Plant Preview

Welcome to Plant Preview, a blog dedicated to helping gardeners learn about gardening techniques and preview new plant cultivars. Read about new plants here first and hear how your "comrades in compost" are making use of new plant introductions in their gardens and landscapes. Blog author Geri Laufer is a life-long dirt gardener, degreed horticulturist, author and former County Extension Agent. Plant Preview is copyrighted by Geri Laufer.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Easy Caramel Urban® Apples for Halloween

So the columnar Urban Apple® trees in your edible garden produced a little crop of apples from the Blushing Delight™ Urban® Apples PP21511

What to do with the harvest? If any survived eating out of hand in the garden, consider Caramel Apples for Halloween! An easy recipe follows. 

Caramel Apples, Makes 4

1 bag caramels
1 bag Heath Bar Bits ‘o Brickle Toffee (or favorite candy bar, minced), 
1/2 C. chopped almonds or pecans as desired
1 Tablespoon water

Scrub the apples and dry thoroughly
Completely coat apple with melted caramel
Push a handle into the stem end of each apple (craft sticks or shortened chop sticks work well)

Prepare ahead: place the Heath bar bits and chopped nuts on plates or shallow saucers

Melt the caramels and little bit of water in a double boiler

Cool the caramel slightly, then submerge each apple in turn

Roll in candy pieces if desired

While still warm, roll the apple in the candy pieces or in the nuts for extra flavor


Monday, October 29, 2012

10 Steps to Treat Hurricane Damage to Landscape Plants

Outer Banks, NC

Hurricane Sandy is blowing a lot of salt water around the eastern half of the country. Here's some suggestions for caring for a hurricane- damaged landscape. 

How to care for a landscape after hurricane damage
  1. Reposition shrubs and small trees that have been blown over by high winds back into an upright position, bracing them with stakes until roots re-grow. 
  2. Fill hollows and replace soil around roots of trees that have been rocked loose by high winds  
  3. Apply fresh water repeatedly to irrigate plantings that were inundated with salt water- do not wait for salt damage to show up 
  4. Remove mud, leaves and debris from smothering lawns (Bermuda is most likely to recover) 
  5. Prune broken limbs and branches, smoothly trimming ragged edges so healing callus can form – do not use tree wound paint 
  6. Trim shredded foliage from leaves of perennial plants battered by wind, rain or hail 
  7. Do not eat fruits, vegetables and herbs that were covered by flood waters
  8. Replant shade trees 
  9. Have the soil tested before adding inorganic fertilizer (compost is OK) 
  10. Replace lawn furniture, ornamental planters, window boxes, bonsai trees and outdoor decor
Adding link to  interesting map of winds across the country

Friday, October 26, 2012

How to Make Satsuma-cello the Easy Way

How to Make Yummy Liqueur out of Bumper™ Satsumas the Easy Way
Satsuma-cello Cordial

Satsuma-cello is the Garden Debut® version of the sweet Italian liqueur known as Limoncello.  

Make Satsuma-cello from your home-grown harvest right now in time for the Christmas holidays. 

Bumper™ Hardy Satsuma trees add both nutrition and beauty to the edible garden. 

This fruit tree produces more Satsumas than other varieties of Satsuma and grows 10-12 feet tall in ground.  

Brilliant orange fruits contrast well with dark green, glossy, evergreen foliage for an edible ornamental hardy to 15 degrees F. (U.S.D.A. Zone 8B).  

Bumper™ Hardy Satsuma
Satsuma-cello, makes 1 quart


10 Bumper™ Satsumas
1 bottle (750 ml ) 150–proof Vodka
Large, lidded glass jar for steeping
2 cups white sugar
1 cup water


Scrub your Bumper™ Satsumas then zest them using a zester or vegetable peeler. 

Zesting the Satsuma
Take care not to include any of the white inner pith since this will make your liqueur bitter.  (Reserve the sections for juice or add to green tossed salads.

Removing Pith from Zest

Place the peels in a large glass jar with a lid and pour good-quality high test vodka over the Satsuma peels. 

Steep where it is handy to swish
Steep at room temperature for 10 days to 4 weeks, swishing gently every 5 days or so to mix. The longer the mixture rests, the more intense the flavor will be. 

Test if it is ready by smelling its fragrance and by checking if the peels snap when bent in half. The vodka slowly takes on the flavor and color of the Satsuma peels.

Strain the peels from the Vodka essence
Remove the peels by straining the flavored vodka essence through a coffee filters until clear.  I put the coffee filter inside a strainer to keep it upright. 

Add Sugar Syrup to Vodka Essence
Make sugar syrup by dissolving white cane sugar in water in a saucepan and cooking over medium heat until just dissolved, but do not bring to a boil. If you use unbleached sugar, your Satsuma-cello will be more tan in color.

Cool and add syrup to the strained vodka essence, then steep for another 4 weeks in a cool, dark location, again swishing gently every once in awhile to combine flavors.

Voila! Satsuma-cello

The finished liqueur will be ready to enjoy with a dessert or to package in decorative glass bottles for holiday gifts. 

Satsuma=cello is great as an after-dinner digestif in a small cordial glass, as an ice cream topping or in the construction of cocktails such as Cosmopolitans. 

For more information about growing Satsumas in your edible garden, visit the Fruit Trees page at Garden Debut®   

Click on individual photos to enlarge them.
photos copyright Geri Laufer, 2012
please give credit. 

Monday, October 15, 2012

SE Regional Symposium, Herb Society of America, Oct 12-12, 2012

University of Georgia Horticulture Trial Gardens
The Southeast Regional Symposium of The Herb Society of America was held Oct. 12-13, 2012 in Athens, Georgia.

Dr. Allan Armitage
First we visited the UGA Trial Gardens and Dr. Allan Armitage showed us around.

Albuca spiralis 'Fizzle Sizzle' 
We saw plenty of flowers, annuals, perennials, roses, vines and the odd foliage plant!

Solanum wendlandii, Paradise Vine

Vince Dooley w The Rising Sun Redbud 
From there, we visited the specactular garden of UGA Coach Vince Dooley (retired legend), shown here with The Rising Sun Redbud PP21451 .

Pierced Hedge reveals St. Francis Statue

There were plenty of details to soak up in the Coach's garden, like the opening cut into this solid hedge, revealing additional gardens beyond, and a serene St. Francis of Assisi statue.

14 inch retaining wall
I hope to re-create a version of this low retaining wall in my own back yard which is sloped.
Here is Coach Dooley's gemlike Japanese Garden.

Japanese Garden at Coach Dooley's

Geri Laufer speaking on Tussie-Mussies
I peeked and saw I got a 10+ in the evaluation! 
The next day we had a series of programs for the educational symposium, including my talk on Tussie-Mussies and the Language of Flowers.

There was a lot of history of carried and worn flowers, and the floral language.

Tussie-Mussies hardback

Knot Garden at the State Botanical Garden

Rosemary in Bloom! 

Snowflake Scented Geranium

Geri in Vitex with Boxwood in foreground
The gnarly old Vitex at the State Botanic Garden made a cool place to sit, and in front of me were planted large, venerable plants of Golden Dream Boxwood PP16052 from Garden Debut(R).

Golden Dream Boxwood PP16052

All in all I had a very nice trip, although this speaking engagement meant I had to miss the 2012 Tucson Garden Writers Association conference this year because of the conflict in dates!  Thanks for driving, Sue!

Caladium container at State BG

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Whadda’ ja say? Some Botanical Names are Wily to Pronounce

Northern Borders™ Variegated Cotoneaster
A non-gardening friend of mine was amused to note that one of the accomplishments I list on my LinkedIn page is Botanical Latin. My fluency with Latin binomials is useful when talking with others in this great business and helps me to be more precise.

Over the years I have come across three bug-a-boo plant names that give students pause, and must be heard to be believed. These are Cotoneaster, Leucothoe and Weigela.

Centuries ago, before I enrolled in grad school for Horticulture and was systematically reading every single gardening book in the Carnegie Public Library*, I stumbled across Cotoneaster which I first saw written and not pronounced. Like anyone else, I supposed it might be called “cotton Easter” but this is not the case. It’s actually more like “Co-TONY-aster”. A lovely example of this plant is the Northern Borders™ VariegatedCotoneaster by Garden Debut®.

Whitewater(R) Leucothoe PP18396
The next bug-a-boo that people often come across is Leucothoe. This is actually pronounced more like “Lou-KO-tho-wee”. A variegated favorite of mine is Whitewater® Leucothoe PP18396 that does so well in moist shade..

Third, students in my Woody I.D. class at Gwinnett Tech were calling a plant “Wiggly-Ah” which I found most endearing. Actually it is called “Why-GEE-La”. A nice small dwarf form good for most gardens is Minuet Weigela

Minuet Weigela
Luckily, Fine Gardening Magazine has come to the rescue of all concerned gardeners with their online Pronunciation Guide to Botanical Latin. After clicking on a plant name, the audio will pronounce it clearly and distinctly, and is a great help   .

What plant names are your personal bug-a-boos?

*That’s another story.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Fairy Garden Skeptic?

I admit it. Originally I was skeptical about Fairy Gardens, particularly for adults. With a full-sized garden and landscape to care for, I could not wrap my head around itty-bitty scenes and itty-bitty plants that might dry out too quickly. But with millions of people puzzling and writing about weaning today’s children away from their computer games and luring them into the great outdoors, I have changed my tune. 

To me, Fairy Gardens are the outdoor version of Dollhouses. Fairy Gardens are furnished with miniature structures and doll-sized accessories appealing to children: little fences, little birdbaths, little garden tools. What’s more, they include Actual Living Plants! This gets the idea of plants, soil, sunshine, photosynthesis, growing, dirty hands and success into young hands. And even if it seems to be entering gardening through the back door, if it works, it’s fine with me! When I saw a young girl standing mesmerized by the array of Fairy Gardening accessories in my nearby independent garden center, I was convinced! 

Fairy Gardens can be laid out formally on table top, with a $375 Primrose Cottage 27.25 inches tall, or less formally with homemade houses and benches that are crafted by kids and incorporated into a dish garden or an in-ground garden niche. 

On Pinterest, one Fairy Garden Board  has 864 people following 153 pins (so far), all of imaginative Fairy Gardens. 

In terms of Fairy Plants, tiny ground covers such as Scotch and Irish Moss and Corsican Mint in the Stepables lineup  come to mind.  

Perfect as a small evergreen for a Fairy Landscape is Garden Debut®’s Micron® Holly PP21168, a diminunitive little holly with very small leaves reaching 20 inches in height at maturity.      

If a Flowering Fairy Shrub is needed there is Princess Lyla™ Crapemyrtle that reliably adds summer color at only about a foot and a half tall,    the littlest princess in the Princess Series by Garden Debut®.

Do you know a child who might fall in love with gardening if introduced through the world of Fairy Gardens? Let’s hear from you.   

top photo thank you to Liesel Allen Merkel

posting a few weeks later, after Halloween, a photo of Halloween in the Fairy Garden.
photo by Jeremie Corp 

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Geri's Abundant-Harvest, Throw It Together Pesto Recipe

 For the third time this season, I have cut back my 4 plants of Mrs. Burns' Lemon Basil by half, added clippings from a couple of Lettuce-Leaf Basil plants, and am making Pesto! This will be 6 pounds so far this year.

Geri's Abundant-Harvest, Throw It Together Pesto Recipe

1 gallon basil leaves
3 peeled, smashed garlic cloves
1 cup walnuts
1 cup Parmesan cheese
1/2 to 1 cup EVOO

Pick clean,dry basil leaves and put about half in the blender
Add garlic cloves that have been peeled and smashed in a garlic press
Pulse in food processor
Add more basil leaves
Add Parmesan cheese
Add 1/2 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil and gradually more
Pulse in food processor
Add more oil until it is the right consistency for you

Use on fresh-cooked hot pasta, on chicken breast, in stews or as a spread for turkey sandwiches.

To save for later use, package in small containers (enough for one pound of pasta) and freeze. This brings the feeling of summer in the middle of winter.

photos copyright Geri Laufer, 2012
may use photos with attribution :-) thanks!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Friend Helen Yoest's New Book: Gardening With Confidence

My Raleigh friend Helen Yoest from Garden Writers Association sent me a copy of her new book and I think it has great merit! 

Gardening With Confidence-- 50 Ways to add style for personal creativity hits all the gardening highlights and offers practical ways to achieve gardening style in accessible, bite-sized pieces. Each essay is a quick study in four pages and Helen's great color photos help to illustrate her points.

Gardening With Confidence summarizes Helen's practical experience and is presented as an overview of the field, "the exact book a beginning gardener needs" presented as sort of a conversation with a knowledgeable friend over a virtual garden fence.

As might be expected, I am partial to her Herb Gardens chapter that includes herb care, plant types, harvesting, seed saving, drying and a profile of her fave herb garden, Little Herb House in Raleigh.

Some of her other essays that I especially enjoy are Fragrance in the Garden, Sound in the Garden and Layers of Light.

Which chapters are your favorites?