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Dave's Garden Articles: By Audrey Stallsmith

Monday, April 7, 2014

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Stellar Starflower
By Audrey Stallsmith (Audrey)

Although often considered southern belles, spring starflowers (Ipheion or Tristagma spp.) can shine as far north as zone 5. Since that is my own zone, I planted a few bulbs at the front of a flower bed last fall, covering them with an upside-down daisy tray (a flat with a webbed bottom) to prevent our chickens from scratching them up again.

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Tuesday, March 25, 2014

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Flamboyant Flame Peas
By Audrey Stallsmith (Audrey)

Jacques Labillardiere reportedly performed the 1791 equivalent of a happy dance, when he discovered the flame pea and water at the same time in southwestern Australia. So the name Chorizema supposedly derives from choros (“dance”) and zema (“drink”).

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Tuesday, March 11, 2014

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The Blue Crocus and Its Kin
By Audrey Stallsmith (Audrey)

The blue crocus is not really a crocus, but it is true-blue -- a color you see in flowers only once in a blue moon! Native to the mountains of Chile, Tecophilaea cyanocrocus blooms in October or November there, which is springtime in South America. In North America the plant generally flowers in February or March.

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Friday, February 28, 2014

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Free-flowering Yellow Flax
By Audrey Stallsmith (Audrey)

Yellow flax was one of the first houseplants I grew back in the dark ages when I was a young and beginning gardener. Being such an amiable and free-flowering species, it bloomed its head off under my grow lights in the dead of winter, feeding my delusion that I had a green thumb. It was, in fact, one of the few species I’ve ever seen that bloomed as well in person -- er, in plant -- as it did in the catalog photo. I would learn shortly that not all flowers are as easy to please!

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Friday, February 7, 2014

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Sparkling Sparmannia
By Audrey Stallsmith (Audrey)

Sparmannia africana, also known as cape stock rose, is one of those plants that bristles when touched. Actually, only the showy stamens of the flowers move, expanding when something brushes against them. But, if you grow the cape stock rose as a houseplant, it could cause your guests to jump back and squeal, “It’s alive!”

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Thursday, January 23, 2014

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Burnished and Burning Burbidgea
By Audrey Stallsmith (Audrey)

“Some gingers are fussy or fail to blossom until they reach a ripe old age, thus testing your patience,” Tovah Martin writes in The Unexpected Houseplant. I've experienced such recalcitrance on the part of the Zingiber family myself, probably because I too have to grow gingers as houseplants here in USDA zone 5. Therefore, I hope that she is going to mention an exception to the rule. I am not disappointed.

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Thursday, January 9, 2014

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Magnificent Medinilla
By Audrey Stallsmith (Audrey)

Medinilla is one of those plants so striking that smitten gardeners like me rush out and acquire one whether or not we actually have the conditions for growing it. In the wild, the most popular type -- showy medinilla (Medinilla magnifica) -- can grow to 8 feet with 1-foot leathery leaves and dangly pink flower clusters up to 18 inches long.

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Thursday, December 26, 2013

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Lachenalia Soldiers On
By Audrey Stallsmith (Audrey)

I originally became interested in lachenalia -- also known as soldiers, soldier boys, or cape cowslip -- after seeing a photo of the viridiflora type. Its almost startling shade of turquoise aroused all my acquisitive instincts! That type is endangered in its native country of South Africa and tends to be one of the most expensive species, since it is so much in demand.

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Wednesday, December 4, 2013

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Victorian Veltheimia
By Audrey Stallsmith (Audrey)

At first glance, veltheimia is one of those flowers that might be called more interesting-looking than beautiful. But, hey, any blooms that appear during the winter seem spectacular to me! And, as you can confirm from Kelley's photos below, veltheimia flowers are truly exquisite close-up. They were popular parlor plants during the Victorian era, when parlors were on the chilly side.

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Friday, November 22, 2013

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Untamed Tiger Lotus
By Audrey Stallsmith (Audrey)

Years ago I purchased some bulbs of an aquarium plant from a department store. After sticking them in the gravel at the bottom of my then very bare-looking goldfish tank, I waited. . .and waited. . .and waited. . . Those bulbs never did sprout. I'm not sure whether they eventually rotted or whether my two fish ate them. They eat about everything else in there!

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Thursday, November 14, 2013

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Pandan for the Pantry
By Audrey Stallsmith (Audrey)

True to the “pan” in its name, pandan is a culinary herb commonly added to southeast Asian cuisine. Also known as dwarf or fragrant screw pine, the plant reportedly has an earthy scent similar to hay, while the cooked leaves smell like caramel corn. The flavor has been described as akin to roasted breadfruit or hazelnut.

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Monday, October 28, 2013

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The Max of Perennial Sunflowers
By Audrey Stallsmith (Audrey)

The Maximilian sunflower (Helianthus maximiliani) used to be the last perennial, with the exception of monkshood, blooming in my garden in October. Admittedly, it can grow to 10 feet and holds most of its flowers very close to its stalk, for a decidedly gangly look. In my flowerbed, the lanky latecomer also tended to slouch against nearby plants or sprawl at somewhat drunken angles, since I never got around to staking it.

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Friday, October 18, 2013

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The Greater Glory of the Fringed Gentian
By Audrey Stallsmith (Audrey)

Like the lady’s slipper about which I wrote earlier, the greater fringed gentian (Gentianopsis crinita) is one of those wildflowers which should, theoretically, grow in my region. I say "should" because I’ve never seen one! With lovely blue to blue-violet petals edged with long fringes, this wildling frequently succumbs to people’s urge to pick it, and has become endangered in many states.

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Wednesday, September 25, 2013

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The Great Dahlia Experiment
By Audrey Stallsmith (Audrey)

I hate to admit that I completely forgot about my dahlia tubers until early July of this summer. They were stored in the cold room in the basement and, by that time, the new shoots had pushed the taped lids of their cardboard boxes open. Usually, however, even dahlias that are planted right after the last spring frost here in Zone 5 don’t have time to do much blooming before the first autumn frost.

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Wednesday, September 18, 2013

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Spidery and Spectacular Aztec Lilies and Peruvian Daffodils
By Audrey Stallsmith (Audrey)

A cousin stopped by in mid-July to give me a very generous amount of Aztec liliy and Peruvian daffodil bulbs she hadn’t gotten around to planting earlier in the summer, due to the death of her mother. Despite it being so late, I was highly optimistic about those bulbs, because I knew from previous experience that they bloom very rapidly.

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Friday, August 30, 2013

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Satisfying Salsify
By Audrey Stallsmith (Audrey)

Being an insatiable flower fiend, I traded for salsify seeds because I liked photos I’d seen of the purple blooms. I was disappointed to discover that they don’t appear until the plant’s second year, making it officially a biennial, though you can harvest the roots after its first summer.

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Monday, August 26, 2013

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Sumptuous Salpiglossis
By Audrey Stallsmith (Audrey)

Salpiglossis resembles a gangly petunia, but one whose blooms have been fashioned from gilded and highly-embroidered velvet brocade. Those spectacular flowers are its fortune, as its foliage tends to be floppy and sticky. Alas, the plant is also more temperamental than petunia, which may explain why it isn’t as widely popular as its “cousin.”

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Monday, July 29, 2013

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Reducing the Glare in Your Summer Garden Photos
By Audrey Stallsmith (Audrey)

Summer should be one of the best times of the year for taking garden photos. We've got more flowers to photograph during this season than at other times of year, after all, and plenty of daylight in which to do it.

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Friday, July 12, 2013

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The Drip that Keeps on Giving: Water for the Birds
By Audrey Stallsmith (Audrey)

This is probably the wrong year to talk about providing water for the birds here in Pennsylvania, since they can find plenty of it in puddles following our recent deluge! In more normal summers, however, our weather often begins to turn hot and dry in July.

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Tuesday, June 25, 2013

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Little Green Menaces: Slugging It Out with Rose Slugs
By Audrey Stallsmith (Audrey)

Someone once told me that I couldn't have rose slugs because western Pennsylvania was too far north for them. I responded with a hollow laugh. Rose slugs are my second gardening nemesis, after the four-lined plant bug about which I wrote earlier.

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Monday, June 17, 2013

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Rose Rustling: Rounding Up Old Roses
By Audrey Stallsmith (Audrey)

No, we rose rustlers don't make a practice of stealing other people's roses, as if they were so many mavericks! We just root cuttings of heirloom types--usually found on abandoned farms or in old cemeteries--that may be in danger of dying out. Often their names have gotten lost somewhere along the way.

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Thursday, May 30, 2013

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The Fiendish Four-Lined Plant Bug
By Audrey Stallsmith (Audrey)

As luck would have it, the bug that does the most damage to my garden is also one of the hardest to kill. The four-lined plant bug (Poecilocapsus lineatus) is especially fond of members of the mint family, and shows up most heavily on my lemon balm and spearmint plants.

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Thursday, May 16, 2013

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Growing Japanese Morning Glories
By Audrey Stallsmith (Audrey)

I use the term Japanese morning glory somewhat loosely to refer to exotic varieties, usually Ipomoea nil cultivars, as opposed to the more common Ipomoea purpurea types . The blooms of Japanese morning glories are usually larger, but produced--in my climate at least--in much lower numbers than what purpurea can manage. Fortunately, we gardeners tend to have a weakness for difficult plants!

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Monday, April 29, 2013

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Lady's Slippers Slipping Away
By Audrey Stallsmith (Audrey)

Among the most exotic of wildflowers, pouched lady's slipper orchids are also now among the most rare wildflowers in some parts of the country. I don't recall ever seeing one here in western Pennsylvania. My dad remembers his older sisters sighting some when they were girls walking a wooded road home from school, but the only one of those "girls" still living today is in her 90s.

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Thursday, April 18, 2013

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Creating Your Own Rose
By Audrey Stallsmith (Audrey)

Do you love adding the latest roses to your garden at this time of year? If so, why not try creating a completely new one that is all your own? Just cross two existing roses and plant the seeds which result from that cross. Like you and your siblings, seedlings from the same parents will all be different, with some more attractive than others!

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Wednesday, March 27, 2013

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Smoke, Gibberellic Acid, and Ethylene: Strange Ways of Treating Your Seeds
By Audrey Stallsmith (Audrey)

These three substances sound nasty and the latter two somewhat chemical. They are all natural, however--as well as inexpensive--and can do wonders for your seed germination rates.

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Monday, March 18, 2013

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Rugged Roseroot: Staying Strong Between a Rock and a Hard Place
By Audrey Stallsmith (Audrey)

Although we all welcome the arrival of spring, the new season can bring new sneezin' as well--and not just from allergies! Change stresses our bodies, making us more vulnerable to viruses, especially if we try to hurry our winter-sluggish bags of bones into sudden gardening activity. That's when the herbs called adaptogens reportedly come in handy.

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Thursday, February 21, 2013

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The Paper Towel Method for Starting Seeds
By Audrey Stallsmith (Audrey)

For those of us who enjoy germinating "difficult" seeds, the paper towel method is almost a necessity. You can, after all, tuck a whole stack of damp paper towels into a small cardboard box at the back of your refrigerator. Your family, however, wouldn't appreciate you stashing flats of seed-starting mix back there instead--for months at a time!

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Monday, February 18, 2013

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Making the Most of Supermarket Bouquets
By Audrey Stallsmith (Audrey)

For much of the year, we gardeners don't need to purchase our bouquets. We can pick them, fresh and dewy, straight from the source. That allows us to sneer at the tired and tinted appearance of the blooms we pass at the supermarket. In January or February, however, when our gardens are buried in snow, even flowers with dye jobs begin to look good.

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Friday, January 25, 2013

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Uncommon Fruit Trees for Adventurous Gardeners
By Audrey Stallsmith (Audrey)

Many unusual fruits are misleadingly named after more common types. However, some of those exotic "imposters" are actually easier to grow than the better-known varieties -- and succulent enough to stand on their own merits! The first three listed here are only hardy in the warmer zones. Being small trees, however, they adapt well to containers.

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Thursday, January 17, 2013

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Why Is My Houseplant Suddenly Dying?
By Audrey Stallsmith (Audrey)

This article should probably be subtitled "The Ravages of Root Rot." That malady might be called the cancer of the plant world, as it is one of the most frequent killers. Like cancer, it often seems to strike suddenly, but actually festers in secret before it becomes obvious. It can leave many an overconscientious gardener asking, "Why is my plant so sick when I take such good care of it?"

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Friday, December 28, 2012

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How to Grow Mushrooms in Your Basement--on Purpose!
By Audrey Stallsmith (Audrey)

Granted, some of you get fungi in your basement without even trying, but growing the edible type can be a fun winter activity. Of course, sensible people usually order kits. But I've always believed that doing things yourself is much more fulfilling!

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Thursday, December 13, 2012

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Cups of Gold: The Chalice Vine
By Audrey Stallsmith (Audrey)

If you are searching for the grail of winter-blooming plants, Solandra is probably it. After all, there must be a reason they call it chalice vine! And its flowers are golden enough, in both color and size, to qualify. The "goblet" that just opened on my indoor plant measures 5 inches across, but those blooms can reach at least 8 inches in diameter when grown outdoors.

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Thursday, November 29, 2012

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Gesneriads: The Blooming-est Houseplants
By Audrey Stallsmith (Audrey)

I hate to admit that I wasn't originally very good at gesneriads--despite their reputation as some of the easiest plants on the planet to grow. Suffering under the delusion that all flowering plants needed lots of light, I frequently allowed the poor things to sunburn.

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Friday, November 9, 2012

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Spicing Up Your Houseplant Collection
By Audrey Stallsmith (Audrey)

The plants from which we get flavorings and spices have to rank among the most exotic, since they are the types for which expeditions were once launched and new worlds explored. Columbus actually stumbled across the Americas by accident, when they got in his way as he was seeking a new spice route to the East Indies! It wasn't until after Cortez invaded Mexico, however, that Europe "discovered" vanilla and chocolate.

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Tuesday, October 23, 2012

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The Pleasures and Perils of Forcing Bulbs
By Audrey Stallsmith (Audrey)

This is the month to pot up spring-flowering bulbs, if you want them to bloom indoors in winter instead. Keep in mind, however, that most bulbs need to be kept quite chilly for a period of three to four months to perform successfully.

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Friday, October 5, 2012

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Tropicals That Will Bloom in Winter
By Audrey Stallsmith (Audrey)

We northern gardeners long for flowers in winter. But there aren't, we discover, many plants which will bloom happily indoors when sunlight, humidity, and vitality are all running low.

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Friday, September 21, 2012

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Noteworthy Flowers from This Year's Garden
By Audrey Stallsmith (Audrey)

Some of the more unusual plants that bloomed in my garden this year were just new to me. A few, however, are new to the market too.

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Monday, September 10, 2012

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Stashing and Sorting Your Seeds
By Audrey Stallsmith (Audrey)

This is the time of year we all start harvesting or trading seeds for next year's garden. If you are as organizationally challenged as I am, the packets you accumulate could end up scattered all over your house before spring arrives.

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Monday, August 27, 2012

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Plant Rescue Two: Ten Little Survivors and How They Grew
By Audrey Stallsmith (Audrey)

Some of you may recall the frivolous article on marked-down Valentine's Day plants that I entered in the write-off earlier this year. Here's an update on the plants mentioned in that article, and a few more serious hints for helping your own discounted darlings survive.

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