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

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Get Gardens Ready for Snow and Ice

If you reside in an area that has severe winters; snow and ice then it is easy to miscalculate where the gardens are especially if they are close to walkways, patios or driveways.  Take the necessary steps and prepare your gardens for snow and ice.  This will ensure that your spring flowers will be healthy.
Fountain grass garden in winter
Fountain grass adds winter interest to garden

When I get my gardens ready for winter I like to first survey my gardens to determine exactly what needs to be done. I will make a list of all of the duties and then divide my yard into sections.  

Apply these steps to put your gardens to bed in the late fall and you will protect the perennials from ice that would damage the roots that are close to soil surface.

Start getting your gardens ready for snow and ice by cutting back flowers and plants to the soil line. If there are annuals dig out the roots. Followed by removing the grasses and weeds.

When the garden bed is clean and weed free  cover the top of the garden with an inch of shredded newspaper, then add a layer of organic mulch; dried grass, pine needles, straw or leaf mulch, followed by two inches of manure or compost.

Next install reflective markers for all gardens that are located by patios, walkways, and driveway or door entrances.  Or you can install 3 to 6 foot stakes at the edge of your garden closes to the high traffic areas. Top the wooden stakes yellow or orange flags.


Note: if you grow ornamental grass, astilbe, Autumn Joy sedum, coneflowers, or Hydrangea leave the flowers to dry as they will add eye appealing interest to your landscape  throughout the winter season.



Saturday, October 23, 2010

Backyard Bird Habitat - Plants That Attract Birds

This morning I observed birds flying in an aggressive manner; feathers plumped, squawking excessively, swooping and circling.  The reason for the alarm was brought on by the roar of the chainsaw.  

50 feet from my home I viewed men cutting down mature oak trees.  These Bluejay birds  were angry because the trees had been a nesting area for decades and was part of the bird’s habitat.  

There is no way that I can stop the change of the bird habitat however; I can offer the birds a safe haven that will provide shelter, food and water. I will continue to grow my backyard bird habitat by planting trees for nesting, wind break, flowers for birdseed, fruit bearing trees and shrubs. 

Photograph of my yard and plants:

My bird habitat consists of:

Ornamental Grasses
Black-eyed Susan
Sugar Maple Tree
Black Walnut, Pecan and Oak 
Elderberry and Nanking Cherry 
Crabapple Tree

Presently the forest birds are under stress but hopefully in a few days they will find refuge at my backyard bird habitat.  



Friday, October 22, 2010

Update Wrought Iron Patio Table with Paint

Wrought iron outdoor furniture is durable and will last a lifetime however the style and the color of the furniture is dated.  You can update the look of your wrought iron patio table with a fresh coat of paint and it will blend nicely with your outdoor living space.

Years ago I inherited my mother’s 3-piece bistro set.  I was thrilled to have it however the style did not go with my home.  The traditional white color stood out like a sore thumb.

I tried to update the look of the bistro table set with pastel floral seat cushions and a small market umbrella.  The patio set looked better but I still did not like the bright enameled white paint. I decided to paint the wrought iron patio table and chairs enameled black. This color would match my iron fence, gate and other garden accessories. 

 How to paint a wrought Iron Bistro Set

Take the furniture apart by using a screw driver or a drill.  Place the nuts, bolts and screws in a zip lock bag and label the outside of the bag with the contents of the bag. Such as:  hardware for chair or hardware for table.

Clean the wrought-iron furniture with a wire brush.  Pay attention to the ornate scroll work as this is where dirt will accumulate..

Hose off the furniture to remove any excess dirt or debris. For stubborn stains; apply dawn degreaser to a damp sponge and wipe the wrought-iron furniture.  Let the soap set for a few minutes before rinsing with water from the furniture.

Place the iron set on a tarp in a sunny area.  Allow the outdoor furniture to dry.

Sand the set if needed, to remove all chipped paint. You will need a smooth surface for painting. (For the removal of rust see Tips.)

Purchase Rustoleum spray paint in the color of your choice.

Spray the wrought-iron furniture sections with the paint using even strokes.  Paint one section at a time and allow it to dry thoroughly.

Allow the painted furniture to dry before applying a second coat.

If your wrought iron has oxidation on it you will need to remove the rust with a rust remover.  I use naval jelly, it is a rust dissolver.  You treat the rusted wrought iron with the naval jelly instead of sanding.  Follow the directions on the package.

 Rinse the product well and thoroughly dry the wrought iron furniture before painting.
Paint the wrought-iron furniture in an enclosed area, such as your garage.  Open the windows and doors for proper air ventilation.

Spray paint is hazardous to your health, always wear a ventilator mask and protective eye wear when painting and make sure there is good air flow.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Natural Rose Air Freshener

  Make a natural rose air freshener from rosebuds that you find in your garden or use petals from floral arrangements.  I grow roses so whenever I need an air freshener I can pick the roses buds from my garden.  Not all roses have the same scent so choose your roses based on scent and then mix them with fragrant herbs like lemon balm or lavender.  A natural rose air freshener is good for you, your family and your pets.
pink rose garden card card

This morning I was out looking at my gardens and noticed that a few of my roses still have blooms. I decided to pick all of the rose buds and petals and to prepare for potpourri and rosewater spray.

It is a good idea to freshen the air in your home with the natural rose fragrance as it is better for your family. The store-bought fresheners may have a fragrant scent and they do control odors, however, they are made from chemicals.  The natural rose does not release chemicals into the air, making the natural rose freshener healthier for my family and home.  Plus the scent of the rose stimulates an area in your brain which stores happy thoughts and memories. Everyone who takes in the rose scent will naturally feel happy.

If you are interested in making a natural rose air freshener then it is best to use fresh rose petals. Fresh petals have a more potent fragrance and are not tainted with chemicals to make their blooms last longer.  Keep in mind that the rosebuds that are almost fully open but not quite are the best petals for a potpourri.

Instructions for rose petal potpourri.  
Cut roses with a long stem.  The rose should be almost open but not fully open.  Dry the roses by tying several stems together with a string.  Hang the roses from the sting and allow them to dehydrate in a cool and dry area for two weeks.  After two weeks check to see if the rose petals are dry, if so place the dried rose petals in a glass rose bowl. Add a few drops of essential rose oil and mix well. Complete your potpourri mixture when you are satisfied with the fragrance.  Fill decorative glass bowls or jars with the potpourri. 

View the video below for rose water recipe.