May 5, 2016

5 Reasons to Grow Nasturtiums

Growing nasturtiums in Oklahoma can be a bit tricky. Not the fault of this perky annual, I assure you. But its happy season can be short, often limited to spring and periods of fall because of our inhospitable heat. They are difficult to transplant and leaf miners do find them  tasty....but WAIT!  I was going to tell you why you simply MUST, at least once in your life, grow this old-fashioned annual. Because when they ARE happy, in small numbers like mine, or large numbers like Monet at Giverny here, they will delight in a way nothing else in the garden can.

I have mine planted in three tall pots (and in the ground surrounding them) that sit in the cutting garden of the can see them below peaking out from under the bamboo tuteur precociously cheering up the garden and contemplating their plans to spill over the edge and scamper down the sides. I plant them somewhere every year, and here are my 

Top 5 Reasons to Grow Nasturtiums.

(Though no doubt there are many others...)

#1  Their lily-pad looking leaves are as amusing and appealing as their flowers. In fact, I posted the image below on Instagram yesterday (follow me here as potagerblog on Instagram), and a follower said that she feels it's worth growing for its foliage alone. I do not argue with her on this.

The unique, wavy-round leaves is a wonderful gray/green (and one of my favorite hues in the garden) that

perch enchantingly on long wiry stems. Like an eager student in class feverishly waving their hand to get the teacher's attention, so does the nasturtium charmingly raise its leaves to the gardener, shouting 

"Look at ME; look at ME!"

Their papery thing delicacy makes then magnificent when backlit by the sun...

and also the perfect textural counterpoint to cut leafed dusty miller or the ferny foliage of larkspur or dill. Some of the same reasons that they 

#2  Are perfect additions to your vase and cut flower arrangements.
(Notice how their hue is the exact color as the foliage of the columbine leaf; another favorite of mine...) Their long stems are easy to tuck into an arrangement, and the color....ooh that color.....seems to enhance any shade you put with it, but, along with its sunny colored flowers, especially...

 #3 the Color Purple, (and maybe my all time favorite color pop in the garden).

Any friend of the color purple in the garden is a friend of mine. Be it of allium, iris or larkspur origin.

The orange ones are my favorite, but I usually plant a mix, because I am also fond of the bright yellow and deep orangey red ones that climb. 

 And they are ESPECIALLY fun because

#4 They are edible and look and taste wonderful in a fresh leafy green salad 

In fact, Thomas Jefferson grew them in his famous garden at Monticello (buy them at the Monticello Shop HERE) and would surprise and charm his dinner guests by including their peppery taste in his salads. Finally, and this reason shouldn't be taken lightly....

#5 They are a great 'gateway flower' seed for children who are developing an interest in gardening. 

The seeds are large, wrinkly and corky. Perfect for small, inexperienced fingers and hands that find smaller seeds awkward to handle. I mean these are IMPRESSIVE seeds to a child. Have them soak them overnight to soften the tough exterior before planting and speed up germination. Plant them early in the season; I planted mine in late February. But now is not too late, so go for it. In the warm soil they will germinate  more quickly and you should still have time to enjoy them before the intense heat moves in.....They flag in really hot conditions. Also, don't overfeed them...they will put out leaves at the expense of flowers (though that isn't necessarily a bad thing to me ).When they do flower, kids will take great delight in a flower that is not only pretty, but that you can eat!

Should they start to look tired, brown and wilty when hot temps arrive, cut them back and keep your fingers crossed that they will hold on till fall and be happy again. If they get leaf miners, I largely ignore them if the problem isn't excessive. If it is, I pinch off the leaves and may spray with Neem Oil. I don't plant in enough abundance to worry about pests too much. 

Today's Takeaway Tip: This easy charming flower is a cinch to least once in a gardener's life they should experience the absolute delight of growing the humble nasturtium.  

May 1, 2016

Happy May Basket Day

 "Such a twanging of bells and rapping of knockers; such a scampering of feet in the dark; such droll collisions as boys came racing round corners, or girls ran into one another's arms as they crept up and down steps on the sly; such laughing, whistling, flying about of flowers and friendly feeling—it was almost a pity that May-day did not come oftener."    
From the 1880 children's book JACK AND JILL by Louisa May Alcott 

I have two thoughts on this post. One: it was intended to be my Friday segment on 4 YOUR GARDEN yesterday, but the entire 4:30 show was dedicated to coverage of yesterday's storms. (Those affected are in our thoughts and prayers and hearts). The 'mock-up' I composed for the show was all in white and green... from flowers and foliage from my garden (deutzia, white nandina berry buds, yarrow, rosemary, twiggy vine of Carolina Jasmine and gray dusty miller, sedum foliage and lamb's ear.)

A sweet composition that I would have then 'May Day-ed' Linda C. with, given her penchant for white. I think this is such a dear tradition and I am so sorry it has fallen out of fashion. For more history, pictures and tidbits about this charming ritual, go to NPR's History of May Basket Day article, a fascinating look back at this tender custom, and 

the source of the picture above. (Don't you just love it? Wonder what the three of them are thinking...?)

At any rate, I wanted to do my part in resurrecting this spring practice by telling you about it in my KFOR gardening you a couple of days to prepare and execute. Ah well....

But my second thought is that this project is so simple, and requires so little in the way of supplies, that you can no doubt throw it together with whatever container and flowers you have on hand, in very little time...and certainly without my instruction. :)  You'll need:

* Something to hold your small bouquet.  I used small linen and burlap bags (about a dollar per) from Target. I liked their organic vibe..and the cinch ribbon at the top to draw it closed around the bouquet, and also to hang on the door. But a mason jar with wire or ribbon would work; paper cones; chinese takeout containers, and on and on. Oh, or a small basket with handle. DUH.

*Flowers and foliage from the garden, of course...preferably with fragrance...interesting texture and colors. If you have nothing blooming in your garden now, just use foliage and a blossom or two from your florist or grocer...or neighbor.

* Small plastic watertight bags...I used portion-size snack bags, two per arrangement; rubber bands, absorbent paper towels, and

* a charming, color-coordinated (but of course...) tag for your expression of affection. (I attached a drying seed head from a hellebore flower to the tag as an added flourish..)

How To Assemble: Simply make a hand held bouquet, or tussle-mussie, in a pleasing arrangement. If it is going to be hanging on a door knob or door knocker, only the front of the arrangement will really need your attention. Remove all foliage from the bottom of the stems, which you will then cut to an appropriate length for your container of choice. 

Rubber band the arrangement together, then wrap these stems in moistened paper towel. Secure with another rubber band, then place in a snack bag. Secure the top of the bag around the bouquet, then insert this bag into a second snack bag to contain any excess dribbles.

If necessary, add a cushion of crumpled paper or plastic at the bottom of the linen/burlap bag to make sure the bouquet flows just out of the top. Cinch the bag, attach the note card...

then hang on the Object of Your Affection's door.

Make multiples...deliver anonymously, or with great fanfare....

to a child, a sick friend, your mother-in-law, a grumpy co-worker, someone in a nursing home...

ANYONE who will appreciate the delightful gesture... 

                                        and your thoughtfulness.


Today's Takeaway Tip:  Brighten someone's day by taking just a bit of time to be a child again and May Day someone you care about. Better yet, get a child to do it with you, and experience this lovely May tiding through a child's eyes. No time today? Don't limit your gesture to just one day......let's call it May Basket Week, shall we?

April 29, 2016

Cisterns and Water Barrels: Water Capture Systems

I just told Husband that I wanted to take a road trip to the Hill Country outside of Austin, TX.  Years ago we took this same road trip and visited the incredible Lady Bird Johnson WILDFLOWER RESEARCH CENTER. I want to revisit this incredible resource of information on conservation, pollinators, native plants, and especially, for my interests, (as Husband and I plan our small Salida, CO cabin) the incredible indigenous style and architecture of the place.

The Wildflower Center�s striking architecture is constructed to conserve resources. A central irrigation system collects rainwater from 17,000 square feet of roof, or about 10,200 gallons per inch of rain. The separate entry cistern is fed by 1,167 square feet of roof, collecting 700 gallons per inch of rain. Another cistern and ponds collect water for re-circulation. (via WRC site)

On my first visit I was fascinated by so many things...among them their rain water capture system...and how I might, on a modest scale, introduce a water capture system of my own.

So I have finally started the hunt for an option for my garden here in OKC, and am looking at well-reviewed, easy to install, small-enough-to-fit my space, options. Some of them:

this 50 Gallon Pop Up WATER BARREL from HOME DECORATOR'S COLLECTION looks light, portable, easy to install....but I wonder about its durability. Find it for $129.00 here.

Fiskars Tuscany 57 Gal. Rainwater Harvesting System

Or the $149 Fiskar's Tuscany 57 Gallon Water barrel from HOME DEPOT here. More to my aesthetic (even if it will be hidden away...)

is this WILLOW RAIN BARREL RAIN SAVER I saw at Sam's. The brass fittings look durable and are attractive; the willow texture on the facade is the color of the trim of my house and looks 'basket-y', and at around $90 and with a 65 gallon capacity is probably my selection.

On a local and CHEH Neighborhood note, I just saw this in our newsletter:

Water Conservation Tips Rain Barrel Program
by Barbie Smalley

The City of Oklahoma City and the Central OK Storm Water Alliance (COSWA) are partnering to encourage residents to conserve water and reduce pollution through the use of rain barrels.

The organizations are offering a discounted rain barrels online at starting at $63.50 each.

The deadline to order is June 12. Rain barrels ordered online can be picked up between 9:30 a.m. and 6 p.m. on June 17 or between 8:30 and 11:30 a.m. on June 18 from the City's Household Hazardous Waste Facility, 1621 S. Portland.

For more information, contact Andrea Shelton, 297-1797 or

I am this something you are considering, or do you already have one?  Please let me know!

April 26, 2016

English Gardening in Oklahoma; Foxglove

I've said it more times than I can count...I have an English Garden because I have an English Tudor house...and (in my mind anyhow), the garden should ALWAYS be an extension of the architecture and style of the house. Harmony is what I'm going for. 

But, and here lies the rub....I am not, nor is my England's gentle climate. So as I was strolling the gardens to bid them good morning, I found myself wondering....

with all of the dire forecasts for tomorrow...with threat of golf-ball sized hail, 90 mph winds and tornadoes (oh, and a 4.0 earthquake near Harrah this morning)...

if I was also saying 'good-bye'? 

 (And I am not being overly dramatic here, having experienced much weather-related gardening heartache over the years.)

I could almost hear the foxglove anxiously talking with the fern......before conferring with the columbine and the primrose...about their safe spot, and where and when to take shelter. Sadly, I can't do much to protect them; it is hard to tarp an entire garden.

Friends of mine have been buzzing about the storm ahead on social media: soliciting ideas for protecting our garden loved ones; invoking prayer and good weather wishes from others and, in general, commiserating in our concern over our gardens and homes and families. Wishing with all our might, that this might be yet another time that our tv forecasters have missed the mark, have gotten it wrong. One can hope, can't one?

In the event my foxglove (among other garden beauties) is decimated tonight and I have to start over, I can find over 28 varieties here at SWALLOWTAIL GARDEN SEEDS. Watch for tips on growing this finicky cottage garden bloomer in to an upcoming post.  

While I never met a foxglove I didn't like, I prefer the tall stately varieties like digitalis purpurea 'Excelsior' (here).

 Today's Takeaway Tip:  Do what you can to protect your garden: bring in or find shelter for potted specimens, secure garden furniture and umbrellas, try to maintain a sense of perspective.....and humor. (Not Easy)  Find something to look forward to: try growing foxglove from seed if you love it as much as I do.

 For more information on English Garden Style and Cottage Gardens, watch this recent 4 YOUR GARDEN SEGMENT below. Don't see the video player? Go here.