Reese

I used to live in the Mojave desert and as a gardener I learned this pretty quick: you can grow anything practically anytime out there with enough shade and water. Watch out for caliche - it's that hard white mineral in the ground. Remove it from your yard entirely when you encounter it.

I miss gardening down there really badly. I had fresh tomatoes in January!

But there are so many things that I find rewarding now as well.

  1. Buttercup and borage = weeds, need no special attention.
  2. Sunflower = easy to grow, but protect from slugs as they love it
  3. Poppy = scatter seed and leave, self seeds and comes back year after year
  4. Aster = boring all year then in autumn
  5. Snowdrop's and Crocus = Push bulb into ground, wait till January!
  6. Lavender = really hates to get wet feet, needs well drained soil in winter of it will die
  7. Thyme = great plant and excellent herb, nice flowers, start from seed and plant out when large enough
  8. Sage = Lovely evergreen, hardy perennial, makes gorgeous blue flowers in summer
  9. Fennel = Makes tall stalk with thousands of small yellow flowers. Self seeds easily.
  10. Geranium = grow from cuttings, protect from frost
  11. Calendula = easy to grow from seed, half hardy

Lavender really enjoys soil that is a bit sandier, better drainage to avoid those wet feet, and does very well if it can be planted by something that will radiate some heat back to it. Mine is right alongside my porch foundation, which is stone/concrete, so it holds the warmth from the sun and my lavender seems to love it! It even looks decent in winter.

Regardless, It loves heat and can take drought very well. I found some interesting facts on cals.arizona.edu regarding different types of lavenders, and it's from the University of Arizona. I hope it's helpful!

I recommend looking into if a particular type is more "native" or suggested for your area.

Reese
  1. Is it better for the plant if I prune off the flower stalk?
  2. Can I propagate from the cut flower stalks, or from any of the leaves growing off the flower stalk?
  3. Is there any way to harvest and grow seeds from the closed flowers?

I had an echeveria bloom last year and was able to propagate from the leaves along the stalk.

It truly does amaze me.

I have five leaves from the first plant I got and it died. The salvageable leaves look as healthy as the day I plucked them and only just this weekend one of them rooted so it was an exciting occasion. Been waiting months.

They grew pretty vigorously actually, until I let a frost get the best of them. I had another stalk that I tried to propagate directly from the stem which failed to root, but lasted a really long time without the parent plant attached.

I don't know if you can propagate from them, standard procedure is to prune them off with about a cm to an inch of stalk remaining. The plant doesn't care but it looks better.

Surprising how much energy is stored in those tiny leaves.

Reese

They really need your help. Your success depends on your part of the world as well, but I'd say that bees need the most help at the end of summer and early autumn, when they are scrambling for last minute pollen and nectar to store for winter--so do some asters if you can, and mountain mint.

They could also use some very early spring help, like crocuses...but planting enough of them could be a challenge since you'll need to plant those bulbs in sept/oct.

Just FYI, honeybees don't often do one-offs of random garden flowers. It's not worth their time. The hive will fixate on a large source and mob it until they've exhausted it. We're talking vacant lots full of asters or queen anne's lace. Or acres full of trees like tulip poplar.

So if you have any vacant lots near you, go fill them with wildflower seeds.

We had a nice large vacant lot next to us with tons of wildflowers.

Sadly, the lot has been excavated and there is now 6 new condo buildings, 2 more on the way. This has the bees scrambling for areas to live and get nectar from. I know my sunflowers and lavender may not help them out that much, but if everyone on my street were planting them then there would be hope.

I know this sounds silly... but you could drop an anonymous note in a few of your neighbor's mailboxes; especially people that have yards showing a bit of interest in gardening/landscaping, and have the note compliment their yard, acknowledge the work they've done, mention the vacant lot that previously had flowers feeding bees and politely encourage that, as a group of neighbors, everyone makes a small effort to provide a source of food for the bees.

Keep fighting the good fight.

And yes, if the bees have a whole street of flowers, that would help a lot. You may get the solitary bees, but honeybees (at least wild ones) will likely move away. That said, cities can work for honeybees due to all of the well-maintained landscaping.

My beekeeping friend said that some great honey was coming out of Washington DC because of the linden trees that have been planted.

Reese

Be careful what you buy - many of the wildflower packs are garbage and quite a few have flower types whose seeds require fire to germinate. Read the packs before you buy.

Many of these are great for beginners.

Sage and Thyme are super easy to grow-you can get a variety of thyme options from your nursery. Grow from plants rather than seeds to have them succeed earlier. I've never seen bees on my varieties though.

Lavender is a pain to germinate-I'd buy plants rather than seeds.

Find a wildflower mix native to your area! Cheapseeds.com has bulk seeds on the, well, cheap. As others have said, make sure they're beneficial and not invasive.

Black eyed Susans and anything in the mint family (including bee balm) will spread quickly.

I planted just regular spearmint and the bees go absolutely crazy for it.

One thing to look for would be plant descriptions like "self sows regularly" "spreads aggressively" "not recommended for small gardens" etc. as you'll get more bang for your buck. Honeybees definitely LOVE basil, which blooms all summer long. If you pluck the buds, the plants get bushier and grow more outward. If you don't pluck, they get taller. Either way you'll have more basil leaves than you know what to do with.

The flowers are actually quite pretty in my opinion. I grow some specifically to attract bees and plant them near my vegetables to encourage pollination of them. Not sure if it works, but I like the look of the basil flowers and I like providing the bees some pollen.

Zinnias are some of the easiest flowers to grow. Just get some seed packets, rough up the soil, and scatter the seeds in a sunny location after the last frost. Water from time to time, but they are pretty tough plants.

Borage grows like a weed in well-draining soil when planted from seed. Do not start indoors. It has a long long tap root and does better directly sown.

This is the biggest draw of bees to my garden. Bees love, borage.

Reese

Plants can fail for so many reasons. And since it depends on a lot of factors:

  • What the plants are.
  • Where you're located.
  • How old the plants are.
  • What's wrong with the soil, and how you're going to amend it.

With most ordinary perennial borders, with ordinary soil, it's sufficient to top dress once or twice a year with rich compost. If the soil isn't ordinary--heavy clay, pure sand, etc.--it should have been amended before the plants were put in, and then annual top dressing with compost is generally sufficient.

every plant outside of the tree is struggling worse than I have ever seen.

Are they competing with the tree?

Are they competing with heavy weeds, or with lawn grass next to the bed. You need to know whether you should water or rely on rainfall and what kind of soil you have, for example: clay or sand.

Reese

You may have heard that to keep flowers fresh you should keep them refrigerated. Do NOT put your bouquet in the fridge.

A refrigerator is the opposite of the commercial floral cooler, pulling moisture out instead of creating a humid environment. Make sure that the stems of the bouquet are in plenty of water and keep it in your coolest room.

Ask that your florist spray the flower crown with a protective flower spray such as "Crowning Glory".

Have something that the flower crown can sit on...around a vase, an upside down bowl, etc, so it is elevated and doesn't get flattened. Since there are no exposed stems, this can go in the front of the fridge. The back can be too cold and freeze/ruin the flowers.

Reese

Camellias are one of those hardy plants that make winter beautiful, since not much else wants to bloom. In fact, Camelia's are one of the few plants that can grow in the continental US that contain caffeine, the other(s) being in the Ilex, or Holly genus, most notable Ilex vomitoria, or Yaupon Holly, endemic to the Southeast US -- a close relative of Yerba Mate.

There are thousands of cultivars of Camelias, so it would be difficult to know which specific variety the one pictured is.

It probably doesn't smell, very few Camellias have a scent.

The alternate, obtuse leaves are leathery to waxy, usually dark green and serrulate (fine serrations). The petals are arranged in a rosette, the specimen here has a formal double form which hides the stamens and pistil.

I guess my family always had sturdy hybrids. They looked their best during snow (Southern US snow, if that counts) so we always had great flower cuttings for winter holidays. We have many Camellia bushes- close to a dozen. I have a pic of one beautiful blossom that I took while it was snowing this year! Great plants.

Traditionally, Camellias symbolised pure devotion, with the calyx seen as male protecting the 'female' petals. Rare in flowering plants, when the bloom is spent the calyx falls off with the petals - a botanical Romeo and Juliet.

Camellias are also said to mean "my destiny is in your hands". I've read someplace that in Japan you're not supposed to give this flower to someone, because the falling flowers symbolize death -- the falling head of a beheaded man/samurai. But I'm not sure how true that is (am not Japanese).

Reese

For some reason people tend to think pruning succulent stems is some sort of florist art. They ask, will the long flower stalks continue to grow with new leaves at some point, or would it better to trim them down?

If the flowers aren't as much of a concern, is it just an aesthetic choice?

You can do what you want!

I enjoy the flowers for a while and then cut the stalk off. I had one echeveria that kept sending up flower stalks, 4 total this season. I just cut the last one the other day because its December and the stalk was so big and heavy it was tilting the whole plant to the side.

In my experience, echeverias don't grow from the flower stalks.

I know some people have a lot of success propagating the leaves that grow on the flower stalk, though I don't know about the stalk itself. You can defiantly propagate the leaves from the stalk. I never let any leaves go to waste!