Vicious Ragweed vs beautiful Goldenrod

golden rod

Goldenrod

Much maligned Goldenrod (Solidago) has burst onto the scene with the first bright hints of fall amidst groans and complaints from hay fever victims. No matter how many times a correction is offered, most refuse to release from blame the poor golden wild flower. Innocent, I claim! Bright gold with lots of pollen beloved by the bees, goldenrod is falsely accused.

rag weed

Ragweed

Ragweed (Ambrosia) is the culprit. Quietly creeping onto the fall canvas with tiny white flowers, it is frequently growing along side its more beautiful neighbor. Its potency is well known to allergists who diagnose allergic rhinitis. The difference between the two plants is mainly in the pollination. Ragweed is carried aloft by the wind far and wide, quite capable of reaching your nose and causing your sneezes. Goldenrod pollen is heavy and doesn’t travel far from the plant. Its nectar is beloved and mostly pollinated by insects, bees, and butterflies. So enjoy the brilliant golden wildflower as it trumpets the beginning of fall while you avoid that noxious weed nearby.

Q and A Gardening July ’14

My flower basket is fading. All the flowers seem to have finished blooming. What can I do?
A couple of suggestions for that one. Perhaps three. One: clip off all the dead blooms (called deadheading). Annuals live to reproduce. When they have enough seeds, they stop blooming so keeping them clipped keeps them in blossoms. Two: Use a liquid fertilizer called “bloom fertilizer” mixed according to manufacture’s directions. Different companies present different names, but look for something that promises to help blossoms. Three: Give the basket a haircut. Just take scissors and give it a trim. Not so drastic, but tidy it up. Especially petunias. Let it rest somewhere out of sight and soon it will reward you with renewed color. Never as large as at first, but still pretty.

No matter what I do, my basket always seems to be sun faded.
Oops. You forgot to ask the seller whether this type was for shade or sun. Move it into a dappled shade and see if it will recover. Water if needed. Begonias of any kind, tubers, fibrous, angle wing, etc. should be watered sparingly. Just when dry. Too soggy will water log and weaken the stems.

When do the Lilies bloom?
July is the season in the eastern part of the country for lilies of all sorts. Asiatic starts them off, followed by oriental with heavenly fragrances, then large trumpet. Plant the bulbs in the spring and then just forget about them (hide from rabbits). Day lilies that open and close in the same day are gorgeous and offer many, many varieties from the orange naturalized ones roadside to the miniature to the hefty, strong tetraploids. Deer and rabbits consider them tasty, but aside from aggravating us because they eat the blooms, grazing animals usually do not kill the plant. Day lilies require very little care and will even tolerate shade although they do not bloom as heavily. I like to plant them around a tree trunk as they suppress weeds and grass.

What’s next?
Sunflowers are beginning to show color. Rudbeckias, “black eyed Susie” have been smiling at us for a couple of weeks already. Echinanacea and Rudbeckia Goldstrum will take us right into mum season. Both these hardy perennials are easy, peasy to grow. Forgot to mention Shasta Daisies for strong white. Who doesn’t love a daisy?

Weeds?
Overwhelmed? Take it one section at a time. When you conquer the weeds, mulch heavily. Next year consider container gardening. You can move the patio pots around the yard when you need a spot of color and weeds are MUCH easier to handle.

 

Next post. Gardening made easy. Send in your questions.

News from the greenhouse

I am happily spending prime time in the greenhouses, a small “mom and pop” nursery where “Gardening is spoken here.” Young couples in beginning gardening stop by, and at any point, you might find us plotting a new raised bed or chatting about identifying the more mature plants. My favorite thing to do at work…oh, well, I enjoy it all.

Selecting a hanging basket? Be sure to ask your clerk these important questions: Which plants tolerate shade? Which thrive in sun? Remember, while a basket is a handy way to enjoy the blooms, it is a pretty restrictive environment and requires more care. One of the more popular items right now is a cherry tomato called ‘Tumbling Tom’ which lives quite happily in a ten inch plastic basket. Water when you have your morning coffee.

Sick of weeding? Try container gardening. Add plenty of some type fertilizer to your potted soil—long, slow release is best, but a commercial liquid is okay. Follow directions. Suggest tall for your middle: Grasses, coleus, spikes are popular. Next: color scheme. I love pink and blues or yellow with orange-red for a hot splash and some sort of dangler like sweet potato vine. Any annual will love your container, but perennials may be added as well. They don’t bloom as profusion zinnialong, but their foliage is pretty. Plant more than one pot and cluster on your deck or edge of your patio. Remember to water.

A drought resistant plant flying out of the atrium right now is a bedding type called  Profusion Zinnia in 5 different colors. They grow to about 10 inches by 10 and are a riot of color, pretty carefree and very rewarding. Happy Gardening!
Leave a comment with your question.

The Still Room

awonderfulwickedduke-200During the Regency era, which some say includes half of the 1700’s and well into the latter part of the 1800’s, a specific room in the great houses of the day had been created near the kitchen called the Still Room. Its use changed over the years as medicine became more specialized and apothecaries opened. Before that, the woman of the house was expected to study and become adept at creating medicine and recipes for various household tasks as well as food recipes for the cook.

Caroline has become proficient in the Still Room arts and sciences and, as we join them, is preoccupied with creating a poultice for the duke’s knee which is badly swollen (even as the duke’s mind seems to be centered on her seduction). Eventually she gives way to a groom who tends the horses and is familiar with folk recipes for joints. The duke suffers her administrations with ill-humour and gratitude intermingled.

“He nuzzled her neck and rubbed his face in her hair, then pulled back in surprise. Caro? Do you know you smell like an apothecary shop?” She laughed then and turned his face to her.”

The mystery of the impediment between Caroline and her duke is discovered and a chance for their happiness begun in A WONDERFUL, WICKED DUKE. Enjoy the journey toward their happily-ever-after with them.
Emma Lane

Click here for an excerpt from the book!

Buy Link: Amazon

Depths of Winter Gardening

There’s no denying the harshness of this winter ‘13-’14. Here in Western NY, the snow is deep, but not so deep. The sun is shining, the temps are in the 20’s (okay, down to single digits at night) and traffic is moving briskly. You might guess, as my friend from Atlanta says, we are used to this harshness. What can we gardeners do to survive these cold winter months?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASeed catalogs. Get on their mailing lists and learn, dream, order. Look up a plant online and you’ll probably be inundated with choices. Don’t forget to check out the gardening tools and the latest in deer repellents.

These catalogs contain valuable information. Hardiness zones, height, width of the plant, etc. Before you fall in love with a plant, check if it will survive in your agricultural zone. Mine is a 4/5. Anything higher and the health of the plant is in jeopardy.

Annuals – favorites for easy color without fuss, but keep the old blossoms trimmed (called ‘deadheading’) for continual blooms.

Pansies—Darlings of spring, they may fade in the heat but you can replace them with…

Zinnias—‘Profusion,’ any color. 12-15 inches high and about the same wide, they are spectacular bloomers.

Marigolds—French for quick, petite blooms and the African ones for tall, late. Pot up the large ones for fall patio color.

Sunflowers are a pure joy. Include a few here and there.

Petunias—it might be easier to buy plants, but they are not difficult to grow from seed.

Many, many more choices are available. Dream, plan! Spring will be here before you know it.

The Wonderful Wicked Duke

Blurb:

After a cruel family betrayal, Caroline Engelson vows the wicked duke will never regain her love unless he first earns her respect, no matter how fervently she longs for his kisses.

A serious accident delivers the wicked duke into Caro’s care. He is her long time love but she is shocked and hurt awonderfulwickedduke-200when he refers to her teen years as the ‘brat with tangled curls.’ Caro is all grown up now when the wicked duke tries to take advantage of her emotions, even as he turns the orderly household into total chaos with his ducal roars. To his astonishment, his best friend’s sister is made of sterner stuff. The situation changes when Caro learns of a shocking family secret. Will she tame the wicked duke and allow them to love happily ever after or will the betrayal damage her trust forever?

Excerpt:
“Come here and hold my hand, Brat.” She placed her hand into his big one which he held onto firmly then took both their hands and rested them on his chest. A grimace of pain flickered across his face, but was quickly gone.

“Do you hurt, Robert? I can get you more laudanum.” She tried to pull away to reach the bottle, but he tightened his hold on her hand.

“Yes, it hurts like the devil, but no, I do not want to be drugged again. Sit down beside me and tell me what you have been doing all these years. Did you miss me?”

“You know I did. Why did you not come visit me? A sad friend you turned out to be for all you are a duke.”  She listened but heard nothing from the sleeping household. Her aunt would not be best pleased to find her alone in a room with a man in his bedclothes, never mind he was a duke and a neighbor.

“I was waiting for you to grow up. When I left you were but a young chit, a bratty girl with dirty fingernails and tangled curls.” He smiled at her as he described the child she had been. She felt a pain shoot through her soul. He only thought of her as a bratty child while she had loved him with all her being. Still loved. Still worshiped and longed for his touch. Inadvertently she squeezed his hand in her distress.

His eyes opened wide as his face turned serious. “Did I offend you, Sweetheart? Never mind, you know I am a wicked duke. Yes, that is my nickname. ‘The Wicked Duke.’ Come closer, Caro.” He tugged her down on his chest. She rested her head and could hear the steady beat of his heart. How wonderful it felt to be this close to the one she loved. She could feel his arm tighten around her as his head rested against her hair.

“You are all grown up now, are you not, Caro? Sweet Caro?” He tilted her face up to him and placed a soft kiss on her lips. Which one of them groaned was not clear to her. Perhaps both.

Caroline sat up slowly. “You know I love you, Robert. You have always known it. But as deep as my love is for you…” She paused and took a deep breath while she withdrew her hand from his. “I will not allow you to ruin me.” With that she stood and rapidly left the room. Tears ran unheeded down her cheeks and she threw herself into her bed. Deep sobs wracked her body. She cried for her love lost now to her forever. It was crystal clear what he felt for her and it was unacceptable. Perhaps once she would have agreed to anything he asked. He was her whole life and she could not imagine another, but her thinking was that of an adult, no longer a child. Her self respect came before her emotions and she would not easily give it up.

Gardening – Fall Cleanup

We’ve been too busy lately to chat about gardening and now the frost is thick on the ground. We still have a few chores to finish.

1.    A big job for our little nursery which grows many cut flowers is digging the less than hardy bulbs and tubers. Dahlias are gorgeous, but must be lifted each year and stored out of the cold. Daffodils stay in the ground as perennials. Paper White narcissi are not hardy in most zones above seven. Tulips are often dug and stored to keep them from reverting to their original colors. They will return but often are smaller and less colorful. Deer love to nibble tulips and think they are spring salad.

Our Dahlia House

Our Dahlia House

2.    You’ve raked leaves into your perennial beds to offer them extra protection. You’ve packed away the rest. Here in Western NY, living on acreage, we use the lawn mower to mulch the leaves and almost never rake. When chopped, the leaves do not cling together creating an optimum environment for leave mold and unsightly grass mold, plus the nutrients are returned to the soil. Not to mention it’s much easier than raking. Don’t let them pile up too big before you cut or the mower will just push them forward.

3.    Be aware if you prune spring blooming shrubs now, you are cutting off many of the blossoms for the next season. Trim these shrubs only after they bloom next spring.

4.    Spring bulb planting is still possible as long as you can dig the ground. You know the usual daffodil, tulip, narcissi, but are you acquainted with the smaller bulbs and corms which are a delight and surprise for eyes tired from only white snow? Here are a few: Anemones (blanda types), short, daisy-like in pink, white and blue, bloom almost before Crocus so plant close to the sidewalk so you can spot them. Very charming.  Galanthus, better known as ‘snowdrops.’ Deer do not eat. Scilla siberica are lovely blue and bloom just before Muscari (grape hyacinths). I like to intermingle them so as one fades the other takes over. There are others, but these will delight you with their faithfulness year after year.  Use a commercial bulb fertilizer.

Regency Intro

My latest Regency romance novel, The Duke and Miss Amabel Hawkins, has just been released by Musa Publishing!

There’s a particular thrill that happens to the author when a completed novel is released to the reading public. From the first glimmer of an idea to the sweat and tears of plotting, to the final edits, a writer thinks and hopes his/her ideas will be received favorably by the readers. My story is not unusual. Of course, I enjoyed the plotting. I love anything Regency. The genre, covering a particular time in English history (1811-1820), is ripe for romance. It’s a time of manners, of grace, and of witty conversation. Handsome men with bulging thigh muscles on awesome steeds and lovely ladies in breathtaking gowns who use their fans to flirt inhabit the story lines of Regency Romances.

An introduction to The Duke and Miss Amabel Hawkins

DukeAndMissAnabelAfter a year’s absence, a ruggedly handsome duke comes home from chasing his country’s spies to find a lovely but meddlesome female firmly in charge of his household. Worse, she has no idea why he is so upset. His estate matters were in dreadful array. He needn’t thank her, but why is he yelling so loudly? And the race is on. Can an arrogant duke manage to see through the unusual upbringing of this interesting female to find the love that she offers? There will surely be a few fireworks before all these conflicts are resolved and the two find their happily ever after.

Excerpt: Fatigue and the effects of the brandy on top of the ale now gave his gait a distinct wobble. He chuckled, amused at his condition.

As he reached for the portrait of great Uncle Barney, he lurched into the back of the red leather sofa in front of the cosy fire. “Deuce take it,” he exclaimed when a rounded arm rolled into view. He spotted the gentle curve of a hip and walked around to the front, where he spied a tumbled haze of dark curls hiding a face. It is indeed a female—a sleeping female.

Who was she? The gown was too rich for his household staff. Curious, he knelt beside the sofa.

“Only one way to find out,” he whispered and moved one dark curl. He sat back, satisfied when a handsome face swam into view. She sighed and rolled over, revealing a generous figure and a pair of rosy lips. She might be Sleeping Beauty—but not one of my relatives. He leaned over and kissed those tempting lips.

As he lingered there, she sighed and came partially awake. He could not resist. He deepened the kiss and sounds of satisfaction like yum and umm came from those delicious lips. Her hand stroked his face, then reached around his head to pull him closer. Delighted with this turn of events, the Duke of Westerton complied enthusiastically and extended an arm around a slender waist. How much of the ale and brandy had he imbibed? Dizziness overcame his senses as he slid down on the floor and knew no more.

Buy Links: Amazon and Musa Publishing

Gardening Q & A – Tomatoes

Q: Hi Emma,
My tomatoes produced very poorly this season. Out of four plants we didn’t get more than thirty fruit. I live in Northwest Indiana. Our summer was kind of dry, but I watered at least twice a week. The soil is poor so I mix bagged manure in with potting soil at a ration of 1:4. Any clues what’s wrong? The onions were bad too as they didn’t grow beyond walnut size.

A: Thanks for the question, Sloane. Lots of home gardeners are disappointed about their tomato crops the last couple of years. Blight is the usual culprit, but it doesn’t sound like that’s what happened to you. Your clue when you are struck by the evil blight is one day your tomato plant is healthy, the next it is dying, and the poor plant is totally gone by the end of the week. Water or fertilizers do not help. There are several kinds of blight and I do not profess to be an expert on the subject. (Early, middle and late blight.)

For home gardeners there’s not much you can do except to avoid planting in the same spot the next year and carefully clean up and destroy any remaining infected debris. I always think it best to leave the serious pesticides to the commercial growers who are licensed and provide our nation’s food crops.

Here I plan to divulge a secret, hopefully not so secret now, supplier who has studied these problems. We have had the very best luck with their products. You will readily notice they concern themselves with the environment and most products are organic. Perfect for the home gardener! The website is http://www.GardensAlive.com Even if you don’t order from their catalog, it’s a fun adventure to read about all the products they offer. They have two fertilizers I regularly afford: “Tomatoes Alive!” and “Flowers Alive for Perennials!” (and Annuals). I see on page 19, they advertise “Soap-Shield Flowable Liquid Copper Fungicide” which controls a wide range of diseases including tough fungal diseases, I haven’t used it but I do trust their products. I see on page 38 there is “Root Crops Alive! Fertilizer.” Perhaps that will boost your onion crop. I am not paid to advertise Gardens Alive. They don’t know that I’m alive, but I do recommend their products to all my customers at the shop and I’ve learned so much just reading their catalogs. Have fun and happy next season gardening.