Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Give Me Spots on My Flowers,


(From top)
Iris dichotoma - Vesper Iris
Parancanda norissi - Candy Lily
Belacamda chinensis - Blackberry Lily

I have had a long fascination and admiration of mottled flowers. From classic lillies to , the leopard patterns I fing graphically stimulating. When I moved to our most recent garden, I planted thr traditional orange and had a great surprise to find a pink one

Window Boxes at Trinity Nursing Home

Life has been very difficult as a quadriplegic since my spinal chord injury nine years ago this spring. But the hardest chapter began last August when it became necessary for me to move into a nursing home at age 44. I have always believed I was a strong person but learning to not only survive but THRIVE in a nursing home is now one of my proudest accomplishments. So I have been reborn at Trinity Nursing Home in Merriam, KS.

Based on my executive training background, i began building relationships with the leadership team here. One of the first things I brought to their attention was they had been scammed by a disreputable landscape company. Although on paper the front of the facility faces south, the company shoved in sun plants last August in beds under two 50 + year old pin oaks and two mature crab apples. I'm sure the fact sun plants due to their volume are less expensive than shade plants was involved in the scam. As soon as I arrived I brought attention of the scam to the director however the company would not return phone calls. But this terrible chapter has been a great opportunity for this handicapable man.

Strategically I decided to push the landscaping back until the fall when there would be more time available for recruiting volunteers and I would have time to get to know the environment better for designing a garden. There are thirteen 30" window boxes surrounding the two covered patio areas at the front of the building. I have decided to focus my efforts on these hopefully distracting the visitors' eye from the remains of the scam artists. Since the patio cover and trees provide varying degrees of light exposure I need to learn better for the future, I've decided to go with a simple combo of Sunpatiens and vinca vine.

The Sunpatiens were discovered when a cross of a New Guinea impatiens and a traditional impatiens lead to a hybrid with the preponderence of blooms of the bedding plant variety with the thicker leaf of the New Guinea allowing the plant to thrive in the sun. As I wrote in my column in the Kansas City Gardener, my only fault I see with Sunpatiens is the marketing behind it. There are three plant forms under the Sunpatiens brand name: Compact, Landscape and Cascade. But because the marketing company has them all under the same series there is more than enough reason for consumer confusion and frustration.

So I have three plants of each color with two vinca vine between them. The patios are on each side of the main entrance. I have the same colors in each box in the same position on each patio for maximum impact. I'll keep you updated with photography through the growing season.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Patrick's Picks -- Larry Moore's Tomatoes

Patrick Picks
February, 2009

HEADLINE: Patrick's Picks: Stretching the Tomato Season with Larry Moore.

It takes skill and experience when selecting your tomato varieties to ensure a harvest from the Fourth of July to the first major frost. Larry Moore, the co-anchor of KMBC Channel 9 News since 1972, is a passionate tomato grower, who through trial and error has developed a season-long program with hybrids that deliver excellent flavor.

Larry's enthusiasm for growing tomatoes is regularly demonstrated on air when he shares his bounty with co-anchors. Larry says "I keep growing tomatoes because there is nothing more tasty and delicious than home-grown red-ripe tomatoes. Tomatoes like sweet corn are best if eaten within 8 hours."

Larry always selects five varieties of tomatoes each year. He says "Early Girl Hybrid assures me of red ripe tomatoes by the Fourth of July weekend." As the name implies, Early Girl is one of the earliest producing varieties with tennis ball sized fruit in as little as 52 days. However, the later varieties will always have superior taste.

His favorite main producer is Celebrity ripening in about 70 days. With superior disease resistance, this All American Selection from 1984 has stood the test of time as a high-yielding variety. Larry says "They turn out 7-9 ounce tomatoes during the most trying of conditions--too much rain, drought, cool nights or extreme heat. The flavor is superb and the yield is tremendous."

Larry says "Big Girl and Big Boy come on in late July in or around 78 days".According to Gerald Klingaman, a retired extension agent with the University of Arkansas, Big Boy was one of the first hybrid vegetables, coming to the market in 1949 and is often listed among their top five all-time flavor favorites.
and is often listed among their top five all-time flavor favorites. pumpkin

The last of Larry's favorites is Burpee Supersteak Hybrid producing its fruit on average around 80 days. Like any of the steak tomatoes, Supersteak is known for its rich "beef steak" flavor and meaty texture. "They turn out two-pounders and each one is to die for. They are significantly affected by weather. Usually I get two to three two-pounders off each plant. However, this year because of cool
weather and fluctuating conditions, I got only two two-pounders off our plants. They produce lots of other tomatoes, too. Not all of them are two-pounders."

Larry says "My favorite moment with Supersteak tomatoes is when I pick a big one and duck into the kitchen. I get two pieces of toast, a leaf of lettuce, and three big slices of bacon, put them all in sandwich form, and then add a slice of this steak tomato with a dob of mayo. What a feast! It makes the growing of tomatoes well worth the work.”

To ensure all five varieties are producing through the end of the season, Larry applies two handfuls of soybean meal to each plant. Soybean meal is a high nitrogen (7-2-1) organic fertilizer manufactured in a pelleted form. Applied during Labor Day weekend, all his five varieties will still be producing until the first killing frost. Larry said "I'm still picking lots of tomatoes this year and it’s late October”.

CAPTION: Larry shares his bounty from this year’s mid-season variety Celebrity.
Patrick Muir is a Johnson County Master Gardener living in western Shawnee. You can find column archives and a listing of retailers participating in the Patrick's Picks Program at