Seed Starting Fall 2021

I tried several different methods of seed starting over the last 8 years, before I settled on this one. Good seeds plus good seed mix means you can’t go wrong, unless slugs are involved.

My best choice ever (seed startingwise) was to try a new product from my favorite organic fertilizer company, Espoma.

Their Espoma Seed Starting Mix is part of what made this my best garden year ever! Another part was the superior seeds I purchased from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds.

Acclimating in dappled sun

I had some old container trays that I recycled & brought home from Cofer’s when I worked there last year. They have drainage holes and are perfect for starting seeds, but any container with drainage holes can be used.

I transplanted from the seed trays into recycled 4 pack trays on Sept 4th. I mix 1/2 organic mushroom compost, 1/2 organic topsoil, & add Espoma Plant Tone. Mix these together well, and transplant seedlings. They stay in that soil mix until they are ready for transplanting into the raised beds.

I started the first round of seeds in mid August, but had a slugtastrope & had to plant more seeds. I now move the baby seedling trays onto the deck at night to avoid slugs. This fall, I planted Broccoli, Kale, Cabbage, Brussels Sprouts, Collards & Cauliflower in seed trays.

Some types of veggie seeds achieve best results by direct sowing them into the place they will grow until harvest. This past week, I direct sowed carrots & radishes.

The babies are getting some good gentle rain today! Sept 15th

New posts coming soon about the expanded garden bed construction, summer harvests & more fall planting details. These babies are almost ready to go into the ground! I will likely plant them around end of September.

Happy Gardening!

Sun-loving Perennials for a Pollinator Garden

The University of Georgia Cooperative Extension offers a fantastic online publication with resources for schools, and home gardeners, to help create a pollinator garden. A pollinator garden uses specific plants to draw pollinators like bees, wasps, butterflies, and hummingbirds to a specific area.

Favorites for full sun beauty, and pollinator draw in my garden

Asclepius tuberosa “Butterfly Weed”

This plant is spectacular. I noticed a few growing wild down by the roadside at the edge of my heavily wooded property. I got the shovel and dug one up! I left the other three to continue growing there. I found out they don’t transplant well, but this one survived and has now been in my pollinator garden for two years. The butterflies absolutely love it, and they fight each other over the flowers.

Pollinator planting is especially useful for me because I also grow vegetables in my raised beds. The nearby pollinator garden helps draw more pollinators to my veggie blooms too-therefore increasing my yields! I also try to pick plants that have beautiful blooms, or are Georgia native plants, or both.

Echinacea purpurea

This simple Southeastern native Purple Coneflower is one of my all time faves. It keeps the bees very happy, and a smile on my face all summer.

Bee & Echinacea

Agastache “Anise Hyssop”

One of my favorite new herbs, and therefore found all over my garden is the deer proof wonder Anise Hyssop. Delightful, long blooming, anise scented leaves, and pollinators all year make this a superstar favorite.

Lobelia cardinalis “Cardinal flower”

Another beautiful native plant. These bright red beauties are very charming and are hummingbird magnets. They begin to bloom in August, and the flowers march up the stem. I love watching the hummingbirds zooming in to feed from them. To my eye, the flowers also look like tiny hummingbirds.

Lantana ‘Sonset’

‘Sonset’ Lantana oozes summer heat & the colors can’t be beat. I bought three of these gorgeous, super drought tolerant, pollinator magnets while working at Cofer’s. Delivered from a nursery in Louisiana, the grower said it was the earliest, most cold hardy, and compact lantana ever. They are one of my favorite plants now, and the butterflies play in, and fight over the stunning color changing flower heads.

They are a smaller lantana-unlike that ‘Miss Huff’ showoff. These are 3-4 feet max, and stay smaller if keep minimally pruned.

Eryngium yuccofolium

This plant absolutely hums and buzzes with every manner of wasp, bee, and flying insect. I have rarely seen so many on one plant. This plant has uses in herbal folk medicine (it is also known as Rattlesnake Master), and doesn’t seem very attractive at first glance. It has long, thin yucca like leaves with spiky balls topping each stem. Once you give it a second glance though, it is truly a fascinating, beautiful plant. It is super unique, and provides loads of pollinators to your garden.

Woodland Sunflower Helianthus divaricatus

Woodland Sunflower, 'Helianthus Divaricatus', Zone 7b, Georgia, Native plant,

These woodland sunflowers fill the area under my grand white oak tree just off the back deck. They are super pretty and dark green, and I love watching them grow. I saw many of these in the mountains at Black Rock Mountain State Park when I visited. They shine in the shade under the tree canopy, and pleasantly brighten up the roadsides and trailsides.

The State Botanical Garden of Georgia has an incredible program called Connect to Protect that provides educational programming using native plants to support pollinators like birds and insects, and promoting native ecosystems.

Get out there and start your pollinator garden today!

Happy Gardening!

5 Veggies for Raised Beds and Hot Summers

The growing season here in Georgia is super long & hot for summer veggies. April through October yields lots of produce.

Few memories of mine are more pleasant than those of my childhood in the garden with Dad – salt shaker in hand. We would spend hours out there. Fresh, homegrown, heirloom tomato plucked off the vine, and then devoured with a sprinkle of salt is as good as it gets.

In small spaces, I have grown some fantastic produce. I’d like to share 5 of my favorites discovered over the past seven years, chosen for best growth in small spaces, tastiness of produce, and quantity of yields.

#1. Tomato- top two varieties

Best Cherry Tomato Award goes to

Husky Cherry Red Tomato

These indeterminate plants are super sturdy and aptly named as “husky.” They are tall, strong vines that need minimal support, and just keep producing the most delicious little 1 inch delights. I am instantly transported back to being a kid in the garden, with all the possibilities of the world ahead of me when I eat a fresh , homegrown tomato plucked from the vine.

While I don’t have the huge, in ground gardens Dad & Mom always made, I do have nine , 4′ x 8 raised wooden beds, a collection of containers, and a small patch of sunshine that the mighty oaks & hickories don’t shade out completely. I get 5-8 hours of sun per day in most of my beds, so they might produce better if I had more sun!

Best sandwich slicing Tomato award goes to

Parks Whopper Improved Tomato

#2 . Peppers Please!

Chili Pie Peppers

Chili Pie Pepper

All American Selection Chili Pie Pepper is a fabulous slightly hot, mini bell shaped pepper that reddens as it ages. These plants produce loads of peppers. They need a bit of support as they spread a little wide. There are somewhat shorter plants however and are well suited to raised beds.

Jalapeno

I could go on for hours about my love of Jalapenos. But, I already have many times on this blog before. So, I will just say they are tall and beautiful plants that produce an incredible amount of peppers in one season. A Bonnie Plants 6 pack grown in my raised beds in about 10 square feet of bed produced over 200 peppers last year!

#3. Herbs

My two favorite herbs

Annual-Basil

Oregano

Perennial Oregano is a fantastic drying herb, and gives lots of leaves for many years from one plant.

I dry oregano every year and we use it so many things we cook. I bought one plant 7 years ago when I first began blogging and raised bed gardening. I harvest it and prune it back in the early spring before new growth. It is beautiful and very good for you. Oregano has been used for many thousands of years to enhance flavor and is touted for its herbal medicinal qualities as well.

#4. Beautiful Beans -Two Varieties

Cherokee Wax

Pole Bean Kentucky Wonder

was my Dads favorite and also one of mine. Check out this UGA publication on best home garden green beans for Georgia.

#5. Crunchy Cucumber

Arkansas Little Leaf

is a fantastic pickling cucumber. Vines are very productive, with delicious firm cucumbers.

Quick Link to my Best Raised Bed Construction post & Also to Espoma Fertilizer -my favorite fertilizer.

Ga Native: Woodland Sunflower

It took a good bit of searching online to finally identify this particular sunflower growing under one of my huge white oaks as, Woodland Sunflower or ‘Helianthus Divaricatus’. I knew it was some type of sunflower or aster, but wasn’t sure exactly which. I was able to identify it thanks to the multi branching blooms, the size of the plant,  the appearance of the blooms and leaves, and photos of different varieties online at the USDA’s plant ID website. 

This plant has a spreading habitat, and fills the shady area under the great oak. It does get some afternoon sun here, and the plant seems happy to take over the whole area. The long lasting summer blooms make the lackluster foliage as it dies back bearable. This sunshine yellow perennial returns early every year, and since it grows about 2-3 feet tall it makes a great plant for height at the back of a shady bed or border.

I saw many of these native Woodland Sunflowers while visiting the mountains at Black Rock Mountain State Park, in Mountain City, GA. I will write more about that amazing adventure in an upcoming post. I visited 10 state parks in Georgia in 2018, and am working on articles about hikes at those parks, and the plants I found along the way.

GA Native: Dwarf Crested Iris ‘Iris Cristata’

This native Iris, Iris cristata came from the Night Song Native Plant Nursery plant sale. I thought it died last summer, but it came back early this Spring and bloomed two times!

I placed the rhizome on top of a ridge of dirt at the front of the bulb bed, sandwiched between the huge 2-3 foot tall bearded Irises. The Iris cristata is super tiny, at about 6-10 inches tall.

The Georgia Native Plant Society is a great resource for information on Georgia’s native plants.

2018, GA, Zone 7b, Iris Cristata
Picture from last week. Only about 6-8 inches tall. Lots of new growth since blooming

I have a few new posts in the works about the new raised garden beds, and all the plants and herbs I am growing this year.

Georgia Power Presentation

Created & Presented by Cari Misseri & Karin Blankenship

Presentation delivered to Georgia Power Retirees, March 2020.

Notes on Georgia Power gardening talk. 30 mins. This is a very rough copy of the notes I made for our presentation. I will include them with the presentation file itself soon.

Gardening for Fun, Form. & Function

Gardening should be fun! Don’t stress or try to make it perfect. Just be creative and enjoy it.

Sun, Soil, Water Simple

We will talk about: Spring Basics, Seeds & Plants, Container Gardening, Raised Beds, and Pest Control.

1. Spring basics

Organizing, Planting, and Dividing

Plants to add for spring interest-1 perennial & 1 shrub/tree for each season

Spring- Tiarella-Native Plant. & Azalea

Pink Azalea

Summer Interest/Great native pollinator plant-Echinachea-Coneflower. Abelia

Summer/Fall/Butterfly attractor-Salvia. Beautyberry-native 

Salvia Greggii Magenta

Winter- Pansies. Camellia

Planning

Take stock of your seeds or supplies, and see what you want/need for the upcoming year. Our last average frost is April 15th, so I usually wait until then to plant my raised beds. Now is a great time to plan for & plant seeds indoors for your spring and summer veggie garden. 

2. Seed starting vs buying plants

3. Container gardening.

ALWAYS HAVE DRAINAGE HOLES IN CONTAINERS

4. Raised beds.

My beds are 3’ x 8’. I have 3 wood beds. Leave bottom open to native soil-no landscape fabric wanted. Untreated wood for edibles

Dirt is ⅓ native soil, ⅓ soil conditioner, ⅓ compost-I like mushroom compost. Add in an organic fertilizer like Espoma garden tone when you build the soil. Can also use a pre mixed soil, or straight compost. Plant dwarf or smaller varieties.

Fertilize throughout the seaon. I like organic fertilizer for many reasons but here are three:

Better for plants- slower release, no burning, slower more even growth and better plants

Better for people-natural fertilizer creates tastier vegetables hands down, no chemical concerns

Better for the environment-only use what you need, and not more. Then the excess does not run off into the streams, rivers and lakes, and create problems.

5. Responsible Pest Control

Hornworm covered in Eggs?!

Encourage good stewardship and organic gardening and pest control where possible.  Pick them off, or spray with water as 1st pest control method. Always read the instructions thoroughly before treating anything

late July Harvest

Five Fabulous Fall Flowers

#1 Salvia

*For Summer into Fall blooms & Pollinator Draw*

Hummingbirds love salvias, and so do the bees & butterflies. Salvias are members of the Mint family Laminaceae- as classified by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service Plants Database. There are many other spectacular members of this extensive family. I have developed quite a fondness for many of them. The mint family is my absolute favorite plant family to grow in my herb, and flower gardens. They are all truly delightful, and very useful. Also, most importantly for me-Extremely Deer Resistant!

Erica Glasener is a super horticulturist & writer focusing on gardening in Georgia. Check out her article, in the Atlanta Journal Constitution, on Salvias for Georgia.

I love them all! The more salvia the better for me so here’s More info from Lady Bird Johnson Center on Salvias.

#2 Eupatorium

*For Understated Elegance*

Pictured below is Eupatorium fortunei– which is a non-native, Asian Eupatorium

Monarch Butterfly on Eupatorium bloom
Monarch butterfly on 
Eupatorium fortunei 'Pink Frost', October.

Eupatorium fistulosum, which is also known by the much less fancy name of

Joe Pye Weed is the dark leafed, non-variegated, native variety of the variegated leaf ‘Pink Frost’ Eupatorium above.

The Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area of Georgia’s website has a nice photo & entry on the native Joe Pye Weed. These native plants can be used to rehabilitate moist environments that have been taken over by invasive species in the past. They are also noteworthy for their long standing herbal usage.

I took the photo above of the ‘Pink Frost’ Eupatorium at Cofer’s Home & Garden-where I was employed. Then, I bought the plant, because I found it so charming. If its good enough for monarchs, its good enough for me. The plant has been happy here in my backyard since transplanting from the container-except either deer or rabbit have eaten it to nubs several times. Surprising, as these plants are supposed to be critter resistant & poisonous. It has recovered both times, but not blooming this fall, yet.

#3 Pansies and Violas

*For Simple Beauty, and Awe-inspiring Hardiness*

Pansy vs. Viola-it’s complicated. They are really the same plant, but the viola is a more ancient form, and the pansy has been cultivated from the viola.

This entry about Violas and Pansies from New World Encyclopedia could help clear things up, but like I said before, it’s complicated.

They are so tiny & charming & bright and survive freezing temps and bloom all winter. Need I say more? Ok, more. October to April will be filled with blooms to brighten your day. There will need to be some deadheading to accomplish this, but it is worth it. Pansies and Violas are Deer candy; I keep them on the porch.

#4 Osmanthus Fragrans

*For Versatility, Fragrance & Evergreen-ness*

One of the most delicious smelling plants in the world! This picture of an interesting Tea Olive-the more common name for Osmanthus, is from a courtyard garden in Charleston. The plant was grown in a container, and then trained onto a wall using an espalier technique. This technique is described under Specialty Pruning in UGA’s extension publication titled Pruning Ornamental Plants in the Landscape.

Sadly, I don’t yet have a Tea Olive in my landscape! Thanks to Clemson University Cooperative Extension for these details on Osmanthus Fragrans. I can smell them at work at the State Botanical Garden of Georgia several times per year, in the Spring & Fall. I always stop and delight in inhaling their delicious scent on the wind. This year I’m getting one!

#5 Camellia Sasanqua

For Mythical Beauty, Cool season blooms, & Evergreen

Don’t even get me started on how much I adore camellias. Well maybe just a bit about the beautiful fall blooming smaller camellia, Camellia Sasanqua. Their blooms are not quite as large and showy, and the leaves and plants in general are smaller than Camellia Japonica, or other Camellia varieties.

Norman Winter, the director of the Coastal Georgia Botanical Gardens at the Historic Bamboo Farm in Savannah, Georgia, has written an excellent article on the use of Camellia Sasanqua, and Japonica, in the southern landscape.

Sasanqua camellias are just as charming as Japonicas, and can bloom and thrive in situations where other camellias will not do as well. They do accept more hot southern summer sun, and are faster growing. In addition they are more compact and bushier than other camellia varieties.

Came home today 11-10-2020, and saw my ‘White by Gate’ Camellia Japonica is blooming for the first time!!! I bought this plant in Charleston last December. Southern Living has an excellent article, by Steve Bender which gives “A Brief History of the Camellia.”

Camellia Japonica ‘White by the Gate’ Wow!

It is interesting that I acquired this camellia in Charleston. The city is known as the predominant entry point for camellias, as well as the epicenter of early camellia hybridization, in the United States. The bloom on ‘White by the Gate’ is packed tight with petals-it is spectacular.

Lobelia Cardinalis, GA native

lobelia Cardinalis, Ga native plants, Zone 7b, blooming in August

Let’s start off the New Year with a remembrance of the brilliant red fireworks of summer’s celebratory blooms. This stunning (and aptly named) Lobelia Cardinalis was a super special find from the Nightsong Native Plant Nursery sale last spring. Most of the pics are from blooming time which was mid August to nearly October.

Blooms just kept opening, marching up the ever growing stalk. I waited a while to transplant into the ground. I brought it home at the end of April, and planted in ground in mid July. Seemed to be growing nicely in the pot , so I waited. I dug a hole a bit deeper and wider than the current container, added some organic compost from my Earth Machine composter, and soil from my organic raised beds to fill the hole. Plentiful watering required during the super drought we had this summer and fall.

Lobelia Cardinalis, Praying Mantis, Ga Native plants, Zone 7b,
Mantis Stalker

The mantis reminded me that there is an entire forest ecosystem at work right here in my own backyard garden. The link above takes you to an amazing paper prepared by Rachel G. Schneider about Georgia’s Forest Ecosystems. The mantis, butterfly, bee, and hummingbird love this plant; so do I, and even the cats (due to increased bird and butterfly activity).

It grew to over 3 feet tall, and I was awed and impressed by this amazing plant. This native to Georgia wildflower grows so well here, and I am thrilled to have in my backyard just under the overhanging shade of the oaks and hickories. It gets mostly full sun, with a touch of late afternoon shade in the worst heat of the summer sun. On some of the blazing hot days, it looked a little wilted in the direct sun, but quickly recovered.

Lobelia Cardinalis, Ga native plants, Zone 7b, Blooming in August,
Mature Lobelia-over 3 ft tall!

This plant became the center of a flourishing ecosystem, in one season. I’m writing an article about the Tallassee Forest (my extended backyard). This area was sacred & special to the Native Americans, and has an interesting history. Many native plant and animal species thrive here – some only here. I’m so fortunate and excited to be able to experience this great state of Georgia, and to write about the native plants and ecosystems in my area!

Lobelia Cardinalis, Ga native plants, Zone 7b
Baby Lobelia

Atlanta Botanical Garden

The ‘Imaginary Worlds’ installation at The Atlanta Botanical Garden had just opened when my husband, mother-in-law, and I visited on May 5th, 2018.  Plants are used to comprise the outer ‘skins’ on the figures. The exhibit is very creative, structurally interesting, and particularly beautiful to me, due to my love of plants.

We first enjoyed an open sun garden bursting with Poppies & Daffodils, Irises, & so many kinds of beautiful blooms. There were chairs set up for a wedding, and a bride taking photos above the garden area. What a lovely & gorgeous place for a wedding! I have not yet identified all of the flowers I took photos of, but will in the future.

Poppies and Wow!

The company that created the ‘Mosaiculture’ exhibit for the Atlanta Botanical Garden is International Mosaiculture of Montreal.  There are some cool photos & video of their work on their website.

I was fascinated by this interesting new art form. I had not experienced plants this way before. This style of using various plants on the outside of a structure is very different than topiary, and added another layer to my enjoyment of plants as functional art.

In addition to the Mosaiculture installation, we also really were amazed by the Fuqua Orchid Center & the Conservatory. I could do any entire separate post on orchids, so I will just include some photos I took for now. The orchids were breathtaking.

I didn’t get a single photo of the edibles garden, unfortunately. I was so glad they included an edible garden, and I remember in particular the espaliered apple trees, the paw-paw tree, and the yellow blooming cabbages as standing out.

I think these tendrils are epiphyte roots, but not sure & will identify later. It was surreal to walk under the super long, thin strands that fell from very high up in the building.

The Oakleaf Hydrangeas were absolutely outstanding, and there was a strong smell of  Jasmine throughout much of garden. The Canopy Walk offered a unique perspective high up in the tree canopy, and the stroll was like a dream come true for a tree and forest lover like me. The entire afternoon was truly a delightful experience, and I can’t wait to return.

Ga Native “Sweet Shrub” ‘Calycanthus floridus’

The shrub of many names known as Sweet bubby, Sweet shrub, Carolina allspice, Spice shrub, & Spice bush lives in the eastern US, and is a native plant to Georgia.  I remember from my youth the scent of sweet shrub (as it was known to us in the mountains of Southwestern NC).

Your nose leads you to the unassuming sweet shrub. You see the dark burgundy tasseled flower pods. The perfume permeates the air, a unique, deep aroma. Reach out, rub the burgundy pods to release more amazing fragrance – unlike anything else on earth I have smelled so far. Tangy and pungent, but sweet and spicy.

Spring 2017 Ga Zone 7b Sweet Shrub, Spice Bush, Native Plants
Spice Bush, Sweet Shrub, Sweet Bubby

Researching this post, I discovered a wealth of info about these fascinating plants. More info than I can address in this one post, but I will follow up with this plant. I bought the one pictured last year at a native plant sale, in late April. I planted it in a mostly shady spot, under a huge hickory facing southwest – with the hickory’s shady protection from the scorching afternoon sun.

Georgia, Zone 7b, native plants, sweet shrub, sweet bubby, spice shrub
Sweet shrub pic taken today 5-23-17. No blooms yet, but getting bigger!

I wondered if the plant was used medicinally, as many native plants were, and still are.  I discovered that this plant does have Toxic alkaloids. Use caution. The Cherokee are known to use it for some medicinal properties. It may also have been used as a wolf poison.

I don’t remember the dried fruits/seed pods George Ellison discusses in his article, “Sweet bubby bush,” from the “Smoky Mountain News” online. I eagerly await their arrival to refresh my memory.

Ellison also talks about ladies putting blossoms in their bosoms (bubby morphed from boobies) for perfume. I don’t remember them being in bosoms, but it probably helped cover the odor of snuff on the wind. Granny Hazel would dry them out, then put them in sachets for drawers, or bowls of potpourri.