Most of my plants are up and growing by now including three plants I found several years ago called “Little Red Birds” (Scraphularia macrantha). They now have grown into slender, 3 foot tall plants with dainty red flowers along those high stems.  One of those plants is in bloom now and will be for a number of weeks.  I have also found three new seedlings so I have decided it is what we call “a short lived perennial”. They are listed for zone 6 but with a little winter mulch I have been able to keep a number of zone 6 plants through the winter (global warming???).

          Joey (Ptilotus sp) is in one of my pots on the south side of the house. Since it is from Australia , I assumed it was named after the kangaroos there as baby kangaroos are called joeys. The plants only get about 15 inches tall, with fuzzy lavender flowers. They are listed for zone 10 so I probably will not keep them alive, but hope to find the plants next year as the blooms are a surprise when you see them.

          In the backyard there is Toto, a small 12 to 15 inch Rudbeckia.
The flower is about 2 to 3 inches of bright yellow with a bright black center. This late in the planting season I go to all the garden centers looking for plants to replace the dying bulb foliage.  Planting these takes a little care to keep from harming the bulbs.  Some of the bulbs don’t like to be watered much when they are dormant and most are fairly close to the surface.  Most of us have heard “Nature hates a blank space” so grass or weeds will try to fill any empty space unless I get there first.

          The Peppers, with the very dark shiny purple leaves and the small shiny peppers can usually be found at the stores this late. They grow to about 2 feet tall. They like hot weather and grow and bloom very fast so by fall when flowers are a little scarce. That deep color, especially if it’s near a chartreuse plant, shows off at their best.

          My rabbits are very fond of any form of Hollyhock until the leaves get fairly large and tougher, so some years I don’t end up with many plants. My Lilies are in their private little chicken wire fences but too many fences don’t look so hot so to protect the Hollyhocks I use Blood Meal which becomes fertilizer after a rain. This won’t work for long times so I alternate with Liquid Fence about every 2 weeks. When we were kids we made dolls and doll clothes from the big tall Hollyhock blooms.  I like to have the smaller pink Mallows and the middle size 3 foot white bloom Zebrina with purple strips to go with the Hollyhocks.  Again if I can get all these old and tough enough, they are no longer interesting to rabbits.

          Calla Lilies are not hardy so I try to grow them in pots that go into the garage during the winter.  Come spring I carefully remove the top few inches of soil when I bring them out the latter part of April . Most of this removed soil is replaced with compost as it contains what the Callas need.  The first ones start to open about the middle to the last part of June for me. There is a bright orange one and a very dark one.  Generally we think of them as white and think of weddings or funerals but these colored ones are beauties.  This fall I will probably let the frost put them to sleep, dump the pots, and put them back in new potting soil and hope to get a few more to sleep in the garage.  I usually water them about once in December, January, February and March to keep it from getting too dry.  By April they get a good watering until it runs out the bottom.  Soon they show up!

          The “Desert Candle” also called “Fox Tail Lily” is at its best in June .  The bulbs come looking very different, more like a small octopus. They also come with strict instructions for careful handling and a statement to “plant at once”. They dry up or break apart very easily as well as not liking to be disturbed.  Usually they don’t survive many years but are doing better since being on a slight slope to drain easily.  After blooming they die back and seem to prefer not much water on the roots until next spring.  There are several colors, all of which can get 6 feet tall but only the one with the yellow bloom survives for long in Nebraska .

          A few weeks ago I told you about the Old Farmers Almanac saying we could raise potatoes in a plastic bag anywhere in the sun so my two bags of leaves are up and growing well.  I will let you know about the success of the crop later.

Copyright 2009





          The University of Nebraska Extension Horticulture web site is a valuable resource for Nebraskans who want to create sustainable rural and urban landscapes. The University of Nebraska Extension Division helps Nebraskans put knowledge to work so participants can make sound decisions to better their lives. Go to “”.

          On the left is a link to “NebGuides” (publications) and to “Hort Update”, a free e-mail newsletter from the University of Nebraska- Lincoln Extension . By clicking on this link you will get an archive by month. You can then click on the issue you want. The July 2, 2009 issue has articles about Summer Patch in lawns, River Birch yellowing, the two spotted Spider Mite, Tomato blight, and Cucumber Blight among others. 

          I was attracted to the article on “Two-spotted Spider Mites” because they recommend (as I do) not to use Carbaryl (Sevin) on spider mites. Sevin is very toxic to bees and if not used very carefully can kill pollinators and also increase the mite population by killing their predators such as Lady Beetles. This article has links to an Ohio State University article that gives five options for control of Spider Mites, and a Colorado State University article that gives information on how to prevent them, biological controls, and a list of chemicals that can be used. Many articles have these links to NebGuides or other articles that go into detail about the problem and solutions.

          Go to “” and sign up today to start getting this valuable resource on a regular basis on your computer.

Copyright 2009