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  • Upcoming Garden Events

    Sept. 30: The Nashville Herb Society presents Through the Garden Gate: A Glimpse of Edwardian England, 8 a.m. – 3 p.m. at Cheekwood Botanic Hall. Celebrate the gardens, foods and flowers that delighted Downton Abby family and friends at the turn of the 20th century. The event begins with a hearty Edwardian breakfast, followed by three speakers: Marta McDowell on Beatrix Potter’s Gardening Life; Geraldine A. Laufer on Tussie Mussie – Victorian art of expressing yourself in the language of flowers; and Terry White, The English Garden event florist . Registration includes breakfast, box lunch in the garden with music, English tea and cookies. To learn more or to register, visit www.herbsocietynashvlle.org.

    Tips & tasks – September

    Cut the dead tops of coneflowers, but leave enough for goldfinches to enjoy the seeds.

    Plant cool-weather vegetables for a fall crop: spinach, mustard and turnip greens, radishes, leaf lettuce.

    Start a new lawn of cool-season grass, such as fescue, or refurbish or repair establish lawns.

    Don’t let the soil of newly planted grass dry out. New grass needs about an inch of water per week.

    It’s still warm, so continue to water and weed garden beds as needed.

    Remove dead foliage, spent flowers and other garden debris; replenish mulch as needed.

    Continue to harvest produce, which may be getting a boost now from slightly cooler weather. Keep watering sage, rosemary and other perennial herbs so they’ll be in good shape to get through winter.

    Prepare to bring houseplants back indoors: remove dead leaves, scrub soil from the sides of the pots, treat for insects. Bring tropical plants in before nighttime temperatures dip to 55 degrees.

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Stem cuttings: A good way to share your garden

I have a hibiscus plant growing in my yard. I don’t remember planting it, but one neighbor is fascinated by the blooms and has asked me to give her a cutting from the plant. What’s the best way to do that? – A.J.

Rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus) photo by David Wagner.

There are many types of hibiscus, ranging from the tropical Hibiscus rosa-sinensis, which can grow  to the size of a small tree but must be kept indoors in winter in this zone, to H. syriacus, the old-fashioned rose of Sharon or shrub althaea, which is unfussy about soil and weather and is easy  to grow, and often pops up unexpectedly from dropped seeds.

It looks like any of them can be propagated from stem cuttings, so here are general guidelines for taking cuttings of woody ornamentals (such as hibiscus) and growing them into new plants:

Cut lengths of softwood (soft, succulent new growth) or semi-hardwood (partially mature wood of the current season’s growth) about six inches long from a healthy host plant. Remove the bottom leaves, and dip the cut ends in rooting hormone powder. Stick the cut ends about one-third their length into a rooting medium that drains well, such as perlite or vermiculite. Cover the cuttings with some sort of plastic covering to maintain a humid environment, and place them in indirect light.

Keep the rooting medium moist until roots develop. It will likely take several weeks, but you’ll know the cuttings have grown roots when you tug gently on the cuttings and feel resistance. Transplant them into containers to allow them to grow to a larger size before you plant them in the garden.

 Aloe: Easy on the water

QUESTION: I have an aloe plant that seems to be dying, even though I water it once a week. Does it need to be watered more often?

No. Absolutely not. In fact, if you are watering your aloe plant every week, you are watering it too much. While the soil shouldn’t stay bone dry for many weeks at a time, it’s enough to water an aloe plant every two or three weeks in summer, and even less in winter.

Aloe barbadensis (or A. vera) is a succulent, easy to grow and readily available, and it’s true what they say about the ability of the sap to relieve minor burns. Split open a leaf and place it on the burn to alleviate the pain.

Besides a little water every now and then, here’s what else aloe needs to stay healthy: loose soil (add a little sand to potting soil for better drainage), bright light in a sunny window, especially in winter. In
summer, aloe can stay outdoors, but be sure to bring it in before temperatures fall. It appreciates a light dose of balanced houseplant fertilizer every month or so in spring and summer, but don’t fertilize at all in winter.

An update on something awesome: Click over to Turning Toward the Sun to see pictures of the abundant raised beds at a school’s new outdoor classroom.

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