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There is a gardening task that I both enjoy and dread when I have to do it twice every year.  

Now, I am not only doing it for myself, but also for my mother-in-law.

So what it is this task?

The seasonal task of changing out flowering annuals or in this case perennials, that are treated as annuals.

I had to this last Sunday when we stopped by for dinner.  Since my father-in-law’s death in September, we come over with the kids every Sunday and help around the house and garden and then have dinner. 

My mother-in-law hasn’t felt like cooking much and likes the idea of having us trying a different kind of pizza each week in order to determine what restaurant makes the best.  So far Papa John’s and Pizza Hut are our favorites….but there are still more to try.  The kids especially enjoy eating pizza every week 🙂

Getting ready to pull out the Vinca and plant Red Geraniums

Getting ready to pull out the Vinca and plant Red Geraniums

I blogged earlier about searching 3 different nurseries for plants to replace those that had died in my mother-in-law’s garden.  But, I also had to buy Geraniums (Pelargoniums) as well.

Now, I couldn’t buy just any Geraniums….I had to buy red ones – not orange and definitely not pink.  You see, my mother-in-law wants the garden to look the exact same as it did when my father-in-law was alive and did the work himself.

I must admit, that I was a bit late in doing this – I usually wait until late October to change out my warm-season flowering plants for cool-season ones.  But, there was still plenty of time before the cold weather settled in.

Okay, here is that part that I dread….

Flowering annuals

Flowering annuals

It is so hard to pull out beautiful flowering plants.

Now I realize that technically, I could leave them in their pots and these Vinca would survive our winter as long as they were protected from frost and would flower again in spring.

Or, I could transplant them elsewhere and overwinter them in an out of the way place.

But the majority of people just rip them out and throw them out (or put them on their compost pile) since they are relatively inexpensive.

I admit that I pulled them out and threw them out (please don’t hate me for pulling out perfectly good plants 😉

Now it was time to plant the red Geraniums (which are really Pelargoniums, but everyone including the nursery calls them Geraniums, so I will too).

There was a potential problem, however.  You see, my mother-in-law was used to my father-in-law planting huge, red Geraniums in full bloom.  But, I could not find large red Geraniums, much less ones in full bloom…

Flowering annuals

Flowering annuals

From a horticulturist’s point of view – it is better to select flowering plants that have few flowers in the nursery because the transplanting process is stressful for plants and those in full flower will soon drop their flowers.  When buying those that haven’t bloomed yet, you give the plant more resources to grow roots and will soon be rewarded with blooms that will last longer.

I was tempted to tell my mother-in-law this, hoping that it would make her feel better about the lack of blooms.  But it turns out that she didn’t mind, so I didn’t tell her.

I sprinkled slow-release fertilizer before I planted the Geraniums and will follow-up in a couple of weeks with a liquid fertilizer, just like my father-in-law did.

Of course, you can go the organic route if you prefer.  There are plenty of products available at your local nursery and even stores like Home Depot and Lowes are carrying organic fertilizers.

In addition to the red Geraniums, I also had to plant Bacoba around the potted Geraniums.  It can be hard sometimes to find Bacoba and of course I had trouble too.

But, I found a solution. I found a decorative container filled with Verbena and Bacoba at the nursery, so I bought it and used the Bacoba in the container.

Flowering annuals

And then my husband planted the Verbena, which replaced the one that died in their front garden last year…

Flowering annuals

So I killed two birds with one stone (although I would never literally kill a bird 😉

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On a personal note….life is crazy, but good.

I will update you soon on the happenings in my personal life.

I hope you are all enjoying this fall season 🙂

Flowers From Abroad….

This past weekend, I was on a mission.

My mission was to replace the few plants that had died in my in-laws garden as well as replace their warm-season annuals with cool-season ones.

Unfortunately, I could not indulge my creative side and re-design the landscape that I had originally created 9 years ago because my mother-in-law wanted to keep everything the same as it was before.

My father-in-law was a meticulous gardener and was beautiful, perfectly pruned and very neat and tidy (very much unlike my own messy and untidy garden 😉

As his illness progressed, I started to take over care of his prized landscape.  Now that he has passed away, I still care for it.  Every Sunday night, we go over and have dinner with my mother-in-law.  We always arrive a bit early so that my husband can do miscellaneous tasks around the house and I help in the garden.

And so back to my mission – I had to find the exact same plants that had died over the summer.  Now for those of you who do a lot of planting – you know it can be hard to find everything you need at a single nursery.  

local nursery

Well, I still harbored unrealistic hope that I would miraculously find all that I needed in one place.  I started at our big box store and found the geraniums that I needed (they had to be red).But, unfortunately, they had nothing else that I needed.

So, off to the second nursery, which is a locally owned chain.  I scored a bit “zero” there.  Then I drove on the a third nursery.

local nursery

Local Nursery

I love this particular local nursery.  It is very large, they have a huge selection and the staff is very knowledgeable.

You may be wondering at this point, why I didn’t start at this nursery first if it all that wonderful?

Well, the problem I find myself often being tempted to buy some of the unique and hard to find plants that they offer.

And so, I arrived at the nursery and started searching for the plants my mother-in-law needed – Angelita Daisy, Blackfoot Daisy, Firecracker Penstemon and Golden Barrel.

I did my best as I walked through the nursery to stay focused on my mission – to buy plants only for my mother-in-law and NOT for myself.

local nursery

Local Nursery

I found the Firecracker Penstemon, which is hard to find this time of year.  Now, I realize that it is not all that impressive looking in a small black container.  But, it looks fabulous once you plant it and it blooms in winter and in spring….

local nursery

I also found the other plants that I needed except for the Blackfoot Daisy.

Now, I had all the plants that I needed.  But did I leave the nursery at this point?

No.  I decided that my resolve was strong and that I wouldn’t buy any plants for myself and so it was okay to stroll through the nursery and take some pictures.

local nursery

Local Nursery

They had many cool-season annuals to choose from, but I already had all I needed at home, so I wasn’t the slightest bit tempted.

Until….

local nursery

I spotted this Black Petunia.

local nursery

Aren’t the flowers just gorgeous?

I looked to find a plant tag to see what variety they were, but it was missing.

Well, I really liked these Petunias, but didn’t really have a place to put them, so I pressed onward.

local nursery

I walked by a mini grove of Bamboo.  Many people are surprised to find the Bamboo can grow in the desert.  As long as they receive enough water, they do well in our zone 9 area.

Blue Salvia

Among the cool-season annuals, I spotted a bunch of Blue Salvia.  Normally, they are grown as warm-season annuals and they do very well.  I used to plant them in pots around golf courses, but I haven’t used them in years.  I’m not sure why, but I think I will try planting them late next spring.

local nursery

As I pressed, on I noticed movement among the plants.  This rooster was busy eating the tops of the plants.

You know, I think that roosters and chickens give a nursery a ‘homey’ feel, don’t you?  Kind of like a cat in a bookstore or knitting shop.

succulent collection

Of course, no nursery located in the desert is complete without its succulent collection.

Golden Barrel, Argentine Giant Cactus, Fishhook Barrel, Cereus, Saguaro, Agave and much more was available.

Agave

Here is a helpful hint….

Did you know that often Agave have more then one plant in the container?  That is because many species of Agave reproduce ‘pups’.

So, when you are out to buy an Agave, look for one that has more then one plant in the container.  Then when you are ready to plant them, simply cut the smaller agave from the mother plant and plant them as well.

bare root Ocotillo

The nursery had a large collection of bare root Ocotillo.

I love Ocotillo and was given one by my kids on Mother’s Day a few years ago.

Ocotillo do leaf out off and on throughout the year and produce vermillion colored flowers….

local nursery

As you can see, I was having a great time at the nursery.

There is more I would like to share with you.  I found some different ways to use everyday plants AND I have yet to show you two different plants that I was sorely tempted to buy.

At this point however, I think this post is long enough and I don’t want to bore you, so please come back for “Part Two”.

Further Temptations at the Nursery…

All of us (I hope) have experienced the benefits of having a good friend.  A good friend is someone that you can enjoy good times with, but they are also there to lean on in times of trouble and provide support.

Well, don’t you think your vegetables deserve the same benefits that friendship offers?

Vegetables need friends

Vegetables need friends

Now at this point, some of you may be thinking that I have finally turned into a crazy plant lady…..seriously – vegetables need friends?  Well, the answer is yes.  Vegetables do best when special ‘companion’ plants are planted among them.

Okay, so what does a companion plant do?  Well depending on the kind of plant, they can repel damaging insects and/or attract beneficial insects.  If you add companion plants interspersed throughout your vegetables, they will be much healthier and you will have fewer headaches due to fewer insect problems.

Here are some of my favorites…..

Vegetables need friends

Alyssum (Lobularia maritima), not only has a beautiful, sweet fragrance, but they also attract butterflies and ladybugs which are important pollinators.  Insects that eat mealybugs, scale, thrips and spider mites are also attracted to the alyssum and will help to keep those damaging bugs away.

Vegetables need friends

Bachelor’s Button (Centaurea cyanus), also attracts pollinators that are so important to the formation of your vegetables.  They also attract insects that will prey upon damaging insects such as scales and thrips.

Vegetables need friends

Now who doesn’t love the bright flowers of Cosmos (Cosmos bipinnatus)?  Well your vegetables would love to be friends with them.  In addition to attracting insects that will feast upon mealybugs, Cosmos also serve a general deterrent to insects.

Vegetables need friends

Pelargoniums commonly called Geraniums not only beautify your vegetable garden, but their distinctive smell deters many insects.

Lantana

Anytime you encounter Lantana in full bloom, you may also notice butterflies hovering above, which serve as pollinators in the garden.  Lantana are also a magnet for the irritating whitefly.  By planting some Lantana in close proximity to your vegetables, the whiteflies will be so busy with the Lantana that they are more likely to leave your vegetables alone.  Try to think of it as a choice between eating an ice cream sundae or broccoli 😉

Lavender

I just love Lavender and now I have a reason to include it in my garden.  It serves as a great repellent for ants, aphids, fleas, ticks, mosquitoes and silverfish.  In areas where I used to work, it was one of only 10 plants that the rabbits and javelina would leave alone.  Butterflies and bees do not seem to share the same aversion to Lavender…..they love it.

Petunia

Petunia hybrids are a very popular flower and it is easy to see why with their large, bright flowers.  But they also make great companions for vegetables (& roses) as well because aphids do not like them and tend to stay far away.

Rosemary

Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) isn’t just for cooking.  When in flower, bees are attracted to this wonderful herb and will often stick around to pollinate your vegetable flowers (yes, vegetables do flower and need to be pollinated).  It is thought that the aromatic fragrance of the Rosemary messes with the ability of damaging insects to detect delicious plants in the vicinity.

Sunflowers

Anyone who has grown Sunflowers (Helianthus annuus), knows that bees are drawn to them.  Well, if you didn’t already know this…..bees are vital for a healthy garden.  Sunflowers also offer another benefit to the vegetable garden.  When planted on the west side of the vegetable garden, they will provide shade in the summer for your vegetable garden.

These are just a sampling of companion plants (and the only ones that I had pictures of).  There are many more wonderful companion plants:

Basil

Calendula

Catmint

Catnip

Chives

Coreopsis

Dill

Fleabane

Marigold

Mint

Nasturtium

Sage

and

Thyme  

I currently have both Marigolds and Nasturtium growing inside my vegetable garden.  I am also (meaning my husband) in the midst of building a flower garden which will surround my vegetable garden.  I will include many of these companion plants as well as some purely ornamental flowers.

And so, if you have a vegetable garden that looks a little lonely, or if you are tired of the battle with damaging insects…..try bringing some ‘friends’ into your garden.  Your vegetables will thank you for it.

October Craziness….Cactus, Spiders, Stormy Weather and a Mixed-up Bird