Creating Architectural Effects with Evergreen Vines

Vines are probably the most versatile landscape plants around. No other plants can be used to create such a wide variety of effects.

Vines can soften and link architectural structures like arbors, fences, arches, and walls to the yards or gardens around them. They can also be used creatively to provide shade, privacy, flowers, ground cover, or fragrance.

I’ve seen vines described as lazy plants, because they have to rely on other plants or structures for support — but I’ve always thought of them as ambitious plants that will aim for the sky.

Here are a few creative uses of vines that caught my eye on a recent garden tour. Continue reading

Plant Beautyberry for Shockingly Purple Fall Berries

beautyberry morguefile

Photo credit: Morguefile

American beautyberry is an odd sort of shrub. By this I mean it’s hard to categorize. During the spring and summer it’s not really much to look at, just a generic looking bush that’s probably best placed in an informal setting. Not the kind of shrub you lust after…

Yet when it comes to calling attention to itself in the fall, this shrub is shameless! By late summer it’s already heavily adorned with clusters of berries so purple, they’re downright shocking. The berries hold their own through these cool, crisp days of September — but just wait until a bit later in the fall. In October and November, when the shrub has lost its foliage, the fruits are absolutely brazen on the leafless branches. Continue reading

Six Perennial Flowers for Late-Season Color

Japanese anemone

Japanese anemone

As the summer days fade slide into fall, you may find your garden is looking a little bedraggled. Now is the perfect time to plan ahead for next year, by assessing where you could use an infusion of late-season color or a blooming focal point to steal the scene.

The following five perennials are reliable September bloomers in many parts of the country. (Before you buy or plant one of them, check to make sure it does well in your climate and conditions.) And remember, you can also fill in the gaps with hardy annuals like pansies, geraniums, and sweet alyssum, which all thrive in the cool, sunny days of fall. Continue reading

Zesty Pesto

Basil leavesIf you planted basil last spring, you’ve probably been using the fresh leaves all along, to add a little zest to salad, tomato dishes, and pasta. Since the plant is an annual, however, it will only be with you until first frost — so now is the time to preserve those flavorful leaves by making and freezing pesto.

Pesto is a zesty, fragrant sauce made of basil leaves, grated Parmesan, pine nuts, garlic, olive oil, and salt and pepper. It can be served over pasta, added to soups, or used as a spread in sandwiches. You’ll never find two recipes that call for the exact same proportions of the ingredients, so experiment until you find the right flavor for you. Continue reading

Organic Slug Control — What Works?

slugFor the most part I’m very tolerant of all the world’s creatures, but I really hate slugs. I don’t think I could stand to look at their disgusting sliminess even if they were benign, harmless creatures. But the fact they can wipe out a flat of seedlings overnight – after I’ve spent a month or two nurturing the tiny plants – makes them an especially despicable enemy.

Recently a group of my friends had an impromptu discussion on Facebook, regarding organic methods of slug control. I have to admit, I never had much luck with some of the home remedies that have been touted for generations – like beer, for example. I kept shallow pans of beer embedded in my garden soil all spring one year, and don’t think I ever found a single drowned slug in them. Continue reading

Canning Season is Here!

canning jar I’ve been seeing a lot of articles and blog posts about canning lately; it seems like the economy is inspiring people to preserve some of the harvest for later. One of the more interesting things I’ve seen is this post in Facebook notes, called Mock Pineapple—Bring on the Zucchini! It seems that, if you have more zucchini than you can use or give away, you can preserve it, for use as a pineapple substitute later.

Did you have trouble processing that last sentence? Well, I can understand why! In general, I’m not a fan of facsimile food – my palate is apparently too refined to accept a soy substitute for chicken (or anything else). Continue reading