Tuesday, July 25, 2006

It's a bird, It's a plane, It's Supertunia

Two shades of Coleus and Supertunia Vista 'Bubblegum' can take even Aiken's steamy summers

Aiken's round intersections sometimes present problems to drivers who are new to the area. They also present great opportunities for City Horticulturist Tom Rapp and his crew to display their talents, often showcasing plants new to the market. 'Black Pearl' ornamental pepper and Supertunia Vista 'Bubblegum' are two hot new plants for this season. While you're waiting to "left turn yield," have a close look at these lush beds.

With so many beds to tend, Tom includes plants that are heat and drought tolerant and low maintenance. He's also careful to make sure the soil is everything it should be. Every year the landscaping crews replace the existing soil with 3-4 inches of Bricko Farms' "Aiken Mix."

'Black Pearl' Ornamental Pepper

Saturday, July 22, 2006

I do love roses and have planted many rose bushes over the years, though I'm afraid some of the serious rose growers I know would be horrified at my technique - or lack of it. I plant roses the way you're supposed to, adding organic matter and lime and superphospate and Epsom salts for strong stems. I spray about every two weeks, add a systemic fertilizer that takes care of diseases, and, now that I have irrigation, I water my roses regularly. But that's about it. I don't inspect my roses daily for Japanese beetles and blackspot, and in some cases I plant too many other things too close to the roses so the air can't circulate well enough.

Here's the deal. For a rose to do well in my garden, it's got to be tough. For as long as they last, I'm going to post a photo of my favorite easy-to-grow Rose of the Week. This week's winner was one of the 1994 All American Roses Selections, with bright yellow petals and dark green foliage. It grows upright to five feet tall with four inch musk scented flowers. Introduced by Jackson and Perkins, this week's award goes to 'Midas Touch.'

This rose made the Augusta Rose Society's "easy care roses" list. For lots of good advice for growing roses in the steamy South Carolina midlands, follow the link to their website.

If you have a favorite easy care rose, please post a comment below.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Knock Outs™ and Sunpatiens™ - worthy of the hype?

Knock Out™ Roses have been around our gardens for several years now. Shrub roses bred for their winter hardiness, drought tolerance, and resistance to disease, they appear to be the darling of the humid southern garden. Knock Outs™ come in three colors, red, pink, and blush, and they get my vote since they're blooming beautifully in the middle of steamy July.

Tropical Orange Sunpatiens™ seems to tolerate the afternoon sun in my garden, as long as I water it everyday. But I'm not sure that other New Guinea impatiens wouldn't do the same. It has lasted well though, just as long as we don't run out of water.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Could I borrow a cup of bandwidth?

We arrived home yesterday, after a visit with our brand new grandson to find that our cable was out. A nonfunctioning cable is for us a double whammy - no TV and no internet.

Having spent six hours in the car together over the last two days, we were not interested in getting to know each other better during this unassigned time. We know each other well enough for the time being. We could read, but we usually do that anyway, later.

We were able to entertain ourselves briefly with the satellite radio. Hank watched an old DVD, but I had news to get out and pictures of the most adorable baby ever born to show the world. I was suffering world wide web withdrawal.

We called our neighbor across the street to find out if his cable was out too, so we would know if it was our problem alone. His cable was working fine he said, "but hey, you want to surf? Get on my wireless connection! I know it'll work, because when my connection got hit by lightning, I got onto yours."

Hmm. Imagine that. You can get on your computer in your house and with no wires or anything (hence the name - wireless) you can get service using your neighbor's connection. It worked perfectly. He was out for the evening so I didn't slow him down any. I sent photos of the new baby to everyone I thought might be the least bit interested, and everybody was happy.

Glomming on to someone else's internet connection with the intention of never paying for one yourself is illegal of course. You can be caught and prosecuted for it, and, just like you wouldn't steal a cup of sugar, you wouldn't steal a connection someone else has paid for. But the cable guy, who fixed it the next morning after we decided the cat pulled the connection loose, assured me it was OK this time.

I always knew I liked this neighborhood. From the day we came to town thirty years ago, I thought I wanted to live here. I pictured neighborhood picnics and the kids playing baseball and a glass of wine in the garden with old friends, but who'd have imagined then, that someday we'd move in and be able to share something invisible with our neighbors? That we'd be using each other's electromagnetic waves.

Maybe we should take up a sport.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

'Workman' is the Perfect Name for this Aiken Gardener

Denny Workman spends 12 hours a day working in his spectacular shade garden on the south side of Aiken. This is just one of the many delightful vistas you can enjoy on his nearly two acre spread. Hostas, like this 'Tattoo,' share the space with hydrangeas, magnolias, ferns, pine, oak, and hickory trees. Even sun sensitive rhododendrons survive the Aiken heat in this shady spot.

Denny is also an artist. He created this magnolia blossom from scraps of copper roofing.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Life is just a bowl of Okra.

Fuzzy, green bullet-shaped Okra, Abelmoschus esculentus, is a cousin to the Hollyhock and Hibiscus, with a flower that's attractive as vegetables go.

A half cup of boiled okra, if you can stand to eat it that way, is only 18 calories. It's low in Saturated Fat and Cholesterol. It is also a good source of Protein, Riboflavin, Niacin, Phosphorus, Potassium, Zinc and Copper, and a very good source of Dietary Fiber, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, Thiamin, Vitamin B6, Folate, Calcium, Magnesium and Manganese.

Fry it up in a flour and cornmeal batter, and you've multiplied the calories by a factor of 10 or so and you can forget about the low in fat designation, but team it up with a bowl of butterbeans or crowder peas and a couple of juicy red tomatoes and you can sit down and take a bite out of summer.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Question: What's better than your own vegetable garden?

Answer: A neighbor with a vegetable garden!

A fifth of an acre under a canopy of live oaks and sweetgums is not a good place for a tomato garden. Our neighbor, Mr. Wade, an ex-banker with roots in the country, has a yard not unlike ours, but he has a farm, and on that farm he grows the sweetest tomatoes and the tenderest squash and cucumbers and cabbage and some other things we haven't even tried yet. About twice a week he arrives from Salley with the back of his truck full. All we have to do is walk around the hedge that separates our driveways and fill up a bag.

When I was growing up outside of Atlanta, our next door neighbor Mr. Lingerfelt had a garden like Mr. Wade's in the lot he had bought behind his house. All year he grew vegetables that he shared with us. The difference was - he charged. He also offered an occasional taste of squirrel stew. We declined.