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Connecticut Garden Journal

Redbud.
Jeff Hart (Flickr) / Creative Commons

There's nothing like a dwarf flowering tree in your yard. While shade trees are beautiful, they take years to get established. But dwarf flowering trees are instant eye candy. They bloom each year, not growing too large and unruly.

Basil
Yamanaka Tamaki (Flickr) / Creative Commons

There's nothing better than having fresh herbs at your fingertips when cooking your favorite recipes. Our tomato sauces always taste better in summer when we can add fresh basil, oregano, and parsley to the mix. But you don't have to have a large herb garden to have fresh herbs. Many herbs grow well in containers on a deck, balcony or patio. This is great because you don't have to venture far to harvest the leaves.

Nate Steiner (Flickr) / Creative Commons

Broccoli has taken a long road to get to our tables. It's descended from wild cabbages. For over 2000 years, Italian and Greek farmers have carefully selected varieties to produce the current version of the vegetable many love.

Maja Dumat (Creative Commons) / Wikimedia

While green carnations are all the rage on St. Patrick’s Day, I would rather give a shamrock plant to a loved one. Oxalis, or the shamrock plant, can be an invasive weed in warm climates, a sour-tasting ground cover in cold climates or a cute houseplant. I want to focus on the houseplant versions.

Elderberries.
Andy Rogers (Flickr) / Creative Commons

Native shrubs are great in the landscape to attract birds, bees and butterflies. It also helps when they're beautiful and produce edible fruits. That's why I like elderberries.

Hydrangeas.
Memphis CVB (Flickr) / Creative Commons

Late winter is the time to prune some trees and shrubs. One shrub that perplexes many gardeners is the hydrangea. With many different types of hydrangeas available that bloom and grow differently, it's easy to get confused about when and how to prune. Let me give you some tips on pruning three common types of hydrangeas.

woodleywonderworks (Flickr) / Creative Commons

Happy Valentine's Day. If you haven't made plans for the big day yet, perhaps try a different gift, such as a hot pepper plant? After all, it does have red fruits and may spice up the evening for you.

Cyclamen
Hornbeam Arts (Flickr) / Creative Commons

This Valentine’s Day, don't just give roses to your paramore, give the flower of lasting love. Cyclamens are great gifts because they can grow indoors as houseplants or outdoors a shade-loving ground cover. And like your love, they'll last for years if taken care of properly.

Susy Morris (Flickr) / Creative Commons

I used to place onions in the same category as potatoes when it comes to growing them in our garden. It's so easy to buy fresh onions in markets and grocery stores, why bother growing them?

Clivia.
Peter Miller (Flickr) / Creative Commons

When I first saw the houseplant clivia, I thought it was an amaryllis. It has the same, dark green, strap-like leaves and is also from South Africa. It was brought to England in the 1800s by plant explorer James Bowie. He cultivated plants in Lady Clive’s conservatory in London, hence the common name.

What seeds are you going to plant this year?
kt.ries (Flickr) / Creative Commons

January is peruse the vegetable seed catalog month. First, I take an inventory of my leftover seed and decide what I can use again this year. When in doubt, I do a seed germination test. If less than 80 percent of the seed sample germinates, I buy fresh seed. 

African violet.
Peter Miller (Flickr) / Creative Commons

This common houseplant is native to the lush mountains of Kenya and Tanzania. It was brought to Europe in the 1800s. In the early 1920s, a Los Angeles-based nursery grew thousands of seedlings and selected the 10 best for use in breeding. It's from these plants that we have many of the modern day African violet varieties.

What's your gardening resolution?
woodleywonderworks (Flickr) / Creative Commons

With every New Year comes a bushel of resolutions. Whether it be eating better, exercising more, or spending more time with a loved one, we've all made resolutions. Gardeners are not exempt. Let me suggest a few New Year's gardening resolutions.

So you got an amaryllis bulb for Christmas. What now?
Adam Hilliker (Flickr) / Creative Commons

If you love flowers, chances are you received a few plants as gifts this year. If you're a little unsure of what to do now, follow my tips.

Evergreen wreaths are popular, but you don't have to limit yourself to this traditional look.
Cornelia Kopp (Flickr) / Creative Commons

Christmas wreaths are a welcoming sign of the holidays and making your own holiday wreath can be a good family holiday activity, even after Christmas. Many wreaths look good all winter long. 

houroumono (Flickr) / Creative Commons

If you want to add some fragrant, holiday flowers to your home, grow paperwhite narcissus. Paperwhites are small, flowered daffodils and feature fragrant flowers. The beauty of paperwhites is they're easy to force into bloom indoors this time of year. Simply pot them up and they'll be in bloom three to four weeks later.

That Christmas cactus may not be a Christmas cactus.
adogcalledstray (Flickr) / Creative Commons

Some plant names are confusing. Take Christmas cactus. This plant can flower anytime between November and April. The reason is most Christmas cactus can have Thanksgiving cactus or Easter cactus genes, but are forced into bloom at Christmas time by growers.

Amaryllis
Jennifer C. (Flickr) / Creative Commons

No flower says the holidays like amaryllis. This bulb hails from South African and South America. It's a spring bloomer in its native range, but through hybridization and marketing mostly by the Dutch, amaryllis has been made into a favorite flower for Christmas time.

Shagbark hickory nuts.
Dan Mullen (Flickr) / Creative Commons

Happy Thanksgiving. One Thanksgiving food I'll always remember when growing up is nuts. I can see my dad there, cracking away on the walnuts, hazelnuts, pecans, and other assorted nuts before dinner. For some reason, Thanksgiving was a special nut eating time for him.

Penn State (Flickr) / Creative Commons

Shiitake mushrooms are all the rage in kitchen, teas, and medicinal preparations. It seems not only are they good for you, they're tasty too. But one drawback of shiitake mushrooms is they can be expensive. So, grow your own. It's not as hard as you think.

Aloe.
Brandon Giesbrecht (Creative Commons) / Flickr

Succulents are popular container and garden plants. Some, such as Hens and Chicks, are hardy in our climate and make excellent rock garden plants. If you go into a garden center, however, you'll often see succulents sold as houseplants. These aren't necessarily hardy as outdoor plants in our area, but can survive indoors, with the right care.

If you take the right steps now, you could have gladiolus that look like this next year.
Allan (Flickr) / Creative Commons

Halloween has passed, frost has come and now it's time to get your garden ready for winter. One chore that needs to be done soon is digging and storing your summer flowering bulbs.

Monkshood.
Lotus Johnson (Flickr) / Creative Commons

Common names for plants can be misleading, such as Jerusalem artichoke has nothing to do with that city or artichokes. But some can be right on, such as Aconitum or monkshood. Monkshood's flower shape resembles a helmet or a hooded cloak of a monk. It's also called wolfsbane for its ability to ward off werewolves, but that's another story.

Brian Jackson (Flickr) / Creative Commons

It's almost Halloween and lots of families are buying pumpkins for carving and decorating. It's fun to carve all types and colors of pumpkins from the small pie pumpkins to large field pumpkins.

Nestor T. (Flickr) / Creative Commons

While fall is a time of garden cleanup and planting bulbs and garlic, it's also a perfect time to test your soil.

jen (Flickr) / Creative Commons

Many gardeners like to bring their houseplants out onto a deck, balcony, or patio in summer for a little rejuvenation. It's good for houseplants to get some fresh air, bright indirect light, and natural watering in summer.

If you want colorful tulips and other flowers next spring, consider planting bulbs this fall.
Thomas Hackl (Flickr) / Creative Commons

It's almost October, and time to plants some bulbs. Many gardeners plant tulips, daffodils, crocus, and hyacinths each fall. But some gardeners don't have the space or are tired of dealing with critters digging up or eating their bulbs. One solution is to plant bulbs in a pot.

Emily Carlin (Flickr) / Creative Commons

One of my fall traditions with my mom is to visit Roger's Orchard in Southington for apples. She's too old to pick apples, but it's still fun walking around the farm stand looking at the different heirloom varieties.

Tony Hisgett (Flickr) / Creative Commons

It takes just one look outside to know what time of year it is. The goldenrod, Queen Anne's lace, and asters are blooming, so it must be late summer moving into fall.

Kopper King hibiscus
K M (Flickr) / Creative Commons

When I say hibiscus, most gardener's think of the shrubby plant we see outdoors in warmer climes like Florida, or ones we see at garden centers. This shrub is beautiful, but isn't hardy in our area. But another hibiscus is and it's showing off right now.

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