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.