June 25, 2009

Erin's Prairie

Erin's Prairie is located on a hillside at the intersection of West Chatham and Saunders Streets in Apex, NC. While there are many beds of colorful Daylilys along NC highways, this is the one to see when you are near Apex. The display peaks in late June and is presented by Weston Farms.

October 22, 2007

Re-use bathwater for gardening needs

One NC couple found a way to recycle bathwater for watering plants and garden areas. It can be done and helps during dry times when water restrictions are in place...

News and Observer
October 22, 2007
Drought - Editorial

Engineering bathwater re-use
Waterwise: how Triangle residents are saving water

Several readers have told us of how they catch water from their showers to use on their plants or in their toilets. Nellie and Jimmy Hocutt, who live just outside Raleigh, have devised a way to make it easy.

Jimmy Hocutt removed the pipe that usually sent bathwater into the couple's septic tank and diverted it into a 50-gallon plastic container that he had bought at Wal-Mart and buried in the ground.

"With the two of us taking daily showers, we are able to catch 30 gallons a day, giving us an ample supply of recycled water to give all our shrubs, azaleas and our outdoor plants water every single day," Nellie Hocutt wrote via e-mail. "Also, I keep a bucket in my kitchen and recycle all the casual water I use daily, washing vegetables and dishes. Some days, I collect as much as 15 gallons a day.

"So, needless to say, we have very happy plants." Original Article...

September 24, 2007

Botanical sting operation staves off poaching of wild Venus Fly-Traps

It's far cheaper to buy plants at a nursery or garden shop than to dig them up in a protected area or nature preserve and be fined for the offense.

The Nature Conservancy teamed up with NC's Department of Agriculture to set a trap for poachers digging up Venus Flytraps. In Brunswick County, they teamed up with the NC Department of Agriculture to set up a botanical sting operation to stop poaching of Venus Fly-Trap plants which grow naturally in the southeastern bogs of North Carolina.

The Venus Fly-Trap poaching epidemic hit an all time high in June of 2005 when over 1,000 plants where stolen from the Green Swamp Preserve in Brunswick County in a single day. It is illegal to take these plants from their natural setting and the offense is punishable by a fine of $50 per plant.

Since an offender has to be caught to be charged, the Nature Conservancy and the North Carolina Department of Agriculture adopted a method used during a similar sting during the 1990’s. By spraying the plants with a harmless phosphorescent paint, authorities can now use an ultraviolet light to scan suspected plants and identify them as stolen.

Related links

The Nature Conservancy
NC Department of Agriculture

Southport Times
September 24, 2007
Dave Batts

How The Nature Conservancy Has Made an Impact in Brunswick County, NC

“Protecting Nature. Preserving Life.” The slogan for The Nature Conservancy speaks for itself. Their mission statement is poetic too - “To preserve the plants, animals, and natural communities that represent the diversity of life on Earth by protecting the lands and waters that they need to survive.”

Though they rarely make their way to the spotlight, when you look at their website (www.nature.org), their existence is evident, having earned themselves the title of one of “the most trusted organizations” in 2005 and 2006.

They work in a collaborative effort with people all over the world, helping them preserve and care for over 117 million acres of land and 5,000 miles of waterways. Much of this burden is supported by the 1 million members it has, with 10,000 of those members being volunteers who devote their free time to making a difference.

In one of their more recent local projects in Brunswick County, they teamed up with the North Carolina Department of Agriculture to set up a botanical sting operation in an effort to stave off the poaching of wild Venus Fly-Traps which grow naturally in the southeastern bogs of North Carolina.

The Venus Fly-Trap poaching epidemic hit an all time scare when in June of 2005, over 1,000 plants where stolen from the Green Swamp Preserve in Brunswick County in a single day! Though a farm raised plant can be bought at nearly any nursery, it is illegal to harvest a Venus Fly-Trap from its natural setting, an offense punishable by a fine of $50 per plant.

Since an offender has to be caught “green handed” in order to be charged, the Nature Conservancy and the North Carolina Department of Agriculture adopted a method used during a similar sting operation during the 1990’s, in which wild ginseng was being harvested from the Smoky Mountains. Painting the plants with a harmless phosphorescent paint, authorities can now use an ultraviolet light to scan the suspected plant, thus identifying it as stolen.

Though the sight of a Venus Fly-Trap growing in the wild would surely catch any unsuspecting walker off guard, it is only one of the many rare plants that seem to dot the landscape of Brunswick County’s wilderness. There is a Nature Trail in Boiling Spring Lakes where you can view Venus Fly traps in their natural environment. The Nature Trail is a joint effort of The Nature Conservancy, the City of Boiling Spring Lakes, the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and the Consumer Services Plant Conservation Program. It begins at the Boiling Spring Lakes Community Center.

Other rare plants located in Brunswick County include sundew and four different types of pitcher plants, as well as the less carnivorous orchids that don’t require nitrogen from bugs to survive, but are sure to take the breath away from passersby’s just the same.

Several environmental factors attribute to the rare flora that is found throughout the area, ranging from its location to the Gulf Stream to the naturally occurring fires which is a life giver to the long-needle pines that need the fires to pollinate.

The Nature Conservancy has been obtaining land from Brunswick County since 1977, when The Federal Paper Board first donated over 13,850 acres of The Green Swamp Preserves to the organization. In 1999, The Nature Conservancy acquired over 6,500 acres from The Boiling Spring Lakes area, which is now The Boiling Spring Lakes Preserve. Though the BSL Preserve is owned by The North Carolina Department of Agriculture, the Nature Conservancy helps to manage both of the preserves through planned burnings (which is necessary for the ecological growth of the preserve’s natural setting), planting fresh pines to one day pollinate the landscape, and hanging boxes for the federally endangered red-cockaded woodpeckers. Both preserves are open to the public through the use of nature trails only, as the treaded footfalls of curious onlookers can have a detrimental impact on the preserves’ delicate ecosystem. Original article...

September 15, 2007

Gardening tips for drought conditions

Work with your plants and home gardens during dry times to help them survive and adapt. You can help your plants survive drought conditions by taking a few steps to help them along...

  • Mulch, mulch, mulch - Adding a layer of mulch around and near plants will help conserve the moisture that plants do get and will also keep the roots cool.
  • Water a little, but not too much - Water if needed but don't over water. Many plants will shed leaves and become dormant to protect themselves. Watering excessively can cause plants to rot or drown. Plants over a year old should have a good root structure and will need less water.
  • Choose plants suited to your area and pick drought tolerant ones for dry conditions. Lantana, Butterfly Plants and other choices are good for areas that get lots of sun and endure drought better.
Don't be surprised when you lose a few plants during dry times. Some plants just don't do well in hot, dry areas and should only be planted if the right conditions and part shade are available.
News & Observer
September 15, 2007
Debra Boyette, Staff Writer

How to care for your drought-stressed plants

Your impatiens looking a little, well, impatient? Your dahlias drooping?

It's no wonder. Until the last week, temperatures have been in the triple digits, and raindrops have been few. Watering restrictions are in place all over the Triangle. Flowers and other plants are showing signs of stress. What can you do?

"Unfortunately, some plants just won't survive," says Peter Zierz, a Wake County master gardener. But you can take some steps to help your garden grow.

The most important thing you can do is mulch them well, Zierz says. Mulching helps keep the roots cool. It also helps keep what little moisture the plants get from evaporating.

Second, don't add more stress. When times get tough, a lot of plants go dormant in an attempt to conserve energy. Their leaves may even drop off. The tendency is to do something to help them. But leave them alone, Zierz says. Don't fertilize. Don't prune. Don't water. That will just wake them up, cause new growth and add more stress.

If you're watering (on your assigned day and time, of course), don't go overboard. Lawns and shrubs that are less than a year old need an inch of water per week, Zierz says. But don't drench them. You want the water to be absorbed into the soil. Shrubs that are older than a year old probably don't need to be watered now.

If you're thinking about planting shrubs or flowers this autumn, late fall is the best time to do so -- that means November to January in this zone. But keep in mind that new plantings need lots of water to get established. You'll need to keep that under consideration if restrictions continue or get tighter.

Not all plants are having a tough time. "My lantana is thriving," Zierz says.

Lantana loves the sun, and some varieties are perennial. When you're planning your flower beds for next year, think about lantana and other plants that do well under drought conditions. These include salvia, angelonia, geraniums and native wildflowers. Original article...

September 10, 2007

What kinds of pots to use?

A brief on types of pots to use for home gardening published in June, 2007, can help you select pots for your many planting projects. As you can imagine there are lots of choices and the type you select should be based on appearance, function, durability and a variety of factors...

News & Observer
June 23, 2007
Tina Mast, Correspondent

Pot Particulars

TERRA COTTA Beautiful and breathable, it ages attractively until the day it decides to break down, usually after three or more winters. It's a good idea to take these pots in over the winter if you want to keep them a long time.

CONCRETE AND CAST IRON Some of the most durable materials you will find, and usually the most expensive.

FIBERGLASS Durable and lightweight, it can be made to simulate other materials. You'll find it in the middle of the price range.

RESIN-FOAM Have the advantage of being lightweight but will age in a few seasons. Get the ones that are the same color all the way through so you won't notice as much if they get chipped or a have chunk taken out of them.

PLASTIC. Despite the yuck factor, plastic can be very practical, not to mention cheap. Thinner plastic pots will age faster than thicker ones, and it helps to select brands that are labeled UV resistant. Nevertheless, plastic still loses out against other materials once the beauty contest starts. Original article...

July 20, 2007

Nurseries offering more drought resistant plants

Worried about your prized plants drying up during the traditional NC summer dry spells? Try planting more drought resistant plants. This also helps cut down on water usage as dictated by new rules on watering.

Many local nurseries have begun offering more plants that require less water and do well in dry areas. This helps the nurseries gain back sagging sales and also helps consumers have gardens that do better in the intense summer heat with less demands for water.
News and Observer
July 19, 2007
Vicki Lee Parker, Staff Writer

Nurseries adapting to drought
Plants that sip water get more shelf space

When the Triangle suffered a drought in the early part of the decade, Fairview Nursery's sales withered, along with many lawns.

Now as the region teeters on the verge of the third drought in five years, the Raleigh nursery's sales are up 8 percent.

No, it's not Miracle-Gro.

The lack of rain and the area's new watering restrictions are leading gardeners to seek plants that require less water. Local nurseries are stocking more drought-tolerant plants to meet demand. They are also selling more rain barrels, special hoses and other products aimed at consumers who are conserving water.

The trend, coupled with the region's surging population of homeowners, is creating lush times for local nurseries and garden centers -- a welcome change after several tough years. Read more...

June 30, 2007

Beat the heat when home gardening

You can beat the heat while gardening in the hot NC summertime!

The following column from L.A. Jackson lists a number of steps you can take to keep gardening during the sweltering summer heat and help your plants survive.

News and Observer
June 30, 2007
L. A. Jackson, Correspondent

Early gardener can beat the heat

Is it hot enough for you yet? Well, if you're a heat lover, summertime in the simmering Southeast usually doesn't disappoint. Of course, such scorching conditions can take the fun out of gardening, but that is why it's better to do the hardest garden chores early in the morning or late in the day. If you prefer to work with your plants during the heat of the day, be sure to drink plenty of fluids, use sunscreen and don't forget that big, floppy hat!

* If you have recently placed a prized plant just beyond the hose, to get it through the dry times, poke a small hole in the bottom of a plastic one-gallon milk jug, fill it with water, replace the cap and set it next to the plant. The small hole and slight vacuum will let the jug slowly, thoroughly water the plant.

* For a good show of chrysanthemums this fall, fertilize the plants lightly with a water-soluble fertilizer every two weeks and pinch out new tip growth early in the month to keep the plants bushy.

* For chrysanthemums that are good enough to show in competition this fall, let only one or two shoots develop on each plant and continue to remove any side buds that try to develop for the rest of the growing season.

* Strawflowers that are going to be used in dried arrangements preserve best if they are harvested when their flowers are only half open.

* Most herbs do best with minimal maintenance, but many benefit from a 2- to 3-inch mulch, which will help keep the moisture supply at a constant level.

* If you're considering potted plants or hanging baskets, keep three points in mind: (1) Clay pots allow additional evaporation, so plants in these containers must be watered more often than plants in plastic containers; (2) the smaller the pot, the quicker the soil inside it dries out; and (3) the more you water, the more nutrients leach out of the soil, so water with a liquid fertilizer every two to three weeks.

* Production from the vegetable garden should be in high gear now, but to keep even more crops coming, harvest such veggies as okra, cucumbers, squash, beans and indeterminate tomatoes every two to three days.

* Prune tomato plants to improve production. Prune lower leaves to divert more energy into fruit production. However, resist cutting off any upper foliage that shields tomatoes from the sun because this natural covering helps prevent sunscald.

* Patrol the potato patch for exposed spuds. If you aren't going to harvest them immediately, cover with mulch to prevent the sun from turning them green and making them taste bad.

* Hate how slimy boiled okra gets? Leave the edible stems on the pods and cook them whole.

* Japanese beetles are at their worst this month. If you opt to end their reign of terror in your garden with Japanese beetle traps, remember that they attract before they kill, so place them far, far away from any susceptible plants. The bait in these traps is usually a sex pheromone, so even in an out of the way location, Japanese beetles will find them.

* Don't forget your bird friends. At least once a week, clean the bird bath, and keep the feeder clear of old seed and refilled with fresh feed.

* If you still have bare spots in the garden, midsummer sales are in full force and are sure bets for finding great plant bargains.

* Think the summer garden is nothing but a sea of green? Visit your local arboretum or botanical garden to see how these professional public gardens add color to their summer beds.