Although there is some confusion and debate regarding the taxonomy of mosses, there are well over 10,000 species of mosses recognized by bryologists. Many Southern gardeners think of the dangling gray tendrils of Spanish moss when discussing moss, but botanists classify Spanish moss in a separate category of plants.
Moss abhors alkaline soil and dry conditions. Make your yard and garden unattractive to moss by adding lime or ashes to sweeten the soil. You can add lime in the form of ground limestone rock or dolomitic lime, which also adds magnesium to the soil. Wear gloves and eye protection when working with lime, as it can burn eyes and skin.
Increase the drainage of your soil to reduce the moist conditions that moss favors. Avoid walking on your flower garden when it's wet to prevent compaction. Work ample amounts of compost into the garden to improve drainage. Consider replacing weak turf with groundcover if moss is winning the battle in your lawn.
In the right conditions, moss can grow on all kinds of inanimate objects, including patio furniture, garden ornaments, and roofs. What adds character to one garden is a sign of decay in another. Scrub moss with a stiff brush, and rent or borrow a power sprayer to remove the remnants.
Safer Brand makes a moss elimination spray as an alternative to the conventional copper sulfate products. The active ingredient comes from biodegradable fatty acids. You can use Safer Brand Moss and Algae Killer on lawns, trees, and garden structures.
New on About Flowers: Beautiful Potting Sheds
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Trade Secrets, the Northeast's garden event of the year, is gearing up for its 14th season. The popular two-day event, a fundraiser for Women's Support Services (WSS), includes the rare plant and garden antiques sale on Saturday, May 17, followed by a day of garden tours on Sunday, May 18.
Saturday's sale features approximately 60 vendors with their rare plants and unusual accessories. Garden enthusiasts will find rare plant specimens from specialized growers and some of the nation's best-known small nurseries, as well as furniture, antiques, cloches, wrought iron fencing, garden statuary and so much more from the choicest purveyors of garden antiques.
On Sunday, May 18th, Bunny Williams' garden (founder of Trade Secrets) and three different and intimate gardens in Cornwall, CT will be on the Trade Secrets' garden tour. The Cornwall gardens are steeped in history and include a renovated 18th century gristmill, a beautiful rugged hillside home, and the elegant gardens of an 1836 Greek Revival-style home (pictured here) that was once owned by prominent long-time Cornwall resident Colonel Dwight Wellington Pierce.
For more information or to purchase tickets call (860) 364-1080 or visit tradesecretsct.com.
New on About Flowers: Small Flower Garden Gallery
Photo © Present Trade Secrets Connecticut
Have you ever noticed that when you purchase a flat of flowering annuals, many of the flowers are not yet in bloom? Although young flowering annuals usually come into bloom within 10 days of planting, it's frustrating to pay full price for a flat of plants and not enjoy immediate flowers.
When I bought a flat of pansies yesterday, I picked out all of the plants that were in bloom and placed them in the most prominent container, by my front door. The plants that were not yet in full bloom went into containers on my deck. Therefore, I get to enjoy the pop of the blossoms where they have the most impact, while allowing the up and coming blooms to mature in a less conspicuous spot. This is another way to get the most for your gardening money.
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Before I moved to the Midwest, I didn't understand the challenge of living in a climate where the temperatures can fluctuate 50 degrees in 12 hours. That sort of roller coaster weather has been the norm over the past several days here. And what about my poor tulips? Growth only happens in one direction, and that's up. However, I want to shove the foliage back under the soil when the snow starts to fly. Fortunately, the buds are still buried deep within the folds of the leaves, where temperatures in the teens and twenties can't harm them. If you jumped the gun and planted semi-hardy annuals, (including cosmos, petunias, and moss rose) defined as those that can withstand temperatures down to 28 degrees F, you can protect them with cloches, cold frames, or wall-o'-water tee pees when a hard freeze is predicted.
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Last week, I took my four children to the animal shelter, "Just to look." Now, raise your hand if you've ever gone to the animal shelter just to look. If you have, then you're probably the same kind of person who can make a batch of chocolate chip cookies without sampling a single chocolate chip, or you must visit the nursery for ideas without leaving with a single 6-pack of flowers.
I was in denial about the true purpose of our shelter visit; therefore, on the last day of February, we adopted a two-year-old English bulldog. He's a sturdy dog with a brindle coat and an expression that's inexplicably goofy and noble at the same time. We've been without a dog since our last 16-year-old mutt passed away in 2011, and I hadn't realized what a gap she'd left in our lives.
Now that we've introduced our dog to everyone in the household, it's time for him to learn some manners, both indoors and out. As I prepare to begin planting my spring flower garden, there are still remnants of last year's cat deterrents. I like to lay thorny branches pruned from my rose bushes across my newly planted areas to keep my cats from digging in the fresh soil and making unwanted deposits. I trust that the dog will find these as unpleasant as our cats do. A little Vick's VapoRub dabbed at intervals on the garden's border also discourages pets. David Beaulieu has more on dog repellents if the flowerbed is your dog's favorite spot in the landscape.
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I first noticed the swarm back in late October, when we were still enjoying unseasonably warm weather. We could scarcely open the door without letting dozens of ladybugs inside. If the insects had been swarms of flies, ants, or any other bug with lesser charms, we wouldn't have tolerated such nonsense. After the first hard frost of the season, the ladybugs stopped congregating on the windows, and it seemed that they had gone off to find a brush pile or some other suitable place to spend the winter. I didn't realize that we had so many refugees still hiding inside.
Now, the stowaways are revealing themselves. Every morning, I find their dehydrated carcasses in the sink, on the floor, or in the toy box. What a waste! I hate that these misguided insects chose poorly, and now they won't be around in the spring to consume aphids and other pests in my garden. This is the first time in more than fifteen years in our home that the ladybugs have sought shelter indoors, so I hope that next autumn they find a cozier spot in one of the unkempt areas of our property.
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Photo © Michael Sewell Visual Pursuit/Getty Images
This week, I decided to make a special occasion cake for no special reason. An experienced baker, I wasn't deterred by the muti-step process, which included baking a lemon-scented angel food cake, cooking a homemade lemon custard, whipping fresh cream, and assembling a three-layer cake. The results were matter-of-factly delivered to me by my children: my three-year old said, "sour," my third grader said, "a little dry," and my two fifth graders said, "epic fail." The twenty minutes spent scrubbing the fossilized remains from the new tube pan I bought added insult to injury.
Perhaps you've experienced a similar situation in the flower garden. A magnificent rose topiary never blooms. An expensive orchid withers despite much coddling. A flat of baby delphinium plants never grows more than knee-high. If you're frustrated by expensive and time-consuming failures in the flower garden, consider scaling back your efforts. Think of it as the chocolate chip cookies of gardening: simple, but so good! Here are a few ways to accomplish beautiful gardens with less work and money:
Photo © Tracy Hunter
I have to visit the pet store regularly to care for our motley assortment of pets (two cats, rabbit, gerbil, and betta fish), and out of convenience I patronize the closest chain store for my supplies. However, recently my children and I ducked into a locally owned pet store to check out some of their exotic offerings. A poison dart frog, several snakes capable of making tragic news headlines, and more saltwater fish than I've ever seen on any snorkeling trip were among the usual screeching birds and smelly rodents.
This shopping trip is analogous to the way I acquire my flower garden plants and supplies. The big box store is fine for a few bags of generic mulch, but a visit to my favorite nursery is more like a free trip to the botanical garden. Unusual orchids, outrageous hanging baskets, and staff with a knowledge and passion for gardening await.
If your garden supply shopping trips feel more like a chore than an adventure, maybe you're shopping at the wrong place. Call your local county extension office, and ask one of the master gardeners where they like to shop. You may discover a fragrant oasis that will become your new go-to for your flowering favorites.
New on About Flowers: 10 Uncommon Edible Flowers
Photo © Jamie McIntosh
Never does my winter landscape look more Spartan than in the middle of January. The trees are bare, the perennials are trimmed back, and the hanging baskets that act as punctuation points all throughout the garden are put away. If you can't wait until spring to bring life back to some of those baskets, consider planting an indoor hanging basket with an orchid. Traditional hanging baskets for orchids are made of tropical hardwoods like teak, and offer excellent drainage. In time, your cascading orchids, like the vanda orchid, may wrap their roots around the slats of the basket. If you have a large basket, pair the orchid with a suitable companion like a bromeliad, as orchids prefer slightly crowded growth conditions.
New on About Flowers: Armyworm Control
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As far as hobbies go, guns seem to be the antithesis of gardening. No matter your stance on guns, it's hard to deny the subversive appeal of the Flower Shell, an actual 12 gauge shotgun shell packed with your choice of flower seeds, including columbine, cornflower, lupine, peony, and others. The brass head contains gunpowder and the shell contains the seed, and as you can imagine, this is not child's play or a late night TV joke. If you find the notion of populating the neighborhood vacant lot or public space with flowers appealing but aren't ready to break out the big guns, check out the more accessible idea of creating a seed ball.
New on About Flowers: Cottage Garden Design
Photo © Alan Stanton