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 1Now for a closer look around the planters, as you enter the patio or look from inside the main dining room garden, you’re greeted by a stunning, standard oleander (a standard just means the lower branches have been removed to create a pleasing top). They bring back memories as we had several in our Sydney garden and my in grandmother’s garden on the edge of the Outback.But my lasting memory is tragic because I thought my little turtle needed some greenery in his tank, so I included a small sprig of branch and … killed him… because they’re so poisonous. But I still love them.

The lamp post isn’t a functioning one and I recently found out it was added to prevent people hitting their head on the edge of the hard metal and canvas awning on the dining room window. Now that’s smart designing. Don’t you think? At the base of the oleander, you can’t see three dark purple alternanthera creating a stage for an ultra-lush creeping jenny. And to the left is a hybrid sanseveria, or mother-in-law’s tongue, that I’ve quite smitten with right now. 7:11 Oleander Lamp Post 2   7:11 Senorita Bianca

A hallmark of a refined British gardener back in the day was to include an all white garden (Check out Sissinghurst Castle). As white tends to be the weakest of the varieties (think albinos), only the best gardener could manage a garden of all white (Or more accurately, only the best employee manager could sustain such a garden). So in my own humble way, this is my salute to Sissinghurst featuring ‘Señorita Bianca’ cleome flanked by some lush scaveols and a couple of dichondra ‘Silver Falls’ for additional texture in this monochromatic presentation. 7:11 Fountaingrass Stand with pots  

Can’t wait to see the drama fulfilled in this corner of the patio. The center planter is a two-foot wide basket from the Kinsman Company I had fashioned into this stylish planter. The center is the ubiquitous purple fountain grass but rarely is it given such a high profile presentation and should look smashing against the burgundy awning. It’s surrounded by the Scaveola White and ‘Lemon Gem’ lantana. The two shorter varieties of sanserveria in the glazed planters will join the taller one by the lamp post in my low-light room at the end of the season. 7:11 Senorita Rosalita

The Cleome Señorita Bianca’s sister Señorita Rosalita’s feathery foliage makes a nice foil to the big, bold coloring of these huge Kong coleus. One of the keys to the Señorita series is the fact they are sterile and don’t waste a lot of energy producing all those long seedpods that give cleome its nickname of spider flower. Will be interesting to see if I can bridle the coleus back so as to not overwhelm the cleome. Have been able to do so in my windowboxes. Big disappointment here is a whimsy white lantana that will be shaded over soon enough. The other white/cream lantana I’m growingly in this position.

Well it was too early in the morning for the portulaca ‘Pazazz’ to put on its show but you get the feeling. I want to do my best to ensure the ornamental pepper ‘Purple Flash’ doesn’t get overwhelmed by the gold lantana because the gold flowers with the shiny purple peppers are quite special. 7:11 Yellow Lantana Portulaca

I’m not a real fan of pink flowers (I think it’s the alpha male in me — big HA HA) so I’ve never felt the attraction of the pink mandevilla vine that was the only option for so many years. But now Sun Parasol Giant Crimson has exploded in growth fueled by phenomenal performance in field trials including our local Prairie Star Trials.  In a brilliant marketing move, I was able to pick up a large pot with both Giant Crimson and the white on quite an impressive 2′ trellis. Such an impressive specimen I felt I was cheating somehow. But I had our maintenance guy Paul string three lines of thick aware along our already impressive black patio railing. He’s being very diligent in using pull ties to encourage the vines to meander along the wires and railings. I’ve also challenged him to guide the vines to create a dynamic mix of both red and white on each side. Will be interesting to see how far it proceeds along the railing by end of season.

7:11 Mandevilla on Fence 27:11 Mandevilla on Fence7:11 Mandevilla Closeup Well the tools are in place to do GBBD each month. Only overlook this time is I accidentally hit the publish button before the 15th. Sometimes I do a little fumbling when I’m typing with one arm. Will work on that for next month. I really feel I’ve accomplished something cool here. Thanks so much, Rick . Aint nothing stopping me now, friends!


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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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Ultra-Thriller Plants Worthy of Michael Jackson!

by Patrick Muir on April 16, 2014


That this is thriller, thriller night

‘Cause I can thrill you more than any other ghoul would ever dare try

Thriller, thriller night

So let me hold you tight and share a killer, diller, chiller, thriller here tonight.

Michael Jackson, Thriller 1982

Most gardeners are aware of the simple formula to create the perfect container. Thrillers, fillers and spillers is the often repeated mantra.  The thriller is the big, bold, headlining plant often found in the center. Fillers are the complementary plants to the thriller that fill out the center of the pot. And finally spillers just tumble out of the pot and help to marry the combination to the suitable container.

But I believe there are some thrillers that are so dramatic they have no need for fillers and are best complemented with only spillers. I have bestowed upon this subset of thrillers its own moniker: the ultra-thrillers. As the name implies, an ultra-thriller plant deserves a large pot for water retention on long, hot days. If you had a greenhouse you could over winter some of these your ultra-thrilling selections. But in my book, treating them as an expensive annual can be justified based on the high-impact drama they’ll deliver through the first killer frost, which if we’re lucky holds off until October. Read more →


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383-Year Old Endicott Pear Tree — Still Going Strong

by Patrick Muir on March 19, 2014

It’s almost that time of year when orchards will be graced with millions of simple white flowers covered in bees. Well, I have a tale worthy of the indomitable pear tree. Shortly after the first Europeans landed at ye Plymouth Rock in 1620, a Pilgrim named John Endicott was appointed as the first governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1629. His instructions were to establish a welcoming setting for new arrivals. As part of his “Welcome to the Neighborhood Beautification Program” (my less than official title) he planted a young pear sapling. There is a good possibility the tree came to Massachusetts from England on the ship Arbella in 1630. In the presence of his children, the venerable Governor declared  “I hope the tree will love the soil of the New World and no doubt when we have gone will still be alive.” Oh, my learned brothers and sisters, was he selling that tree short.

Already over 170 years old, the Reverend William Bentley delivered some of the pears harvested from the tree in 1809 to one of my favorite leaders of history at the time, President John Adams, as documented in a letter of appreciation from the man himself. Bentley, perchance teetering on the verge of obsession on ye olde tree, arranged to have twigs sent to the less than photogenic Mr.Adams. (One would certainly prefer a portrait of General Washington or Mr. Jefferson, but I superficially, digress again.) We know ye twigs took root cited by a letter from Mr. Adams in 1815 sharing “The hurricane of yesterday has covered the ground around me in pears.” Read more →


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Perils of A Quadriplegic Gardener (Part 3)

by Patrick Muir on February 1, 2014

patricks flowersI don’t like to dwell on my challenges since being paralyzed 12 years ago. But the last year has been fraught with many such hurdles (love the irony of a paralyzed man jumping hurdles) and reflecting on them at this time gives me strength that I can accomplish anything, of course, through He who strengthens me.

At the end of last year, I had a bowel obstruction with sepsis and was out of it for 18 hours. Shawnee Mission Hospital protocol is to turn a person with wounds on their butt every two hours by propping you up on pillows on one side and then the other to avoid pressure wounds. At some point I was set up on pillows but I don’t believe I was turned because I went in with barely a wound and left with three on my butt as well as one on my elbow where it had rubbed against a railing. SMH has never done me wrong before but did they make up for it this time? One wound went so deep I spent a lot of time on IV meds fighting a bone infection and finally the left hip was taken out this past December.  After lodging a formal complaint with the patient advocate, insult to injury occurred when they responded “SMH had followed all necessary protocols” Read more →


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Ten Gifts for the Discriminating Gardener 2013

by Patrick Muir on December 14, 2013

A gardener goes through withdrawal as winter sets in but a well-chosen gardening gift can help regain their passion until the catalogs arrive.. So once again, it’s been a distinct pleasure to gather candidates throughout the year and select ten for your careful consideration. According to Florence Rodale in this year’s June/July issue of Organic Gardening, the Diamond Hoe ($76.75) is “an amazing tool made by Sneeboer, which cuts my weeding time in half”. This beautiful-to-behold Dutch import of hand-forged stainless steel has sharpened blades on all four sides.

Diamond_Hoe_by_Sneeboer_1s__38072.1336862696.1280.1280 Read more →


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