Friday's Foliage: Oregano

Friday’s Flower - Oregano leaves.jpg

When you think of Oregano, you probably think of pizza or some other type of casserole or Italian Food but did you now that it is also a tough perennial?

 You could even use it in your lawn instead of grass.  It looks lovely when it’s mowed and kept short and it smells amazing when you mow it or walk on it.

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 Of course, you will need to keep a patch somewhere that grows tall so you will always have some fresh leaves for cooking.  Just don’t let it go to flower until you’re done picking it for cooking as it will affect the flavor.

 Without mowing, it will grow up to two feet tall.  Keeping it short eliminated the tall stems that would make it uncomfortable for bare feet.

 Toward the end of the season, let a bit go to seed to keep a dense patch of plants.

 It loves sun and can be grown from seed or rooted cuttings.  Don’t overwater oregano or it will get root rot.

 The leaves are easy to dry.  Just cut and spread out on a screen or dry surface until you can strip the leaves from the stems.  Oregano – especially oregano oil – is a natural anti-bacterial agent but can cause chemical burns if it is too strong or too much is used.

 Enjoy this useful plant in your garden or in a flower pot.

 

Friday's "Flower" - Poison Ivy

What better way to avoid your enemy than to know it well?

 Poison Ivy is an attractive plant.  A similar looking plant without the nasty side-effects would most likely be a very popular ground cover.  The appearance will change throughout the season and from plant to plant.

 We’ve been taught to look for a plant with three shiny leaves and notched edges.  Sometimes, it doesn’t quite look like that.

 New growth – both spring and summer – is very shiny and reddish in color.  As the leaves mature, they turn green.  While they are often shiny, that isn’t always the case either.  If there’s a drought or even if there’s a lot of dust or pollen in the air, it could stick to the oils on the leaves to make them look dull.  Finally, not all leaves have notches.  Some are smooth-edged.

 Poison Ivy is ALWAYS “poison.”  It doesn’t matter if it’s new growth or old, alive or dead – even dead for YEARS, the oil doesn’t break down.  Spraying it with weed killer will stop it from spreading (sometimes) but will also make it harder to identify.  The older plants with thick stems may need to be cut down.  The best way – and maybe the only way – to get rid of poison ivy is to put on protective clothing, pull it out and put it in a garbage bag for disposal. 

 Don’t EVER burn it as the oil will be carried by the smoke and inhaling it could be fatal.  Also avoid mowing or weed-whacking it as the bits of plants will spread. 

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Friday's Flower - Poison Ivy - all photos of LEAVES.jpg

A common way to get it is when you walk through it without knowing and get the oil on your clothes.  You could sit on your couch or walk around your home, spreading the oil and when it comes in contact with your skin, you will get the rash.  Another way of picking it up is when your pet runs through it and then you pet it.

 Please check out the photos here.  You’ll see new growth leaves, notched and smooth-edge leaves, berries and a thick root growing up a tree.

 Some people confuse poison ivy with Virginia Creeper.  The easiest way to tell them apart is that Virginia creeper has cluster of five leaves compared to three for poison ivy.  It’s harder to tell aged vines apart when there are no leaves since Virginia Creeper can also appear “hairy” in older plants.

 One note – poison oak is very rare in this area.  Here in Morris County, we are at the northern tip of its range.  It only grows in dry, sandy soil so you’re much more likely to find it in the Pine Barrens.  It looks a lot like poison ivy, so it really doesn’t matter if you can’t tell the two apart.  If you’re allergic, the results will be the same.

Friday's Flower - Poison Ivy - berries - stem - oak.jpg
 

Friday’s Flower - Fire Spinner Ice Plant

If you’ve never heard of Ice Plant, you may really be mssing out.  This groundcover is perfect for those sun-baked corners of your yard.

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 Once established, it thrives well enough to crowd out the weeds.  They hug the ground with a height of 2-3” but spread to cover 12-18” of ground.

 The fleshy foliage is evergreen and lovely by itself, but the true beauty of this plant comes from the striking flowers.  Shaped like asters, the Fire Spinner starts with orange on the outer rim, fading to hot pink, then white surrounding the yellow center.  They are reminiscent of a pinwheel.

 They will carpet your garden in a blaze of color from spring until early summer.

 Deer avoid them but they are popular with pollinators such as butterflies and bees.

Friday's Flower: Birthday Party Sedum

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Plant this sedum in clumps to make the most of its striking fuchsia flowers.  Like most sedum, it loves hot, dry conditions once it’s established.

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 This would be a great companion to the Fire Spinner Ice Plant.  The ice plant blooms in the spring into early summer, and the Birthday Party Sedum will take over in late summer.

 It grows to be 7-11” tall with a spread of 18-20”.

 The plant itself is green with a reddish edge.  It looks great by itself.

 As with most stonecrop, it is deer-resistant and pollinators love the flowers.

This will add a bright cheery color to your landscape.

Friday’s Flower: Forsythia

Proven Winner’s Show Off®

Proven Winner’s Show Off®

You truly know spring is here when the yellow blooms of the forsythia appear.  They seem to be everywhere – in yards, hedges and along the highway.  Once the blooms are done, they are covered with lovely green foliage that makes an attractive hedge or shrub – in whatever size you choose up to ten feet in any direction.

 Keep in  mind that the trimming required for a neatly shaped hedge will require cutting off new growth that produces flowers in the spring.

 A huge bonus for us in northern New Jersey is that this shrub is deer-resistant.

 These hardy plants can spread to anywhere their branches touch the ground but they are relatively easy to control.  Prune a few of the old wood branches down to about 4 inches, leaving last year’s new branches intact.  If you cut these, you may be cutting off the new crop of blossoms.

 The Forsythia is named after William Forsyth, a Scottish botanist who was royal head gardener and a founding member of the Royal Horticultural Society.  Forsythia was first “discovered” in Japan and imported into Holland.  It seems strange to think that it was considered a rarity when these days, some consider it almost a weed due to its habit of spreading.

 Consider this for your yard.  For a particularly spectacular variety, check out Proven Winner’s Show Off®

Friday’s Flower: Deutzia

Deutzia is named after the 18th century Dutch patron of botany, Johann van der Deutz.

Proven Winners  Yuki Cherry Blossom®  Deutzia

Proven Winners Yuki Cherry Blossom® Deutzia

With more than 60 species, these lovely shrubs range from 1-13’, however the ones typically used in landscaping are the smaller ones.  Varieties hardy to our area are all deciduous and can have gorgeous burgundy color in the fall.

Deutzia are relatively new to landscaping here in the United States.  People are just beginning to “discover” the beauty and versatility of these shrubs.

Proven Winners has developed some varieties that we highly recommend.  At 12’24” the Yuki Snowflake® and Yuki Cherry Blossom® are the perfect shrubs for your landscaping.  They are deer-resistant and the hummingbirds love them.

Proven Winners  Yuki Snowflake®  Deutzia

Proven Winners Yuki Snowflake® Deutzia

They start blooming in early spring and continue through the entire spring season.

Keep these beauties in mind for your next landscaping project.

Friday’s Flower: Quince

The bright colored blooms of the Chaenomeles are a welcome sight after the long, dark winter months. 

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 This somewhat unkempt looking shrub sends out bright flowers in late winter to early spring from old-growth stems followed by more blooms on new growth in mid-spring.  Flowers can be red, orange, white, or pink.  The flowers stand out particularly well prior to the plant’s glossy dark green foliage appearing. 

 After one and a half to two weeks, the blooms drop and fruit forms that is edible by both humans and wildlife.

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 Quince are deer-resistant – a huge plus in New Jersey.  Plus they are drought-resistant once established.

 Plant this shrub in full sun where, unpruned, it will grow to 6-10’ tall and wide.  Beware of the thorns on this relative of the rose.  However, if you like quince but not the thorns, look for Proven Winner’s Doubletake varieties which are thornless, but also do not produce fruit.  These varieties look like camellias.

 Plant one for looks or several as a hedge.  This is a worthwhile addition to your landscaping.

 

 

 

Who Knew? Wednesday – “Zoning” Out

Do you know when it will be safe to put in your garden this spring? 

 You need to know which zone you are in.  The U.S. Department of agriculture divides the country into zones according to the average low winter temperature.  There are thirteen zones including the continental US, Alaska, Hawaii and Puerto Rico with 1 being the coldest and 13 being the warmest.  The zones vary in 10-degree increments.  For example, the average cold winter temperature for zone 1 is 10 degrees colder than the one for zone 2.

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 Within each zone is a sub-zone with a 5-degree difference indicated by an “a” or “b” suffix.  For example the average coldest winter temperature in zone 5a will be 5 degrees colder than zone 5b.

 Here in Randolph, NJ we are in zone 6a which has an average minimum winter temperature of -10°F to -5°F

 Now that you know about what zones are, you need to know about Frost Dates within each zone.

 In Zone 6a, the frost dates are:

  • Average Date of Last Frost (spring) is April 15th

  • Average Date of First Frost (fall) is October 15th

 This means that you can start thinking about putting in a garden after Aril 15th and by October 15th you should be thinking about protecting less hardy plants and bringing your potted houseplants indoors.  Remember that these dates are averages.  The actual last frost date in the spring could be 2 weeks or more after April 15th so plan accordingly.  The same goes for fall – the first frost could arrive earlier than expected.

 For an interactive map of all USDA zones, see the USDA website at https://planthardiness.ars.usda.gov/PHZMWeb/

 Plant carefully so you don’t risk your investment.  Happy gardening!