Monday, April 17, 2006

The Transplant Was a Failure

Well, it's official ... the shrub we transplanted by the mailbox is dead. We dug it up this weekend and replaced it with a cute little burning bush from Lowe's. Looking back, I see now why it died ... right after we transplanted it, a harsh cold front came through and brought freezing winds that whipped right through the poor thing for days. I'm sure it suffered severe shock from the winds since it was used to the shelter provided by its brother and sister shrubs. In retrospect, we should have covered it until it became better acclimated.

Along with the new shrub, we bought some daisies, a purple clematis and silver mountain something or other to adorn the mailbox area. I thought I was going to have to fight some lady at Lowe's for the yellow daisies, as she was giving me the serious creep eye while I was looking through them. When I finished, she swooped in to claim hers, nearly knocking me over to get to them. The clematis was pretty weak and mal-nourished, but for $5, I had to give it a shot. I am trying to train it to wrap around the mailbox, but I think I need to secure it somehow to get it started.

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Q: Just How Big is a Quart-Sized Knockout Rose?

A: Not very.

We ordered quart-sized roses instead of gallon-sized ones because of the price difference. The roses shipped in gallons are twice the price of the quart roses, and since this is my first year gardening, I didn't want to invest too much money in something I would probably kill. I have the best intentions, but I'm not so sure I have the natural talent for gardening, and although I know I will get better with practice, I didn't want to dump too much money down the gutter trying. Also, if we decide we don't like the look of the roses after a couple years, it won't be so gut-wrenching to tear them out and replace them, knowing we didn't spend all that much on them in the first place.

If you are contemplating purchasing quart-sized roses for your garden, consider these pictures of the ones I received. I should have put a ruler up next to them to gain perspective of their size, but the camera phone doesn't have the best focus. The plants are about 12 inches in height. Remember, some of them came with three or more branches, and some came with only one modest branch, so expect a little variety between plants.

Lowe's is offering nice-sized Knockout roses for somewhere around $20 per plant. Although the plants look healthy enough, their branches are pretty scraggly. One of the good things about ordering your roses smaller is that you can control what they will look like when they get larger with proper pruning and fertilization. By purchasing larger roses now, you will have to take the time and effort to mold them into the shape you desire. This can be more difficult with older plants since they have have more woody stems and are pretty much set in their ways. Also, younger plants are less likely to suffer root shock when being transplanted than older ones. So, there are other reasons for buying younger plants than just price.

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Rock Garden

For less than $30, we created a lovely little rock garden on the side of our deck this weekend. I have always admired the beauty of a natural looking rock garden, and hoped to create something that didn't seem too contrived. We bought succulents and herbs from Lowes, filled in the trench with light potting soil and assembled a collection of rocks we found around the yard.

My Mom always had hens and chicks in one of her flower beds, and I loved them as a kid, so I was sure to get a lot of those. They were overflowing in their little quart-sized containers and were so relieved to spread out in the lush soil. I popped a couple of them off to try and root them. I'm not sure if that's how it's supposed to be done, but that's how I'm doing it. I remember them reproducing very quickly when I was a kid.

This bluish-green plant is really pretty and feels neat to squeeze. I threw out the plant name tags, so the next time we go to Lowe's, I'll be sure to check on the names of all the plants we bought. Along with the succulents, we planted thyme, sweet basil, mint and greek oregano. I like to rub the herbs between my fingers to keep the scent with me throughout the day. Mmm ... spaghetti sauce ...

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Climbing Roses

Even with the Graham Blandy shrubs planted, the house seemed rather stark and rigid and needed some softening up, so I decided climbing roses behind each of the three upright shrubs would do the trick. I remember seeing bagged roses for cheap in early Spring, so we went on the hunt. I thought white or yellow climbers would complement the house nicely and not compete with the brilliant red blooms that would someday erupt from the Knockout roses. Light colors would also provide a nice background for the deep green of the Graham Blandy shrubs. We finally found some climbers at Home Depot on sale for only $2.50 each. I know I don't deserve for them to grow since they were so cheap, but they look really healthy and have sprouted new growth after only a day in the ground.

We purchased two Yello Casino climbers and one White Dawn climber. They have probably been sitting on the shelf at Home Depot for two months now, and I figured we would get them home to find their roots dried up and dead. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the packaging kept the roots moist but not water logged, and that they looked healthy! We planted them in the well-prepared bed according to the directions on the packaging, gave them a nice long drink, and this morning they had new growth shooting up already! I am very excited to watch them grow.

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Thursday, April 13, 2006

Refunds ... and Orders Filled

Springhill Nursery did credit my card today for the full amount of my purchase. The dried up sticks are still showing no signs of life, but I'm not surprised ...

Also, I received my Climbing Shell Plant from House of Wesley yesterday. It was packaged much better than the Patio Tree Rose, but after 8 days in a shipping contained, I'm surprised it is alive. I still won't order from them again, but this plant might be fun to watch grow.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

A Review of Online Gardening Retailers

Greenwood Nursery

We purchased 13 Knockout Roses, 5 Japanese Snowball Trees and 1 Nikko Blue Hydrangea from Greenwood Nursery this Spring. The plants were all packed very carefully and received in near perfect condition - it was quite an impressive packing job. One of the Knockout Roses suffered root damage from the journey, but the company is sending a replacement for free.

The Knockout Roses are a bit smaller than I expected, and vary in size from 5 inches to 12 inches, but they seem to be of quality stock and should even out soon enough. They were shipped in 1 quart containers. Several of the little bushes already have buds on them, and one of them is in bloom right now. It's a tiny little plant, but the bloom is beautiful. I hope they grow fast! The company also offers roses in 1 gallon containers, but they are significantly more expensive, and since this is my first season gardening, I didn't want to invest that much money into something I may kill.

The Japanese Snowball Trees were shipped bare root and tightly wrapped in soggy shredded newspaper to keep them moist. The trees stand about 3 feet tall and have seemingly healthy root systems. They have been planted for less than a week now, but I see no reason why they would not thrive.

The Nikko Blue Hydrangea was a lot smaller than I expected, but it is very healthy and vibrant. The leaves are firm and a beautiful bright green color. I noticed after three days of being planted in a large container though that the leaves were wilting and turning brown, so I dug it up and found that the roots were browning too. I called the Customer Service Department at Greenwood Nursery, and the agent told me to plant it in the ground, because these plants are not recommended for containers. After just one day of being in the ground, the plant has perked right back up!

The only complaint I have about Greenwood Nursery is that they do not provide enough information on how to plant and care for your newly planted items. I'm not sure when I can start fertilizing my roses, how much to water the plants or what plants can be placed in containers. I almost killed that poor little hydrangea due to ignorance. It would be nice if their website contained more comprehensive information on things like this. It would also be beneficial if their boxes were stamped "fragile". They do such a great job packing things, but the UPS man playing "Kick The Cheat" could still harm the fragile contents.

I will certainly be ordering from Greenwood Nursery again in the future, and they are at the top of my recommendation list for online gardening retailers, unless of course all my plants die.

Park's Seeds

I ordered two packs of Sundial Tropical Fruit portulaca from Park's Seeds this Spring. The seeds were shipped promptly and arrived as expected. I have not sowed the seeds yet, but I am happy with my purchase so far. The seeds also shipped with simple instructions on how to sow indoors and outdoors.

Park's Seeds stocks some very unusual and exciting seeds that are not available in stores. I will order from them again in the future.

House of Wesley

Despite warnings to the contrary, I ordered a Patio Tree Rose and Climbing Shell Plant from House of Wesley. The rose arrived 6 weeks after ordering, shipped in a thin plastic bag with absolutely no padding or moisture control. Many of the branches and roots were broken off in shipment due to the poor packing. I was very saddened to have to clip it back, but the branches could not be saved. The resulting plant was very sparse and unbalanced. I had no hope for it. I planted it in a large container and wished it the best. After only a couple days of being planted, the rose started to sprout buds. I have been watering it regularly and giving it plenty of sunshine, and it seems to be doing great. The broken branches have not started to regrow, but I'm not sure how long that takes since this is my first tree rose.

The Climbing Shell plant was not included in my first order. The packing slip indicated that this was the first of two shipments, but that was several weeks ago. I will call them to inquire about the second shipment some time soon.

Although the rose does appear to be growing, I will not order from House of Wesley again. Their poor packing is just unacceptable, and they charged my credit card 4 weeks before they actually shipped the item.

Springhill Nursery

Our catalog from Springhill Nursery arrived with a $25 Gift Coupon - No strings attached! We leafed through it and found some beautiful Purple Wintercreeper groundcover that would look great at the bottom of the front yard where clover and weeds are trying to take over. We ordered 40 plants for $57.99 minus the $25 Gift Coupon. It seemed like a good deal!

We expected the plants to be comparable to the small containers of ground cover offered by Lowes and Home Depot for $1.50 a pot. We didn't expect much, but what we received was so far below our lowest expectations that it actually became funny. We received 40 dried up 4" sticks in baggies. Some of the sticks didn't have roots or leaves, and we had no idea what end was supposed to be planted. The instructions were to plant the shriveled up sticks 2-3 feet apart. We laughed trying to imagine what our front yard would look like with these sticks poking up every 2-3 feet. It would take 3 years to even notice there was anything there!

Needless to say, I called and complained. The agent told me that she would credit my card for the full amount and to just throw the plants out. My card has yet to be credited, but I will give them a couple more days to get things straigtened out before calling again. We did plant the sticks in some containers just for kicks. I can't imagine them actually growing, but we'll see what happens.

I will never order from this company again. I don't care if there is a $100 Gift Coupon attached to my next catalog.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Graham Blandy - Not so Bland ...

Ian brought the Graham Blandy shrubs safely back from Laurel Springs, and I think the trip was well worth it. We cultivated the bed and enriched it with manure, peat and top soil and finally got the shrubs planted. Lining them up was a real chore. They are currently around 6 feet tall and will grow to be 10-12 feet tall at the rate of 1 foot per year. They won't get much wider though. I think they're the perfect shrub for the job, and they're also quite unique, as I have not seen anything like them around here. The picture isn't so great, because it was taken with a camera phone and there are some pretty hard shadows obstructing the view.

The Knockout Roses are shipping this week, so the fun in the front yard is almost over ... thank goodness.

We're not sure what to do about the hose in the right flower bed. It's really an eye sore.

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Daffodils in Bloom

The Daffodils bloomed in a unified explosion of gold on Saturday. They were so beautiful, so perfect, but just for a day. Sunday brought heavy rain and wind that tattered their soft petals and drowned the lower-growing flowers. Most of them are still very pretty, but I wish I could have enjoyed their perfection for just another day.

The tulips are just starting to bloom too. We currently have three purple tulips poking their little heads out. We purchased a mixed lot of bulbs, and I am curious to see if they bloom according to color.