Gardening Book Gift Idea

Fritillaria on Black-eye Susan By Charlotte Ekker Wiggins

Fritillaria on Black-eye Susan By Charlotte Ekker Wiggins

Gardening Book Gift Idea

It's time to start thinking about gift ideas and this is one that will keep on giving, a book from National Wildlife with seasonal tips on gardening. It has a very small personal connection, too, the publication includes one of my garden photos.

When I entered the National Wildlife's photo contest, it never crossed my mind that down the road I would be asked to sell the photo for one of their upcoming publications.

I have been a National Wildlife supporter for decades. My one-acre limestone hillside garden is a Certified Wildlife Garden, which means I meet their criteria for providing food, shelter and water to native wildlife. I often recommend their accreditation quizz as a guide to planning a wildlife-friendly garden.

National Wildlife Federation purchased my fritillaria photo for their publication.

National Wildlife Federation purchased my fritillaria photo for their publication.

National Wildlife  also sent me a complimentary copy of the book they published. They selected a number of articles from their magazine, presented by season:

Several seasonal topics are covered in wildlife gardening, a great gift idea!

Several seasonal topics are covered in wildlife gardening, a great gift idea!

Since I am pursuing new gardening techniques, I thought it was serendipitous that my butterfly photo showed up in the chapter about gardening for change:

Here's my photo in the National Wildlife Federation article about gardening for change.

Here's my photo in the National Wildlife Federation article about gardening for change.

Yes, I am tickled that my photo is published but more importantly, I think this is a great gardening gift idea. Besides beautiful photos, the articles cover pertinent issues we all face in our gardens.

"Wildlife Gardening: Tips for Four Seasons" is $14.95 and available from the National Wildlife Federation's website.

No, I don't get any proceeds from the sale, I do think the publication would be a great gift and good reading for those upcoming cold winter months.

Charlotte

July Gardening Chores

Keep flowering plants and shrubs blooming by removing spent blooms, here I am using quilting thread snips. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Keep flowering plants and shrubs blooming by removing spent blooms, here I am using quilting thread snips. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

July Gardening Chores

Heat. It’s what drives every gardener this month, whether it’s making sure the garden gets an inch of moisture a week to stay cool or mulch to remain cool. Among the other chores for July, besides enjoying picking berries:

1.     Deadhead flowering plants. Removing spent blooms will help keep plants healthy and may even give you a second and third wave of flowers. I use sewing and quilting thread snips to quickly remove spent blooms.

2.     Remove weeds/unwanted plants. Unwanted plants take up nutrients, moisture and space away from desired plants. In this context, competition is not a good thing.

3.     Know your weeds. If you weren’t sure what it was before, whatever was growing should be showing its true identity by now. Many plants casually labeled weeds are forgotten herbs; others, like goldenrod, are blamed for what a true weed, ragweed does, which is aggravate allergies. And ragweed is a good plant, it only grows in very poor soil and adds nutrients to improve it before it dies off. Did I say know your weeds already??

4.     Give your garden one inch of water a week. When you water, use a watering wand or place the hose into the ground, no sprinkling. In hot summer weather, using sprinklers is a waste, the water just evaporates before it even hits the ground.

5.     Touch up mulch. Mulch will help keep garden beds cool. Make sure it’s aged mulch. If the mulch is steaming, it’s too young to use on flower beds.

6.     Keep your early morning dates with Japanese beetles. Catch them in soap-filled buckets to help reduce the population. Don’t try to catch them later in the day, they will just fly off.

7.     No more compost for woody plants, time for them to start hardening off and getting ready for winter.

8.     Don’t forget to water trees deeply, especially newly-planted trees and the oldest ones.

9.     Rambler roses done blooming? Prune.

10. How are your vines? My blackberries and clematis need a little help so I gauge their possible growth for the rest of this season and add support. Oh, I’m often wrong, the idea is just to give them extra support or it’s a mess trying to untangle them later. I usually wait until next year then and start with fresh growth.

In record heat, keeping roots watered is the best way to help plants pull through. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

In record heat, keeping roots watered is the best way to help plants pull through. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

11. I am starting to make new flower beds so I am hauling cardboard boxes home to get a good start. Once I line the beds with cardboard, I add mulch to start making the foundation of the bed. After the next rain, soil will be added, then another layer of mulch.

12. Start thinking about what needs to be done early next spring. I keep a list, check it twice…

13. The nearby composter will also get cleaned out. Not entirely, leave a good bucket-full as compost starter for the next batch.

14. Mowing grass? Don’t bag or rake clippings, they return Nitrogen to the soil.

15. Plant buckwheat in open areas. It’s not only a fast-growing, Nitrogen-introducing cover crop for garden spots, it also gives bees a source of food during August, when little else is in bloom.

Charlotte

 

 

Hummingbirds in Gardens

Hummingbird at a Bluebird Gardens syrup feeder.

Hummingbirds in Gardens

 I have had a couple of calls about aggressive hummingbirds protecting sugar water feeders this time of year.

Hummingbirds are territorial most of summer but we seem to notice their aggressive behavior more early fall. I don't know if it's because we are more cognizant of them because of changes in our weather in September or they are spending more energy chasing off rivals but they do get protective of their feeding stations.

Territorial hummingbirds make things easier for us in the Midwest by migrating end of September. These lovely tropical birds winter over in Central and South America so if they are eating you out of house and home, know they will be leaving shortly.

If you have been feeding them all summer, continue to feed them until they leave. They have become accustomed to your source of sugar syrup, one part sugar to four parts water. No need to add red dye, the red color of the hummingbird feeder is enough to catch their eye. Make sure to use hot water when mixing with sugar, then allow to cool before filling the feeder. Also make sure to change the sugar water every second or third day, especially if temperatures are hot. 

Don't clean hummingbird feeders out with soap, they don't like feeders that have been treated with most soaps. I use hot water to kill the bacteria, then clean the feeder out with a bottle brush. 

Hard to believe I will soon be putting the hummingbird feeders away, it feels like I just dusted them off.

Hummingbird feeders make nice gifts so if you find one you like, pick an extra one up for someone's birthday or holiday gift. They can be hard to find around the holidays so I buy them now if I want to gift them. Sometimes they are available on sale this time of year so you can pick them up for next year's use, too.

Do you have hummingbirds visiting your garden?

Charlotte

Reasons for a Folding Fence

A folding fence for sale at a silent auction with one of the best reasons to buy it!

A folding fence for sale at a silent auction with one of the best reasons to buy it!

Reasons for a Folding Fence

For the past two years, our local master gardener group has held a silent auction to benefit the chapter's operational fund. I missed the sale last year so I was intrigued to see what master gardeners would bring to sell this year.

There were the usual contributions of plants, from succulents to hawthorne and double rose of sharon starts. The table with gardening books was, unfortunately, too familiar. With the exception of one book on trellises, I had either read or currently owned the rest of the books.

Along one wall, a line of tables held a variety of different garden implements. The one that caught my eye was a green metal folding fence, something I have been considering buying to try to keep my herbs and spearmint from migrating all over my garden. I realize the fence will not help with the real culprits, the spearmint runs wild thanks to the running roots underground, but I do like to have my garden look nice. The folding fence would at least give a corner some semblance of order, even if we all know better.

As I was getting ready to write my silent bid, I spotted the excellent job of marketing. The person who had donated the fence wrote for "keeping your husband from cutting your flowers down."

How many of us have had that happen??

Charlotte

Deck Wren Gets New Birdhouse

Some of the bounty I picked up at Rolla's Farmers Market including a new handmade wren house.

Some of the bounty I picked up at Rolla's Farmers Market including a new handmade wren house.

Deck Wren Gets New Birdhouse

Of all of the birds in my summer garden, Carolina wrens hold a special place in my heart. I had a little wren that kept me company for many years outside my office window, her joyful singing a welcome respite to office work and politics.

I brought in a bird bath to make sure she had water, and periodically filled a nearby bird feeder so she could easily get food when she was raising her brood. 

After I retired, I found another Caroline wren was keeping me company at home. They are easy to spot, their brown and white feathers and longer beek a giveaway to their identification.

This Carolina wren had settled into a less than attractive space.

The little Carolina wren made a nest inside the electrical meter box on my deck.

The little Carolina wren made a nest inside the electrical meter box on my deck.

This is a birdhouse-looking box that covers the electrical meter on the deck. The Carolina "deck" wren built a nest on the top of the box, safe from prying eyes but not necessarily the safest place. The box is just hanging from a hook on the wall, covering the ugly electrical meter.

Carolina wrens sometimes build decoy nests so this may not be a permanent home. However, when I was at our local farmer's market, I saw a little handmade wren house that was perfect to add to my deck.

Birdhouses are a wonderful garden gift idea. Pair with a bird book or bird-themed quilt for a gift that keeps on giving. Birds are good garden companions, often eating bugs and other unwanted garden visitors. They are also a lot of fun to watch.

The new wren house installed and ready to welcome a new bird, should she decide to move in.

The new wren house installed and ready to welcome a new bird, should she decide to move in.

The new, handmade wren house now hangs from a hook in a corner, right across from the electrical box. A large potted plant underneath gives the house cover, and there is a bird bath nearby with water.

Hopefully my little deck wren will like these accommodations better and leave her electrical box nest for safer accommodations.

Do you have birds nesting on your property?

Charlotte

Hibiscus High

My first tropical hibiscus tree was a red one so this color continues to be a favorite.

My first tropical hibiscus tree was a red one so this color continues to be a favorite.

Hibiscus High

Missouri is well known for the August dearth. Temperatures tend to reach their record summer highs as kids head back to school and potted plants strain to make it to cooler September days.

One of the plants that doesn't seem to mind the heat is tropical hibiscus. We had them growing in our garden when we lived in Brazil. After graduating from college, I adopted my first red tropical hibiscus and have had a number of these southern hemisphere plants in pots since then.

In addition to blooming when little else has the energy to do so, tropical hibiscus are relatively easy to care for. It helps that they also tend to bloom in January, quickly brightening dismal winter days.

The key is, to say again, they are in pots. They spend cold months inside my house, then move outside spring through fall to green up my outside deck.

This double-blooming tropical hibiscus was a gift from a friend about five years ago.

This double-blooming tropical hibiscus was a gift from a friend about five years ago.

Tropical hibiscus are available in a variety of colors. The double-blooming varieties are pretty but not easily accessible to visiting hummingbirds so I tend to favor the single varieties.

They require more acid conditions so offering them the correct fertilizer keeps them happy during stressful weather conditions.

If you want to add a potted tropical hibiscus for winter color, start looking for garden sales now. These tend to be one of the last plants to get discounted but it's worth the wait. Some can be pricey.

A smaller hibiscus has smaller orange blooms.

A smaller hibiscus has smaller orange blooms.

Tropical hibiscus also make wonderful gifts so think about brightening someone's day in fall.

They tend to be sold as little bushes but I prefer to prune them into a tree form.

One of my newer varieties is an orange bloom, much smaller than the tropical hibiscus trees I have lived with over the decades. I kept that tropical hibiscus as a bush to help highlight the smaller flowers against a green back drop.

My garden contribution from last year, single yellow blooming tropical hibiscus plants.

My garden contribution from last year, single yellow blooming tropical hibiscus plants.

My last tropical hibiscus find were single yellow-flowering blooms with a deep burgundy throat. I bought two on sale at the end of the summer season last year knowing they were yellow but not knowing about the striking burgundy center. 

My hummingbirds love these tropical hibiscus trees. The burgundy center must look like a nectar bulls eye to them!

Charlotte

Memorial Plantings

Head stones and photos are not the only way to honor someone's memory.

Over the years, our family has had a number of trees planted in memory of loved ones passed. There's a plum tree blooming on Leavenworth in San Francisco with a placque in memory of my Aunt Lenore. Along Rolla's Acorn Trail, an oak tree was added in memory of a fellow City Councilmember who died while in office.

In my one-acre hillside garden, a number of plants bring back memories of loved ones; iris for my Mom, who had lovely iris flower beds in our farmhouse in southern Illinois. Miniature fruit trees among flower beds are in memory of my father, descendant from a long line of Hungarian farmers. He also added a fruit orchard on our southern Illinois property but I don't recall picking much fruit.

To some, visiting a grave is a way to honor those no longer with us. All I have to do is walk into my garden.

Mom, I miss you.

Joyce+Ekker+Memorial+Bench.jpg

Charlotte