Friday

The hard-to-find Tree Dahlia

D. imperialis or also Tree Dahlia.

There are about thirty species in the genus Dahlia, and over 20,000 cultivars are grown today. These tuberous plants are popular for their amazing range of colors and flower shapes.

Dahlias are native to the subtropical regions of Central and South America. They were important as a root crop and as a medicinal plant among the pre-Columbian Indians. Dahlia imperialis, the "tree dahlia", had hollow stems up to twenty feet long which were used for hauling water; the Aztec name was acocotli, or "water-cane".

Spanish invaders catalogued several kinds of dahlias and sent plants back to the Royal Botanical Gardens in Madrid. The species was named after Swedish botanist Anders Dahl. European breeders produced double flowered dahlias by the early 18th century, and the plant was very popular between 1810 and 1840. In 1872, a Dahlia juarezii tuber survived shipment from Mexico to Holland, and its brilliant red flower with pointed petals captivated breeders. Soon this new species was crossbred with cultivated varieties, leading to the thousands of cultivars being grown today

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Saturday

Nuts over Peanuts!

In between working on this years tedious task of making 2008 Christmas presents, I'll be catching a breather by another project. Peanuts! -

Christmas, already??? Well, my boss has a saying on his desk, "If something needs to be done, do it now, not later". And there is a lot to be done.

I figured, if the project is successful, we'll make fresh chokolate covered peanuts too! Who would have ever thought they can be grown in a pot! The planting recipe comes from one of my garden nut friends, Donna. This is my first try, lets see if the effort pays off and fresh peanuts emerge.

Peanuts are native to South America and are actually part of the legume family, not the nut family. Whether you want to grow your own peanuts to sell, eat, make peanut butter from, or just because you’re curious to know if you can, pay careful attention to the following suggestions.


How to Grow Peanuts
Things You’ll Need:

* Raw peanuts

Step 1:
Order your seeds from a well-known seed company for the best growth results. Do not buy boiled peanuts for planting.

Step 2:
Soak seeds overnight for quicker germination, before planting.

Step 3:
Plant peanuts after the last frost in very sandy soil. Make sure your soil drains well.


Step 4:
Sow two inches deep, with lots of compost and manure. You can even add a couple inches of mulch on top of the surface if you are concerned that the ground is too hard to grow peanuts or if you have a lot of weeds.

Step 5:
Space peanuts seven inches apart, making sure the kernels stay whole. If split, they won’t grow.

Step 6:
Water well when planting, but not again until the peanut plant sprouts. This should take about a week. When you begin watering them regularly do not overwater.

Step 7:
Keep the area free from weeds which can hinder peanut plant growth.

Step 8:
Allow 130 days for plants to mature.

Step 9:
Harvest in the fall by pulling the whole plant out. A spading fork is helpful. You’ll see a mature nut when you pull it out of the ground. The foliage will be yellow.


Step 10:
Allow peanuts to dry for two to four weeks.

Step 11:
Store in a cool, dry place until ready for roasting.


Step 12:
Enjoy the peanuts. You can grow more next year!

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Friday

Growing Magnolia's from Seeds

The magnolia grandiflora is a magnificent tree with broad strapping leathery leaves and can grow up to 80ft in height. Typically the trunk is straight and the tree forms branches which tend to result in a pyramid type crown. The leaves are of particular beauty with their deep green tops and velvet like undersides which are a lovely russet color. The flowers are large and a glorious crisp white with wafts of fragrance and covers the tree beginning spring and all through summer. There are lots of different cultivars.

How to Propagate:

Magnolias thrive in fairly rich, moist, peaty or sandy loam, but can grow satisfactorily in any garden soil if acidic fertilizer is added.


Most magnolias are grown from seeds, or from cuttings, by grafting or by layering. Rare kinds are sometimes propagated by grafting in winter or spring in a greenhouse. The period between sowing of the seed and germination may be as long as 18 months. Magnolia Grandiflora trees grown from seed may take from 15 - 20 years to produce a blossom, while trees that are grafted bloom much sooner. Please keep in mind that trees grown from seed may not be exactly like the tree the seeds came from due to haphazard pollination.

How to plant the seeds:

Seeds should be sown in a fresh state, and not allowed to dry out. Remove
the seeds just before the pod bursts open or immediately after.

Remove the red-orange coating. This can be done very easily if you soak them in water for a few days. If, when put in water, the seeds float on the surface, they have gotten too old.

Squeeze out the hard seed and wash them in dishwashing liquid to remove the oily coating that prevents them from absorbing moisture.

Sow in a light compost of two parts peat, one part loam and one part sand. Don't let the seeds dry out. Cover with 1/2" of compost. Cover the tray or pot to maintain moisture and protect the seed. They should germinate in about four weeks. Pot them after about four weeks, making sure the roots don't dry out.

In colder climates, you may not be able to plant them outside. Place the seeds in a bag containing a damp, sterile medium such as peat or grit, seal and label and put in the refrigerator at about 40 º. In February, sow the seeds under glass at temperatures of 64-68 º.

With one or two exceptions, the Magnolias are not well adapted for planting in lime soils. They like deep, well-drained loam and benefit by a little peat or compost placed about the roots at planting time. Soil should be well aerated. Transplanting isn't advised because injury to large roots generally leads to ill health. They shouldn't be planted very close together. In order to blossom, they need to be planted where they can get plenty of sunshine. From my observations, the sunny side of a magnolia has many blossoms; the side shaded out by other trees seldom has a blossom.

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Wednesday

Buddha Belly Plant

Jatropha podagrica or also Australian bottle plant
Another one of my favorite caudiform or fat Plants. I've received 6 seeds in a seed swap and look how nice they have developed in the last year. Of course I have only 3 left because the others all became christmas gifts. The larger plant came from a local nursery for just $10 in the end of year 70% off sale. What a lucky strike!

Origin: Tropical AmericaJatropha is a genus of approximately 175 succulents, shrubs and trees (some are deciduous, like Jatropha curcas L.), from the family Euphorbiaceae. Plants from the genus natively occur in Africa, North America, and the Caribbean.
Originating in the Caribbean, the jatropha was spread as a valuable hedge plant to Africa and Asia by Portuguese traders. Currently the tree is widely used for getting biodiesel in India, and is being promoted as a very easy to grow biofuel crop in hundreds of projects throughout India and the third world. The rail line between Mumbai and Delhi is planted with Jatropha and the train itself runs on 15-20% biodiesel. The mature small trees bear male and female inflorescence, and do not grow very tall.

Jatropha podagrica, was used to tan leather and produce a red dye in Mexico and the Southwestern United States.

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