Dogwoods

The flowering dogwood, Cornus florida, is a small deciduous tree in the family Cornaceae. Other older names for this tree include American Dogwood, Florida Dogwood, Indian Arrowwood, and false boxwood.  It is native to the southeastern United States with an endemic population that once spanned from southern Maine south to Florida and west to the Mississippi River. When in the wild their blooms are white.  They can typically be found at the forest edge and frequently on dry ridges.

They are impressive trees to have around and can be used in small groupings, as a lawn tree or along borders.  Their form is often wider than it is tall with a trunk diameter of up 1 foot at maturity. Dogwood trees are extremely sensitive to stem and trunk injuries so mulching around the base is recommended. The leaves are simple and opposite with a length of approximately 3″ to 6″ long.  The leaves of this tree can exhibit good fall foliage color. Dogwoods are commonly planted as an ornamental in residential and public areas because of its showy bracts and interesting bark structure.

dogwood-1208222_960_720Around twenty inconspicuous flowers are produced in a dense, rounded, umbel-shaped flower-head up to 3/4″ in diameter. The flower-head is surrounded by four large white, pink or red “petals” that are actually considered bracts or modified leaves. Each bract is nearly 2″ long with a distinct notch at the apex. The flowers are perfect with both male and female parts. They typically flower in early April in the southern part of their range, and late April or early May in Northern regions. The bloom time is effective for about two weeks. Flowering occurs before leaf out.

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Remember that in the wild, dogwoods are typically an understory tree. The best planting site should be selected and should have well-drained soil high in organic matter with an acidic pH. Dogwoods can be planted in full sun or partial shade, though partial morning sun is best. Plants should be watered weekly during droughts, with watering done in the morning, avoiding wetting the foliage. Their hardiness zone is from 5–9.

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In 2012, the United States sent 3,000 dogwood saplings to Japan to commemorate the 100 year anniversary of the Washington D.C. cherry trees given as a gift to the U.S. by Japan in 1912.

 

Starting Seeds Indoors

Why start seeds indoors? It’s simple, gardeners start their seeds indoors in order to get a jump on the gardening season. Doing so allows them to gain a few weeks of extra growing time particularly in regions with short growing seasons.  It also gives gardeners greater selection and more control over growing conditions.

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Another advantage is that it is cheaper to buy packets of seed as opposed to buying young plants from a garden center. The economics is easy more plants at a much lower price. Your garden production will increase and the extra plants can be given to your friends and neighbors.  When you plant your own seeds, you have control over the way they are raised. This may be especially important if you are an organic gardener who wants to control their process from the choice of non-GMO or heirloom variety seeds through to starting mix composition and fertilizer selection.

Which vegetables are best started indoors? Most gardeners agree that vegetables such as peppers and tomatoes, and herbs like basil are best started early.  A good rule of thumb is to start seedlings about 6 weeks before the last spring frost.  Seeds sprout best at indoor temperatures between 65 to 75°F. A heat mat may increase germination rates and is a good investment. Remember young seedlings are fragile and sensitive.  Young plants are easily damaged by fluctuations in temperature and excess watering so water carefully. A mist sprayer is a good choice.

Most veggies need 8 hours of direct sun, so it’s important to have a grow light if you are sowing your vegetable seeds indoors.  If your seedlings get too leggy (tall with small leaves) then additional lighting is necessary.  Amazon offers an excellent selection of grow lights that use LED technology and traditional fluorescent lights.

Lastly, your seedlings need to be hardened off prior to transplanting in your garden.  This allows plants to get slowly accustomed to the great outdoors.  It will also decrease losses and die back. Over a 10 day period move your plants outside in a protected area, like a back porch, for a few hours each day.  Not too much light or wind. Gradually increase their exposure to full sun and wind conditions; your plants are now ready for transplanting.

May you have a successful gardening season.

 

Forsythia Facts: Brilliant Blooms at Eastertime

 

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Forsythias are popular early spring-flowering shrubs in gardens and parks.  Border Forsythia or, Forsythia x intermedia,  is a common cultivar.  It is the result of hybridization between F. suspensa and F. viridissima. There are other cultivars available that have been selected for their dwarf and compact traits.  Forsythia is a genus of flowering plants in the olive family Oleaceae. They are mostly native to eastern Asia.

This deciduous shrub typically grows to a height of 3 to 9 ft with rough grey-brown bark. The leaves are simple, opposite and range between 3/4 and 4 inches in length. Leaf margins may be serrated or entire. Color is medium to dark green color above and lighter on the underside.  The stems are squarish with prominent lenticels.

Forsythia is the earliest blooming shrub at springtime and is used primarily for its showy early brilliant yellow blooms.  It is especially prized because its lovely flowers are in full bloom before the first green leaf appears. Individual flowers are about 1 1/4 inches in size and may occur in clusters up to six.   Blooms begin in March and April and may last two or three weeks.

Forsythia is very hardy, is fast growing, and makes a good screening for borders and living fence.  Plant 4 feet apart for a dense hedge and 8 feet apart for a loose hedge.  After several seasons, be prepared to prune them back.  Occasional rejuvenation pruning may benefit older plants.

Forsythia Facts

Forsythia is frequently forced indoors in the early spring. You can make a long slanting cut at the end of the stem for better results.

Forsythia is hardy from growing zones 5 to 9.

These shrubs will tolerate full sunlight to partial shade but need at least six hours of full sun for vigorous bloom.

They are adaptable to many soils and are easily transplanted and established.

 

Five Online Plant Companies Worth Checking Out

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One of the hardest decisions a gardener can make is where to buy their seeds, plants and gardening supplies. As you start looking for those annuals, perfect perennials, and choice veggies to fill your yard, consider shopping online. Here at The Plant King, we have compiled a list of our favorite garden seed catalogs and suppliers. These companies have perfected the art of shipping living, growing things, so they arrive perfectly healthy and are ready to thrive. Here is some information about our favorite online companies – where you can feel confident placing your order. Log onto their websites and request their paper catalogs today to have seeds in time for spring planting! Or order online directly and let the plants come to you.

These websites are packed with instructions and information from planting zones to plant care. And remember, online shopping may be the solution if you can’t find unique or special varieties at your local garden centers. Our biggest tip is to order early, especially if you are after something specific because once these companies sell out for the season, that’s all there is. And now on to our list of the best 2019 online garden seed catalogs!

Park Seed
Perhaps one of the most popular garden seed catalogs is Park Seed. They offer a great selection of both flower and vegetable seeds. Prices are affordable and the seed is always fresh. Shipping is fast, usually just a couple of days. Highly recommended. Additionally, they also offer some live plants.

Burpee Seeds
Nothing signals spring like the arrival of the annual Burpee Catalog in the mailbox. Burpee has always had one of the most colorful catalogs, and a wide selection of seeds. They are especially good at their vegetable selections, as many veggie gardeners already know. They continue to add new varieties each year. Their website excels at garden advice and how-to videos and articles about seed starting.

Johnny’s Selected Seeds
They have an extensive seed catalog, with lots of online tips and resources as well. Johnny Selected Seeds has a longstanding reputation as a quality Non-GMO company and it’s 100% employee-owned.

EdenBrothers
An online company that offers one of the largest seed and flower bulb assortments available. Their offerings for the home gardener include hundreds of heirloom varieties, rare and hard to find flower, vegetable, and herb seeds. They also have a large selection of flower bulbs for both spring and fall planting. A very helpful website that allows users to make selections according to flower color, plant height, plant life cycle, blooming and light requirements.

Burgess Seed
A company with over 106 years of experience. It is one of the largest producers and distributors of home gardening products and offers a wide range of quality gardening plants, trees, seeds, bulbs, and supplies at good prices. Check out their one-cent sales! This useful website has many helpful categories to aid buyers with their selections.

Hopping Good Times

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Common Hops, Humulus lupulus, is a species of flowering plant that belongs to the Cannabaceae or hemp family. It is a native to Europe and is cultivated in North America as well.  The sexes are separate or dioecious with the female plant’s strobili (pictured above) being of economic importance. The male staminate flowers do not have petals. Hops rely on wind-pollination of flowers. The plant is a herbaceous perennial climbing plant which sends up new shoots in early spring and dies back to a cold-hardy rhizome (underground stem) in autumn. You can find leaves with 1, 3, 5, and 7 lobes on the same plant. Plants can produce up to 20 years.

The female cone-shaped fruits from H. lupulus are used by breweries.  The fragrant flower cones, known as hops, impart a bitter flavor, and also have aromatic and preservative qualities. Hops are also used for various purposes in other beverages.

Hops plants grow best in the latitude range of 38°-51° (growing zones 5 – 8) in full sun with moderate amounts of rainfall and nutrient-rich soil with good drainage. Plants use the long summer days as a cue for when to flower around July or August. Plants can grow up to 30 feet tall and are typically suspended by free-standing poles or lattices will trellising twine.

Any hop rhizomes you buy will be female. Male hop plants are not cultivated.  Spring is the best time to plant hops.  First-year plants expend energy growing roots with only a few cones possible.  By the second year, you should see a marked increase in cones.

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A commercial hops yard using a trellis and pole system to suspend hops plants.

The American Holly

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Holly is a popular Christmas and Winter holiday season decoration. In English poetry and English stories, the holly is inseparably connected with the merry-making and greetings which gather around the Christmas time. But this tree offers much more. It lends its unique beauty to the landscape all year long and provides shelter and food for birds.

The American holly, Ilex opaca, is a species of holly, native to the eastern and south-central United States. It is a medium-sized broad-leaved evergreen tree with alternate leaves that are stiff, green and often pale yellow beneath. The edges are curved with several spike-like points. The petiole is short with a pair of minute stipules. The leaves remain on the branches for two to three years, finally falling in the spring. The sexes are separate from the female tree producing those beautify red berries.

The American holly is often cultivated by plant nurseries for use as an evergreen ornamental plant. It is planted as a shrub or as a slower-growing ornamental tree with over 1,000 cultivars available.

If you are interested in growing holly please remember these facts and choose a suitable location. The American holly grows to a height of 40–50′ and a spread of 18–40′ at maturity. This tree grows at a slow to medium rate, with height increases of anywhere from less than 12″ to 24″ per year. Full sun and partial shade are best for this tree, meaning it prefers a minimum of four hours of direct, unfiltered sunlight each day.

How To Propagate Hydrangeas From Cuttings

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It’s easier than you may think to root cuttings from your hydrangea bushes. The first step is to select a choice stem for cutting. A stem for hydrangea propagation should be at least six inches long, with no flower. The stem needs to be a new growth which is a lighter green than old growth. Once you have selected a stem to propagate, use pruning shears to cut the stem off just below a leaf node. A leaf node is where a set of leaves will be attached to the stem. The hydrangea cutting should contain at least one additional set of leaves above the selected leaf node.

Next, strip all but the topmost set of leaves from the cutting. The cutting should have only two leaves left. Cut the two remaining leaves in half crosswise. This will prevent excess water loss from the cutting and will quickly callus over.  Dip the end of the cutting in rooting hormone which will increase the chances of successfully propagating hydrangeas. Put the cutting into damp potting soil. Use a pencil first to make a hole, then firmly press the soil around the stem. Cover the pot with a plastic bag, making sure that the bag does not touch the leaves of the hydrangea cutting.

Place your hydrangea cuttings in a sheltered location out of direct sunlight. Check your hydrangeas every few days to make sure the soil is still damp. In about four weeks, the cutting will be have grown new roots. Your hydrangea propagation will be complete. That is all you need to know about how to propagate new plants for friends and family.

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