Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Plant Profile: Rudbeckia triloba

Move over Rudbeckia fulgida! If you want abundant flowers, with a taller habit, well you've got to get some Rudbeckia triloba.

There is a love/hate relationship with this plant, but I am not sure why. It's done nothing but perform for me.

Rudbeckia triloba is a native plant to North America. Seen in a lot of fields or even roadsides in Central/Eastern United States. For me it's a welcomed performer in the perennial border - specifically in the tough areas where you need height and long blooming periods.

In this photo below, R. triloba is grown in the back. Nearly a foot taller than its relative: R. fulgida.

Rudbeckia triloba has smaller flowers than other Rudbeckias.  I have a real fondness for their delicate petals. They are wonderful to dry - great for craft making.

Be aware: it is an herbaceous biennial, acting somewhat like a perennial. I've had limited success in keeping the same plant growing for about a year or two, then having to be reliant on seedlings for the following year. I've seen it reach about 5 feet in height, but here: it's around 3 1/2 feet tall.

Alos known as "Brown Eyed Susan", its flowers can nearly bloom for 3 months!

In my experience, it has better drought tolerance than R. fulgida, R. hirta and a little less tolerant than R. laciniata. Very few pests are attracted to R. triloba. Just some spider mites when it gets really hot in the summer and some leaf minor.

Here are the differences:

Distinct tri-leaves - 3 lobed shaped leaves which give it its name. They develop by May and you'll see the growth rate is much faster than the other Rudbeckias.

Rudbeckia triloba is a fabulous pollinator plant. Providing pollen and seeds for nature. Not to mention winter interest with their brown centres.

If you are growing R. triloba in a lot of shade, it stretches thus requiring some sort of support. An odd twig or peony ring would suffice.

Here is a sample of a small R. triloba seedling: easy to transplant in early spring to relocate. Similar looking to the fulgida baby plants, but less pubescent (less hairy).

A good helping of leaf mould or compost around the root level in spring-time, and it'll perform beautifully.

If you have concerns of it spreading uncontrollably, then remove the spent flowers (if left will naturalize the garden).

Note, when handling:  wear long sleeve shirts when the plant is gaining height. I find I get an itchy arm (similar to Juniper itch) if I weed around the base. Thankfully, it grows quickly and once it reaches 2 feet in height, the growth will choke out any room for germinating weeds!


Monday, August 08, 2016

Save Your Money - Don't Buy Plant Supports

I can't help but be frugal. I hate waste and I dislike spending money needlessly. I rather save funds to buy more plants.

Here are some ways to promote waste diversion and help to support/stake plants:

1. Chop sticks. I love Asian Food and when we order take out, we ask for chop-sticks. I may not use them to eat dinner, but my plants benefit from them!

Now, we do use them for eating as well. We just give them a good wash before using them as stakes.

Because I am so busy in the spring with outdoor gardening, several of my houseplants stretch for light in the summer.  As the shade tree casts dimmer light in my living room, I sometimes forget to turn the plant and it winds up growing off to one side. Chop sticks are fabulous for that extra prop.

2. Stems and branches from pruning shrubs and trees:

A pony tail support of sorts, this grass took a beating one night from a nasty thunderstorm.  The grass was smothering the begonias beneath and they needed rescuing. In a few weeks the undergrowth will hide the binding. I used birch stems from a recent dead birch take down (you probably have some from your old winter planter creations, no?), they are great supports. Better than bamboo sticks. IMO anyway.

Tucked in behind, they do the trick!  You can use dogwood, pussy willow stems and any that are sturdy enough to bear the brunt of some wind. Tie them into a teepee formation. It will work great with sisal or raffia bindings.

3. Coat Hangers:

Now that my amaryllis has flowered, I patiently wait until leaves start to yellow and whither, to start the whole process again.

With a simple cut and twist, this ?-shaped plant support is soooo handy. From holding up cactus, to divisions, to orchids - it's been used a LOT. So easy to make.

4. Dead evergreens: ie Taxus (Yew)

Unfortunately, a large Taxus Yew lived here. To dig out yews, well - the retaining wall around it may have been damaged since the roots are really deep. So instead of cutting it from the base, we placed some pots around it and have grown Morning Glory's that are nicely covering and give visual interest.

I've seen dead trees miraculously transformed by Ivy, Clematis and Creepers. Bringing new life to what was dead is pretty cool.

5. Plastic Utensils: I added this one to just prove a point (you can use ANYTHING!)

Having removed baby plantlets from below, and repotted, this Haworthia needed a little propping up for a month or  so. A plastic fork works great!

What do you use?

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Thinning Out Tomatoes

I grow tomatoes, specifically cherry and pear tomatoes in pots. Main reason, there is a HUGE Black Walnut tree situated about 20 feet away from the most sunniest spot of the garden. In another post, I'll explain why this is an issue, but growing them in pots hasn't been difficult. In fact, it's a huge bonus.

Somehow, with the fresh soil and compost (made from scratch) every year, compost tea, organic fertilizer and a dash of Epsom's salts in our watering cans - they fair really well and produce bumper crops. This summer's heat has made a huge impact too.

So much so - they need a haircut this time of the growing season.

Why?  Have a look:

Slightly overgrown, don't you think?

Reasons to thin out:

1. Tomatoes rippen and become really sweet with the suns rays. If there is an over-abundance of green growth, sheltering and casting shade on the fruit, well - this delays the ripening time.

Trying to find the cherry tomatoes is like trying to find Waldo. :) 

2. I don't know about you, but when you have to water pots every day - it becomes difficult to budget your gardening time and water reserves. Removing green mass on plants reduces the need for the water at the root level; not as many leaves = not as much water needed.

3. Cutting leaves off, forces new stem growth from the bud axil - joint.  New stem growth = more flowers. Leaves don't bear the fruit, stems do. This continues the cycle and keeps you supplied with more tomatoes!

5. Pruning increases ventilation and helps to promote open branching network. Powdery mildew and other diseases can become a problem if over-growth crowds and takes over.

6. Cherry tomatoes fall under what is known as the indeterminate category. They grow exponentially, almost vine like. They set fruit on side shoots and when you prune off leafy growth, this stimulates more side shoot development.

7. Pruning strengthens stems and also reduces a weight load that should only be for fruit. Stems will become thicker and will be able to bear the weight as it broadens in height and width.

8. Pollinators have an easier time pollinating flowers. Better access.

Where/what to prune:
  • Overlapping leaves
  • Yellowing leaves
  • Leaves that are too close to the ground
  • Leaves that are covering the ripening tomatoes
  • Stems that are bent or damaged
  • Remove the leaf below stems emerging from the axil joint - this initiates more growth on the new little stem (like above), growing at a 45˙angle from the axil joint.

  • Below is a better view of how the axil stem grows at a 45˙ angle.

    Just leave a little nib of leaf, so that you do not damage the main stem or axil joint.

    Cut the leaves off at the bottom of the plant. Less splashing of soil/water on the base leaves, the better. This helps to prevent diseased leaves.

    Even if you don't see a leaf, you can still see a bud at the axil joint. With the leaf removed, this bud will soon swell and become an axil stem.

    Five minutes later, I had a 15gal pot full of leaves.

    Much better. Sun and air filter through. Less green mass.

    Where's Waldo?  So many more tomatoes to be seen now.

    Healthy, non diseased leafy matter is welcomed in our compost!

    In another few days, we get to enjoy the bounty!

    Sunday, July 24, 2016

    Collecting Hosta Seeds: Update (2 years later)

    As the summer heat continues, I have been diligently looking after some of my strategically placed baby Hostas - which I grew from seed (link to previous post here).

    Two years ago, the above seedlings were just setting root in mid summer and I transplanted them into tiny pots. Come autumn, I tucked them in sheltered spots of our garden where I would find them again.

    Having planted them all over the garden, I've been making sure in this heat to keep them moist.

    Still super small, they are putting on some lovely growth. The above is my best sample. 7 leaves and still more emerging.

    This one above is situated in our herb garden. I was testing to see if more organic matter and compost tea make a difference.

    The leaves are surprisingly tough. Quite slug resistant. The original parent had leathery leaves too, but with deep yellow variegated margins.

    None are showing any venation or variegation. But that's ok. For now they are doing great, considering I haven't done much.

    In all honesty, if I really wanted these Hostas to thrive and grow quickly, I would of left them to grow in pots and nurture them more. But reality dictates little time and so finding spots where I know I can keep a close eye on them seems to have been the best bet.

    I am anxious to see their eventual mature size. I've noticed the above photo has more rounded leaves. Who knows, I may have a "Heidi Horticulture" hybrid developing! Ha!
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