Road Kill Is Organic, Poison Oak Is Botanic

August 2007
Gardening Forever

Ah, summer, what power you have to make us suffer and like it. – Russel Baker

Rest Stop

Find a shady, restful spot for a reading chair or a peaceful garden bench in your yard. You can make a garden bench yourself or spend a fortune on an artfully designed concrete, teak or wrought iron bench. A really nice garden bench is something you can put on your wish list for a birthday or anniversary. My neighbors’ children went in together to purchase a garden bench for their parents’ anniversary. The bench has a little brass engraved tag commemorating their wedding date.

Regardless of how you come by the bench, get one. It can serve as a garden highlight or a simple oasis in the shade. Everyone needs a place in the shade to enjoy the fruits of their labor, listen to the birds, and enjoy a tall, cool drink. Consider an attractive, sturdy garden bench as your garden’s best perennial asset. Now is a good time to shop for one. Make sure the bench is stable and placed on solid, ground. Make benches and chairs a bit of peaceful and restful garden art.

As I was digging up a new space for a garden, I came across some huge limestone squares that must have been foundation stones at one time. The limestone blocks were big enough to make into a stone garden bench.
The stone bench is surrounded with recycled pavers and stepping stones and, I’m planting some hardy herbs, creeping thyme varieties, between the pavers. The thyme is a ground cover that can withstand some light traffic. The thyme came from an over crowded herb garden. I paid a strong young college student to remove the stones from my new garden area and set up the bench. The overgrown plants from the herb garden and the recycled pavers were free.

Well, except for the rumbling and grumbling from Jules as he paid the college student for his manual labor. I’m thrilled to have the “new” garden bench, made from native stone that serves yet another generation in this old house. Asked what he thinks of the bench, Jules mumbled, “lot of work.” He could have been thinking of the original stone carvers, or the young man that did the heavy moving for us. Or his own daily bench testing regimen. Find a shady spot for your own good sturdy bench. A bench is one of the best things you’ll ever put in your garden. If you need a bench tester, I’ll loan you mine. He’s a jewel.

Robber Weeds

Once weeds get a foothold in the vegetable or flower garden, it makes a lot of work for you and robs your plants of water and nutrients. I don’t believe there is such a thing as a totally weed free garden. Still, I don’t have many weeds this year.

These four steps work for me:1) Don’t till. Minimize soil disturbance so dormant weed seeds stay dormant and without light and air; 2) Choose permanent paths for walking and permanent areas for planting to avoid soil compaction and the need for tilling; 3) Keep a layer of organic mulch on all soil to prevent weed seeds from germinating as they blow in or are dropped into the garden by birds; 4) Use drip irrigation to water, I use a soaker hose to avoid promoting weed growth in paths and between widely spaced plants.

Road Kill Is Organic
Poison Oak Is Botanic

Botanical means “of or relating to plants.” Crabgrass and poison ivy are botanical. That a product is botanical is a trendy selling point. It only means that the product contains some plant matter.
Organic means that the product has plant and/or animal matter. All botanicals are organic. Not all organics are botanical. It’s not necessarily a good thing if something contains a botanical substance. Botanicals can be found in some shampoos and most salad bowls.

My husband Jules, the botanist, reminds me that botanicals are not always a good thing. He cites okra as an example. I think okra is a good thing. Our marriage, and this perennial okra discussion, is an annual event. Annuals and perennials are both blooming in my garden.

Annuals are plants that you plant annually, or every year. Zinnias and Bachelor Buttons are examples of seeds or plants that you plant every year. They grow and bloom for one year, usually dying with the first frost. Perennials are plants that come back year after year; the old faithfuls of the garden.

Kansas City’s Plant Wizard

Jack Roberson breeds award winning plants, perennials and shrubs. Though he is most recognized as the creator of American Day lily ‘Blackeyed Stella,’ Jack’s recent horticulture venture is breeding boxwood. “Good choices for boxwood borders are Green Mountain (Buxus ‘Green Mountain’), Green Velvet (Buxus ‘Green Velvet’) and Wintergreen (Buxus microphylla ‘Wintergreen)’, all are very cold hardy and good choices for hedges in zone 5 or 6.”
“Another good choice for small gardens is ‘Morris Midget’
(Buxus microphylla var. japonica ‘Morris Midget,’) because it is a compact, low-growing mound. Like most boxwood, it will tolerate full sun or part shade”

“This is paramount,” Jack pauses for effect, “Boxwood can not live with wet feet.” Buxus are susceptible to too much water in the summer and in the winter. Planting in low-lying areas, or under a down spout, even in the hottest part of the country, is a bad idea. Jack uses cottonseed meal* to fertilize his boxwood gardens. Cottonseed meal is a natural slow release fertilizer.

Jo and Jack Roberson, owners of Gardens of Glory in Grain Valley, MO, are also stirring up the attention of gardeners, plant breeders, and growers with Patriot™ Lantanas. Sun-fast, heat-tolerant, lantanas attract butterflies and hummingbirds all summer.

You can find lantanas is a variety to suit most any garden. Choose from weeping, mounding, semi-weeping, semi-compact, and compact mounding forms, with a color assortment from dove white to brilliant red-orange to hot pink. I have the “Patriot” tm ‘Weeper’ Popcorn lantana, which is yellow and white – yes, just like popcorn. Several visitors have commented on the lacy-leaved lantana. Popcorn is the attention grabber in my mixed variety plant containers. Patriot™ Lantanas are available from top growers nationwide. For a listing of all the new varieties go to: . Seek these plants out, lantanas can take the Kansas and Missouri hot dry summers.

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