A Plant A Day Till Spring – Day 90 – Heuchera

Heuchera

“Heuchera and Snowdrops” – Spring 2013 – Whitney Avenue – Wilkinsburg, PA

A Plant a Day till Spring” will highlight one plant a day, starting on the winter solstice (December 21, 2013)… And ending on the vernal equinox (March 20, 2014)… If all goes to plan I will be starting with old Snowdrop photos from 2013… And ending with new photos of Snowdrops in 2014…

Today is the last day of Winter! Tomorrow will be the last post…

I made it all the way to the end of winter… I wasn’t sure if I would be able to stay focused through all 90 posts… But I did it… And I learned so much while doing this series that I would suggest doing something similar to any gardener looking to boost their knowledge of plants…

I have already started planning for next year… Except next time I am going to invite people to join me… I took some inspiration from WordPress and tagged each post with #postaday… I also added my own #plantaday to make searching for my posts easy… May I suggest you start taking photographs now if you have any interest at all in participating next winter… The way I see it… If enough people participate we could create a pretty massive wealth of plant-based knowledge…

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“Heucherella” – Summer 2013 – Whitney Avenue – Wilkinsburg, PA

Heuchera happens to be my favorite ornamental perennial… My girlfriend and I have created quite the collection… I like it because it comes in every color imaginable… Plus it will survive in a wide variety of conditions…

Heuchera is often labeled as a full-sun plant… In my experiences I find that it is equally at home in the shade… As you can tell from the photographs above… These plants are in full-shade… I have also noticed only the plants with light-colored leaves can handle extreme sunlight… The purple and red-leaved varieties absorb too much sunlight…

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Tomorrow will be my last post of this series… I thought the first day of spring would be a perfect ending… Plus… The Snowdrops are in full bloom right now and the photographs taken with my new camera are top-notch… Today the temperature is supposed to near 60F… I will be outside from the moment I finish this post till the afternoon thunder showers arrive… Until tomorrow…

plant petunias and question everything – chriscondello

If you want some science – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Symplocarpus_foetidus

These “Plant a Day Till Spring” posts are simply intended to kill time until spring when I start writing more… My source (where applicable) is Wikipedia.org… The photography is all my own… And I am adding my own information…

This website and all of the information presented within is provided free by the author… Me… It is my sole opinion and is not representative of anyone other than myself… You can contact me directly with questions at – c.condello@hotmail.com

Remember to tip… My Bitcoin digital wallet address is…1JsKwa3vYgy4LZjNk4YmPEHFJNjPt2wDJj

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The Guerrilla Gardening Guidebook – Perennials and Biennials

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“Tomato Soup” – Whitney Avenue – Wilkinsburg, PA – Echinacea is a favorite of my girlfriend and I… I grow it everywhere I can… Available in a variety of bloom styles and colors… Drought tolerant once established… Often self seeds but the colors typically fade or completely revert to purple…

Perennials

This post is part of a larger body of work titled ”The Guerrilla Gardening Guidebook”. For the introduction and table of contents please click here

Although some guerrilla gardens are intended to only last a year, some can last for a long time. Plant selection, coupled with continuing community support can make a community garden last for years with minimal maintenance.

A perennial is any plant that lives for three or more years, many live much longer. The garden flowers called perennials technically should be called herbaceous perennials because they lack the woody stems and branches of shrubs and trees, which are called woody perennials. Most herbaceous perennials die to the ground during winter, but their roots remain alive and send up new growth in spring. The tall tops of some perennials die in fall and the plant will develop ground-hugging rosettes of leaves that survive the winter. A few perennials, such as bergenia and epimedium, are herbaceous, but have evergreen or semi-evergreen leaves.

Most perennials bloom for two or three weeks at a specific time of the year, and their foliage remain till frost. Some cherished perennials, such as threadleaf coreopsis and fringed bleeding-heart, are long-blooming, producing flowers for 8 to 12 weeks. Others, such as garden phlox and delphinium, can be encouraged to rebloom after cutting back the first flush of flowers after the blooms fade and before they set seed. Many perennials with short bloom times have cool foliage that lasts well beyond the flowers, leaf color and shape should therefor be considered as well.

Many perennials spread, forming larger clumps every year. Some fast growing plants need to be dug up and divided periodically or the plants will become stunted. Aggressive spreaders must be continually hacked back or they will take over the garden. Some plants, like peony can grow for 50 years without ever needing divided.

Perennials are cold hardy to different degrees, some can’t survive winters north of Washington DC, others flourish in Minnesota and the Dakotas. Some thrive in the hot and humid summers of the south, while others will simply wilt and flop over in anything remotely hot.

PinkWhiteColumbine

Living for only two years, biennials germinate from seed the first year and put all their energy into growing foliage and strong root systems. They often live through the winter as a rosette of ground-hugging leaves… The next growing season… They send up flowering shoots… Set new seed… And then die… But biennials can be unpredictable, not always sticking to the intended lifestyle. Some behave as short-lived perennials, flowering for two to three years before they die.

Many biennials, like foxglove and hollyhock, reseed themselves so successfully that they seem to be perennial in your garden… They will return year after year… Oftentimes perennial seeds will germinate the same year they fall to the ground, allowing it to germinate the following year. You can help this along by simply shaking the seed heads over the ground where you want the plant to grow.

Container grown plants can be put in the ground any time of the year they are available. To remove the plant from its container, first water it, then turn it upside down, holding your hand under the root ball so when it slides out you can easily catch it. If the plant won’t budge, whack the bottom and sides of the container until it does… As a last resort you can cut the container off…

Roots of container-grown plants frequently encircle the surface of the root ball. Unless you interfere, the roots may keep growing around and around in the hole. Lay the plant on its side on the ground, holding it at the top with one hand, firmly rake the entire surface of the root ball with a weeding claw. Cut into the root ball with the tines of the claw to loosen and sever the roots. The cut roots will eventually branch and grow out into the surrounding soil.

Dig your hole wider and deeper than the container the perennial came in, you should be able to comfortably fit the plant in the hole while in the pot. Fill the bottom of the hole with at least an inch of soil. Place the plant in the hole and adjust accordingly so the plants crown is level with the existing soil level. Refill the hole with soil, firm the soil, water it…

A good starter list when beginning your guerrilla garden perennial research, all of the following plants will grow relatively well without much human intervention – Yarrow, Hollyhock, Golden Marguerite, Columbine, Butterfly weed, Fall Asters, Astilbe, Indigo, Bergenia, Mountain Bluet, Bugbane, Turtlehead, Coreopsis, corydalis, Delphinium, Chrysanthemum, Bleeding Heart, Foxglove, Echinacea, Blanketflower, Hardy Geranium, Lenten Rose, Daylily, Heuchera, Rose Mallow, Hosta, Iris, Dead Nettle, Shasta Daisy, Blazing Star, Lilyturf, Lupine, Forget-Me-Not, Catmint, Evening Primrose, Peony, Oriental Poppy, Russian Sage, Phlox, Balloonflower, Lungwort, Salvia, Stonecrop, Goldenrod, Lambs Ear, Foamflower, Verbena, Speedwell, Viola.

Continuing care of herbaceous perennials varies from plant to plant. For my general article titled “caring for herbaceous perennials”, please click here

plant petunias and question everything – chriscondello

This site… And all the photographs and information presented within are provided free of charge by the author… I am not affiliated with any product or business… Only myself… Writing this blog takes a ton of time… If you find any of this information helpful, please consider purchasing a print from my online store… It is obviously not a requirement… But it helps…

I sell prints of my photography here – http://www.society6.com/chriscondello Or you can contact me directly at c.condello@hotmail.com for commissions or locally/personally produced prints… Thank you for reading…

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A Sunset With The Hamnett Place Community Garden

© chriscondello 2013

“Evening Storm” – © chriscondello 2013 – Conceptual Composition – My Backyard – Wilkinsburg, PA – Call this what you will… But to me… This photograph is like a painting… Blue Salvia as my canvas… And Golden Heuchera my medium… Taken in the evening light accompanying a storm… Electricity in the air puts electricity in the soul… This photo was taken on the walk to the community garden…

© chriscondello 2013

“Go Team” – © chriscondello 2013 – Clover – Hamnett Place Community Garden – Wilkinsburg, PA – Compared to the other clover in the immediate area… This one was huge… The sun can kinda be seen setting in the trees… And the storm was rumbling at my back…

© chriscondello 2013

“Through the Bramble” – © chriscondello 2013 – Champagne Raspberry” – Hamnett Place Community Garden – Wilkinsburg, PA – My favorite variety of raspberry… Can be purchased from Garden Dreams in Wilkinsburg…

© chriscondello 2013

“Beyond the Bramble” – © chriscondello 2013 – Champagne Raspberry – Hamnett Place Community Garden – Next step… Tasty berries…

© chriscondello 2013

“Urban Vetch” – © chriscondello 2013 – Crown Vetch – Hamnett Place Community Garden – The last glimmer of sunshine landed exactly where I needed it… Gotta love it when things work out…

FragariaSpp

“Berries Galore” – © chriscondello 2013 – Strawberry – Hamnett Place Community Garden – I know from the past that this variety of strawberry tastes amazing… Had I known it had an incredible flower as well… I guess as the breeders get bored with developing fruit… They mess around with the flowers… I was blown away by the simplicity… But stunned by the complexity… Truly beautiful…

© chriscondello 2013

“Blue Flag” – © chriscondello 2013 – Iris Versicolor – Hamnett Place Community Garden – Wilkinsburg, PA – The sun setting behind this Iris was practically visible through the petals… I did my best to capture the feeling of that moment in this photograph…

plant petunias and question everything – chriscondello

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Practical Permaculture – Planting Under Pine Trees

"Sweet Woodruff" - © chriscondello 2013 - Wilkinsburg, PA - Private Garden - Although plants will grow... Don't expect them to be the most prolific bloomers in your garden...

“Sweet Woodruff” – © chriscondello 2013 – Wilkinsburg, PA – Private Garden – Although plants will grow… Don’t expect them to be the most prolific bloomers in your garden…

The space underneath of a pine tree is one of the most difficult places to garden, sometimes it may seem impossible. The extreme microclimate created underneath can challenge even the most experienced gardener. It is tough, but it is by no means impossible. Carefully chosen plants, coupled with a few secrets, is all one really needs to green up an otherwise brown and lifeless corner of your yard.

Some of the challenges presented under a pine tree include extreme shade, lack of moisture, a heavy layer of pine needles, and rarely, extreme acidity. In all honesty, the biggest challenge is a lack of moisture, as a pine tree can create a solid rain shield underneath its branches.

If your pine tree has branches all the way to the ground, your first step will be pruning off all of the lower branches to allow enough room to work underneath. This also allows for sun, air and rain to access the ground… I have found in the days after doing this, weeds will quickly grow underneath of the tree… Take it as a good sign… And study the hell out of it… Everything you need to know will grow right in front of your eyes…

If your tree has already been pruned up… Start by simply observing your space, often times you will find some weeds, or a patch of grass already growing somewhere under the tree… Get my point?.. I feel pretty comfortable saying that if weeds already grow under your tree, plants of your choosing will also grow under said tree. A lot can be learned by simply studying the area, careful observation is always the key to choosing your plant locations… In fact… Careful observation is the key to any garden… And it does not stop once the plants are in the ground… When… In fact… Your observation is just beginning…

"Hanging In There" - © chriscondello 2013 - Wilkinsburg, PA - Private Garden - I planted this hosta 3 years ago... It was not much smaller than this when I planted it...

“Hanging In There” – © chriscondello 2013 – Wilkinsburg, PA – Private Garden – I planted this hosta 3 years ago… It was not much smaller than this when I planted it…

There are many plants that can survive with minimal water, and a lot more that can survive arid conditions after a year or so of establishment. Sedums are little cactus-like plants that never need watering once they are growing on their own, they do not grow as densely in the shade, and they do not flower as profusely… But they will be there for years to come.

Hosta and sweet woodruff work well under conifer trees once established… And by established… I mean watered once a week for the first year… Once these plants are established, they will grow, slowly, but they will grow… Cut the recommended spacing in half under a pine tree if you are going for a mass-planting… Leave the pine needles under the tree to serve as mulch, it will extend the amount of time between watering…

Any acid tolerant, shade loving annual will do well under a conifer tree. If you grow annuals, then I’m sure you will be out watering once a week in the summer anyway, what’s a little extra time watering your plants under the pine tree… In fact… Any shade tolerant annual will work well under a pine tree… If you baby it…

"Minimalist" - © chriscondello 2013 - Wilkinsburg, PA - Private Garden - Another hosta that has remained relatively the same size as when I planted it... This garden was a test for me... Now that I know how the plants will act... I can begin to fill it... And others like it...

“Minimalist” – © chriscondello 2013 – Wilkinsburg, PA – Private Garden – Another hosta that has remained relatively the same size as when I planted it… This garden was a test for me… Now that I know how the plants will act… I can begin to fill it… And others like it…

Acidity… Is really only a problem in myth… As pine needles… Although acidic in nature… Take a really long time to break down… Unless you are standing in an old growth pine forest that has been around for hundreds of years, I doubt that tree has had much of a chance to drastically alter the pH of the soil. A cheap pH meter available at any garden supply center will answer this question for you, I recommend having one regardless of where you are gardening.

A way to cheat the acidity factor is to dig your planting hole two, or even three times the size of the plant you intend to grow. Remove all of the soil from the hole and put it somewhere else, then fill in the hole with clean topsoil… Acidity problem solved… I wouldn’t recommend digging out every square inch of soil underneath the tree, just remove the places you want to plant… And dig around those roots for crying out loud…

If you are the type of gardener that can’t consistently water their garden for a full year, you probably aren’t trying to break ground in every available corner of your yard… I would suggest picking an easier place to put your garden… Unless you want to install a drip irrigation system… In that case… By all means garden away…

"Heuchera" - © chriscondello 2013 - Wilkinsburg, PA - My Garden - Not under a pine tree... But up against a north facing wall that gets no sunlight... And very little rain...

“Heuchera” – © chriscondello 2013 – Wilkinsburg, PA – My Garden – Not under a pine tree… But up against a north facing wall that gets no sunlight… And very little rain…

For the sake of giving you a place to start, try some of these plants… They will work under any tree… But are a little more tolerant of the conditions presented under a pine tree…

Hosta – I wouldn’t choose the exotic varieties as they can be finicky. Go to a big box store and purchase the largest plants possible as they will grow very slowly, it’s best to just buy them the size you want them. Hosta can often be easily obtained from a friends garden, in my neighborhood they grow behind every abandoned house, I just move them to the front yards.

Sweet woodruff – Really a cool plant that produces insignificant white flowers in the spring that when growing in profusion can permeate the air with a super sweet scent. Woodruff tends to spread rapidly in the shade, if babied for a year it will grow forever. Don’t expect it to bloom a lot… Or every year… But it will bloom…

Lily of the valley – Another plant that can commonly be acquired from a friend, when it is grown in ideal conditions it will naturalize quickly. Another plant that needs around a year of care before it will take on a mind of its own. Beautiful bell-like white flowers grace this plant in spring, with a sweet scent to boot… I would consider it one of the cooler spring flower scents…

Fern – another plant that I would skip purchasing the exotic varieties, you want the regular old, every day ferns for under pine trees. Your first attempts should not be with twenty-dollar a piece plants, there is a good chance you will fail at first. Keep your eyes open when you are out and about, you will find them eventually… Ferns transplant easily as long as you limit the time between digging and planting… Just be quick…

Bleeding heart – These plants really do not need water other than the first week or two after planting, they can handle some pretty extreme conditions. Many of the plants in this family form fern leafed mounds of green, choose the low-growing, spreading types and let them do their thing.

Azalea – A seriously acid tolerant plant that is at home under any pine tree, to be safe I would plant it closer to the edge… A pine tree flanked on either side by mature azaleas is really a stunning thing to see in spring… They are really at home with each other…

Rhododendron – One of my favorite ornamental shrubs,we had one in our front yard that was always beautiful this time of year. Not only does this plant tolerate acidity, it is also very shade tolerant.

Blueberry – When grown in the shade, they do not produce lots of fruit. But, they are a stunning plant year round. In the fall the foliage turns a bright red color that is striking against a pine tree… Just saying…

Hydrangea or Oak leaf hydrangea – Very shade tolerant plants that grow well under conifers, also drought resistant once established.

Wild geraniums – This family of plants will grow anywhere, under almost any circumstances. Many of them have scented leaves that deter deer, and some flowers are edible.

Yarrow – Attracts so many beneficial insects that you will find it listed as a companion to almost everything… Enough said…

Tea berry – Small, creeping plant with slightly mint flavored berries, like the gum. The berries are typically hoarded by the wildlife, but that’s not such a bad thing. If you can get your hands on a few, they are like eating mint-flavored church wafers… At least that’s what they remind me of…

Trillium – If you can get your hands on them… Plant them everywhere… They are beautiful… And we need to protect them… And yes… They are at home under a pine tree…

Impatiens – This year will be difficult again due to the downy mildew, but they will figure that out soon enough. Impatiens are built for shade, but they do require water… Water at a minimum once a week when there’s no rain…

Heuchera – One of my all time favorite plants… It will do great in any amount of light… But they really shine in full shade… Many of the newer cultivars come in bright leaf colors, these are designed to glow in the shade.

plant petunias and question everything – chriscondello

I now have prints available to purchase online… You can find them here – www.society6.com/chriscondello – This site… And all the photographs and information presented within… Are provided free by the author… Me… At one time I had considered asking for donations… But that’s not me… So I have decided to sell prints of some of my photography… It is by no means a requirement… But it helps… If you have a few minutes to check them out… Then by all means… Please do…

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