Just a word about some of the new things I tried this year.  Out at the front fence are “Hairy Balls” (Gomphocarpus), six feet tall.  The seed packet says 4 feet.  I started them in the basement not knowing how long a season they would need. First, they had clusters of little (less than an inch) of bell like, white blooms coming out on the top third of the stem.  Now I have hairy balls, some as large as 3 inches across of a light green. They look hollow but I assume they will hold some seeds. I am hoping they will dry for winter bouquets.  The packet recommends that you remove the tops of the plants early to make them branch more.

          In a pot by the front door are the rosary plants, also called “Job’s Tears” (Coix lacryma). It is a grass about 3 to 4 feet tall. The grass is a native of East Asia but has been carried all over the world. The packet only contained 11 seeds. Four of the five I put in a pot came up, with directions to grow in full sun in a sheltered spot. They do tend to lean so I put a collection of small rocks to help steady the plants. They are about the first plants to droop in a hot day but straighten up with a little water.  The leaves may get 24 inches long, looking like slender corn leaves. 

          The beads hang on 1˝ inch long stems and turn a shiny purple when they mature. Some are dark, some are light, and some are striped.  Each bead has its own stem making for an easy place to thread a needle. Kids love to grow the plants, harvest the seeds, and make their own necklaces.

          Joey ”, the fuzzy bloom from Australia , has been blooming all summer but is starting to look tired so soon I will pull it up from its large pot and replace it with my ornamental Kale. The large pot is a safe place from rabbits.  These will be the latest blooms of the year as it ignores light frosts.  As soon as it cools a little, the Kales will take off.  According to the seed packet I have plants with white, pink, or red ruffled centers.

          I have never really tried to have an herb garden but do have different ones scattered around.  This spring I noticed a small, golden leaved plant that I thought would add color to one of my large pts.  Its tag said “Pineapple Sage”.  As of today I cannot find any of the other plants in the pot as my now big golden one covers side to side. It has grown in spite of my squeezing a leaf when I go by and then sniffing my finger.

          In the greenhouse is a 6 foot tall mass of stems with only an occasional small leaf that only is ˝ to 1 inch long. As with many “Euphorbia’s” it has milky sap (a Poinsettia is a Euphorbia) that some people are allergic to.  This one is called a “Pencil Plant” or “Milk Bush” and grows this maze of stems about the size of a pencil (Euphorbia tiracolli). It is too big to bring in for winter so I took one of the pencils, stuck it in potting soil, and it immediately took root.  They are tropicals that grow to 13 feet as a native.

          In a big pot in the greenhouse is a colony of “Climbing Onions” (Bowiea valubilis) that is not an onion but does have a round, watery base sitting just on top of the toil. Several years ago someone brought me her mother’s plants after she had died.  It has now divided into many “bulbs” with long stringy stems and only a small leaf now and then.  It is not especially pretty and only sometimes does it have a very small white bloom, but it climbs and climbs.

          I put it in the big pot that contained a trellis leaning on a window.  Long ago the skinny stems reached the top, crawled along the window, and went around the corner into another plant.  One of my house plant books says, “It is both rare and repulsive”. The stems branch often in their climb.  Luckily it has a rest period when everything turns brown, let’s go, and drops so I can clean it up before it takes over.

          It is a native of South Africa .  My original “Onion” is now about 4 inches across and the 20 inch pot is filling with babies!! One author called it a “Sea Onion”. It is supposedly popular in Great Britain . One needs to see it to believe my story!!!

          Another new plant I have is Japanese Laurel (Acuba japonica). It is also called “Gold Dust” plant.  It is a shade lover, and I think the cultivar I have is Cratonifolia, as first glance it does look like a Croton.  It will need to come into the garage soon and should have purple blooms next spring.

Copyright 2009



(Reprinted by permission from the Arbor Day Foundation)


            Mulch is a tree's best friend as it insulates soil, retains moisture, keeps out weeds, prevents soil compaction, reduces lawnmower damage, and adds an aesthetic touch to a yard or street. Remove any grass within the mulch area, and the area from 3 to 10 feet in diameter, depending on tree size. Pour wood chips or bark pieces 2 to 4 inches deep within the circle, but not touching the trunk.


Keep mulch away from the trunk, three feet in diameter, and no more than three or four inches deep.