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Growing Bamboo, Herbs, & Cracker Roses
in Ocala & Gainesville Fl.

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Garden Articles

How to plant a Herb Dish
Spring Garden
The White Garden
Gardening for the Soul
Butterfly Plant Tips
A Potpourri of Garden Tips


How to plant a Herb Dish

Have you found an interesting large, 12 to 18 inch dish or equally large pot with good drainage? Fill it with a lose potting soil - no sand from the yard. Decide whether you want to view the garden from one side or from all directions. I usually put taller plants in the middle with smaller plants around it. I like using lemon grass, basil or chives in the center. Or if you want to view in only one direction, put these tall plants towards the back. Use smaller plants around the edges. Thyme, mints, and oregano creep down the sides. Water well and add a slow release fertilizer, if you wish, to the soil surface. If any plants outgrow this container, you may cut them out and plant them in the ground. If you are going on a long vacation, just remove the whole garden from the container and plant it in the ground until you get back.

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Spring Garden

Your winter annual herbs, arugula, cilantro and dill are shooting flower spikes and will soon set seed. Thyme, pineapple sage and sage are also flowering this season. Pick flower heads from these herbs and add to your salads. All culinary herb flowers are edible. Purple chive blossoms change white vinegar violet as well as impart its onion flavor in an herbal vinegar. Harvest the flower heads but the green stalks are too woody to taste good. Flower spikes can also be used in fresh arrangements.

A traditional Herb garden is often divided into sections. If you cannot physically divide your herb bed, you can provide separate planting areas for different plants. Typical sections within culinary herbs can be the spaghetti garden or pizza garden, featuring basil, oregano, garlic chives, marjoram, peppers, and other seasoning herbs. Or, the tea garden with all the mints and herbs for tea. The medicinal garden will have healing herbs, the lemon garden is planted with lemon flavored herbs, while bible herbs are herbs mentioned in the bible and many more themes.

Herb gardening is a weekly treasure find at my nursery. Herbs are available during the months in which they perform best. By this time in mid spring, you have planted the culinary favorites, basil, chives, thyme, opal basil, rosemary. Plant culantro as a summer substitute for the cilantro flavor in salsa, Chinese and Mexican cooking. I grow three kinds of lavender. English and dented leaf French are sweet. Both varieties can be used in Herb tea, cake,cookies and fruit sorbet. These two lavenders are also used in sachets, hair rinse, potpourri and steam facials. Another lavender is Victorian lace lavender. It has no sweet aroma. However it sets beautiful bloom spikes during the warm months. Each blue spike towers above other garden plants and is a tranquil focal point to the Herb bed.

The afternoon high temperatures are in the '80 degrees now and soon to be 90's, The lemon herbs are most refreshing during this hot weather. Your lemon garden can include lemon verbena, lemon thyme, lemon grass and lemon or lime balm . More delicious lemon herbs will be available later in the summer. These lemon herbs are excellent ice herb tea, salads, fish and refreshing herbal baths. The other fruity herbs, orange mint, pineapple sage, are delightful and grow well this time of year.

Your tea garden can be full of mints. My favorite mints are mountain peppermint, chocolate mint and spearmint. They taste good in hot or cold tea. I prefer to keep mints contained in a hanging basket or a plastic six or ten inch plant container. Orange mint and pineapple sage is my favorite combination for chicken, turkey and pork. Other tea herbs are rosemary, lemon thyme and lemon verbena.

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The White Garden

The late, great, Adelma Simmons, the Herb Lady of Coventry, Connecticut introduced me to the Moonlight Garden. It is one of the many theme gardens of her herbal garden called Caprilands in the Northeast. All plants in this garden are silver leafed or have white flowers. Moonlight gardens are spectacular at night as the moon rises and its silvery beams are reflected in the flowers and foliage of a white garden.

Many northern herb growers have moonlight gardens. Some herbs for this garden include, sliver king, silver queen and silver mound artemisias, lambs ears, curry, silver thyme, sage and lavender, which grow well in a dry area.

I met an old friend and past member of the Herb Society. Monica told me she grows a lovely white garden here in Florida! She grows many other white flowers and silver plants that are not herbs. And why not? If we herb growers cannot have the variety northerners have, shall we go without the beauty, ambiance and challenge of a Moon beam garden?

The Fall is wonderful thyme to start a white Moon beam garden! Autumn of the year signals the end of long summer days. In September Equinox there will be an equal number of daylight and night time hours. From then, daylight hours will dwindle. The night time hours grow. The Moon beam garden will flourish! It is especially nice for those gardeners who work or are busy during the day. They can walk through their garden at night and see everything and enjoy without a flashlight or a street light

We can start with those hard to grow silver herbs thyme, lambs ear, sage, varigated tropical oregano, artemisia, and lavender . Then we can add blooming perennials such as, white dianthus, begonias, jacobinia, salvia and a dwarf white rose. White blooming annuals include impatiens, periwinkle, cosmos, petunia, violets, alyssum, snapdragons, violas, and phlox. White blooming bushes for the rear or corners of the garden include, night blooming jasmine, datura, gardenia, jasmine, butterfly bush, hibiscus, varigated golden dewdrop, varigated pittosporum and honeysuckle. We can even edge our moonlight garden in varigated garlic chives

And don't forget your white garden art! Garden art is another secret to Adelma's successful gardens. White lawn ornaments, old watering cans, rusty chimes spray painted white, and white wrought-iron furniture.

Christmas folklore says this time is to light up the world during its darkest nights Perhaps a string of white twinkling lights can be added to your garden art. Your Moon beam garden will certainly light up your gardening hobbies.
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Gardening for the Soul

Plant three rows of peas:
Peace of mind
Peace of heart
Peace of soul
Plant four rows of squash:
Squash gossip
Squash indifference
Squash grumbling
Squash selfishness
Plant four rows of lettuce:
Lettuce be kind
Lettuce be obedient
Lettuce really love one another
There is no garden without turnips:
Turnip for meetings
Turnip for service
Turnip to help one another
To conclude our garden we must have thyme:
Thyme for God
Thyme for study
Thyme for prayer
Water freely with patience and cultivate with love.
There is much fruit in this garden
because you reap what you sow.
Author Unknown

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Butterfly tips

The butterfly's natural habitat is dwindling from environmental changes and from our need for more homes, strip shopping centers, and roads. We flower gardeners can help butterflies thrive with by planting many butterfly friendly plants. These plants have lots of butterfly appeal.

Shrimp Plants--Red and White---Blooom all year
Purple Coneflower Purple Blooms summer through Fall
Stokes aster---Blue Blooms late spring summer
Yellow Blooms in fall
Pink Blooms all year long
Wine Blooms in fall
Purple blooms till winter
Tithonia Sunflower -- Orange Blooms three seasons
Firespike Red Blooms in late summer and fall.
Impatiens all colors hummers really like them early in spring
Dill and parsley green host plant in spring and winter
Fennel green host plant in spring and summer

And don't forget that butterflies like water to drink. They will drink from your birdbath or you can make a butterfly puddle. Just fill an old soup bowl or solid container with a little sand or clean rocks and place it where your sprinklers or your hose will fill it. You may want to 'plant' or dig your container into the ground so it won't tip over.

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One of the most important methods of keeping a healthy herb garden is to harvest your herbs and flowers. Each culinary herb will grow faster than we can use in the kitchen. After we have harvested fresh for each night's dinner, dried some leaves to use in the winter, and made herbal vinegar, we still need to snip back growth sprigs on each plant. So, what better way to utilize these growing herbs than to create fresh arrangements? For the kitchen table, you may wish to make an arrangement with culinary herbs. Extra springs of marjoram, rosemary, and pineapple sage will brighten any table. Lavender, rosemary and flowering catnip would be a fragrant bouquet in the bathroom. Buddleia, daisies, dill flowers and artimesia would be a large, lovely display for the porch or entrance.
Here are a couple of easy tips for keeping these bouquets fresh.
Harvest you herbs early in the morning or later in the afternoon when they are not under heat or sun stress. Most flowers absorb water best if cuts are made between nodes or joints. Never crush the stems, as the damaged tissue will not absorb water well. Sharp, clean cuts are best Be sure your vase is absolutely clean and no debris from the last bouquet remains. If so, add a few drops of Clorox in the vase and rinse thoroughly. Be sure to remove all leaves that will be under water. Change the water daily. Always use fresh cold water. Keep bouquet away from the air conditioning, heater, or fan drafts. A draft will cause your foliage to dry out and water to evaporate. Some herbs with woody stems drink a lot of water, especially after the first few days. Inspect the herb and flower stalks when changing the water. Make a fresh cut on a stalk if it looks as if it is getting soggy from being under water. If the stalk bends over, it may have developed an air lock and water is unable to be absorbed. You need to recut the stalk above the bend. Remove spent herb sprigs and flowers as they decay.

A happy herb or flower garden is harvested regularly. An old, American Indian custom, is to thank the plant each time you snip a sprig or flower!

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Potpourri of Gardening Tips

Turn Your Hydrangeas Blue
For bluer hydrangeas, work enough ammonium sulfate into the soil to achieve a pH of about 5.0. Prefer pink? Add lime to the soil to raise the pH.

Which End Is Up?
Confused about which end of your bulb is up? In most cases, the pointy end of a bulb should point up, and the rounded end should face downward.

Fireplace wood Ash
Wood ash is a valuable source of potash. If you were to buy it bagged as fertilizer, the bag would be marked 0-1-8. Remember that wood ash is very alkaline. Don't add it to soil used to grow acid-loving plants, and when using wood ash you do not need to add lime. About 10 pounds per 100 square feet is a good quantity. Work into the top 3 inches or so of soil. If storing wood ash for use in the garden, use a container so that rain will not leach away the potash. A metal trash can is a good choice -- never use a flammable container!

Bone Meal as a Bulb Fertilizer
Many gardeners swear by bone meal as a bulb fertilizer, but did you know that the phosphorus in bone meal is unavailable to the bulbs unless the soil temperature is 50F or higher? Save the bone meal for your summer bulbs, and use a more soluble source of phosphorus for your spring bulbs.

If you have questions about gardening in North or South Florida
Garden Question

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