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John Wayne`s --- God Bless America
John Wayne`s 
 God Bless America
The Paul Parent Garden Club, next trip is to Cuba

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Oregon Grape Holly

Many years ago, when I attended The Stockbridge School of Agriculture at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, Massachusetts, I ran into a wonderful shrub that you should have in your shade garden. The plant is called the Oregon grape holly (Mahonia aquifolium) and yes, it has sharp thorny leaves, but that is only one reason of many that I will never forget the plant.

My plant identification teacher asked us to look over the campus to find a plant we had never seen before and bring back a leaf, flower, or berry, so we could discuss the plants. Several of us decided to check out the Dean's house at the top of the hill high above everything on campus, the highest point on campus. The driveway was lined with very mature umbrella pines, very rare to see in New England and very beautiful. The grounds were beautifully landscaped and very well kept. As I ran through the umbrella pine branches, I quickly ran into the first of many unknown plants, which I later found to be Oregon grape holly.

Oregon grape holly is one of the more cold-hardy broadleaf evergreens for New England, tolerating temperatures of 10 to 20 below. The leaf was different from any holly I had ever seen before, because each leaf was made up of 5 to 9 leaflets and each leaflet was the size of a normal holly leaf. The leaflets were arranged like a feather on the stem, with one on the tip of the stem and the others in pairs opposite each other in rows down the leaf stem. This multi-leaflet leaf grew to 10 to 12 inches long and the individual leaflets were one inch wide and two to three inches long.

The older leaves looked like the American holly--dull green with sharp thorns on the leaf edge. The new growth was bright apple green to bronzy copper and shiny. The plant grew upright, 3 to 4 feet tall, in a compact growing mound but not full and thick like other plants--more open and unruly. During the winter, the leaves had small purple blotches on the dull green leaves.

The plant also made fruit and, to my surprise, the berries were 1/2" long and purple-blue. The fruit or berries came in clusters of 25 or more and looked like small grapes with dusty blue powder on them. In the spring, usually March or April, the plant was covered with small spikes of bright yellow flowers 2 to 3 inches tall and fragrant. This is a wonderful plant, with holly foliage, spikes of yellow flowers in the spring and clusters of purple-blue fruit mid-summer through the winter.

Plant in a rich, moist soil that is well-drained, and be sure to add compost or animal manure to the soil before planting. Plants do best in a shady garden but will tolerate morning sunshine if they protected from the winter wind and afternoon sun.

Like other hollies, this plant does prefer a soil on the acid side, so keep limestone away from the pants and cover the soil with 2 to 3 inches of bark mulch to protect the roots year-round. Fertilize with Holly-Tone or Fertilome acid loving fertilizer in the spring--and water if the summer gets dry, or some of the fruit will fall from the plant.

Plant along a stone wall, as at the Dean's house at the University of Massachusetts, in groups with mountain laurel or rhododendrons, or as a specimen plant for the unique plant that it is. This is a great plant for gardeners who like something different in their gardens.

John Wayne
John Wayne "Taps" An American Tribute to Veterans

How to make a new Pineapple plant

You can grow your own pineapple plant with your kids. All you will need is a 6 inch pot, some good potting soil and a fresh pineapple from the supermarket. With the holidays now, most supermarkets will have fresh pineapples available for you to do this. Try to select a pineapple with the best foliage on the top of the fruit and you're ready to go.

Lay the pineapple on its side on a cutting board. Use a large sharp knife or a knife with a serrated blade to cut into the pineapple. Just below the foliage of the pineapple, measure a good inch into the meat of the pineapple and cut the top of the pineapple.

Now with your hands pull off the meat away from the foliage, leaving you with a spiral whirl of foliage of leaves and the stump where the meat of the pineapple was attached. Slowly pull off some of the lower leaves from the whirl of foliage until you see small buds on the stump at the bottom of the whirl. When you have uncovered 8 to 10 of these bumps, your pineapple top is ready to plant.

These small bumps are dormant roots and when they are in contact with soil they will begin to grow and develop into a new plant. Put the remaining part of the pineapple aside to eat when the top is all planted.

Now fill your pot with potting soil to the top and firm the soil in place. You should have about 1/2 in of space between the soil and top of the pot to help hold water later. Push the pineapple top into the soil so all the dormant roots are covered with soil and so the foliage sits right on top of the soil. Now water well until all the soil is moist.

Place the pineapple plant in a warm room with good light in the morning or afternoon as it will not need a sunny window until the roots begin to develop and move into the soil. If you can keep the soil moist and the room warm, the roots should begin to move into the soil in about 2 to 3 weeks. A gentle tug on the plant will let you know if the roots have begun to form.

When the roots develop, move the plant to a sunny window. The more light it has, the faster is will develop. Once the roots form, add a tablespoon of Osmocote fertilizer to the pot to help strengthen the developing plant. I also begin monthly feedings at this time. Then, treat this plant like any other houseplant until spring arrives. When the threat of frost is over, move the plant outside in an area with full sun all day, like your deck or patio.

The foliage will begin to develop and will spread to 18 to 24 inches wide and also grow up to 15 to 18 inches tall. The only thing you will have to do is make sure that you add water in the middle of the whirl of foliage on top of the plant. This whirl of foliage will develop into the shape of a pitcher; keeping water in this pitcher is important as that is where the new pineapple will develop!

In the fall when you get ready to bring the plant back into the house for the winter, the fun will begin. Put the plant in a clear plastic bag, making sure there is plenty of room for the pot and the foliage to grow in. Now take a new apple and bang it on your counter top until the entire apple is bruised and dented--but don't break the skin, if possible. Put the apple in the clear bag with the pineapple plant and seal the top of the bag with a twist-tie.

You're going to leave the apple in the sealed bag for 2 to 3 weeks. As the apple breaks down it will produce ethylene gas that will fertilize the plant and induce fruit development. After you remove the plant from the bag place the plant in a sunny window, keep the pitcher filled with water and resume normal care for the plant.

A small pineapple will form in the pitcher in the next 3 to 4 months and slowly move out to form on a thick stem about 6 to 12 inches above the foliage. The pineapple will grow to 4 inches of meat and another 3 to 4 inches of foliage on top.

This miniature pineapple should last on the plant for 3 to 6 months and, like all pineapples, will turn yellow when it is ready to harvest. It will also have a nice smell to the fruit, just like the pineapple it originated from. When the pineapple fruit has ripened it will begin to fall over and it now time to discard the plant and start a new one from a fresh pineapple from the supermarket again.

I use a dry cleaning bag to force the pineapple into fruit development and to hold the plant and the gas that the apple will make. Keep the top of the bag always sealed to hold the gas in. Keep the bagged plant in a bright window but no direct sun during that 2 to 3 week period or it will get too hot in the bag.

When the pineapple begins to smell like it is ripe cut it up into pieces for the kids to eat, they will love it and so will you. Try it this winter and your children will have a lot of fun. 

John Wayne - America, Why I Love Her
John Wayne - 
America, Why I Love Her
Pony Tail Palm

When most of us think of the palm, we think tropical, like the climate in southern Florida. Warm temperatures, high humidity, and hot weather, even jungle-like, but this does not describe the growing conditions of the ponytail palm. The ponytail palm originated in the desert of southern Mexico, not the tropics. It prefers dry air and low humidity--making it the perfect plant for the home that is heated with forced hot air heat, very unusual for a plant, unless you like cactus.

The ponytail palm is truly a unique looking plant, and very eye-catching. The base of the plant does look like the foot of an elephant, a thick woody rough skin-like growth that produces a bottle shaped tall growing stem that is topped with grassy like foliage. In the desert the base of the plant and the stem are filled with water like a reservoir for the plant. The leaves are narrow, growing 1/2 to 1 inch wide and up to 36 inches long. They all grow from the top of the stem in a cluster and resemble a ponytail. The leaves are medium-green and have a nice sheen to them; to me they look a lot like the dracaena spike we all put in our planters for the summer time.

Another unique thing about this plant is that it is in nature a "semi-succulent" type plant because of the large foot and unique stem that holds water like all succulents do. In the wild the plant will flower and produce seeds, but seldom when used as a house plant unless you have a greenhouse to grow it in.

Growing the ponytail palm is very easy. With a little bit of care this plant will last for 25 years or more in your home. The plant does grow slowly; it will take up to 10 years to grow 4 feet tall. You will need to transplant the plant every 2 years into a container--2 inches larger each time. After 10 years the pot will be larger, heavier, and more difficult to move around the house, so find a place to leave it as the plant gets larger or place the pot on a saucer with wheels attached to it.

When you transplant, use a potting soil that is well drained, like a cactus soil mix. What I would do is purchase a good potting soil and mix this soil with 50% sand for the extra drainage; think desert soil, not tropical forest. Plants respond best when transplanted in the early spring to summer, avoid the fall and winter.

Choose a location in your home with a lot of direct sunshine near a window. The plant will tolerate less sunshine during the winter months but likes direct sun the rest of the year. This is a great plant for a bright room that gets real hot all year long; most plants will not tolerate these conditions. This is a wonderful plant to grow if your home is heated with forced hot air heat. It will also grow great in a room with a wood or coal burning stove with no moisture in the air and high heat temperatures. The average temperature should be 65 to 75 degrees but it will tolerate 50 degrees during the winter months.

The plants need to be fertilized from March to September with a good house plant food like Neptune's Harvest fish and seaweed fertilizer or Ferti-lome Blooming and Rooting plant food. Fertilize every month except during the fall and winter season, as they go partially dormant then.

Watering is simple for this plant: keep the soil moist from early spring to late fall; never let the pot sit in a tray of water, and if you move the plant outside during the summer time, do not place it in a saucer; you want to be sure rain water can drain easily from the container. During the fall and winter months, water when the soil feels dry 2 inches deep into the pot. usually once a month will be enough.

As the plant matures, it will lose the older leaves, and the remaining leaves will lose their color and turn brown. They will pull off very easily--this is natural. As this is happening, the plant is getting taller and new growth is also developing on the top of the plant to keep the unique "ponytail" look to it.

During the winter, wash the foliage with a damp cloth to remove the dust that will build up on the foliage; this will keep the plant actively growing. When you dust the coffee table wash the plant and check the soil to see if the plant needs to be watered.

If you care for this plant properly, it will reward you with new shoots that will develop at the base of the plant. Each new shoot will begin as a small growth, marble sized, with a bit of foliage; it should be left on the plant until it reaches the size of a golf ball before you transplant it to its own pot--or just leave it there and it will give your plant additional character.

This plant, the ponytail palm, also makes a great plant to grow in a shallow container to create a bonsai-looking plant. You can purchase plants in a 6 inch pot and re-pot them it in a shallow bonsai type container. The plant is also available in larger sizes and the plant can be a single plant in the pot or planted as a group to give you even more character.

It's real easy to grow and it will make a wonderful gift plant for the first time or seasoned gardener. Overwatering is the biggest problem with this plant as it has few insect problems. If brown tips develop on the foliage, cut the brown off with sharp scissors and feel the soil; it usually means too much water. My experience is: if you're not sure if it needs water, wait a few extra days and then test the soil again. Think moist, never wet. Think again to yourself: "this is a desert plant, not tropical, even though it is called a palm."

"Gardening is the best therapy in the world"

C. Z. Guest
Aloe Vera Medical Plant  

Growing up in Maine, I got my inspiration for gardening from my mother, as she took the time to teach me how plants grew, and I spent many hours in the family garden with her and my dad. Houseplants were not very popular back in those days (1950's) but my mother did have two house plants that I can remember: an African violet and a scraggly looking aloe plant that never seemed to get any larger, as it was used so much on cuts and burns on us five kids.

My dad always bought her a new plant for Mother's day to help get us through the sunburn time of the summer. This helped the big mother aloe plant recover from being cut back all winter and spring long. My mother was a nurse and knew the qualities of this plant, especially with five kids.

Let me tell you about this wonderful plant and how to care for it in your home so you too can have something to help your family with cuts and burns. Aloe is a slow-growing plant indoors during the winter, but if you can leave it outside during the summer it will quickly fill your container before fall arrives. The aloe is a succulent plant, a plant that loves the sun. Many people think it is in the cactus family, because it is treated much like you would a cactus. It is tough and will grow almost anywhere as long as it gets half a day of sunlight. Give it sun all day and it will thrive even though you forget to care for it.

The plant is messy looking to most because it will make many small plants in the pot it is growing in. You will easily notice the original plant in the container and during the summertime, with lots of sunshine and warm weather, it will quickly make many new plants around its main stem. The mother plant can have long dagger-like foliage up to 12 inches long growing on a single stem while the new plants seem to develop in clumps around her with much shorter foliage.

Spring or fall is the best time to divide the plant and put all of those new plants in their own containers. By spring the small plants will have matured--and some may even begin to make new plants around them. When you transplant the new baby plants, use a good quality potting soil like Espoma's new planting soil or Black Gold planting mix to help the plants get established quickly in the new container. I always add a bit of Dynamite pellet fertilizer after potting so the plant will be fed properly for the next 90 to 120 days.

Give the plant a good watering to help firm the soil around the plant and help establish the new roots quickly. Once this is done all you have to do is water the plant every 2 to 3 weeks. I also fertilize the plant every month with Miracle Gro plant food year round.

There are very few insect or disease problems with this plant as long as you do not keep it wet. If you overwater during the winter the plant will develop black marks on the leaves and the plant will begin to rot, so keep the plant on the dry side during the winter, as it will grow very little due to the short days and weaker sunlight. This plant is very hardy and should last several years in your home.

The plant is easily recognized because it grows in a clump of gray-green dagger-shaped foliage, and you will notice small spots and short white lines all over the stems. The edge of these leaves will have small teeth, often pale pink in color. As the teeth mature they may begin to get a bit sharp but never dangerous. The leaves can grow 1 to 2 feet long when mature and 1 to 3 inches wide at the base of the leaf.

If you take good care of the plant, it will make a flower for you during the spring to summer time. The flower develops on a tall stalk up to 3 feet tall but usually under 18 inches tall. This stalk will contain many tubular flowers about 1 inch long and yellow in color. The tubular flowers will dangle from the main stem and crack open, revealing a white center. With a bit of luck your flowers will make a pod that will be filled with seeds. Allow it to mature and begin to turn brown before harvesting.

Sprinkle the seeds on fresh potting soil and press into the soil with the palm of your hand. The germination of these seeds is quite good if you water regularly to keep the soil moist but never wet. Seeds will take 2 to 3 weeks to germinate. This will work best if you use a small container with a clear plastic top to help hold the moisture and heat around those seeds.

Your local garden center will have mini greenhouse available from Ferry Morse Seeds Co. or Jiffy Mix Co. These Mini Greenhouses are wonderful to start all your seedlings for the spring garden and also to root cuttings of your favorite houseplants. If you want to speed up the process, place this container on a heating pad set at the lowest setting and cover the heating pad with a hand towel to help spread out the heat more evenly and prevent hot spots.

Chilled Cranberry Harvest Soup

Fresh Cranberries are in season right now and can be purchased at your local supermarket or farm stand. If you like cranberry sauce with your holiday turkey, I would suggest that you try this cold Cranberry soup this holiday. I love cold or chilled soups and this one you will love because you can make it up the day before and if the turkey is late coming out of the oven here is something your family will love until the turkey is ready. Enjoy Pilgrims!

3 cups of cold water
1 1/2 cups of granulated sugar
2 cinnamon sticks
teaspoon ground cloves
4 mounded cups of fresh cranberries
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon fresh grated orange rind
Sour cream

1} Mix water, sugar, cinnamon sticks, and clove in a 4 quart sauce pan. Bring it to a boil over high heat.

2} Add your cranberries and return to a boil. Reduce heat; cook until the cranberries pop, about 5 minutes.

3} Remove from heat. Stir in lemon juice and orange rind. Cool to room temperature.

4 )Chill in your refrigerator for 4 hours or overnight until you're ready to serve. Serve with a dollop of sour cream. If you have leftovers refrigerate.

Serves 4, so adjust recipe to the number of people coming to your home for the holiday. Enjoy!



Garden Journal

        Garden Journal - A garden is a friend you can visit any time. Gardens require planning and cultivation, yielding beauty and joy. This garden journal helps make planning and organizing easy. This book makes a great gift for gardeners, family, friends, birthdays, Christmas, new home or as a self purchase.


Cover holds a 5 x7 or 4x6 photo, Heavy-duty D-ring binder

1. 8 tabbed sections
2. 5 garden details sections with pockets for seeds, tags....
3. Weather records page
4. 6 three year journal pages
5. Insect & diseases page - 3 project pages
6. 3 annual checklist pages
7. Plant wish list page
8. 2 large pocket pages
9. Sheet of garden labels
10. 5 garden detail sheets
11. 5 graph paper pages for layouts
12. 5 photo pages holds - 4- 4x6 photos in landscape or portrait format

Journal, Planning, Inspirations. 

 To Order call 207-590-4887

Regular price $34.95  Special Price $31.95!  special!        Supplies are now limited!


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