Stunning Season Ending Arrangement

by Patrick Muir on December 8, 2014

As over 100 guests entered our front door to attend our annual Friends & Family Thanksgiving Dinner, they were greeted by the best and most dramatic flower arrangement of the season. I’d been waiting for things to slow down for our beloved Chaplain Leroy to help gather and arrange this beauty of a beast. My go-to vase is the Square Vase from Pottery Barn measuring 6″ X 6″ X 12″ that would make a great monogrammed gift for any gardener on your list for $69. Remember giving can always begin at home. The vase is lined with purple-stemmed ornamental kale leaves on all four sides under the water. The crabapples were harvested from the rootstock of an old apple tree on our grounds that had run amok because the suckers of the crabapple rootstock appearing below the bud union were never trimmed back. The whole affair is crowned by miscanthus stems. (Please click on the image to see this beauty full size)

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After I finished it and stepped back, it occurred to me the whole designed followed a very familiar. Recognize the Thriller/Filler/Spiller formula for containers? The Square Vase is perfectly designed to successfully repeat this formula for yourself. Give it a try and please share the results with all of us.

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Well the last daylily actually was a single freak of nature and bloomed here at Trinity Nursing & Rehab just about three weeks ago. Crazy, huh? I was given some great new hybrids but can’t get them in the ground with all the rain. So they are growing quite nicely in a 2′ X 5′ planter and am praying it will dry out soon or I’ll have to heavily mulch them in the planter and pray for a mild winter. But now is a good a time as any to reflect on this season and my plans for the future.

After spending over thirty five years in Kansas, I’ve come to rely on daylillies for high impact in the heat of summer. But it wasn’t until I visited the garden of Jock and Sandy Mitchell, who were fellow Johnson County Master Gardeners, that I saw their potential in design. They had a very unassuming front yard, but when you entered through the side gate, you were greeted by a mass of vivid color and invited to stroll through a path of charming flagstones surrounded by pebbles. And in the center was a multi-tiered water garden with lotus appearing as crowns above the water.

When I came to Trinity there was a weed-strewn iris bed, a very tired daylily bed and a large bed with exuberant ornamental grasses that were overwhelming some inter-planted daylillies. So in need of such help, who you gonna call? Well it wasn’t Bill Murray but rather… Jock and Sandy Mitchell!

6:28 Arbor Path Pre-shot 3

As you can see, the bed on the right has ye good olde orange ditch lilies ((the common name for the native wildflower) being swallowed by the grasses. But the bed to the left is covered in gorgeous blooms from from some great hybrids and some varieties Jock hybridizers for himself. What a multi-talented, Renaissance man.

But isn’t it time for some pretty pictures? Duh?

6:28 PJM w: daylily background

Oh, you were expecting the pretty pictures were going to focus on be the pretty flowers, not pretty boys like myself? But don’t the flowers in the background live up to the smile in the foreground? Well let’s talk a closer look at… Read more →

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Bumper Crop on Australian Heirloom Cucumber

by Patrick Muir on October 9, 2014

9:15 crystal apple bloom I blogged sometime ago about the Aussie heirloom Crystal Apple cucumber and happy to report I had my first taste in over 25 years since I’m growing my own here at Trinity. We have harvested a whopping 48 cucumbers (Updated 10/11 — now totaling 60) from one plant. You may recall I was in the hospital the month of may then struggled with cats using my 3′ X 5′ planted as a litter box but one plant in the corner made it with such stunning results. Will have the maintenance crew build a 2″ X 2″ frame with  chicken wire to fit the 2′ X 5′ box so I’ll finally outsmart those damn cats and will grown plants through it.

9:15 Crystal Apple Vine Can you believe this is one plant? This year I gave out to family, friends and the staff. There’s another box like this on the patio but only have of it gets full sun, so will put one in there and two in this planter. Can’t imagine how many cucumbers we will harvest and will give the bulk of the harvest to our kitchen for the enjoyment of some of our over 150 residents Will be very rewarding. Read more →

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Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day September

by Patrick Muir on September 22, 2014

Well it’s the middle of the month (give or take a few days), so it’s time for Garden Bloggers Bloom Day where bloggers around the world share snapshots of what’s blooming in their garden. Thanks to Carol at May Dreams Gardens for hosting what has become a venerable institution in the gardening blogosphere..

Well after one of the wettest and coolest summers, we’ve been rewarded with some beautiful lush plantings you wouldn’t expect in the heart of America. The top of mind example has to be the fuchsia found in two extra large baskets under the canopy at Trinity’s front entrance. The variety is one of the ‘Angel Earrings’ brand from Suntory which does position it as heat tolerant. Will be interesting to see how it will perform next year if we return to a blazing hot, prairie summer. IMG_2414 I can’t take total credit for these baskets as I purchased them from the folks at Family Tree Nursery, by far the premiere garden center in town. I’ve been going there since I came to America in 1978 — OMG just did the math– so that makes for a 36 year relationship. My marriage only lasted 1/3 of that time! I love to go out to their production greenhouses and see things as they progress. Will time my visit to see how jam packed these baskets must look shortly after being planted to create my own designs and will be sure to share with y’all. IMG_2024 Read more →

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My First Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day

by Patrick Muir on July 12, 2014

7:11 Mandevilla CloseupGarden Bloggers Bloom Day encourages all gardeners to show what is blooming in their garden on the 15th of each month and share with the gardening blogosphere. I’m sure if I could get out of my wheelchair and had two good arms, so I could hold a camera, it wouldn’t have taken almost five years of blogging to participate in my first GBBD. I forgot my old ad agency buddy Rick fancied photography so he’s graciously agreed to help with GBBD.  It’s also high time because I’m progressing past just windowboxes to bigger containers. We have two major patios here at Trinity off each major dining room but the majority of the extra pots are on the patio closer to me which is justified since most pots came from my former home garden or my Mum’s patio as she’s slowing down in her garden commitments.

The image below is taken from the back wall of the courtyard. As you can see, we’ve been very busy especially since I spent the whole month in of May in hospital, and only really got started in early June. I found the old birdbath tucked away behind bushes at Trinity and thought it’d make a cool planter, so I filled with rocks so the pots don’t get soaked with excess water. It’s going to be fun seeing this larger variegated plectranthus spill all over the sides.7:11 Full Pation from Birdbath

7:11 Light Post 1 Read more →

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pottingsoilIt was a still night around 10pm when my nurses aid at Trinity Nursing & Rehab walked out to the front entrance to find a ball of fire in one of my large planters under the front canopy. She started to put it out with a hose but was soon rescued by the Merriam Fire Department. The planter was a two feet wire basket I had fashioned into a standing cedar planter. To my horror the next morning, I saw the beginning of serious flame damage on the inside of the canopy entrance and significant burning on the cedar frame. The bare planter was next to a bench underneath the canopy.

We all quickly determined who was the probable resident that most likely would have put out her cigarette in the bare potting soil. The planters were lined with coco-fiber linings and I assumed that was the problem but turns out that potting soil itself is very flammable when dry. Why is dry potting soil so flammable? Well firstly there is no “soil” but rather it can include up to 65% shredded bark fiber and other ingredients including wood and peat moss. And the addition of time-release fertilizer in some leading brands acts as an oxidizer that makes any fire burn at a faster rate. To be clear, potting soil is shipped pre-moistened so all risks of the product begin once the bag is opened.

Two major fires in the Kansas City metro were blamed on potting soil fires in 2012. A fire in Olathe KS, caused $100,000 in damage and a house in North Kansas City MO, quickly went up in flames and was a total loss from a planter investigators believe had smoldered for four days. Overland Park Fire Education Specialist Tricia Roberts stresses small buckets of sand or water should be available to extinguish cigarette butts in outdoor areas with containers.          

 Tips For Responsible Use of Potting Soil]

  1. Do not store bags of opened potting soil in a garage or consider investing in large re-sealable tubs for left over material.
  1. Do not place planters directly next to benches or seats where smokers could be easily prone to extinguish their cigarette butts.
  1. Keep your planters well watered and maintained.
  1. Discuss the risks of potting soil fires when entertaining smokers before they first go outside to smoke near containers.
  1. Share the risks of potting soil fires at garden club meetings, within master gardener organizations or amongst gardening friends.
  1. Once the season is complete or if the planter is past its prime, clean out all containers of potting soil, so there are no pockets of opportunities for out-of-season fires.
  2. If you are a blogger or writer, please spread the word of this very important message. I’m sure it wouldn’t take much effort to contact your local fire department spokesperson to get local fires blamed on potting soil or damage statistics for your area to dramatically bring attention to the inherent danger. Please update me on your efforts. Smokey will be proud of you.

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First Daylily of the Season

by Patrick Muir on June 30, 2014

photo-5 Paula was a random visitor to my nursing home and she caught me outside ogling one of the first daylillies of the season. It’s a beautiful golden yellow and it’s a product of my good friend, Jock Mitchell’s hybridization program.

Paula was so kind as to whip out her iPhone but she warned me she didn’t know how to export pictures but that she’d work on it. Well thanks Paula for working it out so I could share with you all. I’m amazed sometimes of the high quality of images you can create on an iPhone. Thank you Mr Jobs! I like to bestow names on Jock’s creations, so what do you think of ‘Gentle Jock’? If the name fits…

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