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Ellen’s Blog

Pruning: “Crape Murder” or “Ugly Myrtle”?

Pruning: “Crape Murder” or “Ugly Myrtle”?

Although you may have heard the term “Crape Murder” used to describe the ruthless way many gardeners and landscapers prune their crape myrtles, the truth is that we rarely kill them with bad pruning practices - we just make them really UGLY. Crape myrtles bloom on new wood.  That much is true. The fallacy is that they must be topped, cut back or otherwise severely man-handled so that they produce more blooms.  This cannot be further from the truth.  In fact the fastest way to ruin the naturally elegant shape of a crape myrtle is to top it. My “Tonto” red crape myrtle has never...

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Green & Growin’ Show Jan 14th

For plant growers and nurseymen across the southeast, this week’s North Carolina Nursery & Landscape Association’s (NCNLA)  “Green & Growin’ Show” is the event of the year.  It starts at the Sheraton hotel with 3 days of educational classes and workshops which helps professionals keep their licenses and certifications. Afterwards there are 2 trade show days, Jan 14th (9am-5pm) and Jan 15th (9am-3pm), at the Greensboro Coliseum Special Events Center.  Although these events are geared toward the wholesale nursery industry, ANYONE can attend the Trade Show at the daily non-member...

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Seed Catalogs! What to order now?

Seed Catalogs! What to order now?

It is that time of year when seed catalogs start filling my mailbox.  When the weather drops to freezing outside and the rain is coming down, I sit inside with a hot cup of tea and comb through page after page of beautiful photos planning what to add to my garden come spring.  What?  No catalogs? You can find everything online now and I’ll tell you where to look. Of course I have tried-and-true favorite seeds, many of which I save every year from open pollinated plants, but I always have to try a few new things each year.  Here is what is arriving in my mail now: Benary’s Giant Zinnia...

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Creating a new garden – Zero to Gorgeous in 90 days

Creating a new garden – Zero to Gorgeous in 90 days

Sometimes it takes a new set of eyes to give you a fresh look at your landscape. It was a friend and gardener who pointed out an unattractive triangle of lawn near the house that I passed every time I drove in.  It led to my lovely “Zen” garden, a shady area I had groomed for years.  This non-irrigated, not-so-healthy lawn that baked to a dull tan in the summer, added no beauty. My friend suggested replacing lawn with some tough ground covers, but it was a big an area (50’ x 35’ on the longest sides) and ground covers alone could be as boring as grass.  But never the less, his suggestion...

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Five Easy Fruits for Every Home Garden

Five Easy Fruits for Every Home Garden

Having been raised by parents of European decent, it is impossible for me to imagine a garden that does not have fruit ripening every summer. I remember climbing our plum trees to eat loads of sweet ripe plums, and watching my brother’s young children dance through his tall berry patch with a fist full of warm blackberries in one hand, and blueberries in the other, so excited and happy, their smiles and clothes purple from the juice.  Refrigerated fruit, irradiated and neatly packaged from the grocery store is just not the same. Many different fruits grow well in our temperate climate – apples,...

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September Harvest

September Harvest

As many years as I have gardened, I never get over the joy of going out to the garden to see what grew, what ripened, and what I can harvest to bring inside.  Whether it is  beautiful flower or luscious tomato, I am still like a kid finding the chocolate Easter egg.  This was a beautiful July harvest from several years ago. This year I planted a few heirloom (open pollinated) tomatoes, but more hybrid tomatoes.  Regardless of taste, it is just impossible to beat the productivity of hybrid tomatoes.  My 8 tomato plants produced over 150 lbs of tomatoes.  I dried, canned and froze...

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2016 Gardening Classes

I am patting myself on the back today for posting my 2016 Gardening Class Schedule so early.  The truth is that I was feeling guilty about having received several requests (Thank you!) so I made it a top priority. In response to student feedback, the 2016 Course Schedule has changed a bit.  The new offerings should provide students more flexibility in their choice of classes - and give me more time for writing, and for at least one special overseas garden tour.  (Gardens are the best vacation destinations!) Courses #1 through #5 will be offered as a single “Gardening Essentials”...

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No-Fail Flowers to Grow from Seed

No-Fail Flowers to Grow from Seed

Remember the glorious spring season of pastels when it seemed like every tree and shrub was in bloom? Has your garden gone monochrome green for the summer?  With a few seeds and some good soil it is easy to make your summer garden as vibrant as HD TV and in full motion with bees, butterflies and hummers. Every spring I head out to the garden with rake and seed packs in hand. By the summer solstice, my garden has its summer bloom in full swing. Why not just head to your local nursery for some 6-packs of annuals?  One would think this would give you a definite head start, but here are some...

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Is your garden Bugging You?

Is your garden Bugging You?

It is June, the time of year when every kind of bug makes its way to my Summerfield, NC garden.  I have already seen big fat rust colored potato bugs with a brood of newly hatched babies, aphids on my hellebores, flea beetles on my eggplant, slugs on my hostas, cabbage worms on my kale and kohlrabi, and now the cucumber beetles and Japanese beetles have arrived! How do gardeners control these thugs without poisoning themselves or the bees and butterflies that are happily floating around the garden? The number one thing to understand is that bugs are your friends.  Most are beneficial to your...

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Gardeners’ 12-step Program

Gardeners’ 12-step Program

Honestly, April and May ZOOM by me every year.  There are so many spring garden events, seminars, plant sales, and tours – and of course the annual trek to Big Bloomer Flower Farm in Sanford, NC.  (Check my website for a calendar of  local NC Triad gardening events:   http://www.learntogarden.net/ellen-blog/garden-events/) But I cannot wait to get out to my own garden!  Every day there are new plants peeking their first leaves out of the ground.  Every day new blooms appear that I have not seen for a year.  This year I added a totally new garden. Yes, I know that last year I said I was “done”...

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