Ideas For Thrill Fill Spill Container Gardens

Thrill, Fill, Spill

In the spring of 2010, Better Homes and Gardens magazine introduced the thrill, fill and spill method of creating a container garden in one of their issues. Since then, the design has been the mainstay of container gardens everywhere.

At homes, squares, malls and all around the town, you are likely to see thrill, fill and spill container gardens on every corner. Think about the container gardens you see all around the neighborhoods and towns.You will see that the design for these container gardens fit the thrill, fill and spill bill.

Spill, fill and thrill container gardens don’t have to be limited to flowering plants only. Flowers and veggies alike can come together in an awesome thrill, fill and spill container garden design. Tomato and pepper plants are often used as the thrill while a mixture of herbs and flowers provides the spill. Sweet potato vine is perfect for the spill.

What is Thrill, Spill, and Fill

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The thrill, spill, and thrill container garden method creates an aesthetically visual effect. The design’s roots may lie in a sort of structure popular in thrill,fill,spill floral design.

The first step is obvious. Choose plants that will have the same growing needs in the way of light, water and fertilization. Pick something for the thrill, the fill, and the spill.

Pick something stunning, some floral “eye candy” so to speak to be your focal point. Cone-shaped evergreens and climbers such as clematis are good choices.

The Thrill

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My eye candy or thrill is a saucy pink clematis growing up a trellis. This vine plant, with its delicate pink flower, needs full sunlight. It is an easy-to-grow vine plant that loves to climb trellises and posts.

The Fill

 

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Dusty Miller (Senecio cineraria) is that silvery fern-like plant that is commonly grown in landscaping and container gardens. It too requires full sunlight. It is easy to grow and very hardy. It bushes out, making it great for the fill of this container garden.

The Spill

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Calibrachoa is the perfect “spill” for my container garden. These tiny petunia-like flowers grow quickly when fertilized, and will cascade over the planter in an enchanting way.

 

 

 

 

How to Design a Thrill, Spill, Fill Container Garden

After the “eye candy” or focal point, concentrate on fill-ins that will compliment your choice as the “thrill.” In this arrangement,dusty miller makes a great silvery fill-in that will compliment the delicate pink clematis blossom. It grows up to 12 inches tall and gets really bushy.

Sometimes two or three different fill plants may be nice, but I think the dusty miller will be enough here. For the spill, choose plants that tend to cascade and spread like vines and ground covers. For my “spill”, the little “petunia like” blossoms of calibrachoa will grow and cascade down the container. It is sort of romantic, isn’t it?

Choosing Plants for Thrill, Spill, Fill Container Gardens

The charts below give a few ideas for flowering plants to use in container gardening. Choose plants that will need about the same type of care. Have fun and pick what you think would look good together.

Another good way to choose your plants is by browsing around a local nursery or gardening center. They usually have little plastic stakes stuck in them giving growing requirements as well as the size they will grow to. It’s always better to purchase plants locally. These nurseries and garden centers only sell plants that will do well in your particular growing zone.

Think about how the flower shapes and colors will go together. Think about how the leaves and vines will look with the flowers you choose. This is what garden design is all about.

Thrill Plants
Plant
Maintenance
Description
Asiatic Lily
Full sun, at least 6-8 hours
Looks similar to day lilies, Grows up to 3′
Celosia
Full sun, easy to care for
Flame-like spikes of brilliant reds and pinks, grows 6″to 8″
Hibiscus
Full sun, tolerates wet soil, tropical
Showy pink blooms the size of a baby’s head, grow 4′ to 10′
Mexican Feathergrass
Full sun, water regularly
beige-colored cascading ornamental grass, grows 1′ to 2′ hihg
Angelonia
Full sun, hardy in both hot and cold extreme temps
Clusters of deep rose-colored flowers with black throats, grows 6″ to !0″.
Rosemary
Needs 6-8 hours sun, somewhat sandy soil, good drainage
An herbal bush , may rarely have pink or blue flowers, grows 1″-6″
Caladium
Partial sun, keep soil moist
colorful foliage, red, green, white variegated leaves , 2 or more ” in diameter, can grow 1′ to 2′ high
Geranium
Full sun, tolerates heat and dryness
pink or red flower clusters, fuzzy leaves, grows 1′ to 2′ tall
Clematis
Full sun, moist soil, regular feeding, needs something to climm
climbing vine, large showy blooms, pinks and purples, can grow up to 12′ tall or more
Fill Plants
Plant
Mainainence
Descritiom
Aster
full to partial sun, loamy soil, keep moist
pink, white, purple red daisy-like flowers, grows 8″ to 8′ depending on variety
Dusty miller
6 or more hours of full sun, water once weekly, fertilizer every 2 weeks
silvery fern-like plant, grows 8″ to 12″ tall
Marigold
full sun, easy to grow
bright gold-colored double carnation-type flowers, grows 6″ to 4′ tall
Petunia
full sun, but some shade when very hot
morning glory-like pink, white,red or purple blooms, grows 6″ to 4′ tall
Star zennia
full sun, loamy well-drained soil
white, yellow, orange daisy-like flowers, grows 1′ tall
Coleus
shade to full sun, depending on variety
very colorful leaves, many varietes grows 1′ to 6′
Impatiens
shade plants, keep moist, doesn’t tolerate heat well
small colorful red, pink, white, orange flowers, grows 6″ to 8″ tall
Splash
prefer indirect sunlight, misting
pink, purple or creamy splashes of color, grows 12″ tall
Lemon Balm
sun to partial shade, moist soil
herb; oval, scalloped leaves, light blue or white flowers in summer, grows to 2′ tall
Spill Plants
Plant
Maintance
Description
Creeping fig
full to partial sun, needs minimum watering
green leafy vine, grows 25 to 30 ‘ long
Trailing geranium
full to partial sun, don’t over-water
pink ,white, red blooms grows up to 2′ long
Vinca Minor
full to partial sun, don’t over-water
blue or lavender small blooms, spreads out 1.5 ‘
Purple Jew
very hardy, full to partial sun
purplish leaves with occasional 3-petaled pink flower, spreads to 2′ long
Swedish ivy
full to partial sun, keep moist not soggy
vine; scalloped,veined leaves, occasional small, white bloom, grows to 3′
Needlepoint ivy
full sun, tolerates some shade, loamy, moist soil
ivy vine; pointy leaves, grow 6″ high then spreads
Lobelia
easy to grow, prefers full sun, moist soil
usually blue flowers, some pink, white or red, compact in height, cascades
Sweet alyssum
full to partial sun, moist soil
white, pale pink, lavender blooms, hairy gray-green leaves, low in height, cascades down
Sweet potato vine
full to partial sun, moderate watering
light green vine, grows out up to 6′
Moss rose
full sun, sandy soil,good drainage
succulent plant with tiny flowers in variety of colors, grows 3-8″ tall and 1′ wide
Calibrachoa
full sun, ample water and fertilizer
tiny petunia-like flowers in deep red, coral, purple, cream, grows 5″ to 10″ tall and 12″ wide

Thrill, Fill, Spill all Around the Square

Growing flowers with the thrill, spill, and fill method is widely used. Stroll around the square with me and get inspired to make a container garden. These are all freshly planted and will grow and fill out over the summer. I will be checking back to see their growth.

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So, remember, thrill, fill, spill. I hope this stroll around the square has inspired you to create a thrill, spill, fill container garden.

Flower Arranging Ideas For Tulips

How to use a Potted Tulip in a Floral Arrangement

Ahh…Spring! All our favorite perennials in the garden are blooming again! Standing like Sentries tall and straight, the tulips stand guard. Their regal helmets of polished petals are in a host of colors. It is hard to pluck a tulip from its post. The colorful little Sentry would surely be missed from guarding our flower gardens, walkways and borders.

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Tulip bulbs forced bloomed in pots are one answer to flower arranging with tulips. Enjoy potted tulips in arrangements and standing alone in Terra Cotta planters on the patio.

Potted tulips from force blooming make a lovely basket arrangement grouped with 3 to 5 other dish garden plants. Just make sure the “Sentry” isn’t out-ranked by the others. Let him be the focal point. In this arrangement notice how the small yellow Narcissus blooms compliment a tulip of the same shade. Foliage plants without blooms in complementary shades complete the set.

How To Make A Tulip Garden Basket

  • potted tulip in full bloom
  • one other blooming plant
  • 2-4 foliage plants
  • a basket
  • floral moss
  • pretty bow and floral pick

Mother’s Day Gift Idea

 

6405535_f520Arrange the other chosen plants around the potted tulip. Use inverted plastic containers to lift them to the same height if necessary. Fill in the top of the basket with floral moss to hide the tops of the plant pots. This will help to make the arrangement more attractive. Add a pretty matching bow and floral pick like this bejeweled butterfly.

This tulip basket idea would make a great gift for Mother’s Day or any occasion. The arrangement can be enjoyed for a few days. Then separate the plants and plant them in separate pots. Place them according to the different light requirements and have several new house or patio plants to enjoy!

Easy Way To Tie-dye Flowers For Arrangements

Tie-dying Flowers

 

Tie-dye colors seem to be especially popular for roses. I have never been fond of the idea of tie-dying roses. First of all, roses are expensive. I love the deep colors of roses; the pinks like coral, deep red and yellow. Why mess with that?

To tie-dye roses,you must use white roses. White roses have a special beauty that stands for purity. I like my white roses to stay “pure and white as the driven snow”. Tie-dying roses require the stems to be split. If I were a flower, I wouldn’t want my stem to be split. It seems that would be akin to a broken back.

 

Tie-dying Spring Flowers

The process of tie-dying roses seems difficult and easy to mess up. I have found a way to tie-dye flowers that actually isn’t really tie-dying. Yellow daffodils or Jonquils and red or green food dye make the perfect combination for tie-dye colors in flowers.

There are a couple of different reason for using daffodils or jonquils. Members of the Narcissus bulb family, these flowers are often called March flowers because they bloom from January or February in temperate climates right into spring.

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Look for unique containers to display tie-dyed flowers.

The first arrangement  above is  structured. I had a colorful striped tea pitcher that showed off my larger, longer-stemmed jonquils.These are all cut and prearranged before dying.

In this arrangement, I used both daffodils and jonquils of different lengths for a more free form arrangement.

Steps for Tie-dying Spring Flowers for Arrangements

  • select vases for arrangements
  • decide on structured or free form arrangement
  • cut stems to fit arrangement
  • fit number and form of flowers to your container
  • Arrange in container and then remove
  • use Popsicle mold or any container for dying
  • add a little water to the dye
  • leave 4-6 hours, check often
  • rinse stems and use in arrangements
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Cut stems to fit arrangement
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Add a little food dye and a little water to Popsicle molds.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Put different colors in the molds

 

 

 

How To Make Mosaic Easter Eggs With A Stained Glass Look

Stained Glass Mosaic Easter Eggs

If you are like me, Easter really sneaked up and took you by surprise this year. Seems like just yesterday I was packing away Christmas.

I love a pretty basket of traditionally colored Easter eggs, but with all the “blingy” egg ideas out there, I started feeling a bit like “EbanEaster Scrooge” or The “Grabbit That Stole Easter”.

My basket of eggs seemed a bit sad, and well…plain.

Here is what I came up with as a solution to my Easter decorating woes.

This is SO fun and SO cool. The idea is for making stained-glass mosaic Easter eggs.

Stained glass mosaic eggs are a quick and easy way to brighten your holiday table. They will look best mixed in with some “plain” dyed eggs in complementary colors. The only thing needed is tissue in bright colors,Mod Podge, (or even Elmers glue and water will do), hard boiled eggs, a small brush and clear sealant spray like Krylon.

Pretty Easter Table Centerpiece

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Stained glass mosaic eggs are like little church windows. Mix them in with some brightly colored “plain” eggs in a pretty basket with Easter grass. They will look lovely along with some fresh flowers, perhaps daffodils or Easter lilies.

Now you have a pretty centerpiece for Easter brunch on the deck or even a formal Easter dinner. Follow the steps below to make these easy and unique Easter eggs.

Cut bits of brightly colored tissue. Make some smaller ones to fill in tiny spots. Make them all in different shapes.

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This looks a bit like papier mache, but it is much simpler. Just brush on a solution of white glue and water or Mod Podge.

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There is no need to toss out slightly cracked eggs when making stained glass mosaic eggs. The tissue paper will cover the cracks.

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Spray on a clear sealant spray.

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Bling Your Easter Eggs With These Ideas

Easter Crafts For Kids

 

Easy Easter Crafts for the Kids to Make

Easter is the only major holiday that falls on a different Sunday of the month and sometimes even a different month (March or April) each year. The exact date of Easter is calculated by using a formula involving religious history, calendar history, the science of equinox and a full moon. Generally speaking, the date of Easter for the year can be found by finding the first Sunday after the first full moon directly after the Spring equinox. The Spring equinox is the second point in time when the tilt of the earth’s axis is such that the center of the sun is in the same plane as earth’s equator. No matter the date, Easter is a time to celebrate rebirth, natural beauty, and joy. Signs of Spring are everywhere. Even though the day may be chilly we know that winter is over.

No matter the date, Easter is a time to celebrate rebirth, natural beauty, and joy. Signs of Spring are everywhere. Even though the day may be chilly we know that winter is over.

Many schools observe Spring Break along with Easter Holidays for a week or more of vacation. This year consider spending quality time with the kids creating Easter crafts. Here are three original craft ideas both you and your kids will love. They are easy enough for younger children to do with assistance and challenging enough for older children to do alone. School and church groups can use these craft ideas for projects to be taken home for the holiday.

How to Decorate Plain Plastic Easter Eggs

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Decorating plain plastic eggs is a fun easy project for children of all ages.

You will need: large plastic Easter eggs, items from your sewing box or the sewing notions section of craft/department stores, stickers, beads…(be resourceful and imaginative!) …scissors and glue that will bond porous materials such as Elmer’s School Glue.

How to do: Guide children in pre-planning their egg design. Younger children may need help with measuring and cutting. Glue on ribbon, stickers, rick-rack, buttons, etc. for a personalized Easter egg.

Easter Trees

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Additional idea: Make tiny hanging Easter baskets by using half of the egg. Stuff with Easter grass and jelly beans. Older children, with the help of an adult, can spray paint a tree branch or small bare tree with pastel colored enamel. We used a pretty glossy pink. Attach a thin ribbon hanger to the “egg baskets”. Be sure to use hot glue for this and glue ends deep into the egg so that the weight of the jelly beans doesn’t pull the eggs loose from the ribbons.

We mounted our Easter tree into an Easter bucket with rocks, then concealed the rocks with Easter grass. It will make a great centerpiece for the holiday!

How to Make a Faux Stained Glass Window

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Shiny tinfoil and markers in bold colors are the secret to this faux stained glass window.

Step 1: Begin by having an adult use a box cutter or Xacto knife to cut a church window shape from cardboard.

Step 2: Cover the cardboard window shape with tinfoil. Tape the tinfoil down in back.

Step 3: Glue a swirly line of glue. Place a string of black yarn over the line of glue. Allow to dry.

Step 4. Color the “window pane” sections with bold color markers.

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Step 5: Add a potted “Easter Lily” to your faux stained glass window. Cut a Styrofoam cup in half vertically and paint a pastel shade. We used pale pink acrylic. Attach to the bottom of the window with glue.

Step 6: Color mini craft sticks with a green marker. Cut out 3 Lily shapes from white paper. Attach to the green mini craft sticks “stems” with glue. Add a tiny yellow “stamen” by using a bit of chenille pipe stem.

How to Make Colorful Easter Peeps From Cotton Balls

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A dozen cute colorful peeps can double later as a seed starter! Save egg shells and cartons for several days. Wash out shell halves and air dry. You will need cotton balls, colored chalk, glue, a small amount of orange and black paper, plastic zip-lock bags, cutting board, rolling pin.

Step one: pick a few colors of chalk. Place 2-3 sticks of each color in separate plastic zip lock bags. Smash and roll the chalk inside the bags to make powder. Put cotton balls inside the bag and shake to coat the cotton balls with chalk powder.

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Step two: glue two cotton balls together to form a chick. Add black dots(we used clippings from a hole punch) for “eyes” and an orange triangle for a “beak.”

Step three: stuff a bit of grass into the half shell and then glue in the little peeps. Display in an empty egg carton. After Easter simply remove the peeps and then use the eggshells as seed starters.

How To Protect Plants From Late Season Frost, Freeze

 

Helping Plants Survive Cold Spells After Blooming

Mid February to mid April can be tricky times for gardeners. Is is too soon to plant? How can we protect our plants from Mother Nature’s tricky weather? What to do if we mess up?

 6217910_f248It’s not nice to be fooled by Mother Nature!

The weather in many growing zones is a roller coaster ride from mid-February to mid April. This can be unfortunate for those who love gardening. It is the time of year when those who love to grow plants are anxious to get started. The quicker that tomato seedling gets in the ground, the sooner we are rewarded with a ripe, juicy red tomato.

An unseasonable warm spell can cause buds to swell open and green shoots to pop up from the ground. Then suddenly a cold snap, or Blackberry Winter, as old timers say, blows in to delay our spring dreams. Fortunately, there are steps to take when Mother Nature fools us with warm temperatures too soon. There are even steps to take when her trickery appears to have gotten the best of us.

blackberry winter or dogwood winter is a name coined in old Appalachia that refers to a traditional late winter “cold spell”

/>Plants turn soil, air, light and water into necessary nutrients. This process takes place in the leaf of the plant. Frost and ice freezes the water in plant cells, causing damage to the plant at the cellular level. Cell walls in the leaves will become dehydrated and render the plant unable to produce nutrients.

The amount of damage depends upon the following factors: length and warmth of the unseasonable warm spell, severity and duration of the cold snap, and the hardiness of the plant. The more warm days that occur during the period the more plants will begin to bud and bloom. A very short not-so-severe cold snap after a short warm up is not likely to hurt hardier plants.But a longer, more severe cold snap after a longer warm up will most definitely hurt less hardy plants. It’s a game of weights and ratios and the gardener has to pay attention to many factors to beat Mother Nature’s dirty tricks.

Where to Protect Plants From Late Freeze

First and foremost, the gardener will need to be aware of the hardiness zone they are planting in. Zone maps show where certain plants can adapt and thrive permanently. The zones can be found on the internet, in gardening books and on seed packages. Each zone moves 10 degrees warmer or colder. There are 11 zones in North America ranging from a low temperature of a possible -50 degrees below zero in zone one to rarely dipping below 40 degrees above zero in zone 11. In Europe the zones are numbered 3 to 10 and range from Finland to southern Spain, Italy and Greece. Possible lows range from -40 below zero to rarely dipping below 30 degrees above. All temperatures listed are Fahrenheit.

If you are unsure of your own hardiness zone, type in your zipcode to find out. Use the zone map as a general guide line and take into consideration variations for higher elevations as these areas tend to experience colder temperatures. Some meteorologists have recently suggested that these zones are shifting with the warming of the planet, and you may be able to safely move your planting into one zone warmer.

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An Ounce of Prevention

The savvy gardener prepares for Mother Nature’s fickleness in the fall and begins with mulching. Suggestions for mulching materials include dead leaves, pine straw, hay and wood shavings. Mulch will act as a blanket for sensitive plants.

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Raised beds are a good way to prevent damage to plants from late freeze

Mulching Tips For Winterizing Plants:

  • in the fall, pull out old mulch to replace with new mulch.
  • for rose bushes, add mulch mixed with soil for 12 inches of the trunk from the ground to the crown.
  • for young fruit trees or other tender new trees, create a cage of chicken wire around the tree and fill this with mulch.
  • when mulching, leave some space around stems to help prevent root rot.
  • some tender plants can’t handle a lot of mulch. Be careful not to smother them. Remember, plants need air!

Plan Ahead For The Most Delicate Plants

  • Resist the urge to plant too soon. if you have to begin seedlings over those veggies will be even later.
  • Keep plants that you are attempting to grow that are not native to your zone in large containers that can be relocated to a warmer basement or indoors. rosemary, pomegranate, avocado, poinsettias and citrus trees are popular choices for gardeners but are plants native to warmer climates.
  • Remember that bulbs planted in pots are more likely to freeze than those planted in the ground. they won’t have the insulation provided by the ground or by an early snowfall.
  • Consider planting spring flowering bulbs later (daffodils, hyacinths, tulips) so that they sprout later and miss early freeze.
  • Have materials on hand for building a cold frame. a simple one can be constructed using cinder blocks or bales of hay for the sides and an old glass window or door for the top.
  • Construct raised beds for your early spring planting of tender plants. They are more easily covered and cold air will tend to sink around the bottoms.

Spring Flowers Planting Guide: What To Plant When

When to Plant the First Flowers of Spring

The first flowers of spring have always been my favorites. The early blooms appear when it is still officially winter in many growing zones. A few days of balmy weather tends to swell the buds on early bloomers, creating a splash of vibrant or pastel color and bringing new life to a dreary, late winter world. Although the weather is unsettled and will probably turn cold again before true spring, there are several hardy varieties that can survive cold snaps. Becoming familiar with your growing zone and knowing when to plant these hardy varieties can help ensure a colorful early spring!

Planting Spring Flowers From Bulbs

 

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Daffodils and Jonquils: The Narcissus family of bulb plants has hundreds and thousands of members. Some of the most well known are the Paper Whites, (popular for Christmas force blooming) Daffodils and Jonquils. The showy heads of Daffodils and Jonquils can appear as early as late January in temperate zones, and late February and March in less.

Daffodils and Jonquils are “twins” in the Narcissus bulb family with subtle differences in stems and petals.

Snowdrops: These hardy bulbs produce very early drooping white blossoms that are so hardy they often pop up through a late winter snowfall to resemble a dollop of snow, hence the name.

Crocuses and Hyacinths are also early blooming flowers that bloom from hardy bulbs. Tulips are fairly hardy but tend to bloom a bit later than the former Spring bulbs.

When to plant Spring bulbs: Fall is the ideal time. It is best to get them in the ground by mid-November. This will ensure proper time for root development for large and showy blooms. However,  there are techniques for planting bulbs later in Fall or Early Winter. They may bloom later and be smaller, but as the saying goes, “better late than never.”

Hardiness Zone: Thrive as perennials in zones 3-8 and annuals in zones 9-11 when pre chilling bulbs

Spring Flower Bulb Care: The bulbs need to be planted before they dry out or not planted at all. Planting too soon in a temperate zone may cause them to rot before they grow. The bulbs need to experience a chilling period. Fertilize the ground below the bulbs before planting. Consider replacing the bulbs with new ones after two years.

Landscaping tips: These early flowers can be used in rock gardens, along fences, around trees or anywhere! Consider planting them in gardens that will host later spring or summer flowering bushes.

Check out these eight ideas for floral arrangments with daffodils and jonquils.

When to Plant Early Spring Flowering Shrubs

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Early Spring flowering bushes are favorites because of the colorful blooms they produce before they even grow leaves. They light up the winter landscape with their bursts of color against a backdrop of still-brown branches! There are several hardy late-Winter-early Spring flowering shrubs that produce breathtaking blooms.

Forsythia: Tiny trumpet-shaped yellow blooms are among the first blooms for flowering shrubs. A little late Winter warmth will help these shrubs bud early. Not to worry! The hardy Forsythia doesn’t seem to mind a serious cold snap.

When to plant: Forsythia bought from a nursery with the root ball attached can be planted in early Fall or in Spring when the danger of freeze is over. Give them enough time to establish themselves in favorable weather. Established clumps can be divided in Spring after flowering. You can also start new plants from tip cuttings taken in Summer.

Hardiness zone: zones 5-8.

Caring for Forsythia: Wait one year after planting to fertilize and then add a slow-release granular fertilizer upon blooming.

Landscaping tip: Grow one to three singling as a central focus in a garden of early Spring bulbs. Let the bushes grow freely without pruning, or use as a hedge row and trim them to be box-shaped.

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Flowering Quince: The bright dark pink blossoms of the flowering Quince also open before the leaves. The Quince shrub is available in white, pink and orange varieties. The thorny bushes have been used to surround farms in the past for protection from small animals that feast in gardens. They produce a bitter pear-shaped fruit that is sometimes used in jelly making.

When To Plant: Quince bushes can be purchased at a nursery with a root ball attached. Plant in Spring after hard freeze danger is past. Cuttings can be taken and rooted in July. Plant them in pots, protect them during the Winter and plant the following Spring.

Hardiness zone: zones 4-9.

Caring for Quince: Work organic composting into the soil before planting and prune after blooming.

Landscaping tips: As they are thorny, plant one or two separately at a sunny location to partial shade location. They can be used as a fence-like border hedge if you want the thorns.

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Camellias: The various varieties of Camellias are super hardy and thrive in adverse conditions. Depending on the variety, they bloom from late fall to early spring. The profuse dark pink blooms are surrounded by dark glossy leaves.

When to plant: Plant Camellias at any time of the year in their hardiness zone.

Caring for Camellias: Practically no care required, but trimming them occasionally will reward you with loads of blooms.

Hardiness zone: zones 5-9, taking special care in coldest zones.

Landscaping tip: Plant Camellias close to the foundation of your home. They are perfect for camouflaging  air-conditioning units or unsightly areas.

When to Plant Early Flowering Trees

Like shrubs, early flowering trees sprout their blooms before the leaves to give welcome color to blue or gray skies. Redbud, Bradford pear, and Japanese Magnolia are popular and hardy favorites.

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Redbud : The Redbud tree grows all over most of the Eastern USA west to Texas and into Northeastern Mexico. Blooms are purplish pink. The red roots have been used in making dye, but they are mainly used as ornamental plants. The state tree of Oklahoma, they are popular for their hardiness and early blooms.

When to plant: Plant in early fall or early spring so a root system can become established in suitable weather.

Hardiness zone: zones 4-10.

Caring for Redbud trees: grows best in moist soil with a slow release fertilizer. Check for insects and diseases and seek proper treatment such as Horticultural Oil, Bug Buster or Trounce.

Landscaping tips: Grow singly or in a streetscape.

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Bradford Pear Trees: Not to be confused with Bartlett pears, the Bradford pear tree is only an ornamental tree producing no edible fruit. A grouping of Bradford Pear trees in bloom on the late winter landscape gives the illusion of snow covered branches making this tree a favorite of many. However, there are some who have given this tree a bad rap claiming that the branches break off easily. They claim that suckers sprout easily making mowing lawns difficult. Glimpsing around neighborhoods in early Spring, they appear to be rather popular!

When to plant: late summer to early fall

Growing zones: zones 6-9.

Caring for Bradford Pear: Water well when young. Fertilize with phosphorus. Remove weak branches frequently.

Landscaping tips: Plant singly or sparingly in rows along driveways.

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Japanese Magnolia: The Japanese Magnolia has beautiful saucer shaped flowers in pretty pink (most common) yellow or white that appear long before the leaves. Fairly hardy, they will produce lots of blooms in early Spring and may bloom into early June in more northern zones. If nipped by a hard early freeze,  blooms will be more sparse. The blooms fade rather quickly, lasting about three days.

When to plant: plant in either spring or fall.

Landscaping tips: leave ample rooms for trees to spread away from buildings and utility wires.

Caring for Japanese Magnolia: plant in well drained soil, full sun or partial shade. fertilize.

Planning for Late Spring Flowers

 

It is often said less is more. Imagine if every variety of spring flowers were in bloom at the same time-not to mention summer and autumn flowers as well! It would be a “flowery world” we lived in.

No matter what zone you reside in, Mother Nature has planned a time schedule to let us enjoy her flower show one act at a time-from early spring until late fall. If we work along side her wisely and schedule our planting times we can sit back and enjoy the long show!

In the photo below, the long-lasting Camellia finally begins to close her act. She sheds her pretty pink dress and prepares for resting through the warmer temperatures with cool green leaves.

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Coming up soon will be another favorite, the Azalea. Azalea shrubs have beautiful clusters of flowers in an array of colors from white, shades of pink, red and purple. All species of Azaleas that grow in North America are deciduous, meaning that they shed their leaves in the fall and lie dormant. This dormancy period is crucial for a healthy shrub that will produce flowers.

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In Asia, the Azalea is evergreen and does not go through a dormant period. They must be planted in temperant climates. The blossoms of Asian Azaleas are the same as the deciduous ones.

When to plant: zones 4-5: plant in early Spring ideally and use Fall as a second option

zones 6-8: can plant anytime

zone 9 and above: plant only in the fall (to avoid root rot in warmer soil)

Hardiness zones: see above.

Caring for Azaleas: provide a shady spot in slightly acidic soil with good drainage. Use mulch around the bushes. Pruning after blooming is critical.

Landscaping tips: Keep in mind that Azaleas do best in shade. Plant a grouping around trees using two or three complimentary shades for a stunning visual effect.

 

When To Plant Spring Bulbs

Is it too Late to Plant Your Spring Bulbs?

The Holidays are over and the dead of winter, not the most colorful time of year, has settled in for most of us.The Knockout Roses are long gone.

The Christmas Cactus and Poinsettia have passed their peak and are headed to a resting spot where they hope to be nursed along by a patient gardener for blooming again next year; or at best are ready for the compost pile rather than the trash. But we know Spring will come once again and those bulbs we planted in the Fall will bloom with radiant color.

But wait! Did we even get around to planting them? What? Halloween came suddenly, and then it was practically Thanksgiving and, Oh No! We forgot to plant those tulip and crocus bulbs we bought to go along the front walkway. Well, not to worry. Reliable sources have told us it is OK to go ahead and plant those bulbs. In fact, they say we MUST plant them or they will be no good next year. Following are tips to get the most out of those bulbs we forgot to plant.

Early Spring Flowering Bulbs

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Daffodil, Tulip, Crocus, and Hyacinth are the most common and favorite early Spring bloomers that grow from bulbs which must chill in the soil for establishing root systems. Unlike seeds, bulbs are storehouses of nutrients that must be planted within the year. They do not keep as do seeds and will shrivel up and rot if not planted.Therefore, we first check the condition of the bulbs. If our bulbs are still firm and onion-like they should be fine. Bulbs that have been ordered will usually be in better condition than those that have sat in a retail store. Bulbs must have been stored in cool dry places. But if our bulbs have withered there is still time. If we really have our hearts set on a touch of early Spring beauty bulbs can still be ordered for planting.

Best Time to Plant Spring Bulbs

If we were not forgetful procrastinators we would have ideally planted our early Spring flower bulbs back when the temperature was a consistent 50 degrees Fahrenheit at night in the growing zone we live in.This practice would have given plenty of time for a good root system to be established and ensure the largest healthiest blooms. For us in growing zones four through seven late December to Early February will not be a total wash out. Our ten-o-clock scholar Daffodils will be late and maybe not the brightest flower in the garden but no one ever saw an ugly flower, so better late than never.

Planting Spring Bulbs

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What to do with Bulbs When the Ground is Frozen

What about our friends in the far north that are dealing with frozen ground? Advice from the experts remains the same. Better to find a way to get them in the soil than not to plant at all. Ideally, Snow Birds in zones 1-4 would have planted Spring blooming bulbs late August to early September. If the ground has not frozen and a shovel will dig in they need to go ahead and plant the bulbs. They will need to plant a bit deeper than recommended (see planting depth charts below). The bulbs need enough time in the cold soil to establish root systems. An early Spring thaw could cause roots to shoot out too soon. After the ground is totally frozen mulch the top of the soil with leaves or straw for insulation.

What if the ground is so frozen the soil can’t be turned? Again, better to find a way to get them into the soil than not to plant at all.There are two options:

Pot them up. Plant bulbs in large containers with potting soil. Make sure the bulbs are not right up against the sides of the pot, where they could freeze. There should be plenty of soil between the pot sides and the bulbs for insulation. Store the pot in an unheated garage or basement.You want them to get cold, but not expose them to extremes. Only water when the soil is dry, about once a month or so. Plant them outdoors in the Spring when all danger of frost has passed.

Plant bulbs on top of the frozen soil. Lay bulbs on the frozen ground. Cover with eight to ten inches of soil and enclose the area with a fence of chicken wire or something similar. With luck,  we will have showy heads peeking out when Spring comes.

Spring Bulbs in More Temperate Climates

Our friends in temperate climates have a different set of issues to deal with for Spring bulb planting. Folks in growing zones about 4-7 never know from one week to the next what the Fall temperatures are going to be. Indian Summers can be quite warm and may cause premature sprouting. Later may even be better for planting bulbs in temperate zones.

Lovers of early Spring flowers that reside in zones 8 and above must use pre-chilled bulbs but will not need to plant them in the ground until early Spring. These folks won’t be as desperate as those further north for a breath of Spring so they will be OK. They have not had a frozen and flowerless winter as the rest of us have.

Force Blooming Bulbs

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Paperwhite narcissus

 

Amaryllis and paperwhite Narcissus are tropical bulb flowers that do not require a chilling period. These are great for planting indoors after Christmas for a hint of Spring in mid-winter. The bulbs can be planted in soil or even placed in wet pebbles. Keep them in cool-ish temperatures, maybe close to a window and away from heat sources until they bloom, usually in two-four weeks. Amaryllis comes in red and peachy pink colors as well as white to provide a burst of winter color.

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Amaryliss

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Tulips have been popular recently for force blooming but are a bit more trouble as they do need a good long chilling period. Plant the tulip bulbs in Terra- cotta pots for good drainage. Keep the potted bulbs in a very cool location at between 40 and 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Refrigerator temps are perfect but maybe not a practical storage place. Fruits emit gasses that are harmful to the bulbs. Best to find a chilly basement or attic.

Keep the tulip bulbs for at least 12 weeks in a totally dark area in temps between 40-50 degrees. Do not let the soil dry out completely. Move them to a warmer area when yellowish shoots appear.

Time to Wake Up!

Who doesn’t just hate to be awakened from a deep sleep suddenly? If we introduce blooming plants to sunlight and warmer temperatures gradually they will reward our kindness with beautiful blooms all Spring.Expect to see blooms three to four weeks after removing from cold storage. Introduce light and warmth gradually. When shoots are around five inches place in a sunny window with a temperature of 68 degrees Fahrenheit.

Bulbs planted outdoors will likely be awakened in Mother Nature’s slow manner. Of course, the later the bulbs were planted the later the blooms. But if we succeed in getting even just a few flowers all has not been lost. Better than tossing shriveled bulbs in the trash. Mother Nature will bless us for our efforts.

Tips for Spring Bulb Planting

  • Plant Crocus 4 inches deep
  • Plant Daffodils and Hyacinths 6 inches deep
  • Plant Tulips 8 inches deep.
  • The pointed end of the bulb goes up
  • If planted incorrectly the stem will eventually grow upwards
  • Bulbs do not need fertilizing for the first year
  • Wear gloves when planting bulbs to keep human smell off of bulbs to deter animals
  • Red pepper sprinkled in the hole will repel rodents
  • Animals will not eat Daffodil bulbs
  • Deer love Tulip bulbs so plant close to house
  • Plant bulbs in clusters not singly
  • Plant bulbs among perennials for added beauty

Benefits of Rosemary: The Gift Of Rosemary

Great Uses and Benefits of Rosemary

I received the gift of a Rosemary bush this past Christmas! It is in a pretty container and decorated with a red velvety ribbon. It is adorable and it smells divine.

I have used both fresh and dried Rosemary a bit in cooking in the past. A few years ago a neighbor shared her back yard Rosemary bush. I often picked a sprig or two to toss in with my numerous quick stir fry dishes. I made a marinade of olive oil, fresh Rosemary and lemon juice for baking fish, chicken and lamb.

Now that I have my own Rosemary bush and don’t have to feel guilty about taking advantage of an overly generous neighbor I have been thinking about what the other uses of Rosemary might be. After a bit of investigating I came up with quite a list. Food first always, so I will begin with some great sounding recipes.

Using Rosemary in Cooking

Rosemary can be used to flavor many foods. Use it fresh or dried. To dry fresh rosemary cut stems and remove the nettles from the stem after they are brittle. Put them in a plastic container and then store in a cool dry place.

Red Potatoes Taste Great Cooked With Fresh Rosemary

 

Rosemary Roasted Potatoes With Onions And Sweet Potatoes

The best recipe I found for something simple but elegant is one for roasted red potatoes with fresh Rosemary I decided to try it. The recipe calls for the following few and inexpensive ingredients. I wanted to add flavor and color. I added red onions and sweet potatoes to the recipe for flavor and color. I parboiled my sweet potatoes for consistency in cooking.

  • 6 red potatoes
  • 3 TBS melted butter
  • 3 TBS vegetable oil
  • 1 TBS chopped fresh Rosemary
  • salt and pepper to taste.
  • 1-2 sweet potatoes

Scrub the potatoes well and cut them into chunks. Mix the melted butter and oil and use as a coating for the potatoes. Place the potatoes in a 9 by13 inch dish and cover with tinfoil. Stir and coat the potatoes, then sprinkle them with the salt,pepper and Rosemary. Bake in a preheated 375-degree oven for about 30 minutes or until the potatoes are tender.

Rosemary Bread

I was surprised to find Rosemary bread recipes. I was even more, surprised to see how simple and quick they seemed. The basic recipe calls for the following ingredients.

  • 1 cup water
  • 3 TBS olive oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons white sugar
  • 1/4 tsp Italian seasoning
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 TBS dried Rosemary
  • 2 1/2 cups bread flower
  • 1 1/2 tsp active dry yeast

Mix and knead in a bread machine and then bake at 375 for 30 minutes.

Other recipes with fresh or dried Rosemary:

This garlic and Rosemary roast leg of lamb recipe has a five-star rating!

Roasted chicken with garlic and Rosemary is quick and simple with few ingredients. White wine really gives it a gourmet touch.

My favorite is a recipe for lemon Rosemary salmon. Other than the salmon and rosemary all that is needed is olive oil, lemon and course salt. Salmon is a cold water fish and, therefore, chock full of Omega 3s, the “good fats” that help lower cholesterol.

It is clear that Rosemary complements a variety of meats as well as vegetables. The minty citrus flavor of Rosemary will compliment lamb, chicken, and all seafood.

Rosemary has a piney citrus aroma

Five Ways to Use Rosemary Around the House

Rosemary’s strong fragrance is like a mixture of citrus and pine. It is a natural and sustainable air freshener. Add sprigs of chopped fresh Rosemary to baking soda and sprinkle into the vacuum bag to help freshen each time you vacuum.

Rosemary is a nice addition to Christmas sights and smells. Fill in a fruit bowl with sprigs of rosemary. Incorporate rosemary into easy holiday meal centerpieces. Tuck a sprig in a bow on a package. And, as in my case, it makes a great gift!

Is a wedding looming in the future for someone? Rosemary makes a romantic addition to weddings. The herb is linked to both the Greek Goddess Aphrodite and the Virgin Mary. Tie sprigs with gold cording and tuck into each place setting at the reception dinner perhaps by the place cards. Rosemary, white roses, and baby’s breath would be stunning and fragrant flower arrangements.

Use dried Rosemary in sachets and potpourri. Place in closets and drawers to help keep clothes fresh smelling.

Plant Rosemary among flowers and vegetables if you have a problem with deer that like to nibble at your garden. They do not like the smell of Rosemary.

 

Source: antioxidants for health and longevity.com

Health Benefits of Rosemary

The antioxidants identified in Rosemary are known to improve brain function, mood and memory, improve circulation and digestion and provide protection against carcinogens. The anti-inflammatory agents in Rosemary made it a popular treatment for gout in the past.

Get these benefits by cooking often with fresh or dried Rosemary. Rosemary capsules and essential oil is available for purchasing. Rosemary tea is easy to make. Place fresh Rosemary leaves in a mesh or muslin ball. It is best to use a glass or enamel pot for boiling the water to steep the tea in. The tea is delicate and will absorb a metallic taste with other pots and kettles. Drink the tea to ease headaches, cold symptoms and to improve low mood.

Learn to make green smoothies! Green smoothies are made from leafy green veggies with other ingredients to added to make them tasty. Add a few Rosemary leaves to your green smoothies.

Because of its irritation quality, Rosemary improves circulation in the skin and scalp. Boil with lemon and water and use as a hair rinse to prevent dandruff and stimulate hair growth.

Rosemary plants can be propogated from cuttings
Rosemary plants can be propagated from cuttings Source: CC BY: www.morguefile.com/creative/peachyqueen

Growing Rosemary

Now that I have learned so many great uses for Rosemary, it’s time to learn to take care of my plant and grow more. Rosemary can be grown outdoors in warmer climates where frost is rare. Otherwise It needs to be contained in pots for moving indoors when the temperature dips below 30 degrees. The plant will need 6-8 hours of sunlight.

Rosemary seeds are difficult to germinate so I will take cuttings from my plant. I will dip the end in a rooting hormone and plant in small pots of seed starting mix. In two or three weeks I will check to see if there is a root system formed by gently tugging on the seedling. If they are ready I will plant the seedlings and then care for them as adult plants. Then I too can give the Gift of Rosemary.

 


Make an Ivory Soap Snowman For Good Clean Fun

A snowman sculpted from Ivory soap is a great project for kids of any age. It is a unique project for a cold winter’s day when kids may be home from school on a “snow day”. Teachers could use it as an idea for group work in a cooperative learning format. Whatever the setting, it is sure to provide some “good clean fun.” Here’s how:

Assemble these materials:

  • 3-4  bars of Ivory soap
  • mixing bowl
  • a little water
  • a handful of dry black beans
  • strip of  felt

  • black construction paper (for a hat)
  • cheese grater
  • a baby carrot (for a nose)
  • pipe cleaners and pom poms

 

Grate the soap bars shredding them just like cheese.

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Add a little water, no more than an eighth of a cup.

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Form into large, medium, and small balls.

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Add the end of a baby carrot and black beans for features. 

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Brown pipe stems make good arms. Or use Popsicle sticks, even real twigs. 

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Earmuffs can be made by hot glueing pom poms to pipe stems. We had some left over from Christmas crafts.

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Make a stovepipe hat with black paper. Scarfs can be crafted from felt or ribbons. Make your soap snowman unique!

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