A Plant A Day Till Spring – Day 49 – Hosta

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“Teeny-Weeny-Bikini” – Summer 2013 – Whitney Avenue – Wilkinsburg, PA – A mini/micro variety that grows no bigger than a fist…

“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…

Sorry this post is running a little late… I was up late writing… As a result… I kinda slept in… If you consider 5:30 sleeping in… I again want to mention my online Q&A about Plant Guilds on February 14th at 2PM EST… #groundchat on Twitter… This will be my first time doing an online garden chat… Apparently… The audience ranges from 70,000 to a million people… Needless to say I am a little nervous…

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So… You might not know this… But my girlfriend and I are Hosta fanatics… Collectors if you will… Right off the top of my head I can think of 20 varieties we grow… A small number though when you consider the fact that there are around 40,000 named varieties…

A few years ago my girlfriend and I joined the Western Pennsylvania Daffodil and Hosta Society… You may be asking yourself why Daffodils and Hosta… The reason is that the dafs come up early in the spring… The Hosta come up around the exact same time the Daffodils are dying back for the year… The large leaves of the Hosta in effect cover and hide the withering leaves…

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“Earth Angel” – Summer 2013 – Whitney Avenue – Wilkinsburg, PA – A larger variet with light green variegated leaves… But the magic does not come from the leaves on this particular Hosta… The massive blossoms are heavily scented… Often reaching the farthest corners of my backyard… Especially after a rain…
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I wrote a poem about this Hosta last Summer – https://chriscondello.wordpress.com/2013/07/18/earth-angel/

Most people don’t know this but Hostas are edible… The tender leaves can be eaten raw… But I suggest you cook them up… The texture is reminiscent of spinach… The taste is really bland… It isn’t exactly something to write home about…

Hostas prefer shade… The large leaves of the plant make it ideal for absorbing little bits of sunlight… This is also the reason this plant does not do well in full sun… The large leaves absorb to much of the light… This results in what I call “sun sick”… Which is when a plant intended for shade is planted in full sun… The plant will actually overdose on sunlight… The result is a thin plant with small leaves… A result of the plant trying to cut down on the available leaf area that is absorbing the sunlight… Plants are smarter than you think…

Hosta propagates readily by seed… Simply leaving the flower stalks on the plants through the winter will accomplish this… This plant will also hybridize freely… The result… The 40,000 (and climbing) named varieties of Hosta we have now…

This year is the year I get my hands on an “Empress Wu” Hosta… The empress grows to 4′ tall and 6′ around… It is the largest hosta… When you see it… It looks like something that grew when the dinosaurs still roamed the earth… Truly a magnificent plant… One that I will buy this Summer… The hard part is finding a place to put it…

plant petunias and question everything – chriscondello

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

For my Hosta related Practical Permaculture Post – Daffodil and Hosta

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.

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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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Earth Angel

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“Earth Angel” – © chriscondello 2013 – Whitney Avenue – Wilkinsburg, PA – Not the perfect photo… I know… But no angel of mine is perfect… Nothing I praise is flawless…

Written with a found pen on a Hosta leaf while at work this morning… Just me and a morning dove…

We are all magnificent earth angels…
Gifts from the heavens above…
Flower blossoms open in the sunrise…
A sleepy morning dove cries…

The sun angel pokes through the trees…
Blesses me in light and warmth…
Just the morning doves and me…
Sweating in the humidity…

Earth angel please bless us all…
Bless our every single step…
The sun and the moon will play along…
The morning doves will join our song…

Sing to the heavens above…
Sing to the ground beneath your feet…
Praise the elements that make your heart…
Live… Love and beat…

plant petunias and question everything – chriscondello

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Clearing Mindspace Before the Summer Solstice

This gallery contains 10 photos.

I am attempting to clear my hard drive… And my mind to prepare for the Summer Solstice… Not that I am planning on doing anything for it… But because I want to go into Summer fresh… Maybe I’ll do a series on the first day of Summer… Or maybe I won’t… plant petunias and question […]

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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Practical Permaculture – Daffodils and Hosta

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One of my favorite places to plant daffodils is at the bottom of signs, the metal post creates a barrier preventing people from trampling them – Whitney Avenue – Spring 2012

My girlfriend and I were asked to clerk the Hosta show in the Summer of 2012 for the Daffodil and Hosta Society of Western PA, basically we were assistants to the judges. This was such an eye-opening experience, we joined immediately following our commitment.  My first daffodil show clerking experience was supposed to happen on April 6th, thanks to our late winter the show had to be cancelled… That is why I decided to write this article…

The reference book of cultivars used by the judges resembles a three ringed phone book, including specifics like cultivar name, color, pattern and mature size… In this world… Pin holes matter…

Many of the plant societies in America are experiencing membership issues, all to often they are plagued with misconceptions that the people involved are stuck up plant snobs, a misconception which honestly couldn’t be further from the truth… They are plant lovers like us… They come together to discuss a specific plant… And most importantly they share that information… And in most cases… Share the plant…

I think I should start this off by explaining why in the hell daffodils and Hostas are teamed up in a society together, that was my first question, why in the hell wouldn’t it be yours…The answer is actually brilliantly simple… Daffodils come up early in spring and bloom through late spring, the Hosta begin to grow in late spring and cover the spent daffodils. One of the requirements of growing healthy bulbs from year to year is letting the plants whither away on their own, the energy it absorbs after flowering is directly related to the bulbs ability to over winter and flower the following year.

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Miss Lorna loves her daffodils as well, Whitney Avenue – April 2011

Narcissus – Daffodil

Narcissus is a genus of mainly hardy, mostly spring-flowering perennial bulbs in the Amaryllis family. Common names include daffodil, narcissus, and jonquil are used to describe the genus.

The name Narcissus is frequently linked to the Greek myth of Narcissus, who became so obsessed with his own reflection that he knelt and gazed into a pool of water, he eventually fell into that water and drowned. In some variations, he died of starvation and thirst. In both versions, the narcissus plant grew from where he died.

Daffodils are one of the first plants to bloom in the spring, this is important in attracting pollinators to the early season garden. Daffodils and fruit trees tend to coincide with blooming times, with daffodil commonly blooming a little before the fruit trees… This early blooming tends to put the area on the map for the beneficials… If they found pollen around your fruit tree once before than they are much more likely to return for more only to find a fruit tree in full bloom…

All Narcissus species contain the alkaloid poison lycorine, mostly in the bulb but also in the leaves. May 1st, 2009 a number of schoolchildren fell ill at a primary school in England, after a daffodil bulb was added to soup during a cooking class. The bulbs can apparently be confused with onions, thereby leading to incidents of accidental poisoning. One of the most common dermatitis problems for florists is daffodil itch, some cultivars are known to be a little more irritating than others… Gloves should typically be worn, especially if you have sensitive skin.

"Paradigm" Hosta

“Paradigm” Hosta

Hosta

Hosta is a genus of 23 – 45 species of plants commonly known as hostas, plantain lilies and occasionally by the Japanese name giboshi. Hostas are cultivated as shade-tolerant foliage plants. The genus is currently placed in the asparagus family. Like many monocots, the genus was once classified as a lily.Depending on who you ask there are between 4,000 and 40,000 cultivars of Hosta, with the actual number falling somewhere in the middle.

Hostas are edible by humans, the part eaten and the manner of preparation differ depending on species… In some cases it is the shoots… Others the leaf petiole… And others the entire leaf… Younger parts are generally prefered as being more tender than older parts… The flowers are also edible…

Hosta can survive in heavy shade and are also rather drought tolerant plants, I commonly recommend them under pine trees… As long as you water a hosta through the first year of establishment, it will survive just about anything nature can throw at it… Hosta also tend to have pretty strong root systems, because of this they can be handy plants for use as erosion control. 

A potexvirus called Hosta Virus X has become common recently, and plants that are infected must be destroyed as the disease can be transmitted from plant to plant by contaminated sap. Symptoms include dark green “ink bleed” marks in the veins of yellow-colored leaves, and/or tissue collapse between veins. It can take years for symptoms to show, so symptom free plants in infected batches should also be considered infected.

I think it is important to stress that as permaculturists our horizons need to spread much further than food… All plants work in harmony… Your tomato may rely on the bee from my petunia… A fruit tree benefits from the water retention provided from a ground covering hosta, the hosta benefits from the shade provided by the fruit tree… Harmony people…

peace – chriscondello

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