Category Archives: Uncategorized

More Holiday Inspiration – Arrangements, Flowers and Greens – Part 2

Redtwig dogwood stems echo the red of this striking bowl...

Redtwig dogwood stems echo the red of this striking bowl, filled with rieger begonias, amaryllis and ferns…

Simply hydrangeas...

Simply hydrangeas…

 

 

 

Holiday Arrangement - Close-Up- Lady Slipper Orchi, Air Plants

Lady slipper orchid…

The greenhouse is literally overflowing with so many flowers we’ve had to move most of them onto the tables outside.

 

 

 

Holiday Arrangement

Traditional red poinsettias…

Holiday Arrangement -  Shooting Star Hydrangea,Amaryllis, Curly Willow

With curly willow, cinnamon sticks and cut greens…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Many of these holiday flowers – hydrangeas, amaryllis, paperwhites, azaleas, stephanotis, flowering jasmine, and cyclamen – prefer the cool temperatures.  It works out well, unless temperatures drop below freezing; then the nursery carts are loaded up and they’re moved back into the warmth of the greenhouse.

Phalaenopsis orchid in mercury glass with cut greens and berries...

Jamie added cut greens and berries to this phalaenopsis orchid in a Mercury glass container…

Orchids and air plants...

Orchids and air plants…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Holiday Arrangement - Amaryllis, Shooting Star Hydrangea, Fantail Willow

Amaryllis, hydrangea, jasmine…

 

Holiday Orchid Arrangement with Phalaenopsis Orchids and Jasmine

A gift of orchids and jasmine…

There it’s a riot of color, with orchids seemingly in every nook and cranny, trays of ferns and other foliage plants in abundance, and of course, poinsettias too.  It’s a crazy, slightly chaotic time of the year!

 

 

 

 

The two weeks prior to Christmas find us focused on projects big and small in the design area, and there’s not much time for anything else.

A tiny pot with cut greens...

A tiny pot with cut greens…

 

 

 

We’ll put plants in just about anything, including porcelain and glazed bowls, mercury glass containers, pots of every size and shape, jardinieres, wooden boxes, dough bowls, silver pieces and everything else imaginable. You can too!

 

 

 

Miniature Conifers – Just Right For Miniature Gardening and More

It has been quite some time since we’ve had dwarf shrubs and tiny pots of conifers available, and, with the rise in popularity of miniature and container gardening, I decided it was time to see what might be worth getting in for fall miniature gardening projects. Truthfully, these aren’t just for that purpose but can also be used in containers, and all of them are suitable for the garden too.Miniature Garden with Dwarf Evergreens

With this in mind I placed the order with a very reputable grower in the Northwest. And, even though they’re from quite a distance both in miles and climate, I’m hoping these selections will work here as well. I worked with the salesperson to find the best possible plants for the Southeast, and these cultivars are interesting and not too expensive if you’d like to give some a try.

The day finally came when they arrived, and each one was unpacked and watered, then placed in flats and set into the nursery. I found time the other day to put together a couple of miniature gardens as examples of what can be done with these diminutive offerings. The small evergreens really add a sense of reality to a miniature landscape.

Miniature conifers. Front-Back L-R: Ulmus parviflora 'Hokkaido';Cotoneaster microphyllus 'Thymifolius'; Ilex cremate 'JerseyJewel'; Juniperus communis 'Miniature'; Chamaecyparis obtusa 'Thowell'Here also are pictures of a couple of groupings I pulled together to give you an idea of what is available as of October, 2014. In the first picture, left-right and front-back, they’re as follows:

Ulmus parviflora ‘Hokkaido’: This tiny dwarf Chinese or lacebark elm should only grow 1″-2″ a year. It’s much sought after for bonsai, trough, and miniature gardens, and its bark exfoliates with age. It may grow to just 1′ tall over a period of 5 years.

Cotoneaster microphyllus ‘Thymifolius’: Thyme leaf cotoneaster. This tiny version has red berries just like its larger relative, and it’s branches can be trained upright to form “trees” in a miniature garden.

Ilex crenata  ‘Jersey Jewel’:  A holly with unique structural form, this one is also good for rock gardens.

Juniperus communis ‘Miniature’: A slow-growing ( 2″-4″ a year) bluish-green juniper with a narrow growth habit. Also good for rock gardens in part shade. Mature height is 3′  and 1′ wide.

Chamaecyparis obtusa ‘Thoweii’: A narrow upright specimen, it will grow roughly 3″-6″ a year. It matures into a fairly narrow tree. Errant branches can be pruned to maintain the spire-like shape.

Miniature conifers. Front-Back L-R; Juniperus pfitzeriana 'Golden Joy'; Juniperus horizontalis'GoldStrike'; Taxus cuspidata' 'NanaAurescens'; Chmaecyparis obtusa 'Nana Lutea'; Juniperus communist 'Gold Cone'; Cryptomeria japonica 'Twinkle Toes'Interesting choices, right? Here’s another grouping, again L-R and front-back:

Juniperus x pfitzeriana ‘Golden Joy’: This juniper has a spreading habit and will get larger, increasing in size by 3″-6″ a year. Still, an interesting choice for a container until it outgrows it; then find a place for it in the landscape.

Juniperus horizontalis ‘Gold Strike’: Vivid yellow foliage on this spreading juniper makes quite a statement in a container. This one will need protection from our hot summer sun; give it some shade, especially in the afternoon. It’s a slow-growing, spreading dwarf juniper with a mature height of roughly 6″ and ultimate width 6″ in 10 years.

Taxus cuspidata ‘Nana Aurescens’: The new growth of this dwarf spreading (3′-4′) selection of Japanese yew is golden, hence the name ‘Aurescens’. Growth rate is estimated at 3″-6″ a year and ultimate height is 2′. Best grown in part shade, where foliage color will be a bit more chartreuse. Please be sure you have really good drainage if you try to grow this yew since it won’t tolerate wet, poorly drained soil.

Left: Juniperis communis 'Miniature' Right: Ulmus parviflora 'Hokkaido'

Left: Juniperis communis ‘Miniature’ Right: Ulmus parviflora ‘Hokkaido’

Chamaecyparis obtusa ‘Nana Lutea’: New growth on this golden dwarf Hinoki  cypress  is a vibrant yellow, and the growth rate is 3″-5″ a year. It’s a beautiful specimen for containers or the small garden, rarely growing larger than 3′, with an upright, irregular, pyramidal habit.

Juniperus communis ‘Gold Cone’: Eventually this juniper will reach a height of 3′-5′ but has a narrow growth habit of only 1′-2′.

Cryptomeria japonica ‘Twinkle Toes’: A selection with very tight, congested foliage, it has a conical shape and irregular habit. An interesting specimen at its mature height of 2′-3′.

I don’t know about you but more than a few of these are now on my “want to grow” list, whether it’s in a miniature garden,  a pretty pot, or placed in a special spot in the landscape. Best of all, the pots are really small, so there’s no major hole digging to do!

We will have these in stock until they sell out; so, if you’re interested, come in and take a look soon. If you miss out on this selection, next spring will be your next chance!

Neonicotinoides and What You Should Know…

imageNeonicotinoides…a long word and one you may not be familiar with. However, it describes a class of chemicals found in many of the garden products you may have in your garage right now.  We want to give you more information about this because, even though they’ve been approved by the EPA, independent studies have found links between these systemic insecticides and harm to honeybees, with  research suggesting these chemicals may make honeybees more susceptible to parasites and pathogens. These chemicals work systemically, that is, being taken up through the roots of various plants you may be spraying or applying granular products to. We hope the links below will be helpful in your understanding of this issue.

Look HERE for an interesting discussion on this topic from Texas A&M Agrilife Extension.

Look HERE for a link to the latest study on this from Harvard University.

 

 

 

It’s Time To Enter The Pumpkin Carving Contest!

Metal PumpkinsHalloween will be here soon, and Saturday, October 26th, we’re having a Pumpkin Carving Contest!

Entry is free – just stop in the shop and  pick up an entry form  October 1st – October 21st. Pumpkins for carving and pie pumpkins for painting will be sold at a discount, and materials for painting and carving will be provided.

Location:
Oak Street Garden Shop

Time:   9am – 5:30pm
Carving/Painting:  9am-4pm
Judging/Awards:  4pm – 4:30pm
Lighting:  5pm – Contestants take their pumpkins home at 5:30.

There Will Be A Winner And A Second Place Finisher In 4 Age Groups:

Painted Pumpkins: Children (Parents, please accompany and supervise  your child.)
Group 1: Ages 5-8
Group 2: Ages 9-11

Carved Pumpkins:
Group 1:   Middle School – Ages 12-14
Group 2:   High School –    Ages 15-Adult

We hope many of you will want to join us in the fun!

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Chirita Plants…Something New For You To Try!

chirita plants have beautiful foliage...

chirita plants have beautiful foliage…

No, we didn’t say Chiquita (It’s not a banana!) but chirita, as in chirita plant…these beauties are actually indoor plants closely related to the African violet in the gesneriad family. They’re relatively new on the plant scene, as many have only been released into cultivation within the last ten years.

Though we are just now becoming familiar with them, chirita is actually a huge genera and has 150 species, ranging from their native Sri Lanka and India through the Himalayas and into China and Southeast Asia. The islands of Sumatra, Java and Borneo also claim them. It’s quite an exotic!  Many of the species can be seen growing in their native habitats on rocky hillsides or cliffs, often on limestone.

IMG1750Grown here for their beautiful foliage and flowers, they’re becoming more readily available in our area as an addition to the indoor landscape. We have quite a few in stock now if you’d like to try one. Their care is fairly simple and similar to African violets, which makes sense since they’re closely related.

Let the soil lightly dry between watering and water with lukewarm water. It’s better to err on the side of dryness – they don’t like to be soggy (Remember those rocky hillsides they grow on naturally!). They will suffer if over fertilized but do need some food. So, every other watering,  mix an even formula fertilizer (20-20-20 would be good) at 1/4 strength.

IMG1744Avoid direct sun on the foliage, especially during the hottest hours of the day. So, near East, West, or shaded South facing windows are ideal for the bright light they need to thrive and bloom. Like most houseplants, temperatures between 60-80 degrees are ideal.

Repot when the plant has filled the pot completely. As with many plants, when you repot it’s best to move only one pot size up. For chiritas in particular, shallow pots are better than deep pots since they’ll be less likely to hold too much moisture. Always lightly moisten the new potting soil  (We use Fafard soilless mix.).

chirita and episcia

chirita and episcia

The foliage on these plants is so beautiful that, even when they’re not in bloom, the plant is still quite striking. We’ve combined them with pilea and also with episcia, another pretty foliage plant, to great effect.

For all you adventuresome folks out there, these beautiful and easy care chirita plants are definitely worth trying – and, since there are many in stock now, this is the perfect time to come in and have your pick of the greenhouse…because, really, who doesn’t need a little more of the exotic in their lives?

By Kris Blevons

 

 

 

 

 

A Living Wreath With Plenty Of Wow!

living wreath...

living wreath…

This living wreath Jamie planted the other day has plenty of WOW factor, doesn’t it? She incorporated a very cool bromeliad plant, Cryptanthus ‘Black Mystic’,  and an annual trailing foliage plant used a lot in sunny containers – silver dichondra. The round, silvery foliage of the dichondra “echoes” the lighter markings in the cryptanthus beautifully. A third plant in this mix is streptocarpella, an open growing plant with airy blue flowers.

The wreath is made using a two piece metal form that is lined with green sheet moss and filled with a good, light potting soil. We use Fafard – a good soilless mix containing NO fertilizer or moisture holding products. Once all the plants are inserted into holes poked through the moss, additional moss is used to firm the plants in and the wreath is watered well to settle the soil. It’s been hanging in our bright greenhouse for a few weeks now and is settling in nicely!

Cryptanthus with the succulent string of pearls...

Cryptanthus with the succulent string of pearls…

The cryptanthus also plays well with succulents – the foliage form is such a nice contrast with the roundness of other plants. You can see an example of this in the photo here…even there it has a bit of that “wow” factor!

We’ve gotten in more of these wreath forms if you’d like to try your hand at them, and we have more of the cryptanthus if you’d like one for yourself. They are really eye catching and so easy to care for.  We’ll show you in more detail how to make one of these wreaths in a later post – or, if you’re in the area, let us know if you’d like us to make one for you!

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Perennial To-Dos For A Great Garden…

Perennial chrysanthemums benefit from being cut back once or twice or they tend to get lanky with fewer blooms.

Perennial chrysanthemums benefit from being cut back once or twice or they tend to get lanky with fewer blooms.

May and June are key months to keep an eye on your perennials as they’re coming up and (hopefully) growing like gangbusters.  A few tasks to do now involve some summer perennials and many of your late blooming fall plants. Of course, the  following tips are not something you have to do, but are only suggestions gleaned from my gardening experiences through the years. Remember, gardening is not one-size-fits-all!

Do you have summer phlox in your garden? Now is the perfect time to selectively thin your clumps, especially if they’re large. (If they are outgrowing their space or haven’t been blooming well, divide them this fall.)

To thin your summer phlox, simply reach into the clump and pull out the smallest stems. This effectively allows better air circulation – which in turn leads to a healthier clump less prone to mildew problems. At the same time, cut back by half some of the remaining stems. A longer bloom period will be the result…

Perennial sunflower - just about to be cut back in late May.

Perennial sunflower – just about to be cut back in late May.

Asters in front of Texas sage in late May after their first cut-back. Hedge shears do a great job quickly!

Asters in front of Texas sage in late May after their first cut-back. Hedge shears do a great job quickly!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For more blooms on your late blooming perennial sunflowers, salvias, asters, Joe pye weed and chrysanthemums,  now is the perfect time to get in the garden and cut them back – if you have large areas, use a hedge clipper and cut them back by half. (Hedge clippers – the old fashioned manual ones –  work best on asters and perennial mums.) When you cut a stem, it will respond by creating two stems, so you’ll have a fuller, shorter plant with more flowers later.

Perennial sunflower getting cut back. It will create two stems here - more blooms!

Perennial sunflower getting cut back. It will create two stems here – more blooms!

Now you don’t have to do this, (I’m not the garden police!) and, if you don’t, they’ll just be taller and bloom earlier in the fall, growing to their full height in your garden.
I do like cutting mine back now though. I also make a second cut-back on half the clumps about a month later. This effectively “staggers” the bloom time – those not cut back this second time will bloom first, and be a bit taller, and the plants that are cut back the second time will bloom a bit later.  More blooms, longer! It’s a win win!

Late blooming Salvia madrensis - forsythia sage...cut back at least 3 times during the growing season.

Late blooming Salvia madrensis – forsythia sage…cut back at least 3 times during the growing season. Shown here just beginning to bloom – this will turn into a mass of yellow salvia blooms…

Many southern gardeners say “Don’t cut late blooming perennials back after July 4th”.

Rule breaker that I am, I have cut perennial mums, asters and sunflowers back as late as mid-July and had no ill-effect. But I like extending my blooms well into fall – it’s one of my favorite times of the year!

Perennial sunflower - 'Marc's Apollo' beginning to bloom in mid-September...

Perennial sunflower – ‘Marc’s Apollo’ beginning to bloom in mid-September…

 

 

 

Above all, enjoy your garden – after all, that’s what you planted it for, right? Hopefully by following these tips you’ll be able to enjoy it even longer!

***One of my absolute favorite reference books on perennial gardening is The Well-Tended Perennial Garden by my friend, Tracy DiSabato-Aust. If you enjoy perennials and gardening, this is a must have!!!

 

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A Real (And Really Big!) Clam Shell Planted With Succulents..

imageimageWOW! A customer brought this in the other day and I was the lucky one that got to plant it up! This clam shell is the real deal…a beautiful, large piece of natural art that had found its way to us.

Before it was even planted, I was bringing customers back to the work area to take a look at how amazing this natural container was.

Here it is, planted with various succulents, all sharing quarters quite comfortably in its large confines…flapjack kalanchoes, sedums, hen and chicks, sedeveria, and rhypsalis all create a tapestry of color and texture that compliment the white, smooth inside and rough outer portion of this very large clam shell.image

 

We’ve seen many replicas of clam shells lately; in fact, we’d been discussing this for quite a few weeks now – the proliferation of the clam!

This real one, unexpected and  quite wonderful, really was the icing on the cake. It’s also the type of thing that makes this job so much fun!

If you like succulents, take a look at this post for more inspiration – they are incredibly diverse plants to work with!

 

A Hedge of Hollies and Wax Myrtles…A Peek At Billy’s New Yard

imageSome of you may know that the owner of Oak Street Garden Shop, Billy Angell,  recently moved into a new house on Euclid Avenue  – quite visible to all of you who live in the area! Coming from his old house at which he’d created an extensive woodland, cutting, vegetable, and herb garden was quite a drastic change. This yard is nice and flat, but that was pretty much it. Now, if you know Billy, you also know that a nice, flat yard is one thing, but he needs a few plants out there too!

Billy's newly planted holly hedge

Billy’s newly planted holly hedge

He’s only been there a year or so, but already there are shrubs going in around the perimeter of his corner lot. His vision is to create a mixed border of hollies, magnolias, viburnum and wax myrtle for the outer edge, to screen the road and the back of his property His plans for the rest of the yard will unfold for all to see…and we’ll be watching!

Here are some pictures of the beginning of his new landscape: He invites any of you to come by and take a look at the shrubs he’s planted so far, many of which we have in stock now. These include:

Southern Wax Myrtle: This is a beautiful screening shrub. He’s using this on the back and side of his property to compliment the neighbor’s already large wax myrtle hedge. The only warning about wax myrtle is that the stems are brittle and they will break if we get heavy, wet snow (Rare, but it could happen!) You also need to be aware that they do sucker, so if you don’t want them to spread, remove suckers as they form.

The neighbors established wax myrtles show the size Billy's will get...

The neighbors established wax myrtles show the size Billy’s will get…

Hollies: These are large, and will grow 20′-30′, effectively screening his property from the busy road. They are drought resistant once established and are a haven for wildlife, creating nesting sites,  as well as food for birds.

Three of Billy’s favorite hollies planted along the streetside are ‘Nellie Stevens’, Emily Bruner’, and ‘Mary Nell’. These are all hybrids created by crossing two old hollies, Ilex cornuta and Ilex latifolia. The results are these excellent plants, bred for hardiness, berry production and growth habit.

‘Foster’ holly, is another that Billy has chosen for his landscape. This is another old holly developed by Mr. Foster, a plant breeder for Fraser’s Nursery of Birmingham many year’s ago.

'Nellie Stevens' and 'WillowLeaf' hollies

‘Nellie Stevens’ hollies

All of these hollies (and more), are available now for you to try in your own landscape…Billy invites you to come by and look at his if you’d like to see what they look like as they grow.

He pointed out that we also have one ‘Miss Patricia’ holly left in stock at this time – he has used it in the border but commented that it would be beautiful in a large container.

 

 

 

 

Perennials – Plant Some Now!

Mexican sage, Salvia leucantha 'Santa Barbara'

First things first…what is a perennial? Well, a perennial is any plant that will be with you for the long haul – some will disappear completely during the coldest months of the year and reappear with the first warm days of late winter.

Herbaceous perennials have a specific bloom period when they offer their largest show, then continue to grace the garden with their foliage the rest of the season. Or, their foliage will be the show through the summer and their bloom time will be in fall.

French hollyhock - Malva sylvestris

French hollyhock – Malva sylvestris

However and whenever they bloom though, please understand that for the majority of their life you’ll be looking at the shape, texture and color of their leaves. When you’re deciding where to place them this is one of the most important things to remember!

Perennial salvia leans over a carpet of thrift (Creeping phlox) in this border...

Perennial salvia leans over a carpet of thrift (Creeping phlox) in this border…

Used well, perennials are a wonderful addition to a landscape filled with trees, shrubs and annuals. They add their period of bloom and, when grown well, should get larger with each season. (We’ll talk about dividing your perennials in another post.)

However, perennials are not no-maintenance plants. Some, like Japanese aster, thread leaf coreopsis, catmint and dianthus need shearing back after bloom. Others, such as daisies, coneflowers and rudbeckias appreciate general dead-heading (Cutting off individual blooms.) to keep them blooming longer. When they’ve finally played out the entire stems need to be cut to the ground. Butterfly weed, Asclepias tuberosa, benefits from deadheading blooms if you don’t want it to reseed. Monarch butterflies lay their eggs on it, so deadhead below the bloom only.

Still others benefit from being cut back by at least half early in the season to control height, or this can be done with half the plant to create a staggered bloom time. Many late season bloomers fall into this category. These include many of the tall salvias, perennial sunflowers, tall rudbeckias, pink muhly grass and joe pye weed (Eupatorium). These late blooming perennials are quite beautiful in combination with perennials grasses.

Summer phlox is one that benefits from up to half its stems being cut back early in the season. This promotes good air circulation, which in turn helps to prevent mildew problems on the leaves.

when the ligularia on the left and the iris aren't in bloom, it's the foliage contrasts that will capture your attention...

when the ligularia on the left and the iris aren’t in bloom, it’s the foliage contrasts that will capture your attention…

 

 

 

None of these tasks is difficult, and, if they’re done a little at a time, your plants will look well tended and cared for.

If you’re in the Birmingham area, please stop in and take a look at the perennials in stock now. The selection of plants is excellent!

Some favorites for part sun to full sun:

Iris – Japanese, Siberian, Louisiana, German  and our native copper iris
Coreopsis ‘Full Moon’, and many others
Summer Phlox – Phlox paniculata  ‘David’, ‘Franz Schubert’,  Common Purple (mildew resistant)
Daisies – Leucanthemum (formerly Chrysanthemum sp.) ‘Becky’ daisy
Japanese aster – Kalimeris pinnatifida
Day lilies (many) – Hemerocallis                                                                                                     Rudbeckia fulgida – Black-Eyed-Susan  Rudbeckia ‘Herbstonne’
Echinacea  – purple coneflowers ‘Magnus’, ‘Pow Wow White’, many others
Salvias – Salvia leucantha – Mexican sage, ‘Indigo Spires’, ‘Mystic Spires’                                          Dianthus – many…the old standby is ‘Bath’s Pink’                                                                            Creeping phlox or thrift – Phlox subulata

Favorites for light shade to full shade:
Hostas (of course!)
Woodland phlox  –  Phlox divaricata
Solomon’s seal (green or variegated) – Polygonatum sp.
Japanese painted fern -Athyrium nipponicum
Autumn fern – Dryopteris erythrosoris
Tassel fern – polystichum polyblepharum
Indian pinks – Spigelia marilandica
Heuchera
Tiarella
Heucherella
Aspidistra – cast iron plant
Carex (many)

Don’t let the latin names intimidate you!  They are just the best way of knowing for sure what you are asking for. Common names, though easy to remember,  can bring on even more confusion when there’s more than one plant with the same name…at any rate, try a few perennials in your garden soon – you’ll be hooked in no time!

 

 

This is just the beginning of the perennials that are out there. Ask us for advice if you need help choosing – we’re happy to advise you on the right choices for your garden. And, if you’re adventurous, try one even if you’re not sure if your spot is exactly right – plants don’t always follow the rules!

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