Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Why are there so many variety of hosta?

Tonight we had a friend over for dinner, he is a regular at our house on Tuesday nights. He glanced over and saw my Hostapedia sitting on one our end tables. At first he asked me if it was a joke, but when he realized it was the real deal he glanced again at it. For those who don't know, the Hostapedia is 1125 pages long and weighs a little over 12 pounds. It's huge, and I'm surprised my end table hasn't collapsed under the shear girth of it. After his laughter cleared over my owning a Hostapedia he asked me a really good question. He asked me why there were so many varieties of hosta compared to other plants. I'm sure he doesn't know or care that daylily varieties are also numerous (and I'm sure other plants), but it also really made me think. Why is it that there are so many varieties of hosta? I am not a scientist, I am just a home gardener (with a hosta addiction). But here are some of the reasons why I think there are so many varieties of hosta.
  1. Hosta do not come true from seed, so if you plant a hosta seed, it will likely not look like it's parent plant. So hostas create their own different varieties without human help.
  2. Humans step in and purposely cross pollenate flowers to try to create new breeds of hosta. Even though you never know what you will get when you cross pollenate, it's easy to do.
  3. Hostas will create their own sports.
  4. The science of using tissue cultures to create even more new, unusual hosta varieties has progressed far over time.
  5. Hostas are a very popular and easy to grow plant, therefore there are lots of collectors always looking for new varieties.
I know I am overlooking some obvious reasons, so why do you think there are so many varieties of hosta?

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Even small trees are beautiful in fall

Today I took a peek in the backyard. I wanted to see just how many leaves have fallen in the last couple of days. It had been raining on and off for days, and I figured (and was right) that quite a few leaves would have been knocked down by the rain. However, it wasn't all the leaves that caught my eyes...it was this bright red pop of color amongst all the yellows of fall. There amid the hostas lies a Japanese maple. When I think of fall, I think of all the large maples and their beautiful hues or orange, yellow, and red. However, I forget that my little Japanese maple puts on a beautiful fall display of color that far outweighs some of the large trees. So what beautiful surprises have you found in fall?

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Planting Lily Bulbs

Before I even start digging in the ground, I always make labels for my plants. Before you get the wrong idea about me, let me tell you this is the only time in my life I am organized. My plants are all labeled, but I have piles of things on my desk. I use a brother label and aluminum plant markers to label my plants. The brother labels are the TZ variety, which is weather resistant.
Here is one of the lily bulbs I am planting today. These are very nice sized. I am trying a new lily nursery this year, called B&D lilies. So far I am impressed with the size and health of the bulbs. These get planted 4-8 inches into the ground depending on the size of the bulb. Unlike what most people believe, lilies do not require full sun. I have very good luck growing them in even my partially shady yard.
This is a OT lily I planted last year. It is almost 6 feet tall. I guess that means it's happy:)

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Some things grow and thrive in cold weather

Despite the cold rainy/snowy weather we've been having here in Wisconsin some things continue to grow and thrive. I noticed this fungus (may be Dacrymyces palmatus) growing on a stump my neighbor has in their yard. It was so bright it was hard not to notice it. Up close it almost looks like something from the deep blue sea.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Pineapple Sage

I wish that pineapple sage didn't bloom so late in the year. It has beautiful reddish orange blooms, that are reminiscent of saliva. The hummingbirds love it, and even when not in bloom it smells wonderful (like pineapple). The only problem here is Wisconsin is that it is a very late bloomer. In fact mine just started to bloom earlier in the week. This morning the temperature outside was 25 degrees, so I thought for sure it would be dead. However when I checked it this afternoon it was still alive and kicking. It is on the warmest side of my house, but I would be very surprised if it last through the rest of the week.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Last plant to bloom in my garden

Usually this time of year it's in the low 60's or upper 50's, this morning however it was 30 degrees outside. Tonight there is a freeze warning in place, with temperatures dropping to the 20's. There are even the possibility of snow showers today and Monday. So today I was busy running around my garden pulling the last of the tomatoes, and putting all the ceramic and clay pots close to the house. It was just by chance that I noticed that my Toad Lilies (Tricyrtis hirta) were starting to bloom. They are usually the last plant to bloom in my garden. I love their speckled orchid-like blooms. The blooms themselves are about the size of a quarter, so if you are looking for big and flashy, toad lilies are not for you. They grow in shade/part shade, and they do come in colors other than the ones pictured above.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Living Wall??

My aunt in Tumwater, Washington recently sent me an article from the Olympian about a living wall display that Patrick Blanc designed in Tacoma, Washington. I've seen living wall displays. One of the greenhouses in the Green Bay area makes small living wall displays using old, large picture frames and sedums. Which made me think that maybe living walls could be incorporated into the school atrium? This summer I remember reading an article about a urban area that was using recycled materials to create living walls, now I wish I could find that article again. I wonder how hardy the living wall would be here in Wisconsin? If anyone has any experience with living walls, I would love to hear from you!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Aconite or Monkshood

One of my favorite fall blooming plants is Aconite, otherwise known as Monkshood. I love how blue the flowers are, and how the flowers actually resemble little hoods. It is always one of the last plants to bloom in my garden (toad lilies may be the last). The monkshood plant in the picture about is about 6 ft tall, so it does best at the back of a border. Mine do great in a partially shaded area and prefer to be kept moist. They come in colors other than blue, such as pink, white, and even a blue/white bi-color. There is a drawback to growing Monkshood, all parts of the plant are toxic. So if you have anyone or anything that likes to eat plants in your yard, you should not grow Monkshood.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

School Atrium Project Update

In September I posted a blog about my school's atrium. I was hoping to put in for a grant and turn the atrium into beautiful place for students to gather. One Friday morning I attended a meeting to discuss the atrium. In attendance was a member of the Winnebago County Extension office. He had a load of grants we could apply for up to $50,000 to redo the atrium. The grants however required that students were learning about how to go green. I had the idea that students learn to compost. We could have students compost food scraps from school lunches. However the head of building services said the the health inspector has already said they would shut us down in a minute if we had any kind of composting on our school grounds. The health inspector said that composting means critters. I have a compost barrel in my yard, and have never had critters but I guess it happens. Another idea we had was rain barrels, since it would make it easier for students and staff to water plants and would be conserving water. But again we were told rain barrels could bring in unwanted critters. So the head of building services said maybe we should just try to get local support since he couldn't see how we could do anything to show conservation with students.

I brought up the idea from P. Allen Smith of having the students plant daffodils, and then selling bouquets of them in the spring. 75% of the time the atrium will be covered in snow, so I thought spring blooming bulbs would be easy and be beautiful at the same time. We also talked about having the art classes create art for the atrium, whether it be stepping stones, sculptures, or murals. We also had the idea of seeing if the tech ed classes at the high school could build us lots of seating for the atrium.

We agreed that we needed to find out what the other teachers would like to see happen with the atrium. Since in order for the project to be a success we needed vested interest. We are going to survey staff, and agreed to meet again in November to further discuss the project.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

What to do with hosta at end of season #4

Who knew there was so much to know about hosta care in fall? The last thing I want to discuss is fertilizing and slugs. Unlike other plants in your garden that can benefit from a fall fertilization, hostas do not need to be fertilized. Hosta are dormant in the winter, so fertilizing them now does not help produce better plants for spring. The best thing you can do for your hosta in fall is to keep watering them.

Fall is a great time to control slugs. Slugs are both female and male, so they "mate" with themselves and then lay eggs. Now is the time to be looking under foliage and destroy slugs you find. You can also put a 10% ammonia or vinegar solution in a sprayer, and spray the crowns of the hosta. You could also spread diatomaceous earth around the base of the hosta. There are also slug products you can buy at most garden stores, such as Sluggo.