Monday, December 27, 2010

Design Ideas for Sensory Garden

Garden bench with colorful flowers and container garden
Design a sensory garden for your health and well being.  A sensory garden is a natural way to relieve stress and anxiety.

A few years ago my husband and I designed and installed a sensory garden.  Our garden is 22 x 34 which means that the size does not matter as long as you have room for all of the sensory stimulates; sight, touch hearing, scent, and taste.

I had most of the material needed for the sensory garden; however I did need to pull the garden together in order to make it flow nicely in the section of my yard.  I selected an area in my yard that was located on the woods side and designed a garden that featured sections. These sections were connected to each other with a pea gravel path.

In one section I planted a culinary herb garden, the other section I grew fragrant roses. In the center of my sensory garden, I added a medium sized solar bird bath and planted Echinacea coneflowers, and Black-eyed Susan's. These flowers attracted hummingbirds and butterflies to our yard and garden.

In the back of my garden, in a focal area, I planted a small ornamental grass garden, next to the grass garden was a small fountain.  This fountain is where the wildlife come to drink. The outdoor seating area was limited so wood benches were set along the path.

Elephant ear container garden by waterfall pond
To add to the ambiance of the sensory garden I added garden accessories: wind chimes, solar lighting, bird feeders and garden statues of fairies, frogs, and cats.

Designing the sensory garden was an enjoyable garden project.  My husband helped me with the installation of a garden pond kit that we bought at we also bought solar lighting which was installed in a sunny section of our yard close to the garden path.

We worked together as a team and now we are proud of our accomplishment.  The sensory garden healed us of our daily stress and helped us to focus on our priorities.

If you work in a high-stress environment or if you suffer from anxiety then you should design a sensory garden as it will help you to achieve inner peace. 

Note: It took us 28 days from start to finish to design and install our sensory garden.  We worked on the gardens daily, after work and on weekends.


Monday, December 13, 2010

Preventing Powdery Mildew

Powdery mildew is a fungus that attacks any part of your plant: leaf, stem, flower or fruit.  This fungus has also been noted on woody shrubs and trees.  Powdery mildew looks like a grayish white film that appears as dust.  If you treat the fungus as soon as it appears with a fungicide then you will prevent it from spreading to other plants.  

One year I decided to grow 200 zinnias along my rock wall.  I kept the garden weeded, applied a thin layer of mulch to control the weeds and I watered with a drip line irrigation.  

The garden site received 4 hours of full sun and 4 hours of part sun and 2 hours of shade.  I did not think that the part shade would affect the zinnias.  My husband and I went on vacation and when we returned I had powdery mildew all over the leaves and stems of my zinnia plants.  

Before our vacation the zinnias looked good growing along the river rock wall but they did not have enough air flow and they did not have enough full sun, plus our garden sitter watered all of the gardens at dusk.  

My zinnias didn’t have a chance as the odds were against them.  The following year I planted the zinnias in an open air garden that had 6 hours of full sun and the plants flourished.

Thin out flowers to prevent powdery mildew: Image by Susan Golis
You can prevent powdery mildew by choosing a garden site that has full sun, well-drained soil, and good air flow.  

Check your flower garden for overcrowding and thin out if necessary. Another way to prevent powdery mildew is to water your plants at the soil level with drip line irrigation or soaker hose.   I water all of my plants in the morning before the heat of the day, I find that dusk or evening watering attracts garden pests.  


Growing Tips: Black-eyed Susan Flower

The Black-eyed Susan is a cheerful yellow flower with a dark brown eye that looks like a daisy and blooms at the end of June and continues to bloom into the fall. 

the Black-eyed Susan will brighten your yard and garden when your other flowers have stopped blooming.  This flower will also attract  butterflies and hummingbirds to your yard and gardens. 

Here are some photographs of my Black-eyed Susan flower gardens.  The splashes of yellow make my yard and garden inviting.

Black-eyed Susan Questions and Answers

Where should I grow Black-eyed Susan's?

Grow the black-eyed Susan in masses or add it as an accent plant for your wildflower, prairie, or cottage gardens. Plant the black-eyed Susan close to home or patio, that way you can benefit from this colorful mid-summer flower.

Can you grow Black-eyed Susan's from Seed?

I grow the black-eyed Susan from seed.  I start growing the seeds 8-12 weeks before the last frost in spring.  They are easy to grow from seed all you need is the grow kits and a sunny window sill or grow light.  

For growing indoors you would plant the seed in the center of the container, water and set the container on a southern exposure windowsill.   Water the Black-eyed Susan’s when needed; it is best to not let them dry out. I like to keep them evenly moist but not wet.    Transplant your seedlings outdoors when they are 4-6 inches in height and after the danger of the last frost has past. 

Plant outdoors after the thread of spring frost has past by sowing seeds into a garden bed.  Cover the seeds with soil that is mixed with compost of manure and top with organic much; grass clippings, pine needles or straw. Keep the soil evenly moist.  The seedling should break ground in 12-16 days.

Note: the black-eyed Susan can be planted any time throughout, the growing season provided the plants receive adequate water. If you plant in the summer, select a day that has rain in the forecast, better to plant on a cloudy day, as it is less stress on the transplant.

I grow this black eyed Susans with coneflowres and Shasta daisies in my gardens as the flowers combination compliment each other and attracts butterflies.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Make a Balsam Garden Wreath

Make a Balsam garden wreath by collecting material that you find in your yard or in the woods. A wreath that is made from material found in nature is eye appealing and unique as well as a gift to wildlife and to the birds. 

Gathering Filler for Wreath

Today I took a small pail and a scissor along with me when I went for my hike in the forest. I ventured off trail to seek pine cones and to cut winter berry branches at three inches. I found the berries growing on shrubs some were blue and others were red. These colors would look nice on a balsam wreath. In my yard I cut branches from my holly bush, plumes from my fountain grass and sprigs from lavender, peppermint and basil herbs. 

Now that I had the filler for the wreath I needed to buy the balsam wreath from the Christmas tree lot. 
Winter Berries from Forest
 I bought two balsam wreaths that were $11.00 each. Note this is my only out of pocket expense. 

Getting Ready  

Working with items from nature can be messy and there may be insects too so I put the wreath together outdoors on my patio table. Working with natural products requires you to have a gentle touch as they can break easily. 

Lay out the filler for the wreath so it is separated and you can easily grab it when needed.

Before beginning the arrangement of the filler I gently opened up the balsam wreaths branches so that it did not look flat.  When I was satisfied with the fuller appearance I got busy with the filler arranging.  

Putting Wreath Together

Open the balsam branches so wreath looks full
 Natural Pine cones are a key focal material so I attached craft wire to the base of my pine cone so that it would stay in place on the wreath.

 To keep the wreath balanced I attached one pine cone at the top of the wreath, off to the side slightly so it would not be covered by the wreath hanger. The other two pine cones were attached on the sides closer to the bottom of the wreath.  The pine cones were my focal area and the filler would be the fluff.

Highlight pine cone with winter berries

Red and purple berries were added around the pine cones to add color and interest. The rest of the wreath filler was added to the base to give the wreath color flow. 

The sprigs of herbs added additional fragrance to the wreath as well as interest. I finished the wreath by adding plumes of fountain grass. The grass gave the wreath interest and it was a good contrast.

I hung one wreath on my front door and the other on my front garden gate. My neighbor admired it and asked me if I would make her one. I sold my one wreath for $36.00. 

Making balsam wreaths is a great way to earn extra money.  It took me twenty minutes from start to finish to make the wreath.  The time most used was wiring the pine cones to the base and looking for the natural filler in the woods. 

Balsam Garden Wreath hung on Gate

Learn more about designing wreaths from balsam:
The balsam garden wreath is a practical way to decorate as you can display this wreath throughout the winter season and it looks especially nice during the Christmas.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Hosta Garden - Winter Tips

Autumn has been mild in comparison to last year.  Today the temperature was 63' and I took advantage of the mild weather and prepared my Hosta gardens for winter.  I started my day by hand removing all of the reaming leaf matter. 

 Many people leave the autumn leaves on the garden until spring as leaf matter is a good insulate for the plants.  I like the idea of using natural leaf mulch. The nutrients are good for the plants and the earth.  However, I found out the hard way that leaf mulch when applied to my garden heavily was not not good.

Last spring when I went out to remove the leaf matter I discovered that the leaf mulch had become a breeding ground for snakes and borers; two pests that I am not crazy about.  Therefore this year I recycled leaves for fine mulch for my lawn only and removed all of the leaves from my gardens.  

When I finished my task of removing all of the leaves and sticks I started hand pulling all of the weeds.  For stubborn rooted weeds I used my hand tools to dig them out.  I prefer to weed my gardens in the fall rather than spring, as I do not want to disturb the new spring bulb growth by weeding the garden. 

Note:  I do not add weeds to my compost instead I place them in trash bag and put them by the curb for trash removal.  

When the hand pull of the weeds was completed I applied one inch of compost by spreading it on top of the entire garden.  The compost is an excellent fertilizer for the crocus and daffodils that are planted in this three season garden .  

Next I applied three inches of Scott’s natural scapes advanced color enhanced classic black mulch.  Normally I prefer to use natural cypress mulch but this year I opted for the Scotts mulch.  The black organic mulch is a nice contrast to the flagstone and it also prevents weeds naturally as well it retains moisture with a guarantee that I will use 30% less water.  

Water conservation is important to me so I decided to try the color enhanced mulch. 
Scotts  Mulch and Liriope by Susan Golis
I prefer to apply the mulch by hand around the plants. Many people will open the bag of mulch and dump the contents on the garden and then raking it in place.  This is an easy and quick way to mulch a garden bed, however when you do that you will damage any plant life.  Yes it will grow back; you will have to cut off the damaged leaves and stems and the plant will suffer.

I prefer to take my time and apply the mulch by hand, gently setting the mulch around the plants so that there is no breakage.  In fact hand pulling of weeds and hand application of mulch is my specialty and I have obtained many garden contracts due to this skill. 

Every gardener excels in a specific area and mine is attention to detail.  I enjoyed my time in the garden today and I am satisfied with my feature garden. 


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Get Rid of Roaches - Home and Garden

Head of cockroach: image by Wikipedia commons

Stop the roaches from entering your home  by sealing cracks around your doors and windows and landscaping so that your gardens and shrubs are away from your foundation. 

Everyone at some time or another in their lifetime experiences roaches. It does not matter how meticulous your home is roaches will invade your home or business. 

There are 3500 species of cockroaches in the world and eventually, this insect will move into your home or business and scatter across your kitchen counter tops in search of food or linger in your bathroom for water.  

If you allow the roaches to stay in your home for a short period of time they will settle in and multiply and before you know it your home or business will be infested.  

Last week I noticed a cockroach in my laundry room and knew if there was one there had to be at least 30 or more hiding out in my home.  Roaches like to hide from humans and they seldom come out during the daylight hours, therefore if you want to conduct an inspection of your home then you need to turn off all of the lights, take your flashlight and open up your cabinet doors under your sink and also look behind your refrigerator, stove and in the bathroom under the sink cabinet.  

Look for droppings as they are signs of cockroaches.  The droppings look like specks of black pepper and are primarily in areas where there is food or water.  Should you determine that you do have roaches then you will need to inspect the exterior of your home for cracks, holes in your foundation, siding and crevices, also check around your windows and doors to make sure they are sealed. 

Roaches will also enter your home through your drains in bathroom or kitchen and the air ducts.  Seal all entrances to your home and place a drain cover in sinks and bath tub.  Deter the roach from infesting your home by landscaping three to four feet from your home.  

Many roaches reside in a moist habitat such as humus dirt or mulch.  Install cement or rock barrier in between your landscape and your home and this will cut down on roaches from penetrating your home. 

Move landscape away from home

When you complete your outdoors tasks of sealing all  entrances you will survey your living space.  Check your home for cardboard storage boxes or shoe boxes.  Shoe boxes are usually in a dark closet and roaches think of the box as an ideal living area.  Remove shoes from boxes and place in an over the door hanger or in plastic under the bed storage unit. Also remove storage items from cardboard boxes and put in plastic storage containers with a locking lid.  After the cardboard material is removed from your home you will need to concentrate on your kitchen and bath area. 

Inspect under your sink and behind your appliances at night.  Use a flashlight to look for roaches and or droppings.  Remove roaches by killing them. Mix boric acid with granulated sugar and white flour. 

Use equal parts for all ingredients. 

Set the boric acid mixture in small open containers and set them behind the refrigerator, oven, and under the sink. The sweetness of the sugar will attract the cockroaches the flour is a binding ingredient that holds all ingredients together and the boric acid kills cockroaches, fleas, ants, ticks and other household pests.

Learn more about roach control:  Youtube video


 Cockroach head by Wikipedia commons

Monday, November 1, 2010

Toad Lily Growing Tips

Toad lilies are dainty flowers that resemble an orchid.  Gardeners who reside in USDA growing zone 5-9 plant the shade loving toad lily amongst their hosta’s, ferns,  astilbe, or in a woodland  setting..  The toad lily will start to bloom in September and will continue to bloom into October, thus adding eye appealing color and interest to ones shade garden.

A few years ago, I discovered  toad lilies growing in my garden.  I took several pictures of the orchid-like flower and went to the library to research the flower. The botanical name is Tricyritis Toad Lily and it is grows in shade to part shade. A woodland setting is ideal for growing the toad lily.  
The following spring I planted the yellow with red dots and the white with purple dots toad lilies in my shade garden.  In the later part of summer the stems pushed up through the soil and grew very quickly. 

When fully grown the stems have a hair texture and the leaves are dark to pale green.  Toad lily stems will grow to the heights of 18 to 28 inches and the spread is that of the same. T

Toad lily flower buds as a cluster and are funnel shaped and open from the tip of the bud.  The flowers come in a variety of colors: White with purple dots, white with red dots, yellow with red dots or white with light purple dots.  If you are like me I know you will want to grow all of the color combination's.  
Plant the toad lily rhizomes in early spring after the danger of frost has past. Toad lilies grow best in an area of shade to part shade, with moist hummus rich well-drained soil.  

Clear the planting area and amend the soil with compost.  Dig a hole that is three inches deep and plant the rhizome, pointy side up.  Fill the hole with soil and water well.  Keep the soil moist during the growing season. 

You can also grow these lilies from seed.  The toad lily will reseed itself or you can buy seeds to fill your garden with this exotic looking flower.

Caring for Toad Lilies

The toad lily is very easy to grow and is cold weather; frost, snow and icy hardy.  For best results plant according to requirement and water so that the soil is evenly moist.  Do not let the soil dry out.  I water my toad lilies daily to keep the soil moist.  In late August I will feed the toad lilies with a liquid fertilizer and in a few weeks my toad lilies will have many clusters of buds.  

Care for toad lilies after a hard frost by cutting stems back to soil level.  Do a hand pull of any weeds in the garden and then apply two inches of compost topped with 3 inches of organic mulch; pine needles, freshly chipped wood, or grass clippings.


If you were unsuccessful in growing the orchid, then grow the Toad Lily.  For small yards, garden, or shady apartment balconies you may grow the toad lily in a container.

This orchid like perennial will continue to grow in my shade garden for many years to come.

*The toad lily image with multiple cluster buds is an original photograph of the flowers that grow in my garden. 


Friday, October 29, 2010

Sweet Autumn Clematis Growing Guide and Photo's

Sweet autumn clematis is a vigorous vine that is renowned for its late summer vanilla-scented flowers and for the nectar-rich flowers that attract butterflies and hummingbirds. 

Clematis is simple to grow, however, if it is not pruned after the flowering season it can be invasive and will take over your yard.   If you have tried to grow clematis in the past and have failed I would suggest that you try again by planting sweet autumn clematis. 

For a healthy and vigorous climbing clematis, grow in an area where the soil is well-drained, and where the leaves have full sun and the roots are shaded.  

When I moved to the central region of the United States the home that I purchased was a historic home that had many gardens. On my first observation, I noted that the gardens were covered with an invasive vine. With careful inspection I found one hundred vines growing all over the gardens.  

Many of the vines exceeded the length of 36 inches. They were vigorous and aggressive covering everything they came across. They grew up the trellis and the river rock wall. I needed to trim a few back to prevent them from spilling over into the pond. 

 My husband wanted to rip out the fast-growing vines but I said “No”, I told him it was sweet autumn clematis. By the end of summer, the clematis vines were covered with delicate and very fragrant blooms. The fragrance was sweet like vanilla and the vines were laden with so many flowers that from a distance it looked like snow.

Photographs of sweet autumn clematis - my yard and garden.
Trellis made by husband - Clematis with day lilies and grasses

Fast growing clematis fills in trellis 

Front view of trellis: clematis with Four O'clock flowers

Clematis growing up Maple tree with liriope ground cover
Mature sweet autumn clematis vines look thick and woody.

Fragrant blooms in the end of August

Questions and Answers

Where should I grow sweet autumn clematis?
The clematis is eye appealing when growing up the side of a tree or trailing downward over a rock garden. It is also a good choice for steep hills or slopes and will blanket your trellis, arbor, chain link fence or mailbox with lush green leaves and fragrant flowers in late summer. Sweet autumn clematis is deciduous in most areas however if you have mild winters the plant may be semi-evergreen.

When should I plant clematis?
Plant the clematis in USDA growing zones 4-11 in the spring after the danger of frost has passed.  

Can you grow clematis from seed?
Yes start the seeds indoors by planting in a seed kit.  Plant seeds 8-12 weeks before the last frost in spring.  When vines are four inches in length and the threat of spring frost has passed you can plant the sweet clematis flowering vine outdoors.

How do you plant clematis?
For a nursery grown plant you would dig a hole that is the same depth as the container with a similar width. Break up the soil clumps so that the texture is fine. Mix compost or manure with the soil.  

Set the crown of the sweet clematis in the center of the hole with the roots facing outward.  Backfill the hole and water well.   Apply a thin layer of mulch around the stem and roots of the clematis.  

Protect the clematis roots from the summer heat by applying mulch.

Should I grow Clematis on a trellis? 
Yes clematis looks stunning growing on a trellis.  It is best to install the trellis five inches behind the vine. 

The clematis vine will attach itself to the sturdy structure by twisting a runner around the support.  

Make sure that the leaves are in the sun and the roots are shaded.  You can keep the roots cool by applying two inches of mulch around the stem of the clematis.  The mulch will aid in moisture control, prevent weed growth.  

Care for sweet autumn clematis:
Mist the clematis leaves daily and water the roots.  I find it best to water the clematis in the morning and when my summers get extremely hot (mid 90's to 100's) I will also water the clematis in the late afternoon.  During the peak heat, months of summer clematis need to be watered daily. 

Prune clematis after the flowers bloom.

How do you harvest sweet autumn clematis seeds?
In late summer after the clematis has produced a seedpod (see image below) collect the seeds from the brown shell and set the seeds in an envelope for safe keeping.  Seal the envelope and write the name of the plant.  

Keep the seeds for the next spring plantings.

Sweet Autumn Seedpod: Image by SGolis